Which Has A Better Case, Christianity, Atheism (or something else)

(This will be edited, updated and shortened in the near future)
Hi everyone,
I’m glad to be here and participate in a debate that will hopefully be challenging and stimulating to all sides.

First, Inferno and I agreed to discuss atheism vs. the Biblical worldview including creation vs. universal common descent and which is more rational/beneficial/has the better case. We’ll need to lay some groundwork in a few areas (such as what counts as evidence, definitions, fair standards of comparison and why finding out the truth in this area is worth our time and study). Then, I’m going to basically go over the evidence that the Bible has a convincing case briefly covering some old arguments and the reasons why Christians argue they are still valid, but also focus on some new arguments and evidence by scientists as well as a few reasons I have developed myself. Certain of these no atheist and not many Christians know about as far as I’m aware (based on watching/reading 100s and 1000s of hours of the best thinkers on both sides). Thanks to Inferno and everyone for being willing to spend your time reading and all efforts to be open minded to much beneficial evidence that will be coming. Some topics will be:
–What view has contributed the most to benefiting and improving society & how can it help your life now?
–What is the evidence for God existing and why is it important for us now?
–What evidence supports the Bible’s claims of Yahweh/Jesus being that God?
–What is more rational, scientific and has better evidence, creation science or universal common descent?
–Difficult questions for both atheism and the Biblical worldview.
and possibly others that Inferno or I may bring up.

In some areas, we will go fairly deeply into some areas of evidence, but in others, we’ll just go over the main points/highlights with links to more in depth information for those who still have questions in that area. While I love questions, esp. hard ones, since they are the thing that has helped me learn more than many years of education in university, I think that the sooner we can weigh the evidence fairly and follow what we understand to be truth, while still keeping an open mind that there could be something better, the more benefits we can gain NOW as well as saving money, time, etc.

I want to thank Inferno for patiently waiting for months for this debate while I was going through some very complex challenges in real life (some which are still in process, but much of the work is done and they’re getting closer to resolution. This is why I may not be able to respond immediately sometimes (& also the reason for no time limit on responses), but I will try my best to respond within a week. Please forgive typos, mistakes, ambiguities, etc. that happen with all humans, but much more when we have missed a lot of sleep and/or gone through a lot of stress. See these articles on sleep: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/17/magaz … .html?_r=1, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/31/health/31brody.html).

While I strongly disagree that atheism is the most rational worldview for a lot of reasons and is actually harmful to life and science in specific ways which will be explained in the future, I want to make it very clear that in nearly all worldviews including both atheism and Christianity there are individuals who should be respected by all for their critical thinking, rationality, scientific achievements, contributions to human progress, education, human rights and much more. While we may disagree strongly with a philosophy and criticize ideas and claims in it severely, that never means that all individuals in that philosophy are foolish, stupid, irrational, dishonest, etc. This is one of the quickest ways to falsehood and ending rational discussion where people can make progress that I know of. I have quite a bit of respect for certain atheists and have learned or been stimulated to learn things by them and will continue to do so (atheists helped me especially in learning about fallacies and how to identify them better).

Accurate definitions are going to be quite important in this debate. But, I’d like to suggest a bit of a different definition for winning. We can think of winning in terms of 1 side winning or in terms of truth winning, in terms of pride or in terms of people changing to follow the evidence. For me a winning discussion is one person or ideally both learning something and changing positions or their level of knowledge in some way. If nobody changes anything, then that’s a loss for everyone.

Winning isn’t just insisting that I’m right no matter what. If my opponent has a good argument and evidence, then admitting that and considering changing to following that is a win for me (but of course for every rational person, the overall weight of evidence is far more important than a couple evidences or anomalies) and could result in very real and practical benefits in real life. The reverse is also true. If truth wins and some people move closer to that, whether it be scientific, materialistic, religious or whatever, that’s a win for ALL involved. After all, it was Jesus who said, “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” John 8:32. At the very least we’ll be set free from error..and usually there are quite a few other practical benefits from moving to follow truth instead of error.

For all of us in any discussion, pride is the biggest enemy of both science and religion and it is pride which causes pseudo-religion and pseudo-science as well as harmful traditions and bias in both that cause so much harm and wasted time and money. Unfortunately, none of us have all the knowledge of true science or all the knowledge of true religion. If we did, we’d be God or something equivalent. Since no human and no establishment has all knowledge and we KNOW that all establishments have made serious mistakes, this also means that its OK for thinkers on both sides to make hypotheses that turn out wrong and admirable for us to admit this and figure out why it was wrong and what needs changing. Recognizing errors has for both religion and science been the driving force of our most important advances in knowledge, progress and improvement of the quality and length of life for human beings. So, far from being afraid of making mistakes, if we are really rational and care about having a better life, we should recognize that for ALL, to err is human and be thankful that we can recognize and admit mistakes since similar to alcoholics in AA, this is the first step in changing towards truth. Kathryn Schultz has a good talk on this at TED which I highly recommend.
http://www.ted.com/talks/kathryn_schulz … wrong.html

I’ll have to disagree somewhat with Kathryn on one thing though. It is often true people on one side do not have knowledge of things that people on the other side do and vice versa. This doesn’t mean people are stupid, just that they don’t know everything. In this debate, I assume from the start that Inferno and many of you know things that I don’t and it’s also true that I know things that you don’t. It is that fact that makes it possible for us to learn from each other. Confucius idea that we should respect even children since their future may be greater than our own is an essential part of being mature and intellectual in my view. I have learned things from Ph.D. scientists and intellectuals on all sides as well as young kids (including one 9 year old I was teaching who was very knowledgeable about string theory) and also have developed some unique arguments and points of my own. I’m sure that you will learn some useful things from this debate from both sides if you are open minded to do so.

I expect to learn some things from Inferno in this debate even though he’s younger than I am (and btw, I gained significant respect for him in a previous discussion where he offered to engage in a debate AND let me define my own views. Aronra refused to grant me the basic intellectual right to define what my own views were & tried to force me defend people and views I did not even agree with. Because I would not agree to him straw manning my views, Aronra broke his word for a 1 on 1 discussion with me and I have agreed to do it with Inferno). Age does not determine intelligence or whether someone is right. I expect and look forward to learning some things from Inferno especially in his field of study, history.

You may be surprised, but Christians and atheists have an awful lot in common that we sometimes don’t think about. This article sort of taught me to recognize this more than I did already and I strongly encourage everyone to stop and read it:
http://www.cracked.com/article_15663_10 … on_p3.html
NOTE: The Bible does not teach an eternal hell as this writer claims (see http://www.helltruth.com). It also tells us that God looks at the consciences of people in all groups and winks at ignorance (Romans 2:12-16 & Acts 17:21-3). So, I expect to meet people from many religions as well as some atheists in heaven. But, rejecting facts and evidence is dangerous. There are a couple other points I don’t fully agree with, but overall his points are very good.

I’d add a few as well:
1) Many on both sides are intensely interested in learning, gaining wisdom and improving & succeeding in their lives.
2) People on both sides care quite a lot about rational thinking, critical thinking and questioning establishments (if you say religious people don’t think critically and question establishments, how come there are so many different churches? Why was it that such a flood of fundamental advances and leaps forward in science were made by Christians? How did Christianity start and Protestantism? Why it was that Christianity pioneered the majority of human rights movements? And why are there many great Christian intellectuals past and present who challenged political, scientific and religious establishments in important ways). Christians who deny that atheists care about rational thinking are also not being fair.
3) Most on both sides respect science (at least the science and technology that they use in their lives and the science that lines up with their view.) and people in both Christian and atheist camps have contributed enormously to scientific advances (as well as scientists in other worldviews).
4) Many on both sides care about evidence a lot, but also have questions that they have difficulty answering.
5) Many on both sides at least desire to follow truth as they understand it and a good number make admirable efforts to follow all the truth they are convinced by based on the ways to determine truth they have learned.
6) Nearly all of us love our families, spouses, significant others and want to have the best and most meaningful life possible with lots of fun, adventure, good food, passionate sex, and a legacy that others will respect.
7) Many on both sides care about and follow good ethics, morality, justice, improving human rights for all, etc. Most of us have strong feelings against injustice and inequality and the denigration of other human beings.
8) Both sides have to use faith in certain things in our worldview things that we have no way to test.
9) We all hate being misrepresented and our views being maligned with fallacies. We all have a problem with pride and find it difficult to admit we’re wrong.
10) Although our goals may differ, we all desire knowledge, education, science, religion and society to improve.

Last for now, I assure you that I and pretty much every Christian I know has ZERO interest in following fiction. Because of the example of many Bible heroes, Christian scientists and human rights pioneers, we consider it essential to question all establishments ranging from scientific to political to religious (and that includes God…after all, if He is God, he can handle the heat.). Many Christians do not at all just follow what we’re told. We think about it deeply and rationally and sometimes question and challenge the claims of authority figures in all establishment, ALL. We are Christians because the vast majority of evidence we know of points directly towards the God of the Bible. If there were something with more evidence than Christianity has and explains as much based on that evidence, I and many Christians I know would definitely consider it. But, we have so far not found anything that comes close. THIS is a foundational position of rational thinking, not to give up something you have which has good evidence and has proven beneficial and explains much of reality until you find something that has MORE evidence and is MORE beneficial and can explain more of the phenomena in the world around us. I have personally questioned my own views quite a lot as well as political, religious and scientific establishments and changed quite a number of minor and major ideas I held in all those areas and others. I assume that some or most of you have too. I continue to do this and make no claims for myself or any Christian to be infallible. Thus, I will be critiquing some Christians and creationists in certain points as well as atheism in this debate.

There are very logical and fully rational reasons why many of the greatest leaders and advocates of both Christianity and creation science, including scientists, historians and legal minds with Ph.D.s from the most elite secular universities in the world left atheism and universal common descent for Christianity and creation science. As this debate develops, I hope that you will began to understand some of these reasons that have caused skeptics of Christianity to become its best proponents. A case of that which happened at the very beginning of Christianity is what helped it to grow so quickly. Saul, a terror to the early Christian church, changed 180 degrees based on a personal experience with God and became one of Christianity’s most credible witness (you can’t get more credible than a hostile witness), giving up money, power, prestige and everything else that no sane person would give up, unless they had convincing evidence of a really crucial truth. When a lot of people highly trained in science, history, law, etc. change based on evidence as has indisputably happened, this doesn’t make the new view right or true. But, those who are rational will prudently investigate the establishment’s claims much more seriously to see whether the emperor is actually naked or not. And for the establishment to suppress these questions and evidence that the establishment may have erred as is all too often done by ALL establishments is harmful to science, religion, truth and life.

Thanks for reading and next up we’ll look at why truth in this debate matters, what counts as evidence and how evidence differs from truth as a foundation for later evaluations of each worldview.

Have a great weekend all!
Bryan

Hi,
Sorry for late reply. Had to teach some makeup classes this week and help a colleague with editing documents for his sabbatical/fellowship. As I said, I’ll try my best to reply within a week.

Inferno wrote: there are a lot of similarities between atheists and religious people and of course there are religious people as well as atheists who are good and others who are bad. What concerns me though is:
1) Why are they good/bad?
2) Why are there differences and what are they?
And that’s what we’ll hopefully get to in this debate.

Hi Inferno,
Yes, that’s a good question and a good topic to discuss in the near future. My basic idea for the order of the debate is to:
1) ESTABLISH SOME BASIC RESPECT: Most debates start off establishing some basic respect and common human decency at the beginning, appreciation for the other side’s willingness to participate in the debate and respect for at least something they’ve said or done and sometimes some common ground. See this debate between Dr. Craig and Hitchens for example (where even atheists agree that Craig “spanked” Hitchens).
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4KBx4vvlbZ8

I did that in the 1st post more for the readers than for you (since I already consider you and some other atheists I know quite decent and considerate people from our private conversations). Establishing some respect is not valueless at all as someone else alleged. When people a priori treat people with different views as idiots and refuse to respect or take them seriously, they are blocking themselves from learning, scientific progress stops and in some cases people die (an example of something sort of like this is the experience of Dr. Semmelweis who figured out how to dramatically drop death rates for mothers in pregnancy by requiring surgeons to wash their hands. But, because he couldn’t explain why it worked and probably because he was an outsider from Hungary, he was disrespected, ostracized and ridiculed and 1000s of women died. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U6-FjtpdePA & http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T73PYNyyeiI). My mother-in-law is uneducated, basically illiterate, (due largely to the Korean war), not religious and disregards most science. I teach at a university and read voraciously, yet I take her seriously, listen carefully and have learned certain things from her as a result. Confucius wrote that we should respect even children since their future may be greater than our own and that’s a good principle to follow.

I try to assume all atheists I meet are intelligent and interested in truth, innocent until proven guilty, and I avoid stereotyping them by other atheists or even atheism. I would suggest that readers do the same for me and other Christians you meet since there are a vast number of misconceptions that most people have about Christianity and you will learn much about the Bible’s actual claims and evidence that you never knew before. I guarantee this 100%.

2) AGREE ON WHAT COUNTS AS EVIDENCE : We must have some common ground on what counts as scientific, historical, logical evidence, etc. I will cite several cases of what is considered evidence in secular academia and use mostly that. Too often people (including both creationists and evolutionists) make the claim that a rival worldview or theory doesn’t have any evidence. Most of the time, this assertion just shows that they:
a) don’t know much about science or what scientists and historians consider evidence. (common)
b) are unaware of the evidence supporting the other side (VERY common) or
c) are willfully lying.

It’s also important to identify fallacies which destroy the ability to identify truth.

3) ACCURATE DEFINITIONS: There are ~17+ definitions of atheism that I’m aware of (plus some historical versions) some of which have very different arguments (most of which I’m quite familiar with).
http://commonsenseatheism.com/?p=6487

There are numerous versions of Christianity and some different versions of creation. We need to understand each other’s views accurately since I don’t expect you to defend versions of atheism you don’t support and I’m not planning to defend versions of Christianity or creation science I don’t support. I have had contact with ~1000 atheists and so far ONLY ONE out of the 1000 has been able to come anywhere close to an accurate definition of creation science…and it’s not that much different in terms of atheists being able to define Christianity accurately, even if they used to be Christians. This is not solely the fault of atheists. Some pastors/churches have some culpability here as well.

I will look forward to your definition of which kind of an atheist you are. For my part, I’ll mostly use dictionary definitions as I did before (regular dictionaries, scientific dictionaries or the Bible & theological dictionaries depending on the topic). In spiritual areas, all that matters is what God has said directly or through messengers since no human has the power to give eternal life. So neither my definition nor the pope’s definition matters DIDDLY SQUAT if it isn’t founded squarely on what God has called genuine religion/belief in Him.

4) EVIDENCE FOR EACH VIEW: Once we are clear on the above things, then we can progress to moral motivations you and I are interested in and the evidence including pragmatic, historical, scientific, philosophical, and others.

5) EVIDENCE AGAINST EACH VIEW: There are significant criticisms of each view and we can deal with some of these hard questions here.

6) QUESTIONS: People may ask you or I questions at different times through the above steps or here that might be helpful to address.

7) CONCLUSION: Some kind of summary of the overall debate for both sides.

The above is not set in concrete, but is basically what I’m seeing as a rational progression for our debate. And I guarantee the person who alleged in the comments that I will be “running away” that there is not the slightest chance of that happening. The hard questions are what have caused me to learn the most, far more than I did studying in either public school or Christian schools and I don’t run away from hard questions. PERIOD. I had to go take care of family emergencies. If it was running away, I wouldn’t be here now. Twisting my choice to put my family first into running away is base insensitivity. I make NO apology for putting my family first. Inferno is also quite busy…but my Christian friends who are watching aren’t going to be making false and insensitive allegations about him like that.

Inferno wrote: Let me quickly talk about the two or three things that I don’t agree with here:

TruthisLife7 wrote:atheism is [a] worldview

No, it really isn’t. I’ll let the Christian author James W. Sire explain what a worldview is:

James W. Sire wrote:A worldview is a commitment, a fundamental orientation of the heart, that can be expressed as a story or in a set of presuppositions (assumptions which may be true, partially true, or entirely false) which we hold (consciously or subconsciously, consistently or inconsistently) about the basic construction of reality, and that provides the foundation on which we live and move and have our being.

So what is my worldview? Well I guess simply saying “methodological naturalism” comes closest to it.
There are three presuppositions to my worldview:
1) The Universe exists.
2) We can learn about the Universe. (Note: Both of these directly oppose solipsism, a philosophical position that doesn’t seem to be helpful at all.)
3) Building on number 2), the Universe is most probably only a naturalistic world. (If magic were to exist then 2) wouldn’t be possible because the natural laws could be suspended at will.)

Nowhere in my presuppositions does it say “There is (most probably) no God”. That only follows out of the above presuppositions.

Kudos to you for quoting a Christian. I may or may not agree with Christians you quote, but when you can quote people from the other side, that makes your representation and argument better and more likely to be valid (which is the reason Christians do that quite a lot. Most that is alleged to be quote mining by Christians simply isn’t. It’s showing that intellectuals on both sides agree on some point, which makes it more likely to be true.).

IS ATHEISM A WORLDVIEW?
It’s nearly impossible to separate atheism and methodological naturalism. They’re like conjoined twins. An atheist is almost always an advocate of methodological naturalism (however the reverse is not as true). Atheism being a worldview depends to some extent on the definitions of atheism and worldview. See definitions here:
http://commonsenseatheism.com/?p=6487

But, to be an atheist you basically have to think that
a) there is no God or
b) lack belief that God exists (this is only semantically different from agnosticism).

I prefer this definition of worldview:
“A worldview, naturalistic or not, is a multi-purpose cognitive tool that can help make sense of our situation and guide behavior over the long haul. It’s the big picture about reality and the meaning(s) of life that puts things in an ultimate context, there to be consulted if we need it…A worldview also acts as a cognitive filter, shaping fundamental attitudes and beliefs, for instance about what sort of creatures we are, what our life goals should be, and how society should be ordered… The divergent founding philosophies get reflected in most practices of everyday life, from cuisine, to marriage, to jobs, to education, and the relationship of government and religion.”
http://www.naturalism.org/systematizing_naturalism.htm

Once you agree with one of the definitions of atheism above, it directly impacts and strongly influences choices and views in these directions (There is no requirement for 100% of atheists to follow every single thing here. Certain people who claim to be Christians don’t even believe in God and certain other major tenets. Exceptions don’t invalidate what is generally true). Basically atheism guides people to disregard religious/biblical wisdom and to follow our own views or seek out atheistic or secular wisdom in nearly all choices and views. This is essentially a worldview since it most certainly is influencing choices, at first in what to reject as a valid influence and also as a result what to accept as valuable and through that behaviors and more. For example:
1). Atheism says there is little or no evidence for God. Atheists also often advocate the idea that if we can’t sense it or test something in some way, it probably doesn’t exist, esp. in regard to religious claims. Yet, accepting the ideas of abiogenesis and a multiverse is somehow very rational for many.
2) A DIRECT result of atheism is that we should not look to religion for wisdom or truth. We should look to ourselves, atheist scientists, naturalism, etc. to help figure out what is truth (since none of us have time or energy to check all evidence for ourselves). It influences them to represent those who are not atheists as following bias, blind faith, ignorance, being opposed to science, etc. (this disregards the fact that ALL, including atheists, have bias). This often causes ridicule of people of faith as well as sometimes demoting them and hindering their advance in education and careers and worse.
3) In decisions about education, health, sex, etc. secular sources or your opinion should be the ones consulted and trusted, not religions.
4) In decisions about how to spend money, religions have no validity. It’s up to your own opinion or secular sources.
5) In decisions about values, religious views are only opinions and many if not all should be avoided like the plague.
6) It strongly influences atheists to look to the different types of evolution (cosmic evolution, chemical evolution, universal common descent) to explain the existence and diversity of the universe and life.
7) It influences which politicians you vote for (any who even mention creation science in favorable terms are anathema unless they have an avalanche of other merits.).
8) Life has no ultimate meaning or purpose other than what we subjectively impose on it.

And we could go on and on with numerous choices and views that are directly impacted by the decision to be an atheist. You can see a more detailed overview of this here:
http://www.atheism-analyzed.net/aap2.htm (esp. from 3.1.2 “Is Atheism Really a Religion?” I think worldview is more accurate than religion, and esp. in combination with methodological naturalism and universal common descent which often go together. )

HOW DOES ATHEISM HARM PEOPLE & SCIENCE?

Inferno wrote: I’d be extremely interested why and how

TruthisLife7 wrote:[atheism] is actually harmful to life and science in specific ways

I really don’t see any evidence of this, quite the contrary actually. As soon as we delve into this topic I will of course be bringing up quite a few statistics to support this.

Here are some examples:
1) Atheists in power blocked many excellent students from studying and good jobs only because they believed in God. See: John Lennox on Dawkins whitewash of history-atheism blocks intellectual progress:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yjFVUYmwZTo (all is good, but ~5:30 is about students)

2) Dr. Jerry Bergman, a former atheist, has documented the same kind of thing done repeatedly to creationists in his book, “Slaughter of the Dissidents” (by evolutionists, atheists or both). I have had personal contact with creation scientists who have been persecuted for their views of where the evidence leads and have his book which I will cite from in the future.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YlUEYHOwP4E

It doesn’t just happen in this field though. There is suppression of liberal views sometimes as well as others. Most establishments engage in some type of suppression of evidence for views they don’t support.

3) Atheism has influenced people to repress, demote, fire, torture and kill people that disagree with it. This trait is not unique to atheism. Many philosophies and establishments have done this when they had power. Some Christians have done it too, but quite a few Christian leaders and/or nations including America, explicitly outlawed discrimination based on whether people agreed with the Christian worldview or not. This respect for people who have radically different views is VERY rare to see in history, esp. in people who have state power. In all 22 countries that have been officially atheist, freedom of thought was only a dream. Atheism in power has not been a friend of free thought at all. Methodological naturalism is very similar since it refuses to allow anyone to publish or teach evidence that points to supernatural causes.

4) Atheism influences people to disregard biblical health principles which add many years to life. Even National Geographic, Blue Zones and much research says that people who follow God’s principles live ~10-14+ years longer than the average. http://www.youtube.com/user/TruthIsLife … 31BC08BEE4 (videos 1-3 are confirmations from secular science organizations about how God’s health principles add 10+ years to life THESE DAYS. See esp. 11:30. Videos 4-6 are a basic intro to God’s health principles in the Bible that add 10+ years to life.)
http://www.ted.com/talks/dan_buettner_h … e_100.html

5) Atheists and evolutionists have promoted methodological naturalism and cut off govt. funding and hindered and impeded research into evidence that points to supernatural conclusions. Atheism isn’t the same as evolution, but it strongly promotes it since as Dawkins puts it evolution makes it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist. As a direct result much science pointing to God and challenging universal common descent has been impeded or blocked.

EX 1: Evolutionists claimed the appendix was useless as well as other things like tonsils and the organs of 1000s were surgically removed due to this, significantly harming their health.

EX 2: “Stanford University reported in 1998 on certain white blood cells that heretofore had been largely ignored by immunologists. Why? The ‘natural killer’ (NK) cells were ‘thought by some to be an archaic remnant of the primitive mammalian immune system.’9 The appendix’s function, NK cells, so-called ‘junk’ DNA, and other areas of profitable medical research have been held back by the smothering assumptions of Darwinian medicine. http://www.icr.org/article/darwinian-me … r-failure/

And if God is real and so is eternal life, all the above is nothing compared to not experiencing God (note: God does wink at truthseekers in other views…Acts 17, so some atheists who followed all truth they know may be in heaven. The Bible seems to say that truth Quite a bit more later on this.

MOST PRESUPPOSITIONS AREN’T RATIONAL OR OBJECTIVE
I have a profound distrust of presuppositional thinking, whether atheistic or Christian and have to agree with the atheist who says that presuppositionalism is incoherent and “At the end of the day, the presuppositionalist’s goal is to “win” his debate, not listen to what you have to say.”

Nearly all attempts to presuppose any worldview and lesser views or truths on any side seems to be anti-objective and irrational. There are a few presuppositions we are forced to make, but we should reduce them to the minutest number possible, mostly to make rational thinking possible. Jonathan Dolhenty in The Problem of Knowledge: A brief introduction to epistemology,”Part Thirteen:The Criterion of Truth, speaks about three “primary truths” that we have to presuppose in the investigation of knowledge and truth:
1) the first fact – the fact of our existence,
2) the first principle – the principle of non-contradiction (note: Aristotle had 3 versions of this, ontological, doxastic and a semantic version. I would differ slightly in saying that esp. with the 3rd there are a very few things that can be contradictory and yet true. See: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/arist … radiction/) and
3) the first condition-the ability of the mind to know truth (similar to your point 2).

We can’t prove them since to prove anything, we would have to assume these are true. If someone doesn’t presuppose these, they can’t make any test of truth. Since there’s no way to prove these presuppositions, they are essentially blind faith.

A key point regarding this is that I have experienced countless condemnations for using faith by atheists who don’t understand that there are different types of faith, some based on evidence and some not. Yet these very same atheists also use presuppositions which are no different from blind faith since we have no way to test them (Actually it is my contention that atheism is one of the most blind faith based views in the world, as well as being in many cases very harmful.).

I would also add these presuppositions (that could sort of come under “the first condition”) :
4) OUR PERCEPTIONS & MEMORIES ARE ACCURATE: We can perceive aspects of the universe through the agent of our senses and our mind records those perceptions accurately. We could be living in a matrix. We have no way to test if our perceptions are actually about reality or we are just living in some gigantic sophisticated computer game of some sort. For me, solopism and the Matrix are kind of a moot argument since we know there are causes and effects based on choices we make. Whether everything we see is real or a matrix doesn’t change the fact that our choices change what we experience in negative and positive ways. But, just like the above, we have no way to test our senses or the accuracy of our minds recording those perceptions without using those same senses and mind that we are testing and so must take it on blind faith.

5) THERE IS RATIONALITY IN THE UNIVERSE THAT WE CAN LEARN ABOUT (similar to your point #2): The universe operates on principles that are generally consistent in the past, present and future and can be studied to learn more about the nature of our reality. There are general laws that operate consistently in the past, present and future and apply across the universe (although probably in different degrees). Christian philosophy and science both depend on this presupposition, but both also allow for certain interruptions/exceptions.

METHODOLOGICAL NATURALISM VS. FOLLOWING THE EVIDENCE WHEREVER IT LEADS
There’s a fundamental difference between the above 5 presuppositions and the presupposition of methodological naturalism. The 5 points above that I think we largely agree on deal with things that we have no way to test and no one in history ever has. But, methodological naturalism (MD) differs in these ways:
1) The other presuppositions deal with reality existing, enabling rational thought, our perceptions being accurate, etc. things we must presume to engage in rational thinking. MD is a gigantic step into an entirely different area, dealing with a worldview level claim that should and MUST be tested.

2) The others don’t ban any alternative conclusions that are testable. MD doe and does it a priori.

3) The others don’t decide before checking evidence what the conclusions are. This is a fundamental violation of the most important foundation of rational thinking, science, and religion, the principle of following the weight of evidence WHEREVER IT LEADS (with no deciding of conclusions beforehand). If we can decide conclusions a priori when we want, rational thinking is mostly ended, PERIOD, as well as science. Gravity, photosynthesis, the Big Bang, heliocentrism, biogenesis and many things we accept as true in science and history could be dismissed easily if one can just follow a priori conclusions instead of the weight of evidence wherever it leads. It is absolutely crucial to follow what former atheist Antony Flew has done, “My whole life has been guided by the principle of Plato’s Socrates: Follow the evidence, wherever it leads.” (It’s not only Socrates’ principle. This idea was in the Bible a long time before that.)

4) MD before checking any evidence in history or science or other areas, just asserts that only naturalistic conclusions are possible. How convenient that what it wants to be true can now be considered the default and then all evidence that runs contrary to that is automatically labeled outside of science. Anyone with power using this principle could just assert their view, ban everything else with the claim that “it isn’t science” and then force only this view to be taught in schools. Then the only really important thing would be gaining political power so you could control the establishment and tell it what you had determined was inside of science or outside of science. This is making science the slave of politics, ideology and worse.

a) Methodological naturalism and
b) following the weight of evidence wherever it leads
are mutually exclusive. People do try to hold both views as some do Christianity and universal common descent. But rationally, it’s impossible. You can follow one or the other or sometimes one and then the other. You can’t follow both fully.

See also Dr. Alvin Plantinga’s essay on this (I don’t agree with every single thing he says, which is true of many links, but overall, he makes a good argument).
http://www.arn.org/docs/odesign/od181/methnat181.htm
http://www.arn.org/docs/odesign/od182/methnat182.htm

MD leads directly to anti-religious scientists imposing their opinions on science, a very dangerous precedent:
1) “It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is an absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door. The eminent Kant scholar Lewis Beck used to say that anyone who could believe in God could believe in anything. To appeal to an omnipotent deity is to allow that at any moment the regularities of nature may be ruptured, that miracles may happen.” Richard Lewontin “The New York Review”, billions and billions of demons, January 9, 1997, p. 31

Note here that the methods of science do NOT compel us to accept a material explanation of the world. If you think they do, please explain how the scientific method forces us to accept MD (but do it AFTER we’ve finished the definitions section). But, Lewontin is absolutely wrong in claiming that if you believe in God you can believe in anything. We can test many religious claims just like we do many scientific claims and 1000s have been confirmed, many conclusively. The emotional wish to dismiss miracles and the supernatural as possible is the motivation behind MD. Why do people wish this? Usually this is because they don’t like the restrictions of God that they don’t understand. But, a jet has more restrictions than a hot air balloon and this actually is precisely why it has more freedom in speed, maneuverability, etc. Wise restrictions are actually extremely empowering and even life saving. Science restricts us in very specific ways, but these restrictions empower enormous freedoms and advances. Wise restrictions are the foundation of incredible growth and freedom and pleasurable rewards. Nowhere is that more true than of God’s restrictions. Atheists who refuse to follow God’s restrictions are ironically only harming their own enjoyment in THIS world. Here’s just one short example:

SEX, ATHEIST MOTIVATIONS AND GOD INVENTED SEX FOR OUR PLEASURE
Aldous Huxley and other atheists have candidly stated things like this:
“I had motives for not wanting the world to have meaning; consequently assumed it had none, and was able without any difficulty to find satisfying reasons for this assumption. The philosopher who finds no meaning in the world is not concerned exclusively with a problem in pure metaphysics; he is also concerned to prove there is no valid reason why he personally should not do as he wants to do…For myself, as no doubt for most of my contemporaries, the philosophy of meaninglessness was essentially an instrument of liberation. The liberation we desired was simultaneously liberation from a certain political and economic system and liberation from a certain system of morality. We objected to the morality because it interfered with our sexual freedom.” Aldous Huxley, Ends and Means

“For myself as, no doubt, for most of my contemporaries, the philosophy of meaninglessness was essentially an instrument of liberation. The liberation we desired was simultaneously liberation from a certain political and economic system and liberation from a certain system of morality. We objected to the morality because it interfered with our sexual freedom; we objected to the political and economic system because it was unjust.” Aldous Huxley, Ends and Means, p. 316-7

While certain religious people at times have had dysfunctional attitudes towards sex, Hebrew culture and the Bible actually revel in marital sex and the Bible has several r/x-rated sections (see the Song of Solomon) as well as telling husbands and wives that they should not deprive each other of sexual privileges except by mutual agreement (1 Cor. 7:4,5) and that the marriage bed (meaning sex) is pure (Hebrews 13:4). These alone if followed would significantly reduce divorces.

It is kind of ironic that quite a few scientific studies show that restricting sex to marriage helps marriage be happier and and sex to be more fulfilling and pleasurable. Redbook magazine in September of 1975 reported a study on the sexuality of 100,000 women. They found that: “Sexual satisfaction is related significantly to religious belief. With notable consistency, the greater the intensity of a woman’s religious convictions, the likelier she is to be highly satisfied with the sexual pleasures of marriage.” Robert J. Levin and Amy Levin, “Sexual Pleasure: The Surprising Preferences of 100,000 Women,” Redbook. (September, 1975) p. 52

William Mattox, Jr. of The Family Research Council reported a poll of 1,100 people about their sexual satisfaction. Those who felt sex out of wedlock was wrong reported ~31 percent higher sexual satisfaction than those who had little or no objection to sex outside of marriage. Mattox noted that the survey “found that strictly monogamous women experienced orgasm during sex more than twice as often as promiscuous women.” It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that if women are enjoying sex more, there man will be getting more of it and thus much happier as well ;). This is even truer if both spouses follow Paul’s admonition not to deny each other sexually (1Corinthians 7:2-5).
http://www.troubledwith.com/LoveandSex/A000000350.cfm

National Institute of Health researcher David Larson says that couples who don’t sleep together before marriage and who are faithful during marriage “are more satisfied with their current sex life and also with their marriages compared to those who were involved sexually before marriage.” “The Hottest Valentines: the Startling Secret of What Makes You a High-Voltage Lover,” by William R. Mattox Jr., The Washington Post, Feb. 13, 1994.

The Bible teaches that sex is good and pure and pastors often say that “God invented sex” for our pleasure and happiness in marriage, which may be why sex, esp. in marriage has so many health benefits for us. http://www.forbes.com/health/2005/10/05 … Speed=6000.

The origin of male-female sex is also one strong evidence for an Intelligent Designer. It could have been just instinct for us like it is for a number of biological forms or even just mitosis. And have you ever looked at female breast sizes (or maybe a better question is who hasn’t)? Human female breasts are unique in the animal world…and it’s not for maternal reasons. Primate mothers have fuller breasts only when they have babies, yet human breasts are full year round, quite happily. For any females here, male penis sizes are way larger than other primates as well. The sex appeal breasts have is common to all human cultures, but to no other species. Then there’s female orgasm, which has no clear evolutionary function. Which would you prefer, human sized breasts/penises or chimpanzee sized ones? The weight of evidence to me even in this area alone points quite strongly to functional AND pleasurable design by a God who wants to see His beings enjoy life to the fullest :). It doesn’t tell us which God for sure…but many other evidences seem to confirm it’s the biblical God.

See this more detailed video by someone who’s not even religious on “How Sexual Reproduction refutes Darwinian evolution
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yejCq94zUwM
Also see: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/sex … -mesmerize

2) “Even if all the data point to an intelligent designer, such an hypothesis is excluded from science because it is not naturalistic.” S. C. Todd, Correspondence to Nature 410(6752):423, 30 Sept. 1999
This is astronomical bias. What if we changed the “intelligent designer” to universal common descent? Would that be good science?
“Even if all the data point to universal common descent, that hypothesis is excluded from science because it follows Darwin”

If this would not be good science, then excluding ID and creation science is a double standard logical fallacy. If you exclude any hypothesis from consideration A PRIORI, you cannot even begin to claim to be a fair and objective scientist. NUMEROUS times in history weird hypotheses have turned out to be right when the conventional wisdom thought they were crazy. Scientists in the past stated that gorillas, pandas, komodo dragons and many other real creatures didn’t exist. Native people with superior experience said they did. With time, the credible observers were proven correct. See: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/lochness/creatures.html.)

DO MIRACLES REALLY MAKE LEARNING ABOUT THE UNIVERSE IMPOSSIBLE?
Many think so, esp. atheists. But, programmers and computer makers and all sorts of engineers can intervene in what they have created, yet this doesn’t stop people from learning about them. In the same way, God can intervene in His creation if He so desires, but it doesn’t stop anyone from learning about it. In NONE of these cases does a designer intervening in his design count as magic or stop learning (Please don’t use “magic” to refer to the Bible. Magic refers to illusions, sleight of hand, etc. The Bible doesn’t deal in illusions or sleight of hand. This is one of Aronra’s and atheism’s main misconceptions.). It just shows that a higher intelligence is at work.

In fact, as Dr. Hannam (Ph.D. from Cambridge in the history of science) correctly points out in a recent presentation at the Royal Society (the 1st scientific society in history, started by a creationist) and in his book “The Genesis of Science: How the Christian Middle Ages launched the Scientific Revolution” this has never stopped Christians from doing science at any time (both Nature and New Scientist have highly recommended Dr. Hannam’s book as well researched and informative. See http://www.jameshannam.com/).

Yes, we do believe miracles can happen. These have a supernatural CAUSE which has NOTHING to do with magic/illusions. But, as the great natural medieval philosopher John Buridan, pointed out, you have to know what is natural to even be able to distinguish what is natural and what is a miracle. A miracle is only a temporary interruption and does not change the normal course of nature or our ability to learn from nature at all. It’s sort of like when you go to school and you have a consistent pattern of 5 days a week of school. But, once in a while you have a holiday. Having a holiday doesn’t change the normal course of 5 days of study per week.

While God is quite capable of subverting nature…that does not deter us at all from studying nature to determine its natural order and normal course. Buridan wrote, “It is evidence to us that every fire is hot and that the heavens are moved, even though the contrary is possible by God’s power. And it is evidence of this sort that sufficed for the principles and conclusions of natural philosophy [this was the term for science in those days].” John Buridan (1300-1362)

See Dr. Hannam’s presentation where he talks about a part of this here:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I-k24Q01vck

TRUTH/SCIENCE/RELIGION CAN’T BE THE SLAVE OF OUR EXPERIENCE
Everyone reading this is using the internet. If you went back 1,000 years (without any of our technology) and told people that we can send messages across the world in seconds, they’d laugh their heads off at your “magical” claim…and likely shut you up in some insane asylum. Jungle people similarly scoffed at claims about western technology when missionaries first contacted them. But, scoffing like this says far more about their level of intelligence than what is fact. In a similar way, we can not just dismiss claims because they don’t make sense to us or don’t seem possible based on our experience. Doing that is making truth, scientific evidence, historical evidence, etc. a slave to our experience and is a very serious hindrance to the acquisition of accurate knowledge. Time after time after time in history, what seemed impossible was actually real. Science itself has discovered many things that seemed impossible but were true. If there had been a bias similar to MD methodological naturalism against these conclusions, we would never know they are true now.

Lewontin comments, “With great perception, Sagan sees that there is an impediment to the popular credibility of scientific claims about the world, an impediment that is almost invisible to most scientists. Many of the most fundamental claims of science are against common sense and seem absurd on their face. Do physicists really expect me to accept without serious qualms that the pungent cheese that I had for lunch is really made up of tiny, tasteless, odorless, colorless packets of energy with nothing but empty space between them? Astronomers tell us without apparent embarrassment that they can see stellar events that occurred millions of years ago, whereas we all know that we see things as they happen. When, at the time of the moon landing, a woman in rural Texas was interviewed about the event, she very sensibly refused to believe that the television pictures she had seen had come all the way from the moon, on the grounds that with her antenna she couldn’t even get Dallas. What seems absurd depends on one’s prejudice. Carl Sagan accepts, as I do, the duality of light, which is at the same time wave and particle, but he thinks that the consubstantiality of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost puts the mystery of the Holy Trinity “in deep trouble.” Two’s company, but three’s a crowd.” Richard Lewontin “The New York Review”, billions and billions of demons, January 9, 1997, p. 31

If we only allow what seems sensible to us as conclusions instead of following the weight of evidence, this makes science and rationality the slave of our prejudices and limited to what we have ourselves experienced. This would cause the death of numerous advances in the history of science and must be avoided at all costs and at all times.

BIBLICAL FAITH IS BASED ON EVIDENCE (CHRISTIAN PRESUPPOSITIONS OF GOD ARE ALSO INVALID)
Atheists who presuppose methodological naturalism and rule out other conclusions before investigating evidence and try to force all the evidence into that assumption are guilty of an a priori fallacy that is directly attacking the foundational principle of science that has brought so much progress. These 2 concepts are mutually exclusive. Just as problematic, it causes the problem of incommensurability that Dr. Thomas Kuhn introduced in the 1960s such that there is no way to compare the two views to see which is more accurate.

But, some Christians make the very same irrational error when they presuppose God exists and try to fit all the evidence into that presupposition and rule out other conclusions that don’t fit before looking at evidence. They are guilty of the same a priori fallacy. There is nothing rational about deciding on conclusions before you consider evidence and that goes for Christianity AND atheism. People on both sides are guilty of engaging in this fallacy that mostly hardens people in their positions. NOTHING should be ruled out a priori, NOTHING.

I am quite certain that certain that those Christians and creationists who presuppose God are just following atheists/secularists in this fallacy that is not only fundamentally irrational, but very unbiblical as well. Biblical belief in Jewish and Christian history did not rest on presupposing that God exists. God and prophets in the Bible usually asked people to put faith in Him AFTER they were presented with evidence of some type, sometimes multiple types. It is a fundamental misrepresentation of biblical faith to associate it with blind faith. It was nothing of the sort. Bible faith was and is based on evidence and reason:
1) “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.”1 Peter 3:15

2) Paul charges us to test everything. “But test everything that is said. Hold on to what is good. Stay away from every kind of evil. I Thess. 5:21-22. In Acts 26:25-26, Paul is on trial giving his testimony and is able to tell a non-Christian king that he can check the evidence out for himself saying, “…What I am saying is the sober truth. And King Agrippa knows about these things. I speak boldly, for I am sure these events are all familiar to him, for they were not done in a corner!”

3) Jesus says, “Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves.” John 14:11

4) God challenged the Israelites who had gone into idolatry to bring their “gods” into a sort of court situation and prove that they had any traits of a god..or that they could even move to show they were real esp. in comparison to God’s proven evidences ( See Isaiah 41:21-24 & Isaiah 44:6-11 for example). This by the way is one of the first uses of the concept of the “weight of evidence” determining truth if not the first.

5) In Deuteronomy 4, Moses challenges Israel to follow God’s laws so they will be a great nation and admired by surrounding nations. But, observe that even for these illiterate slaves, he didn’t just ask for mindless obedience. He reminded them of the evidence of God’s power that they had personally experienced and seen with their own eyes. See especially verses 9-13 & 32-37.
5 “Look, I now teach you these decrees and regulations just as the Lord my God commanded me, so that you may obey them in the land you are about to enter and occupy. 6 Obey them completely, and you will display your wisdom and intelligence among the surrounding nations. When they hear all these decrees, they will exclaim, ‘How wise and prudent are the people of this great nation!’ 7 For what great nation has a god as near to them as the Lord our God is near to us whenever we call on him? 8 And what great nation has decrees and regulations as righteous and fair as this body of instructions that I am giving you today?

9 “But watch out! Be careful never to forget what you yourself have seen. Do not let these memories escape from your mind as long as you live! And be sure to pass them on to your children and grandchildren. 10 Never forget the day when you stood before the Lord your God at Mount Sinai…11 “You came near and stood at the foot of the mountain, while flames from the mountain shot into the sky. The mountain was shrouded in black clouds and deep darkness. 12 And the Lord spoke to you from the heart of the fire. You heard the sound of his words but didn’t see his form; there was only a voice.…32 “Now search all of history, from the time God created people on the earth until now, and search from one end of the heavens to the other. Has anything as great as this ever been seen or heard before? 33 Has any nation ever heard the voice of God speaking from fire—as you did—and survived? 34 Has any other god dared to take a nation for himself out of another nation by means of trials, miraculous signs, wonders, war, a strong hand, a powerful arm, and terrifying acts? Yet that is what the Lord your God did for you in Egypt, right before your eyes.

35 “He showed you these things so you would know that the Lord is God and there is no other. 36 He let you hear his voice from heaven so he could instruct you. He let you see his great fire here on earth so he could speak to you from it…39 “So remember this and keep it firmly in mind: The Lord is God both in heaven and on earth, and there is no other. 40 If you obey all the decrees and commands I am giving you today, all will be well with you and your children. I am giving you these instructions so you will enjoy a long life in the land the Lord your God is giving you for all time.”
Later near the end of his life, “Moses summoned all the Israelites and said to them:
‘Your eyes have seen all that the LORD did in Egypt to Pharaoh, to all his officials and to all his land. 3 With your own eyes you saw those great trials, those signs and great wonders’” 29:2….(the chapter goes on to recount MANY things Israel experienced firsthand). Moses ends his speech listing all the evidence and asking them to choose based on evidence and rational comparisons:

AFTER there’s a good amount of evidence and/or a decent track record of accuracy, then God asks us to put faith in Him. But, this faith’s purpose is not to prove God exists. It is to connect to the power of God and accept His free gift of salvation AFTER we have been convinced that He is real.

BIBLE LEADERS ASKED FOR PEOPLE TO HAVE FAITH BASED ON WHAT THOSE PEOPLE OR THEIR CLOSE ANCESTORS HAD PERSONALLY WITNESSED (as well as other types of evidence.)

Inferno wrote: Now I could go into that article on cracked and respond that particular author, explaining in detail why

1. You Can Do Terrible Things in the Name of Either One

is absolutely wrong. However, this isn’t a debate about some article on cracked so I will refrain from discussing it.

That topic WILL come up for sure with us in the moral topic you want to discuss. So, don’t worry :).

Inferno wrote: One last correction before I leave the field to you again, Bryan.

10) Although our goals may differ, we all desire knowledge, education, science and society to improve.

I’ve deleted religion from that because I really don’t know of any way to improve religion except to make people understand why it’s no good.

Religion has frequently improved itself and greatly improved society. The Protestant reformation was certainly an improvement over the Catholic hierarchy. Many values and benefits and innovations to society simply wouldn’t exist now without the contributions of the Judeo-Christian worldview including modern science. This will become indisputable in future posts. I’m working on the post on what counts as evidence and will post it as soon as I can. Then definitions and then the evidence.

All the best to you,
Bryan

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