Tuesday, November 18, 2014

An exchange about humanism on Debunking Christianity

Rudy R: Again, since you don't think only humans can solve human problems, what problems have been solved only by your god that humans can't solve?
Evidently, you don't have a very high regard for human nature and a human's potential for making things better without a god. That, in a nutshell, probably separates us both the most.
Can you logically discount humanism as a rational way to solving human problems? Just so we are clear on definitions, what I mean by logical is to use empiricism instead of faith as an epistemological method and what I mean by faith is belief without evidence or pretending to know what you don't know.
Can you mathematically show why it's more probable that having faith that a god can make the world a better place than humanism? If not mathematically, can you list all the pros and cons, and show there are more pros and less cons than humanism? I'd like to see how humanism "requires us to make gigantic leaps over the probabilities."

VR: Maybe I can start with a famous quote from G. K. Chesterton:
Modern masters of science are much impressed with the need of beginning all inquiry with a fact. The ancient masters of religion were quite equally impressed with that necessity. They began with the fact of sin—a fact as practical as potatoes. Whether or no man could be washed in miraculous waters, there was no doubt at any rate that he wanted washing. But certain religious leaders in London, not mere materialists, have begun in our day not to deny the highly disputable water, but to deny the indisputable dirt. Certain new theologians dispute original sin, which is the only part of Christian theology which can really be proved. Some followers of the Reverend R. J. Campbell, in their almost too fastidious spirituality, admit divine sinlessness, which they cannot see even in their dreams. But they essentially deny human sin, which they can see in the street. The strongest saints and the strongest sceptics alike took positive evil as the starting-point of their argument. If it be true (as it certainly is) that a man can feel exquisite happiness in skinning a cat, then the religious philosopher can only draw one of two deductions. He must either deny the existence of God, as all atheists do; or he must deny the present union between God and man, as all Christians do. The new theologians seem to think it a highly rationalistic solution to deny the cat.
Atheists like to point out "holy horrors" like the Inquisition, the Crusades, the Wars of Religion, and the Salem Witch Trials. But doesn't this pale in comparison to the crimes committed by communist governments, such as the party purges?
Or the Cultural Revolution
Or, I can quote this from Chris Hedges:
Those who insist we are morally advancing as a species are deluding themselves. There is little in science or history to support this idea. Human individuals can make moral advances, as can human societies, but they also make moral reverses… We alternate between periods of light and periods of darkness. We can move forward materially, but we do not move forward morally. The belief in collective moral advancement ignores the inherent flaws in human nature as well as the tragic reality of human history… All utopian schemes of impossible advances and glorious conclusions end in squalor and fanaticism. (p.10-11)

32 comments:

Crude said...

Can you logically discount humanism as a rational way to solving human problems?

Considering "humanism" is almost entirely lacking content other than the vaguest feelgoodisms, yeah, it's pretty easy to discount.

Dan Gillson said...

"Considering "humanism" is almost entirely lacking content other than the vaguest feelgoodisms, yeah, it's pretty easy to discount." ... Also, humanism isn't even a purely secular idea. There is such a thing as religious humanism, and it's responsible for a lot of good in the world.

John Moore said...

I just think of humanism as us trying to solve our own human problems - as opposed to us focusing on God in hopes that he will solve our human problems.

So it's a question of who you think will solve our problems better - ourselves or God.

B. Prokop said...

Q: So it's a question of who you think will solve our problems better - ourselves or God.

A: God.

jdhuey said...

But there never was an Adam and an Eve, so there never was an "original sin" - never was "a Fall" or a state of purity to fall from. We are just humans with a human nature that is extremely complex.

B. Prokop said...

"We are just humans with a human nature that is extremely complex."

Not possible without a fall. A stone does not behave differently than its nature. Neither does anything else we know of, no matter what its complexity. Everything does exactly what it's supposed to do. Only Man behaves contrary to the way he should. No conceivable complexity can explain this.

Crude said...

But there never was an Adam and an Eve,

Unscientific speculation at best, flatly wrong at worst.

so there never was an "original sin" - never was "a Fall" or a state of purity to fall from.

This sort of claim has always seemed assinine to me. As if 'a fall' requires two people specifically to pull off.

It's likewise worth noting that the 'state of purity', according to the orthodox version of the story, didn't even last as long as the lives of the two people involved in it.

Trying to look to science to cast doubt on this is not just wrongheaded, but an abuse of science.

So it's a question of who you think will solve our problems better - ourselves or God.

No need to choose, since God has and can repeatedly use us to solve our problems, and God commands that we solve many of them ourselves.

Which means that the theist can rely on themselves and God. The materialist atheist can't even rely on themselves - selves don't exist, remember?

Hal said...

"But there never was an Adam and an Eve, so there never was an "original sin" - never was "a Fall" or a state of purity to fall from. We are just humans with a human nature that is extremely complex."

Agree completely.

Crude said...

It's one thing to agree. But let's not pretend the agreement is based on scientific discovery/fact or the like.

"There was a fall of humanity" and "there was no fall of humanity" are statements outside of science. We're into the realms of speculative thinking, philosophy, theology, wishful thinking and religion. The first 4 may or may not be in play with one's commitment, but the 5th absolutely is, no matter which side of the divide one falls on.

Hal said...

Adam and Eve are characters in a Hebrew myth. There is no historical evidence to substantiate their existence.

If you can provide some, I might reconsider my view.

Jakub Moravčík said...

"They began with the fact of sin—a fact as practical as potatoes."

Short philosophical comment on this quote:

Why they begun with the fact of sin and no with some other fact? One possible reply is that a notion couple "good and evil" are more original, natural and more important to human beings than a notion couple "truth and falsity". This would go well with Chesterton´s pragmatism I think.

Victor Reppert said...

Some humans had to be the first ones, and "Adam" and "Eve" are just technical terms for whoever those were.

jdhuey said...

>>But there never was an Adam and an Eve,

> (from Crude) Unscientific speculation at best, flatly wrong at worst.

Nope. Neither unscientific nor wrong. Genetic studies show that the population of humans was never as low as two.

http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2011/09/18/how-big-was-the-human-population-bottleneck-not-anything-close-to-2/

>(from VP) Some humans had to be the first ones, and "Adam" and "Eve" are just technical terms for whoever those were.

Nope. That is not how evolution works. Here is why there never was a "first" human.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xdWLhXi24Mo

B. Prokop said...

Not to resurrect the epic battle between Ben and me on this subject, but please remember that "Adam" is simply Hebrew for "the man" and Eve for "mother". They're not names at all, but titles. Or, to put it in grammatical terms, they are not proper nouns, but common ones.

Hal said...

"Some humans had to be the first ones, and "Adam" and "Eve" are just technical terms for whoever those were."

So it is not true that Eve was formed from Adam's rib? How about the talking serpent? Or the Garden of Eden?

Does Christianity require that the Fall be an actual historical event? Or can it accept the Fall as a metaphor for humankind's imperfections?

jdhuey said...

"They're not names at all, but titles."

I'm not sure that is important at all. It seems to me that what is important is that the actual story of our origin is nothing like the story presented in the Bible. Which is important because that means that all of the conclusions about man's nature and his relationship with the putative deity based on the Bible are simply not based on reality and are most likely wrong.

B. Prokop said...

"are simply not based on reality"

Not at all, not at all. Now I myself (and here is where Ben has anathematized me) am rather agnostic on the question of the historicity of Adam and Eve. But I also find the issue to be rather overblown in importance. Just what kind of "reality" are you speaking of that the story doesn't follow? If God created mankind sinless, and we chose disobedience at the Dawn of History, then the story is indeed "based on reality" regardless of the niggling details.

Ilíon said...

Some weeks ago, I had mentioned that I plan to compose a (lengthy) post about the supposedly scientific alleged fact that there was never a time when our ancestors were fewer in number than many thousands alive simultaneously (about this -- No, Virginia, Science hasn't debunked Adam (*) ), and B.Prokop poo-pooed the question as unimportant and uninteresting. It seems it's neither.


(*) specifically, what the post will show is that even on Darwinistic assumptions -- that is, the assumptions of the very people who deny that there was ever a time when human ancestors alive simultaneously numbered fewer than, say, ten --, there had to have been such a time.

Hal said...

I think people would find their time better spend checking out what this
Christian Blogsite has to say about an original human couple than Ilion's rant-site link. :-)

B. Prokop said...

Ilion, your link appears to be broken. All I get is a page with your smiling picture on it and the following message:

Sorry, the page you were looking for in this blog does not exist.

Hal said...

"If God created mankind sinless, and we chose disobedience at the Dawn of History, then the story is indeed "based on reality" regardless of the niggling details."

One can take that step. Or one can look at the evidence we have from evolution and find an answer to why humans are not as perfect as they would like to be.
I see no compelling reason to try and take what is obviously a myth and treat it as an historical event.

jdhuey said...

Just what kind of "reality" are you speaking of that the story doesn't follow? If God created mankind sinless, and we chose disobedience at the Dawn of History, then the story is indeed "based on reality" regardless of the niggling details.

Given that our understanding of our evolutionary history is true, then:
1. We were not created, we evolved
2. We were never "sinless" (whatever that means), our human nature evolved slowly over time .
3. There was never a 'fall' or "a choice for disobedience at the Dawn of History" - the scope and range of human nature is the result of our evolutionary history . It is not the result of a single event that needs or can be atoned for. You just can't return to a state that you were never in.

B. Prokop said...

"Given that our understanding of our evolutionary history is true" (emphasis added)

That's one big "given" there. But I'll give you a pass this time. After all, I used an "if".

Ilíon said...

B.Prokop: "Ilion, your link appears to be broken. All I get is a page with your smiling picture on it and the following message:"

My smiling picture? I don't think I've ever smiled in my life.

Anyway, the link was supposed to go to Lydia McGrew at What's Wrong With the World: No, Virginia, Science hasn't debunked Adam, to which article I had previously linked, and the subject of which B.Prokop had then declared to be boring.

=========
Ha!: "I think people would find their time better spend checking out what this
[some fools who refuse to grasp the fact that Darwinism can never be compatible with Christianity] has to say about an original human couple than Ilion's rant-site link. :-)
"

Who said anything about "say[ing anything] about an original human couple"? Not I.

Isn't it amazing that no matter how carefully one *writes* (meaning that it can be re-read as many times as it takes to understand it) what one wishes to convey, one can always count on there being nearby (as in this instance, concerning evolutionism) a DarLogic(tm) enhanced super-evolved intellect whose enhancements give him the power to read what he wants one to have written, rather than what one did write.

Ha!: "I think people would find their time better spend checking out [irrational DarwinDefenders] than Ilion's rant-site link."

Well, certainly, those who cannot abide having their irrational attachments to 19th century anti-logical pseudo-science held up to public scrutiny are well advised to avoid my "rant-site" blog. Besides which, DarCentral has already assigned my blog its DarTroll.

=========
B.Prokop: "If God created mankind sinless, and we chose disobedience at the Dawn of History, then the story is indeed "based on reality" regardless of the niggling details."

Ha!: "One can take that step. Or one can look at the evidence we have from evolution and find an answer to why humans are not as perfect as they would like to be.

I see no compelling reason to try and take what is obviously a myth and treat it as an historical event.
"

Wouldn't it be nice if DarwinDefenders and God-deniers, for all their vast intellect compared to us, could manage, someday, to grasp the logical implications of their premises?

Nothing Ha! has said here even makes sense given God-denial, whether explicit God-denial or the semi-implicit of Darwinism.

Look at this: "one can look at the evidence we have from evolution and find an answer to why humans are not as perfect as they would like to be" -- meaningless on either evolutionism or atheism.

Look at this: "I see no compelling reason to ..." -- meaningless and pointless on either evolutionism or atheism.

Isn't it amazing that these people are *always* making moral pronouncements?

It's like someone once said: "To slap God's face, you first have to crawl into his lap."

Crude said...

Hal,

Adam and Eve are characters in a Hebrew myth.

Sure, that's a very common religious, non-scientific viewpoint.

There is no historical evidence to substantiate their existence.

Sure there is. No historical evidence you accept? That's fine. Just know that your conclusion is something distinct from science, and is in fact just another bit of religion.

If you can provide some, I might reconsider my view.

What makes you think I'm concerned about you believing Adam and Eve existed? I'll settle for you simply being informed about the factual basis of your belief. It's a religious belief, not a scientific one.

One can take that step. Or one can look at the evidence we have from evolution and find an answer to why humans are not as perfect as they would like to be.

Great. The evidence we have from evolution at the moment is 'There was some historical bottleneck, where there were mere hundreds of breeding pairs of humans left alive.'

The scientific evidence that there was no first couple among said pairs? Zero. Because questions of a 'first couple' aren't scientific - nor are the answers, whether positive or negative.

But if you really want to push it, then as Victor says, eventually you're going to get to the first humans if you go back historically, for whatever your definition of human is. 'But it may have been gradual! But there were other human-like beings in existence!' doesn't really touch the point.

jdhuey,

Given that our understanding of our evolutionary history is true, then:

It's not a given, and even among scientists, the intelligent ones would realize as much. Do you have any awareness of how much our understanding of evolutionary history has changed in the past decade alone?

1. We were not created, we evolved

Fallacious reasoning, because this isn't an 'either-or' option.

We were never "sinless" (whatever that means), our human nature evolved slowly over time

The former doesn't follow from the latter, and once again, both of these things can be true.

3. There was never a 'fall' or "a choice for disobedience at the Dawn of History" - the scope and range of human nature is the result of our evolutionary history

Congratulations! You win the "I actually don't know what evolution is, what science says, or what either can plausibly say and still be scientific!" award. It is a very common one.

But, as ever, I'm willing to be proven wrong. Can you please provide me the peer-reviewed scientific research that's tested for "sin" or "a fall from moral/spiritual grace"? We can discuss it right in this thread.

I'll fast-forward: you won't provide it, because it doesn't exist. The absolute best you'll have is a provisional indication that humanity did have a bottleneck at some point a long time ago, but not down to only 2 biological humans remaining. But that's entirely compatible with a literal fall, and even a literal first couple.

You're free to follow your religious convictions and go well beyond the science, of course. But just admit that you've left science behind at that point.

B. Prokop said...

"and the subject of which B.Prokop had then declared to be boring"

It's still boring... yawn. Now please excuse me while I go off for a snooze. Zzzz....

Crude said...

Oh, and just to make perfectly clear here.

My goal isn't to prove to Hal or jdhuey's satisfaction that there was or wasn't a First Couple or a fall. That's not an interesting project.

Instead, it's to point out a few things:

1) As a science, "evolution" is completely incapable of ruling out a fall. The question is not a scientific one to begin with.

2) Even a literal reading of the Fall doesn't require believing that humanity had a genetic bottleneck of 2, itself with no precursors. You can have both biological precursors, and humans living at that time that were also capable of interbreeding with the first couple, and you can still have said First Couple.

3) People who say otherwise typically see themselves as expounding the scientific viewpoint, and in the process are betraying not just a lack of knowledge of science, but an abuse of it. Every bit as much as they imagine, say... vaccine conspiracy theorists are.

And finally...

4) When someone says 'there was never a fall', they're not dealing with science. They're speaking religion and are stating a religious belief, even if it's a negative one. There is no scientific test for 'a pristine state', particularly a pristine state that didn't even last beyond the life of two people. By the by? Evolutionary science doesn't deal in even the mundane acts taken in a single person's partial lifetime.

The funny thing is, Christians are often chided to not pin their hopes on science vindicating their religious beliefs, because science has a way of changing. So, consider this wikipedia entry, with emphasis:

Sometimes mitochondrial Eve is assumed to have lived at the same time as Y-chromosomal Adam, from whom all living people are descended patrilineally, perhaps even meeting and mating with him. Even if this were true, which is currently regarded as highly unlikely, this would only be a coincidence. Like mitochondrial "Eve", Y-chromosomal "Adam" probably lived in Africa. A recent study (March 2013) concluded however that "Eve" lived much later than "Adam" – some 140,000 years later.[10] (Earlier studies considered, conversely, that "Eve" lived earlier than "Adam".)[34] More recent studies indicate that mitochondrial Eve and Y-chromosomal Adam may indeed have lived around the same time.[35]

I remember when, for years, the 'there is no way they lived at the same time - science says so!' claim was trotted out ad nauseum as evidence against (a poor understanding of) a first couple, and that if there really was a first couple, we'd at least expect these two to have lived at the same time. When studies started pointing in that direction, the story changed. Fast.

Science, that ain't.

grodrigues said...

@Crude:

To jdhuey:

"We were never "sinless" (whatever that means), our human nature evolved slowly over time

The former doesn't follow from the latter, and once again, both of these things can be true."

I have not read all you have written, but you forgot to point out the obvious howler here: it is populations that evolve, in the sense that we start with a population of species X at t_0 and end up with a population of species Y at t_1 > t_0, with biological continuity (in terms of dna say) between X and Y in the direction of greater fitness and adpativeness to the environment. But X and Y do not "evolve" in any reasonable sense of the word; and in particular, human nature did not evolve anywhere in the world except in the minds of shallow darwinist propagandists. Depending on your philosophical propensities (and this certainly is the case with naturalists), there isn't even such a thing as a "human nature" as a real extra-mental existent, for it to have evolved in the first place.

Hal said...

"1) As a science, "evolution" is completely incapable of ruling out a fall. The question is not a scientific one to begin with."

I agree.

Those Christians who think Adam and Eve actually lived in a Garden of Eden and were tempted by a serpent to eat some forbidden fruit are making an empirical claim. All the evidence we do have indicates that claim is false.

As long as the theological doctrine of the fall makes no empirical claims it is impervious to scientific discovery.

B. Prokop said...

"Those Christians who think Adam and Eve actually lived in a Garden of Eden and were tempted by a serpent to eat some forbidden fruit are making an empirical claim."

Strawman. Go ahead and knock yourself out, arguing against a position practically no serious Christian theologian has ever held. Augustine did not believe in a literal interpretation of Genesis. Neither did St. Thomas Aquinas, nor did Pope Benedict XVI (and the current pope as well), nor did C.S. Lewis, G.K. Chesterton, and practically every other person who opined on the subject. (O.K., I think Scott Hahn argues for it, but I can't think of any other mainstream apologist and/or theologian.)

If it makes you feel good to triumph over a fringe position of no consequence to 99.9% of serious thinkers, be my guest.

Hal said...

"Strawman."

Not at all. There are some Christians who do believe that Adam and Eve were real historical figures as portrayed in the Genesis account. You even agreed that there were.

I never suggested or argued that all Christians believed that.

And I specifically said that as long as the theological doctrine of the Fall does not make such an empirical claim then it would be outside of scientific investigation.


Crude said...

Hal,

Those Christians who think Adam and Eve actually lived in a Garden of Eden and were tempted by a serpent to eat some forbidden fruit are making an empirical claim. All the evidence we do have indicates that claim is false.

That is fascinating, Hal. Please - provide the scientific evidence that tested for the above. I'd love to see the peer reviewed scientific research you're speaking of here.

Two bits of advice: just saying 'empirical claim' doesn't make that claim tractable to science. There is no shortage of possible claims about 'empirical' states of affairs that science is, either practically or by necessity, silent on.

Second: you can't just keep saying 'but it's false' when whether it's false is what's under discussion. I've asked for the evidence, the scientific discoveries. I've shown how other popular scientific inferences are actually irrelevant to the claim. You're going to need more than that. And if you don't provide them, you're going to be living evidence of the very thing I'm criticizing.

I welcome the responses. And I say this as a guy who was never a YEC, or even an OEC.