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a higher power

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Ron
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50 posted 06-30-2008 11:49 PM       View Profile for Ron   Email Ron   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Ron's Home Page   View IP for Ron

quote:
Why would the singularity not have an event horizon? After all according to the standard definition the universe has one.

Were that true, Grinch, all it would mean was that the universe and its even horizon were contained within the Big Bang singularity.

You're essentially trying to put "something" outside of "everything." Are you sure you don't believe in miracles?

quote:
That’s a little misleading, Einstein's General Theory of Relativity and the Big Bang theory added weight to the first cause argument.

And I would contend that "added weight" is misleading. The Big Bang, should it prove true, pretty much cements the first cause argument. Einstein didn't much care for that either, so he invented a new force of physics to cancel out the expansion and deceleration predicted by his own calculations. Later, when Hubble confirmed that the Universe was, indeed, expanding as predicted, Einstein gave grudging acceptance to "the necessity for a beginning" and to "the presence of a superior reasoning power." He didn't like it, and he never found a use for a personal god, but he recognized that his own calculations allowed no other conclusion.

quote:
You, Campbell, and Marx would seem to be saying something similar, but the debate, to my mind, turns on whether "we" are "better off" with it or without it

Jim, you're taking what I said in one post out of context from what I said earlier in the thread, just as I asked Grinch not to do. My debate certainly doesn't turn on whether we're better off with or without religion.

In science there is typically one right answer, a lot of partially right answers, and an almost infinite variety of wrong answers. Why should religion be any different? Form an hypothesis, test it, adjust as necessary.

The role of religion shouldn't be to simply explain the past or make promises for the future. Religion is about the here and now, and THAT is the way it should be tested. If your religion doesn't better your life, change it until it does. Debate ended.


Stephanos
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51 posted 07-01-2008 12:54 AM       View Profile for Stephanos   Email Stephanos   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Stephanos's Home Page   View IP for Stephanos

Hey guys, I've been following the thread, but I had to make-a-livin' for a few days, with no time for a decent reply.

quote:
Me: What is your definition of empirical Grinch?


Grinch: Evidence or consequences that are observable by the senses, measurable and consistently repeatable and are capable of being verified or disproved by observation or experiment.


Would you concede there is much that you believe that is not exactly repeatable via experiment, or doesn't fall into your definition of "empirical"? ... and that many of our best inferences (including yours) are not verifiable via the strict criteria of epistemology that you describe?


quote:
Me: As Ron already pointed out, someone's experience of God in their own life is indeed empirical


Grinch: Only in the same way that someone seeing a fairy can claim to have empirical evidence that fairies exist.


Or in the same way someone could have been sick without secondary human verification, or in love, or any number of things.  Or in the way anything might have been truly experienced where without-a-doubt verification is difficult or impossible.  And since this is the case, there is much that you yourself know for sure that isn't "empirical" according to your own requirements.


quote:
Me: What about reported miracles in history?


Grinch: It depends on your definition of miracles, I can accept that the statistically improbable can happen but not the scientifically impossible.


You do realize that holding your philosophy, literally anything could happen before your eyes and it would have to be called merely "statistically improbable"?  As I've suggested to you before, when what is "empirical" is filtered through certain presuppositions, even the inference-to-the-best-explanation must be missed if it doesn't fit your philosophical schema.  And for the atheist, the certain uncertainties of dialectical materialism rule out divinity, even if it were the inference to the best explanation.  That's why Richard Dawkins needs to remind his readers so dogmatically that their inference is invalid about biological systems that look as if designed.  Pardon me if I think this more closely resembles "The Emperor's New Clothes".


quote:
Me:  What about the appearance of design?


Grinch: The appearance of design  doesn’t  require a designer, there is empirical evidence that natural selection can create the appearance of design and no evidence, beyond personal belief, that a designer exists.


But you're discounting what would lead to the inference of design (high complexity and specification), based upon your assertion of no evidence.  Its as if you're saying "Of course that can't qualify as evidence, since there is no evidence", begging the question.


quote:
Me: Why does the Biblical worldview it square so well with our experience of the moral problems of humanity, of guilt?


Grinch: Is it because it was written by men with experience of the moral problems of humanity?



I think you've missed the point of my question.  I'm not marvelling that the Bible describes the existential or moral problems of humanity, (that would be a fine addition to literature, but no profound insight) but that it also explains them.  And that it explains them in a way that makes sense of our psychological response and deepest feelings toward them.  Whereas atheism coupled with Darwinian ideas can only describe, saying finally that they are only different genetic expressions in the race for survival.  One gives a reason for, while the other explains away and trivializes humanity's deepest convictions.


quote:
... Because we are hardwired by evolution to react in certain ways to certain stimuli, what you’re describing is the human condition, not evidence of a creator.


See, the explanation you give for our existential / moral experiences (actually only a description) is nothing more than that we are bound to have them, because of certain enduring genetic anomalies.  And for that reason, given your view there is no notion that these tendencies have any correlation to reality.


quote:
Me: As I said, the question of design merely becomes more poignant with the arrival of life.

Ron: ... I think if it wasn't already poignant enough before the arrival of life, a few self-replicating cells aren't likely to change anyone's perspective.


I suppose you're right Ron.  Someone who doesn't want to appreciate a master artist doesn't have to.  There are those who don't 'get it', and maybe never will.  Of course, that's no argument that his background canvas is little different than his magnum opus.


quote:
Me: Just "Nope"?  Well that's convincing.

Ron:: I didn't know you wanted to be convinced?


Well, regardless of what you think I want, I 'm just making sure that your replies didn't really belong in "announcements".          


Ron:
quote:
I believe reason can indeed by used to see God (which isn't necessarily the same thing as finding a god). But it also seems fairly self evident to me that reason can just as easily be used to hide God.


And maybe that's where you and I diverge.  I certainly embrace "faith" as well.  Though I would have to insist that any reasoning that hides (or refuses to see) God's reality is well, unreasonable ... not just alternate form of reason.  Or maybe we could say like Chesterton did, that it is reason and nothing more that makes a madman.  


quote:
It's absolutely all around us, and that's part of the problem. Everything is evidence of God. And that essentially means that nothing is evidence of God. It's just the way things are.


Well I don't think that everything holds the same weight of evidence.  That there are varying levels of significance in the world seems to be theologically and experientially sound.  Therefore your conclusion that "nothing is evidence for God" doesn't seem to hold up.

quote:
The role of religion shouldn't be to simply explain the past or make promises for the future. Religion is about the here and now, and THAT is the way it should be tested. If your religion doesn't better your life, change it until it does. Debate ended.


Your statement could be taken to support both an extreme individualism and a utilitarian philosophy where religion (or its object) becomes secondary ... a means to one's own ends.  Though I feel that's not how you're intending it.

Secondly I would point out that knowing the promises of the future is part of what makes a better life now.  We all gotta die sometime.  But death has this way of permeating the whole, if one suspects (or fears) that it is the only absolute.  


But Ron, I'm with ya on that Big Bang Cosmology!                                 

  
Stephen

[This message has been edited by Stephanos (07-02-2008 11:48 PM).]

Essorant
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52 posted 07-01-2008 02:09 AM       View Profile for Essorant   Email Essorant   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Essorant's Home Page   View IP for Essorant

The sparks of Knowledge first so small
Soon spread the flames of Art o'er all.
SimonG
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53 posted 07-01-2008 10:51 AM       View Profile for SimonG   Email SimonG   Edit/Delete Message     View IP for SimonG

If your religion doesn't better your life, change it until it does. Debate ended.

If one can change one's religion as changing clothes in a fashion show, then the religion must be a tool. Tool does not have higher power. The user has. A higher power, I think, is something one can not manipulate and one is under control of it. such as, whatever started human breath and heart beat and human logic thinking.
The sparks of Knowledge first so small
Soon spread the flames of Art o'er all.


But the wisdom stands heavenly tall,
Denying the call led heavily fall

Simon
Essorant
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54 posted 07-01-2008 10:02 PM       View Profile for Essorant   Email Essorant   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Essorant's Home Page   View IP for Essorant

I heard the Gods debate all day
And Big Bangs too attend the fray,
Wondering if, and why, and when
The Universe was made by Men!

Stephanos
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55 posted 07-02-2008 12:56 AM       View Profile for Stephanos   Email Stephanos   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Stephanos's Home Page   View IP for Stephanos

If I were to dream man formed this place
from highest star to lowest seed
then need I deem the human race
a pantheon of gods indeed
But how can mankind have such rule
If this specimen were such a fool?  

[This message has been edited by Stephanos (07-03-2008 01:09 AM).]

Essorant
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56 posted 07-02-2008 10:42 PM       View Profile for Essorant   Email Essorant   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Essorant's Home Page   View IP for Essorant

For all we know the gods may be
Of much inferiority
Which leaves us humans fitter fools
To be the rulers of the rules.


Stephanos
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57 posted 07-03-2008 12:57 AM       View Profile for Stephanos   Email Stephanos   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Stephanos's Home Page   View IP for Stephanos

“None can know” is quite ambitious
a philosophy, and thus suspicious,
especially when one claims to know that all
can never ever know of one
no matter what is said or done
a certain doubt that’s certainly to fall
But let me now get to the point
For my poem shouldn’t twiddle
You're not too much agnostical
but contrarily
too little.


(Hey, if you get to make up words, so do I.)

Essorant
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58 posted 07-03-2008 11:49 AM       View Profile for Essorant   Email Essorant   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Essorant's Home Page   View IP for Essorant

Without our art, if knowledge turned to flint,
With foremost spark, the first part and the hint,
Would unicorns turn back to mares and horns,
Centaurs to men and horses art adorns?

Since gods as well in nativeness would be,
Of gods, without our art, what would we see?
A mote, a man, the earth, the sea, the sun,
Confused and named as persons or the One?

Or else a God himself, in nakedness,
That art reflects in manifoldedness,
In many gloves and gauntlets, would it stand,
That there would be the same and only Hand?

Who knows for sure, the bottom and the ground,
Of all this mighty growth in which we're wound?
Who wants the crops removed, for naked roots?
Not I, for without crops, there are no fruits.


Stephanos
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59 posted 07-03-2008 03:08 PM       View Profile for Stephanos   Email Stephanos   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Stephanos's Home Page   View IP for Stephanos

Essorant,

Let me pull back into prose for a moment, since I feel that you want me to address your thoughts about how religion relates to art.


I have no problem with recognizing (even celebrating) that much of religion is art, or even that historical events may be described in an artful way.  But I don't think all art is based in history to the same degree or in the same way.  We have all heard and appreciate wonderous stories about the cow jumped over the moon, probably based on many human experiences with cows and gazing at the sky.  In spite of the realness of the origins, we don't think the story is historical.  Sometimes in religion, we also need someone to tell us what really happened.  So in the former is much imagination, charm, and beauty, but little by way of reflecting what really happened.  The more historically based tale may be told in a beautiful or even fanciful way, but has a different form and purpose altogether.  

What you seem to be denying (as far as I can tell) is the possibility for religion to also relate acts of God in time space, in a manner of simple reportage.  Of course anything claiming to be such would have to be examined on its own laurels and veracity.  But if such claims exist in religion at all (in addition to the mythical), it doesn't make much sense to insist that it's all in the other category.  If all religion (by one's philosophy) is automatically placed in the category of human contrivance and creativy, then you're forced to the same conclusion that you expressed earlier:  That we can't know anything for real about God.  And therefore the gods may not be great.
  

But when it comes to more historically based religion, examining the "roots" is not at all damaging to the spirit or appreciation of the whole.  Just ask N.T. Wright.     Whenever very real and specific historical claims are made, they are subject to be examined from that standpoint.  The Christian claim is that in the person of Jesus Christ, God entered Space Time and acted in the world.  As Francis Schaeffer once put it:  You could have gotten a splinter in your finger from the cross that day.


What I am saying in no way undermines art.  But I am saying that a tale about a Leprechaun's Rainbow is different in a significant way from a personal letter about Kevin Rainbow.  


Stephen        
Essorant
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60 posted 07-04-2008 01:01 PM       View Profile for Essorant   Email Essorant   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Essorant's Home Page   View IP for Essorant

Stephanos,


quote:
What you seem to be denying (as far as I can tell) is the possibility for religion to also relate acts of God in time space, in a manner of simple reportage.


Not at all Stephanos.  I am just saying that there is no way to confirm it.  Whether you talk about the gods influence on the Trojan War, God coming to earth as Christ, or God talking to you right now, none of it may be confirmed and it is yoked to the imagination in a way that may not be sundered from the imagination.

Consider the difference between words such as "god" and "earth".  When we say "earth" we have something physical and distinct from the imagination of the earth, but when we say "god" what do we have present and distinct from the imagination of a god, to distinguish the body itself from the imagination?

As historical events go, many of those are taken by belief and trust as well, not by evidence of the events themselves.  But if the kind of events described in one way or another is similar to the kind that is familiar and present today, then there is evidence for the kind of event, and therefore we may be the more persuaded to believe them.   But events such as a god creating a universe, or becoming a man, or taking part in a war, etc. are kinds of events that may not be confirmed as happening today, let alone confirmed as happening yesterday.

Those are extaordinary things that people believe in and artistically build upon.  As beforesaid, I think art is like a reflection from a mirror that may be more or less warped.  But no matter how warped the mirror is, the mirror still always reflects something that is actually there.  But when we can't confirm for sure what being or thing the mirror is reflecting, how do we determine how truly it is reflecting the being or thing?



[This message has been edited by Essorant (07-05-2008 11:23 AM).]

Huan Yi
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61 posted 07-04-2008 05:40 PM       View Profile for Huan Yi   Email Huan Yi   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Huan Yi

.


If God came out of the sky
and said: “Here I am”
and then:  “Oh, and by the way,
I long ago decided
when you’re dead you're dead.”
it might, (though I doubt it),
save on a lot of discussion.

Because all this is about death
and the fear of it.


.
Ron
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62 posted 07-04-2008 05:59 PM       View Profile for Ron   Email Ron   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Ron's Home Page   View IP for Ron

quote:
Because all this is about death
and the fear of it.

Really, John? I guess I must not have meant anything I said in my posts then. I thought I did. Clearly, though, you believe you know otherwise.
Stephanos
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63 posted 07-04-2008 09:53 PM       View Profile for Stephanos   Email Stephanos   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Stephanos's Home Page   View IP for Stephanos

Any honest reading of scripture should conclude that Christianity is not "all about death".  But since death is the most enigmatic part of life (so to speak) it is only right that it should be addressed.


Stephen
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64 posted 07-05-2008 04:42 AM       View Profile for Bob K   Email Bob K   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Bob K

Dear Great Onion,

                     If you ask the question in terms of "a Higher Power," you've already cooked the books.

     That doesn't mean the answers people give you have to be wrong.  It simply means that the likelihood of them being right is about the same as if you'd asked, "How tall is up?"

     To suggest there is "a higher power" means you have already agreed there are "Powers" at all.  This is called "begging the question."  "Begging the question" is a logical fallacy, and is generally enough to bring discussions to a screaming halt until the the statement can be rephrased in a logically acceptable fashion.

     One you permit begging the question to go unquestioned, people will try to get all sorts of absurdities past you, hoping you won't notice.

Stephanos:
quote:


I am glad that many have an awareness of a "higher power".  However, I would like to ask them to consider whether it is tenable to think that an impersonal force could give rise to thinking choosing beings as ourselves.



     Now Stephanos is a bright, kind and sensitive guy.  And his religious feeling is deep and genuine.  He doesn't seem to understand, however, that impersonal forces have no obligations at all.  Whether it is tenable for us to think of them as giving  rise to thinking choosing beings such as ourselves, to nothingness, to pure chaos or to vodka martinis is absolutely irrelevant.  What is relevant is what those impersonal forces have actually done, and this is something that neither Stephanos nor I can say.

     It is more beautiful for me and probably for Stephanos if a personal God intervenes along the way; and I confess a weakness for beauty.  But impersonal forces have no obligation to serve my weakness for beauty, either.  And other people have other notions of beauty that I find austere at this point in my life.

     I'd ask you, Oh Great Onion, to see if there might not be some way of asking your question that doesn't presuppose God as an answer simply by the way you ask.

     And to answer Stephanos' question, It's probably as tenable to imagine an impersonal force, such as rampaging chemistry, coming up with local yahoos like us as it is to imagine a God so myopic as to care about micromanaging the affairs of over active sadists like us.  Surely the dogs are kinder and more interesting, and the porpoises have a better sense of humor.

Stephanos
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65 posted 07-05-2008 11:29 PM       View Profile for Stephanos   Email Stephanos   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Stephanos's Home Page   View IP for Stephanos

Bob,

Where ya been?  

I'll look forward to giving a reply in a day or so.  No time now.


Stephen
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66 posted 07-06-2008 05:59 PM       View Profile for Essorant   Email Essorant   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Essorant's Home Page   View IP for Essorant

Bob

Just wanted to point out, that Great Onion worded his question thus:

quote:
do you believe in a higher power? and even so, did the higher power have any choice in creating us?


I don't think that presupposes god as an answer, but it just asks if we believe a god is the answer or an anser (Latin for "goose") if you please?                

There is already a reference of things existing, therefore we have things which we may say include, are, or are evidence of a "god".  Not only that but we may alter and exaggerate references to things.  As long as there is something, there is something that we may believe is "god", even a winged anser.  

I think the more important question is how we determine whether what we call "god" actually is a "god" or not, a god as literally as earth is earth, air is air, Bob is Bob, etc?  The only problem with that question is that there may be no way to have any sure answer or confirmation.


[This message has been edited by Essorant (07-06-2008 07:29 PM).]

Bob K
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67 posted 07-07-2008 02:41 AM       View Profile for Bob K   Email Bob K   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Bob K



     If we are going to use terms like "Higher Power," I believe the discussion is meaningless unless the term is defined.  It simply has no referent.  Thus far, the discussion can mean pretty much whatever anybody wishes it to mean because there is no agreement on that term.  Some of us can be talking about single-tusked benevolent Elephant deities traditionally painted blue in Hindu action comics and others of us can be talking about the Living God of Nowhere and Nothing, still others of us can be talking about the gnostic God of Revelations while acquaintances can be talking about Ixion crucified upon the wheel.  All of these folks will be convinced they are talking about the true higher power, when only I actually know the truth, and I'm not going to tell any of you out of sheer perversity.

     Perhaps we might get together and remedy this problem.  

     Despite Essorant, whose wisdom is great, I don't believe that there needs to be a higher power, either in terms of reality or in terms of this discussion.  It looks to me that the question has been carelessly framed to presupposed a God and, beyond that, a God the Creator.

     No No, I say to that.  There may be such a situation, I have no idea, but to go there without earning the way there concedes too many things.  I would no more stand for these concessions than I would stand for concessions that would include the assumption of a completely materialistic universe in which there is no possibility of such a thing as spirit.  That may be the case as well, but that too would have to be a conclusion that was argued and earned.  No assumptions need apply.

     If there is "a higher Power," how does "it" come to be endowed with such an attribute as choice.  This sounds an awfully lot as though there are other powers capable of endowing such attributes.  And if there are, and if they are capable of endowing this "Higher Power" with choice, does that mean they are "higher powers" still?  Has The Great Onion created not only one God but many in the way that he has framed his discussion?  Some of them are capable of endowing other powers with attributes they apparently had not previously had.

     What hath The Onion wrought?  It brings tears to the eyes.  And yet, if we follow the metaphors and the Language that The Onion has given us to work with here, these are the questions that must emerge and that must be addressed.  If we choose not to address the question the Onion has addressed to us, then we ought, in all decency, decide what the question actually is that we are addressing.

     The alternative most likely for us to follow, otherwise, is for each of us to wander off on our own individual track, talking to ourselves, though under the impression that we're talking to each other.  

     So what are we trying to get at, folks?  Huh?
Ron
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quote:
No assumptions need apply.

Really, Bob? Then why do you, in the very next breath, ask:

quote:
If there is "a higher Power," how does "it" come to be endowed with such an attribute as choice. This sounds an awfully lot as though there are other powers capable of endowing such attributes.

Your question assumes that cause and effect applies both universally and eternally. Not only haven't you "earned" that assumption, science would argue that, in the absence of time, there can be no cause and effect.

Assumptions are pretty hard to avoid. Impossible, I suspect. The best we can really do, I think, is to point out when we are operating under different assumptions. After all, if we all started out with the same assumptions we would theoretically end at the same conclusions. Where would be the fun in that?

p.s. As much as I dislike the term Higher Power, I think most people recognize it as a euphemism for deity. I don't think either term necessarily presupposes the existence of what they define. Following your logic, we would also have to define Fairies before Grinch could use them for comparison. You might be thinking of Spenserian faeries of old, after all, while I'm envisioning those that, in today's world, reside at Hogwarts? Don't worry too much though, because I really don't think it will matter a lot. While our definitions will never quite converge, I suspect we're still in the same ball park.


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Hello, Ron,

            A pleasure, as always.

      I confess I am a bit unclear on your comment.  I am uncomfortable with "higher powers" to start off with.  There is no necessity to posit them.  I don't say they aren't there; I don't say they are there.  I simply don't know.
The Onion did the positing here, not I.  The onion also asked the question about choice.  It's in his opening at the beginning of the thread.  I am paraphrasing here, if not particularly well, and assuming—as I shouldn't do—that others follow.  Once the Onion has set the rules, it's a bit difficult to overlook the conflict inherent in those rules.  It's even more difficult for me to avoid pointing this out.

     I certainly do make assumptions, of course, Ron.  It's almost impossible not to, and I think, if I understand you correctly, we may be in agreement about this.  The best you can do given the state of affairs with language and my inability to speak mathematics, is to attempt to be as straightforward about the the suppositions as I can be.  I'm better about this in political discussions because the labels tend to be more clear cut there.  I'm not sure how I would define my pre-suppositions here, beyond saying agnostic, and attempting to be respectful of what other people say and think.

     As for Cause and Effect, I'm not sure I could say what science says about them.  Apparently there are matched quarks that communicate at faster than light-speed; when one identifies itself as a Top Quark the other is able to identify itself as a Bottom Quark beforehand, though  the identity of the Quarks was previously indeterminate.  This means that the second Quark "knows" the answer before the answer is revealed.  

     You may be correct about the absence of Time and causality.  I really know very little about physics.  But most of the situations where I've seen that point of view proposed are on the level of quantum mechanics, where tourists don't get return tickets.  You're probably right about the theory, but how it actually affects the discussion is something I'd be very interested in seeing you develop.  You could have some very useful insights,
but I don't see the connection to the discussion at this point.

     What I'm interested in is a set of discussion points about "higher power(s)" that we can all use with reasonable comfort and assurance that we're all talking about the same thing.  This may not be worth the effort for other people.  But when Stephanos talks about a "higher Power" I usually understand him to mean a personal Christian God that is different than a personal Islamic God or a Personal Jewish God in ways that Stephanos feels makes his Personal Christian God right and meaningful and, yes, correct in ways that other personal monotheistic God concepts are not.  Other folks who've been to Alcoholics Anonymous may feel it's fine to have a personal "higher Power" that they can "put in a light bulb" so long as it is something greater than The Self.  The Onion appears (I can't say I know) to be working elements of this out.  Huan Yi (forgive me, Huan Yi for any mistakes here) seems to have a stoic's notion of God as something that gets in the way of bears the pains of the world without getting distracted from the business of the honor of the world.  The Shadow in Blue is trying to see the whole notion of God from a place of her own making for the first time in  her life.

     I think it's impossible for us to get to the same conclusions; as people we've started off too differently, and we have too many interesting things to say to each other.  But it may be possible for us to  learn things where we least expect it.  I don't agree with Stephanos, for example, but I've learned a lot from him about compassion.  The shadow is always willing to look at things freshly.  She constantly takes me by surprise.  Huan Yi's politics and mine aren't the same, but his sense of honor and honesty are always impressive.  I can't say I've connected as much with everybody here, but I'm not complaining.  We probably won't get to the same conclusions, but the company is good.

Best from LA, Bob K.

      

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Bob:
quote:
Bob:[quote] He (Stephanos) doesn't seem to understand, however, that impersonal forces have no obligations at all.


My argument had little or nothing to do with obligation.  Neither is God (according to Christian Theology) obligated to us.  Whatever is offered is gratuitous.  

My question was whether it is reasonable to think that impersonal forces gave rise to individual, rational (mostly   ), emotional, and existentially earmaked beings like yourself.  Your answer, in keeping with agnosticism, is neither "yes" nor "no".  Instead, it is a denial of the relevance of the question itself (as best I can tell).  But more on that in a bit ...

quote:
Whether it is tenable for us to think of them as giving  rise to thinking choosing beings such as ourselves, to nothingness, to pure chaos or to vodka martinis is absolutely irrelevant.  What is relevant is what those impersonal forces have actually done, and this is something that neither Stephanos nor I can say.


Sorry, I'm not really following you here.  Didn't we already establish  that something gave rise to we ourselves?  So whether or not we say it is personal or non-personal, we can indeed "say" at least one astounding thing those forces have done.  And if we can say that much, then my original question is still quite apropos.

quote:
It is more beautiful for me and probably for Stephanos if a personal God intervenes along the way; and I confess a weakness for beauty.  But impersonal forces have no obligation to serve my weakness for beauty, either.  And other people have other notions of beauty that I find austere at this point in my life.


This raises some interesting questions.  Is your preference for beauty then a weakness rather than a strength?  You may have been using the word "weakness" for literary flair.  But even in that usage, there is the connotation of a foible or failing.  From my perspective, accepting an ultimate reality that is impersonal has implications for things like beauty and morality, forcing them into the category of "hopelessly subjective".  And I'm sure you'll respond by pointing out that regardless, our ideas of such are already fraught with subjectivity.  But there is still so much common ground within our common notions of beauty, that we can still be reasonably convinced that there is something to it other than our own cerebral cortex.  So, while you can argue beauty as perceptively subjective, the implications of dialectical materialism would suggest a more radical kind of subjectivity, where it would be just as fitting to call beauty delusional.  

And so, I find it interesting that while you attempt a reasonable justification (even if not total) for what I'm arguing against, your own dearest and deepest convictions begin to be undermined.

quote:
And other people have other notions of beauty that I find austere at this point in my life.


That's fine.  When the lens isn't perfect, there is wiggle room.  But surely that doesn't imply that a person who thinks it beautiful to torture children isn't blind, or that some can't see better than others, or that beauty itself doesn't have ontological credibility.

It seems to me that once you begin to use things like beauty to argue against the reasonableness of God, you've conceded a whole lot, since beauty is something that is very real and very present, but very unprovable in a test tube or by mere syllogism.    


quote:
And to answer Stephanos' question, It's probably as tenable to imagine an impersonal force, such as rampaging chemistry, coming up with local yahoos like us as it is to imagine a God so myopic as to care about micromanaging the affairs of over active sadists like us.  Surely the dogs are kinder and more interesting, and the porpoises have a better sense of humor.


Hey Bob, which kids usually get the most attention, unruly ones or the well behaved?    


Seriously, I think you're presenting a false disparity between God's approach to humanity and other forms of life.  Why should God not be concerned or involved with the whole creation?  That he would approach different aspects of his creation differently seems reasonable if differences mean anything.  Whatever your critique of Christian Theology (which does not make a thoroughgoing distinction between humanity and the animal world), it doesn't present us with the kind of gulf involved in believing that mad molecules made men with minds.  (pardon the alliteration).


quote:
If we are going to use terms like "Higher Power," I believe the discussion is meaningless unless the term is defined.  It simply has no referent.  Thus far, the discussion can mean pretty much whatever anybody wishes it to mean because there is no agreement on that term.


I too don't like the term "higher power", nearly as ambiguous a term as you can get.

And yet, in order for any discussion of comparative religion to ensue (which was obviously the intent of the originator of the thread), it can be a useful opening term.  Things get defined along the way.  For example, I have asked the question of how impersonal or naturally-bound versions of "god" can reasonably be thought of as "higher"?  What about them would justify such a description?

"Higher Power" is an open door to discussion and nothing more.  But like Ron said about the word "god", it is perhaps suggestive enough to move into a discussion of comparative religion where things may be more defined as we go.


quote:
Despite Essorant, whose wisdom is great, I don't believe that there needs to be a higher power, either in terms of reality or in terms of this discussion.


While I respectfully disagree with your view of the non-necessity of a "higher power" as it pertains to reality, (and I'm sure we'll continue to explore that question) I don't think you should make the same kind of denial in regard to this discussion or thread.  If the thread has to do with objects of worship, adoration, or origins, then speaking of such is entirely proper to the discussion.  If you don't think so, then all you had to do was answer "No." to Onion's initial question.


quote:
when Stephanos talks about a "higher Power" I usually understand him to mean a personal Christian God that is different than a personal Islamic God or a Personal Jewish God in ways that Stephanos feels makes his Personal Christian God right and meaningful and, yes, correct in ways that other personal monotheistic God concepts are not.


Just to clarify, there are arguments that would suggest the existence of a personal God, that would apply to all the monotheistic religions (of which there are only a few main categories).  I've never said that other conceptions of God or reality are wrong through and through.  The question of what would make one particular monotheism more correct than another would take us into a whole different area of consideration than the philosophical ground we're in.  It would take us into the historical and into higher/lower textual criticism.  I'm quite sure that there are practically agnostic people who are beginning to see the necessity of a personal God, who have no idea about where to go from there or even if they want to.  These kinds of discussions to me are mostly about the journey to that initial point.  Anthony Flew is a good example of someone who abandoned atheism for theism.  And yet, he hasn't been sure about the nature of the God he has come to believe in.  But he's been rubbing elbows with people like N.T. Wright and Gary Habermas, who are courteously presenting the case for Christian Orthodoxy.  

My point is, if conceptions of God are not hermetically sealed but share commonalities, then even starting from different perspectives may yield a productive interaction.  I'll certainly not be shooting those who disagree.  


Stephen.      
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Dear Stephanos,

         Yes, I’m Agnostic.  Agnostic means without knowledge, it doesn’t mean without opinions.  When I say I don’t know what the answer is to many of the questions around God,  I mean exactly that, I don’t KNOW.  I’ve noticed that most of the people who say they do know, substitute other forms of knowledge, such as faith or such, to substitute for evidence-based knowledge,  The kind we use to tell whether to walk over the edge of a cliff or not.  The answer is ‘No,”  gravity forbids, and to depend of miracles assumes a theological status it would be presumptuous for most of us to claim.

     Not knowing cuts both ways.  I am skeptical of other people’s claims of special knowledge, and I am even more skeptical of my own.  I can fool myself more completely than I can fool other people.  If you see me as undermining my own positions from time to time, then you see me doing what I consider to be my job.  

     I am furious at the so-called skeptical magazines, The Skeptic, and The Skeptical Inquirer, in case you are not familiar with them, because they are not skeptical of themselves and their own rigid positions.  This doesn’t mean I don’t read them all the time, simply that I throw them at the wall and swear at them frequently, and discount much of what they say.

     I said nothing at all about God having obligations to us.  I’m sorry you felt the need to defend yourself against something I didn’t say.  I would still say that impersonal forces, by definition, are under no obligation to follow rules, specifically the imaginary rule that they act reasonable in doing anything, even in giving rise to phenomena that we are most often comfortable ascribing to a loving and personal God.  Reasonability is a human attribute.  I suspect that the term you may be looking for is “Orderly” or perhaps “”Predictably.”  There is some data that is suggestive that  this may in fact be the case.  I believe you have yourself referenced the Urey-Miller experiments at some point or another.  The data is not more than interesting an suggestive at this point, as you are probably well aware.  You may be more plugged into Brane Theory than I am right now, but that seems to provide some very interesting theory on creation.  There may be some possibility for model making there and Predictability and Order.

     Does that mean that the idea of a personal Christian God is wrong?  

     Not as far as I’m concerned.  First of all, I don’t believe there is any amount of data that would ever convince you or other sincere and convinced Christians.  Second, the nature of the data for the discussion of the two problems is different.  Proof for one is not necessarily proof for the other, even the walking off the cliff, clear as gravity type.  There is a confusion of tongues here.

     This is why I keep going back to the formulation of the questions.

     I know this frustrates you in particular, and I’m sorry about that, but a question that is only well formed to the religious ear yields results only rarely outside that audience, despite the occasional well publicized convert.  Should you read the Skeptical magazines, you’d see the same group of people in reverse, disillusioned ministers, former choirboys, ex-priests, lapsed Catholics and the like ready to stand up and be counted for their new faith—Athiesm.  How much actual difference there is between the two sorts of stories isn’t really very clear to me.  They’re both sincere enough.  


You ask, “Is my preference for beauty a weakness rather than a strength?   may have been using the word "weakness" for literary flair.”  

     I don’t know.  I have spent long portions of my life among ugly people and things, and I’ve found a lot of these things in myself.  Yet I see myself as needing to extend compassion to others and to myself, especially to those parts of people that are ugly.  I love beauty, but in many ways it takes me away from the compassion that is more important and difficult.  

     I’m not using Beauty to argue against the reasonableness of God.  I’m saying that talking about the reasonableness of God at all is Begging the Question, as though there was universal agreement on the existence of God, and now all that remained with to iron out a few of the remaining details.  Please tell me who made that concession for the Atheists I know who haven’t yet been informed of their new position.  Maybe we could send them festive cards.

Stephanos:

     “Whatever your critique of Christian Theology (which does not make a thoroughgoing distinction between humanity and the animal world), it doesn't present us with the kind of gulf involved in believing that mad molecules made men with minds.  (pardon the alliteration).”

Bob:

[i]Meet My Maker, The Mad Molecule
,   J.P. Donleavy ?  The unconscious strikes again!


Bob says,
quote:
:

If we are going to use terms like "Higher Power," I believe the discussion is meaningless unless the term is defined.  It simply has no referent.  Thus far, the discussion can mean pretty much whatever anybody wishes it to mean because there is no agreement on that term.



Stephanos replies,
quote:
I too don't like the term "higher power", nearly as ambiguous a term as you can get.

And yet, in order for any discussion of comparative religion to ensue (which was obviously the intent of the originator of the thread), it can be a useful opening term.  Things get defined along the way.  For example, I have asked the question of how impersonal or naturally-bound versions of "god" can reasonably be thought of as "higher"?  What about them would justify such a description?



Stephanos:
quote:

While I respectfully disagree with your view of the non-necessity of a "higher power" as it pertains to reality, (and I'm sure we'll continue to explore that question) I don't think you should make the same kind of denial in regard to this discussion or thread.  If the thread has to do with objects of worship, adoration, or origins, then speaking of such is entirely proper to the discussion.  If you don't think so, then all you had to do was answer "No." to Onion's initial question.


Bob:
     I could have done so, but chose not to.  I chose to have my own opinion.  I chose to state that opinion, because I thought then and still think it was a reasonable one.  And I choose to believe that I have as much right to state such an opinion here as anyone.  It adds to the conversation, it is polite, and to state that there is no logical necessity for positing a Higher Power is a well recognized and reasonable position.  It is not the same as saying, “NO,” despite your conflation of the two.  If the thread was only open to people who were Deists, The Onion should have said so to Grinch on page one.

     If the thread has to do with objects of worship, adoration, or origins, and speaking of such is entirely proper to the discussion, then raising questions about such things and the necessity of their presence in a discussion of the universe is surely proper to the discussion as well.


Bob

Stephanos
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Bob:
quote:
I’ve noticed that most of the people who say they do know, substitute other forms of knowledge, such as faith or such, to substitute for evidence-based knowledge,  The kind we use to tell whether to walk over the edge of a cliff or not.  The answer is ‘No,”  gravity forbids, and to depend of miracles assumes a theological status it would be presumptuous for most of us to claim.


I still think you're demonstrating the popular secularized definition of "faith" whenever you talk about it, which goes something like this:  believing what you know isn't true.  

But faith isn't belief contrary to evidence.  It may however represent belief apart from strict empiricism, or belief apart from the possibility of simplistic verification.  And since there are a host of such beliefs that you and I both hold without a shred of agnosticism, religious faith can be thought to fall within that same category.  


Consider C.S. Lewis' summary of Christian Faith:

"... Reason may win truths;  without faith she will retain them just so long as Satan pleases.  There is nothing we cannot be made to believe or disbelieve.  If we wish to be rational, not now and then, but constantly, we must pray for the gift of Faith, for the power to go on believing not in the teeth of reason but in the teeth of lust and terror and jealousy and boredom and indifference that which reason, authority, or experience, or all three, have once delivered to us for truth." (From the essay "Religion: Reality or Substitute")

This of course does not automatically exonerate all types and examples of "religious faith".  It does however inform us that there are many motivations to doubt other than evidentiary.  


quote:
I said nothing at all about God having obligations to us.  I’m sorry you felt the need to defend yourself against something I didn’t say.  I would still say that impersonal forces, by definition, are under no obligation to follow rules, specifically the imaginary rule that they act reasonable in doing anything, even in giving rise to phenomena that we are most often comfortable ascribing to a loving and personal God.


I wasn't defending myself.  I was pointing out that my argument was whether it was reasonable to think that impersonal nature made someone like yourself.  Your reason-based argument (strangely) isn't that it is.  Rather than answering "yes" or "no", you say that the ultimate reality may indeed be irrational, regardless of our own tryst with reason.  And while this is possible in the barest sense of the word, I think it takes a person into a much more mystical position than the Christian answer, since it makes reason itself an accident or illusion.  It undermines the deepest of our convictions and assumptions.  It reminds me of Francis Schaeffer's statement that when Man loses God, he loses himself.  I'm not saying that its never good to explore or question assumptions.  But by making human life a sheer accident, we have a kind of clean sweep.

I suppose I can be glad that you seem wise enough to doubt your doubts as well.   And I do appreciate your earnest and thoughtful replies.


quote:
Should you read the Skeptical magazines, you’d see the same group of people in reverse, disillusioned ministers, former choirboys, ex-priests, lapsed Catholics and the like ready to stand up and be counted for their new faith—Athiesm.  How much actual difference there is between the two sorts of stories isn’t really very clear to me.  They’re both sincere enough.


By mentioning the likes of Anthony Flew, C.S. Lewis (among other converts from professing atheism to theism), I am not making an appeal to majority.  I am merely pointing out what my purpose and aim is:  namely to encourage people who have seen something more than atheism, to pursue it.  And also to suggest that Faith in God is reasonable.  The difference between the two kinds of stories (as final choices) I will address below.

quote:
I have spent long portions of my life among ugly people and things, and I’ve found a lot of these things in myself.  Yet I see myself as needing to extend compassion to others and to myself, especially to those parts of people that are ugly.  I love beauty, but in many ways it takes me away from the compassion that is more important and difficult.


And so you have recognized the truth that beauty is hierarchical in nature.  Moral beauty (ie showing compassion) is "more important" than physical beauty or comfort.  Still beauty itself is a reality that goes beyond the molecules in your own cerebral cortex.  Beauty (like God) is not proveable via strict empiricism, and that was my point.  


quote:
I’m saying that talking about the reasonableness of God at all is Begging the Question, as though there was universal agreement on the existence of God, and now all that remained with to iron out a few of the remaining details.  Please tell me who made that concession for the Atheists I know who haven’t yet been informed of their new position.  Maybe we could send them festive cards.


Of course there is not universal agreement.  But there are pervasive tendencies to believe in a "higher power".  (cringe).  

For those who have thoroughly convinced and argued themselves out of a belief in God, I'm not sure that I have much to offer.  But I can explain to you my belief about the universality of God's general revelation by referring to Paul's words in the book of Romans:

" ... For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them.  For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.  For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.  Professing to be wise, they became fools." (Romans 1:18-22)

This of course can be taken wrongly to mean that all men automatically know that Christianity is true.  But then how could one make sense of Paul's own attitude and practice of evangelism and apologetics?  In a much more general sense I think it asserts that everyone sees, at some point and in some fashion, some evidence for the reality of God even if only as the undefined "higher power".  When Paul says they are "without excuse", I think he is referring to the responsibility of exploring or pursuing the inklings of God already possessed ... of seeking the truth.  

The reference to becoming "fools", may be insulting to those who have honest questions or doubts (and I do believe many do).  I don't think Paul however is addressing that situation.  How else could he write elsewhere to "be merciful to those who doubt" (Jude 1:22)?  He is speaking of the end of a long process, and of final resolves:  Either the intentional denial of a once seen conclusion, or the apathetic procrastination of beginning the expedition in light of insights (however fleeting) with religious implications.

I know this view will not sit well with some, since every sure atheist insists on absolute integrity and objectivity in their denial.  But I suspect that's the fixed gulf that must be between these two worldviews.  I the deluded, and they the rebel.  Kirkegaard wrote much about the subjective element of belief and unbelief.  And I too think that while reason enters the picture, deeper realities are present as well falling along the lines of love, autonomy, shame, rebellion, and devotion.  The kind of realities and motivators which Dostoevsky observed are quite "beyond" reason.        

quote:
Me:  While I respectfully disagree with your view of the non-necessity of a "higher power" as it pertains to reality, (and I'm sure we'll continue to explore that question) I don't think you should make the same kind of denial in regard to this discussion or thread.


Bob: I chose to state that opinion, because I thought then and still think it was a reasonable one.  And I choose to believe that I have as much right to state such an opinion here as anyone.  It adds to the conversation, it is polite, and to state that there is no logical necessity for positing a Higher Power is a well recognized and reasonable position.  It is not the same as saying, “NO,” despite your conflation of the two

... If the thread has to do with objects of worship, adoration, or origins, and speaking of such is entirely proper to the discussion, then raising questions about such things and the necessity of their presence in a discussion of the universe is surely proper to the discussion as well.


If you'll revisit my words here, you should see that I was not addressing your argument that "there is no logical necessity " for a higher power.  (though again I think it is more accurate to say you are arguing that logic need not apply to the question at all)  I was addressing your seeming suggestion that speaking of a "higher power" was somehow unsuited to the discussion.  I was merely pointing out that that was (beyond dispute) the subject matter of the thread.  Of course I guess in the philosophy forum nothing is "beyond dispute" .     

But Bob, I probably misunderstood you here.  But what is indisputable to me is that your replies are polite and thoughtful.


Stephen
 
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