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We Don’t Know Yet And That’s Okay

January 26, 2009

What started the Big Bang? Why don’t we have every transitional fossil in the history of our planet? Why do creationists usually end up lying about something in a debate? We just don’t know, yet.

Since the advent of the scientific method two things have been occurring: science has been gaining ground and religion has been losing it. We now know lightening is not the product of Zeus and afflictions are not demonic possession. My point is that science is a self-correcting process and what we have wrong today, might be corrected tomorrow, and will be corrected eventually. Scientific study has a great track record so far and I’ve seen no sound reason not to trust it.

One thing I think every atheist needs to come to terms with is saying “I don’t know.” I usually say something akin to “We don’t know for sure yet, but there’s some really compelling evidence that suggests…” I don’t see the same thing on the other side of the fence. They bring up some issue and it has been debunked for twenty years. You explain why and then they just move on to another debunked idea or they bring up something they have no real understanding of and are just parroting more famous apologists. I feel this is intellectual dishonesty and it’s the fastest way to piss me off. If you can’t do a two minute search through Google then I’m not going to waste my time responding to you with an argument that doesn’t include my disdain for you.

I’m fine with not knowing everything yet. I don’t know the answer to every question but I want to know those answers and I try to find them out. Human curiosity has given us the airplane, the microscope, penicillin, the internet, all sorts of amazing things that would have never come about if someone hadn’t tried to figure out why. You don’t assume a unicorn exists because someone can’t prove it doesn’t, you go out and do research and when you can’t find any shred of reproducible evidence you shelve the idea until someone finds something compelling and move on. You don’t base science on how your heart feels or that you wouldn’t want to live in a world where unicorns didn’t exist. You have to accept the possibility that you’re already living in that world and you seem to be doing just fine.

All ranting aside, one thing is certain; prayer will not uncover the holes in M-Theory, science will.

Do you think I’m wrong? Do you think prayer can uncover valid theories? Is there evidence of demonic possession in flu patients? Let me know in the comments!

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15 Comments
  1. January 26, 2009 1:16 pm

    ALL creationists end up lying? That’s a rather broad stroke. I don’t mind if you aren’t into creationism, God or Jesus. I respect your decision. I don’t even ask you to respect mine. I just think that for all your “thinking,” somehow you’ve missed something rather essential: common sense. It is not sensible to pretend to talk scientifically yet say, “creationists always end up lying about something in the debate.” Perhaps you would consider rephrasing your statement. You don’t like it when creationists are dogmatic about their beliefs, but you’ve shown yourself to wear the same clothes.

    Furthermore, I notice that you invite comments but not dialogue. I’m sorry if some of the dialogues you’ve had have not been to your liking. However, I’d caution you about categorizing people you don’t know into a small box with obnoxious people you do know.

    Just a thought.

    Jim

  2. January 26, 2009 1:33 pm

    Jim, I took your first point into consideration and changed the wording to “usually”. The intent was for comedy, but I can understand how someone might not catch it.

    100% of the debates I’ve had or saw end up with someone bringing up something that has been debunked repetitively for the last twenty years. The thermodynamics argument is normally the culprit.

    Aside from that slight mistake I don’t understand how I don’t promote dialogue here. If you take a look at some of my posts I think you’ll see there is plenty of dialogue between me and my commenters. Most of the people who do comment here have been theists as far as I can tell.

  3. January 26, 2009 3:08 pm

    I’m not sure if I’d say that Creationists always end up lying, exactly, but they do always end up spreading debunked or misinformed conspiracy theories. Does that count as ‘lying’? You decide!

  4. January 26, 2009 3:46 pm

    I have noticed a marked difference in the way that theists and non-theists view “dialog”. A theist who presents scripture as an argument might feel that they are promoting dialog. However, the non-theist they are debating probably views this as silly and nonsensical because that scripture holds no power or significance for them.

    On the other hand, a non-theist who presents scientific evidence might come off as aggressive to the faith that many theists view as very personal and core to their being. Non-theists very often come off as arrogant and elitist, and that in itself is detrimental to dialog.

    Contrary to what some think, I am not convinced that people of faith and people of evidence can have true dialog. I do not think that the two frames of thinking are compatible. A person who thinks one way is incredibly unlikely to actually be able to view the debate from the perspective of the other person.

    – Schev

    Note: I accidentally closed my tab, so this is not worded as elegantly as it was the first time. =(

  5. January 26, 2009 4:03 pm

    Schev, I disagree with some of that. I think it would be reasonable for former theists to relate to people of their former faith.

    Your comment, I think, says more about your mindset than someone else’s.

    I think you and I relate poorly because we both have almost non-existent religious backgrounds. You more so than me, I attended services as a child, but zoned out thinking about other stuff the whole time or sat quietly waiting for the after-service potluck.

    I don’t think theists should be coddled but I also don’t think they should be crucified. As I wrote about recently I think Christians too often pull out the persecution card. We have to make them understand that in order for later dialogue.

    This is obviously a sticky issue; some theists can handle criticism and some cannot. I would say that if a theist comes to atheist blog they should be prepared to take criticism just we should be prepared for the same for even writing about the subject publicly on our own blog.

  6. notreallyalice permalink
    January 26, 2009 4:13 pm

    I think if we pray hard enough, God will make unicorns. Flying ones.

  7. January 26, 2009 4:23 pm

    “As I wrote about recently I think Christians too often pull out the persecution card. We have to make them understand that in order for later dialogue.”

    This is a good example of why I don’t think dialog is all that reasonable. Theists view it as an attack on their faith, which it honestly is. Non-theists view their reaction as irrational and hyper-sensitive.

    Whether a theist or non-theist is able to tolerate criticism is irrelevant to my argument. There can be no dialog if both sides are not willing to come away from the conversation with a different belief than they had when they entered.

    Truly faithful theists will not likely be swayed by any amount of evidence, and non-theists are not going to be convinced by words “from” the “sky daddy” or someone else’s personal experience.

    – Schev

  8. January 26, 2009 4:46 pm

    Schevus,

    Theism and scientific evidence aren’t inherently incompatible, as evidenced by the great many theistic scientists who accept such ‘controversial’ theories as evolution and Big Bang cosmology without feeling that either are an attack on their faith.

    I also find it odd that you’ll readily admit that ‘truly faithful theists will not likely be swayed by any amount of evidence’ – This kind of stance is inherently irrational. Given that you’re phrasing the theist/atheist conflict in terms of conflicting worldviews, doesn’t it make more sense to discard the one that’s irrational and go with the one that isn’t?

  9. January 26, 2009 5:03 pm

    Augustine,

    Accepting evolution and the Big Bang are not huge a danger to a person’s faith. They can be accounted for without severely breaking many religious beliefs. These ideas get a lot of attention because fundamentalists argue them and fundamentalists get a lot of attention. I caution you also that when I speak of theists, I do not just mean Christians.

    Why do you say that my statement is irrational? Everyone has their own reasons for their faith. I believe that most faithful people are capable of understanding the evidence against their faith, but they still have it. I also believe that many people who claim to be theists only do so because they are socially pressured to. That is why I qualified “truly faithful” theists.

    As for your last question, I do not want you to be confused. I am agnostic, so I have discarded the irrational world view. I prefer to abstract my personal views when trying to make a point in an effort to reduce bias.

    – Schev

  10. January 26, 2009 5:16 pm

    Just earlier this month I got in this discussion with a reader of one of my articles. My reply was pretty similar to yours.

    http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/1382620/if_you_cant_explain_the_origin_of_life.html?cat=34

  11. January 26, 2009 5:17 pm

    If somebody claims that no amount of evidence can change their mind about something, they’ve made an inherently irrational statement, for obvious reasons. I’m aware that not every theists is like this, but I’ve come across quite a few who are.

  12. January 26, 2009 7:51 pm

    Another good article. My big problem with creationists is that they focus on the Jewish creation myth (actually, two myths that don’t match up) when there are myths far older than this. If we’re going to take a creation myth seriously, it makes the most sense to take the oldest under consideration, and the oldest ones don’t have YHWH doing the creating.

  13. January 26, 2009 9:52 pm

    The “I don’t know” part of science is what science is all about! Discovery! “I don’t know” allows more questioning. I just watched Expelled for the first time (just posted on it) and discovered that every time a scientist says “I don’t know” it becomes a rallying cry for theists attempting to call science out. ID advocates stop all questioning at the “I don’t know” and go straight to “it must be god”. No further questioning. This is why it is so difficult to have honest dialogue with a theist. They are satisfied with the answer they get rather than curious about the possibilities.

  14. n33kos permalink
    January 27, 2009 4:58 am

    Schev,

    Let me begin by disclaiming with the recognition that every single person has a completely different neural structure, and as such will process logic differently, however I believe the following to be a fairly accurate generalization of both extremes. Additionally, whenever I mention “theism” I expect it to be understood that i have no first-hand experience as an adherent to other religions, so i will be generalizing theists as those fundamentalists who believe in the Christian God Yahweh and the infallibility of the holy bible since most theistic individuals use similar reasoning…just deal with it if you don’t like it please.

    Coming from a person who has experienced 8 years of self-imposed Christian Fundamentalism, followed by 6 years of atheism (all of which were completely authentic) I quite agree with your assessment that dialogue across world-views is a futile pursuit; allow me to extrapolate.

    I have debated passionately on both sides of the fence and have found that this incompatibility is due primarily (although there are always additional elements to account for) to each party’s interpretation and usage of logical dualities.

    ——non-theistic Logic——
    The standard logical model to which most non-theists adhere is build on the back of numerous verifiable physical observations which (for the sake of progression and experimentation) are expected to maintain consistency, at least for our perceivable dimensions and lifetime. As a result, Logic is seen as the only reliable and immutable force in a world whose only other consistency is change.
    (we could get deeper into physics and define this logical model with much greater accuracy, however for this example I believe it to be sufficient)

    ——theistic Logic——
    Theistic logic is built off the same basic principles as non-theistic logic but with usage and purpose that are drastically different. The most integral immaterial consistency that theists perceive is is the omnipresent God. Any consistencies such as mathematics or physics are interpreted not as solidified independent immaterial concepts, but rather extensions of Yahweh’s consistent personality. At this point Logic becomes a malleable God given tool used for the understanding (and if need be justification) of God himself. because there is no way that God could ever negate himself, there must simply be an alternate explanation when presented with logical opposition. To rephrase, it’s the same as non-theistic logic but with one encompassing rule which always remains consistent and acts as a pretense to all further processing; God is.

    You may argue that it is possible to maintain a non-theistic perception of logic, while believing in the existence of God, to which I would remind you that the individuals who tread this path are not fundamentalists.

    (Both of these very brief and broad descriptions are only used to make a point here so try not to whine and moan about the semantics please. language is meant to communicate concepts, that all. I know there is much much much more to the Christian/non-Christian dynamic, but this is just a comment to address the nature of cross world-view communication :)

    Anyway, this accounts for that game of cat and mouse that gets played. Reasoning which is sound to a non-theist is illogical to a person who builds reason on a theistic world-view, and vice versa. As a result, both parties feel vindicated in assuming that the other is completely full of shit.

    It is incredibly unreasonable to expect any sort of effective communication without complete understanding of each persons specific beliefs. Unfortunately, many people haven’t taken the time to examine themselves and others thoroughly enough to translate this accurately.

    let me know if that didn’t come across clearly, or was incredibly rude and biased (I am marginally irked by the belligerence and lack of deep biblical study of most Christians and it is difficult to write objectively this evening), its late and the measure of booze i’ve consumed has stimulated the part of my mind which delegates processing power to sex and drugs as opposed to rational thought expression :D

    have a great night or day everyone! :D

  15. January 27, 2009 8:00 am

    n33kos,

    I don’t know if it was your intent, but it sounds to me like we agree completely.

    – Schev

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