Obey No1kinobe


This conversation is closed.

Is it time to accept literal religious belief systems are intellectually bankrupt?

Is it time to accept literal religious belief systems are intellectually bankrupt given our current scientific understanding of the universe?

For thousands of years different religious belief systems have explained how the universe came into existence and appears the way it is, why we are here, how we should live, and what happens when we die.

Often these beliefs are enshrined in religious texts, from prophets, revelations, or interpreted by a priestly class. In addition to creation myths, there are laws and tribal history/mythologies, miraculous claims etc.

Today we have the benefit of being more aware of the variety of religious beliefs and science to show us that life and the universe is far more complex than most religious traditions give credit. The older religions are so often clearly products of their time and place in terms of explaining the world, what is acceptable, how we should live.

In asking this question I note at best only one of the many religious views could be literally correct and likely none are. While other foreign beliefs seem alien, strange and far fetched, if we are examine the traditions we are familiar with they too are strange. Religions are like clothes and language - artifacts of culture.

Today we laugh at the idea the world is flat, or the centre or the universe, that the sun and the moon are gods. We understand atoms and bacteria, plate tectonics and are starting to grasp the age and size of the universe, evolution and the diversity of life, the quantum.

Science better explains the universe, human behaviour. While never complete, perhaps science gives us a better basis for a rationale debate on the meaning and wonder of life and how best to live.

Do different religions support tribalism, or at least make it worse?
Are fundamental religious views holding back science and social development?
Are Deism or beliefs related to a non interventionist intelligence or creator still valid hypotheses and less damaging?

Closing Statement from Obey No1kinobe

There was an article in the paper yesterday discussing the US Republican candidates. It mentioned that over 40% of US Americans believe in the genesis stories. In the only country to put humans on the moon and holding the most powerful and technologically advanced military in human history, nearly half the population believes the universe was created in 6 days, Eden, the tree of knowledge, god walking in the garden, Adam, Eve, Abel, Cain, people living 900+ years etc.

I note many religious folk commented below that that they believe these scriptures are not meant to be taken literally.

Perhaps some literal beliefs are easy to discount. If you believe the Earth is a flat disc sitting on the back of a giant turtle flying through space, or gods routinely walking the earth, I suggest we can file these away as myth.

Key considerations for the other literal beliefs may include (1) whether humans were created as is or evolved and (2) whether the universe is about 6,000 years old or about 13 billion years old. (3) Are the other super normal/natural claims believable?

A god could have created the universe to look much older than it is. Our genetic similarity with other living creatures may just be the way we were created. But what a tenuous connection to reality this is. I suggest this is getting as close to being intellectually unsustainable as possible if not already over the line.

A literalist believes all the other interpretations are false. I suggest they are just one away from a more intellectually sustainable position. There is no proof for even a non interventionist creator.

A big question is how these seemingly nonsense stories, some with roots in the Bronze Age, are still believed today. Perhaps a topic for another conversation?

Thank you for all the thoughtful comments.

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    Mar 2 2012: There are atheist and theists who have tremendous respect and admiration for each others "intellect".And neither would presume the other to be intellectual bankrupt at all and these minds are the best of the best. Even the great Bertrand Russell said of G.K Chesterton (a catholic theologian and journalist) "This is a man of colossal genius". Modern day theologians/apologists such as Timothy Keller and Ravi Zacharias are highly respected by their peers and defend the case for theism in very well known academic settings all over the world. Maybe I have just misunderstood what you mean here. Please elaborate?
    • Mar 2 2012: Hi Jacob,

      I can't talk for GM, but I can give you my take. I don't know anything about Chesterton, so I can't comment on that. The other two, I had never heard about Keller. So I searched and the little I found, he did give straight answers for much. I still liked him as a person. He seems to believe that the Bible is literal, which would be intellectually bankrupt already. But I did not hear if he believes, for example, that the planet is only 6,000 years old, which, if so, would put him more clearly among the intellectually bankrupt. Worse if he believes that there was an actual flood. Zaccharias, I had not heard a lot from him, but he strikes me as a snake-oil salesman, and the reason is that he uses lots of rhetorical trick, while being fallacious (at least in a couple videos I saw).

      Now, don't get me wrong. These guys might be brilliant and ignorant (or brilliant and liars). But ignorance when discussing atheism in a vacuo (without learning about those things that make a lot of the intellectually-bent reject the beliefs in any gods), would be intellectually bankrupt. Wouldn't it?

      As for being in academic circles. Well, Alvin Plantinga has a position in philosophy, and he makes the most outrageous fallacies for "God." I remain perplexed that other philosophers respect the guy because they find "the fallacies hard to pinpoint." I find that reason for respect absurd. I agree that you need intelligence for hiding such fallacies, but in the end, those who buy the fallacies would be intellectually bankrupt.

      To summarize, even clear-cut but genial rhetoricists like Hovind (Kent, not Eric, Eric is a perfect idiot), might give the impression of intellectual power. However, that people would buy into the rhetoric and fallacies is what makes fundamentalist religions intellectually bankrupt.

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      Mar 3 2012: Good point Jacob. I'm sure there are many people with a higher IQ and a better education in science that still have literal beliefs. Many reject evolution etc. Some have developed intelligent designer creationism to try and fit the general facts with their beliefs. Others have woven science into their beliefs. Their belief system has evolved.

      I was actually looking for a better word than bankrupt when I started the conversation.
      My focus is on the belief, not the individuals genuinely trying to make sense of the world.
      If someone today said the sun was the golden chariot of Apollo, or the earth was flat we generally agree these beliefs have no reasonable basis. We find them wanting intellectually.

      I'm suggesting the same applies to most literal belief systems both extinct and still going strong - no matter how worthy the proponents.

      I understand a kid in some Amazonian jungle tribe believes in nature spirits and ancestor spirits.
      Honestly, my first impression regarding the highly educated literalist belieavers is how can they believe that their particular version is the truth. But there are strong psychological and social dynamics associated with religion.

      Just the simple fact that at best only one of these belief systems is the truth. Don't they get that point at least?
      There is so much evidence the world and the universe is old. That all species are related via DNA etc. That neuro science at least shows us what is going on in peoples heads when they have transcendent experiences if not the conclusion whether god or nirvana is real.

      Maybe bankrupt is overly emotive. But I'm starting to believe that the literal belief systems and associated stories I'm familiar with (Ra, Zeus, Mithra, Odin, Yahweh etc) just can not stand up to a non bias rational analysis (if that was ever possible). What would an alien think if they examined these beliefs? Man made cultural constructs often with prescientifc roots? Who knows. They might have their own myths.
      • Mar 3 2012: I think bankrupt was spot on. There is intellectual bankruptcy in believing that there was a global flood just a few thousand years ago, or that our planet is just a few thousand years old, or that the grand canyon was carved by Noah's flood. Buying into the rhetorical trickery of televangelists is intellectually bankrupt. Sorry, but adults believing that such fantasies as those in the bible are literally true cannot but be intellectually bankrupt.

        I think GM, that you try too hard to be polite. That's fine. But there must be a point where you draw the line. Right?
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          Mar 4 2012: "Sorry, but adults believing that such fantasies as those in the bible are literally true cannot but be intellectually bankrupt."
          You are right about that. No one believes anything as an adult you can only believe something the right way with the determination to believe it like a child. Intellect only gives the thieves who want it most momentary illusions of grandeur but anyone who knows anything about themselves knows they want a lot more out of life than to just understand something intellectually. Reason may do well for a lot of things but like everything else in life there still remains the issue of practicality.
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          Mar 4 2012: Hi Gabo. Obviously I have strong views abou literalists beliefs
          But I have the benefit of Copernicus, Darwin, Einstein, Watson and Crick, and so much more over the last 100 years. We take evolution and the big bang for granted.
          A very good secular 20/21st century education, the internet in a rich country with reasonable separation of church and state. We have an openly atheist prime minister.
          We can see the patterns, join the dots, how religion is so evidently man made - a cultural institution spreading like language. Diverse and conflicting when taken literally.

          But I remember a time when I wanted to believe. I've seen all sorts of religious experience.
          I feel for Branislav where to go against the Eastern Orthodox church is frankly dangerous.
          I understand childhood indoctrination and also just how you absorb the christian world view just living in the Western world. I understand how faith can be banged into your head as a supreme virtue.

          Religion/god is such a powerful meme. It might be like trying to unlearn English. Bits of it are stuck.

          Then the benefits of socialisation, consolation.
          The power of being surrounded by people who believe something - we are social and hierarchical tribal animals. We don't give up world views easily. We don't like losing an argument etc

          Our brains are amazing. Combined with the hormones etc that drive our memory, feeling, reasoning, I can't blame people for having religious type views.

          I guess I also think that there will be more than what science has reasonably proven today.
          Maybe one day we''ll discover connections and natural forces and sub sub sub atomic particles or the remnants of other universes, or some amazing dimensions of consciousness.

          But I wish people could acknowledge jumping to god, especially a specific god that usually happens to be the one in their neighbourhood, as a reasonable way to fill these gaps. And I wish they would accept they need more than god said so before forcing their way of life on us al
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    Mar 5 2012: Religious writings were written in the age of mythology. They come from a right-brain orientation. They are all built on associations. That includes Genesis. It is a historical myth. Adam and Eve are not two people, they represent an entire culture. And the fall in the Garden of Eden didn't happen on a warm Sunday afternoon, it was several thousand years in the making.

    The forbidden fruit was anything that entices, but leaves you destitute if you partake of it. Today, we see it in the form of drug addictions, compulsive gambling, involvement with organized crime, and a host of other self-defeating activities. They all belong to the same tree because they all have the same result; they drain the life from those who partake of it. The tree is a metaphor, and it is just as real today as it was then. When you understand these things, it takes on a whole new dimension. It is about following rules. All the rules of the industrial age were written in blood and tears. The rules are there to protect, not inhibit.

    Taking the Bible literally undermines what it was supposed to do, to lead us on a spiritual path that opens our eyes to untold wonders, while protecting us from harm. As Paul put it, we are ministers of the New Testament, not of the letter, but of the spirit, for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life. It is in the spirit that we meditate and pray for answers.

    I wrote a book called "The Merging of Two Worlds". You may find that it provides a lot of answers.
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      Mar 6 2012: Thanks Roy. That is probably just as valid a view as any based on the bible.
  • Mar 2 2012: Science is a movie: where each individual frame changes slightly from the one before, much as does our comprehension of the universe. The longer we watch, the more we understand of the plot, the players, and the universe in which it is set. Fundamental faiths are pictures: static once taken, with no chance of change thru time (unless tinkered with). Although each individual picture can stir emotions, some even transcendant in the image they convey, unless they can evoke relevance at any future time that they are viewed, they are dated. And the further back the picture was taken, the more dated (and irrelevant) they become.

    Fundamental religious views will hold back science and social development, UNLESS the desire is for stasis. But as neither science nor social development are static, fundamentalist views will always be at odds with these ideas. The question then becomes a requirement for individuals to decide which side they want to come down on, and whether they will allow all others to search their own path, or only theirs.

    Fundamentalism is SAFE... we know what we get. Science is DANGEROUS... the search may take us where we never expected (or wanted, or should) go.
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      Mar 5 2012: Like the film metaphor. Perhaps some developments are platform changes e.g. Darwins evolution of species might be like a shift from silent to sound, or from black and white to colur, or to 3D etc
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    Josh S

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    Mar 8 2012: Hello everybody,
    I'd first like to respond to G M, who created this discussion.
    I will specifically be talking about Christianity and the Bible for this discussion, simply because i am most familiar with it and am not familiar with other religious texts.
    You seem to assume that the Bible spoke out against the world being flat, spoke out against diseases, and is completely against accurate history and science. However, the Bible does not contradict these things. For examples, the Bible itself said that the world was round (Isaiah 40:22). It never in fact contradicts scientific discovers such as that of bacteria, the atom, and the like.
    Moreover, the Bible has proven to be the most accurate piece of literature that we have today. Every account of where things should be (historically speaking) such as the location of towns and what-have-you, is all correct. It remains to be the most accurate literature we have.
    You also mention that religion is like culture, but the Bible is 100% the same as it was 1900 years ago. This is evidenced by the dead-sea scrolls. It does not change with culture, with 'fads' or with anything, but remains the same.
    However, i would like to note the difference between the Bible, and Christian Doctrine. Nowhere in the the Bible does it support racism or the like, but people may turn it and take it out of context to fit there purpose. While i do admit that religious speakers may be incorrect at times, the Bible is not. Religion, in the sense of traditions, and preaching done by people may change, but the Bible itself, the basis of Christianity, does not, and this is important to note.
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      Mar 8 2012: Hi Josh, I guess I see it all a bit differently.

      "He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth." The earth is a sphere, not a circular plane. Maybe they meant sphere.

      Gen 1.1 In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth. How would someone 2000 years interpret heavens. I guess the heavens were the day and night sky. They had no idea the stars were distant suns or how big the universe was. Probably thought of the heavens as some sort of sheet with pin points of light for stars and the sun and the moon revolving around the earth. We read heavens nowand think of something quite different.

      Perhaps we really need to go back to the original language texts - is this referring to the heaven where god sits. I don't know. Do you really think that by heavens they meant all the galaxies in the universe? Sure its pretty vague 2000 years later but I doubt it. The moon is not a great light gen 1.16.

      The core purpose of Bible is not to explain atoms, chemistry, physics. This helps it avoid a lot of issues with how we now understand the universe. But it reflects the state of knowledge from the time it was written. Not much evidence of god knowledge.

      I guess I could go through verse by verse and point out issues. But some basics regarding some literalist views.
      - The Earth is not 6000 years old
      - Earth is not the centre of the universe, or even the centre of the galaxy
      - Man was not created. Homo Sapiens evolved.

      Then there are all the supernatural claims starting with god creating the earth, creating light, sending plagues, destroying cities, turning people to salt, flooding the entire earth.

      In the space I have left, agree the bible hasn't changed much since they decided on the final compilation. Orthodox have a slightly different compilation. Agree the doctrine is not the same as the bible. But I stand by taking it literally conflicts with our modern scientific understanding and that none of the many interpretations by humans can claim to be the truth.
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        Mar 8 2012: Hi G M
        "The earth is a sphere, not a circular plane. Maybe they meant sphere. "
        Job 26:7 (NIV)
        "He spreads out the northern skies over empty space; he suspends the earth over nothing."
        Not much doubt about that.

        "They had no idea the stars were distant suns or how big the universe was. Probably thought of the heavens as some sort of sheet with pin points of light for stars and the sun and the moon revolving around the earth. "
        Genesis 22:17 (NIV)
        "I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies,"
        The number of stars is equated to the grains of sand on the seashore, which is close by today's calculations. The first scientific estimate was 6000

        Isaiah 42:5 (NIV)
        "This is what God the Lord says---the Creator of the heavens, who stretches them out, who spreads out the earth with all that springs from it, who gives breath to its people, and life to those who walk on it:"
        Red Shift anyone.

        Job 36:27-28 (NIV)
        “He draws up the drops of water, which distill as rain to the streams ; [28] the clouds pour down their moisture and abundant showers fall on mankind."
        Ecclesiastes 1:6-7 (NIV)
        "The wind blows to the south and turns to the north; round and round it goes, ever returning on its course. [7] All streams flow into the sea, yet the sea is never full. To the place the streams come from, there they return again."
        Hydrologic cycle, years before we worked it out.

        The bible has always been clear that the universe had a beginning & an end, & that it was winding down. This is recent news to many in the scientific community.

        The bible isn't really a science book, but it certainly doesn't conflict with science.
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        Josh S

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        Mar 8 2012: Hello G M, i do agree with you that the bible was not made to be a scientific book, atleast not as its sole or main purpose. However, in all the times that it does go into science, it seems to be correct. You gave 3 main examples as to how science conflicts with the Bible, I guess I'd like to adress those 3:
        1. "the earth is not 6000 years old" - this number was created by priests that followed the lineage of human ancestry given in the Old Testament. If we do take the number to mean 6000 years old, and say that, it at most is talking about human ancestry. Again, in science, nothing argues this. However, in the bible there seems to be a momentary pause in time, between the creation of humans and the creation of the universe "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters." Genesis 1 1-2. There is a clear distinction in time between the creation of Earth, and the creation of humans.
        2. I don't see any scriptural debate for your argument, yes the Catholic church has supported this view, but the Bible does not.
        3. The evolution of man is still theory, in fact to humans now, if we were to take the bias out of it, both arguments can seem ridiculous : Evolutionary view: Multibillion-celled superorganisms that feel emotions came from a hostile soup, which would in fact kill them if we were there today. Biblical View: an omnipotent being created humans in his own image
        Both views can seem fantastical, but the Bible has yet to be proven wrong on science, so I don't doubt it now.
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          Mar 9 2012: Thanks Josh.
          The parts of evolution I struggle with the most are the start of DNA based life up until relatively complex life forms. From there the connections supporting evolution are pretty strong and make sense to me intuitively. I can see the genetic relation between us and the great apes, then all the mammals, then all the vertebrae etc. The tree of life. I can see how species could evolve.

          I also struggle with the concept of gravity. I see what it does. I can do the calculations. What is it. How does it work. How does mass interact over near infinite distances. Somehow every bit of matter interacts with other matter via gravity.

          Even matter. We know its not solid. Made of atoms 99.99999% empty space. Then the subatomic particles are not really solid either. It seems matter is like concentrated energy. What is energy.

          There is a lot I struggle with. But to jump to a god is huge step. To jump to one belief system as being the best descriptor of this god is another huge step.

          All science is theories. The ones that survive fit the facts best and can be used to predict. They are refined. I don't get it all. But there are many of these theories that fit together very well explaining the universe and people with much less dissonance than any religion I have encountered.

          I can see how you would interpret things your way. I guess there has been a 2000+ years trying to fit texts with the changing understanding of the physical universe. Expect there are ready made answers and examples.

          But can you see how my materialistic view also fits the universe as we see it.
          Can you see the similarity between a human and a chimpanzee.
          They use tools.
          They seem to mourn lost ones.
          The anatomical similarities.
          They can understand sign language.
          It seems eminently plausible we share a common heritage.
          And now we know our DNA shows how similar we are.

          If there is a god, the world might look exactly as it does. Same if there is no god.
  • W T

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    Mar 5 2012: "In asking this question I note at best only one of the many religious views could be literally correct and likely none are."

    I find this quite interesting.......you are not the only person with this view.

    I honestly feel that it is possible to find those whose views are correct. We have within our thinking ability, the power to reason. And there is the "ring of truth" out there if we look carefully.

    Fundamentalists have done alot of damage spreading incorrect views of creation, that are not in harmony with scripture.

    The mixing of politics and religion(Christendom), which commenced in the fourth century with Constantine, has mudied up scriptural truth for a very long time.

    And yet, there have been many, beginning in the ninth century, who, at the risk of dying, have sacrificed to make the scriptures accessible to the common people in their own language.

    Why have the scriptures survived until our day?

    How can some faithful ones continue to preach it's message?

    Religious beliefs are just that.....beliefs.......scriptural truths are something totally different.

    Religious beliefs are in foreclosure..........

    The truth is out there........we have to look for it.

    This is my humble opinion.
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        Mar 6 2012: Hi Adriaan,

        Yes I will go to a link.....you have to give me some days, as I have alot of reading to catch up on from some other TEDsters.

        Please give me the link directly as I do not know where exactly you placed it for GM.

  • Mar 4 2012: It seems to me that there are people who are uncomfortable with not knowing. Peter says he was looking for truth and he found it in the bible. I think that there may be truths but there is no ultimate truth that we humans can know now. What there is I would call mystery, not knowing. I think perhaps people who need to find some ultimate truth feel adrift and want answers because they fear death, or are afraid they will not find meaning in their life, or they want to know there is some kind of ultimate justice that makes their own virtue meaningful. Humankind has been creating stories to explain or talk about mystery and our own human experience for a very long time. The folks that feel they need to know often tether themselves to one of the stories and call it the truth. They might look for facts that support their chosen truth while pushing back those that don’t. In my moral construct this is a great sin. In their pride and arrogance they narrow and confine the mystery. I choose to be in awe and leave it at that. That is my idea of faith. So my answer is yes. Literal religious belief is intellectually hollow and spiritually inadequate.
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      Mar 5 2012: I shouldn't speak for Peter, but in other conversations his specific story sounded quite different to what you suppose.

      There has been a lot of creation science and intelligent design work done to support different religious views. Some of it can be fairly convincing. Floodology (my word) is used to explain fossils etc and the illusion that the Earth looks older than it is. Islam has its own stands of relgious science to support their views drawing connections between black holes and the koran etc.

      Around the 1800's mainstream science stopped accepting theories with supernatural aspects although most scientists were theists. At some point some religious groups rejected the slippery slope of trying to reinterpret religious texts in light of continuing scientific discoveries. All these contortions are so interesting but also kind of sad. What a stubborn species we are.

      Totally agree in general about the story creation. Interesting comment about literalist views being spiritually hollow. Can you expand?
      • Mar 5 2012: Science posits the Theory of Evolution and then examines the flow of new evidence to determine if it does or does not support the broader theory and the current thought about the details. While there is entrenchment in all areas of science, it will eventually give way to new physical evidence because discovering and understanding physical evidence is what science is trying to do. Everything is invited in. Creationists are selectively looking for evidence to support an idea they found in a book. There is a confining, a cramping of what is allowed in.
        Who is having a spiritual experience? Who is open to the awe and mystery of creation? One cannot be open to mystery unfolding if the final chapter has already been written. I am not a scientist. My formal science education was limited. Now I experience joyful, yes spiritual, amazement as I learn more and more about the complexity and connections in our physical world. Why would I want to limit my understanding and appreciation of this ongoing discovery to the confines of a book written by people who lived centuries ago? Because it is the Word of God? I decided as a teenager that the god of my Christian upbringing was too small when my religious teachers tried to confine him with their beliefs. And the same people would confine the Word of God to one book of their choosing.
        It is incontrovertible that something awesome and beyond human understanding is going on. Everything, everything is a miracle. I don’t mind that people want to create stories to talk about this mystery but, when they say the story is literally true and cannot be changed, they are taking away its life. If the story is not living and breathing, if it cannot change its shape, it is not able to provide adequate spiritual support to the living and breathing and changing world. It is like food that fills but does not nourish; the eater may not even realize what they are missing.
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          Mar 5 2012: great post. thank you.
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          Mar 6 2012: Wonderful post. The natural universe is amazing and wondrous and stranger, deeper, bigger, smaller, older, more complicated than any old religion could imagine.
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    Feb 27 2012: Even some atheists can be said to have a sort of "belief". The problems arise when an effort is made to impose any belief on those who do not share it..
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      Feb 27 2012: I agree and oppose forcing any belief system on others. Some would argue science is a belief system - don't want to go down that rabbit hole.

      I also believe in separation of church and state. This protects those with different faiths as well as no faith.
      I disagree with Imposing atheism or religious belief on children.

      Happy to teach about all religions and non religious world views at schools including ethics. Actually this would be a good thing.
    • Mar 2 2012: Atheists have a lack of belief in a God or gods, and shift the burden of proof where it belongs, onto those claiming the existence of such things. No more, no less.

      This lack of belief is justified by a lack of evidence.
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        E G

        • +1
        Mar 2 2012: 'Lack of evidence' , this is a interesting expression , what is this really mean ?
        • Mar 3 2012: Eduard,

          It is incredibly ridiculous to suggest that we have to be philosophers in order for our conclusions to be correct. Yes, they do some training. But I have caught one too many of them getting to the wrong conclusion and falling for ridiculous fallacies. Since philosophy is one of the most abundant titles held by apologists, I have to conclude that it must be too easy to get a degree on that thing. Sorry for the good philosophers.

          Also today philosophy cannot survive as pure thought. Information is necessary, and a philosopher trying to, for example, work on the philosophy if science, would have too much to learn. While what I see is imbeciles (apologists with philosophy degrees, but not all philosophers are like these) trying to ridicule physics and Big bangs, based on prehistoric notions of nature and science. My guess is that this is why Hawking said that philosophy is dead. I disagree. But philosophy cannot be done in a vacuo. Don't get me wrong. Philosophy is an important discipline. We would all benefit of a good training in proper thinking and such. But apologists make philosophy look silly.
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        Mar 2 2012: Chris what you say is often but certainly not always true. For example many, if not most, of those who grew up under Maoism were indoctrinated to believe in atheism almost as a religion and Mao was their prophet (if not God). The cult of personality of Stalin was similar. Any form of indoctrination that promotes adoption of any belief without personal investigation tends to share characteristics with "religions". Pure Athiesm would not I would agree. Also you may admit that Buddhism may also qualify since many Buddhists deny the ultimate existence of any deities. Also Gautama told his students to accept no proposition without examining it themselves.
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          Mar 3 2012: Chad, agree. Suggest in an ideal world we would be taught about religions and other world views and let people come to their own conclusions.

          Eduard, I've made a little effort and come to a conclusion. If I can anyone can in similar circumstances. It's easier than ever to get on the internet or read a few books. We are not starting from scratch in terms of the heavy lifting for philosophy, science, analysis of religions etc.

          9/3/12 Eduard - Not starting from scratch - by this I mean we have the benefit of many thoughtful people with many different views and arguments. We have the benefit of many debates and books essays and blogs. A few hours on youtube or ted and you can pick up a lot of the basic arguments and ideas, even some more advanced.

          Suggest the challenge is more related education and cultural issues. It is just not accepted in some places to go against the ethnic or cultural religion openly.
          Yes we are not all thinkers and we have evolved to conform to preserve group harmony, but our reason may take us in a different direction
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          E G

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          Mar 3 2012: This idea of letting people come to their own conclusions has been very much spread (here on TED too ) ; in my opinion it is a trap because in order to come to some true conclusions you have to make a careful analysis , to think .... no person do it spontaneously, in a natural way ; there is need of training and of a lot of mental work usually ; look a reason why philosophers and thinkers are so important .
          We aren't all thinkers , this is obvious , therefore the likelihood that your own conclusions to be true is very low .

          I also agree it's crucial to think for ourselves but a certain amount of trust/belief I think it's needed .

          Another kind of fallacious thinking is to suggest the idea that the all religions supports indoctrination (no investigation , critical thinking) .
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          E G

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          Mar 7 2012: G M:

          It's not that easy to build your mind (even by reading some books or get on the internet) , it takes more than this to really be a man in terms of mental ability .
          I don't know what you mean by 'starting from scratch' : to not start from scratch with your mental ability or to can have some knowledge . Even the second happen if the first don't ( and it takes time and effort) I personally won't pay too much attention on your conclusions , it will be easy to destroy them . You know, the most people are so willing to be destroyed ...... this makes them to look so ridicule . Many atheists are in this condition .
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        Mar 4 2012: Chris I respect Atheists for their honesty. However if you think about it you might might consider looking at it by stating your negative as "I believe there is no god" thus you still seem to believe something even though the something is the reality of nothing. If you really only lack faith that there is something and are neutral then wouldn't a more accurate statement be that " I don't know if there is a god or not" which would be equivalent to agnosticism. Actually from a position of a hardcore Atheist the burden of proof is equally shared in theory though how anyone would propose to "prove a negative" I would love to hear.
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          Mar 4 2012: Maybe semantics but I think Chris simply said a lack a belief in gods - not a belief that there are no gods. There is a subtle difference.

          After that you can have any world view or beliefs you want. Humanism, Buddhism (technically) etc.

          My view is technically agnostic. I admit no one really knows if there are gods, or whether there are minute intelligent entities sitting inside each electron. There could be 16 invisible gods sitting beside me. I don't know. Is the burden of proof on me to disprove every variation of theist claims or possibilities. How do you disprove an invisible entity.

          With benefit of modern science and reason, on the shoulders of giants, we know enough today to be reasonably confident all the thousands if not millions of literalist interpretations are nonsense. If you are a believer in one view, you also reject all the others.

          If there are gods, they seem to have no practical impact on my life. So practically I am an atheist.

          Guess most atheist or agnostics have some sort of rationale on how they came to this conclusion. After all I guess we have assessed the theist options and found them wanting.
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        E G

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        Mar 7 2012: Gabo :
        (I hope you'll see my comment)

        I understand your reserves about some philosophers ; my view is that part of the philosophers job is to check the conclusions ...... you know we have here : science philosophers , empirical philosophers, cognitive philosophers...... (maybe it's a old labeling, I don't know but we have/had them ) therefore I think they can check our conclusions (about science for example , Karl Popper).

        Apologist can't be real philosophers because they don't try to see the truth ; they have something in mind and try to fit everything with that (I did that before too as a amateur) ; there isn't a disinterest quest for truth .
        It's obvious now I didn't have in mind to talk about apologists even though they hold philosophy degrees .

        My 'problem' with you is that you don't believe in God and value logic (it seems from our talks) while I do believe in God and value logic too ( at least I try) .
        Why this happen ? All I got from you so far is that my logic was fallacious with some examples ; it builds me .......... but I still believe in God .
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          Mar 9 2012: Eduard, it show how amazing the human brain is that from different upbringings and experiences we can look at many of the same information and come out with completely different views.

          Even people who believe in gods can't agree.

          Even people who follow Jesus don't agree.

          Maybe there is some truth in there.

          But this diversity of belief in gods makes me very suspect of anyone who thinks their god is the only real one. Or their beliefs are the correct ones.
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        E G

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        Mar 9 2012: I understand your reservers . It's not a wonder that we have different views about god because, look around you, we don't have the same view about the same table .

        With a bit of work I think that many possibilities (gods) can be brought down only to very few . We can work something out if we want to , we always can.

        But this idea to make someone believe there is no god , it's fallacious .
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          Mar 9 2012: Hi Eduard.

          Seems we agree that all the different literal interpretations of god(s) can't be correct.

          How would you narrow it down. Perhaps to the invisible ones.
          Perhaps to the gods people still believe in today.
          Maybe the religion that most accurately describes gods is extinct.

          How is it fallacious to think it most likely to be no god? I admit we don't know.
          If there are god(s), its obvious humans can not agree about it.
          How do you know there is only one. How do you know there aren't infinite universes some with gods others without?
          What insight do you have that makes you certain?
          Not even a little bit of faith required? Very interested to hear.

          My world view seems to fit a 21st century understanding of the universe, history, human culture, behaviour, religions and their practices, experience and psychology at least as well as a religious one.
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        E G

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        Mar 10 2012: I can narrow it down pretty easy theoretically : making experiments about this gods .

        I didn't say it's fallacious to think is very likely to be no god , I said it's fallacious to think this guiding you after that idea (=many 'gods') , and this is obvious .

        Come on GM , you know it's not unscientific to believe in God . It's true there are many ways to believe and some of them wrong but there are rational ways too , you can have a 21th century understanding of the world and believe in God .

        Perhaps there are infinite universes , I even think that , if they are some with gods others without ...? I don't know exactly what you mean by it , how could be an universe with god ? by being some people who think God exist ? or do you mean God being the substance of that universes or a part of that universes ? ....... or ... I don't know what you mean by your question .
        And something else I' not supposed to have the all answers about god(s) .
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          Mar 10 2012: "you can have a 21th century understanding of the world and believe in God ." I agree depending on how you define god and how well you understand the science.

          Some beliefs in gods clash with science and our 21st century understanding of the universe. Others less so.

          I misunderstood your fallacy comment earlier. It may be impossible to rule out some sort of creator god. Whatever we understand, people can say an invisible god set it up that way. Some claim god set up evolution. Can never win this argument.

          I don't know if there is or isn't some sort of god, but stand by the logic all the different religious interpretations cant be 100% correct. One or some might come close. I would argue it is only possible at best for one literal one. I also propose that a less specific non interventionist type creator is more plausible a fit than Ganesh or the Jewish tribal god etc. The different cultural interpretations and specifics are contradictory and probably mostly wrong even if there is some sort of creating intelligence.

          We are just starting to scratch the surface understanding the universe. What is outside the 14 Billion light years we see with Hubble. There could be other universes. They could be popping into existence all over the place on a scale we can barely comprehend, like the number of atoms in a glass of water. It gets infinitely small too. Every electron could contain many universes. What some might call god might be a committee of many entities. Reality is likely stranger and more complex than we can begin to imagine.

          If there is some creator of the universe its a big assumption to think humans are the centre of its focus or that our human brains have come close to comprehending what it might be. It makes sense that humans would create gods focusing on humans. Billions of galaxies each with billions of stars seems overkill if humans are main focus of a creator. Could be. Or everything is and happened with no gods
        • Mar 11 2012: Eduard,

          It makes much more sense to start by thinking that all gods are equally made up until proven otherwise than to decide to "narrow it down" as if there was some reason why there would have to be "one," and one that is already believed to exist. Narrowing down sounds a lot like a nonsensical waste of time.

          Then if you got to wanting to "narrow it down" yet you accept that you can't get to the true one by reason (you said that you don't get to "God" by reason, remember?), then it is worse, because "narrowing down" becomes a process of comparing nonsense. How the hell do you do that? Then, if narrowing it down means that you will accept every single nonsense and contradiction in a belief system as if they were not contradictions and nonsense, then for sure you will end up believing that the god you already believed is the true one. After all for starters, you accepted that there was a god,. That there could be none never entered your mind. You accepted that reason would not lead you there, so what's left? Then you accepted that any contradictions are not contradictions because ... well, just because you accept anything rather than accept that your specific god is false. Thus, anybody trying to narrow this down using your methods will arrive at their already believed gods. Pure nonsense and a waste of time. Bring me evidence. Bring me reasonable evidence that there is at least one god, I might start changing my mind. But telling me that something as nonsensical as the biblical god is "the one," shows me enough intellectual bankruptcy in your methods. So no thanks.
  • Feb 27 2012: It depends on your meaning of the word "literal". The Biblical creation and flood stories were lifted from earlier Mesopotamian legends (who may have gotten them from even older legends from India, or from oral histories from the end of the last ice age). The Bible gives a moral meaning to the events- it's no longer the warring of opposing gods and supernatural beings, with humans as an insignificant by-product; it's the action of a single Deity bringing order from chaos, culminating in a being made in His own image. A devout Jew or Christian can be "non-literal" in the descriptive part (literal six days of creation) but "literal" in the perceived moral part (the universe as having inherent direction, purpose, capacity to generate value). Mind you that this covers a wide spectrum- from the "weak anthropists" (say, Teilhard de Chardin) to the Intelligent Designers. Although I wouldn't give anyone from the Discovery Institute the time of day, I'm not about ready to consider Teilhard intellectually bankrupt.
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      Feb 27 2012: Thanks Luis. I mean taking it all literally. Adam and Eve. Noah and his boat. Parting of the red sea. The creation story.
      God picking the hebrew tribes. Young earthers etc.Similar for Buddha being born out the side of his mother etc.

      I also mean taking the old laws as applying today.

      Also any belief that thinks it has the correct view of god. God is Yahweh. God is the trinity. God is Allah. Zeus etc are gods.

      I think Teilhard might have been less literal about the creation story. Accepting evolution removes some dissonance. Guess there are less issues conflicting with science etc is you cut the most mythical bits.

      Not sure how you pick and choose the themes. Seems very subjective. Expect many have changed to suit the times.
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    Mar 9 2012: Karen, some great thoughtful posts I can't reply to as 3rd level down.
    Sometimes it looks like Moses was making it up as he went.
    A literal old testament god is pretty scary.
    Glad we have freedom of religion in our society today and believers aren't allowed to kill those that quit their relgion.
    Sadly not the case in all countries.

    Even if not meant to be literal, some people take it literally, and the symbolic interpretations might also include some nasty elements.

    Regarding stories and myth. Agree its fascinating. Today iIts hard to imagine a world before writing, or even very scare writing and literacy. I imagine many of these stories started as oral traditions.

    The power and the stickiness of religion is amazing. Such a powerful meme. Something to explore (probably for the nth time) in another conversation.
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    Josh S

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    Mar 9 2012: GM,
    Il post up here because i dont seem to be able to reply to your reply below =p
    As a student of science, i have been quizzed, tested and lectured on all of what you talk about, and i understand completely the concept of evolution and the similarities of DNA. Interestingly, almost half our DNA is the same as a banana, 99% is the same as a chimp. I understand completely the similarities in genetics as well as behavior. We can pin the first animal all the way to sponges, even further back to bacteria, where according to science it all began. The way in which our views differ is this: you take the similarities and believe that shows a connection, a connection between all forms of life. I see this connection differently. I see it as logic, i believe it is quite logical for a creator to make organisms similar. Why make everything completely different from each other. While this may seem like an escape route to you, it makes sense to me. The old phrase 'why reinvent the wheel if you dont have to' applies perfectly. This is how i view it and you have your own belief. There is no definite material proof for either side and it is simply a matter of faith.
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      Mar 9 2012: Thanks Josh.

      TED conversations stop at the 3rd level of response.

      Agree there are many ways a creator could be compatible with evolution etc.

      The creator could have just set the universe in play and left it to its own devices with evolution happening all by itself. Perhaps on many worlds.

      Alternatively, the creator could have set up a universe where evolution was inevitable on many worlds.

      Alternatively a creator could have set up the universe so that life only appeared on planet earth.

      I personally think it unlikely this is the only world with life and that there is some cosmic human destiny and universe revolves around humans. Still perhaps it does.

      Some think humans were inevitable. Some think if we rolled the dice again something different would appear. I expect not completely different, probably organically based.

      Some think humans and all the animals were created pretty much as is but with recent minor variation due to natural selection or human driven selection e.g. the cow from the Auroch. They would say god created us with DNA but discount the evolution of species.

      My view is the current species evolved without any help. We have a common ancestor with the great apes some millions of years ago. etc.

      Agree there could be a creator at some level compatible with evolution. This creator must have been pretty patient. I doubt we are the only species or that the universe and god revolves around us. Again, this can be made compatible with some sort of creator god.

      Agree we don't know. Difficult to prove an invisible god outside matter, energy, space and time, who works in a spiritual dimension no one can detect or prove.

      Some point to religious experiences. I think it likely most all religious experience goes on in the heads of individuals like turbo meditation - but not involving gods.

      We come close to sharing a world view, except the final question of god. I find this a better fit with our understanding of the universe today. We could both b wrng
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        Josh S

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        Mar 10 2012: Thank you to you too G M,
        it was a good conversation, and it seems that we only disagree on that issue, because i agree that there is probably other life forms, seeing as there is evidence of earlier life on the only other planet we have visited, which poses its own questions, but back on topic, great conversation.
    • Mar 10 2012: Josh,

      It is ridiculous to say that "both positions" are based on faith (leaving aside that people can believe in a god and accept the evidence for evolution). I have no faith whatsoever that the frequency of alleles in populations change with time. There is evidence, and we can calculate how that happens and verify it. I have no faith that there is variability within populations of a single species, and that such variety can give some individuals advantages under one environment or another. This is obvious, and there is also direct evidence. I have no faith that fossils differ more and more from what we see today as the strata where they are found are older. There is plenty of evidence. I have no faith that we might find fossils showing apes that link us to the other great apes close to the geographic areas where we find those apes most similar to us, we have found plenty such fossils right there. I have no faith that viruses can insert into our DNA. We know this from direct evidence. I have no faith such viruses don't insert themselves independently at the same position in two organisms, we know this from direct evidence. I have no faith that if we and the other apes did not share common ancestry, then our inserted viruses should be different and found in different positions, and that finding the very same virus inserted at equivalent places by chance is very low compared to finding them that way because the insertion happened in a common ancestor, this makes sense, and we have found such thing. Not just one virus, but many, at common positions, which makes sense if we share ancestry. I have no faith about any of the much more evidence I can't write about within this comment. To say that evolution is a matter of faith cannot be but ridiculous.

      Sorry but I get tired of this ridiculous claim. I have heard it too many times, so now I lose patience for it immediately. Worse if you are supposed to be studying science. That makes me feel you should know better.
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        Mar 10 2012: Hi Gabo, I agree Science is in a different league to religion in process, intent and need for faith/belief.

        They are polar opposites in many ways.

        Science tries to make sense of the world based on evidence and will discard theories that don't stack up.

        Religion, assumes its core tenants are correct. I note human religious adherents often look for ways to reduce the dissonance between science and their scriptures or beliefs. Some even adapt their beliefs in non core areas e.g. accepting evolution. Others resort to backward engineered theories such as Intelligent designer and creation "science".

        The religious have faith that their often cultural interpretation is correct and all others are wrong.

        However, for the non religious layman such as myself, there is an element of trust regarding science. I have to trust that there has been no major distortions of the evidence or simple misinterpretation. I have to trust the evidence for the leading theories is overwhelming. Many of us don't have familiarity with the evidence that a scientist might. I'm wary of bias or some of the specific or detailed claims on the cutting edge of science. Other things are bedded down fairly reliable.

        I can see from a religious view that there might be concerns about bias. They might say that science is a moving feast - Pluto was a planet now its just one of many transneptunian objects. The subtleties of science may not be well taught. That this theory is very well established and the that one is more on the cutting edge or that there are several explanations and no clear direction yet. The layman atheist may strongly hold a distorted scientific view etc.

        This flexibility, this obvious human process, is its strength and a weakness for attack.

        As an atheist my world view has evolved. I am open to adjusting it if science or an reasonable argument fits the evidence. But being human I realise I may sometimes latch on to ideas that fit my paradigms. But
        • Mar 10 2012: Hi GM,

          I don't have much time to elaborate. Yes, we trust some stuff. But it would be nonsensical to compare that trust, trust on things that are plausible, to faith in the invisible and illogical (from cosmic gods and miracles, and long et cetera, which are so far from even plausible). For example, I have no problem trusting that Nero or Julius Cesar lived. Or that there might have been a guy named Jesus. Nothing extraordinary or unbelievable about those. I have no problem with natural explanations for our origins because they don't require me to accept anything that would break anything in the way reality works. But believing that a guy named Jesus was a god made into man who could suspend natural laws at will, and who resurrected? Nah, that is so far from plausible that it reminds me of the famous "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence."

          I hope that was clear enough. Not much time to elaborate further or better.

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        Mar 11 2012: I agree Gabo. Comparing religious faith to our trust in Science is at best a misunderstanding.
        I'm just trying to explore the mindset of believers and test my assumptions.
        I'm convinced all religions are man made and their gods and supernatural claims are imaginary.
        All great faiths and traditions. I include Buddhist reincarnation.

        We know they are human made from a practical perspective - Jesus was a man. Muhammad was a man. Joesph Smith was a man, Charles Russell was a man. Hubbard. Mary Baker Eddy was a woman (at last).

        They are founded by humans. Their orthodoxy and rules are decided by humans. They are led by men (mostly).

        Some of the stories should make us fairly skeptical. The missing body and convenient ascension into invisibility. The dictating angel in a cave. The mysterious golden plates and seer stones etc. Visions. Revelation. Hidden away. Invisible gods.....
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    Mar 9 2012: Hi Karen,

    By your comments, it appears you are taking this story far too literally. That is the exoteric version, and it offers little in terms of wisdom. This story was written in the age of mythology, and the writer gives us clues to say that this story is no different, for how could over a million people be served by only two midwives (compare Exodus 12:37 with 1:15)?

    According to Bernard Anderson, professor of Old Testament theology, in his book "understanding the Old Testament", the story was written after the fact. According to other sources (I can't name them without a little research) the story of Moses being found in a basket is found in other pre-biblical texts, so it is not unique to this story. That being said, the elements of the story are all pieces of a puzzle, and you can't analyze each piece individually. They are all pieces of a much larger picture, so you have to put the pieces together and see what the whole picture looks like.

    Moses was raised in the house of Levi (Exodus 2:1-10), so he would have been partial to Levi. Secondly, the sons of Levi are being taken by God as the firstborn of Israel (numbers 8:14-19), and the firstborn, as represented by Cain, Ishmael, and Esau were all rejected by God because they were the aggressors. And Levi is no different (Genesis 49:5-7). So they have some straightening up to do. And that is what is represented by the tabernacle.

    Eastern philosophy regards the firstborn as the animal passions, what we are born with. The spiritual ascension is what is referred to as second born, twice born, or born again in Eastern philosophy. As Jesus says, except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God (John 3:3). Its all part of a much bigger picture. You can't pick out pieces here and there and analyze them singularly.
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    Mar 8 2012: Hello Karen,

    The Levites were an aggressive group and essentially become what we would refer today as the secret service of our government officials, to serve and protect the priesthood (Numbers 1:45-54). What role they play is important to the story. They were to protect and serve the tabernacle (Numbers 8:5-22). What the tabernacle represented is the key to the story. It wasn't just a place of worship. It was a symbol of God among the people. Its whole setup is explained in Eastern philosophy; the ark of the covenant represented the dwelling place of God. It was contained in the center of the Holy of Holies, which was surrounded by four coverings. Like a mendala (as explained by Joseph Campbell) it represented the abysmal dark from which all things come and back to which they go. And when appearances emerge, they break into pairs of opposites. Those opposites were represented by the two cherubim facing each other on the top of the ark of the covenant.

    The veil that separated the Holy of Holies from the Holy place is the same veil that separates our understanding from the wisdom of God. It is the veil that we strive to see beyond that we may know the spirit of god. The four coverings represent the sheaths of the human body. The outermost covering represents the physical body. It is the coarsest of the sheaths, and is represented by badgers skins. The next sheath is the astral body. It is more refined, and is represented by rams skins dyed red. The next sheath is the mental body. It is represented by fine goats hair. the innermost sheath is the spiritual body. It is represented by fine linen.

    The people were on the outside, represented by their separation from God. The mystery was to seek your way to the place behind the veil by spiritual ascension (or inner awakening), what would later be regarded as the search for the Holy Grail. The prophet Malachi gives us a perspective (Malachi 3:1-3).
    • Mar 8 2012: Roy, I am not conversant in Biblical symbolism though I am a fan of Joseph Campbell’s work. I’m not sure how what you have written explains Exodus 32: 18-35. What I read in the passage is that God is communicating with Moses and no one else in the group. The people are a worried and restless bunch and seem to lack confidence in Moses. Moses leaves for a period to be with God and get the tablets. The people think Moses will not return and they are fearful, like children, so they ask Aaron to make a god to help them and he fashions a calf from their gold. They feel better when they have something to pray and sacrifice to. God knows this is going on and expresses his ire to Moses who asks God's forbearance to which God agrees. Moses goes down to join the people and, even though God gave him the scoop, he seems to have forgotten all about forbearance and goes ballistic. He has a “hissy fit’ and throws the tablets down and breaks them. He burns the gold, grinds it up, combines it with water and makes the people drink it. Then he gets on Aaron who does not want to take any personal responsibility for his actions and even lies by saying the calf made itself in the fire. Moses has a kind of “what will the neighbors think?” moment and decides to take punitive action. He calls out for all those that are for the Lord to come to his side. The Levites come and apparently that is all. I wonder why Moses and God were not more appealing to the group as a whole. So the Levites follow his command to take a sword and kill his brother, friend and neighbors. What happened to “Thou shall not kill”. They kill about 3000 of their (unarmed) family, friends and neighbors and Moses blesses them for their service to God. To the still living he says they are bad sinners but he will try to atone for them. He goes to God and again asks for mercy for these sinners and even steps up to say what sounds like “the buck stops here, I’ll take the punishment.”
    • Mar 8 2012: continued .” But God is not buying this and says “just get them going to Israel. I’ll punish them in my own time.” Later he sends a plague for punishment. Does that sound right to you? There is no tabernacle in this story so you lost me at the first tabernacle. Would you like to try again? I would appreciate it.
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      Mar 9 2012: Roy, your explanation quite fascinating. Thank you.
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    Mar 6 2012: Psalm 139:14 (NIV)
    [14] I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;your works are wonderful, I know that full well.


    Are we blind ?

    • Mar 7 2012: The process of seed to fruit is indeed amazing no matter what living entity it may be. Perhaps the gestation of a human is most impressive but I am also struck by the complexity of what appear to be "simple" life forms. How can there be that much information density in anything? Even things that are not defined as alive have processes that take on the semblance of life. I recently went to a talk about waves and currents. Wow!

      In the end though, I don't see how one transfers that appreciation to a "you" even metaphorically. It doesn't seem to me that all this complexity and information that humans are aware of and all that is still unknown can be attributed to a "you". "You" s have faces and personalities; they have bodies. It is just not a big enough concept. I'm a bit partial to the longer but more fitting "That which cannot be named". It seems to confer the proper respect.
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        Mar 7 2012: Hi Karen.
        It depends to a large extent on what, or who, you think you are. Are you a child of God, or are you something else? If you are a CofG then there would be a family resemblance. God might have a face & a personality, or other attributes similar to you. We as humans should be able to understand something about how He has made things; we should have similar logic.
        As it happens, we do have a fair grasp on how things work, & we continue to learn.
        Only one man has made a claim to be God, & he backed it up with a lot of evidence, culminating in rising from the dead. He even has a face & a personality.
        If he was a liar, then we are back at the start; what are we ? And why should we just happen to understand so much science, Mathis etc. I go for the CofG hypotheses .

        • Mar 7 2012: Peter, thank you for responding. Here is what I am thinking and I have more questions. To arrive at the “who” in Psalms, you are making assumptions that I have not made in arriving at a spiritual understanding. I confess to having a logical mind, math oriented type, so it rebels at leaps of logic and building constructs on possibly faulty assumptions. Right off, I don’t know what “I” am because there is more than one possibility and I don’t have enough information to draw a conclusion. Do you include only humans as CoG? You assume a family resemblance. That seems very unlikely to me so I wonder how you so easily make that assumption. The power of this world and the universe, stars, galaxies, infinite space, black holes, the source of all knowledge great and small……looks like me? I would say “In your dreams” and you seem to readily accept this idea as given. I am really curious what it is about you and me that brings us to such different views of this probability. That is a segue to the next assumption, that we as humans would share God’s logic. I need to ask which one of us is sharing that logic because it seems like we two do not have the same kind? : ) My weak little brain is no match for minds of many humans so I would feel excessively prideful to make any comparison between myself and the intelligence contained in universe. Yes, I am a bit of that universe and contain some of that intelligence, but the enormity of the whole makes the comparison to me meaningless as I see it.
          Judging by history I’m not ready to say we have a fair grasp on how things work. It seems like we have learned a great deal in the realm of the hard sciences but I have no concept of what we still do not know so I would hesitate to make any measure of our success. You seem much more optimistic in your assessment. Can you tell me why?
          Oh space is up. I have more.
        • Mar 7 2012: You are speaking of Jesus I assume. I’ve heard that he never claimed to be God so can you help me with a quote. Of course, for me, a quote will not seal the deal because, knowing the limits of language and human ability, I would consider the chance of a misquote a high probability. And of course it follows that I would question anything in the Bible so would not use it as a reliable single source to base my understanding on. By the way, I think there have been quite a few men who claimed to be God and mostly folks think they are delusional.
          So where are we? Well I’m still at “what am I” but I don’t see it as the start. I say, “I don’t know” and move on from there. I’m guessing that you want the answer first so you are starting with a hypothesis, “I am a child of a human like God” and go from there. I’ve tried that hypothesis and some others over time but have found them unsatisfactory for my logical mind. The bottom keeps falling out when it rests on conjecture. If it works for you then you will keep embracing it. I am not so much bothered that people believe they were made in God’s image as that they make God in their own image and then put their own words in his mouth. The first seems like hubris, the second is blasphemy in my book of ethics.
          I would very much like to hear/read your response to my thoughts. I appreciate your willingness to engage.
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          Mar 7 2012: Hi Peter,
          Just focusing on the father part of god (not Jesus) - even the term child of god can be taken many ways including no family resemblance.
          Even the masculinity often assigned god is so arbitrary.

          One similarity any creator deity may have with humans is some sort of consciousness or intelligence. We don't even know this for sure. We may be the unconscious dream of something beyond our comprehension.

          If there are gods I expect they are nothing like humans. Can't blame humans for anthropomorphising god. Its just the way we have evolved to think in human terms. This probably goes against primitive literal interpretations such as Zeus impregnating women. But probably should not be held against the potential existence of actual deities - god entities.

          The ideas of god we have seem consistent with them being human created constructs.
          If there are no gods it is best to invent invisible gods. I can see a certain fit between some god beyond our comprehension, beyond space and time, and a universe whose origins and complexity are also pushing the limits of our comprehension.

          Its interesting that I see god created by man in our image (or reflecting an element of human experience e.g. looking like an animal) and you see us created in gods image.
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        Mar 7 2012: Hi Karen, the natural universe is amazing with or without any deities. Science continues to reveal how wondrous and complex it is. A 12 grader today (that paid attention in class) has a basic understanding of the universe far beyond what our forebears responsible for many of the worlds most popular religions. Although, it would be a rare school kid who would insights into the human condition and consciousness say of Buddhism etc.

        I believe many of our supernatural beliefs in invisible entities reflect human (and some animals) evolving to see agency behind natural phenomena where none actually exists. Lightening from the angry gods. Volcano Gods. Natural spirits. Faeries. Fertility gods. Sea gods. Even a dog will growl if it hears a noise, probably because survival is enhanced if we assume the worse - that this might be some dangerous entity - rather than assuming it's the wind.

        Modern monotheism seems a lot more sophisticated than natural spirits or tribal gods. However, in the bible in Genesis and older testament whether symbolic or literal intent, god is more overtly active in human affairs, more human, more a person walking the garden of Eden, destroying cities, testing Job, speaking to kings. Most of the sophisticated thinking seems to have gone on outside of the bible, closer and closer to modern times.

        Makes me think myth. I note all these entities are invisible to humans nearly all the time. A big pointer as to their actual existence. Suggest godidea evolved to suit facts. Invisibility is necesity

        Some believers think he is God. Others don't. I'm not sure if the bible is a good place for evidence of the truth of the situation, but I guess you can test it from a scriptural perspective. My recall are there are some inferences - only way to father thru me etc. Not much I am God, and there is a trinity. If you take the bibical stories as gospel he certainly didn't parade around shouting I am god, I am the messiah. Most the time he acted as a man, as a guru
        • Mar 9 2012: Hi G M, I am fascinated by the human drive to create a story. I try to put myself in the place of someone who knows nothing of the information that inquiry and observation and new tools have reaped in the last 500, 1000, 5000 years. My Earth would be flat and magical lights would move around it. The weather would be a complete mystery (which reminds me that I turned on the computer to get the forecast) I would like to understand how it is that so many good and intelligent people embrace and cherish beliefs that seem to be diminished or negated by modern knowledge. That is, for me, another of life's many mysteries. I don't expect to find an answer but that doesn't lessen my curiosity. Thanks for the conversation.
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        Mar 8 2012: Hi Karen.
        I appreciate your civility & willingness to listen, this is a new experience for me on TED. One thing we need to get our heads around is that we, & the universe exist. Something absolutely astounding has happened, & we are a part of that. It totally boggles our minds & swamps our understanding. So logically, the cause of it all must be unbelievable from our standpoint.
        Matthew 18:3 (NIV)
        And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven."
        We have to understand that we must have a degree of trust, our brains cannot work it all out. That is not to say that we go against our reason. We enter a marriage with a degree of knowledge, & some faith. Christianity is very similar, we have a relationship with Christ.
        We can get some way by brainpower. We see the results of something happening; what are the possible candidates? My first 35 years of searching came up with evolution as the most likely. The trouble, from my perspective, is the lack of any hard evidence. It's a great theory, but has no 'killer punch'. Much has to be taken on faith, too much for my liking.
        Romans 1:18-20 (NIV)
        "The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, [19] since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. [20] For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities---his eternal power and divine nature---have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse."
        So Paul reckons that the truth of God should be obvious to anyone examining the creation.
        God is the only other candidate; but which one?
        Look at it another way; which book? As you are analytical, then you will probably have to plough through lots of books. I started with the bible, so saving a lot of time.
        Back later
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          Mar 9 2012: Good reminder to be civil. Its easy to forget you are conversing with people when typing looking at a screen
          The conversation s would be of little value if we all thought the same.
        • Mar 9 2012: Hi Peter, Looking at you first paragraph I would agree but would change unbelievable to something like unknowable or unfathomable. One doesn't have to believe anything, only to observe that the the material world exists in our perception. As we have learned through ever more thorough observation, what we are seeing, what we are all part of is beyond comprehension. There are some human geniuses that delve into the complexity and try to sort things out but we have only grazed the surface of what is there. Look at the confusion around the effects of increased carbon in out atmosphere. Scientists began voicing concern decades ago but people with money at stake want to wait it out before making changes to significantly reduce carbon emissions. No human can precisely describe the workings of our climate with absolute certainty and those that oppose carbon reduction point to any shred of doubt or disagreement to disregard all evidence that says we should get right on it. The public is left trying to figure out who to listen to and the whole topic has turned into another ring in our political circus. In our idiotic polarization of every issue it becomes a matter of "belief" instead of inquiry. I don't "believe" we have a climate, I live in one. I don't "believe or not believe" that there is warming because of carbon in our atmosphere, I rely on those geniuses to figure it out for me. I guess some have the luxury of thinking that God is going to save them anyway so no worry. It doesn't matter what humans do because God is in charge of the weather. I know Pat Robertson definitively believes that. Anyway, I'm not a fan of the work "unbelievable" because some things really are and yet lots and lots of people still believe. Gosh I really regret that i have to stop here because the children topic is another one I'd like to discuss but I have to go and won't be back until after the end of this TED conversation.
        • Mar 9 2012: I must run on too much, ran out of room again. Anyway I hope you have the above saved and can post it again on another related topic. Nice visiting with you and others. Until next itme
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        Mar 8 2012: I started out to prove the bible wrong; my wife had become a Christian & it bugged me. Like most skeptics, I soon found that I didn't agree with this god, but I also realised that my approval was not a measure of truth. The 66 books merged into one & told a coherent story of planet earth from start to finish. It checked out uncannily with recorded history, & the daily papers. The Old Testament told of the coming Messiah in detail. The NT tells the story of his life, death, & resurrection, & the fact that the Jewish people would not recognise the very one they were expecting.
        I could write a book myself, but the point is that it rung true to me. History, Archeology, Experience, even the anger the very mention of Jesus invokes in people, all made me wonder.
        Revelation 3:20 (NIV)
        "Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me."
        Head knowledge doesn't do it. We are by nature antagonistic to our dad, & hate the thought of him telling us what to do. He loves us & wants to be part of our lives. I took up his challenge, & asked his forgiveness. My life has never been the same. Millions can testify to that. This is the faith bit, however that faith will be repaid by fuller understanding as you get aquainted.
        If you check out the other Holy Books, you mostly find a distortion of the Christian Bible.
        There are 150 or so flood stories; therefore skeptics deduce there wasn't a flood. Go figure!
        The Koran claims to be an update of the Bible, but the two books are totally at odds. Muslims demote Jesus to prophet.
        Jehovah's Witnesses demote Jesus to Archangel.
        All the Christian cults demote Jesus, deny the virgin birth etc.
        God is a Spirit, out with time & space, we have a similar eternal component. We are in kindergarten to make our choices. Jesus came to pay the price for our freedom. He now inhabits a human-like body in eternity. We can too; it's awesome! It has to be.

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          Mar 9 2012: We might disagree Peter in many areas, but have to respect your journey to your views and beliefs.
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        • Mar 9 2012: Hi Adriaan, I have resisted the impulse to post any links because I want this to be a conversation in which people find their own words. That has been an excellent exercise for me; it forces me to really think through what I am saying. I am not going to read your link but I am interested if you have something more direct to offer.

          I have explored some interpretations of the Bible but, to be honest, I have little interest in exploring it more. Perhaps it was a book meant for the priesthood filled with symbolic meaning that somehow made it into the hands of millions of uninformed lay people, I do not know. I've also read a bit on different takes on Jesus including did he even exist. The thing is, i just don't put so much emphasis on the Bible. To me it is a book written by men, translated by men, and it is an expression of their thought and beliefs and political agenda. For me Jesus is the Jesus in my head, an imaginary person who was a comfort to me when I was a child. A virtual port in the storm. For some reason I call his name when I an really frustrated. Perhaps some would call it swearing but maybe I'm just need some of that peace energy right away. I don't have much interest in the Jesus of the Bible. I don't think anybody died for my sins. That evil concept was probably one of the things that moved me away from the Bible.

          As I said, if you have something direct to share that would be welcome. I won't be able to respond any more as I will not be at a computer until next week. As they say, Adios
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        Mar 8 2012: Hi G M
        "Its interesting that I see god created by man in our image (or reflecting an element of human experience e.g. looking like an animal) and you see us created in gods image."

        Genesis 1:26 (NIV)
        "Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”"
        I don't just make it up. Note God uses the plural "our image".

        "Even the masculinity often assigned god is so arbitrary."
        Our spirits are sexless, but in this life we are assigned sex. I imagine so that we can learn about love, service, forgiveness, & such emotions which make up a close male/female/ child relationship. Adam was a man, as was Jesus; God refers to himself as father. He is the head, in the same way, the man should be the head of the house. He loves us & provides for us, just as we should do for our spouse & children. It is not supposed to be a hierarchy, it should be an equal partnership. Jesus said we should be "one flesh" with our wife. Mankind warps everything & then blames God.
        I confess I'm not sure about sex in eternity, but there will be no warping. So I reckon God is male because of Jesus, & because of his role. BTW Christians are also called the bride of Christ, that feels a bit weird, but I'm getting used to it :)
        "The ideas of god we have seem consistent with them being human created constructs. "
        Only if you buy into a self creating universe, & ignore the empirical evidence in the bible. There are lots of constructs about, I grant you, but these mask a basic truth. No-one forges a £9 note, only something genuine is worth forging.
        Jeremiah 9:6 (NIV)
        "You live in the midst of deception; in their deceit they refuse to acknowledge me,” declares the Lord.

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          Mar 9 2012: Hi Peter,
          I'm not saying you made it up. It comes from the bible.
          You see the bible as the key handbook for life.
          You see it as having some sort of authority or truth
          I see it as a man made compilation.
          One of thousands of religions, sects, beliefs systems what have you.

          I suspect never the twain shall meet.

          If the bible says god made man in the image of a primate or a pumpkin...
          If it said we should kill naughty children
          That the colour blue is the best one
          I still wouldn't take much notice except where it affects the behaviour of believers that impacts the lives of others.

          If the bible says it is so - it doesn't mean anything to me it terms of truth or fact or authority
          Same buddhist texts, hindu, whatever.

          No issue examining it. But it is not a statement of the facts of the universe as accepted in my view and a few billion others.

          No issue discussing the tenants of the religion and referring to the texts. But some statement from a religious text has little validity as to nature of man and god etc unless you are a believer.

          I'm waffling on.

          I can see how from the perspective of one belief system you would interpret things the way you do.

          Sure some elements of behaviour by the religious might be contrary to the views of others based on the same book.

          If Jesus had been a woman no one would have listened to him at the time. She probably would have been married at 13, kids by 14.

          Actually you could probably accept the cultural perspective of religion rather than they are forgeries deliberately there mislead without impacting your core beliefs about Jesus, creation etc.

          Perhaps we are in 2 completely different bubbles.
          I'm not saying your beliefs are inconsistent with the bible.
          I just don't see the bible as an absolute authority on anything
          I don't see Christianity as particularly special compared to any other of the major religions today.
          Your beliefs, or another relgious view could be correct
          I see no errors of logic in my world view either.
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    Mar 6 2012: The bible says; Prove all things, and religious people don't think they have to. Jesus reprimanded the religious leaders of his time for blind faith, and yet most religious people think they are saved by blind faith.

    Jesus said that the Kingdom of God is within you, and the church says; no, no, he was referring to himself as God among the people. Paul says know ye not the ye are the temple of God and the Spirit of God dwelleth within you. And they still don't get it.

    The church says follow our lead and we will get you to heaven when you die, and Jesus says that God is God of the living and not of the dead.

    It isn't the religious writings that I have a problem with, it is how they are being interpreted.
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      Mar 6 2012: "It isn't the religious writings that I have a problem with, it is how they are being interpreted"

      BINGO !!

      You paraphrased Romans 12:2 "....be transformed by making your 'MIND' over, that you may....PROVE TO YOURSELVES the good and acceptable and perfect will of God"

      And in verse one Paul states "I entreat you by the compassions of God, brothers, to present your bodies a sacrifice living, holy, acceptable to God, a sacred service with.......... YOUR POWER OF REASON"

      I have used these two scriptures before to bring out that faith has 20/20 vision......it is not blind.
      We are exhorted IN THE VERY SCRIPTURES to use our reasoning powers. God does not want
      robots or fanatics.

      If you personally live by blind faith, well how terrible is that?

      You then cannot defend the scriptural truths that appear in the Bible.

      You know Mr. Bourque, today, because we have so much abundant knowledge, and so many go to schools of higher learning, some have come to the conclusion that scriptures are old-fashioned and have no value.

      Imagine meditating on life and coming up with pearls of wisdom, but then having to humbly admit that this is scriptural truth and having to cite a text from the Bible. Not many men can humbly do this. We, for the most part, want to be wise in our own eyes, not defer to sixty six books written by over 40 men written hundreds of years ago.

      I am a nobody. But I do have faith.............not credulity, faith. It grows each day, and so does my spirituality.

      Your comment is right on the money.

      Scriptures are definitely worth studying.

      Alot of valuable lessons can be gleaned from them, and there are principles in scripture that not only help us, but help our fellow humans.

      Thank you for opening this topic of conversation.
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        Mar 6 2012: Hello Mary,

        People often deny scripture without knowing what is there. Let me give an example;

        In the book of Exodus, Moses enters pharaoh's court and throws down his staff and it becomes a serpent. Pharaoh's magicians all do the same with the same result. Then all of Pharaoh's serpents are swallowed up into Moses' serpent. It makes for great hollywood drama, but there is something there that most people don't see. The nature gods of the ancient world were personifications of the forces of nature. These forces were presented as serpents as part of their symbolism. The serpent was chosen because of its attributes. It was shown as swallowing its tail, forming a circle and representing the cycles of nature. It has a double phallus and forked tongue, representing duality (as Joseph Campbell points out in his description of mandalas, the center is dark, the abysmal dark out of which all things come and back to to which they go. And when appearances emerge, they break into pairs of opposites). It sheds its skin, representing regeneration. It crawls on it belly, representing humility. Yet it is quite agile, representing resourcefulness. When you understand all this, and realize that the God of Moses is a monotheistic God, you see a mythological representation of reductionism (the basis of the unified field theory of physics) from a right brain perspective. The fact that this story was written over three thousand years ago caught my attention. It 's like looking at a three-D poster. Once you get your focus right, the story takes on a whole new dimension.

        There is much wisdom in the bible if you are willing to see beyond the words. The literalists render it superficial. And the opponents would rather just throw it away. It remains in my mind as a book where secrets are still held.
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          Mar 6 2012: And also, did you know that the plagues Jehovah sent to the Egyptians were specifically aimed at humiliating their gods?

          About the only thing most people know of the plagues is what appears in the movie the Ten Commandments.

          There is more to the Bible than meets the eye.

          People used to sit and talk about the Bible all the time in the old days, now you'd think you were speaking in tongues if you started to talk to someone about God's word.

          What a terrible shame.
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          Mar 7 2012: Hi Roy, Mary, I started this conversation with the idea that literal interpretations are just not a fit with the current scientific view of the world. A deity beyond our comprehension or any human specific interpretation is harder to argue against.

          Obviously even literalist can interpretate things a bit different as to meaning.

          This and some other threads open the world of symbolic interpretations. I suggest scripture can be interpreted in even more ways if looking for a symbolic interpretation.

          I suggest good on anyone for reading the bible and getting whatever meaning that enriches their life. Just don't believe you have a universal truth. People are getting similar insights from other texts. Why assume the bible is the best source for these insights. Why not Buddhist suhtras, or Aboridgine dreamtime stories, or greek mythology etc.

          Humans are meaning creating animals. This is a reflection of our minds enormous capability compared to other species and led to us dominating this world. Yet this world is just one speck in a galaxy of 100 billion stars, in a known universe with billions of galaxies.

          Suggest we can get human insights from many different sources. Even modern books like stillness speaks etc. C Sarrin, suggest that the bible was the main cultural religious text in the past. Now we have better access to science and other religions. But perhaps as a society we may not be as reflective as in the recent past. Still some people have explored these themes deeper than perhaps most battling to survive in the past.
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          Mar 9 2012: Hi Adriaan, my understanding is Peter believes there was a biblical flood and 6 day creation.
          I'm aware there are other interpretations among people with beliefs associated with Christianity.

          I would not be surprised if there had been a severe flood at some stage in the general region that had ended up in various local religions. Or it all could have been concocted.

          Some think of the days as ages. Some assume there was a long time frame before Adam and Eve. Some think it meant symbolically. Others literally.

          What do you think?
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        Mar 9 2012: Mary: "It isn't the religious writings that I have a problem with, it is how they are being interpreted"
        I agree interpretation is a big issue. Interpretation will always be an issue.
        Its part of being human.

        I would also suggest that there is also an issue related to many believing religious texts are the word of god. This gives them a special power and authority. Religious interpretations can be twisted to support dreadful acts. Sometimes, they don't even need to be twisted because they clearly state laws or make judgements that reflect medieval or earlier sentiments.

        How many times in the bible does god kill people or say people should be killed.
        Remember god killed nearly everyone in the flood.
        Was silent on slavery unless it was jewish slaves.
        Thank god we have freedom of religion in some countries now.
        The god of the bible is against freedom of religion for its chosen people.
        It was an exclusive bloody club for centuries and still is if you decline to believe Jesus was the messiah

        The end of times Armageddon beliefs scare me the most

        Thank god for the enlightenment constitutions and values.

        Who really wants to give up freedom of speech, religion, the separation of church and state, due process in law, rights for children, equality for women even telling you what to eat and to cut the genitals of your children etc.

        Who wants part with a god that had a chosen people, or flooded the world, destroyed cities.

        If taken literally, the god of the bible is sometimes a murderous dictator. At other times its love thy neighbour etc. Seems so human. We are capable for great acts of love and compassion, and also heinous acts. Does not surprise me if you assume religion is the work of man and the texts have no divine providence.

        If god was a human or a king today = badguy

        I believe the world would be a better place if we figured out for ourselves what society and laws that maximise happy lives and not have these religious texts with love and hate weighing us down
    • Mar 7 2012: This is an interesting thread. Could one or more please interpret Exodus 32:18-35 for me. It was mentioned on the radio this week and I'm wondering what you make of a passage like this. Also it is not quite clear to me if you are saying that the Bible itself is a valuable book or if there are parts of it that you esteem. Are there other non- Judeo-Christian scriptures that you value as well? If so, what would they be? Thank you to anyone who takes time to answer.
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        Mar 7 2012: Hi Karen.
        I guess I'm a literalist, I don't see why God would write a book that didn't have an obvious message. Having said that, there are hidden depths that only become apparent upon further study, or revelation. The plain literal meanings however give us a benchmark. Any interpretations which go counter to plain meaning can normally be discarded. So to the passage in Exodus :-
        Moses had been meeting with God, the people became restless & started to party. They constructed a false god of gold. When Moses saw this he was miffed, he broke the stone tablets God had given him. He asked who was on the Lord's side. The Levites came forward, he armed them,& told them to kill the rest, which they duly did. 3000 of them.
        Moses went back up to God to ask forgiveness for his people. God told him that sin must be punished, & sent a plague on them.
        That is the plain meaning. You can make many parallels & preach many sermons on a passage like this , because it is typical of the Israeiite's behaviour, & also our behaviour today. You just have to look around you & ask " Who is on the Lord's side today ?" I'll leave it there as admin. doesn't appreciate too much bible.

        • Mar 8 2012: Peter, I think most people don't want to dig too deep to find meaning in a text so, before trying to make sense out of something more obscure, it seems right to look at the obvious meaning and ask why this story was used to illustrate either an obvious or symbolic message. On the surface this seems to say that the "soldiers of God" a doing well to kill men, women and children en mass who are "not on the Lord's side." Do you think that is the message? It seems to be a message that some Muslims find in their own scripture inspired by, if I'm correct, the same historical God, and those Muslims (the literalists) take it quite seriously as we all know.
          So please, go on. What do you make of this as it applies to our lives today?
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          Mar 8 2012: Karen, just my view but the Old Testament god is not particularly moral from today's perspective.
          Barbaric and cruel. Reflecting the people of the times.

          This is the god that sends plagues, destroys cities, and ultimately flooded the entire world killing everyone and every animal except a few on Noah's boat. Killed everyone.
          Kill naughty children.
          Kill adulterers.
          Kill homosexuals.
          Kill witches.

          Even jewish literalists are selective in the way they apply gods laws because a civil society does not accept these disgusting laws.

          Christians have a tradition of somehow connecting the old testament god with the teachings of Jesus, and many saying they are the same person. A true feat of mental and intellectual manipulation I'm in awe of.

          Jesus, if the gospels have any resemblance to the truth, even without the claimed miracles, taught an approach much closer to modern humanist ethics.

          My view is it would have been better if Jesus teachings became a philosophical approach more like Buddhism or a stream of Judaism rather than claiming he was god, the same god as the old testament.

          Perhaps the next conversation should be whether the Abrahamic religious traditions/scriptures ethically bankrupt. Maybe no need. It is so obvious.

          I know we aren't supposed to judge god from modern human values. The explanations put forward to rationalise the acts of a god with roots in the bronze age are well meaning but sadly pathetic. Pre Enlightenment values. No thanks.

          Really, some of our societies have moved on to more civil values thanks to the Enlightenment values. The old testament reflects the society at the time it was written. We have moved on from that, but these old books still hold us back from a better society because of religious believers seeing their gods will in them.

          People don't need religion to do bad things. But having people believe in gods rooted in the values and barbarism of the past certainly helps.
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        Mar 8 2012: Hi Karen.
        The Koran is very much centred on the Old Testament, & I agree that these sort of passages probably get used to justify murder. In a war, everyone claims God's on their side. As a Christian, I have done a bit of heart searching over these passages.
        Firstly the passage says nothing of women & children. We should resist assumptions, but women & children may have been included.
        Imagine these people had a terrible disease which was extremely painfully & fatal, & they insisted in coming to your town by force. Would you let them come, or would you kill them ?
        If you did nothing they would infect you & yours & no-one would survive.
        This was the type of situation, but the disease was debauchery, probably child sacrifice, compulsory rape, etc. This sort of thing kills nations, we just don't have the sense to cry 'enough'. Witness Germany, Russia, Cambodia, Uganda, Syria; you get the picture. We regularly bomb civilians to save our civilisations.
        Perspective. If eternity exists; & God thinks it does; then this life is at best like mist, very temporary. my dad used to think it unfair that god drowned the Egyptians in the Red Sea, & let the Israelites through. Well the Israelites were all dead as well within a hundred years or so. so's my dad, & I'm hard on his heels.
        Matthew 22:36-40 (NIV)
        “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” [37] Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ [38] This is the first and greatest commandment. [39] And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ [40] All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
        Jesus here gives us 2 new commandments. If we obey them, we have fulfilled all the requirements of the Old Testament. Jesus has fulfilled the Law for us. There is still suffering in the world because humankind is at war with God. As individuals, all we have to do is say 'sorry', but we're too proud.

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          Mar 9 2012: Hi Peter,

          I guess in the end I believe the universe is billions of years old.
          I believe humans and animals evolved.
          That dinosaurs and humans were not concurrent species.

          We are looking at the verses from very different paradigms. Maybe we both see what we want to see. I see something entirely consistent for the time it was written. Not something that consistently shows the old texts had some amazing insight into the nature of the universe as we now know it.

          I'm familiar with most these verses.
          "He spreads out the northern skies over empty space; he suspends the earth over nothing."
          I really don't know what to infer from this. Are you implying the text is referring to the vacuum of space?

          "I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies,"
          My guess is this is just mixing 2 metaphors implying the subject will have many many descendants. I doubt this is meant to imply that there are as many stars as pieces of sand.
          Taken literally, I expect there are far more pieces of sand than Jewish descendants.
          And far more jews than visible stars. And far less than actual stars in the universe.

          Again, the red shift connection is very tenuous. My recall is this is used to say that when god made the universe he did in a way that gave makes it look older than the 6000 years. This seems the most tenuous connection.

          Taken literally the water verse state god is actively managing the water cycle.

          Do all streams run to the ocean. I thought some went to inland lakes or seas.

          Some of this is observation based. Some is inspiring verse.

          My view is this is clutching at straws. A lot of reverse engineering to try and fit what we now know with a literal interpretation.

          Still I believe in freedom of religion as long as it does not impinge on the rights of others, not like the god of the old testament. I'm also human like the authors.
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        Mar 8 2012: Ps. The Christian God & Muslim God are not the same, regardless of what church leaders may say.

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      Mar 5 2012: Thanks Adriaan. Bankrupt has more negative connotations and is more emotive then I was looking for e.g. Financially or Morally bankrupt.

      I'm not judging the individuals, just the idea that we should take all the different literal belief systems, creation myths, supernatural events seriously. Don't we know enough through science and reason to say they all can't be true. At best one, and this is extremely unlikely. I note even literalists or fundamentalists disagree about some meanings and interpretations.

      If people see the texts as more symbolic or parables, less has less dissonance with what we understand about human history, the universe etc. However, suggest there is even more room for subjectivity if read this way. Which is fine if an individual wants to do this. At the very least they are interesting insights into the human condition and religious thought. II note some people still pick bits out and look to apply these on society with an element of divine absolute authority.

      I note it is the literalists who argue most strongly against non literal interpretations.

      What do literalist believers think about other beliefs. Do they see them as cultural constructs as I do, or the work of the devil etc. I guess they think every other literal belief is incorrect.

      Smart, genuine people still have literalist views or see these books as revealing something about god etc.

      I suggest there is something wrong. If you take of your cultural glasses or religious upbringing, is there really evidence to support all the literal beliefs systems. Just by simple logic, at most one is correct. Do they fit with our 21st century understanding of the universe? They do fit our understanding of human behaviour, pyschology, cultural evolution. At the very least even if one is the absolute word of god, humans can interpret these many ways. The contradictions that make this worse. They are so clearly human constructs, perhaps intellectually bankrupt is appropriate albeit harsh sounding.
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          Mar 5 2012: Thanks Adriaan.
          I have read most the Bible - old and new testaments a few times cover to cover and many sections many more times. In English only. Have to admit skimming the genealogies.
          I can recall the general story of Genesis and Exodus.

          I generally don't download from unknown sources.
          I'm afraid you wouldn't much like my opinion anyway.
          I don't believe Jesus was god. Let alone the second coming.
          I find the changing perspectives of the Hebrew god fascinating.
          God walking around the garden. Abel and Cain bringing offerings to god.
          Not surprised Moses had to disappear for a while before god carved the 2nd lot of commandment stones that varied a bit from the first.
          I even get a sense from the bible that the hebrews actually believed the other gods were real, just they had one that had chosen them alone. Archaeology in the Levant backs this up. I think they settled on there only being one god much later.
          The new testament is starts of with a story of a Jewish guru, Jesus. I wonder if he even believed he was anything but a man. After he died the Jesus sect continued on. At some stage they decided gentiles could join. For 2000 years they have been believing the second coming is just around the corner. They spread around the Middle East, to Rome. A few hundred years later Constantine took the first step that set it on the path to becoming a global group of related but conflicting beliefs.

          I'm afraid I'm not going to be convinced by any symbolic interpretations.
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          Mar 8 2012: Hi Addriaan. I had a look at the file. Very interesting. Well thought out and seems to be internally consistent.

          From my perspective I don't have a belief in any gods. So I doubt there is much value in my opinion about a symbolic interpretation of what I believe is something made by men describing an imaginary god.

          Just some notes:
          - I found the interpretation that some references to the Lord meant Jesus different from other views I am familiar with.
          - I note this is from the Latin. Suggest it would have better if had been from the original scriptures.
          - I guess the Jews might interpret this differently, and the Muslims, and many others who see themselves as followers of JC.

          Again, if people derive some personal insights from the bible, some shared with others, some conflicting, alls well and good. I guess I have an issue with anyone who says their interpretation is the right one. Just like there is an issue with anyone who says their religion is the right one.

          I doubt we can ever be 100% certain what the authors intended etc.
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        Mar 5 2012: "I don't believe Jesus was god"

        Many have come to the same conclusion as you by reading the Bible.

        This doctrine commenced in the fourth century C.E. with the council of Nicea.
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          Mar 6 2012: Thanks Mary and for the post above. So many different religions, so many doctrines and interpretations. How can we have confidence in any.

          This highlights several issues.

          How do we know the scriptures that are referred to today by are the ones a particular god wants its followers to follow. I note the Orthodox Bible is different to the Catholic bible

          How do we know whose interpretation is the correct one if any?

          We don't. I accept some interpretations of the same scriptures may have a stronger claim to being closer to the original intent based on whatever evidence there is.

          I look at the old testament and see a collection of books that may have been written or compiled 2-3 thousand years ago by a particular middle eastern group. Maybe some of the stories have roots much older.

          Other human groups had their own beliefs Romans, Chinese, Americans.

          Go back 20,000 years and you have the Dreamtime stories of the Australian Aborigines painted on rocks.

          Go back 40,000 years and you have cave paintings and venus figurines which probably have some religious significance millennia before the emergence of any of the major religions today.

          I believe it likely our human cousins the Neanderthals had some religious concepts before they became extinct.

          We aren't sure when language developed or art etc

          Go back past 200,000 years there weren't even modern humans.

          All this does not preclude that there may be some godlike beings.
          If there are I doubt they ever intervene or reveal themselves in humans or any sentiment life on other planets. We maybtalking something at least 14 billion years old.
          On the available evidence I suggest the most likely explanation is that all elements of religion including scriptures is 100% man made and any accuracy concerned supposed god beings is a complete co-incidence.

          Practically there does not seem any direct convincing physical evidence of these gods. So there is a good chance they don't exist.

          Probly no need to focus on Christianity.
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          Mar 6 2012: I might try from another computer. I have been burnt opening attachments etc before.

          Still I don't believe in any supernatural religious beliefs at all literal or more flexible.
          Probably no gods. I don't know.

          So a billion people today may believe something based on a mistaken interpretation.
          The issue with the council just reinforces my views they are all man made.
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        Mar 6 2012: In my honest opinion GM, I can't imagine if we are spiritually hungry for truth, and there is the posibility of arriving at scriptural truth, that one would not really look for it.

        I do not belong to any of the religions talked about here on TED.

        I make a concerted effort to be open-minded. But I will be honest with you.....I am not a follower of man. I am a follower of Christ. I respect the Bible's teachings. I have seen the positive changes in my life, and in the lives of those that I have helped through Bible study.

        The help I received was personal. Someone came to my house and taught me pesonally. It took two years of study and researching. I am an avid reader. I had lots and lots of questions, and I do not take anything at face value......I have to convince myself by looking up many sources.

        Religion is a racquet......Paid clergy class, burning in hell if you don't do what they say, giving 10% of your earnings to the church, participating in political upheavals and genocide, the list is very very long GM...............these are not scriptural teachings, these are traditions of men.

        But God is not at fault for man's actions. We have a choice. Millions have discovered scriptural truths.

        If God is all knowing, can't he read our thoughts and hearts?

        If your motivation for inquiry is to draw close to God, don't you think he will show you the way?

        Put him to the test. Isn't it worth a try?

        I am here, I will gladly share what little I know.

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          Mar 9 2012: Thanks Adriaan.
          It was good to explore a different perspective
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    Mar 4 2012: Gabo I think we are closer to agreeing than you realize. I don't have a degree in philosophy though I have studied it formally and find it useful to the extent it helps me be more precise. Did you read Richard Feynman's autobiographical books? In one he tells a story about two departments at a university, Philosophy and Math. They had the same numbers of professors and students identical buildings and budgets but each year the Philosophy had a small surplus left over. This intrigued Dick and upon investigation he discovered the reason why. The Philosophy department never needed to order new erasers.
    • Mar 4 2012: I discovered Feynman just a couple of years ago, which is a pity. I could have learned so much. The guy is amazing. I have watched videos of him just talking, science, physics, imagining the stuff, teaching, and it's fascinating. So, I will read those books for sure. Thanks for reminding me that there are also books.
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    Mar 3 2012: Peter this whole controversy seems to be based on the fallacious assumption that the Bible must be either literal and perfect or else it is worthless. This seems a bit lazy and simplistic to me. When I talk to a child I use simple language and still he may not understand me even if he is willing. If he is unwilling it becomes impossible. If I have to try to explain something outside his experience you might get a "book of revelation" like rendering using figurative metaphors. A very wise man once said that a person could believe that a whale swallowed Jonah or that Jonah swallowed a whale, either way and still be a good Christian. When asked another wise man said the all the laws and the teaching of the prophets could be obeyed by simply "loving our neighbor as our selves". This message has been given to many peoples through many prophets or wise men. As I understand, it was this higher law that was on the original tablet that Moses brought down from Sinai. But then and now too many people want to quibble by asking "who is our neighbor?" or what do you mean by love? The lord forgave the woman taken in adultery and further told us to forgive 70x7 and to judge not. These core teachings can be found in the traditions of almost all religions and their value is affirmed by the best psychologists and behavioral scientists today. Why does anyone then create contention about gospel non-essentials? It seems to me that the few militant atheists are only responding to those "fundamentalists" who are not following Christ's and the Buddha's and all the prophets core teachings of tolerance by trying to legislate their interpretation of morality into coercive laws.
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      Mar 4 2012: Hi Chad.
      I have long since realised the futility of discussing the bible on this site. My tactic is to discuss the science, but time & again I get a list of why the bible is rubbish & god doesn't know what he is doing. Gabo & I have been at this a while, & he is quite good at leaving the bible alone, but he is in a minority. Many just rant on at the Christian stereotype.
      I am one of the few Christian contributors here, I am a scarce resource. Use me wisely & we both might learn something. Like everyone, I am on a learning curve. I may be dead wrong, but I believe I have sound reasons for my faith; isn't that more interesting than than a gang of Atheists agreeing how right they all are?
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    Mar 3 2012: Eduard, you make some good points. You are right that a trained logician will usually do a better job than a three year old in coming to useful conclusions. However please don't discourage any one from taking the first steps on the journey just because they can't run as fast as you can. If you consider a bit more you may realize that since we can not KNOW for sure about anything then it is true that we all function some where along a spectrum from nearly blind faith to the very best evidence science can currently muster. Faith is of course useful in generating proactive preparation. For example I BELIEVE that the Sun will still be there in the morning even if the clouds disallow direct observation. Therefore I try to have clean clothes available based on that assumption. Yes there is usually someone who is more expert about many things than we are, still I believe that there is a benefit to be had in doing as much personal ground work as we have time for, with a few exceptions. (The mental exercise itself is useful). Now if you are riding shotgun and acting as navigator and yell STOP (because you see eminent danger) I had better stop the car first and ask questions later (after quickly checking the rear view mirror). However any assertion from a political candidate ought to be considered with skepticism. That is our duty as voters. Ditto heads and those who swallow everything they hear on Fox news earn their ignorance. As far it being a fallacy that all religions promote faith over fact I agree partially ( I did give the example of Buddhism being an exception). However again it is a spectrum, with all the dozens of religions I have investigated so far, all, even Buddhism, tend to promote faith at least occasionally, even if only as an inducement for the beginning of personal inquiry. And all the religions I have studied at least make a pretense of using logic (however sloppily) to induce faith.
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    Mar 2 2012: All litteral interpretations of texts, theories or ideas are a huge waste if one considers what the human brain is capable of.
    As humans we should be able to think thoroughly, meaning going beyond the literal sense of a word, a sentence or an idea.

    Otherwise we could be replaced by binary computers that just do that.

    So, as an agnostic, I don't agree with you because you just know these ideas will only sparkle heated exchanges of words between believers and non-believers. What's the purpose of that I ask..?
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      Mar 3 2012: The purpose - the free flow of ideas and debate is probably enough in it's own right.

      Personally, I'm exploring this idea, that with so many different literal religious beliefs and no convincing evidence of their truth, with our 21st century understanding of the universe, they just don't stand up intellectually from an unbiased perspective (if possible). Testing it. Exploring it.

      I'm also thinking a non specific impersonal god while no evidence is a little more plausible. And less damaging.

      Reflecting on the comments, thinking through to a response etc, selfishly my world view if refining. I'm learning.

      More broadly surely this is one of the big questions and challenges in life. Literal religion has a strong grip on many with many consequences. Worth exploring.
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        Mar 3 2012: Hi GM,
        yes, but you know such statements lead mostly to fruitless arguments. At least online, where people know little of each other and therefore do not trust, in a way, the other's ideas.
        I'm with you when you say that "literal religion has a grip on many with many consequences", I just feel (a very biased opinion) that it's nearly impossible to change the views of people who find themselves under the grip of literal religion. Personally I've never met any, so the battle must be fought somewhere else than here, for I'm convinced literal interpretation has something to do with education and socio-economic development, and I'm on the wrong side here because I was born with a silver spoon in my mouth, or kind of..
        Kind regards,
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          Mar 3 2012: It would not surprise me there may be a correlation between education and socio-economic status. Also parents religion. Ultimately when and where born.
          Rich and poor. It might just be you make friends with some kids who are born again.
          Others may have dedicated years to considering the big questions.
          Everyone has a different story how they arrived to their current beliefs.

          Agree it is unlikely someone will read the comments here and suddenly do a 180 or this discussion will lead to social or individual change. Maybe they will read something new that makes sense. Maybe some personal growth. I guess I started the debate simply to explore the idea and glad others are also interested.
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    Mar 2 2012: Literal religions belief system (in other words fundamentalism) have always been intellectually bankrupt , the problem was that we weren't aware of it, many still aren't . However this doesn't mean religion is not relevant today , you should make the difference , frankly, between a belief system and a religion ;

    -yes, fundamentalism supports tribalism , I've recently been in a church of fundamentalists , that was not a nice experience , I don't recommend it to anybody .

    If you want you can be for science and at the same time a religious person .
  • Mar 2 2012: "Science and rational thought provides the basis that does or will explain our experience and behaviour"

    Yes, G M, i agree with that. However, not everyone does and people are entitled to believe what suits them even if it doesn't appear completely rational. Isn't this the whole point of Neil MacGregor's talk? I recall an episode of Friends where Ross is frustratedly explaining evolutionary evidence to Phoebe and telling her she cannot not believe the science, to which she replies I don't believe it, I just don't. Good for her. What difference would it make to her life if she did believe it rather than the superstitious mumbo jumbo that gives her comfort on a daily basis?

    Scientists' right to state the facts as they see them should certainly be defended and they can be forgiven a little over-enthusiasm given the wonderful things that are being discovered. People rely on science without knowing or realising just how much, and many people, thankfully, just accept the benefits it offers them without regard for the way it clashes with their stated beliefs. Science should continue to make stealthy advance and will probably eventully win out. Meanwhile let's see if we can all find a way to get on together
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      Mar 2 2012: Good points John. I guess I support freedom of religion (within limits respecting the rights of others) .

      People can believe the world is flat if they want. No issue.

      However, I would suggest we are at the point that this belief is intellectually unsustainable.
      Same with literal religious beliefs in my view. But I'm not stopping people believing the world is 6,000 years old or that Buddha was born out the side of his mother. You actually can't force people to stop believing what they believe I guess. People change there mind or their views evolve in their own time.

      I suggest that a 50 year old born again believer might have refined views compared to what he believed at 15 as being absolutely 100% correct.

      Jury is technically out on some sort of god in my view.

      I'd like us all to get on too. I suggest its just really hard to find common ground with literalist believers compared to other theists. Literalists believers are locked in the past and believe they have the absolute
      truth. Sure many of us have strongly help opinions. I do. But I have changed some based on the evidence, reading discussion, debate. I was for invading Iraq when I believed there were WMD there. Then I was against it once it was evident we had been misled. A fundamentalist Jew or Muslim believe they have a divine right to the same land. Again there are plenty of land disputes with no gods involved, but I believe religion adds another level of heat.

      I actually believe in freedom of/from religion. I suggest many literalists see it as their mission to convert all of us.
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    Mar 1 2012: Hmmm, interesting topic! I just want to chime in on the idea that religion is either on the decline or will just plain disappear with the continuous advancement of scientific discovery. Personally, I just cannot see this ever happening. Ever. However, if anyone basis that hypothesis on what has happened so far in some of the most well documented history both of the eastern and western world they will surely find that religion has not only thrived a little bit -it has greatly flourished and spread through every turn of the century and still continues to effect most peoples view of the modern world. So what is all this talk about anything declining?
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      Mar 4 2012: Good topic for another conversation.
      My understanding is the atheist/non relgious % of the population is growing in some western countries.
      However expect Religion will be here for a long time.

      However it was only 150 years ago Darwin publish the origin of species.
      DNA etc it the last 100 years.
      So much has progressed in the last century.

      Imagine 1000 years ahead. 10,000 or 100,000. No idea if religion will be around.
  • Mar 1 2012: I think it's a little early yet. Not because we haven't accumulated sound explanations for all the issues you say, clearly we have. But there is more to human existence than just knowing the facts, and anyway, scientists have a habit of sweeping away old notions that were drilled into us as 'facts' and replacing them with new ideas with each new generation. Science doesn't have all the answers yet, and in such an imperfect state offers far less of the things that people really need than does religion. We can live without perfect knowledge, we have proved that. Can we live wthout a sense of purpose, of community, of destiny or goodwill toward others...? I could write a long list of the needs of humans that science does not even begin to comprehend but religion makes an attempt. Everything we know, everything we have is imperfect and that includes science so let's not get carried away with our little discoveries. There's a long way to go
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      Mar 1 2012: Thanks John. Agree science has a long way to go. I guess I differ in that I belief science and rational thought provides the basis that does or will explain our experience and behaviour. We can see the same parts of the brain lighting up in an MRI when meditating/praying whether Christian or Buddhist. We just don't know if an actual God or Nirvana is being connected to. Our capacity to experience is in our brain. Consciousness is a difficult one for sure and there is a way to go. I think an interventionist god is highly unlikely but not as far fetched as a literalist no evolution young earth religious view. Also, don't need god to find a purpose or meaning in life. Goodwill same. Destiny, not in a religious sense.
    • Mar 2 2012: The topic is about fundamentalism's intellectual bankruptcy. So, despite I would like to tell you that the topic is not whether science can or should give us a sense of purpose, or of community, or of goodwill; and despite I doubt that religion would be the only source for such things, I think that whether religion can or attempts at giving us such things, is not the issue. The issue is acknowledging the intellectual bankruptcy that is evident in the quackery pouring out of the creationist propaganda machinery.

      I would say though, that the bankruptcy is well acknowledge by those who have witnessed it. Perhaps the question should be if we should be more vocal about it so that the media, for example, would stop putting authentic scientists next to these quacks as if they were equal. They are not. The quacks by their own will have decided to make a living out of deception. Almost anybody else is better than them.
  • Feb 27 2012: It is wonderful that we continue to want to share with one another the human experience of “awareness of the infinite” especially now that we know that our “physically detectable” reality is roughly 10% of what might be “out-” or “in-” there.
    Even though we do need practical “functional models” to meet our needs as members of humanity, it seems to me that our open-mindedness to the infinite paths towards the realization “the Theory of Everything” is kept alive both by the progressive understanding of what something is “not” rather than only by the self-limiting exercise of trying to define what something “is.”
    Concerning the literal interpretation of the “Bible” by various present-day Christian sects, in the early years of the “Christian” movement it would fair to say that its “Holy Scriptures” were the Hebrew Scriptures in use at that time. These texts were now understood by the early Christians in the context of the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth because it was he who gave them the expanded understanding of how these Scriptures related to him, as illustrated in Luke 24:13-24. The books which are grouped together as the New Testament in Christian Bible resulted from the effort to preserve the “living tradition” and “core” teaching for future generations. During Late Antiquity much was written by Christian scholars and “contemplative masters” that was in keeping with the life and teachings of the historical Jesus. No doubt the Gnostic debates of the second to fourth centuries and other internal challenges over the centuries have complicated the transmission of the original living tradition and eventually gave birth to the literalist movement of the recent past. It is thanks to this literalist movement and the good scholarship that it continues to promote that there is a “rediscovery” of the writings of these early Christian scholars and whose works are becoming increasingly more readily available over the past few years.
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      Feb 27 2012: Thank you Emanuel. You offer a valuable perspective on Christianity and insights into the literalist approach.

      I wonder if other religions - Judaism, Islam, Buddhism etc have their own traditions of scholarship as well that are a mix of preserving the original thoughts and exploring them.

      The survival of ancient texts and writings is treasure for all humanity.
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    Feb 26 2012: Now there's a strange thing. It was by searching for truth in the sciences that I was persuaded of the truth of the bible.
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      Feb 26 2012: Thanks Peter.

      I understand different people will look at the similar evidence and come up with different conclusions.
      I'm glad many of us have this freedom and we have better understood options.

      I don't deny the possibility or gods or creators. Getting to a specific literal religion is perhaps a bigger step. Becoming fully engaged in a religious movement is part of what triggered me to a firm reverse position.

      Evolution in a way is an inversion of creation. Life is so well suited to this biosphere it must be created or alternatively it has adapted specifically to fit this world. Some find design/creationism convincing.

      Some consider the majesty of the cosmos and appreciate the power of god. Others take a similar but secular view. It's what makes us human so interesting.
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        Feb 27 2012: Hi GM
        It would be a dull world indeed if we all saw things the same way, often it is other folks disagreeing that drives us to further study.

    • Feb 28 2012: Hey Pete,

      Remember I saw that nauseating liar's video you posted a bit ago? remember that I told you he was lying? Remember what I told you about how the geologic column is actually put together? That some places have lots of layers, then you can put them together if they have enough layers in common?

      Well, look at this video:

      If you can't look at it all, jump to min 8:35 (where Eric repeats the lies) and don't stop it until after you hear about the Williston Basin and all the existing layer over there.

      I hope this will illustrate for you why I call your quacks quacks, and why I call them liars. They are not just ignorant, they are liars. Plain and simple. But this is just one sample Pete. The guy nauseated me from the beginning. They deserve no respect whatsoever. Not a bit. Sorry, but that's so. That is why Claire does not stop at saying exactly what she thinks of creationists such as Eric. They lie to you, they lie to children. I don't think there is anything more despicable than making a living out of lying to children, and thus destroy their minds for life.

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        Feb 28 2012: Hey Gabo. Wow! What did I do to deserve that? What nauseating liar's video are we talking about ?

        I listened to your young lady, I appreciate her point of view, but don't agree with it. That's what makes life interesting. I watched another young lady on prime time telling folks about the gill slits in our embryo's we have in common with fish. Of course we know that Mr. Haekel was reprimanded for this falsification over 100 years ago, but it's still in the books that this young lady learned her trade from. So there she is on the telly misleading folks.
        She is not a nauseating liar, she has just been misled. I forgive her.


        • Feb 28 2012: What are you talking about Peter? You don't agree with a geologist that there are places with many geologic layers? You don't agree that they have erosion points between some of the layers? You don't agree that when there are some layers in common you can put columns together?

          The nauseating liar is the guy who said that layers did not exist anywhere but in textbooks, that geologists put them together to make it appear as if evolution is real. This is not a matter of opinion. I knew from undergrad geology textbooks about how the layers are put together and about places containing many of the layers. So I knew your quack was lying. Only Claire made this video, I thought you would find it informative. But I would have never thought that you would say that you don't agree, as if data and evidence was a matter of opinion. It is not. The layers exist, and that guy in that video you showed me is a nauseating liar. You said he spends time digging things up. Thus, I conclude that he spends time making things up, finding something to lie about, finding something to misquote about. In-your-face quackery. No way around.

          I hope now my point is clear. So, don't tell me you disagree. That's truly insulting [edit: and intellectually bankrupt]. Tell me you rather put the Bible before the evidence. Then, I say whatever, but don't tell me you disagree.

          As for gill slits, our embryos and fish-embryos have those slits. Unless this person you talk about said they were actual gills, she was neither mislead, nor lying. The slits are called that, gill slits, because they look like gills, not because they are gills. You should learn not to be mislead by your prejudices against evolution, and learn that despite we don't go through a fish stage while developing, our embryos still show those slits, just as fish embryos do.

          Regards as well.

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          Feb 29 2012: the similarity of fetuses of different species is totally consistent with common ancestors and evolution

          economy of design like appendix like remants of back legs in marine mamels.....not really
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        Feb 29 2012: Hi Gabo.
        I did find Claire's video informative. She may well be right about the number of layers at that location, I don't know. I disagree with the long time process that she advocates. That is an unknown; it can't be tested or repeated in any way, so it is conjecture. The quacks have a right of reply, so we can weigh up the pros & cons. I remember one guy saying that if all the layers were present they would be over 100 miles thick. Don't know about that either. I do turn off when people denigrate those with opposing views, we need mutual respect.

        The 'gill slits' in embryos are folds in the flesh that develop into totally different structures. They are not slits, they are folds. There is a superficial similarity admittedly, but this does not justify giving the impression of some sort of evolutionary relationship as the lady in the program did. This sort of thing should have ceased with the discovery of Haekel's fraud, yet his drawings persist.

        • Feb 29 2012: The times of deposition are backed up by tons of evidence(s). But I just wanted you to know that multiple layers do exist, and that putting them together is not a matter of taste. Not an arbitrary process. Just as telling their age is not an arbitrary process.

          I don't denigrate your quacks (I think though that you are talking about Claire). We need mutual respect, but the ones who decided not to have any respect for us in the first place were the quacks. It is not a matter of belief, but a matter of principles. They go to you and tell you these lies about how scientists put together geologic columns (they say it's arbitrary and to the liking of evolutionists, which is demonstrably a lie), they lie about how we make conclusions, and about what we actually say (misquote). Lying about me, my work ethics, and dismissing our work as mere guessing is an open insult. They are calling us imbeciles, stupid, fools, and our conclusions pipe-dreaming. They make it appear as if all the hard work reduces to taking some psychedelics, dancing around, and saying: aha! the earth is 4.5 billion years old! They are nauseating liars.

          Those "folds" you talk about are present in both fish and human embryos, they are part of lots of evidence of common ancestry. That Haeckel was wrong about recapitulation does not mean that the slits are not shared because of common ancestry. That the slits are not gills, and end being different things (exempt for a few that end in the same stuff), does not mean they are not present in both embryos.

          Haeckel's drawings don't persist. The modification he made were not as big as you have come to believe. I have checked every textbook pointed by creationists, and those are not Haeckel's.
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        Feb 29 2012: Hi Gabo

        "You don't agree that they have erosion points between some of the layers? "
        You have mentioned this a couple of times. Where are you getting this information? All the layers I have seen are pretty smooth, with no erosion, but maybe I missed something. If they all took a long time to form, they should all be eroded, right ?

        "The modification he made were not as big as you have come to believe. "
        Looks pretty big to me.

        Are these guys lying about the textbooks? Extracts further down the page.

        • Feb 29 2012: Hey Pete,

          I see several eroded layers in that photo, but I understand why you would not see them. The depositions on top are in the same direction. But you can check cross-beding photos in wikipedia that show the eroded parts more evidently:
          (Also look "erosion" and "eroded" for further explanation in the web page)
          The wiki entry on sedimentary rocks contains photos that show erosion and explain how the processes work:
          Claire also has videos and explanations, but you don't like her, so I save you that.

          For Haeckel, linking to a creationist nauseating liar from a different religion does not help your case a lot. They start lying from the very beginning. Haeckel did not copy the same embryo making it pass for a different one, and the quote where he appears to admit to fraud and admit that others do the very same thing are taken out of context and out of their original meaning. Take a close look, and you will see that he is not saying such thing. Then look at the picture, and notice that creationists changed the positions a bit on the real embryos, and you can still see that the drawings correspond quite well with the embryos. Not possible if Haeckel had used the same embryo. Take a look.

          The textbook examples. None of them say that these embryos go through evolutionary stages (Haeckel's falsified hypothesis), instead of the correct statement that similarities in embryo development are evidence for common ancestry. Despite being in the same positions, those drawings are not Haeckel's. It is normal, and honest, to get the structures out in order to be able to show features (the point in Haeckel's "confession"). Every Embryo I have seen, drawn or photographed, with a removed something, says what they removed.

          Thus, it is the Dishonesty Institute that is being fraudulent at presenting these as if they were Haeckel's drawings. I understand why you would be mislead. But not them.
        • Feb 29 2012: Pete,

          Something else: it is not our fault that embryos look a lot like Haeckel's. After all, the guy was a very detailed artist. He did not "fraudulently hide" dissimilarities of earlier stages, he showed what he wanted to show, which is the similarities that would have inherited from a common ancestor. That the dishonesty institute wants the scientific community to forget about embryo similarities is the dishonesty institute's problem, not the scientific community's problem. We see them, and we use them because no charlatan will dictate what is and what is not scientifically valid.

          To make the story clearer, I was once studying from an article that had photographs of several embryos showing their similarities. Photographs! (this is pre-photoshop era) Some creationist told me that those were "Haeckel's fraudulent embryos." I answered, how could they be if they are photographs?

          They looked pretty much like Haeckel's drawings. Is that my fault? Or is it because embryos have those similarities that Haeckel might have emphasized (because that is all he did, emphasize)? There is an actual photographic study that shows that Haeckel's modifications were not as big as the nauseating liars pretend them to be. I repeat, I am a scientist, and no propagandist will dictate what I can and cannot use as evidence. If the evidence is there I use it, whether the same evidence fooled Haeckel into believing that those were actual gills, and actual stages in evolution, or not. Similarities in development still betray common ancestry. So your quacks might as well go to hell with their fraudulent demands. They accuse Haeckel because of a few changes (that he mentioned in the description), yet they do worse changes and emphases for propaganda effect. It is much worse to accuse someone of dishonesty while being nauseatingly dishonest themselves.

          Here a much longer explanation if you are honestly interested and have patience:
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        Mar 1 2012: Hi Gabo.
        I understand about cross-bedding. The original layering is normally laid horizontally. For one reason or another the earth moves & the layers get tilted, the top gets eroded off, & the layer deposition resumes. In my world the initial tilted layers may still be soft & could be eroded rapidly by the next tsunami or whatever process is depositing the layers.
        If the process has taken millions of years we should see extensive erosion BETWEEN the layers. We should see evidence of rivers etc in the cross section ; not to mention soil, plants etc. The ripples in the link below ( from your link) are testament to the fact that this layer was fresh when overlaid, else the ripples would have been eroded.
        We also have multiple layers which would appear to have been bent while still soft. If they had taken ages to form, this should not happen.
        Then we have polystrate fossils.
        Sometimes trees going through thousands of years worth of layers. Is it not more likely that they were buried very quickly ? Ordinary creature fossils often span two or more layers. If they hadn't been buried quickly, they wouldn't be fossils. I just find it difficult to envisage a long-term scenario that would tick all the boxes.
        Need to put Haekel to one side today; no time.

        • Mar 1 2012: Pete,

          There is no reason why ripples could not have been suddenly buried, then after a long time solidified and forming rippled sandstone. I really don't know what you are thinking, but lots of evidences like the ones you ask about: plants, extensive erosion, et cetera, do appear in sandstone.

          Bending can happen in solidified strata. High pressure and/or heat do the trick (part of the way some of the sedimentary rocks form). This has been demonstrated by experiment. Very often they look as if they bent "while soft." Note though that the photo you show has some fractures. Also note that if they folded while soft, then the pattern of layers would tend to disappear. As a minimum tops should be thinner. You need a minimum solidity for the layer pattern to stay. Isn't it a bit interesting too that the ages of layers make geological sense? As in that-which-creationists-deny ages? Why would your flood be so consistent at making it appear as if this "single deposition" was put there across a very long time? Shouldn't they show kinda the same age? After all, the methods used won't distinguish month differences.

          Claire has actual photos of dead trees being buried (they are about half buried, others one third buried, and so) by debris. Everything around desolate. The photos look dreary. Anyway, they show that there is nothing strange about those trees going through strata. (There is also an entry at talkorigins).

          Most fossils are found within one layer. Exceptions consist of fossils that have moved from their original places and positions, or exposed by erosion, then reburied. There is plenty of evidence of these.

          Before going for Haeckel again, you better read and understand Myers' answer (the one at talkorigins I linked above). Please make sure you understand what Haeckel's actual hypothesis was that is false, and why embryos are still evidence of common ancestry, often helping us solve puzzles like who are the closest living relatives of whales.

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        Mar 2 2012: Hi Gabo.
        "There is no reason why ripples could not have been suddenly buried, then after a long time solidified and forming rippled sandstone. "
        You got it in 1. Layer A is deposited; the water forms ripples on the surface, & quickly covers layer A with layer B. While layer B is still soft the water forms ripples..........
        As the layers get compressed by more layers, & given the passage of time, the layers & ripples solidify & George the Geologist comes & splits the layers & finds the ripples. Now how long did it take the layers to form?
        If there are ripples it had to form very quickly.
        If there are fossils it had to form even more quickly.
        If there are polystrate fossils even more quickly.
        "Claire has actual photos of dead trees being buried (they are about half buried, others one third buried, and so) by debris. "
        This is understandable, but how long will they 'wait' to get buried. A thousand years ? Doubtful, but they would need to wait longer than that if the layers really took millions of years to form. I saw a tree a while back about 30-40ft long going through two coal seams about 20ft apart. It was fossilised, but where it went through the seams, it was coalified. That couldn't have taken more than a couple of hundred years, although it could have formed in days.

        "Very often they look as if they bent "while soft""
        Then why would we be so sure that they weren't ? You are allowing your preconceptions to make the decision. Dawkins says that nature looks 'designed', & reminds us that this is an illusion. Why does he think it's an illusion, he's decided ahead of time.
        I agree layers can be bent after they have hardened, but sandstone near the surface with no pressure overhead is unlikely to do so. I must entertain the possibility that if it looks 'soft bent', or designed, then that may well be the case.
        "Most fossils are found within one layer. Exceptions consist of fossils that have moved "
        Not an obvious conclusion, but the only one available I guess.

        • Mar 2 2012: Pete,

          For more on the polystrate google for talkorigins and polystrate. I can only explain so much with so little space. Fossils don't have to form that quickly, only be buried quickly enough ... not every sedimentary rock has fossils, long et cetera. You are putting everything together as if that should be the case (that a every geological columns, everywhere in the world, should have ripples, fossils, very evident erosions, fossils across multiple layers, and so on .... remember, the "multilayer" trees are very far from being the norm!)

          "while soft" I sad "as if" and used quote, because that's if we forget everything else. This is how they determine stuff: they see bends, they don't ask, was this the flood or something else, they ask, did they bend while soft or not? OK, what would be telltales for soft? Such, and such, and such. OK, what would be telltales for solid high-temp/pressure? Such and such, and such. OK, what do we see? The latter. OK, then it was high-pressure/temperature. There are cases of soft for sure. But geologists don't just look at them and decide in order to deny the flood (come on!). They decide on the basis of the evidence. Example, the one you showed me has layers that did not fracture, mixed with layers that did fracture, I think solid/high-pressure/temperature, because some rocks are more ductile than others, thus this looks much more logical than "layers were soft." Then I see that the depth is somewhat uniform, rather than get grosser as we go down, and thinner at the top, which again, indicates solid rather than soft. Then geologists notice that bottom layers have metamorphic rock rather than sedimentary, telltale of temperature/pressure. They see that the bend was because magma was pushing upward because there is igneous rocks at the centre bottom ... nothing about my preconceptions. This is about the evidences for how these things form.

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        Mar 2 2012: Haeckel
        I had a read through the link. I had read this in the past, but am a bit rusty. (Getting old at a terrific rate). He was reprimanded by his peers for faking drawings, & his theory was that a human embryo goes through past evolutionary forms during it's development. Roughly speaking. Both the drawings & the theory are no longer accepted. Fair enough.
        The lady on the telly (inside nature's giants) was pointing out that the embryo gill slits were evidence of the common ancestry between ourselves & fish. Presumably she had been taught that. As with lots of these things, it was not mentioned that this was speculation. You could use the same logic to argue that an eye on each side is caused by our commonality with Budgies. It is only opinion.
        I still hear the opinion that a giraffe got it's long neck by generations stretching for branches. That is Lamarkism, also debunked, but it's still out there.
        I am interested in this subject, but it is difficult to keep abreast of what is real. When a new fossil hits the headlines, it is normally presented as an artist's impression. We then have to investigate to see what was really found, & often it is a few bones & a lot of guesswork .
        Now all the dinosaurs in the documentaries are sprouting feathers; it's all very confusing.

        • Mar 2 2012: Well Pete,

          I can't give my opinion on that exact TV thing you saw because I did not see it. But the gill slits do betray our common ancestry with fish. But they are just one little piece of evidence. There is only so much time in TV, thus they show a few of the evidences. That one alone would not convince you, I agree, one alone would not convince me either. But there is plenty more evidence. The gill slits are but one. But the eve-devo paradigm today is much more about determining hard cases of common ancestry (who is closest to whom), than about proving evolution because we already know that evolution, as in common ancestry, cannot but be true. I know that your quacks rather make you think we are still proving evolution, but that's far from true. I see evidence every day in my own work. Yet, if I tried to publish that all I would get is yawns from the reviewers, and my article rejected because there is nothing novel in it. Nothing we didn't know. So, if I want to use my data, it should be for something else, something other than evolution, because that problem is old story.

          Of course, as with anything, sometimes we get surprises that make us change our view about how evolution happens. Scientists used to think it was all about natural selection, today we know there are other factors. But no data has meant that evolution is false, only that the way it happens is a tad more complicated than the simpler models. Take a good look, and you will notice that even new fossils within our lineage are not announced because they prove our common ancestry, but because they situate ancestral forms better, or point to a different time for some feature to appear. Our common ancestry with the other apes has been clear cut for a long time.

          (Edit: the giraffe example shows plain ignorance, but what can I do?)
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        Mar 3 2012: Hi Gabo.
        You agree that the ripples had to be buried quickly, you agree that fossils have to be buried quickly. Mostly the layers have a smooth interface, which would suggest rapid deposition. Agreed that each location may be ruled by a different set of circumstances. However we are talking about fossils of alleged growing complexity in adjacent layers as in the 'geologic column', so we are talking about layers with fossils in them. We are agreed that the fossils had to be buried rapidly to be fossils at all. So if we take the standard textbook column, then it stands to reason that each layer is laid down rapidly, as we both assume. Otherwise there would be no fossils.
        So in light of this, why should we expect that it took millions of years for the layers & fossils to accumulate ?
        Many of these layers were laid down (a few hundred feet worth) when Mt. St. Helen's erupted. Then a canyon was subsequently carved out by a mud flow to expose the layering in section. Trees floating in Spirit Lake are settling on the lake bed in the upright position & sinking into the mud. These are potential polystrate fossils.
        Google won't let me search Talk Origins just now, but I'll keep at it.

        • Mar 3 2012: Well, we don't agree on everything you said. I don't agree that most layers have smooth interfaces, because they don't. I don't agree that they are deposited rapidly on top of each other, because If they did they could not be of different material. I disagree that for a column to be a geological column it has to have fossils, because many columns don't have fossils. When there are fossils, they don't necessarily show increasing complexity (except for obvious things like mostly microbes in very very old layers), but living forms more similar to those of today as we go farther up, with groups of life forms starting to appear at different points. These things have consistencies and evidences that allow us to date them, and to order them according to when they start appearing in the fossils record for the first time. Those things make sense with such other data as genetic differences among living forms of today, long et cetera.

          So, we still have lots of disagreements. I doubt that every column was deposited at a single rate in a single event, because they show differences that make sense if they were deposited at different times and timescales. Since there are such things as igneous rocks bent, I doubt that they bent within a few days or months in a flood. Leaving aside that there is no evidence of a single global flood happening a few thousand years ago. None whatsoever. On the other hand, there is plenty of evidence that our planet is way much older than a few thousand years. This is a conclusion from the evidence, not an attempt to deny your god or any other gods.

          I think that now we have started to go in circles. All the information is out there Pete. Look it up. Pretending that scientists are just interpreting things to deny your flood/god is nonsense. I know how science works, and it is far from being that ridiculous thing your quacks have had you to believe.

          So ciao for now.
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        Mar 3 2012: Gabo , when can we safely say that someone is lying? As I understand it not when they say something that is untrue, but only in a case where they assert some thing that they believe to be untrue. Peter is probably more accurate when he refers to someone being mislead. I believe that many if not most of those on both sides of these sorts of arguments think that they are telling the truth.( I have seen no evidence that Peter for example is insincere) Now it seems likely that some of them are very poor and inaccurate observers and are apparently persuaded by their prejudices and in addition have no understanding of the meaning of the word logic.Still I think it is a mistake to call even people like D. Rumsfeld liars. The evidence only indicates that he was wrong about WMD. Now is it possible that he unconsciously cherry picked the evidence to fit his prejudices? Of course! Can we ever PROVE he was lying? Probably not. Now do a few well meaning scientists SOMETIMES exaggerate the facts or even lie under the pressure of funding? There are historical cases that indicate we must admit it. In the case of Geology and other sciences that appear to confute the literal truth of the Bible does the error of one or even several scientists disprove ALL the evidence or lead us to contemplate a conspiracy to perpetuate a hoax? NO! Occams razor cuts that to shreds. Other than Communists and perhaps the Kennedy assassination large scale secret conspiracies are a four word oxymoron as far as I know. Is there a temptation on the part of some sincere believers to exaggerate in defense of what they feel they know? Does the exposure of so many televangelists as hypocrites prove that they are all con men? I really don't think so. So Gabo while it may be true that some believers have a bill, webbed feet and swim and lay eggs they still actually may be Australian wild life and not lying ducks. I would lighten up on the pejoratives if I were you, I don't think it helps to open minds.
        • Mar 3 2012: chad,

          I agree that I can't make such a judgement for many of them. But I have talked with some of them to their faces, and have explained things, and have made questions, and in the end it becomes evident that they know they are lying. Then there are undeniable facts. Example, why would that link of Pete's say that Haeckel drew just one embryo and modified it so that there would be lots and lots of similarities when no other creationist propaganda said such a thing? I have to conclude that this is a new lie put on top of lies brought from somebody else. Also, the first lie has to be a conscious lie. More importantly if they have been shown the actual data yet they perpetuate the lies. There are limits to where I will resist the temptation to call them liars. If they tell the lie once, but when corrected stop telling the lie, I can believe that they are misinformed or mislead. But if you show them wrong yet they repeat, they are lying. Same if you show their sources to be unreliable, yet they keep using them.

          Agreed that scientists have their temptations. But apologists seem to share personalities that look awfully like lemon-car salesmen. Their rhetorical tactics look a lot like deception tactics. So I try very hard to give them the benefit of the doubt. But they work hard to convince me otherwise.

          Thanks for your opinion anyway chad. I can assure you that I understand that most creationists are misinformed and mislead. But I am not so sure about their sources. I have concluded that televangelism is the equivalent of the dishonest car salesman, the snake-oil salesman. That has been my experience. Hopefully not the norm, but I doubt it.
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          Mar 4 2012: Hi Gabo.
          "For more on the polystrate google for talkorigins and polystrate".
          As far as I understand it they are saying 2-things. 1)The majority of the trees are buried in-situ with roots in place. May be correct, but not many have branches. & 2) they are buried by a local flood event. No problem with that either.
          So we all agree that polystrate trees are buried in rapidly deposited strata.

          " Fossils don't have to form that quickly, only be buried quickly enough ... not every sedimentary rock has fossils,"
          We agree that strata containing fossils must be laid down rapidly.

          So are we saying that these strata are quickly deposited, but others aren't ?

          The main problem for me is the lack of a coherent long age model for all this, whereas there are several YEC models. It's difficult to compare like with like.

        • Mar 4 2012: Pete,

          What would be wrong about layers being deposited at variable rates? Why could that not happen? We see evidence of strata layered at different speeds, we don't see evidence that every layer in the world was deposited in a single event, quickly, at the same time.

          There are lots of models of how things happen. But you will not find a single one for everything, because that is not what the data suggests. The data say one thing for that kind of layers, that other thing for that other place, and so on. Thus, expecting a single model to explain everything does not make sense. This is why we know about billions of years. The variability in how, when, how quickly, what kinds of rocks, fossils being consistent, carboniferous layers being found where we expect to find them depending on the rocks, kinds of fossils, and their ages. All of that cannot be put into a single model Pete. Of course a flood model is simple. It's a single event. The actual history of our planet is not a single event. But many things going on eons apart, geographically apart, environmentally apart. The flood does not explain anything Pete. It is ridiculous when you see the whole picture rather than the cherry-picked stuff, plus misrepresented stuff, you see in creationist propaganda. And the quacks manage to misrepresent even their cherry-picked data.

          The trees being buried in Claire's pictures have no branches either. Yet, they are being buried in situ. Anyway ...
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          Mar 5 2012: Hi Gabo.
          I'm sure layers were laid down at different rates. Moving water tends to deposit quickly, & still water deposits more slowly. Hence river deltas etc. In the fossils we tend to have good reason to assume rapid deposition. There is no reason I can think of which would cause a preferential rate of deposition just because there were animals to fossilise. Hence I come to the conclusion that rapid deposition was fairly widespread. Some of these deposits cover areas of thousands of square miles, & the phenomenum of layers with fossils is worldwide.
          The flood model is not that simple. There are many variations on the theme including comet near misses, ice age, sea floor spreading; you name it; it has been suggested.
          All I am trying to get over is that I believe as I do for a reason. Quacks are only a part of it. Given what I understand from both sides (Talk Origins etc), when it comes to fossil layering etc., I personally cannot see any reason to accept evolution over millions of years. A big flood is less of a stretch for me.
          Doesn't branch less trees seem a little weird to you ?

        • Mar 6 2012: The problem my good friend Pete, is that in order to believe as you do, you have to ignore how science is actually done, how we actually conclude, and ignore loads and loads of data. Note that I have often listed a few details as examples, details that matter, details that explain why we have concluded the billions of years. Quacks instead concentrate on things like C14-dating, as if we dated millions of years using C14 (Ham or Hovind wanted a millions of years old fossil to be dated with C14, which was ridiculous, they were told so, yet they insisted for their rhetorical effect, worse because the sample had no carbon in it. What would you expect but the wrong date? Scientists know these things, and date according to what the sample contains, not by capricious stupidity), as if scientists did not know about possible sources of error, and as if scientists did not cross-validate. What? Cross-validation? Of course not, scientists date to meet their assumptions!

          To me, buying into rhetorical and misguided effects, while ignoring how scientists try so hard not to make mistakes, and find things making sense one way, not the other, long et cetera, is not a foundation for anything. As I have said before, it is much easier for quacks to produce misinformation, than to dismantle their lies. I just can't believe that creationists find it so hard to notice what I so evidently see, even when I show them. Like you, most just jump to the next quacky "fact/question."

          So, Pete, have you noticed or at least acknowledge that scientists might know how to do their job? Do you really think that we take drugs/get drunk and then write theories that get widely accepted if they say "yes evolution!" Really?

          I have a very busy week. Be well. Please read my comments and links slowly. You might notice/learn a thing or two.

        • Mar 6 2012: One more just to make one more point very clear. Science is very hard work. We have to try many methods before proposing something, and reviewers might not be satisfied and ask for yet one more source of evidence. But let us leave that aside for a second to take the message home.

          Suppose there was a group of quacks who know that some people don't like engineers. WOuld it make sense for me to say that I believe in anti-engineering because some quacks who pretend to "have credentials" told me that engineers put cables randomly on bridges? Wouldn't it make much more sense to either take the long time required to understand how these engineers actually put cables there, or, if I am not willing to learn all the math and details, just trust that the engineers must know or learn about cabling bridges? Would it be sensical for me to trust a quack saying that engineers are wrong because ten millimetre cables cannot sustain a bridge, and a quack insisted on them showing that ten millimetre cables can sustain bridges, and if they look at the quack puzzled, and the quack claimed victory because the engineers could not, or did not want to, do so?

          Well, you are trusting quacks at exactly that level. You buy misguided oversimplifications, forget the details, don't have the time to learn the details, yet, you trust the simple lies and stupidity, because you don't find anything that simple when it is about the real science. Well, tell me. Is engineering that simple to explain to the general public?

          Now ciao and have a great week.
  • Feb 26 2012: Is it time to accept literal religious belief systems are intellectually bankrupt?

    The Devil is as they say in the detail. Either none are literally true or some are literally true but not all can be since they contradict at key points.
    One might ask is there one belief system that stands head and shoulders above the rest , that is distinctive and that is very different. perhaps one that paints a picture of humanity that is utterly unlike the picture we we would naturally paint of ourselves. One that shows us who we are warts and all. One that would stand up as evidence in a court of law. One that has been twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools to borrow an idea from a well know Poem 'IF' One more attacked and vilified by its opponents more than perhaps any other?

    I would submit that there is one and I would title it True Biblical Christianity based on a true interpretation of the inspired word of God. Now I can feel your hackles rising already and of course developing the argument for this is a long and time consuming process which requires a willingness on the part of the hearer to admit some ugly truths about our minds and hearts.

    There is another belief system that stands opposed against this true Biblical Chrisitanity and that could be called Atheism or Humanism. Have you noticed how its mostly Chrisitanity that Atheism objects too when push comes to shove. Its Chrisitanity that Atheism saves its real venom for. It has always struck me as curious and significant that Atheism always finds a special place in its hatred of Chrisitanity way more than any other religion . Maybe it because its attacking what it perceives to be the real enemy or maybe its because these two stand so diammetrically opposed that both have a literal truth at their core.
    Atheism doesn't want God to exist but God does exist literally. Intellectuality both have their argument and their adherents. But for me the l bankcrupt idea is the belief that there is no God.
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      Feb 27 2012: Thank you Dave. You raise some interesting points.

      On Atheism versus Christianity, intellectually I hold all religious beliefs to the same tests. In fact I find many more fanciful than Christianity and others, at least their current practices more damaging.

      Your perception might reflect that there seem to be more open atheists in Western countries, where Christianity is the predominant cultural religion. Saudi Arabia is not a good place for vocal atheists.
      I can see how many would view atheism as a religion. In a way it is an opposing philosophy. Some behaviours or aspect may be similar to religions/religious belief. It depends how you define religion and atheism.

      To me it is the non belief in gods or theist beliefs. Calling atheism a religion is like saying not playing tennis is a sport. Some atheists may be evangelical in their views. Others might just have a passive non belief in gods etc.

      Regarding the first part of your comment, I am sympathetic in some ways to the literalist interpretation. It is more pure and simple than picking and choosing what makes sense. When it was written I assume most of it was meant literally. However, I suggest that literal views have the most dissonance with a scientific view of the universe and humans and are potentially the most dogmatic and damaging, at conflict with a non religious 21st century ethical perspective – equal treatment of men and women, sexual orientation, even what you can eat.

      You also allude to a problem non theists face when debating religious topics. In addition to many different religions, within a faith family there are so many derivatives. Do the Easterrn Orthodox Christians or Western Christians have the right books in their Bibles. Then the human interpretation of language and writing is subjective even if the source was divine authority.

      Who is to say which Christian sect even among the literalists views has the right interpretation.

      Atheism is also a broad church. Not all hate religion.
      • Feb 27 2012: Atheism is not a church, it is a rejection of the proposition that there are any gods. That's all.
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          Feb 28 2012: It was a play on words.

          Within the group of people who reject the proposition of gods there is a lot of diversity in terms of how this position is reflected in their behaviour and thinking.

          I guess some hate religion. Others may be neutral or have mixed views etc.
          Some are very active arguing the case against religion - and I'm glad they do.
          Others may be passive - which is also fine.

          I draw lines in certain areas e.g. specific religions getting a special place in government or public schools. It frustrates me how old religious dogma impacts policy etc rather than working out what is best for society. It is usually backwards - we are against this because the bible says so, or the pope, or the imam, and then look for reasons why that makes sense.

          Some atheists may be strict materialists. Others may leave the door open to things that may overlap the supernatural or material realm. Science has a long way to go to explain some things, some connections above and beyond co-incidence or just picking the winners - like checking the time at 11:11 or horoscopes. I saw something very strange that completely freaked me out 5 minutes before I got a call that someone very close to me had died. One day science might expla

          Some may be 100% convinced in their own mind their are no gods. Other may if they had to make a choice there are no gods but accept no one really knows.

          I consider myself a practical atheist. The universe does not need gods to function and appear as it is. If there are god like beings they seem to have no practical impact on our lives. At most one specific religious interpretation is correct if they exist. Probably none. If they do exist they are probably beyond our comprehension and nothing to do with ancient scriptures and modern dogma. Maybe something left over from the last big bang. Maybe our universe is like a speck of dust or a proton in a reality beyond our imagining.

          Still Atheism is not as difficult a group label to manage as god or Christian
      • Mar 4 2012: Is it a safe assumption that "most of it was meant literally"? I think that Karen Armstrong's book "A Short History of Myth" might call that into question. Did the Native Americans literally believe all the Coyote stories?
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          Mar 5 2012: Good question. Historically, suggest it may vary between between specific texts or traditions. Maybe the Romans saw the stories about gods as allegory or parrables. However we do know they believed in many gods and took their religious life and rituals seriously.

          With a reasonable understanding of the human condition and technology of the times, I expect it doesn't take long for one idea and how to interpret to start diverging over time and distance. Look at all the different Christian traditions we have now. Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, the different protestant movements and all the subsects and individual interpretations.

          What ever the original intent, and it is nearly impossible to say with a text like the bible with so many authors over 1000's of years, today individuals make a choice whether to these texts take literally or not.
    • Feb 27 2012: Dave,

      If the freedom from religious doctrine while pursuing intellectual activities, such as science, had prevailed in the Middle East countries, then Muslims would be the ones thinking that "Atheism sets their hatred towards Islam because that is where truth resides" or whatever you said.

      The only reason you see Christianity as "the victim" of atheists is because you are Christian who lives in a country where the main religion is Christianity, also where people have freedom of speech. I find nothing special in Christianity. It is as false as Islam and the greek gods. But here, I don't get Muslims or Zeus-believers lying about what I do as a scientist, or about the way I reach conclusions. I see lots of creationists who label themselves "Christians" who lie about my work, lie about how we reach our conclusions, and miseducate the public, specially their followers. Thus, it is Christians I criticize the most. It's a geographical and cultural matter, not a matter of being afraid of your "truth." So stop pretending that your religion is attacked for holding "The Truth[TM]." It holds nothing of the sort. Fundamentalist Christianity is as evil, intellectually bankrupt, and false as fundamentalist Islam. Atheists attack the religions they know. That's all.

      Also, atheism is not about not wanting a god to exist. Atheists come in many forms, from many backgrounds. In my case, I just figured out that god(s) are imaginary. The Christian god, in all the flavours I heard, read, and learned, is nonsensical, and thus does not exist. Only much much much later, after arguing with Christian fundamentalists, did I notice that this god character is monstrous. But it is a ridiculous suggestion that we don't want your "real" god to exist, and thus we attack you poor Christians only holders of the truth. Come on. Get real. This is why it is time to acknowledge the bankruptcy of religious fundamentalism, such as that which blinds you so much to propose such nonsense.
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        • Feb 29 2012: Of course, if the major religions fail to die and rise again, the technology of 3012 might be the middle ages with "doctors" taking their training from various religious texts, laws being interpreted through a religious filter and education, or its lack, being solely the study of religious texts. We can see the result of some of this already with the desire for the religious fervor devoted to the dismissal of evolution and the supplanting of it by (yeach) intelligent design.
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    Feb 26 2012: As with most stories that get passed down from generation to generation, at some point they get exaggerated or altered to fit some bias. I would love for some great intellectual minds to get togethor to study all of the ancient stories to disect what is probably the real truth and filter out what is probably bias or additions to the story.
    Lets get rid of the segregation (we are the chosen ones) and bias (ie. the replacement of female godesses for male gods), but keep what could be a historical truth (ie. Noah's flood may have been a local rather than worldwide flood).
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      Feb 26 2012: You might not be left with much and it would look very different. Perhaps stick to history books.

      When I read the bible a second time, as an atheist, it wasn't hard to see what might have some historical connection and what was myth etc. Not sure how much would be left that corresponds with other sources.

      I agree with your flood supposition. I note the flood was older mythologies.

      I also suggest the hebrews might still have believed many different gods were real early on, and the one and only god thing embedded later.

      I also note that the new testament sits very uneasily with the old testament. It's almost like connecting a Jewish Buddha to the mythical history and tribal laws of the hebrews.

      Not sure if you saw the video: Neil MacGregor: 2600 years of history in one object
      They found an inscribed clay tablet that corresponds with some biblical passages about the Persians freeing the Hebrews. Only thing is the Persian tablet says the Persian god Marduk inspired Xerxes to act. The old testament says it was Yahweh.

      There probably are some connections to historical reality and useful references, but I'm not sure the bible is a particularly useful as an historical document. Still some take it literally. If god is all powerful who is to say he didn't pick a particular tribe etc. But from a non indoctrinated view many religious texts still used today are subject to the ignorance and paradigms of the past, many revisions etc. They just look like primitives trying to make sense of the world and their tribes story.

      We tend to forget other tribes and cultures had their own gods at the same time - lots of them, even if you look at the nearby neighbourhood. Mazda, Mithra, Baal, Marduk, Ra etc. Monotheism and invisible gods just has a lot of punch. Plus help from the Romans, the Europeans and now the USA.
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      Feb 26 2012: Thanks very much Roy. Agree religion is a very diverse range of beliefs mixed in with views about reality and science etc.

      There are also people much smarter and better educated in the most relevant fields than I who still hold onto literal religious views at odds with the modern scientific view of the universe and people. There are probably many learning institutions linked to religious frameworks at odds with evolution etc.

      I opted out of religion because I could no longer accept the dissonance between one religious view, all the other religious views, many with similar validity, and science that simply explained things better.

      Others seem to cope with the dissonance, avoiding or denying it altogether, separating faith and science, integrating what they can, or coming up with alternative views that they try to fit within the modern understanding.

      Others move away from literalist views.

      On the science is not complete - I totally agree. I note the evolution, big bang, DNA are relatively recent theories. We have a long way to go. One problem with science is the cutting edge of cosmology or quantum theory is almost incomprehensible for most of us. Whereas we all accept the world is round and circles the sun. I have friends who were surprised that our sun is a star (so much for our education system).

      I would suggest many parts of religious experience can already be explained. But we should keep an open scientific mind. There may be connections and forces beyond matter and energy. Beyond dark matter and dark energy. Our human senses and intellectual capabilities are limited. As we explore our consciousness we may find it linked to reality in surprising ways - but still very different to literal religious views.

      My view is science in its broadest sense is not incompatible with explaining all areas of experience. Religion may just provide a simplified framework. I believe we can seek these same truths without resorting to religious frameworks.
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        • Mar 4 2012: Very interesting to read along. The following comes to my mind: Arms technology and trade are also sciences. It is true that because of differing religious views sometimes people are willing to kill another. Great world leaders should call for dialogue, but instead they deliver weapons. In my humble opinion, not from religious considerations. There is no loud opposition from the scientific world about this phenomenon. Silence agrees and is therefore complicit.
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    Feb 26 2012: Firstly I respect religious freedom up to a point where it clashes with other "rights"and values.
    However, while you can believe what ever you want, perhaps it should be acknowledged that most literal religious viewpoints have little evidence of their claims and validity but with great power over people.

    Whether it is a belief in a universe 6000 years old, a Jewish tribe sailing to the US in 600 BC, or Xenu the galactic dictator....
    is there enough evidence today to say that the multitude or literal belief systems are largely human constructs at odds with what we scientifically understand about the universe, human history etc?
    • Feb 26 2012: Yes! There is enough evidence today to say that the multitude or literal belief systems are largely human constructs at odds with what we scientifically understand about the universe, human history etc.
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        Feb 26 2012: I tend to agree Gabo. Do you think that Deism or a non interventionist creative intelligence is a more valid view?
        • Feb 26 2012: Nope. I think that Deism is but a mental construct used kind of as a consolation prize by those who can't get rid of the god-meme.
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      Feb 26 2012: I agree G M in that I also " respect religious freedom up to a point where it clashes with other "rights"and values".

      I do not believe that religion and science need to be "at odds", unless of course, as you say...when one or the other might clash with the rights and values of others. I DO believe that we (humans) are continuing to evolve to the point of realizing that we can think and feel for ourselves, and many prefer that way of living the life experience, rather than be led by others, which religions have done for a long time because of the power given to them by the people.

      As we evolve, it may be beneficial to integrate some of the old teachings into a new paradigm.
      Scientifically for example: We are still successfully using some of the same surgical proceedures, even with similar instruments, as were done 2000-3000 years ago in Greece and Egypt. We are still using tetracycline (broad spectrum antibiotic which is naturally occuring in the earth), which has been found in the bodies of mumified Egyptians. Many of the herbal remedies that are being reintroduced and accepted by medical professionals, have been useds for healing in ancient cultures.

      Along with these ancient practices, we have, of course scientifically evolved with many new practices and medications as well. Medically, we are using some old practices, discarding that which we discover is NOT so good (lobotomy for example), and we are integrating these ancient practices in with the new scientific discoveries. To me, this is true evolution....but then....I'm not a scientist:>)

      In the same way, we can integrate some of the ancient religious beliefs into our evolving world. For example...love thy neighbor....do undo others....etc., while we discard those beliefs which do not serve human kind.

      There may always be extremists who hold onto a belief no matter what, and there is nothing we, as a whole can to about that except try to discourage it when it adversly impacts others.
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        Feb 26 2012: Thank you Colleen. Agree that there are many powerful insights on the human conditions contained in religious scriptures. It would be good to keep the parts that make sense and are compatible with evolving views on human rights. The key is to drop the tag of absolute truth.

        The golden rule - absolutely.
        Death to those who work on the Sabbath, witches, homosexuals, disrespectful children - maybe not.

        Some people may also enjoy secular rituals etc as per religion 2.0.