Saturday, November 18, 2006

I really appreciate your comments about how I should shoot the movie version of Letting Go Of God. It’s really having an impact on me and I am thinking about each of your ideas.

This summer, I got the chance to do about thirty minutes of my second monologue, “In the Family Way” accompanied by the L.A. Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl, with a new score written by the same composer who did the music for “God Said, Ha!” It was really fun to perform with an orchestra. I mean, duh.

And afterwards I kept thinking about orchestras, and chamber orchestras and choirs and the music I used for the stage version of “Letting Go of God” which is Vivaldi’s Mass in D major. And I kept thinking about – perhaps – doing a shoot with the orchestra on stage with me, almost like I’m giving the Church it’s voice back, and it’s the music that accompanies me.

Anyway, I was just thinking about that…

So anyway, I guess I just want to say that I really appreciate your opinions and ideas about how to shoot this. Right now I am favoring shooting it in my own home, but also with an audience. It would be very surreal. My house is small, but I have a backyard – a little backyard, but a backyard – and I could put in seats, on little risers, and I figured today I could probably get about sixty people back there. And so I would start the show there – and the way it would be shot, you might not really understand if it was in a theater or not. And at some point I would walk out of the backyard and into the house and the rest of the show would be a transition between areas of my house and times when I am performing in front of an audience and other times when I am clearly all alone.

And I could even have a small chamber orchestra in, say my dining room and maybe a small choir too (although I would still use the music from a full orchestra, it would be just suggested by the few musicians and singers) and they would just sort of be there, and then maybe when I walk back through the house, not be there. And I could make a makeshift church in the garage (I like that idea, that the church is in the garage!) and I could go there when I talk about being in the church and the Bible study classes and so forth. And I have a big map of the world that I used to have on the big front door of my garage that I could re-put-up, and I could go there when I talk about traveling through the east, and going to South America.

My mind is just exploding with this. I don’t know if it’s too hokey or not. And I don’t know if it’s because my daughter, Mulan, watches Pee Wee’s Playhouse incessantly and that’s inspiring me too. But I don’t know. I think I can do both, the audience and the house, surreal and real. Maybe, possibly? And all for under a million dollars?

I was thinking I could shoot a test of this with just a camera operator walking with me through the house, cut that together and see how it really looks.

We will see. It’s true that an audience in a theater adds a certain amount of energy that cannot be caught in a house all by myself. And that thought makes me want to just do it the same way I did “God Said, Ha!” Hmmm… But I have to say, that I like the idea that I invite the audience into my home, just the same way I did the Mormon boys. And it feels the most organic and right from an artistic standpoint – I mean, when I did the stage version, I created a set that basically was my living room.

When I discussed this with my friend Jim Emerson (see his blog, it is fantastic, it’s at http://blogs.suntimes.com/scanners/) he liked this idea and he said that he loves when movies have that sense of space and you know where you are and you can feel comfortable there. Okay, just writing that last sentence makes me think that this idea sounds obvious, but Jim was much more eloquent about it (as usual) and I agreed with him!

Anyway, I was so glad to see that the creative idea I was evolving into is shared by so many of you. I really want to try to make this surreal both-in-the-theater, and-at-home shooting thing work.

OK. Enough of that.

All day I thought about science being anti-God or not. And I think I have to revise my answer. Because I came at it from a different point of view. I put on my belief-hat and I asked myself that question from the person I was before, when I was a believer. And I would have answered sort of like Anonymous suggested: that there was a God, but it wasn’t a super-natural force, it was natural. But it was an intelligence and had consciousness and was able to know about us, human beings. And THIS is what I would think that science was biased against.

Of course, at that time, I really didn’t understand science. But, if I did, that’s what I would have thought. And then when I read the blog posts I saw that Anonymous wrote (see I have no idea which Anonymous is which) basically the same thing I was getting back to. Anonymous wrote and suggested that God could be a schoolteacher watching his class, dispassionately, play around and try to learn about the world.

And yes. I think that when believers think that science is anti-God, they aren’t thinking of God as supernatural, they are thinking God is natural, a natural Something that instigated the Universe and watches over us.

And that is sort of Deism. And I remember, that was my last great hope – I was going to be a Deist. It made sense to me that some intelligence started this whole thing, and then set back and since it was clear to me that this intelligence didn’t intervene in our affairs or affected anything, I just saw It as this passive presence. And I mentioned this idea to Vic Stenger – this physicist who has written extensively, and he said. “Yes, that could be true. But it sure doesn’t have to be. And why would it be? And wouldn’t it be much more likely that we would, as narcissistic as us humans are, come up with that idea because that idea is so agreeable to us?”

And then I thought about evolution, how cruel and horrifying evolution really is. And then I thought, what is the difference between no-god and a god that does nothing? And why would I elevate consciousness above anything other than an adaptation that our species inherited that allows us some advantage in our reproduction and survival problems.

And then I just had to let go of the whole thing. I guess I am only slightly revising my answer. Science is not anti-God, unless God is defined as a Supernatural power that can change the laws of nature. This does not seem to be a very helpful idea in science. It basically just says, "Anything is possible." But I think most people think that God is a part of nature. Not supernatural. I mean, I didn't think of God as supernatural. But then, I didn't understand what supernatural was any more than I understood what nature was.

I mean, I think for me, the problem is – that even though, as Pontifica wrote (which I am so thankful by the way) and quoted the Salon article, “The God that people like Dawkins reject is a God very few people believe in.” And yes, I would say that is true. I think most people were like the way I was. And that means I didn’t really define who God was, and I just had this vague sense of love and direction and fate and the world seemed, on the surface, to be designed.

But when you start to define God, that’s when it gets tricky. That’s when God disappears, because he is impossible to define. Now, my old self would think that was a compliment. Yes, yes, God is so elusive, he is beyond description. But now I think that is just a cop-out. And that people who believe in God like that (which is, in my world, everyone!) just haven’t sat down and thought about it deeply. Because when you think about it deeply, it is very hard to keep God alive in any sense.

Okay, I’ve already written too much and I have to get off to the grocery store to buy Thanksgiving supplies! But I wanted to write to Pontifica about the ghosts – there are lots of books about this, but the bottom line is that it is amazing what people can “imagine” together. People are naturally coerced into a collective agreement over experience, especially families. It seems to me, much more likely than there actually being a ghost, that the family conjured this idea of a ghost up for themselves and then agreed on the sounds and feelings. This isn’t really conscious on their part. I think it’s just something we all naturally do.

I did the CNN interview. It was really short. I wanted to make a point that Atheism is not a faith (that was a really good comment by the way, and I really wanted to say that) but I didn’t get a chance. He asked me, like, three questions. How can I be moral without God? How could a good Catholic girl like me become an atheist? And I forget the last question – oh yeah. What do I want people to get out of my show, am I trying to proselytize?

I always get that last question. As if they are saying, “You are as bad as all the rest!” And I have such mixed feelings about it. On the one hand, I am simply telling my story. On the other hand, I am actually making my case. I dunno.

54 comments:

Undecided said...

"What do I want people to get out of my show, am I trying to proselytize?"

Ummm...I want them to think?

SweetThursday said...

I am on the fence in the Science/God debate. I kinda like it on the fence. I don't know why I have to get off the fence. There are more possiblities up here.

I think that belief is tricky sticky stuff. If you believe in something, that seems to eliminate other alternatives. Other answers. If there are questions, sometimes a process of elimination gets you to an answer sooner, but it might eliminate a better answer.

Think of all those getting released from prisons that DNA has cleared, but other evidence had convicted.

I don't know what God is made of. And I don't even feel right labeling God, God. That comes from my being raised a Catholic. But from as young as I can remember I have questioned the concept of religion and whatever holy books that hold it together. In catechism class I asked my questions respectfully, yet still I ended up in many a corner.

When questions end you up in a corner . . . I have to ask, "what is so scary about a question that has no answer?"

I love science too. I was a lone female in many a physics class, and upper math class. I shocked many a classmate when I was the A to beat.

In elementary school math class I never believed you couldn't divide by zero, and later I learned there was a whole system of numbers that are based on doing just that.

I can't believe in a void. Science is based in several theories, that can't be 100% proven fer sure, fer sure. ANd that doesn't bother me either.

I believe in the questions.

Here is a question for you, one that keeps spinning in my brain and makes me go Hmmm?

What do you think of 'prayer therapy'? That is my name for it. You know those studies that show that the health of patients that were prayed for (without their knowledge) improved over those that were not prayed for.

Anonymous said...

I think the first two questions point to the answer to the third one. Why can't a 'good girl', a moral person, also be easily understood to be an atheist? It's so important that people like you , Julia, continue to speak out so publicly. Your efforts bring attention to the inequities in our society as regards tolerance to religious belief. Those like us, numbering in the millions, tens of millions, have as much right to our 'religious' beliefs (in other words our beliefs about religion)as anyone else. As well as the right to thoughtfully discuss those beliefs, including in the public sphere. No one would question the right of anyone with any OTHER religious belief system to discuss or PROMOTE their beliefs.

Laurence Boyce said...

Crikey Julia. An audience in your backyard and an orchestra in your living room! Well I don't know the first thing about film-making but it sounds a bit ambitious. I would keep it simple. You around the house, filming each episode at leisure. Vary it with different postures and outfits say. Music dubbed on after. And maybe interleave with little scenes that you reminisce from the past in a sort of hazy shot. But it's always just you talking. Wouldn't Brian Flemming help you out if necessary?

Interesting what you say about the difference between a supernatural and a natural God. And which one do religious folk generally believe in? Answer: they try to have it both ways of course! While God lies outside of time and space and beyond all human understanding, then somehow he's also intimately connected with every aspect of our lives. Hmm. Bottom line is that if God exerts a clear causal influence upon the universe, then let's see it in terms that cannot be misinterpreted; but if he makes no difference to anything at all, then he can surely take a jump.

Julia, please don't have mixed feelings about anything. You're way better than "all the rest." You're just telling it the way you see it; religions tell it the way they got it out of some ancient book. Just be yourself and have a great time. Wish I could help you in some way. Much love.

Anonymous said...

On science vs God.

A belief in a God is a belief about reality and so science is the right, the only tool to probe. To that extent science is anti-God in the sense that science has found no evidence for God, and everything we've learned about the universe shows that God is either impossible or unnecessary.

In general, science as actually anti-faith. It is successful because it recognizes that people can fool themselves and demands scrupulous honesty. Faith seems to assume that people are always right, and if it feels good then it is probably true. This is what science is most opposed to.


"Atheism as a faith."

Yeah, I've seen that a lot. It's a strange ploy, denigrating science or atheism by implying that it's a faith. "Let's all roll in the muck together."

I think Randi said it best when he said that atheism is a faith like not collecting stamps is a hobby.

Anonymous said...

To sweetthursday,

All the studies I've heard of show just the opposite. People who were anonymously prayed for showed no improvement. Many studies also show that patient's conditions frequently worsened, after knowing they had been prayed for. Speculation by analysts focus on the idea that anger or depression due to feeling abandoned by 'god' could be a correlating factor.

Norma Manna Blum said...

Julia:
I hope this doesn't mean I will have to go to bed without any dinner, but I can't let
“The God that people like Dawkins reject is a God very few people believe in.” which apparentlly came from a Salon article go by into cyberspace without comment.
So what? People who believe in or are seeking another versions of god are not atheists..
(This is not only a semantic distinction, but a realistic one, and quite definite.)
It's an insult to Dawkins - as if he were too simple minded to distinguish between one theist's conception of a supernatural presence in the universe, cosmic and/or personal, and another, perhaps more benign version.
First, although I am not given to hero-worship, he is certifiably (he DOES have a body of actual work apart from taking on religion) brighter than most of us and unlikely to have overlooked the possibility.
But even if he had, why would such a man knock himself out talking about atheism as a refutation of the religious inculcation we have ALL had inflicted upon us, IF the intellectual (and emotional) dilemma centered on being able to come to a reasonable consensus of a more viable god?

I don't think - the very term atheist denies such a conception - that Dawkins is simply unaware that there is a BETTER, perhaps KiNDER, less intrustive, concept of god, and that if he could only be made aware of it, zero in on it, he would have a different view of the universe.
Uh-uh...UH! What I think ..or rather what I know for myself is that when one calls oneself an atheist, one is not looking for something in the spirit world that is more benign to believe in that would either enhance or explain life.
It means one has concluded that thinking of anything that happens in nature or in personal exictence or indeed anything anywhere, anyhow, has NOTHING to do with a god.
WHY?
Well, because there is no god.
Not good god, not bad god...
Not pleasant, nice universalist god, unitarian god, non-scriptural god, Pollyanna god, any more than there is a vengeful, busybody god, who keeps a list of who is naughty who is nice, and who is gonna get pumpkin pie because s/he has behaved in one way or another.. or that the apple fell on Isaak Newton's head because god told it to do so that that man could start to explore his environment.
No god.
And that the answers lie elsewhere.
I have no idea why anyone or antyhing in Salon would excite such a comment, but if it actually did appear it is one of those soporifics that even well -meaning religious liberals offer up ... a sort of "you guys really COULD get along if you would lighten up and try to take a broader view or how much religionists have for the most part evolved away from adamant literalism."
If, as some of your contributors have said - atheism is such a big deal so that "coming out" as an atheist beats by far announcing to one's parents or one's Rabbi that one is gay (I have no way of knowing that as I grew up in an atheist environment) - then obviously it's a big, big, deal and fraught with all kinds of danger.
But once having faced the dragon.. what would be the emotional pay off in pussyfooting around with one of those "feel better" substitutes?
It is a fact, no longer a supposition, and undeniable that science is not out to PROVE the non-existence of god.
That's is not its function and to think of science that way is simply foolish, shows only that one is NOT a scientist, and is a waste of time.
But to try to make out that were one's vision to encompass a more benign, liberal, reasonable god, would also allow for religionists to stop viewing science as threatening is a waste of time, too.
Because Science IS, a threat.
SCIENCE.. the pursuit of knowledge, the human urge to assuage curiousity and follow an idea to its conclusions stands apart from any concern one way or another about the existence of god.
But, but, but... that said.. to pretend that science has not challenged religious teachings from it rise into a discipline from alchemy and astrology, is an excercise in futility and flirting with fantasy.
The more we know - science - the more it becomes apparent that god has nothing to do with anything, good, bad, indifferent..
The religious will have to live with that because there is nothing else they can do.. they will have to believe because they believe.
What's so bad about that for the individual believer?
Nothing much.. so obviously the threat is to power, political rather than spiritual power, and that is the crux of the matter.
A case in point: the seminal incident in the history of the People of Israel, the basis of Judaic theology . is the Exodus from Egypt , the forty year long sojourn in the Sinai desert and its culmination : Hashem(god) joining Moses on the top of Mt. Horeb and giving him the tablets with the Commandments, and the Torah ( the first five books of the Hebrew Bible, and the incontrovertible words of God himself).
Almost 6000 years of fervent, indeed often fanatical belief are bound up and dependent on that having occurred as written.. and the first book of Torah , Genesis, is the fount of beliefs that are acknowledged as the basis of all three Abrahamic faiths (Judaism, Christianity. Islam) and their various and sundry offshoots and denominaitons.
For hundreds of years, Archeological exploration supported by religious monies have combed the relevant areas seeking corroboration of holy writ.
So far so good... except that SCIENCE, amoral science has inadvertently (that was no the goal) proven beyond any doubt that it is impossible that any of it should have happened as written.
Impossible.. modern carbon dating methods, combined with really sophisticated archeological procedures have shown that geographically, historically and practically none of it can be true.
The archeological exploration taken up,including by Israeli archeologist, in good faith, with the goal of FINDING PROOF in the desert that would (thrillingly) have suggested the historical base of the Bible.. has, after eons of time, money and labor come up with the no longer moot conclusion: NONE of it could have happened as written.

And meterologists agree.
As do geologists.
And cartographers..
It is all quite impossible.
Can evil science be to blame that after endless attempts not to mention millions of dollars spent on ravaging Mount Ararat in Turkey to find the proof of Noah's ark, led to the conclusion that that too is myth, with pagan roots?
So now, does that mean that religious Jews who read the bible as literal have to shed their costumes and throw away their Torah and/or kill themselves?
No, they can either -as some do - curse science and deny its efficacy.. or they can ignore all of it, and just continue to believe as if nothing has happened to interfere with their certainty - because they have FAITH.. and FAITH is not dependent on reality but on a capacity for faith itself.
They will live with it. because evolution - such an irony - decrees "adaptation or death.:
Science doesn't have that option...
The concept of Science and its methodology is the direct antithesis of faith.
What's the point of pretending otherwise?
People who are looking for other spiritual outlets for their discomforts with what IS, or who can't give up a desire to believe are NOT atheists..
They are something else..
Something else that is not to be confused with what Dawkins is talking about.
Whew!
NMB


And yes, I would say that is true. I think most people were like the way I was. And that means I didn’t really define who God was, and I just had this vague sense of love and direction and fate and the world seemed, on the surface, to be designed.

Anonymous said...

Hi - I just read the cover article of this month's Wired magazine on "The New Atheism." I found it really interesting. I assume you know about it but thought I would mention it just in case.

Anonymous said...

I understand and appreciate Julia's concern about proselytizing, and I agree with "undecided" that Julia is encouraging people to think. More precisely, she is encouraging people to question--the finest element of thinking (in my estimation).

You are giving permission to people to think more about something they have most likely begun to think about anyway. The fact that you received thousands of e-mails following your recent radio airing suggests to me that there are an awful lot of people out there already thinking about the questions you are raising.

You are not offering eternal glory to those who choose to follow your way of thinking. Nor are you suggesting that those who do NOT follow your path face some miserable fate.

I'm very impressed that you are concerned about whether or not you might be proselytizing. "Preachy" atheists are as annoying as "preachy" evangelicals. But your concern is a good sign that you probably will not proselytize.

I do not yet have the sense that you are trying to convert believers into non-believers.
Now, if I read that you have enlisted missionaries to bring atheism to the misguided believing masses, then I will begin to worry.

Until then, please keep sharing.

Dan UK said...

Hi Julia
When is the CNN piece going to air ? It is an interesting dilema you bring to the table . You may only be interested in claiming your right to dissent from the view god exists and no more . However my ( and it could be faulty ) understanding of the worlds religions ,is that it is not only important that the individual have faith , but they convince/convert others to their way [ proselytize] . This means ,not only do you not believe in one of their major statutes but also fail to behave in an imperialistic fashion to your fellow human . This alongside demanding the right to be left in peace , maintain life and a value system within your own moral compass , can be viewed as dangerous .

I must admit to having been raised Catholic as well ,
spending my childhood in London surrounded by other faiths as well , then in 1973 aged 13 to the Republic of Ireland, a small country school and a bloody civil war raging with religion playing a substancial part in fueling it . How a good Catholic girl could come to the conclusion there is no god is a cakewalk in comparison to asking what other actions have been taken by good God fearing Catholics!( see also any other religion ) . Or was the question how did you escape? .

Viewing your situation from across the atlantic has proved facinating . The topic of religion/god/beliefs was to a greater extent ignored both in the media and in everyday society . Recently one of the top jounalists/newpresenters questioned 3 major religious leaders without there being any comment on his own disbelief in a god ( presently still available to listen to via BBC Radio 4 web site ) . The idea has also been muted that Athiests are to be welcomed for their comments on world events as well as the major religions .

Keep Well Dan

Tom Moran said...

I'm tempted to respond to the end of your post, but for right now I won't. Maybe another time.

Right now I want to make a suggestion about your film and how to shoot it. I would look at Olivier's film of "Henry V." think it would give you some productive ideas on how to shoot your project.

Olivier starts with actors at the Globe Theater in the Elizabethan Era getting ready to put on a production of "Henry V." Then the performance starts, and as it progresses we're aware that soon we're not in the Globe anymore -- that we've moved to more realistic sets. Then we're at a very realistic Battle of Agincourt in the open air, and then slowly, gradually, he draws us back into the Globe Theater for the finale.

You could do something like that for your show. Build a set on a stage that looks like your house, put an audience in there that watches a feed from a live shoot in your house so that you can get the audience reaction on an audio track, and then at some point you switch from the house to the stage and the audience watching the tape won't know when you do it until you have the cameraman pan around and show the audience in what they thought was your house.

That also has vaguely metaphysical implications, if you think about it. It makes them question what they think they believe -- doesn't it? After all, they thought they were watching you in your house, onlu that proved to not be the case -- what other so-called facts need to be called into question?

Laurence Boyce said...

Wow Tom - deep stuff! Maybe God could turn up at the end as a final twist in the tail. I much prefer background music to canned laughter. Clearly Julia is going to have to shoot a number of movies to keep us all satisfied!

Michael said...

Julia,

Let me say again that I appreciate this site where a discussion regarding God/atheism can flow with earnest and in civility. I decided to change from being Anonymous Michael to just Michael.

Addressing your prior post, you said: "I say to Michael, just try and think of it. Just try to. Imagine we are right and you are wrong. Now I say this because I spent so many years thinking scientists were wrong and religion was right" I have actually already performed that exercise. Although raised Christian, during a portion of my life, I tried to comprehend all the unexplainable things about God and when I could not find an answer, had the thought, "well, I guess there is no God." However, I found there was no satisfying answer to all the other problems that raises - such as, ok, how did we get here; how did the universe begin; why is there such incredible design in everything; how do I discount Jesus. I finally decided that my puny mind cannot begin to grasp an infinite intelligent being. It is similar to an ant trying to grasp the workings of human civilization. I made a choice - I choose to believe.

This choice I made is, in my mind, the most logical. Here is the choice. Julia, if you are correct, at death, you will never know that you were correct, and there will be no rewards at death for being correct. However, if you are wrong, at death, you will know that you were wrong, and there will be adverse consequences (under my Christian belief). Whereas, if I am wrong, at death, I will never know that I was wrong, and there will be no adverse consequences of being wrong. However, if I am right, at death, I will know that I was right and there will be wonderful rewards for being right. The logical choice is to choose belief. Of course, that choice only relates to death. There are many, many more benefits of believing in God that occur while one is living. I kept seeing in my mind the Knight Templar telling Indiana Jones "Choose wisely."

You also wrote: "All day I thought about science being anti-God or not. And I think I have to revise my answer. Because I came at it from a different point of view. I put on my belief-hat and I asked myself that question from the person I was before, when I was a believer. And I would have answered sort of like Anonymous suggested: that there was a God, but it wasn’t a super-natural force, it was natural. But it was an intelligence and had consciousness and was able to know about us, human beings. And THIS is what I would think that science was biased against."

The problem with "science" as the rules are laid out by the scientific community is that no non-natural explanation for an observation will be allowed. One of the best explanations I have seen of the anti-God bias in science is by John Wilkins who wrote on the TalkOrigins (a pro evolution) website as follows:

"The first phrase--all life on Earth was produced by impersonal forces--is tautological from a scientific perspective. That is, scientific inquiry begins with the premise that all natural phenomena have natural explanations. In particular, since life is a natural phenomenon, the scientific assumption is that life has a natural explanation. This might seem to be an attack on certain religious beliefs, but it is not. It is simply an assumption made for the purpose of seeing how far naturalistic explanations can be carried and for comparing various naturalistic explanations with one another.

In particular, notice that evolution, or any other scientific theory, can never "prove" that life was produced by impersonal forces, since the scientific process begins by assuming this and no theoretical process can prove its own assumptions (assuming that no assumptions are redundant, which we can assume in this case). In fact, science cannot rule out the possibility of supernatural intervention in any process even if the process is explained by what is considered a well-established theory (a "law"). The framework of science ignores the possibility of supernatural events, so if such an event was to occur it would be viewed scientifically as a problem for the theory, spurious data, etc., but not as a supernatural event. However, assuming for the sake of scientific study that such possibilities do not exist is not a proof that such possibilities do not exist, no matter how well theory fits observations. Again, there is simply no valid way to prove the assumptions of a theoretical framework within that framework."

Regarding what science can and cannot prove, Mr. Wilkins goes on to state: "In short, we have no proof even that science produces the most rational explanations of observations, let alone that it produces the correct explanations. ... The rediscovery post-Merton of the social nature of science has thrown eternal Scientific Methods out the window, but that doesn't mean that science is no longer distinguishable from non-science. It just isn't as easy as one would like in an ideal world."

Is this not a profound observation? Julia, when you say that "science" convinced you that there was no God, you are, in effect, saying that a framework for viewing how the world works which, by definition, excludes the consideration of anything supernatural, convinced you that the supernatural does not exist. The framework forced the belief. Is this not correct?

Bear in mind that this scientific framework is a relatively recent invention. Science did not always work this way. In fact, the foundation upon which modern scientific principles are based was built on men who were devoutly religious and believed in creation by God. In Physics—Newton, Faraday, Maxwell, Kelvin. In
Chemistry—Boyle, Dalton, Ramsay. In Biology—Ray, Linnaeus, Mendel, Pasteur, Virchow, Agassiz. In Geology—Steno, Woodward, Brewster, Buckland, Cuvier. In Astronomy—Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler, Herschel, Maunder. In Mathematics—Pascal, Leibnitz, Euler. These men had a brillance that holds up through the ages.

In my view, science, at its best, has explained how things work so that we better understand the structure of things. The fact that we understand the construction of a symphonic work and how sound is produced does nothing to denigrate the creative genius of Beethoven. The fact that we understand the structure of paint molecules and the interaction of paint on a canvas does nothing to denigrate the creative genius of Rembrandt.

Michael

SweetThursday said...

To laura M.

I was referring to the William Harris Study done in 1999 in Kansas City, Mo on heart patients.

Patients that were prayed for suffered 10% fewer complications after four weeks.

Researchers concluded that prayer may be an effective addition to standard medical care. "Although we cannot know why we obtained the results that we did, we can comment on what our data do not show. For example, we have not proven that God answers prayer or that even God exists. It was intercessory prayer we tested here not the existence of God."

I do remember hearing of a another study where the patients fared worse when prayed for.

But from what I vaguely remember about both studies a commonality was that those that had a belief in God or prayer fared better.

This has always bugged me. I just wanted to throw it out there to see others' reactions.

Michael said...

To Norma,

You wrote: "The more we know - science - the more it becomes apparent that god has nothing to do with anything, good, bad, indifferent." This statement is simply not supportable. In fact, the opposite is true. The more we learn, the more it becomes apparent that the only rational explanation for things is that there was a creator.

Look at the structure of a cell. Are you aware that "the complexity of the simplest known type of cell is so great that it is impossible to accept that such an object could have been thrown together suddenly by some kind of freakish, vastly improbable event. Such an occurrence would be indistinguishable from a miracle. ... To get a cell by chance would require at least one hundred functional proteins to appear simultaneously in one place." The odds of that occuring by random chance is " 10(2000). Dr. Michael Denton, molecular biologist.

Sir Fred Hoyle, British astrophysicist has analogized the idea that life arose by chance as follows: If a blind person made a random move on a Rubik's Cube every second, it would take on the average 300 times the age of the Earth, 1,350 billion years, to solve the cube. "The chance against each move producing perfect colour matching for all the cube's faces is about 50,000,000,000,000,000,000 to 1".

Do you know what conditions were required to allow the Big Bang to occur and lead to the current steady state of the universe? "If the rate of expansion one second after the big bang had been smaller by even one part in a hundred thousand million, million (man, that's a big number), the universe would have recollapsed before it ever reached its present size." Stephen Hawking. This finding, by itself, is so remarkable that even a committed atheist/agnostic like Hawking had to admit: "This means that the initial state of the universe must have been very carefully chosen indeed if the hot big bang model was correct right back to the beginning of time. It would be very difficult to explain why the universe should have begun in just this way, except as the act of a God who intended to create beings like us."

Norma, I encourage you to dig deep. Look at the findings of science on a micro scale and on a macro scale. The quotes above, all from atheists/agnostics, cannot be ignored. Those findings point to a Creator. The more science discovers, the more the only logical explanation for its findings is that the visible is a product of an intelligent Creator.

Michael

Sheldon said...

Julia,

Do you happen to remember my post a few weeks ago about filming "Letting Go of God" in the same manner as "The Wonder Years" tv series?

It would cost a lot more, I'm sure, but it would be REALLY great to see the story play out like that.

Act 1, Scene 1: A doorbell rings. Julia opens the door to find two young men in white, short-sleeved shirts and black ties standing on her porch. "We have a message for you...from God," one of them says, smiling broadly.

: )

Sheldon said...

One of the most important lessons I try to teach my Psychology students is the difference between evidence and proof.

In science, evidence consists of indications of fact that we collect through study, experimentation, etc.

Proof, on the other hand, is more subjective. It's a matter of opinion that's usually derived by presenting enough evidence to convince someone that something's true.

The reason this is so important in the discussion of the existence of god is that, for some, very little evidence of any quality is necessary to constitute proof.

Michael's recent post is a good example of this. A scientific worldview (rationality) isn't just about collecting data; it's also about learning to think logically about the evidence presented to you.

Those who post on this blog could present all manner of converging data on the evolution of flora and fauna, carbon dating, cellular structure, the age of the universe as calculated via red shift, etc., etc. and it would make no difference. Those data would all be interpreted through the preconceptions he and others like him hold to be true, and those that don't fit the picture of a God-created universe would be ignored or rejected.

That process is exactly the opposite of how scientists (and scientific thinkers) proceed. As humans, we still have a tendency to seek out confirming evidence (the Confirmation Bias), but we do what we can to control for that tendency. Indeed, we fight against it at every turn! And, most importantly, when contrary evidence presents itself, we report it so it can be examined in the light of day by other equally curious folk. If it turns out that we were wrong in our previous notion, we then correct ourselves and add this new finding to the greater collection of data (Science as a noun). You won't find many Theists doing that except by painfully slow reinterpretation of their ancient writings (e.g., the Koran, the Bible, etc.), and centuries-long alterations of their behavior (e.g., the cessation of witch burning).

Tom Moran said...

Julia wrote:

"I did the CNN interview. It was really short. I wanted to make a point that Atheism is not a faith (that was a really good comment by the way, and I really wanted to say that) but I didn’t get a chance. He asked me, like, three questions. How can I be moral without God? How could a good Catholic girl like me become an atheist? And I forget the last question – oh yeah. What do I want people to get out of my show, am I trying to proselytize?"

I think the proper response to that last rhetorical question is: "So only Christians are allowed to proselytyze?"

3boysmom said...

Michael--

I'm guessing you believe in the bible as THE word of god (perhaps even the inerrent word of god). Have you ever really objectively studied the origins of that book?

You are assuming that Jesus is IT. Presumably because the bible says so. I believe you are standing on very shaky ground when you invest your life decisions on a collection of writings that were clearly written, compiled and, later, tranlated by fallable men.

I'm sure you like to believe that because god "could" make the bible a perfect book he/she "did". That is a tenuous argument. So is the argument that the bible is perfect because it says so in the bible.

You like to believe you've chosen to follow Christ for what amounts to an eternal life-insurance policy. To me that is sad. What kind of a god wants people to follow him because they are afraid to do anything different?

Anonymous said...

My dear Julia,

First off, I love the idea of shooting this thing in your own home, wandering from a church set to a quiet set to an audience set, with the orchestra and chorus serving the role of the numinous. Lovely.

But what moved me to comment was the "Is science anti-God?" question. As someone who was raised in a very religious environment myself, and who came away from it a grave disappointment to my parents, but ultimately a much healthier person, I understand where the question comes from---but it also strikes me as a question that's as ridiculous as "Do lima beans hate wombats?"

Science isn't anti-much-of-anything, really. The only thing it takes a firm stance on is one against self-deception. The entire methodology is one geared toward finding objective fact, and setting aside personal predilections and preferences in favor of better understanding the Universe around us as it is, unvarnished, wild and wonderful.

In fact, it goes even further than that, challenging us to find counterevidence, and revise our claims to take that into account as well. It's a remarkable tool, one that has brought us to a deeper understanding than ever before---and one that promises to continue to refine and hone our perspective about this marvelous place that defines everything we can know.

But of course, with this quest for truth comes some consequences. If you are on such a quest, you must set aside, as much as possible, all the things that can lead that quest astray.

Sadly, one of those things is a very human tendency to dispute a fact simply because it conflicts with one's already-formed theory on how the Universe works.

Science says, "No, don't do that! That piece of information is important! It's trying to tell you something! Don't take it at face value, of course---test it. Your measurement might be wrong. Your methodology might be wrong. Consult others. Check things out. But if it's right, your theory needs to be revised. Go to it!"

Religion, on the other hand, would simply say, "Discard it. It does not fit your theory, so it must not be true."

Science is not anti-God. In fact, I think the scientific community as a whole would be delighted to find some objective, testable evidence for a God. Talk about an exciting discovery! To actually find out the true nature of the Creator of the Universe? ET would have nothing on that.

The problem, however, is that religion is, and in some ways must be, anti-science. Science threatens religion---not because it is inherently threatening, but because religion relies on one thing: don't look too closely at the facts, because they can lead you to question your faith. (In fact, I believe the religious community would be up in arms if the scientific community actually found evidence of a Creator---because I'm guessing it wouldn't fit with what the religious community believes. Goodness---what if the Creator turned out to be an effeminate blond-haired blue-eyed articulate orangutan? Oh, the outcry!)

If you'll allow me for a moment: Michael, for example, demonstrates this in one of his comments, when he says, "The more we learn, the more it becomes apparent that the only rational explanation for things is that there was a creator." He then "makes his case" by omitting various facts.

For example, he quotes the noted creationist Michael Denton to point out that the spontaneous generation of a cell (he does not say what kind of cell) would require at least 100 functional proteins to gather in the same place---but neglects (as Denton disingenously does) to mention that the nature of proteins increases the odds of that happening tremendously, and neglects to mention the scope of the problem (billions of proteins can fit into a cubic centimeter, trillions of suitable cubic centimeters exist on the planet, they can interact billions of times per year---when you multiply all that together, it's almost impossible to see how a cell wouldn't come together).

The Hoyle analogy falls apart in the face of that, too. If you had ten billion blind people who could, say, sense the color yellow, who could make a move on a Rubik’s cube a million times a second, it would take, on average, six weeks to come up with a solution. (My calculations might be off, but the order of magnitude is close.)

Then he quotes Stephen Hawking, using an out of date quote (the universe is not flat, in fact, it is expanding in an accelerated fashion---alas, like many creationists, he seems to find it easier to knock down arguments which aren't true)---then takes another quote of Hawking's out of context---and calls it an "admission," which in fact is a distortion of what Hawking was saying.

People like Michael seem to need there to be a God, and beyond that, seem to need everyone else to confirm their fantasy. They are willing to go to any lengths---distortion, misinterpretation, misrepresentation, or outright deception---to justify it. Are they well-meaning? In the context of their religion, I'm sorry to say, yes, they are. But in the context of actually seeking the truth? Not a chance.

No, science is not anti-God. But those who claim a close bond with God do seem to be remarkably united against science.

Norma Manna Blum said...

Michael:
You're right: I am really very shallow, and it is time, certainly, given my age, that I should start, as you suggest to "dig deep."

But until I get around to such self-improvement - given that my lack of depth doesn't turn out to be a congenital handicap - I would like to share two things related to your messages this afternoon.
First, as to your list of scientists through the ages, most of them not contemporaries in our more enlightened (even if only slightly) age: do we really have any way of knowing of the breadth of their religious commitment. If it is so difficult (as I read here) to attest to skepticism much less atheism NOW, in the 21st Century.. one can only imagine the dilemma of scientists before and even years AFTER Galileo.
Clearly conformity of belief and purpose existed then as they exist now...and scientists like any other species are driven to adapt or disappear..
If I were threatened either personally or pofessionally because of my beliefs, I might not even enter them here; fear is a great silencer, and who would wish to lose employment or a patron when just nodding obediently is the better part of valor?
I don't know anything about Copernicus' personal connection with god.. Do you?
I do know that almost until he decided to publsh, Origin of Species, Charles Darwin was a convinced Christian and even a church goer.
He boarded the Beagle as a believer and left it with his collects specimens still a practicing religionist.
But that didn't alter the fact that he continued to collect specimens and study them, and write about them with increasing doubt, even though he kept the doubts to himself.
So I don't think your examples, or even were you to come up with a hundred more, are an adequate defense of the existence of god in the life and work of scientists themselves.


And on the matter of the cell: Yes I have looked at the cell, as well as images of the protein of the cell, albeit not as a professional, and I am suitably awed at the complexity.. who wouldn't be?
No one can challenge the incredible wonder of all life, and to attribute "miraculous" to all of it is quite easy to do.. it's all mind boggling.
But that doesn't for a moment mean that when one calms down after the excitement, that that means that the supernatural really WAS involved or offers a suitable explanation.
I think - actually I KNOW - that you are mistaken, Michael, if you insist one's wonderment at the astounding complexity can only mean that the cell is the product of a divine hand, or even the product of preternatural inspiration.
The two thoughts are not even related, logically.
One of the problems - if I may be so bold as to suggest something not really complimentary to the effect of religion on human ideation -is that although the insistence on the existence of god, is a component of stifled thought, if not the culprit itself.
It's what I call the Either/Or Corral: the this/that, good/evil , naughty/nice way of looking at every problem, moral OR intellectual, public or personal.
If anything, the world itself is much, much, a billion times more complex than even the cell itself: there is nothing that isn't complicated by the myriad choices that might encourage or even satisfy explanation.
One can't repeat this too often: the question of "from whence cometh the intricacies of the cell," is indeed a poser, but to say the only possible answer is that god, or a designer (unseen and undeclared, modest indeed) or whatever you wish to call it had to be the alternative to evolution from something else, defies your own recognition of its complications.
It can't be as simple as either/or.
Because almost nothing in the world really IS that simple.
Which leads me to your example and quote from Dr, Hoyle.
Forgive me: I can't really get my teeth around the blind man and his chances of solving the Rublik's Cube puzzle.
I only know that a kid very familiar to me , very bright, very quick, solved it in a very short time, much more quickly than even his very bright father who also did it quickly enough.
They were both sighted, sure.
And there is no doubt that sight is a requirement for solving that puzzle, but not for solving ALL puzzles.. and that blind man whomever he might be, can certainly solve one of them..
But there is no mystery or chance about it.. the puzzle was made (by human ingenuity) to be solved, and human intelligence was at play by those who solved it.. some human intelligence working more quickly than that of others..
I'm not sure what you gain by pulling inappropriate examples, no matter what hat you find them in, and offering them to non -believers to be considered as corroboration of your belief in a god.
You have every right as a sentient , reponsible being to believe what you believe.
Obviously you have given the matter thought and have come up with corroborations that satisfy your integrity and the symmetry of your personal theology.
Nothing more is necessary.. why muddy your own waters with such inappropriate references to science and its methodology, and scientists?
And last: I am thoroughly confused as to the argument that surrounds the "what if you are wrong" theory of religious validity.
Why would you, or anybody, spend your only sure-thing life, that right here on earth, so involved in the moment of death?
What an odd preoccupation you folks seem to have.
It is what gives all religionists a common bond: what will happen or not happen when this life ends? Will god punish non-believers along with with the really bad guys? Will Dr. Mengele AND Julia Sweeney get their come uppance at the same time, even though Julia Sweeney has not only never hurt a fly, she is even nice to her boyfriend's mother
See? Right there we hit a snag.. Dr. Mengele was, I believe, a Christian...
Anyway, the point is that this- life on earth- may very well be it for all of us.
May.. I will give you that.
But isn't a waste to have spent it so prodigally by looking under haystacks for a god, and working yourself up into state over a god who would banish you to eternal damnation simply for not taking someone else's word for his existence?
Maybe someone else here who shares such a preoccupation can join in to explain the why and wherefor of it.
Regards,

NMB

Michael said...

To Sheldon,

I readily admit that everything I read and learn about is filtered through my belief in God. That fact does not make my conclusions incorrect nor does it indicate that I cannot be as objective as a person who does not believe in God filtering their learning through that disbelief. If you believe that atheists, including atheistic scientists, do not filter what they learn through the atheistic framework, you are ignoring reality. I could make the same claims as you. You choose to ignore the very real conundrums regarding origins of life and the mathmatical odds against it occuring randomly. You choose to discount the conclusions of a world reknown astrophysicist who found the odds so incredible he created a new theory - panspermia. I have no problem with your doing so. However, it's disingenous not to admit that you are doing so because of your preconceived atheistic bias.

To 3boysmom,

The arguments you raise involve an entirely different area of discussion that is also very involved. I have raised discussion points here regarding the legitimacy of atheism. Rather than ignore the points I made by raising an entirely new subject, it would be more efficient to address those points directly.

Regarding your last comment, which did address a point I made, do you have life insurance, home insurance, and car insurance? Do you consider that sad? I note that you did not dispute the logic of the argument. Moreover, I made it clear that "that choice only relates to death. There are many, many more benefits of believing in God that occur while one is living." Did you omit that point through oversight or for some other reason?

To mcglk,

You said: "Science is not anti-God. In fact, I think the scientific community as a whole would be delighted to find some objective, testable evidence for a God. Talk about an exciting discovery! To actually find out the true nature of the Creator of the Universe? ET would have nothing on that."

Did you read the quote from Wilkins, to wit: "The framework of science ignores the possibility of supernatural events, so if such an event was to occur it would be viewed scientifically as a problem for the theory, spurious data, etc., but not as a supernatural event." Do you disagree with that view of the scientific framework? If not, how then could science go about trying to prove the existence of God? That would be an irresolvable contradiction.

I'm not sure if Dr. Denton has had a recent conversion, but it is a stretch to call him a creationist. Is any scientist who has the courage to point out the flaws in Darwinian evolution a creationist? Secondly,are you really advocating the position that it's almost impossible to see how a cell could not come together by chance? Do you have any authority to back that position up? I would be interested in reading it.

You say: "If you had ten billion blind people who could, say, sense the color yellow, who could make a move on a Rubik’s cube a million times a second, it would take, on average, six weeks to come up with a solution." Read that again and see if it makes sense. So, you are saying that if not one, but 10 bil. blind people could all somehow "sense" the color yellow, and were all able to somehow manipulate a Rubik's cube at the rate of a million times a second, which would be physically impossible, then in six weeks of doing so they could come up with the solution. And, you don't think that analogy represents incredibly infinitessimal odds??

Regarding the Hawkings quote, has he reputdiated what I quoted recently? If so, could you point me to that repudiation. I did not take his quote out of context at all. I challenge you to demonstrate how it was taken out of context. I stated that he was an atheist and nowhere implied that he changed his beliefs. However, it cannot be denied (unless one wants to ignore unpleasant facts) that he has struggled with the perfect design found in the universe. It's easy to sling insults without support. The fact that you chose to do so indicates to me that your defenses have been raised and it is you who is uncomfortable when confronted with facts that do not support your paradigm.

Michael

Michael said...

Norma,

One more post and then I'm done for awhile. (The applause is deafening).

Point taken regarding the scientists I cited. I have not performed a full historical study on each and even if I had I could not get in their minds. So, you make a good point.

Regarding the cell, my point is NOT that the only possible solution to the riddle is that God created it. Rather, the point is that the complexity of the design POINTS TO a designer as a viable alternative and POINTS AWAY FROM the Darwinian construct. Other theories may be posed at a later time. However, there is no denying that the complexity being discovery at a micro, basic level poses a serious problem for Darwinian evolution. Until a new scientific theory is proposed, what do you do in the meantime? Continue to choose not to believe in a creator? That's ok. However, would you concede that your choice is no more rational than mine?

Regarding the Rubik's cube, try blindfolding the kid you know so that he cannot see the cube, mix it up, and let him have a go at it. See how long it takes him to solve it by random chance. That analogy was created by Sir Fred Hoyle. He came up with it to demonstrate the odds against life being created by random chance; not me. He was an atheist and he found the odds staggering that life began by random chance. Therefore, to fit the findings within his atheistic paradigm, he came up with the theory of panspermia, not god, for the origin of life. I offered it as evidence that a belief in the origination of life as random chance as proposed by Darwin is, in the views of one respected astrophysicist, a mathmatical impossibility. So, again, if you accept Hoyle's calculations, what is the basis for your belief about how everything came to be?

"why muddy your own waters with such inappropriate references to science and its methodology, and scientists?" You lost me on this one. How are the references inappropriate?

"Why would you, or anybody, spend your only sure-thing life, that right here on earth, so involved in the moment of death?" Assume hypothetically that I am right. If so, then this life is but a mist over the water that melts off by noon. Whereas, the next life will last for as long as the history of this earth and a million times a million longer. Again, assuming my hypothetical, which one do you believe is the most important? Additionally, as I pointed out to 3boysmom, there are innumerable benefits to my belief here and now that I receive. "I come that you might have life and have it more abundantly" has real meaning to me.

"But isn't a waste to have spent it so prodigally by looking under haystacks for a god, and working yourself up into state over a god who would banish you to eternal damnation simply for not taking someone else's word for his existence?" I'm not looking for a god; I have made a choice to believe in God and have, therefore, found Him. If you believe that reading the Bible, going to Church, praying, etc, are a waste, that is your prerogative. Personally, I think that watching TV for 3 hours a night is a waste. The one has potentially eternal consequences; the other lasts only for a moment and then is gone.

Take care, Michael

Anonymous said...

To Michael,

There are hundreds, thousands really, of belief systems on this planet about the exsitence of 'god', gods, the human spirit, and a possible continued existence after death. By choosing to believe in one, and ONLY that one, you have chosen to stack the odds AGAINST yourself in regards finding the correct ideology, or path, to 'eternal life' or salvation. Not improved them as you seem to suggest in your comment. My daughter was learning about this basic concept of math in Pre-K, when she was four years old. Reach unseeing into a bag of 10 different colored blocks, what are the odds of getting the correct color you 'grabbed' for? Multiply this by thousands of relgious beliefs that have existed since the beginning of mankind.The odds of your 'grabbing' or finding the correct religion are even further thwarted by the country,state, race, income level,time period, family, and individual personality that you randomly were born into. Your statement shows an incredibly naive and simplistic view of sprituality. You seem to believe that all the varied peoples of this planet, with all the varied histories, cultures and spiritual beliefs face only two choices: believe in YOUR god and religion and be rewarded, CHOOSE not to believe in YOUR god and religion, and suffer the consequences.
Whereas atheists approach ALL religions and god beliefs equally. We await substantiated proof. If proof were eventually found for the existence of ANY sort of 'god', such as actual scientific proof of design

(BTW- if God designed nature, even though 'He' may be outside of nature, he also would have to have a connection to nature, in order to be able to influence it in any way, making him both a natural AND supernatural entity),

it would most certainly NOT automatically follow that your particular brand of 'god' must be the correct one. Interesting, that you seem to believe ATHEISTS are the more biased in our beliefs.

Anonymous said...

To Michael,

You wrote, "my point is NOT that the only possible solution to the riddle is that God created it. Rather, the point is that the complexity of the design POINTS TO a designer as a viable alternative and POINTS AWAY FROM the Darwinian construct."

There are billions of ways to make a living cell. If cells were "designed", why is the basic biochemistry in all cells modeled after a single "design"? A creative designer would have mixed things up a bit, but all cells on Earth use common biochemical processes that POINT directly to evolutionary ("Darwinian") processes.

Anonymous said...

Michael said, "Look at the structure of a cell. Are you aware that "the complexity of the simplest known type of cell is so great that it is impossible to accept that such an object could have been thrown together suddenly by some kind of freakish, vastly improbable event. Such an occurrence would be indistinguishable from a miracle. ... To get a cell by chance would require at least one hundred functional proteins to appear simultaneously in one place."


I would then ask, why do the vast majority (>90%) of all Ph.D. cell biologists agree that cellular life DID arise by "chance" (i.e., natural processes occurring over billions of years).Why is there is a direct relationship between intelligence scores / scholarly achievement and one's tendency to believe in god? Reading blogs like this is frustrating for biologists like myself, because most posters have only a very limited knowledge of science (including biology). Unfortunately, the frequent answer to my statements above is that there is some kind of conspiracy among scientists to promote their "dogma" and hide the "truth" (where truth = whatever religious tradition the speaker subscribes to). It's hard to argue that Satan hasn't taken over the American Academy of Science to people who actually think Satan exists and has the power and inclination to do it. Further, I have to admit that it goes against the a scientific approach to simply accept the word of expert scientists "just because" they are experts. However, I think that if reasonable people are made aware of how much consensus there is in the scientific community about evolution (there is NO controversy), etc., it might cause them to think more about these issues instead of simply rejecting them as "impossible", as Michael does.

I think it's sad that most atheists are silent when it comes to discussions of faith. Last year some family friends (the parents of childhood friends of mine, retired now) visited us just before leaving for a 2 year missionary trip to south Asia. They were very very excited about being able to bring god's message to the people there, who "didn't even have a concept of having only one god". I wanted to say that I didn't have a concept of only one god either (or many gods for that matter), but I didn't. I didn't say anything in agreement or in opposition. But I feel my silence was likely taken by them as tacit support for their "mission". In reality, I wanted to vomit.
I think it's great that Julia is outspoken, because some people may feel more comfortable exploring their own beliefs and world view if they know that there are respectable members of society who are atheists.

Norma Manna Blum said...

Michael said...
Norma,

One more post and then I'm done for awhile. (The applause is deafening).>

*I don't hear applause... why do you imagine anyone would be happy if you stopped expressing yourself?
That is a conceit that goes with the idea that skeptics find the beliefs of the religious to be too threatening because they are inarguable.
Now think. Could anything be further from the truth?*



Point taken regarding the scientists I cited. I have not performed a full historical study on each and even if I had I could not get in their minds. So, you make a good point.

Regarding the cell, my point is NOT that the only possible solution to the riddle is that God created it. Rather, the point is that the complexity of the design POINTS TO a designer as a viable alternative and POINTS AWAY FROM the Darwinian construct. Other theories may be posed at a later time. However, there is no denying that the complexity being discovery at a micro, basic level poses a serious problem for Darwinian evolution. Until a new scientific theory is proposed, what do you do in the meantime? Continue to choose not to believe in a creator? That's ok. However, would you concede that your choice is no more rational than mine?

* No, of course I wouldn't concede it because obviously I not only think that the evidence shows you are incorrect, but that I believe that I am, above all, a rational person.
Besides, the question is ill-put because you don't seem to get it: for me atheism is not a choice, but a function, for good or ill, of my brain, as I think is so for many non-believers, who haven't had epiphanies based on either experience or reading, or simply because of observation., but were simply born without the "god gene."
As to the challenges posed to Darwin's theories, don't forget that while Darwin was a great innovator and certainly responsible for the greatest upheaval in our visions of ourselves and our habitat in the history of science, certainly even more significant than that of Copernicus or Galilio and even Newton.. astounding really.. STILL, still, we have come a long way since "Origin of Species..." So much exploration and inquiry was stimulated by Darwin's obsservations, so much data has been collected, so many fossils discovered, catalogued, identified, so much proof that even Darwin were he to be watching ( as you must suspect he is) would be startled to see what other, later scientists have done in his name.
There is simply no comparison between what we know now and what Darwin was led to suspect in his lifetime.... At the simplest level, think of how primitive was his equipment .
There was no camera, no electron microscope, and certainly no computer.
And Physics, Chemistry, Biology were in infant stages.
The double helix was not even a gleam in the scientific eye.
Crystallography did not exist.- it is entirely the product of the computer age.
One can only imagine with some pleasure what Darwin would have thought of the contemporary goings on that he started - it was only near the end of his life that he suspected the stunning earth-shaking impact -even outside of the religious ramifications- of what he started.*

Regarding the Rubik's cube, try blindfolding the kid you know so that he cannot see the cube, mix it up, and let him have a go at it. See how long it takes him to solve it by random chance. That analogy was created by Sir Fred Hoyle. He came up with it to demonstrate the odds against life being created by random chance; not me.

*I understand that you didn't make up the quote - i am only surprised that you give it so much credence.
The Rubik Cube was made to be solved, and not randomly, although I'm sure there is a possibility that it could be.
But why blindfold my kid.. what would be the point? Why try to prove that something can't be proved randomly when no one ever suggested it could be?
The Rubik Cube is simply not analogous to the creation of life .*

He was an atheist and he found the odds staggering that life began by random chance. Therefore, to fit the findings within his atheistic paradigm, he came up with the theory of panspermia, not god, for the origin of life. I offered it as evidence that a belief in the origination of life as random chance as proposed by Darwin is, in the views of one respected astrophysicist, a mathmatical impossibility. So, again, if you accept Hoyle's calculations, what is the basis for your belief about how everything came to be?

* But I don't accept the calculations. I'm not saying they are incorrect: I'm postulating that they are irrelevant.
We don't really have all the answers with absolute certainty on the origins of life, and no one, least of all Charles Darwin, ever said we did...
Myself? I 'm not so sure it matters, except that further information about the facets of the puzzle, will lead to even more information, and eventually the puzzle will be solved.
Of that I have no doubt... if our species doesn't destroy itself by either stupidity or carelessness, disregard of the fragility of our eco systems, I have no doubt that one day , not in my lifetime, we will know everything there is to know about the origins of life at least.
Don't forget it is not very long ago in historic terms that we were certain - we were taught it in school - that the earth was only 6,000 years old, and that the dinosaurs were the contemporaries of our species...
No one but the most adamant biblical literalist believes that now.
No one.
I am certain that you don't... and I don't' quite understand how you decide what to pick and choose among those proofs that you do accept because they have, more or less, entered the public domain.*

"why muddy your own waters with such inappropriate references to science and its methodology, and scientists?" You lost me on this one. How are the references inappropriate?

*As I described: Hoyle has set up a straw man: the Rubic Cube analogy is irrelevant to the creation of life, n o matter who made it, and what his other accomplishments might be.*

"Why would you, or anybody, spend your only sure-thing life, that right here on earth, so involved in the moment of death?" Assume hypothetically that I am right. If so, then this life is but a mist over the water that melts off by noon. Whereas, the next life will last for as long as the history of this earth and a million times a million longer. Again, assuming my hypothetical, which one do you believe is the most important?

*Michael? Are you there? Are you assuming I'm lying to you and am really wrestling with the idea of a god who is going to screw me over for eternity because of my adamant refusal to believe in him/her/it.
I can't answer your question because I can't assign an importance to an afterlife I don't believe is in the cards, but is a mythology that has, to me, an incomprehensible hold on human imagination without a single corroboration.
I don't believe it because I can't believe it.
You are right in that this life is a nano second long in the scheme of history... maybe less.
And eternity would be long, longer, longest.
But so what?
Can that possibly make a difference in a perception of the value of the idea?
There is no proof that it exists, or that it bodes ill for non -believers.
Wouldn't it be irrational from my point of view to spend the life I am aware of, my conscious life, absorbed in, preparing for, yet another life?
That's the point: you can't argue for an afterlife, or for some mythical punishment that will be inflicted on us that will keep us from enjoying this one, or from living it to the fullest.
It is impossible. The proofs offered of life after death are the stuff of shenanigans, entertainment, the cynical preying on the bereaved.

And then think of it this way - and I am not being facetious but deadly (no pun intended) serious: supposing there is indeed a god, but he is L Ron Hubbard, the deity of Scientology? Or Allah? Or the Hashem, the Yahweh, of the Orthodox Jew.. What if he turns out to be Haile Sellassie, and refuses you entry because you are clearly not a Rasta, or even Rasta enough. What if god is a Seventh Day Adventist Christian who throws you into one of the circles of hell for relegating the Sabbath to Sunday?
You don't fill any of those guys' requirements for the good life.
And any one of them could nix your entry into that peculiar heaven that I couldn't begin to envision were you to send me to Abu Graib prison, put a black bag over my head, hit me with an electrified prod, and pull my fingernails out, (which parenthetically seems to be the Christian way).
My mind would be crying out : MIchael, WHAT are you TALKING about.
Do you really believe, biology and bio-physics (and what you see around you) aside that your religion is also a superior moral system?


Additionally, as I pointed out to 3boysmom, there are innumerable benefits to my belief here and now that I receive. "I come that you might have life and have it more abundantly" has real meaning to me.

*A satisfaction to which you are entitled.
But that has to do with dogma and not with the actual existence of god, or the promised afterlife.
And surely you can't help but be aware that while you are spiritually elated by your choice of biblical quote, for others, even other Christians, the Book of Revelation, for instance is not satisfying but is the stuff of nightmares and of madness. *

"But isn't a waste to have spent it so prodigally by looking under haystacks for a god, and working yourself up into state over a god who would banish you to eternal damnation simply for not taking someone else's word for his existence?" I'm not looking for a god; I have made a choice to believe in God and have, therefore, found Him. If you believe that reading the Bible, going to Church, praying, etc, are a waste, that is your prerogative. Personally, I think that watching TV for 3 hours a night is a waste. The one has potentially eternal consequences; the other lasts only for a moment and then is gone.

* Either/or again.
Is the only alternative to reading the bible, going to church, praying, etc., watching television for three hours a day?
Come now.
Do you think that Julia Sweeney watches television for three hours a day, because she is no longer a practicing Catholic?
Richard Dawkins?
Or that that's what Charles Darwin would be doing if he were still alive?
The validity of modern biological thought aside, you might want to look around you to see that one of the wonders of life on earth in the here and now, the gift of our brain in its evolved state, is that human intellligence has given us many options with which to fill our time... we can play chess, or read in the ideas of others, we can listen to an almost infinite kinds of music on remarkable equipment that enhances sound, we can attend theater, lectures by experts and adventurers who fill in what we are ourselves perhaps missing, we can visit museums, admire monuments, walk and have private moments with our dogs... and we have so many things to take CARE OF...cars, lawns, children, pets, roofs plumbing -as well as our own version of hunting and gathering that still needs to be done so that we can stay alive.
We can study Sanskrit, or Swahili.
I'd say it 's remarkable that anyone has any time to watch television at all.
You're lucky to have that option, should you take a break from church attendance, bible reading and prayer.
But one would think that church attendance, bible reading and prayer would somehow bring to mind other alternatives for utilizing your extra time.
Some religious people actually give up TV time to picket abortion clinics, and the Supreme Court.
And more important, even were people who don't go to church, read the bible and pray, completely slothful couch potatoes, that wouldn't serve to illustrate that Darwin was wrong, and/or that god exists, and/or that there will be an afterlife.
Completely discrete phenomena...*



Take care, Michael


*You too,
NMB*

ben turk said...

science is anti-god because god depends on faith and faith is the opposite of science. Michael, you said when science failed to prove or disprove god, we both have a choice and you choose to believe. that's not true, i didn't choose not to believe in your god, my approach doesn't include that choice. The last step of the scientific method isn't "choose whether or not you're going to believe your unverified hypothesis".

I'm an antheist because I reject beleif as an approach to the world.

Other than pascal's wager (HA!) what are these great benefits of having god in your life? are they maybe things like complacency? or confidence that you are right and your actions are justified? that you are forgiven for your sins?

because, guess what? you're wrong. you're actions are not justified, your sins are not forgiven. you and i, living in the developed world, (i'll assume in america) are commiting mass destruction and mass murder to sate our overconsumptive appitites and maintain an empire of exploitation over the majority of the population of this planet. They don't forgive us, they hate us and want to see us dead.

rejecting the comfort of god is an important step to replacing the obsolete system that makes it so easy, indeed, automatic, for us to do these things.

or are your benefits of a godly life something else, a different kind of complacency? does the idea that you'll have ice cream on a golden platter when you die help you accept the fact that you are being exploited, absued and neglected by your boss, his boss, and the sharholders of whatever company you work for? Is religion a calming drug for you? the opiate of the masses?

Sheldon said...

Michael said...

"I readily admit that everything I read and learn about is filtered through my belief in God. That fact does not make my conclusions incorrect nor does it indicate that I cannot be as objective as a person who does not believe in God filtering their learning through that disbelief."

No, it doesn't make you incorrect outright...but it absolutely DOES make you less able to be objective. If you were able to do that, you wouldn't come to the ridiculously illogical conclusions you have.

"If you believe that atheists, including atheistic scientists, do not filter what they learn through the atheistic framework, you are ignoring reality."

If you'll take a closer look at my post, you'll see that I said that scientists (like all humans) have this tendency. I also explained that we do everything possible to fight against it, unlike religious people. And talk about ignoring reality!

"I could make the same claims as you. You choose to ignore the very real conundrums regarding origins of life and the mathmatical odds against it occuring randomly."

Are you kidding me with this?! I have spent most of my adult life studying the origins of life, and believe me, you won't find anything useful in that little black book you're carrying around.


"You choose to discount the conclusions of a world reknown astrophysicist who found the odds so incredible he created a new theory - panspermia."

The theory of panspermia was debunked DECADES ago! And just which "world reknown" [sic] astrophysicist would you be referring to? Hermann von Helmholtz of the 1870s revamping of panspermia, or the man he stole the idea from, Anaxagoras, who was accused of atheism in the 5th century because he refuted the idea that the celestial bodies were divine? (A bit of irony in there, eh?) In any case, there's no unrefuted evidence for such a phenomenon, and your belief in it is simply further proof that you're falling prey to an odd sort of Confirmation Bias.

"However, it's disingenous not to admit that you are doing so because of your preconceived atheistic bias."

And it's irresponsible of you to accuse me numerous times not acknowledging something that I DID acknowledge. Honestly, you're making my case FOR me.

Ivy said...

Julia, I like your ideas for shooting LGOG, ambitious though they may be. I must say that there really is no wrong way to do it, since any way you cut it it'll be you on camera doing your thing, which has shown itself very compelling. No wrong way to do that (except maybe by involving circus animals or nudity. Although.. no.)

Re: science and god and stuff. I guess I'm still in the "nary the twain shall meet" camp, and by thus compartmentalizing I remain on the fence. I like what sweetthursday said: "I don't know why I have to get off the fence. There are more possibilities up here." And what Whitman said about contradicting himself, being large and containing multitudes. (I am large. I probably do contain multitudes, if intestinal flora count.)

The empiricists are likely going to find that a cop-out, and I'm still ruminating on what you said about people who believe science and god can coexist probably haven't thought very hard about either one. To that, I fall back on Einstein's words about the divine, which are closer to my heart than much of the Bible (and I surely hope I am not making the baby Jesus cry by saying so). I imagine he thought more about both science and god than I have.

marcel Cairo said...

It's one thing to debate the existence of God and the survival of consciousness with your mind looking inward and your fingers pounding out recipes for disbelief, and another thing altogether to debate those same topics while witnessing "God" or "spirit" entertain you and your frinds with a firework show of fact and faith.

Julia, why not rehearse having an audience of 60 people in your home by inviting me and all your atheist and agnostic friends over for a "wine and spirits" party. I am so 100% sure in the existence of the afterlife and my skills to communicate with it, that if I don't bring through hard fact evidence of its existence, I promise to bring Krispy Kremes to your eventual video shoot every day for an entire week. C'mon, I'm talking about Krispy Kremes here.

Blogger Matthew Cromer decided to use me as a guinea pig for his own investigation into consciousness survival (see articles here: http://amethodnotaposition.blogspot.com/ ), and I will gladly offer my services to you too, Julia, if you are serious about researching this topic further.

Anonymous said...

Just watched your interview on CNN; I've been following your website since hearing your NPR interview a couple of weeks ago. I was disappointed with the way the interviewer conducted the interview; he seemed to treat the topic as some light, fluffy thing that doesn't mean much in the grand scheme of the universe. I feel like I'm in the same place you are right now, Julia, questioning the existence of God, the accuracy and origin of the Bible's texts, etc., (although I haven't undertaken the scientific studies you have!) and I gotta tell ya, I DON'T feel like this is some fluffy, insignificant topic. I feel disillusioned, lied to, like I've been played for a fool all these years (having also been raised Catholic myself), like I've lost a best friend, big brother, a parent, or even that type of imaginary friend we all used to talk to as kids...I want to shake people and tell them to wake up out of their dream world, look around and get a grip on reality, that it's time to stop dancing because the Titanic is sinking, that God is NOT in the heavens and all is NOT right with the world!!! I'm angry, I'm scared, I'm overwhelmed at the realization that I can make my own decisions and run my own life without waiting for Divine Intervention, Guidance or Permission...things that I'd sometimes LIKE to have!! Julia, when things get screwed up in your life these days, where do you find comfort? Can you still feel like it'll all turn out alright in the end, or do you just hold your breath, cross your fingers and hope for the best after doing everything that's in your power to do? Having only recently become acquainted with your personal background story (through the NPR interview) and only knowing you before that from your Saturday Night Live body of work, I'm know I'm not as familiar with your journey as some of the other posters on this site are, but I'm looking forward to getting to know you better through your current material. Thanks for saying what you're saying...you make me know that I'm not alone and entirely screwed up for feeling as I do.

Oh yeah...I found it somewhat ironic that CNN's previous stories before yours were all about happiness, including how Buddhist monks' meditation techniques allow them to sustain prolonged periods of happy feelings by causing the brain to make more of whatever hormones make that "happy feeling". This all comes back to making me ponder, is happiness just a feeling with no real reason, but when you use intellect and look at reality and the world as it is today, you realize there really isn't a lot to be happy about? It's a lot to digest.

Anonymous said...

Wow, 15,359 words already and counting...

If Julia actually reads all of this, I doubt she'll ever find time to make a movie, much less even know where to find her daugher.

Love the idea of the garage chuch.

Andrew in NC

steve said...

Hi Julia,

I'm going to try to make this short. I just saw you on CNN and I'm sure there will be a deluge of letters.

You get a compliment and a question.

I just want you to know that I've always observed you as being a different type of celebrity. You've always appeared to be very unaffected and pure which is an unusual characteristic for a comic entertainer. Usually comics and actors must spend a great deal of energy drawing attention to themselves (I know it's their job) but your classic unassuming presence has always made me take notice. I've always known that there was something different about you and your latest efforts have reminded me that my feelings were accurate.

I've always struggled with the difficult "nature of being" vs. my faith. I'd like to thank you for sharing this difficult internal dialogue.

Now the question:

You've mentioned Thanksgiving a few times recently and I'm just curious to know - to whom or what do you offer "thanks" and why you still observe this tradition?

This is NOT intended to be sarcastic and I mean that.

Although I do believe in an intelligent higher order I have a great deal in common with you. I'm a baptized Catholic who refused to be confirmed. More on that later for your amusement.

Thank you!

warmest regards,

steve

Norma Manna Blum said...

A communicant asked Julia to whom she directs her thanks at Thanksgiving.
I certainly don't speak for anyone but myself but:

"Our supper is plain, but we are very wonderful," is what the poet Kenneth Patchen, American as apple pie, atheist, said before a meal with a lover.

Always sounded good enough to me, and I adopted it for my own Thanksgiving dinners....
And always, always, aware that the bounty on the table was a bit of luck not shared by too many of my fellow homo sapiens , god fearing monotheists or anthing otherwise: there are a lot of hungry people there to whom neither god or random fortune have been generous.
I like it so much that I say " Our dinner is plain and we are very wonderful" when I am eating a solitary meal including take-out from the " Smiling Buddha." in my neighborhood, (And what HE has to smile about remains a mystery to me.)
Sometimes I say it as I am munching on a Snickers Bar.
One doesn'r really have to ponder, one way OR another, god's presence for every gesture man makes in this life.
If I have a question about our amazing bounty at Thanksgiving it's "what prayer of Thanksgiving does a Native American, particularly the descendent of a New England Indian tribe, say when he sits down to HIS holiday meal?"
And to whom does he say it?
And , for god's sake, WHY?
NMB

bookeraptor said...

Julia,
When the question first came up about science being anti-god, it struck me as an odd way to characterize science, because just stating that it is anti-god seems to affirm, albeit in a sneaky way, that there is a god to be anti- about. Science seems to me completely neutral on the question of god. There is no rational, scientific evidence of god, so god's existence or non-existence is irrelevant as far as science is concerned. If I believe in the Keebler elves and I think bakers are ignoring the possibility that Keebler elves are involved somehow in how cookies came into existence, it suits my purposes to say that the baking establishment is anti-Keebler Elf. Other Keebler Elfists will agree with me, and now there is the widely-held belief that bakers only see the world through the anti-Keebler elf paradigm.

Schopenhauer said something like "The world shapes itself chiefly by the way in which it is seen." Seen through the anthropocentric eyes of western theology, the world was created solely for the benefit of man, and is merely a stage on which our ultimate fate is played out.
But nature as revealed to us through science is an impartial, elegant and intricate system within which man stands and falls equally with all other life, unique only in the quality of awareness and the responsibility of intelligence. Of this magnificent universe it is quite as possible to be reverent as it is to be reverent of the various intellectual constructs we have invented for man's reassurance and glorification (read, gods). If some people find their egos deflated viewing the universe in this way, others are exhilarated and find new grounds for wonder.
I find it absolutely childish thinking to believe that whatever you imagine god to be would suffer no regrets in sending those who don't believe in "him" to an eternity of torment. If you find this belief congenial to you Michael, and it is sufficient to your understanding, that is your right and prerogative. Personally, I find such a god neither credible nor worthy of veneration.
Norma, you do go on, but I have really enjoyed reading your posts. Keep on going on...
Hope everyone has a safe and happy Thanksgiving.

ShellyD said...

Hi Julia,

You mentioned how cruel evolution is, and that humans are narcissistic. I've been thinking about this too because, although a naturalistic worldview makes the most sense to me, sometimes it feels unbearable.

It's so painful to think that this unfair world is all there is. I really miss the comfort of faith and frankly, I wish a strictly secular worldview wouldn't be so depressing at times. (By the way, what CNN show are you on?)

Undecided said...

Shellyd said "I wish a strictly secular worldview wouldn't be so depressing at times."

This is interesting because it reminded me of something that happened to me the other day. I was driving home from work and John Lennon's "Imagine" came on the radio. After listening to the song, I decided to take him up on his suggestion and imagine a world with no religion. I found myself imagining a world with no terrorism. I didn't find that very depressing.

Anonymous said...

For what it's worth, I'd like to say that I can most easily envision your movie shot very simply with you just speaking on a stage. Just tell the story and let it speak for itself.
Last night I watched the old Dick Cavett interview with Katherine Hepburn (who, by the way, virtually said she didn't believe in God). She was speaking about acting and said that when you are speaking the truth it doesn't need any embroidering. There is a pureness to it and you just hand it to the audience and they just reach for it. A very simple and pure act. Just handing them the truth.

Anonymous said...

Michael:

You asked if I had read the Wilkins quote regarding how the scientific community treats supernatural events. I have, but I believe it's a red herring. "Supernatural" is one of those really squishy words that can mean any of several things, depending on what the arguer finds most convenient. Does it mean "magical"? Does it mean "impossible"? Does it mean "beyond our knowledge"?

A lot of things have been outside our knowledge before; many of those are now understood. Were they supernatural before we understood them? Will the things that you're claiming are supernatural now be no longer supernatural when we can understand them? If something occurs, are we not supposed to study it to try to understand it?

In other words, if something occurs with no ready or easy explanation, Wilkins would have you believe that science is at fault for not immediately going "oooo, MAGIC." And that's just silly.

You also refer to Denton; his personal beliefs are not something I have readily at hand, though I do know he has been a contributor to the odious "Discovery Institute"---which make his claims of being an evolutionist somewhat baffling. I have also read his book Evolution: A Theory in Crisis. Granted, I read it around 1990, and my memory of it is no longer crystal clear, but I do remember it being a book with, shall we say, a ton of factual problems.

You ask is any scientist who has the courage to point out the flaws in Darwinian evolution a creationist? Of course not; that's a straw-man argument, so let me knock it down for you. Loads of scientists have challenged Darwinian evolution, some of them successfully. The current theory of evolution is no longer strictly Darwinian as a result.

You also ask, are you really advocating the position that it's almost impossible to see how a cell could not come together by chance? As to this, the only thing I can really say is that you don't seem to have a clear grasp of the scale of the problem, in spite of my attempt at an analogy. Let's go back to my example.

Remember how it went? Instead of one blind person, you take ten billion blind people. Instead of being utterly without cues to how to assemble the Cube properly, they can sense a single color. Instead of making one move a second, they can make a million moves a second each.

Why did I choose those figures? They're arbitrary, I grant, but it does try to ineffectually reflect (a) just how many proteins and protein fragments we're talking about, (b) the natural tendency for molecules to be attracted to other molecules in certain ways, and (c) how fast chemical reactions occur. It doesn't factor in how long the time scales we're talking about are. In fact, in real life, here's how it goes:

Let's take adenine. It's a purine nucleobase which joins up with thymine via two hydrogen bonds to become part of DNA. (In RNA, it binds to uracil.) Adenine is only 15 atoms big, and it's made up of carbon, nitrogen and hydrogen. Here's a diagram.

Carbon is, you might note, quite common on this planet. So is nitrogen. So is hydrogen. In fact, there are a ridiculous number of these sorts of atoms available on the planet at any point, and it only takes 15 of them to make adenine. And the adenine molecule is pretty small: one gram of adenine contains 4.5 thousand million million million million of them, and every single one of those can have millions of chemical encounters per second depending on the conditions.

Are you getting the scope of the issue yet? We're talking about huge numbers. Huge, huge numbers.

Let me put it another way. Say I showed you an undoctored videotape of me describing a trick I was going to do with a tennis ball. I recite to the camera that, blindfolded, I was going to throw it over my shoulder, where it would hit a buffalo on the head, bounce directly onto an oversized mousetrap which would loft the ball so that---still blindfolded---I could strike it with a bat and send it flying through a small hole in a barn which would set off some fireworks. And then, I DO IT. On tape. It's amazing.

You might still be amazed if I told you that I'd filmed over 500 attempts over the last year before I got one right.

You probably wouldn't be so amazed if I told you that I'd filmed 600 billion attempts over the last 20,000 years, and this was the one that worked. You'd be even less impressed when you found out that I was one of 4.5 million people all attempting to perform the same trick, and this was the one attempt that worked.

And that is so many orders of magnitude lower than the actual problem we're talking about. The numbers are huuuuuuge. And it's all common chemicals. Nothing exotic. All using common chemical bonds. Lots and lots of atoms that naturally want to combine in all sorts of different ways, over lots and lots of time.

One of the problems, it seems to me, is that creationists suffer from a failure of comprehension. They want the Universe to fit neatly into the same box they've created for God. The Universe, I'm happy to say, has other ideas.

So, no, I don't think my analogy represents incredibly infinitesimal odds. I think it understates the odds rather badly, but I was still trying to make it comprehensible. If the impossibility of attempting a million combinations a second is too hard to imagine, then set it back to one combination a second, but increase the number of people to ten million billion. Either way; I don't care.

You asked if Hawking has repudiated what you quoted. Not overtly, admittedly, but certainly the flat universe theory has been thrown into doubt with the discovery of dark energy, which means that his line about "It would be very difficult to explain why the universe should have begun in just this way" falls apart when "just this way" no longer appears to be how things are. In fact, when you read the context of his quote, it is clear that he is expressing a doubt about the current theories applied back to the beginning of time, precisely because of such an implication. It is disingenuous to take it out of context and use it as some sort of indication that even Hawking wonders if there is a God. It is even more disingenuous to say that you didn't take his quote out of context: the way you used it was out of context.

You cap off your post with this gem: "However, it cannot be denied (unless one wants to ignore unpleasant facts) that he has struggled with the perfect design found in the universe. It's easy to sling insults without support. The fact that you chose to do so indicates to me that your defenses have been raised and it is you who is uncomfortable when confronted with facts that do not support your paradigm."

Michael, this is utter horseputty, and it seems to me to be a childish retreat as well. There are no unpleasant facts to ignore; Hawking didn't "struggle" with "the perfect design," and no amount of whinging will support such a ridiculous statement. Projecting your own issues onto me doesn't exactly bolster the credibility of your case, either.

Sadly, however, this is how most creationists "debate" the issue, so I suppose it's not really your fault.

imnuts said...

I loved "Letting Go of God" and I would encourage you to shoot it in a way that detracts the least from you and your words. Some of the ideas seem gimmicky to me. It doesn't need gimmicks. Just shoot it like Al Gore's movie, maybe.

Just discovered this blog!

gwc said...

Hey Julia,
Truthfully, your idea may be so brilliant that we just need to see it to understand it. Some of the most beautiful art takes time to understand...and then it becomes more powerful than anybody can imagine.

Have you ever tried to explain Seinfeld to somebody? An explanation does not do it justice...it just sounds like a show about nothing. But, when a person watches Seinfeld, he/she realizes that the show is really about everything. It's about all of the intricacies that happen or that don't happen but that we imagine could happen. Therein lies the beauty and the magic.

So is your idea ambitious? Perhaps, but you will be communicating images that help people like me connect to the content.

At the risk of offending some individuals who I'm sure have noble intentions, is there a way you can encourage people to NOT write 6 page blog comments? I find it a bit silly that the comments are longer than the BLOG itself. Although I love discussions, is there a way you can start another thread for those who want to continuously address one another? Do you guys really think we are going to convince one another that there is a God or there is no God over this internet machine?

And here I go...typing a 6 page BLOG and starting a debate. Hypocrisy at it's finest. As my football coach used to tell me, "Do what I say and not what I do."

Much love

Anonymous said...

I want to see you dress up as Father Tom and say "wellll you know, the Old Testament..."

You could do the characters by cutting away to an appropriate backgrount (coffee and doughnuts table here) and in costume, after filming the main show with the audience.

Anonymous said...

Movie thought: Have you considered not doing it as a monologue, but use the monologue as the basis for a biopic?

Anonymous said...

Scientist are learning more and more and getting smarter every day. Then one day they got so smart they decided they did not need god anymore so they told god that they could create life, stars, galaxies and everything without him. God said that is fine, but what are you all going to make your stuff from? The scientist said, we don’t need anything, we can make everything from scratch, hydrogen, dark matter, etc, nothing else. God said; “O no!, that is my stuff, you get your own!” He then took back his Big Bang.

ET

Siamang said...

I would answer that it's not prostlytizing.

I'd answer that if you can't tell the difference, you're already in an ossified mindset.

Proselytizing is selling. You're trying to get a buyer to commit. "What do I have to do to have you drive off the lot in this beauty today?"

What you're doing is wanting people to understand YOU.

At least, that's my feeling when talking to people. I just want other people to understand me. I want them to understand who I am, where I come from and why my reasoning and understanding has brought me to my current place in my journey.

I recognize that everyone's journey is different, and everyone has different places they're journeying to and from. I acknowlege that some people might seek me out for their own journey. I know full well that other people's journey includes my writing, my thoughts, my understanding as I share myself.

But the difference is, I have nothing to sell. If a christian is a salesman, I'm ralph nader. I'm the Consumer Products Safety Commision. Or maybe I'm just the guy who rides a bike to work and says, I don't need a Ford Pinto, thanks very much.

I don't CARE what other people believe. That's their life and their journey and the sum total of their experiences. I don't get a gold star or a toaster for every soul I unwin for God.

I'm here to tell my story and see if I can get people to understand me. I'm also here to listen to other people's story and see if I can understand them, people of faith very much included.

But I've never turned anyone, I don't intend to turn anyone, and I don't really believe that anyone changes beliefs based on external people pressure anyhow. I know too many atheists married to believers to have the hubris to assume that a guy on a website (or a woman with a play) can exert any appreciable influence at all.

ben turk said...

i think people can be converted, i like my toasters. of course nobody is going to say 'you're right!' on here, but i think we all walk away with some holes poked in our armour, holes that can grow, or that we can find patches for.

i wouldn't call it prostlytizing. more like polemics, but it's an important part of human progress, on an individual and global level.

SweetThursday said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Brent said...

Julia,
As I read your own simple way of "giving thanks" and struggling to redefine this in my own way each year on this holiday, it reminded me of a recent writing I came across by Daniel C. Dennert titled "Thank Goodness" written from the hospital as he recuperates from major heart surgery. Responding to the question as to whether he may have had an epiphany along the way to change his long held atheism, he wrote the following: "Yes, I did have an epiphany. I saw with greater clarity than ever before in my life that when I say "Thank goodness!" this is not merely a euphemism for "Thank God!" (We atheists don't believe that there is any God to thank.) I really do mean thank goodness! There is a lot of goodness in this world, and more goodness every day, and this fantastic human-made fabric of excellence is genuinely responsible for the fact that I am alive today. It is a worthy recipient of the gratitude I feel today, and I want to celebrate that fact here and now.

To whom, then, do I owe a debt of gratitude? To the cardiologist who has kept me alive and ticking for years, and who swiftly and confidently rejected the original diagnosis of nothing worse than pneumonia. To the surgeons, neurologists, anesthesiologists, and the perfusionist, who kept my systems going for many hours under daunting circumstances. To the dozen or so physician assistants, and to nurses and physical therapists and x-ray technicians and a small army of phlebotomists so deft that you hardly know they are drawing your blood, and the people who brought the meals, kept my room clean, did the mountains of laundry generated by such a messy case, wheel-chaired me to x-ray, and so forth. These people came from Uganda, Kenya, Liberia, Haiti, the Philippines, Croatia, Russia, China, Korea, India—and the United States, of course—and I have never seen more impressive mutual respect, as they helped each other out and checked each other's work. But for all their teamwork, this local gang could not have done their jobs without the huge background of contributions from others. I remember with gratitude my late friend and Tufts colleague, physicist Allan Cormack, who shared the Nobel Prize for his invention of the c-t scanner. Allan—you have posthumously saved yet another life, but who's counting? The world is better for the work you did. Thank goodness. Then there is the whole system of medicine, both the science and the technology, without which the best-intentioned efforts of individuals would be roughly useless. So I am grateful to the editorial boards and referees, past and present, of Science, Nature, Journal of the American Medical Association, Lancet, and all the other institutions of science and medicine that keep churning out improvements, detecting and correcting flaws." Yes, I did have an epiphany. I saw with greater clarity than ever before in my life that when I say "Thank goodness!" this is not merely a euphemism for "Thank God!" (We atheists don't believe that there is any God to thank.) I really do mean thank goodness! There is a lot of goodness in this world, and more goodness every day, and this fantastic human-made fabric of excellence is genuinely responsible for the fact that I am alive today. It is a worthy recipient of the gratitude I feel today, and I want to celebrate that fact here and now.

To whom, then, do I owe a debt of gratitude? To the cardiologist who has kept me alive and ticking for years, and who swiftly and confidently rejected the original diagnosis of nothing worse than pneumonia. To the surgeons, neurologists, anesthesiologists, and the perfusionist, who kept my systems going for many hours under daunting circumstances. To the dozen or so physician assistants, and to nurses and physical therapists and x-ray technicians and a small army of phlebotomists so deft that you hardly know they are drawing your blood, and the people who brought the meals, kept my room clean, did the mountains of laundry generated by such a messy case, wheel-chaired me to x-ray, and so forth. These people came from Uganda, Kenya, Liberia, Haiti, the Philippines, Croatia, Russia, China, Korea, India—and the United States, of course—and I have never seen more impressive mutual respect, as they helped each other out and checked each other's work. But for all their teamwork, this local gang could not have done their jobs without the huge background of contributions from others. I remember with gratitude my late friend and Tufts colleague, physicist Allan Cormack, who shared the Nobel Prize for his invention of the c-t scanner. Allan—you have posthumously saved yet another life, but who's counting? The world is better for the work you did. Thank goodness. Then there is the whole system of medicine, both the science and the technology, without which the best-intentioned efforts of individuals would be roughly useless. So I am grateful to the editorial boards and referees, past and present, of Science, Nature, Journal of the American Medical Association, Lancet, and all the other institutions of science and medicine that keep churning out improvements, detecting and correcting flaws."
http://www.edge.org/3rd_culture/dennett06/dennett06_index.html

Discovering your CD and Blog has been a treat. Having been raised in a Mormon family but a long time athiest, your story of the Mormon missionaries made me really laugh.

Thanks, for your humor and thought!

JoeCool said...

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