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Come Reason's Apologetics Notes blog will highlight various news stories or current events and seek to explore them from a thoughtful Christian perspective. Less formal and shorter than the www.comereason.org Web site articles, we hope to give readers points to reflect on concerning topics of the day.

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Sunday, March 17, 2013

Answering 'God of the Gaps' Objections

There are many atheists who like to escape from arguments highlighting the difficulties in their worldview by claiming an appeal to God is the same as making a "God of the gaps" argument. For those who don't know, a "God of the gaps"  argument is when someone supposedly sees a process they cannot explain (say the rain falling) and instead of finding out the natural causes for rain, they simply say "God did it." Atheists say that all appeals to God for otherwise unexplained phenomena are just God of the gaps" arguments and as science advances, these "God of the gaps" explanations will become fewer and fewer and cover less and less ground. They reason that we will one day be able to explain everything in terms of modern scientific notions and God will become superfluous.

Image courtesy Victorvictori
While such a tale sounds plausible, it really isn't the case. There are certain things that fall outside the realm of science (such as the answer to "Why is there something rather than nothing at all?") There are other things, as Robert Larmer has written, that when scientific knowledge grows, so does the mystery behind the thing itself.

As an example, the theist will object to the atheists' claims of life coming from non-life or the appearance of consciousness from non-conscious material, stating that there is no such warrant for believing these things can happen. Such events have never been seen before in human history. But the atheist will say that positing God for them is making a "God of the gaps" argument. Larmer addresses this objection head on:
Claims regarding events traditionally described as miracles and claims regarding the origin and development of life are where "God of the gaps" arguments are most commonly met. In the case of events traditionally described as miracles, it seems very evident that our increased knowledge of how natural causes operate has not made it easier, but more difficult to explain such events naturalistically. The science underlying wine-making is considerably more advanced today than it was in first century Palestine, but our advances have made it even more difficult to explain in terms of natural causes how Jesus, without any technological aids, could, in a matter of minutes, turn water into high quality wine. Indeed, it is the difficulty of providing a naturalistic account of such events that leads many critics to deny that they ever occurred; though this looks suspiciously like begging the question in favour of naturalism. It is clear that if such events have occurred, the advance of science has made them more, rather than less, difficult to explain in terms of natural causes. Employing a 'God of the gaps' argument that the occurrence of such events would constitute good evidence for supernatural intervention within the natural order seems entirely legitimate."1

References

1. Larmer, Robert A. "Is there anything Wrong with 'God of the gaps' Reasoning?". International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 52. 129-42.

61 comments:

  1. Article said: "As an example, the theist will object to the atheists' claims of life coming from non-life or the appearance of consciousness from non-conscious material, stating that there is no such warrant for believing these things can happen. Such events have never been seen before in human history. But the atheist will say that positing God for them is making a "God of the gaps" argument."

    This is very misleading. There are many theists that are scientists and are certainly looking for naturalistic answers, and they also shun "God of the gaps" explanations. If you seriously thought God did it by miracle, then it would be a waste of time to look for naturalistic answers (science). But science moves on, and "God" as the "answer for things" evaporates.

    Your following quote about a miracle of changing water to wine doesn't really relate to this "God of the gaps" argument. It is just a story, like any episode in the Harry Potter series.

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  2. I have found it profitable to carefully direct the discussion in such a way that the naturalist stumbles on the fact that he/she is actually advancing a "science of the gaps" argument. It's hard to keep the language simple, but it can be done. The most strategic points of the discussion will hinge on whether or not there is a metaphysical component that is relevant to the subject at hand.

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  3. It is true the alternative is "science of the gaps." But the problem for the Christian is that the "science of the gaps" has been shown by history to be effective and true, whereas the 'god' in 'the god of the gaps' shrinks which each new scientific discovery.

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  4. But Bernie, that's the exact point of my post. Science in the 1870's said "the cell is a simple thing, we can get life from it if we just collect a bunch of protoplasm." Science of the 1950's said "All we have to do is gather amino acids and we'll be able to get to a living cell." Science of the 1990's posited an RNA world. But each time we learn about the cell and its constituent parts, there are bigger and bigger problems to overcome. Science isn't advancing in the question on the origin of life; the more it studies, the more it finds out that the hurdles are higher and more difficult than they had ever imagined.

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  5. "There are certain things that fall outside the realm of science". This is a claim that is not falsifiable and becomes a matter of opinion and belief. You might as well say "The universe as it exists now was created 5 min ago." You cannot falsify that either. There are an endless number of claims that cannot be falsified. Why believe any of it?

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  6. John,

    if the word *science* means anything, then by definition there are certain things that science is not and certain things that fall outside its realm. For example, science cannot prove the laws of logic because the laws of logic must be assumed in order to do science. Science cannot prove that the number two is an even number.

    This is pretty modest view and if you are to claim that it is only a matter of opinion and belief, I would then have to ask you how you define science.

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  7. I'm not going to entertain an endless discussion of definitions. I'm illustrating that anyone can make unfalsifiable claims like "god created the universe". I'm going to claim "There is a unicorn orbiting Jupiter that lives off dryer lint and can travel faster than the speed of light. I'm the only person that can detect its existence". Falsify that! If it's not verifiable, testable, and falsifiable then why believe it? BTW Logic and numbers meet this criteria.

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  8. The problem you face here, John, is that your concept is so broad it cuts itself off. You write:

    "'There are certain things that fall outside the realm of science'. This is a claim that is not falsifiable and becomes a matter of opinion and belief."

    Well, THAT claim has the same provision as mine. You certainly didn't do science to come your conclusion. So, using your criteria, your claim is itself something that's not falsifiable and therefore becomes a matter of opinion and belief.

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  9. OK, one definition. A scientific claim is verifiable, testable, and falsifiable. Example: "All lint is pink." That claim meets this criteria. Do you agree?

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  10. [crickets] I'm still waiting for an answer. [/crickets]

    In the mean time, let's analyze the claim "In the case of events traditionally described as miracles, it seems very evident that our increased knowledge of how natural causes operate has not made it easier, but more difficult to explain such events naturalistically." Simplified: "science cannot explain miracles". Well no duh! That's because science deals with the verifiable, testable, and falsifiable. Miracles have none of these attributes.

    Now to the centerpiece claim, "It is clear that if such events have occurred, the advance of science has made them more, rather than less, difficult to explain in terms of natural causes." That's a BIG IF to prop-up the whole blog post.

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  11. John,

    Don't get too anxious, some of us have to handle other projects!

    1. As to your definition, I don't think paleontologists and archaeologists would qualify given the nature of their investigations, but we'll let it stand for sake of discussion. Also I think testable, verifiable, and falsifiable is a tautology, given you're test leads to either confirmation or falsification, right? They're all part of that same coin.

    Anyway, what follows from the definition that you've offered? Are you saying that anything that is not falsifiable by testing is therefore to be discarded as opinion? I don't see how this makes sense.

    Lastly, the thrust of my post is to counter the objection that science is closing the gaps on the any explanation that forces one to consider God as a possible cause. Rather than science explaining more and more of either things like miracle accounts or the emergence of life, the discoveries of science highlight just how difficult some of these events are to achieve by natural processes and chance.

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  12. Lenny wrote: "But each time we learn about the cell and its constituent parts, there are bigger and bigger problems to overcome. Science isn't advancing in the question on the origin of life; the more it studies, the more it finds out that the hurdles are higher and more difficult than they had ever imagined."

    Lenny, the problem is, I think, that you have a huge ego. It is like the ancients (who wrote the Bible) who thought the world revolved around the Earth (and thus themselves); we now know that we are the center of nothing. In the same way, you seem to think that we humans are so smart, that if we don't know, then it must be impossible for nature and must be a miracle.

    Try a different approach. Think that humans are dumb as slugs (which are our very distant cousins, by the way). A thousand years ago, humans knew almost nothing about science. Now we know a lot. But what we now know is still a drop in the bucket compared to what we'll know a thousand years from now. Knowledge is building exponentially (!!!), not sequentially.

    True, we don't know many things. But you are giving the negative science-stopper attitude of "science doesn't know and will never know." Meanwhile, scientists strive to learn more, and make new discoveries everyday. This article shows you have a bad anti-science attitude. Of course, there are many brilliant Christians in science that have the opposite, positive, scientific attitude; like those Christians at www.biologos.org . They accept evolution, and are striving to make it work with theology. (I think it is hopeless, so I left the faith... sorry, but science wins over imaginary theologies.)

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  13. This article suffers from some critical flawed assumptions. It assumes that atheists expect to be able to scientifically explain everything one day. This is not necessarily true. Even if there are some mysteries that will always exist and never be explained, that doesn't magically make "God did it" a good explanation.

    As an analogy, even if some murders remain unsolved forever, that doesn't make "gremlins killed him" a good explanation. The article never shows how the supernatural succeeds in explaining anything. This alone breaks down the whole article, but there are more problems with it.

    The second flawed assumption is that the "miracle" stories actually occurred as described, that water turned to wine, and saying that science can't explain that. Unfortunately, science and history, especially the psychology of eyewitness testimony and the evolution of myths, makes it easier to explain these things. They didn't happen. Note: this is not begging the question. It is levying the evidence we have from history and psychology to discover the most likely explanation of the story existing.

    Again, the matching analogy would be claiming that gremlins teleported into a person's room and killed him, and science can't explain how that teleportation worked. Sorry, you gotta establish the gremlin part first, and no, it is not begging the question in favor of naturalism to deny the gremlin hypothesis.

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  14. "test leads to either confirmation or falsification, right?"

    Wrong.

    Science works be falsifying competing claims. Claims that cannot be falsified are not scientific. This is why people like me that hold to this principal reject god-related claims.

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  15. It's great to have positive data from tests to confirm a hypothesis. But as John says, one really good negative test is enough to destroy a good hypothesis, even if there was previous mounds of confirming tests. The scientist is (or should be) happy to be proven wrong so they can revise their theory to more accurately model reality.

    Contrariwise, the theologian hates modifying their theology and tries to set it in stone as "revealed truth." And then every theologian has their own corner on their own subjective imaginary truth. But if you wear a distracting costume and big hat, people might get impressed (RE: Pope).

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  16. Bernie, John and others: The point is that truth is what it is. Can it not be that a plausible explanation of the universe is that a creator created it? That would be a truth claim. A truth claim can have evidence for it-absolute beginning, fine tuning, the existence of complex specified information etc. So lets say it were true that God (hypothetically) created the universe and the life within it, then that would be simply true. How would we discern this? Would what we concluded be based on observations from science? Of course it would. If God is not the correct hypothesis, then we must posit how the universe can exist uncaused or how it was caused by nothing etc. The reason naturalists are guilty of the same or worse than the God of the gaps, is simply because they only allow for one possible option-materialism or scientism. When you do this you limit the range of possibilities. No theist says we should stop trying to find natural explanations-or at least they shouldn't. So God of the gaps is not a legitimate complaint if you are going to do the same thing and start with a philosophical statement like matter is all there is or will ever be. When you start there you have limited possible solutions and hypotheses. It is begging the question to start with materialism and end with materialism.

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  17. I desire to conform my view of reality based on verifiable, testable, and falsifiable data (scientific criteria). But I'm a minority: One of the reasons is that my desire leaves many things unexplained. But I'm ok with that. The last thing I want to do is conform my view of reality to anything that does not meet scientific criteria. That is the main difference between us. Data by revelation is not scientific unless others can verify, test, and possibly falsify if.

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  18. That's pretty sad, John. On your view of reality, morality isn't real, beauty isn't real, and love isn't real. None of these are verifiable. It seems you're losing more than you gain from such an assumption.

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  19. That's offensive and intellectually dishonest. Morality is real: I know whats right because I have empathy. I know what's beautiful for how it makes me feel. I know what love is because I have and do experience it. My atheism does not make me a sociopath.

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  20. Data by revelation is not testable, falsifiable or verifiable? I understand and appreciate what you are trying to do but I think you are limiting yourself more than you know. First of all we don't believe in the God hypothesis because of revelation alone. We are looking at science to give us scientific evidence. We also use philosophical and historical evidence. And for some personal experience. All of these areas are verifiable and can be falsified. I think perhaps you misunderstand what theists do when they utilize what is called a cummulative case. We start with science and philosophy to support the understanding of an eternal, immaterial, all powerful transcendent cause of the universe-especially since current physics supports the absolute beginning of the universe. From there you ask what kind of cause is that? Not too many causes meet that criteria so to not be able to say God at that point is pretty hopeless-hence the attempt to say a quantum vacuum did it which does not meet those qualities. From there you can use the fine tuning and moral arguments as well. Revelation is obviously helpful but must also be tested. No Christian or theist should just say well a book written a long time ago said so we take it on faith. That is not the way it works. We are to test each alleged revelation as it is presented (there really are not as many as people think there are that claim to be inspired by a deity.) The Bible for example makes many historical claims that can be tested and in fact the ones who first were convinced of it were convinced by evidence. The first Christians claimed to have been convinced and they sited evidence. So it does meet most of your criteria such as verifiable and it is able to be falsified. By the very nature of a miracle of course you can't repeat it and test it like a science experiement but we have other ways to test it. And no its not all hanging on eyewitness testimony alone. But i will leave it there for now.

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  21. John,

    You said "Morality is real: I know whats right because I have empathy." But you also said "The last thing I want to do is conform my view of reality to anything that does not meet scientific criteria." Well, you have a contradiction on your hands there because there is absolutely no way you can empirically verify moral standards. I'm not trying to insult you, but to show that your standard of reality is unattainable and self-refuting.

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  22. Also, you can't apply your scientism to much of real life. Do you test, verify and try to falsify everything you think, feel, experience or do? Do you have loved ones? Can you know that love exists? Can you use science to prove reason, logic, love, virtue, morality, evil (things that are not material?) Can you test, verify and falsify your assumption that science is the only way to obtain knowledge? This is why many theists argue that without the theistic worldview you can't really justify reason or logic for example. We believe you can because we were created and designed to be able to and it does fit well with our experience. Materialism really cannot support any of these non material ideas. We would simply be molecules in motion with no free will to do science.

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  23. Troy said:
    "I think perhaps you misunderstand what theists do when they utilize what is called a cummulative case."

    You don't have a cumulative case. What you have is a lot of half-baked assumptions, and then you say that taken together, they are persuasive. They aren't. They are a logical fallacy of "appeal to ignorance"
    http://www.fallacyfiles.org/ignorant.html

    All of your logical arguments are playing in 'the god of the gaps' playground. Who made the universe? Obviously the same guy that makes earthquakes and thunder, right? Only now we know there are no gods making earthquakes and thunder. But we still don't know where the universe came from, so you appeal to these mysteries as if they are evidence for God. It isn't.

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  24. Troy said: "Also, you can't apply your scientism to much of real life. Do you test, verify and try to falsify everything you think, feel, experience or do?"

    Critical thinkers say "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence." When you have multiple people coming to you and saying "my religion is right and everyone else is wrong" you should critically examine them to see which, if any, make sense (at most, only one of the conflicting religions can be true; very possible all are from man-made imagination). Otherwise, you are being arbitrary. You dismiss the thousands of gods that other people have believed in. Go one god farther, and you're an atheist.

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  25. Oh my. I'll just cover a few of these topics - more later.

    LE: My morality is product of my brain. My actions derive from it. My actions are what you can test, verify, or even falsify to determine my morality.

    TW: "We start with science and philosophy to support the understanding..." That's where we differ: Selecting data to support a bias.

    TW: "Do you test, verify and try to falsify everything you think, feel, experience or do?" No. That would make me a dangerous driver if I was always second guessing myself LOL! We're talking about the bid questions here.

    TW: "Can you test, verify and falsify your assumption that science is the only way to obtain knowledge?" Yes. I do this every day in my job as an industrial R&D chemist. I have never gained knowledge from anywhere beyond my senses or provided by my DNA.

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  26. So what fallacy is it when you call arguments names and then present none of your own? or tell us how they are "half baked, ignorance" etc? So what you need to do is explain what cause of the universe meets the criteria of eternal, immaterial, transcendent, all powerful, and volitional. What can you come up with that has those qualities? One person (B. Russell) said extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. By the way, what kind of argument is that? I think the creation of the universe, life, and the resurrection of Jesus are extraordinary evidence. And Bernie I agree only one can be right-which is why anyone who has a worldview they are convinced of thinks theirs is the correct one. The thousands of gods I reject have no evidence so why would I spend my time trying to refute Zeus, Apollo etc? They don't have any special revelation of any kind. Not to mention created gods are not gods and don't meet the criteria for creating a universe. Or the millions of Hindu deities that no one knows anything about with no historical claims to test. Actually from your materialist worldview, everything that is in your mind is an illusion and meaningless since you are just molecules in motion. Who are you? Please be consistent with your materialism. And why are you on this blog site? Did your brain force you to be? I am still trying to understand how materialists think they can have free will. I love Sam Harris on this: "free will is an illusion" but yet he freely rejects belief in Godand wrote his book? That is a contradiction my friends. I am convinced people reject God because they don't want God to exist. But I guess I am not a critical thinker-I just should except that nothing created everything and that I have no free will and my experiences in life are illusory. I don't have to disprove the flying spaghetti monster to remain a Christian theist. Comparing the cause of the universe to earthquakes is just silly. That is why I think materialists use a "we have no idea but someday perhaps we will figure it out, but we already know it ain't a creator." If you say you don't know that is fine, but you are saying you DO know what it wasn't and that doesn't follow. if you don't know the cause then you don't know the cause. So you should be at best agnostic. The bigger problem you need to deal with is an evaluation of your world view. Does your worldview explain reality? Materialism does not cohere or correspond to reality in so many ways.

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  27. John, you are missing my point. This is philosophy 101. You can't use science to prove science. I am not suggesting that science is not legit and we shouldn't use it. The science you are referring to (that you use everyday) is what we all use it for. When you start trying to prove all that you know only by science, then you are using a self refuting epistemology. "Science is the only way I know anything." Lenny already demonstrated how this is self refuting. How much does love, logic, reason, virtue and morality weigh? Can you observe it? test it? verify it? If it is only a DNA deal or a product of evolutionary processes then none of these exist objectively. Life and our experience is illusory. Many atheists have pointed this out as well. So you are more than welcome to living a contradiction and think you can even justify rationality. Rationality does not exist if we are molecules in motion and nothing more.

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  28. Troy said:
    "So what fallacy is it when you call arguments names and then present none of your own?"

    Personally, I like multiverse theory to explain this universe, but I know it isn't proven so I'm not dogmatic. The point is, in basic philosophy, one should not be dogmatic for something which they have zero evidence. It's ok to say "I don't know." It's not ok to say that it is evidence for God when it isn't... to do otherwise is a logical fallacy.

    Your logic that leads to "God did it" as to the answer of the origin of the universe is the same exact kind of logical reasoning that made the ancients (and even some modern people like Pat Robertson) think that God sent earthquakes to punish people. (Different arguments, same kind of magical thinking.)

    I would guess your bigger problem, like Lenny, is not yet being certain about biological evolution (that humans descended from other animals; it is a fact). Once you accept that, you'll see more clearly to understand other related things. It is true that evolution is an origins narrative that blows away the earlier competing religious narratives. There's also cosmological evolution which explains how the elements were formed from energy (in the furnace of stars).

    Also, once you fully accept biological evolution, you'll be able to more fully see how Adam and Eve is a pure myth. The evangelicals Christians at biologos.org are trying to deal with this. Most evangelicals aren't yet up-to-speed or are in denial, seems to me.

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  29. Troy said:
    "How much does love, logic, reason, virtue and morality weigh? Can you observe it? test it? verify it?"

    It doesn't weigh anything, but you can still study it scientifically. A book suggestion for you:
    "Primates and Philosophers: How Morality Evolved"
    http://www.amazon.com/Primates-Philosophers-Morality-Evolved-Princeton/dp/0691141290

    His new, latest book:
    "The Bonobo and the Atheist: In Search of Humanism Among the Primates"
    http://www.amazon.com/Bonobo-Atheist-Search-Humanism-Primates/dp/0393073777/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1363989447&sr=1-1

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  30. sorry I meant to say, materialists use a "we have no idea but someday perhaps we will figure it out but we already know it ain't a creator" of the gaps argument. A creator is plausible, "nothing" is not. Why does atheist physicist Larry Krauss write a book called "A Universe from Nothing" and then redefine what nothing means? This is why we reject materialism and if one has to do ridiculous things like redefining nothing then no one should accept it. And yet I am accused of piecing together "half baked" evidence or looking for data that might support theism. That is not what I said-I did not say I hand picked data to support my view. However, the data more importantly does support my worldview.

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  31. You can say all day long that human evolution is a fact, but this is not close to reality. It is a "just so" story. It is again limiting yourself to having to explain everything from a materialistic perspective. You have no choice no matter how improbable it is. If you read the technical literature on this topic, you will encounter all of the challenges that to this day have no answer. All we have are assertions, drawings and nice creative story telling us how it happened. The popular science books and the media prop it up like it is fact when it is not. Small adaptations and mutations are agreed upon by all, but species changing into a totally different animal is not proven or in my opinion even close to it. I will give 2 examples. First, the famous "how the eye evolved paper" that is sited in Jerry Coyne's book as well as by Richard Dawkins. Supposedly they modeled via computer simulation how the eye could have evolved. The problem is that they didn't use a computer and they selected all of the steps themselves. They on their own chose every beneficial change and if I remember correctly chose 1826ish steps to get from the most basic photo sensitive substance to an eye similar to what we have. So this was the evidence on how easy it was to evolve an eye and then it was misrepresented for nearly 20 years and used over and over again as proof for evolution-well if intelligent agents can select 1800+ steps in a process to get an eye to evolve that is the oppostite of darwinian theory. Plus they don't take into account the changes you must have in the brain as well as the neurological changes from the eyes to the brainsit isn't just eyes that have to evolve but also the neurological system. So what was supposed to prove the ease in which an unguided process can create an eye, actually proved intelligent design. Then you have evolutionary scientists misrepresenting teh actual study by saying it was 2 different computers allowing things to just mutate and devolve etc and then bam an eye was created by random processes. There was nothing random about it-it was directed by scientists who made the decisions. this does not happen in the real world. There is not enough space to debate this in this blog but it is not close to proven. I would argue there is no good evidence just good story telling. There is a way to speculate how it might have happened but then we have to understand the difference between possible and probable. Like the eye example-its possible if one takes these steps, but it is not probable. A recent study also showed how it would take 6 million years to get 2 proteins changes to stick in DNA in the evolution between Apes and man. That's 2 changes in million years. Can you imagine the total number of changes that would have to take place to get from an apelike ancestor to human? The whole process was supposed to take a total of 6 million years nad yet it takes that long to get 2 proteins to stick in the DNA. Again this is in the technical literature that many do not know is out there. So no I do not agree with Biologos. However, evolution does not rule out a creator. It might say something about it, but it does not rule one out. I just do not think there is good evidence for it and more scientists every day are concluding the same thing. If you limit yourself to materialism you have no choice but to say it must have happened despite how improbable.

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  32. I am familiar with the books you gave links to. If morality evolved via a blind unguided proccess then objective morality does not exist. Our behavior would simply be what simply is. But you can't get ought from is. If morals are simply biological and chemical processes then there certainly would be no moral duties we should act upon. Not to mention we would have no free will to act upon them. If DNA is the source of your morality then you can't do anything about it. Dawkins says that there is no right or wrong, good or evil, all is just blind pitiless indifference. he is correct if materialism is true. He also says we just dance to our DNA. So you want to be moral? If we are all just animals then we are not moral agents and if you kill me, you have done nothing wrong. Morals would be relative and meaningless really. Since there is no god, there would be no accountability and at the end of the universe nothing we did would matter at all. Morality would be purely subjective. But if we are molucules in motion, its all illusory. That is why objective morality is good evidence for God. We all know they really do exist. If objective morals do exist, then God exists. If God does not exist objective morals do not exist. That is agreed upon by many materialists. If God does not exist then Nietzche is correct-nihilism.

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  33. sorry I mispoke on the protein sticking issue. should have said nucleotid binding site. here is more on the study:

    In 2007, Durrett and Schmidt estimated in the journal Genetics that for a single mutation to occur in a nucleotide-binding site and be fixed in a primate lineage would require a waiting time of six million years. The same authors later estimated it would take 216 million years for the binding site to acquire two mutations, if the first mutation was neutral in its effect. But six million years is the entire time allotted for the transition from our last common ancestor with chimps to us according to the standard evolutionary timescale. Two hundred and sixteen million years takes us back to the Triassic, when the very first mammals appeared. One or two mutations simply aren’t sufficient to produce the necessary chang-es—sixteen anatomical features—in the time available. At most, a new binding site might affect the regulation of one or two genes.

    As you can see this makes it very improbable that we actually did evolve from an ape like craeture. So if you want to believe that you are welcome to. Just don't expect the rest of us to. I believe in miracles, but that this kind. and that doesn't even touch the beginning of life which is at this point still without explanation. Every day that goes by, it gets more and more difficult to attempt to explain with materialistic processes alone. So mock all you want but your worldview does not do a very good job of explaining anything really.

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  34. Morality, love, beauty, etc. etc. all exist in the brain. Mental constructs. Of course you cannot quantify them directly. As such, YOU can get only so far applying the scientific method to gain knowledge of what's in MY head. But things that are not mental constructs, what we can both experience with our senses, this is what I'm talking about.

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  35. TW: Like I said above morality is a mental construct. Fortunately most of us have evolved with emphatic traits that prevent us killing each other. But if you have a mental defect and kill me, then I'm dead, and you can go happily about your business. Hopefully society will do something to sequester you, that's all the accountability you'll get.

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  36. I must defend my friend Dr. Krauss. He's doing what all theoretical physicists do... extrapolating the bleeding edge of modern physics. Yes there are claims in his book that defy common sense, but have you studied quantum mechanics? The point being is that his ideas are testable. His claim is a universe from nothing. He's not claiming god does not exist. You can still believe that if you want.

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  37. Troy said: "sorry I meant to say, materialists use a "we have no idea but someday perhaps we will figure it out but we already know it ain't a creator" of the gaps argument."

    More like "there's no evidence for a creator" ... evidence other than magical and superstitious thinking. No one knows, that's why it is a gap. Plug in god, and there's your "god of the gaps" evidence for god.

    Look up who invented the "god of the gaps" term. It was a theologian, and he recommended not using it because it is a shoddy argument; and it also makes for a shrinking god as science progresses.

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  38. Bernie. What you are doing is making it impossible to ever posit that God did anything. So by your definition of God of the Gaps, you have ruled out the God hypothesis apriori. It matters not who came up with the God of the gaps.

    Also M theory does not solve your problem. It only pushes it back one more step. You still would need a beginning of the mulitverse and as you said there is zero evidence for it.

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  39. John, Krauss does not believe God exists and by positing that the universe can come from nothing, he realizes that if it can't that is good evidence that God exists. So he is trying to avoid the problem. All atheistic phyicists who first discovered evidence for the big bang realized that if the universe had a beginning that proved that some deity existed. So they fought against the evidence due to their worldview. It all comes back to the fact you don't like the idea and don't want God to exist. I have studied quantum physics enough to know that a quantum vacuum is not nothing.

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  40. The main point of the blog: "In the case of events traditionally described as miracles, it seems very evident that our increased knowledge of how natural causes operate has not made it easier, but more difficult to explain such events naturalistically." This assumes there is evidence of miracles. There is no such thing. Case closed.

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  41. John, you proved my point about morality, virtue etc. You say they are mental contructs. Again if all of this is the result of molecules in motion then "objective" morality does not exist. There is no right or wrong, good or evil...

    We also would have no free will and cannot justify rationality or moral duty. So what are you left with? Can you do science? In that worldview, you cannot. Its all illusory. Sorry my friend that does not cohere or correspond with reality. That is why theism is a far superior worldview. It justifies objective morality, reason, logic, love , and free will etc. I would love to know how one who is a determinist can do science freely. It does not follow logically. No comments on the study I sited? No comments on the alleged proof that the eye can evolve? Actually evolution does not prove that God does not exist, it actually might prove that a God does exist even though I am not convinced that a neo-darwinian process can explain life. But if it did happen, it still needed divine help and guidance just like in the evolution of the eye example. Its ok for us to say we don't know. I am not saying that we shouldn't. But I have seen enough to be convinced that God does exist, or at least that it is extremely unlikely that He does not based on evidence. Stop saying there is none. You don't want God to exist so no argument is going to count for you.

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  42. All I want is evidence. My claim that there is no evidence for god can be toppled by just by one shred of reliable evidence. I will seriously consider any you have.

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  43. John, that is simply untrue. The God hypothesis is not invoking miracles. If God exists He designed, created etc. This is not a miracle. Modern science was invented by theists to understand how God designed things. Again you keep presenting things apriori. Or you can change the definition of what a miracle is like David Hume. You cannot say there is no evidence for miracles. They happen all of the time. How about this for a miracle: that nothing created everything. That would be the biggest miracle of them all. I am not convinced that "nothing" can be a causal agent. an aternal all powerful God is actually a simpler and more reasonable explanation. The resurrection of Jesus has evidence. I think that qualifies as a miracle and would be proof that Gopd exists as well. The reason Christianity came to be was based on evidence of a miracle. But again you reject it apriori.

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  44. If miracles happen all the time like you say, point to one in modern times.

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  45. John, the evidence is everywhere but why would you take my word for it? Do I really think someone who comes on this blog site to correct everything that is argued is really open? You are not here because you really want to know. You are here to attack and in your mind straighten out us irrational Christians. We have presented scientific, philosophical and historical evidences. If I say well I have seen things happen in my life that show evidence of the reality of God, you won't listen or believe it. I would not say these events were miracles though. I do know people who have had miraculous healings (albeit rare). I know people personally who have experienced incredible things that would qualify as miracles and these things happen all over the world. What you are asking for appears to be a recent ressurection or something like that. I as a Christian do not expect anything like that. Miracles even in the Bible are rare. But again people experience God daily and I cannot deny that since I have too. Now I am not a mystical person at all and I don't think God "speaks" to me but I have seen God do things in me and through me and He has worked many circumstances out. And again, the resurrection of Jesus has very good evidence for it. If you don't think so, I would love to hear your explanation of what happened that would explain these facts: The disciples were convinced they experienced the risen Jesus after His crucifixion-even willing to die for this belief. The empty tomb. The conversion of skeptics Paul (went from Christian killer to its greatest evangelist and James. The rise of this new movement based on the message that Jesus was the messiah predicted by the Hebrew scriptures and that He proved it by rising from the dead. The whole movement bagan because of this belief. It did not come after the fact. They were convinced He rose from the dead and that was the cause of the movement. If you want to reject the resurrection as the best explanation, you must posit a theory that can explain all of these facts that both skeptical and conservative scholars all accept as historically reliable. All theories posited to date have been rejected. The current position is exactly your statement-"well miracles are impossible therefore it can't be the resurrection so we don't know." The burden is on you to prove that miracles are impossible.

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  46. As far as evidence, if the creation of the universe, life, the resurrection of Jesus, historical claims of God's acts in history and personal experience are not good enough evidence for an eternal, immaterial, all powerful personal God then what is? If you want a way to measure or weigh God or look at Him with a microscope then you are asking for the wrong evidence. If we could do those things, that thing we are investigating would not be a God. That would be a physical object.

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  47. So it comes to argumentum ad ignorantiam as usual. I'm done here.

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  48. John, see told you...you are not open. I am not making the fallacy you suggest. I am not trying to prove that miracles are true because you can't prove they are not. I am simply stating that you are apriori saying they are not possible. And yet you don't respond to my other statements. This is too important of a topic to just dismiss things are you do. Don't mess around with your soul. I even presented you with examples of miracles and yet you have nothing to say.

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  49. Troy wrote:
    " I even presented you with examples of miracles and yet you have nothing to say."

    You did not give any valid examples with proof.

    There are Christians on TV who say they do miracles all the time, like Benny Hinn at his "miracle crusades." Hank Hanegraaff, "the bible answer man" on Christian radio, asked for proof. Hinn gave him prove of 5 cases. Hank said they are bogus. Here you even have Christians calling other Christians, and their miracle claims, bogus; and rightfully so.

    Yes- your argument that "a beginning requires God" is a modern rendition of the same thing the ancients said when they said caused caused thunder and earthquakes. It is the logical fallacy called "appeal to ignorance" (aka argumentum ad ignorantiam):
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argument_from_ignorance

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  50. Troy said:
    "All theories posited to date have been rejected. The current position is exactly your statement-"well miracles are impossible therefore it can't be the resurrection so we don't know.""

    For me, I'm open to the possibilities of miracles. But there's no good evidence to believe them. "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence" is a very smart precept to follow. You don't want to swallow a whale of a tale with zero good evidence.

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  51. Troy said:
    "The current position is exactly your statement-"well miracles are impossible therefore it can't be the resurrection so we don't know." The burden is on you to prove that miracles are impossible."

    If you say miracles are truly happening, that is a hypothesis that needs justification. The burden of proof is on you when you make that assertion.

    I'm open to the possibility of miracles, but I dismiss the likelihood because there's no good supporting evidence to believe such a far-out proposition.

    "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence." The belief in miracles is a perfect example of "an extraordinary claim."

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  52. By the way, the maxim "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence" is a part of basic critical thinking curriculum. Any course in introductory critical thinking would teach this. It is one of the fundamentals, but something missed by the majority of Christian apologists.

    I wonder if Lenny can admit that this is a fundamental precept for critical thinking, that even Christians should use?

    Think about how you deal with other outrageous claims from other religions, such as the infant Jesus talking, a story in the Quran:
    http://wikiislam.net/wiki/Parallelism:_Talking_Baby_Jesus

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  53. Bernie! you do not understand the argumentum ad ignorantium. Argumentum ad Ignorantiam: (appeal to ignorance) the fallacy that a proposition is true simply on the basis that it has not been proved false or that it is false simply because it has not been proved true. So if I was using this fallacy I wouls say well miracles are true because there is no evidence that says they are not. Please quote where I have said this? Unless I am missing something here, please explain where I have used this fallacy. The beginning of the universe is not a fallacy argument. For one, the cosmological argument does not say God created the universe. It concludes by pointing out that whatever the cause is, it must be eternal, immaterial, all powerful (able to create out of nothing), volitional and transcendent... I leave it to you to tell us what sort of cause meets that criteria. But this is no logical fallacy with this argument. I am not saying for example-well there is no evidence to the contrary that God did not create the unvierse therefore God created the universe. Actually it is true that there is no evidence to the contrary, but I am presenting real evidence that the best explanation is that God created the universe. So you can avoid this by positing another cause that meets those atributes. I guess you can try using the number 7 to create the world but numbers are not causal agents.

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  54. I too reject Benny Hinn as a miracle worker because he is a fraud. So wait, isn't that a fallacy you are using? You disprove miracles by poiting out someone who falsly claimed to perform miracles. Just because Benny Hinn is a fraud is no reason to think miracles don't ever happen. How can I prove to you what my experience is? I can't. I can tell you that I have experienced God in my life and I know countless others who have as well. Of course people can falsly think they had an experience. I only allow for subjective experiences to flow from the objective. That is why I don't allow feelings or experiences to be the sole reason for my belief in God-I combine it with history, science, logic and philosophy. So bottom line is that every miracle can be and should be investigated. You cannot disprove what reliable people I know personally have experienced. besides you believe in an even greater miracle-you think that nothing created everything and you think life just came to be with no outside help. That is a greater miracle. I also know people who have been healed from cancer etc where the doctors actually said that was a miracle (not by some tv person-if simply happened after a lot of prayer-again this is not a common occurance). But how can I prove that to you? What constitutes proof in your book?

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  55. There are books you can consult on this: Craig Keener "Miracles, The Credibility of the New Testament Accounts" and Rex Gardner, he's a physician in the UK, book 'Healing Miracles'. My prediction is that you will not consider reading them but I really hope you will.

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  56. As far as the overly used extraordinary claims quote-we have extraordinary evidence for the claims we are making. On the other hand, what qualifies as extraordinary evidence is subjective. So what is your explanation for the facts I noted to John regarding the resurrection of Jesus? By the way, I learned all about that quote in my philosophy classes. And yes we applied it all of the time.

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  57. Your example from the Koran is silly. Why would we accept this as historical? It was written 600 years after the fact. This is why we depend on the earliest sources from the 1st century. this is why we reject Islam. A guy in a cave thinks he might have been deceived by a demon but later is convinced it was an angel giving him divine revelation. He performs no miracles and in fact refuses to and makes all sorts of historical blunders and even mistates what Christians believe. He contradicts everything that had come before yet he was supposedly correcting God's revelation that according to him can't be corrupted. This is why we reject Islam. It does not stand up to scrunity and there is no evidence for it and certainly no extraordinary evidence.

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  58. And I can't resist. remember that with naturalism there is no free will, intentionality, morality or true experience/existence. You as a person do not exist. You are just a machine (a bunch of molecules and chemical reactions reacting-there is no real you). The you that existed last week is different. Every 7 years you have completely different cells in your body. So, are you the same person you were 7 years ago if its all just matter? How do you justify rationality with materialism? You can't do science without free will, intentionality and the existence of a reality that we can truly experience. You have never commented on this problem. The reason why is it doesn't work.

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  59. Bernie had written:

    "By the way, the maxim "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence" is a part of basic critical thinking curriculum. Any course in introductory critical thinking would teach this. It is one of the fundamentals, but something missed by the majority of Christian apologists."

    Uh, no.

    The phrase "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence" does not stem from a critical thinking text, but from astronomer and atheist Carl Sagan, who borrowed the idea from Marcello Truzzi. It really isn't a good way to measure the truth value of a claim precisely because it is so hard to define what "extraordinary" means. Regardless, the evidence to support any claim doesn't need to be extraordinary, it simply needs to show itself as reliable while it provides better explanatory scope and more explanatory power than the other options.

    For example, I can claim that while I just began bowling a month ago, I was able to bowl a 300 game. Certainly this is an extraordinary claim. However, to support such a claim, I can offer the testimony of friends who were there at the time and the certificate from the bowling alley as proof. It would be unreasonable at that point to reject the claim because the game wasn't an official PBA competition, the lanes were not pre-certified, and the event wasn't captured on video tape. If the witnesses were reputable they would serve a good positive evidence of the claim.

    For more on how evidence really works, see J. Warner Wallace's work, such as http://coldcasechristianity.com/2013/the-case-for-christianity-unrealistic-expectations-and-evidential-modesty/

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  60. I would like to post a response but I've noticed my comments are no longer being published? It said 'awaiting moderation' and I don't ever hear back if it went through or not.

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  61. Sorry, Bernie. I had to switch the blog over to moderation because I was getting some spam in the comments. But you may comment here.

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