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Atheism Deconstructed


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http://www.townhall.com/columnists/DineshD...structs_atheism

Fish draws on examples from John Milton to make the point is that unbelief, no less than belief, is based on a perspective. If you assume that material reality is all there is, then you are only going to look for material explanations, and any explanations that are not material will be rejected out of hand. Fishâ??s objection is not so much that this is dogmatism but that it is dogmatism that refuses to recognize itself as such. At least religious people like Milton have long recognized that their core beliefs are derived from faith.
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Immaterial explanations are rejected out of hand because they don't explain anything. The whole idea of an explanation is that you work from established knowledge to fill in the gaps about what was previously mysterious phenomena. Supernatural "explanations" try to get from point A to point C without going through the requisite point B, and thus fail to be useful -- or true.

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Immaterial explanations are rejected out of hand because they don't explain anything. The whole idea of an explanation is that you work from established knowledge to fill in the gaps about what was previously mysterious phenomena. Supernatural "explanations" try to get from point A to point C without going through the requisite point B, and thus fail to be useful -- or true.

Are you suggesting in science no one has ever gone from a hypothetical A to C without realizing the B until later, or perhaps, are still looking for the "B"?

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Yes, I am. Science -- good science -- may have gone from 'A to C to D' where there was previously only 'A to D', but this is different from religion's 'A to D' "explanations".

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http://www.townhall.com/columnists/DineshD...structs_atheismFish draws on examples from John Milton to make the point is that unbelief, no less than belief, is based on a perspective. If you assume that material reality is all there is, then you are only going to look for material explanations, and any explanations that are not material will be rejected out of hand. Fishâ??s objection is not so much that this is dogmatism but that it is dogmatism that refuses to recognize itself as such. At least religious people like Milton have long recognized that their core beliefs are derived from faith.

assume that material reality is all there is? You mean like Joseph Smith?

There is no such thing as immaterial matter. All spirit is matter, but is more fine or pure, and can only be discerned by purer eyes-Joseph Smith
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Yes, I am. Science -- good science -- may have gone from 'A to C to D' where there was previously only 'A to D', but this is different from religion's 'A to D' "explanations".

Really, revelatory "explanations" don't try to explain at all, not in the way you're talking about. Science looks for mechanistic explanations, or failing that, a model that offers a maximum of predictability for the phenomenon in question. Revelation is almost never concerned with mechanism, and even more rarely with modeling. It exclusively seeks to expound on that which is applicable to human decision-making, often moving farther back in the "How and Why" chain than is practical for experimentation to delve.

The author's criticism that naturalism is a dogma that refuses to recognize itself as such is quite valid, IMO. The problem is not that logical positivism is a poor dogma to have-- it has a good track record, by comparison-- but that its self-placement outside the realm of dogmatism is essentially dishonest.

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Immaterial explanations are rejected out of hand because they don't explain anything. The whole idea of an explanation is that you work from established knowledge to fill in the gaps about what was previously mysterious phenomena. Supernatural "explanations" try to get from point A to point C without going through the requisite point B, and thus fail to be useful -- or true.

One of my favorite quotes:

Creationism explains everything .... by explaining nothing.

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Really, revelatory "explanations" don't try to explain at all, not in the way you're talking about.

I'm not talking about revelation; I'm talking about supernatural "explanations" for events, behavior, etc. I think cdowis has already given the archetypal "A to D" supernatural model: creationism.

Science looks for mechanistic explanations, or failing that, a model that offers a maximum of predictability for the phenomenon in question. Revelation is almost never concerned with mechanism, and even more rarely with modeling. It exclusively seeks to expound on that which is applicable to human decision-making, often moving farther back in the "How and Why" chain than is practical for experimentation to delve.
I agree with your first sentence here, but I see the second and third to be on shaky ground. Science also "seeks to expound on that which is applicable to human decision-making", surely; revelation can't be be differentiated from it on those grounds. Also, your placement of revelation on the "How and Why" chain is confusing, when you've stated that revelation doesn't deal with such grubby stuff. Maybe I'm just misunderstanding you? An example or two would help illustrate your point.
The author's criticism that naturalism is a dogma that refuses to recognize itself as such is quite valid, IMO. The problem is not that logical positivism is a poor dogma to have-- it has a good track record, by comparison-- but that its self-placement outside the realm of dogmatism is essentially dishonest.

It seems to me that the only dogmatism from which naturalism suffers is that it demands that explanations for phenomena actually do their job -- explain things. That's a feature, not a bug.
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I'm not talking about revelation; I'm talking about supernatural "explanations" for events, behavior, etc. I think cdowis has already given the archetypal "A to D" supernatural model: creationism.

Certainly the fundamentalist version of creationism would qualify, but I always cringe a little when I hear people equate creationism with the "7-day, literally molded all life out of clay with His hands, etc." idea. In its purest essence, creationism simply means that there was an intelligence behind the formation of the universe, and that it was intentional. It makes no supposition as to the mechanism by which it happens... evolution, etc. are not inherently incompatible.

I agree with your first sentence here, but I see the second and third to be on shaky ground. Science also "seeks to expound on that which is applicable to human decision-making", surely; revelation can't be be differentiated from it on those grounds. Also, your placement of revelation on the "How and Why" chain is confusing, when you've stated that revelation doesn't deal with such grubby stuff. Maybe I'm just misunderstanding you? An example or two would help illustrate your point.

When I speak of the "How and Why" chain, I mean that while naturalism usually looks for immediate, or perhaps secondary causes for phenomena, revelation seeks to take many steps back and look for ultimate causation or that near to it. A chemist might concern himself with how and why an organic molecule is able to function as it does, or perhaps he can take a step back and investigate the reasons why organic molecules are so diverse and complex. The ultimate reason why the universe has produced a system of such ordered makeup in regards to valence shell composition is beyond both him and the best efforts of particle physicists, but revelation reveals that God is a God of order, and that he has instituted natural laws to make our mortal experience possible. There is a substantial gap in the chain, of course, (why couldn't God have made p orbitals fill with 4 electron rather than 6?) but you get the idea -- the two sources of information approach the question from totally different ends.

It seems to me that the only dogmatism from which naturalism suffers is that it demands that explanations for phenomena actually do their job -- explain things. That's a feature, not a bug.

Perhaps, but it also excludes any explanation outside of its borders. The supposition that humans are capable of measuring, quantifying, and predicting all phenomena in the universe is a rather tenuous one, but is necessary for absolute naturalism to be viable. Remember, while religious dogma also places its limitations on what is possible (for good and for ill) rare are the religious dogmas which will reject naturalistic explanations simply for their naturalism, as naturalism rejects religion simply for its religiousness.

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Amidst all this bad mouthing of materialistic science, why is my comment exposing Joseph Smith as a materialist being ignored? Hmmm.

There is no such thing as immaterial matter. All spirit is matter, but is more fine or pure, and can only be discerned by purer eyes-Joseph Smith
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If you don't rule out the supernatural, where do you draw the line? Once you allow that something is best explained by anything supernatural, all other supernatural claims are fair game. Astrology and the alignment of stars and planets, for example, is just as valid an explanation of why things happen as other religious claims.

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Amidst all this bad mouthing of materialistic science, why is my comment exposing Joseph Smith as a materialist being ignored? Hmmm.

probably because They and Joseph are talking apples but you are trying to compare it to oranges-it's hard to comment on that.

Others are using the words 'material matter' to mean things that are material to us here in this mortal earthly plain... The way that science would use the word.

But joseph was using the word to explain that even other planes of existence (those that are not visible or able to be studied 'here') are comprised of matter-just a different kind (more refined than mortals are capable of examining).

Joseph is arguing that material science is ignoring much 'material' and claiming it doesn't exist simply because they are not knowledgable enough to observe it-when that's not true.

Everyone knows that you can't prove a negative-but science basically tries to tell those of us who believe in this more refined matter, that THEY can. They KNOW that this immaterial matter doesn't exist because they can't find it.

You know, the popular couplet-scientists have declared it and the thinking is done. :P

Joseph is doing away with that arguement, in the quote you provided.

<_<

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If you don't rule out the supernatural, where do you draw the line? Once you allow that something is best explained by anything supernatural, all other supernatural claims are fair game. Astrology and the alignment of stars and planets, for example, is just as valid an explanation of why things happen as other religious claims.

I think the problem here is that what is supernatural to one person is completely understandable to another.

For example-electricity would have been considered supernatural to someone 4,000 years ago-but we in our day and age would laugh at such an idea. It's not supernatural at all-it makes complete sense and is completely explainable by science.

Same thing with T.V. or walking on the moon etc.

According to your logic-the people in the 1600's should have completely ruled out such supernatural possibilities because entertaining them will lead to us having to entertain ALL supernatural ideas...

The problem with that reasoning is that A). it's arrogance to think that just because we don't understand something it's not real or possible and having that mindset limits us beyond words and B ) no harm comes from entertaining and studying 'supernatural' ideas and good scientists should and would be willing to study them and get some answers and find some information. They would not shun them because they did not fit in with their preconcieved notions or ideas. Science is about discovery not sticking with dogma no matter what.

:P

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probably because They and Joseph are talking apples but you are trying to compare it to oranges-it's hard to comment on that.

Others are using the words 'material matter' to mean things that are material to us here in this mortal earthly plain... The way that science would use the word.

No thats not how science would use the word.

Science is interested in all forces and entities that can affect anything at all.

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Amidst all this bad mouthing of materialistic science, why is my comment exposing Joseph Smith as a materialist being ignored? Hmmm.

Because it's not applicable. The sort of materialism that we're discussing is a philosophy which demands that all phenomena be explained through observable natural law. Joseph Smith's declaration that spirit is also a form of matter is quite different: JS believed that there are things which must be revealed through higher sources, that obey higher laws than those we can observe here.

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Because it's not applicable. The sort of materialism that we're discussing is a philosophy which demands that all phenomena be explained through observable natural law. Joseph Smith's declaration that spirit is also a form of matter is quite different: JS believed that there are things which must be revealed through higher sources, that obey higher laws than those we can observe here.

If it can affect the brain causing it control the mouth to declare something "I felt the spirit"!" then it can interact with ordinary matter. As such it should be perfectly detectable and within the ken of science.

For hundreds of year men have imagine forces beyond those already understood. When new forces were dicovered it was nothing at all like they had been imagining.

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No thats not how science would use the word.

Science is interested in all forces and entities that can affect anything at all.

well, if that's true, then i must be misunderstanding the conversation...

It seems that all the atheists i have spoken with use the reasoning that such things as God and faith are unstudiable to science as a reason NOT to be interested in those forces and entities.

:P

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If it can affect the brain causing it control the mouth to declare something "I felt the spirit"!" then it can interact with ordinary matter. As such it should be perfectly detectable and within the ken of science.

having just watched the show 'mystery diagnosis' i can vouche that there are MANY very real things, just happening within the human body that are not detectable to the science of medicine.

It happens so frequently that someone has made an hour long weekly show just documenting the cases where a diagnosis for a very real medical condition took months or years for science to figure out.

It's just not true that all real phenomenon must be detectable before it can be seen as legitemate.

:P

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Hi bluebell,

It seems that all the atheists i have spoken with use the reasoning that such things as God and faith are unstudiable to science as a reason NOT to be interested in those forces and entities.

An extreme deistic God would be utterly undetectable by science, and there would be no way to distinguish between 'it' and just plain 'nature'.

Now - Gods that are supposed to 'reach in' to the world on a regular basis, and heal the sick, or inspire revelations or find car keys SHOULD be - theoretically - within the bounds of science.

The trouble is that the answer I hear when we talk about 'testing God' is: 'That's not a very nice / sensible / mature / moral thing to do'.

Perhaps that why we don't have scientific theories of spirituality, or priesthood power. It's not that it doesn't exist within the scientific realm. It's just that God "don't roll like that".

It happens so frequently that someone has made an hour long weekly show just documenting the cases where a diagnosis for a very real medical condition took months or years for science to figure out.

What we mean by 'detectable' is, we can 'eventually' detect it. Or it is 'possible' to - in the scientific sense. I doubt there are many scientists who would be crazy enough to claim that we have now detected everything there is to (scientifically) detect!

In a few years time, do you think scientists with Mormon leanings will have finally tracked down the condition of 'low spiritual nourishment'? Or would I always be better off going to my Bishop for that kind of thing...?

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I doubt there are many scientists who would be crazy enough to claim that we have now detected everything there is to (scientifically) detect!

Amen. Can we finally put this tired strawman of the atheist/agnostic position to rest?

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No thats not how science would use the word.

Science is interested in all forces and entities that can affect anything at all.

You are sadly mistaken.

You might, for example, give us examples of scientific research on the existence of diety, or where the existence of diety was part of the hypothesis.

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Hi bluebell,

An extreme deistic God would be utterly undetectable by science, and there would be no way to distinguish between 'it' and just plain 'nature'.

Now - Gods that are supposed to 'reach in' to the world on a regular basis, and heal the sick, or inspire revelations or find car keys SHOULD be - theoretically - within the bounds of science.

I think i understand what you are saying....

But i do want to ask, why SHOULD such a God be detectable by science right now?

What i mean is, 300 years ago science didn't have the ability to detect atoms, right (i could be wrong there but i think that's right). Yet atoms are very much impacting our world every second-they make up our world even.

But a few hundred years ago science had no idea. Is that because of the atom or because of science's limited knowledge to that point? The atom existed whether science knew about it or not-whether science had a way to test or study it.

Atoms were in the 'bounds' of science (or scope perhaps is the word i mean to use) but WAY beyond science's abilities still.

The trouble is that the answer I hear when we talk about 'testing God' is: 'That's not a very nice / sensible / mature / moral thing to do'.

This is true-

Perhaps it's because 'testing God' is usually something that someone wants to do before He will believe and obey Him. It's testing Him for the wrong reasons and in the wrong way.

But God Himself said that we should test Him, just in the right way (by obeying with faith first and seeing what happens).

It's actually quite scientific as it starts with a hypothesis (if i do this-this will happen) and then goes through and experiment of doing to see the result.

But it's also not very scientific at all as the catalyst that must be present in every experiment is true faith and no one can fake that just for the sake of finding out the results of an action-and so i do understand science's dilema with things of God.

A good scientist is supposed to remain unattached to the result of an experiment-yet God only gives results when a person is truly attached and emotionally invested-no wonder science thinks of the whole subject as a catch 22 situation.

I don't blame them.

Perhaps that why we don't have scientific theories of spirituality, or priesthood power. It's not that it doesn't exist within the scientific realm. It's just that God "don't roll like that".

I would imgaine that is true.

What we mean by 'detectable' is, we can 'eventually' detect it. Or it is 'possible' to - in the scientific sense. I doubt there are many scientists who would be crazy enough to claim that we have now detected everything there is to (scientifically) detect!

But you must admit that much of science DOES do that in many ways (they know they aren't supposed to, but that doesn't stop them from doing it).

Like the show on the mystery illness i watched last night, where a woman suffered from cushing's disease for 7 years before any of her doctors would even believe she was sick!

This wasn't a case of 'your ill but we dont' know what's wrong' but rather, 'we can't find anything wrong so you CANNOT be sick'. Seven years and many multiple doctors and specialists and they all told her that becasue they could not actually see why she felt so horrible that it was all in her mind.

And as i said before, this was not a one time show-this show runs weekly and i have yet to see an episode where the person did not go through multiple doctors who denied anything was wrong before they finally found one who believed them.

More often than not they are told it is 'pyschological'-simply because they can't detect it they assume it's not real.

I know that science would never claim that all the discoverings been done but many times that is how they act.

In a few years time, do you think scientists with Mormon leanings will have finally tracked down the condition of 'low spiritual nourishment'? Or would I always be better off going to my Bishop for that kind of thing...?

<_< I guess you never know.

I doubt that it will be anytime soon but eventually yes, i believe that science will perfectly and completely mesh with the things of God-but not until this mortal life is over.

:P

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The problem with science including deity in its formulations is that deity is unpredictable. The Spirit's touch to a mind may well be detectable in some form, yet we have no way of predicting when that will occur, as it is guided by an intelligence that may even take issue with our attempts to detect it. The scientific method is quite useful for prediction of natural laws as they function unaltered, yet quite insufficient to uncover the purposes of an intelligence greater than our own.

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The problem with science including deity in its formulations is that deity is unpredictable. The Spirit's touch to a mind may well be detectable in some form, yet we have no way of predicting when that will occur, as it is guided by an intelligence that may even take issue with our attempts to detect it. The scientific method is quite useful for prediction of natural laws as they function unaltered, yet quite insufficient to uncover the purposes of an intelligence greater than our own.

We certainly can test God. Here's a test: if God heals people through miraculous means, then we should find such miraculous healings even in completely non-ambiguous cases--ie, the old "Why doesn't God heal amputees" dilemma. If prayer has a greater beneficial effect than a placebo, we should be able to measure it. The apparent randomness and unpredictability of God's whimsy wouldn't be a factor given a large enough population; a trend would still be detectable if it existed. The scientific reality is God doesn't heal amputees, and he doesn't answer prayers. This is not a problem with science; it's not a deficiency in science's ability to deal with semi-random events. The "problem" is that God fails the tests. You can either accept the parsimonious reason that God fails the tests (there is no God), or you can invent all sorts of fantastic ad hoc rationalizations (He doesn't want his presence to be known for sure; he wants us to have faith, and healing amputees would impede our spiritual growth; he consciously avoids healing people who pray for his help when those people are involved in a study; etc). But either way, it's not true to say that God is outside the realm of science. As has already been noted, if a phenomenon affects the physical world, it can be measured.

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What i mean is, 300 years ago science didn't have the ability to detect atoms, right (i could be wrong there but i think that's right).

Well, the 'father' of the modern theory of the atom was a Jesuit priest, Rudjer Boscovich. He proposed the idea (or at least the modern version of it - 'atoms' has been talked about since 6 century BCE - at least...) in 1758. So yes, I can't see any reasonable wway to try and claim that we had 'detected' them 300 years ago.

But what is meant by 'detected' anyway? I guess what you mean is that the 'theory' of the atom was confirmed by observation - to the point where it would be daft to deny it's existence. I'm not really sure how you would put a 'date' on that - maybe someone else can try. The theory just explained more and more things, matched more and more with observation and and made more and more sense.

So it depends what you mean by 'detected' them. We can now produce images that we can confidently say 'are' images of atoms, but that's quite a recent development. I'd argue that we 'knew' they were there long before we 'saw' them in any meaningful way. (At least in a way that would bear due relation to reading the words of this post, for example...)

...by creating a theory that describes what we think an atom is, and then working out whether that 'guess' matches experiement. If it does, then we've 'detected' it.

The idea of an 'atom' is a model that very accurately explains and predicts the world around us. And that's about as good as it gets when it comes to 'detecting' certain things scientifically... (And the same could potentially / theoretically be true for 'detecting God').

But I think Thama hits the 'problem' (if you want to call it that) best:

The problem with science including deity in its formulations is that deity is unpredictable.

As long as God remains inherently unpredicatable, science cannot second-guess 'God'. Therefore, God will be beyond scientific inspection. (Or God will look so much like nature - presumarably purposefully - that we just can't reasonably tell the difference...)

Yet atoms are very much impacting our world every second-they make up our world even.

It's interesting that you sound so confident about that.

Do you know that atoms exist?! And if so, how?

But a few hundred years ago science had no idea.

We had no idea that atoms 'could' exist? Or we knew perfectly well that atoms 'could' exist, but we didn't know how we could prove it? (Within a scientific framework...?)

Is that because of the atom or because of science's limited knowledge to that point?

Depends on what you define as 'knowledge'. Plenty of people had thought about the possibilities of the atom. What was needed to 'detect' it was to work out a way to tie the idea to experiment. And yes, it took time for science to do that.

The atom existed

...again - are you sure the atom exists even now?

whether science knew about it or not-whether science had a way to test or study it.

If such things as atoms do exist, then yes. They existed before science know how to test for them.

Atoms were in the 'bounds' of science (or scope perhaps is the word i mean to use) but WAY beyond science's abilities still.

If atoms really do exist, then agreed - they were always within the 'scope' of science. But temporarily beyond it's current 'abilities'. Seems a sensible enough way to say it...

A good scientist is supposed to remain unattached to the result of an experiment-yet God only gives results when a person is truly attached and emotionally invested-no wonder science thinks of the whole subject as a catch 22 situation.

I don't blame them.

Agreed. I don't need to go through all the points in this section - you obviously get the point.

It doesn't make scientific sense to test something 'with true belief in your heart' as the deciding factor.

I know that science would never claim that all the discoverings been done but many times that is how they act.

Well, assuming that the examples you give are valid ones...

Take most people away from a situation that is going to affect their reputation, or is part of a job that they are paid for, and I'm sure they would be willing to be a bit more 'philosophical' about these kinds of things.

But when a doctor is paid to give a professional opinion, it's not scientific principles that would be pressuring the doctor to blame it on 'something' without due reason.

Scientific principles - in fact - make it quite clear that a 'reasonable', 'logical' response to a given question can be 'I simply don't know'. That's not a scientific 'no-no'.

Science isn't answerable to the imperfection of it's adherents. No more than religion is.

I doubt that it will be anytime soon but eventually yes, i believe that science will perfectly and completely mesh with the things of God-but not until this mortal life is over.

Well - if your right - we are going to need someone to start constructing the kinds of theories I've been mentioning. The theory of 'spirituality' etc. (Which is more than saying 'I 'feel' that spirituality is...)

I'm not saying it's impossible, but without that first step, I can't see that your even on the road to that kind of convergance with science...

But I'm sure you have your reasons for believing as you do :P

Let's put it this way - how much has science converged with 'matters of God' in the last 300 years? And why?

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