Saturday, August 31, 2013

Dawkins is no Einstein

…I'm too lazy to do a Quick Takes...

Forgive me, but this is funny. The audience's laughter confirms that this is funny. Dawkins is not a logical thinker, and I am not sure why he is held in such high esteem? After all, he not only believes that nothing is something, but he is a biologist who said that "any [human] fetus is less human than an adult pig". Uhhh, science much, Mr. D.?

Anyway, atheists should disavow this guy, seriously:


And one small follow-up to the whole Joseph Bottum controversy. Mr. Bottum (a very gracious man who wrote a terribly unfortunate article) stated that Phil Lawler's critique of his piece was worth thinking about. I agree, and here it is:

To defend marriage, the truth is enchanting enough

Amen, and thank you, Mr. Lawler.

Enjoy your Labor Day weekend, everyone!


  1. A wonderful, wonderful article by Mr Lawler. Reading the Bottum article made me so sad - for him, that he thought that way - and this one really brought a smile to my face!

    And as for Dawkins, psh. Im so tired of people using him as a 'credible' stick with which to beat religion.

  2. Dawkins was clearly smart enough to get a nice job and write a few good science books. On the other hand, by this point a lot of his stuff is indistinguishable from that of the average YouTube atheist. His pretentiously-named Facebook page is full of stupid memes, and sometimes even false information.

    He tweeted something to the effect of "Obama seems like a smart guy, so he's probably a closet atheist." He thinks Christianity is wrong, but he doesn't use many new arguments, so you'd think he would glance some theology books that try to cover those topics. He apparently hasn't, not believing theology to be a serious subject. He also thinks Islam is worse than Christianity, but has never read the Qu'ran.

    Many of the people I know are nonreligious, agnostic, or atheist, but I've yet to meet anyone in the real world who thinks Dawkins' way of doing things is a good idea. Even in my more anti-religious phase I never got the appeal.

  3. Well, I am much more inclined to believe that some weird physics produced everything than I am to believe that an immaterial intelligent being that exists outside of time came up with the idea of matter, produced it (out of nothing), and then produced people for the sole purpose of worshipping him. It simply does not make sense. In evolutionary biology, there's the concept of parsimony – often there are several possible ways in which events could have happened, but it is most reasonable that the simplest explanation is true. In that case, both of our explanations involve matter coming from no matter, but mine does not have the (implausible) complication of an intelligent being whose existence cannot be explained.

    Actually, of all the arguments we've had on here, it all boils down to this issue. This is the reason why I am not religious or swayed by any other arguments for religion. I don't know where everything came from, but I can say with certainty that the concept of a god is much less plausible to me than the very good possibility that physics is even weirder than I already think it is.

    I find Dawkins pretty irritating (dogmatic, arrogant atheism is just as repulsive as its religious counterpart), but I do think he's right here.

  4. Well, I am much more inclined to believe that some weird physics produced everything than I am to believe that an immaterial intelligent being that exists outside of time came up with the idea of matter, produced it (out of nothing), and then produced people for the sole purpose of worshipping him.

    So, again, Michelle would rather believe in the impossible than the plausible. When you make a statement like "some weird physiccs produced everything" that is not an argument because you're assuming physics was already hanging out doing its thing somewhere in the universe and then the BB happened. Physics came into being at the BB.

    As to "all the arguments we've had on here", you've never satisfied the question of time, Michelle. How does time "evolve" in your biological evolutionary scheme of things?

    As to video: Dear Logic, hold on tight! Though Mr. Dawkins abandoned you tragically in this clip, we who love you know how to respect you and properly implement you! Be strong, we're coming, dear friend!

  5. Haha, not surprised you were the first to respond to me. I think we have been over this, though – I don't know. And I don't beat myself up over not knowing, because if I barely understood electricity and magnetism, I think I can forgive myself for not understanding or having independent ideas about theoretical physics. ;) (For what it's worth, though, I don't think physics came into being at the Big Bang – but again, I'd defer to actual physicists on that.)

    Why is a thinking, immaterial being existing without having been created himself, and then producing matter from no matter more plausible to you? I really do wonder how anyone can get their minds around that, because to me it's much less distressing to admit that I believe that physics I don't understand produced everything than to admit that I believe that a god whose existence I don't understand produced matter by a process I don't understand for reasons I don't understand.

    1. I worded that badly – I'm not distressed by not knowing. But if I'm going to believe something a bit crazy, I want to minimize the number of things in that belief system that make little conceptual sense. Both of us believe things that are crazy (I don't mean this negatively), but I find that there are fewer crazy underlying beliefs I need to hold for my philosophy to make sense.

  6. (For what it's worth, though, I don't think physics came into being at the Big Bang – but again, I'd defer to actual physicists on that.)

    Why is a thinking, immaterial being existing without having been created himself, and then producing matter from no matter more plausible to you? I really do wonder how anyone can get their minds around that, because to me it's much less distressing to admit that I believe that physics I don't understand produced everything than to admit that I believe that a god whose existence I don't understand produced matter by a process I don't understand for reasons I don't understand.

    Exactly. So in referring to actual physicists, you'd be at odds with them.

    Keep it simple. If the BB was the beginning, how did physics come before the beginning ?

  7. To existence and essence- I'm not sure this will really help explain the theistic world view, but I think it's worth a shot. This is a great video illustrating C.S. Lewis's Laws of Nature essay-

    It's not too terribly long.

  8. At odds with actual physicists? Can you cite something on that for me? Because my (extremely limited understanding) was that it was thought that some quirk of physics produced the Big Bang.

    I don't know the answer to your question, and I'm not even sure we can start with the BB as the very beginning. I wish I knew the answers, but I just don't. You also didn't answer my question – why is a god more plausible? It seems to me there is SO much more unexplainable complexity in your belief system than in mine.

    Put more simply, both atheism and Christianity are pretty mind-blowing concepts, but to me it's less mind-blowing that matter came from nothing than that (1) intelligence (god) can exist outside of time and matter and (2) that this immaterial intelligence could produce matter out of no matter. In choosing between two pretty crazy concepts, it's much easier for me to just believe that matter came from "nothing". (Only putting "nothing" in quotes because I'm not sure I even fully understand the concept of "nothing" – saw an excellent BBC documentary on it once, but from my understanding "nothingness" is more complex than simply being the absence of all things.)

    1. Bleh, need to keep adding clarifications, sorry. It's not that I think your questions aren't important, Nubby. They're super important. I just don't know the answers to them. If this sounds like I'm brushing them aside, keep in mind that you also don't have the answers. God or not, there is still a question of mechanistically, how did these things happen? I simply find that adding God into the equation makes things more complex and difficult to explain than leaving him out. Hope that makes some sense – while I'd love answers to how you think God exists and did things, I certainly don't expect you to actually have them. I think that we both have a lot of unexplained concepts in our worldviews, but I just have fewer.

      Monica, I'll watch it when I get a chance!

  9. "I do think he's right here"

    Michelle, sorry, but which part? That something is nothing (nothing means… no-thing, nothing), or that pigs are more human than human fetuses?

    Chris, my friend is married to an extremely intelligent atheist who used Dawkins in an offline debate with me. I pretty quickly convinced him that Dawkins is like the Pat Robertson of atheism. I don't get why he didn't recognize that early on?

    For anyone and everyone, this quick and simple Peter Kreeft video might also help with the BB idea:

  10. Is there something called "atheism in the gaps"? Truly asking.

  11. Chris, one thing I really appreciated from Mr. Dawkins was his frank admission that clearly he is no philosopher. In fact, Dr. Vost made that case in his book, quite well. He is NO expert on any of the things he likes to talk about (except for biology!), but yet folks take him as some kind of brain trust on these issues. Vost pretty much shreds him for his ignorance in one section of his book, From Atheism to Catholicism.

    I interviewed Vost here, in two parts (for new folks), and more will be coming eventually:

    His is such an informative book. I learned so much, and it's a fairly quick read, quite entertaining, too.

  12. For what it's worth, I've heard the laws of physics did not exist until the Big Bang, although I'm not sure how we know that.

    Many proponents of steady state theory thought that the Big Bang was too close to religion for their liking. The Big Bang doesn't prove the existence of a creator God, but it's definitely more likely under modern science than it was under early 20th century science, where even brilliant minds like Einstein believed the universe was without beginning or end (which would have made God redundant).

    I really do doubt that nothing could become everything and assign itself a system of physics.

  13. We're about to table two different conversations, which is good but I want to be clear.

    If you don't want to start w/ the BB, then where would you start?

    Was there a beginning? Can we at least agree there was a beginning?

    If we agree, then please posit that.

  14. "[God] produced people for the sole purpose of worshipping him."

    No. God produced because He is Lover and Creator. The love of the Trinity burst forth into a creation for the sake of love alone. Lovers love to share and love is always fruitful.

    This view you have of God, Michelle, is not something I can relate to, as one who knows Him. I would love to have you read Fire Within, by Thomas Dubay. It would open up something completely new to you, yet actually it would tap into primordial memory, and it might change things...

  15. For what it's worth, I've heard the laws of physics did not exist until the Big Bang, although I'm not sure how we know that.

    Michelle and Chris,
    The reason why "nothing coming from something" is impossible is simply: Singularity equations.

    It is not as if there were dimensions (space-time) pre-BB. There was nothing. Not a thing lied beyond it (BB), no boundary until it. It was not a "point" with energy of its own, dimensions of its own, or physical laws of its own. Even if you wanted to posit pre-BB eras, they all go back to a singularity. That is the all important point in getting these kinds of conversation off the ground. This is why I asked Michelle, what does she posit as the beginning? Trent Horn had a nice article on this on Strange Notions.

    If you'd like to delve into the physics and details, look into Friedman's equation, look at universal expansion, modern proofs that all point to a beginning.

  16. Leila, I was only talking about the physics (which I think was clear from everything Nubby and I have been talking about). The "atheism of the gaps" question is a good one – but like I was saying to Nubby, the simplest explanation is usually most likely to be correct. Whether or not God is in the equation, we still have the question of how, mechanistically, things came to be. God superficially answers that question, sure, but while I only have the question of how it happened, you are still left with the questions of how God did it and how God exists. I have one crazy question to answer; you have two, and I think yours are much more difficult.

    Nubby, I still don't have answers to your questions. I don't think "beginnings" and "nothingness" in the context of physics have the same meanings as they do in casual conversation. If there is one thing I know about theoretical physics, it's that the ways in which we understand and describe the physical world go out the window when we can't rely on the concepts of time or Newton's laws. No amount of pressing me on even the most seemingly simple questions will get us anywhere, because I know I'm not equipped to have a meaningful, well-informed conversation about these things.

  17. Michelle, I was just asking what part you agreed with Dawkins on. I guess you are saying that you agree with him on the point that you are atheists. But I thought you were implying an agreement on something he said either in the video (nothing is something) or the statement about the pig. Sorry if I misunderstood.

    The idea that we would ever be able to fully understand the mind of God and exactly how everything came to be is (as I see it) expecting that dogs would one day be able to explain exactly how humans came to be. Or expecting cats to understand physics. We will never be able to understand the mind of God, although we certainly can see nothing in science that would ever disprove a God (and many scientists see science as pointing straight to Him).

    I leave it to science minds like you and Nubby to hash out the details of science (I am not that person, as you all know!), but I do find it interesting that the default position of the human mind is not atheism, but an innate understanding that there is a God or gods. Some higher power, some higher intelligence than ourselves. This default position of the human mind and heart is true in every time and age. Atheism is the teeny, tiny minority among humanity, and even atheists have at one time or another believed or been drawn to believe, or have ended up as believers. You would have one explanation for that phenomenon, and I would say it's natural law. I would say that God has left His "thumbprint" on our souls, so to speak, and it's no accident that most of mankind are and have been believers.

    Okay, carry on with the science. I enjoy reading and learning.

  18. Funny that you put it that way – in the version of my previous comment that my internet ate, I said to Nubby that me trying to discuss these physics questions is like asking Koko the gorilla to have an intelligent discussion about neurosurgery. In a way, though, what you have is a luxury, being able to write off not understanding as not being able to know the mind of God. We both don't know, but you don't know because you can't, I don't know because science doesn't know yet. The questions still remain, though, and there are still more complicated factors in your explanation than there are in mine. Regardless of whether it's more common to believe in god, the facts still remain that introducing the concept of a god creates more questions than answers.

  19. I still don't have answers to your questions. I don't think "beginnings" and "nothingness" in the context of physics have the same meanings as they do in casual conversation.

    These words don't change meaning from field to simple discussion (that's what Hawking tried to do and his latest book was crushed in peer reviews because of it).
    I'm keeping this very simple. You don't have to delve any deeper than step by step for purposes of comment box discussion.

    Can we agree that there was a beginning?

  20. An even simpler angle:
    Let's define what we're going to call the beginning. Let's call it t0 or t=0.

    Can we agree that physical laws came into being at t=0?

  21. Michelle,

    Dr. Francis Collins, world-renowned geneticist, physician, and former Director of the National Human Genome Research Institute at the National Institutes of Health shares his journey from atheism to faith, propelled by science.

    As he emphasizes at one point in this fascinating lecture, “You cannot look at all that data and not marvel at it: it is astounding to see the knife edge of improbability upon which our existence exists!

    Dr Collins’ (scientific) career achievements speak amply of his credibility, and this presentation from him is well worth the consideration of anyone seriously pondering the big questions of life and existence.

    So when you next have a spare hour to invest in some intriguing mind travel...


    "Nothing comes from nothing
    Nothing ever could...
    So somewhere in my youth (or childhood)
    God must've done something good...!"

    - with apologies to Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music :)

  22. Nubby, I really don't know. To me, this is not in any way a philosophical discussion; it's a discussion of physics that I do not understand well enough to talk about intelligently. I have a degree in microbiology that involved two harrowing semesters of basic physics. Asking me whether there was a beginning and if physical laws came into being at that beginning is really an exercise in futility – my opinions matter about as much as a second grader's opinions on how DNA replicates.

    I can tell you only what I know: an atheistic explanation for the beginning of the universe requires only physics concepts. A religious explanation for the beginning of the universe still leaves open the questions of the mechanisms behind the creation (it is not enough to say that God did it – matter still came from no matter somehow) and the questions of how intelligence can exist independent of matter and time. For your explanation to make sense at the same level of detail that you would like mine to make sense, you have a lot more questions left unanswered than I do.

  23. You have an opinion, that's what I'm trying to get you to exercise. Do you think there is a beginning or not?

    I'm leading you into a thought process. It's the same approach used to solving complex problems. Start with simple a's to b's.

    I am not illustrating "God" to you, as much as I'm trying to get you to see the illogic in your position.

    Are we in agreement that there is a beginning? Are we 13.8 billion years old, or not? So says science. Do you agree with science? Do you agree that there is a beginning? No physics degree is required for a simple logical discussion. I'm not leading you into equations for understanding. I'm asking very. simple. questions.

  24. I agree with Nubby. These questions are so simple that even I can answer them.

    I think the problem is that Michelle knows about science, but has never thought to learn philosophy, which can answer many of the issues that she says is a problem with theists. Dawkins is no philosopher. And that is the problem. Science can only go so far. But our minds can comprehend principles and ideas that lie outside of the realm of science, no? Or are you saying, Michelle, that the only knowledge we can have as humans is material/scientific knowledge? I hope I am saying these things right. It seems evident to me, but forgive me if I am saying things in the wrong way.

  25. Nubby, I don't need you to lead me into a thought process. I simply don't. think. your. "simple". questions. are. that. simple. And that's what I've been trying to tell you. I've also been trying to show you why I think your position is illogical. You don't have the answers to (or meaningful opinions about) my questions any more than I do for yours.

    I'm done here. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, you are very condescending and I can promise you that I'm not the only one who finds it off-putting to be spoken to like. a. child.

  26. Michelle, I don't think Nubby is being condescending at all. I think she is desperately trying to get you to at least admit the very obvious. Help?

  27. Michelle, No condescension is meant. I genuinely like you. You remind me of several college age people close to me. We have discussions like this.

    If you're saying there is no beginning ... then we talk about the impossibility of infinity.
    If you're saying there is a beginning ... then we talk about your natural explanation for that starting point.

    The conversation doesn't need to delve into anything complicated. It should merely demonstrate a plausibility.

    Who's opinion makes more sense?

    The person who says, "There were no legos in the white room, but they suddenly appeared so that I could begin constructing my lego universe" or the person who says, "There were no legos in the white room, but I logically deduce that since they are here, someone else must've put them here. It's very likely and highly plausible that someone put them here. Now I can begin lego construction."

  28. Michelle, was there a time that physical laws came into being, or were they always there? I find this discussion fascinating, but I don't know why you are bowing out?

  29. To the mind of Stephen Hawking, arguably the world’s foremost physicist:

    “... the universe has not existed forever. Rather, the universe, and time itself, had a beginning in the Big Bang, about 15 billion years ago. The beginning of real time, would have been a singularity, at which the laws of physics would have broken down.”

    The Beginning of Time

    A definite, scientifically verifiable, beginning to space, matter and time... Hmmm... Makes sense to just about every physicist, I'd imagine.
    Let's start at the very beginning
    (A very good place to start!)

  30. Okay, Nubby. I like you too, because you're asking good questions, but I would still watch your tone. It often comes across as belittling, and can turn an otherwise good conversation sour.

    To both your and Leila's questions, I don't know, and my opinions don't matter at all. I'm working off of what is the most plausible scenario, not off of having a full explanation for how the universe came into being. Believe me, if I had one, I would've told you a long time ago. I don't.

    I feel like I'm just repeating myself, but really – adding a creator into the mix only complicates things. The question of how matter came from no matter isn't answered by attributing it to God; it only becomes more complicated. Something from nothing is ridiculous to you, but a being who exists outside of time thinking and creating something from nothing isn't ridiculous? That's not a rhetorical question – I do find it hard to believe that that somehow makes more sense to you.

    In the end, my point isn't the physics at all. It's that we're both making claims that require some level of explanation that we cannot provide, but your claim (God as a creator) requires so much more explanation for it to fully make sense.

  31. Michelle,
    Take God out of it for a second. We're not talking about what I believe. We're walking through what your theory is. Is it plausible? Is it reasonable?

    The question of how matter came from no matter isn't answered by attributing it to God; it only becomes more complicated.

    You are firm in your opinion that the matter, time, energy, space didn't come from God, but you haven't told me anything else that is plausible. If not from a supernatural being, super intelligence, then from where?

  32. I don't know, and my opinions don't matter at all. I'm working off of what is the most plausible scenario, not off of having a full explanation for how the universe came into being

    It is not that your opinion doesn't matter, it's that you have one. And it's walking through that opinion that I'm hoping to do with you.
    I'm not asking you for a full explanation of how the universe came into being, even science can't explain why. It can explain what it sees, but that's as far as it can go. Eventually, it hands the microphone over to another field.

    I'm asking, since you are firm in non-belief, what is your criteria or theory for this?

  33. But Nubby, you have to consider the reasonableness of both claims. I think both are pretty crazy, and it's up to us to pick the least crazy option. It's hard stuff to wrap your mind around either way. I honest to god (heh) don't have an explanation. Something to do with subatomic particles? Something else entirely? I don't know. But as I keep saying, neither concept makes much sense as we currently understand them, but one explanation has fewer unknowns, and that's atheism.

  34. I 100% agree that we need to pick the least crazy option.

    Atheism actually posits more unknowns, because you have to account for everything/something coming from nothing, with a purely natural explanation.

    If you go the route of sub-atomic particles, that's a something . Not a nothing.

    Example - You have no money in your bank account but wake up one morning to find a dollar there. That means, clearly, that a dollar was deposited by Someone, It would be impossible for nothing to accrue into some dollar value, because, mathematically, any interest rate x 0 = 0.

    If a person suggests that there was actually $.000001 in the account that grew into the $1.00, then the account value was not zero or nothing. It contained something. Logically, a person cannot posit that there was 'nothing' and then there was 'something', because 'nothing' has no power in itself to create 'something'.


  35. Wait, how does it give you more unknowns?

    Unknown: how something came from nothing

    Unknown: how intelligence can exist outside of matter and time
    Unknown: how immaterial being can come up with matter as a concept
    Unknown: how the immaterial being created something from nothing

    That's what I see the unknown tally to be. Atheism 1, Christianity (at least) 3, with both still having the fundamental problem of something coming from nothing.

  36. Michelle,

    Atheism has to account for the incredible statistical odds of a low-entropy universe coming into existence which is an insane improbability in itself, and explain the life -sustaining physical constants and anthropic coincidences which, within an extremely marginal percentage higher or lower, we'd have total collapse or total explosion; also, it has to account for the extremely high improbability of organic compounds coming together just-so to create life, and, what's more, for that life to be arranged by random chance perfectly to create human life. There's more unknowns for atheism besides these, but can we get these answered:

    Can we agree that we have a beginning to our universe?
    Can we agree that nothing = nothing?
    How could any physical event have occurred without an outside agent?

    Please posit an argument from nature, since supernatural explanation isn't your theory.

  37. But doesn't the idea of a god require so much more explanation? I just don't understand how you're not hung up on it.

    I've told you again, and again, and again, and again – I don't have an argument, I don't have an explanation. And neither do you, for any of the unknowns I listed.

    It would be dishonest of me to pretend that I had any idea at all. Anything that I tell you would be totally meaningless garbage. I'm okay with admitting that I don't know, and I think you should be okay with admitting that you also have just as little idea as I do. We both have unknowns for which we have no explanation – why keep pressing me for an answer I keep telling you I don't have?

  38. I'm not asking you to be right, I'm asking you what makes sense? From a purely logical point of view, what seems plausible ?

    Just logically. No need to wade into physics or metaphysics. What is more reasonable? An outside agent giving the initial spark to set the bang? Or nothing from nothing?

  39. An outside agent makes less sense than anything to me, because the existence of the agent requires an impossibly complex explanation and is simply not logical, which is what I've been trying to say.

    I don't think either explanation makes a whole lot of sense, but an outside agent really doesn't make sense.

  40. You have to come up with something, then. You're firm that there is no God, there is no super-intelligence, there is no outside agent. But you haven't thought through your own theory.

    Your argument thus far is built on physics that didn't exist before the BB, therefore, that's impossible.

    Something creating (Creator) is possible. Methods of the Creator are not known, but it's plausible. I choose the possible/plausible. You are choosing the improbable/impossible in some instances.

    There are many proofs, many resources to recommend in terms of how an unrestricted agent or Super Intelligence or God holds together and unifies the universe, but we haven't gotten even close to that point. I'm still working with you to see this point above.

  41. I absolutely don't have to come up with anything. I'm entitled to not know, aren't I? The questions I have unanswered about my own theory seem less insurmountable to me than the unanswered questions inherent in a religious explanation, and I'm satisfied with that for now. I'm certainly not going to cook up some shitty explanation (sorry, but that's what it would be, because I don't know) right now so that you can go on to try to convince me that it's not possible.

    Also, I don't think you've thought through your own theory either. How is it plausible that intelligence could exist outside of matter and time and then that immaterial intelligence could create something from nothing? In very simple terms, you still have to account for God, and that is a problem that seems much more difficult to solve than the problem of whatever happened just prior to the Big Bang.

  42. Michelle, from Nubby's scenarios: Which of the two legos scenarios seems more plausible to you? Which of the two bank account scenarios seems more plausible to you?

    Forget any other questions for now. Can you start with which of those seem the most plausible?


  43. Leila, to me analogous situations aren't useful, because I don't think that analogies to the physical world we know today can be accurately applied to things that happened surrounding the Big Bang.

    I'm really not trying to dodge questions. I honestly don't know the answers. No one seems nearly as bothered by the question of how God exists, so I'm not sure why it's such a big deal that I (a 22-year-old biologist) don't have an independent explanation for how the universe came into existence. I don't have an answer for a very difficult question, but you guys don't have an answer for a much more difficult question.

  44. Do the laws of physics apply to your theory or not?

    Do you want to discuss your theory or God?
    Let's stay at one location on the map.

  45. I've heard this kind of reasoning before, where nothing is claimed to be something. Sometimes we need to step back in our thinking, ALL the way back. What are words? Words are sounds we use to convey ideas. The word “nothing” is a word we use to convey the idea of “no-thing” and "no-thing" is never "some-thing".

  46. Michelle,

    Would the following describe (the general direction of) your thinking?

    Atheists believe that “nothing” created everything.

    Christians believe that “God” created everything, while “nothing” created “God”.

    Therefore Christians also believe “nothing” created everything.

  47. Nubby, honestly, I really want to be done. I'm just repeating myself at this point. I wish I knew enough to carry on a conversation about this, because I think it'd be an interesting one, but I just don't. Unless you have an explanation for how God exists and would like to share (I really would like to know how you get around this idea – you're pressing me so much on my explanation, surely you have one for this fundamental issue), I think I'm going to call it quits. There's only so many times I can type the same thing over and over. But I really would like an explanation if you have one! If I can't show you why my explanation is more plausible, maybe you can show me why yours is.

  48. Francis, I don't know for sure that "nothing created everything" is a totally accurate statement, but yes, that's part of it! There's also one step further – that even with a God, there was still no matter, so matter still came from nothing.

  49. Michelle,
    I'd be more than happy to share all that. But I don't want to put the cart way before the horse. If I just start throwing resources at you, what good is that? I want to take the smallest logical steps possible to get to great wide open, so to speak. I'm hoping we can get to a point where you concede the universe has a beginning, that all time, space, energy, matter came into being at that moment, and that event required a super power or super intelligence or unrestricted agent. If we can get there, we can go further into the whole God explanation. Otherwise, it's me talking at you, not thinking through things with you.

  50. Michelle,

    Thanks for the response.

    You don't know for sure, you say, that "nothing" created everything. That's fine. That's actually a start!

    Now. Would I be right in reading your statement to mean that you're (at least) open to the idea that "something" (as opposed to "nothing") might've been needed to create everything? Or are you, for whatever reason, insistent on the idea that only from "nothing" could all things have came to be? Just making sure before we investigate this question further.

  51. Nubby, I'd like you to talk at me! Thinking things through is obviously not going to work, because the starting point is way too shaky for me. If I get a chance to read up on things and actually understand them, we can always come back to thinking things through. I'd be happy to do that. But for now, talking at me will at least help me see where you're coming from so I can better evaluate plausibility. :)

  52. Francis, I can't say for sure because I can't define "nothing" to my own satisfaction. I mentioned earlier that I'd seen a documentary about nothingness (right here: that, I believe, suggests that "nothing" isn't quite as simple as we usually make it out to be. This whole conversation has me wanting to watch it again, but until I have time to do that, I'd really like to put this conversation on hold. I'm the limiting factor here, because I simply can't get past the very foundational concepts without knowing more.

    I do like the questions you're asking, though, and I mean it when I say I'd like to come back to this conversation!

  53. Michelle- All I ask is if those things make sense to you?

    A hard-line "yes there was a beginning", and "no, nothing cannot create something", would allow us to continue. I haven't gotten those answers yet.

  54. You can dismiss the bbc show totally if it claims that nothing is any of the following:

    A vacuum
    A dimension
    A point
    A boundary
    A low quantum state
    A bubble
    A subatomic anything

    Because those aren't "nothing", they are all something.

  55. OK, Michelle,

    Whenever you're ready!

    And may "something" rather than "nothing" (even the "nothing" that's "something") be with you!


    1. And while you're enjoying that BBC doco, you might ponder this question: is zero a value?

      Can any manipulation of zero (multiplying it, dividing it, etc...) result in a value, a measure of "something"?

      If the answer is yes, then zero isn't really "zero" - as per the age old, universal, common understanding of zero.

      If the answer is no, then zero is really... "nothing", "nada", "zack", "zilch".

      Another way to ask the question is this: When we say our numerals, why do we start with "one" instead of "zero"?

  56. But Nubby, continuing will get us nowhere. I simply can't discuss this intelligently using my own common sense. If common sense wasn't enough for me to get through electricity and magnetism, it's certainly not enough for me to get through a discussion about theoretical physics.

    If you do have an answer, I'd love to hear it, though. But there is going to be no leading me through anything today, because I'm just not going to waste my or your time with that. It'd be like trying to discuss with a two year old precisely how cells replicate before he even understands the concept of a cell.

  57. But Nubby, continuing will get us nowhere. I simply can't discuss this intelligently using my own common sense.

    You mean to tell me with a straight face that you can't use your common sense to discern whether someone deposited a dollar amount to your bank account that wasn't previously accounted for? You need physics to figure that out?

    I'm asking you to use your mind here and just be straight with me.

  58. If common sense wasn't enough for me to get through electricity and magnetism, it's certainly not enough for me to get through a discussion about theoretical physics.

    Odd. Common sense is employed no matter the subject, and especially the more complex subjects like statics, dynamics, thermodynamics, physics, etc. You have to be able to visualize with common sense how to approach the solution to the problem, you have to use common sense to predict patterns or behaviors of objects or materials. You have to know, intuitively, which formula or theory to apply to solve. Very common sense driven.

  59. To me, common sense applies to the natural world we experience every day. When we cease to be talking about that natural world, which is the case here, we can't rely only on common sense or on simple analogies to things we experience every day. I really don't know how many ways I can rephrase "I don't know" but I think I may have just run out...

    Do you have an answer to my question? I would really love to hear it. I'm not familiar with the arguments, and it would at least help even the scales in terms of my perception of plausibility to know how an immaterial intelligent being can (1) exist and (2) make matter from nothing.

    If you don't have an answer, that's okay. I'm obviously all about being okay with not knowing things. :) But that's the only direction I'm willing to take the conversation at this point. Anything else I tell you will be meaningless to both of us, because I will know it's wrong, and you'll (I assume) then try to convince me that it's wrong, which...I know. And you can't lead me down any path, because I'm not prepared to accept any basic assumptions without knowing more. I don't think that's unreasonable, I think it's cautious. So, either we switch to my question (for now! if/when I am better prepared, I do promise you, I want to continue this conversation), or I am going to drop out for now, because otherwise we will go back and forth like this for days.

  60. Michelle, I can't agree that we should/must abandon common sense once we stop talking about the "natural world we experience everyday". I think common sense (i.e., being reasonable) is applicable all the time, for all thinking.

    When we cease to be talking about that natural world, which is the case here...

    So have we begun to talk about the supernatural? Can you give it a term or a label for me so we can talk about it?

    Leila, to me analogous situations aren't useful, because I don't think that analogies to the physical world we know today can be accurately applied to things that happened surrounding the Big Bang.

    But just humor me. Analogies don't have to be perfect. Can you just humor me? Pretend we are not talking about the Big Bang, and tell me which of the lego or bank account scenarios are more reasonable.

    1. Let me rephrase the third paragraph: Can we call it "supernatural"? Or, what is the term we can use (or would you like to use) for when we cease to talk about the natural world?

  61. If you were listening with sympathetic ears you would hold onto what he said: something "mysterious" happened before the Big Bang. Is there really no conflict between faith and reason?

  62. To me, common sense applies to the natural world we experience every day.


    1)How do you turn off common sense?
    2)And which other sense or sensibilities would you employ when discussing any other topic besides "natural"?

  63. Okay, look. All I was talking about is that when we understand the physical world, we are thinking about a world where time is linear and Newton's laws apply. It's common sense to us that things have definite beginnings and endings and that things do not poof into existence from nothing. But I don't think we're talking about a situation where we can rely on our understanding of time and basic physics. I don't think this is the kind of thing a layman just reasons their way through, because I don't think that the kind of reasoning we apply to the physical world we see today is sufficient to understand pre-Big Bang events.

    Basically, I feel like what you're asking me to do is show up at CERN and insist that my intuition and common sense are more than enough to do good work there. That's why I'm not humoring you, because you're thinking about this in a fundamentally different way than I am – you're applying physical principles that we understand today to the question (something can't move without a mover), but I don't think that makes sense, because you can't apply those principles when time and matter don't yet exist. It's not supernatural, it's simply something I don't understand and cannot discuss intelligently with you.

    I'm sorry for being difficult, but I don't see why you're pressing me so hard to make crap up that I don't even believe. If I gave you something, you'd just try to show me why it's wrong, which is ridiculous because I know that anything I say will be wrong because I'm a biologist with barely any physics background and I simply can't dream these things up. Instead of wasting time on this, why not attack it from the other angle and show me why your position is reasonable at a more detailed level? How does an immaterial, intelligent being exist and how does it create matter from no matter? Nubby told me she had an answer – I'd love to hear it.

  64. Michelle,

    If you've ever thought about the purpose of something, then you've gone beyond the realm of science. Science is limited to what can be measured. I know you think that Divine Revelation is absurd, but that doesn't mean you are right.

    Scientific training instills in the mind a respect for the facts of nature and their coherence. To ask why or where that coherence came from is also not the purview of science, but of metaphysics, and if all the metaphysical sophistication a person is willing to offer it, "It just happened," then that's not an effort to search for truth, but a laziness and refusal to even try.

    The great people who we can thank for developing modern science into what it today, that you study, viewed the world as Christians, assuming the Divine Revelation that God created the universe out of nothing to be true, assuming time had a beginning, assuming the rationality of natural laws, assuming a non-pantheistic mentality that God is a being instead of the universe itself, assuming that man is made in His image with intellect and free will. We wouldn't have physics, chemistry, or biology today had those men and women assumed your worldview.

    For natural science to be born, supernatural revelation was needed.

  65. I'm not prepared to accept any basic assumptions without knowing more. I don't think that's unreasonable

    Knowing more about what? You don't accept anything on the one hand, yet you don't table an argument for why you refute it, on the other. You said, "I don't know", and you said you'd rather believe in some weird physics (which don't even exist pre-BB). Discussion is stuck.

    The idea that there must exist one unifying, active, non-dimensional, unrestricted, super-intelligence is understandable to anyone. What level of detail a person wants to get into depends on the person. You won't consider any proofs or detail, at this point b/c you've just confessed common sense is off the table, which makes no sense going forward.

    You're hung up on schooling - you keep saying, "I don't know enough, I'm not a physicist". Michelle, you don't have to be a physics major or physicist to grasp these arguments. But you do need a common sense otherwise you're employing, what? Faith?

    You haven't tabled your argument.
    What you've done so far is:
    Commented that common sense cannot apply to these types of discussions (?).
    You've not posited what you would employ. (Faith? I guess that's your only option).
    You've not posited an argument that matter, energy, space, time evolved from nothing and spawned the BB.
    You want to leap into a discussion about the existence of God and how God created everything.

    Again, consider that not a thing existed at t-1. And at t0 - Boom. Everything. Everything including space, dimension, time. There was no matter previously floating around waiting for a spark, Michelle. There was not even space available for matter to be present in! Space came into being at t0!
    Also, there was no time before this physical reality until the BB and then, time began. Evolution cannot account for any of this, so cover the microscope and let's take a field trip outside of the lab.

    You want to know the methods of God? Is that what you're stuck on? I'd like to know, too. For what we know right now, in this reality, is that we can understand that absolutely a higher dimension can and does interact with a lower dimension. This is a reality. Frankly and simply, this is evident in geometry.

    We can wrap our minds around it with sense. Not faith. Do you interact with your thoughts? Can you unify your thoughts? Can you under gird your thoughts and be aware of your thoughts? Are you aware that you're aware of your thoughts? This is like God. He is not only a higher dimension- he is non-dimension. He cannot be approached with a ruler or microscope the way the natural world can.

    If you wish to confine his proofs to a lab, you might as well throw in the towel.

  66. Michelle-
    Don't limit an understanding of God to a particular kind of physics, Newtonian or other. As far as linear thinking, that's applicable across any field, philosophy, ontological arguments, etc.

    I'm not asking you to be "right", which is what it sounds like you're afraid of. I'm asking you to open your mind and just chat. Let's talk aloud.

  67. I want positive proofs for God, not proofs why I'm wrong. Sorry, but you're being a terrible evangelist not even giving me these when I'm asking for them.

    I explained my comment about common sense already. I've told you that I don't think the physics we learn in physics 1 is enough to understand these things. I've told you what I think, and really, I will just tell you straight up: you are not getting anything more from me. I don't know why you won't accept that I simply do not know, or why it seems more reasonable to me that not knowing this seems more reasonable than not knowing this and not knowing how God exists or works. Once you add in the dimension of God, you need another dimension to explain his existence. You're only adding to the problem, not solving it. I see your position having more and worse unknowns than mine. I don't know how else to explain it.

    I'm done here, because I really feel like I've just typed the same comment over and over. There is really nothing else I can say. If you can't accept that I believe that I need more knowledge to be able to carry this conversation on at a meaningful level, then there's nothing I can do except go away.

    1. Michelle, just Google it. If you want proofs, the responsibility is yours to find them, read them, consider them, and if you want, refute them.

      5 secs:

      His are great!

      It's like anything else though, you have to want to learn it. If you don't want to learn it, you can refuse to accept it to the grave. Ultimately, it's not just what's in your mind, but what's in your heart.

    2. I agree with Stacy. And as Michelle is an academic, I would urge her not to neglect the discipline of philosophy (even at its most basic), which is simply this (first thing that pops up on google):

      the study of the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality, and existence, esp. when considered as an academic discipline.

      Isn't that fundamental to being human? To know a bit of philosophy? It's about "love of wisdom" and discerning truth. This is important stuff, esp. for a generation that seems unconcerned with it.

  68. Michelle, I am frustrated. I would have answered your question about the legos and bank account if you asked it of me, even if I didn't think it applied perfectly. I would have answered. I am frustrated that you won't even answer me on that very simple question that really requires no physics at all.

  69. Have a good day, Michelle. Maybe some other day we'll try again.

  70. If you were listening with sympathetic ears you would hold onto what he said: something "mysterious" happened before the Big Bang. Is there really no conflict between faith and reason?

    Captcrisis, many things transcend human reason, but do not contradict it. So no, there is no conflict between faith (what is true, what is real, including what is revealed by God) and reason.

    Have you read Lumen Fidei yet? I gave a one-hour talk on it. It's chock full o' faith and reason. The word "true" or "truth" is used 97 times by the Pope (well, both popes, actually!). And that doesn't count the use of the word "real" and "reality". And this in an encyclical called "The Light of Faith". Or, read JPII's encyclical, Fides et Ratio ("Faith and Reason").

    What do you think about the field of philosophy?

    1. PS: "…something "mysterious" happened before the Big Bang."

      So would that "something" really be "nothing"?

      That's the point.

    2. @leila:

      When science tries to talk about what happened before the Big Bang, it faces the questions that religion deals with. These are facts that are too big for human thought, and certainly for human language. So Dawkins is understandably tripping over his (inadequate) words. At least he's trying. Religion just shuts the analysis down by saying, "God did it." That's all the priest on that panel has to say, if he were similarly pressed for answers.

      As for the field of philosophy, I've never had much interest in it. Most philosophical disputes, it seems to me, boil down to a difference in definitions. The word "God" is an example. What do you mean by that? The "Father" of the Trinity? Pantheism's "god" of nature? Tillich's "ground of our being"? A being who is immanent as well as transcendent? (Catholic theology, as far as I can tell, includes to some degree all four of these ideas.) In any discussion touching on "God" you can have two people either agreeing or disagreeing depending on how he's defined.

      I did read through Lumen Fidei as you suggested. Francis is saying that science's explanations are unsatisfactory because they're incomplete and fragmentary. If you are unsatisfied with that state of affairs, then religion is for you. (Francis, understandably, believes that that religion is Catholicism.) His quote from Nietsche to Nietsche's sister actually reflects the main question, and the side that Francis is on: "if you want peace of soul and happiness, then believe, but if you want to be a follower of truth, then seek". Francis is on the side of "believing". So are those who can't find "peace of soul and happiness" with science's incomplete and fragmentary knowledge. For me and increasing numbers of others, though, we can live with it. We can deal with fragmentary and incomplete.

      This has been an interesting discussion that not only got me reading another encyclical but had me organize my thoughts. Thank you once again.

  71. I will repeat something I said above, for the record:

    I think the problem is that Michelle knows about science, but has never thought to learn philosophy, which can answer many of the issues that she says is a problem with theists. Dawkins is no philosopher. And that is the problem. Science can only go so far. But our minds can comprehend principles and ideas that lie outside of the realm of science, no? Or are you saying, Michelle, that the only knowledge we can have as humans is material/scientific knowledge? I hope I am saying these things right. It seems evident to me, but forgive me if I am saying things in the wrong way.

  72. See, Leila, I'd have answered it too, but you know the answers as well as I do. The only reason why you're asking me is so we can build off of my answer, and I don't want to build off of something I don't think is applicable. Nubby, I'd "open my mind" – but nothing meaningful will come out because I don't know enough. Please accept and understand that. If I am working off of the assumption that everything we see here today is due to a natural (and not supernatural) cause, then it would be intellectually dishonest of me to claim that I have any idea how it happened. I don't. In the same way I don't discuss chemistry I don't understand or biology I don't understand, I also don't sit around making things up about physics. That's why I'm not cooperating.

    I've been asking you how God exists and how he created something from nothing. You have also not given me an answer, and somehow it's okay for you not to know, but it's imperative that I pull something out of thin air (I was going to say somewhere else, but I'll keep this at least a little family-friendly) for you? Absolutely not. I've asked you to show me why what you believe is reasonable instead of trying to show me why a non-supernatural explanation isn't, but you don't seem to want to.

    Sorry, but this isn't going anywhere. I think that the questions you're asking are good ones, but I think that if it's okay for you to say "the answer is God, but I don't know how" it should be equally okay for me to say "the answer probably isn't God, but I don't know how." I have coursework and real life to catch up on, so as much as I'd like to continue the conversation, I know I'm only frustrating you and will drop out.

  73. "When we cease to be talking about that natural world, which is the case here…"

    Can you at least give me a word or a name that would apply (without having to understand or answer any of the questions you cannot answer)? You won't say "supernatural" but supernatural simply means (according to Free Online Dictionary) 1. Of or relating to existence outside the natural world.

    If there is another word that scientists use, can you tell me what it is? I truly don't know (I'm not a scientist).

    Thanks, Michelle.

  74. I mean natural world as we know it by observation. Sorry, that wasn't clear. Whatever it was that existed or didn't exist pre-Big Bang (how's that for hedging my bets!) is not necessarily something to which we can apply the same reasoning as we would to the natural world we observe (linear time and Newtonian physics). So, not sure what it'd be called exactly, but it's not supernatural.

    I'll just sum up my entire contribution here as: "physics is weird, and I really don't understand it very well at all."

    This does have me really wanting to try to dig deeper into what I don't understand, though, so I guess this wasn't entirely a fruitless discussion. If I feel entitled to a break from my studying, it'll probably be occupied with physics instead of Breaking Bad today so I can maybe, maybe come back and give us more to work with. :)

  75. Breaking Bad is a passion with three of the Miller men here, so I understand. ;)

    I'd also hope that you dive into some philosophy at some point. And I really do want to know what is the term or state of what was before the BB (before the natural world), as if it's not "nature", then it has to be, by definition, "extra-natural" or "super-natural", no? Maybe some other scientists have worked that out, or termed it. An atheist (like Dawkins) would say it's "literally nothing" (not nature, not super- or extra-nature) but then we see the problem he has with that.

    Anyway, have a great day and thanks for hanging in!

  76. Michelle,

    I'm going to suggest that if you were to spend the entire rest of your life (or even ninety nine lifetimes) trying to discover only through science how everything came to be, you'd end up exactly where you started - not knowing.

    The "nothing" versus the "nothing that isn't really no-thing but a sliver of some-thing"...
    the "natural" world versus the "weird physics" realm you don't have a term for (which some of us call "super-natural")...
    the "beginning" which "wasn't really a beginning" - because all things existed eternally in some other form or code or nascent stage (as long as it wasn't in the mind of some "God" :) )...

    If I'm reading you right, these are the concepts you're grappling with at the moment, correct?

    But what you're really doing when you posit these things is you're traveling from the world of classical physics (which applies perfectly to macroscopic objects like you and me and my chair) into the "weird" world of quantum mechanics (the laws of which take over once you start dismantling you and me and my chair into our sub atomic constituent parts - parts which are simultaneously waves and particles - go figure!).

    I can't think of a weirder science than quantum physics; heaven knows how long it'll be before anyone can make any actual sense of what it's telling us. But already, even at this early stage, one thing all physicists agree on - and this is crucial to our discussion - is that our (potential) knowledge of reality is not unlimited.

    This is because of something called Heisenburg's Uncertainty Principle. You can Google to read about it if you're not familiar with it. Put simply, because the position and velocity of a sub-atomic particle can never be measured simultaneously (without our act of observation itself disturbing/changing one or the other), our knowledge/observation of the underlying realities of things in the universe will always be uncertain! In other words, the Uncertainty Principle states that there is uncertainty, indeterminacy and unpredictability built-in to the very fabric of Nature at its basest level, even though on a macroscopic level there are very elegant laws and very certain, observable phenomena in operation. Given this uncertainty, no scientist will ever venture a guess as to how the Big Bang (at which point nothing was macroscopic) occurred, and more importantly, by what underlying power/process it occurred. Science simply stops (ceases discovery) at the door of singularity. Singularity won't let the scientist in.

    So what next?

    If I may wax metaphorical/metaphysical for a moment, at the point of singularity there was only "darkness" - so "dense" (i.e. so unintelligible/impenetrable) that even our best science can never see through it or beyond it. But a Power (extrinsic to that darkness of nothingness, a Power Whose very essence we might say it is "to be") hovered over this "deep". And from that Power issued an instruction: "Let there be light". And there was light. Why light? The light had to come first because the photon is an elementary particle, the quantum of light and all other forms of electromagnetic radiation - from which arise energy and mass. Without that Light which shone (and still shines) there would still be only darkness - there would still be only nothing. Not a "nothing with properties", not a "zero with potential" - just a plain, barren, absolute zero. In other words, there would be nothing instead of "something" to see, experience (and do science on! :)) in the universe.

    I invite you to dwell on the foregoing - really mull it over for days - and then get back to me. Then we can chat some more, and still some more - until you're starting to jig about with awe and joy and excitement instead of just boring unknowing!

  77. Man, I've got some smart readers! Thank God.

    And Michelle, with your moniker (existenceandessence) you are primed to be a philosopher/scientist. You care about existence and essence, no? That is what it's all about! Dig deeper! Your potential here is unlimited.

  78. I hope nobody minds me changing the subject...

    My chief concern that I noticed about this subject is the education of our youth. What I see is a lack of debate. Perched on my shelf is a book titled philosophy of science. Yet what I see is science-as-god and teach-to-a-test. Even the Ancient Greeks considered philosophy and debate highly important. Why isn't thinking part of school? Why is science such a supreme mode of logic? Why isnt morality equally taught? Or sociology? Or philosophy? Furthermore why isnt there room for philosophy in science?

    It all bothers me. I don't want to live among a spoon fed generation. I want to be among thinkers even if their conclusions are wrong.

  79. Stasy is sooo right when she says, "Ultimately, it's not just what's in your mind, but what's in your heart." Ohhh, I like that!

    These great questions of the origins and meaning of our existence are so fundamental, our hearts are bound to be restless until they rest in some reasonable, plausible and workable answers to them.

    How can I function consistently or to my full potential if I'm bereft even of some basic understanding of how and why I happen to be here? And if that is the case, why would I choose only science (or this newfangled religion of scientism) to provide answers to my deepest questions - refusing to employ reason, philosophy and metaphysics which are undoubtedly valid and interrelated modes of arriving at profound depths of knowledge and understanding? It is only a holistic approach to my search for truth and reality which gives me the best shot at enlightenment, of soothing my restless heart, of aligning my mind (and heart) to the glorious fullness of truth!

    Don't miss out, folks! You have it in your power! Impotence and learned helplessness is only for losers! Richard Dawkins is not a happy chappy! :)

    "Come to me, all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest."

  80. Francis, you are making a lot of sense. I think we think much the same way. With your proposition, though, we're still left to grapple with questions of howhow does the Power exist, how does it think, how does it think of light, how does it issue light? I see us having essentially the same philosophical and/or scientific problems, but yours are just pushed one level back from mine, if that makes sense. I will definitely be mulling these things over in between mulling over enzyme kinetics, but I think the questions the existence of a God poses are equally, if not more, baffling than the questions posed by the existence of the physical universe.

    And Leila, philosophy is important, I agree! I just don't think it's sufficient for understanding – it can get us part of the way, but we need to stay grounded in a physical reality if things are to make sense. So even if philosophy brings us to draw the conclusion that the supernatural exists, we still need to ask questions of how, otherwise we haven't really solved anything.

  81. See, Leila, I'd have answered it too, but you know the answers as well as I do. The only reason why you're asking me is so we can build off of my answer, and I don't want to build off of something I don't think is applicable.

    So you're just being stubborn?
    Question: Why would you not want to build off of your own answer?

    Don't you want me to see your side?

    Would you agree it's pretty silly thinking to say, "I don't have an answer for how the universe came into being, I just know that I'm dead-set against any involvement of a higher being. I can't argue why, but I just know. Why do I know? I know because common sense tells me there's too many variables to include a God. Granted, I discount common sense, but I'm using it here. Also granted, I don't know physics, but yet I'm wanting to open a whole debate on physical evidence. And, granted, I don't believe common sense applies to reasoning about ideas beyond natural world, but I haven't posited what other senses I use in forming my, essential, non-opinion."

    Is this really making sense? Or are you clouding because you feel it's safer? Or because you really think this line of logic is painting a clear picture against the plausibility of a higher being/reality/intelligibility?

    The exercise here for me isn't to load the questions or to persuade you to belief in God. There's no traps involved. I'm trying to see how you think, and to get you to see how you, yourself, think.

    If you say you know the implications of which of the the lego scenario or bank account scenarios is more plausible, but you won't go there, then that's not searching for truth. That's just digging in your heels.

    Then you leap to wanting to open up discussion on God. Like, "Come on, show me your positive proofs".
    Michelle, the fact that you don't see how that's already been broached in my previous comments on atheist unknowns, and on Stacy's recommendation of reading up on philosophical proofs, is exactly why I will not do it at this point.

    Why would I load up a comment box thread with Lonergan's proof, and cosmological proofs, and proofs from space-time geometry, and explanations of the reality of real time, and arguments against infinity, when you, yourself admit that you don't have the proper credentials to comprehend it??

    You're caught between demanding proof and then excusing yourself from considering it. How is the ball going to move in this game of tete-a-tete?

    It makes no sense to engage this topic at this time until you move the ball:

    1) You've never even argued the previous points, never posited, never come up with an idea of where everything came from and you think this is more plausible than a Creator outside of time and space, though you can't back it up, because you don't know physics (as if that's the be all-end all of understanding God, which, even physicists will tell you isn't even applicable).

    2) You casually dismiss common sense

    3) You admit, yourself, that you don't understand physics, and you dismiss anything supernatural, but you want some elaborate discussion on how God created something from nothing.

    SMH. What good would it do for me to throw more and more information at you if it entails

    1) physics
    2) common sense
    3) arguments from philosophy or cosmology or ... ?

    when, by your own admission, you back down from analogies out of stubbornness because you know their implications yet you're just unwillingly to explore those lines of thinking, you back down from physics (b/c you feel unworthy to tread there), you back down from very logical proofs from philosophy and any other methods people for centuries have been using to realize the intelligibility of God?

    Answer: You're being stubborn or cloudy on purpose. My answer to that: Let's chat when you have an argument and we can hop from here to next.

  82. Nubby, did you read anything I wrote? I explained my position over and over. SMH.

  83. Michelle,

    If I could tell you exactly how God does things, either He wouldn't be God, or I'd be God!

    We can't actually "study" God by scientific means, to know the ins and outs of Him, for example; and that's because He doesn't belong to any genus of being or thing which falls under the purview of any science. (Which is why the claim that "science cannot prove the existence of God" is so true - and at the same time such an oxymoron!)

    But that's not to say we can't know of God or anything about Him - using our faculties of reason, philosophy and metaphysical concepts. Not to mention our assent of faith in Divine Revelation - which is, indeed, a very real and tangible thing.

    But we're getting w-a-y ahead of ourselves already. The point to stick with at the moment is whether it's possible that something (like an universe, let's say) can pop into existence out of nothing. If you answer "yes", then the onus will be on you to explain how that is possible. Oh yeah, you can quote any human being ever in the history of mankind who has been able to provide such as explanation. And if you go another route (like poor Dick Dawkins was trying to do) that nothing isn't really nothing - with some sensible explanation of how that is so, again quoting any scientist you like - we promise we'll be all ears! :)

    I've gotta quit for the moment; got a Scripture lesson to prepare for a bunch of kids in a few hours. 8 year olds. Even they ask the same questions! And when I answer - with reason - I can hear their little brains going "tick, tock"! Wonderful stuff! Never underestimate the faculties of clear little heads!

  84. Michelle,

    A parting thought. The most profound things are (paradoxically) the most simple. Which is why all scientists agree that if the "ultimate" theory of physics is ever formulated it will be most elegant and most simple. They've even christened it in advance: "A Theory of Everything"!

    When you listen to people like Dawkins with all his tortured muddle (or even a cute and astute program on BBC) always keep that in mind. Is this simple? Does it instantly/naturally resonate in my mind and heart? Is this as clear as "I love you?" "Coca Cola?" "MacDonalds?" "God is Love?" "1+1=2?"

  85. Michelle, I am so confused. Honestly, Nubby addressed every single comment, question, thought and belief that you laid out, and she did it thoroughly, even addressing inevitable implications. Then you came back with this:

    Nubby, did you read anything I wrote? I explained my position over and over. SMH.

    I am shaking my head now, just wondering, did you read what Nubby just wrote? I truly am soooo confused. What more could she do or say? Anyway, lol, time for me to bow out….

  86. Okay, so let me take a stab at identifying the problems with this comment thread.

    It seems as though Nubby and Michelle are talking past each other. Michelle wants Nubby or Leila or Francis to explain the how's of God's existence. It also seems like Michelle is uncomfortable with the fact that we cannot physically verify God's existence, like she can't even begin to fathom how God exists outside of space and time. Michelle is willing to hear our explanations, but probably is literally unable (at this point) to put any further concepts/theories/explanations into coherent words.

    Francis has done a marvelous job laying out the Christian perspective: We can't actually "study" God by scientific means, to know the ins and outs of Him, for example; and that's because He doesn't belong to any genus of being or thing which falls under the purview of any science.

    I also appreciate Deltaflute's wise insight about teaching-to-a-test, which does not allow for thought-provoking discussion. There's soo much more to know beyond the contents of a test.

    Maybe that'll help move the discussion forward.

    By the way, fun fact, Michelle and I are the same age - 22! I have an English degree, so I also lack much knowledge of physics, yet, even I can understand the basic rationale of there needing to be a Creator who pre-existed everything.

    My question for Michelle is: why do you have to know every little detail about how God preexisted everything? Why not accept that premise and move on? I genuinely want to know why it bothers you to not have every detail flushed out (there's a lot of unexplainable things in this world/life).

  87. I bet after all of this----you will NEVER be too lazy for a quick takes!!! Lol

  88. Leila, what more can I do or say? Nubby is willfully misinterpreting what I'm saying and selectively ignoring the parts where I explain why I'm saying what I am. The comment history is all up there – if I try to explain one more time why I'm not going to make shit up that I don't believe so Nubby can rip it apart and show me why it's wrong, I will explode. I'm not withholding anything from you guys, I'm telling you honestly and truly that I DO NOT KNOW.

    Francis (and Margo), the problem is that the rationale of the creator still leaves open so many more questions than not having a creator. Does that make it absolutely, definitely wrong? No. But in general, the simpler solution is more likely to be correct, so the solution that requires less crazy explanation (and I don't think even quantum physics could come close to the complexity of the explanation required for God's existence) seems to be likelier to me. And really, Margo, it doesn't bother me to not have every detail fleshed out, which is why I'm content with just picking the likelier option! It's Nubby who's hell-bent on me having every detail worked out right now.

    (And Margo, funner fact – I used to live in your hometown. How's that for weird?)

  89. Okay, at the risk of having to type the same thing again, again, again – which I am still doing – I am out.

  90. Let's go through the questions that arise from the rationale of a creator then. And if the atheist solution is so much simpler, then why hasn't it been completely proven? Why are there still religious people if the other side is so much likelier?

    What if you could know more about the possibility of a creator? Francis, Nubby, Leila, et al. have been trying to explain it, yet, first, you must accept that there are some how's about God that will never be answered. Because as Francis said, that would make us God and we're not God. We're humans and there are limitations to our knowledge.

    That's awesome you used to live in Naperville! Which high school did you go to?? I went to Naperville North, class of '09 :)

  91. Michelle, this makes me sad. We clearly are talking right past each other. Maybe another day.

  92. Michelle,

    "the problem is that the rationale of the creator still leaves open so many more questions than not having a creator"

    Sure the rationale of a Creator raises a stack of questions - which theology has been addressing for ages and has made significant progress in (the half of which I'm sure you don't know about yet). However, why do you keep insisting that that rationale raises more questions than a theory of no creator - which implies that everything (meaning beautiful, incredibly complex, and extraordinarily finely balanced things) all popped out of nothing? How does the former proposition raise more questions than the latter? Isn't it rather the reverse? Be honest now! While the scientist stands at singularity's threshold with his arms thrown up in abject surrender, the theologian has boldly zipped right past him, headlong into the Mystery, skating on reason and revelation!

    "... in general, the simpler solution is more likely to be correct..."

    Except a simpler solution is yet to be found! If you've heard of one, do tell! :)

  93. Francis, well stated! Thank you. Michelle, there is so much you don't know. Why not learn?

  94. I didn't mean that to sound condescending. I just meant that science does not tell us much past what we already have seen and discussed. But there are other fields of study. There is philosophy and theology. They are deep, rich, and feed the intellect. Why not learn, even just for the sake of being well-rounded that way? It might surprise you what has already been discovered. Remember, Dawkins is no philosopher. He is very, very limited in his knowledge (not even sure he's a great scientist). Other atheist scientists may have neglected to learn a thing about other fields as well. So, why not take a little journey with some of the greatest minds? What could it hurt?

  95. I have no recourse. I have no avenue. You've taken away:
    Common Sense
    The super natural as pertains to metaphysics
    Implications of logical analogies

    What road can we meet on?
    I don't want details. I want to discuss your mode of thinking. I willfully misinterpret no one, I talk past no one, my motive is never to cause confusion. My motive and desire is clarity.

    How do I approach the topic of anything with a person who takes away my only roads to travel to any point of meaningful discussion?

    God bless all who are trying to witness to the Truth. I'll still be up for discussion when/if an argument to God crops up.

    Csawww- now would be an excellent time for one of your crack up lines!

  96. I have LOVED this discussion! Nubby and Francis, you have such great minds!

    Michelle, not knowing, and not believing that you can ever fully know, is *not* a reason to simply not try to know!

    I don't understand what's so difficult about admitting that the universe had a beginning. It's actually not rocket science, it's logic, which is why, even without a physics degree, I can posit that the universe had a beginning!

    Nubby is not hell bent on you having every detail worked out! She just wants you to think logically about beginnings, which you have point blank refused to do, because you say you don't understand the details. Honestly, if all the great thinkers of the world got as hung up about knowing everything before deciding anything, we would still be in the stone age. :)

    You also got hung up on this idea that just because you think that another question is more 'difficult' to answer, you can't answer the first, 'simpler' question. That there are other, possibly more difficult questions, outside of the question you were asked is irrelevant! 'You haven't answered my question so I'm not answering yours' is a poor way to have a discussion....

    said with all the love in the world!

    (It's also easy to think that some people are being condescending over comboxes, because the intonation is simply not there - I've often taken things the wrong way, or had things taken the wrong way by others, and it was just misunderstanding!)

    1. Thx for the kind words and clear points.

  97. "How do I approach the topic of anything with a person who takes away my only roads to travel to any point of meaningful discussion?"

    Nubby, you have laid out the frustration so well. It's a problem that I am not sure how to overcome.

    And your-critic, welcome! I feel the same. I am (have I said it?) frustrated. We don't say "no" to thinking about something simply because there are complications and mysteries ahead. We plow ahead and wait for the surprises and discoveries! This is part of the joy of living!

  98. Thanks for the link to the Lawler article. It was a breath of fresh air after reading some of the Bottum piece.

  99. Oh jeez. Look, I'm a medical student. I want to know more about all of these things, philosophy and physics, but I'm not sitting around with a pile of free time on my hands. Eventually I hope to devote some time to learning more, but I'm not sitting here in willful ignorance. I'm telling you exactly what I don't know, over and over and over until I find myself wondering whether I should administer reading comprehension tests.

    I'm not refusing to think, I'm refusing to carry on a discussion that I don't feel equipped to have. If you'd like, I can start telling you about my honors thesis research and insist that you tell me right now your opinions on the minutiae of virology and molecular biology research methods, just to see how you think. But I won't, because it's not a discussion you are equipped to have, and the honest thing is to simply say "I don't know" and accept that you don't know. Doesn't mean you never will, just means that carrying on a conversation when you don't know the very foundational things is a waste of time. It makes me sad, too, because I don't really know what you want from me. I've told you my mode of thinking so many times, again and again from the very beginning, but you have simply ignored it.

    Francis, you seem to be the only one who is actually reading what I'm writing, so thank you. :) I think the reason why the creator seems to pose more problems for me is this: the creator is the most complex thing possible. It's inconceivable that anything could be more complex than an immaterial, thinking being that can bring things into existence from nothing. Theism must account for the existence of that crazily complex being and his methods of action. Atheism? The only real problem is the universe coming into existence. Everything else can conceivably proceed on its own from there. Does that make sense? It's the concept of parsimony – the simpler explanation for a series of events is more likely to be correct, and there is nothing I can think of more complex than explaining the existence of a creator. It's far more complex than explaining the existence of the universe.

    (Margo, I went to WVHS, but if the districting had been any kind of logical, I probably would've been at the same school as you.)

  100. We do see things differently then, as I see the concept of a Creator as one of the most basic and simple things there is. To me (and to the bulk of humanity) it's axiomatic. Little kids can understand and embrace the concept, with no problem at all. Most adults find it a simple proposition, too. You are jumping from that concept (a 'Creator' exists) and trying to open it up immediately into "how" a Creator exists, and how to explain the complexities of that Creator, etc.

    But one step at a time. And as Francis said, sometimes the most profound things are the most simple. And we will never, as humans fully understand the mind of God.

    Okay, thanks for coming back in and I hope we can make some headway, at least at some point. I wish you would answer the lego and bank account analogy, though. It is relevant.

  101. Consider this, Michelle, as humans, we cannot ever fully extrapolate on the how's of God and His existence. Why not? Because God just is. Why not at least explore the possibility of God? What if you did find out that theism is correct and God truly exists? Are you okay with that? Or would you prefer that He doesn't exist?

  102. LOL - Erm, no, Michelle. It wouldn't be like that at all. It would be that I would have a basic understanding of the logic of that field before I posited a position against it. Then I certainly wouldn't claim that I couldn't be reasonable in a discussion about it merely b/c I'm not in that field.

    If that's the case, don't talk about any topic, b/c you're equally as "unqualified". Don't talk politics because you're not a politician. Don't talk money because you're not a banker. Don't talk Italian recipes because you're not a culinary student.

    Why qualifications matter so much to you in regards to a logical discussion strikes me as an inferiority complex.

    If I ask your opinion on something, I certainly wouldn't start at the top (ie, what causes God, how can an immaterial being exist?) and cascade down. I'd start with the scientific approach - bottom up.

    Why don't you?

  103. Margo, I would be okay with it. And believe me, I've been commenting here for something like 2 years, I think – I've explored the possibility quite a bit. ;)

    Nubby, it's not about qualifications. You can go back and read what I wrote, but if I'm going to talk about minutiae of a particular field, it's foolish and downright stupid of me to waste my time trying to talk about it without even a little basic knowledge. I have told you how I approach the issue (what is more complex? what is simpler, and therefore likelier?) and why I don't feel that I can talk about it much deeper than that. There are facts that exist about these topics, so why on earth should I sit around philosophizing, trying to come up with them? Can't you see how ridiculous that is to me?

    It boils down to the fact that I see a creator as being impossibly, unexplainably complex. I can't quite believe that anyone would think that an immaterial being that can act at a distance and create things out of nothing is simple. I mean, really? Think about how much human effort went into creating the built landscape we see today, into all of the scientific knowledge we've amassed, into all the works of literature and art – and then tell me that a being who can create something from nothing, who knows everything, who can orchestrate things on a grander scale than we ever could is a simple concept? No way. That is the epitome of complexity. Developing a non-supernatural explanation for the formation of the universe is like counting to ten on your fingers in comparison to the complexity required to explain such a being.

    So, if you see the concept of a god as being really simple and basic, we disagree on something very fundamental. But in the world I see and experience, magic doesn't happen. And if you are essentially going to write off the cause of God and how he works as magic, something unknowable and unexplainable physically, then I guess I'm at a loss for how to continue. You aren't satisfied with the fact that I don't have a working knowledge of theoretical physics, but you can brush aside the intricacies of how the creator works as a non-issue? All I'm saying is that we both have unknowns, but the explanations required to resolve your unknowns are, conceptually, much harder to imagine. I don't know if that made any sense, but hopefully it did. I really don't know what else to tell you, but I suspect that if you comment, and then pick any of my comments at random, you can imagine a good approximation of what I'd reply. I'm repeating myself a lot, so I am really, really going to be done now.

    Thanks for the discussion, and I do hope to revisit this at some point!

  104. @ MICHELLE: PART 1 of 2


    You said:

    "Atheism? The only real problem is the universe coming into existence. Everything else can conceivably proceed on its own from there."

    Erm, not quite! To that crucial "only" problem (and what a problem it is! which neither science nor atheism can meaningfully address - unless I've been missing something) please add at least these three:

    1) Why is there something instead of nothing?

    2) Is there any purpose to it all (and if so, what is it?) or is it all ultimately meaningless/purposeless - a macabre cosmic game of life and death? (And this question obviously applies to your own life as well.)

    3) How come every nook and cranny of the known universe is intelligible to some extent or other - and not just dumbly there? Wherefrom did this comprehensive intelligibility arise - if not from some source intelligence? Surely if the universe didn't have firm laws, and instead operated totally randomly it couldn't even exist, let alone be fathomable by the rational human mind? In his lecture "The Beginning of Time", which I linked to earlier (September 1, 2013 at 12:33 PM), Stephen Hawking says "The Second Law (of Thermodynamics), states that disorder always increases with time. Like the argument about human progress, it indicates that there must have been a beginning. Otherwise, the universe would be in a state of complete disorder by now, and everything would be at the same temperature." Fifteen billion years after the universe came into being, why haven't the laws governing it deteriorated to any significant extent, if not to the point where the whole place is starting to fall apart? What sustains its overall smooth working (and, indeed, its ever increasing rate of expansion) with no sign of an end?

  105. @ MICHELLE: PART 2 of 2

    You also said:

    It's inconceivable that anything could be more complex than an immaterial, thinking being that can bring things into existence from nothing.

    Erm, again, no my friend. :) The theist's position is actually the opposite - that God is simple! I remember doing a double take when I first heard this some years ago (from an old Franciscan priest who was actually a physicist before he became a priest - go figure!). He noticed my discomfiture, but just grinned and left me to my perplexity! So I began to think about it, until one day, bingo! it clicked in my head! As I’d said in an earlier comment, the most profound ("complex") things are paradoxically the simplest! Like the "Theory of Everything" which all scientists agree will actually be most simple - if it can be found. (For us believers that "theory" has already been found - we call "it" God! I find it so deliciously ironic that scientists have named the particle which is supposed to contain the answers to our origins the "God particle". If scientists were so intrinsically atheist as many tend to assume, shouldn't they have christened it the "No God particle"? :)) To add to my argument about God's simplicity, I propose to you that God is Love. Now come up with something for me that's simpler than love - something that pretty much every human heart can relate to, and desires deep down!

    We Catholics had an Archbishop once, called Fulton Sheen, who used to say, "There are not one hundred people in the United States who hate the Catholic Church, but there are millions who hate what they wrongly perceive the Catholic Church to be." Using that quote as a parallel, I submit to you that "there are not a hundred atheists in the world who discount the notion of God, but there are thousands who pooh-pooh what they wrongly perceive God to be." Like those who view God as being a "spaghetti monster" in the sky, a simpleton's "imaginary friend" in his mind, and the like. These people aren’t addressing the Christian concept of God at all - they're just creating and fighting their own ridiculous strawmen. The Christian narrative of God is far more sophisticated than that - and countless great minds throughout the course of history have been captured by it, once they've undertaken research of actual Christian/Catholic theology with due diligence and given it in depth consideration.

    So the question is how interested are you in gaining some meaningful insight into theology (based around reason, evidence and demonstrable revelation) that confidently claims to provide so many answers to life's great questions - albeit not all? If you’re really serious, you'll eventually have to attempt to answer at least one or two of Nubby's/Leila's simpler questions to you. I suggest you “play their game”, just for the heck of it even, and have a go sometime! I promise you both those ladies are vast silos of knowledge and sanity well worth hearing out once they get going - and no, they don't really bite! Woof!

  106. God is complicated. Francis said it well. We cant even begin to understand. We're like newborns. We have no idea or way to describe God.

    But God is simple. Using my newborn analogy. We're created to understand basic things. Babies are born understanding that breasts produce food and even the smell of mom. You dont expect a newborn to understand the complexities of milk production but they get what breasts do and how to get their needs met.

    My simple human mind gets that my parents only played a small part in my existence and God a larger role. How my soul came into being or how prayer works I cant tell you. But I know that's how it is. Yes its complicated but yet simple enough for me to grasp. Does that make sense?

  107. Michelle- This has taken on a comedic tone. Humor me at this point.

    You have two thoughts:
    A Creator who creates is impossible and not remotely plausible, yet weird wonky physics that you don't understand, can't explain, and that could not have existed prior to physical reality, is plausible. Hmm.

    Why are they not both in the same camp?

    You have faith in an impossibility, Michelle. That's the point. Your thinking is illogical.

    Considering the idea of super intelligence is not an impossibility unless one wishes to completely close that door. Which you have. Is it plausible that someone deposited the dollar in your account, if not you? Is it plausible that the zero balance created value on its own?

    Is it plausible that the legos just appeared on their own power in the room, or does it make more sense that someone must've put them there?

    The idea of nothing creating something is perfectly acceptable to you as good and reasonable, even though it flies in the face of logic and science, yet the idea of a super intellect, complete intelligibility who has the power to create and interact with his creation is completely impossible, let alone unreasonable? Ok.

    Singularity equations, Michelle. You want somewhere to start? Start there. If you want to refute those, go for it. If you tell me you don't understand them, then pick something you can offer up as an actual argument.

  108. To your #3/pt 1: That would be, in part, because of physical constants and anthropic coincidences, Francis, which I realize you're sharing in good faith, but according to Michelle, you cannot use physics, because she doesn't understand it enough, via her own admission. You can't use common sense, either, because that's been booted. I will buy you a beer if she proves me wrong and gives you a straight up argument.

  109. Captcrisis, you said:

    His quote from Nietsche to Nietsche's sister actually reflects the main question, and the side that Francis is on: "if you want peace of soul and happiness, then believe, but if you want to be a follower of truth, then seek". Francis is on the side of "believing".

    Actually, Francis is on the side of there being no conflict between believing and the truth. That peace and happiness come from knowing what is true, and truth is (obviously) compatible with reason (and science). As I said in my speech, Nietzsche set up a false dichotomy, which is what Francis points out.

    My hope is that you will get a copy of Dr. Vost's book to get a real primer on philosophy vis a vis atheism (and Catholicism). He's lived both sides. I linked this above, for Chris:

    Dr. Vost read most of the comments on this page today, finding them very interesting and hoping to put together some thoughts for us later. Please, do get his book. It's very easy to read, and quite entertaining. And it might get you a bit interested in philosophy (Nietzsche was his hero as a young man).

    1. At this point no Catholic Pope can run away from science. Francis has to say good things about it. The Catholic Church learned its lesson from the Galileo disaster, which snuffed out the Italian intellectual tradition for at least a century and helped turned Italy into a scientific, political and economic backwater, while Protestant countries like England and Germany advanced.

      If Francis is saying that faith and science go together, and help each other, that should be true, but he is rewriting history. For most of its life, the Church has objected to freethinking, which is required for any scientific progress. It banned books, silenced dissenting thinkers, and channeled intellectual activity into very restricted areas. It prohibited Catholics from reading the Bible except in Latin (which most didn't understand). Some of the early Church fathers even objected to the laity learning to read and write. Until recently, we had the Index of Forbidden Books. Up until recently, the view of the Catholic hierarchy has been that there is much that one should *not* read, see, hear, or think about.

    2. P.S. I don't mean to say anything bad about Francis. He seems like a good guy.

      Yesterday I was talking to an old priest (there's hardly any other kind around these days). He likes Francis too, and then he said, "I hope he lives." He is one of many who thinks John Paul I was "done in" because of the reforms he was going to make, and is afraid Francis is headed for the same fate. I've heard this from others, though not from an actual priest till now.

    3. Captcrisis: As per the rules, I will be answering these ridiculous assertions at the bottom of the thread. But there are so many things to debunk here, and I have a full schedule outside the blog today, that it might take me more time than I have this morning.

      I will say that at this point, considering your level of ignorance about the Church (repeating the tired old anti-Catholic yarns; what are your sources?), I will not so much be hoping to correct revisionist history and the record for you, but mostly for the folks who are reading what you wrote and swallow it without thinking. Thanks! And stay tuned below….

  110. I haven't had a chance to read any other comments (and am probably way off topic because I am going to comment on the response to Joseph Bottum's piece), but one thing struck me about the argument that perhaps we should double our offense against abortion while backing off the SSM issue. This unfortunately, makes no sense. The argument for same-sex marriage relies *heavily* on another phenomenon: Artificial Reproductive Technology. Surrogacy, gamete donation, etc are popular avenues couples pursue to build their families because it is the only option they have for children genetically related to one partner. The problem, of course, with ART is incredible loss of life (or suspension of life) of the embryos created (along with so many other issues, like anonymous genetic fathers/mothers, which deny a child's basic right to know and be raised by their parents). There is simply no way the two issues can be fully separated, unfortunately.

  111. Sarah, you are absolutely right. The two issues are inextricably linked.

  112. I think you're cutting yourselves off from young people by trying to tie the pro-life and anti-gay marriage causes together. Literally all my friends support gay marriage, while most of us are at least somewhat anti-abortion.

    I think the organized pro-life movement scares people my age away. If it stopped trying to throw in anti-gay stuff, we'd be a lot more likely to join. I know you guys aren't going to change your doctrine based on what is popular, I don't expect you to just give up an issue that you take so seriously, but it would make sense to divorce (heh) the two issues if you want to successfully fight abortion.

    1. Sorry, just HAD to reply here, as I am a young person who is both totally anti-abortion, and absolutely for real marriage. It's not 'anti-gay' to oppose same-sex 'marriage', it's logical (seriously, go read the philosophical arguments, and the natural law (not to be confused with the 'what happens in nature') arguments, and the logicals arguments).

      Some people, like Secular Pro-Life and PLAGAL (Pro-Life alliance of Gays and Lesbians), actually do separate the issues. The organised pro-Life movement on the whole separates them. The Catholic Church though, looks to the causes of abortion in culture - one of which is the breakdown of the family. Gay 'marriage' only serves to break the family down further (further than no-fault divorce and contraception anyway), by saying that fathers and mothers do not matter individually to children.

      So what if everyone supports something? Truth remains Truth, no matter what the majority opinion is.

  113. My two cents worth for the conversation with Michelle is that what Nubby and Leila seem to be trying to do is get you to engage in a thought experiment. It doesn't mean that you have to automatically believe that the conclusion at the end of the thought experiment is true, but rather that if it strikes you as not a conclusion you believe it gives you a way to go back and figure out where the answer might be different - a way to clarify the question better.

    I suspect you already apply that method in your research -- if you already know the answer before you start the research, it's not much of a research problem! Of course, any good researcher knows that you start the research having an idea of how the experiments are going to turn out, but the really interesting stuff comes when it doesn't turn out the way you expect! That's the fun stuff. :-)

    With questions as big (and simultaneously as simple) as the ones you're discussing, though, it's hard to break it into manageable chunks. That's where starting out with thought experiments like Nubby and Leila proposed come in handy -- it helps identify specific questions for further research/discussion.

    1. Thank you, sarahcecelia! This is just what I would have said if I knew how! :)

  114. Chris- Perhaps the disconnect is that people who wish to preserve traditional marriage are seen as gay haters. The militant faction of gay marriage proponents has made it very difficult to promote tradtional marriage discussions and as a result the myth persists.

    Perhaps what should happen is a frank discussion about ART and laws on inheritance or power of attorney instead of the whinnying over not being fair or mean. Because this has little to do with being gay.

  115. "Perhaps the disconnect is that people who wish to preserve traditional marriage are seen as gay haters."

    Well, first of all, many people who oppose gay marriage, including many self-identified pro-lifers, actually *are* gay haters. I'm glad if you don't encounter them often, but they are out there.

    "Perhaps what should happen is a frank discussion about ART and laws on inheritance or power of attorney instead of the whinnying over not being fair or mean. Because this has little to do with being gay."

    For most people my age, conversations about gay marriage begin and end with "But they love each other!" This may be a bad thing, but that's how it is.

  116. ...if you want to successfully fight abortion

    The pro-life movement is a young movement. Just check the stats. If people turn against the pro-life movement because they are pro-gay "marriage", then all of this is based on their feelings and emotions, and not thoughtful consideration of the issues. Look, I grew up not having been taught how to think (no philosophy, nothing). This is older than the current generation. The answer is to teach folks how to think and reason, not to give in on one issue in order to try to salvage the other (a futile thing, if truth is not involved).

    Eventually, we will realize our error (when enough people are hurt). That is what happened with abortion, and even things like Iceland now wanting to ban pornography, or the UK now passing laws against anonymous donor sperm. Eventually, we will see the fall out. It's sad that it will take that, but it will get there. Until then, the only answer for the Church is to stay strong and keep on with teaching and fighting the good fight on all fronts. The outcomes are left to God. We just keep doing what it required of us.

  117. Chris- Sure there exist gay haters but they are the minority. There exist Muslim jihadists but the average Muslim isnt bent on strapping on explosives.

    Nobody really cares about the love thing. Or at least they shouldn't. I've been in love more than once but not a marriage makes. Even Alan would agree.

    No what its about is numerous things: the morality behind treating children like a commodity or right. What's the states interest in regulating any relationship? That sort of thing. Its not really about being gay or who you love. I mean i love my kids and my brother but why should the state care? And naturally people are only caring about romantic prince charming crap. No wonder people so easily leave their spouses. It saddens me.

  118. "Nobody really cares about the love thing"? Once someone here tells me they married their spouse for purely procreative reasons, I'll believe this line. ;)

    Sorry, don't have much time to respond, but I have been reading everything – lots and lots of pictures of tissue samples and quizzes await. But, sure, if it were just a thought experiment with no end goal, I'd be fine with that. But because I know that the end goal is "Michelle becomes Catholic" (don't deny it) I don't want to get caught up in something that requires me to state a position I don't have, and then have to painstakingly backtrack when I inevitably don't agree with the conclusion. (Keep in mind, too, that the Catholics in the discussion all already "know the answer" before doing the "research". Don't put this all on me!)

    Something that is baffling me, though, is that even though I've detailed the ways in which I see a creator being very complex, all I've gotten is "no, it's very simple" with no reference to what I wrote. Sure, superficially, a creator is conceptually simple, but a creator can do things that are totally outside the realm of human/natural abilities – basically, magic. How is that simple and not complex? On a scale of complexity, certainly poofing an entire universe into existence from nothing ranks higher than, say, building a car or landing on the moon. Can someone show me why my reasoning is wrong?

  119. There's also probably some dissonance as to what counts as hate. I see "abomination," "unnatural," and other phrases like that thrown around quite a lot. Attitudes like "Oh, we love gay people, we just think they are engaging in an UNNATURAL, HORRIBLE, SINFUL ABOMINATION TOWARDS GOD" seem all too common. I think that if you criticize a basic component of someone's identity in such terms, it's probably going to look an awful lot like a personal attack.

  120. Existenceandessence: Regarding God being simple or complex, I think you are looking at the complexity of the finished product, whereas we who see God as Simplicity Itself are looking at the fact that God brings reality into being simply by a thought. We're looking at the same thing from different vantage points.

  121. Chris Pennanen: Yes. The essential disagreement between people who are for and against redefining marriage is that Christians see homosexual sex acts as evil, and do not want something that is evil equated with something that is good.

  122. Also, how is a behavior (homosexual sex acts) "a basic component of someone's identity" ? If you tell a straight man you think what he does with his wife is disgusting, he'll just say "whatever" and go on with his life, whereas a gay person will go ballistic. Why is that? Could it be that the truth hurts?

  123. Michelle,

    "Sure, superficially, a creator is conceptually simple, but a creator can do things that are totally outside the realm of human/natural abilities – basically, magic. How is that simple and not complex? On a scale of complexity, certainly poofing an entire universe into existence from nothing ranks higher than, say, building a car or landing on the moon. Can someone show me why my reasoning is wrong?"

    Suppose (just suppose, for a minute, if that's not too intimidating for you!) that you heard on the news this weekend that the SETI program had suddenly discovered life on a faraway planet and had actually made contact with aliens - who it turns out are far more advanced in their abilities than us humans. They can fly, have the tools of alchemy, imbibe their nourishment from their atmosphere instead of having to eat and drink, have teflon bodies that are virtually indestructible, etc... All these "extraordinary" things, it appears, are bread and butter, routine, and simple for them...

    Would such news be totally beyond the pale of your belief/comprehension or would you react with a "Wow! Isn't that interesting!"? Would you react with just a cynical "Nah! That's just magic. This news report is a hoax, an April Fool joke, some kind of trickery! There's no way something could even remotely be so!"?

    I'd refrained so far from questioning you like Nubby and Leila have done (for good reason), seeing you weren't (yet) ready to attempt to answer/engage even the simplest questions, but really, if you keep asking so many questions of us, you understand we do need to ask a few back? In fact, it is precisely our questioning of you (and you of your own beliefs/assumptions/intellectual constricts) that is the best mode for you to discover what else is out there in the land of possibilities other than your current limited/jaundiced view of things. So let's see if you'll attempt to answer the question that I'm asking you - a simple question about your likely response to a hypothetical news report about life on another planet, somewhere far far away in our great big universe...

    "Keep in mind, too, that the Catholics in the discussion all already "know the answer" before doing the "research"."

    Did you really mean to say that? In case you hadn't noticed, Catholics have been doing their "research" for 2,000 years, and Jews (their predecessors), another 4,000 years before that. Surely, if reason or reality seriously contradicted any central tenet of their beliefs (the sophisticated adult beliefs of billions) this whole Judeo Christian thing would just have fallen apart at some stage or just quietly faded away, like all flaky, unsupportable systems of belief do? And yet, the Church is today the oldest organization in the world - after having been tested, challenged and opposed (including intellectually) like no other! But still you suggest we're some flaky bunch of "magicians" who've done no (real) research and faced no scrutiny of our propositions and concusions??? Sheesh! At this rate we might have to arrive at the sad conclusion that you're foresworn to live with your head buried six feet in the sand, and will tell us in due course what the enlightening view is down there, other than pitch darkness!

  124. And Michelle,

    Our end goal is for you to be more than just "Catholic". Those are a dime a dozen. Given your interest in biology, we're hoping to see you one day as a biologist with a sound philosophical underpinning - to take on another biologist cum pseudo philosopher who's currently taking up too much of the world's time spewing nonsense in the global media about nothing actually being something. We dream much, what?

  125. "Also, how is a behavior (homosexual sex acts) "a basic component of someone's identity" ?"

    I think that who I am is closely related to what I do.

    "If you tell a straight man you think what he does with his wife is disgusting, he'll just say "whatever" and go on with his life, whereas a gay person will go ballistic. Why is that?"

    A straight person would probably not care because there are not enough anti-straight people to have a real effect on his or her life. By contrast, gay people are often looked upon with suspicion. Some people hurl slurs or disown their gay children. In many countries around the world, gay people are denied basic human rights. So there's an awful lot more power behind anti-gay behavior than there is behind anti-straight behavior. Of course that wouldn't excuse the latter--it's just that the latter currently isn't hurting anyone.

  126. "Can someone show me why my reasoning is wrong?"

    Me! You expect a full blown education on something you refuse to research for yourself.

    Conversion is a matter of the heart. Faith is a gift that you ask for and accept. If you are determined to go to the grave without it, you are not going to find your answers in comment boxes.

  127. I've met Cardinal Pell a few times, even chatted one on one with him over tea and biscuits. He's a big man (an ex footballer) with an equally robust mind. He has this calm and quiet mannerism about him, but you can sense that not too far below the genteel surface is a mind that has little time for flaky/nonsensical propositions. When he's confronted by these, he likes to respond in an unflustered tone - with a killer punch in a curt and succinct line! Exactly like we see in the video when he tells Dawkins how intrigued he is by someone trying to define nothing for our greater enlightenment! I still laugh every time I see this video! :)

  128. Chris, the identity issue is an important one. The current thinking is that "gay" is an identity. A crucial part of a human being. But Christians should (rightly!) recoil at the idea that our sinful or disordered inclinations are part of our "identity". I am not my sins. I am not my disordered thoughts and actions. I am a child of God. To identify with our sins is not of God. Now, I fully understand that the whole point of the gay rights movement is the (fairly desperate) need for approval, to be told that in fact those inclinations are not disordered but good, and that acting on them is just an expression of "who I am". But there is the conflict! We are not ever to affirm grave sin. May we tolerate it in society? Yes, we do all the time, and always have. We are all sinners, and many times we are grave sinners. But that is not our identity. Our identity is "child of God".

    That is the disconnect here. The culture wants to force us to not only tolerate what we all used to understand as wrong (remember, we never used to disagree on this stuff), but now to elevate it to the level not only of acceptance, but celebration. Disagreement will NOT be tolerated.

    Check this out. Like a punch to the gut, but this is our future:

    Mob like tactics backed up by gov't punishment will

    So, we fight on, knowing this is a battle for souls, ultimately.

  129. Once someone here tells me they married their spouse for purely procreative reasons, I'll believe this line.

    Michelle, Americans certainly marry for "romance". But can you agree that throughout history, and even today, there are consensual arranged marriages -- true marriages -- that did not begin in romance? I keep going back to the fictitious Golde and Tevye of Fiddler on the Roof, who represent many marriages (including my own grandparents!). So, what of those? Are they marriage? What makes them marriage? What is (was) the common denominator of virtually all marriages in all cultures, since it's not "romance" per se?

    I'd go back to Hillary's great description. She knew. In her heart, she still knows.

  130. Sure, superficially, a creator is conceptually simple, but a creator can do things that are totally outside the realm of human/natural abilities – basically, magic. How is that simple and not complex?

    Michelle, think of it this way. Pretend you are a small child and we are talking about a mother. Motherhood is conceptually a simple concept. It's not hard for any of us to grasp, even a child. However, what a mother does, what a mother is, seems out of the realm of what a child can define or comprehend in its completeness. And think of fathers: Children do see them as gods! My sons used to think that "daddy made the mountain"! But fatherhood, and fathers being there….simple.

    You can substitute "doctor" or "engineer"…. simple for a child to understand (he heals, he builds), but yet, complex when we dive in. Could even seem like they are performing "magic" to the child's mind.

  131. Why didn't the lesbian couple just go to another cake shop that would serve them? If it had been me I would have just left a bad review on Yelp or something. I think the problem here is that people couldn't distinguish between opposition to gay marriage and refusal to serve gay people. If that couple had come in for anything else I'm sure they would have been served, even if they'd mentioned that they were lesbians.

    Still, there's nothing inherently wrong with a boycott of a company that doesn't reflect your values. The problem here is the intimidation tactics, and the fact that somebody got the government involved.

    I can't have an argument about sin with you because I don't have any way of knowing what's sin and what's not. While I'd like to find faith of a more specific sort, I've failed to find a good starting point; a solid foundation on which to build my understanding of God.

  132. While I'd like to find faith of a more specific sort, I've failed to find a good starting point; a solid foundation on which to build my understanding of God.

    Chris, it all comes back to the question of Jesus Christ. He asks each one of us, as He asked Simon Peter: "Who do you say that I am?" Everything else follows from that.

    Have you read Mere Christianity? I can't remember.

    Also, why do you think the lesbian couple sued the bakery? I promise you it was not because they were discriminating against gay people in general (one of the bakeries being sued right now actually employs gay people, and serves them all the time, aside from gay "weddings"). So, what could it be, if not an attempt to coerce and force others into compliance? I agree with you about boycotts, of course. Any one is free to do so.

  133. I can't have an argument about sin with you because I don't have any way of knowing what's sin and what's not.

    Are stealing, lying, adultery sins? If so, what makes them sin? What is your definition of sin? How do you know if stealing is a sin, for example?

    There is an innate sense of sin that we have, though we can be misled, and we can bury our consciences (and dull them with sin itself). That is why the avenging conscience can really catch up to us at some point.

    Anyway, sin is a huge topic. But surely you believe that some things are morally wrong? Tap into what that is and where you got that feeling or understanding.

  134. Michelle, one more thing. We cannot understand God scientifically. We will never be able to dissect him or examine him in the way we would a material thing. You can imagine, I am sure, that the creation does not supersede and examine the creator. The creator necessarily always remains above and beyond his creation. So, if you are saying, "I can't believe because I won't (or don't, or can't) understand the complexities of a "god" from a scientific standpoint", then yes, you will not ever be in a position to believe.

    There is one thing that God does, though, that has floored his creation on many millions of occasions. He oftentimes makes himself known to the individual. And when this happens, the soul is left without a shadow of a doubt about God's existence. God is transcendent, yes, but he is imminent. Pray (and don't stop praying) for God to reveal Himself to you. If you mean it with an open and sincere heart, he will. Be patient.

  135. I find it awfully weird that when I ask genuine questions about Catholic belief, suddenly everyone accuses me of being determined not to know. What the hell?

    Thanks, Leila. That makes a little bit more sense semantically, at least – simple in concept, but complex in action? I think the reason I can't get past the idea of a creator being simple is that intelligence/consciousness is, to me, just about the most complex thing out there. Hasn't it been said that the human brain is the most complex thing we've ever encountered? I imagine God to be like that, but infinitely more so and immaterial and capable of doing things without a physical presence – way, way more complex.

    And, Francis, part of why I'd believe the alien stuff (assuming it wasn't presented in a grocery store tabloid...) would be that it's a physical thing we can study. It may not jive with what we see on earth, and it may challenge some assumptions, but it wouldn't be unexplainable. My problem with all of this, I guess, is that I have trouble with the idea of things that can be understood only from a philosophical standpoint. It seems pretty clear to me that no one thinks the action of God can be studied mechanistically the way we can study molecules and enzymes and whatnot, and that's problematic to me. Is it absolutely, unambiguously impossible that there's something we might not be able to explain? Impossible that there's some mechanism that is by its nature unavailable to us to study? No, certainly not. But it simply seems unlikely to me because it's not in keeping with everything else we see around us.

  136. "Unknown", welcome and thank you! Francis, I would love to meet Cardinal Pell, lol!

  137. Heh, looks like we just wrote basically the same thing. A first!

  138. Michelle, but you cannot examine or physically study "justice" or "kindness" or "motherhood" -- but we all can "understand" them in their simplicity, right? And yet understand that these concepts and truths are also complex.

    With God, there is a simplicity in the fact that He is all essence. He is (not just possesses) Goodness, Love, Truth, Justice, Mercy, Beauty -- He is Being itself.

    So, it's simple… in the sense of pure and true and untainted.

    Think of this: the human mind can listen to a piece by Mozart and the heart (or soul, or mind, whatever you'd like) can respond with incredible intensity. What is it that the person is responding to? Does the person have to understand music theory to respond? Does the person have to be sophisticated? Does the person have to understand how to read the notes? Or can the music simply wash over him and move him at the level of the soul? Move him to tears, even? In an instant? What is that?

    We say that music is a universal language. We all "understand" it. It is simple (and yet so complex that we could learn about music forever…. but that's not what moves us).

    I am not sure that is a good analogy, but we all understand music and are moved by it, no?

  139. Chris,

    "Why didn't the lesbian couple just go to another cake shop that would serve them? If it had been me I would have just left a bad review on Yelp or something."

    I couldn't agree with you more! I'd love to read about this "couple" walking into a Muslim butcher's shop, demanding he supply them with non halal steaks for their "wedding" banquet.

    What we're seeing here is a telling demonstration of the militant "gay" lobby's much vaunted virtues of "tolerance", "inclusiveness", "open mindedness" and "peaceful co-existence". Not. Let's hope a lot more of this happens quickly - so that America at large can start to judge such people by their actions instead of their words.

  140. Heh, looks like we just wrote basically the same thing. A first!

    Hey, progress! ;)

  141. Michelle- You totally didn't take that line in context. Legalized marriage isn't about love. If it were plenty of dating couples would be married and some married couples would not be married. Marriage isnt based solely on whether you love someone or not. Its only one component. If you are looking to marry someone based on just love then you are going to find yourself having problems in that marriage.

    I married my husband for numerous reasons outside of love. Id say loyalty and faithfulness are big ones. Who wants to be married to someone who they love exclusively yet their spouse believes in an open relationship?

  142. Also, to be very clear – I don't like Dawkins. I actually don't like most of the career atheists, partly because I don't think they're particularly intellectually honest in their criticisms of religion (strawmen as far as the eye can see) and partly because there is an awful lot of ugliness towards genuinely good people who happen to believe differently (especially towards Muslims). So, I don't need to cross the Tiber in order to want to pick fights with these guys. :P

  143. Leila, it's making a bit more sense, but not completely. I'm not sure music is a great analogy because it can be objectively studied. When I'm listening to something, I don't know why particular chord combinations and sequences sound good, but someone out there has these things figured out. And with justice, etc., it makes some sense in that it doesn't have a physical presence, but it also doesn't have a mind of its own or an ability to physically do things.

    I don't know. I don't think you're doing a bad job of explaining, because I doubt you'd believe if this didn't make good sense to you, but this may simply be something I can't understand. I think if I can intellectually resolve the physical problems (immaterial intelligence, being able to create things from nothing), I'll have crossed the major hurdle of understanding, but these are the biggest hang-ups I've got about religion. (Not "resolve" as in "explain fully", but "resolve" as in "see as even remotely possible".)

    If I had to distill what I can't get past intellectually down to one sentence: I don't get how intelligence and a capacity for physical action and creation can arise from physical nothingness. Every single other issue I have with religion (any religion that relies on those concepts) is secondary to those. Even if I did give religion a shot in practice, I know that deep down, I'd still have the nagging thought that "wait, this can't be right, because the very foundation this all rests on doesn't make sense".

  144. Michelle,

    So we agree that there definitely exists the possibility (some scientists even say likelihood) of a being (or beings) with qualities and abilities far different (or far "superior") to ours. Yeah?

    Leila has, in her last comment, already covered a lot of what I was going to say to you. So, out of her analogies, let me highlight one: "love". Does such a thing actually exist? Does such a thing actually influence myriads of (y)our decisions? Does it effectively and tangibly express itself in a squillion different ways in the lives and (inter)actions of human beings? And yet, can it be put under a microscope and studied physically or "mechanistically"? We (Christians) say that God is, in essence, love. When you think of the term "essence" (which I hope you do, since you've chosen it as part of your moniker) what do you think it means? Is it possible that a quality such as love can actually be personified? (Ok, ok, don't have a heart attack just yet! :) )If you read about a man who kidnapped and ate live babies for a thrill, grinning at his observers' horror all the while, would you be consider describing him as "evil personified"?

    Indeed, if you do insist on studying everything physically (and not just from a philosophical standpoint), would it help if there was a real person - a historically undeniable character - who claimed to be God in the flesh, and who, in fact, said and did a whole lot of stuff that, for most people, would tantamount to incredible love personified? Would that, in some way, facilitate for you a "down-to-earth" study of this crazy God phenomenon?

  145. Chris, it all comes back to the question of Jesus Christ. He asks each one of us, as He asked Simon Peter: "Who do you say that I am?" Everything else follows from that.

    I don't know quite who he was. I know the teachings he left behind; I know the mark he made on the world; I know that he inspired his followers like most people never could. But we can't be certain of all the details. Do we really know enough to say that Jesus was the Son of God, worthy of lifelong devotion? And there are plenty of other religions that I know too little about. Even if I found a compelling reason to believe Christianity, I might still want to study Islam and Baha'ism, because they claim to be its successors. I just don't see how I could make a judgement anytime soon, even though I'd like to.

    I haven't read Mere Christianity. My father is actually an ordained minister (I forget if I've mentioned that before), so I have access to a number of books that focus on very specific theological topics. But we don't have much of anything devoted to why someone would become Christian in the first place. I'm sure my local library has a copy though; if you like I can probably find time to give it a read.

    Are stealing, lying, adultery sins? If so, what makes them sin? What is your definition of sin? How do you know if stealing is a sin, for example?

    They are wrong. They are damaging to others, and arguably to the person doing them as well. Lying and adultery oppose truth and commitment, which seem integral to a functional, stable society. But "sin" is a very theological word, and I'm worried that if I use it I'd be treating God like an imaginary friend who backs me up on everything, rather than as a distinct entity who might well disagree with me on certain things.

  146. Francis, sure, it's a possibility. I call myself an atheist because that's in practice what I am, but philosophically I am an agnostic atheist. I don't think we can ever know for sure; we can only approach the truth as best we can. So, yes, it's certainly possible you guys are right.

    The issue with love, though, is once again – it may not be a material concept itself (though I would argue it's meaningless outside of the context of life, which is material), but it does not have its own intelligence or the capacity to create from nothing. That's where the crux of the problem is for me.

    To be clear, I obviously don't require a detailed explanation of how things work, because I don't have one for an atheistic universe. I just need to be able to grasp that it could work, and I just haven't been able to do that. For simplicity's sake, though, we have to stick to God the immaterial being for now – I really don't have time to talk about the genetic problems behind the concept of Jesus (what wouldn't I give for DNA samples)! Maybe another time. :)

    1. On second thought, maybe that should read "conception of Jesus", haha.

  147. Michelle,

    "I don't get how intelligence and a capacity for physical action and creation can arise from physical nothingness."

    Great question! Suspiciously similar to the question of how a universe can arise out of a singularity of nothingness! Or how matter can arise out of pure energy - out of light, in fact! Inexplicable chance? Abracadabra?? God??? That, my dear Watson, is THE primary question! Let a thorough investigation of all the alternative answers begin!

  148. "...what wouldn't I give for DNA samples"

    Based on evidence from Eucharistic miracles and the Shroud of Turin (assuming it's legit) then we do have blood types and samples. :)

    All his human DNA would be from Mary.

    With music, where did it come from? Why does it sound beautiful (when ordered)? Why can it make us cry at the drop of a hat? Something primordial is there, a memory. I once asked an atheist what that longing, that yearning was that a beautiful piece of music evokes in a man…. I almost fell out of my chair when he posited that it was probably "envy"! Of the composer! Oh my!! LOL! The feeling I get is not envy… There is not one drop of pleasure, joy or an aching for something transcendent in "envy".

    Chris, please do read Mere Christianity and yes, you can get it from the library. It's a great start to figuring out who Jesus is. As St. Paul said, "If Jesus did not rise, our faith is futile." It's all tied to that….

    Really great discussion. Thanks!

  149. My daughter put this on her facebook the other day, and I just loved it….

    “It was when I was happiest that I longed most...The sweetest thing in all my life has been the find the place where all the beauty came from.”
    ― C.S. Lewis, Till We Have Faces

  150. Why do certain chord combos sound good? Actually know one knows why. Some theorise that its a brain thing and how we process sound and committ it to memory. But as with all the arts each individual has specific preferences. So really as I said nobody knows for sure. There's also a small number of people who are literally tone deaf.

    A group of composers noticed that people responded to pop cultures repetition. So they started to immulate that in art music (classical music is a time period). They were called minimalists.

  151. Michelle,

    You say love doesn't "have the capacity to create from nothing". But it does! Love, in fact, makes the world go round - or haven't you heard? :) I won't expand on this right now, 'coz I seriously don't want to freak you out, but it's true! All the forces in the universe are balanced, at day's end, towards existence (there's that other word from your moniker!) towards (a) benevolent "being" - to date anyway. But this is a discussion we can have only w-a-y down the track, when you're hopefully far more comfortable looking (really "looking", in every sense of the word). Truly, it's a gorgeous, dazzling view out there when you can take in the big picture - the one which our teeny weeny humble little microscopes and telescopes could never capture!

  152. Francis, exactly – we have pretty much the same unanswered questions!

    Sorry, but my internet ate my comment once again, so this is a shortened version of what I originally wrote:

    I think the obvious next question from the astronomy site is where the light came from – more to look into, I guess!

    I really wish I could continue, because I think we're on the cusp of going somewhere with the discussion (finally!) but I know that if I try to carry on more, I won't be able to give these questions (excellent ones) the time they deserve. Promise I'm not dodging – believe me, these questions are nagging at me a LOT more than questions of cell biology...but I've got to prioritize what my grades are based on, as much as I wish I didn't. I really, really hope we can continue with this at some point, because I think this has the potential to be one of our better discussions, but my attention is pulled in too many different directions right now to do this justice. Thank you all so much – hopefully we'll be able to pick up where we left off sometime soon!

  153. Of course, Michelle, I/we fully understand. (Besides, don't forget we want you to be a formidable philosopher as well as a renowned biologist! :))

    Come back and chuck at us the hardest questions you like. Given our very limited intellects it can often take years to wade through things of real depth. But that's okay - as long as we remain on the thrilling voyage of discovery, garnering priceless insights and wisdoms as we head deeper into The Mystery.

    I'm going to take the liberty tonight of asking my God to bless your efforts. (If He isn't really there, on the other side of that dense singularity, my said action should be no cause for concern to you! :))

  154. Michelle,

    I have one last thought you might enjoy having percolate around your brain while you're studying. This has been on the periphery of a lot of the discussion in this thread, but I don't think it's been explicitly said. While Catholics don't think we can fully comprehend God, we do believe that we can learn about aspects of Him by studying his creation. That's one reason there have been so many great Catholic scientists and inventors! Faith and reason are not contradictory but rather go hand in hand, each informing the other, and while we can never fully comprehend God, the pursuit itself is worthwhile.

    And (last thought, I promise), even if you don't come to accept the obvious truth of Catholicism ;), engaging in the what-ifs and thought experiments leads to a richer understanding of who we are as people and where we fit into the world (my take on the value of the study of philosophy) - or at worst, a better understanding of how those crazy Catholics think. :)

    Happy studying!

  155. Chris - Since there are some Christian gays who are celibate, it really is not true that homosexual sex is "a basic component of someone's identity". So I like your updated statement and I could agree with that: "who I am is closely related to what I do". As long as it doesn't devolve to the point of "love me, love my homosexual sex acts" we will get along fine.

    >>"A straight person would probably not care because there are not enough anti-straight people to have a real effect on his or her life."

    Again, I object to the BEHAVIOR, not the PERSON. So with that in mind, there is actually virtually NOBODY who objects to man-woman sex, as long as it is done in a context the person deems appropriate. Most Christians obviously say that it belongs only inside marriage, and that there is no context in which homosexual sex acts are appropriate. There is and should be a stigma against homosexual sex acts. Stigma always exists in any society. It is part of human nature to attach a stigma to things that are wrong.

    But stigma can change as our morality changes. There is a stigma to anything we think is wrong, so the new stigma is against anybody who objects to homosexual sex acts. Such people are not really entitled to their opinion anymore, because they pay a heavy price, not unlike the unfair treatment of gays in days gone by. Happy now?

    >>"So there's an awful lot more power behind anti-gay behavior than there is behind anti-straight behavior. Of course that wouldn't excuse the latter--it's just that the latter currently isn't hurting anyone."

    Tell that to the cake bakers whose business didn't survive the strain of them not going against their religion because of an arbitrary and unfair demand by gay sympathizers who didn't respect their right to opt out of participating in a homosexual marriage which equated homosexual sex with the kind of marriage they believe according to their religion to be holy.

    Sorry that run-on sentence was a sort of hate crime against grammar. Still, the point is that this is unfair. Other people elsewhere have already lost jobs because of their refusal to go against their conscience on the issue of homosexual sex acts being equated to marriage. And SSM has only just burst on the scene! It will get worse unless we sort this out in our society now.

    The only thing that is currently "hurting anybody" is the gay advocates. And gay sex itself hurts lots of people too. It is the engine that perpetuates the AIDS epidemic. I know you will come back and try to argue against that. I have seen it many times online and it is really very sad, the PC-mandated ignorance about the danger inherent in gay sex. Gays and their sympathizers relentlessly try to paint the fiction that homosexual sex acts are only as dangerous as normal heterosexuality. And that is why the HIV infection rate in the gay community has been largely unchanged for decades: they refuse to accept the reality of the situation.

  156. Sorry that run-on sentence was a sort of hate crime against grammar.

    Unknown, you are cracking me up! This is my kind of funny. And, I really am enjoying your contributions.

  157. Spot on, Anonymous, about the fiction that homosexual sex acts are only as dangerous as normal homosexuality. People who gayly claim that spending time in others' alimentary canals is a normal and healthy pastime should be required to explain these horrendous stats (or be totally stripped of their manufactured credibility):

  158. Simplicity simply means less boundaries. Inclusive, unifying, all-encompassing. It doesn't mean God isn't complex. He's complex because of His simplicity. A simple concept written out is E=mc2. Simple in form, simple as far as it expresses the many thoughts, many variables, many terms included within. It's simple in form; it's inclusive of more.

    Diagram it out. Starting at the bottom. There are many wide "branches" on the tree, many wide "boughs", many other thoughts, actions, realities, that all tie together, but only one tree top. The tree gets simpler in design as you proceed up the tree, only but it allows for all the complexity below. All boughs under the tip are unified under it. There is only One tree-top.
    Simplicity at the top. Simplicity is the only reality that would have the capabilities to unify all the "branches" beneath it because the other "branches" have boundaries that would exclude interaction and/or conceptualizing/or and under girding the others. This doesn't mean we talk about God as simple to understand. We say simple as in less-restrictive of other boundaries, realities. He has to unify them, by definition. There are many proofs for this.

    Again, do as Stacy and I and others have suggested. Research.

  159. Presented with a rose, one has two choices. One can smell the rose, or one can stick one's bottom dwelling nose on one of its thorns and cuss and swear all day. What one does ultimately says more about the person than it does the rose.

    Revisionist historians, brandishing triumphant flakes of "evidence" which would struggle to fill the back of a postage stamp. Some mothers have 'em. Ugh. As my clever old grandmother used to say, "Dogs bark, while the caravans pass." Woof! Woof, woof! Sit, Rover, sit!

  160. Here's an eye popping list of Catholic contributors to science over the centuries, including an obscure little priest who not so long ago was the first to propose a wee little theory about a great big Bang. :)

    As you peruse the list, note:

    1) How many of these scientists were actually Catholic clergy, from priests to Bishops and Archbishops!

    2) How many of them ended up as Nobel Laureates!

    3) How many Catholics not only discovered stuff but actually fathered whole new branches of science!

    Here's a sprinkling:

    • René Laennec: Physician who invented the stethoscope
    • Jean-Baptiste Lamarck: French naturalist, biologist and academic whose theories on evolution preceded those of Darwin
    • Karl Landsteiner: Identified and classified the human blood types
    • Antoine Lavoisier: Father of modern chemistry
    • Georges Lemaître: Father of the Big Bang theory
    • Marcello Malpighi: Father of comparative physiology
    • Étienne-Louis Malus: Discovered the polarization of light
    • Guglielmo Marconi: Father of long-distance radio transmission
    • Gregor Mendel: Father of genetics
    • Marin Mersenne: Father of acoustics and mathematician for whom Mersenne primes are named.
    • Gaspard Monge: Father of descriptive geometry
    • Giovanni Battista Morgagni: Father of modern anatomical pathology
    • Johannes Peter Müller: Founder of modern physiology
    • Nicole Oresme: 14th century bishop who theorized the daily rotation of the earth on its axis
    • Abraham Ortelius: Created the first modern atlas and theorized on continental drift
    • Louis Pasteur: Father of bacteriology
    • Georg von Peuerbach: Called the father of mathematical and observational astronomy in the West
    • Wilhelm Roentgen: Discovered X-rays.
    • Theodor Schwann: Founder of the theory of the cellular structure of animal organisms
    • Ignaz Semmelweis: Early pioneer of antiseptic procedures and the discoverer of the cause of puerperal fever
    • Nicolas Steno: Bishop, and father of stratigraphy
    • Francesco Lana de Terzi: Jesuit priest who has been called the father of aeronautics
    • Theodoric of Freiberg: Gave the first geometrical analysis of the rainbow
    • Evangelista Torricelli: Inventor of the barometer
    • Pierre Vernier: Mathematician who invented the Vernier scale
    • Andreas Vesalius: Father of modern human anatomy
    • François Viète: Father of Modern Algebra
    • Alessandro Volta: Physicist known for the invention of the battery
    • Karl Weierstrass: Often called the Father of Modern Analysis

    Intriguing, eh? Especially given the hilarious claim of pseudo historians (sycophantic clones of the joker in the video above) that "For most of its life, the Church has objected to freethinking, which is required for any scientific progress."

    "No, you CAN'T eat the rose, Rover! Now sit, boy, sit!"

  161. Great explanation/analogy of simplicity in complexity, Nubby.

    "Simple in form, simple as far as it expresses the many thoughts, many variables, many terms included within."

    That's a keeper! Thanks!

  162. Captcrisis, Francis has given you a good starting list to refute your (frankly) silly claim about Catholicism and science, so let me address this declarative statement:

    Yesterday I was talking to an old priest (there's hardly any other kind around these days)

    Okay. So, let's forget that the Church is worldwide, and not confined to the dying west (and America) for a moment. I would honestly love to know which diocese or region you live in. It's true that some American dioceses have been ravaged by 40+ years of liberal, dissenting bishops or weak, watered-down Catholicism and have had few vocations in the past decades. But where faithfulness abounds, there is great fruit.

    For example, I live in a great diocese with a strong and faithful bishop. I have been a parishioner at two parishes in the last 13 years. My previous parish has three priests in residence, all three of them younger than I (I am 46). Two of them are in their early forties, and the third is in his twenties. In my current parish, both priests are in their 40s. My oldest son is twenty years old, and currently two of his classmates/friends (from their non-Catholic charter high school) are in seminary now or about to be. There are two other of his former childhood friends who are discerning the priesthood. Now, I can relate to anyone who finds this bizarre, because when I was growing up, I never heard of even one young Catholic man going into the seminary, nor even considering it! But you see, my diocese was very liberal/loose with doctrine, and also I never knew any truly devout Catholic families. Where Catholic families are faithful, there are vocations. I am still in awe of what I see around me today.

    Please watch the following videos. The first one is long, but it blew away one of my ex-Catholic readers, Mary, because she had never seen any priests like that! She (I'm guessing like you) is from a very liberal part of the nation (she's from New England) where all the parish priests she encounters seem ancient and probably not totally on fire for the Faith. She was stunned. To me, it's normal to see this kind of priest:

    Hang on for the second video….

    1. The average age of American priests is 64.

      That's the Vatican II generation. They have had the ability to be "on fire for the Faith" for 40 years or more, which is no mean feat, particularly the last few decades. As someone put it (I'm quoting a Catholic university professor from a New Yorker article I read maybe ten years ago), Vatican II unleashed a great deal of energy and enthusiasm, and John Paul II extinguished it.

      Most of the older priests seem pretty down to earth and easy to talk to. The John Paul II generation of younger priests (I bump into a lot of priests in my line of work) seem guarded, stunted, afraid to say the wrong thing. A large percentage of them are gay, which would account for a lot of that guardedness. (This was the preliminary finding of the Wolf/Sipe survey, which the U.S. Bishops pulled the plug on when they saw where it was leading.) Of course that's just my impression from where I am. We tend to carry our preconceived notions when observing people.

      As for the long list of Catholic scientists that commenter Francis gave, I'm not surprised. Note that most of the names on the list lived after Copernicus's book was taken off the Index in the 18th century. The facts I told you about the Church's historical anti-learning slant, though, are correct. Some early Church fathers DID oppose literacy. Catholics WERE forbidden to read the Bible in their own language. There WAS an Index of Forbidden Books.

  163. Here is the second one, much shorter, and totally fun and hilarious!! If you don't smile while watching this, then I am worried, ha ha! So funny!!

    These are today's seminarians, captcrisis.

    And this is a priest I know, who is the brother of a friend of mine. Perhaps not the "old" type of priest that you are used to? It's a great video, walking through the day of the life of this young priest. Hilarious guy, great-looking, brilliant, serving the Lord with such joy and faithfulness:

    Maybe step away from your stereotypes, captcrisis? It will give you more credibility.

  164. What a great chat. You guys awesome. And Michelle, yes, just do the work. there is no other way for a sharp cookie like yourself. My Lebanese uncle would tell me how full of crap I was for an hour straight, making explain something three different ways and then say " yea you're right, that's what I've been trying tell you all along"

    and Nubby
    "Csawww- now would be an excellent time for one of your crack up lines!"

    I'm not going to forced by you to make me do anything. You with your sad devotion to that ancient religion and sorcerer's ways and what not.
    but skip to approx. 1:10

    1. LOL you never disappoint, brotha ;)

      Lack of faith disturbing, perhaps - Lack of logic, even more so.

  165. Awesome stuff, Leila. The seminarians from the second YouTube video (the hilarious skit) are from my diocese and I'm good friends with the one acting as MC, his name is Ryan! Here's his blog for anyone who is interested: :)

    And are Chris Sawaya and Csawww the same person??

    1. oh no I'm figured out!!! thanks Margo, I can hear the drone overhead already.

  166. As someone put it (I'm quoting a Catholic university professor from a New Yorker article I read maybe ten years ago), Vatican II unleashed a great deal of energy and enthusiasm, and John Paul II extinguished it.

    This is the position of dissenting Catholics. The National "Catholic" Reporter set. The experience and opinion of Catholics who love the Church and obey the Magisterium is the polar opposite. We ADORE JPII (who was at Vatican II, by the way, and understood it perfectly). He is the one who unleashed the energy and enthusiasm of the younger generation of Catholics. Where have you been?

    Also, guarded, shy, afraid? Huh? What priests are you talking to? Did you see the videos at all?

    Anyway, you probably live near Albany or L.A. ;) Really, I would love to know your diocese. My experience is nothing like yours. I forget, were you Catholic?

    Okay, off to my daughter's wedding dress fitting this eve, but I'll be back with answers to the rest of the stuff you are saying.

  167. A primer on Galileo (note by the way how few "examples" seem to pop up over 2,000 years? Seems like it's usually one incident in countless generations over two millennia; that might be worth thinking about):

    And as for the Bible in Latin "controversy":

    I have much more on that. There is the tired old accusation that the Church chained bibles, too, but they never mention that it was so that people could have access to the bibles, which were rare and expensive! (Think: Why do banks put pens on chains? So that everyone can have access to a pen!)

    So many misconceptions.

    Captcrisis, what are your sources?

  168. Michelle,

    This is for you, it's St. Thomas on the simplicity of God. Article 4 "Whether essence and existence are the same in God?" should be of particular interest to you.

    I read Aquinas like this. First read the "On the contrary" and the "I answer that" parts to each question. If you want to dig in, read the objections and replies, but don't read it straight through by reading those first.

    Hope that helps.

  169. Oh, my! Captcrisis appears to be ignorant of the fact that it was Catholics who founded the university system (just like they did the hospital system) - without which we'd still be in the middle ages where organized/widespread learning was concerned.
    The good Captain also seems unaware of the reasons why Catholics were forbidden to read (the many erroneously composed/translated) versions of the Bible.

    Seems the history taught in the Instant School of Google has even more holes in it than I'd imagined!


    Out of 2,000 years of the Catholic Church's history - two.thousand.years!!! - they keep harking back at the drop of a hat to the on eepisode of the "Galileo scandal" - the crux of which matter is simply that the Church forbade one of her members to propagate a mere theory as proven science.

    It doesn't seem to matter to these hysterical hyenas that the Church was actually protecting sound science at the time, by forbidding unproven claims - while allowing the scientist to present his thoughts as unproven theory. (The simple fact being that at that time, there were no instruments to actually observe/prove what Galileo was claiming, hence the Church's concerns about people being misled.)

    Nevertheless, the mere fact that Galileo's theory was eventually proven right provides the much desired ammunition to today's desperate pseudo intellectuals to villify the Church, which has for centuries proven herself to be not only the defender, but indeed the originator of good science!


    1. the episode...
      sorry, I have a bus to catch!

  171. Dawkins is a top notch biologist. He doesn't have to explain how something came from nothing. That has been done by his colleague Lawrence Krause. He isn't being anymore ridiculousness than someone who says "in the beginning was the Word..."

  172. If he's going to discuss the existence of God, that obviously includes some topics that aren't biology. He knew what he was getting into.

  173. Just one minor correction: whatever Krauss talks about is already a "something", try as he might.

    Another point: It's actually 100% logical that the Bible describes "the beginning" that way in John's gospel, though Catholics don't uphold to science because the bible says so (we're not Fundies). It's 100% logical to say, "In the beginning was the Word" because the Word = logos which = reason, which = logic which gives rise to order, knowledge, faith and reason to believe.

    So, "in the beginning was Reason. Reason was with God and he was God, and Reason became flesh and dwelt among us."

  174. NO! In the beginning was NOTHING. And everything came out of nothing. And the whole idea of Jesus being the Logos doesn't make any sense. The writer of the Book of John was Greek and got that concept from Greek philosophy. No other writer had the slightest concept of that.


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