Comment on Dr. Paul Cameron and the God of the Gaps by Sean Pitman.
Surprisingly, I have not read the “The Great Partnership” by Jonathon Sacks 😉
In any case, you’re correct. It is in fact incomprehensible to me that there are Christians and even scientists who believe in a God for which they admittedly have no more rational argument or empirical evidence, of general appeal, than exists for garden fairies or the Flying Spaghetti Monster. And, I don’t think this conclusion is limited to “right brained” people (i.e., I’ve also been accused of being “left brained” on occasion – so go figure).
Also, if there is no rational argument or empirical evidence for God, why even argue the point? What could possibly be said to convince anyone of the truth of your position when your position is admittedly beyond rational thought and empirical evidence? Such a position is indeed “robust”, as it is not subject to any challenge or question. However, at the same time, this particular feature really puts it beyond any and all discussion – does it not? After all, if there is no evidence outside of your own personal private “experience”, what then is left to say besides, “You need to have your own personal private experience with God before you can possibly understand what I’m saying”…?
As an example, you like to cite Francis Collins as being a scientist and a Christian. Yet, even Collins cites empirical evidence as a basis for his faith in at least the existence of God… such as the fine-tuned features of the universe and the like. He cites, as a type of scientific argument, an empirical basis for faith:
There is nothing inherently in conflict between the idea of a creator God and what science had revealed. In fact, the God hypothesis solves … questions about what came before the Big Bang, and why the universe seems to be so exquisitely tuned for us to be here…
Regardless of one’s preference for option 1, 2, or 3, there is no question that this is potentially a theological issue. [Steven] Hawking, quoted by Ian Barbour , writes, “The odds against a universe like ours emerging out of something like the Big Bang are enormous. I think there are clearly religious implications.”
Going even further, in A Brief History of Time, Hawking states: “It would be very difficult to explain why the universe should have begun in just this way, except as the act of a God who intended to create beings like us”
– Francis Collins, “The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief” p. 74, 81 (Link)
Dr. Collins also cites the existence of the “Moral Law” or knowledge of right and wrong is evidence of God’s existence in “The Language of God”… something that popular Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias does all the time. This isn’t to say that atheists are inherently immoral. Some of the best and most ethical people who have ever existed have been atheistic in their thinking and beliefs. However, the atheistic position offers no rational explanation for the existence of a universal moral code or why this code should be followed – i.e., why there is actually good and evil in this world or upon what empirical universal basis good and evil can be defined. In other words, upon what basis does an atheist claim that something is “right” or “wrong”? – “good” or “evil”?
In any case, Collins simply isn’t entirely lacking in rational or empirical arguments for the existence of God like you seem to be – nor does he claim that such arguments are unnecessary or that the faith position should be completely unfalsifiable and infinitely robust to any potential challenge (rational and/or empirical).
Sean Pitman Also Commented
What do you see as the difference between an artefact of “magic” vs. “creative intelligence”? You agree that a highly symmetrical polished granite cube is a “blindingly obvious” artefact of creative intelligence. How is such a cube any different from anything that you think Jesus made by Divine power? – such as one of the loaves of bread that He miraculously made to feed thousands of people? How could you tell the difference between the loaf of bread that Jesus made vs. one that any housewife would have made?
Clearly, there is no detectable difference. Is it not therefore possible for God to create things that humans can also create? – things that would still be “blindingly obvious” artefacts of creative intelligence?
How then is it not possible to say that same thing about certain features of living things that are also “blindingly obvious” artefacts of creative intelligence according to the very same methods used to determine that the other artefacts mentioned are “blindingly obvious”?
That this is an artefact and that it was made by a life form and not be magic is so blindingly obvious that to state it would be an insult to the review panel.
So, you do actually agree that our granite cube is a clear artefact of intelligent design? and that this conclusion is “blindingly obvious”? That’s great! But, it doesn’t answer the question as to why the conclusion of design is so blindly obvious? What is the rational basis for this conclusion? And, can this same argument be used to evaluate other natural phenomena and determine that they are “blindly obvious” artefacts as well?
For example, why don’t you believe it possible for some as yet unknown mindless natural mechanism to explain the origin of a highly symmetrical polished granite cube? After all, you claim that some future discovery is likely to explain what may seem like a true artefact in living things, but really isn’t a true artefact of design. Why not be consistent and use this same argument against the artefact theory for the granite cube?
Thats all well and good. Please give me the outline for your NSF proposal. If you cant pitch this to a science funding body or even the national geographic it is not anything approaching science. Spell it out with specificity after all you do seem to accept the Popperian model.
My proposal is, of course, that certain features of living things are even more “blindly obvious” as artefacts of deliberate design than is a highly symmetrical polished granite cube found on Mars – for the very same reasons.
Dr. Paul Cameron and the God of the Gaps
First off, much of what you list here is not required before the granite cube would be declared to be a true artefact of intelligent design by pretty much the entire scientific community.
You don’t need to know,
1) if the cube is novel and/or unique on the surface of Mars
2) if there are or are not living creatures currently on Mars
3) what the climate or geology on Mars may or may not be
4) if there is granite on Mars
5) if there are or are not “tool marks” on the cube (i.e., it is perfectly polished and there are no tool marks on the cube)
6) if there are tools associated with the cube or anywhere else on Mars
7) if there is or isn’t weathering on the cube (say the cube was buried until just recently)
8 ) how the cube came to Mars
9) the actual age of the cube
10) the actual construction technique used to make the cube
None of these elements of your hypothetical research project, while perhaps interesting, are required to determine the artefactual nature of the granite cube. All that needs to be known to determine that the granite cube is a true artefact of intelligent design is that it is in fact made of granite and it is highly symmetrical and perfectly polished (without weathering or tool marks of any kind). This information alone is enough to conclude that this cube is a true artefact of intelligent design – and you know it.
The very same thing is true of the radio signals that SETI scientists are looking for. None of the information that you’re asking for is required before such signals would be declared to be true artefacts of intelligent design – according to valid science.
There you go completely methodologically naturalistic examination that make no assumptions about the divine or supernatural and finds intelligent design superfluous.
You know as well as I do that such a discovery would be declared a true artefact by pretty much every scientist in the world and that no one would consider the clearly artefactual nature of the cube “superfluous” or meaningless. It would, after all, hit the front page of every newspaper in the world. The implications of alien intelligent life, at least equivalent to our own level of intelligence, would be extraordinarily exciting and exhilarating for the vast majority of people living on this planet.
And that is precisely how forensic science is done. Introducing intelligent design/creationism into this adds nothing and in fact curtails ones ability to do science.
You’ve got to be kidding me! This is not how forensic science is done. The forensic scientist is actually expected to produce his/her opinion as to if intelligent design was clearly involved – or not. The forensic scientist doesn’t simply present observation and descriptions of the body and leave it at that. The forensic scientist must explain what these observations mean with regard to if they do or do not suggest that deliberate intelligent design was involved.
What do you do after you say this is totally novel and unknown, it must be Gods work. Not much scope for a research plan comes from that. Perhaps after accepting it is divine you can pray to that Diety and ask him/her to place another one there. Now that’s a fundable plan for sure. Even Ken Ham would not fund that.
It doesn’t matter if the conclusion of intelligent design does or doesn’t have any meaning for you or anyone else. The fact remains that the discovery of a true artefact of intelligent design can be supported by valid science. Beyond this, if someone thinks that an intelligent alien is the most likely source of this intelligence – fine. If someone wants to believe that God is the most likely source of the cube, fine. Such conclusions have nothing to do with the fact that whoever made the cube and however they made it, it was intelligently designed.
Recent Comments by Sean Pitman
“Essentially all the administrators, staff and faculty on our campus, including the pastors on our campus already know where I stand. I have never kept any secrets. I have to laugh when I see you say that I am upset because you ‘blew my cover.’ There was no cover to blow.” – Bryan Ness
You’re not the main problem here. I’d have no problem with you personally and what you personally believe at all except that you are a professor in an Adventist school – Pacific Union College.
It’s this school who presents itself as being in line with the primary goals and ideals of the Adventist Church, when it really isn’t. I have friends of mine who have gone to PUC and talked to the leadership about sending their children to PUC. They’ve specifically asked about the situation at La Sierra University and asked the PUC leadership and heads of departments what their position is on teaching the theory of evolution as “the truth” – and if the teachers at PUC support the SDA position on origins and other issues? They were told that PUC does not condone what happened at LSU and that the professors at PUC are fully in line with the SDA position on origins and all of the other fundamental positions of the church.
Of course, you know and I know that this just isn’t true. You, for one, publically speak and teach against the church’s position on origins as well as human sexuality. This reality is not being presented by the leadership of PUC to the parents of potential PUC students. This reality simply isn’t being advertised to the general church membership at all. What PUC should be advertizing to parents and the church membership at large is,
“Yes, we do maintain professors who teach our students that the church’s position on various fundamental doctrinal issues is in fact wrong and should be changed to reflect the more popular secular position on these topics.”
That’s what it should be telling everyone, but this just isn’t what is being done.
I am attacking no one… Since when is a difference of views an attack on the church?
Since it was placed as one of the church’s “fundamental beliefs” by the church (Link). When you publically publish an article stating that the Church’s position is clearly mistaken and should be changed, that’s an attack on the church’s position.
And of all the issues facing the church, same-sex marriage hardly rises to the level of a “primary goal and ideal.”
The SDA Church has chosen to describe the definition of marriage as being between one man and one woman as one of the “fundamental” messages to spread to the world – as one of the fundamental reasons for its very existence…
Now, you call what you’re doing, not an “attack”, but a “plea for compassion”. However, your plea for compassion is presented as a clear statement that the church’s position is absolutely mistaken – that the church’s position is not at all “compassionate” or even biblical. Now, you may be very honest and sincere in your views here, but that doesn’t mean that you’re not attacking the church’s position in a very real and fundamental way. The fact is that you are making a very clear attack on the church’s position while accepting money from the church as a representative who is supposed to be supporting the church as a paid employee.
Why do you want to cause such people so much pain?
That’s not my goal. However, if a person wants to know what the Bible has to say about what they are doing, I’m not going to pretend that the Bible has nothing to say when the Bible does in fact have something to say. If what the Bible says “causes pain” to a person living in what the Bible says is a “sinful” lifestyle, that’s between them and God. The very same thing is true of me and my own sinful tendencies. If what the Bible says about what I’m doing causes me pain, I can either respond to that by ignoring what the Bible has to say, or I can ask God for help in changing my ways.
Jesus himself said that He did not come to bring peace to those who are living in rebellion against God’s ideals for humanity, but a “sword” (Matthew 10:34). The denial of self and what we naturally want to do given our fallen condition, in order to follow God and what He calls us to do, is often quite painful indeed. That doesn’t mean it’s not the best path to follow. There simply can be no peace between God and those who wish to hang onto what God has said to give up. God does not condemn the sinner for being born broken, but He does warn those who refuse to accept His offer of help to escape their broken condition that, eventually, such refusals of help will not end well for those who are determined to follow their own way.
Yet, these professors get very upset when their actions are made public – when they can no longer hide what they are doing from the church at large. – Sean Pitman
Uh, I have never hidden my support and affirmation for LGBTQ+ individuals, and any parent who wanted to know my views on the subject could easily look up what I’ve written, or they could just plain ask me. I openly acknowledge where I stand on these issues on social media too. Essentially all the administrators, staff and faculty on our campus, including the pastors on our campus already know where I stand. I have never kept any secrets. I have to laugh when I see you say that I am upset because you “blew my cover.” There was no cover to blow.
You have not simply let people know what I advocate, you have attacked me personally and impugned my motives and personal spiritual path. You are causing pain not just to me, but to the very people I am trying to comfort and encourage. Your words are not just being seen by the legalistic and judgmental people like yourself, but by parents of LGBTQ+ children and those LGBTQ+ individuals themselves, many of whom are likely already heavily weighed down with self revulsion and depression. And you are doing this for who’s good?
And you wonder why I might be angry and upset? As hard as it is for me to do, I have daily decided to pray for you and those like you that God would soften your heart and show you the grave wounds you are inflicting on God’s beloved. I pray God will help you find compassion and clearer spiritual insight.
Do you really think it’s a “little thing” when our own professors are attacking the primary goals and ideals of the church from the inside? – Sean Pitman
I am attacking no one. You act as if you have not even read my article. I did suggest in there that I think it is time for the church to change and affirm same-sex marriage, but that is not an attack, that is a plea for compassion, a plea that the church return and study this topic again, and I laid out the reasons I think it is fully warranted that we do so. Since when is a difference of views an attack on the church? And of all the issues facing the church, same-sex marriage hardly rises to the level of a “primary goal and ideal.” You are inflating the importance of this topic. the only place where same-sex marriage really rises to a high level of importance is when you are an LGBTQ+ person contemplating marriage, or are the parent, relative or friend of an LGBTQ+ person. Why do you want to cause such people so much pain?
The purpose of the H.E. is not to wall people off by modifying curriculum of every subject to fit dogma. The dogma itself has to be enhanced with broader understanding of how to relate various perspectives to these fields of human enterprise.
Certainly, Adventist schools should by no means isolate students from popular ideas that are prevalent within secular culture. If anything, students educated in our schools should have a much better understanding of ideas like neoDarwinism or homosexuality than students educated in secular institutions. However, the education of students within Adventist schools shouldn’t stop here. Adventist education should also give students a reasonable explanation as to why the Adventist perspective on these ideas is actually supported by the Church – by professors who actually personally hold to the Church’s positions on these topics (like the topics of origins or homosexuality, etc).
Again, it is simply counterproductive to have a church school if professors in that school teach that the church’s position is not only wrong, but downright ludicrous, outdated, and completely opposed to the overwhelming weight of “scientific evidence”. Such teaching, by professors that are respected by the students, will strongly influence most students to be naturally opposed to the church’s position on these topics. Clearly then, this would not be in the church’s best interest. It would be far better, from the church’s perspective, not to form church schools at all than to have professors within their own schools attack the church organization from the inside.
But there is world of difference between presenting it as fact that the teacher believes, and a theory with problems. – @ajshep (Allen Shepherd)
I’m in total agreement here. Again, it is one thing to teach about a particular concept that opposes the teachings of the church. It is a far far different thing to then support this particular concept as “true” as compared to showing the students why you, as their teacher, don’t find it convincing.
That is why a teacher, employed by the church, is actually stealing from the church when they attack the church’s position on a given topic from within their own classroom or via a public forum. Such activity simply goes against what a teacher is being paid to do by his/her employer.
Your presumption and hubris are exactly what Jesus pointed out to those who brought the women caught in adultery. Have you learned nothing from the examples of what it means to be a Christian that you would indulge in such harshness and judgemental words and pronouncements.
Consider that while Jesus most certainly was very kind and gentle and forgiving to the woman caught in adultery (certainly one of the most beautiful stories in the Bible), that He did in fact tell her to “go and sin no more”.
I would say that the very same action and recommendation should be given to all who find themselves part of the LBGTQ+ community. God loves sinners and came to save all of us who find ourselves caught in the web of fallen and sinful lives. He doesn’t condemn us for being broken, but He does offer us a way out and tells us to “go and sin no more”.
In light of this, my problem with the efforts of Dr. Ness is that he is making the claim that there is no brokenness or moral problem with committed monogamous homosexual lifestyles – that the Bible says absolutely nothing in this regard and therefore there is nothing for God to forgive here. There is simply no need to say, “I love you, now go and sin no more”.
I’m also not quite sure why Dr. Ness draws the line with monogamy since he doesn’t accept the Biblical statements, often within the same passages as those discussing monogamy, that speak against homosexual activities? This seems inconsistent to me since it seems quite reasonable, given the arguments presented by Dr. Ness, that polygamy could also be argued as being even more consistent with God’s will and natural genetic mutations that God Himself designed. Upon what “scientific” or “religious” or “philosophical” basis does Dr. Ness draw the line at monogamy as being the clear Biblical standard where God draws the line? – when many have very strong and very “natural” polygamous tendencies?
Of course, I also have a problem with a paid representative of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, who is responsible for teaching our youth in support of the primary goals and ideals of the Church, publicly arguing that these goals and ideals are completely wrong – on the church’s dime. Such activity, even if one is totally convinced as to the error of one’s employer, is unethical since it is a form of stealing from one’s employer.
At the very least, parents who are paying a great deal of money to send their children to one of our church schools should be very well informed as to what they can expect their children to be taught at our schools and what positions the teachers at the school are publicly promoting. Providing this information to such parents is my primary purpose in responding to Dr. Ness’s publicly published article in public forum.
Do you not understand what it is like in academia? Differences of opinion among scholars is not only tolerated, it is valued. I have nothing more to say concerning your accusations. Our church has no “official” stand on this issue, if by that you mean I am disavowing my membership in the church by simply believing that gays should allow ro get married to one another. That is not even how our church operates. I can point to many other church employees who openly disagree about certain issues of belief, including this one, and congregations that are fully affirming of same-sex marriage. They are a part of the SDA church just as I am.
My concern still is more about the tone and stance of your attacks. You are attacking fellow SDAs, some of them being the most vulnerable members of our church, and you seem to have no sense of the damage you are potentially doing to these individuals. By attacking me in the fashion you are you are also attacking all those for whom I am standing up. You may want to take Jesus’ words to heart:
But whoso shall cause one of these little ones that believe on me to stumble, it is profitable for him that a great millstone should be hanged about his neck, and that he should be sunk in the depth of the sea. Matt. 18:6
I know very well what it’s like to be involved in leadership positions within the church and within academia. My own father is a retired pastor and teacher. It’s one thing to publicly present and even promote various opinions that do not directly undermine the church or school one is working for. However, it is another thing entirely to directly attack the fundamental positions of the church while being a paid representative of the church. Such activity is not at all encouraged and is, in fact, unethical – a form of theft from your employer. Sure, there are many pastors and teachers who think to do such things anyway. That doesn’t make such activities morally right. It’s still wrong to do what you are doing.