Monday, April 18, 2011

Meaning and purpose: Answering "Choice", Part Two




What a difference a few days make! When "Choice" and I first went head to head, it was a tad adversarial. But since then, we have come to a place of mutual respect. I am engaging her here again, and this time it's amicable. :)


Choice's words are in red italics. My thoughts are in blue.

I told Choice that an atheist would have to believe that, in the end, life is absolutely meaningless. 

She responded:

Meaningless in your sense of the word, perhaps. But I think you’re deriving your meaning from your religious view of the world, no? [I'm thinking of objective meaning as opposed to subjective meaning.] Central to your belief system is the faith that there is something bigger than what tangibly exists in this world and that after this life, we go on to that bigger place. [I'd say that it's as much about our origin as our destination.] And that’s fine. But just because my viewpoint lacks that particular outcome doesn’t mean it’s meaningless. It just means it doesn’t fit into your idea of meaningfulness.


[She then quoted me]: “So to me, it's as if the atheist is living life based only on feelings. There is nothing else, nothing lasting or objectively true.”


This kind of puzzles me. First, you say the atheist is living life based on feelings. Actually, the atheist is living life based on what is seen, felt, heard, demonstrated empirically, and known to be true. It is the religious who are living based on faith, based on that which cannot be seen, heard, or empirically proven. I’m not saying one approach is objectively better or worse than the other, but it just kind of startled me that you said the atheist is living life based on feelings. 


I can see why you would think that, but I want to challenge you on that a little further down in the post….

Secondly…why does there have to be something ”else”? Why isn’t the earth and the beauty of nature and the intricate interconnectedness of life systems and the AMAZING displays of science enough? 


But enough for whom? 


You are a First World, educated woman with good food to eat and nice clothes to wear, decent health care, and freedom of speech and movement. As an educated American, you are of the world's privileged class. You have the leisure time and resources to study all the beauty and intricate interconnectedness around us, because you are not busy trying simply to survive. You will no doubt enjoy a relatively comfortable, terror-free, famine-free, war-free existence before you go "poof" and cease to exist. 


But what of the suffering child in Africa? What meaning does her life have if she cannot extract all the goodness and beauty of life and the universe? If she cannot see and enjoy its interconnectedness because she can barely see or think past her starvation and disease? Who is she? Is she anyone? And if so, how? Why? Those questions are not rhetorical. I really want to know. And I don't mean "What is her potential?" nor do I want a list of what we can do (or aren't doing) to help her. I want to know what her meaning and worth is right now in her abject suffering.


And it’s incredibly lasting, because it continues on long after I’m gone, and supports many more generations of life. 


With all due respect, so what? How is length of time (or whatever "lasting" means) significant here? If we all go poof in the end, so what if things last for a while after you are gone? Why are “generations of life” ultimately important or purposeful in your worldview? It all means nothing in the end, when everything is gone. And no one cares. And you were no one. And neither was anyone else. You and I and everyone were accidents of a mindless cosmic burp, and nothing of any of us will be left behind to show for it. 


And it’s objectively true, because I can see it and if I so choose, I can study it and prove its postulates.

Last summer, I posed a couple of questions to atheists. One of them relates to what you just said: 
Atheists believe that "gathering knowledge" and "intellectual curiosity" are important (and I agree wholeheartedly). My question: If your brain is the product of randomness and chance, then why do you trust your brain to give you true information?
Maybe that is a silly question to you, but I would love an understandable answer.

Back to feelings. You said that you don't live your life based on feelings. But when I asked you why we all need to get along if there is no God and no ultimate meaning, you said this:

And why do we all need to get along if there is no God? Because it’s a lot more pleasant for everyone involved. Because I think 90% of people would say it’s more enjoyable and more fulfilling to live in a kind manner and to live in harmony with other people rather than screw everyone else over for selfish reasons. Because wanting to live in a loving community of people isn’t just a Catholic wish. And because moral behavior doesn’t have to be defined by the Bible, it can also be defined by the happiness and fulfillment and contentment that we feel when we exist peacefully as members of a community. 


All the emphases are mine, but I hope you see my point. Your morality is based on how things make people feel, isn't it?


And similarly, when you talked about the "beauty of nature and the intricate interconnectedness of life systems and the AMAZING displays of science", you are again talking about the way those things make you feel, aren't you? You “feel” awe, you “feel” compelled to know more. 


But beyond how the observance and study of these things make you feel, they really have no ultimate purpose, do they? Okay, so things can be demonstrated empirically and shown to be true… but for what end? Why does truth matter? How can truth ultimately mean anything at all, when existence itself is a random accident?

In the comment thread, you said:


I don't feel that my life is purposeless or meaningless because I don't have an omnipotent, omniscient being designing it or guiding it or rewarding me for the good things I do or reprimanding me for the bad things I do. That's not the definition of "purpose" or "meaning" for me.


From what I understand of your position, your life's meaning is derived from … you. You have decided that your life is meaningful, based on the joy and happiness you feel, and the satisfaction you get from your relationships and choices. 


Correct me if I am wrong.


But if I am right about your position, then what of the abandoned baby girl in China, left to suffer and die from exposure? In your opinion, what is the purpose and meaning of her life? What of the nasty old man who has no friends, and whom no one will miss when he dies? What is the purpose and meaning of his life? How about the serial killer? The unwanted unborn child? The brain injured woman who cannot speak or walk? The suicidal teen? 


What is the purpose and meaning of their lives, in the atheist's worldview? Do they have inherent value? If so, what is its source?


I’m not a philosopher. I'm not even sure that these are the right questions to ask. But they're the ones that I can’t reconcile when I ponder the implications of atheism.


So please, help me see. Tell me why your life or anyone's life has any objective purpose, meaning or value. And if you can't say that it does, then what are we left with but feelings and subjectivism?





205 comments:

  1. "mindless cosmic burp" made me giggle. :-) Ok, back to serious discussion...

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  2. I felt and believed everything this atheist woman is saying, though deep down I longed for more. I needed purpose. I wanted to know that what I did mattered. And then I met two people who changed my lives without saying a word: it was their actions. I started asking questions about their faith. They never "preached" to me; they only shared their own experiences. They answered my questions from their hearts. And when I started to open that door to believe, little miracles started to happen. They DO happen, if you're paying attention. I went from being a lesbian atheist to a woman about to become Catholic (next week!). It's been a difficult journey and I have been plagued with the darkness trying to seep back in and fill me with doubt...and then more of my little miracles occur. I had to stop turning my back on God and pay attention, and my life is so much richer as a result. This woman may never walk this path, but then again, I will pray for her as others prayed for me.

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  3. I watched the film, The Human Experience last night and this post reminds me so much of that! Two young men traveled around to observe and experience others' lives- homeless in NY, Leper colony in Ghana, a children's hospital in Peru...Jesus wasn't kidding when he said, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven." The faith among the most destitute is amazing. The leper colonies are HAPPY because they have faith. The poor in Africa say, "if you have God in your heart, you have everything." Their faith is all they have, and they don't need anything else. It's beautiful. A homeless woman in NY was interviewed by them- they asked her, "what is one thing you want to tell the world right now?" Her answer was prophetic to people like Choice. She said, "when this first happened to me and I found myself out on the streets, one day there were four dogs out here running around. And there were people on their cell phones, calling their spouses saying, I'll take this dog, we'll take this dog, we need to take care of this dog...and they all took care of the dogs. They took the dogs home so they wouldn't freeze to death, and they let me stand there."

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  4. If it all means nothing in the end then why do people even argue? The very fact that people argue proves they know otherwise. Rocks don't argue.

    I always go back to Fr. Stanley Jaki's comment about materialism. People arguing for it have the "purpose of proving there is no purpose."

    Thank you for your wisdom Leila!

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  5. This is very good Leila!!!! This gets a bit closer to why I am NOT an atheist, (admittedly not a Catholic anymore..trying to be Lutheran...actually just trying to be Christian). I think your questions about the meaning of life for the list of disenfranchised individuals you listed is DEAD ON.

    My friend the radical atheist (no apologies from him about that), would say that these people's lives really have no meaning. He thinks of all lives in a Nietzschean manner. I once asked him why he bothered talking to me, or why he maintained contact, and he said that he thinks all meaning revolves around creating tiny squirts of the cocktail of pleasure neurotransmitters in the brain, and that he finds me entertaining and interesting to talk to...end of story.

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  6. I had a facebook friend say the following, after reading this post:

    She tries to make the point that it is more 'pleasant' if people got along. Of course, more pleasant for Germany in the 30-40s was less Jews. The only real overriding philosophy for the aetheistic/naturalistic position is 'might makes right.' Whatever rules (benevolent or malevolent) that whomever has the ability to enforce are the rules for the community be it a family or a state.

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  7. So... ultimately the value of life can be measured in direct correclation to "pleasantness"? If that is true, then logically, Choice cannot believe in Christ. As Augustine said, God had one son on earth without sin, but never one without suffering. The logical imperative here is that suffering has no meaning, that we might actually have the right to determine whose humanity has weight, and whose does not.
    And for anyone who has not seen The Human Experience, (that Manda mentioned)you should - I know these guys, and they have made a truly besutiful, award-winning film.

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  8. I saw the Human Experience, and wow! Amazing.

    This all reminds me of a woman I know, who helps mentor my daughter in a program called Pure Fashion. This girl (GORGEOUS blonde, movie star looks) is in her early twenties, used to be an alcoholic and a party girl (also date raped via the date rape pill). Lived a life of empty hedonism. She tells the story of going to her uncle's wedding in Hollywood (a well-known producer type, not giving any more clues that that). The beautiful people were there, in all their finery and with all their status and "pleasantness". A totally secular crowd at a wedding devoid of any mention of God. She said that the conversation with the guests was empty, petty, paranoid and sad. They had everything, and yet they had nothing. One aging TV star told her some pathetic and shocking realities about her "perfect" life, as they stood, tipsy, in the line for the bathroom.

    Fast forward a few months and this young woman was on a mission in one of the most poverty stricken villages in a remote part of South America. She was called out to the outskirts of that poor village, to a place where the real outcasts lived at the garbage dump, eating something she couldn't identify. The man who invited her to share a meal with him (whom the villagers wouldn't even eat with), was the most amazing, loving, joyful man. She said he told her, "I don't have much, but what I have I want to share with you!" And she choked down the mystery meat (rat?), and listened to this man (a drunk, a cast-out) speak of his love for God, and how God sustained Him in all things. She was stunned and compelled by all that this man had, when by the world's standard's he should have never been born (oh my, he might "suffer"! Who would want to live like that? Where is his quality of life?).

    Yet he who had God had inner peace and joy, in a horrific situation, and the movie stars who have everything, but no God, live perfectly miserable lives.

    She learned that the man in the dump died soon after, by the way. His life would have been objectively valuable even if no one had mourned him. The Hollywood crowd's lives are valuable, too, but not for the reasons they think.

    Anyway, I'm sorry, I went off on a tangent, and I can just hear the responses now: "I'm an atheist and I am happy!" But of course, that skirts the question of what makes a meaningful life. A lack of suffering is not it….

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  9. I want to share here about my sister who's an atheist. She said that believers in God have some comfort in that. I used to think she was being condescending and I tried to explain that that's not why we believe. But then she went further and said,
    "It's not comforting being an atheist. It's not comforting wondering why your husband's sister died tragically as a child, it's not comforting watching your friend suffer and die...You, at least have some comfort that there's something more after this life..."

    I'm not saying all Atheists think like my sister. But it gave me insight into her thinking. She is like most atheists in that it's all about science.

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  10. A friend on facebook posted a tribute to Carl Sagan with a video by him. The whole video was an ever further drawing back from the earth to show its insignificance while at the same time arguing that we need to help and take care of each other because of that insignficance. In essence he negated his whole point. The less significant we are the less need there is to 'get along.' If we are as insignificant as he argued then there was not point whatsoever in treating each other 'humanly.'
    But, 'if God so loved the world that he gave his onlybegotten son' then we are indeed significant and therefore have not only a desire and willingness to treat each other humanly (love our neighbor) but a true perspective of what each person's significance is and a real, true understanding of the very value of a human being from the very first instance of their existance until their going home to that one who loved them so very much.

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  11. So please, help me see. Tell me why your life or anyone's life has any objective purpose, meaning or value. And if you can't say that it does, then what are we left with but feelings and subjectivism?

    Okay so here's my take, coming from a former... well... I never described myself as an atheist but I did buy into the relativist/subjectivist notions that are oft held by many atheists.

    Objective purpose, meaning or value is, I believe for the atheist, an oxymoron. Purpose and meaning/value is only valuable as it is defined by the individual. To subscribe or "dictate" (I hate that word, but it is used often) an inherent/objective value to someone or something beyond what can be "known" by our 5 senses or tested empirically, in other words by facts, runs the risk of that inherent value being... wrong.

    I believe that atheism really comes down to a fear of not wanting to be proven wrong. Therefore, anything that cannot be proven based on empiric evidence (whether through the 5 senses or scientifically tested), by fact, will never be considered objective, because the possibility, however infinitesimally small, of being proven wrong is unacceptable.

    They cannot "know" a belief because for them knowledge is only fact = truth, where as faith is belief = truth. They cannot test a belief and because there are countless beliefs in the world that all differ some in large ways, most in small ways, then none can be proven to by facts to be true and therefore none can be "known" to be true. If no faith/no belief system/no single purpose or inherent value can be "known" to be true, then therefore it must not be objective.

    Of course then comes the question that turned me around from that way of thinking:

    But what if it is objective...?


    I hope that makes sense. I've been thinking about this topic for years, but I'm still trying to work out how it all fits together.

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  12. I am an atheist, I also believe there is meaning. My way of thinking is more community based. My own feeling and the feelings of others. Saying, what can I do to make other people's lives better. Putting myself in their shoes. Because I am willing to change, to improve, I am open to realizing what the other person thinks. Versus with a set of rules. We are bound by them, without being able to change. So that is why rape is bad, because the victim is hurt.

    The meaning of my life to to make life better for all that are down here. The purpose for me is clear.

    Also, another point to make. When pro-lifers are talking about, they use as many scientific facts as possible. So science to you can be an explanation, right?

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  13. Also, another point to make. When pro-lifers are talking about, they use as many scientific facts as possible. So science to you can be an explanation, right?

    Oh yes, of course. Not just for pro-life issues. We just don't think all things can be explained only through science whereas for someone like my sister, she'll only believe what can be verified by science.

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  14. Chelsea,
    'My way of thinking is more community based.' But, have you not read in history that some 'communities' dedicated themselves to either the enslavement or eradication of other communities, even those within their own community.
    Outside of any outside influence (bigger community if you will) there is no reason for one community not to 'do as it pleases' with others, even if that means enslavement or eradication of others is there? Afer all, who is to say to a community, 'that is wrong' if all there is is that community and its self created mores? They are their own judge.

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  15. It was kind of a long and rambling post, but I'll go after a few of the comments. Let's take the poor dying girl in China for example.

    What is the purpose and meaning of their lives, in the atheist's worldview? Do they have inherent value? If so, what is its source?

    I think that Leila would answer this as "God made that girl and loved that girl so that is her meaning and purpose. God decided to give her a mother that did not care for her so that she became stronger. God still loved her, even though nobody else seemed to. That was enough to give her purpose." Correct me if I'm wrong there.

    I would say that she has meaning in that she is a member of society (family society, local society, country society, global society, all four). Parents are supposed to care for their children so that they become better members of society, but if that doesn't happen, other members of society step in (for example Red Cross workers, Peace Corps Volunteers, etc etc). Her purpose is to live the best life she can, whatever she decides that to be.

    I know you said to not answer in HOW we would help her, but I want to answer WHY we would help her. We want society to be the best society that we can have. We don't want to allow the Chinese to selectively birth boys and not girls, because the society will be boy-heavy, and probably create a number of frustrated men who can't find wives. Those men may likely branch out and take women from other societies, so that 'bad' society we see in China (selecting for boys) will cause ripple effects in other societies in the long run. That's the long-scale view.

    The short-scale view is that we help that girl child in China because she is a person, and a person has a right to live, and if nobody else is helping her, then we have a duty to. Because she is living, breathing, human.

    My guess is that Leila would say about WHY we help her is that God loves her, so we help.

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  16. And these two comments about evolution from Leila:

    You and I and everyone were accidents of a mindless cosmic burp, and nothing of any of us will be left behind to show for it.

    and

    If your brain is the product of randomness and chance, then why do you trust your brain to give you true information?

    Leila, if you don't understand evolution, you should just stop talking about it, please. You are constantly reprimanding the non-Catholics that if you are going to criticize church teachings, understand it from the Catholic source first. I'm politely asking the same of you.

    Evolution is NOT random, it is exactly the opposite. It took millions of years of selection of the best of all possible mutations. Evolution does not say that we poofed (burped?) into existence. Read up on evolution and then we can have a discussion.

    You are tired of educating people on Catholicism only to have them continue to misinterpret it. I'm tired of educating you on evolution only to have you willfully ignore it. I don't see you you say you want to understand the other side here.

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  17. MaiZeke, you are misunderstanding the question. I did not ask about the girl's potential, or w why/how we should help. In fact, the baby girl is left to die of exposure, and I'll posit that she will die, alone and abandoned. I am asking: What is the purpose and meaning of that life, in your view? Who is she? Does she have any value now (outside of potential pleasure she might have felt if she had lived)? And if there is purpose and meaning, what is its source?

    "long and rambling post"... always getting a dig in, MaiZeke? It just makes me smile.

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  18. God decided to give her a mother that did not care for her...

    A slight correction here, MaiZeke. God did not decide to do this.

    The woman made the choice not to care for her daughter.

    I could choose tomorrow not to care for any of my children, and that would not be God's fault for giving my children to someone who didn't care for them -- it would be MY fault for not making the choice to do so. God is outside of time so He can see every possible avenue of choice and the repercussions thereof, but He does not make the choice for us -- we do that all by ourselves.

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  19. Chelsea, I agree with Shawn, and on top of that, aren't you still assigning yourself your own purpose and meaning (i.e., "I am special because I say that I am special")? Meaning, it's subjective and based on your feelings?

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  20. "We want society to be the best society that we can have."-Maizeke

    WHO wants society to be the best society that we can have, Mai? Are you speaking for yourself, for Atheists, for everyone? For the guy who sits in his house, jobless, lacking motivation and drinking a 12-pack everyday? Are you speaking for the drug addicts, the cartel, the mafia, for Hollywood? This statement suggests that people are selfless by design. Is this your view?

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  21. Chelsea-
    That sentiment about the community knowing best and doing best, and partaking in that community life is nice in theory.
    But it can quickly descend to the "Lord of the Flies".

    -Nubby

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  22. Nubby, the scariest thing is that students used to be HORRIFIED by a play called "The Lottery". My understanding is that now students just sort of yawn, and don't understand what the problem is. If you've ever read it, it's something that should chill us so badly that it never leaves us. Not so anymore...

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  23. I also made a comment about evolution - is that in spam?

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  24. Leila, I don't think I misunderstood at all. I also said, "Her purpose is to live the best life she can, whatever she decides that to be. "

    Same as my purpose. And everyone's.

    Who is she? Does she have any value now (outside of potential pleasure she might have felt if she had lived)? And if there is purpose and meaning, what is its source?

    Same value as my life after I die. Once I die, I'm gone. The source of her purpose is hers as I quoted myself again here. The source of her meaning is the rest of society, which I explained in my first comment.

    How do you think I misinterpreted? Please, explain.

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  25. Sorry, MaiZeke, I just got it out of spam.

    You say I misunderstand, then tell me…. why did the universe begin? Not how, but why? What was the plan or the design there? If there was no plan and no design, then wasn't the origins of life…. random? Remember, I am not talking about evolution. I am talking about the purpose and meaning of life. In other words, why it's here. Not how it evolves.

    I hope you understand.

    Please explain.

    Shawn and Bethany, I forgot to say hello! Welcome! I try to say hit to new commenters, but sometimes I forget! :)

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  26. Joanna says: A slight correction here, MaiZeke. God did not decide to do this. The woman made the choice not to care for her daughter.

    So, when people tell my brother and his wife that their autistic son is so lucky that God decided to have him be born to them, because they are really doing wondering things in helping him, those people who say that are wrong?

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  27. Leila, I don't think I misunderstood at all. I also said, "Her purpose is to live the best life she can, whatever she decides that to be. "

    Same as my purpose. And everyone's.

    Who is she? Does she have any value now (outside of potential pleasure she might have felt if she had lived)? And if there is purpose and meaning, what is its source?

    Same value as my life after I die. Once I die, I'm gone. The source of her purpose is hers as I quoted myself again here. The source of her meaning is the rest of society, which I explained in my first comment.


    I have absolutely no idea what this means, MaiZeke.

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  28. Sorry, I meant to italicize all of your comment. In other words, the whole comment at 2:03, I have no idea what it means. Any other atheists want to help me out and tell me what that means?

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  29. Mai, regarding your question to JoAnna, God has both a permissive will and an active will. Sometimes He actively wills things, sometimes He merely permits them (sin, disease, disorder, natural disasters).

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  30. So, when people tell my brother and his wife that their autistic son is so lucky that God decided to have him be born to them, because they are really doing wondering things in helping him, those people who say that are wrong?

    All respect to the friends of your brother and his wife, but God does not choose that anyone should have autism. My daughter was recently diagnosed with mild autism so this is a sore subject for me. Autism, like physical defects, is a result of our fallen world and not something that God chooses or gives to any person (although, out of respect for our free will, He allows such things). I think that's been discussed on the blog before so I won't go through it again.

    I believe that God gave your brother and His wife the capability to give excellent care to their son, and I'm glad they've made the choice to utilize that capability.

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  31. @ MaiZeke

    Just for clarification, you are an atheist, right?

    If that is the case, saying that creating a better society is the meaning of anyone's life (which it seems like you're saying), is inconsistent with your worldview. According to normal atheist logic, attributing meaning to anything is an arbitrary application of the misleading concept of purpose, an arbitrary application of the idea that things have an end outside breeding, growing, living, and dying.

    If you're an atheist, you have to attribute everything to biology, and chemistry, etc. If you do that, there is nothing more than the pure, basic, material side of life. Meaning, for you, there can be no meaning.

    Appealing to society for meaning is a ruse (intentional or unintentional, doesn't matter). It distracts from the reality that, for an atheist, if man tends to make these things called society, that tendency is completely based on chemical processes, and has nothing to do with intent, meaning, nor a greater good.

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  32. @ MaiZeke

    Think about it this way, if man has a purpose greater than living out his purely biological life, until he dies from accident or when the biological clock is up, then something or someone must have given him that purpose, that end greater than himself for which he lives.

    Take a chair, a car, an electric drill. There is a real purpose to these objects. A man or woman invented these objects, and gave these objects a purpose beyond themselves. A chair does not simply exist to exist, it exists to be sat on. A car exists to be driven, and an electric drill exists so we men can find some sort of self-worth, thinking we really are something of a handyman. Or maybe a drill exists to put screws in wood, and holes in wall, haven't figured that one out yet. I just know having a drill makes me happy.

    Anyway, my point is that the inventor, the creator, the maker of the chair, car, and drill, made those things with an intent for a specific sort of use. Can they be misused? Yes. Chairs are used in bizarre professional wrestling matches, cars can be used to kill people, or drive off bridges. Drills can be used as a weapon, as something that makes a loud noise in order to annoy someone, etc.

    If these objects we invent are only given their purpose by those who make them, (and those who misuse them, who give them a different purpose), for us as humans to have purpose means we have to have been designed for that purpose by something or someone. If we weren't, then like most atheists who are honest with their beliefs believe, there is no purpose, and everything we do is based on biological functions, chemical reactions.

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  33. Again, meaning, there is no meaning.

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  34. Yep, Leila. I agree. I read "The Lottery" in middle school. It was awful. Classic 'man v. society'. Terrifying. Too real.
    Ranks up there with "All Summer In A Day."

    So much for supposing 'community' is always benevolent!

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  35. -Nubby

    Sorry that was me, above.

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  36. I used the word community wrong. When I said community, I meant every single person on this earth. Including the poor mother in "The Lottery" that was stoned (I am assuming that I have the write play in mind). Each person separately, and every person there is. I have never read "Lord of Flies".

    When I said community, I was thinking more of situations of abuse. The person doing the abuse does not have the right, because the other person is being victimized.

    I do not think what I think is based on feeling. By being nice, I have received kindness back. By being trusting I have been the confidant to people (I am nosy, so I never mind).

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  37. The person doing the abuse does not have the right, because the other person is being victimized.

    Chelsea, this is your opinion. I happen to agree, but you are an atheist, so you don't have a reason to say that someone has no "right" to do something. Where do people get those "rights"? If you say the law, or society, then what of the Nazi laws and society, where people did have the "right" to victimize?

    What you are saying is based on feelings. You want to be treated kindly (so that you can feel good and not bad), so you treat others kindly so that they will treat you kindly.

    But what worth or value or meaning does the little abandoned baby in China have? All she knows is suffering. All she knows is no love. How is her life valuable? Where does her value come from, if life itself does not have an ultimate purpose?

    If her value is only from what you "feel" about her, then that is subjective. Feelings-based.

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  38. Wow Chelsea! This is NOT a dig. I guess I just felt OLD, as I thought everyone in the WESTERN WORLD had read The Lord of The Flies...Sheesh...times are a changin'.

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  39. I applaud your high morals, Chelsea. But it sounds like you've employed kindness and it has worked for you. You've helped others and in turn you've been helped, and/or you've become friends with others. That's all well and good. But it's still just sentiment.

    I mean, your 'meaning of life' is based on how the world treats you and how you treat others. It's your influence over them (or lack of) and their influence or lack of influence over you.

    Has your kindness ever been rebuffed? Have you ever been publicly insulted? Humiliated? How have you reacted and what would dictate your reaction? What did you do in those instances and why?

    It's the old "what's your standard for good behavior?" question. I never quite understand how non-believers beat the drum on being do-gooders and yet when I ask them to point me back to the reason why we should be do-gooders, they refer me to sentiment.

    Well, on Monday my sentiments differ than on Friday. And during certain times of the month, feelings change. And I trust all humans fluctuate in their moods and arbitrary emotions. This is why I don't buy the 'societal good' as the measuring stick, and atheists will agree, yet they do not go beyond to explain.

    -Nubby

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  40. According to normal atheist logic, attributing meaning to anything is an arbitrary application of the misleading concept of purpose, an arbitrary application of the idea that things have an end outside breeding, growing, living, and dying.

    Giuseppe has an excellent point. Atheists, are there things beyond breeding, growing, living, dying? Are their things beyond the chemical, the material?

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  41. Ha ha, Sorry to make you feel old Mary. I think I once read the back of book, and felt it was just about a bunch of little boys running around. Like the lost boys in Perter Pan.

    About the whole feeling thing. That is where I would put myself in her shoes. I often think, that could be me. And I am glad it was not. So I would not want her to be in that situation. We are all a bit shellfish, and so would she be.

    I often believe I am a bad liberal representative here, since I am not at all radical compared to my classmates. But I do believe that everyone had a spirit/soul. And the spirit of an abandoned chinese girl's spirit is just as important. So she is equal to me, so she has the same rights.

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  42. I do not respond to public reactions (well, I mean of course I do, but that is not the point). I have found that being nice to someone even when they are not nice to me can pay off in the long run.

    I have been embarrassed/insulted. But have also made people feel so guilty, that they apologize/make up for it, just because I forgive and still continued being nice.

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  43. Hi everyone,

    Just wanted to let you know that I'll be responding in the next day or two. Things have been a little hectic and I haven't had time to come back to the blog until now. So for those of you who are interested in hearing how I respond to Leila's response, stay tuned!

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  44. Chelsea-
    You're saying you believe in souls and spirits. That is a mystical belief, not an atheistic one, in the pure sense.

    How can you believe in something you cannot see (immaterial soul)?

    If we have souls/spirits, where do we get them? From whom? Certainly we haven't just evolved with them, or into them, or them into us. That wouldn't be very scientific minded.
    To speak of belief in souls/spirits is definitely to speak about a part of the human being which is mystically joined to, yet separate from, the physical body. This is not normal atheistic thinking.

    I'm wondering why you hold this belief and maintain atheism?

    -Nubby

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  45. It seems I'm not understanding Leila, and she's not understanding me. So I went back and re-read (a few times) the original post again.

    First, Leila posits that atheists think life is meaningless, and without purpose or value. She asks what the meaning/purpose/value for atheists is.

    An educated white woman says atheists live life based on what is seen, heard, known to be true, which is enough. Leila asks the atheist where the purpose and value and meaning of neglected, poor people come from. She asksa lot of questions about this, so this one must be important. She really wants to know what the meaning/purpose/value of another's life is in the atheist mindset is.

    The educated white female atheist says that nature and science are enough to give life meaning and purpose and value. Science builds on itself, will last for future generations, and can determine objective truth, she says.

    Leila says "so what?" about lasting future generations. To the objective truth statement, Leila says ... searching for knowledge is good, but how can you trust your brain in this search since you think it is random?

    Then Leila posts something from the educated white woman about why it is important to get along, which has a lot of "feeling" words in it. Back to feeling. So feeling is what makes an atheist moral. (not purpose/value/meaning, but moral.)

    But back to science from before that little feeling/moral paragraph, it doesn't matter the answer to the question about the random brain anyway, because following the scientific method is just a feeling as well. And then back to the objective truth in this same science statement: truth in science is meaningless since science says everything is random. So how can you define truth?

    Wait, are we talking about meaning/purpose/values, morality, or truth here?

    I guess we're still talking about meaning and purpose, because we are back at that again. Morality and truth must be related to meaning purpose and value somehow, although Leila never really tells us how. Anyway, Leila declares that the atheist's meaning and purpose comes from the self ("you").

    And then more questions about the meaning and purpose of poor insignificant people's lives. This one must be really really important. So many questions about it, one after another, the same kinds of questions she asked quite a few paragraphs ago.

    And so, in conclusion, Leila asks again about an atheist's definition of life's meaning/purpose/value. But whatever the atheist says, it is based on feelings, and subjectivism.

    Subjectivism? Where did that come from? That must be bad, because she uses it with the word "feelings". I think she must mean that feelings are subjective.

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  46. MaiZeke, I never said that an atheist "thinks life is meaningless" -- I know you think your life is very meaningful. Obviously, or you would kill yourself.

    I am out the door for a couple hours, but is there any atheist out there who actually understands what I am asking?

    If not, I will come back and try again, to see if MaiZeke and I can reach a point of communication.

    Back soon…..

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  47. Unfortunately, I think there are a number of things I simply can’t convey to you all in a way that you’ll understand, due to your beliefs. For example, your definitions of what has purpose and meaning hinges completely on your belief in a creator entity, why this creator created the universe, what all of our actions and beliefs and thoughts ultimately mean to this creator and what happens once this life is over; what is bigger than this world. I do not believe in this creator, or this afterlife, or this supernatural meaning to our earthly endeavors, so of course nothing I’m going to tell you is going to have anything to do with willful design of the universe, supernatural results of our reactions, or an omnipotent entity that wants specific things from me during my life. So I can give you my most sincere, my most well-thought-out, what is in my mind the most convincing description of why what I believe is meaningful to me, and you will all say “But all of that doesn’t lead to anything beyond itself, so even though YOU say it has meaning, it is truly meaningless.” As I’ve noted many times in many posts before, this is attempting to define my beliefs within the context and defines of your own faith. It’s akin to me hearing a well-thought out and sincere description of why you feel human life has purpose and meaning within the confines of Catholicism, and my response being “Well, your God is imaginary and doesn’t exist, so even though YOU say it has meaning, it is truly meaningless.” That would be me insisting on defining your faith within the context of my own beliefs. It’s not possible, nor is it logical. I’ll be honest, this aspect of our discussions is beginning to wear on me. It makes me feel as though no matter what statements or opinions or beliefs I present to you, the discussion goes right back to why Catholicism means that belief system is purposeless and meaningless. So I’m not sure how much longer I can continue to run full speed into this proverbial brick wall without reaching a point of exhaustion with this discussion.

    That being said, I’ll do my best to answer the questions you’ve posed to me, Leila.

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  48. Indeed, I am a privileged person. I was born to loving parents who worked hard to provide their children with the opportunities to become educated, to choose what they want to do in life, to find a calling and follow it. So yes, I know that I am lucky to even have the luxury of appreciating nature, studying science, and worrying about things beyond basic survival. I do not feel that my life’s value or my value as a human being is any more or less than a suffering child in Africa. In fact, I think quite often how fortunate I am, how I could have just as easily been born in a different country or continent, in a completely different economic and social situation, with none of the opportunities I have been so fortunate to have. This is part of what makes me so appreciative of the luxuries I have, and what makes me so empathetic to suffering and eager to work to alleviate it whenever might be possible. I have traveled to third-world countries to do medical work and have interacted with people in very similar situations to those who you spoke about. In Honduras, I met children who couldn’t play with their friends every day because they had serious asthma attacks and no medicine to treat them, who had no mothers because they had died in childbirth due to complications not detected in previous pregnancies that had finally taken over their frail bodies, who hadn’t had a meal in over 24 hours and couldn’t tell you when the next one might be. The majority of children I met were so poor they didn’t own toothbrushes. And I will tell you, with no hint of exaggeration, that these were the happiest children I’ve ever met in my life. They couldn’t wait to blow up balloons with us or to let us put temporary tattoos on their arms or play with our stethoscopes. They were made so incredibly happy by the small things in life, the small pleasures of just being and sharing company with other people, and that was enough. It was absolutely beautiful. And, to me, very meaningful.

    I would never think for a second that their lives didn’t have meaning because they couldn’t appreciate science or the interconnectedness of the universe or the beauty of nature (though they live in one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen). I would never believe that my life has more meaning than theirs because I do have those luxuries. That’s the beauty of believing in the world as it is – everything is relative. Every human being on this earth is born into a particular situation and goes through life with different circumstances. This is a journey for all of us, and we get out of it what we are able to make of it. Those children’s meaning and worth are what they decide them to be. Some people decide to become assholes and backstabbers and selfish and hurt people intentionally. That’s an unfortunate aspect of the world, no matter what your religious beliefs are. But I’ve met so many people who are striving to be good people, just to be good people and to do what they feel in their hearts is right. Yes, in my heart, I feel it is right to treat others as you wish to be treated, I feel it is right to act with regard to other people’s lives and work to not cause undue pain and suffering. I feel it is a beautiful and natural thing to form relationships and enrich each other’s lives, to love and to be loved. I think these tenets are at the heart of humanity. I don’t think the majority of people need to be told or taught these things; I think we feel them in our consciences, and we recognize them to be good and helpful and productive and rewarding. This is what we have in this world – we have each other, we have nature, we have our interconnectedness. We have happiness and sadness and fulfillment and empathy and love. All of these call strongly to my sense of humanity. This contributes in a large part to my ideals. These ideals don’t need to come from a book or a religion. You’re right, they’re mostly based on feelings, in combination with the forces of nature and other living things.

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  49. None of this weakens my belief in science or nature. In fact, I believe deeply that science and nature contribute to these characteristics of humanity. No, you can’t prove all feelings, you probably can’t definitively prove what innate human characteristics are. I’m okay with that. I don’t need a randomized controlled clinical trial to substantiate every detail of what I feel is true and right. Did these things somehow ultimately derive from evolution, and the development of the human species? Yes, I believe they likely did. I don’t have that proof, but that’s what makes sense to me.
    And if this all goes *poof* in the end, and nothing is left? That’s fine. Something else will probably follow, and maybe it will have meaning, and maybe people will feel good about it. Or maybe there will be nothing. That’s fine too. I don’t have all the answers. To postulate that my human mind can understand the functioning of the entire universe is laughable to me. I don’t think it can all be wrapped up into a neat and tidy little package.
    So no, there’s no “ultimate objective” (by your definition) to the things that I do on a day to day basis, or the goals I’ve set for my life, or the personal betterment I’m working toward. There is no supernatural being who is going to greet me at the end of my life and say “Job well done” or “You’ve really disappointed me.” For these judgments, I answer to myself and to those around me – my friends, my family, my colleagues, my patients, society, the human community as a whole. That is meaningful to me. You don’t consider this an “objective purpose” in life. That’s fine. I do. My objective is to become the best person I can be, to serve other people and other living things to the extent that I can, to make positive changes in other lives, to make the world we are living in a better place, even if only in seemingly small ways. To strengthen the connections between myself and other people, between myself and other living things, between myself and nature. If you can’t see the value in doing that for its own sake, I think that’s a shame, but that’s your belief system. Having a supernatural system encasing the world to keep track of the good things I do in my life isn’t necessary for me. No matter how long we discuss and question and respond, it comes down to the simple fact that I don’t believe in your God and your religion as being the true nature of the universe. It doesn’t make sense to me. It did for a while, when I was younger and less questioning of ideas and more in need of easy answers for my hard questions. But it stopped making sense a long time ago. I didn’t force it to or talk myself out of believing, it just happened. It’s just how my brain works. The idea of an overseeing, all-powerful, all-knowing man in some unseeable location who gave me a list of things I need to do so he can reward me or punish me doesn’t make sense. It gives you reasons to live what you believe is a good life, and from what I’ve read from a lot of your commentors, it’s brought them back to a happy and fulfilling life from some dark places, and that’s great. It’s just not reality to me.
    If all of this means to you that my life has no objective meaning or purpose, then that’s your right to think. There are some things we can’t reconcile because we see the universe in two totally different ways. Yes, I have decided that my life is meaningful, based on the joy and happiness I feel, and the satisfaction I get from my relationships and choices, in addition to the positive effects I can have on others and on society and the world. In my belief system, that’s not a negative thing at all.

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  50. Oh, and:


    Your question: If your brain is the product of randomness and chance, then why do you trust your brain to give you true information?

    My brain isn’t really the result of a process of ‘randomness’ and ‘chance’, not in the way you’re thinking, anyway. Evolution isn’t random. The genetic changes that occur in individual organisms are random, but evolution as a whole isn’t. By the process of evolution, these random changes induce functional differences in organisms, and those organisms with the most advantageous changes live on to reproduce. And so on and so on, until more and more highly ordered, organized, and sophisticated organisms are developed. So actually, our brains are the product of millions of years of changes and challenges and changes and challenges, and they represent the most advantageous of the most advantageous of the most advantageous functioning systems. That’s pretty freakin’ impressive, and if that’s not trustworthy, I don’t know what is.

    If by ‘random’ you mean that your God didn’t create it? Then sure, it’s random. I don’t really want to argue the semantics of the words you want to use. But that sort of randomness doesn’t give me any cause not to trust my brain (in fact, that definition of “randomness” is what I tend to trust the most).

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  51. Nubby,

    Your core feelings about how you should act towards and treat other humans change from Monday to Friday? How you practice your humanity towards the world and other living things is dependent on what time of month it is?

    If so, I can truly understand why you need an objective, supernatural power to guide your actions. If my sense of right and wrong fluctuated that much, I'd need someone to put me on the straight and narrow, too.

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  52. @ Choice

    why Catholicism means that belief system is purposeless and meaningless.

    I've explained why atheism from an atheists veiwpoint believes life is purposeless and meaningless, with no reference to Catholicism. Just because you as an atheist find purpose and meaning doesn't mean atheism as a belief system believes in meaning and purpose. It doesn't, because purpose falls outside the logical reasoning of atheism.

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  53. Giuseppe-

    "If that is the case, saying that creating a better society is the meaning of anyone's life (which it seems like you're saying), is inconsistent with your worldview. According to normal atheist logic, attributing meaning to anything is an arbitrary application of the misleading concept of purpose, an arbitrary application of the idea that things have an end outside breeding, growing, living, and dying.

    If you're an atheist, you have to attribute everything to biology, and chemistry, etc. If you do that, there is nothing more than the pure, basic, material side of life. Meaning, for you, there can be no meaning."

    With all due respect, sir, are you telling me that my belief system is inconsistent with my belief system? I think you need to do considerably more listening to what we each believe, and a whole lot less of telling us what we believe. Atheists have a wide range of different beliefs and worldviews. The word "a-theist" means we do not believe in the individual supernatural entity "God". We don't have some sort of "Atheist Handbook" that delineates all things we must or mustn't believe in. I can utilize the creative and perceptive potential of my mind to determine what I believe, rather than it being dictated to me. That's part of what I love about it.

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  54. Furthermore, I don't know why everyone has this rosy colored picture of sciece. If I'm not mistaken, Science produces theories for why the world works the way it does. Theories, not objective truth.

    Dr. Stacy, or any other scientist reading in, please correct me if I'm wrong here.

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  55. I could counter that by questioning why everyone has such a "rosy-colored picture" of religion, which provides theories for the world's workings, not objective truth.

    Also, a scientific theory is light years different than the use of the word theory in every other sense.

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  56. I'm tucking in for the night. Looking forward to everyone's responses in the morning.

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  57. @ Choice

    Right. You can call yourself and atheist and believe what you want, but the cold hard reality of not believing in anything immaterial, God, gods, the soul, or something greater than us that created us, God, gods, aliens, then the logic of atheism carried out to its end, if things are purely material, says there is no purpose or meaning.

    I know you don't have an atheist handbook, otherwise I wouldn't be saying that your belief system wasn't in line with the logic of atheism.

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  58. If the material world is, in and of itself, purposeless and meaningless, then what makes the immaterial/supernatural world so unquestionably purposeful and meaningful? Why isn't that just as meaningless as the material world, taken one step further?

    You continue to define purpose and meaning in the context of your faith. Purpose and meaning in Catholicism = God, so if atheism doesn't have God, it's therefore purposeless and meaningless.

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  59. Choice,
    I appreciate your perspective and understand your point of view. I guess I would just ask you to do a couple of things for me, out of the kindness of your heart, bc by this point I'm sure you're tired of our probing questions ;) First, could you watch this short video and comment on Father's point about our desire for something more? http://youtu.be/Xe5kVw9JsYI

    Also, I was wondering if you could give me some insight as to the origin of creation, according to the laws of science? I understand some Atheists say that the Earth could have "burped" itself into existence. From what I understand about matter, something can't come from nothing. How do you reconcile this?

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  60. @ Choice

    Like Manda said, I also appreciate your point of view, and I know this probing back and forth probably gets tiring. So please don't get offended if I come across too strongly!

    Anyway, while we can refer to Catholic teaching to know that knowing, loving and serving God in this life and the next, is the end/purpose/meaning of our life, we can also refer to just plain ol' reason.

    Before the Catholic Church existed after it was visibly established in the A.D., there were several philosophers that came to theist conclusions out of their logical reasoning.

    Not all Catholic proofs of God originated with Catholics.

    Without Catholic dogma or doctrine, you can know that for something to have meaning or a purpose it has to be given it by its creator. I refer backup to my threefold example of the chair, car, and drill. None of those three things invent their purpose for themselves.

    Granted, we can give purpose to our actions, just like we give purpose to our physical creations. For example, I shake a hand to make friends. That's my purpose for shaking the hand. I do that, me, my person makes that purpose. Just like if every person has a similar overall general purpose (happiness? social order?), that had to be given to us by whomever 'invented' the human race.

    But before you go off and say "exactly!!! I find purpose, or give purpose to helping other people," could you explain to me what the human person is that he or she can give purpose to anything? For if we are just biological and chemical processes, then conciousness is merely a by-product, a side effect. Thus discussing purpose and meaning is pointless because they are, again, side effects of processes outside our control, natural biological, chemical proccesses.

    To sum up, how do you define personhood? What is the human person? What is free will, and what is the intellect? (intellect defined as whatever is in your head thinking and reasoning).

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  61. BLOGGER ATE MY COMMENT TO MAIZEKE!!!!

    Okay, deep breath.

    MaiZeke, I am a simple woman. You know that I need things simple. (You imply quite often that I am not bright, so go slowly for me, out of courtesy for a lesser thinker.)

    You did an interesting psychoanalysis of my post, but frankly, I still am not sure what your position is.

    To clarify one thing up front (and forgive my frustration), you said this:

    “First, Leila posits that atheists think life is meaningless, and without purpose or value.”

    I have never, ever said this. Please do not misrepresent what I have said. Of course atheists think their lives are meaningful, valuable, and purposeful. Of course.

    I am not asking if you think your life is meaningless. What I am asking you is: How does your life have any objective meaning, or objective purpose? (Since all life comes out of a cosmic burp that had no thought, no plan no design, no purpose; that cosmic burp doesn’t know you or care about you; it was a fluke.) If you say your life has meaning because you think it does or because you can feel it, or because you give it meaning, then you are talking about subjectively. The meaning of your life is based on how you feel about your life. Subjective.

    Correct?

    If not, tell me why. Tell me why you think your life is objectively meaningful and not just subjectively so. (And be very specific, don’t start psychoanalyzing my post again. Just answer the question. Sometimes, “I don’t know” works fine as an answer.)

    Back in a minute, since I’m scared of blogger now....

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  62. MaiZeke, here's an exchange from earlier, which bears repeating:

    MaiZeke said:
    Leila, I don't think I misunderstood at all. I also said, "Her purpose is to live the best life she can, whatever she decides that to be. "

    Same as my purpose. And everyone's.


    {I don't understand this, because the scenario I presented was a newborn baby dying of exposure. She cannot "live the best life she can" since she is going to be dead before she has that chance. She surely cannot "decide" what her life is going to be. I am not talking about her potential meaning, or potential life. I am talking about inherent, objective meaning. Inherent value. Inherent purpose. Does she have inherent meaning/value/purpose as she is, or not? It's a yes or no question. And if yes, then what is the source of it?}


    I (Leila) said of an abandoned Chinese baby left to die of exposure: "Who is she? Does she have any value now (outside of potential pleasure she might have felt if she had lived)? And if there is purpose and meaning, what is its source?"

    You (MaiZeke) answered: Same value as my life after I die. Once I die, I'm gone. The source of her purpose is hers as I quoted myself again here. The source of her meaning is the rest of society, which I explained in my first comment.

    Again, I have absolutely no idea what this means. Help?

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  63. MaiZeke, in your psychoanalysis of my post, you said this:

    And then more questions about the meaning and purpose of poor insignificant people's lives. This one must be really really important.

    Why yes, it's quite important. And I still haven't gotten an answer from anyone. Let me tell you why it's important: You have already declared that unborn humans do not have rights, including the right to live. How am I to just assume that other humans on the margins do, in your mind, have an inherent right to life? I have no way of knowing if you think a suffering, abandoned, unloved baby has any inherent meaning/purpose/value (pick one). You have decided that the unborn can be killed and thrown in the garbage (i.e., they have only subjective value, if the mother wants them), so I'm asking you about another situation with a baby whom no one wants, who only suffers, and who has no cognizance. If no one values that baby, then is that baby still valuable, objectively? If so, why? (And again, I am not talking about "potential".)

    I'm trying so hard to be super clear.

    Hopefully, you will understand my questions.

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  64. PS: MaiZeke, how do you know that Choice is white?

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  65. Now I will try to answer Choice:

    First, I applaud your good works! You and MaiZeke have done great things for those in need. And you are right, my dear, oft-quoted Dennis Prager often says that the happiest children he has ever seen are the very poor children of the Third World. I've seen the dirt-poor children in Egypt, and never have I seen such bright smiles!

    But all of that is irrelevant to this discussion, really. I will start out by saying, perhaps we need to define objective and subjective? You told me the meaning that you give your life is XYZ, and then you say that's your objective meaning. But I would argue that it's subjective. That meaning comes from you, and is particular to you. I am talking about the objective purpose, meaning of a human being. Is there one? One that isn't assigned by other human beings or oneself?

    So, we may be talking past each other.

    Here's one interesting question: You said, "I have decided that my life is meaningful." So, you have decided that your life is meaningful, but (as a pro-choicer) you've decided that an unborn child's life is not meaningful. Would you concede that those are subjective opinions?

    I get why you are weary. (I am ready to drop… Your first post went to the top of my most popular posts of all time! Congrats!) I will give up on this by tomorrow, I'm sure, but I just want to bring up a few more points (and then I hope to concentrate on Holy Week, backing away from the blog).

    More in a minute….

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  66. Choice said:

    If the material world is, in and of itself, purposeless and meaningless, then what makes the immaterial/supernatural world so unquestionably purposeful and meaningful? Why isn't that just as meaningless as the material world, taken one step further?

    Because it's a difference in kind, not just a difference in degree. It's comparing an impersonal cosmic burp to a life planned and created out of pure, personal love. These are very different things.

    Off the top of my (tired) head, it's like saying, "Sure my mannequin mother is meaningless, but so is your flesh-and-blood mother!" Actually, no comparison. A difference in kind, not just degree.

    Would you say that marrying a chair is the same as marrying a man, but simply "taken one step further"?

    I hope you get what I am trying to convey.

    More coming...

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  67. I could counter that by questioning why everyone has such a "rosy-colored picture" of religion, which provides theories for the world's workings, not objective truth.

    I don't have a rosy-colored picture of religion, in that we are humans who are always soiling true religion. But if by religion you mean God? Or Revelation? Yes, that provides us with objective truth, not simply theory.

    Giuseppe said, But before you go off and say "exactly!!! I find purpose, or give purpose to helping other people," could you explain to me what the human person is that he or she can give purpose to anything? For if we are just biological and chemical processes, then conciousness is merely a by-product, a side effect. Thus discussing purpose and meaning is pointless because they are, again, side effects of processes outside our control, natural biological, chemical proccesses.

    I am very interested in your answer.

    I also can't wrap my head around how things like your "conscience" (which you spoke of) and a sense of right and wrong, and concepts like "justice", etc., can be squared with an atheistic belief. If you believe in only things of the material world, then what of those things? Can you weigh or measure your conscience and sense of right or wrong? Or justice, or mercy?

    All those innate feelings, the sense of conscience and right and wrong, and our hunger for justice, our longing for truth, our desires to help others, and to love and be loved, etc., those are all intangibles, all non-material. To try to reduce them to chemicals firing (sorry, show me again how you can weigh and measure justice?), is to miss half of the picture of who we are.

    You don't have to convince me that you want to do good and that you care for and love others. You are human. You were made to love and be loved. You were hardwired to know right from wrong. (natural law…. oh, my new passion, learning about natural law…) Even though you don't realize it, you were made by Love, for Love, and you are known. And that desire in every human heart, that longing for *something* that we can't pinpoint…. that's just God calling you to Himself.

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  68. That video that Manda linked… I hope you all will watch it. Catholic and atheist alike. The priest contrasts the new atheists with the old existentialists/atheist philosophers of the past (Sartre, Camus). He has much more respect for the intellectual rigor of the old atheism as opposed to this new atheism. Without getting offended, can you give me your thoughts on that, Choice? Maybe you have more in common with the old atheists than the new? I just think it's so interesting how even atheism has become more shallow from what it was (just as I think Protestantism is a more shallow ("trendy") version of Christianity -- losing so much of its intellectualism).

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  69. This is a journey for all of us, and we get out of it what we are able to make of it. Those children’s meaning and worth are what they decide them to be.

    This is like what MaiZeke said. But what of the abandoned baby in China left to die of exposure? She is not "able to make" anything out of her life. She can't make any decisions. What is her value? Not "potential" value, but value? What is her purpose? What is her meaning? Who is she?

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  70. There is no supernatural being who is going to greet me at the end of my life and say “Job well done” or “You’ve really disappointed me.”

    Oh golly, do you guys believe that we think there is an old gray-bearded man up in the sky, sitting on some clouds surrounded by little cherubs with wings and harps? I promise you, this is not our view of God and Heaven. Not even close. But I think that is somehow what atheists think we believe?

    So I can give you my most sincere, my most well-thought-out, what is in my mind the most convincing description of why what I believe is meaningful to me, and you will all say “But all of that doesn’t lead to anything beyond itself, so even though YOU say it has meaning, it is truly meaningless.”

    I believe it all has subjective meaning (as it should… things can have both a subjective meaning and an objective meaning). I would change the world "truly" to "ultimately". Meaning, if atheism is true, and nothing will exist in the end (we and all we love go poof), then it is all ultimately meaningless. No? It was "truly" meaningful while it was here, but because it all goes poof, then it's ultimately meaningless. This is what the existentialist atheists believed, if I am understanding correctly, so it's not that atheists don't/haven't seen my point. Atheists used to agree that life was ultimately meaningless!

    Choice, you said:

    It’s akin to me hearing a well-thought out and sincere description of why you feel human life has purpose and meaning within the confines of Catholicism, and my response being “Well, your God is imaginary and doesn’t exist, so even though YOU say it has meaning, it is truly meaningless.”

    But you are proving my point. If our God is imaginary, then life ultimately is truly meaningless! So, you would be 100% correct in saying that to us!

    Okay, off to be with me…..

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  71. Leila says: MaiZeke, I never said that an atheist "thinks life is meaningless"

    I must have wildly misinterpreted this sentence then.

    I told Choice that an atheist would have to believe that, in the end, life is absolutely meaningless.

    I'm sorry about that.

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  72. You're missing a key phrase, MaiZeke.

    IN THE END, life is absolutely meaningless.

    Sure, your life has (subjective) meaning for you while you're alive. But once you die, life ceases to having meaning for you. Would you agree?

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  73. This is like what MaiZeke said. But what of the abandoned baby in China left to die of exposure? She is not "able to make" anything out of her life. She can't make any decisions. What is her value? Not "potential" value, but value? What is her purpose? What is her meaning? Who is she?

    She is able to make something. She lived/is living as well as she could. I think about babies that are born with a malformed limb or finger. Since they are born that way, that is their normal. They do with it what they can. Someone is helping them.

    For the poor starving baby in China, she cries to get fed, that is her sole purpose at that point, until she grows and get more purpose. If she were being fed properly, she'd probably cry to get more touch from a caregiver, that's a purpose. Her purpose is to get fed and to get loved.

    Luckily for her, since she has been born already, when she cries to get fed -- oh so many possible people can now feed her. Any person that is around who wants to feed her and take care of her sees the value that she has, and that gives her more value. As we have been trying to say, societies in various levels should both be recognizing her existing value and giving her more value - healthy babies make healthy members of society.

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  74. You're missing a key phrase, MaiZeke.

    IN THE END, life is absolutely meaningless.

    Sure, your life has (subjective) meaning for you while you're alive. But once you die, life ceases to having meaning for you. Would you agree?


    Yes, yes, I wildly misinterpreted, as I said. Such intricacies of logic that I am just too dull to understand. I admire all of you.

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  75. So... are you avoiding the point because you don't know how to answer it, or because you enjoy being deliberately obtuse and snarky? (Or both?)

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  76. Joanna said, So... are you avoiding the point because you don't know how to answer it, or because you enjoy being deliberately obtuse and snarky? (Or both?)

    I'm trying, Joanna - I just replied to the question about the meaning of the baby in China again, hoping that I'll be understandable this time.

    And I'm starting to suspect that the only answer that Leila will accept is that, in the end, atheists must think that IN THE END life is meaningless. Giuseppe states if flat out, with no dissembling.

    And that must mean that, no matter how happy we are or how many lives we improve in the world or how much better we make the world for now and for future generations, all of us atheists are still ....

    what? meaningless? wrong? Why is it wrong?

    I mean, really. What if we do say that IN THE END life is meaningless? I still say that it is a better way of thinking about life than following the imaginary being in the sky.

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  77. Back to evolution, my little bone to pick.

    Leila says You say I misunderstand [evolution], then tell me…. why did the universe begin? Not how, but why? What was the plan or the design there? If there was no plan and no design, then wasn't the origins of life…. random? Remember, I am not talking about evolution. I am talking about the purpose and meaning of life. In other words, why it's here. Not how it evolves.

    I don't know how the universe began. However, not knowing does not prove God. This is known as the God of the Gaps argument: we don't know yet how it happened, ergo God. We used to not have any idea how life began in this universe, but now we do. There used to be a huge gap, which is being filled in.

    Let's talk about the word "random" and the origin of life. As far as how life started, the conditions were perfectly correct, luckily for us. It was not random at all - it was in fact the most specific set of conditions needed in order for life to begin.

    And this line in particular:

    I am talking about the purpose and meaning of life. In other words, why it's here.

    My answer to that is, we just are. Life just is. I will point out that this is not actually what you said when you used the word random -- you said

    If your brain is the product of randomness and chance

    Our brains are a product of evolution. Not randomness, not chance.

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  78. @ MaiZeke (and JoAnna)

    Who doesn't enjoy being a little snarky from time to time? But honestly, if you wanted a literal translation of this:

    I told Choice that an atheist would have to believe that, in the end, life is absolutely meaningless.

    You have to take into account "would," the simple past tense/past participle of "will." In the sentence above Miss Leila is utilizing "would" to express a possibility, not an actuality.

    So, again, she never said Atheists do actually think their lives are meaningless, but that atheists would (possibly in the future), if they carried their materialist logic to its conclusion. (<---my encapsulation of what she's saying, she can correct me if she's wrong).

    Not to be the grammar police or anything

    Really, MaiZeke, let's be scientific about these things, and not go off how you feel about what everyone says. (Not to be snarky or anything.)

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  79. Sorry, she can correct me if I'm wrong.

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  80. Just to clarify, Leila says this:

    You did an interesting psychoanalysis of my post, but frankly, I still am not sure what your position is.

    It was not a psychoanalysis! I needed to understand your post better! At first I thought it was just long and rambling, but I just wasn't able to understand all of the intricacies. So then I tried to boil it down to get what your real points were. I think I found them all, but apparently there were some that I missed.

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  81. Choice,

    THank you so much for your thoughtful ideas. You take the time to write so well. I don't agree with everything, but really appreciate this whole exchange! Everyone is contributing with candor and wit (keeping it all interesting ;). Thanks to all.

    I have also seen and worked with, abjectly poor children, and although they are able to delight in simple things much more easily than most American kids I know, I saw many that were not very happy. They were suffering terribly. I also witnessed many horribly pick on a child from a lower caste, so they were quite corruptible, just like children anywhere.

    After reading all the back and forth about atheism vs. theism with regard to ultimate meanings, I am reminded of Steven Pinker's arguments. I follow you Choice, and I have really been right there with you, at the edge, but I cannot get past the last step. I cannot see my way around, as I see it, the fact that everything will ultimately be meaningless once the world or the universe materially ends.

    The famous Steven Pinker TRIES to refute this with his refutation of Nilhilism, but after reading below, I am just left scratching my head. How is the lack of "objective reality" at the small scale any different from a lack of it once you parcel all the smaller "objective realities" together? He seems to see it as a category change, not one of degree.

    "The final fear is the fear of nihilism. If it can be shown that all of our motives and values are products of the physiology of the brain, which in turn was shaped by the forces of evolution, then they would in some sense be shams, without objective reality. I wouldn't really be loving my child; all I would be doing is selfishly propagating my genes. Flowers and butterflies and works of art are not truly beautiful; my brain just evolved to give me a pleasant sensation when a certain pattern of light hits my retina. The fear is that biology will debunk all that we hold sacred.

    This fear is based on a confusion between two very different ways to explain behavior. What biologists call a "proximate" explanation refers to what is meaningful to me given the brain that I have. An "ultimate" explanation refers to the evolutionary processes that gave me a brain with the ability to have those thoughts and feelings. Yes, evolution (the ultimate explanation for our minds) is a short-sighted selfish process in which genes are selected for their ability to maximize the number of copies of themselves. But that doesn't mean that we are selfish and short sighted, at least not all the time. There's nothing that prevents the selfish, amoral process of natural selection evolution from evolving a big-brained social organism with a complex moral sense. There's an old saying that people who appreciate legislation and sausages should not see them being made. That's a bit like human values—knowing how they were made can be misleading if you don't think carefully about the process. Selfish genes don't necessarily build a selfish organization."

    Thoughts?

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  82. We don't think God is some "imaginary being in the sky"
    We believe the non-contingent reason for our contingent existences and the contingent existence of the universe is God.
    Atheists essentially believe there isn't a non-contingent reason for our contingent existence or they don't know and maybe some don't care.
    When an atheist says science just hasn't found the answer yet they're saying, they have faith that one day science will find the answer.
    Being an atheist or being a Christian both require an act of faith. Atheists can't ultimately beyond a shadow of a doubt prove that there is no God and Christians can't ultimately beyond a shadow of a doubt prove to the non-believers that there is a God. But just because both can't ultimately prove what appears to be unknown does not mean God does or doesn't exist.
    Both parties can be reasonable and both parties can come to logical conclusions. Both believe there's an ultimate answer to what we can't scientifically or metaphysically prove.
    I personally think there are more reasons to believe in God than there are not. But ultimately it's an act of faith.

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  83. Leila says:

    MaiZeke, I never said that an atheist "thinks life is meaningless"

    

I must have wildly misinterpreted this sentence then.

    "

I told Choice that an atheist would have to believe that, in the end, life is absolutely meaningless."

    

I'm sorry about that.


    Oh, MaiZeke.

    I was going to answer this, and then I saw that both JoAnna and Giuseppe both said what I was going to. I will repeat just to be extra clear:

    I never said that you “think life is meaningless”. I have said repeatedly that you and Choice and others find meaning in your lives. (There are atheists who have concluded that life has no meaning, so you’ll have to take that up with them, but I never said that you thought that.)

    Here’s what I said:

    I told Choice that an atheist would have to believe that, in the end, life is absolutely meaningless.

    Let’s go to the word “would”. This word implies a possibility or a condition, given certain assumptions. So it's like this: If you believe what atheists believe about life (i.e., life started as a cosmic burp and ends with us all going poof), then (as I see it) you would (not do) have to.... etc.

    Then there is the phrase “in the end”, set off carefully by commas. I do not write in flowery language, so if a word or phrase is used, it’s probably there for clarity. “In the end” means “ultimately” or “when all is said and done”, etc. If we go poof and no one cares and nothing we have been or done is left or remembered, then “in the end” there is nothing. It was all for naught.

    In the end

    In the end

    In the end

    A very important part of a very short sentence.

    Now, all this does not imply that you or Choice do not find meaning in your lives as you are here living them. And I never said that.

    I hope that helps. I try to be a clear writer, but I guess I am not clear enough. It is hard to go into this depth about what words mean. I always wish that liberals would take the common usage of words to mean what they are understood to mean, and also take a glance at the context.

    It would save so much time and energy.

    More coming....



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  84. @ MaiZeke & Choice

    Unless I missed it, which I might have, for the sake of clarity I'd really like to read each of your definitions of 'personhood,' to include how you understand what free will consists of.

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  85. Let's talk about the word "random" and the origin of life. As far as how life started, the conditions were perfectly correct, luckily for us. It was not random at all - it was in fact the most specific set of conditions needed in order for life to begin.

    Yes, but how did the conditions become perfectly correct?

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  86. Oh yeah, and your definitions for "conciousness."

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  87. This Chinese baby thing is frustrating me. You are not taking into account my scenario. The baby is abandoned and NO ONE WILL FIND HER. She will DIE a painful, lonely death. She has no potential, and there is no one that is around who is moved to help her after hearing her cries.

    So you are saying that her purpose is "to cry"? Is that the meaning of her life? To cry and then die? Okay, I can accept that as your answer. So you might be saying (don't want to put words into your mouth!) that the meaning of her life was suffering?

    You and Choice find meaning in your lives by the relationships you have, the things you do to help others, the fun, the joy, the contributions you make, etc. So, the Chinese baby's meaning is…. ? That she cries and dies?

    Maybe I am not fully getting it, so let me ask from another angle:

    What is the value of a life like that? What value does she have? Is there value in a life that no one loves, no one cares about, has no future, and is only going to feel suffering and death? What is her value? (Again, not her "potential" value, if someone comes and finds her to help her!)

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  88. Choice-
    The line about moods fluctuating was meant to draw attention to the fact that a subjective way to live based on sentiment would mean different behaviors are okay for different people; and because of such a vast difference, there can be no right or wrong. There can be no moral atheist.

    If it feels good for me to kick your dog, I can do that. If it hurts you that I choose that, what do I care? If I want to pursue your spouse, what right have you to call me wrong?

    Or are you telling me that you're always so even keel that nothing shakes you? Nothing causes you to lash out or become sad having a direct effect on how you treat others? Never have an off moment, eh?

    You're evenly wired, I guess. Must be that solid randomness of your genes keeping you that stable, lucky you. You're the only one I've ever heard of just so perfectly aligned in every human aspect. Kudos.

    -Nubby

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  89. Atheists:
    Science shows that un-authored “evolution” trends toward chaos not order.

    How would one define evolution without discussing randomness or chance? Is evolution somehow ordered and systematic?

    Every natural event in our history has caused destruction and chaos not a systematic construction of something better.

    -Nubby

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  90. Our brains are a product of evolution. Not randomness, not chance.

    I know it's been a while since I've been in biology, and I hated biology (blood, guts, and insects - eewww!), but this statement has me completely puzzled, and maybe I just need to do more up-to-date reading on evolution. I was under the impression that the process of evolution for organic organism was primarily based upon their ability to adapt to environmental changes, which indeed would be random. If the changes, that lead the organisms to adapt and therefore evolve, are random, then the adaptations are equally random. Or am I missing something?

    Maybe should I've spent more time listening to my bio teachers. What can I say, I preferred chemistry.

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  91. Nubby, Bethany, thanks!

    I plead ignorance of evolutionary science, so I humbly ask: Is it the position of godless evolutionists that order came out of chaos? Because I live in chaos and destruction (many small boys) and I know that mindless, random activity leads to destruction, and quickly. It's only with deliberate thought and planning that I can bring it back to order. I am pretty sure my chaos here wouldn't become ordered without somone ordering it.

    Help me out. Why is the universe different?

    Oh, and for the record, if I were an atheist, I would be an existentialist. I would be like the old atheists. What do MaiZeke and Choice think of the old atheists?

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  92. Okay, I just read this news story and it made me laugh given the conversion on this thread thus far:

    ”We believe this creature, who some call Godzilla, is random result of nature evolution. There is no evidence to connect the Godzilla lizard to any potential radioactive emissions purportedly leaking from the Fukushima Daiichi reactors into Pacific Ocean,” Mr. Katsumata said. (emphasis mine)

    Quick, MaiZeke! Better call Mr. Katsumata and let him know that there is no randomness in evolution! ;)

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  93. Hi, Joanna - that was a funny article! I might write to the publisher, except that at the bottom of the page of the link you provided is the phrase:

    "Avant News contains satire and other fictional material, provided for entertainment purposes only."

    So they probably won't change the quote.

    You may also be interested in this list of items from the Onion that were also taken seriously.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Onion#The_Onion_taken_seriously

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  94. I agree with all of you that it would be a bummer for us all to go *poof* and then be gone and our lives have been meaningless (by your definition). Realistically, as far as my brain understands it, that's what happens. That's why I'm trying to make the most of being on this earth. But the question I posed to Giuseppe was a sincere one. So let’s say I’m wrong, and you’re all right. Once we die from this earth, we enter into god’s kingdom (I won’t venture into specifics because I’m not sure what sort of details you all believe in). We lived a good life, so we’ve earned our place there, and that’s where we go. What do we DO there? What is it about that place and that state of being that is so meaningful? Yes, we are there, and we love god, and he loves us, and everyone is satisfied and fulfilled. What is it about that that is inherently meaningful and purposeful? What does it lead to? What is the ultimate outcome that gives all of this “objective meaning and purpose”?

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  95. Manda, re: the video you shared:

    If you’re a Christian, I have no doubt that everything he says makes perfect sense to you. I agree that we have a deep hunger for fulfillment, justice, love, for something MORE than the simple cravings for money, power, success, etc. That hunger proves that we want something deeper and more meaningful in life. He makes an unsupported statement that that hunger by definition has to be for god. Why can’t it be for deeper human connections, or nature, or earthly love? When I was deeply religious, I was not satisfied and fulfilled. Apparently my “deep hunger”, and that of many others, isn’t for god. I can understand that a lot of people fill that hunger WITH god, and it fits for them, and makes them happy and fulfilled. That doesn’t by definition mean that that space is a god space. It just means god is something that fits into that space, for some people.

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  96. Choice, I only have a moment, but do you have anyone in your life who knows you as intimately as it is possible to know someone (I mean, deep, complete knowledge) and also who loves you perfectly (I really mean perfectly)? I submit that no human being can have that, as we are imperfect. But God is our Beloved. He is that Person.

    More soon, doorbell...

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  97. I'm just jumping in out of curiosity.

    Choice, from an atheist perspective, what is the source/cause of that "hunger for fulfillment, justice, love, something MORE than the simple cravings for money, power, success, etc"? And why do we have that hunger?

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  98. Giuseppe-

    I don’t believe that something has to be given purpose by its creator to have a meaning. Your examples of chairs and drills serve your purpose, but these are examples of things that humans have made for specific purposes, and so of course we’ve made them to have that purpose and a specific meaning. That doesn’t exclude things that weren’t willfully designed to have a particular purpose from having a darn good one. I’ll give you an example from medicine, since that’s what I’m most familiar with. Years and years ago, a company set out to make a drug for high blood pressure. Based on chemical structure and closely-related chemicals, they had one that they were pretty sure would do the job. So they invested millions of dollars, did the necessary animal studies, and started looking at it in people. It flopped. It was a shit drug for blood pressure. Sure, people’s numbers went down a few points, but that didn’t outweigh the horrendous side effects they all experienced. They all started growing massive amounts of hair in all sorts of unnatural places. And that’s why, today, men with male-pattern baldness have a simple, inexpensive way to alleviate the situation. They go to the drug store and buy this product. It’s called Rogaine.

    So no, this particular item wasn’t designed with that purpose in mind, and yet I’m sure the millions of men (and women) in the world who have benefitted greatly from it would tell you it’s certainly not meaningless or purposeless. Someone didn’t set out knowing exactly what they were going to invent, and what it was going to be used for, and what it was going to contribute to the big picture in the end. But it’s proven to be a very worthwhile and beneficial invention, even without that pesky all-knowing creator. Despite not being designed to accomplish what it ultimately did, it’s not meaningless or purposeless (and we’re talking in the medical sense, not the universal sense).

    Does that make it any clearer to you why I believe that, even though the universe didn’t have a willful and purpose-seeking creator, life still can and does have purpose and meaning?

    Also, you seem to think that because I am an atheist and I put trust in science that I only trust things that are objectively shown to be true and things that are material. If that were true, I’d never be able to leave the house. There are millions of things in this world that either aren’t objectively true or aren’t material. There are lots of things that are both. You use religion to explain those things and give them an objective purpose. I accept them for what they are, and presume that maybe someday they’ll find something scientifically that explains them, and maybe not. I don’t NEED to have all the answers. Science is a fantastic tool for exploring the world and trying to explain it and sometimes succeeding, but it obviously doesn’t have all the answers. So yes, there are plenty of things out there that I don’t understand and that science doesn’t understand. The universe is a complex place. In my opinion, it’s extremely oversimplifying and likely inaccurate to put all of those things in a pretty little box and write “God” on the label. That’s not intended to be a dig, I’m just sharing my viewpoint with you.

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  99. (Me): "If the material world is, in and of itself, purposeless and meaningless, then what makes the immaterial/supernatural world so unquestionably purposeful and meaningful? Why isn't that just as meaningless as the material world, taken one step further?"

    (Leila): "Because it's a difference in kind, not just a difference in degree. It's comparing an impersonal cosmic burp to a life planned and created out of pure, personal love. These are very different things."

    Well then this is where we reach the point of no further progress on this one. You believe that the world is an impersonal cosmic burp, and I do not. You belief that the supernatural entity planned life and created it out of pure, personal love. I do not. Going any further on this particular topic isn't likely to accomplish much, other than further tiredness and frustration.

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  100. This is an excellent summary on the Catholic Church and evolution. http://www.catholiceducation.org/articles/science/sc0101.htm I know I've posted it in the comments long ago, but it's worth re-posting.

    Whether or not evolution is the mechanism which led to the human race is a question the Church LEAVES OPEN to every Catholic. There are Creationist Catholics, and Evolutionist Catholics. A certain type of belief here is not an Essential of the faith.

    I just wanted to point that out. :-)

    The question of our ultimate origin, the "why" of our existence, and the uniqueness of the human species are questions that are not addressed by evolution, and cannot be answered by reductive logic, aka, the scientific method.

    For some, if a question cannot be answered by science, they assume it to be- unimportant, unanswerable, or irrelevant. For others, these questions are the most important ones of all to ask.

    I have great faith that science will answer many, many questions in our lifetime and in the future- and that is wonderful. I also know science can never answer the question of "why".

    Without an absolute and objective answer to the why question, we are each left to our own devices to define our purpose and that of others. In thisparcitular group, we probably have no one who chooses to define their life's purpose as, "to make everyone else as miserable as possible" but without an objective purpose, someone in the world CAN define it thus, and we have no objective basis on which to deny their purpose. We can jail them for disturbing the peace, but we cannot tell them they are WRONG for defining their purpose thusly. (Did I just say thusly?)

    I realize that fear is a shaky nail to hang faith on, but it was the first nail I hammered into my soul in this conversion. Not a fear of eternal punishment, but a fear of living in a world, or giving my children a world, without objecive truth- objective right and wrong. Since then, many more "nails" have been added to hold my faith on (this is the weirdest metaphor ever...), and many need to be added. But the first was enough.

    I believe in an Absolute Truth regarding virtue, and there is no way for this to exist without God.

    I realize this comment wanders around a bit, but just wanted to make it clear that Catholics can believe in evolution, including a mechanism of random genetic mutation coupled with natural selection. The above is my way to explain how I can be an evolutionist and a Christian.

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  101. "to make everyone else as miserable as possible" but without an objective purpose, someone in the world CAN define it thus, and we have no objective basis on which to deny their purpose.

    LOL! I think I've met a few of these people on the highways in Indiana. No offense to people living in Indiana, that's where I've spent most of my life.

    Choice, Maizeke, et. al., here is the simple/loaded question I think we're all trying to understand:

    Does the value of a person (what they're worth as a being minus potential) come from...
    Themselves?
    Other people?
    Another source and if so what?
    Nothing at all?
    Another explanation all together?

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  102. I replied to Joanna's comment with the fake news story some time ago; is it in spam?

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  103. Bethany, I can't speak for all atheists, but here is my answer to your question:

    Does the value of a person (what they're worth as a being minus potential) come from...

    Themselves? Yes
    Other people? Yes
    Another source and if so what? Yes, likely. From being part of the world? From having characteristics that (as far as we know) other animals don't have? From existing at all? From having the ability to even ask that question? Perhaps our "worth" is exactly equal to, and no greater than, every other living thing on this earth, and other earths, if they exist? All of these seem likely to me. I don't feign to have all the answers, and that's okay with me. I don't need religion to make up for that.
    Nothing at all? Maybe. Wouldn't that be a real kicker?
    Another explanation all together? Possibly.

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  104. Again, I only have a moment, but Choice, you said:

    You believe that the world is an impersonal cosmic burp, and I do not.

    I think you misunderstood (or am I misunderstanding?)… I do not believe this. Not at all. You believe the creation of life was impersonal (a cosmic "burp" for lack of a better term), and I believe it was an intentional, purposeful thought from the mind of God, who is Personal, and who created out of love (as creators are wont to do).

    I hope you understand.

    It is a difference in kind, not just degree.

    Thanks!

    More when I can...

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  105. Mercy, mercy.
    Choice - and all other atheists who want random chance to dictate all:

    Trying to reconcile chance occurrences of the universe and the laws of this world does not = that such laws came from those chance occurrences.

    All it shows is that those chances occurrences are not incompatible with those laws.

    It is irrational to believe that the laws of nature originated from chaos than from a rational being.

    The cause of an event must be greater or more powerful than the event itself.

    Appealing to chance would be the OPPOSITE of the 'scientific way'.

    Just because you cannot "see God" doesn't make the reality of Him irrational. It's just the opposite.

    Science looks at invisible data all the time. Gravity for one.
    Black holes for another.

    You've never directly "seen" either one.

    All we can do is state the law in a mathematical equation. Black holes are even more obscure.

    They can be observed only INdirectly.

    It is far more IRrational not to believe in a Creator, from a very basic position.

    -Nubby

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  106. Does the value of a person (what they're worth as a being minus potential) come from...

    Themselves? Yes


    I still don't understand how that abandoned, dying-alone baby in China can give worth to herself? What is the mechanism there?

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  107. I suppose she cannot have given worth to herself, since she did not have the opportunity to live to a point where she was self-aware. She had the same worth as every other human being who was ever born. Due to extremely unfortunate circumstances, she did not have the opportunity to live and experience the world. That could have just as easily been any of us. I'm sorry I can't give you a better answer to your question, Leila, but I think this question must just mean something completely different to you than it does to me.

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  108. Nubby,

    "It is irrational to believe that the laws of nature originated from chaos than from a rational being."

    Chaos: -noun. a state of utter confusion or disorder; a total lack of organization or order.

    Evolution is NOT a chaotic or random process. As I've pointed out to you many times before, evolution is a highly ordered and consistent process.

    How is it possibly less rational to think that this highly ordered, extremely complex world and the things in it came from a millions-of-years-long, extremely complex process than to think that some magical, all-powerful entity created it all on a whim?

    "The cause of an event must be greater or more powerful than the event itself. "

    Proof?

    A car wrecking into the side of a hill can trigger a landslide. Are you saying that car hitting into the side of the hill is greater and more powerful than a subsequent landslide, with the potential to rush down the slope and destroy everything in its path?

    "Science looks at invisible data all the time. Gravity for one.
    Black holes for another.

    You've never directly "seen" either one."

    No, I have not seen, with my eyeballs, the force of gravity or the presence of black holes. That does not mean decisive proof of the force of gravity has not been demonstrated. The entire discipline of science isn't just banking on these things being true, despite lack of any tangible evidence.

    Stating a statement doesn't magically make it true.

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  109. My point in answering that question, Leila, was that our value as humans beings come from many, many sources. Not just one.

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  110. Choice, thank you. I know this is mentally exhausting (it has been for me!). I think I can at least see clearly how you perceive it, although I don't agree, of course. One last question on the value of a person's life. You are sort of saying that we don't really exactly know where anyone's worth actually comes from, but that people can give worth to themselves, or others can give it to them, or maybe it comes from nowhere, etc. I'm thinking you mean that somehow our worth is inherent just because we exist? But you're not sure why?

    I wonder about the unborn. They have no way to "give themselves" worth or value (like the Chinese baby), and so (I think you would say) that unless they are given value by someone else (their mother? the laws of a nation?), they have no value (can be killed and discarded). Is this a true representation of what you believe? And if so, would you say then that the worth of an unborn human is not inherent, but conditional, unlike the rest of humanity's worth? I am not trying to make a trick question, just trying to understand.

    One more thought coming...

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  111. Choice,
    I'm not very knowledgeable on evolution and all of that, but here's what I'm thinking...

    Once the process of natural selection/evolution is set in motion, it is not chaotic. While it does involve chance on a certain level (chance that a certain mutation will develop, that mutation being beneficial and replicable, and so on), it is more ordered.

    I think where we're mixing things up is when we talk about the ORIGINS of life. I think that is what we on the other side are trying to communicate (someone correct me if I'm wrong). How is it that life and the complex system of natural selection originated out of chaos?

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  112. A car wrecking into the side of a hill can trigger a landslide. Are you saying that car hitting into the side of the hill is greater and more powerful than a subsequent landslide, with the potential to rush down the slope and destroy everything in its path?

    I would say there are a number of causes for this scenario but the biggest cause would be gravity. The car by itself would not be able to trigger that kind of landslide without the help of gravity.

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  113. Choice, you said the following: The universe is a complex place. In my opinion, it’s extremely oversimplifying and likely inaccurate to put all of those things in a pretty little box and write “God” on the label.

    I must tell you that such a statement is a pet peeve of mine. I am not sure you fully understand what Catholics believe about the Trinitarian God.

    God cannot be contained in a "box" obviously. If God is the creator of the vast universe that you (rightly) stand in awe of, then He would clearly be much more awesome and much bigger than that teensy little universe He was able to create from nothing. In fact, infinitely bigger. We don't say that the Pieta is an incredible work of brilliant art, but then sort of laughingly say that the artisan is something less than the work, something we can neatly put in a box and call Michelangelo.

    If you like this universe, man, you should get a load of Who created it! :)

    You will never plumb the depths of the treasures of the universe (heck, you will never plumb the depths of even one human being!), so when you wonder what Heaven could possibly be like, you have to imagine what it would be like to spend eternity in the Heart of the One who had the vision and love to create this universe that you can never get enough of. If you can't get enough of this little creation of His (made in love, for you, by the way), then you will never be able to get enough of spending time in loving union with its creator.

    I hope you can understand my point. You are putting God in a box. I do not recognize that box. God is bigger than your universe, and infinitely better, since He is not only creative (glad you like His work!) but also merciful, just, and loving (and every other thing which can be True, Good and Beautiful).

    My God does not resemble the God you envision. At.all.

    Thanks for understanding my frustration with that kind of phrasing.

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  114. Complicated Life, yes, exactly!

    Here is what (MaiZeke, I think?) said:

    Let's talk about the word "random" and the origin of life. As far as how life started, the conditions were perfectly correct, luckily for us. It was not random at all - it was in fact the most specific set of conditions needed in order for life to begin.

    And I answered:

    Yes, but how did the conditions become perfectly correct?

    No one has addressed that yet.

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  115. I would say there are a number of causes for this scenario but the biggest cause would be gravity. The car by itself would not be able to trigger that kind of landslide without the help of gravity.

    suburban mom, great point.

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  116. Choice-

    Simple science:
    A landslide + the car hitting the hill is indeed greater than the landslide itself. WITHOUT gravity the landslide would never happen.

    There is no proof that evolution is highly ordered or consistent.

    What process or long-term event in nature is highly ordered or consistent?

    -Nubby

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  117. As a result of this conversation, I find myself picking up from off our bookshelf a work that my husband read during a college class but that I haven't yet delved into. It's called, "Answering the New Atheism." I started it this morning and the first chapter begins by talking about a lot of what we're discussing here. Fascinating stuff. It's written by Dr. Hahn and Dr. Wiker (Leila-Dr Wiker is my professor who wrote that article on Abortion and the looming civil war, referencing Lincoln!)

    Anyways, here it is for anyone who is interested:

    http://www.amazon.com/Answering-New-Atheism-Dismantling-Dawkins/dp/1931018480/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1303256522&sr=8-1

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  118. That is an excellent book, Complicated Life. It comes to mind for me immediately per these kinds of discussions as well.

    -Nubby

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  119. Just to latch on to a minor point in all this intellectual storm--the car is also "greater" than the landslide because it operated under its own impetus. The landslide couldn't start itself. But the car did. The landslide was moved by the car. And the car was moved by the person who drove it. And the person was moved by...

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  120. Thank you, CL. I am learning so much from everyone. I am still mulling over the priest's assertion that the existentialists trump the new atheists in depth of thought. It's something I want to look into more deeply. It's all new to me.

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  121. Fidelio, and I just keep learning! Thank you! Remember, I said I want this to be a teaching blog and a learning blog. I am loving all this new knowledge.

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  122. I don't have time to sift through and respond to comments at this moment but I just wanted to make a quick comment to you Leila. When I said "it’s extremely oversimplifying and likely inaccurate to put all of those things in a pretty little box and write “God” on the label," I wasn't indicating that God is within that box or could be contained in some sort of box, what I meant was I am not satisfied with taking all of the things that I can't fully understand or explain and by default lumping them together and explaining them by God or religion. That doesn't take advantage of the creative thinking or reasoning skills I was born with as a human, and so it makes no sense for me to forfeit those to go along with something just because everything's laid out for me and explained. That's not a satisfying M.O. for me. I didn't mean you'd be somehow putting God into some sort of box.

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  123. Choice, thanks for clarifying. I now understand.

    FYI, I do think that God is a feast for the intellect. I thought my way to Truth. I live in my mind, and though I've had no formal training in logic, I scored off the charts in the logic section of the GMATs. It's just how my brain thinks. Things have to make sense to me. I'm not saying they don't need to make sense to you, but I hope you see that many people reason their way to belief in God and the Catholic Church.

    I really enjoy the debate with you because I see that you are someone who is an honest thinker. You are looking for truth, and you are answering questions honestly (and you have left your prejudices behind!).

    Take your time on the answers. I'm slowing down, too. :)

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  124. What is the value of a life like that? What value does she have? Is there value in a life that no one loves, no one cares about, has no future, and is only going to feel suffering and death? What is her value? (Again, not her "potential" value, if someone comes and finds her to help her!)

    I'm reminded of our good friend Paul from a long long time ago who said, objectiveness is proximally subjective. That is, we talk about objective, but in practice we all have to make a decision what that objective truth is. You all are making a decision to follow the Catholic Church's teaching on what God says the objective truths are. But by making that choice to follow the CC and follow their objective truth, you are being subjective.

    In practice, that Chinese girl does have value to me. I think it is a real problem that the Chinese government is mandating the one-child policy, and because of the desire for sons, so many girls are abandoned as you describe. Relief agencies are working to help adopt the ones out that can be saved. We are hearing stories of so many girls left to die like you describe.

    When I hear she died, and want to help, I say to myself, "That was a member of the world society. I must help to make sure that more children/girls like her do not die." I think (I guess) that you say, "That was one of God's children. I must help to make sure more children like her do not die." In the end, they accomplish the same thing. They are proximally the same thoughts, so close as to be almost identical.

    Well - I hope that they accomplish the same thing. I hope that you don't just say, "She is one of God's children, so she is in a better place now. Ok, back to ." There is that old saw about the Monk who, when wondering how to distinguish between a Catholic and a heretic, said, "Kill them all for the Lord knows them that are his." The afterlife is considered better than this life, so why worry about saving God's children in this life? I sincerely hope you do not think this way.

    I think she has/had value because she is a born, breathing, human being on the face of this earth, who has the right to live. She wants to be fed (without the ability to make such a coherent thought about it of course) so that she may grow and have more of a purpose for herself. She has these rights because all humans have the same rights.

    So now, if we are not talking about such a group, where we are finding so many chinese girls on the roadside and it makes the news way over here, but if we are talking about one or two isolated cases, then we have a different story.

    I would probably not find out about her, so I could not really determine her value. There are certainly many poor people like this who have nobody else assigning them value. Perhaps you say to yourself, "I imagine there are people I have not heard of who have died. For them, I am glad that they will be in heaven with their father after they have died." I will say to myself, "It is so sad that there are still people in this world who will neglect their child/brother/father/etc so that that person will die with no value to anyone." In both cases, neither of knows the dead person. But the outcome is proximally the same. Someone we do not know about has died. You are comforted by the fact that they are in heaven. I would be saddened by the fact that nobody even knew they died, would I actually have known about them before they died, but I can't because that's a pre-requirement that I not know them.

    And so, in my opinion, the value that you are assigning to that person we do not know about does no good to anyone except you, for the comfort it brings you.

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  125. Sorry brackets don't work here. There is a sentence in there buried that reads

    Ok, back to .

    and it should read

    Ok, back to {whatever I was doing}

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  126. He has much more respect for the intellectual rigor of the old atheism as opposed to this new atheism. Without getting offended, can you give me your thoughts on that, Choice? Maybe you have more in common with the old atheists than the new? I just think it's so interesting how even atheism has become more shallow from what it was (just as I think Protestantism is a more shallow ("trendy") version of Christianity -- losing so much of its intellectualism).

    I guess this is a question of whether or not we stick in the old ruts or forge a new path for what is required of us in the modern day and age. My husband, who did a double major in music and philosophy, repeats an old saw that says that no good music was made after 1791. Really, the music was much better back then, I have to agree. But the current popular music is more ... well ... appropriate for this day and age. I certainly wouldn't have wanted music pre-1781 to have stuck around, I like that it has grown with the times.

    I will point out that the old time atheists had little choice but to operate in the realm of philosophy. My feeling is they were protected somehow, being philosophers. Some philosophers are saying that new atheists should leave atheism to philosophy departments (!). As if we need a degree in philosophy to be able to determine that this God who tells me not to wear a condom is not to be listened to.

    Also, atheists couldn't really practice in earlier societies. For example the poet Shelley was expelled from Oxford for writing a treatise on atheism in 1811. Expelled for being an atheist, as little as 200 years ago. Atheists are finally free to be atheists in any walk of life, and are living it up.

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  127. "I think she has/had value because she is a born, breathing, human being on the face of this earth, who has the right to live."

    Good thing you said, "breathing", Maizeke. That helpless baby is lucky she was born and was able to take that first breath because now she meets all the criteria Maizeke requires to be considered a human being, thus deserving of value- and rights!

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  128. MaiZeke, thank you for attempting to truly answer the questions. Just a few thoughts, as I am winding down the atheist talk, ready to dive back into Jesus for Holy Week:

    But by making that choice to follow the CC and follow their objective truth, you are being subjective.

    Yes, absolutely! I agree! I made what I believe to be the most reasonable choice of all: To be a Catholic because I believe it to be true. You are an atheist because you believe it's true. Our life choices are subjective.

    But the systems we choose can be subjective or objective systems. That is why I did the post on Protestantism, which is sort of a hybrid: Belief in objective truth, but no one to spell out clearly what that is, so everyone decides that for himself.

    Catholics, Mormons and ?? (I don't know who else… certainly not Islam) have an actual teaching authority (human beings) who teach the truths of the Faith, clearly. These faiths are teaching what they believe to be objective truths, revelations from God (as well as common sense, universal understanding of the natural law). These systems are not determined from the grass roots up, but from the top down. They are about objectivity. It doesn't matter what Leila's opinion of Catholicism is or what it means. The Church declares what the Church is and teaches. I accept it or not. The teachings, the truths, the system: Not subjective.

    In other faiths, and atheism, I believe that you are the determiner of what is "true" or not. You have the final say. That is a subjective system.

    I hope we can agree on that.

    More coming….

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  129. @ Choice and MaiZeke

    MaiZeke, I liked how you said this: But by making that choice to follow the CC and follow their objective truth, you are being subjective.

    But who is this "you" and what is this "subjectivity?" How do you define the human person? What is your understanding of free will/choice, and the intellect/knowing? How do you define these things?

    If either of you could, please explain personhood within a purely material understanding of the world. I'd like to know how anyone and anything can be subjective if matter (and forces like gravity, which act on matter, and are a result of matter), is the only thing?

    If matter's it, I would like to understand how you avoid determinism in your belief system, and how you understand real free will choice working in something purely material.

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  130. Another interesting article that points to a relevant book:

    http://www.tothesource.org/9_26_2006/9_26_2006.htm

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  131. @ Choice

    You said: That doesn’t exclude things that weren’t willfully designed to have a particular purpose from having a darn good one.

    Then you went on talking about the discovery of the chemical solution for Rogaine.

    Chemicals are not mechanical. One chemical being introduced into another will always react in a specific way if the exact same circumstances are reproduced time and again. Chemicals are something that already exist in nature (unlike a car, drill, or chair). How they interact with each other is a matter of discovery. How they interact with and affect the human body is also a matter of discovery. While the original purpose of the experiments was to disover a drug to treat blood pressure, the reality is that the chemicals interacted in an unexpected manner when given to humans. Discovering this the scientists, according to your example, decided to put this chemical reaction to a different purpose than the one originally intended.

    Man's will (which I still hope you will explain for me from material causes, but without dispensing free will) is changeable. Just like a car can be used to get from point a to point b, it can also be used to race around a circular track 500 times. Because of man's will, he can give old inventions new purposes, and he frequently does. However, the inventor had a specific original reason for his invention, whether his invention is improved upon, or misused (dynamite for killing rather than just construction?), is not his fault, nor does it deny the original purpose given to the object invented.

    Again, though, a drug is not the same thing as a car, one is chemical the other mechanical. There is a difference in kind in the way you invent them.

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  132. I hope that you don't just say, "She is one of God's children, so she is in a better place now. Ok, back to ."...The afterlife is considered better than this life, so why worry about saving God's children in this life?

    Surely after all your time here you realize that we Catholics do indeed concern ourselves with saving people's lives. While we of course believe in the afterlife and in a merciful God, we also know that God willed each of us into being and that life is sacred and to be protected. I mean, we stand up for the unborn and the aging, the poor and the disabled...we stand up for the dignity of every person! But I know you know that after so much dialogue with us...

    I think she has/had value because she is a born, breathing, human being on the face of this earth, who has the right to live.

    It sounds like you're saying she has inherent worth. I whole heartedly agree! Of course I would extend that to every human being, even the unborn...

    Someone we do not know about has died. You are comforted by the fact that they are in heaven. I would be saddened by the fact that nobody even knew they died... And so, in my opinion, the value that you are assigning to that person we do not know about does no good to anyone except you, for the comfort it brings you.

    Well, for us, it's more of a "both/and" situation here. Yes, we are comforted knowing that there is a merciful God and that that person who died had inherent worth and meaning, no matter what their life was like. That person was willed into existence out of Love, and that means a great deal to us. But we would also, like you, be saddened by their situation, by their life's circumstance. It's that love and compassion that we have for them that prompts Catholics to pick up the poor and lonely off the streets (of Calcutta, as an example) in order to love, cherish and care for them so that they don't die alone and neglected.

    But whether we pick them up off the streets or not, we are not the ones who determine or assign the value of a person. That person's value doesn't come from us (no matter if we know the person or only "imagine" them because we don't know them). It comes from the One who created that person out of pure, selfless, love. The value of each human person is objective; it matters not if they are born or unborn, known or unknown, disabled, old and decrepit, a racist, a serial killer, or a Nobel Peace Prize winner. It really is a beautiful way to view life.

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  133. Here are the things which make me think we cannot have a meeting of the minds:

    In practice, that Chinese girl does have value to me.

    Right, but I am not talking about her value "to you" or even "to me". I'm talking about her value, period. Objectively. Inherently. So the whole sentence, including "in practice" is not a discussion of the issue as I am framing it.

    I know you are trying to answer, and I do appreciate it. I just think maybe our worldviews are so different that we can't even get to the actual question being asked.
    _____

    Here's another example of that:

    I say to myself, "That was a member of the world society. I must help to make sure that more children/girls like her do not die." I think (I guess) that you say, "That was one of God's children. I must help to make sure more children like her do not die." In the end, they accomplish the same thing.

    See, here you are talking about you and me again, and what we want to accomplish. But I am only talking about the girl's inherent value, not what we will take from her death or how we want to help others.

    ____

    I would probably not find out about her, so I could not really determine her value. There are certainly many poor people like this who have nobody else assigning them value.

    Okay, this one is most telling to me. Again, you are talking about you "determining her value", as if it's yours to determine. Same with "having nobody else assigning them values", as if any of us can assign value to other humans?

    But this may get to the heart of it, because perhaps that really is the only logical way that you can see anyone having value -- if someone else gives it to them. I think that would be entirely consistent with my understanding of atheism. And it would make sense that with that worldview you would be pro-"choice" (since an unborn human would have to be "assigned" a value but the mom or a society in order to be seen as having any value). Of course, it's also how any segment of humanity can deny the value and humanity of another group (which history shows is ongoing in many atrocities and genocides). So, I am wary of the idea of someone having to "determine" or "assign" value for/to another human being.

    Again, we may just have no bridge across this philosophical chasm.

    There is that old saw about the Monk who, when wondering how to distinguish between a Catholic and a heretic, said, "Kill them all for the Lord knows them that are his." The afterlife is considered better than this life, so why worry about saving God's children in this life? I sincerely hope you do not think this way.

    Honestly, I have never heard of that old saw, and the part about a monk saying to kill people? Not exactly a Catholic vignette. I think that must have been dreamed up by an atheist. I've never heard of any tenet in Christianity which claims we should not help or save God's children in this life, so I'm surprised it's even brought up as a remote possibility? It's so foreign to Catholicism. Is this the knowledge that some atheists have of Christianity? I'm just not sure what to make of it, because it doesn't fit anywhere.

    I do appreciate your taking the time to write it all out as you did. That's all I'm asking, is for clarity and follow-up, so we can get to the heart of our beliefs and the very real differences. We lay it all out and let the readers decide.

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  134. I am keenly interested in either Choice or MaiZeke's answer to Giuseppe's questions:

    But who is this "you" and what is this "subjectivity?" How do you define the human person? What is your understanding of free will/choice, and the intellect/knowing? How do you define these things?

    If either of you could, please explain personhood within a purely material understanding of the world. I'd like to know how anyone and anything can be subjective if matter (and forces like gravity, which act on matter, and are a result of matter), is the only thing?

    If matter's it, I would like to understand how you avoid determinism in your belief system, and how you understand real free will choice working in something purely material.


    Selfishly, I like learning this stuff! I am being educated every day

    (note to self: look up "determinism" so as not to look like fool; I think I might now have a word that can cover some of the stuff I have been clumsily saying.)

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  135. @ Choice

    You said that: The universe is a complex place. In my opinion, it’s extremely oversimplifying and likely inaccurate to put all of those things in a pretty little box and write “God” on the label.

    I don't take it as a dig! :) Yet it is still a little insulting. We don't deny the complexity of nature.

    There are many brilliant men and women who have believed in God throughout history, to include scientists. They didn't believe in a God because the Church forced them to, but because they knew that reason, logic, could prove the existence of a creator. Their beliefs were not based on myth, or imagination, but on reasoning, on cause and effect.

    In fact, our view of Man is much more exciting and full than yours, I contend. Metaphysics is a science lost to atheism, lost to agnostics, and lost to anyone who does not believe in the immaterial. It is the examination of existence as existence, using reason and logic. In our understanding of humans, we know that hummans can understand things beyond what is explainable by the purely physical (to include forces like gravity). We think that reason can make sense of free will, knowledge, the person, the phenomenon of common illegality of murder (and other atrocities) throughout pretty much every recorded society, etc.

    These things are not simple, but incredibly complex, and have been thought about, argued over, and decided upon for millenia. If there is objective truth out there, regardless of subjectivity (color is a reflection of light, for instance? Whether we have the eyes to see it or not, it's there, like UV), then why would free will and knowledge not have an objective and knowlable explanation?

    If that explanation is purely physical though, please, I ask you, explain how free will makes sense from a purely physical stand point. How are our actions not determined if we are purely physical beasts?

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  136. @ Choice

    You said this:

    I am not satisfied with taking all of the things that I can't fully understand or explain and by default lumping them together and explaining them by God or religion.

    I am not satisfied with that either! And here is where many people misunderstand Catholicism. We are about faith and reason.

    As a Catholic, to have one without the other is to be a fool.

    Hell, it doesn't even have to be Faith with a big f. You have faith every time you drive out on the road that everyone else has a license, and that you'll get to the next place safely. You don't know that, not even reason can fully support it.

    Also, your love of evolutionary theory! It has not be proven that life spontaneously generated from amino acids collecting together to form proteins, which had to collect together, to form one living cell.

    Am I against evolution? Absolutely not! You can see micro-evolution, for example, everywhere. The fact that my skin is a different color than some of our friends proves evolution on some scale exists. Adaptation exists.

    However, it has not been conclusively proven that life spontaneously generated out of a primordial soup. For those who don't believe in a God, and yet who spout on about the beautifully random way that order came out of chaos are all spouting off about something that hasn't been solidly demonstrated.

    You can say, but wait, Oparin, or Miller, or whomever it was who showed that amino acids can form, and they can form proteins, given the perfect environment. Well, the early earth environment they used for their experiments has not been proven to be what they thought it was, filled with methane, and ammonia, and other such things. In fact, there is much disagreement about this.

    I find it funny how atheists might make fun of medievals for believing in spontaneous generations (flies out of meat?), but then they believe in spontaneous generation themselves (burgeoning life our of lifeless chemicals . . . )

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  137. Honestly, I have never heard of that old saw, and the part about a monk saying to kill people? Not exactly a Catholic vignette. I think that must have been dreamed up by an atheist.

    No, I don't think so.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arnaud_Amalric

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  138. I sure wish Paul hadn't deleted all of his comments when he left the bubble in a huff. He had some really good points. At least we still have the comments from Tony, Miss Gwen, Sam and L. I hope Choice sticks around, too.

    Anyway, I'm pretty sure what Paul said was that determining objective truth is proximally subjective. That is, it is so close to being subjective that it pretty much is. It's not just that you choose to follow the catholic church, but the church leaders who helped to codify the objective truths for you were making subjective decisions in practice. God told them something, but their mind in the end is the thing that made the decision.

    During that time period (last October?) I said a few times, sure there might be an objective truth. But, by definition we won't know what the objective truth is until after we die. And I just don't have that long - I have to make a decision right now about how to operate and so I must decide for myself what the objective truth is. That right there is a subjective decision.

    Back to the poor girl, either in China that we know or anywhere else that we do not. The practice is what is happening, and is what is important. Otherwise we are all just sitting around in our comfortable homes (or in our remote monasteries) and talking a good talk about how the poor are "valuable". Ok, we've decided the poor are valuable, now let me get back to my television program.

    You said it yourself - the reason it is so important to assign these lives a value is so you can help them. It's that love and compassion that we have for them that prompts Catholics to pick up the poor and lonely off the streets (of Calcutta, as an example) in order to love, cherish and care for them so that they don't die alone and neglected.

    You're encouraging others to have the same value determination so that others help them too. You are saying, "Look! Help these people, because they have objective value!" I'm saying, "Look! Help these people, because they are people!". If you are not saying that, you are simply sitting in your monastery saying, isn't it great, what great people we are for assigning value to those poor people.

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  139. I've pretty much replied to it in the above post, but I'll address this sentence specifically:

    Right, but I am not talking about her value "to you" or even "to me". I'm talking about her value, period. Objectively. Inherently. So the whole sentence, including "in practice" is not a discussion of the issue as I am framing it.

    Then I guess I'm not interested in talking about it as how you frame it. Practice is what we have on this earth, and the reason we need to make decisions like this. She has value because I or someone else can do something about it. I won't just be sitting around my house saying, "she has value".

    You've been saying for a while that you are leaving soon, so I vote that we put of the determinism discussion until later.

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  140. One last thing before I head off to work

    However, it has not been conclusively proven that life spontaneously generated out of a primordial soup. For those who don't believe in a God, and yet who spout on about the beautifully random way that order came out of chaos are all spouting off about something that hasn't been solidly demonstrated.

    This is still God of the Gaps. Just because we don't know yet how something happens doesn't mean that God did it. I don't know - ergo God.

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  141. @ MaiZeke

    I've got to get back to work myself. But in regard to your last comment, you didn't answer my argument. You just said, This is still God of the Gaps. Just because we don't know yet how something happens doesn't mean that God did it. I don't know - ergo God.

    Though you know that I believe in God, and that He created the world, my belief has not explicitly entered into my argumentation. I'm just saying I find it funny that atheists (perhaps I shouldn't have said people who don't believe in God in my post because the word "God" probably mislead you) accuse people who believe in a creator of being silly and unscientific, when some things they accept as gospel truth are very much unscientific, spontaneous generation for example.

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  142. You're encouraging others to have the same value determination so that others help them too. You are saying, "Look! Help these people, because they have objective value!" I'm saying, "Look! Help these people, because they are people!". If you are not saying that, you are simply sitting in your monastery saying, isn't it great, what great people we are for assigning value to those poor people.

    I think we've already determined that we subjectively choose to follow what we believe is the true. But my point from my last comment, which I made in a paragraph you didn't reference in yours, was that whether or not we subjectively view that abandoned chinese baby girl as having value, she does. Of course if you ran across her or if we did, we would both want to help her, regardless of our worldviews. If I understand you correctly, you would help her because you would assign her value because she is a human being (with the conditions you mentioned earlier of course, born and breathing). We would help her because we recognize she has objective value as a human being. Our view/opinion of her is not efficacious; because we see her and know that she is human does not cause her to have worth-she already had it. She has objective, inherent worth, even if she lives, suffers alone and then dies with no one to hear her or care for her (or even "imagine" her and have compassion.)

    Maybe I'm misunderstanding you, or you me. Not sure if this is going anywhere.

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  143. when some things they accept as gospel truth are very much unscientific, spontaneous generation for example.

    Spontaneous generation of what? nucleic acids? RNA? Or a complete walking human with a brain? Because getting from amino acids to nucleic acids is a lot different than getting from a pool of dirty water to a human. The journey from such materials (nucleic acids) to humans was definitely not spontaneous.

    Also, science does not have gospels. The Christian bible has gospels. I think you might be confusing the two.

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  144. @ MaiZeke

    The first single cell living organism.

    Science doesn't have gospels? Could have fooled me.

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  145. MaiZeke, since I know you love PZ Myers, I thought you'd like the newest post by Stacy:

    http://www.acceptingabundance.com/2011/04/how-to-defend-life-without-using-cute.html

    No point to make or debate to start, just thought those photos at the end are hilarious!

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  146. Leila @ April 19, 2011 10:42 PM says

    "Honestly, I have never heard of that old saw, and the part about a monk saying to kill people? Not exactly a Catholic vignette. I think that must have been dreamed up by an atheist."

    Of course it isn't fair to expect that anyone and everyone knows about the Albigensian crusade and the Cathar heresy, which is where the famous story comes from. Cistercian monk Arnaud Amalric was also papal legate and inquisitor. In other words, he was as Roman Catholic as they come.

    It is, however, fair to expect that comments be carefully read and fact-checked, rather than instantly dismissed.

    Close reading of Leila's dismissal reveals the following three arguments, none of which address the objective truth that the historical record attributes the phrase to Amalric:

    1) She's never heard of it
    2) It doesn't sound Catholic, and
    3) It sounds like it was made up by an atheist.

    Why Leila chooses to make these three arguments rather than opening another browser window and looking the thing up for herself is left as an exercise for the student.

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  147. Re: PZ. Because I mentioned him does not mean I love him. My guess is that he is the most popular of the 'minor' atheists that write blogs. His Pharnygulating of polls is widely known. The point I made was that if you got linked from PZ's blog, things would get pretty exciting around here. He didn't (link), and they aren't (super exciting).

    If you would like to know my most admired (most read?) atheists, I'd have to say AC Grayling and Jerry Coyne, these days.

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  148. Anonymous (who is too cowardly to own his/her words, even with a pseudonym):

    If you took the time to open a browser window, you'd find that Amalric was REPORTED to have said these words, but there is actually no proof that he really DID say them. Wikipedia cites the book L'eretica - Storia della crociata contro gli Albigesi by Marco Meschini as evidence of this.

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  149. Anonymous, hello! Do you have a name?

    Your comment made me smile (okay, it made me laugh)…. you are confusing me with someone else. I think there have been over 10,000 comments on this blog in the past year, and considering my position as a mother of eight who blogs for fun, you might forgive me for not googling every phrase "attributed" to a monk by…someone?

    My statement stands. I have never heard a Catholic flippantly speak of mass killings as an option, and I stand by it. Interestingly, after MaiZeke's follow up, I did google this monk. There is no evidence that he said that. It's a story. There is no way to "fact check" its accuracy. My speculation that it was an atheist saw was not so unthinkable. And since apparently atheists love to latch onto words which cannot be substantiated, and which speak of one monks supposedly saying something that no moral Catholic would ever say or think, then my questioning it seems entirely reasonable.

    I stand by it.

    But next time I will get my staff on it.

    :)

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  150. Yeah, well, anonymous, you would do well to read some history on the heresies yourself. And to say that the Church was blood thirsty and only the Church, is completely absurd. Not to mention that priests and religious were forbidden from taking an active role in torture.

    There was plenty of abuse on all sides, from all humans during the repression of heresies, particulary during the Albigensian heresy.


    "Pope Innocent III was justified in saying that the Albigenses were "worse than the Saracens"; and still he counselled moderation and disapproved of the selfish policy adopted by Simon of Montfort. What the Church combated was principles that led directly not only to the ruin of Christianity, but to the very extinction of the human race."

    This is taken from an encyclopedia. And there's lots more where that came from if you really wanna study Catholic heresies, etc. So you might also wanna brush up on Catholic history instead of lobbing some anti Catholic white washed pieces of the whole at the wall, hoping it sticks.

    -Nubby

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  151. Mai, another dig?

    If things are so boring here, why do you stay?

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  152. MaiZeke says

    "Spontaneous generation of what? nucleic acids? RNA? Or a complete walking human with a brain? Because getting from amino acids to nucleic acids is a lot different than getting from a pool of dirty water to a human. The journey from such materials (nucleic acids) to humans was definitely not spontaneous."

    I found this fascinating. I assume you will, too:
    "...for spontaneous generation no help can be expected from evolution, because chemicals don’t evolve. Neo-Darwinism requires DNA to pass on information to descendants. But your swamp is nowhere near ready to produce DNA. Small biological proteins don’t have descendants for natural selection to choose between.

    Your swamp also needs to create sugars and fats—but again, as with amino acids, not just any sugar or fat will do. Biological sugars must be right-handed, since left-handed ones sabotage biological structures. Statistically, right- and left-handed sugars form naturally in equal quantities. And biological fats must be the cis form, even though the mirror image trans form is the chemically stable type preferred by nature. Your swamp needs cis fats to make cell membranes, but trans fats—the type nature prefers—damage or destroy cell membranes. And as you might expect, cis and trans are found in equal amounts. So your swamp has to find a way to get rid of the left-handed sugars and the trans fats.

    It also needs to produce a genetics system. It is probably impossible to assemble the components of DNA in the lab, even with high-priced technicians and modern equipment. Indeed, some parts of the DNA molecule have never been synthesized by human chemists. Is it reasonable to think these parts could be synthesized in a lifeless swamp?

    Other parts of the DNA molecule cannot be synthesized in water. They must be synthesized dry, then somehow introduced into a water-based living creature without being destroyed on contact with water. No mere human scientist knows how to do that.

    To make matters more complicated, DNA does not function unless it has several dozen regulatory proteins present. These are produced by DNA, but must be present before DNA can actually produce them. You need the whole genetic system all at once. There is no value in having just part of it. Asking the genetics system to produce itself and its autoregulatory proteins simultaneously is like asking your neighbor to become her own grandmother."


    -Nubby
    ref: Darwinism Isn’t Fit to Survive By Robin Bernhoft

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  153. @ Anyone who refers to any single Church official like the alleged bloodthirsty monk

    How quaintly anecdotal. Just because there are a few bad apples, or good apples who were misguided at one point in their life, does not make the whole tree bad.

    We can point out just as many scientists who have not only encouraged but participated in the extermination of a whole segment of human society simply because that segment was jewish, or black, or whatever.

    Pointing out bad apples is just a sideways ad hominem attaks that do nothing to discredit the rational arguments presented by Catholics who know their faith and practice it.

    I could point to hundreds of bishops who were quite avant garde for their time, and quite unCatholic inspite of their having the title and powers of a Catholic Bishop. Doesn't affect the arguments.

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  154. Nubby,

    I am confused by something you said:

    "Science shows that un-authored “evolution” trends toward chaos not order. "

    Where does science show this?

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  155. No, Leila, not another dig. I'm happy with the level of excitement around here. I thought I was making it clear that if PZ would link to you, things would get SUPER DUPER exciting. I mean, really - a whole lot of people.

    Since we're asking about digs, I wonder why you said that I love PZ so much. Just because I know of someone does not mean he is my hero.

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  156. Mai, I assumed it because when you mentioned him, you only used "PZ" (first name only, like an old friend) and a big "whoooo-hoooo" or something like that, with lots of exclamation points, if I remember correctly. ;)

    Led me to believe you knew him well and liked him a whole lot.

    But no biggie, thanks for clarifying.

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  157. Nubby, I apologize on behalf of blogger for all those times your comment was stuck in spam!! So sorry!!!

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  158. :)
    No biggie. Should I repost?

    -Nubby

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  159. Nubby, there just isn't enough time in my day to correct all of the misconceptions in that quote.

    Just a small comment, the first life form didn't begin by being able to replicate itself sexually, with DNA.

    And to answer Giuseppe at the same time, a single-celled organism didn't take as long as a human, but we are also not talking about a trivial amount of time here. I'm only taking a guess based on what I know of evolution, but it probably took a million years to get to the single-celled organism level.

    Sigh - now I know how you feel when you people come to you with "Catholic" information from non-Catholic sources. What you are presenting isn't evolution, it is evolution as seen through the eyes of people who don't understand evolution.

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  160. Which quote?
    Cuz I'd be happy to clarify any misconceptions, or perceived misconceptions, since I'd like to be very clear.

    -Nubby

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  161. Sigh - now I know how you feel when you people come to you with "Catholic" information from non-Catholic sources. What you are presenting isn't evolution, it is evolution as seen through the eyes of people who don't understand evolution.

    But Catholicism has a pope. So our beliefs are very accessible and known. I don't think evolutionists have a pope?

    So, I'm guessing there are lots of opinions?

    No excuse for not being able to find Catholic positions. But it's harder to find the 'evolutionist' position.

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  162. Gotcha, thanks Leila.

    -Nubby

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  163. MaiZeke

    Lemme clarify.
    Regardless of the time variant, statistically speaking the odds of a single-cell organism “evolving” into a human is, yep,zero.

    It's not "unlikely" it's simply impossible. You want stats? I got em if you want them.

    -Nubby

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  164. Mary-

    The chaos theory (which is an entire field of study) outlines that the output from natural events are not predictable or orderly even if the inputs are.

    -Nubby

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  165. Man, I am glad there are some smart scientific types out there, because those are the parts of the conversation that I cannot carry! :)

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  166. Well, although biology/evolution does not have a pope, it does have the result of massive and rigorous peer-reviewed literature. I would point to Campbell and Reece BIOLOGY as the current word on evolution as it is understood by the scientific community. Few would argue with what is written there.
    http://wps.aw.com/wps/media/access/Pearson_Default/1663/1703422/login.html

    Or you could try the popular Miller Levine Biology text. (Miller being the famous Kenneth Miller--theist and biologist---a rare thing.)

    So, although there is no pope, there is quite a bit of consensus.

    Thanks.

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  167. Mary, I can understand and respect what you are saying, but it's still a different model. Catholicism doesn't operate on the "consensus" model. It's revealed truth, and there is a final arbiter. So, there is never an excuse for anyone to misrepresent Catholic teaching.

    Isn't it true that in 100 years, the "consensus" of the evolutionist community could change? Not saying that's a bad thing, as science is just people trying to discover objective truths of the material world, right? They are doing their best, at the time and with the knowledge and technology they have, but it's never known for sure, correct? In science, it could be the dissenter who is finally shown to be closer to the truth, right?

    Different paradigm than Catholicism.

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  168. Yes, well, there is no pope for math, but you can't go around saying that 2 + 2 = 5. People will think you're an idiot.

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  169. You also cannot say that gravity is caused by a bunch of invisible people running around pulling things toward the ground either. And there is no pope for physics.

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  170. I'm sorry, MaiZeke, I thought we were talking about evolutionary science. Am I wrong in what I said?

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  171. Leila,
    You are right, in that science is about consensus. It can and does change as the evidence mounts. I would say that I understand the value in determining absolute truths that are not relative and do not change over time, but I just cannot swallow that the church is correct about the absolute truth regarding certain things: the evil of birth control, the fact that women cannot lead in the church and that masturbation is intrinsically evil. I just see so much evidence to the contrary.

    But, you are totally right in that Catholicism has a different paradigm. Science gets at truth by empirical evidence, replication and consensus. Catholics believe truth is in the bible and must be interpreted by her leaders. The analogy with the Constitution is a good one.

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  172. Mary, but I would clarify and say that although the truth is "in the bible", that is not our sole rule of faith. The Bible came from the Church. The Bible says that the Church is the pillar and foundation of truth. The Fathers say the same. The Church is the receiver and proclaimer of truth.

    So, truth comes to us from God, through the Church. The Bible is part of that Truth, the written part.

    (PS: I've mentioned before that your objections are all about sex, and the path of least resistance in sexual issues. Why is it that you don't refute Church teaching on lying or theft?)

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  173. PS: Jesus founded a Church, He did not write a Bible. Thank God for the Bible, but He left us more than that.

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  174. Mary-
    The Church doesn't fear science. The Church gave us scientists, I could provide quite a list if you're interested. The Church believes in Faith and Reason. Together. Not mutually exclusive.


    "Methodical research in all branches of knowledge, provided it is carried out in a truly scientific manner and does not override moral laws, can never conflict with the faith..." straight from the Catechism.

    The Catholic Church has no fear of science or scientific discovery. Infact, as I've said, the Church has given us many great scientists.

    A few I pulled just from a quick search:
    Jean-Charles de la Faille (1597–1652) - Jesuit mathematician who determined the center of gravity of the sector of a circle for the first time
    Gabriele Falloppio (1523–1562) - One of the most important anatomists and physicians of the sixteenth century. The Fallopian tubes, which extend from the uterus to the ovaries, are named for him.
    Gyula Fényi (1845–1927) - Jesuit astronomer and director of the Haynald Observatory; noted for his observations of the sun; The crater Fényi on the Moon is named after him.

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  175. Mary,

    As far as the evils of birth control- I would argue that the evidence against birth control is substantial. Birth control allows for pre-marital sex (fornication, listed in the bible among sins that will prevent you from entering the kingdom of Heaven)and encourages casual, promiscuous sex and adultery, among other things.

    Oh yes! I remember reading Leila's post on this- birth control is a contract saying,"I agree to have sex with you but I do not agree to have a baby with you" and the back-up plan is abortion. Since the wide-spread use of contraception, abortion rates have sky-rocketed. Coincidence? I think not.

    Also, Mary, I think you said you are a Lutheran? Anytime you see the word "sorcery" in the New Testament, listed among forbidden sins, it means birth control and sterilization.

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  176. Manda, exactly….

    Mary, it's interesting to note that Christian teaching on contraception was one of the last things (most recent) that Protestants have rejected. They hung on to the truth for almost 500 years in that department, and strangely enough they only caved on it about the same time that Margaret Sanger was pushing birth control, and founding Planned Parenthood (her slogan, "No gods, no masters"). So, we either go with the Holy Spirit or the spirit of the age. Contraception and masturbation are celebrated by the spirit of the age. No gods, no masters, we do what we want, regardless of 2,000 years of unbroken Christian teaching on the matter.

    Manda was referring to this post, which I think tells it like it is:

    http://littlecatholicbubble.blogspot.com/2011/01/contraception-leads-to-abortion-come.html

    Two sides of the very same, dirty coin.

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  177. MaiZeke

    You suggest that we don't understand what evolution is? Do you even know who the scientist was who attempted to prove that life could spontaneously generate? A hint I mentioned him, and his 'inspiration' to do the experiments above.

    I've brought questions before you about choice, free will, and personhood, as far as I can read, they haven't been answered. I even brought up the actual researchers who tried to prove that life could come from some random proteins floating about in a soup, and I even mentioned a tidbit of detail about their experiments, all to see if I could draw you into a discussion of how life first came to be. You've not directly responded to any of it, except to claim that we know nothing of evolution, or evolutionary science.

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  178. Giuseppe -

    I have never said on this blog that I will answer every question put to me. With the faithful outnumbering the atheists by a wide margin, it is near impossible unless this is a full time job, as it appears to be to Leila. And some are not here for rational discussion, it is clear.

    I don't even reply to all of Leila's questions/statements, even though she is the blog owner. For example I didn't think it was necessary to reply to her contention that science is just feeling in the original post.

    I didn't reply to this one of yours either:

    If you're an atheist, you have to attribute everything to biology, and chemistry, etc. If you do that, there is nothing more than the pure, basic, material side of life. Meaning, for you, there can be no meaning.

    In some cases, the most polite thing to do here is to not reply to very off-base comments. Although it may not seem so to some, I do make an effort to be polite.

    Now, I do reply to things that I think will continue to advance the conversation. Regarding the free will/choice/personhood comment, you used the word determinism in one comment, at which point Leila suggested that she would look it up and make a post on it. I voted for that option, if you go back and check. I think it is a valid point for discussion, but recommend it be given a post of its own. I will in fact be happy to talk about personhood outside of the abortion discussion.

    Regarding the attempt to draw me into the discussion of the first origins of life. I'll state it more clearly: I agree that the details are unclear about how this happened. We have some hypotheses but nothing conclusive, as you point out. However, not being clear on how it happened is not a reason to say that it didn't or couldn't have happened. Most importantly, not knowing how it happened is not proof that it must have been done by a larger-than-life being.

    For anecdotal purposes only, for my 11th grade biology final paper I researched what was known about this very first beginnings of the origin of life, and it set me on my path to atheism. So it is dear to my heart.

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  179. I'm sorry, MaiZeke, I thought we were talking about evolutionary science. Am I wrong in what I said?

    Evolutionary science is part of the sciences. Evolution is a theory as gravity is a theory. A theory is the best explanation we have until a better explanation comes up. Even Giuseppe has said

    Am I against evolution? Absolutely not! You can see micro-evolution, for example, everywhere. The fact that my skin is a different color than some of our friends proves evolution on some scale exists. Adaptation exists.

    He just disputes how it started. He may think that God works through evolution, I'm not clear on that point yet. Some people do, as a means to reconcile the obvious, non-refutable facts of science with their belief in God.

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  180. Hi all, I have been trying, as I said in the last discussion, to keep up with all of the posts. I stayed up very late trying to continue with it all, and kept trying this morning, but I guess I would have to have been in the discussion at the beginning to have any hope of keeping up. Given that, I hope you don't mind if I share some thoughts that I've had, and I'll just try to stay with the discussion at least from this point forward.

    MaiZeke said that we must believe that God would choose to have a child born to a mother who would not care about her, and the response given to her was that it's not God's fault that the mother chose not to care for the child. It's the mother's fault.

    I have to say... God did very well know that He was sending that child to a mother who would not care about it. I don't think we reach the truth of the matter by, in a manner of speaking, letting God off the hook too easily here by placing all the blame at the feet of "free will". God has a will, too, and He did, in fact, know that that child was being born into very poor circumstances. I guess I think we can't possibly understand why God allows such things to happen, except that when it happens, there is an opportunity for the rest of us (atheist and otherwise) to grow in love. A child needs to be cared for. Will we help? Will anyone help? In our humanity we positively respond to an adorable baby, if we respond at all, but can we love the severely handicapped child, or another child who is not so easy to love? One who will die shortly after birth and take our love with him, at great cost to our own hearts? I think that one of the things we can't see, but that is still very real, is that reality that we need love, and that healthy people need to give love, and that love is not always going to be easy - in fact, is hard more often than it is easy, but that the giving of love in difficult circumstances is incredibly good for us. The child who needs us is a gift to us more than anything in that way. And even severely handicapped, about-to-die children, I believe, can experience our love, and that is the greatest good that any of us can experience. But that is something we can't really "see" or measure.

    I also think that it is fair to attribute Choice's and Chelsea's concern for others as arising, not out of random chance, but out of compassion. Choice, I think you would agree that you owe your sense of compassion to your parents (that was you who mentioned your parents, right?) They cared well for you, and you would like to see the same for other people. I have to say that there is love for others in your heart, and I believe that "love is of God, and everyone who loves is born of God, and knows God." (First John 4, vs. seven and eight) Even if they don't know that they know Him. If the love you have in your heart, the compassion for another human being, is not love, then I would have to agree with Guiseppe that it could only be described as a chemical reaction, and chemical reactions are not "meaningful" themselves. I don't see, then, how your "love", your compassion, could be anything other than meaningless. I realize that you do not believe that any love in your heart comes from God. I'm the one who believes that. But if I am wrong, then it seems that Guiseppe must be right, and your reaction is a meaningless chemical response.

    My post is too long so I'm splitting it in two. More below!

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  181. Also, Choice, you said in Leila's previous discussion, and I think you alluded to it here, that you believe that there is nothing awaiting you after you die. The thought of your death saddens you only in that the people who love you will grieve for you. I think I understand you to believe that your love for them will live on in the sense that it will still influence them and in turn will influence others, and it will live on in their memories (albeit, increasingly watered down as memory of you fades over generations and other influences take precedence.) But, as far as you yourself are concerned, they do not have to grieve for you, because you will not be sad, you will not miss them, you will not love them or think of them ever again. For your part, your love for them ends when you die. Would that be an accurate representation of what you believe?

    Hope I'm able to keep up from here on! :)

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  182. MaiZeke says:
    Evolutionary science is part of the sciences. Evolution is a theory as gravity is a theory. A theory is the best explanation we have until a better explanation comes up. Even Giuseppe has said

    He just disputes how it started. He may think that God works through evolution, I'm not clear on that point yet. Some people do, as a means to reconcile the obvious, non-refutable facts of science with their belief in God.
    ---------------

    MaiZeke:
    Your answer is half right. Though evolution is also a philosophy.

    And to clear your confusion on how Catholics view God and evolution:
    Catholics are free to believe in both evolution and creation, in proper order. Not only are we free to believe it, we should embrace both.
    The Church doesn't pronounce officially anything on the sciences.

    Atheists (materialists) are only concerned w/ secondary causes, as if that's all that matters. Catholics are to believe in both; that God authors all yet there are natural processes as well.

    It's more freeing than Fundamentalists Bible Believers, it embraces both 1st and 2nd causes.

    And I've still got the data in hand in regards to life beginning from chance, if you would like to read it. I can post it.

    -Nubby

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  183. For example I didn't think it was necessary to reply to her contention that science is just feeling in the original post.

    Wow, I am not around this morning, but I had to say this before I leave:
    I never, ever, ever, ever said or implied that "science is just feeling"! That is so bizarre. If you are talking about Choice's discussion of the meaning of life, then I think I showed very well how her decisions on that were based on how things made her feel (pleasantness, happiness, etc.).

    But to say that I think science is just feelings….? That is just wrong.

    I really am left with no idea how to counter something that so blatantly misrepresents what I said.

    But, MaiZeke, I do appreciate your engagement of the conversation, nonetheless.

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  184. Okay, one more thing:

    You refused to respond to this:

    If you're an atheist, you have to attribute everything to biology, and chemistry, etc. If you do that, there is nothing more than the pure, basic, material side of life. Meaning, for you, there can be no meaning.

    But why? I would never "refuse" to respond to an honest question that you posed (forgive me if I ever did!). So why refuse this? If atheists believe only in things that can be seen and weighed and measured, then why is this a question that you balk at? Do you believe in the metaphysical? If so, can you elaborate? What of things other than the material? Do you believe in things outside of the material? It's a fair question.

    No one ever answered me about the concepts of justice and mercy, for example. How can those be measured and weighed? What are they? Material or something else? How do you account for them? Etc…..

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  185. But why? I would never "refuse" to respond to an honest question that you posed (forgive me if I ever did!). So why refuse this? If atheists believe only in things that can be seen and weighed and measured, then why is this a question that you balk at? Do you believe in the metaphysical? If so, can you elaborate? What of things other than the material? Do you believe in things outside of the material? It's a fair question.

    First of all, I didn't say "refuse".

    Second of all, the comment I was referring to about science and feelings is this:

    And similarly, when you talked about the "beauty of nature and the intricate interconnectedness of life systems and the AMAZING displays of science", you are again talking about the way those things make you feel, aren't you? You “feel” awe, you “feel” compelled to know more.

    So now you'll have to color me confused. Your whole blog post is about how purposeness is based on how atheists "feel", and "feeling" is subjective, which is bad. So intially you were accusing atheists of only "feeling" things.

    And now you're saying that "atheists believe only in things that can be seen and weighed and measured" and "Do you believe in things outside of the material? It's a fair question"

    I am having a very hard time understanding how these two lines of questioning fit together. Either I only believe in feelings, or I only believe in things that can be weighed and measured.

    Perhaps there is a logical explanation for this. Perhaps you mean that I can measure my feelings? Is that it?

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  186. Christianity didn't just give us scientists, it provided the psychological and cultural matrix that gave us modern science itself.

    I love the evolution debates. High five Nubby and Guiseppe! (Guiseppe my husband will get back to you about a question you asked me, he's been insanely busy this week.)

    Regarding evolution, we do not know the exact molecular mechanism. It is not exact science, far from it. The idea that offspring changed ever-so-slightly over millions of years to evolve into vast species is a metaphysical concept imagined in the mind's eye by tying together things we have discovered.

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  187. MaiZeke:
    Logic would dictate that you, being an atheist, only believe in information which can be gathered through the human senses.

    It doesn't mean your feelings are wrong.
    Feelings are subjective and fine.
    But your whole philosophy of life demands that you only believe in sensory perception and nothing beyond.

    If you believe in the mystical, that is spirits/souls, then you aren't a pure materialist atheist.

    All due respect, you don't sound as if you grasp the atheist dogma. That, or you don't adhere fully to it.

    Leila is merely following logically where questions will lead. If your measure is subjective, she honestly asks, then how do you measure value?

    It's logical, some would say very scientific, to ask the natural way Leila has been asking.

    -Nubby

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  188. MaiZeke,

    Maybe this question will help you understand how the physical and the spiritual are different.

    Can you explain how the mind can conceive of unity only by the movement of unknown millions of moving physical parts?

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  189. Nubby, I love reading what you write!

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  190. Love metaphysics too, Stacy.

    Just for fact's sake, since others might be interested:
    Statistically the chances of a simple protein with only 100 amino acids to “evolve” is 20 to the 100 (or 20 with one hundred zeros behind it, one of the few numbers larger than our national debt). That only gets you to a simple protein. Simple protein, even.

    "Chance" cannot make enough proteins to make even the most basic functional cell.

    -Nubby
    ref: Answering the New Atheism

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  191. Stacy and Nubby, I realize how grateful I am for good scientific minds, as I was an English major!!! I am learning so much from you (the parts that my pea brain can understand).

    MaiZeke, I think I can clear it up for you. It sounds like I am asking confusing questions about hard science vs. feelings, because I am confused! I am confused about what you believe as atheists.

    First, you tout science as the be all and end all, because it's the only thing we can really know demonstrably (weights and measures). I think that atheists believe only in the material.

    But then (confusingly!!) you say there is some deep meaning in your life. ?? I don't get how that can be true, if it's all about hard science and molecules and no loving creator and nothing but a cosmic, impersonal burp that accidentally created "life". So, when you or Choice speak of this "meaning" within your atheistic philosophy, I don't get it at all. I'm hearing that the "purpose" or "meaning" of life is based on how you "feel" about the universe; that our meaning comes from a feeling of "awe" or "happiness" and "pleasantness."

    I think your system is all messed up.

    I can't reconcile it. Can you help me see what I am missing?

    (Caveat: I know why you fell awe and also love hard science... because you have a mind, body and soul. Because I am a Christian, your life makes sense to me, and your feelings of love, awe, pleasantness and meaning. But I can't reconcile it with your stated belief as an atheist.)

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  192. *I know why you feel awe and also love hard science

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