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Very Hot Topic (More than 25 Replies) Atheists and Evolution (Read 3,303 times)
Running Deer
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Re: Atheists and Evolution
Reply #10 - Aug 30th, 2016 at 2:15pm
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Queshank wrote on Aug 30th, 2016 at 12:37pm:
I've been puzzling about questions like this for a bit now RD.  It seems that we atheists have inadequate answers to questions like this and to the fact that the Big Bang theory seems awfully damn similar to the creation myth of most religions.


We have inadequate answers because we must wait on science to answer them.  Science requires evidence.  If there isn't enough evidence, science can't answer the question.  That leaves us either to shrug our shoulders or speculate.

I really don't think the Big Bang looks like creation myths.  Everyone has a story about how the universe started - it's a perfectly natural question - but the Big Bang doesn't have any gods, heavenly wars, or anything else of the sort.
 
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This is the reason why religion persists.  Because we don't have these answers and likely never will.


I used to think the same thing, but I've begun to understand the cultural role of religion differently.  Religious explanations are mostly ancillary; the community bond and the meaning given to life and its events is the real draw of religion.  The root of the word "religion" itself means "binding, yoking".

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It seems like the difference between atheists and theists can be boiled down to this:  Atheists have no problem with there being no answers to certain questions.  Theists demand answers and if no answer is forthcoming they'll fill in the blank.


I'm always suspicious when a story flatters my group.  LOL

Plenty of atheists signed up for The Party is Always Right.  Plenty of left atheists still think everything in the world is a capitalist plot.  Plenty of conspiracy theorists are atheists.  Buddhist atheists like Sam Harris are pretty convinced - without much evidence - that a proper course of meditation leads to enlightenment.  All of these errors flow from filling in the gaps in knowledge with belief: in the Party, in the power and wickedness of capitalists, in What the Not-Divine-But-Still-Divinely-Wise Buddha Actually Said, etc.

It gets worse.  All of us, every one, has to fill in the gaps with beliefs in order to live.  Knowledge is frequently vague, contradictory, or incomplete, yet decisions still need to be made.  How to make a decision when knowledge is imperfect?  You use thinking shortcuts.  (The fancy term for these is "cognitive heuristics".)  Everyone does this, and everyone must.

You can see where the problems are.  Shortcuts can be flat out wrong, they can misapplied to the wrong situations, they can be clung to when knowledge is available, they can be clung to when contradictory knowledge is already staring them in the face.  And on and on.  But you can't live without them, either.

For a long time, I divided people into atheist/theists as the test of thinking prowess.  This division doesn't really hold, though: I have more in common with an conservative, low church Protestant like Mercy For All than I do with a leftist, atheist, dogmatic Stalinist.  (I'm both a leftist and an atheist.)  MFA has much more in common with me than he does with, say, Mike Gloster.

A more germane division is between those who can't let go of their thinking shortcuts in the teeth of evidence and those who can.  Another germane division is between those whose thinking shortcuts are useful and those whose shortcuts are useless.  There aren't bright lines between these types of people, either, just more of the tendencies that we all have.
  

"If cousins, I would much prefer to marry one my Neanderthal relatives than a screeching chimpanzee which might bite my face off as has happened recently. Of course, chimps are not even a human species so procreation between humans and chimps is out of the question." - joe_christian, on sex
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Re: Atheists and Evolution
Reply #11 - Aug 31st, 2016 at 8:43am
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Running Deer wrote on Aug 30th, 2016 at 2:15pm:
We have inadequate answers because we must wait on science to answer them.  Science requires evidence.  If there isn't enough evidence, science can't answer the question.  That leaves us either to shrug our shoulders or speculate.


Definitely.  The point of my post is more to get atheists thinking about these things.  And this is what I was alluding to with my "atheists are okay with unanswered questions" comment, contrasted with the "god of the gaps" stance of most theists.

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I really don't think the Big Bang looks like creation myths.  Everyone has a story about how the universe started - it's a perfectly natural question - but the Big Bang doesn't have any gods, heavenly wars, or anything else of the sort.


No it doesn't.  But if we imagine what the creation myth of most religions LOOKS like ... well ... SHAZAM!  Big Bang.  And then there's of course the question of what caused the Big Bang ... "Hi have you heard the Good News??"

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I used to think the same thing, but I've begun to understand the cultural role of religion differently.  Religious explanations are mostly ancillary; the community bond and the meaning given to life and its events is the real draw of religion.  The root of the word "religion" itself means "binding, yoking".


True.  And I do remember after reading the prologue to Karen Armstrong's "A History of God" years ago where she said "I think even the Pope would acknowledge God doesn't exist ... but he's the most important force for Good in the world." (Paraphrasing from ancient memory) I thought "How exactly do you tell the people in the poorest regions of the world, barely surviving ... that there is no God.  This is it."  At the time I was thinking specifically of the predominantly Catholic Latin American poor.  And it was the most significant contributor to the softening of my militant atheist stance.

Rather I guess I should say the fact that we will likely never answer the question of "how did we get here" means religion will always have fuel.

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I'm always suspicious when a story flatters my group.  LOL


I don't think it's all that flattering Smiley  These are the areas where atheists have no answers ... and the run of the mill atheist ignores the fact that there are no answers here.  Scientists and theists both work to answer those questions.  And in this way the everyday Atheist is no different from the everyday Theist.  We take it on faith that there are people either working to answer those questions or that have the answer to those questions.

The fact that neither the scientist nor the clergy has the answer means there's not really much difference between the two camps on this issue.

It is one of the reasons why I'm finding I have so little in common with atheists who maintain Evolution and Physics are the reasons for their atheism.  It actually seems like a weaker argument for one's belief or lack thereof than most of my Christian friends.

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Plenty of atheists signed up for The Party is Always Right.  Plenty of left atheists still think everything in the world is a capitalist plot.  Plenty of conspiracy theorists are atheists.  Buddhist atheists like Sam Harris are pretty convinced - without much evidence - that a proper course of meditation leads to enlightenment.  All of these errors flow from filling in the gaps in knowledge with belief: in the Party, in the power and wickedness of capitalists, in What the Not-Divine-But-Still-Divinely-Wise Buddha Actually Said, etc.

It gets worse.  All of us, every one, has to fill in the gaps with beliefs in order to live.  Knowledge is frequently vague, contradictory, or incomplete, yet decisions still need to be made.  How to make a decision when knowledge is imperfect?  You use thinking shortcuts.  (The fancy term for these is "cognitive heuristics".)  Everyone does this, and everyone must.

You can see where the problems are.  Shortcuts can be flat out wrong, they can misapplied to the wrong situations, they can be clung to when knowledge is available, they can be clung to when contradictory knowledge is already staring them in the face.  And on and on.  But you can't live without them, either.

For a long time, I divided people into atheist/theists as the test of thinking prowess.  This division doesn't really hold, though: I have more in common with an conservative, low church Protestant like Mercy For All than I do with a leftist, atheist, dogmatic Stalinist.  (I'm both a leftist and an atheist.)  MFA has much more in common with me than he does with, say, Mike Gloster.

A more germane division is between those who can't let go of their thinking shortcuts in the teeth of evidence and those who can.  Another germane division is between those whose thinking shortcuts are useful and those whose shortcuts are useless.  There aren't bright lines between these types of people, either, just more of the tendencies that we all have.


Well said.  I have nothing to add here.  I became an atheist in a rather isolated part of the country in the late 80s.  Facebook has connected me with atheist groups I'd never seen before.  And I'm a bit aghast at the poor thought processes of many of the members of these groups.  They almost seem to provide weight to the theist argument.

Queshank
« Last Edit: Aug 31st, 2016 at 9:50am by Queshank »  

Morality is doing what is right, regardless of what you are told.

Religion is doing what you are told, regardless of what is right.
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Re: Atheists and Evolution
Reply #12 - Aug 31st, 2016 at 6:46pm
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Running Deer wrote on Aug 30th, 2016 at 2:15pm:
I used to think the same thing, but I've begun to understand the cultural role of religion differently.  Religious explanations are mostly ancillary; the community bond and the meaning given to life and its events is the real draw of religion.  The root of the word "religion" itself means "binding, yoking".


I think the above explanation for religion is every bit as inadequate an explanation for the existence of religion as the "God of the gaps" explanation.

First off, it seems to me to assume a situation in which people are presented with a choice of whether or not "to be religious."

But for most of history this has not really been an open choice for most people.  This is because religion produces culture, speaking for most times and places.  Religion often determines everything from dress and food to the work one does and who one associates with to a societies moral worldview and at its height the view of the intelligentsia.  Generally speaking, religion and culture are usually one and the same thing.  Religion creates what we call culture.

In most places and times people are born into a religion that is a culture.  There is no separation between religion and culture, or almost none, so there is little choice to be made as to whether one is religious.

Now, if one takes a decadent society like ours, in which one increasingly has a choice before them as to whether or not to choose religion, I still think the cited explanation is inadequate.

In our society are there people whose social life is based around their church?  Are there people for whom the main draw of religion is a communal bond?  Sure.  But no way is this all Christians, and I would even doubt it is most.  Of course there is also the growing phenomenon of people who claim to be "spiritual but not religious."  There are a lot of people out there who are ok with spirituality, so long as it stays relatively unorganized and individualistic.

  


To say homo sapiens, is to say Homo religiosus; there is no man without God. ~Frithjof Schuon
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Re: Atheists and Evolution
Reply #13 - Sep 1st, 2016 at 11:48am
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Frank1 wrote on Aug 31st, 2016 at 6:46pm:
First off, it seems to me to assume a situation in which people are presented with a choice of whether or not "to be religious."

But for most of history this has not really been an open choice for most people.  This is because religion produces culture, speaking for most times and places.


Culture and religion are intertwined: they are caused by, and cause, each other.  The Reformation is a good example: its doctrines require a literate populace with easy access to written works.  The basic Protestant idea that all must read the Scriptures and understand & interpret it for themselves makes no sense in the absence of mass literacy and the printing press.  Printing press technology and the rise of mass literacy and schooling made Protestant doctrines possible.  Culture caused the religion.

And then, the religion caused the culture.  The Protestant doctrine and practice of individual Bible reading has spurred the introduction of writing systems for numerous languages, and the New Testament is often the first book in a newly-written language.  In turn, the emphasis on the individual's access to religious knowledge spurs greater demand for other knowledge to be widespread.

Neither religion nor culture is the foundation of the other.  They are interdependent, causing and being caused by one another.

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Now, if one takes a decadent society like ours, in which one increasingly has a choice before them as to whether or not to choose religion, I still think the cited explanation is inadequate.


Heretic thinks choice of religion is decadence.  Your lack of insight and self-awareness is always good for a laugh.
  

"If cousins, I would much prefer to marry one my Neanderthal relatives than a screeching chimpanzee which might bite my face off as has happened recently. Of course, chimps are not even a human species so procreation between humans and chimps is out of the question." - joe_christian, on sex
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asdf
Reply #14 - Sep 2nd, 2016 at 8:50am
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Frank1 wrote on Aug 31st, 2016 at 6:46pm:
But for most of history this has not really been an open choice for most people. 

This is because religion produces culture, speaking for most times and places. 


What I bolded above is kind of the problem I see in your statement Frank.

We'll never know for sure because we don't have a baseline.  But frankly, culture exists without religion.  You put the cart before the horse.  It is more proper to say culture produces religion.  A barbaric regional culture tends to provide for the rise of a barbaric religion. 

It is no coincidence Christianity was born in the most peaceful region of the world during one of the most peaceful times in human existence.  There was no room in most non Roman cultures of the world for "The meek shall inherit the Earth."  And "turn the other cheek." 

I've gotta be brief because I'm on my way to work.  Basically ... culture produces religion.  Not the other way around.  Religion then becomes culture.

Queshank
  

Morality is doing what is right, regardless of what you are told.

Religion is doing what you are told, regardless of what is right.
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Re: Atheists and Evolution
Reply #15 - Sep 6th, 2016 at 2:20pm
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Queshank wrote on Aug 31st, 2016 at 8:43am:
No it doesn't.  But if we imagine what the creation myth of most religions LOOKS like ... well ... SHAZAM!  Big Bang.


There's a common thread in that the universe had a beginning, but really, that's the extent of the similarity between the Big Bang and mythical origins.

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True.  And I do remember after reading the prologue to Karen Armstrong's "A History of God" years ago where she said "I think even the Pope would acknowledge God doesn't exist ... but he's the most important force for Good in the world." (Paraphrasing from ancient memory) I thought "How exactly do you tell the people in the poorest regions of the world, barely surviving ... that there is no God.  This is it."


Usually you tell them while waving the hammer and sickle.  That's not a joke.

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Rather I guess I should say the fact that we will likely never answer the question of "how did we get here" means religion will always have fuel.


I think the question "What does this mean?" is actually more of the draw of religion than "How does this work?"

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Scientists and theists both work to answer those questions.  And in this way the everyday Atheist is no different from the everyday Theist.  We take it on faith that there are people either working to answer those questions or that have the answer to those questions.


You're conflating too much here.  There's a significant difference between believing that a wandering ascetic from 2500 years ago complete answered the problem of human suffering and believing that science has an accurate model of planetary movement.  Both end with ultimately unproveable statements, but the differences in the processes are massive and significant.  The processes that lead to statements tell you their value.

Unfortunately, English doesn't have a very good way to distinguish "I believe evolution is a correct explanation for the origin of species" and "I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of Heaven and Earth..."  Very different meanings are covered by the same word "believe".

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It is one of the reasons why I'm finding I have so little in common with atheists who maintain Evolution and Physics are the reasons for their atheism.


Evolution is a terrible reason not to believe in God.  The Archdiocese's high schools all teach evolution, and teach it about as well as good secular public high schools.  (Few schools teach it well, because they're not structured or ideologically-driven to teach process-oriented thinking.)
  

"If cousins, I would much prefer to marry one my Neanderthal relatives than a screeching chimpanzee which might bite my face off as has happened recently. Of course, chimps are not even a human species so procreation between humans and chimps is out of the question." - joe_christian, on sex
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Re: asdf
Reply #16 - Sep 16th, 2016 at 12:52am
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Queshank wrote on Sep 2nd, 2016 at 8:50am:
It is no coincidence Christianity was born in the most peaceful region of the world during one of the most peaceful times in human existence.  There was no room in most non Roman cultures of the world for "The meek shall inherit the Earth."  And "turn the other cheek." 


Whoa, whoa, whoa!

Back the truck up!

Did you seriously just refer to the 1st century C.E. as "one of the most peaceful times in Human Existence", or were you being sarcastic?

If you believe the story of Christ as told in the New Testament, the founder of Christianity was brutally executed by an oppressive, foreign occupation for simply flipping over the tables of some money lenders in the Jewish Temple.

If you know anything about life during that period, you'll know that 1) Christ's execution was not in the least unique, and 2) He had plenty of company on Golgatha that Friday! (This is alluded to by the story of the two thieves in the Bible)

  
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Re: asdf
Reply #17 - Sep 18th, 2016 at 5:08pm
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Big X wrote on Sep 16th, 2016 at 12:52am:
Whoa, whoa, whoa!

Back the truck up!

Did you seriously just refer to the 1st century C.E. as "one of the most peaceful times in Human Existence", or were you being sarcastic?

If you believe the story of Christ as told in the New Testament, the founder of Christianity was brutally executed by an oppressive, foreign occupation for simply flipping over the tables of some money lenders in the Jewish Temple.

If you know anything about life during that period, you'll know that 1) Christ's execution was not in the least unique, and 2) He had plenty of company on Golgatha that Friday! (This is alluded to by the story of the two thieves in the Bible)



The Romans were brutal bastards, but Rabbit has a point-there was, generally,  peace and, generally,  rule of law.


By the fortunate standards of those born post 1945, the preceding, what, 3000 years seem eye-wateringly violent,  but the Romans at least had a degree of stability.


Just because they executed convicted criminals like Jesus doesn't mean that they were particularly violent.

Your country executes convicted criminals regularly.
  

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Under Communism, it's the exact opposite.
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Re: asdf
Reply #18 - Sep 19th, 2016 at 6:22pm
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Queshank wrote on Sep 2nd, 2016 at 8:50am:
What I bolded above is kind of the problem I see in your statement Frank.

We'll never know for sure because we don't have a baseline.  But frankly, culture exists without religion.  You put the cart before the horse.  It is more proper to say culture produces religion.  A barbaric regional culture tends to provide for the rise of a barbaric religion. 

It is no coincidence Christianity was born in the most peaceful region of the world during one of the most peaceful times in human existence.  There was no room in most non Roman cultures of the world for "The meek shall inherit the Earth."  And "turn the other cheek." 

I've gotta be brief because I'm on my way to work.  Basically ... culture produces religion.  Not the other way around.  Religion then becomes culture.

Queshank


"Culture" is just a word unless you define it for me.

But for example, when we talk about differences between Muslim culture and Western culture, what do those differences stem from?  They stem from the Muslim religion.

There was no 'Muslim culture' before the Muslim religion, just like there was no 'Christian culture' before the Christian religion.

More on your reductionist position on Christianity later.
  


To say homo sapiens, is to say Homo religiosus; there is no man without God. ~Frithjof Schuon
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Re: asdf
Reply #19 - Sep 19th, 2016 at 6:24pm
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Limey wrote on Sep 18th, 2016 at 5:08pm:
By the fortunate standards of those born post 1945, the preceding, what, 3000 years seem eye-wateringly violent,  but the Romans at least had a degree of stability.


You mean the fortunate standards of those living in the West post-1945.

Much of the world has experienced more then its share of violent conflict post-1945, to say the least.

The West is going through a period of relative peace, not unprecedented of course.  War and peace are cyclical.  Eventually all peaces and all wars come to an end.
  


To say homo sapiens, is to say Homo religiosus; there is no man without God. ~Frithjof Schuon
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