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Post 0

Thursday, February 28 - 8:30amSanction this postReply
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Everyone likes physics. ("Liking" it is far removed from being good at it.)  So, I was reading James Gleick's biography of Richard P. Feynman, Genius.  Gleick is skillful, himself a genius, I believe.  (Reviews of the book and the author are on my blog NecessaryFacts for February 9 and February 12.)  Gleick explains Feynmans' s work in quantum mechanics and quantum field theory as best as can be done for a broad readership.  I went to the library and got two college-level texts on QM and QF.  And understood about 50 of the 500 words I read...  The point here, tying to comments by Feynman about the metaphysics of it all, is that the photon and all the other waves/particles are just effects of fields, maybe of "the field." These are effects of something else which we do not perceive, perhaps cannot perceive.

Perhaps Edwin Abbott's Flatland is the best religious narrative.

Myself, I mentioned here on RoR before that in an "Intellectual Turing Test" I was outed by both Christians and Atheists as a faker from the other side.  From bacteria - which are complicated - to insects to us, the Great Chain of Being does not stop here.  Ultimately, one or more "greatest" (oldest, first, last, smartest, kindest, worst, meanest, reddest, bluest, heaviest, lightest....) must exist.  Whether that or they actually care who lives on which side of what river of water on this planet seems silly to even ask. 

But I agree with you that the question is not "God" (however defined) but "belief." 

Nothing travels at the speed of light, except light, which is what we call some wavelengths of electro-magnetism.  At that speed, time stops.  The entire history of the universe is arrayed in all (all?) dimenions forever.  Sounds like God to me, but I do not know: I only ask. 

I liked Contact by Carl Sagan.  Sagan was an atheist, but this was a "religious" book. The scientist Ellie Arroway asked the Alien about how they built the wormhole superhighway and the Voice says, "We did not build it.  We found it here."  ... like how your house looks (smells, actually) to ants...  The ants and roaches live for the smells, just as we turn telescopes to the stars.  But, ourselves, we are visual and auditory creatures and smells are less important... even as we write poems to the stars that may be unimportant consequences of something else.

(Edited by Michael E. Marotta on 2/28, 8:44am)




Post 1

Friday, March 1 - 6:38pmSanction this postReply
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Mike,

I want to thank you for your help and I don't mean just here. Would you share how you failed the ideological Turing tests? If it's too personal, then I understand. I may have to put my foot in my mouth later, but it seems to me like I could beat these "reverse" Turing tests.

It seems to me that if all I would have to do is answer a few measly questions in an "asynchronous communication" format like an online message board, then I will have the power to trick just about anyone who is trying to determine whether I am a true atheist/false believer or a false atheist/true believer. Now, because that kind of bragging can be misinterpreted -- and especially so in this particular thread! -- let me preempt potential criticism and state at the outset that I do not believe in the supernatural. I do not believe in anything, either up in Heaven or down here on Earth, that is supernatural. And, to go a step further, besides my personal choice not to believe in such things, I also do not believe that there is a good reason to believe in anything supernatural.

Going still further, I also agree that faith undercuts reason -- and that that is not a good thing (because reason is our only tool for acquiring conceptual knowledge, making it our primary tool of survival). If you had enough faith, it would kill you -- unless someone else, who wanted you alive, became willing to use reason and rationality in order to keep you alive. That's how we stay alive (by using the mind properly).

Ed

p.s., Imagining "reverse" Turing tests ...
________________________________________________________

Atheist masquerading as believer
------------------------------------
Q: Do you believe in God?
A: Yes.

Q: What's important to you?
A: God's will.

Q: What about your personal happiness?
A: If it is in God's will for me to be happy then I will be happy. Otherwise, God might be teaching me a lesson or something, so I will grin-and-bear whatever kind of existence he has in store for me.

Ding-aling-aling-alinggggg! It appears that I could pass this simple test (it appears I just did).
________________________________________________________

Believer masquerading as atheist
-----------------------------------
Q: Do you believe in God?
A: No.


Q: What's important to you?
A: Getting my "groove" on.


Q: What about your personal happiness?
A: Uh, oh, er ... yeah ... that's what I meant above.

Q: So the only thing you care about is being happy and you could care less about what God thinks about that?
A: As I said before, I do not believe in God -- so stop trying to trick me into saying that I do.


Ding-aling-aling-alinggggg! It appears that I could pass this simple test, too (it appears I just did).

The nagging concern I have is that I think you are smart, Mike, so how in the heck could you fail simple tests like these? The only explanation I can currently call to mind is that the tests that you failed were not as simple as these 2 tests. Were they much more complex than the above?

(Edited by Ed Thompson on 3/01, 6:41pm)




Post 2

Sunday, March 3 - 10:47pmSanction this postReply
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Ed, in the first place, your imagings are far from the mark.  Rather than arguing different voices in your own head, you might want to actually visit the website.

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/unequallyyoked/2011/06/final-turing-question-list.html

Christian questions:
  • What’s your best reason for being a Christian?
  • What evidence or experience (if any) would cause you to stop believing in God?
  • Why do you believe Christianity has a stronger claim to truth than other religions/
  • On what basis do you reject the truth claims of other traditions and denominations but accept your own?
  • How do you read the Bible? Do you study the history of its translations? 
  • How do you decide which translations/versions/books are the true Bible? 
  • How does it guide you if you have a moral or theological dilemma?  [This question has come up before, if you remember this plea for guest posts]
Atheist questions:
  • What’s your best reason for being an atheist?
  • What evidence or experience (if any) would cause you to believe in God?
  • If you believed in some kind of god, what kind of evidence would be necessary to convince you to join a particular religion?
  • When you have ethical and moral disputes with other people, what do you appeal to? What metric do you use to examine your moral intuitions/cultural sensibilities/etc?
  • Why is religion so persistent? We have had political revolutions, artistic revolutions, an industrial revolution, and also religious reformations of several kinds, but religion endures. Does this not suggest its basic truth?
See more at: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/unequallyyoked/2011/06/final-turing-question-list.html#sthash.OqHHXSOa.dpuf

Even more in the second attempt 2012 - I was not invited - here.
  • When (if ever) have you deferred to your philosophical or theological system over your intuitions?
  • Are there people whose opinions on morality you trust more than your own? How do you recognize them?
  • How is trusting them different than trusting someone’s opinion on physics?
  • Can you name any works of art (interpreted pretty broadly: books, music, plays, poetry, mathematical proofs, etc) which really capture the way you see life/fill you with a sense of awe and wonder? You can give a short explanation or just list a few pieces




Post 3

Sunday, March 3 - 11:10pmSanction this postReply
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Here are my answers.  Follow the link to read the amusing claims of those who outed me as a faker.

What’s your best reason for being an atheist?

Anything which is true is known by the senses and also at the same time explained by reason. Experientially or experimentally, there is no test for God. Rationally or logically, all definitions of God fail.

The first scientific experiments by Empedocles 2500 years ago showed that air is a substance: it has weight. Then, 400 years ago, Galileo launched the scientific era. Evidences and proofs for atoms, electrons, positrons, black holes, bacteria, genes, DNA, all of it, often the proof came ahead of the theory to explain it. Other times, the evidence was found to validate the theory. Despite advances in knowledge, there is no experiment to show the existence of God.

Rationally, none of the arguments for God withstands inspection. If God is omniscient then he cannot be omnipotent and vice versa. If he can “do anything” then he cannot be constrained by prior knowledge of what he will do; if he is unconstrained, then he can have no prior knowledge of his actions. It is a cliche to ask: If God is omnipotent, can he make a stone so big he cannot lift it?

Most basically, the universe cannot have had a creator. The universe – no matter how many dimensions or alternates or parallels – is all that was, is, and will be, the sum total of existence. To have created existence is to have been outside of it. That which is outside existence does not exist.

What evidence or experience (if any) would cause you to believe in God? If you believed in some kind of god, what kind of evidence would be necessary to convince you to join a particular religion?

Best of all, it would take direct, personal experience, a “road to Damascus” moment that was undeniable to me on my own terms. I would not expect to be able to explain it to anyone else – and I would not care if I could.

(This could explain why there is no proof for God. Those who have direct personal experience need no further proof; and they do not care to convince others. But that would call in to question those who do. This is another contradiction in the theory of God: how do we know God’s will? Unreconcilable claims are too easy to find.)

Second best would be a general demonstration of a miracle not debunked by Penn & Teller or Uri Geller. It would be something like all the guns in the world melting.

To pick a particular religion on God’s terms, God would have to make his wishes known, like melting all the guns on Easter Sunday starting in a big circle from the Saint Peter Basilica. If it started from Canterbury or Salt Lake City, that would be a different message.

When you have ethical and moral disputes with other people, what do you appeal to? What metric do you use to examine your moral intuitions/cultural sensibilities/etc?

I serve on a couple of community boards. People disagree. In disputes with other people, I appeal to their self-interest. If I have a different goal, I try to show how my suggestion will meet their needs.

Reason and evidence are the only modes of proof. Rationalism and empiricism must complement each other for a point to be true. When something is good, it is good all the way around; and it suggests other good actions and ideas. When something is bad, it fails on many levels, in many contexts. I test for logical consistency and completeness and physical evidence of the consequences.

Why is religion so persistent? We have had political revolutions, artistic revolutions, an industrial revolution, and also religious reformations of several kinds, but religion endures. Does this not suggest its basic truth?

People are not that smart. It takes time for old ways to change.

A couple of Ice Ages ago, we might have a genius every three generations. Now we have clubs full of them. With billions of people living more than two or three decades, we have more intelligence. (The “Flynn Effect” – James R. Flynn based on the research of Richard Lynn – says that our general IQ is increasing about 3% per decade.) Not surprisingly, when you put “atheism on the rise” in a search engine, you see that religion is falling away. Add agnosticism and similar wavery non-beliefs and the numbers are larger.

And religion is becoming more sophisticated. A few years ago, I read a dissertation for a doctorate in divinity on the nature of angels. It made the Bible seem like a chorus of “Jesus Loves Me.” Long ago, people had crude but fixed ideas about gods and goddesses and their relationships to thunder and plants. Now, their God is the “First Principle” or an “Unmoved Mover” or “the Soul of the Universe.”

Basically, religion is evaporating among those with active intelligence, even though the tradition persists among the ignorant.

 

 




Post 4

Sunday, March 3 - 11:21pmSanction this postReply
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My Christian answers:

What is your best reason for being a Christian?

I know that Jesus Christ is my Savior.

When you open your heart to Jesus and know that He is your Savior, everything else falls into place. There is no greater peace, no deeper calm, no lasting satisfaction like Salvation.

What evidence or experience (if any) would cause you to stop believing in God?

None. My faith in God does not depend on proof.

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction (evidence) of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1).

Why do you believe Christianity has a stronger claim to truth than other religions/On what basis do you reject the truth claims of other traditions and denominations but accept your own?

The Message of Salvation has been carried to all nations. From the very first Days of Our Lord’s mission on Earth, the call went out. After His Resurrection, apostles carried the Message of Salvation to the churches (synagogues) of Asia and even to Rome itself and then beyond that all down through the centuries. Even the rise of Islam in the Middle East did not erase the Word. Today the Message of Salvation is broadcast via satellites. Everyone can receive the Blessing.

When you open your heart to Jesus and know that He is your Savior, everything else falls into place. There is no greater peace, no deeper calm, no lasting satisfaction like Salvation. All through time since the Ministry of Christ, millions have been saved, though millions also turn away.

Faith in the Lord is not the result of an academic debate by Oxford rules, or whatever you think.

Colossians 2:8
See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ. (NIV) 

Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. (KJV)

See that there be no one who shall lead (you) away as a prey through philosophy and vain deceit, according to the teaching of men, according to the elements of the world, and not according to Christ. (Darby)

See ye that no man deceive you by philosophy and vain fallacy, after the tradition of men, after the elements of the world, and not after Christ. (Wycliffe)

All of these translations say the same thing. That speaks to the question below. You are so blind, so deaf, so selfish that you think this is just some clever trick answer that will win a debate. The Word of God is the Message of Salvation.

How do you read the Bible? Do you study the history of its translations? How do you decide which translations/versions/books are the true Bible? How does it guide you if you have a moral or theological dilemma?

Those are three questions.
1. Yes, I read the Bible. I have a King James, but usually read the New International Version.

2. I know of the translations, but I have not studied them. I read some New Testament Greek with modern translations. We do not speak Greek any more. We speak English (or other modern language), so the Bible is translated into our languages to bring us the Word of God, the Word of Salvation. The Bible is eternal, regardless of what language you use because “in the beginning was the Word [Jesus Christ] and the Word was (with) God.” (John 1:1)

When you recognize Jesus Christ as your Savior, when you know that there is no other path to salvation, then human misunderstandings are less important. Jesus said (Matthew 5:17) “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” This means that faith in the Lord transcends our errors. Many things are in the Bible. I eat pork. I know Christians who do not. I have cotton-polyester clothing even though garments of two cloths were once forbidden. How do we keep the sabbath? Is it a matter of banking the fires and not turning on the lights; or not doing any work for pay; or some other little technical thing. Or is keeping the Sabbath knowing the infinite love of God through his Son Jesus Christ? In His Resurrection as the Messiah, Jesus fulfilled the law. When we are with the Lord, we follow His law because we are saved. It is very simple to understand: “For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one commandment: Love thy neighbor as thyself.” (Galatians 5:14).

3. It only takes a few years to learn well the general outline of the Books and their general messages as expressed in certain scriptures that are well-known. I have a concordance. And the Internet. But you have the problem stated wrongly, which betrays your own absence from Salvation. I mean to say that if I have a problem with my neighbor, I do not look up “Neighbor, problems with Exodus 22:7. …, Luke 1:65,… (See also “Brother”)” When troubled, I pray. I pray for understanding. I ask God to show me the way. I open my heart to see if I have sinned. Being saved does not excuse sin. Sin harms others and harms the sinner. If I have hurt others, I ask for forgiveness from the them as well as knowing that God has forgiven my sins through his Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior. (John 3:16.)

By reading the Bible, finding those passages that I do not know or do not know well, I gain a better understanding of God’s will. If I have a problem with my neighbor, I do not need to run to the Bible to know what to do next. Life is not like that for those who are saved.




Post 5

Monday, March 4 - 7:17pmSanction this postReply
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Mike,
Follow the link to read the amusing claims of those who outed me as a faker.
Oh ... my ... god ... was that ever funny! I especially liked the comments from Tristyn Bloom, Urban Wild Cat, and Touchstone. Thanks for sharing this, Mike! I'll think about trying to get a bunch of people to think that I think a certain way, or believe a certain thing. With the question in essay format (long-answer), rather than short-answer dialectics, it may be harder to pull off the scam than I previously believed. However, I've got a leg-up on you because I was a card-carrying Christian for quite a few years. In my view, your "Christian" answers were to "learned" and "academic" and, at the same time, too bold.

Of course, it's easier for me to criticize what you did than it would be for me to attempt to accomplish the task myself (I can throw tomatoes from the sidelines) -- so take this feedback with a grain of salt.

:-)

Ed




Post 6

Saturday, March 9 - 9:16amSanction this postReply
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Peter Townsend's performance of Meher Baba's "Universal Prayer."  The transcription that rolls up has some errors but it is largely correct.
See here for the "official" version ... if such a thing is possible.  I mean, how can a universal prayer have an official version? Anyway...

http://ambppct.org/meherbaba/universal-prayer.php
O Parvardigar — the Preserver and Protector of all!
You are without Beginning, and without End,
Non-dual, beyond comparison, and none
____can measure You.
You are without colour, without expression,
____without form, and without attributes.
You are unlimited and unfathomable,
____
beyond imagination and conception,
____eternal and imperishable.
You are indivisible; and none can see You,
____but with Eyes Divine.
You always were, You always are, and
____You always will be;
You are everywhere, You are in everything;
____
and You are also beyond everywhere
____and beyond everything.
You are in the firmament and in the depths;
____
You are manifest and unmanifest, on
____all planes and beyond all planes.
You are in the three worlds, and also
____beyond the three worlds;
You are imperceptible and independent.
You are the Creator, the Lord of lords,
____the knower of all minds and hearts;
You are omnipotent and omnipresent.
You are Knowledge Infinite, Power Infinite,
____and Bliss Infinite.
You are the Ocean of Knowledge, all-knowing,
____
infinitely knowing, the Knower of the past,
____
the present, and the future, and You are
____Knowledge Itself.
You are all-merciful and eternally benevolent;
You are the Soul of souls, the One with
____infinite attributes.
You are the Trinity of Truth, knowledge, and
____Bliss,
You are the Source of Truth, the Ocean of Love;
You are the Ancient One, the Highest of the High;
____
You are Prabhu and Parameshwar, You are the
____
Beyond-God, and the Beyond-Beyond God also,
____
You are Parabrahma, Allah, Elahi, Yezdan,
____Ahuramazda, and God the Beloved.
You are named Ezad — the only One
____
worthy of worship.





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