Christianity and Evolution

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MrLighter
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Christianity and Evolution

Postby MrLighter » Fri Dec 11, 2009 1:38 am UTC

After searching through the board for a little while, I didn't see anything that really answered my questions here, so here it goes.

Recently, my parents transfered me to a Christian school because a few of the programs that they had were better than anything else in the area. So, last year in biology, we were taught about evolution. We learned about Charles Darwin his theories of natural selection and evolution. It was an entirely unbiased depiction of evolution (I cross-referenced what I learned with various internet sources, people from non-Christian schools, various books). We also learned about how scientists use rock formations to estimate the age of the earth. The only mention to God was the teacher saying "Ultimately, God created the process, and occasionally modified a few things along the way." We were even required to write a paper talking about both evolution and seven-day creationism (Which was left out of the majority of class. It was only talked about as an opposing view to evolution), and how modern-Christian beliefs fit in with science, and how the two concepts actually can work together.

So my issue is: Why do evolutionists get so carried away with saying that there is no God? In the end, what does it matter to them if there is a God or not? Why do the atheists/naturalists/humanists fight so hard to prove that there is no God, and that God did not make/cause evolution? Considering our level of science, it doesn't make sense to me to absolutely rule something out based on a lack of current knowledge. Just because we have not found proof does not mean that it exist.
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Re: Christianity and Evolution

Postby Azrael001 » Fri Dec 11, 2009 1:49 am UTC

The problem here I think is that you are lumping atheists/naturalists/humanists in with "evolutionists". As I understand it, and evolutionist is someone who believes in evolution, regardless of personal religious belief.

Additionally it is impossible to prove a negative, which is why the burden of proof lies on the deists. Atheists/naturalists/humanists can merely point out logical inconsistencies in various religious texts, and show the evidence against them.
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Re: Christianity and Evolution

Postby achan1058 » Fri Dec 11, 2009 2:05 am UTC

There's 2 questions here, it seems.

1) Whether there is a god, and whether lack of evidence means anything.
Since there are infinitely many gods one can imagine (FSM anyone?), most of which contradicts each other, I am inclined to say if you want to say there is a god of a specific type, you need to show me evidence. The fact that the religions texts contradicts each other doesn't help the matter at all. (Just look at say Buddism vs Christianity......)

2) Does it matter whether there is a god to an atheist.
Yes, most definitely. Just put yourself in Afghanistan as an atheist or a Christian and you will see my point. Religion is forced upon people in many areas in the world. Even in areas where they are not, people use religion to create their versions of morality and way of living, which may be at odds with other people's own version of morality. And no, morality is not something that can only be attained by religion, see Confucianism.

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Re: Christianity and Evolution

Postby MrLighter » Fri Dec 11, 2009 2:12 am UTC

To be fair, I never said that morality was only obtainable through religion. I merely said that it had a better foundation. And, to clarify my statement on the existence of God is, "Because we have no solid proof to suggest or deny the existence of God, it is irrational to assume that there is not one. The various religious texts, as shaky as they are, do provide some non-solid proof, leading to religious belief."

And, to clarify my actual question a bit more: "If people of religion mind their own business, and do not use god for personal gain (As a Christian, I find this to be despicable and unforgivable), what does that matter to non-believers?"
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Re: Christianity and Evolution

Postby achan1058 » Fri Dec 11, 2009 2:16 am UTC

MrLighter wrote: And, to clarify my actual question a bit more: "If people of religion mind their own business, and do not use god for personal gain (As a Christian, I find this to be despicable and unforgivable), what does that matter to non-believers?"
I don't know about other people, but if you do nothing more than occasionally talk about it, I am perfectly fine. I have friends who are Christians too, and I used to occasionally go to the Buddist temples (I can't find any in where I am living now). I am just not fine with pushing stuff like Creationism into classrooms and such.

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Re: Christianity and Evolution

Postby MoghLiechty2 » Fri Dec 11, 2009 2:21 am UTC

OT at achan:
Spoiler:
Since there are infinitely many gods one can imagine (FSM anyone?), most of which contradicts each other, I am inclined to say if you want to say there is a god of a specific type, you need to show me evidence.

This demand hinges on the assertion that the types of reasons religious people have for believing in a specific type of God are similar to the reasons that, say, a scientist has for believing that DNA exists. This isn't to say that there aren't very good reasons to assign certain attributes to God (attributes that happen to be shared by many religions) by means of philosophical arguments. But I don't think it's epistemically invalid to base your assertions on the nature of God by such means as introspection, religious experience, etc.

It is also fallacious (although I don't believe you are making this claim) to claim that the existence of many types of historical Gods means that God of some type is less likely to exist. I think such an argument would be dependent on the notion that God, if he existed, would willing make his exact nature shown to every person from every culture and religion.

I think that the fault for the fact that evolution and atheism get conflated lies with both parties. Many Christians believe that if they can show evolution to be impossible, then they have a proof for God's existence. And many atheists, more specifically the anti-religious, would like to believe that religious belief is dependent on the falsity of evolution, and all they have to do to defeat religion is show evolution to be true.

Unfortunately (or fortunately), those members of both parties are incorrect, as it is clearly possible to be a Christian evolutionist.

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Re: Christianity and Evolution

Postby Indon » Fri Dec 11, 2009 2:25 am UTC

MrLighter wrote:So my issue is: Why do evolutionists get so carried away with saying that there is no God?

They don't*, you've been overexposed to the belief that science somehow 'persecutes' religion.

In practice, science ignores religion, except when religion attempts to impose upon science (such as with the "intelligent design" movement to try to teach creationism in schools like it was a scientifically valid theory). At that point, religion is solidly in the domain of science, and is going to get solidly trounced (such as in the case of young-earth, or "seven day" as you call it, Creationism).

*-Except for PZ Myers. Dude has just seen so much religious stupidity that I think it's driven him slightly insane.
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Re: Christianity and Evolution

Postby BlackSails » Fri Dec 11, 2009 2:26 am UTC

The Pope believes in evolution

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Re: Christianity and Evolution

Postby achan1058 » Fri Dec 11, 2009 2:32 am UTC

To MoghLiechty2:
Spoiler:
MoghLiechty2 wrote:It is also fallacious (although I don't believe you are making this claim) to claim that the existence of many types of historical Gods means that God of some type is less likely to exist. I think such an argument would be dependent on the notion that God, if he existed, would willing make his exact nature shown to every person from every culture and religion.
Actually, now that I think of it, I think it does. To every type of god which people believed in, we can assign a equal prior probability (and 1 share for no gods as well). Then, we can (theoretically) do a Bayesian type of analysis using evidence for/against. From this, we can get a probability of each god existing. And the more gods we start out with, the lower probability will end up with each one.

But this is really getting off topic.

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Re: Christianity and Evolution

Postby Twistar » Fri Dec 11, 2009 2:40 am UTC

MrLighter wrote:After searching through the board for a little while, I didn't see anything that really answered my questions here, so here it goes.

Recently, my parents transfered me to a Christian school because a few of the programs that they had were better than anything else in the area. So, last year in biology, we were taught about evolution. We learned about Charles Darwin his theories of natural selection and evolution. It was an entirely unbiased depiction of evolution (I cross-referenced what I learned with various internet sources, people from non-Christian schools, various books). We also learned about how scientists use rock formations to estimate the age of the earth. The only mention to God was the teacher saying "Ultimately, God created the process, and occasionally modified a few things along the way." We were even required to write a paper talking about both evolution and seven-day creationism (Which was left out of the majority of class. It was only talked about as an opposing view to evolution), and how modern-Christian beliefs fit in with science, and how the two concepts actually can work together.

So my issue is: Why do evolutionists get so carried away with saying that there is no God? In the end, what does it matter to them if there is a God or not? Why do the atheists/naturalists/humanists fight so hard to prove that there is no God, and that God did not make/cause evolution? Considering our level of science, it doesn't make sense to me to absolutely rule something out based on a lack of current knowledge. Just because we have not found proof does not mean that it exist.


You are perfectly right that evolution and God are entirely compatible. Slightly unfortunately, the God that is compatible with evolution is not the God of a literalist translation of Genesis 1 and 2, so if that is your interpretation of the bible there may be issues.

"To say it for all my colleagues and for the mpteenth millionth time: Science simply cannot by its legitimate methods adjudicate the issue of God's possible superintendence of nature. We neither affirm nor deny it; we simply can't comment on it as scientists." Steven Jay Gould

science and religion are in seperate spheres of our experience and should not be intermingled. Science shouldn't seek to prove or disprove religious faith and religion shouldn't seek to explain the nature of the material world.
It seems like your teacher did a pretty good job of keeping the two spheres seperate.
The biggest problem scientists have with religion is when 'theories' like intelligent design pop up which is simply not a scientific theory for various reasons.

The biggest problem theists seem to have with science is they see it as some how threatening their God. They think science=atheism=degeneration of all moral objectivity.

All of these problems are irrelevant to the real issue however as you have pointed out, because there is no issue. It is simply people on both sides misinterpretting intentions. I recommend you to read "The Language of God" by Francis Collins. He was the head of the human genome project and also a devout christian. There are a few slightly dubious philosophical points (for example he claims that God is necessary for moral objectivity) but overall he very clearly presents the case for science and religion in a compatible way. What is so good about the book is that it truly seeks to assuage the debate going on over this subject of "evolution versus religion" and in my personal opinion that is what is needed.

Sorry this post was really disjointed...Maybe I'll try to make a more coherent one a little later.

edit: sorry one more really important thing:

"Considering our level of science, it doesn't make sense to me to absolutely rule something out based on a lack of current knowledge. Just because we have not found proof does not mean that it exist."

Yes, that is correct. However, you want to avoid subscribing to a "God of the gaps." For example, if you're a christian prior to the copernican revolution and a large part of your faith rest on the notion that the earth is the center of the universe, and then the copernican revolution comes along and the entire world eventually accepts the world is NOT the center what are you to do? Spit in the face of science and say it is wrong? Abandon your faith entirely? No, those are both irrational reactions. So how does this relate? Basically your faith shouldn't be founded upon the notion that some facet of science is wrong, instead it should be based on a rock somewhere much deeper in your heart that is untouchable by science and even reason. That way you too can celebrate the beauty of science. In fact, Collins argues that religious people should try to be at the forefront embracing new discoveries and learning about God's works.

Sorry if the last part got pretty touchy feely, but whatever.

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Re: Christianity and Evolution

Postby nowfocus » Fri Dec 11, 2009 4:57 am UTC

MrLighter wrote:So my issue is: Why do evolutionists get so carried away with saying that there is no God? In the end, what does it matter to them if there is a God or not? Why do the atheists/naturalists/humanists fight so hard to prove that there is no God, and that God did not make/cause evolution? Considering our level of science, it doesn't make sense to me to absolutely rule something out based on a lack of current knowledge. Just because we have not found proof does not mean that it exist.


The frustration comes the fact that God, as a theory, is not falsifiable. There is no experiment you could run to disprove God. There are no predictions that belief in God which can be tested.

I'm also frustrated by the fact that you, an impression high school (?) student, now thinks that "God did it" is a viable scientific theory to explain things we don't fully understand. Its not. Its that there is no possible knowledge that could disprove this notion. That means this concept doesn't further our understanding of the universe.

MrLighter wrote:And, to clarify my statement on the existence of God is, "Because we have no solid proof to suggest or deny the existence of God, it is irrational to assume that there is not one. The various religious texts, as shaky as they are, do provide some non-solid proof, leading to religious belief."


Since there is no possible evidence to disprove your claim, then belief in it is irrational.

Lets remove the religious plot line: suppose someone claims that the discrepancy between the difference in the observable mass of the universe and its calculated mass was due to particles that avoided detection through any means necessary. Did I just solve the discrepancy? Of course not. While what I said was logically consistent, its fundamentally irrational because it doesn't provide any understanding or testable hypothesis. Now what if I started petitioning school boards to teach my theory, arguing that it explains things that conventional science does not? Wouldn't that be crazy?

The principle behind Science is that theories need to tested with data. Belief in God is a rejection of that principle.
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Re: Christianity and Evolution

Postby G.v.K » Fri Dec 11, 2009 6:15 am UTC

nowfocus wrote:The principle behind Science is that theories need to tested with data. Belief in God is a rejection of that principle.


but why do we either want or need science and knowledge? who cares what the mass of the universe is? why is knowledge of the universe even worthwhile?

belief in God does not necessarily negate science, but it does imply that there is a fundamental irrationality at play that even science cannot address. why is there something and not nothing? this question cannot be tested. but is it therefore an invalid question?

God as first mover does not further our knowledge of the universe in any way, but it is an attempt to answer why there is any universe at all. as long as people don't confuse it with science, i don't see what the problem is.

[I'm probably just repeating Twistar's comments here]

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Re: Christianity and Evolution

Postby Izawwlgood » Fri Dec 11, 2009 6:19 am UTC

Every single heavily hashed over logical debate aside pertaining to this matter, I just wonder how you can say it's the evolutionists who get carried away by this issue. As far as I see it, and admittedly, aside from Dawkins, it's the religious many who continually require the addition of God in any way shape or form into class work on evolution, whereas any reasonably, truly non-biased coursework on the subject matter from a non-religiously sanctioned school will instead leave God out of it.

My evolutionary bio prof started the class saying that this coursework may interfere with some peoples beliefs, but the course was not a theology course or a morality course or even a religious course. If you can't accept that, pick something different, because in Evolutionary Biology, we talk about Evolution, and Evolution has so far found no evidence of God one way or the other, so, why even bring it into the curriculum?

MrLighter wrote:Why do evolutionists get so carried away with saying that there is no God?


So, in short, we don't. Rather, you get carried away with saying there is.
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Re: Christianity and Evolution

Postby guenther » Fri Dec 11, 2009 6:36 am UTC

nowfocus wrote:The principle behind Science is that theories need to tested with data. Belief in God is a rejection of that principle.

We can reject the principle in some areas of life without rejecting it elsewhere. Most of us cling to notions of right and wrong that can't be tested in any meaningful way.
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Re: Christianity and Evolution

Postby nowfocus » Fri Dec 11, 2009 6:47 am UTC

G.v.K wrote:
but why do we either want or need science and knowledge? who cares what the mass of the universe is? why is knowledge of the universe even worthwhile?

belief in God does not necessarily negate science, but it does imply that there is a fundamental irrationality at play that even science cannot address. why is there something and not nothing? this question cannot be tested. but is it therefore an invalid question?

God as first mover does not further our knowledge of the universe in any way, but it is an attempt to answer why there is any universe at all. as long as people don't confuse it with science, i don't see what the problem is.


We want and need Science to better the human condition. I personally like having enough food to eat and all of my modern conveniences, thank you very much.

Belief in God alone doesn't negate science, but it is against the principle of science: that theories should be testable. We can agree that the application of the theory of God in science is a far greater transgression, because it confuses the students (like the OP) that its a valid explanation for scientific findings. I'm shocked t

As to the question "why is there something and not nothing?", I would say thats a completely invalid question. No answer can be disproved. I can simply say "Its because of [Insert Noun Here]".

But lets get back to the 'mere belief in God', which no major religion restricts itself too. I'd say most people who combine science and the belief in God view God as benevolent.

Suppose you and me were thrown into a room with a bunch of other people by a man named Jim. We don't know how we got there. Someone pipes up "Don't worry, Jim is benevolent, he'll be good". To see if thats true, what do you do? I'd look around to see that all had enough food, that we all had enough water. That we had shelter, and were receiving medical care. The idea of someone being benevolent is quite testable. The theory of a benevolent God does make a prediction, and on a global scale it turns out to be false. So, belief in a benevolent God isn't scientific.

guenther wrote:We can reject the principle in some areas of life without rejecting it elsewhere. Most of us cling to notions of right and wrong that can't be tested in any meaningful way.


Those notions most certainly can and have been tested in meaningful ways: clinging to those notions improves all our lives, and when societies abandon them they descend into chaos. Belief in right and wrong is rational because we are all better off for it. Remember 'Right' and 'Wrong' aren't intrinsic values, they have developed significantly over the history of mankind.
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Re: Christianity and Evolution

Postby G.v.K » Fri Dec 11, 2009 7:54 am UTC

nowfocus wrote:
We want and need Science to better the human condition. I personally like having enough food to eat and all of my modern conveniences, thank you very much.


me too. but somebody else might come along and want to destroy humanity. how could science argue against them?

nowfocus wrote:
As to the question "why is there something and not nothing?", I would say thats a completely invalid question. No answer can be disproved. I can simply say "Its because of [Insert Noun Here]".


who gets to say it is invalid? any answer that I give presumably matters to me. just because i can't prove it, doesn't remove the fact that it matters to me. of course, if i want to impose it on somebody else, that is a different story.
nowfocus wrote:
Suppose you and me were thrown into a room with a bunch of other people by a man named Jim. We don't know how we got there. Someone pipes up "Don't worry, Jim is benevolent, he'll be good". To see if thats true, what do you do? I'd look around to see that all had enough food, that we all had enough water. That we had shelter, and were receiving medical care. The idea of someone being benevolent is quite testable. The theory of a benevolent God does make a prediction, and on a global scale it turns out to be false. So, belief in a benevolent God isn't scientific.


depends on your use of the terms. Jim might be both benevolent and totally incompetent. the two are not mutually exclusive. your conclusion is persuasive, but not necessarily true.

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Re: Christianity and Evolution

Postby sje46 » Fri Dec 11, 2009 8:42 am UTC

MrLighter wrote:So my issue is: Why do evolutionists get so carried away with saying that there is no God? In the end, what does it matter to them if there is a God or not? Why do the atheists/naturalists/humanists fight so hard to prove that there is no God, and that God did not make/cause evolution? Considering our level of science, it doesn't make sense to me to absolutely rule something out based on a lack of current knowledge. Just because we have not found proof does not mean that it exist.

The existence of God matters greatly for ethical issues. If God exists, and is the arbiter of justice in the world, then we have to listen to his sense of morality. The problem is when people claim that certain documents contain his words, and these words hurt or hinder society.

Most atheists are weak atheists, meaning that they don't actively disbelieve in God, but they lack belief in God. That is, strong atheists say "I believe God does not exist", while weak atheists say "I have no belief in God's existence." The first sentence expresses a hypothesis, an either accurate or inaccurate fact; the latter sentence expresses a lack of hypothesis. The majority of atheists (or atheists who think about it) will be weak atheists. This includes the leaders of the New Atheism movement, including P.Z. Meyers, Dawkins, and Hitchens. They don't actively believe there isn't a God, but they think that belief in God is still unjustified, and dangerous.

Most atheists probably don't care about religion. The anti-theists have a problem with it, however, and they see Intelligent Design as the clearest example of how poisonous religion is to society...that it makes people doubt one of the most evidenced theories in all of science. Since atheist communities are usually only inhabited by those who oppose religion, and thus oppose ID, that's why it may seem like a majority of atheists are so opposed to ID (even though I'm sure non-anti-theists would be anyways, but not as high).

MrLighter wrote: And, to clarify my actual question a bit more: "If people of religion mind their own business, and do not use god for personal gain (As a Christian, I find this to be despicable and unforgivable), what does that matter to non-believers?"

It doesn't matter to most non-believers. It only matters to those who oppose religion. Anti-theists (which is actually anyone who opposes the idea of God, not religion in general, but I'm going to continue using this term anyways) oppose religion for many reasons, but mostly the fact that it hinders moral and scientific process and creates unnecessary progress, faith inherently opposes reason, and that it is not necessary for morality. Perhaps religion has caused more good than harm (kinda difficult to test, of course), but in an alternate universe where there is no religion, they believe that it would cause an even greater good to harm ratio.
Twistar wrote:science and religion are in seperate spheres of our experience and should not be intermingled. Science shouldn't seek to prove or disprove religious faith and religion shouldn't seek to explain the nature of the material world.
It seems like your teacher did a pretty good job of keeping the two spheres seperate.
What his teacher said:
The only mention to God was the teacher saying "Ultimately, God created the process, and occasionally modified a few things along the way."


But they do intermingle...religion makes claims, such as "Jesus existed, and performed miracles", and "if you let God into your heart, you will be saved a spot in Heaven", and "Homosexual sex is an abomination upon the Lord, and if you do it, you will be burned for all eternity".

All of these things are religious beliefs, and are believed because of the memetic nature of religion. Faith. Doubting is bad. Pretty much, a religion is a set of beliefs rotating around core, unprovable supernatural beliefs. Because the ideas are comforting to people (that if you live right, you will be rewarded for all eternity, that all the people you love who have died still exist, and you will see them again, that there is always someone who loves you, even if your lowest moments, etc), and because there are entire close-knit communities revolving around these beliefs, and because the set of beliefs contain beliefs that further ensure its memetic success (to not believe in God, no matter how moral you are, will send you to Hell), it becomes very, very difficult to leave that life, very difficult to even doubt it, to look at it rationally, because you have so much at stake, emotionally. It becomes part of who you are. This emotional bias will make it even more difficult to accept non-biased beliefs that contradict your religious beliefs. This is what makes religion opposed to religion. You don't believe things because of reason; you believe things because of your emotional stake in them.
So basically what NewFocus said:
Belief in God alone doesn't negate science, but it is against the principle of science: that theories should be testable.


And just let me clarify that anti-theists don't necessarily want to impose their lack of belief on you. Most don't care what you do in your own home, as long as you're not harming anyone. They view it as you who is being harmed, and society in general being harmed. Most hate the game, not the players :)
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Re: Christianity and Evolution

Postby ianf » Fri Dec 11, 2009 10:54 am UTC

MrLighter wrote:So my issue is: Why do evolutionists get so carried away with saying that there is no God? In the end, what does it matter to them if there is a God or not? Why do the atheists/naturalists/humanists fight so hard to prove that there is no God, and that God did not make/cause evolution? Considering our level of science, it doesn't make sense to me to absolutely rule something out based on a lack of current knowledge. Just because we have not found proof does not mean that it exist.


Firstly, I don't think evolutionists do get carried away in the way you characterise, but putting that to one side, I guess that it's an Occam's Razor kind of thing. If we have a model of evolution which works, why introduce God - additional complexity for no benefit to our model? In fact, I think that this separation of God from science is what actually allows some people to be religious and scientific at the same time. My biology teacher at school, for example, didn't bring God into any scientific discussion (since he didn't feel God added anything to the science) but was a confirmed Christian at the same time.

Twistar wrote:The biggest problem scientists have with religion is when 'theories' like intelligent design pop up which is simply not a scientific theory for various reasons.


I think this is a key factor. Scientists (in general) don't like it when things are presented as science when they are not in fact science (e.g. Feynman and Cargo Cult Science). So a lot of the time, scientists don't object to the actual beliefs that people hold (e.g. astrology, ESP, crystals, homeopathy, whatever) but they do object to the presentation of these things as scientific, or the disregard for scientific rigour.

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Re: Christianity and Evolution

Postby EmptySet » Fri Dec 11, 2009 1:08 pm UTC

MrLighter wrote:So my issue is: Why do evolutionists get so carried away with saying that there is no God? In the end, what does it matter to them if there is a God or not? Why do the atheists/naturalists/humanists fight so hard to prove that there is no God, and that God did not make/cause evolution?


They... don't?

I went to a Catholic highschool, and lived at a Catholic college, and I have a Bachelor of Science, and I can tell you from personal experience that there are plenty of scientists who are religious, and truckloads of other people who are religious but believe in evolution. As far as I can tell the whole evolution thing is pretty much a non-issue in Australia. I wasn't even aware there was controversy over it until those wacky Americans started trying to teach creationism as science and slapping bizarre warning labels on biology textbooks. Oh, and incidentally, the Catholic Church is officially fine with evolution, and actually endorses the "God used evolution" stance. This is the largest Christian denomination on the planet, and also the most common religious affiliation in my country, so I think it's fair to say there are quite a few religious "evolutionists" around.

In all honesty, even in America, I don't think evolutionists are "carried away" with saying that there is no God (though of course I don't live in the USA, so, you know). Mostly they just want the religious types to stop confusing Sunday School with science classes and/or stop trying to pass religion off as science (as ianf noted). This doesn't mean that they are opposed to religion as a whole, just they don't bring it into their profession. By the same token, you wouldn't expect a mechanic to tell you that your car won't start because it has been possessed by demons, and that you need to fill the radiator with holy water to combat them.

Anyway, before I go off on a tangent... What I mean to say is that I think the whole "evolutionists are out to destroy religion" thing is primarily Creationist hysteria rather than something which actually occurs to any great extent. Sure, there are people like that, but they are hardly representative of evolutionists or even atheists as a whole. Also I feel it should be noted that a wide range of people, both religious and non-religious, believe in evolution and it's kind of inaccurate to treat them as some kind of unified mass. It seems kinda strange to me, like talking about teeth-brushers or gravityites...

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Re: Christianity and Evolution

Postby Phill » Fri Dec 11, 2009 1:22 pm UTC

EmptySet wrote:Anyway, what I was going to say is that I think the whole "evolutionists are out to destroy religion" thing is primarily Creationist hysteria rather than something which actually occurs to any great extent. Sure, there are people like that, but they are hardly representative of evolutionists or even atheists as a whole.


I agree to an extent, there are plenty of voices in the middle who believe in both evolution and / or religion without thinking one side somehow disproves the other.

That said, unfortunate some of the most popular atheist writers (notably Richard Dawkins) seem to believe that modern science disproves religion - and in Dawkins' case, it seems, specifically evolution. So to the average layperson that's what it might look like - the loudest voices are usually the extremes.

My view is that there is nothing incompatible with Christianity and evolution - I believe in both.

sje46 wrote:All of these things are religious beliefs, and are believed because of the memetic nature of religion. Faith. Doubting is bad. Pretty much, a religion is a set of beliefs rotating around core, unprovable supernatural beliefs. Because the ideas are comforting to people (that if you live right, you will be rewarded for all eternity, that all the people you love who have died still exist, and you will see them again, that there is always someone who loves you, even if your lowest moments, etc), and because there are entire close-knit communities revolving around these beliefs, and because the set of beliefs contain beliefs that further ensure its memetic success (to not believe in God, no matter how moral you are, will send you to Hell), it becomes very, very difficult to leave that life, very difficult to even doubt it, to look at it rationally, because you have so much at stake, emotionally. It becomes part of who you are. This emotional bias will make it even more difficult to accept non-biased beliefs that contradict your religious beliefs. This is what makes religion opposed to science [*assume this is what you meant here]. You don't believe things because of reason; you believe things because of your emotional stake in them.


This might be better in the "Religion vs Science" thread, but as you mentioned it I'd like to say I don't think all religious followers are are you describe. I don't think scientific knowledge is at all at odds with religious knowledge - like Steven Jay Gould said, I think they're 'non-overlapping magisteria'. They aren't in opposition, just maybe complementary. There are plenty of religious people in my experience who do question things and don't just believe them "because the Bible says" or "because my pastor said so".

Anyway, possibly slightly off topic there, sorry!

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Re: Christianity and Evolution

Postby guenther » Fri Dec 11, 2009 10:47 pm UTC

nowfocus wrote:Those notions most certainly can and have been tested in meaningful ways: clinging to those notions improves all our lives, and when societies abandon them they descend into chaos. Belief in right and wrong is rational because we are all better off for it. Remember 'Right' and 'Wrong' aren't intrinsic values, they have developed significantly over the history of mankind.

First, if you start with the presumption that goodness comes from usefulness, then this is testable. But how many people build their moral portfolio from only ideas that have scientifically demonstrated usefulness? My guess is not many. I said right and wrong can't be meaningfully tested because we can't all agree on how they're defined. But that doesn't stop most people from being filled with complete certainty when presented with certain moral dilemmas.

Second, you've presented conflicting tests for rational belief. Religious beliefs fail because they are untestable. Notions of right and wrong pass because they're useful. Those are different standards, and I think religion would pass that second one.

When you say "theories should be testable", I think this gets at the heart of our differences. It's not about being tested, but being testable. In your mind (correct me if I'm wrong), explanations have to pass a minimum bar of being scientifically plausible, and this is where the supernatural stuff fails.

In my mind, beliefs should be useful. If we're trying to take advantage of the physical world around us, we need explanations that are in line with what we observe. Having models that help us predict future results are essential. So science is a very important tool.

But when looking for explanations for why we should behave one way versus another, I don't think views fundamentally grounded in scientific plausibility have been demonstrated to be more useful than religious ones. There's no scientific reason why people should reject all non-scientific beliefs. To me, it seems like it's all about ideology. Some people just find it intrinsically better to have a world view that completely fits within the scope of science. That's great for people who share that belief, but not everyone does.

sje46 wrote:This emotional bias will make it even more difficult to accept non-biased beliefs that contradict your religious beliefs. This is what makes religion opposed to religion. You don't believe things because of reason; you believe things because of your emotional stake in them.

If you want a promise land where everyone uses only reason to make choices, it won't be populated by humans. Fundamentally we're emotional creatures with the capacity for reason, not rational creatures with the capacity for emotion. I'd say that religion shapes our emotional bias, it doesn't create it. If you take religion away, something else will do the shaping.

sje46 wrote:And just let me clarify that anti-theists don't necessarily want to impose their lack of belief on you. Most don't care what you do in your own home, as long as you're not harming anyone. They view it as you who is being harmed, and society in general being harmed. Most hate the game, not the players :)

Is there scientific evidence for this harm? Or is it simply a belief in harm that is analogous to sinners being harmed by their separation from God?
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Re: Christianity and Evolution

Postby Duban » Sat Dec 12, 2009 12:19 am UTC

Evolution doesn't prove or disprove the existence of a god. Creationists are the ones who that say that it does, not evolutionists. Atheists simply point out that evolution means that our existence doesn't prove the existence of a god. It doesn't rule out the existence of god, it just shows that one is not necessary to explain human existence. Also the horrifying stupidity of creationists kind of becomes a pet peeve for many atheists after a while.

I am an atheist, but for reasons entirely separate of evolution. I just defend evolution because I find the creationist thought horrifyingly bad.
Last edited by Duban on Sat Dec 12, 2009 12:44 am UTC, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Christianity and Evolution

Postby XeF » Sat Dec 12, 2009 12:28 am UTC

In support of consistency between the book of Genesis and modern verified facts
Suppose for a moment that God in his wisdom uploaded the complete works boxed set of DVD's of everything factual which has been on the Discovery Channel in the past decades and edited it. Then suppose that God produces a compilation about the origins and nature of the universe, the solar system, geology, stromatolites, oxygen, clouds, ferns, dinosaurs, grass, mammoths, and all those cute wildlife closeups. Selecting everything there which is true according to God, he played them in chronological order on God's <brand name goes here> flatscreen with surround sound. Then suppose that the whole true and tested story was sent as a vision to a the mind of a guy who lived 6 to 8 thousand years ago. I doubt that he'd have words for large numbers and doubt that he would be able to conceptually grasp the difference between that bit where Disovery Channel cartoons show a lot of arrows and clouds and blue sky above stromatolites and more common concepts such as 'earth' and 'sky'. What might we expect that poor fellow to say to the woman about it? He'd have gabbled, he'd have left out indescribable parts, been struggling to remember the difference between ferns and later plants (hands up who can explain that to the class?), and been having to do his best within what she knows. I think that she'd decide that he's a fun guy to be with and possibly got something valuable for her when he got to trying to explain the mammoth in the manner of give-us-a-clue. Interesting enough that he got offered an apple for his troubles.

Now my point of view is that the great complexity of life on earth and how it works above and beyond the simplifications passed down in Genesis is neutral in terms of arguments for and against the existence of God, because if God exists then science has simply found that God was a lot cleverer in setting up the rules and details of the universe than could have been articulated in the language of six thousand years ago.

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Re: Christianity and Evolution

Postby Duban » Sat Dec 12, 2009 12:35 am UTC

guenther wrote:Is there scientific evidence for this harm? Or is it simply a belief in harm that is analogous to sinners being harmed by their separation from God?

Do the witch-hunts and crusades ring any bells? If you want to talk about today in the west many Christians are judgemental of anybody who doesn't believe the same thing as them. Stating "You're going to hell" isn't an uncommon thing for an Atheist to hear. Many people think that the US is a "christian-nation" and try to push their values on the nation and the world without an explaination all sides can agree on. "this is wrong because god says it's wrong" is something to be hated.

If you want to talk about what happens in the middle east if an atheists shows up... If you want to say "the west isn't that extreme" there are Christians who would wipe out all the Muslims in the same way the terrorists do to western society. In reality most people on both sides aren't extremists. The ones here just can't get away with it.

There are many of Christians, Muslims, and Jews out there that are perfectly fine human beings who don't push their personal beleifs on others. I have no problem with them at all. It's the people who use religion to just people and foster myths like "Evolutionists seek to attack the bible" when it simply disagrees with the literal interpretation i will have a problem with it.

Sorry for getting off topic.
Last edited by Duban on Sat Dec 12, 2009 7:27 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Christianity and Evolution

Postby nowfocus » Sat Dec 12, 2009 12:58 am UTC

guenther wrote:When you say "theories should be testable", I think this gets at the heart of our differences. It's not about being tested, but being testable. In your mind (correct me if I'm wrong), explanations have to pass a minimum bar of being scientifically plausible, and this is where the supernatural stuff fails.

In my mind, beliefs should be useful. If we're trying to take advantage of the physical world around us, we need explanations that are in line with what we observe. Having models that help us predict future results are essential. So science is a very important tool.

But when looking for explanations for why we should behave one way versus another, I don't think views fundamentally grounded in scientific plausibility have been demonstrated to be more useful than religious ones. There's no scientific reason why people should reject all non-scientific beliefs. To me, it seems like it's all about ideology. Some people just find it intrinsically better to have a world view that completely fits within the scope of science. That's great for people who share that belief, but not everyone does.


God is scientifically plausible, but not scientifically valuable.

Religion itself doesn't provide morality, people merely extract morality from religion. There are plenty of immoral thinks in the Bible, Koran, and Torah, but 'rational' religious people simply skip over those parts and focus on others. The moral compass which tells them which parts to observe and which to ignore.

Further, morality itself has changed quite a bit over the past two thousand years. If religious people were truly getting there morals from their respective holy books, then those morals would be static. I don't think thats what we see.

To me, what actually happens is more akin to evolution than perscription: societies with weaker morals were cast by to the way side of history. If the nazis won World War 2, then our definition of morality would be quite different indeed.

So what I'm trying to say is that our morals did come from a scientific process. Other types of morals were tried, and failed.

guenther wrote:First, if you start with the presumption that goodness comes from usefulness, then this is testable. But how many people build their moral portfolio from only ideas that have scientifically demonstrated usefulness? My guess is not many. I said right and wrong can't be meaningfully tested because we can't all agree on how they're defined. But that doesn't stop most people from being filled with complete certainty when presented with certain moral dilemmas.

Second, you've presented conflicting tests for rational belief. Religious beliefs fail because they are untestable. Notions of right and wrong pass because they're useful. Those are different standards, and I think religion would pass that second one.


I don't know all the details of the theory of relativity, only some of the thought experiments behind it. I still believe in it because others have found that it achieves its goal (by making accurate predictions about the motion of planets)
Similarly, I don't think people know all the details of where they get there morality, they more have it placed on them by there family and there community. The process that let us arrive at the morals we have today is a scientific one.

To your second point, these aren't contradictory. The purpose of physics is to describe the physical world around us, and so theories are judged on how well they describe the physical world around us. The purpose of morality is to make us all better off, and so we test them by seeing how much better off we all were. This wasn't done explicitly, but the point remains.

XeF wrote:...if God exists then science has simply found that God was a lot cleverer in setting up the rules and details of the universe than could have been articulated in the language of six thousand years ago.

This is exactly the problem. There is no possible piece of evidence that could disprove this notion. Its incredibly frustrating how unscientific its is. This is the exact feeling I get over people who say the moon landing was faked despite massive evidence to the contrary. There both making the same mistake.
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Re: Christianity and Evolution

Postby G.v.K » Sat Dec 12, 2009 8:57 am UTC

nowfocus wrote:The process that let us arrive at the morals we have today is a scientific one.


i don't understand this point. I assume you mean by 'scientific process' something like the testing of hypotheses. what examples can you give of morals which were tested according to the outcomes they generated?

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Re: Christianity and Evolution

Postby Narius » Sat Dec 12, 2009 5:57 pm UTC

MrLighter wrote:After searching through the board for a little while, I didn't see anything that really answered my questions here, so here it goes.

Recently, my parents transfered me to a Christian school because a few of the programs that they had were better than anything else in the area. So, last year in biology, we were taught about evolution. We learned about Charles Darwin his theories of natural selection and evolution. It was an entirely unbiased depiction of evolution (I cross-referenced what I learned with various internet sources, people from non-Christian schools, various books). We also learned about how scientists use rock formations to estimate the age of the earth. The only mention to God was the teacher saying "Ultimately, God created the process, and occasionally modified a few things along the way." We were even required to write a paper talking about both evolution and seven-day creationism (Which was left out of the majority of class. It was only talked about as an opposing view to evolution), and how modern-Christian beliefs fit in with science, and how the two concepts actually can work together.

So my issue is: Why do evolutionists get so carried away with saying that there is no God? In the end, what does it matter to them if there is a God or not? Why do the atheists/naturalists/humanists fight so hard to prove that there is no God, and that God did not make/cause evolution? Considering our level of science, it doesn't make sense to me to absolutely rule something out based on a lack of current knowledge. Just because we have not found proof does not mean that it exist.


I haven't read many of the responses to this OP, so I say this at the risk of being redundant. From my experience, there are some really radical people who do hate everything that has to do with faith and Christianity, and it's their hate that fuels them against the argument. But for the most part, atheistic/naturalist/humanistics are rational and logical people, with sound reasons for their disbelief. There is the principle of Occam's Razor, which basically states that any fact that is not absolutely necessary should be 'trimmed' away. Since their is no definitive proof for a God, so it can be argued that whether or not He exists is entirely superfluous and should be 'trimmed'. However, I'm in the same boat as you. I'm a Christian, and majoring in Physics at my university; naturally my academic peer group is majority atheist. I am a strong advocate for the fact that science and faith don't need to fight, and I consider myself an "old earth creationist"; I believe God created the universe and all, and evidence suggests that He used evolution, and that the universe is 14.1 billion (or however many) years old.
That's my take on it anyways, someone let me know if I'm completely off-base.

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Re: Christianity and Evolution

Postby nowfocus » Sat Dec 12, 2009 6:46 pm UTC

G.v.K wrote:
nowfocus wrote:The process that let us arrive at the morals we have today is a scientific one.

i don't understand this point. I assume you mean by 'scientific process' something like the testing of hypotheses. what examples can you give of morals which were tested according to the outcomes they generated?


As I detail in the above post, its not an explicit test with case controls. Instead, a society adopts a set of morals (say every man for himself), and that society thrives, perishes, or something in between. The morals that lead to societies that thrived will be the ones in thriving in society today by a evolution style process. Morals are tested by how successful they make a society.

The other hypothesis, that morals were strictly codified in a religious text and handed down, doesn't seem to fit. Morality, even Christian Morality, has changed by massive amounts over the years. What a Christian would consider moral in the 10 century is quite different than what they'd consider moral in the 15th or the 20th.

Its difficult to give a specific example that you want, the same way its difficult to show evolution tested a certain genetic trait, but I'll try.

Lets take the US civil war as an example. Massively simplifying the situation, you had a group of people in the north who didn't have slaves around and thought slavery was wrong, and then you had another group of people in the south who had slaves and thought slaves were fine. The long-term fate of slavery was decided in that war (again, skimming over a very complex event). Nowadays Americans (for the most part) consider slavery wrong, because the north won. Had the south grown up US with slaves around, the majority of the south would probably have been okay with slavery, regardless of how religious they were. So we had two moral systems, which fought, and the moral system of the side who won became the dominant view point.

We can take prohibition as another example non-war example. The US tried it, it failed miserably on a host of metrics, and so they got rid of it.

If Christian Morals actually came from the bible, the Christian Morals would have to be relatively static over a long period of time. I don't think thats what you see. I doubt you'd disagree that the there is a massive divide among Christians today about what Christian Morals imply, let alone over a long period of time.

If you agree that our moral systems are largely a product of our surroundings, then realize that the current moral framework of society is the product of countless legal and economic scholars, who study optimal outcomes for society. These people use a scientific process as well, conducting studies, and performing theoretical calculations based on those studies.

So, do you agree that morals don't come from religion itself, but rather the society around you? Do you agree that the morals of successful societies have been forged by the victors of political battles, war, and academic debate?
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Re: Christianity and Evolution

Postby ianf » Sun Dec 13, 2009 12:01 am UTC

nowfocus wrote:So, do you agree that morals don't come from religion itself, but rather the society around you? Do you agree that the morals of successful societies have been forged by the victors of political battles, war, and academic debate?


But suppose that the victors have been determined by God, so that the morals do reflect religion. God ensured that the North won in the civil war because slavery was immoral. I realise that is more of a Greek view of a deity than a Judeo-Christian one, but the "with God on our side" view is also quite common theme in some Christians.

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Re: Christianity and Evolution

Postby Duban » Sun Dec 13, 2009 12:50 am UTC

ianf wrote:But suppose that the victors have been determined by God, so that the morals do reflect religion.

This is a cross belief system conversation here. You really do need to express your opinions in a way that anybody here can understand independent of religion. To say "God directed the world in that direction" is just using circular logic. That sentence assumes a "god" created and influenced human morals, but you're using it in an argument to support why morals come from your god. You need to assume its true just to test it, but isn't the assumption what we're trying to test?

Do you at least understand why we can't accept that as a valid argument?
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Re: Christianity and Evolution

Postby nowfocus » Sun Dec 13, 2009 1:24 am UTC

Further, to Duban, Gods morals are supposed to be static. (S)he is supposed to be unchanging. If so slavery couldn't have been okay before the war, and not okay afterwards. But thats presumably whats been observed.

Gods morals are static. If our morals reflect Gods will, then our morals would be static. They are not.
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Re: Christianity and Evolution

Postby guenther » Sun Dec 13, 2009 1:46 am UTC

nowfocus wrote:So what I'm trying to say is that our morals did come from a scientific process. Other types of morals were tried, and failed.

I presume you believe that religious beliefs come from a scientific process as well, so this doesn't tell us very much. "You should help those in need" and "You should do as God says" might have both filtered down through the ages because they've proved to be very useful things for cultures to propagate. How is the first one rational and the second one not? If we're talking utility, we can measure it for both.

And I think you're deviating away from using the principles of science to establish beliefs. People believing things because everyone has believed it for a long time isn't exactly a scientific basis for belief. Science requires collecting data through experiment and observations as well as hypothesis testing (plagiarized from wikipedia). I suspect most people don't use this technique for establishing their morals. In fact, I've never even seen anyone advocate that we should. (Though I have heard scientists talk about how they're doing their best to study it.)

nowfocus wrote:So, do you agree that morals don't come from religion itself, but rather the society around you? Do you agree that the morals of successful societies have been forged by the victors of political battles, war, and academic debate?

I completely disagree. I don't know why you've created this dichotomy that either religion holds morals static or it has no effect. Why can't it be somewhere in the middle.

In fact we can easily observe that religion does have an impact on people's morals. If we sample from a group of Christians and a group of atheists or agnostics and asked them about their belief on various moral issues, I bet we'd find a statistically significant difference. Do you think we can find a better explanation for this difference besides religion? (This is a thought experiment since I don't actually have a study to cite.)
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Re: Christianity and Evolution

Postby nowfocus » Sun Dec 13, 2009 3:08 am UTC

Spoilered as the tangent is taking a life of its own:
Spoiler:
guenther wrote:I completely disagree. I don't know why you've created this dichotomy that either religion holds morals static or it has no effect. Why can't it be somewhere in the middle.

In fact we can easily observe that religion does have an impact on people's morals. If we sample from a group of Christians and a group of atheists or agnostics and asked them about their belief on various moral issues, I bet we'd find a statistically significant difference. Do you think we can find a better explanation for this difference besides religion? (This is a thought experiment since I don't actually have a study to cite.)


The dichotomy is whether morals are static, or they aren't.

Religion surely has an impact on peoples morals, because religious people have been brought up and are surrounded by a different environment. Thats not to say religion gave those people different morals.

If religion truly provided morals, then I think stonings would be far more common place among the modern Jewish and Islamic community, as that is what the Torah and Quran lay out. But in a modern context we don't go around stoning people for adultery since our modern morals view that as brutal and wrong. That view is not held in parts of the world with a more primitive, religious culture. See Iran, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Somalia, Pakistan, and Indonesia here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stoning. So clearly religion itself isn't providing the morals.

The question isn't the morals themselves, its whether religion provides those morals.

guenther wrote:And I think you're deviating away from using the principles of science to establish beliefs. People believing things because everyone has believed it for a long time isn't exactly a scientific basis for belief. Science requires collecting data through experiment and observations as well as hypothesis testing (plagiarized from wikipedia). I suspect most people don't use this technique for establishing their morals. In fact, I've never even seen anyone advocate that we should. (Though I have heard scientists talk about how they're doing their best to study it.)


First, science doesn't require each individual to carry out each experiment. You learn bits and pieces of it out of curiosity, while the full process has been completed by others, usually a long time ago. I don't, and I doubt that you know the full procedure for producing a Bose-Einstein condensate. Yet believing that those exist is still scientific.

I said the process the that governs the formation of our morals was in fact scientific in a guess and check manner. Hypothesis were tested by actual implementation.


Getting to back to the question of 'how can I be angered by people believing in God for a moral system", I'd answer that one can simply ascribe to a moral system without an omnipotent vengeful head. So then we just have the belief in God thing again, and the moral system. From that point, I can strongly question belief in God alone (from scientific ground), and the moral system (from a moral ground). I see no reason why I, or anyone else for that matter, needs to take them hand in hand.
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Menacing Spike wrote:Was it the copper hammer or the children part that caused censoring?

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Re: Christianity and Evolution

Postby guenther » Sun Dec 13, 2009 4:52 am UTC

More spoilered off-topic.
Spoiler:
nowfocus wrote:The question isn't the morals themselves, its whether religion provides those morals.

So why can't morals be non-static and still be shaped by religion? I'm not saying that morals flow from religion therefore people without religion don't have morals. Clearly this is false. But I believe religious systems shape what people believe about right and wrong and it provides mechanisms to turn these beliefs into actual behavior.

nowfocus wrote:First, science doesn't require each individual to carry out each experiment. You learn bits and pieces of it out of curiosity, while the full process has been completed by others, usually a long time ago. I don't, and I doubt that you know the full procedure for producing a Bose-Einstein condensate. Yet believing that those exist is still scientific.

I said the process the that governs the formation of our morals was in fact scientific in a guess and check manner. Hypothesis were tested by actual implementation.

If I publicly question the Bose-Einstein condensate, I bet someone could point me to a publication demonstrating how it's made. If I still questioned and had the resources, I could actually recreate the experiment to either confirm or deny the results. This is the power of science.

We can't do that with guess-and-check-through-the-ages stuff. If I question that giving to the needy is good, how can you back this up? It's an old idea that has demonstrated fitness? Well we can use that same standard to demonstrate that obeying God is good. This isn't a good test to weed out religious belief.

nowfocus wrote:Getting to back to the question of 'how can I be angered by people believing in God for a moral system", I'd answer that one can simply ascribe to a moral system without an omnipotent vengeful head. So then we just have the belief in God thing again, and the moral system. From that point, I can strongly question belief in God alone (from scientific ground), and the moral system (from a moral ground). I see no reason why I, or anyone else for that matter, needs to take them hand in hand.

I don't think they need taken hand in hand. You have a pretty solid case to say that there's no scientific leg to stand on for believing in God. But to extend that further and say that because a belief is non-scientific it's bad, then you've made argument against both a belief in God and a belief in morality. And so now it's inconsistent to apply that argument unevenly.

NOTE: As I mentioned earlier, someone could build a moral system based entirely off of scientific ideas of fitness or however we define morality, but it's completely impractical to the point that I don't think anyone actually does it. Can one use science to demonstrate that gays should have the right to get married? Or that abortion should be illegal? Or that torture of detainees under the Bush administration was wrong (not simply ineffective)? Or that the treatment of animals in the meat production industry is immoral?
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Re: Christianity and Evolution

Postby G.v.K » Sun Dec 13, 2009 5:27 am UTC

nowfocus wrote:
G.v.K wrote:
nowfocus wrote:The process that let us arrive at the morals we have today is a scientific one.

i don't understand this point. I assume you mean by 'scientific process' something like the testing of hypotheses. what examples can you give of morals which were tested according to the outcomes they generated?


As I detail in the above post, its not an explicit test with case controls. Instead, a society adopts a set of morals (say every man for himself), and that society thrives, perishes, or something in between. The morals that lead to societies that thrived will be the ones in thriving in society today by a evolution style process. Morals are tested by how successful they make a society.


what are the facts here and what is the theory? you seem to be trying to account for a number of fairly unrelated facts eg. 'some societies perish'; 'societies have different moralities' etc.

and your theory seems to be 'morals which lead to strong societies will be propagated'. it's not clear to me how to test that theory.

nowfocus wrote:Its difficult to give a specific example that you want, the same way its difficult to show evolution tested a certain genetic trait, but I'll try.

Lets take the US civil war as an example. Massively simplifying the situation, you had a group of people in the north who didn't have slaves around and thought slavery was wrong, and then you had another group of people in the south who had slaves and thought slaves were fine. The long-term fate of slavery was decided in that war (again, skimming over a very complex event). Nowadays Americans (for the most part) consider slavery wrong, because the north won. Had the south grown up US with slaves around, the majority of the south would probably have been okay with slavery, regardless of how religious they were. So we had two moral systems, which fought, and the moral system of the side who won became the dominant view point.

We can take prohibition as another example non-war example. The US tried it, it failed miserably on a host of metrics, and so they got rid of it.


how do you know when it's valid to 'massively simplify'? your account reminds me of the plethora of 'just-so' stories which come out of evolutionary theory. i think the whole area is in need of a much more disciplined framework. otherwise you can just cherry pick and 'massively simplify' in order to get the answer you want.

nowfocus wrote:If you agree that our moral systems are largely a product of our surroundings, then realize that the current moral framework of society is the product of countless legal and economic scholars, who study optimal outcomes for society. These people use a scientific process as well, conducting studies, and performing theoretical calculations based on those studies.


this sounds like a new theory - 'individuals within a society can come up with ideas about optimal moral outcomes'. i'm not sure how this is relevant. even so, the same problem arises - how are you going to test that? what are your criteria for determining optimal outcomes? are you going to compare outcomes across societies? the number of variables at play here is huge. how can you set up tests to rule out alternative hypotheses eg. economic/military power, geographical location, climate, diet.

nowfocus wrote:So, do you agree that morals don't come from religion itself, but rather the society around you? Do you agree that the morals of successful societies have been forged by the victors of political battles, war, and academic debate?


i don't necessarily disagree. on the other hand, you haven't provided me any compelling evidence or interesting facts.

nowfocus
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Re: Christianity and Evolution

Postby nowfocus » Sun Dec 13, 2009 6:43 am UTC

I can see your concern, but you have to realize that you can't go into a lab and test theories like this idea of morality I'm proposing, or evolution. We can't watch physical specimen evolve any more than we can watch morals evolve. Instead we look to history, look to the theory behind the model, and see if its a good description of whats going on. This is (and correct me if I'm wrong) how you confirm any theory through the study of history.

I think the theory I posted describes several phonemna quite well (that morals aren't static, that morals depend on context, that the context changes over time). If we were to approach this scientifically, we would look at the data we have (history) and see how well the predictions of the model were followed (after stating it in a quantitative form so that it would falsifiable). Its certainly possible to test.

G.v.K wrote:how do you know when it's valid to 'massively simplify'?

The 'massive simplification' was my description of the civil war, whose causes are complex and fill textbooks. The content of what I was saying is still valid.
G.v.K wrote:i don't necessarily disagree. on the other hand, you haven't provided me any compelling evidence or interesting facts.

Fair enough, lets save it for a morality thread then.

guenther wrote:But to extend that further and say that because a belief is non-scientific it's bad, then you've made argument against both a belief in God and a belief in morality. And so now it's inconsistent to apply that argument unevenly.

While I won't cede my earlier point, I also have a specific objection with belief in God because it prescribes what is, while morality prescribes what ought. Morality never claims to say something is true, belief in God does.
Jahoclave wrote:Besides if you observe romance, you change the outcome. Especially if you put his/her friend Catherine in a box.

Menacing Spike wrote:Was it the copper hammer or the children part that caused censoring?

MoghLiechty2
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Re: Christianity and Evolution

Postby MoghLiechty2 » Sun Dec 13, 2009 7:15 am UTC

nowfocus wrote:While I won't cede my earlier point, I also have a specific objection with belief in God because it prescribes what is, while morality prescribes what ought. Morality never claims to say something is true, belief in God does.

I think "what ought" actually implies a level of "what is" in a non-trivial way. "What ought" is, I think, equivalent to "What is the choosing of future events, to the extent we are capable of choosing them, such that the future events align most closely with a set of standards we have prescribed for 'goodness'"

Evolution would to some extent create a version of this type of "ought" since it seeks to create scenarios aimed at survival, and survival is partially or fully contained in the mentioned set of standards. I don't think it would be such a stretch to argue, however, that the morality we do in fact possess seems to have fuller, more complex, or more abstract aims than evolution solely would provide, even if evolution can account for the portion of morality that it does (and I also don't have any pressing desire to make such an argument).

guenther
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Re: Christianity and Evolution

Postby guenther » Sun Dec 13, 2009 7:38 am UTC

nowfocus wrote:I can see your concern, but you have to realize that you can't go into a lab and test theories like this idea of morality I'm proposing, or evolution. We can't watch physical specimen evolve any more than we can watch morals evolve. Instead we look to history, look to the theory behind the model, and see if its a good description of whats going on. This is (and correct me if I'm wrong) how you confirm any theory through the study of history.

I think you've hit the nail on the head for why we don't use science to establish moral beliefs. It's really hard. I do think it would be possible to study scientifically, and I think it'd look a lot like economics. But as hard as it is in economics to all agree on the "right answer", morality would be much harder. Goodness exchanges aren't tracked in currency, and I think cause and effect relationships play out over a longer time span, at least over a generation (because how morals are transmitted to the next generation is key to how the system works).

So in the end we rely on the other systems that nature has seen fit to give us for deciding morality. Mostly I think it's emotional. And I think we have a lot of hooks for our social network to encourage certain behaviors as well.

nowfocus wrote:I think the theory I posted describes several phonemna quite well (that morals aren't static, that morals depend on context, that the context changes over time). If we were to approach this scientifically, we would look at the data we have (history) and see how well the predictions of the model were followed (after stating it in a quantitative form so that it would falsifiable). Its certainly possible to test.

I completely agree with your theory on how our morals came to be. I strongly believe in a natural selection style fitness test for different belief systems. And I used this in my argument for the utility of religion.

nowfocus wrote:While I won't cede my earlier point, I also have a specific objection with belief in God because it prescribes what is, while morality prescribes what ought. Morality never claims to say something is true, belief in God does.

Belief in God definitely includes many statements about what is, but these mostly are for areas that are outside of science. This seems like a personal preference thing. I'll certainly respect anyone that doesn't like it.
A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.

XeF
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Re: Christianity and Evolution

Postby XeF » Sun Dec 13, 2009 3:27 pm UTC

I read the post from NowFocus with interest and refer all readers here to go back if not already aware of it before reading mine:

Nowfocus expressed indication that morals were entirely malleable empirical fitting to what was most successful, illustrating that a successful society can impart its morals to those which lose to it in war.

Greek history might also contain examples in which a knowledgeable society which was successful imparted moral and complex ideas on every subsequent successful society. A successfully transfered idea from back then is the theorem of Pythogorus, which is not a moral idea at all. Geometry theorems are amongst the testable ideas which turn out to be exactly right and also sometimes useful. The idea propagated not because it was imposed on other societies, but because it was exactly right.

Moral ideas rarely lend themselves to testing on paper with a sharp pencil, but I'm of the view that some morals are wrong and some morals are as right as a2+b2=c2, independently of who is evaluating them. I risk ridicule here in being so unfashionable as saying that it is not because of conquest or semi-accidental success that old fashioned morals contain some things which are completely right and which will remain right, even in a society in which the opinion of every person there disagrees.

Take for example the slavery. I personally have an almost neutral stance on slavery itself, on grounds that to employ feed and house workers could once (by a handful of better Greeks and Romans) be done with more kindness and impartial fairness than is achieved by modern day business, who seem to deliberately contract and dismiss workers to a known miserable fate. However, the nature of private ownership and slavery enables all manner of abuses of seniority and because these tend to have occurred in every slave owning society, slavery is a process by which objectively wrong actions got permission to happen.

So, I'm saying that there exist objectively wrong actions. I am at a loss to specify further and in any case think that Christ did a better job of doing so than I would. Malleable morals should be adaptive to new context but protected from sliding into conduct which does unto others worse than one would want for oneself or one's children [this catch-all is to cover soldiers with a death-wish and needs extending]. We are, I think in danger of ending up in a society which argues that because there is no such idea of absolute wrong, and nobody can say about anything 'THIS IS WRONG', the total annihilation of shared air and sea resources is not wrong. Such a society will, as certainly as Pythogorus' triangle had a right angle, take us all down a path which leads to atrocity and horror. The set of expected futures of such as society is not those which I would wish anyone whom I love to live in, therefore it is known to be wrong.

Dollhouse presented a dreadful possible future which subjectivists could, I suppose, argue is not wrong. Some of those might even pay for such Frankenstein slaves if offered the merchandise with a legal disclaimer, and some really odd subjectivists might even be interested enough to try out such. A few damaged or twisted individuals could want to have their mind erased on grounds of any other situation being better than their present one, and even more damaged and twisted individuals want to do the programming and management. My point of view is that we are in danger of a society which carries out such activities which are as dreadful as those in that story, propagating permissiveness and cruel destruction at the expense of others. Who is left to say STOP. NO! THAT IS JUST WRONG.

guenther
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Re: Christianity and Evolution

Postby guenther » Sun Dec 13, 2009 4:56 pm UTC

XeF wrote:Moral ideas rarely lend themselves to testing on paper with a sharp pencil, but I'm of the view that some morals are wrong and some morals are as right as a2+b2=c2, independently of who is evaluating them. I risk ridicule here in being so unfashionable as saying that it is not because of conquest or semi-accidental success that old fashioned morals contain some things which are completely right and which will remain right, even in a society in which the opinion of every person there disagrees.

To extend the economics analogy, I think some morals have an intrinsic goodness in the sense that water has an intrinsic value to us. There's no test we can do on water to extract out that value like we do with mass, density, etc. You have to view water in the context of us to see why it's so valuable. And if an alien race came to view us, the best way they could measure that intrinsic value is to observe that people everywhere need and value water, and that it's been the case for our whole history.

XeF wrote:My point of view is that we are in danger of a society which carries out such activities which are as dreadful as those in that story, propagating permissiveness and cruel destruction at the expense of others. Who is left to say STOP. NO! THAT IS JUST WRONG.

I share the concern, but I believe the slide will come from a lack of shared values rather than a belief in intrinsic goodness. But I also think a belief in intrinsic goodness is a great framework to use to build shared values.

To bring it back to the topic, I think the notion that we need religion or that we need to get rid of religion are equally misguided. There's something more fundamental that cuts across the belief in God/no God divide that we all share. In regards to science in particular, we need science to be functional, and we need it to stay within certain ethical bounds. If religious people can find a way to reconcile their beliefs with what science tells us, that's a good thing. If irreligious people can find a way to bound science to certain ethical standards without relying on God, that's a good thing. We should find ways for people to work together to solve problems rather that enhance fissures in our society that bring about more conflict. We all want to be a big functional happy unit, but we all also like to justify why it's someone else's job to take the first step and extend compassion to those on the other side of the divide. (EDIT: For this last line, this isn't pointed at anyone in this thread. Rather I'm just doing a plug for the value that I find most important. :))
A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.


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