Table of Contents
First and foremost, I do not expect you to respond to this essay. I had no idea it would be this long. If you tell me later that you did not have time to read it, I will neither be surprised nor disappointed. I received benefit in writing it; so, I have no expectation for your reading this and responding to it. Also, I want you to know that I did not copy-and-paste into this essay. Everything was originally written in response to your email.
You will find a lot of footnotes and Special Topics in this essay. I did this purposely. I wanted to keep the main argument clean and unobstructed. So when I thought other info was needed for more details but could muddy the argument, I put that in a footnote. If the footnote became lengthy, I put that into a Special Topic.
In regard to Special Topics, there is one which you must read before continuing with the main argument of this essay. My position will not be understood whatsoever if it has not been read and understood. Of course, understanding does not require agreement. The Special Topic is . If, after reading this, you realize that the argument is flawed, then put your focus there. The framework of my entire argument rises and falls on this topic.
My first reply to you was up to 34 pages when I stopped. Having responded to all your comments (hopefully in a thoughtful and reasonable way) and having added new questions and reflections for you, I simply hit the brakes. There is a benefit in discussing particulars; that goes without question for me; however, it seemed to me that addressing the key difference between us would be more important. In a way it appeared that I had become more concerned about the hair loss from chemo than the real problem. So, I’ll use the main part of this essay to discuss what I believe is the primary difference between us. I have categorized many of your comments from your previous email in sections after the Special Topics that may be accessed via the table of contents. I thought this would be an easier way to separate the main issue from subordinate ones. Also, if you do read this, you can easily find your way back to an argument. Simply Ctl-Click on an entry in the TOC to go to it.
I took about 30 mins reviewing statistics online that distinguished creationists from theistic evolutionists from non-theistic evolutionists. Though the numbers varied, it appeared to collectively and respectively be 35%, 50%, 15%. Furthermore, I tried to find stats for the number of physical scientists who believed in God or did not believe. I found it to be 5% or less. I did this for I wanted to get a feel for the division of beliefs. All surveys I checked consistently illustrated that theistic evolutionists outnumber creationists.
I do not have a fixed position on creationism or theistic evolution though I do lean towards theistic evolution; yet, I am not committed to either. From the comments you have made, I think you find theistic evolution of such a compromise as to be meaningless. Though you and Dawkins would be willing to leave the explanatory world open to a deistic god, this god, at least theoretically, would not be personal and would not have mind. This god is more of a force, an emergent energy of some sort. I have tried and tried to think of a compelling reason why an atheist and a true advocate of Natural Selection and the laws of physics would need or even care if there were a deistic god. In this regard Dawkins is more consistent, for he recognizes that the imprecise use of the word “god” by scientists has created confusion. A deist god certainly seems to be an Occam violation.
The primary problem that I see between us is theistic evolution versus atheistic evolution. Atheistic evolution appears to have one insurmountable problem that I cannot reconcile. I will discuss this issue in the main part of this essay which follows.
I’d like to move the discussion to the problem of evolution without God. Of course, a response from you could well be, “What problem? God simply isn’t needed. Everything can be explained by natural processes. What we don’t know we eventually will. We may not know fully with 100% certainty the physical processes for everything, but we will know enough that all that will be left for God to do will be so miniscule or trivial that his so-called omniscience, omnipotence, and omnipresence would be a bit of overkill. Most certainly he would be over-qualified for the job. There really is no need to solve the problem of one pesky mosquito with an atom bomb.”
Nevertheless, with the gaps of unexplained phenomena still shrinking and shrinking, there is one problem that troubles me in which God most certainly seems necessary as an explanation. Before I discuss it I have two issues as a sort of prolegomenon before I lift my skirt, revealing my difficulties with atheistic evolution.
The first pre-topic is a phenomenon of language. A particular phenomenon was brought to my attention about 40 years ago. Since that time I have made a point of listening for it. It does occur regularly; I cannot conceive of a conversation where it does not. Our emails have been filled with it. So, what is this phenomenon?
It is the manner in which we discuss the concrete and the abstract. This issue is so important, but rarely identified. You may disagree with the distinction between the two, and I trust you will provide your reasons and illustrations as to why. So much of what I will discuss and the reasons for it will depend upon this distinction. My position will completely collapse if this distinction is false.
The second pre-topic is why do I believe certain passages/doctrines/incidents of the Bible that are statistically improbable but which I do not believe in books or testimony elsewhere? The above two issues are foundational for what I say from this point.
Now I return to the problem that I have with atheistic evolution. Just what is the problem, and where does it lie? It is the problem of the mind.
There are synonyms for mind: consciousness (not merely conscious), self-consciousness, soul, spirit. Any of them work fine for me since their commonality is immaterial entities in which properties of the mind are ascribed. Mind with its immense scope is what separate human from non-human, particularly non-human animals. Though we may disagree with the properties and scope of the mind, we are in agreement, I think, that the spectacular nature and range of the mind give it a sense of awe and wonder.
A common remark by assertive atheists is that the so-called wonders of the Bible cannot touch the wonders of science. In Dawkins’ Unweaving the Rainbow he laments the failure of art to recognize the awe and wonder that science provides. Dawkins explains that the arts do attempt to lead readers to experience the awe and wonder of the natural world, but at the neglect of science itself which makes it possible. Though Dawkins gives little doubt as to his love and appreciation of art, particularly poetry, he is disappointed at this failure of art. I believe the problem is not a failure of art, but a misunderstanding of the nature of awe and wonder.
Science is rightly to be praised, but it tells me what and not why. Size and power and complexity do bring wonder
and awe … for a bit. I’ve been to
There is a difference of the awe of nature (particulars) and the awe of the transcendental (the universal, the infinite). If Dawkins recognizes this difference, he never mentioned it. Complexity and size create a sense of awe because the mind cannot grasp them; there is nothing to match it up with in the memory or experience. But it doesn’t last. Why? Bottom line, it’s just a great big thing or something with a lot of parts and working relationships. A child is overwhelmed by a big dog, then a bigger car, then a bigger plane, and on and on. Familiarity takes that away. Whether the child or adult recognizes it, the size and complexity are merely relative. The awe for something bigger and more complex will replace a previous awe.
The transcendent is precisely NOT that; it is something that transcends understanding and that will always be a mystery. Poets seek words and phrases and metaphors that alert our sense of the transcendental, something that we cannot define, something that will not come to an end. The very essence of abstract art is precisely this. Abstract artists realized that in their search to awaken the awe of a universal, particulars were worthless. Form, proportion, and imposed meaning were tossed aside. The artists wanted to see beyond the “things” to reality itself. To them, anyone can reproduce an object on canvas. Frankly, why paint like William Harnett when a photograph could do just as well?
Dawkins recognizes the mind’s pleasure in encountering awe. But the awe of the complexity of things will diminish. The body has to deal with the concrete, but the mind seeks the abstract. Humans are not merely interested in the physical act of mating, but also love. They want to stay alive, but they also want to know the meaning of life. They see social order and regulation of behavior, but they want justice. The interesting quality of any abstract is that we are never quite sure if we really know what it is and if we’re doing it. The search for an abstract (the non-concrete) is infinite.
I tend to agree with the mindset of science that the gap of understand will close, but the gap that is closing is the gap of particular details. Let’s assume science finally triumphs, and all what-questions are finally answered. Now what? The mind will not be satisfied. Meaning is not in particulars, regardless how complex they are. All the answered what-questions will not answer for me, “Why should I love my neighbor as myself?” A million “is’s” will not give me one “should” or one “ought” or one “why.”
In your discussion of morality, you stated that,
So, although there is much variation in what a behavior can be and still present a good face to society, the traits that generally make an individual better suited to fit in will be passed on. That doesn’t precisely determine behavior, but it sets a broad standard for the type of behavior that is acceptable.
You use the illustration of the traits that are passed on (presumably by genes) so an individual entity can fit in. My question is why doesn’t it determine behavior? You have forgotten more about biology than I will ever know; so please correct me. But I am under the impression that the social order of animals is highly defined and regulated. The behavior of an animal societal group seems to be as instinctive as individual animals are instinctive. If you wish, since I am an amateur in science, toss out instinctive and used “behaviorally predictive.” Once I’ve seen one honey bee colony, then I’ve seen them all. The odds of my finding another one in which four queen bees managed one hive, one standing by to create another queen when needed, one to produce drones, one to create workers, and one to standby in case a queen were suddenly killed for some reason are surely way beyond the statistical 6σ. It’s more farfetched that Boeing’s 9σ requirements.
If one feature seems certain, it is the societal behavior of animals. If that is so, why hasn’t this “morality trait” been more perfected as it has gone up the evolutional chain? If I look at a drone honey bee, a societal animal, its future can be predicted. Why can’t morality be predicted?
The problem is the mind. Physically we have so much in common with animals; we have nothing in common with animals in regard to the mind.  Let’s assume that a billion new fossils will be found that will link precisely from chimps to humans, traceable back to however many millions of years are needed. That’s fine. We’ll assume that will happen. We still return to the problem of the mind. Even though the human and proto-human (Neanderthal and whatever else) had large brains, does that create mind?
This is precisely where the problem of the mind occurs for me. Either it is an extension or function of the brain, or mind is distinct from the brain. If the mind is fully explainable by evolution, then there appears to be insurmountable difficulties. From this point until stated otherwise, all my comments will be referencing the mind as if it were an extension/function of the brain.
The significance of being a human collapses. When a dog attacks a child and kills him, no one accuses the dog of murder or manslaughter. There are no lawyers rushing out to protect the rights of the dog. In no way is the dog considered to have done anything morally wrong. In harsh contrast, if a child without provocation kills all the dogs in the neighborhood with a knife and cooks every cat alive he can find in the microwave, even though legal actions may not occur, most would consider the child as having done wrong, many would say morally wrong.
If a dog mates with every female in the neighborhood, creating a terrible parcel of puppies, no one is going to demand that the dog provide puppy support. The neighbors may complaint about the four-legged Lothario, but they will not demand supplemental pet-food subsidies from the male’s owner. (They may kill the mutt, but the owner is probably safe.) Again, in contrast, “dead-beat dads” receive little sympathy from the courts.
The mind is concerned about right and wrong, or, if you please, abstracts. It is one thing for the brain in humans to develop to create greater physical skills for hunting, farming, fishing, etc, but what is the advantage of abstracts … especially when rarely if ever do 100% agree to what any particular abstract means or how it is applied.
Nature is comprised of what is concrete. Only mind can conceive abstracts … and to what purpose? If physical necessity were the issue only, all the brain was needed for was how to maintain enough control of particulars to maximize the lifespan. Art is not needed to live longer. Staring or thinking about art will not fill a single physical need. Musing about the meaning of life does not fill an empty stomach or create shelter.
From an evolutionary perspective the only reason I can see for the mind delving into abstracts is for Natural Selection to create the illusion that these abstracts are important which then affects behavior for survival. In the same way that chimps will attack neighboring troops and cannibalize their young, so humans will become convinced that a different group of people is a threat and must be put into slavery, sent to prison camps, slaughtered, or whatever is needed to control the perceived threat, even if the threat is unclear.
I am well aware of the moral repugnance of what I just wrote, but moral repugnance is an abstract. Even you admitted that I have my morality and you have yours. There is no absolute morality; so, what is done? Do we do a headcount? Or do as the animal world: let the strongest of a species within a species-local dominate? If that is so, since morals are relative, then the Nazis were right while they were in power; the Communists were right when they were in power, etc. Moreover, the Inquisition was right. Radical Muslims are right. Atheists are right. The word right is not used in a moral sense of “ought or should,” since that will lead to immediate contradiction. Morals is being used in the sense that a behavior is the correct behavior situationally for specie survival, much like the right answer to a math problem is not an “ought” or moral issue. Relative morals are right because they give a rational justification that motivates the species for doing what is needed to survive longer.
When you gave your guideline for morality it was 1) be of age, 2) the parties be consensual, and 3) do not hurt others. Yet, if a species feels threatened, then doesn’t it have the “right” to fight back? If the morality of the Muslims is framed within religion (an abstract just like morality), then what difference does it make? It’s their morality, and they have excellent reason to feel threatened. Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens have spoken out strongly against militant Islam. In other words it’s ok for Muslims to be contained . Nature is producing the morality, not the individuals. Whatever produces the abstract of morality in their minds is not from them; it is from evolution, and it is rooted in survival.
If survival is the key to understanding what Evolution is doing and why Natural Selection selects this or weeds out that, then the “reasons” for Muslims to kill and protect themselves seem no different than the urge for chimps to cannibalize the neighboring troops. It is merely survival. Militant Muslims are doing no more than responding to the morality that has been revealed in their minds by natural processes.
Lastly, if it truly is proved that the mind is an extension/function of the brain (natural processes), then abstracts have no meaning or purpose in and of themselves. They are merely ideas and images triggered by the brain to bring about some reaction or response needed for survival. All abstracts merely become a means, a tool for survival. The abstracts of love, truth, honor, courage, virtue, sacrifice, good are actually meaningless. They are triggered as needed to cause human to react, much like worms on a hook trigger fish to bite or the warmth of the spring sun triggers trees to sprout buds. It is cause-and-effect.
From this point I return to my belief that mind is an entity separate and distinct from the body.
Try as I may, I cannot conceive of “I” not existing. Critics will say, “That’s easy. Where were you in the days of Caesar or Napoleon?” That is an odd criticism. Even evolutionists admit there is a beginning to the mind; it is the end of it that is the question. I’m at a loss as to how this helps anything or is some sort of fatal criticism.
If the mind is not from matter/energy, then it is from another mind. Like begets like. What can be more foundational than that? Regardless of all the details, the origins of the universe come down to one of two issues: 1) either matter/energy has always existed, or 2) Mind has always existed. If is far easier for me to believe that mind has always existed. The immediate rejoinder is, “How do you know that? What is the proof?” Being an abstract, just as the theory of any origin of the universe is, I know it for the same reason that atheists know there has always been matter/energy … I believe it as they believe theirs. I am using the identical methodology of scientists who believe in the eternality of matter … blind faith.
Oh yes, evidence is brought forth. But the evidence is interpreted, not absolute, not objective, not universally accepted. Any “proof” will use the coherence theory of truth. Atheists believe there has always been matter/energy for the same reason that theist believe that mind (God) has always existed … it just makes sense with everything else.
So, I return to what I wrote a few paragraphs back: I cannot conceive of “I” not existing. Also, I cannot conceive of “I” as part of the body. Obviously “I” is contained within the body, but it is not the body. I cannot disbelieve that if you sever my arm, you have severed my mind. Cut off all my limbs, and “I” is fully intact. Even should I incur Alzheimer’s (very rife) in my family, “I” is still there.
I have always found it interesting that if given a choice, people will choose anything before losing their mind. Lose my sight, not my mind. Lost my arms or legs, but not my mind. I have visited a lot of Alzheimer’s patients (as a ministry for others and later with my mother). The comments that I heard from others I also found myself saying, “Where is she? The body is there, but Mom isn’t.”
Once a mind understands a fact; it is ready to move on. Once I learned the presidents of the
Though the questions of the last paragraph may not continually be before a mind, they will be asked periodically. Certainty seems so close, but always a touch out of reach. If it is true what is said about science and Evolution, all questions of fact should eventually be answered. The gap of the unexplainable will shrink as a puddle of water before the sun. If that day happens, then I predict the follow: to satisfy the hunger of the mind, scientists will ask themselves, “Hmm, I wonder if this is really right. It seems to be, but I wonder.” The mind, whether created by God or evolved by Evolution, is inherently discontent with the concrete.
It can be posited that this insatiable hunger to know is a survival instinct created by Natural Selection. Because of it we will learn new means of surviving. The only problem with that is that it is only a reflex, a response to some stimulus. What we think of as the awe and wonder of the mind is an illusion. Instinct appears to be no more than unexplainable, programmed behavior. There is no awe or wonder. The behavior is inevitable and determined. “I” has no more to do with my thinking than “I” does with my heartbeat and the millions of other events and processes occurring within my body.
Atheists and theists have praised the mind (or the spirit of man). This is what makes humans to be humans as opposed to brute animals. It is the mind that gives humans, apparently, limitless potential and possibilities. I truly believe that. When a child dies, there is sadness because of what that child could have experienced and shared and become.
Yet, if mind is only a result of natural processes, then nothing more is lost when a child dies than a leaf falling off a tree or an ant being stepped upon. There is nothing any more special about one collection of matter/energy (the rings of Saturn) than another collection of matter/energy (a new born infant). Only a mind sees significance, but the mind is no more than an extension of mind/energy to allow survival of a particular collection of matter/energy called a species.
Either there is a real “I” who says, “That child is special” or there is an illusion that an “I” is saying it for the sake of survival. “I” was prompted or led or determined to say it because survival is the goal, not meaning. Meaning is only a tool and no more.
The problem then reduces itself to what is so important about survival. Even if the universe ends in fire or ice, there is still matter/energy. What is “surviving”? What is so special about “life”? From a scientific perspective, everything is reducible to physics, everything. How is life greater than its source? Though we speak of something being greater than the sum of its parts, that is merely the mind. Now we’re right back where we started. Everything is reducible to natural processes for … what reason? Reason is abstract and merely exists in the mind. We keep ending up in a blind alley.
If mind is an illusion and no more than an extension of natural processes, like a body with a hand is more useful than a body without a hand, then all that is really occurring in the universe is a rearrangement of atoms. Candidly, like a thumb is to the hand which increases functionality and survival, so is the mind to the body.
Try as I can, I am unable to reduce the mind to such a miserable position. The moment I do that then I have lost more than my mind, for I have lost my humanity. If atheistic evolution is true, then there is no more reason to be concerned about a child’s head being smashed with a rock than Jupiter being smashed with an asteroid. In the beginning was matter/energy, at the end will be matter/energy, and in between is matter/energy.
I do not disbelieve in atheistic evolution because of Genesis 1-2. I disbelieve in it because I am unable to relegate the mind to the source and scope that atheistic evolution inevitably leads and demands. The question that is unanswerable is this: if the mind is an extension of the brain and its processes, then how is it any less under the determination of the laws of physics and, if solved, under the determination of the theory of everything?
The best that Hawking could do was to answer it this way:
However, provided the universe has evolved in a regular way, we might expect that the reasoning abilities that natural selection has given us would be valid also in our search for a complete unified theory, and so would not lead us to the wrong conclusions.
The reply is reasonable, but notice three words/phrases: “provided,” “might expect,” “would not lead.” This is Hawking’s more sophisticated way of saying, “I believe it’s true, but I have no proof, only if’s.” Outside of merely believing it, what possible reasons could possibly be given that our reasoning ability is real? Nobody can use reason to prove reason.
In summary and conclusion, why is it I do not believe that atheistic evolution is true?
All of these are
Mind is an abstract and cannot be observed. The “proof” that a mind exist apart from physical processes has been the impossibility conceiving that the mind does not exist and the relegation of the items in the left-hand column to illusion.
The insistence that mind is an extension of the brain and its processes is understandable if the “significance” of the left-hand column is reduced merely to thoughts that the brain produces in order to enhance survival. Any “importance” beyond that is merely further illusion to reinforce the need to follow the ideas produced by the brain.
My explanation for these positions is throughout the pages of this essay. Ironically, either “I” has truly produced this essay for the purpose of understanding, growth, meaning, et al … or atheistic Evolution has enabled the production of the behavior that produced this paper for the purpose of survival because in some way our discussing it aids in our respective survival.
I am unable to accept the inevitable conclusion of atheistic evolution that the mind is a controlled illusion produced by Natural Selection for the purpose of survival only. I am unable to adopt the inevitable conclusion of atheistic evolution that truth, good, and beauty are merely tools for survival. I am unable to accept that “I” is an illusion that Natural Selection has created merely for survival.
For significance and meaning to be genuine and not an illusion or merely a means, then the properties of the mind and the mind itself have to be distinct and real apart from natural processes. Because I can only conceive a mind producing a mind, I believe atheistic evolution is flawed. The tools of Evolution I can accept is a Mind existing prior to matter/energy and this Mind at some point infusing soul into man, i.e., theistic evolution.
The concrete is that which is perceived by the senses or by instruments that magnify our senses. The concrete may be an object (a pan of water) and/or a process (a pan of water that is boiling). The abstract is that which cannot be perceived by the senses or instruments. An abstract may sound like a concrete object (say, a unicorn), but, until perceived by the senses it will be treated as discussed below.
The concrete may readily be defined and described. Additionally, when objects are brought before a subject, the subject can typically categorize them immediately, assuming the object is not unknown. A very, very young child can with little repetition distinguish a toy puppy from a toy kitty. Moreover, the child can very quickly distinguish all live cats from live dogs. Even if a 3 year old is asked to describe a kitty, he will give some sort of consistent description.
Moving from the child to an adult then the descriptions can become very precise because there are agreed upon objective standards for the description and properties of an object. For instance, think of a pair of pants; both of us will have similar ideas in mind. The pants don’t have to be a particular color, just have the property of a color. If the two of us look at the pants of a passerby, I daresay that most of the time we will have nearly identical descriptions of it.
If we differ on the description we have means that are universally agreed
upon to determine our differences. If I
say the color was a gray or a shade of tan, you might respond, “No way. Those pants were green.” Perhaps the pants were neither of our colors
because of the lighting and shading. (By
the way, I am red-green color deficient.)
But, we do have the means to precisely determine the color of the
pants. We could use a chromoscope to
settle the matter. If the two of us
differed how far away
When we ask for “proof” concerning any of these objects/processes of the concrete, we are referring to universal, objective standards. Though I may have an opinion how heavy you are, my opinion disappears before the evidence of a scales.
The abstract is totally different. An abstract can only be defined and described as to what it is like.
Consider an abstract like “love.” Without question this abstract resonates for theists and atheists alike; yet, it cannot be directly perceived. Take a group of people. Make the group to be comprised of uneducated, highly educated, or a mix. Ask this group to define love. Do you think the definition will differ … and some radically, almost contradictorily? Absolutely. Look up definitions of abstracts, such as love, in any dictionary and see how the word is widely used.
Take this same group of people to a movie. Their task during the movie is to write down incidents that illustrate love and incidents that are the opposite of love. I cannot prove how the results of this thought experiment would turn out, but based on 35+ years in teaching in a world of abstracts (God, morality, love, justice, hate, forgiveness, bitterness, truth, mercy, etc) I’ve learned this: there is no agreed upon standard by which to measure an abstract object/process.
I have been to a restaurant several times over the years with someone else who has remarked, “That waitress is so rude.” She didn’t strike me as rude in the least. I couldn’t figure out where that even came from. The reason for the statement is that there are no agreed upon standards of determining (interpreting) if an event truly is cruel, kind, loving, rude, etc, etc. There is absolutely none.
I would like to suggest the reason for this lack of agreed upon proof.
When truth statements are made, they are usually determined to be true or false by one of two tests of truth. There is the correspondence test (or theory) of truth, and there is the coherence test. They are quite different, though the common feature between them is comparison.
First and foremost is that the tests of truth are applicable to statements, not questions, not commands, and certainly not things. An object (a cat, a person, a tree) is simply there to be observed. If I say, “That cat is black,” what makes the statement true or false is whether the cat is, indeed, black. If the cat were dark gray, then my statement would be false. If we disagree, we have a means to measure. So, when I say “is” and whatever actually exists or when I say “is not” and whatever actually is not, then the statement is true. As Josiah Royce humorously put it, “A liar is a person who has willfully misplaced his ontological predicates.”
The coherence test is quite different. Essentially a statement is true if it matches a “body” of truth. For instance, parents leave a 10 year old at home for an hour. When they return, there is milk on the floor. It wasn’t there when they left. When they ask the boy if he did it or if someone had some over, his reply is “No.” So, since spilt milk requires an agent, the options now are poltergeists or an intruder into the house. It doesn’t cohere. It doesn’t make sense. Most children are caught in lies because of the lack of coherence.
Correspondence works marvelously with the concrete. Coherency is called into play for the concrete when uncertainty in correspondence occurs. Coherency is not needed to determine if an object is 218 cm from top to bottom. Coherency would come into play if different results were recorded. Let’s say I measure 218 cm, and you measure 371 cm. There’s no way one tool of measurement could have such a difference. It does not cohere. If it is an electronic instrument, perhaps it needs to be calibrated. Perhaps one of us read it incorrectly. Perhaps, with the way I was always a rascal in school, I folded the dead frog into a ball and pretended to throw it at a girl, and it was still contracted when I measured it.
With the abstract, the only test that works is coherence. There is nothing objectively to measure the abstract against. All that can be done is to define the abstract, illustrate it, and go to it … with the guarantee there will be differences as to what incidents fit and those that don’t. “Was the waitress truly rude or not?”
Quite often a challenge is made, “Where’s the proof? Show me the proof!” If a concrete is being discussed, then concrete proof may be given. If an abstract is being discussed, there is NEVER concrete proof, only illustrations and “evidences” than seem to fit the definition of the abstract (assuming the people having the discussion have agreed upon a definition, which is rare). I’ll leave this to the reader to illustrate or demonstrate otherwise. Give an illustration of any abstract that can be unequivocally proven by universally, agreed upon data.
Besides the lack of a common objective test for abstracts, there is the language problem. Because abstracts cannot be perceived, invariably, the language used will use words as if the abstract could be perceived or use words that give the abstract the properties of mind.
Theist are commonly criticized for anthropomorphing God by ascribing to him attributes of which they have no proof. “Prove to me that God is omniscient. Show me the proof that God is loving.” The problem with this, of course, is that it is nearly impossible to discuss any abstract without personifying it. The only time personification or attributes are not ascribed is when other abstracts are used. I’ll use an abstract that scientists are quite familiar with, evolution.
It is very common to read comments like this: “Evolution decides … selects … chooses … guides.” Perhaps the reader of this truly believes there is some sort of entity, called Evolution, that has the properties of a conscious mind; but I doubt it. These are metaphors, ways of expressing the process. Evolution, frankly, has been personified. A personified shape has not been given to Evolution, but the process has been given, figuratively, a personality, a mind.
Getting down to the dust and bones of the issue, Evolution is no more than a description of what has happened. Mutations simply occurred. They were not “chosen” or “selected.” Some entity called Evolution or Natural Selection did not willfully, purposely, and deliberately “weed out” certain ones. This process of genetic mutation and genetic drift and environmental change simply happened. There was no personality with a mind pushing and prodding the genes so they would change.
This personification does not make Evolution or Natural Selection true or false. It is no more than a juiced up way of making listening and reading more interesting. There is no relationship to real or unreal, true or false, or significant or insignificant because of ascribing properties of the mind (personification) to Evolution or Natural Selection. When someone asks, “How does Evolution work,” the response that “Natural Selection does it” is no more than using personification to make a chemical, uncaring, cold process come “alive” in the imagination of the reader or listener.
Personifying the process is not an attempt to be disingenuous. It is not an attempt to mislead. It is just about the only way to discuss an abstract. Consider these: “Justice brings meaning and hope … Love unites a couple … Joy is a thing of beauty forever.” I like all these statements, but let’s not kid ourselves. None of these statement are literal, not any of them. They are abstracts that occur in the mind.
A slave owner could easily have said, “Finally, those runaways are back on the farm. Justice brings meaning and hope.” A Nazi could easily have said, “Getting those parasitic Jews out of our town was the right thing to do. It really is true. Justice brings meaning and hope.” I suspect most readers of this will be horrified by the two examples; yet, what is our objective standard for the abstract of justice? Justice is only determined in the mind.
To recap, the concrete is determined objectively and has agreed upon methods of measuring and identifying. Proof for the concrete is by the correspondence theory of truth. The abstract is conceived only by the mind, and there is no agreed upon method of identifying or measuring when an abstract “occurs.” The language for the abstract is heavily interlaced with metaphor and personification (ascribing properties of the mind). A modified coherence theory of truth is used to determine the truth of an abstract; however, the “body of truth” to which the statement is being compared … has no universally agreed upon standard.
Frankly, when someone says, “You have your truth, and I have mine,” what they are referring to is the coherence theory of truth when used with abstracts, for the body of truth for coherence exists in each person’s mind, with no two bodies of truth the same. For someone to say “You have your truth, and I have mine” in referencing objective science, then they are simply nuts. Truth may be subjective with abstracts, but truth is 100% objective with the concrete.
When I first became a Christian I simply believed what I was told. The Bible was accepted authoritatively without questions, but I did distinguish literal language from figurative to the degree that I understood it at the time. In regard to Genesis 1-2 I accepted those as literal passages, that is, literal in the sense I could have witnessed them as described if I had been there. This route is not particularly unique for any novitiate of any new belief or discipline. A “new guy” believes the “old guys.”
Gradually and slowly a time came in which questions arose. These questions occurred through study and experience. I’ve been a student of the Bible since I first became a Christian. For a number of years I read the Bible through at least 4x/yr. Additionally I have read the works of conservative Bible scholars as well as liberal Bible scholars. The point of this is that I am not dependent any longer upon the conclusions of other as to what the Bible is saying or what passages mean. I enjoy and seek to hear what others have to say, but the commentaries from others are no longer a touchstone or a litmus for me.
In regard to the resurrection account in the four gospels I have no problem with the harmony of the four accounts. Though it is true that several incidents are difficult to place chronologically, the overall consistency has confirmed to me the coherency of the event. The problem now is this. Even though textual criticism guarantees me the accuracy of the text of the New Testament beyond any pre-printed book in history, though my personal study of the documents assures me of the coherency of the event, how do I know, know with certainty, that what I am reading is historical as opposed to very, very good historical fiction?
This last question I carried over to other passages of Scripture. Probably the key motivator for these questions is the doubting of evidence that occurs as one matures and the apparent facts of science versus the statements of Scripture. For instance, at few times in the past I’d stop while surfing the channels and watch a few minutes of a religious network. A few times I distinctly remember a miracle worker witnessing about what had happened: “The blind could see; the crippled could walk. We even raised people from the dead.” When I heard those remarks, I simply did not believe them, and I know the key reason I did not (and do not) believe them is science. A careful investigation would debunk the claims.
Obviously the question immediate charges forward, like a prosecutor who has heard a slip from the accused, “What did I just hear??? You believe science will debunk claims of rising from the dead. Then why do you believe that Jesus rose from the dead? Why doesn’t science debunk that as well?” That is the question of the day. Essentially it is reducible to “Why do I believe the claims of the Bible though I do not believe similar claims from other sources?”
My response to that question will not be a defense of the Bible by the traditional means. For right now we need to dismiss the Bible for testifying for itself. The four separate gospel account have seemed sufficient for me.
What is it about the Biblical resurrection of Jesus that enables me to believe it? There are, at least, four reasons that I am not able to discount, particularly when taken as a whole. They are 1) the answer to the two most complex philosophical questions that can be asked; 2) the confirmation of the strongest insistence of the mind; 3) the unexplainable phenomenon that followed the resurrection of Jesus that is historically substantiated; and 4) the only answer that is available for the universal ache of the arts. I’ll briefly comment on each of these.
The two most complex philosophical questions are 1) what is the relationship between the mind and the body and 2) are there universals and particulars, or are there only particulars (the one and the many problem)? If the resurrection of Jesus is, indeed, true, then these questions are answered.
What exactly is the relationship between the mind and the body? Is the mind merely an extension of the functions and processes of the brain (monism), or is the mind a separate and distinct entity from the body (dualism)?
What happened from the time that Jesus died and His resurrection? Did he sleep (without dreams or with dreams)? Did His mind cease to be “alive” just as His body was no longer alive? For anyone familiar with the Apostles Creed, they will recall the following statements about Christ,
was conceived by the Holy Ghost,
born of the virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, dead, and buried;
He descended into hell.
The third day He arose again from the dead;
The Apostles Creed is considered the oldest confession of faith in Christendom. The particular phrase of interest is “He descended into hell,” sandwiched between His burial and resurrection. This descent is only mentioned in one text in the New Testament, 1 Peter 3:18-19,
He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit, through whom also he went and preached to the spirits in prison.
This verse indicates mind activity after physical death. If the Scriptures are true concerning the resurrection of Jesus’ body as well as the activity of His mind while the body was dead, then the mind is distinct from the body. Furthermore, after His resurrection the properties of His mind appear to be identical with the properties of His mind prior to the crucifixion. After the resurrection and encountering the disciples, they were not scratching their heads, asking, “Who is this guy?”
There is more than one verse that supports the distinction of the mind and the body, but the one in 1 Peter is the only one that clearly shows activity of an identifiable mind during death and afterwards in a body.
The second problem is the issue of the one and the many. Essentially this is the question that is asked, “With all the stuff that there is, does unity actually exist?” From a theoretical physics perspective, the search for a unifying theory, the theory of everything, is precisely an effort to reconcile and reduce all the formulas in physics to one theory, one formula. From a common viewpoint, a simple illustration is a mystery movie. Various clues are provided, others hinted at, and … we still have trouble figuring out “Who dunit?” When all comes together at the end of the story, we see the unity.
The actual issue with the one and the many isn’t the unity of a story, but the unity of a being versus the becoming of that being (changes). I call myself a single person (unity); yet, I am comprised of many elements, and those are in constant change. It seems I have read that every seven years or so I have, essentially, a new body. If that is so, in what sense am I possibly one? None of the stuff that makes me to be me stays the same.
Another illustration is a cloud. We look up and say, “There is a cloud.” But in what sense is there a cloud, for they are comprised of millions of water droplets. If I get high enough in a plane, I can nearly discern an edge where the cloud begins and ends. Yet, if I isolated two of these droplets, would that be a cloud? In what way are particulars unified?
If the mind’s properties and processes are truly an extension of the brain’s properties and events, then the strong sense of “I” is illusory. There is no entity within the body of atoms labeled as VL Vawter that is separate and distinct from natural processes. “I” is no more special than any other natural process. A process is a process is a process.
If there is a unity from a naturalistic viewpoint it has to be found in the reduction of all process to physics. That does give a common unity to all sciences. If the arguments of physics were removed from Dawkins’ The God Delusion or Unweaving the Rainbow, the two books would be much, much smaller, and key arguments that he relies upon would be removed from his arsenal.
The problem with physics and the unifying factor is simply there is no life, no substance. Every explanation is reduced to a formula that describes matter/energy. There is no beauty, no meaning, no morals, no love in any formula. Reducing all of the universe to a theory of everything will be the final proof that only WHAT exists; there never was nor will there ever be a WHY. A what, a billion whats cannot create a single why.
It is one thing for the mind to seek why, but it is another to rebel to its illusory nature. I understand from an evolutionary perspective why the brain produces the thoughts of beauty and love and morals. It enables a weaker physical species to survive amongst critters of which most seem to be much stronger. I understand the illusion of free will. I understand the illusion of “independent thinking.” Everything is gear toward survival in Evolution. What I do not understand in spite of years pondering this is why has Evolution programmed me to become upset, angry, even resistant to the idea that all is illusion. Why is the sense of “I” so strong when the idea of illusion is even considered?
Why not be designed to continue day to day in contentment regardless of other ideas as if I thought everything was real, that “I” was real? Perhaps this is merely an issue with me and no more. Perhaps I am the only one who violently rejects the idea that “I” is not real. Do I have to believe my mind is real to prevent disillusionment that could lead to a premature death? But, if that is so, then why are these thoughts so variable among humans?
I’ve read many who believe they have no free will and are not bothered at all. I’ve also read many who believe all of life is an illusion, but they are not bothered in the least. Many don’t care one way or the other. Why all this variance? I am a total loss why Natural Selection would have created nearly incalculable (certainly unpredictable) behavior in the same species. Why this vast difference in behavior patterns and predictability within a species? Why do so many differences aid to survival … unless the killing off within a species is the means to control population and manage resources, chimps killing chimps.
The above questions are the primary reason I believe the mind is distinct and independent in being from natural processes. If that is true, then how is there unity? If my mind is distinct from my body, then the concept of one becomes even more elusive … except for the resurrection.
How does the resurrection answer this quandary? Again, if the Scriptural statements are true, the Godhead saw it fit that the mind of Christ and the body of Jesus be joined together forever following the resurrection. If the Godhead is the unifying factor of being, then Jesus is one because He has the mind of God; yet, He is many because He still has a body. Believers are promised the same body as Jesus (one that will not age or die). Once our minds, which are made in the image of God, co-join with resurrected bodies, then we too will understand the mystery of the one and the many.
Ultimately there seem to be only two possible reconciliations of the one and the many: 1) the theory of everything or 2) an everlasting mind in an everlasting body. The resurrection supports the second option.
Leaving the philosophical questions of mind-body and one-many, there is an insistence in the mind that makes no sense unless it is true—the unceasing illusion of the mind not dying, the mind ceasing to be. This persistent belief is not an exception. The idea of life after death, of mind continuing after physical death, is rife throughout the world and throughout history (i.e., written records). Even the reincarnation of Buddhism and Hinduism illustrates the relativity of the body but the permanence of the mind (some sort of essence).
The pyramids of ancient
My mind is the only one in which I have intimate awareness, and I am unable to conceive of self as non-existence. None of this is proof, but the distraction it causes is unanswerable. Any abstract can have an answer or reason given to it; the problem is the resonance within one’s self. If the mind doesn’t continue, then this life is all we have.
Atheists argue forcibly and cogently that this life is all we have; therefore, since we know it is short, then we need to do all we can to make it worthwhile and meaningful and good. This argument has inherent problems as well. This inherent problem was the motivation for Dawkins’ Unweaving the Rainbow as explained in his preface. The problem, of course, is that eventually the clock will be seen as running out, and there is no answer for that. Regardless how cheery anyone tries to make things sound when the ship is sinking, there will be wholesale despair and panic. Somehow the crew assuring the passengers “to be all they can be with the time they have” seems comical with the ship listing downward at 20° and dead people floating in the water.
It is true that while a person is younger, their whole life is before them, and 60 years might as well be eternity. But that sensation is such only because it is not reflected upon. I have no idea where I got that mindset, but I have always believed, “Do not wish time away.” As a senior in high school I recall conversations of those who wished they were already graduated. I could never figure out why because the 18 years of life needed to get through high school, before it was realized, would be 18 years in the past. For me, it is nearly 50 years ago that I graduated.
When I was transferred to
A line from Andrew Marvell’s To His Coy Mistress was burned into my mind many years ago:
But at my back I always
Time's winged chariot hurrying near.
Regardless of the concept of time that we have, the one certainly we have is that it will run out for us. This certainly is merely ignored, not understood and most certainly not accepted. The stoic mindset that is encouraged by atheists may work for a few, but it will never be the majority mindset. It never has been, and it never will be. Though the movie Titanic showed Captain Smith calmly accepting his death (well, it appeared calm; perhaps a storm was raging in his mind), most people were in sheer, stark terror. When Death comes as it will for all as brilliant portrayed in the medieval play, Everyman, the common reaction is more likely that of Dylan Thomas’ Do Not Go Gently Into That Good Night:
Do not go gentle into that
Old age should burn and rage at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
The idea of “I” ceasing to be seems so contradictory, so wrong, so absurdly wasteful. Camus was 100% correct when he said, “There is but one truly philosophical problem and that is suicide.” The issue is relative. If someone told me I had 10 years left to leave (within my probability table), then I could think, “I’ve got time to do this or that.” Now, it’s 10 months. Now 10 days. Now 10 minutes.
Dawkins dismisses this personally felt inevitability with “Presumably there is indeed no purpose in the ultimate fate of the cosmos, but do any of us really tie our life's hopes to the ultimate fate of the cosmos anyway? … Our lives are ruled by all sorts of closer, warmer, human ambitions and perceptions.” Even he says we are ruled by what is close. Precisely. And when death approaches closer the inevitable is before us. Then Death is close. Though the universe might continue billions of more years before freezing or melting, “I” am ending.
I have tried every approach that I can, but I am unable to reason out or read insights from others that give a reason why Natural Selection allows us to even think about such questions. How is my survival benefited by thinking about the certainty of death and the concomitant depression that comes with it? Many good thinkers have pooh-poohed the fear of death as being the source of religion. That puzzles me to no end. The fear, anger, frustration, or whatever toward death is understandable. Though Philip Pullman might write about the child Roger laughing as he disintegrates into nothing in the 3rd book of The Dark Materials series, The Amber Spyglass, I have been with children who have died. I have witnessed emotions ranging from fear to calm acceptance. I’ve yet to experience hilarious laughter. But then, The Dark Materials is fiction, perhaps deep fiction.
How does an anxiety about death aid survival? We do not choose our emotions; they are responses to thoughts or sensory impulses. Thoughts are produced by brain; there is no “I” controlling anything. “I” is an illusion to enhance survival for a very weak, physical species. Why such a quirk in Evolution? Of course, ultimate the answer is “That is just the way it is.”
Perhaps there is another reply that is just as sound. Either that is the way “it is, ” or … it is the way “it shouldn’t be.” The quirk may simply be another illusion, or it may be the insistence that there is life after death because … there is life after death. The resurrection of Jesus, if true, firmly proved physically that life occurs after death. It proves that “I” will exist after death, which resonates completely with an undying “I.”
It is very easy to go online and read “other resurrection accounts.” My background is filled with history, literature, and philosophy. I have read these other accounts. Amazement overcomes me at the blurring of distinctions required for the conclusion that the accounts are the same. The only similarity is something coming back to life. Not for a second am I suggesting that the Biblical account is true because it is in the Bible. The issue is that the account in the Bible reads like history versus the other resurrection accounts. There are a number of details that are historically falsifiable (that is, the details are coherent with the times): Pilate, Roman soldiers, being wrapped in cloth, spices and fragrance being brought to the tomb, the tomb itself, the despair of the followers.
There are volumes of arguments defending the resurrection of Jesus historically. There are none for the other accounts. There are no records of any sort defending Osiris as historical, that is, using historical arguments. No one tried to prove Osiris was really murdered by appealing to the historicity of the account. The Greeks recounted all sorts of afterlife stories, but there are no treatises arguing from history. The stories were myths and treated as myths, i.e., the corroboration and defending of statements from other sources or within the accepted sources are never made. The characteristic of myth is that it truly is a story that is asserted. No one tries to prove it true. In my reading of Herodotus and Plutarch, these authors distinguished myth from historical, the key being corroboration, situational falsifiability, and, in a number of instances, common sense.
I understand fully a person doubting the historicity of Jesus bases on their conviction that science has never substantiated a resurrection. I understand fully the doubt about miracles because they too have not been substantiated. I do not understand and am at total loss how the gospel accounts are read and are equated with myth. There is no similarity. The writers clearly attempted to cast the resurrection of Jesus as historical, physical, and real (that is, it was witnessed). Of course, they may be accused of lying for whatever reasons or science used to state, “Such things do not occur,” but the equating of a historical genre with a mythological genre is patently absurd. Equating the two is as solid and insightful as equating lightening and lightening-bug … after all, both have the root “light.”
If true, the resurrection of Jesus proves that the “I” does continue after death. The post-resurrection accounts do not have the disciples wondering, “This guys looks like Jesus, but something is wrong.” The disciples had no presentiment as displayed in The Body Snatchers because something wasn’t quite right. The resurrected Jesus looked like, acted like, and talked like the pre-crucified Jesus. The haunting question, “Is there life after death,” is answered in the gospels in an historical methodology. The gospels are the only substantive historical records that do.
The third reason I believe the resurrection is historical as opposed to excellent historical fiction were the results that followed afterwards. There are two results I have in mind: 1) the story itself and 2) the commitment to the story.
There are other accounts of physical resurrections similar to Jesus, particularly afterwards. Why a myth, a lie, an imaginary plot should create commitment after 2,000 years is a real mystery. Jesus’ resurrection story has survived redactors, enhancers, and creative imagination. Why didn’t this story change like all stories do? The very fact that the resurrection of Jesus has relegated all the other resurrection stories to insignificance (how many can name more than one or two?) is ultimately a mystery. If anything, new stories should have arisen and replaced the original. Or, dozens or hundreds of other stories should be on equal footing. It is a mystery why so many cultures, so many languages, so many places over so many years should believe the SAME story. Who believes anything about Osiris except for ancient Egyptians?
This story of Jesus has not only maintained its original historical content; it has transmigrated cultures and transcended centuries without change. Why hasn’t Jesus’ resurrection story mutated? The nature of stories (as opposed to history) is to change to accommodate the various cultures, assuming the story does transmigrate culturally. If it is true that the original was myth or good historical fiction, then there should be other stories, a lot of them, and widely received.
This acceptance of the original story is the difference between history and myth. Myth is art and may roam as it pleases. History has a fence about it. Whether it truly occurred or not, the phenomenon that so many believed and still believe the story was true, real, and historical is unexplainable.
Anyone can say such-and-such story is a myth or a legend. That is easy. The problem is why doesn’t the “resurrection myth” follow the same pattern as all other myths—which is change … substantive change! The reason is that the story is believed to be and is treated as history, not myth.
The fourth reason I believe Jesus’ resurrection to be true is the transcendental effect of the story. What I mean by this is that there is a “power” in this story that transcends mere history. Whether atheists like the fact or not, they will agree with the fact that billions of people, educated and living in a scientific world, are still captivated by the resurrection story.
How can it be that after 2,000 years of no verification of a resurrection that billions of people believe Jesus rose from the dead? From an evolutionary perspective, somehow and in some way this story aids to survival of the species. I am at a loss to a theory what would explain this. Dawkins’ gene “misfiring” is inapplicable here (as it was in his book). A majority behavior for centuries is the statistical norm. It is rather obvious that this behavior, if genetic, is the correct one, i.e., correct for survival since that is the goal of Natural Selection. Natural Selection does not make a genetic mistake of such a proportion for so many centuries … does it? Of course, I do not believe that belief in God is genetically based. The reason has been stated many times in this essay, the primary one being the inexplicability of the mind’s properties and scope.
The story of Jesus transcends mere historical narrative. The story has a nagging persistence that bespeaks what artists search for, the universal, the lasting, the real.
His waxed hair, powdered forehead, sleeping eyes,
Brushed coat, shoeless feet, formaldehyded veins
Bring tears to the eyes of those who say good-byes,
"Such a good man. We lose, but Heaven gains."
While eyes are wiped dry, Nature is busy
Letting atoms spin crazily away.
Bonds are broken; order's in a tizzy.
"This atom to Pisces, this to
All rush at light speed with orders to fill:
"Three neutrons needed for a leaf of bamboo!"
"Where are those quarks to fill up that ant hill?"
Nothing is missed, not even diaper's pooh.
Use a million millionth part of Caesar
Rend Jesus, Hitler, and Lennon apart,
Mix in garbage gas. (This isn't a teaser.)
We have come up with a new Descartes!
Though the Laws of Physics approve and agree
All seems such a mess, such a gooey batter.
Oh no! All is followed per the recipe
Found in the Conservation of Matter.
Like an ever turning kaleidoscope
The number of designs must be all spent!
Phooey, let's be cheerful and not mope
In this business of Rearrangement!
Let me sing praise in the atheistic dream
"I" never existed but from matter.
(Shhh, I was once drips of melted ice cream.)
Oh rejoice, ye Parts of Cosmic Splatter!
That girl I foolishly thought that I loved
(Silly, silly me, there never was I)
Was but a fragment of a discarded glove.
All is equationable, who can deny?
Personable? Personable? Such heresy!
An endless chain of action and reaction
Is all there is. On this we must agree:
Only in Physics is satisfaction.
Let's steel our nerves to false mirages.
For the loss of Seem do not weep or cry.
If you ask the need of such collages,
My oh my, I have no good answer why.
Of course, of course I have the answer now
There is no Purpose (please, let's not lament).
We must remember and n'er disavow
We live in continual Rearrangement.
Oh dear, there I go again, foolish words;
I use such sounds as I, we, me, and us.
Wait! It matters not what words Law prefers;
So it's no good for us to fuss and cuss.
Every action could be predicted, but
Our computers and programs are too small;
There is no Why, only a massive What.
All is form and Rearrangement; that's all.
Speeding photons trigger my nerves of sight,
Captured atoms set axioms on fire,
And supposed shapes and forms appear bright.
Ahhhh, such Purposelessness has transpired!
Happy thought, Good and Bad do not exist;
We needn't fret over guilt and malcontent.
Sins and Wrongs are only unpleasant mists.
For this I give thanks to Rearrangement.
When I lustily ravish this beauty,
What is blame but false laws of the bourgeoisie!
Atoms of this body follow duty,
Unalterable as any galaxy's.
And this is praised and given worldly lauds,
Why am I given unkind articles
When my atoms smashed atoms of those bawds?
Why pretend and ask, "Where is our free will?"
Our choices, determined at the Big Bang,
Are free as fire to burn or ice to chill.
It does no good to angrily harangue.
Choice is calculable cause-and-effect.
The brains in those craniums send fixed ideas:
We are only cards stacked in a trick deck;
Ev'n feelings are atomized diarrheas.
Truly, it matters not; do as you please.
All is illusion; hush, Disagreement.
Let's all come together, hold hands, and agree
All is busy work of Rearrangement.
Whoa, whooooa! whence comes these stupid judges,
These pawns of a so unfair government?
They close their eyes and hold foolish grudges
Against the real culprit, Rearrangement.
A supposed rope around my supposed neck!!!
This is so unfair; I've been shortchanged.
No, no, what are these ugly thoughts? Oh heck,
I'm coming back, but I’ll be REARRANGED.
-by V. L. Vawter-
A presupposition may be believed or not believed. For instance, I may presuppose for argument sake that God exists, that God does not exist, that evolution is true, that evolution is false. My actually beliefs do not enter into the argument.
There are other presuppositions that must be believed, that are considered innate, intuitive, necessary. There are three suppositions, the primary suppositions, from which all knowledge is built.
1. I exist.
2. Contradiction cannot exist.
3. The mind is able to apprehend and understand truth.
A reader might glance over those and say, “That is so obvious. Is that all philosophical discussion is—talking about the obvious.” Yes, they do seem obvious, but why? Can I really prove that I exist? How do I know my memories have not been created by God or some sort of sinister computer gone wild, as in the goofy movie The Matrix? None of the three can be proved, only discussed, only presumed, only believed.
They seem so blatantly obvious for one of two reasons. Each reason finds its source in the belief that matter/energy has always existed or mind has always existed. 1) If matter/energy is all that there is and Evolution’s goal is survival, then the brain has been hardwired to make a person truly believe he is real in order to survive. Actually the person does not “choose” to believe it any more than he chooses his heart to beat or his eyes to see or his ears to hear. It is simply the natural process. 2) If God, who is unextended mind, imparts mind to others (like begetting like), then mind is not a natural process; and the conviction that “I” exists is from God Himself.
Regardless of the source, consider the necessity of the primary presuppositions.
It is impossible to shake the notion of “I” and that “I” exists. Supposedly a philosophy student asked his professor, “How do I know I exist?” And the reply was, “Whom shall I assume is asking the question?” Even if a clever argument is given for the non-existence of objects, “I” still has to give the argument.
Science would disappear overnight if the first principle of presuppositions is ignored: contradiction does not exist. A´ ≠ non-A´ at the same time, in the same way, and in the same place. I believe this to the core of my being; yet, there is no way to prove it. Logic cannot prove it.
Observation cannot prove it because it is not possible to observe everything in the universe. (Then quantum mechanics are certainly no help. The double-slit experiment is as counter-intuitive as can be, i.e., contradictory to reason and experience and common sense.) To believe contradiction does not exist is a step of faith. Pointing to a million particulars will not create a universal. If we believe non-contradiction as a law because of observations on nature (i.e., can’t find an exception), it is merely based on headcount. It is illogical to appeal to the majority as a test of truth.
A large portion of the world (Eastern) has no problem with certain
contradictions. In many instances their
writings clearly reveal that contradiction is all that can truly exist. Yet, this contradiction and non-contradiction
conflict does make sense if Natural Selection is only concerned with the
survival of the species and is no more than an illusion in the mind. The
Bhagavad Gita is a brilliant work of the Eastern mind. It is highly prized by the Hindus. The story (a subset of the oldest known
written epic, The Mahabharata)
reconciles determinism and free will by fully arguing for both and providing
arguments for both! This mindset of “we
can do it” in the Western mind has given us a standard of living that is higher
than most Eastern mindsets of “fatalism.”
Yet, which culture has survived the best? If we do headcount, the Eastern mindset
wins. Contradiction is a better survival
technique than non-contradiction.
Perhaps in the harshness of mountains and deserts (so much of
Who doesn’t believe he can’t know truth? Even he who argues against any objective reality, who believes contradiction may exist wherever and whenever, and who believes there is no such thing as truth … believes he is telling the truth, that his mind know the truth!!! It’s similar to the logical conundrum—
A person walks up to you at a party and says, “You can’t believe anybody in this room. Everyone is lying.” Is that person lying?
All three of the primary presuppositions seem impossible to disbelieve because they seem so inherently obvious, but the point is that there is no way to prove them logically or empirically. In fact, we have to believe the primary beliefs before we can prove anything logically or empirically. All other presuppositions and “facts” build on these three presuppositions.
What is particularly interesting about this issue of the three primary presuppositions is that they are based on blind faith. Frankly the three presuppositions seem so obvious that they have to be true. It is difficult to believe otherwise. If pressed a person will simply have to say, “I believe it because I believe it.” Everyone who believes in the three primary presuppositions, whether atheist or theist, is practicing blind faith.
Blind faith is treated like a contaminant to all clear thinking, whereas all clear thinking is, ironically, rooted in blind faith. Blind faith is sneered at for being contrary to fact, whereas all fact is believed by the mind which in turn is exercised by a mind that does not believe in contradiction. Blind faith has been laughed at as the emperor without any clothes, whereas those who laughing are wearing imaginary underwear just as much as the king.
Blind faith has never been the enemy of knowledge. I am well aware that people will announce with the might and majesty of Aida’s Triumphal March in the background, “I believe in the facts … not faith and most certainly not blind faith.” It does sound so grand that it must be obvious … but it isn’t obvious in the least. At the root of all claims of knowledge is belief: belief that the senses are right, that the instruments are right, that the books are, that the statistical tests are correct, and on and on and on.
Due to sheer volume it is impossible to rework all previous experiments. There are only a handful of people who have actually measured the speed of light or calculated the value of π to some 15 or 20 places. Think of all the students in high school and college who say, “I know.” What they mean to say is, “I believe my teacher or some book when the speed of light is stated to be such-and-such.” The word “know” is loosely used.
The enemy of knowledge is unjustified belief or false belief. We praise logic and reason; yet, there is no way to prove logic or reason by logic or reason. We simply have to accept it because it seems so obvious. But to pretend a statement that is “knowledge” and not “belief” is a slight of hand.
So when a person says, “I believe in the facts,” he is stating the underlying foundation to knowledge … belief. If he says, “I know the facts,” just a little quizzing will soon display that much of what he “know” is what he has believed from others. If people make themselves feel good because they have facts and not faith, then hurrah for the feeling; but, if they examine themselves, they will readily realize that all knowledge is based on, at the very least, three beliefs rooted solely in blind faith: I exist, there is no contradiction, the mind can recognize the true from the false.
The issue will always reduce itself to justified-true-belief versus non-justified-true-belief, always. Say what we please, but belief is always mixed in any foundation of knowledge.
With regard to why I’m 100% certain that the god of the bible is not possible whereas a more general creator god might be, it shouldn’t be that hard to figure out. A general, deistic, creator god has no specific attributes other than he must be somehow more complex than his creation. There is no personality ascribed to him/her/it. There is no gender. There are no emotions. There are not even any reasons for his actions. People are willing to say that they know nothing at all about this creator, other than that he created.
That you favor these reasons is fine, but those reasons do not support the proof of a universal negative, your “100% certain.” A million particulars will not prove a positive or a negative universal. A universal negative, from a scientific view, would require a total exhaustion of the universe’s evidence, which is simply impossible. (Not just God, any universal negative. That is why a universal negative is reserved for deductive arguments, not inductive.)
one problem with a deistic God that simply makes no sense. If
Either God is an impersonal force or a personal being who has a will (possibly an omnipotent will). The moment we use personal we are sneaking in the concept of mind. Once mind is brought in, there are personal attributes. I can conceive of power without personal attributes, but I cannot conceive of mind without personal attributes.
I’ve read where Dawkins might be persuaded of a deistic God, but he essentially comes down to, “What for?” He’s right on the money. A deistic god (an impersonal force) contributes nothing. Just what did it create? Matter? If this god is a force, then it is energy … and energy and matter are interchangeable. So, what is new that is being brought to the table of cosmology?
I’m puzzled why a deistic god is of any interest to you. No one would claim revelation from it; so, what does it add that you don’t already believe?
But the Christian god has been given lots of characteristics by Christians and Jews. And, by the way, all the description don’t always agree. But, in general, a Christian believes that God is omnipotent, omniscient, all-loving, and omni-present. He is also infinitely just, is infinite in time and space, and is basically a really good guy. While I don’t have any hard evidence against a creator god other than Occam’s razor, I could write you a book about how the Christian god cannot possibly have all those characteristics, not to mention the fact that even if he did, how would we know it? Every reason anyone has of believing in the Christian god comes from the Christian bible. That’s it. That’s all you have. You have no more corroborating sources – zilch! And how do you know the bible is correct? Because it says it is. Come on! Do I really need to explain infinite circular reasoning to a smart man like you?
Your comments are formidable and require time for me to reply.
First, I come again to proof for the concrete versus proof for the abstract. The concrete uses the correspondent theory of truth, whereas the abstract uses the coherent theory of truth.
Consider the theory of evolution. It is an abstract. It is defined, and then evidences are listed to support the definition. I know so little about the history of evolution, but I have little doubt that some evidences used at one time are no longer used. I would also assume the definition has been modified over the years. Then I have little doubt that there may be “fringe” evolutionists who hold some extreme views that are not accepted by the main body. This does not mean evolution is true or false; it simply means that the abstract idea of evolution follows the same path as all abstracts.
If my above statements are correct, then the accusation that all theists do not agree on the characteristics of God, which is, supposedly, a fatal weakness, is an arbitrary argument. In other words, this argument may be used against theist explanation of God, but the identical may not be used against scientists’ explanation of the evolution of the species.
Of course, you may counter what I have said by easily documenting that the definition of evolution has never changed, that the evidences used for it have not changed, and that the current scientific body who believe in evolution are in total agreement as to what it means, how it is applied, how evidence is included or excluded, and the interpretation of this evidenced is fully agreed to.
As stated, my knowledge of the history of evolution is abysmal; but my understanding of the abstract is quite solid. I know the nature of abstracts. More on this will be discussed in later paragraphs in this section.
Evolution is an abstract and will follow the course of all abstracts. For instance, the Evolution does not escape the use of language. I’ve read evolution “guides … directs … chooses … determines “ and so forth. Both of us know no such processes of the mind occur. But abstracts require us to talk like this … as if the object could be observed or could act as if it had a mind. Even you stated in your argument for a deistic god, “There are not even any reasons for his actions.” You are insistent that a deistic god would not have a mind. If you will look for this phenomenon of attributing the characteristics of mind (personifying), you will notice that the abstract is routinely personified, that is, given attributes of the mind.
first email you mentioned that evolution had as much proof as gravity. I find than unfathomable. The reason is that evolution is a theory, an
interpretation which can only exist in the mind and is an abstract whereas the
effects of gravity are observable and objectively measureable.
In contrast there is disagreement on interpretation within evolution. “Punctuated evolution” has different advocates for or against it. There is no way to prove using an agreed upon objective means (there never is for an abstract); so, the various sides will give their explanations and evidences as they fit within the total scheme of evolution and, in turn, as evolution fits into the body of truth for science as they understand it (the coherence theory of truth).
I am not
saying or advocating that that the evidence used is not concrete; obviously
there must be thousands and thousands of fossils and whatever else is used to
support evolution. What that evidence
actually means only exists in the
mind and has no universal objective method of proof; no abstract does. You will know better than I do how the definition
and evidences of evolution have been adjusted and modified over the years. I’ve read that there are statements of
I’m not concerned about the details on this because every abstract has this issue. When you asked earlier, what other corroborating evidence is there for the properties of God, my first thought was, “What kind could there possibly be that would convince you?” There isn’t any. Because you do not believe God exists, then there is no illustration anywhere that will fit within your body of truth and cohere. It is impossible. Think about it. As long as you believe all the stuff within your body of truth is, indeed, true, then, obviously, that which does not cohere can never be proved.
If God spoke tomorrow, there would be no way to prove He spoke. If all disease disappeared tomorrow, I see three headlines: 1) God Exists, 2) Aliens Visit Earth, and 3) Secret Government Experiment Works. Who know, there could be others. The point is this: any conceivable physical manifestation does not prove the existence of a non-material entity. You know and I know that if a “supernatural” voice spoke at the Super Bowl and was documented, a large number of people would be saying, “A physical event requires a physical [matter/energy] source. Give us time, and we’ll find it. There is no need for a God of a gap here.” Even if all suffering ended by next year, a logical explanation would simply be, “Evolution has continued its progress in moral and personal health for survival of the species.”
never a proof for an abstract, only evidence that fits a definition. And the evidence is determined by one’s
When I hear there has to be a common ancestor, then I immediately think, “Then there has to be a common creator.” Of course, others will immediately say, “Oh no, it’s only because you believe that; therefore you say it.” I see, but that isn’t true for these others? Because they don’t believe whatever; therefore they deny it?” I see no way out of this. There is no criticism about the abstract of others than does not become a self-criticism of one’s own abstracts.
It has been a mainstay of philosophy for centuries that you have to believe something before you can know something (referred to as Justified True Belief, JTB). Once a person believes something and it is a presupposition on which he bases other beliefs and knowledge, then “evidence” will always fit the presuppositions. This is particularly true for abstracts. The evidence for abstracts MUST cohere to be true.
If you do not believe a personal God exists (and you have said such), then there is no evidence anywhere that can overturn that. It will always be insufficient. The same is true for me. Both of us (and those who think like us in regard to God) use the coherence theory of truth. For you, God does not make sense as a whole when these factors are considered. For me, in return, God must exist in order to make sense of the whole. The only people our arguments will affect and truly be considered impartially are those who have not made up their minds.
There is no corroborating evidence that you would accept. In fact, tell me what it would be. Tell me what evidence would prove conclusively to you that God existed. Any that you will suggest will be open to interpretation. Why? It is abstract, and there are no agreed upon standards of measurements of evidence for abstracts.
Now, add all those reasons in to a major one – suffering. You know the arguments against the coexistence of an all-loving god and suffering I assume. Theodicy exists to try to reconcile God with an evil world, and no one has been able to successfully do it yet. It’s the ultimate irony. I’ve heard almost every argument put out to explain it but they all fall short.
From a logical perspective only, Alvin Plantinga has established an argument that has largely stopped the logical argument that God and evil cannot co-exist. He has developed a logical argument that is not contradictory that God and evil can co-exist. The primary criticism against it is that Plantinga has to assume an incompatiblist view of free will. I do not know your background on the philosophical views of free will, but compatibilism simply makes no sense.
than the logical problem of suffering is the existential problem. Suffering is the only issue that makes sense
to me as an objection to God. You even
called it a major one. This one IS the
biggie. My understanding is that
I think the arguments of Ivan in The Brothers Karamazov about the suffering of children is still heart wrenching and overcoming. When I watch the famine currently in the Horn of Africa on the news, I think of Ivan’s arguments. The logical arguments for and against God crumble before an empty stomach and an empty plate.
So, how do I “answer” this; better, how do I “live” with it? I only can identify two alternatives to this problem.
This first one is the one I have accepted. Over the centuries suffering has had hundreds of suggestions, clues, hints as to why it exists as well as God. These hints and clues will not identify any particular act of suffering, but, if there is an acceptable, though hard, suggestion as to why others suffer, then, perhaps, maybe probably, there is a reason that I do or my loves ones or others suffer.
For myself, hints go back to the brilliant Greek tragedies. The Greek tragedic motifs of time, place, and action in the book of Job along with its insightful metaphors give hints and suggestions also. Though I could give other examples that have helped me (Crime and Punishment, War and Peace, Anna Karenina, Cry the Beloved Country, Paradise Lost, King Lear, and more), I have slowly and recently come to this: there is no current “answer,” only an undefined reconciliation, a type of comfort (a mystery). Using the Scripture there is this statement about the hereafter and suffering: Romans 8:18, The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared to the glories that will be revealed in us. If the Bible is true, then there will be resolution. Even if I can’t know why, I can be comforted.
The second alternative is materialistic. There is no God. There is no hereafter. Everyone will die, consciousness and mind forever gone, and everything material of the body will eventually disintegrate, its atoms busily joining other atoms. Eventually all matter will end either in fire or in ice. Any comfort is momentary. Any meaning is momentary. The universe has no meaning, no purpose, no goal … and as an extension of it, neither do carbon units.
What has puzzled me is the criticism that theists direct toward a false understanding and a false comfort for suffering. Let’s assume that is true. What is the alternative? No comfort, no meaning, no nothing. I recall Dawkings writing something to the effect, “A friend who gives false comfort is no friend.” That sounds ok … until a loved one is horribly suffering. I’ve heard a dying child ask, “Am I going to die?” So, the parent is no friend who simply holds the child and says, “Here, here, all will be ok”? Instead, that child needs the truth. Yes, indeed. “No, son, you will die. The doctor estimates you have about 12 hours left to live.” “Will I see you and Mom again?” “Absolutely not. You will die, and in time your body will rot away to nothing. You will no longer exist but will disappear into nothing.”
Somehow I have trouble envisioning any atheist telling such truth to his child. He might tell it to another child, but not to his. Of course, a disclaimer will arise, “Don’t use a child; use an adult!” Why? Truth is truth. If what is being said is true, then it is true in any situation. We don’t want to hear it said to a child because the pain is so great. That is precisely why Ivan used the suffering of children instead of the suffering of adults.
Of course one could choose Buddhism or Hinduism and continue to die via the process of samsara until he gets it right. The grand and glorious end is practically the same: 1) I become one with the universe and lose my consciousness, my mind or 2) I become one with Brahman and lose my consciousness, my mind. If these beliefs are right, then suffering could continue for eons before I lose all awareness. If I had to choose, the atheists have a better deal. I only need to suffer through one lifetime before losing consciousness.
Many will say I believe the first alternative because it makes me feel good. I guess that is possible, but I don’t think that’s the reason. It probably was at first, but it isn’t now. It is because I believe I have a mind that is distinct and separate from the body. This belief is ultimately based on my inability to disbelieve that “I” is not real. I believe I exist. That is considered the first fact of presuppositions. When I say “I” exist, I have never meant my body. I have always believed that if you cut off my arm, “I” am still intact. If all my limbs are cut off, “I” am still intact. If I incur Alzheimer’s (very rife in my family), my brain will be shot, but I believe “I” would still be intact. Can I “prove” this? Not like a concrete issue, of course not. No abstract can be. All I can do it give evidences that seem to fit the whole, and such evidence is always subject to variant interpretations.
If it truly is ever proved objectively that self-consciousness (or the soul) is no more than a function of the brain, then we truly are automata, freewill is an illusory, and everything truly is reducible to physics, its laws and processes. I cannot “unbelieve” that I have freewill. It may be limited, but it is still an exertion of the real me. Even if I am put on life support and unable to speak to others, “I” still exists. Try as I might, I am unable to believe otherwise.
Christianity does not explain why there is suffering; neither do the non-Christians or the atheists or any points in between. Christianity does give comfort; the pure, logical extension of science does not … because there is none. Christianity’s giving comfort is not proof of anything. If, on the other hand, if Christianity is true, then the comfort is real and true and can give meaning to suffering.
First of all, how do you know this? You stated it as a fact. You believe it, sure, but what informs your belief? The truth is, you MUST believe it in order to believe in God, because the bible is all the evidence you have.
Long before I remember my first Bible story (I did not grow up in a Christian home), I remember being awed by the stars and simply saying, “There has to be something that did this.” Somewhere I heard that God created the heavens and the earth. It simply made sense at the time. When the Bible did enter my life, it confirmed and gave other statements that I could never have discerned in nature. As stated several times, God and the Bible resonate and cohere with the body of truth that define reality.
The wonder of creation is not limited to Christians in regard to God. I have made a point of reading the scriptures of other faiths and mythologies. Awe is not limited to religion or theists or atheists.
No doubt many would respond (possibly you), “That is misplaced awe and wonder. Evolution has created us. This sense of awe is created by the sheer size and complexity; it is merely how the body reacts to incomprehensibleness.” Then details of Nature are given, perhaps something like Dawkins’ Unweaving the Rainbow. Let’s pile on one particular after another. Of course, when the phrase “This has been accomplished by evolution” or “Evolution explains everything” or whatever … mind sneaks into the conversation.
You know as well as I do that evolution did not “accomplish” anything or that it “explains” anything. Those are metaphors. Evolution, if true, is only an explanation by minds of an unknowing, uncaring, indifferent, totally lucky process (the finely tuned issue, the anthropic issue) that requires a mind to state it and a mind to understand it. If true, once started then evolution develops like any physical process, but the fact that it started is astronomically miniscule … or lucky.
Evolution, if true, only describes what happened; it is physics wrapped in a biological robe. Perhaps it is 100% true. I still know no more about the most important question of life: Why? Evolution gives me a WHAT on steroids. (Here I go again with evolution and metaphors, “evolution gives” and “steroids.”)
I believe there is other evidence beside the Bible for the existence of God: the existence of mind, which has been discussed throughout this essay.
Again, you can’t say the bible says so because of the fallacy of begging the question. And is it infallible in everything, or just in spiritual matters?
You may have notice that I only stated infallible, not inerrant. There is an important difference. Inerrant means discrepancies in the factual elements, that is, do the objective data correspond to reality. Infallible means that the teaching will not lead astray; the teaching may be trusted to be helpful. Many Christians confuse these two terms and treat them as synonymous, but I’m not concerned with the confusion of others. I’m concerned about this conversation and that I use the terms precisely.
Logically it is possible for statements to have discrepancies but be accurate in teaching quality. In contrast, it is also possible for statements to be factually correct but lead the adherent into error.
this: President Obama, the 42nd President
this one: President Herbert Hoover, the
31st President of the
Yes, I do believe Scripture is infallible, and, if the Lord’s intent in the NT is the summary of Jesus (love God and love your neighbor), then the emphasis is spiritual, that is, advice for the mind. As illustrated, advice may be errant in fact, but infallible in acceptance.
The problem of course for polls differing by as much as 10% is the wording of
the question. One professional polling
on the issue worded the question, “Do you believe
 Though it appears that the more education correlates with a higher percentage of atheism, that group per se is skewed. There are far more Ph.D.’s in humanities, philosophy, literature, business, education who believe there is a God rather than Ph.D.’s in the physical sciences. So, if the population for the polls were physical scientists, then the percentage of unbelievers will be much higher than a population of scientists or a population of Ph.D.’s.
 Of course, if a question for the physical scientists merely states, “Do you believe in a God,” then any definition of God will do, and a larger number with “Yes” is inevitable. I believe a larger number would have answered “No” if the question read, “Do you believe there is a personal God who existed before matter/energy and who created matter/energy out of nothing?” Without doubt Christians have gleefully (but incorrectly) claimed Einstein, Hawking, and others as one of theirs because they have used the word God. I tend to think 5% is very generous and high for the number of physical scientists who believe there is a God.
 I based this on your repeated insistence (as well as many others) that natural phenomenon will have a natural cause, a natural explanation. Obviously that belief necessarily removes God from the equation; so, theistic evolution, in that sense, becomes meaningless because the search for a natural cause has stopped. Until every possible natural cause in the universe has been exhausted can God be allowed; however, that will never happen.
 I do not understand the claim that a creator god not be personal. The reason is because I cannot conceive how a god could create but not have a mind since “create” is a mind word. How is it possible for an entity to have mind but not be a personal entity? It is precisely the mind that creates personality or enables us to recognize and discuss personality. A god, deistic or otherwise, would certainly have to have a mind; the very word god implies an independent being with mind. It seems that your insistence that god not be personal is difficult to undertand. If this god did start creation (say by creating matter/energy with the theory of everything inherently build in) and then move on, a horrible problem has been created. A deist god posits that mind existed before matter. Once the allowance that something could be created out of nothing by a mind, then there is no way to ignore religion as a valid and substantive truth, i.e., God is real knowledge. Unless a deistic god is somehow matter/energy and not mind can it be allowed. If that is so, then god seems an odd nominalization. However, granting such a odd entity, then all that is being said is that matter has always existed. A deistic god is a more elaborate tautology (seemingly an Occam violation), or it is really a personality and a mind? If mind exists before matter/energy, then there is a real problem for advocates of the eternality of matter. If this deistic god existed prior to matter/energy and is NOT matter/energy, then what in understandable language and conception could it possibly be if it is not mind?
 This is not a caricature of the solus materia position. If I were a materialist only, I would argue this way.
 There is a framework for these definitions that take more than a couple of sentences. So, please see my , which is an appendix in this essay.
 Again, I invite the reader to go to the separate section of this essay, .
 Since mind is an abstract, the properties of the mind will vary with whatever definition an individual favors. I would certainly include within the properties thinking, reasoning, intellect, will, and imagination. What is common with all of these properties is that a person will say, “I think … I reason … My intellect, etc.” The “person” inside is doing these things, deciding them, owning them, etc. Even if dualism is false and the brain is producing these impressions, then the impressions have a common referencing. (I am aware that dualism is not limited to two distinct and independent entities, the brain and the mind. However, my contention is that “dualistic language” does not imply dualistic entities. There are strict materialists and physicalists who will use “dualism,” but they believe the mind is subordinate to the brain and the method of connection between them is unknown. Once one entity is subordinate to another, for whatever reason, then “independent” disappears. When I say “dualism,” I am using it in the Descartes sense of a distinct and independent body and mind, though a relationship exists between them.)
 See footnote 15 for the distinction between what and why.
 The why is illusive of science. A what can be beyond a computer’s scope to figure out with the mind boggling complexity of structure and processes within one object and the interplay of processes between it and other processes, such as the weather. In other words, the complexity of science is more moving parts, more stuff. Edgar Allan Poe recognized that the whats of science were “dull realities.” Poe understood that the whats of science were real, but a lot of whats will not keep the imagination and emotions in a transcendental awe. This is what he meant in his Sonnet to Science—
Science! true daughter of Old Time thou art!
Who alterest all things with thy peering eyes.
Why preyest thou thus upon the poet's heart,
Vulture, whose wings are dull realities?
How should he love thee? or how deem thee wise,
Who wouldst not leave him in his wandering
To seek for treasure in the jewelled skies,
Albeit he soared with an undaunted wing?
Hast thou not dragged Diana from her car?
And driven the Hamadryad from the wood
To seek a shelter in some happier star?
Hast thou not torn the Naiad from her flood,
The Elfin from the green grass, and from me
The summer dream beneath the tamarind tree?
 The familiarity is the familiarity of exposure, not comprehension. The transcendental nature of π staggered my imagination when I first learned this. There is no way I can ever understand how a theoretically infinitely large number can have no repeating patterns. But having been exposed to it so often, it has been a long time since my imagination has wrestled with π’s size. In sharp contrast to that, the mystery of a sunset quite often will provoke my imagination and sense of wonder. Why one and not the other? That question itself is the heart of mystery. It is not predictable, nor can it be computerized. I’ve seen thousands of calendars with sunrises and sunsets; I’ve yet to see one that has mathematical formulas or explanations to head each month. (I’m sure there are such purchased within the academic community as a gag gift.)
 Personally, I love Harnett’s work. The trick is not to simply paint what one sees, but can one paint familiar objects and awake a sense of awe, a sense, not of complexity and size, but of mystery.
 Science would disappear without the hunger to know why, to know meaning. Those are abstract. That is, abstracts are the catalyst to search into the depths of the whats.
 It is imperative that I repeat that abstract has nothing to do with real or unreal. I have carefully defined the abstract, that which is perceived only within the mind, as the opposite of concrete, which is perceived by the senses or tools that magnify our senses.
 There are two different types of why-questions. One does fit within the realm of science; it is the “why” of interconnectibility, of relationship between objects and processes, in other words, the why of whats: “Why do the ocean tides change with the moon … Why are my eyes brown … Why does the tiger eat people?” The whys of the concrete certainly fall under science. That is not the why that is being discussed in this paper. The mystery is the why of abstracts: “Why is the truth important … Why isn’t there life after death … Why am I even here?” Again, science is concerned with the whys of the concrete, but the poet is concerned with the whys of the abstract (though the poet might, instead of abstract, prefer mystery, transcendental, universals, indefinable, God, etc).
Perhaps Dawkins’ Theory of Memes is something that you subscribe to. Without doubt Susan Blackmore is an
enthusiastic evangelist of memes. I’ve
watched interviews with Blackmore, and the listener almost wants to cheer while
she goes on and on with the many exciting and insightful illustrations. Of course, what is terribly ironic, to the
point of actual humor, is that memes is an abstract, and Blackmore has merely
personified her illustrations as if some league of invisible “little critters” were
truly busy hurrying about causing the cultural changes as
 Instinct appears to be a hardwiring of behavior in the brain that produces the same results. Presumably as the brain enlarged, at some point, the explosion of axonic permutations “created” the mind thus reducing the rigidity of instinct. I’m out of my area of experience here; a biologist is better suited to give the theories as to what created the mind, assuming, of course, that the mind is created only by natural causes. If Natural Selection improves species, then why would the predictability and survivability of a social species be markedly decreased by this phenomenon of morality? [Improvement is discussed in footnote 20.]
 Impossible can never be used regardless of the sigma range. Science only allows probability because the only way to say 100% is to have studied all honey bee colonies, not only now and in the future, but also in the past. How can one say for sure that multiple queens have not existed? That is, instead of the queens killing other queens until only one existed, four of them “decided” to work things out and create a more efficient colony. Perhaps that hive or hives existed in eons past and simply has passed out of data existence. But 100% is not needed in science. Gould stated it so well, “In science, fact can only mean confirmed to such a degree that it would be perverse to withhold provisional assent. I suppose that apples might start to rise tomorrow, but the possibility does not merit equal time in physics classrooms.”
 The question of improvement may simply be absurd. The results of evolution simply are the results. Only a mind can produce “improvements.” Evolution and Natural Selection, regardless of the enthusiasm of its adherents, do not have minds. Evolution and Natural Selection fall within the physical laws of the universe. Dawkins insightfully illustrates the total absence of any mind: “The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind pitiless indifference.” This would, of course, include Evolution and Natural Selection, which are likewise amoral and blindly and pitilessly indifferent.
 Language teaching and acquisition by certain primates has been a key element to illustrate the gradualism of the brain, obviously extending to the mind. Language has always been a subject of interest to me; yet, I have not read nor watched a documentary on animal language that remotely established a parallel between animal language and human language. The distinction between percepts and concepts are so qualitatively distinct that the failure to distinguish these is baffling to me. I recall a scene from a documentary of a researcher with an ape. The researcher was explaining the phenomenal success of an ape even learning what the concept of zero was! Needless to say, my immediate reaction was that she did not have the slightest idea herself what the concept of zero was. How did she “prove” the ape had a concept of zero? A large keypad was in the ape’s cage. Pieces of food were put within sight of the ape. If the ape pushed the right button that represented the number of food items, it was given the food. When no food was present and the researcher asked, “How many are there,” the ape pushed the 0 button … and then received food! Ahhh, because it repeats it understands the concept of the value of zero? A 3 year old says, “One, two, three.” Yes, it understands the concept of numbers (mathematics)? If the parent wishes to believe such with the child or the researcher with the ape, then so be it. Did this researcher really believe that positive reinforcement (food or praise) had nothing to do with behavior repetition? And she’s the scientist???
 If animals have mind (intellect, conceptual as well as perceptual thinking, abstract as well as concrete thinking, connotative as well as denotative thinking, moral thinking), there is no evidence for it. Every animal I have ever seen, read about, or watched in a documentary seem quite locked into its particulars of life as much as its ancestors have been over the centuries. Only humans appear to be “mentally discontent,” i.e., the mind is always seeking.
 Such behavior toward animals (is it safe to say “cruelty”) is a trait found in many serial killers. The trait is prominent in them. In a way killing animals is practicing killing without remorse. Such behavior certainly seems to be properly alarming for others.
 I cannot discuss Evolution or Natural Selection without personifying. It’s nigh impossible. Obviously, only a mind can create.
 Obviously the term right here is not a legal right; it is a survival right. That is, the correct behavior, the right behavior is to survive. Natural Selection gives the “right” (the genes, the ability, the adaptability) to some animals to disguise themselves from certain predators. In the same way all science is ultimate reducible to laws of physics (assuming natural processes are foundational), so all the “tips and tricks” of Natural Selection for every species is reducible to survival. I have read many personal accounts of the Jewish Shoah. The endurance of the suffering expressed again and again was, “We must survive.” The Nazis wanted to work the Jews and Slavs to death or simply kill them because these weaker races would increase by breeding and weaken the Aryan race. If all is from natural processes and nothing is “beyond” natural processes, then all morality is reducible to survival and the elimination or containment of perceived threats to survival.
 The arguments used against radical Islam are survival arguments. “If the Western powers do nothing against radical Islam, then we will not survive.” There is no inherent right or wrong; there is survival and the threat to survival. If there is an absolute in Evolution’s development of the mind’s conception of morals, it is the absolute of survival. All the hoopla about the dignity of the person or the value of humanity is merely a ruse by Evolution to motivate a relatively weak species to survive, no more, no less.
 The Islamic reaction to the poison of the Western mindset is a survival issue. If Muslims idly stand by and do nothing, the material abundance of the West will win over Muslim followers. In order for Islam to survive then it must do what is necessary to survive. The only argument against Islam is not some humanistic argument of equal rights and the brotherhood of man; it is survival. Again, the only absolute in the morals of Natural Selection is survival. All else is illusion of ends that are no more than means used by Natural Selection to create the will and determination to survive at all costs. The irony, of course, is that ultimately matter/energy does survive. Evolution and Natural Selection create the illusion that a particular group of similar matter/energies entities must “survive.” Yet, the atoms that make up any particular human do survive either as atoms or energy. All that is really being fussed over concerning survival is the maintaining of certain arrangements of matter and energy.
 Of all of Dawkins arguments against religion, the “misfiring byproduct” of genes being the cause of religion is the most absurd argument. Even Dawkins will admit that the majority of the world is and has been religion and theistic of some sort. I admit I’m an outsider to biology; yet, if the majority of genetic behavior has brought about religious consciousness, then how can the minority be considered normal? Isn’t the statistical bell curve “normal” and the rest of the data “statistical deviations”? Then there is the problem of memes, “the other Darwinian game.” If the theory of memes is correct, then it has clearly produced religion. From Natural Selection, genes and memes have created religion, not man’s mind. Man’s mind only reacts to the brain’s impulses of religion in order to survive. From a statistical perspective, Natural Selection has deemed religion necessary. Also, from an evolutional perspective, perhaps religion has had its contribution to survival, and the atheistic increase in minds is actually an evolutionary change occurring right before our eyes. In the world to come, perhaps an atheistic mind will be needed to survive. The point is this: if religion is genetically or memetically produced, it makes no senses “to get angry” about it. It is a natural process created by blind, pitiless matter/energy. Religion was evolutionally necessary and is normal (statistically). From an evolutional perspective it makes no more sense for theists to rail at atheists or vice-versa anymore than it would have made sense for a fish with normal fins to fuss at an intermediary with “finny fingers.” If evolution is true, the process of change will occur very slowly and gradually over centuries and centuries; thus more time is needed for atheism to supplant theism, assuming the species will survive better as atheists.
 If abstracts truly are illusions produced by Evolution for survival, then the phrase, “Enjoy art for art’s sake” really is meaningless.
 The infinite regression argument of where did the God come from who originally created matter has never been convincing to me. Even evolutionists believe something has always existed as an axiom. They simply believe that it has been matter/energy. I believe, along with billions of others, that it was God from the beginning. When the question is ask, “Ok, if God created matter, what created him?” In the same manner that matter has always existed, so mind has always existed. The chief criticism directed against God having always existing has been, “How can complexity exist before simplicity?” What simplicity existed to start with? How is it that matter/energy has always existed and contains within it the theory of everything? What is so simple about a singularity or a single hydrogen atom? Why is there no mental stumbling that the theory of everything had to be contained within matter/energy from the very beginning, but the idea of mind existing from the beginning and creating the theory of everything is horribly impossible and absurd? Something has always existed. The question is whether it is matter/energy that has created mind or whether it is Mind that has created matter/energy.
 What I have heard on many occasions is, “I’d rather be dead than lose my mind.”
 Several years ago I wrote a poem, . I showed it to about four people. Only one understood it without explanation. After explanation the typical response was, “How depressing.”
 The only issue that is pressing for a child’s skull being smashed is survival. Survival qua survival is an odd concept. Survival of what? Life? There is biological confusion about what the definition of life is. Certainly it appears that the consensus of how life is defined is basically agreed upon, but there are “outliers” that are confusing to non-biologists like myself. I have read disagreements on whether viruses are alive. Overwhelmingly the consensus appears to be that they are not. The reason for the disagreement, even to a minor degree, is “life” is an abstract; so, it has to be defined, and the evidences that are listed to prove life are subjective … that is, in the mind’s interpretation. Even if the definition of life had zero distracters, there is another problem. Why does Evolution or Natural Selection “care” if one group of a collection of atoms were maintained. If it is true that biology (as well as all physical sciences) is reducible to the laws of physics, then what is being maintained is not “life,” but matter/energy. All that occurs, even with Evolution, is rearrangement. Worst case scenario for life, the ultimate end of the universe in fire or ice, the conservation of matter has been maintained. Perhaps the atoms are creeping along due to absolute zero, but they are still atoms. “Life” is only a difference arrangement of atoms. Evolution and survival add nothing beyond the conservation of matter. Only the mind makes life “important and significant.”
 Theists are strongly criticized, to the point of ridicule, for “blind faith.” Of course, what is omitted is the “blind faith” that Hawking just stated. Of course he gave reasons, but so do the theists. His reason was one if, one maybe, and one subjunctive (would). If someone wishes to call those “facts,” then of course they may do so. Why? Fact is an abstract that must be defined. Simply define fact as one pleases and anything will fit. The word fact may be fussed about, but there is no way that Hawking’s reply is objective; his reasons are 100% abstract. They can never be perceived by the senses, only conceived in the mind.
 See Special Topic—Presupposition and Blind Faith.
 There are others, e.g., pragmatic test of truth. But pragmatic is a sub-type of one of two that will be explained. The other “tests” will easily fit within the same two.
 Mathematics is an exception … in a way. Every expression in mathematics is abstract; so abstract proves abstract. However, mathematics is an imposed language determined solely by definition and is, frankly, a system of logic using tautologies. Obvious all tautologies are “true.” To prove a person is a bachelor is no more than to illustrate that the person does not meet the definitional criteria. Yet, even in proving such, what if the person is secretly married? Believing the evidence becomes the issue. President Obama still cannot appease the birthers. A “citizen of a country” is not concrete. We have to find illustrations (birth certificate, newspaper birth announcements) and then we have to believe those illustrations. Going back to our bachelor, what if he produced a marriage certificate and introduced his wife. Does that 100% prove he is not a bachelor married? There is no objective test to prove bachelorhood as there is to prove that a man is 5’9” tall. Objective proof cannot be fooled or disguised. (Of course, someone could cheat.) A bachelor is a simple either-or with no gradation in it, and we cannot know for certain. Consider many other abstracts: love, truth, beauty, justice. The gradations can be incalculable especially when determining if this or that particular meets the definition.
 Obvious error can occur. If I suddenly look up and see someone being mugged, I might get a detail wrong. The issue here is surprise and the increase in emotions. Five people will, no doubt, give different details … though none of them will say, “There was no mugging.” In contrast, take those five same people and say, “That person walking toward us will be mugged in five seconds. They are actors. Watch carefully. When it is over, write down what happened.” I daresay the reports will be nearly identical (allowing for poor eyesight, color blindness in males, lighting, angle of view, etc). Dawkins in Unweaving the Rainbow spent a lot of time discrediting eyewitnesses. There is nothing wrong with eyewitness per se. Surprise and emotion are the problem. The more time to think about an event before it occurs, the more likely details will be amazingly accurate. It’s quite common for couples to remember all kinds of details of their wedding fifty and more years afterwards. If a mugger would tell the truth, the details would be 100% correct.
 Of course I am familiar firsthand with the various criticisms of the chronology of the events surrounding and following the resurrection, but such criticisms seem far more than revealing discrepancies. Conservative Bible scholars maintain that the gospels were written by eyewitnesses or those who knew eyewitnesses. From an atheistic perspective, there is a problem if the stories harmonize or if they do not. If the stories harmonize, then, supposedly, the writers corroborated, which is the contention of the Q document per liberal scholarship (which is discussed elsewhere in this essay). If the accounts differ, as they do, then the eyewitnesses are, supposedly, unreliable, which is also discussed elsewhere. I will add only one additional thought here. There is a difference in details that do not cohere and those that contradict. There are no conflicting statements such as Jesus rose, Jesus did not rise, Peter was at the tomb, Peter was not at the tomb, Mary went early to the tomb, Mary did not go to the tomb early. For some reason, this distinction of coherence of statements and contradiction of statements is not distinguished or discerned and is considered, for some inscrutable reason, to be indubitable proof of the inaccuracy of the resurrection accounts.
 Very elaborate arguments are available for the unity of the Bible, the prophecies in it, higher and lower criticism, etc, etc. There was a time those worked for me; they no longer do. I cannot remember the last time I referred to them or used them in a class or conversation. I am no opposed to them, nor do I believe they are flawed. I am not convinced they are useful in general discussion.
 The documentation of the resurrection has been severely criticized. Essentially the argument is, “If the event were that important, then why aren’t there manuscripts all over the place with other people testifying of this event. Except for the four gospels writers, there’s nothing. The silence doesn’t make sense.” There are reasonable explanations for the silence even as there are reasonable explanations for so much being missing in the fossil records. An argument from silence is worthless logically; it is an appeal solely to imagination and interpretation. If silence is an argument, then there is another silence which has been dutifully overlooked and needs to be included with the same emphasis and importance as the silence of extra corroborating texts for the resurrection. What is that? Where is the evidence for the contradictory view as well? Where are the contemporary manuscripts debunking Jesus as a delusional prophet, exposing the lies of the resurrection, pooh-poohing the absurdity of the miracles? In the same way that all kinds of corroboration should have existed for the resurrection per the critics, then surely there would be an equal or greater amount of manuscript evidence for the contrarian view. There are four account of Jesus’ resurrection, written while eyewitnesses would have been alive. That is at least something. Where are the opposing accounts written within the lifespan of eyewitnesses? Why isn’t this silence a problem?
 I am well aware that the resurrection of Jesus, if true, is an event in the past. Though an event in the past is considered a concrete, the proof for a historical statement is the correspondence theory of truth. There is no way the past can be revisited. (Video might be an exception if there is certainty that the scenes have not been contrived or edited.) Any historical proof is “what someone else said.” Of course, any interpretation of an event, past or present, is abstract.
 See footnote 9 for my definition of dualism.
 Houdini spent years debunking the scams of spiritualists who preyed upon this illusion. Though he discredited “professional spiritualists,” he is reputed to have sought them after his mother’s death and was a friend with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, which whom he frequently discussed the topic. He and his wife, Beatrice, devised a code which was kept secret between them and was to be used when one predeceased the other. After Houdini’s death in 1926, Beatrice signed a witnessed letter in 1929 that a medium had used the code to pass a message onto her.
I mention the above because of its well-known status. I used it because this illusion persists even with die-hard crusaders (not scientists) who debunked it. Of course there is the work of Dr. Gary Schwartz and Dr. Raymond Moody. The criticism directed toward Dr. Schwartz is legion; yet, why such a struggle over an “obvious” illusion?
In the top ten domestic movies per box office receipts, four of them had
significant scenes of life after death or consciousness after death: Avatar, Titanic, and two Star Wars.
In the top ten adjusted for inflation, out of the top ten there are
five: Star Wars, The Ten Commandments,
Titanic, The Exorcist, and Snow White
and the Seven Dwarfs.
 Dawkings purpose in writing the book was the counter the strong negative response to The God Delusion. He claims that the accusation directed toward him were “barren desolation, of promoting an arid and joyless message.” He expressed his disappointment further by writing, “I am almost driven to the despair of which I am wrongly suspected.” The proper reaction, in Dawkins’ judgment, is to seize the time we have: “It is truly one of the things that makes life worth living and it does so, if anything, more effectively if it convinces us that the time we have for living it is finite.”
 Years ago I read Walter Lord’s A Night to Remember, and I have been fascinated by the Titanic ever since. My favor poem is Thomas Hardy’s The Convergence of the Twain. I reference the movie because so many have seen it. By the way, there is no certainty what Captain Smith did at the end.
 The gospel accounts of the resurrection provide falsifiable data, such as soldiers guarding the tomb, a dead body being buried the same day, mourners coming later with spices, etc. The gospels, when written, could have been racked over the coals by all kinds of contemporary evidence … if it existed. It would have been so easy for the Jewish leaders (or Romans) to have documented details that were false. The point is that falsifiable data is in the resurrection story. I encourage the reader to go online and read other resurrection stories. He will immediately note the lack of details for a contemporary to have disproved what happened. The “resurrection” of Osiris is hailed by critics of Jesus’ resurrection as being “the same thing.” A body rose from the dead in this story. A body rose from the dead in that story. That’s the end of the similarity. There is zero falsifiable data in other resurrection stories of the ancient world. The gospels ooze with data that could have been falsified then as well as some that could be falsified now … but hasn’t been. The difference between Jesus’ resurrection story and all the others of the ancient world is the difference of history versus myth. History is falsifiable and is loaded with data that can be tested. Myth is not. The account of Jesus’ resurrection reads like history because it was history as opposed to myth. There are simply too many data that can be falsified to be a myth account. The writers believed they were writing history. Either they told the truth, were deceived, or deliberately lied, but they did not consciously and deliberately write myth.
 I repeat that it is fine to disbelieve the writers, but it is ludicrous to say the accounts are myth. At worse, they are manipulative, historical fiction (very good fiction). At best … they are true. As an example, Tolkien wanted The Lord of the Rings trilogy to read like history. Depending on a person’s backgrounds, the trilogy could be read and believed to be history. Typically the historicity of a book is tested by factual corroboration; yet, there is another means: situational falsifiability. Are general details of the story falsifiable? This is where the trilogy collapses. NOTHING can be verified in clothing, maps, language, personages, etc. Everything is falsified. Ultimately in the resurrection story of Jesus the real issue is that science has not verified a resurrection.
Art, which is not history, certainly changes.
I have viewed artist’s pictures of Jesus from a number of cultures, and
the depiction reflects the respective culture.
Though this has happen, the story has not changed. Though Jesus may look Chinese in
 See for more detailed explanation.
 Obviously, my comment that compatibilism makes no sense will raise ire; yet, the key problem with it is the same problem with Anselm’s ontological argument. “Something just ain’t right!” An online search for “Plantinga problem of evil” will provide several sources. Be sure to put on your thinking cap. Plantinga is a professional philosopher. His argument is for rigorous debate, not popular teaching. Again, his arguments won’t “prove” that God and evil can co-exist. He provides a consistent model in which they can.
 This also is an argument against Plantinga. The online Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/evil/) states this criticism: “Plantinga's view here, however, is very implausible. For not only can the argument from evil be formulated in terms of specific evils, but that is the natural way to do so, given that it is only certain types of evils that are generally viewed as raising a serious problem with respect to the rationality of belief in God. To concentrate exclusively on abstract versions of the argument from evil is therefore to ignore the most plausible and challenging versions of the argument.” The difficulty with the criticism is that we again return to the problem of the concrete and the abstract. Obviously concrete illustrations are used to “prove” or “disprove” whatever, but we still have no means to objectively agree that that a particular act is “evil.” I may call it evil, but you may not; so, particulars only support abstract arguments. Concrete cannot conclusively prove or disprove because evil has to be interpreted each and every time and will vary per person.
 There is no need to get absorbed into a debate about “reality.” A true statement is no more than the “is” that is asserted actually is, and the “is not” that is denied actually is not. If I am asked for my name and I say VL Vawter, then the statement is true if my name is, indeed, VL Vawter. That is the sense in which I mean the statement matches reality. Josiah Royce humorous stated it this way (possibly paraphrased), “A liar is a man who willfully misplaces his ontological predicates.”
 Advice is abstract because something is being discussed potentially. The future cannot be perceived by our sense prior to its occurrence. So, the advice is carefully defined, evidence listed to support it, and people believe it and accept or disbelieve it and ignore it. As we know, the actual turnout is never guaranteed.