October 23, 2010

Where Does It Stop?

I was going to give these topics a rest, but something came up.

On a previous post, Zach made a comment, and I am excerpting it here. His first sentence is an answer to a question I had asked him. Hope you're not embarrassed, but I want to give you a more complete response than the comments section would allow:
My lack of belief in the supernatural is pretty much complete - I have never seen any reason to attribute a supernatural cause to phenomena. I suppose I rule out supernatural explanations because once you let one in, where do you stop? I look at an event I do not understand and go immediately to natural causes. Even if I can't figure it out, I still would assume it had a natural explanation. I'm worried that if someone started attributing causes to supernatural events, they would skip over the whole 'natural cause' thing and go straight for the supernatural, because technically everything is potentially explainable by an omnipotent being, no?
For various reasons, I believe that Zach is much younger than me; I am old enough to be his — professor. Now I will attempt to act like one.

First, a bit of advice to him, and anyone else that may wish to heed it:
  • Realize that you have a great deal to learn about Life, the Universe and Everything; the more we learn, the more we realize that there is still more to learn. Other people can know and understand things that we do not know. This bit of wisdom should help us become more patient and willing to listen.
  • Define your terms. (Later on, you'll read how I qualify my "belief in the supernatural".) You can fight over misunderstandings as well as agree on things that you did not know about; I argued with a guy for two days and then found out that we were in agreement all along, the problem was just in how we understood certain words! Embarrassing, and I've remembered that for incident for (mumbles) years.
  • Frame your questions without your bias showing. While we all have our biases, we do not need to act like we are tolerating the ravings of a madman when we ask our questions. You may be surprised that said madman actually knows more than you thought. If you begin like a flamethrower, do not cry because you get flamed right back.
  • When discussing things, pride is your enemy. You may not only have to eat your words, but possibly a bad attitude (or slink off into the darkness like some people I have encountered). Just be ready to listen. You can develop patience and diplomacy if nothing else.
  • Remember that people are different, and not everyone knows the same things that you know. Besides, you may find yourself actually liking someone despite your philosophical differences. It's happened to me, and it can be a bit unnerving sometimes.
  • Don't quibble about small stuff. I've seen people that were all too happy to find some excuse to vilify someone and missed the point that was being made because they majored on minors, slip of the tongue, misspeaking, typo pouncing &c.
That's enough, I want to get to what he actually said before the lot of you doze off.


Zach has admitted to having a materialistic bias. That is excellent to know and admit to having a bias, because so many people think that they are totally neutral and make their decisions based strictly on the facts. The problem with a bias (or presupposition) is that you have to be careful that you do not preclude other possibilities, especially with a naturalistic bias. If you become adamant that there is no other explanation outside of what can be experienced or measured, you are being illogical. Why? Because you are assuming a kind of God-like role of knowledge, and you are declaring an absolute negative.


I like to point out to people that just because something is outside your realm of knowledge, experience or the senses does not mean that something does not exist. For example, I have never been to China, but I know it is there. I have seen pictures, heard the testimony of Tibetans who escaped from China into the United States, read history reports and so on. It's a matter of faith. Many atheists rail against the concept, but yes, they do have faith: Faith in the philosophies of science, faith in evolution, faith in the Big Bang, faith in themselves.


When it comes to the supernatural, what then? If a naturalistic approach is an unmovable law for someone, then they have to dismiss evidence that does not fit into their preconceptions. By doing so, they are rejecting possible explanations out of hand. When people are locked into their preconceptions, they often get very illogical: "Creationists are not scientists because they believe in Creation" (circular reasoning), or, "Creationists are religious fanatics that are not scientists because Dawkins said so" (erroneous appeal to authority). Those statements are both wrong because Creationists and Intelligent Design proponents are actual scientists who have degrees from actual accredited universities. Just because they believe in the "wrong things" according to this bias does not negate their credentials.


Zach's approach of going to the natural explanation is, in my view, the proper way to go. Years ago, I learned something about UFOs: Look for the rational, normal explanation first before going after the supernatural; try to debunk an encounter. Where did I learn that? From believers in UFOs! Whether it's God, UFOs, ghosts or what have you (see "Ghost Hunters" on this), if you run screaming into the street with "proof", you look like a fool when the claim is soundly debunked. (Note that I said "soundly debunked". That is a far cry from being unconvinced by the evidence, or disbelieving it because it does not fit into preconceptions.) Then you can build up a reputation for being cautious and thorough instead of being gullible.


I believe this is where your question about supernatural explanations, "once you let one in, where do you stop?" applies. If people are willing to examine the evidence and not blame or credit the supernatural at the drop of a hat, "false positives" can be avoided. As you well know, I believe in the supernatural. But let's be careful, shall we? That word covers a great deal of ground, so it has to be limited. Right now, I am limiting my use of that word to people and events in the Bible.


You have seen how I reject evolution. I have seen strong biases proclaiming its truth but denying its errors. My conclusions led me to reject evolution on scientific grounds. Funny, too, because I used to be a "theistic evolutionist", believing that God used evolution to create the world.


I think I'm hesitant to come out and say that I have to accept belief in God as an explanation.


"Why do you feel that way, Cowboy Bob?"


Because I have reached my conclusions many years ago, and they are constantly reinforced. For those reasons, it is difficult for me to lay out my reasons for going to the supernatural as an explanation and having you think that I am "jumping" over there. I suppose I want to say that belief in God (or, as many atheist accuse us of believing, "Goddidit") was not without serious thought.


Now I have to get more personal and tell you my own story. I'll cut out as much superfluous matter as I can, this thing is long enough already.


I was raised in a Christian home. My father was a United Methodist pastor, and that is one of the most liberal denominations that you can find. When I went to a Christian high school, my beliefs were challenged, because they were very conservative. Someone would make a statement of belief, and I would want to know, "Where did you get that?" I have long been skeptical, and needed "chapter and verse" to back things up, even before I received serious Bible teachings.


Great, so I'm getting answers for where my beliefs can be found. But next, I needed to know why I believe. What's so special about the Bible? One book that I recommend to anyone that inquires is Evidence that Demands a Verdict, by Josh McDowell (I highly recommend that link). You don't exactly read it, you wade through it because it is very scholarly. McDowell wanted to shut Christians up once and for all, so he set out to disprove the Bible and tear it apart. He became a Christian and one of the leading apologists. This book, and others, helped me. (You are fortunate, scores of apologetics links are available right here. I had to read books back in the olden days.) Some things I've learned, briefly:
  • Internal consistency. Get ten of your friends together and ask them about theological, philosophical and other controversial subjects, and see how much agreement you get. Compare that to the Bible, which was composed over thousands of years through different cultures, languages, occupations, rulers and so on, yet with uniformity. Rewrite: The Old Testament was written from about 1400 BC through 400 BC, and the New Testament was written from about 50 through 90 AD.
  • Textual variations. You would think that texts that were, say, five hundred years older than other texts would be vastly different. Instead, there are startlingly few variations, comprised mostly of slight wording and writing differences, but nothing of substance.
  • Abundance of translations. There are far more copies of all or parts of the New Testament than any other ancient book. If you doubt the Bible, you should also doubt the reliability of the writings of, say, Julius Caesar, since there are about one tenth of the copies of his works in comparison.
  • The ring of truth. C.S. Lewis referred to the "ring of truth", because the Bible presents people with all of their flaws and failures. Tell me, if you were going to create a religion, would you have disciples denying their Lord, cowering in fear, disbelieving in his resurrection? Me, neither.
  • Archaeology verifies it. Sure, people claimed to disprove parts of it. Guess what? The disproofs were disproved. Archaeological and historian heavyweights affirm the validity of the Bible.
Whew, this is long. Hope you click the links and get more information when you have time.


Another important reason for me to accept the existence of God and the resurrection of Jesus from the dead is the testimony of people who have had their lives radically changed. I was a fool and put God on the back burner for fifteen years, only recently coming back to my faith. I had sinned and broken God's moral law. How many times have I taken his name in vain (Exodus 20.7), lied (Exodus 20.16), stolen (even though it was small stuff, Exodus 20.15), lusted (committing adultery in my heart, Matt. 5.28), tried to reshape God to suit me (Exodus 20.3), I cannot say. But God knows that I mangled all of the commandments. And I know that Jesus died a horrible death on a cross to take my punishment (1 John 4.10). He arose from the dead (1 Cor. 15.3-8). Now I belong to him (Galatians 2.20).

God does not make sense because he is God. How can the creation understand the Creator? He loves us, and we have broken his laws. How can we understand that? Jesus explained him, the Bible explains him. If we humble ourselves and stop trying to make God act in a manner that is pleasing to us (which includes the way he is supposed to manifest himself), he will come into our lives, save us from the punishment of our sins and give us new life (2 Cor. 5.17). He gave me something to live for, not to fight against.

Well, I hope your answer was in there. If not, ask further questions. I won't make a grand essay of it next time. Thanks for writing.

40 comments:

Stephen Buchanan said...

Wow, I don't even know where to begin. I know that what you are saying is quite wrong on so many levels, so I'll try do one piece at a time?

I am a Christian myself, so let's get that out of the way, before I get labelled too early (I know it will happen further down the line...)

"Materialistic bias" first.

It really depends on the context. When conducting science, for example, one MUST use "methodological materialism", not in order to confirm some sort of anti-supernatural bias, but because it is the only way to conduct science. Let me explain. "Supernatural", by most definitions is exactly that - "outside (or beyond) the natural". Science relies on independently-verifiable, testable hypotheses; this naturally places a limit on what we can call science.

An example is helpful: let's take "miraculous healing". Personally, I don't have a problem with it; it may well happen. But I cannot determine the answer scientifically - it would have to be a matter of faith. However, if someone came along claiming that they could SUPERNATURALLY heal people, EVERY TIME... Well, then we'd have something to test! We could set up a sample, a control, repeat the experiment, etc. So now let's say the experiment holds up; the guys heals people every time. Case closed. Sure.

But what happened to the "supernatural"? The problem is, in this example, we had an OBSERVABLE, MEASURABLE effect in the "natural" world (the people got healed, demonstrably). No, science might have no answer (yet) as to WHY the healing took place so reliably, what the mechanism was, etc. But if the evidence showed that this guy could pray for people and they got healed every time, then science would have to accept the fact, and people would have to start working out what this meant for our understandings of physics, medicine, etc.

Of course, no such study has ever shown any such thing. A Christian is not therefore "wrong" to believe in miraculous healing; they just may not be able to support their view scientifically. The same goes for - ahem! - creationism, etc. But that's for another post.

Stephen Buchanan said...

OK, I've tried posting a comment a number of times. Keep getting some message about the URL being too long? What gives?

Stormbringer said...

It's because you put too much text into your comment, and it's angry about that. URL too large, I don't know why they put that.

Also, you seem to have missed the part that says I moderate comments, so now I have six comments from you. We'll talk later.

Zach said...

Stormbringer,

I attempted to post a comment and got an error - did it go through? I appreciate you responding to my post and don't want to 'slink off into the darkness' because I find the topic extremely interesting. If my comment has gone away I will attempt to re-write it. Many thanks.

Stormbringer said...

Sorry, Zach, it was a no-go. Hope you can do it again. If it's long, consider writing it on Notepad or something and pasting it in two parts.

Stormbringer said...

PS -- Just like at Ray's place, I moderate comments and you may have to wait a while before you see them here.

Stormbringer said...

Stephen, I've never had a comment from RSA before. But anyway...

"I know that what you are saying is quite wrong on so many levels..."

There is no need to start with flattery.

"...one MUST use "methodological materialism", not in order to confirm some sort of anti-supernatural bias, but because it is the only way to conduct science..."

My contention is that there is a bias, and you are limiting yourself by saying, "My way or no way", and the answer you seek may not fit into the pigeon hole of naturalism.

"An example is helpful: let's take "miraculous healing". Personally, I don't have a problem with it; it may well happen. But I cannot determine the answer scientifically - it would have to be a matter of faith. However, if someone came along claiming that they could SUPERNATURALLY heal people, EVERY TIME... Well, then we'd have something to test! We could set up a sample, a control, repeat the experiment, etc. So now let's say the experiment holds up; the guys heals people every time. Case closed. Sure."

Wrong. You are forcing the supernatural into man-made scientific principles. By definition, the supernatural will not fit into that same pigeon hole in which you tried to force it to reside earlier. Your greatest flaw is that it is to happen every time.

Stormbringer said...

(continued)
"Of course, no such study has ever shown any such thing. A Christian is not therefore "wrong" to believe in miraculous healing; they just may not be able to support their view scientifically."

Is this about hardcore, biased naturalistic science, or about obtaining answers?

How to you test, repeat, measure and verify God himself? Litmus paper?

You said that you are a Christian. Do you believe in the miracles of Jesus? They cannot be tested, repeated or verified. How about the resurrection of Jesus? Same problem. However, you have the recorded testimonies of witnesses (and legal experts have stated that the resurrection accounts would indeed hold up in a court of law), including the fact that Jesus appeared to over 500 people at one time.

I just heard a talk about writing a book about the Beatles. He said he could call all five of them something Sean, Ian, Fred, Ralph and Phil. They live in the Outer Hebrides. Would such a book sell? Of course not, living witnesses would laugh it into nonexistence. The same with the resurrection accounts which were circulating within just a few years of the events — if they were made up, the witnesses would say, "No, I was there, here is what happened", and the fictions would not get going.

Stormbringer said...

(conclusion)
Can you test, repeat, measure and verify the conscience? Do you believe that you have one in the first place? It is completely without substance, yet God has put it inside each and every one of us. You might even say that your conscience is supernatural. Have you told a lie? Stolen something, anything at all, even your employer's time? Have you taken God's name in vain as an exclamation or curse word, degrading it to the level of an expression of filth or disgust? Have you ever looked at someone with lust, committing adultery in your heart if not in deed? You may feel something when I'm bringing these things up. You should, if your conscience is still alive.

You have a spirit, which is also without material form. Your conscience is telling you that your spirit is in trouble for breaking God's commandments. What will happen when you stand before God on the Day of Judgment? All of the clever science, definitions, measurements and litmus paper tests will fail you, and you will stand condemned. What will you say? "Sorry"? No good. All have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God. Hell is waiting, and our reservations have been made.

The good news is that if we accept the sacrifice of the crucified Jesus Christ on the cross in our place, who paid our debt for sin, and make him the Lord of our lives, we can have new life. We can go to Heaven and be with Jesus. Hell is not a worry if we have become right with God.

None of this makes sense through the man-made rules of materialistic philosophy of science. But it is still true. And very real.

Stormbringer said...

II Peter 1.16 says, "For we did not follow cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty."

I Cor. 1.18-24 says, "For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I WILL DESTROY THE WISDOM OF THE WISE, AND THE CLEVERNESS OF THE CLEVER I WILL SET ASIDE.”

Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

Stephen Buchanan said...

OK, some interesting points. Let me try and deal with as many of them as time allows (naughty me, using company time to debate stuff on blogs, oh well).

On my "miraculous healing" example. You are not addressing what I'm saying. You are simply repeating that the supernatural won't "fit" into the materialistic "bias". On the contrary, my example contains clear reasoning why that is not the case. Approaching "miraculous" healing with a scientific (yes, materialistic/naturalistic) approach would be useful whether the MECHANISM of healing was "supernatural" or not. The only "materialistic" bias, in this case, would be determining: "Was the person healed or not?" That is surely not a "biased" question to ask? If relying on verifiable facts is a "bias", then it seems like a reasonable one to me, at least as far as SCIENCE goes.

But you seem to be saying that science would automatically exclude the results of a study on miraculous healing. I think this is untrue. I think even the MECHANISM of the healing was totally outside of all known naturalistic assumptions, if the evidence was there - that people got prayed for and always got healed - then the evidence would stand.

Stephen Buchanan said...

Then the next issue, the question of the resurrection. Dude, I'm a CHRISTIAN. You don't need to convince me that the resurrection happened. I believe it did. It's just that you can't prove a once-off historical miracle SCIENTIFICALLY. The evidence is there, but it's circumstantial, so a persuasive argument is going be structured more like a legal or historical argument, not a scientific one. If someone was raising people from the dead now, you could test THAT scientifically - see my "miraculous healing" example.

stormbringer005 said...

Dude, you're missing MY points, that you cannot put God (or the supernatural) into a box, to perform on command and fit with humanistic science philosophies. Especially the resurrection; if you were going to be consistent in your philosophies, then you would have to reject it because man-made science says it's not possible, but history and changed lives say otherwise.

Stephen Buchanan said...

"Dude, you're missing MY points, that you cannot put God (or the supernatural) into a box, to perform on command and fit with humanistic science philosophies."

I said no such thing. Look, let's bring this to specifics, because we're staying a bit too abstract about it. You obviously think Biology, for example, is "biased" against the supernatural. What about Geology? Or Physics? What about Economics, for that matter? Do these unfairly leave God "out" of the picture?

Stormbringer said...

Although you have your heart set on a debate, I do not. My discussion was limited to be able to make the points; if I was going to turn this into a doctoral dissertation, then sure, I would include many other fields and bore my readers to tears.

My insistence that the supernatural, and God himself, cannot be put into a box and made to jump through hoops on command fits into other fields as well. Remember, I say to look at the natural first. Then you consider the supernatural.

Stephen Buchanan said...

OK, sorry I didn't mean to widen the debate to these other areas. I was just trying to bring up some other examples to see exactly what point you are trying to make, because it's not entirely clear.

"My insistence that the supernatural, and God himself, cannot be put into a box and made to jump through hoops on command fits into other fields as well. Remember, I say to look at the natural first. Then you consider the supernatural. "

In which fields of science do you feel that the supernatural is being unfairly left out?

Stormbringer said...

I do not know what time it is where you are, but my work day is just beginning. The long comments were made on my lunch break. I will try to give a better response at 13.00 Eastern Time (New York). Sorry to keep you waiting, I know it's frustrating to wait (for me, sometimes it's agonizing), but I do try to minimize it.

Stormbringer said...

Hi Stephen,

If I figured things out correctly, you're six hours ahead of me and probably went home for the day. So here it is anyway.

"In which fields of science do you feel that the supernatural is being unfairly left out?"

I want to be careful with this question, the wording almost makes it a loaded question. My hesitance is caused by the word "unjustly". I do not believe that the supernatural should be a "first resort" for explanation in any area of science unless it has been previously established as a last resort explanation.

Do you follow? Me, neither.

Let's start again. The supernatural should not be a primary source of explanation unless and until natural explanations have been exhausted. If it has been determined that a supernatural explanation is the most rational for a given event or series of events, then perhaps subsequent events can draw upon that explanation of the supernatural. Just do not do it all the time.

Whenever I come across discussions of explanations in science, it is typically atheists railing against belief in God, and demanding absolute adherence to natural, materialistic science (i.e., "WE make the rules!").

Perhaps God really did do (it), maybe eyewitness accounts of UFOs kidnapping Jacob Zuma are true after all, is it the ghost of my stepdaughter that makes those noises my wife hears (I doubt that one). Build on the theory when it is reasonable to do so, but not as a first resort. Ruling it out because someone "said so" limits the possibilities for a more satisfactory answer if the naturalistic explanation is full of holes.

By the way, you may like my articles on Intelligent Design, they have a similar "feel" to them.

stormbringer005 said...

Classic cartoon that I like, click here.

Zach said...

Stormbringer,

All right, try #2 for the comment, if you don’t mind wandering back in your blog a few days. Your ability to post far exceeds my ability to write responses.

First off, I’m not embarrassed at all that you posted my comments; in fact, it is rather encouraging. I appreciate you taking the time to respond. And for what its worth I am a 26 year old biochemistry graduate student and am surrounded by professors all day; if you wish to speak as one in critiquing my arguments, at least it will be familiar territory for me.

I wasn’t trying to indicate that I know all that there is; believe me, my graduate work has convinced me that the opposite is true. I suppose what I was attempting to get at is that when I am attempting to do something called ‘science’ or use the ‘scientific method’ I am, by definition, limited to ascribing natural explanations for any possible observation. I can readily appreciate how someone who believes in supernatural causes would be quite aggravated that scientists are completely brushing off the one explanation they feel is the most logical. However, in science, our (can I say our? I’m sort of a scientist, or at least I want to become one) hypothesis and explanations have to be potentially falsifiable; a supernatural explanation is not.

So yes indeed, I have a purely methodological naturalistic bias; I will readily admit that. I’m not claiming that a supernatural deity might indeed exist, but if so He/She/It couldn’t be studied by using the scientific method. This goes for the bit about creation scientists also – they may very well be scientists, but if they attribute a supernatural cause to a process, they have abandoned the modern scientific method.
Not to be totally thick-headed, but despite your lengthy and thorough post I am still confused as to how to figure out when natural explanations can be abandoned in favor of the supernatural. Maybe this is because I’ve been indoctrinated in the scientific method for so long and to such an extent that I thrive on set-in-stone definitions and delineations. I am not sure what a rule or set of guidelines would look like for deciding when a process must (or even could) have a supernatural cause. There are all sorts of aspects of my personal research that I cannot solve, despite thinking about them for years. My solution is invariably I am not clever enough to come up with the solution, but the processes I observe must have a natural explanation, because… well, I’m biased. I can’t use any other explanation, nor would my boss accept any other.

Finally, I have ordered the recommended McDowell off amazon and am looking forward to reading/wading through it. Thanks.

Stormbringer said...

Hi Zach,

Oh, boy, this is a long reply again.

"Your ability to post far exceeds my ability to write responses."

With some people, it's the opposite, and I'm hard pressed to keep up with them. I feel a bit badly because I've been so wordy, never having taken this much room for responses before. Flattered?

"I’m not embarrassed at all that you posted my comments".

Thanks, I know it's the thing to do in some places, but I still hesitate.

"I wasn’t trying to indicate that I know all that there is."

Nor did I want to give the impression that you thought too highly of yourself. It was intended as a caution; when someone steps onto our turf, we can get superior-minded. Well, I know I can.

"However, in science, our (can I say our? I’m sort of a scientist, or at least I want to become one) hypothesis and explanations have to be potentially falsifiable; a supernatural explanation is not."

I think "our" is the correct term to use. And I agree, using the supernatural is a risky proposition. It also seems reasonable to me to consider the possibility that the existing man-made rules of logic and science may not be absolutely true all of the time.

Stormbringer said...

"I’m not claiming that a supernatural deity might indeed exist, but if so He/She/It couldn’t be studied by using the scientific method."

"Believers" (using this term for a broad spectrum, not just Christians) study what and how God made or did things. Plus we have that sense of wonder at the majesty and intricacy of his creation.

"This goes for the bit about creation scientists also – they may very well be scientists, but if they attribute a supernatural cause to a process, they have abandoned the modern scientific method."

Yep, they have their biases. As I said to someone else, if everyone had a point to prove, then everyone is disqualified. If Creationists are using the supernatural as a first resort all the time, I tend to agree. As I stated above, it may also be logical to consider that the man-made rules do not always fit or provide the most satisfactory explanation.

"Not to be totally thick-headed, but despite your lengthy and thorough post I am still confused as to how to figure out when natural explanations can be abandoned in favor of the supernatural."

Don't put yourself down, that's my job. And I do not need to put you down, you're a bright fellow asking good questions. Sometimes I don't talk so good, neither. Did you read any of my other answers, by the way? I tried to spell that bit out with him. Problem is, it is rather difficult. What I am finding right now to be the best way to explain when to invoke a supernatural explanation is to say that all reasonable natural explanations should be explored first. Did the front door close by itself because the place is haunted? Well, did anyone notice that if you open the back door quickly, the air currents cause the front door to close? No ghost here, Gerta. But if the back door theory fails, and there is no other explanation, plus evidence of other unexplanable phenomena happening, then we have to consider paranormal activity. (Hey, hope you're reading this the same day I'm writing it, Ghost Hunters on SyFy tonight is happening in my back yard, at the Ulster County Jail.)

Stormbringer said...

Naturalistic explanations for the origin of Life, the Universe and Everything (yes, I've read Douglas Adams) have plenty of holes. Listen to or read explanations, and you see theories piled upon theories into an unsteady structure, with expressions like, "we think", "scientist suppose", "possibly" and so forth. I've heard explanations that require me to castrate my common sense, and I've said, "Yeah, right!" because they were desperate to keep their theories intact instead of saying, "I don't have the faintest idea how it got there".

The fellow who goes by the initials GTR struck me as a troll in disguise, and I believe that he is a fraud. He essentially called me a liar because I said that textbooks have outdated and disproved evolutionary ancestors. Not only have I seen them, but I have heard reports from other people, and read reports from organizations. Unfortunately for him, I do not keep a stack of textbooks handy. I hope you will trust me when I say that some things that were out of date for decades were in books that were current at the time. That is not science (and the true spirit of science), that is indoctrination.

Stormbringer said...

Blogger's comment form is giving me grief, and I am chopping into more sections.

"Maybe this is because I’ve been indoctrinated in the scientific method for so long and to such an extent that I thrive on set-in-stone definitions and delineations."

Well, yes. As I insist, use the methods you know as a first resort.

"I am not sure what a rule or set of guidelines would look like for deciding when a process must (or even could) have a supernatural cause. There are all sorts of aspects of my personal research that I cannot solve, despite thinking about them for years."

That is where I think a supernatural explanation could be considered.

Stormbringer said...

"My solution is invariably I am not clever enough to come up with the solution, but the processes I observe must have a natural explanation, because… well, I’m biased. I can’t use any other explanation, nor would my boss accept any other."

I don't think cleverness is the question, else you would not be where you are today. And you're surrounded by like-thinking people. Plus, the overwhelming majority of the time, the methods that you use have proven satisfactory, yes?

Have you seen any of my material on Intelligent Design? I wrote in "Streng verboten" about "Expelled - No Intelligence Allowed", where scientists who dared to even breathe a word against evolutionary orthodoxy and that maybe "something higher" was involved were censured and lost their jobs.

I have long insisted the true science will consider other explanations. Creationists and ID scientists are credentialed and skilled in the scientific disciplines, yet have rejected evolution on scientific grounds (as I have; I rejected because of science before I rejected from faith in God's Word).

Stormbringer said...

You could broaden your understanding by checking out scientific writings by Creationists and the ID people. There are papers published online at Answers in Genesis that make me say, "Whaddya know about that", and find something that I can understand, leaving those to people like you to digest.

I have to ask, though, (and please do not read anything into my inquiry other than face value), if you find yourself clinging to naturalism despite evidence to the contrary? Perhaps, deep inside, you know that there really is a Creator. After all, if there is a Creator, then he makes the rules and we'd better find out what he has to say. Otherwise, it's "do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law" as Mr. Crowley said.

Man is more than material (good luck if you want to debate how consciousness evolved, there is so much philosophy, and philosophies, involved that I drop the subject), and the inner man responds to things of the spirit. Your wording indicates that you have a conscience. We all do, except when we actively beat it down.

My feeling (see?) is that you are thinking that there is something more than the material world. Yup. I went against God's moral law as spelled out in the Ten Commandments. My choice was to live in sin, and I was sorry. Eventually, I recommitted my life to Christ back in April, the one who died on the cross for those sins I foolishly cherished, and there are definite (but gradual) changes in my life. There is no natural explanation to that, especially since my "notions" run out after a few weeks. Instead, I am still committed to God's Word. And if I didn't care about your eternal destiny, I wouldn't be spending time on giving you as good an answer as I can, and still feeling bad that I'm taking so much time and space in which to do it.

I'm glad to see that you ordered the McDowell book. He has free resources on his site, by the way. Also, you may want to check out PleaseConvinceMe.com, one of the guys is someone you can relate to, a cold-case homicide detective. THAT is someone who knows evidence, huh?

Also, I'm willing to keep going in the comments section for the world to see, but if you want to write to me, the address is in the profile.

Sincerely,
Cowboy Bob
PS - "Cowboy" is a state of mind. I'm from the West. Well, as far west as Michigan...

Silly Goose said...

I love that McDowell book.
I've used it in outlines on my site.

Praise God -you're His and back in His will!

-goose

Stephen Buchanan said...

explanations have been exhausted. "If it has been determined that a supernatural explanation is the most rational for a given event or series of events, then perhaps subsequent events can draw upon that explanation of the supernatural. Just do not do it all the time."

I appreciate what you're trying to say, but I believe it is an intellectual and spiritual dead end. The more science explains things, the less room you have for what you call the "supernatural". God's "supernatural" activities therefore are allowed an ever-decreasing room in which to operate, until eventually you leave God with very little to do at all, in which case you are either forced to become a Deist, or reject Christianity/theism altogether.

I prefer to think that the supernatural/natural divide is artificial. If God is creator, and particularly if He is in some way coterminous with His creation (panentheism, I know), then we have no need for deciding what is natural/supernatural anyway.

Stephen Buchanan said...

"Whenever I come across discussions of explanations in science, it is typically atheists railing against belief in God, and demanding absolute adherence to natural, materialistic science (i.e., "WE make the rules!")."

OK, well I'm not an atheist, and I'm saying that your approach is unscientific. Yes, you might exhaust all "naturalistic" explanations for something, and at this point you indeed have a choice. A scientist must say, simply, "I don't know" (and probably add "yet"). Good scientists don't hold dogmatically to any particular theory, but allow new evidence to reflect on their understanding of things. "Unknowns" are therefore treated as interesting problems to be solved, not opportunities for believers to gleefully claim, "God did it!"

Stormbringer said...

"OK, well I'm not an atheist, and I'm saying that your approach is unscientific."

When I want answers and the rigid, man-made logic rules of the philosophies of "science" fail, I don't care if I am "unscientific". "Science" is not the be-all and end-all of explaining everything.

"Yes, you might exhaust all "naturalistic" explanations for something, and at this point you indeed have a choice. A scientist must say, simply, "I don't know" (and probably add "yet"). Good scientists don't hold dogmatically to any particular theory, but allow new evidence to reflect on their understanding of things. "Unknowns" are therefore treated as interesting problems to be solved, not opportunities for believers to gleefully claim, "God did it!" "

Did you read all of the article, and did you read my answers below, where I tried to elaborate? I am not looking for an excuse to "gleefully claim 'God did it'", but I do marvel at his work. You can be content to live in a box of someone else's own making (philosophies of man-made science), but I am not.

Stephen Buchanan said...

"When I want answers and the rigid, man-made logic rules of the philosophies of "science" fail, I don't care if I am "unscientific". "Science" is not the be-all and end-all of explaining everything."

Of course it isn't. I never said it was. But when it CAN describe something well (how life came to be in its present form, i.e. evolution) then you get all uncomfortable, and start burying your head in the sand, because it doesn't agree with what you believe.

Stormbringer said...

You are guilty of idolatry. That's right, I said it! You are creating a god to suit your own views, and it is subject to change, interpretation and opinions, all the time wearing a white lab coat to feign respectability. Burying my head in the sand? Look in the mirror, Skippy! You refuse to consider contrary evidence, and I am wrong simply because I dare to disagree. Did you read my replies to other people, trying to work things through? Did you check the links for apologetics on this site? Are you intellectually honest? You said you are a Christian. Are you honest at all? I have serious doubts, since you prefer your golden calf of science-ism.

Stephen Buchanan said...

"Burying my head in the sand? Look in the mirror, Skippy! You refuse to consider contrary evidence, and I am wrong simply because I dare to disagree."

No, I have the weight of hundreds of years of careful scientific research and evidence behind me. What suitable "contrary evidence" has YOUR side of the debate ever offered? (And by "your" side, I don't mean Christianity, because I am a Christian too. Rather, I mean creationist/fundamentalist Christianity).

You are not wrong "simply because you dare to disagree". You are wrong because you haven't even bothered to understand the overwhelming evidence, available to anyone with the time and effort to consider it, that refutes some of the views you hold.

Stormbringer said...

You have the weight of nothing. Dead ends, false leads, changing theories, outright fraud — and your own blind faith. You haven't even dared to check the apologetics links I have offered many times.

As the Scriptures say, "Examine yourself, to see that you are in the faith", because you serve a god of the philosophy of science, and I serve the God of the Bible.

Stormbringer said...

PS, I do not get along with fundamentalists, even though I am a Creationist. See? You're thinking the thoughts that have been given to you.

Excuse me, I really should do the work I'm paid to do.

Stephen Buchanan said...

"You said you are a Christian. Are you honest at all? I have serious doubts, since you prefer your golden calf of science-ism. "

Who said that Science or Christianity was an either/or choice? Surely, Truth is Truth. "All Truth is God's Truth". I don't "worship" science. Science is not even something all that strange - it's just methodical investigation of the world we live in. What's so radical about that?

And as for your original point, I don't disagree that there are limits to what science can explain. But most scientists know that. What I'm trying to say in response is:

(1) Be careful what you denote as "bad" science. Because I'm pretty sure that it is based more on your pet beliefs and a need to defend the authority of the Bible than any real flaw in the science. As a perfect example, the Theory of Evolution is a SOUND scientific theory, but I know you will rail against it as being "atheist", "materialist" or "dishonest" - not because you have any solid evidence against it, but because it doesn't suit you to accept what it plainly shows. You fail your own test, because you want to jump to "supernatural" conclusions before considering the plain facts in front of you - i.e. evolutionary mechanisms that explain how life came to be, without any resort to supernatural explanations.

(2) You are also building your apologetics on sand. While some people might be swayed by arguments that bash well-established science, others who understand the science better than you will rightly reject these arguments as nonsense.

Stephen Buchanan said...

I will read the apologetics links if it makes you happy. Which one is relevant to the present discussion of science?

stormbringer005 said...

You are proving that you have a bias, and that you do not believe the Bible. What kind of Christian does not believe the Bible?

You are railing that I am oh so wrong and you are oh so right. But you are proving my points. Here, chew on these, Skippy:

“Evolution is unproved and unprovable. We believe it only be-
cause the only alternative is special creation, and that is unthinkable.”
— Sir Arthur Keith, Forward to 100th edition of Origin of the Species

“In fact, evolution became in a sense a scientific religion; al-
most all scientists have accepted it and many are prepared to ‘bend’ their
observations to fit in with it.”
— H. S. Lipson, professor of physics at the University of Manchester

“Facts do not ‘speak for themselves’; they are read in light
of theory.” — Steven Jay Gould

You are proving me, and Gould, right. This discussion is going nowhere, I cannot explain anything to you, and all you want to do is pummel my beliefs and have me bow down, sobbing, to your superior wisdom. Ain't gonna happen.

What will happen when you meet God face-to-face? Will you tell him how you danced around his Word, making excuses for disbelieving it and accepting the ever-changing whims of the philosophies of "science"? How will you fare when he asks you if you kept his commandments? At that time, there will be no excuses and no second chances. Especially since you do know the truth, and reject it.

Silly Goose said...

LOVE THIS!
You rock Storm!

Stormbringer said...

Hi Silly, Feel free to add to the comments, this topic is very important to me.

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