Sunday, December 13, 2009

ending with an overview

scarily irrepressible vitality

Jacinta: It raises the question of what would constitute evidence for the virgin birth.
Canto: Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. I'd want DNA evidence. Or rather, evidence of no DNA, since clearly the god that did it doesn't have any DNA.
Jacinta: Yes, I was thinking there might be DNA from Mary's side, but then that would make Jesus only a demi-god, and what a theological problem that would make.
Canto: The Arrian heresy would return with a vengeance.
Jacinta: Of course this question is allied to the larger one. What would constitute evidence for the existence of a deity?
Canto: Well, scientists tend to rule out supernatural claims from the outset. Russell Berg, a microbiologist, has written a little essay in a recent issue of Philosophy Now, in which he provides 'fifteen criteria  for scientificness'. His very first criterion is 'Does the theory use natural explanations?' Here is his rationale:
Thales of Miletus, the first recorded natural philosopher, believed that natural events have natural explanations, not divine. This rejection of explanations invoking gods or spirits led to the need for natural explanations and the development of the scientific method. Untestable supernatural explanations act as stoppers which prevent or retard further enquiry or research.
 Jacinta: Well hallelujah to that, though I think Berg has it the wrong way round. It was the need for reliable, consistent, testable explanations, and our gradual uncovering of these explanations, that began to undermine the need for invoking gods and spirits. But let's wrap up our treatment of this Williams essay. Does Williams make any valid or worthwhile points?
Canto: Well, he criticizes Grayling for his treatment of the religious as irrational - though he's unable to quote Grayling as actually saying this, and then he launches into a defence of religion as practised by many people who are far from irrational. Again he quotes John Gray: 'Unable to account for the irrepressible vitality of religion, [humanists] can react only with puritanical horror and stigmatize it as irrational'. But the fact is that 'humanists', or secularists or sceptics, or atheists, or antitheists, or agnostics, or non-believers, are an even more diverse breed than Darwin's barnacles, and many, in fact I'm sure most of us, recognize the everyday reasonableness of the religious, and also of flat-earthers and numerologists and homeopathists. Williams wants to encourage dialogue 'on the common ground of our shared humanity', and that is probably a good idea, but it is hard work. Our scientific understanding of the world has reached the sophistication it has today by ignoring religion rather than by seeking an accommodation with it. Flat-earthers and creationists rarely change their minds. People don't actually enjoy beating their heads against a brick wall, they prefer to keep the company of like-minded types - but that too has its dangers.
Jacinta: Yes but it's hard to know what to say to someone who believes that his particular god suspends the laws of nature occasionally. Of course, as with someone who claims to have been abducted by aliens, you can point out the unlikelihood, the difficulties involved in something happening to her without the rest of the world detecting it and being affected by it, and so on. But it's such hard, and often unrewarding work. The writings of so many so-called 'new atheists', it seems to me, display much of this frustration and fatigue. Yet they've unleashed something, it seems, something that flatly contradicts John Gray's ridiculous assertion that 'secular ideology [sic] is [being] dumped throughout the world..' It's a new fighting spirit, full of wit and eloquence, as well as a new enthusiasm for exploring religion and belief systems generally, how they're made and maintained, what they mean in evolutionary terms, their place in our individual and collective psyche. I'm enjoying the show.


  1. Hello!
    You wrote: “believes that his particular god suspends the laws of nature occasionally. “

    Quote: “For the Creator to have to intervene in His creation and contradict His natural laws with supernatural corrections in order to achieve His objectives implies self-contradiction and original incorrectness—i.e. imperfection. Alternately, for a Creator to designnatural laws that will achieve all of His objectives without intervention implies a level of knowledge far exceeding the natural universe (including time, which is limited to our universe), which both eliminates contradictory supernatural interventions and agrees entirely with the teachings of Tor•âh′.” (

    I agree with you that it is irrational with the statement that the Creator would contradict His own laws of nature.

    On my blog ( you will find a proof of the existence of a Creator and His purpose of humankind.

    All the best, Anders Branderud

  2. Thank you for your comments, Anders, but your proof of an [apparently male - how did that happen?] creator is one of the weakest I've ever read. It doesn't stand up to even a few seconds of scrutiny. Amongst the many flaws in your argument, you claim that the universe is orderly and therefore mirrors its creator, who being orderly must therefore be perfect. But the universe, plainly, is not perfect. You don't elaborate on what you mean by orderly, and many other issues are simply brushed over in cavalier fashion, leading to the Torah being the light of the world with darkness everywhere else. Why do you bother with such inanities? It's quite scary.

  3. Stewart,
    No, the Creator does not have a gender.

    “It doesn't stand up to even a few seconds of scrutiny.”
    You assume that without showing a single flaw in the text I referred you to. It is not a logical methodology to assert that a text contains errors without proving it.

    In the bottom of my post I gave you a link “Do you have any counter arguments? Click here for answers.” There I have already answered your points. Also click on the word “orderly” in my post.

    You wrote: “and many other issues are simply brushed over in cavalier fashion”
    Also see this post:

  4. Dear Anders
    If your B00 doesn't have a gender you should stop attributing one to it.

    I pointed out the flaw in your argument. Perhaps you should read more carefully. Is the universe 'orderly'? What is meant by orderly? It is merely a human concept after all, as is 'perfection'. If by orderly you mean completely and perfectly ordered, you probably won't find a single astrophysicist or cosmologist working today who will agree with you, and there are thousands of them. And yet this is what you must mean, since you claim that the universe mirrors its creator who is 'therefore perfect'.
    your certitude on such matters is amusing but completely unconvincing. Just the slightest knowledge of the tiny planet we inhabit clearly reveals that there's nothing like perfection to be found here. If it was perfect, it wouldn't be anything like as fascinating.

    Your BOO cannot be deduced logically. You must find some empirical evidence for it. As for the deity turning out to be the mass-murdering moral monstrosity written about in the Old Testament, he strikes me as a creature very much of his place and time - and distinctly male.