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A prayer for William and Kate

William Crawley | 11:20 UK time, Friday, 8 April 2011

Church of England leaders have suggested that we all pray or Prince William and Kate Middleton. They've even offered a suitable prayer, which includes a petition to help them keep their wedding vows and remain together for the rest of their lives. Keeping wedding vows and remaining together forever are, of course, rather sensitive themes to bring up with respect to any British royal couple, as the press have inevitably observed. Here's the text of the Church of England prayer:

God of all grace,
friend and companion,
look in favour on William and Catherine
and all who are made one in marriage.
In your love deepen their love
and strengthen their wills
to keep the promises they will make,
that they may continue
in life-long faithfulness to each other; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.

Comments

Page 1 of 2

  • Comment number 1.

    If the disestablishment of the Church of England did away with guff like this it would be great.

    Praying is nonsense and those who believe praying achieves anything are simply idiots.

  • Comment number 2.

    newlach,

    Whilst I agree with your sentiment, here's an ideal opportunity to test the power of prayer. If the marriage survives then it's clear prayer works and there is a god. If the marriage doesn't work, then evidently they weren't strong enough in their faith or their love and no fault lies with god, therefore god exists.

    Isn't that the usual attitude to prayer?

  • Comment number 3.

    "Praying is nonsense and those who believe praying achieves anything are simply idiots."

    There are serious theological and philosophical questions to debate about the efficacy of petitionary prayer. But when I hear religious believers dismissed out of hand as "idiots" I do rather despair at the level of debate to which we have descended. That kind of rhetoric is simply abusive cat-calling and does no service to rational debate or to those who wish to engage in it. Let's play the ball, not the man, please. Raise your game.

  • Comment number 4.

    I thought it was a lovely prayer.

  • Comment number 5.


    Natman Newlach

    For those who do not have any religious faith the very idea of prayer will be odd. I imagine that at best it might be thought of in psychological terms - a process of thinking things through, an expression of hopes or dreams, a learning about oneself and possibly others as some kind of contemplation or pondering takes place. I wouldn’t actually be so quick to dismiss that these kinds of things are part of what is happening in prayer; at worst, however, I suspect that unbelievers might think of prayer as a kind of delusion, a happy delusion, perhaps, but delusion none the less.

    You will not be surprised if I tell you that I think differently.

    What continually surprises me however (and it is surprise, for I am not offended by your dismissals) is that those who do not believe in God in the first place find so much to say about the practices of faith which follow from the conviction that God is real.

    In simple and practical terms this might mean something like -

    I believe in the reality of God... so it follows that prayer makes sense, and will be understood in a particular way or ways.

    You do not believe in the reality of God...so it follows that prayer to such a non-God will make no sense at all.

    But I already know this. I already presume that if you do not believe in God then, for example, prayer, hymns, psalms, the doctrine of the church, baptism, mission, and so on will not make any sense to you. If you assume there is no God, then it is not a surprise that anything which is evidence of the opposite position (prayer for example) is dismissed as ‘guff’, or, in the case of your comment #2, Natman, dismissed by caricature.

    I remember a conversation I had some years ago now on a Saturday night out. I was, I think, the token Christian, and for some reason or other I was asked, “You don’t believe in God, do you? How can you believe in angels and virgin births and rising again?”

    My reply was this, “Once you get over the God bit, the virgin birth is easy!” It was partly tongue in cheek, but in a way it's the same with prayer, once you get over the God bit...

    As for the prayer itself, and there’s more that could be said about this, for someone who was raised in a pretty conservative Presbyterian church, one which treated any kind of liturgy with suspicion, I find the Anglican Prayer Book to be a stunning piece of writing - this prayer has been fashioned in the same way; and I would suggest that if you want understand this prayer then flick through a copy of The Book of Common Prayer - there you will see, and you don’t need to be religious to understand the words, that one learns (and I stress the 'learns') to approach God in humility, rather than with a summons.

  • Comment number 6.

    It's always important to keep the debate as reasoned and non-inflamatory as possible, however I'd like to make an observation to all those who see prayer as a valid, proven method of influencing reality.

    The good ol' C of E has published a prayer; fair enough. Its age and links to nearly every aspect of our culture lend it a certain level of respectability.

    If a tribal witch doctor announced that he'd made a potion and danced a special dance to his ancestors, you'd quite rightly smile politely but think it was a waste of time.

    If an astrologer read her star charts and announced the date and time of the wedding fortuitous and bond to be a success, you'd quite rightly view this with a certain level of skeptism.

    If a follower of Asatru sacrificed an animal to bless the marriage with good portents and to gain the favour of the gods, you'd quite rightly raise your eyebrows and move along.

    Why should a christian prayer, even if done with total sincerity, be viewed any differently? They're all as valid as the others.

    Yes, the sentiment is there, and we're only wishing the happy couple the best, but doing something tangible, like offering the use of Westminster Chapel for free, would've been a more worthwhile contribution from the very wealthy Church Of England.

  • Comment number 7.

    "Why should a christian prayer, even if done with total sincerity, be viewed any differently? They're all as valid as the others."

    Viewed any differently by whom?

  • Comment number 8.

    Natman

    ”It's always important to keep the debate as reasoned and non-inflammatory as possible”, well, civility is good, and appreciated.

    ”I'd like to make an observation to all those who see prayer as a valid, proven method of influencing reality.” so, not me, then?!

    Don’t you see that you’re still assuming the non-existence of God, and defining prayer as incantation?

    Let me put it this way - in prayer I am not seeking to conform God to my will.

    Did you flick through that book, yet?

    Do I detect a certain regard for astrology? ;-)


  • Comment number 9.

    Chaplain: Let us praise God. O Lord...
    Congregation: O Lord...
    Chaplain: ...Ooh, You are so big...
    Congregation: ...ooh, You are so big...
    Chaplain: ...So absolutely huge.
    Congregation: ...So absolutely huge.
    Chaplain: Gosh, we're all really impressed down here, I can tell You.
    Congregation: Gosh, we're all really impressed down here, I can tell You.
    Chaplain: Forgive us, O Lord, for this, our dreadful toadying, and...
    Congregation: And barefaced flattery.
    Chaplain: But You are so strong and, well, just so super.
    Congregation: Fantastic.
    Humphrey: Amen.
    Congregation: Amen.

  • Comment number 10.

    Paul

    I recognise that liturgy, and I'm quite sure I participated in one like it once; but it's only CofE if the 'E' stands for 'evangelical'! From memory, 'Humphrey' was a puppet.

  • Comment number 11.

    A secular 'prayer':

    Dear Lady Luck,
    The Great Fluke, Oh Jammy One,
    The one who dwells in the celestial casino;
    The great mindless Nothing, blind and meaningless,
    Do the utterly improbable for
    these two pointless bundles of ultimately futile chemicals
    these apes, who are entering into the anachronistic and primitive
    institution of marriage.
    In your emptiness deepen their delusion of 'love projection'
    And strengthen their non-existent wills, oh dear principle of brute determinism,
    To get the most out of each other while they feel like it,
    That they may continue
    In the life-long fantasy of
    Self-absorption until the Great Day of everlasting Oblivion arrives.
    In the name of the Great Nothing from which everything derives,
    Let there be luck!


    Inspiring stuff, innit?

  • Comment number 12.

    I think I've been hacked by the Church of England. Without even knowing it I'd apparently tweeted the prayer via Hootsuite.

    I wonder if Rowan Williams will be as generous as News International?

  • Comment number 13.

    The biggest, most scientifically rigorous study of the effects of intercessory prayer was carried out by the Templeton Foundation (hmmm) over ten years and published in 2006.

    It was on heart patients. There was no effect (surprise) on the majority, but pitifully, the group that knew prayers were being said for them actually developed more complications than the other two groups (one was being prayed for and didn't know about it, the other wasn't being prayed for).

    The New York Times reports: "In a hurriedly convened news conference, the study's authors, led by Dr. Herbert Benson, a cardiologist and director of the Mind/Body Medical Institute near Boston, said that the findings were not the last word on the effects of so-called intercessory prayer. But the results, they said, raised questions about how and whether patients should be told that prayers were being offered for them."

    http://www.nytimes.com/2006/03/31/health/31pray.html

    Definitely. So by the same logic (if these things worked that way) then the CofE has just gone and put a pox on the young couple. And if you're going to pray for someone, just don't tell them you'll be praying for them.

    And if something is idiotic, I'd like to be able to say so, particularly if I have a sick relative in a hospital and some Chaplain bothering them might slow their recovery or make them worse.

    An interesting point: The NHS in Northern Ireland (let's not kid ourselves that it's not in serious trouble shall we) needs every penny it can get. The NHS in Northern Ireland spends £1,000,000 a year on Christian chaplains. Not the churches - the NHS. And yes, that's six zeroes.

    I call that adding insult to injury.

  • Comment number 14.

    AboutFace -

    Thank you for giving us this information. It sure is a relief that that kind of prayer has been disproven!

    I myself am exceedingly glad that prayer doesn't work like that, as if God can be reduced to an impersonal mechanism under the control of man. Such a being would not be worthy of the term 'God' by any stretch of the imagination.

    If you don't understand what I am talking about, then let's compare this kind of mechanistic 'God' with the law of gravity. I can make use of the law of gravity by, for example, placing a pile of books in an orderly manner on my desk. The law of gravity is very kind to me and prevents these books flying around and possibly hitting me in the face.

    Now suppose I delude myself into thinking that the law of gravity is always under my control, and is my good pal, who will never hurt me. So, in a moment of madness, I decide to step outside a second floor window. Oh dear, the law of gravity has suddenly become decidedly unpleasant towards me. Will I ever walk again?

    No one in their right mind would imagine that one can abuse the law of gravity in this way. The same goes for all the other laws of nature. They are mechanistic and unforgiving when abused.

    But, apparently, in the minds of some rather naive people, 'God' should allow himself to be used as if he is nothing more than a law of nature ("insert the right prayer into the celestial vending machine and out comes the correct chocolate bar"), but woe betide this 'God' if he turns nasty when we decide to abuse 'him'. So, these same people feel no compunction about disobeying his laws, having nothing to do with him most of the time, pouring scorn on his words and his followers, and then they wonder why 'he' doesn't comply with their requests. Doh!! I think it's blinkin' obvious! Even a certain doughnut loving Mr Simpson could work this one out!

    How can I get this simple truth through to you people? God is not a machine. He is not a law of nature, to be manipulated by conceited 'sciency' control freaks.

    If you insist on seeing God in this way, then you will always feel that 'there is nothing there', and in one sense you will be right. If God really is like that, then such a 'God' does not exist. There is no 'mechanical' God open to the scrutiny of the empirical scientific method.

    God is a person, not a machine. Think about the implications of that.

  • Comment number 15.

    Why then do you attempt to argue in terms of science and logic when what you are saying is (in the first instance I've seen you come anywhere close to honesty) that God is neither natural (thus outside any interest science has) and not logical, in which case why your name?

    And where do you stand, given the above, on the NHS spending?

  • Comment number 16.

    If the result of prayer is entirely arbitrary as one cannot know why a god would do what it does (there's certainly not been any displayed coherance with divine actions so far), then why bother praying? Is it simply a psychological outlet for your suppressed fears?

    If the god that you follow is supposedly ominscient, as some sects claim, then said god would know what you want before you ask for it, so the asking is irrelevant.

    However if, as other sects claim, prayer works, then prayer can have an effect on the mind of god and/or the nature of reality and it should be open to analysis using proven techniques.

    I see it like this; Prayer doesn't work. It might seem that it does, but only sometimes, and it's impossible to tell when it will and when it won't, making the action pointless. You may as well burn chicken feathers or do a rain dance for the chances of success that it gives.

    Even the most psychological damaged individual has some coherance behind their actions. A postulated god doesn't even seem to have that.

  • Comment number 17.

    AF -

    "Science" and "logic" are not one and the same thing. Science is dependent on empiricism, but logic is not subordinate to empiricism. So I am not abandoning logic at all. In fact, my argument is perfectly logical.

    Science is limited. Highly limited. It's about time some people woke up to that fact.

    Also... where did I say that God was not logical?? 'Fraid I don't remember that one.

    All I said was that man cannot control God. Which is kind of obvious really, isn't it? But that does not mean that God is 'arbitrary' (to pick up on Natman's point). Here's an analogy: I couldn't control my parents when I was a child. Does that mean that their attitude towards me was 'arbitrary'? How strange.

  • Comment number 18.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 19.

    And what about the most positive result of Templeton research being that prayor is if anything harmful and the NHS spend on it?

  • Comment number 20.


    Hear hear LSV, and don't forget god doesn't much like the burning of assorted birds or small mammals any more.

  • Comment number 21.

    Here's what I love about the NYT link given above.

    It's the, "Need Prayer? Post a prayer request. Thousands will pray for you." advertisement right at the top of the little ol' page.

  • Comment number 22.

    It is concerning that at this time of great austerity in Northern Ireland £1 million of taxpayers' money is wasted on hospital chaplains. This sum would, for example, provide for around 40 nurses. Alternatively, the money could be used to reduce waiting times for elderly people awaiting knee or hip operations.

  • Comment number 23.

    "God is a person"! Of course. Now any person with an ounce of sense can tell these are the grounds we should be on when we're arguing with people like LSV.

  • Comment number 24.

    lol Peter

  • Comment number 25.

    So is there any evidence that intercessory prayer works?

    And to those who say 'There's more to life than evidence... get in the bag': http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YMvMb90hem8

    (With apologies for slight 'adult' language. It is used here appropriately I think.)

  • Comment number 26.


    Newdwr54 #25

    I’m not sure I can keep two conversations going at once, but here’s an answer anyway.

    ”So is there any evidence that intercessory prayer works?”

    I think the short answer is ‘no’! I have prayed for many things over the years and they haven’t worked. I can’t be much straighter than that.

    Now, you are free to stop reading there and leave it at that, but I’ll go on to say that even though the prayers didn’t ‘work’ they weren’t altogether ineffective either. Why do I say this? Because they changed me. Prayers which don’t ‘work’ change my thinking, change my theology and change my self-centeredness.

    What do I mean?

    Take the prayer posted at the top of this thread as an example. What is that prayer doing, what is it asking for? At the most basic level it asks for William and Catherine that their’s will be a faithful marriage, that they will love one another. Yet, if we consider the broader context of biblical theology and of what it says about God and marriage, the words do something else as well.

    In this broader context, the words remind us of a number of things. As Christians we are called to faithfulness in marriage; as Christians we are called to understand ‘love’ in terms of the ‘love’ of God, our love for one another should resemble God’s love for us; as Christians we are called to live our lives together in the light of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ, the faithful one. For Christians these things make sense, and to pray in this way we remind ourselves of what we are already called to, and we (if I can use a term you may or may not be familiar with), in praying like this, we ‘think God’s thoughts after him’. This kind of prayer then, will reorientate a Christian’s thinking, towards Christian theology.

    Christian prayer, in my understanding, presupposes that God has already spoken, that God has already given us direction about how we should live. By praying then, a Christian participates in (and I don’t much like this word, but) a ‘relationship’ with God by which the person praying is ‘conformed to the will of God', and not the other way round.

    Of course you could just call it psychobabble if you wished!

  • Comment number 27.

    BTW, funny clip.

    Am I in the bag or out of the bag? ;-)

  • Comment number 28.

    There certainly is more to life than 'scientific' evidence. Here goes:

    1. Ethical issues. What scientific experiment tells us what is right and wrong?

    2. Aesthetics. What scientific experiment tells us that a sunset or an orchid is beautiful?

    3. Reason. What scientific experiment tells us that logic is valid?

    4. Purpose. What scientific experiment tells us that we should embrace any kind of purpose in life?

    I am very happy to embrace ethics, beauty, reason and purpose in my life. None of these things can be proven by 'science'.

    Furthermore, funny though Dara O Briain is, it would be tragic if anyone built their view of reality on the badinage of a comedian. His routine was very funny, but let's keep it in the correct category: pantamime.

    Concerning prayer: atheists need to understand that no amount of their criticism is going to make the slightest difference to those who believe in God, and therefore in the idea of communicating with God (which is what prayer is). No true believer is going to be even remotely 'put off' praying because of the bitter comments of unbelievers! Such a scenario is frankly laughable, especially as we are only too aware that there are many who do not believe - a state of affairs of which the Bible informs us only too clearly.

  • Comment number 29.

    LSV

    "atheists need to understand that no amount of their criticism is going to make the slightest difference to those who believe in God, ......."

    It's good to hear LSV say so in such an open and honest manner. I doubt if the message that he conveys was intentional, but it is certainly good to have that out in the open.

  • Comment number 30.

    PK -

    Well, all I can say in response, is that it is pretty hard to be persuaded to stop talking to someone you know! Of course, you atheists imagine that God is not real and is just a 'construct' in the minds of believers (an assumption which is an example of a naturalistic 'leap of faith'). Therefore you assume that we can be persuaded to give up our 'construct' (although I can't think why, considering that the alternative is a totally meaningless, absurd and self-contradictory view of reality). You are free to take that view if you like, but don't be surprised if it doesn't get you anywhere.

    But let's suppose (for the sake of argument) that God is merely a 'construct'. I suppose if that were the case then perhaps some theists would be open to giving it up. But then they would have to be presented with evidence (although I suppose some people change their worldview for subjective reasons). Since you have never presented any evidence to prove your case (all you have ever presented are ideas along the lines of "what could have happened" - i.e. pure supposition), then it is difficult to really grasp what you are trying to achieve, especially considering the fact that you daren't even talk about philosophical issues, and you seem to think that 'science' has all the answers. Which brings me on to my next point...

    I can't help but notice that you conveniently ignored the first part of my previous post on this thread concerning the limitations of 'science'. How very interesting...

  • Comment number 31.

    Perhaps Peter doesn't realise the message conveyed either. That the *thought police* can't force people what to think. Whether its people ramming religion down peoples throats or whether its Atheists to the same. People make up their own minds up without aggressive tactics

  • Comment number 32.

    LSV,

    Why do you think an orchid is beautiful?
    How do you know stealing is wrong?
    What would you define as 'purpose'?

    All of the concepts you raised are subjective, utterly and totally based upon the mindset and ability of the observer to recognise.

    A person blind from birth would have no concept that an orchid is beautiful, even if it was described to them.
    A starving person raised in a society that has no concept of personal ownership would not recognise stealing as wrong.
    A buddhist's idea of purpose would be to enter into nirvana; a state of total non-being. A christian would see that as hell.

    You're trying to assign subjective concepts to a scientific method that wasn't designed to test such things and then claiming the scientific method is flawed.

    It's the equivelent of getting a tape measure to test how blue the sky is and then claiming that tape measures are flawed as they can't do that.

    Also, I'm with PK on this; you've openly said that "no amount of their criticism is going to make the slightest difference to those who believe in God"; in other words, even if conclusive evidence was placed before you that god didn't exist, you'd deny it.

    I think you just conceded the high ground in your battle of presuppositions there.

  • Comment number 33.

    Natman -

    I think you've missed the point of what I was saying in post #28. It was actually a response to post #25 (and I guess I should have made that clear, but I think it would have been obvious to anyone following the arguments on this thread).

    Is there "more to life than evidence"? Assuming that 'evidence' is understood in this context to mean 'scientific evidence', then the answer is 'yes', and this holds true even if you believe that the things I listed are entirely 'subjective'.

    You acknowledge that the idea of 'purpose' is subjective. Does that mean that it is not valid? And if so, then why do you appeal to the 'purpose' of people accepting 'evidence'? Your last comment in your post suggests that I 'ought to' accept any evidence that undermines my Christian faith. But why 'ought' I ? You are criticising me on the basis of a belief that there is some kind of 'moral purpose' to human interaction to which I must submit. If you think that I am just putting words into your mouth, then please explain why I 'ought' to have the 'purpose' of accepting your arguments, if you believe that morality and purpose are just subjective?

    As it happens, concerning the issue of prayer, I dismissed the atheists' 'evidence' simply because it doesn't take into account the nature of prayer. To me - and to any true Christian - God is real. He is a person. He exists, and I can relate to Him. You, of course, will most probably scorn such an idea. Now, if an atheist comes out with some 'evidence' that 'prayer doesn't work', how can I possibly accept it? It's a bit like saying that you have evidence that 'talking to my mother' doesn't work. Am I therefore to stop talking to my mother? It's nonsense.

    Perhaps I didn't word my comment in quite the right way, but I was simply expressing my view of the sheer absurdity of the atheists' attempts to dissuade believers from praying. Looking at the issue from my angle, it is just ridiculous. Do you honestly think that I am going to give up my relationship with God because an atheist has produced some statistics about certain people who were prayed for? Come off it.

    The same goes for 'evidence that God doesn't exist'. I would be most fascinated to see such 'evidence'. I can't imagine what it would look like. If you would like to attempt to apprise me of such 'evidence', then go ahead. You've never produced any so far, so I wonder why you are holding back the great proof of the non-existence of God? But since I

  • Comment number 34.

    Oh dear, there seems to have been a problem uploading my whole message. Here is the continuation...

    The same goes for 'evidence that God doesn't exist'. I would be most fascinated to see such 'evidence'. I can't imagine what it would look like. If you would like to attempt to apprise me of such 'evidence', then go ahead. You've never produced any so far, so I wonder why you are holding back the great proof of the non-existence of God? But since I am already utterly persuaded that God exists, then it would be like trying to prove that the planet earth doesn't exist. Feel free to carry on...

    By the way... what evidence would ever persuade you that God does exist? Would you be prepared to consider any evidence? From your performance on this blog, I seriously doubt it somehow. So no need to lecture me about conceding 'the high ground' in debate. "Pot, kettle, black" comes to mind.

  • Comment number 35.

    LSV,

    It's not upto me to disprove god, the null hypothesis regarding the existence of the supernatural is that 'there are no gods'. If you wish to alter that, you are required, as someone wishing to elaborate on the null hypothesis, to provide evidence for the existence of the divine.

    I have stated, several times now, that I'd be quite happy to consider the existence of any god if suitable experiment that can give both reproduciblity and repeatability could be devised. Afterall, that's only what I expect from any other hypothesis. I can't say what evidence could change my mind; it's all about the experiment that provides said evidence.

    Prayer could be deemed one such experiment; the parameters involved are easily repeated, the results can be analysed quantitatively and the experiment can be performed as many times as possible to get a good spread of results.

    However, I don't think I'm jumping the gun here to say that any experiment on prayer would give a p value of much less than 0.05.

  • Comment number 36.

    my 31 was at Klaver not m2

  • Comment number 37.

  • However, I don't think I'm jumping the gun here to say that any experiment on prayer would give a p value of much less than 0.05.


  • Hold on, what's 'jumping the gun' got to do with anything?
  • Comment number 38.

    Natman

    #32

    "A starving person raised in a society that has no concept of personal ownership would not recognise stealing as wrong."

    What has 'starving' got to do with it? Why single out 'starving' people?

  • Comment number 39.

    I think my tag quest has taken a turn for the worst.

  • Comment number 40.

    Natman (@ 35) -

    You wrote: "I have stated, several times now, that I'd be quite happy to consider the existence of any god if suitable experiment that can give both reproduciblity and repeatability could be devised. Afterall, that's only what I expect from any other hypothesis."

    I assume, therefore, that you don't believe in the Big Bang, since that was a single event, and therefore it cannot be reproduced and repeated? What about much of evolution? Can all the putative steps in the process be reproduced and repeated? (And even if they could be, does that prove that they actually occurred?)

    Do you believe in the following statement (as stated by Sir Harry Kroto in his rant last week - 7th April - in The Times re Lord Rees' acceptance of the Templeton prize)? : "Martin Rees ... has made a mistake in accepting £1 million from the Templeton Foundation. In doing so, he supports its primary aim, which is to undermine the most precious tenet of science: that it is the only philosophical construct we have to determine truth with any reliability."

    If you accept that this is the status of 'science' then please let me know which scientific experiment proves that "science is the only philosophical construct we have to determine truth with any reliability". How can you arrive at a belief in that concept by means of a reproducible and repeatable empirical experiment? If you cannot show me which experiment has proven this concept to be true, then, according to your own definition of 'evidence', you cannot claim to accept it. And if you cannot accept it, then, by default, you have to acknowledge that science is limited and that there are other ways to determine truth.

    So I very much look forward to the details of this scientific experiment. Failure to provide details of this experiment will tell me all I need to know about your claims.

    I'll be waiting...

  • Comment number 41.


    Andrew

    Regarding italics and other 'tags'.

    I'm thinking that maybe we should ask Natman to pray about the issue.





  • Comment number 42.

    That's very bold, Peter.

  • Comment number 43.

    LSV,

    Evidently you've not done much reading into subjects like the big bang or evolution if you think their coherance or validity is suspect or based on some form of faith.

    What I think about the big bang is largely irrelevant, as it is some of the more technical aspects of evolution, so the specific details regarding the first nano-second of the universe are presently unknown, so a few aspects of highly complex molecular biochemistry are under debate; -this doesn't mean your ideas are automatically valid!- Grief, if you've descended into picking points with minor aspects of highly researched concepts then you're clearly feeling pushed. Trying to turn this debate around into another attack on the stance of those who actually do some research into these matters is trying to avoid the subject matter at hand.

    Again and again you push the idea that somehow, the lack of emperical evidence of philosophical naturalism destroys the validity of methodological naturalism, and that's not the case.

    You're dodging the issues, as you always do, by attempting to swing the debate around to show how us evil atheists are just as bad as the holy theists. So what?! If the end point in this is that you show, somehow, that the core concepts in our metholodgy are flawed, it doesn't make the massive body of evidence supporting all the scientific theories disappear. All you've done is put us on the same level as you! Is your stance so bad that you want to bring us down to your level and then claim it as a victory?

    The null hypothesis of 'gods do not exist' still stands, as it always has, and you, or infact any theist, has yet to show a scrap of conclusive evidence that either gods exists (which one is upto you to decide) or that prayer works.

    Fortunately for progress, the evidence that a god isn't required (and that's not the same as non-existence, in case you want to twist it around) is very large. Not only do you have to show the null hypothesis is invalid, you also have to show that the evidence against your concepts is also invalid.

    Peter2m, Andrew,

    Why pray? I'll do a houdoun ritual for you if you want, or perhaps cast some augers in chicken guts. The evidence so far suggests they're just as useful.

  • Comment number 44.


    Natman

    Have you read anything I have written on this thread?

    Continue with your own understanding of prayer if you wish, but please, don't assume I share it.

  • Comment number 45.

    Natman

    If you think it'll help, I'd try anything to solve my tag problem.

  • Comment number 46.

    Andrew

    Not that I'm a techie or anything, but, what OS or browser are you using, could it be that? Or are you copy/pasting the html tags in from a word processor? It seems that sometimes that can be an issue.

  • Comment number 47.

    There is a stepping stone- all you have to do is google *Atheist prayer* to see the subject of prayer is an accepted one, that it's felt by some atheists as a connection with others- the good & the just

    Perhaps more worrying is the control some leading Athiests wield, who seem to dictate a narrowing of thought and acceptance of others in their quest for what they regard as purity.
    Ayatollah's of Science like Dawkin's who issue fatwa's of disassociation to anyone who doesn't comply with their rigid orthodoxy.

  • Comment number 48.

    Peter

    I usually type my comments up in OneNote and then copy and paste. I don't think this is the problem though. It looks like the supported tags have changed. The standard italics tags don't seem to work anymore the bold tag still works, I think.

    I do seem to be having some weird browser problem on this thread, in Firefox, IE and Chrome. Displays fine on Safari and my phone.

  • Comment number 49.

    ...If you accept that this is the status of 'science' then please let me know which scientific experiment proves that "science is the only philosophical construct we have to determine truth with any reliability...

    I don't know about Natman, of course, but I accept that science has determined many truths with reliability. There are countless experiments that form a sufficient body of evidence to "prove" this in the non scientific sense you mean, in that you can take a particular experiment and do it over and over again and it will produce the same result, confirming, for all intents and purposes, the truth, of say, quantum mechanics, Newton's Law of Gravitation, relativity (and if you are in a smart arras mood, relativity demonstrated Newton's law to be incomplete, not false), gas laws (ditto ideal gas laws and real gas models) etc etc etc.

    Now, if Sir Harry meant "truth" as a whole (and I've not read the article, cheapskate as I am) you might have a point. But it still raises the question I have asked you many times on here, in various forms: What other philosophical construct have you got to establish truth, and by what means do you establish its reliability?

  • Comment number 50.

    Andrew.

    Some info

    They use the em tags for italics, apparently

    And you should be able to use blockquote for quoting, which is pretty


    Strong and bold should both work.

    Not a geek or owt :)
  • Comment number 51.

    Yep. They work for me.

  • Comment number 52.

    Thanks grokesx

    I tried the li tags in an earlier post which don't seem to work to well.

    I like the idea of blockquote


  • Comment number 53.

    I seem to be having a problem with the preview function on this thread, unless the post is short. I have written replies to Natman and grokesx, but they may not see the light of day. Hey ho.

    (Perhaps I ought to cut them down into a multitude of shorter posts? Maybe I will...)

  • Comment number 54.

    This reply may take several goes (as per my comment in #53)...

    Natman (@ 43) -

    "Evidently you've not done much reading into subjects like the big bang or evolution if you think their coherance or validity is suspect or based on some form of faith."

    But you have said that the validity of something is based on 'reproducibility' and 'repeatability'. This is your criterion for determining whether something is true. Let me remind you of your comment in post #35: "I have stated, several times now, that I'd be quite happy to consider the existence of any god if suitable experiment that can give both reproduciblity and repeatability could be devised. Afterall, that's only what I expect from any other hypothesis."

    So I was only applying your method of verification. Can you prove the truth of the Big Bang and evolution by means of the method of 'reproducibility' and 'repeatability'? If not, then, according to your own thinking, why do you believe that these things are true?

    Surely, Natman, you must have sufficient intellectual integrity to appreciate that you cannot apply double standards in debate.

    In fact, I do indeed believe that many of the 'explanations' consistent with the philosophy of materialism are based on what could be termed 'faith'. Of course, we need to define what we mean by 'faith', but if 'faith' is to be understood as a means of arriving at a conclusion by circumventing empirical scientific evidence (not my understanding of 'faith', by the way) then the entire philosophy of materialism has to be accepted as an 'act of faith'. After all, empiricism cannot prove or validate itself, as I have pointed out many times.

    to be continued...

  • Comment number 55.

    Natman (@ 43) continued...

    What I think about the big bang is largely irrelevant, as it is some of the more technical aspects of evolution, so the specific details regarding the first nano-second of the universe are presently unknown, so a few aspects of highly complex molecular biochemistry are under debate; -this doesn't mean your ideas are automatically valid!

    I never said that my ideas are automatically validated because of any unresolved issues or 'loose ends' in the theories concerning the origin of the universe and origin of life. What I am asking for is intellectual consistency. If you reject something as 'untrue' or irrelevant or unknowable on the basis that it cannot be subjected to the method of 'reproducibility' and 'repeatability', then you should be consistent about this, and apply this thinking to your own view of reality. It really is not a lot to ask, is it?

    Again and again you push the idea that somehow, the lack of emperical evidence of philosophical naturalism destroys the validity of methodological naturalism, and that's not the case.

    I have no problem with 'methodological naturalism'. In fact, I believe in it. Christianity affirms it, because it affirms the reality and intelligibility of the natural world. But methodological naturalism does not imply philosophical naturalism. The two are completely separate, as I have been at pains to point out more times than I care to remember. So by means of methodological naturalism we can study the structure of living systems and observe what takes place within these mechanisms, but it doesn't follow that the study of natural systems implies that "matter is all that exists" and therefore there cannot be other realities which could interact with matter. Science is limited in its scope. Science, by its very nature, cannot provide a complete explanation for the whole of reality.

    to be continued...

  • Comment number 56.

    Natman (@ 43) - final instalment...

    "Fortunately for progress, the evidence that a god isn't required (and that's not the same as non-existence, in case you want to twist it around) is very large. Not only do you have to show the null hypothesis is invalid, you also have to show that the evidence against your concepts is also invalid."

    Why do I have to? It sounds like you are imposing an 'ought' on me. Where do you get this 'ought' from? Are you making an ethical decision based on some idea of 'purpose'? Certainly the phrase 'fortunately for progress' seems to imply that you have some concept of right 'purpose' in your mind. Yet according to your post #32, morality and purpose are subjective - i.e. just 'made up'.

    So again I ask you: why do I have to do anything? By what authority? What scientific experiment tells me that I have to show that the null hypothesis is invalid? There is no scientific experiment which tells me that I have to do anything at all, because 'having to' do things is a moral question, and it relates to the concept of purpose!

  • Comment number 57.

    @Andrew

    I'd forget the blockquote - I've just just checked and on a Windows machine they only show in Firefox. Em and bold work in Firefox, IE and Chrome, though. In Firefox for lists, ol and ul both worked as un-ordered. I gave up then.

    That's improvements for you.

  • Comment number 58.

    I don't know if any of you have seen this. Michael Shermer, we'll call him a biologist, and Dr Georgia Purdum, "scientific director" at Ken Ham's Creation Museum in Kentucky, have a chat. Purdom says her doctorate is in molecular genetics, something she appears to have studied so she could bring her expertise to the team over at the museum, give thanks for the $27,000,000 it brings in annually, and run Creation 101 classes for the kind of people who need some confirmation of their bias in nice, sciency sounding language.

    I warn you, there's almost half an hour of this. Hey Logica, learn from a real pro. You couldn't hold a match to Ms Purdum.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a_CLIGJW6Ic

  • Comment number 59.

    grokesx

    I'm using firefox 4, and this thread looks a mess ever since I used the li tag. No idea.

    I tried blockquote in my last post, didn't work.

    Stick with em then. As long as there's some way of quoting, I suppose.

  • Comment number 60.

    AF -

    "Hey Logica, learn from a real pro. You couldn't hold a match to Ms Purdum."

    Well, I watched some of it, and I didn't really agree with the way she was going about things. However, she was right about the fact that we need to interpret data, and our interpretation is dependent on the presuppositions we bring to our observations.

    But such a simple idea is a bit beyond some people on this blog. As I don't want to overburden your tired little brains, I'll say no more about that.

    (Clearly Ms Purdum is a genuine freethinker, since she is not intimidated by the scientific inquisition into accepting the dogmas of the Church of Materialism. But, of course, we know that 'freethinking' in practice means that "you are free to think whatever you like as long as it agrees with a particular materialistic ideology". What is it about the word 'free' that some people just don't understand? Put down your bottle for a minute and answer me that one, chum.)

  • Comment number 61.

    It is deeply concerning that so many people appear to visit the "museum"!

    Well, now I know that infants suffer cancer because they are sinners and that the world is around 6000 years old.

    On Wednesday I was visited by two Jehovah Witnesses who invited me to attend a "special event" where I could find out how Jesus takes away the sin of the world. I might just go and find a cure for cancer!

  • Comment number 62.

    newlach -

    "It is deeply concerning that so many people appear to visit the "museum"!"

    Why??

    If, as the materialists tell us, there is absolutely no meaning or purpose to life, then what does it matter what people do? I just can't get my head round the illogicality of people like you. You're acting as though your view of reality is like a religion, and you need to proselytise.

    If we are all just lumps of matter randomly thrown together by a completely blind and mindless process, then what the heck does it matter what people believe as they go through their pointless lives on the way to eternal oblivion? As Natman has pointed out, the idea of 'purpose' is entirely subjective within the philosophy of materialism, and so why do people like you suddenly express a 'purpose' - "Ooh, I'm just soooo concerned blah blah blah" - and even attempt to impose a kind of 'morality of scientific materialism' on those poor lost reprobate souls who don't toe the ideological line! Talk about fundamentalism!

    Why don't you learn to live consistently with your own philosophy? (Oh, of course, I forgot... you can't!)

  • Comment number 63.

    @LSV

    Hokay, you can post again now, and you have made your usual arguments about the limits of science and other people's philosophies, but have left the rather basic question unanswered, as per. I'll use the newly discovered - to me and Andrew anyway - italics, just in case you miss it:

    What philosophical construct, other than science, have you got to establish truth, and by what means do you establish its reliability?

  • Comment number 64.

    De-baiting a moron. I suppose that has to happen after baiting one, then catching it. So, this is sport fishing? Like a buncha guys sitting along a canal all after the same fish? You develop a relationship with your prize carp?

    Some, like Shermer get them out from their holes, when no-one else is around, just like with Purdum at the museum, just so they can look at them - the gentler sportman? "Get it to talk carp: See if we can understand it better."

    Others, mostly found on blogs, want to catch the thing. This type wants carp out of the water yesterday. And I can sympathise with him. The other type can sit for ages with his rod in the water, day after day, watching the wildlife on the banks pass from the youngest shoots of nettle in spring to the sloes in autumn and the snow hoped for but rued as soon as it appears in winter. He'll also be there, fishing out the carp.

    All of a sudden I feel I've done carp an injustice. I mean all those great fat dominators of the canal system mostly, that manmade canal system, mostly, want is to be left alone.

    The wikipedia entry on carp states: "In Europe, even when not fished for food, they are eagerly sought by anglers, being considered highly prized coarse fish that are difficult to hook.[7] The UK has a thriving carp angling market. It is the fastest growing angling market in the UK and has spawned a number of specialised carp angling publications such as 'Carpology',[8] 'advanced carp fishing', 'carpworld' and 'TotalCarp' also many an informative carp angling web site such as Carpfishing UK [9] and Carpit[10]".

    I particularly like the last one.

    So Caprit: This month, we're hooking morons. To keep them off the er, canals. The whole thing would give me a heart attack but meet my calm old mate...

  • Comment number 65.

    LSV,

    So do you want to drag us down to your level or not? And if that's a not a bad thing, why would you claim it as some form of victory?

    And that Creationist place isn't a museum, it's a theme park. There's a review in Vanity Fair that just about sums it up.

  • Comment number 66.

    Natman -

    You wouldn't be trying to claim the intellectual high ground, would you? Well, I never! Trying to go up in the world, I see!

    If this is really what you are doing (rather than just resorting to a 'route one' insult), then perhaps you may be up to addressing the issues I have raised?

    Or is proper debate just too demeaning for you, now that you have ascended to the sublime height of intellectual incontrovertibility?

    But please don't forget the fundamental rule of your ideology: all 'freethinkers' are equal, but some 'freethinkers' (the materialistic ones) are more equal than others. (To paraphrase George Orwell).

  • Comment number 67.

    LSV,

    You've clearly stated that you're not a freethinker;

    "no amount of their criticism is going to make the slightest difference to those who believe in God"

    That definitively states that no matter what, regardless of anything put to you, that you're not prepared to accept the god doesn't exist.

    ie, not a free thinker.

    And the null hpyothesis stands, as it has for thousands of years. The big bang theory is tested and repeatable through physics and mathematics. If you're suggesting that the only valid form of experimentation is in the field, then you're clearly mislead, or perhaps just biased against less practical forms of science.

    As for taking the high ground, you are the one attempting to bring us down to your level by suggesting that all materialism is based on faith and cannot be proven (just like your idea that there's a god). If having something based on faith and unable to be proven isn't so bad, like your belief in god, why are you desperate to put us on that level?

  • Comment number 68.

    Natman -

    "That definitively states that no matter what, regardless of anything put to you, that you're not prepared to accept the god doesn't exist."

    I have already explained what I meant in some of the earlier posts on this thread, and I even admitted that perhaps I had not worded my statements as accurately as I could have done (#33) - but don't let that stop you from continuing to press your point!

    I suppose there is a sense in which - totally hypothetically and 'academically' - I would be prepared to consider the idea of the non-existence of God, in much the same way that I would consider the idea of the non-existence of Natman. The problem is that the theory of the non-existence of God - i.e. the theory of atheism - is based on the philosophy of materialism. Since this philosophy cannot account for the existence of reason itself, then it seems absurd to try to use 'reason' to prove that the philosophy of materialism is true.

    Knowledge and reason only make sense if they are objectively valid, and they cannot possibly be so in a universe that operates according to total mindlessness as well as material determinism. Reason can only be objectively valid if an intelligence exists by which reality exists. So it is utterly absurd to then argue that we can use reason to disprove the existence of the only basis by which reason has any validity at all!

    Thus my apparent 'closed-mindedness' is not so 'closed-minded' after all. It seems that I have thought through this issue far more deeply than you ever have.

    So don't start accusing me of not being a freethinker. At least I believe in the validity of thought and free will - neither of which make sense in the mindless and deterministic philosophy of materialism! Thus atheism is a total epistemological absurdity and therefore completely untrue - and I have come to this conclusion not by your idea of 'faith' or by deciding to be a mindless bigot, but on the basis of reason and evidence.

    But if you wish to try to convince me of the 'non-existence of God', do please be so good as to provide some evidence. I have yet to see any. I have presented numerous arguments to support my viewpoint. Perhaps you may like to attempt to reciprocate one day?

    grokesx -

    I have not forgotten about you. I'll try to get back to you this evening.

  • Comment number 69.

    grokesx (@ 63) -

    My reply to you is too long for this thread (the preview function is messing around again, which means the 'post comment' function is probably going to as well), so I am going to have to split it.

    "...you have made your usual arguments about the limits of science and other people's philosophies, but have left the rather basic question unanswered, as per."

    I don't quite know why you feel the need to add the little phrase 'as per'. I think I might start throwing that phrase around, since there are others who seem to avoid my questions.

    "What philosophical construct, other than science, have you got to establish truth, and by what means do you establish its reliability?"

    OK, let's assume, for the sake of argument, that there isn't one. Let's assume that 'science' - by which we mean, of course, the empirical scientific method - is the only means to establish what we term 'truth'. Let's investigate this and see where we go...

    First of all, the scientific method cannot tell us that 'science is the only philosophical construct by which to establish truth', since this is a decision we bring to our scientific studies. It's a philosophical conclusion that we have drawn based on some prior belief system. We have arrived at this notion by drawing the logical implications of some philosophical presupposition. So even this idea of the exclusive intellectual authority of 'science' presupposes a higher authority, namely, that of logic working on some other construct.

    So logic therefore provides us with a philosophical construct by which to establish truth. Some may argue that logic is merely a method, but then so is science. If the latter can be termed a 'philosophical construct' then why not the former?

    to be continued...

  • Comment number 70.

    grokesx (@ 63) continued...

    Then we come to the notion of 'truth' - or 'knowledge', which is the content of truth. Science is not the subject that fundamentally deals with the nature of knowledge and truth. That subject is the one that I believe you may perhaps be allergic to: epistemology.

    So if we want 'science' to be the only philosophical construct to establish truth, then we have to first establish the correct epistemological theory which enables us to do this. But then what we are saying is that there is an area of study prior to science, which is epistemology. And then we get on to that old chestnut - our dear friend, empiricism. (Would you like to break off your reading at this point, and go and take a walk to bring your blood pressure down? I know this is a sensitive subject for you!)

    Well, we know what I am going to say, as I have said it so many times before. Clue: something to do with the phrase 'self-refuting'.

    So we have logic and epistemology that precede science. And then there is something else that actually precedes science - not absolutely, but in practical terms life would be a nightmare if science did not obey this. What am I talking about? Answer: ethics.

    Could 'ethics' or 'morality' count as a philosophical construct separate from science? Well, of course this is separate from science, since the empirical scientific method tells us nothing about morality. There is nothing in the chemical composition of a stick of dynamite that tells us what we should actually do with it. Open an average newspaper and take out all the articles relating to moral issues, and I can assure you that there will not be much left - certainly not in the first half of the paper. Are we therefore to assume that all news reports involving moral issues are just lies, since the subject matter falls outside the purview of 'science'?

    to be continued...

  • Comment number 71.

    grokesx (@ 63) continued...

    Now suppose we decide that science is the only philosophical construct that establishes truth. How do we live our lives then? If everything in life is reduced to its material properties, what wisdom does that analysis provide?

    What is the news media supposed to report on? Take the subject of this thread (from which we seem to have drifted somewhat - as per!): the royal wedding. How is this event going to be reported on? I mean reported on truthfully. Since 'science' is apparently the only philosophical construct we have to establish truth, then I presume that the commentary will focus exclusively on such things as the rate of motion of the wheels of the royal carriage, and the chemical structure of the fibres in the dress of a certain important female of the species. When the two particular living organisms being scrutinised do what is 'subjectively' termed 'kiss', are we then going to be subjected to a commentary on the release of dopamine, endorphins, and phenylethylamine? I think not. But if the commentary is not strictly scientific, then the commentator would be lying, if 'science' is the only means of establishing 'truth'.

    So to add to logic and epistemology we also have morality and the whole world of human experience and meaning. None of this can be reduced to an analysis of material properties.

    Reality shows us that science cannot possibly be the only philosophical construct that establishes truth. This proves that the philosophy of materialism is bankrupt, and easily falsified. We therefore know that there is more to reality than merely matter. Of course, as I've mentioned, this is only a process of falsification - a process that the materialists are very happy to resort to in seeking to establish their philosophy: "there is no alternative, therefore we fall back onto materialism". So you can hardly criticise me for employing the same method.

    This leads us to the position where spiritual views are validated. Having laid that secure foundation, we can then begin to investigate the different spiritual options, but it is hopeless discussing these with those who won't even accept that their materialistic presupposition is invalid. Thus we are left with a certain agnosticism, and I have no quarrel with the respectful agnostic. The dogmatic atheist, however, will always attract my criticism, since his position is so utterly irrational and philosophically invalid, as I have explained umpteen times.

  • Comment number 72.

    LSV,

    You seem to think that because (in your view) philosophical materialism is self-refuting = there is a god.
    You don't explain why this is so.

    You also don't explain why if the above is true, it is your god that is the only one and why that god would create a universe that plainly doesn't need it.

    You place a lot of emphasis onto this 'truth' thing.

    Science isn't about getting the 'truth', I can see now why you seem so confused about the whole thing.

    Sorry to reduce your entire 3 stage posting into an abstract mess of concepts.

    Also, morality is subjective; something science doesn't touch with a barge-pole.

    If your concept is so amazing, so definitively destroying of the established scientific community, strange how it's not used more against those highly vocal and very famous atheists out there taking down theism one narrow-minded person at a time.

    Is it perhaps they see the gaping flaw in it?

  • Comment number 73.

  • Comment number 74.

    @LSV

    Hokay. First up, separating logic out from science is a waste of time – the scientific method includes logic. It includes the formal, deductive kind in working out all those tricky formulae, and also the sometimes intuitive inductive kind that provides the creative ideas.

    So, you can't actually take science and empiricism and place them in your trophy cabinet in a less exalted position than logic and epistemology, because it doesn't work like that. You've got the grouping all wrong.

    What we have in actuality is deductive logic, inductive logic and empiricism utilised in an endeavour called science. All three elements have their strengths and weaknesses. The weakness of deductive logic is laid out in its definition: in short, the process of going from “true” premises to “true” conclusions. Metamathematics, Godel and all that mullarkey underlines the point. Inductive logic only gives us probabilistic outcomes, so serves as a basis for further study and confirmation/otherwise by experiment. Empiricism, well it is self refuting, if you hadn't heard.

    And so we come to epistemology. Pass the loratadine for this one. It does come before science in one respect – philosophers thought at one time that they could get to the truth by thinking hard and making stuff up, or to carry on the metaphor I used before, drawing ever more sumptuous dragons on the empty parts of their maps. The clever natural philosophers went on and explored the territory using – and this is the important bit - the tools they had at their disposal, empiricism and reason, (or logic if you prefer), fully aware that they were imperfect tools, but equally aware that centuries of mistaking the map for the territory had led to many blind alleys and many discussions of pin dancing.

    I'll skip the morality and ethics stuff for now, and go on to the last paragraph. Of course, I don't agree with the bonkersness of:

    This leads us to the position where spiritual views are validated. Having laid that secure foundation, we can then begin to investigate the different spiritual options

    But clearly, with science being limited in scope by the uncertainties of logic and empiricism (bearing in mind the many discussions we have had about what this actually means and that “cannot be known to be true” doesn't translate as “is false” no matter how much you want it to) there is the possibility that there are some truths that science can't nail down yet, perhaps ever. In that sense, pretty much every atheist I know is agnostic about deism, even some formulations of theism, if only to a tiny degree. We could get into a boring argument over definitions of atheism, at this point if you like.

    But that wasn't the point of my question. Despite all your accusations, most scientists are fully aware of the limitations of science, although the language of methodological naturalism may give the opposite impression – especially if you are pre-inclined to believe the opposite (btw, you really should read up on cognitive biases) – and that it is possible to throw the baby out with the bathwater. But jeebs, it's one big bath, containing homeopathy, astrology, reiki, quantum woo, Thor, Odin, thirty thousand flavours of Christianity, Islam, thousands of Hindu gods, Buddhism, wicca etc etc etc into infinity and beyond.

    My question is actually about this bit:

    we can then begin to investigate the different spiritual options

    For me, your endless wibbling about materialistic assumptions and pious declarations that to discuss spiritual options is a waste of time because we are all just disrespectful philosophical philistines contains a multitude of obfuscations. Plainly speaking, you are so convinced that your god is real that nothing anyone can say can convince you otherwise, yet you can offer no good reason for that conviction other than a bunch of pre-suppositions that apparently double up as evidence.

    The funny thing is that religious people are so used to this mangling of reason, it doesn't seem to strike them as embarrassing. Actually it does, that's why they invented such concepts as transcendence, ground of all being and, the piece de resistance, apophatic theology.

  • Comment number 75.

    Grokesx, Don't most Agnostics fall into that category- of apophatic theology- without ties to any specific religion, but where God is abstract- beyond existing or not existing. Seems very often , agnostics are sympathetic with atheists especially as a unified force against organised religion, but by your reasoning they're to be treated with the same disdain. That would cover a very sizeable chunk of the population you look down on

  • Comment number 76.

    @Ryan

    Don't most Agnostics fall into that category- of apophatic theology- without ties to any specific religion, but where God is abstract- beyond existing or not existing.

    I don't think so, no. From what I've seen, the apophatic theologian believes just fervently as anyone that a god exists, it's just his/her/its properties that are elusive and have to be considered negatively. Anyone who says "God is..." no matter how airy fairily abstractly they say it, is not agnostic.

    The people I think you are talking about are these types.

  • Comment number 77.

    Grokesx, "I don't think so,no."

    You're at least being speculative I guess. Are people able to distinguish the word *God* and detangle it from its meaning by simply putting a negative infront? You would think a new vocabulary with positive affirmations of Atheism would be more effective than constantly invoking the words *God* and religion. I just wonder what image is created in the mind of an Atheist everytime they use the word, for it seems- at least here- some Athiests use the word *God* with more frequency than anyone else. It's curious that a religious blog would attract an Atheist, it's almost like an atheist has the need for some spiritual, religious or Godly dimension to their lives, even if it is to stand on the sidelines just to say they refute it. Like you, who comes to drink from the font of LSV each nite before sleep.An atheist, writing in a religious blog, interacting with a Christian about God is perhaps as close to a night time prayer you can get. An atheist, if they were true to their world-view surely wouldn't spend time on a religious blog would they.There must be better applications of "time" for someone who feels spiritualism and religion is a waste of "time",rather then spending "time" at the same table debating it

  • Comment number 78.

    @Ryan

    Well, someones' got to keep this blog alive and it's no fun arguing with people you agree with. LSV is interesting and exasperating in equal measure and since Bernard's Insight and Graham Veale departed, is the only theist left here who likes to chew the fat about science, philosophy and that god character.

    As for my interest - for one, I find the religious impulse fascinating and for another, whether one is atheist, agnostic, Christian, pagan or whatever, that impulse has an effect, for good or ill on the world. I've watched muderous mobs of hindus and muslims tear into each other and seen one of the most bustling, vibrant, overcrowded cities in the world turned into a ghost place because of that religious hatred. I've known people lost to religious cults and seen the long, painful process of someone breaking away from one. Religion affects us all - fundies trying to redefine science, young men strapping bombs to themselves or flying planes into buildings at one end and good people doing good things inspired by their religion at the other.

    Why wouldn't I be interested in all that, even if I think it's a load of dingo's kidneys?

  • Comment number 79.

    I agree with you in many respects. I don't like how religion & tribalism become interwoven, especially when God is used as a weapon. My understanding of Atheism (pre this) was as something neutral- a question that didn't need answered and that Agnostism was like an overview of all religion- understanding what bits work well and what bits don't and coming to the conclusion no human society has got it right-That you'd have to mix all of humanity up into a big multicultural soup to start extracting some universal truths. I guess sometimes, it can look like Atheists are using God as a weapon, in much the same way religions use God to separate and create tribalism.That isn't to say good can't come out of an Atheist approach, but it would be fair to say some good can also come out of a theistic approach- it at least has to be recognised. My own personal take on it is LSV is ultimately right, but the scientific approach is the way to go, rather than an unbalanced reliance on religion and its holy books. I would just hope that some of the Atheist fundies won't stifle the creativity of science the same way some religions have done in the past

  • Comment number 80.

    Ryan...

    Atheist fundie, lol. That's like saying open-minded theist.

    Funny how science never progressed so fast than from the moment it decoupled the divine from the equation.

    Unless, of course, you can point to an aspect of science that's actually benefited from including the supernatural into its process?

  • Comment number 81.

    Atheist fundie, lol. That's like saying open-minded theist
    I guess if there's an opening, it'll be filled lol

    Isaac Newton springs to mind - he was involved in theology, as well science and mathematics. If someone's spiritual/religious outlook on life can be a strength & driving force to do good, to keep on going,to keep getting up, then it's a faith well accessed - BBC4 Beautiful Minds series (again lol), the 1st programme focused on Jocelyn Bell Burnell, and how her faith as a Quaker inspired her drive & accomplishments. I share the same concerns about religion/faith being accessed irresponsibly, as a weapon, to discriminate etc but I don't think the answer is to ditch all spiritual belief because chunks of humanity have shown themselves incapable of handling it properly. Atheism isn't a panacea if you have people using God as a weapon (again) or to hinder creativity & diversity (again) It's just humans acting out the same behaviours under a different guise. I wonder if spirituality / belief becomes such an off-topic in science that sometime in the future we could end up with a mirror image of what happened to Galileo. Humanity has a tendency to make the same mistake over and over again
  • Comment number 82.

    LSV, post 30,

    "....all you have ever presented are ideas along the lines of "what could have happened" - i.e. pure supposition....."

    "....considering the fact that you daren't even talk about philosophical issues,..."

    "I can't help but notice that you conveniently ignored the first part of my previous post on this thread concerning the limitations of 'science'. How very interesting..."

    As mentioned on the 'This week's top stories' thread already, the reason I am not interested in your bits about pre-suppositions, your pseudo-philosophy, boring limits of science talk etc is that it is nothing but goal post moving, inconsistency and the application of double standards. When you think you have some empirical evidence against evolution or abiogenesis then you don't worry anything about methodological naturalism, the philosophy underlying science, etc. You are happy to engage in empiricism as long as the creationist nonsense you blindly follow leads to goddunnit. Then I point out the flaws in the reasoning again and explain to you why in the various areas of science you made claims in, science doesn't show any evidence for there being god(s).

    The honest thing there for you to do would be to accept that. But you are a true creationist fundie, so you won't. Instead you seek to change the rules in mid-play. Whereas you were happy to accept the results of empiricism when I hadn't shown the errors in your claims yet, the moment I show them to be deeply flawed once again, your mind cant handle defeat for god at the hands of science. So you seek a way of not accepting the defeat. And yapping on about presuppositions you didn't care a damn about until the moment before seems to be the most frequently used way to run.

    grokesx and I have both left you lengthy posts on the other thread. Why don't you answer them, without fleeing into the boring old presuppositions bit again?

  • Comment number 83.

    "It's curious that a religious blog would attract an Atheist, it's almost like an atheist has the need for some spiritual, religious or Godly dimension to their lives, even if it is to stand on the sidelines just to say they refute it. Like you, who comes to drink from the font of LSV each nite before sleep.An atheist, writing in a religious blog, interacting with a Christian about God is perhaps as close to a night time prayer you can get."

    I'll take ten deep breaths and not say what sprang to mind when I read that, and instead say this. Every atheist I know tends to have an interest in religion, because to be an atheist is not to stop being human, and religion impacts massively upon individuals and humanity as a whole. Apart from that, I would guess that the absurdity of religion becomes rather apparent to people who incline to an atheist dint of mind. That is fascinating itself. Religion is one trait - there's strong evidence that it is an adaptive trait in evolutionary terms - that has occurred in every culture in every time since before history was even being recorded. Given what it has produced - good and bad (I make no apology for thinking that the net bad outweighs the good in the greater scheme of things) - what inquisitive, open minded individual could help but be fascinated.

    I fail to see what it is you find "right" or remotely admirable about LSV. I fail to see what Grokesx finds "interesting" about him. What is interesting or admirable or right about a person who is not unintelligent but is singularly intent on being impervious to reason. What is admirable about watching an undignified parading of wilful ignorance and arrogant conceit? You suggested before I "would be better off" with this person than Andrew. Well on pain of death give me Andrew but I think I'm better off with neither of them thankyou. And yes, the fact that he's religious, and because of the absurdity of it, and respect it unduly garners, and its frankly barmy position of such esteem in the law that it gets religious people off with all manner of wickedness, great and small, veiled and explicit, yes, that does make him harder to stomach.

    The simple fact that being religious still equals to many minds being a paragon of virtue is hard to stomach. It also leads to injustice. What can you expect when the opinion of people who - to a man in my experience - are either dumb, damaged, dishonest or in denial is given such distinction.

    The following (I hope you'll take the time) is the Oxford Amnesty Lecture of 1997 by Nicholas

  • Comment number 84.

    @Ryan

    I would just hope that some of the Atheist fundies won't stifle the creativity of science the same way some religions have done in the past

    I really don't know what to make of this. What can atheists do to science? Smuggle less god into it? There wasn't any in the first place. Newton didn't take god into account in his calculations, no matter what he believed. So, why should we take account of his beliefs that didn't impinge on his work? We know he was deeply mistaken about alchemy and that he enthusiastically sent counterfeiters to be hung, drawn and quartered, which, I think it is fair to say, is not a mainstream recommendation these days. That makes no difference to calculus, the laws of motion or the law of gravitation, though.

    The thing is, you can't have a little bit of methodological naturalism. You don't allow for angels mucking up your results but not leprechauns. The things that stifle the creativity of science aren't a lack of a spiritual direction and a denial of god, but more mundane matters like funding, having to justify research commercially, a concentration of resources on "defence projects", clueless politicians dictating policy, corporate greed in the pharmaceutical industry,a public that thinks anti vaxers are rational people and that climate change "sceptics" have a point because of a couple of warm summers.

  • Comment number 85.

    "I share the same concerns about religion/faith being accessed irresponsibly, as a weapon, to discriminate etc but I don't think the answer is to ditch all spiritual belief because chunks of humanity have shown themselves incapable of handling it properly. Atheism isn't a panacea if you have people using God as a weapon (again) or to hinder creativity & diversity (again) It's just humans acting out the same behaviours under a different guise."

    First of all I don't see or use religion as a "weapon".

    Secondly every man who commits an atrocity in the name of religion has his tract. And if ethics stands apart from religion, then religion becomes an irrelevant indulgence, not a guide. If, since it has all the seeds of every act of wickedness carried out in its name within it, then religion itself becomes iniquitous to me. It is an unhealthy indulgence. It is a dangerous indulgence, because how good or bad it is depends on the moral strength of the culture that surrounds it. It cannot stand as a beacon on its own. That much is plain. And it can eat the culture that surrounds it, and when it has done that in the past the results have always - always - been horrific. Heinous.

    Thirdly - atheism is something at which one arrives on one's own. It is not anywhere presented as a panacea, but what tends to lead to it might be: critical thought. Healthy scepticism is not taught in our schools. It can easily be taught and it should be.

  • Comment number 86.

    Oops! No Link? Is there a word limit? The link to Humphrey's Amnesty Lecture: http://www.edge.org/3rd_culture/humphrey/amnesty.html

  • Comment number 87.

    @AF

    I fail to see what Grokesx finds "interesting" about him. What is interesting or admirable or right about a person who is not unintelligent but is singularly intent on being impervious to reason. What is admirable about watching an undignified parading of wilful ignorance and arrogant conceit?

    Lol. This week ay be mostly cultivating an inner calm.

  • Comment number 88.

    That's very good of you! Has all this supping "from the font of LSV" (yuck, I hope that wasn't a Freudian slip ryan) put a bit of god in your belly? Have you found contributing to a brick wall on William Crawley's blog a bit redemptive? Or did you come here looking for *that special feeling* in the first place?

  • Comment number 89.

    Ryan,

    Issac Newton was a slightly unhinged religious loon who just also happened to have one of the world's greatest ever minds and applied it to some physical laws. During his lifetime actually wrote more on Biblical hermeneutics and occult studies than science. A good example;

    Do you know why there are seven colours in the rainbow? Newton originally put in 5 colours, because whilst the spectrum isn't incremental, our eyes can only detect three (and the combinations thereof). He later added 2 more so it would tie-in with the musical scale; hardly the workings of a true scientific mind.

    Science has never benefited from the inclusion of religion into it and has performed far better when religion stays well away from matters of a scientific nature.

  • Comment number 90.

    Nat,You seem more willing to put religion into science than I am. No wonder you go arrgghh. You think I'm saying science should be inclusive of religion? I'm not & never have. Just to keep an open mind -as you claim you have - that people can choose freely & if faith can inspire drive & accomplishments, as in the case of Jocelyn Bell Burnell then they've accessed spirituality on a healthy level. It's easier I guess to make sweeping generalisations at a group because it's de-sensitizing & you can view it more as an object maybe.We group people up and do it all the time

  • Comment number 91.

    That's it ryan! Confess!

  • Comment number 92.

    First of all I don't see or use religion as a "weapon"

    Haha!

    Thirdly - atheism is something at which one arrives on one's own

    Says the Spiritual Agnostic


    Btw, I never said I was part of any Religion, so you run can along
  • Comment number 93.

    No you're one of those cafeteria Christians, a very convenient, and also the most intellectually lazy, position to assume. Whether you're a member of a religion or not you're still pushing the envelope and you're still religious. Clever clogs. So by not being a member of an actual religion - is that how you deal with the cognitive dissonance that you must suffer from being gay and pretty much hated by all the major religions? Just escape to some Narnia in your head where Jesus loves you nonetheless? That's quite unfortunate.

  • Comment number 94.

    Just shows you how pathetic you really are when you come out with drivel like that. My interests are wide ranging & in a spiritual sense , defined by a wider range of interests than I'd bother wasting my time discussing with you. Putting it briefly I have a respect for aspects of Buddhism, Taosism, learnt alot at Uni about Native North American belief systems that struck a chord with me. Not that it's any of your aggressive little business, but as I said before- I dont think any particular religion or belief structure has got it totally right. You only have to look at the state of the world to see that, but I'm not gonna be bullied or pigeon holed by you into something Im not just because I have a respect for certain aspects of Christianity

  • Comment number 95.

    I'm surprised you haven't mentioned fish again- seems to be a running theme for you- like a cross between Joan Collins and Captain Birdseye

  • Comment number 96.

    What fun. So easy to provoke!

  • Comment number 97.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 98.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 99.

    A running theme? I eat a lot of fish. I think I mentioned having eaten it once after trying a new recipe with great success.

    What a curious mind you have, m'learned friend.

  • Comment number 100.

    grokesx (@ 74) -

    Thanks for your response to my three-in-one post (the trinitarian methodology having been necessitated by a rather fractiously functioning thread). And this post will have to be cut into two, as I have just discovered.

    Frankly, my friend, I have no idea exactly why we are even arguing. What is our dispute with one another about? So science is limited and I believe in God and you don't. So what?

    Ah, yes, of course, I remember now. It's to do with "science being the only philosophical construct we have to determine truth with any reliability". We have a difference of opinion about this. Again I ask: so what?

    In the real world it boils down to this: I believe that there is an ultimate meaning to reality, whereas I can only assume that you don't. You seem to want to disabuse me of my belief that there is an ultimate meaning to reality, but why? For what purpose? Since, according to your thinking, life is ultimately meaningless (as it must be, if life is just the result of a totally blind and mindless process), then I just can't grasp why you are even bothering. I could understand your position if I were trying to force you to accept what I say, but the days of the rack and the stake are long gone, and I wouldn't support that approach anyway.

    Natman has made the point that the idea of 'purpose' is entirely subjective. Does that mean 'purpose' is irrelevant? If so, then what is your purpose in debating with me? It seems to me that the atheists on this blog do have a purpose, but I can't see why they should, if the idea of 'purpose' is merely subjective - i.e. 'made up'!

    Apparently morality is also made up. But it seems that atheists are forever going on about moral issues. They seem to have a purpose and morals, both of which are subjective and therefore not really 'true'. So why embrace them at all?

    to be continued...

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