Comment on A “Christian Agnostic”? by Sean Pitman.
That depends on one’s definition of God. But regarding the biblical iteration of God, I’d say science demonstrates such deity is a human construct without empirical validity.
There you go. If I understand you correctly, you seem to believe that the Biblical God is nothing more than a human construct and that the real God, if he does exist, is no more empirically detectable than any other human construct or view of God – or garden fairies for that matter.
Pardon me for saying so, but when it comes to a belief in the existence of a God that is rationally detectable, you seem to be much more atheistic than agnostic.
In a lot of ways that’s a better position to be in compared to the position of “having no idea.” You have what seem to be very clearly defined ideas regarding the detectable existence of a God or God-like being. You simply don’t believe in such a being at this point in time. Yet, if you one day see evidence for such a being, that you are actually able to understand and appreciate, you seem to be open to changing your mind. That’s good!
Query: why couldn’t God be everything, a matrix of all matter, energy, time manifesting itself in innumerable forms over infinity? That broader, albeit theistic definition, would be more in line with current science than the Hebrew/Christian definition of same. As an agnostic I consider this as a possibility, even without empirical validity.
Something that can be anything and everything is not testable or falsifiable and is therefore not more in line with current science than is the Judeo Christian view of God – a view which is far more subject to testing with the potential of falsification.
If God is ever to be rationally/empirically detectable by us humans, he must present himself in a way that we can recognize as requiring the existence of intelligence and power that cannot readily be distinguished by us from an entity with access to what we would term God-like powers and abilities.
“In other words, your view of God seems to place God in the same category as Santa Claus or the Flying Spaghetti Monster.” – Sean Pitman
Nope, because seemingly by their definition they don’t proclaim to be the be the alpha and omega. But I would say that my view of the biblical God would place Him in the same category as the Greek gods, the Hindu gods, the Muslim God, etc. I don’t think there is any empirical basis for any of them based on the defrocking of mythology by science.
We are talking about detectable existence here. What I hear you saying is that you recognize no empirical evidence to support the existence of any entity that you would classify as a God of any kind. In fact, you argue that you recognize no empirical support for any non-human intelligence of any kind – God-like or otherwise. So, when it comes to detectable existence, you do in fact place God in the same category as garden fairies or the Flying Spaghetti Monster – i.e., you see no positive empirical evidence for their existence even though you cannot absolutely prove their non-existence.
I therefore ask you the same question again: Are you agnostic with respect to garden fairies, Santa Claus, or the Flying Spaghetti Monster? I’m quite curious to see your response to this classic Dawkins’ retort.
Now, as a man of science think what an empirical stretch it is for you to validate your view of God based on Adventist theology. On what empirical basis can you say that EGW had visions of the truth? The investigative judgment comes to mind. As a scientist, if you can take off your faith hat for just a moment, can there be any empirical basis for such a belief?
It’s the same empirical basis for establishing Biblical credibility – i.e., do those elements that can be tested in a potentially falsifiable manner stand up to testing? Are they consistent with apparent empirical reality? If so, the metaphysical claims of the Bible gain credibility as well. If not, they lose rational/scientific credibility or “predictive value”.
It’s very much in line with establishing the credibility of a witness in a court case. The predictive value of the non-testable or non-verifiable claims of a witness increase or decrease based on if certain testable elements of the testimony of the witness can be shown to be true or false.
So Sean, I put it to you non pejoratively: is your understanding of God more guided by your faith than your science and can you objectively separate the two?
As I’ve tried to explain to you before, it is impossible for anyone, including you, to completely remove personal bias from one’s understanding or interpretation of the available empirical evidence. In fact the very process of science itself requires one to make leaps of faith beyond what can be absolutely or definitively proven. One cannot separate faith from science or give one supremacy over the other since they are intimately intertwined and dependent upon each other – as Dr. Kime has explained much more eloquently than I.
I know you like to fancy yourself as much more objective, not so much blinded by leaps of faith, compared to those who claim to believe in God or those who claim that God doesn’t exist, but you are just fooling yourself. You are no more inherently objective about these things than are the rest of us. Your opinions are just as colored by your past history and experience and mental capabilities as mine are. For me, the best I can do is to admit that I have my own biases and at least be aware of the fact that I am biased as is everyone else.
That’s why everyone needs to make up his or her own mind with regard to the meaning of the evidence as he/she understands it before God. This is also the reason why only God can accurately judge the heart of a person because only God knows what a particular individual really knows and understands.
As far as I can tell though, you’re a good soul. I hope you don’t mind my questions as they are sincere and are not intended to be pejorative or personal in any way. I very much like and even envy your style and hope one day to get together. If you’re ever up in the Redding area, do look me up.
Sean Pitman Also Commented
This nicely encapsulates the evangelical zeal I have increasingly seen acolytes of Richard Dawkins and the new atheists who embrace ET as a antidote to the nihlism that characterized the “old” atheists and gives meaning in the present of mortality salience.
Since when does Richard Dawkins find ultimate meaning in life? – beyond what can be self-generated or enjoyed for the here and the now? or for however long one’s offspring may live in the terminal universe? – a universe with a limited life span? As far as I’m aware he is right in line with the likes of William Provine who wrote:
One can have a religious view that is compatible with evolution only if the religious view is indistinguishable from atheism. – No Free Will (1999) p.123
Naturalistic evolution has clear consequences that Charles Darwin understood perfectly. 1) No gods worth having exist; 2) no life after death exists; 3) no ultimate foundation for ethics exists; 4) no ultimate meaning in life exists; and 5) human free will is nonexistent.
Evolution is the greatest engine of atheism ever invented.
“Evolution: Free will and punishment and meaning in life” 1998 Darwin Day Keynote Address
And, speaking from the perspective of Darwinism, I think that the modern atheists, like Dawkins and Provine, are right on the money here. Also of interest, and worthy of consideration in this particular discussion, Provine went on to write:
I obviously agree with Gould about intelligent design in organisms, but I think also that a real disagreement exists… Gould said it’s fine to believe that God created all creatures through the laws of science but this is basically deism, considered atheism in Isaac Newton’s day.
Gould described his own personal view as “agnostic,” appropriately conciliatory in pursuit of NOMA. Did he treat his own scientific theories in a similarly agnostic way? Did he say he is an agnostic about the concept of punctuated equilibria, one of his favorite theories? … Gould, Thomas Henry Huxley (inventor of the term), and Charles Darwin all billed themselves as agnostics, although they somehow avoid being agnostic about natural selection. Gould appeared to be saying that religion is fine as long as it can’t be distinguished from atheism in the natural world.
Darwinism, Design and Public Education (2003) p.507-8
To summarize, it was Richard Dawkins who said:
I have a certain niggling sympathy for the creationists, because I think, in a way, the writing is on the wall for the religious view that says it’s fully compatible with evolution. I think there’s a kind of incompatibility, which the creationists see clearly.
– Adventures in Democracy March 8 2010 2.20
Without the hope of God or an eternal life in a better place after we die in this life, upon what basis is there any real ultimate meaning or purpose to life?
Christian Agnostics (distinct from a Christian who is agnostic) practice a distinct form of agnosticism that applies only to the properties of God. They hold that it is difficult or impossible to be sure of anything beyond the basic tenets of the Christian faith.
Indeed. Which, I suppose, is why Dr. Taylor claims to believe in God and in Jesus as the Son of God. However, when asked, Dr. Taylor also says that he knows of no good evidence to support his belief in even the basic existence of God that he could honestly share with his own granddaughter. In this sense, his form of agnosticism goes a bit deeper than what you’ve referenced here.
Also, the idea that one can accept the fantastic claims of the Bible about Jesus’ divine origin, life, death, and resurrection, but reject other Biblical statements on the origin of life on this planet is just a bit inconsistent… which was the main point of my essay.
You’re right. I originally understood your comment as suggesting that Adventists believe in the existence of a conscious soul independent of the body. Now that I re-read your comment, I misunderstood what you actually said. My apologies.
Recent Comments by Sean Pitman
Science and Methodological Naturalism
Very interesting passage. After all, if scientists are honest with themselves, scientific methodologies are well-able to detect the existence of intelligent design behind various artifacts found in nature. It’s just the personal philosophy of scientists that makes them put living things and the origin of the fine-tuned universe “out of bounds” when it comes to the detection of intelligent design. This conclusion simply isn’t dictated by science itself, but by a philosophical position, a type of religion actually, that strives to block the Divine Foot from getting into the door…
Why is it that creationists are afraid to acknowledge the validity of Darwinism in these settings? I don’t see that these threaten a belief in God in any way whatsoever.
The threat is when you see no limitations to natural mindless mechanisms – where you attribute everything to the creative power of nature instead of to the God of nature.
God has created natural laws that can do some pretty amazing things. However, these natural laws are not infinite in creative potential. Their abilities are finite while only God is truly infinite.
The detection of these limitations allows us to recognize the need for the input of higher-level intelligence and creative power that goes well beyond what nature alone can achieve. It is here that the Signature of God is detectable.
For those who only hold a naturalistic view of the universe, everything is attributed to the mindless laws of nature… so that the Signature of God is obscured. Nothing is left that tells them, “Only God or some God-like intelligent mind could have done this.”
That’s the problem when you do not recognize any specific limitations to the tools that God has created – when you do not recognize the limits of nature and what natural laws can achieve all by themselves.
Since the fall of Adam, Sean, all babies are born in sin and they are sinners. God created them. Even if it was by way of cooperation of natural law as human beings also participated in the creation process.
God did not create the broken condition of any human baby – neither the physical or moral brokenness of any human being. God is responsible for every good thing, to include the spark or breath of life within each one of us. However, He did not and does not create those things within us that are broken or bad.
“The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’ ‘An enemy did this,’ he replied. “The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?'” Matthew 13:27-28
Of course, all humans are indeed born broken and are in a natural state of rebellion against God. However, God is not the one who created this condition nor is God responsible for any baby being born with any kind of defect in character, personality, moral tendency, or physical or genetic abnormality. God did not create anyone with such brokenness. Such were the natural result of rebellion against God and heading the temptations of the “enemy”… the natural result of a separation from God with the inevitable decay in physical, mental, and moral strength.
Of course, the ones who are born broken are not responsible for their broken condition either. However, all of us are morally responsible for choosing to reject the gift of Divine Grace once it is appreciated… and for choosing to go against what we all have been given to know, internally, of moral truth. In other words, we are responsible for rebelling against the Royal Law written on the hearts of all mankind.
This is because God has maintained in us the power to be truly free moral agents in that we maintain the Power to choose, as a gift of God (Genesis 3:15). We can choose to accept or reject the call of the Royal Law, as the Holy Spirit speaks to all of our hearts…
Remember the statement by Mrs. White that God is in no wise responsible for sin in anyone at any time. God is working to fix our broken condition. He did not and does not create our broken condition. Just as He does not cause Babies to be born with painful and lethal genetic defects, such as those that result in childhood leukemia, He does not cause Babies to be born with defects of moral character either. God is only directly responsible for the good, never the evil, of this life.
Again, your all-or-nothing approach to the claims of scientists isn’t very scientific. Even the best and most famous of scientists has had numerous hair-brained ideas that were completely off base. This fact does not undermine the good discoveries and inventions that were produced.
Scientific credibility isn’t based on the person making the argument, but upon the merits of the argument itself – the ability of the hypothesis to gain predictive value when tested. That’s it.
Gary Gilbert, Spectrum, and Pseudogenes
Don’t be so obtuse here. We’re not talking about publishing just anything in mainstream journals. I’ve published several articles myself. We’re talking about publishing the conclusion that intelligent design was clearly involved with the origin of various artifactual features of living things on this planet. Try getting a paper that mentions such a conclusion published…