Cosmos and God

It’s easy to understand why Creationists are not pleased with Cosmos: A Space Odyssey. After all, the show’s host, Neil deGrasse Tyson, emphatically and repeatedly states that the universe is billions of years old — in contradiction to the Creationist’s calculated age of less than 7,000 years. The show unequivocally supports a Darwinian view of evolution, another anathema to Creationists. To top it off, the show occasionally takes on religion more directly — noting the pagan origins of Christian holidays and the church’s historical persecution of heretics.

However, the primary challenge that Cosmos presents to religion is more far-reaching. It’s one that extends beyond a minority of people with extreme religious views. By explaining the physical and biological bases of our universe in terms of “natural laws,” it implies an absence of God’s role in their creation and maintenance. Most particularly, the evidence presented on Cosmos represents a challenge to a commonly accepted core religious tenet — the one that states God takes an active interest in and intervenes in our lives, that humans are a central focus of God’s attention, that we should “rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth,” and ultimately that we are in some sense “special” and are the reason behind the very existence of the universe.

How exactly does Cosmos challenge all this? Here’s how…

The science

From the viewpoint of science, humans “arrival” in the universe is hardly special. While the universe is almost 14 billion years old, humans did not appear on earth until the very very end of this enormous stretch of time. As an analogy, if you compressed all of time into a “cosmic year,” humans would not appear until about 8 minutes before midnight on December 31. Christ was  born only 5 seconds(!) before midnight. The American Revolution happened during the final second (the clock tick we are currently living in).

Further, although we are now here, our continued existence is far from guaranteed. For one thing, changes in the size and temperature of our sun will almost certainly destroy the earth within several billion years. Unless we have found a way to colonize other planets by then, humans will disappear. But we needn’t wait that long. Due to both natural and human-caused changes in our environment (such as global-warming), our species is likely to go extinct well before that far-off catastrophe. This should not be a surprise. Extinction is a natural part of life on earth: it’s estimated that “99.9% of all species that have ever existed are now extinct.”

For those who want to cling to the notion that humans represent some sort of pinnacle of creation, the news gets even worse. Most views of the evolution suggest that the very existence of humans is an unlikely occurrence that might well have never happened. By this I mean, if we could rewind the tape of evolution, and allow for different random events to occur as the tape replays, it is quite likely that humans would never appear.

One episode of Cosmos beautifully demonstrated this point. It showed how the earth is not at all the static object that it appears to us to be. It only seems static because the time scale of  change far exceeds our life spans. At the appropriate larger time scale, we would see how the movement of tectonic plates separated the continents and created oceans. These movements continue today and may yet reverse, eventually bringing the land masses back together.

In another example of cycling, repeated minor wobblings of the earth’s orbit over thousands of years result in ice ages. The polar icecaps grow, extending much closer to the equator than they are now, only to recede again as the ice age retreats.

In other words, the human-friendly earth that now exists may not remain in the future.

Not every big change occurs in cycles that take thousands of years to transpire. Our planet’s evolution is occasionally altered by dramatic one-time random events — such as the giant meteor that led to the extinction of the dinosaurs. If that meteor had not landed, it’s quite plausible that dinosaurs would still roam the earth and humans would have never evolved.

Finally, there’s the matter of the earth’s place within the vast scope of the universe. The earth is one of several planets orbiting the sun, the collection of objects that make up our solar system. The size of our solar system is immense. In fact, it has only been in the last year or so that Voyager 1 managed to become the first human-made object to exit our solar system. It took years of travel to do so. Members of our species may never travel much beyond the borders of our solar system. It would take 4 light-years, for example, just to get to our nearest star.

And yet, the size of our solar system is dwarfed by the rest of the universe. Our solar system is just one of billions of such systems in our galaxy. In fact, if you were to look at an 8×10 photo of the Milky Way galaxy, our sun would be too small to distinguish, buried in a tiny unremarkable corner. And our galaxy is just one of about “100 billion galaxies in the observable universe.” Put another way, if you held up a grain of sand to the night sky, the patch that it covers would contain about 10,000 galaxies. The universe is so large that, even if we could travel at the speed of light, it would take about 93 billion years to travel from one end to the other.

The story may not end with our universe. Most recently, astrophysicists are coming to the conclusion that there are multiple universes. Ours is merely one of many.

Viewed from this pan-universe perspective, the “pale blue dot” of earth is infinitesimally small. It is of no consequence to our universe, certainly not to a multi-verse. If the universe can survive supernovas that destroy entire star systems, it can certainly survive without earth. If you metaphorically thought of just our universe as equivalent to a human body, the earth’s destruction would be about like the death of one sub-cellular structure in one random unimportant cell.

The questions

Returning to the matter of religion, the immense size and time scale of our universe would appear to pose some problems:

If we egocentrically maintain that humans are the crowning achievement of God’s creation, a primary reason for the very existence of the universe, how does it make sense for the universe to be so large that most of it has no direct bearing on our existence? And, conversely, that we have almost no influence beyond our planet? What’s the point of having solar systems so far away that we can never even know of their existence? Why wouldn’t an omnipotent God create something on a more human-like scale?

Similarly, why create a universe in which humans did not even arrive until billions of years after the birth of the universe, at the last few “minutes”? Wouldn’t it make more sense for an omnipotent God to bring humans on the scene much sooner?

Given that we are likely to go extinct as a species, how can we be central to “God’s plan”? From a religious perspective, what is the “purpose” of a universe existing after we are gone? And what would have been the purpose of a universe where we, as a species, never even appeared?

Finally, given the immense size of the universe, it’s likely that there is life, perhaps life similar to ours, on at least a few other planets out there. If this is so, what are the implications for a “special creation” of humans on earth? Are these other life forms on other planets just as important to God? If not, why not?

Taken together, it’s hard to comprehend how all of this can fit within a view that places humans at the center of God-directed existence. Not impossible, granted. But very hard. Cosmos’ creators may or may not have intended to raise these challenges. But that is the effect the show has had on me, and I presume many others.

The answers

One response to these challenges is to assert that science is simply wrong. Despite all the contrary evidence, for example, one might still contend that the earth is less than 7,000 years old. Why? Because the Bible says so. This is the Creationist view.

Nothing I or anyone could say will affect people who hold such a view. At the same time, it’s relatively easy for the rest of us to dismiss these extreme views. The contrary evidence, from geology to evolution to astrophysics, is too overwhelming. That’s why I am instead appealing here to people who are at least willing to consider alternatives.

So what about a less extreme view, one that is more consonant with science but still maintains humanity’s central position? One could accept certain facts, such as the billion years age of the universe, and yet largely ignore their implications. If evidence or logic makes a religious view seem implausible, the explanation is that God’s reasons are unknowable to us. In other words, one resorts to the familiar adage: “God works in mysterious ways.” Perhaps the answers will become clear years from now. Perhaps they never will.

By this view, we needn’t explain why a human-focused God created such an immense universe that existed for such an immense stretch of time before humans arrived. We simply accept it as true and assume we are too ignorant to ever know God’s rationales. Similarly, God may yet intervene with a miracle and prevent the events that would otherwise lead to our species’ extinction. We can’t know.

Unfortunately, “mysterious ways,” “unknowable futures” and miracles are the weakest cop-outs of arguments. They are non-explanations which can never be proven or disproven. No amount of scientific knowledge can ever call such “explanations” into question. As such, they are useless.

This doesn’t deny the possible existence of some “higher power.” After all, the creation and scope of the universe are indeed hard to fathom. “Why is there anything?” remains an almost impossible to answer question.

That’s why I’m not trying to mount a philosophical argument to prove or disprove the existence of God here. If that’s what you want, there’s plenty of material out there for you to digest, written by experts with much more knowledge than I have (although I did take a brief amateur’s stab at the topic several years back).

Rather, I am suggesting skepticism at the idea of an interventionist God, one that answers prayers and metes out punishments, one that performs miracles, and especially one that places earth and humans at the central core of existence. If you can temporarily suspend any a priori belief in such notions, I believe an Occam’s Razor test would lead to the conclusion that such a view of God doesn’t fit with our scientific understanding of the universe.

The universe, as viewed through the lens of modern science, is no less amazing and awe-inspiring than a Biblical universe. It is simply one that does not place humans at its center. It forces us to accept that we are not anything close to as “special” as most religions would have us believe.

While some religious groups may thus view science as a threat, I prefer to view science more optimistically — as a light that illuminates the darkness that would otherwise surround us, a light that provides the means to understand the wonders of our world and offers our best chance for continuing to survive on this earth and within this universe we call home.

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8 Responses to Cosmos and God

  1. Tom Sheppard says:

    The universe is as microscopic as it is macroscopic.

    Neil deGrasse Tyson as asked what he thought was the most amazing fact about the universe.

  2. You rather casually dismiss the “extreme view” that the universe is only 7000 years old. While I agree that this is clearly incorrect…you appear to be saying that because the universe is so big that proves God does not exist.

    On the contrary…science can only take you so far. If we agree that we exist today then science tells you that something has had to exist forever. While the original thought processes that led to this conclusion didn’t take energy into account as being the thing that always existed…it’s pretty clear that if there was ever a time when nothing existed then nothing would exist today; since non existence could not spontaneously turn into existence.

    That something always existed, however…is about as far as science and logic can take you. At that point you can conclude that the thing that always existed was matter or some higher being. If you believe the latter; you’re a theist…the former then you’re an atheist (or a-theist, that’s where it comes from.

    Most people who claim that they are atheists aren’t anything of the like as they haven’t thought through the logic…an awful lot of them are just rebelling against society, their parents, or something else…and choose to claim “there is no God” so that they can justify doing whatever they want.

    Do you really believe that your existence is unimportant and that when your heart stops that’s it…nothing more? Most so-called atheists don’t believe this. Some of us choose to believe in a higher power.

    The existence of a higher power and a belief in creation (as opposed to the claims of the capital C Creationism proponents) do not conflict with the theory of evolution.

    There’s nothing inherently incorrect in believing that evolution happens and that at some point God created a soul for the creature…after all “made in his image and likeness” doesn’t necessarily mean physical image and likeness, it could be non physical.

    Unfortunately…most of the anti-God people are just as pig headed and stuck in their beliefs as some of the God people are. Only a small minority of religious people of all faiths including Christian and non Christian really believe that the universe was created in 7 days and is only 7000 years old…maybe the length of God’s day varies.

    Maybe there are other intelligent races out there in the universe…take a start that’s 250 light years away…we would have no idea that any civilization there existed until 250 years after we invented the radio telescope and even then the signal strength of a planet’s radio output might be lost in the noise from the star. Similarly; an intelligent race that’s 10,000 light years away would go unnoticed by humans. Doesn’t make either race irrelevant.

    There are many things that cannot be explained by science…miracles for one, the continued existence of Bud Light beer for another:-). As a famous man once said…any sufficiently advanced technology would be indistinguishable from magic.

  3. Ted says:

    Re: You rather casually dismiss the “extreme view” that the universe is only 7000 years old. While I agree that this is clearly incorrect…you appear to be saying that because the universe is so big that proves God does not exist.

    Two replies here:

    • There are two very different definitions of God that come into play here. It is easy to slip from one to the other without intending to do so. Or to simply mix them up as if the distinction did not exist.

    The first is to define God in vague terms as “whatever ‘superbeing’ existed before the creation of the universe and is the causative factor behind existence of the universe.” Beyond this, very little is specified. In fact, there is no reason to presuppose that such a “God” is one being. It could be an entire civilization of beings. One attempt at a logical basis for this definition comes from statements such as your next paragraph: where you assert that something had to exist before our universe existed. That something is presumably what you call God.

    From my perspective, what, if anything existed before our big bang is indeed hard to fathom. However, I don’t assume that the answer to the problem is that it must be “God.” If so, one is still left with how to explain the existence of this so-called “God.” What/Who created him/her/them?

    Regardless of such paradoxes, this definition says nothing about the role any God-like superbeings might play in affecting events taking place in our universe. It could be zero. If it is zero, it then doesn’t matter whether these Gods exist or not.

    The second definition is the religious one, the one that says God takes an active role in overseeing life on earth. The specifics vary depending upon the religion. But they typically include a God that answers prayers, performs miracles, punishes the wicked, and rewards the good. There is also usually an implication that humans are God’s crowning achievement and that, in some sense, the rest of the universe exists so that humans have a place to be. For devout Christians, it usually means a belief in the essential truth of the Bible, as the word of God, even if they manage to circumvent such absurdities as the 7-day creation. There is also typically a belief in the existence of a soul and an afterlife. None of this is required by the first definition of God.

    • The major point in my article was that the size of the universe (among other factors I discussed) argue against the second definition of God. I didn’t offer it as absolute proof. I simply said that it would make little sense for the universe to be the way it is, if the second definition were true. As to the first definition, the article officially took a pass.

    Re: Do you really believe that your existence is unimportant and that when your heart stops that’s it…nothing more?

    Absolutely. Yes.

    Other than wishful thinking, I see no reason to believe otherwise.

    The existence of a higher power and a belief in creation (as opposed to the claims of the capital C Creationism proponents) do not conflict with the theory of evolution.

    They do conflict in my view — especially if you assume that a “higher power” fits my second definition of God cited above, as opposed to the first. Evolutionary theory makes no room for “God did it” as an explanation.

    Re: There’s nothing inherently incorrect in believing that evolution happens and that at some point God created a soul for the creature.

    Stated like that, I would not necessarily disagree. Of course, as I don’t believe in God in the first place, I don’t believe God created any souls. However, even if I accepted your premise, my view is that there should be some evidence for a “soul” — if one exists. By that I mean evidence beyond what it says in the Bible — and beyond impossible-to-verify anecdotal stories. The evidence that does exist, from the effects of brain surgery, brain damage and such on behavior — very much suggests there is not a “mind” (soul?) separate from the “body.” In any case, if we can’t make testable predictions that would lead to a different outcome, depending upon whether a soul existed or not, then the whole matter is irrelevant.

    Re: Unfortunately…most of the anti-God people are just as pig headed and stuck in their beliefs as some of the God people are.

    I’m not sure what the basis for this statement is, other than your personal biases. It certainly doesn’t fit with my experience. As an atheist and a scientist, I am always willing to accept that anything I believe could be wrong. I stand ready to have evidence change my mind. However, that doesn’t mean that I must accept that many of the common religious beliefs that exist today, for which there is no evidence (and often evidence to the contrary), have a reasonable probability of being true.

    Re: There are many things that cannot be explained by science…miracles for one. As a famous man once said…any sufficiently advanced technology would be indistinguishable from magic.

    Regarding the Clarke reference, the point of the quote is that what we believe is “magical” or “miraculous” today – will turn out to have a scientific/technological explanation tomorrow. It’s hard to see how this quote can be viewed as support for religion.

    Similarly, I believe supposed “miracles” — if you mean things that cannot yet be explained by science — will some day be explained by science (if we don’t go extinct as a species first). As such, they don’t qualify as miracles. If you instead mean unusual coincidences, I don’t consider such things as needing a “miraculous” explanation — unless you can show that the coincidences are well beyond the bounds of what probability would predict. And if you mean, Bible stories, like the parting of the Red Sea, I don’t believe they ever happened (at least not as commonly told).

    In the end, if you define “miracle” as an act of God that accomplishes something that is contrary to all known and unknown principles of science, and could thus not otherwise occur without the direct action of such a God — then I simply don’t believe in miracles. That’s because I can’t think of anything that has actually happened that would potentially qualify as one.

  4. The point I was making that “something” has had to exist forever…otherwise nothing would exist now. That’s all that science and logic can tell you about the existence of a “supreme being or thing”. From there…you either conclude that the “forever thing” is either material (i.e., the universe) meaning the universal is eternal…or you conclude that the “forever thing” is non material (i.e., a supreme non physical being – AKA god which Christians call God and Muslims Allah). There can never be any scientific proof which of those it is.
    My point about sufficiently advanced technology being Magic was referring to inability to really under stand what the god or God is with limited human understanding. Take miracles for instance…Lazarus rising from the dead, water into wine, blind men seeing, leprosy being cured…no scientific explanation but then to be fair no scientific proof they actually happened either other than oral history. Consider a few more modern miracles…spontaneous cures of diseases after praying to Mary at Lourdes for instance and those that the Catholic church recently attributed to Pope John Paul II after his death — miracles are one of the requirements for canonization. While spontaneous cures are possible it starts to stretch the imagination to dismiss 100.0% of these as naturally occurring things. What it eventually comes down to is Faith…we Christians believe in the existence of God, Muslims Allah (the basis for the Koran and Bible come from the same early religious writings), and atheists believe none of it. Most self proclaimed atheists I have known merely say “I don’t believe in God” without really understanding what philosophically that means…that ultimately it means they believe the universe is eternal.
    You say you can’t think of anything that would be a miracle…how about all of the cases of spontaneous cure of disease…some of which have been documented when tumors disappeared over night or livers that were determined to be medically failed suddenly started working again? Again, while one can’t point out scientific evidence that these were miracles…there is no evidence that absolutely all of them were scientifically explainable either. A 100% rate of anything is probably not scientifically provable.
    Lazaras was dead…for 3 days according to the bible. While it’s certainly possible that he wasn’t actually dead and was simply buried alive by mistake…even 2000 years ago I think they had some basic idea of how to identify death…things like no heartbeat, no respiration, cooling to room temperature and rigor mortis.

    My biggest point was that one can’t prove the existence of God (or god if you prefer the non specific lower case g god) but then you can’t proved against it either. That’s where faith comes into the picture…either you believe as you do that when you die that’s it and that your brief existence has no meaning in the great scheme of things…or you believe that your soul/consciousness/whatever lives on after death and does whatever your particular religion believes happens. If there is an eternal god…then it’s the same one no matter whether you call him God or Allah or whatever…and the concept of one vs many is probably not applicable to a non physical being.
    We humans (well, some of us anyway) believe that we are God’s crowning achievement…but the engineer in me says that creating a universe with some stars/planets 12 billion light years away doesn’t make much sense from a human point of view…I believe there are likely many intelligent races out there…some have died out and some are more or less advanced than humans. One can easily (assuming your mind isn’t made up already and you’re somewhere in the middle ground of the argument) figure out how science (i.e., evolution) and spiritual (i.e., creationism) fit in with either. My point about some atheists being just as pig headed as some Christians was along that line. There is a vast spectrum of religious beliefs…just as there is a vast spectrum of beliefs regarding same sex marriage, whether homosexuality is inherited or learned, whether abortion is the woman’s right vs the right of the unborn fetus to live and be born, whether abortion is solely the woman’s decision or whether the father has some say in the matter…or even whether the second amendment to the constitution makes firearm ownership legal or whether the left’s demand for gun control is correct and the amendment doesn’t matter any more. For most of these issues…the majority of people that I know fall somewhere in the middle believing in achieving common ground that we can all support. Unfortunately, the edge case proponents on both sides in each of these debates…those who will brook no negotiation or compromise with the other side and who vilify and demonize the other side…these are the most vocal people and the ones getting all the press. The news media on both sides…not to mention both sides of the political mess in DC…and I include both conservative and liberal in this characterization…are more interested in beating their political drum and getting clicks/eyeballs/getting reelected than in actually coming to some compromise position that both can accept.

  5. Ted says:

    To respond to all the points you made, I would largely be repeating what I have already said. Still, I will address two points:

    Re: “You say you can’t think of anything that would be a miracle…how about all of the cases of spontaneous cure of disease…some of which have been documented when tumors disappeared over night or livers that were determined to be medically failed suddenly started working again?”

    To me, it doesn’t logically follow that something that currently cannot be explained by science must thus defined as a “miracle” — especially if, by “miracle,” you mean an act of God. As we have both agreed, many things that were not explainable by science at one point in history, are now well understood. I expect this to continue going forward.

    (As an aside, do you accept miracles in both directions? That is, are supposed unexplainable deaths just as much miracles as unexplainable recoveries?)

    Of all the supposed miracles you cited, my view is either that they are unproven and likely untrue (as in Bible stories) or that they can already be (or will someday be) explainable by science.

    If God really did exist, and he wanted to show us how truly powerful and generous he was, he wouldn’t bother performing occasional supposed miracles at places like Lourdes, which only help a few people. Instead, he could have done something truly impressive — like including the instructions for making penicillin in the Bible.

    The possibility of miracles existed long before we knew anything about antibiotics, vaccines, X-rays, and other medical advances. And millions of people (who might have been saved by these advances) died while waiting for miracles that never came. If I had to put my faith in one of these, I’d rather it be medicine than miracles.

    Re: “My biggest point was that one can’t prove the existence of God (or god if you prefer the non specific lower case g god) but then you can’t prove against it either.”

    Restating myself here, but I’ll say it again: the article never took a position on proving or disproving that some sort of god might exist. I personally don’t believe any god exists. I think it has a very very low probability of being true. But I accept that the idea can’t be proven or disproven. We are in some agreement here.

    As to having faith in an afterlife, this makes no sense to me. Where does this idea originate? As far as I can tell, only in the wishful thinking of people who are uncomfortable with the alternative. There is not one shred of evidence to support this concept (and I don’t consider Bible stories to be “evidence”). And when people start getting more specific about exactly what the afterlife is like (with concepts like heaven, hell, angels and such), it gets even more ridiculous. If you want to have faith in such things, that’s your prerogative. However, to me, it’s the equivalent of having faith that Santa Claus actually lives in the North Pole.

    I prefer the view of Richard Dawkins: “Not believing in an afterlife gives greater meaning and greater fullness to the one life we have. You don’t mess around wasting your time in this life because you expect to have another one. You’re not going to get another life. Make the most of this one.”

  6. Alhamdu Yaro says:

    I think the nature of science, namely reductionism—to naturalism or physicalism, makes it quite inadequate to provide a complete explanation regarding ‘why something exist’. Consider the concept of God as an infinite, eternal, necessary and uncaused being… it is logical then to argue that since the universe had a beginning—both temporal and spatial, whatever the explanation and cause for it’s existence, then must not be bound by the same physical and temporal conditions found within the universe. and must necessarily be found outside the natural universe… something the scientific method is not designed to probe.

    On Miracles, it is logical to consider the possibility that God can choose to operate within the physical laws of the universe whenever He intervenes in the affairs of the universe. And there’s certainly no reason to believe that the miraculous cannot be understood by the scientific method simply because it is an act of God, creation itself is an act God, yet we as humans have the uncanny ability to probe into it’s deep mysteries and understand the underlying laws and conditions that govern it. As christians we believe knowledge of God can be discovered within creation, that His ways are mysterious to us—true and we can never fully understand them, but our ultimate purpose in life is to have a relationship with Him, which means we are placed in this world to probe and understand God through His creation. Revealed truth if you may. Our ability to understand the universe we live in, brilliantly captures our centrality in creation, that we are given minds to comprehend God’s creative processes in a rational world that is open and transparent to our inquiries. This I will argue shows His desire for us to come to a knowledge of His existence.

    On evolution, we simply cannot conclude that evolution without it being guided by the supernatural is true, if you consider some major problems facing the theory such as; the irreducibility of complex systems to beyond a certain threshold, or how unguided chemical processes cannot explain the origin of the genetic code, or no workable model for the origin of life and so on, to simply say that science will answer these questions eventually is commit the same logical fallacy that you accuse religious people for.

    On the vastness of the cosmos and the immensity of time, I don’t think that’s a problem if you consider that God is essentially infinite, therefore efficiency is only a problem for us finite humans. He could choose create a universe that has no direct bearing on us for His own pleasure and our own if you enjoy cosmology and astronomy (Consider my earlier argument about the knowledge of God through His creation, in this case His power to create). That raises the idea of how fine tuned the universe is for life. I can tell you that it’s puzzling for the believer as well that we chosen inspire of our insignificance, in the vastness of the cosmos, It is both humbling and edifying at the same time, one of many paradoxes that seem to shadow human existence.

    Well you could argue that we are only one universe in a series of an equally infinite multiverse, but consider Valenkin’s proof that even the multiverse would eventually have a beginning… which raises the same questions of causality and explanation.

  7. Ted says:

    One more thing in reply to Neil’s comments:

    A general point about the nature of proof in science: Nothing can be proven or disproven with 100% certainty. But just because we can’t prove with certainty which of two competing ideas is correct doesn’t mean that both ideas must be considered equally likely to be true. Or that they must thus be taken equally seriously.

    The more evidence that accumulates for one side, the less likely the alternative is true. At some point, as the evidence for one side mounts, we accept it as fact, despite the lack of 100% certainty. That’s why we accept as fact that the earth is round and revolves around the sun, for example. That’s how science works.

    Similarly, some people believe that aliens are already living among us, abducting some of us for secret experiments in their invisible spaceships. Can I absolutely prove that this is false? No. But does that mean that I must accept alien abductions as equally likely as the alternative that they don’t exist? No. As Isaac Asimov said, “I’ll believe anything, no matter how wild and ridiculous, if there is evidence for it. The wilder and more ridiculous something is, however, the firmer and more solid the evidence will have to be.” And the fact is, there is virtually zero solid evidence for alien abductions.

    The bottom line here is that an assertion such as: “You can’t prove I’m wrong, therefore you must accept that I may be right,” doesn’t carry much weight if the probability that you may be right is close to zero.

    I imagine you can see where I am going with this. As regards to most religious explanations, such as miracles, one doesn’t need absolute proof to dismiss something as almost certainly untrue.

  8. Ted says:

    Replying to Alhamdu:

    Regarding my supposed “logical fallacy,” my assertion is based on past history. We know a great deal more today about how evolution works and about the history and actions of the universe than we did 100 (or certainly 1000) years ago. Why? Because of advances in science. There is every reason to believe that this will continue. There is no fallacy here.

    Will we ever know “everything” there is to know? Almost certainly not. Some things will remain too difficult for us to ever figure out — especially in the time we have left before we go extinct as a species. But the fact that we cannot explain something does not mean that we must turn to God as the default alternative. It would have been an error to do this years ago, for things we did not understand then but now do. And it continues to be an error now.

    Your claim that “On evolution, we simply cannot conclude that evolution without it being guided by the supernatural…” is simply not so. Everything we know about evolution today assumes there is no guidance from the supernatural. As to the examples you give of “major problems” with the theory, a quick search of the web will reveal numerous articles refuting these claims. One quick reply: the fact that we are still uncertain about the origin of life has no bearing on the evidence for how evolution has proceeded once life began.

    Re: “there’s certainly no reason to believe that the miraculous cannot be understood by the scientific method simply because it is an act of God…”

    I’m having trouble disentangling your syntax here, but I assume you mean that events that cannot be explained by science can be understood as miraculous acts of God.

    First, everything I just said above, applies here again.

    Second, to reiterate a point I have made in earlier comments: a belief that some force we do not understand created the universe, and that we wish to call that force god, is very different from belief in a Biblical God. One does not follow from the other.

    Third, once you go down the route of assuming science can’t account for supposed miracles, there are no longer any boundaries of what might be true. You might as well start assuming that the laws of gravity can be overturned later today, because God might decide to do that on a whim, for reasons we can’t comprehend. While I obviously can’t prove that will never happen, it makes little sense to operate on that assumption.

    Think of all that we understand about the universe today, thanks to scientific advancements. Now try to think of one thing we know about how the universe works that depends upon religious explanations rather than scientific ones. I can’t think of even one. Religion, rather than encouraging us to seek explanations for what we don’t understand, asks that we shut off our minds and simply accept God as the explanation. I don’t find that very satisfactory.

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