Re: Religion and evidence

From: Chris Taylor (
Date: Tue 17 Jan 2006 - 15:51:50 GMT

  • Next message: Richard Brodie: "RE: Religion and evidence"

    So unlike Lynda La Plant, the second part of your two-parter does live up to its billing :)

    Seriously though, thank you for that. I'm determined to refrain from the easy counter arguments, as rehearsing some variant of the roll of luck theme is anticipated by your post anyway but I would ask if you have ever had a failed prayer? Did it fall under the 'don't ask to find money when you dig in the garden / don't try to stop a clock / god helps those who help themselves' thing?

    I do see this as similar in a sense to Ted's fields: Two explanations that would result in identical outcomes cannot be distinguished one from another by reference to that outcome, leaving the way open to (over/mis)interpet at will, but I think they are kind of seperable in that yours _remains_ firmly in the realm of the unknowable because happenstance is unpredictable at our level (I'm a superdeterminist so it should be knowable at some level but without 'god-like' knowledge of the system in practice it is pseudorandom), whereas Ted's aims to counter the testable (if incomplete) with the untestable (by any reasonable expectation). Although as a rule in those circumstances one's hand should always be on one's wallet...

    In discussions with Ted I've mentioned (for fun) that we could be in elaborate fully-immersive simulations anyway and that we could at any time run out of credit to emerge back into the alien arcade (a serious point made facetiously). We can't _know_ anything is true because everything has a context that could be trumped. My convictions differ, but as I said before I'd defend the right to hold an opinion very vigorously indeed as long as it is not affecting anyone adversely. It's a long time since I considered antireligious placard protests at funerals (joke).

    I admire the boldness of not succumbing to the personal god thing that I think we were all expecting (cf. Derek's posts) that affords access to the good in christianity (and many other faiths) without strapping them to what is normally seen as a liability for those who prayed and failed to get any result. Although given your retelling the only truly bold bit was fronting up to others as it would seem to have worked like a charm for you!

    Somebody up there likes you ;)

    So. Back to replicating patterns in the psychocultural melieu...

    Cheers, Chris.

    P.S. You wouldn't be experimenting on us for book two would you?

    Kate Distin wrote:
    > Chris Taylor wrote:
    >> It started with my being slightly alarmed by the text of the mass
    >> (once I stopped chanting and listened): Sort of like the icky feeling
    >> when one hears the root of most common nursery rhymes kids recite,
    >> which are mostly quite unpleasant (the rhymes not the kids).
    >> Narcissism (no other gods, and keep the praise coming) not that I knew
    >> the word at the time, vampirism and cannibalism (transubstantiated or
    >> not), the presence of an altar with its associations (how very OT).
    >> Then I was probably like most in that I saw a lot of 'evil' as I
    >> watched more news. The death knell came with things like the
    >> mistranslations in the bible, the range of qualitatively different
    >> faiths and of course science. Evolutionary biology (my thing once upon
    >> a time) has a history that starts with clerics and ends with loads of
    >> atheists :D
    >> Anyway I wonder what confirmed and sustains your faith in the face of
    >> what made me so very different in outlook? This is by definition
    >> probably quite personal but if you can sanitise it I'd feel privileged
    >> to hear it as you are clearly in possesion of well-developed critical
    >> faculties.
    >> Btw I didn't misunderstand I don't think, but I was already building
    >> up a nice head of steam and so wasn't so clear myself: I am genuinely
    >> intrigued by what gets under the wire as not absolute (objective
    >> scientific) proof in the sense of God on TV saying 'Chris start saying
    >> I rock or you're in for an eternity of fire boyo' but yet is more than
    >> gut conviction or a response to the possibility of god? I'm repeating
    >> the above request essentially.
    >> Cheers, Chris.
    > As a result of my investigations into Christianity, atheism and other
    > world religions I became convinced that a lot of what I believed were
    > good arguments against Christianity were in fact good arguments against
    > things that have nothing to do with Christianity. For example I had
    > thought that science disproved religion and then I read thoughtful,
    > intelligent debates amongst people who were Christians, scientists and
    > able to engage in rigorous discussion of the issues that this throws up.
    > And they all seemed to believe in evolution, too.
    > When I began to discover what Christianity actually says it made a lot
    > of sense to me. When I began to put its claims to the test they held
    > water. When I made changes to my life in accordance with those claims
    > my life got a whole lot better, in lots of ways. People who knew
    > nothing about my changed outlook commented on the difference in me.
    > Most of all, the best explanation of what happened when I prayed seemed
    > to be that I was really in some sort of communication with a loving God.
    > At first I was nervous; inevitably unsure about whether I'd jumped down
    > on the wrong side of the fence. I began to avoid awkward
    > conversations. Then I suddenly thought - idiot - if you really believe
    > this is true then asking a few questions isn't going to change it. And
    > if it isn't true: even more of an idiot for leaving the lush grass of
    > atheism on the other side of the fence.
    > So I really began to grapple with the bits I still found hardest to
    > believe, to grasp, to live with. I'm still grappling with some of them.
    > But I didn't come across anything that fell down when I pushed it. When
    > I couldn't see my way out of a situation, and I prayed about it, the way
    > inevitably appeared. And even more remarkably, I cannot tell you how
    > many of the people I love I have prayed for, when they've been in some
    > sort of difficulty; and they haven't known anything about my prayers
    > because frankly not many of them would be interested; and the changes
    > that have happened have been astounding.
    > OF COURSE there are a thousand-and-one alternative explanations of the
    > things that I have experienced over the last twelve years. But here's
    > why I believe that my interpretation of events could be valid.
    > The ways in which we test religious claims have to be different from the
    > ways in which we test scientific claims. This is because science
    > explains how the natural world works, but religion interprets the
    > meaning of those events. So you and I can be in complete agreement
    > about the events that have happened, but argue over their meaning.
    > This applies to any field in which interpretation is necessary. Creative
    > endeavours of all kinds - musical or literary, artistic or cinematic -
    > are argued over endlessly and simply pointing to the picture, watching
    > the film again, or whatever, will not resolve the argument. The same is
    > true of the ways in which we respond to other people. We make
    > inferences about their personalities, from the ways in which they
    > behave, and we often come up with different explanations of the same
    > behaviour.
    > Similarly, when I examine the events of the past twelve years the most
    > plausible explanation of them, as far as I'm concerned, is that I have
    > actually had a relationship with a loving God throughout that time.
    > There are alternative interpretations, to be sure. But the Christianity
    > interpretation is coherent, consistent with the facts, and keeps
    > throwing up accurate predictions. In my life. So much so that I am
    > prepared to say that I believe the Christian interpretation of life to
    > be the truth.
    > Now I'm feeling so off-topic that memetics is but a hazy image in the
    > distance. The modern dominance of secular thought/atheism in the West -
    > as per your other post - is a whole other, fascinating memetic question.
    > Hmmm . . .
    > Kate
    > ===============================================================
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    This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the
    Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission
    For information about the journal and the list (e.g. unsubscribing)

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