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August 1st, 2012 @ 8:26 am by Kevin
Nice article however it is starting from a premise that has not one tiny bit of demonstrable evidence to prove its validity. Namely that there is a god and that anyone has any idea what this god wants. I am always amazed by the fact that if I ask a dozen different Christians what Christianity is I will get a dozen different opinions. And opinion is all they have. And herein lays the problem. Reality is not only demonstrable; the demonstrations of it are repeatable. There are no differences of opinion on what Ohms Law is and how it describes electrical phenomena. No one argues about the validity of the theory of gravity and how it applies to our daily lives. Calculus has no “reformed movement.” The religious however are constantly arguing, dividing, and killing each other over non demonstrable ideas. Perhaps we should be looking for moral guidance some place other than the writings of Bronze Age goat herders whose interpretations are subject to the prejudices of the reader.
Many people responded in the comments section on this blog and also on our Facebook page. I took particular interest in this comment, because it exemplifies a mind-set I hear so often from the atheist community: Scientific theories produce demonstrable, repeatable empirical results. Religions produce nothing but subjective opinions and, even worse, wars in defense of those opinions.
Taken at face value, this seems to be a compelling argument. But once you delve a little deeper into the nature of scientific and religious knowledge–not to mention scientific and religious theories–you come to see that things are not quite as simple as they appear on the surface. To help elaborate on this, I solicited responses from a few friends and mentors who have done some fine thinking in this area. Earlier this week, I published a lengthy response by Brad Jersak. Today I have a couple of shorter replies. The first is from Rayborn Johnson of Beyond the Box:
Is God demonstrable? That’s a really good question, but maybe one that should be qualified. If by “demonstrable” we mean 100%, without question, scientifically verifiable, then no, God is not demonstrable. Is this a fault inherent in the idea of God? Maybe for some, but if by “God” we are referring to a transcendent presence or individual, should we really expect that this God can be understood in scientific terms? It seems to me that personhood is impossible to calculate in a scientifically attestable way. I can measure the circumference of my son’s head, but would this lead me to the truth of what goes on inside his mind? My children can be weighed and measured, but does this really demonstrate the essence of who they are? It seems to me that the essence of a person evades scientific investigation.
So why do I believe in God? Because I believe in love, and I believe that the idea of love is equally as transcendent as that of God. Can love be subjected to scientific scrutiny? I guess not, and yet I still believe I have experienced love. In a world driven by the Darwinian struggle for survival, I believe that true love can only be a manifestation of a reality that transcends what my senses can perceive. My faculties have not apprehended this love, but I believe that this love (or God) has already apprehended me.
I get a lot of comments like this on Huffpo. In my experience they are not from people who are actually seeking, and thus open to dialog, but rather they are from people who want to debate and who therefore hope to be able to shut you down with some zinger.
What I would assume for the poster is that they think that
a) you as a Christian are a knuckle-dragging fundamentalist who follows “goat herders”
b) they are completely unaware of the social sciences and have a rather uninformed and blind reverence for natural science as the magic-pill answer to everything.
c) therefore they think that because they are a “scientist” (even though they are probably just 14) and you are a goat herder, you therefore have nothing to show them.
Perhaps if I could have a face to face conversation with a person like this then we might be able to get somewhere. But as long as they are in “Fox News pundit” mode, I am deeply doubtful that it isn’t a complete waste of time to engage people like this. Unfortunantly I usually can’t resist and take the bait, but it is rarely ever fruitful (meaning there is rarely ever an intelligent conversation that comes as a result.
In order for their to be a good conversation, I think there would need to first be a mutual trust and respect established, which I don’t think is possible in a forum where no one has faces like the internet.
Sorry if I sound cynical, but I’ve been really disappointed with the kinds of conversations that happen on the comment boards of major outlets like Huffpo, and I am skeptical about apologetics that are intended to convince skeptics with folded arms who want “proof” of God.
And now his response:
All the examples listed as “demonstrable and repeatable” are from physics (electricity, gravity) and math (calculus). The problem of course is that Ohms law does not help me to be a good father, and calculus doesn’t tell us how to resolve international conflict. Natural science while valuable in many areas, simply does not help us deal with issues of human nature and relationships. So while it is true that there is disagreement among Christians, that is just as true among secular people. Scientists have bad marriages too.
So the question is: What does help? And further, how do we demonstrate its validity?
I believe in restorative justice, nonviolence, and enemy love. I have seen these things transform broken lives, and turn hopeless situations around. I have seen them turn hostility into healing. I would maintain that these ideas do not need to be accepted blindly, but can be understood and demonstrated (and there has been quite a bit of work done in the field of restorative justice to back that up).
Because we are dealing with relationships, we can’t look to a chain of mechanistic causal explanations like we can with natural science. It’s a lot more complex and messy.But we can look to the broad tools of social science to validate this. We can demonstrate through our own experiences that this is what works to mend our broken world, what makes us come alive.
So I would start there.