Derren Brown converts atheists


I said the other day that Derren Brown had found new fans. Well, now I have a new HERO, after watching his special about how easy it is to convert people. Derren isn’t afraid of a challenge, so he goes about trying to convert people who doesn’t believe in God, and you’d be surprised at just how easy that is.

Consider this a little bit of education for all you unbelievers out there, on just how easy you can be brought back to the frays of irrationality.

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Comments (51)

  • avatar

    Ben

    Why do you think it’s so easy?

  • avatar

    Jacob Fortin

    The same people who claimed to be atheists had simply rejected the church out of bitterness and disappointment. Derrne’s parlor tricks gave them the sensation that it was real, despite the fact that it was not.

    Many atheists are not religious out of spite, not proper education. I’ve devoted a considerable part of my life to studying religion, and so I know what easy pitfalls human beings can fall into. The trick is to dispel the myth of the supernatural with a good dose of critical thinking. No doubt those test subject will have an appreciation for it now.

  • avatar

    Intergalactic Hussy

    Thanks for the videos. Whenever I hear anything about conversion, I always think who’s god? I was raised Jewish; I’m more annoyed by Christians trying to convert me as a cultural Jew than as an atheist.

  • avatar

    Rapax

    Don’t just leave us guessing like that. How did the tricks work. I’m suspecting the guy who fell over and the others who showed effects were planted colaborators, right?

  • avatar

    Jacob Fortin

    tonight, on the podcast, i shall answer how Derren Brown was able to perform his tricks. You’ll see, it’s highly simple!

  • avatar

    Ben

    promises promises… i’m still waiting for you to show Jesus didn’t exist in a podcast :)

    i don’t need a podcast though to tell you how his ‘tricks’ worked. I think all of these people knew God exists, but were unwilling to accept Him. For a long time i was agnostic, and it took a long time for God to get my attention. But the whole time i knew, in my heart, that God was out there just waiting for me to come around. I would submit to you that these people, along with many atheists and agnostic people, feel the same way. we’re all in the same boat here, we’re all sinners and don’t want to submit to God’s will for our life, and the ‘reason’ each of us turns our life over to him is different everytime.

    Lets just assume, for the sake of arguement, that God exists. Is it not possible that He could use this to get someone going on the right path?

  • avatar

    Jacob Fortin

    Ben, that is exactly why you need to listen to the podcast to understand just how convoluted that idea is. Every hear of Occam’s Razor? Essentially, it states that all unnecessary and overly complicated explanations should be discarded. If it boils down to this: either there is something inherent about human beings that makes them susceptible to manipulation, or that there is a super powerful, omnipotent god-creator that makes his presence known by such a mechanism…ask yourself which explanation is more plausible.

  • avatar

    Ben

    Discarded eh? Silly me, I thought Occam’s Razor meant “All things being equal, the simplest solution tends to be the right one.”

    I don’t see how your two solutions are contradicting. Yes, there is something inherent about human beings that makes them susceptible, but not to being manipulated as you would think. We’re all susceptible to wanting to worship the “super powerful, omnipotent god-creator that makes his presence known by such a mechanism” (and other mechanisms, i might add)

    God makes himself known in many ways: His creativy through creation, his justice through the law (described in the old testament) and his mercy and love through sending his son to die for our sins, so that we can have a relationship with Him.

    Every christian isn’t going to have the same salvation story. We all have some experience which led us to Christ. It’s that experience, not just what we know about the bible or what we think about creation, that ultimately starts us on the right path. You’re not going to find some scientific law that will prove to you that God exists, nor will you find Him under a rock or something. These things only give us clues as to who God is. Christianity, like other religions, is very experiential.

  • avatar

    Jacob Fortin

    Human beings have confusing experiences, and simply because they felt something powerful, or “enlightening”, doesn’t mean it has any bearing on objective reality.

    As for Occam’s razor, essentially, the simplest explanation is that we are vulnerable to manipulation, and not that some God has placed it there. Imagine the implications of this. For it to be true, not only must such a God exist, which brings about so many other implications (particularly about the nature of the universe), but this God must also have implanted a rather tertiary mechanism to make its presence felt in such an obscure way. This also begs the question of just why this wouldn’t be done more directly, which then creates a whole slew of circular theological explanations. But if you look at it simply from a mechanical way, you realize that human beings are susceptible to suggestions from something as hockey as hypnotism, or even a “spirit” board. For all it’s sophistication, the human brain can be easily fooled by the parlor tricks of a conjurer, or a preacher. The only difference is that one offers entertainment, while the other offers subjugation and the demands of obedience.

  • avatar

    Ben

    “Human beings have confusing experiences, and simply because they felt something powerful, or “enlightening”, doesn’t mean it has any bearing on objective reality.”

    Who’s reality, yours or theirs? I doubt the person who has the experience would say the same. Are you trying to say that the experiential part of life has no bearing on anything? Does the world just end at what we can explain with cold, hard facts? If I say that I love my wife, do I need to prove that the love for my wife exists scientifically? Just because you haven’t had an ‘religious’ experience, does that mean they don’t happen?

    Subjugation and the demands of obedience eh? I can see how you would say that. You’re thinking that if I acknowledge that God exists, then I have to make a decision whether or not I want to live by His rules. Naturally, we don’t want to live by His rules, that’s our sin nature. We want to have all the pleasures of this life, but no accountability. But that way of living only leaves us hollow (watch documentaries about celebrities and how happy all their stuff makes them, or I can just tell you: it doesn’t make them happy :) ). It’s only when we realize that that kind of lifestyle doesn’t fill the void, and that the life lived in submission to Christ is actually freeing us from the bondage of sin in this life, that’s when we can actually live the kind of life that we were meant to live, the kind of life that even apart from God we can feel calling to us.

    And that’s why we’re so susceptible to those kind of suggestions.

  • avatar

    Rapax

    Of course ‘religious experiences’ happen. They’re also well understood, and can be reliably reproduced under controlled conditions in a lab. Nothing mysterious about them, no actual gods needed to cause them.
    Some people are more susceptible to that kind of halucination, other less so, but all that really proves is that we can’t trust witness accounts. The only data that counts is cold hard measureble data that can be verified independently (even then, there remains a minute chance that all the people observing the data are halucinating, but that chance becomes very small indeed).
    Of course, only because something isn’t reliable data, doesn’t make the experience feel less real for the afflicted person. But people who have had such experiences do lose credibility when discussing such matters.

  • avatar

    Ben

    Rapax: I’m not trying to prove this Derron Brown thing was a genuine religious experience. Can they be faked? Sure. Can a person be so desperate for something that he/she will do any kind of religious thing just to feel a sense of belonging or whatever? Sure. But you can’t say that, assuming God exists, He also can’t act through a religious experience.

    Why is the only data that counts something that can be measured and put on a spreadsheet? There’s millions of things in the universe that we can’t explain scientifically through observation, do those things just not count as well? Should we just mark them up to ‘halucination’? Seems like a lame cop-out.

    I don’t see how you’d ‘lose credibility’ either unless you’re talking to people with a different worldview than yourself. I.e., get a bunch of christians together and while they’re discussion their salvation experiences, I doubt anyone will think someone is less credible. However, get an atheist and a christian together and I’m sure they both feel the other person is less credible!

  • avatar

    Rapax

    Ben wrote:
    “There’s millions of things in the universe that we can’t explain scientifically through observation, do those things just not count as well?”

    Name one.

  • avatar

    Ben

    Ok:

    How did life begin?

  • avatar

    Rapax

    Probably from simple molecules with a tendency to catalyse the formation of molecules similar to themselves. Once you have a crude self copying mechanism, evolution takes over. From there to RNA to DNA, etc.

    There’s a lot of work going on in that field right now, and most experts expect the first ‘artificial life’ within the next few years. Of course, as with all ongoing research, the current state is still wide open to new findings, and the current state of knowledge isn’t anything near confirmed. But there’s plenty of educated hypotheses. No need for anything outside the realm of science here.

    Here’s an article about this subject: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2007/06/28/nlife128.xml

    Of course, this is just an exerpt from the general press, but the original research papers are out there. If you want to see those, try wWebOfScience or Google Scholar.

  • avatar

    Ben

    “Probably from simple molecules…”

    Probably? That doesn’t sound like a scientific observed process to me, that sounds like a guess. Even so, if there were simple molecules, where did those come from? If you say the big bang, what caused that?

    At some point, there must be an ‘uncaused cause,’ and I believe that cause to be God because it just makes the most sense to me. I.e, something can’t come from nothing, if there’s creation, there must be a creator. It just makes the most sense.

    I’m glad you brought up the artificial life form thing, that was actually pretty interesting to me. It doesn’t really seem to me that they’re creating life, but rather manipulating existing structures (genes, dna, whatever) in order to create a new lifeform. This doesn’t show that random chance or whatever created us.

    Did you know that in their research, the found that you need around 381 genes in order for life to exist.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2007/jun/08/genetics.research

    If evolution is true, how did life go from having zero genes to 381 genes?

    Check this vid out, it’s long, but is very cool and explains this a lot better than i struggle to :)

    http://youtube.com/watch?v=wr6uvUNJLww

    Enjoy :)

  • avatar

    Rapax

    “At some point, there must be an ‘uncaused cause,’ ”

    That’s a common misconception. The basic principle of cause and effect is only valid in our everyday world. If you go to quantum scales for example, it’s no longer set in stone that every effect must have a cause, or even that a possible cause must predate its effect. Weird, but hey, our brain evolved to handle the physics on our scale, not quantum level.
    Also, the “cause and effect” principle needs time to make sense. But time is a characteristic of our universe itself. No universe, no time, so that means that the question for the cause for the big bang is meaningless. And this isn’t just a cheap way of not having to answer the question, the point is that the question actually doesn’t make sense. It’s like a question about what’s “outside the universe”, or “how does an electron look”. All those would seem to be reasonable questions, but they’re all as meaningless as “what’s the colour of vacuum?”

    Oh, and an explanation starting with ‘probably’ is exactly what science consists of. Unlike religion, which claims to have definitive answers, that will never change, even if they’re shown to be total BS, science always leaves room for improvement. Maybe my hypothesis is wrong, but with our current level of knowledge, it seems plausible. The existence of a god never was plausible, and won’t ever be, unless some evidence surfaces that provides some basis for the hypothesis.

    As for the supposed ‘leap in complexity’ that you mentioned. That seems within the realm of what could happen naturally, given enough time and space. If the right conditions can occur in a lab, then the chance is good that somewhere, sometime during the last few billion years, the conditions would also be right in a natural setting.

  • avatar

    Ben

    I’d agree with you on the ‘no universe, no time’ part, totally makes sense. But given that our universe does have time, there must have been something that caused it to come into existence. I say that it’s God. Maybe my hypothesis is wrong, but with our current level of knowledge, it seems plausible.

    Why is the existence of a god not plausible? Are you saying that in the things that we don’t know about the universe, it’s not even possible? not in the slightest %? Check out that youtube video i posted man, given the evidence the guy presents, i’d say that’s it’s very possible.

    i don’t see how a creature could jump from zero genes to 300+… wouldn’t evolution say that they would first evolve one gene, then, given that the gene alone was useless, the organism would die off? what would be the reason a one-gened organism would survive when science states that it needs 300+ to live?

    just doesn’t make sense to me

    btw, the right conditions dont occur in a lab, the lab is only taking what currently exists and manipulating it.

  • avatar

    Jacob Fortin

    I thought I might intergect with the whole 300+ gene argument. This is a common argument of creationists, one that can easily be explained. The beginings of “life” is not the spontaneous generation of a replicating cell. In fact, life is simply a mechanism for the replication of complexe amino acids. Take a virus as an example. Although you would not consider a virus alive by any standard, it is nevertheless a self replicating bit of information. The main difference between a virus and DNA is that a virus is incomplete. We can easily imagine that the very early form of DNA would have resembled a crude virus, with the only distinction of being able to replicate without the need for a host. There is also reason to beleive that before “life” began, many of these ancestors of DNA combined and merged with one another, therefore becoming more efficient.

    Something does not need to be “alive” in order for it to replicate. Crystals replicate, and they are not considered a form of life. Think of a living thing as a medium for the replication of the most fundemantal replicators in the Universe: DNA.

  • avatar

    Ben

    Hey Jacob, thought you were on vacation… I’ve got some comments for your latest podcast coming up soon :)

    Your ‘early virus’ is still theoretical, not based on observed phenomena. What we know about viruses is that they need living matter in order to replicate. If a virus is the earliest form of ‘life’, what is it infecting? Itself? Something even simpler? The odds are just so mind-boggling to me that I can’t accept it as true.

    What makes my ‘theory’ of God creating it any more likely than yours? No one was there to observe this happening obviously, we’re both just choosing to believe something based on the evidence.

    I have a question for you atheist guys that’s been rattling around for awhile. Let’s say that (theoretically, of course :) ) that I proved to you, beyond a doubt, 100% that God did in fact exist and that Christianity (using my own religion in this case) were true. Would you be willing to submit your life to that? I.e. would you be willing to live by his rules? I remember listening to one of your podcasts awhile back, Jacob, and you said something to the effect of “I would believe God existed if a prophecy came true (thus the Daniel stuff I posted awhile ago)” and other similar statements. Let’s say God did all that. What would you do in light of these things?

    Just something I’ve been thinking about. Let’s continue the evolution discussion as well, I’m enjoying it :)

  • avatar

    Rapax

    Ben: “But given that our universe does have time, there must have been something that caused it to come into existence.”

    How so? That doesn’t make any sort of sense to me.

    As for your hypothetical question: First, it’s important to note that 100% certainty is near impossible to achieve, but for arguments sake let’s say your god shows up, presents himself for all of us to see. Provides some proof of his omniscience (a concept which is logically flawed btw) and submits to all kinds of tests in labs, etc. After a while, the only viable conculsion seems to be that this being is the god described in one of the religious texts (in this case, the judeo-christian-moslem texts). Well, then obviously, yes, I’d accept the findings as probably true.
    However, this hypothetical situation is logically impossible in so many points that it in itself can only lead to the conclusion that no god exists.

  • avatar

    Ben

    Sorry didn’t explain that first part as good as I’d like (obviously).

    If the universe has time, it must have had a beginning at which that time “started”. If it had a beginning, then “there must have been something that caused it to come into existence”. Something doesn’t come from nothing. Universe created, must be a creator. I think the creator is God.

    Skipped a step in there, sorry about that :)

    Also, I didn’t ask if you would accept the findings as true. I asked if you would submit yourself to the life that God requires of you.

    How would you say omniscience is logically flawed, btw?

  • avatar

    Rapax

    Ok, first part: You say “Something doesn’t come from nothing” but that’s actually wrong. Quantum fluctuations are known to do exactly that for example. Also, if time is a characteristic of the universe itself (time exists only inside the universe) then there is no need for a cause, as a cause would imply cause and effect relations outside of the universe.

    Then, about omniscience: There a branch of Mathematics, which deals with the general concepts of provability, true/false statements, etc. Gödel did a lot of woirk in that field, and I think Turing did some too. It’s not my field of expertise, but it has been proven that it is possible to phrase logically correct questions, which are impossible to answer, or statements that are not provable or disprovable. Omniscience obviously directly conflicts these findings.
    Another point is Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, which states (simply put), that it is impossible to know two characteristics of a particle at the same time. The most common example is velocity and position, but ti also applies for instance to mass and temperature or any two characteristics. Omniscience would imply that you know everything about everything, including said particle, which has been proven to be impossible.
    Then there’s a further way to show that omniscience is impossible. Information can be expressed as the absence of selective presence of entropy. Entropy is closely linked to energy, so it’s (in principle) possible to determine the total information content of a system. However, knowledge requires this information to be stored somewhere (be it in books, harddrives or a brain), and the act of storing this information changes the system in which it is stored. Thus the change in the system creates more new information, which in turn must again be stored somewhere, and so on. It can be shown that this process leads to a non-converging sequence describing the total amount of information, with an ever increasing sum. So any hypothetical omniscient mind or system would need an infinite amount of information storage space.

    And now, for the submitting part: Well, if he’s as powerful and omniscient as described in the texts, he’d obviously have the power to make sure I would do as he wants. Personally, if I had true free will, I couldn’t imagine that I’d submit to such a terrible set of rules. But hey, if he’d choose to alter my mind, there’s nothing he couldn’t make me do. Basically the same case as a delusional murderer, who thinks god told him to kill (it happens).

  • avatar

    Rapax

    Ben: Something I forgot. I have a counterquestion, just as purely hypothetical as yours: If there was a passage in the bible, that clearly stated that ants have eight legs. But you obviously see that ants have six legs, what would you choose to believe?

  • avatar

    Ben

    I think basing your reasoning on quantum mechanics is questionable at best, since much of it is still very theoretical and unknown (Einstein himself rejected a lot of quantum theory).

    I think your arguments about omniscience are good ones, and a lot of people have trouble with this. I think it stems from a root problem of trying to apply our finite thinking and reasons upon an infinite God. Take the Uncertainity principle for example. Sure, with what we (humans) know about particles right now it is impossible to know two characteristics (until we develop Heisenberg compensators :) ). But how does that apply to an infinite God? It’s like saying “it’s impossible for a 1 year old to understand calculus.” Well sure it is, it’s obviously beyond their understanding. But to us, it’s totally understandable.

    Great counterquestion. I would believe the biblical passage, and my reasoning would be that 2000 years ago there were ants with 8 legs.

    I have a feeling you have a biblical contradiction coming. Do your worse :)

  • avatar

    Rapax

    Well, only because Einstein rejected a lot of it doesn’t make it any less correct. First of all, it wasn’t really his area of expertise. Further, his work, brilliant as it may be, hardly represents the forefront of knowledge anymore; it’s been almost a century since his best work, and a lot has happened in that time. And finally, quantum theory is hardly ‘unknown’. You’re currently using a lot of technology based on exactly that when you’re sitting at your computer. Yes, many of the details are still fuzzy, but there’s not really any doubt that the basic principles are understood.

    As for the uncertainty principle, it’s not really a case of us just not knowing enough about it in order to circumvent it. Rather, it seems to be one of the fundamental rules of how the universe works.

    Of course, if you propose an infinite god, to whom the rules just arbitrarily don’t apply, then you’re deep in the realm of Sagan’s invisible pink unicorn. A that point, there really isn’t any point in continuing, because you’ve just declared that you’re not bound by logic or reasoning.

    No, not any biblical contradiction coming, just my own curiosity. If you don’t mind me taking this up a notch (this is getting pretty personal, so feel free to tell me to stop): There’s passages in the same bible, especially in the old testament, that instruct Christian to do terrible things (slavery, slaughter children, etc.) Would you therefore also reason that there was a time when this type of behaviour was acceptable?

  • avatar

    Rapax

    Correction: Sorry, in Sagans argument it was an invisible dragon in his garage and the invisible pink unicorn (I forget you first used that), but it’s the same principle.

  • avatar

    Rapax

    Damn, sorry again. That correction really didn’t come out right. I’ll try again:

    In Sagans argument it was an invisible dragon in his garage and not the invisible pink unicorn (I forget who first used that), but it’s the same principle.

    Ah, that looks better.

  • avatar

    Ben

    Rapax, you base a lot of your arguements upon theories. Ie, you’re holding to a certain branch of inpretation of quantum mechanics with the uncertaintity principle, quantum flucuations, etc, but where’s the proof? until there’s hard proof either way, aren’t we just choosing to place our faith in one thing or the other?

    Logically, Sagan’s arguement makes sense. You can’t prove a negative, and you can believe whatever you want about the universe. If you want to believe in invisible pink unicorns (or dragons, whatever :) ) you’re free to do so. But i think we have to look objectively at our beliefs and say ‘how does what i believe help me make sense of the world and of myself? how do my beliefs help me make sense of morality? how do my beliefs help me make sense of what happens after i die’ and so on…

    i look at the world and i’m amazed at it’s complexity and beauty… i think there’s no way it could have just come from nothing and quantum flucuations, there must have been a creator… like i’ve said before, it just makes the most sense… Christianity, in the same way, makes the most sense about how i see evil in the world and in my own heart, and how God has reconciled his creation back to himself.

    and now your question about the ‘terrible’ things in the bible :)

    Let me start out by making a couple statements:

    1) penalty for sin is death (romans 6:23)
    2) all have sinned (romans 3:23)

    by these two verses alone, God is completely justified in punishing those who break his law. He knows our hearts, and He knows if someone is going to accept him or reject him. If He really wanted to be fair, everyone would be dead!

    “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions–it is by grace you have been saved.” Ephesians 2:4

    You see, there’s a balance going on here. On one hand, God is just, and displays that justice through the law. On the other hand, God is merciful, and displays that mercy through sending his son to die in our place.

    We’ve spent a lot of time talking about the “how” of the universe, ie how is was made, how life started, etc… let me give you some more to think about tho:

    “However, if we discover a complete theory, it should in time be understandable by everyone, not just by a few scientists. Then we shall all, philosophers, scientists and just ordinary people, be able to take part in the discussion of the question of why it is that we and the universe exist. If we find the answer to that, it would be the ultimate triumph of human reason — for then we should know the mind of God.” – Stephen Hawking

    Enjoy :)

  • avatar

    Rapax

    You can’t seriously call the uncertainty principle unconfirmed. Its one of the most well established theories around, and there’s a mass of experimental evidence supporting it. As for quantum fluctuations, that’s more of a mathematical type of evidence. Physics has long since left the realm of simple labs and experiments that can be understood with our common sense and everyday knowledge. Most modern cosmological and quantum theory is developed and tested as mathematical models. If they can explain the world around us, and especially if they can predict something fundamental, like the proton charge or the spin of an electron, that’s just as good and reliable (often even better) than classical “desktop” experiments.

    As for how your beliefs help you make sense of the world, I agree. But a belief that leads you to reject the reliable and consistent methods of science, and to embrace irrational and logically flawed ideas, like religion or astrology really can’t be said to be helping you understand the world. If anything, it’s standing in your way, keeping you from gaining understanding, and teaching you to be satified with your lack of understanding.

    I think I see the same world you do, and personally, I think that the existence of a deity, and creator would be the ultimate disappointment. It would seem like a cheap solution, and totally unsatisfactory. The wonder of our universe is far far greater that the meager fantasies that the authors of the religious texts came up with.

    Now to your bible statements:
    Even if we were to assume that a god exists, just for the sake of the argument, I fail to see how anyone could follow rules like “penalty for sin is death”. Such a rule is so obviously wrong, and totally immoral, that any religious leader proposing it must lose all credibility. Rules like that lead to such abominations as public beheadings, stonings, lethal injection and other nightmarish actions, that make up some of the darkest chapters of human history (and in some places, still happen today).

    About your last paragraph: Yes, that’s a quote from Hawking. I forget if it’s from “A short history of time” or from “Universe in a nutshell”, but I know it’s from one of his “popular cosmology” books. I assume the last line is what you’re focusing on. Hawking often uses god in a metaphorical sense in his popular books, to instill a sense of mysticism in them, and thus to increase sales. It’s not something that his peers appreciate, and it’s not something he’s ever done in any of his ‘serious’ work (publications is peer reviewed journals, etc.)

  • avatar

    Ben Fraley

    I’m not saying that quatum mechanics don’t exist Rapax, I’m merely stating that they’re not fully understood and are up for serious debate among scientists. Just look at wikipedia and you can see all the different interpretations (the copenhagen being the main). Many scientists, including Einstein, argue that there are ‘hidden variables’ that we can’t even measure yet. I’m all for science, but I can’t just base my beliefs on a theory that isn’t confirmed. My view of the scientific world only leads me to believe that there was a Creator. What methods of science am I rejecting? Is not science based on observable and reproducable methods?

    What is so ‘cheap, disappointing and unsatisfying’ about a infinite God who loves you and wants to spend eternity with you in heaven?

    As for your response to my bible statements: You’re ignoring a major part. If the bible ended at “the penalty for sin is death” we’d all certainly be in a lot of trouble :) however, God has always given us a method of atonement. In the old testament they made certain sacrafices that would in effect ‘pay for’ their sins (the death), and in the new testament God has done away with these sacrafices with the ultimate sacrafice of his Son (the death), a ‘once for all’ sacrafice for all who would believe (john 3:16).

    granted, a total focus and misinterpretation of the penalties described in the bible has lead to dark chapters, but the penalties alone are not what the God of the bible is about. He is just, and thus the law, but He is also merciful, and thus the forgiveness Christ offers.

    The quote is from a brief history of time, and regardless of it’s intent, the question of “why” still stares at us in the face. And not just the “why” of “why are we here?”, but “why do atoms work the way they do?” or “why is the universe made the way it is?” I believe that science cannot answer these questions; we’re left to answer them for ourselves.

  • avatar

    Rapax

    ” I’m all for science, but I can’t just base my beliefs on a theory that isn’t confirmed.”

    So instead, you base them on a hypothesis that has no evidence going for it whatsoever? I find that weird.

    “What is so ‘cheap, disappointing and unsatisfying’ about a infinite God who loves you and wants to spend eternity with you in heaven?”

    I really don’t know. This is really just personal opinion (not that my feelings about what “should be” right matters at all). I guess it would feel like when as a kid, for the first time you realized that the stage magician wasn’t doing magic at all. The idea of a self governing universe, with (relatively) simple rules, resulting in an immensely complex system; the beauty and elegance that can be seen in maths and physics, or in processes such as evolution, etc. instills a sense of wonder, and at the same time, the ultimate motivation for existing: To find out how it works.
    If that were to turn out to be ‘fixed’ just for us, for some being, wouldn’t that be the ultimate disappointment? The whole idea behind your ‘loving god’ seems so human-centric. What about the rest of the universe? Is that just decoration? Seems like a very bleak worldview to me.

    As for the “penalty for death is sin” discussion, I really don’t care about the second part. That first rule is unacceptable. It doens’t matter how many loopholes or sacrifices are offered to allow us to bypass that problem. The problem stems from an immoral rule. And if we do away with that rule, then the need for the sacrifices disappears.

  • avatar

    Ben

    I’ve given my evidence in previous posts, and the only thing you’ve been able to possibly refute them with is theories. “Maybe this” and “maybe that,” well, why not “maybe God”? Give me some evidence that shows God cannot possibly exist. Until you can do that, I think you have to say that my beliefs carry the same weight as yours.

    I’m not sure if I understand what you mean by “‘fixed’ just for us” but i think you might be talking about the world being made just for us. If that’s the case, then why would God, who loves us, not create a world ‘fixed’ just for us? God is very ‘human-centric,’ in Genesis He says “Let Us create man in Our own image.” I’d say that the rest of the universe isn’t so much decoration, but that its “beauty and elegance that can be seen in maths and physics, or in processes such as evolution” (yeah, i believe in microevolution :) ) serve to show us a part of who God really is.

    “The problem stems from an immoral rule.”
    Really? Based on who’s morality? We have our own laws of governing ourselves, why shouldn’t God have laws governing his creation? Are we immoral in enforcing our laws on other people? Perhaps we should do away with our law and then the need for prisons would disappear. There’s always a penalty for breaking the law, and God’s law is no different.

    Keep in mind that the ‘death’ part of this is not always a physical death (although it certainly can be) but more often refers to a spiritual death, ie separation from God in eternity.

  • avatar

    Rapax

    I’m starting to think this is getting pointless. but ok:

    Let’s, for the sake of argument assume that our hypotheses do in fact carry the same weight. I wouldn’t expect you to consider any of the hypotheses as valid without pointing at least vaguely in the direction of some kind of evidence that supports the hypothesis. For evolution, this evidence is strong (fossil record, direct observation of evolution in action, etc.) for other things, like quantum fluctuations, the evidence is less irrefutable (mathematical models, possibly some predictions for physically measureable values). But if I were to claim that the world is controlled by pixies, without providing any evidence, or even indications that might lead to this conclusion, you’d discard my pixie-hypothesis without even considering it, and rightly so.
    The same applies to your god-hypothesis. I ask you: What evidence do you have that even hints at the existence of a deity? Keep in mind, that neither the bible nor “personal feelings/faith” are evidence.

    And then there’s the thing with the “sin” rule. A law is only a valid law if it’s not ethically wrong. And I doubt killing someone for “sins” can be justified by anyones ethics. It took us thousands of years to get over that, let’s not drop back into the middle ages.
    Someone once said:”When a law is wrong, disobedience becomes duty.” or something like that. That’s very true, and especially applies to religious laws.
    But my point is: even if a god were shown to exist, how could anyone worship such a terrible, evil, creature? Just saying that “he loves us” doesn’t in any way make up for the horrible things he’s said to have done, nor for the absurd, discriminating and downright unethical “rules” he wants us to follow.

  • avatar

    Ben

    Sorry for the delay in getting back to you Rapax, had some health stuff to take care of.

    I would say that evidence for micro-evolution is very clear. It’s completely observable, it happens, case closed. But for macro-evolution, ie a new species arriving from another species, I don’t think there’s any hard proof, just theoretical. It’s never been proven, I there’s no fossil record of it happening. Darwin himself said there should be ‘transition fossils’ and that if we can’t find these within 100 years (of his writing “origin of species”) that we should discard his theory! seems to me, that if we evolved over millions of billions of years, that these transition fossils should literally be everywhere! but yet we haven’t found anything. this, plus all the other things we discussed above (zero gene, nothing from something, etc), lead me to believe that we were created (i also believe there are creatures, such as giraffes, bombadier bettles, and others, that could not have possibly evolved, due to the fact that they have certain ‘parts’ that they couldn’t exist without, but that’s a whole separate conversation:) )

    “And I doubt killing someone for “sins” can be justified by anyones ethics.”

    really? how about justified by the united states’ ethics? perhaps you’ve heard of the ‘death penalty’? i guess a few people seem to think it’s ethical.

    give me a few examples of these ‘horrible things’ and ‘unethical rules’, perhaps i can explain them to you.

    By the way, i believe you quote is from Martin Luther King, who was a baptist minister. I doubt he would support your arguement :)

  • avatar

    Rapax

    Those are all the standard creationist arguments. Not one of them holds up. In fact they’re mostly simply wrong.

    Speciation for example has been observed, in fish populations seperated from each other.
    Transitional fossils are everywhere. Any given fossil is by definiton a transitional fossil. You and I are transitional species, between our ancestors and our descendants.

    Yes, death penalty in the states is terrible, I agree. I simply cannot understand how an otherwise civilized, nation can hold onto such a pointless and barbaric tradition.

    As for atrocities in the bible, have a look here:
    http://skepticsannotatedbible.com/int/long.html
    and here:
    http://skepticsannotatedbible.com/inj/long.html
    and here:
    http://skepticsannotatedbible.com/cruelty/long.html

  • avatar

    Ben

    Sorry, I should have been a little more clear by what I meant by ‘species’ (another term up for debate w/ biologists). I’m saying that you’re never going to take a cat, for example, and breed it over and over and over and get a dog. Sure, you can breed two cats together and get a slightly different looking cat, but it’s still a cat!

    You think the death penalty is terrible, others don’t. Who’s right and who’s wrong? We can’t both be right and wrong at the same time (law of noncontradiction). Would you say that there’s a moral absolute (moral law)? If so, what’s it based on?

    I’ll respond to the ‘atrocities’ in a bit, can’t post here from work all day :)

  • avatar

    Jacob Fortin

    Ben, you have to be kidding about the whole cat giving birth to a Dog, or another species spontaneously giving birth to a totally new species, right? That’s a kindergarten level of understanding of evolution, no offense.

    Variation among species takes a long time. Speciation occurs when these changes no longer allows two individuals of different linage to breed and produce fertile offspring. I suggest you do real research on the subject before you seriously criticize such a rock solid theory. If you can poke holes that a real scientists can’t contest, then, and only then, will you have defeated the idea.

  • avatar

    Ben

    I didn’t say that it would ‘spontaneously’ happen, Jacob. I’m saying that we’re just theorizing. Sure, I can imagine that given X amount of years that it could possibly happen, but I’m just imagining then, and that’s not the scientific method. We’re talking about gathering observable evidence of one species, a cat in my example, eventually giving rise to another. Sure, fish make fish, flowers make flowers, butterflies make butterflies, but we’ve never seen evolution from one animal to another, we’ve just theorized about it.

    Why is it so rediculous to say that, for example, based on the zero gene thing previously, that God could have created us? I’m just theorizing based on the evidence as well, right? Isn’t that what you did when you were discussing early viruses?

    If the theory was so rock solid, why is there so much debate, not only from theists and the like, but within evolutionists themselves? If it were so rock solid, why all the debate? Shouldn’t it be plain as day? The fact of the matter is that there is no evidence that will defeat either idea, creation or evolution. No one was there to see it happen, so all we are left with is what we have in the here and now to ‘theorize’ on.

    Again, check out this vid on youtube, the young earth creationist guy gives a great explanation of this idea and a lot of other stuff… it’s about an hour long, but worth the time

  • avatar

    Rapax

    Let’s turn this exact same method of reasoning around:

    Have you ever witnessed the spontaneous creation of a new species? Show me one recorded example of god creating a new being, and we can consider your hypothesis.

  • avatar

    Ben

    Exactly! Neither one of us has witnessed creation or abiogenesis/macroevolution! We’re left to have faith in what we know is true, and i’ll hold to the scientific laws of ’cause and effect’ and
    ‘biogenesis’ (life from life), which lead me to believe we were created. makes the most sense with the given data.

  • avatar

    Rapax

    And again, you’re wrongly assuming that the two hypotheses are equally valid. Where in fact one has an overwhelming amount of evidence and the other has none whatsoever.

    So we’ve come full circle here. You’ve admitted that your beliefs are not bound by logic or reason. You acknowledge that your hypothesis has no realistic base, but you’re still determined to hold on to it without providing any good reason to do so.
    So, IMHO, you have demonstrated exactly what i meant by religious people being less credible, right at the top of this debate.

  • avatar

    Ben

    Rapax, I’ve ‘admitted’ to nothing of the sort. I’ve presented my evidence again and again through scientific law and example, and all I’m met with as a counter is a theoretically-based argument. Logic and reason are exactly why I believe what I do. Reread my posts if you’re confused, I don’t see any reason to go through the whole thing again :)

    I’ll be posting about those links you sent over in an hour or so. I haven’t forgotten!

  • avatar

    Ben

    I’ll make a few general statements about the ‘intolerance’, ‘injustice’, and ‘cruelty’ mentioned in the links above.

    Note that many of the things described are not done by God, but rather by people. A lot of the bible is an account of what happened. Not all of it is meant to be read with a “Thus sayeth the Lord” after it. The people in the bible didn’t know they were bible characters, they were just regular people like you and me.

    As for the things attributed to God as ‘wrong’ or what have you, I think this comes from a misunderstanding of what God created us for. Isaiah 43 says “Bring my sons from afar
    and my daughters from the ends of the earth—
    everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.”

    So, based on the biblical account, we are created for God’s glory. So what should God do with something that’s not doing what it’s intended to do? God will not share his glory with anything else, and why should He? He created us after all, right (according to the bible, of course)?

    So you might think “well why did he create things that wouldn’t give him glory?” Romans 9 discusses this: “Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use? What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath–prepared for destruction? What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory–even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles? As he says in Hosea:
    “I will call them ‘my people’ who are not my people;
    and I will call her ‘my loved one’ who is not my loved one,” and,
    “It will happen that in the very place where it was said to them,
    ‘You are not my people,’
    they will be called ‘sons of the living God.’””

    It’s kinda like if I said I was a painter, and you asked me ‘what have i painted?’ and i said ‘nothing, i’ve never painted anything’, then i’m really not a painter at all… in much the same way, if God says that he is just, yet never punishes anyone, he’s not true to who he says he is.

    The problem arises from who’s definition of ‘just’ are we going to use? we sometimes feel that we should apply our own morals to God, but feel oppressed when God says ‘no, i created you, i gave you life, and made you in my image. I’m the one who applies my morals to you’…

    so, i’ll stand by my ‘punishment for sin is death’ comment… but let me add on a question to it “who’s death?” for a christian, the punishment for that sin is paid for by the death of christ…

    i know i hit a lot of topics, if you want some further explanation i’d be glad to attempt :)

  • avatar

    Ben

    For even ANOTHER topic, I’d like to get your guys’ thoughts on ‘theistic evolution’, ie that God created different ‘kinds’ through and evolutionary process… it’s not a belief i hold to, but thought i’d get your guys’ opinions on it… could God have maybe started life at a very basic level and then it evolved from there?

  • avatar

    Paul

    I’m unsure about all of this. Having done A LOT of research into BOTH sides of the story, I would have to say that I am an atheist, but I know full well that the idea that God (or whichever superior being a person wishes to choose for that matter) nearly always helps them feel better about life. There are however, very few people who are willing to consider (fully) the possibility that ‘the other side’ is right. Thankyou and well done on that front by the way, everyone on this post seems actually relatively interested in what ‘the other side’ has to say, and not concentrating on their own posts. There are many books that I would love it if anyone fancies reading, I will suggest one or two. Until then I have to be honest, I cannot tell if you actually are looking into detail about the opposite point of view.

    However, for truly open minded people (- believers or non-believers -) it will probably boil down to is this:

    Atheist: “Beliving in God is not in any real way different from believing in the Loch Ness Monster, without proof, no thank you! With proof however, I would admit that my beliefs were in fact wrong, BUT would judge whether I wanted to worship this God on what was he really like…”

    Believer: “Even without “scientific proof,” people believe in certain THEORIES about the universe in which we live, and especially about how the universe was created. I choose to believe that a ‘supreme being’ created it, that is still a theory, please don’t knock it till you’ve tried it. Seen as no final proof has been given on certain ideas, my theory still holds.”

    Personally, there is evidence for lots of things and I choose to believe (to a point) in the ideas that provide the most logical evidence for their points of view. I dislike the Bible, just as it isn’t historical fact, but is likely to have been changed at least a bit over time for political, social and many other reasons therefore please don’t quote whatever is said in it as fact. At the same time, please don’t quote bits of scientific theories as fact – they aren’t, simple as that. Although the believer has less evidence in his or her religion, doesn’t make his/her ideas wrong, maybe less justified, but not wrong.

    Now, please ask questions, I’d love to answer any you have. For example, do you think I am wrong with what open minded believers and atheists think? Have you read any books on this kind of thing yet? & In which case, What? and What did you think?

  • avatar

    Mike Jones

    In defence of our atheist friend, I would like to point out my connotation of faith. As a Christian with a strong belief in the moral teachings of Jesus Christ, I can’t see how Scientific hypothesis can be conflicting with the values of Jesus. Remember, Ben. The Gospels are the most important of our doctrines. If you consider Romans, then you must observe with caution…Paul’s letters show changes in opinion…it was a time when discovering the purpose of his Christian values was the drive for his faith. Therefore, we musn’t take the scripture without due analysis. Trust your heart/mind/soul for that is where the truth presides.

    Christianity is about faith in God, compassion and passifism (Thank you George Bush for being such a great example of a figurehead in this field. And besides, don’t you find Quantum Theory is really interesting. I would like to end by pointing out one belief of mine – Belief is love of God; Science is our natural human curiosity to understand the mechanics of our world.

    Thanks for the podcast and its interesting insights…though I think that the last podcast had some very unfair generalised (I’m British, yes :D ) comments about Muslims and Christians. The man who was second in command seemed pretty fair on his analysis. Still love hearing the podcast, though. Please keep it up!

  • avatar

    Paul

    Hi Mike!

    Just thought I might point out that at least the majority of rational atheists agree that Jesus was definitely a historical figure (even if a far more pedestrian one than presented in the Bible) and was either, a very moral person, OR, an brilliant teacher of moral values (even if he was unethical himself). Therefore you are very right, Scientific hypothesis does not need to clash with “the values of Jesus”, even though certain things that a lot of Christians believe in, eg the “Shroud of Turin” do conflict, “the values of Jesus” DO NOT. For those who do not know what the Shroud of Turin is, look it up!

    As you said very well, “Trust your heart/mind/soul for that is where the truth presides”. You actually seem like a very intelligent person, but you must understand that the arguement between most believers and non-believers RELIES on what you just said! One says you need to “trust”; the other, that there’s absolutely no REAL evidence (the Bible doesn’t count for obvious reasons as “historical evidence”). I hope you can see that you are just presenting what you “feel” again and agin, and sadly, it’s not helping prove anything.

    I would love it if anyone out there fancied having a read of ‘The God Delusion’ by Richard Dawkins. Its a fantastic read, but you must be brave enough ,as a Christian (or all religions for that matter) to challenge your faith. I really have enjoyed my experiences with religion & even though in the end I didn’t believe, it was incredibly interesting to look into more detail about the opposites arguement, and I think it’d be great if anyone fancied reading this book in particular, especially if you are religious. If any of you do read it, write back! What do you think?

    Paul

  • avatar

    Paul C

    Ben:

    “Exactly! Neither one of us has witnessed creation or abiogenesis/macroevolution”

    This is not true. Humans created all the different variations of dogs that we see in the world today from wild wolves in just under 10,000 years, simply by selective breeding. That’s the variation between a Daschund and an Alsation, a Poodle and A Huskie in the blink of an eye, evolutionarily.

    10,000 years is, to the history of life on earth, one step on the road between Paris and Moscow. If that much variation can happen in such a comparatively little time, then imagine how much can happen with, say 10 steps on that road?

    If you walked all the way from Paris to Moscow, each step causing as much variation as there is between the modern dogs, then you would end up with the level of variation that we see in the world today. There are, after all, many steps between those two cities. =)

    Also, a single creator necessarily has to be more complex than his creation. If this creator, who is more complex than the universe, can simply exist without his existence being questioned, then I see no reason why his creation might not also simply exist. It is unnecessary to imagine a creator, because his existence is actually more unlikely than his creation.

    Furthermore, there is no reason to believe what you believe. If we were to believe everything merely on the fact that it cannot be disproved, then we would necessarily have to believe more or less everything. A theory that cannot hypothetically be disproved is useless. There must be a test. If it fails, you either scrap the hypothesis, or amend it. If it passes, then you have a theory. There is no way to test for God. He is therefore a useless theory.

    Paul C

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