The Agnostic, the Atheist and the Burden of Proof

agnostic
[ag-nos-tik] 

noun
1. a person who holds that the existence of the ultimate cause, as God, and the essential nature of things are unknown and unknowable, or that human knowledge is limited to experience.
Synonyms: disbeliever, nonbeliever, unbeliever; doubter, skeptic, secularist, empiricist; heathen, heretic, infidel, pagan.
2. a person who denies or doubts the possibility of ultimate knowledge in some area of study.
3. a person who holds neither of two opposing positions on a topic:
Socrates was an agnostic on the subject of immortality.
http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/agnostic

“Agnostic” comes up a lot in apologetics debates. Of the three definitions above, there is a divide along partisan lines with atheists claiming that only the first (meaning 1) is “right” and theists claiming that only the last (meaning 3) is.  Atheists often say that anyone who does not positively believe that God exists is an atheist.  It is not necessary, they say, to have a belief that God doesn’t exist in order to qulalify as an atheist. You can be both atheist and agnostic, because agnosticism (meaning 1) refers to what you know, atheism to what you believe. Apologists, on the other hand, are apt to insist that if you call yourself an atheist you must believe that God doesn’t exist. Unless you sign up to that, you are an agnostic  (meaning 3).  

Dictionaries are not “top down” sources of definition.  Words are defined by their use and dictionaries aim to reflect how a word is in fact being used, not to prescribe how a word “ought” to be used.  If enough people use the word in a particular way, that way of using it becomes correct. That is why all of the above definitions, although each is slightly different, are correct.  It may be necessary to clarify which definition we are using but there should be no need to engage in long debates about whether anyone “must” use the word in one way rather than another. 

Thomas Huxley, who coined the word, intended to emphasise the “gnosis” root and to distinguish himself from those who claimed to have knowledge of what he considered to be unknowable. But it would be fallacious to argue from the word’s root or it’s genesis that it “must” be interpreted as the first definition. 

Why does any of this matter? (To the two sides, I mean.  Whether and why any of this matters in the larger scheme of things is a different question).  

I think that a lot of it is to do with the burden of proof.  Both sides tend to approach the God debate as a game of tactics. The atheist is determined to place the burden of proof on the apologist.  That way the apologist has to make all the running and the atheist’s job is just to react to whatever the apologist puts forward. If the apologist fails to prove their case, then the atheist can claim victory.  Apologists find this irksome and wish to proceed on the basis that their opponent must also do some of the leg-work.  That way, unless the atheist can prove God’s non-existence, then the aplogist can claim at the very least, a draw.  

Atheists are wary of being bounced into taking on a burden which they instinctively (and in my view, rightly) feel isn’t theirs.  When the apologist says “So, if you’re an atheist, you must believe there is no God” the atheist thinks: “Ah ha!  I see your game.  But you shan’t succeed…..”  And from that point, even atheists who in their hearts believe that there is not, cannot be a God, will refuse to be pinned down on the issue. Apologists feel that their opponent is being deliberately evasive and they become understandably frustrated. Thereafter much heat and little light is generated in an “Oh yes you do!” “Oh no I don’t!” type exchange. 

Of course, some atheists may genuinely have no belief either way on God’s existence, however I suspect most of them believe he doesn’t exist, but they are unwilling to admit as much, thinking that they will be painting themselves into a corner.  

I think there is a way forward which might provide for a more honest and more productive exchange. I suggest that we start by recognising that “I believe x” is first and foremost a claim about me, not about x.  A belief is a state of mind.  Like an emotion, it is something we have, not something we choose.  

When I say “I believe x” that does not of itself impose a burden of proof on me any more than saying “I like chocolate” does. It is simply a report about my state of mind.  A challenge “Prove it!” would be an invitation to me to demonstrate that I truly believe x, not to prove x to be true.  

By now you may be thinking that I am being disingenuous. Surely it is implicit in “I believe x” that I am saying “X is true”?  Well, yes, but that by itself does not create a burden of proof. 

All burdens of proof are self-imposed.  In simple terms, only those who want to prove something bear a burden of proof. Being a theist does not impose a burden of proof.  But being a theistic apologist does. 

Being an agnostic will impose a burden of proof – if you want to argue that agnosticism (on whichever definition you use) is the most rational position to take. 

Being an atheist can impose a burden of proof, if you wish to persuade others, but what you are obliged to prove will depend on what you are trying to persuade them of. If your argument is limited to the assertion that there is no credible evidence for the existence of God, then all you need to do is to refute the apologist arguments that purport to establish his existence. The fact that you may personally believe that there is no God has no bearing on your burden of proof. But of course if you want to go further and persuade people that God does not exist, then start arguing your case, because you just took on a burden. 

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74 thoughts on “The Agnostic, the Atheist and the Burden of Proof

  1. What an elegant piece of writing. That needed to be said. It won’t change anything, but I still feel it was useful.
    I was, however a little surprised by two details:
    1. ” Both sides tend to approach the God debate as a game of tactics.” Why only “tend”? Is that a typical British understatement? Apologetics debates can only be tactical jousting, People seem to enjoy that kind of thing – like reality TV shows. This is not just a tendency. It’s the name of the game.
    2. The total impossibility of coming to any sort of agreement on the way in which both parties use the word “God”. This explains the tediously repetitive performances of people talking at cross purposes.
    Back in the days before I had realized the futility of such debates, speaking as a Christian I would anger both sides by saying, “You can ask me to talk about God. I can accept, but only as long as you realize that from the moment I open my mouth I will only be talking about myself.” You make much the same point.

    The most amusing accusation that was leveled against me after my conversion experience was, “You were never a true atheist.”
    OK. For over thirty years I didn’t believe in God or the supernatural, but I was only faking. being an atheist. Or maybe I’m faking being a theist now?

  2. It’s lovely to find someone who mirrors my thoughts. Even once you get to the debate stage, it is not a question of truth, but a question of whether or not your epistemology is valid. Ultimately, you find the atheist saying that subjective, anecdotal experiences aren’t a valid source of knowledge, and hopefully providing reasons why, while the theist insists they are, and hopefully providing reasons why.

    One thing I find that both apologists and atheists miss, is that there isn’t such a thing as just an agnostic. If you are exposed to the concept of a god, then you will already have formed a belief on its existence, positive or negative. Most of us were raised religiously, meaning we were theists upon first exposure to the concept due to the fact that we trust our parents. The same goes for atheism. It’s true that you can have a hell of a lot of doubt on the subject, but at that point, it is best to analyze what it is you’re doing. Are you going to church, still, to hedge your bets, or praying randomly for God to show himself to you? Then you’re a theist. Do you acknowledge that, for all you know, there could be a god out there, but you have no reason to think so? Then you’re an atheist. A belief influences how you live your life, so if you’re going around as if there is no god, then that’s that. It’s fine to claim to be an agnostic, because that would be true, but to shun atheism, in my mind, is disingenuous.

  3. ” If your argument is limited to the assertion that there is no credible evidence for the existence of God, then all you need to do is to refute the apologist arguments that purport to establish his existence.”

    Unfortunately this ‘weak atheist’ stance is the most common, which I find intellectually frustrating. you often find people like Michael Shermer that seem to walk around with a very pointed agenda. Taking the time to refute the apologist but apparently never taking the time to formulate his own affirmative ideas, it wreaks of a political agenda and quite frankly I don’t think people who affirm a position of ignorance on side or the other should be apart of the debate at all.

    In contrast to Shermer if I were to conversely say that I’m a ‘weak theist’, that i simply assert the lack of belief in a natural unguided process, therefore I resort to being an avid theist as the default, this would lead people to criticize me for intellectual laziness. But it seems that often times atheist get a free pass in the sense that all one has to do is refute theism then atheism automatically becomes the default. But there is no precedent in which atheism could be considered a default. While I do agree that you only have to be accountable for what claiming to know, again I just think that if your not willing to provide your own alternative explanation for what your refuting, then you absolutely don’t belong in the debate.

    • Thank you for your comment, Nathaniel. You won’t be surprised if I tell that I don’t agree.

      If your approach (keep out of the debate if all you’ve got to offer is criticism, no positive theory of your own) were adopted generally in academic circles then it would put an end to one of our most valuable research tools: peer review. Surely there is value in finding out whether something is wrong with your argument irrespective of whether or not the person pointing out its flaws has any alternative hypothesis? This is the premise on which peer review is based.

      When Dr Anthony West was propounding his now debunked theory of MMR as a cause of autism, was it not perfectly right and proper for his critics to point out the flaws in his research without necessarily having any theories of their own as to what did cause autism?

      When you say that atheism is not a default position if theism is refuted, I do wonder if you haven’t kinda missed the whole point of the post. But if you tell me what position you would be left with once theism is refuted, perhaps I will understand you better.

      The analogy with naturalism and theism is flawed. If you lacked belief in unguided natural processes that would make you an anaturalist. Then there would be a burden of proof on any naturalist who wanted to persuade you to abandon your anaturalism. But theism would be a different thing entirely from simply rejecting naturalism.

      • With respects to keeping out of the debate I was merely speaking candidly about the debate at hand, thus I’m not sure your analogy between the theory of MMR as a cause of autism compares with the debate between theism and atheism. Theism and atheism have to do with deductive arguments that are derived from competing interpretations of the evidence. Thus it’s not something that can be verified through empirical data as strictly factual. For this reason I’m not sure whether peer-review is relevant, seeing that in this case it will simply be subjected to any presupposition that the reviewer might have. Peer-review on the issue of ID has already proven to be a very sensitive political issue. As we seen was the case when Richard Sternberg peer-reviewed Stephen Meyers paper and subsequently lost his office.

        I’m not familiar with this anaturalism. I was under the impression that naturalism is simply the doctrine that all events exemplify natural laws. In which case this anaturalism is simply be another word for supernatural, which directly infers theism. What exactly is it that is suppose to distinguish anaturalism from theism?

      • But peer review is used in all disciplines, not just science. Andrew Wakefield was just an example. History, philosophy, sociology are all subject to peer review. All evidence, including empirical data, requires interpretation and scientists are as vulnerable to the human weakness of having presuppositions as people in any other field. Peer review takes this into account. You really have not made out a case for the theism/atheism debate to be treated differently from any other as regards the value of peer review.

        “Anaturalism” was a word I made up to describe someone who is not a naturalist, by analogy with “atheist” to describe someone who is not a theist. An anaturalist might have many beliefs that would not be theistic. For instance, she might believe that the universe was created and is now run by goblins. Or fairies. Or she might believe that there is a spirit world which directs the apparently natural processes we see in this one.

      • I hear what your saying about peer-review and perhaps your right. My issue with the theism/atheism debate takes root in something seemingly more subtle though. Often times it seems that the atheist are not rejecting the theist arguments on the grounds of weak explanatory powers or inconclusive evidence as much as they are rejecting it on the grounds that it simply doesn’t comply with a party-line that only accepts material and natural causal explanations. It’s often a debate among’st worldviews than it is competing interpretations, this is why I get frustrated when I see people like Shermer constantly patronizing proponents of ID without ever offering a more plausible interpretation. It’s appears that they don’t always have a better explanation but they just reject intelligent causation because they don’t like it’s philosophical implications.

        As far as the Goblins and fairies, I mean I suppose this isn’t any crazier than the ideas of life evolving on the backs of crystals or the cosmos erupting out of quantum vacuums.

      • “Often times it seems that the atheist are not rejecting the theist arguments on the grounds of weak explanatory powers or inconclusive evidence as much as they are rejecting it on the grounds that it simply doesn’t comply with a party-line that only accepts material and natural causal explanations.”

        It’s really more than that. Our model can provide natural explanations for why religion exists in the first place, thanks to our evolutionary predispositions, coupled with a borderline crazy priest class (video lecture citations below) and enduring thanks to its social benefits (which may or may not persist into modern times). Can yours explain why – and I’m guessing that you subscribe to the traditional view of God being omniscient, omnibenevolent, and omnipotent – why such a god who has perfect knowledge of what it would take to convince anyone, has the ultimate loving desire to convince everyone, and the power to do so, would allow someone to die as a non-believer? Please don’t say revealing himself violates free will, as that would be an insult to every person God “walked” with, not to mention all the fallen angels, who, with full awareness of His magnificence, elected to rebel.

        You may feel free to adjust the definition of god, as it is not well defined. Incidentally, that’s another reason to not be convinced enough to believe.


      • Scientists reject ID mainly because ID pretends to be science and claims to use scientific methodology – neither of which are the case. Proponents of ID seem to think that using pseudo-scientific and pseudo-philosophical language somehow gives them some sort of validity and authority.
        It doesn’t.
        They fail miserably at every stage.
        A scientist couldn’t care less about philosophical implications. Ask Galileo.
        Christian apologetics is mostly a pile of religious ramblings trying to look like philosophy. It always fails.
        If somebody claimed that my lumbago was caused by the presence of Uranus in my Ascendant, I wouldn’t need a full medical explanation in order to reject astrological silliness.
        Frances is right as usual.

        NB Beware cultural differences. As a fellow Brit,, I instantly recognized the stylistic device of inventing the neologism: anaturalist. In fact I thought it was quite clever and perfectly appropriate.

  4. @Richard Morgan: your fallacious text book ad hominen is quite the popular rhetoric. A rhetoric that wreaks of political propaganda. “ID pretends to be science” ID is not a mechanism it’s a cause that offers superior explanatory power based on what we do know through empirical evidence. ID does nothing to impede scientific inquiry, it merely suggest that the nature of the laws and mechanics of the world around us, i.e. the anthropic fine tuning, can best be understood by self consciously using principles of design engineering. Perhaps you would like to tell me how assuming a natural unguided process bolsters our scientific ingenuity..? Your allegiance to philosophical naturalism is duly noted, and you can keep working on it till the cows come home but you never going to be able to understand the origins of anything because naturalism is grossly inadequate for explaining it’s own origins.

    • Naturalism doesn’t seek to explain anything. It describes – nothing more.
      Teleology has no place in science. It is the Basis of ID.

      Anthropic fine tuning is unsubstantiated, solipsistic nonsense.

      Oh – and: wreaks and reeks.
      The tornado wreaks havoc
      My kitchen reeks of last night’s curry.

      • Being puerile doesn’t make me wrong.
        I sense that is what bothers you – the fact that I can be unpleasant, but right.
        For those readers unfamiliar with the anthropic principle, it goes like this:
        The puddle says: “Oh wow, this hole is the ground has exactly the same dimensions as me. Depth, width, contours…everything. Amazing! That proves it must have been made for me.”

      • I’m profoundly indifferent to your pleasantries. Though I don’t find your intellectual dishonesty very amusing. On that note the anthropic fine tuning goes something like this: If the world were expanding even a fraction slower then all matter would collapse in on itself. Conversely if the world were expanding a fraction faster then all matter would be ripped apart and no planets would be able to form, thus precluding any life forms from developing (not just human life, any life). Another example would be that animals need the waste product of plants to exist, and plants need the waste product of animals to exist, so we see that all existing life forms are completely interdependent.

        Your attempt to equate “a hole in the ground” with the complexity of the earth and our solar system proves how egregiously dishonest you are, this is nothing but a show of good politicking.

      • Thank you for revealing just how unscientific ID proponents can become when they are scared and on the run.
        Your so-called science flies out of the window when you use the expression “a fraction”. I notice that you don’t take the risk of suggesting a specific fraction. Now I wonder why that would be?
        What size of fraction it would take for the who thing to fall apart or become impossible?
        You fail to acknowledge the fact that between 0.00000000001 and 0.00000000002 there exists an infinite number of smaller fractions.
        The anthropic principle collapses at hello.
        And life goes on without it.

      • Interesting retreat, usually the more prominent atheist thinkers simply try and dispel the mystery of life by a appealing to a multi universe, not many are willing to commit intellectual suicide by denying the fundamental constants. The scientific rate of expansion that allows for the possibility of life is calibrated by 1 part in a 1,000,000,000,000,000,000 (quintillion) by definition we and everything around us is a mathematical impossibility, so much for naturalism.

  5. Talking about intellectual suicide, Nathanael, I think you beat me to it with this, “If the world were expanding even a fraction slower then all matter would collapse in on itself.”
    If the world (I presume you meant to say ‘universe’) were expanding a fraction slower, it couldn’t be collapsing in on itself, could it? It can’t expand and collapse at the same time.

    I wonder why you avoid referring to the very meaning of the word “anthropic”. Anthropos (greek) – people. This silly principle claims that the fundamental constants are fundamentally constant in order that people can exist. Not life, not the universe, Nathanael – people like you and me. Maybe you had forgotten that.

    ID sinks even deeply more into narcissistic fantasy. People design stuff. This means that recognizing design in anything is proof of…er, people or a person doing the designing. I think that measuring or describing God by human (people) standards completely ignores the incomprehensible infinitude of what we call God. ID says that God is just an improved version of Nathanael. No wonder the likes of Dawkins and Coyne laugh at you.

    • Sorry I should be more precise in my language. It’s actually space-time that’s expanding, if it were expanding any faster all matter would collapse on it self. It was Albert Einstein’s field equations of general relativity and his discovery of a three-dimensional space-time that first led him to postulate the theoretical concept of an expanding universe. Because space-time is three-dimensional he concluded that it had to be expanding otherwise the planets would have all collapsed together, so I’m not sure why you are referring to this as intellectual suicide? I’m assuming either that was just part of your rant, or in your ignorance you thought this was something I made up?

      The word ‘anthropic’ is irrelevant, it’s simply interpreting the fundamental constants and the natural laws of the universe with humans as the central focus, but the fine-tuning applies equally to all living organisms, and yes some aspects of it, like the rate of expansion, also include the possibility of planets to form. Again the lack of intellectual honesty is rather disconcerting at this point and I don’t see much point in continuing this conversation.

      • When discussing the anthropic principle, the word ‘anthropic’ is irrelevant?
        OK, I can understand your being embarrassed, by the human-centred orientation of the anthropic principle, and your consequent need to dismiss the name itself as irrelevant.
        It is also a little sad, though not dramatic, for you to hide behind accusations of intellectual dishonesty, though again, I understand your need to find a pretext to run away from the discussion. That’s OK.
        But before you go, please allow me to give you a piece of advice: if you hitch your faith in Christ to “scientific findings”, don’t forget that you have will have to modify your faith every time science makes another step of progress. As Richard Dawkins has said, “Scientific research is the business of proving that your predecessors were wrong.”
        Saying, “Look! Science proves that God exists”, or “DNA is a code, and all codes are designed, therefore DNA must have had an Intelligent Designer” only reveals the very shaky foundations of your religious convictions. Feelings of insecurity make us say very silly things, sometimes. Understandable…. and forgiveable.

    • Do you actually have a premise or conclusion in arguing against the anthropic fine-tuning? or are you just being quarrelsome?

      And seriously though enough with the preaching, it’s pitiful and rather unbearable.

      • The arguments against “anthropic fine-tuning” are available to anybody who knows how to use Google. I understand that you find my “preaching” unbearable. I know the truth hurts, Nathanael.
        For centuries, the Church believed that the cosmos revolved around the planet Earth. It was obvious that God would place His finest creation (you and me) at the centre of the Universe;
        The Church was wrong.
        Anthropic fine-tuning is another pseudo-scientific attempt to “prove” that everything out there was created so that you and I could exist.
        “Anthropic fine-tuning” is an embarrassment to scientists and theologians alike. It is based on a theory of probabilities, yet totally ignores probability densities.
        By claiming that certain constants are fine-tuned, it makes the unsubstantiated claim that constants are tunable in the first place.
        And there are a hundred other problems with the anthropic principle.
        I am saying that as a Christian. It just so happens that the nature of my faith does not require me to play with probabilities, or manipulate science in order to better worship God and love my neighbour. (Or feel smarter than atheists – a pathetic and frequently observed phenomenon.)
        Anthropic grasping at straws is very telling. It speaks of massive insecurity and the fear it engenders.

      • “The arguments against “anthropic fine-tuning” are available to anybody who knows how to use Google”

        -_- oh if I had a dime for every time someone told me to “google it”.

        But! If I understand you correctly the premise of your argument against the anthropic fine tuning is a unsubstantiated hypothetical hypothesis that another novel life form could just have easily emerged somehow someway. That this world wasn’t tuned for us but we are merely a product of it’s laws. The problem is you deal with entertain hypotheticals, while proponent of ID make inferences based on the actual empirical data.

        “It is based on a theory of probabilities”

        Yes we call this mathematics, it’s very telling.

        “my faith does not require me to play with probabilities”

        play with probabilities? again you mean, to do math!

      • Exactly. My faith does not require that I either play with probabilities or do maths.

        And thank you for informing me that I deal with “entertain hypotheticals.” I had been completely unaware of that. That insight changes everything.
        (Entertain hypotheticals?)

      • faith? and here this whole time I thought we were talking about science! no wonder you were preaching so much.

        Hey enjoy your blind unsubstantiated faith! 😉

      • Thank you, Nathanael. I do enjoy it immensely. May you get as much joy out of your blind, unsubstantiated science.

        USA: to do math
        UK : to do maths

      • “Christian apologetics is mostly a pile of religious ramblings trying to look like philosophy. It always fails.”

        ” “DNA is a code, and all codes are designed, therefore DNA must have had an Intelligent Designer” only reveals the very shaky foundations of your religious convictions”

        “ID sinks even deeply more into narcissistic fantasy”

        I’m sorry I can’t get over the fact that you have just tried calling yourself a Christian when you just mocked the idea of a intelligent designer. You must be a Roman Catholic?

      • Wrong. Dreadfully wrong. I didn’t mock the idea of an intelligent designer. I mocked the pseudo-scientific attempts at furnishing proof of an intelligent designer.

        Right. Delightfully right; I am Roman Catholic. I was confirmed into the Church in 2012, after having been an atheist for most of my adult life. (I am now 69). You can read my (incomplete)story here:

        http://whyimcatholic.com/index.php/conversion-stories/atheist-converts/155-atheist-convert-richard-morgan

      • As a Christian why on earth would you vehemently reject the idea of tying to provide scientific evidence for God’s existence? Surely that which is known about God can be understood through that which has been made, can it not? You come off like a adamant atheist.

        I’m not saying science is the foremost reason for my faith, nor should it, I’m only saying that science is congruent with the idea of an Intelligent Designer.

      • You will see the problem with your reasoning if you accept the following challenge: tell us what you “know” about God, that you “understand” through that which has been made. Not everything, of course, just a few examples.
        If you are able to do so, I would immediately revise my opinion that God is unknowable, in the normal sense of the word.
        Try to follow these steps:
        1. Take something that you know “has been made”.
        2. Provide evidence which demonstrates that it has indeed “been made”
        3. Explain what it has enabled you to know about God.

        Since you seem to like the scientific approach, your answers should be fully acceptable to scientists, of course. If not, you must abstain from using the verb “know”.

      • First of all I’m confused that you would evens say such a thing, being someone who takes the scriptures as the word of God

        Romans 1:19-20 “19 Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. 20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse”

        Anyways to answer your questions we can take the entire cosmos, we know through Hubble’s discovery of the expanding universe and Einsteins field equations of general relativity that space, time and matter all had a definitive beginning. In the 60’s Hawkings also solved Einsteins field equations and concluded that, with regards to the expanding universe, if you back extrapolate eventually the curvature of space-time would become so tight that it would become infinitely tight, thus we know it had a beginning. It was the famous NASA scientist who said “This is an exceeding strange development unexpected by all but the theologians who have accepted the word of the Bible. For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conqueror the highest peak, as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been siting there for centuries.” You see to real objective scientist who don’t have any prejudices it’s obvious that Hubble’s discovery points to an Intelligent designer.

        Even more we can tell through logical inferences. If you see a track of footprints in the wild how can you be sure that it wasn’t just the wind that made the distinct pattern of consecutive marks? After all you never seen the animal making the prints so technically speaking you could never be sure, right? wrong! This is what the scripture is talking about, you can reasonably infer an intelligent designer just through observing the universe. And it only becomes more clear the further we study the cell and the more scientific discoveries we make.

        Again I can’t understand in the least how you can consider yourself a Christian, I hate to say it but it makes total sense that your a Roman Catholic. I really don’t think it’s right to even consider Roman Catholics Christians these days. A lot of satanic stuff going on over there at the Vatican. I think the consensus is more that you guys are turning into a cult.

  6. “. A lot of satanic stuff going on over there at the Vatican.”
    Is that really the best you can do when I ask you :
    1. Take something that you know “has been made”.
    2. Provide evidence which demonstrates that it has indeed “been made”
    3. Explain what it has enabled you to know about God.

    Oh well…

    • WOW! The extent of your intellectual dishonesty is egregious! and your arrogance is palpable! Let me reiterate..

      “Anyways to answer your questions we can take the entire cosmos, we know through Hubble’s discovery of the expanding universe and Einsteins field equations of general relativity that space, time and matter all had a definitive beginning. In the 60’s Hawkings also solved Einsteins field equations and concluded that, with regards to the expanding universe, if you back extrapolate eventually the curvature of space-time would become so tight that it would become infinitely tight, thus we know it had a beginning. It was the famous NASA scientist who said “This is an exceeding strange development unexpected by all but the theologians who have accepted the word of the Bible. For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conqueror the highest peak, as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been siting there for centuries.” You see to real objective scientist who don’t have any prejudices it’s obvious that Hubble’s discovery points to an Intelligent designer.”

      We know the universe has been made because of Hubble’s discovery. It indeed has been proved through Einsteins field equations of general relativity. What does this tell us about God? This tells us about Gods eternal power.

      I can’t help but think you are simply trying to intellectually justify your prior commitments to atheism. You wish to believe that while before your were a towering intellect, now you are spiritually enlightened. That God and science are mutually exclusive but because your such an amazing human being you have been able to successfully distinguish between the two, am I right? of course I am, just the way I smelled out your pathetic allegiance to Roman Catholicism in the first place.

  7. Nathaniel,
    **Even more we can tell through logical inferences. If you see a track of footprints in the wild how can you be sure that it wasn’t just the wind that made the distinct pattern of consecutive marks? After all you never seen the animal making the prints so technically speaking you could never be sure, right? wrong! This is what the scripture is talking about, you can reasonably infer an intelligent designer just through observing the universe. And it only becomes more clear the further we study the cell and the more scientific discoveries we make.**
    The reason we can be sure that the tracks were made by animals and not the wind is through our experience of animals and the tracks they leave and the wind and the traces that it leaves. If we didn’t have those experiences to draw on we couldn’t draw any inferences from looking at animal tracks.
    If you think that the universe shows evidence of design, then you must have some concept of what undesign looks like. You can only recognise design by contrasting it with undesign. Where do you get your concepts of undesign from? And what would an undesigned universe look like?

    • “Biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose.” {Richard Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker, 1996, p. 1} I think I tend to agree with Dawkins on this one

    • The inference we draw upon is precisely and simply intelligence. Our uniform and repeated experience tells us that specified complexity is evidence of design. We see a design logic that not only mirrors our own, but far exceeds it. Your asking me what undesigned universe would look like, how can anyone say what an undesigned world would look like? You are asking me to describe a hypothetical scenario, this is purely an abstraction that can’t be given a precise answer. The reality is that we live in a world so sophisticated and complex that it appears to be designed by an acting intelligence. This is one of the reasons why I believe atheist have an equal if not higher burden of proof than the theist, because the universe appears designed the atheist have the burden of explaining away the appearance of design. Because the universe appears designed one could say that ID could therefore be the default position.

      • “Listen, Galileo,my old pal, just look at the Sun, ok? Every day you can see it appearing in the East. It describes an elliptical trajectory as it rises in the sky, then it disappears in the West. Sure we don’t yet know exactly what it does between sunrise and sunset, but by inference, we can deduce that it very probably continues a similar trajectory. This would lead us to understand that the Sun revolves in a more or less circular orbit around the earth. We don’t have 100% proof of that yet, but the oracles are working on it. Whilst awaiting confirmation, we can safely assume that the Sun’s movement in the heavens is geocentric. That would be the default position.
        And anyway, to even suggest that the earth revolves around the Sun would contradict holy scripture! “He set the earth on its foundations,so that it should never be moved.”
        Never moved, got it?”

      • in order for deductive reasoning to be valid and logical as opposed to pure abstraction, it has to be based on uniform and repeated experiences. Your argument from analogy is fallacious. Now you can answer me a couple questions:

        1. Name me one complex thing that we “know” arose by purely natural processes.
        2. explain how we “know” it arose by purely natural processes.
        3. Explain how its origins are scientifically viable.

      • I would be happy to answer your questions, just as soon as I am sure we are talking about the same things. This requires a clear definition of the way in which we use words.
        So, all you have to do is tell me what you mean by
        1. complex : when does a thing stop being simple and becomes complex. examples would do fine. (Thank you for not repeating that frightful S. Meyer word trick “specified complexity”.)
        2. natural processes : how do you distinguish between natural and unnatural or supernatural?
        3. scientifically viable : maybe you meant to say scientificall valid. Otherwise I have no idea what that could mean as regards proof of origins.

        Well, you see, the thing is, Galileo, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to this since you came up with that crazy idea that the Earth is revolving around the Sun. Sure, we can only see the Sun’s movement for part of the day. But then it suddenly occurred to me, as I was watching my son swing around a stone on the end of a piece of string. That stone just kept on spinning round and round. When he stood behind a wall, I could just see that stone going up on one side, describing a sort of arc, then going down the other side. Just like the Sun.

      • Complex= simplest living cell
        Natural=absent of God
        Viable=observable in the lab

        The trajectory of the rock is a sound observation, your analogy is still unforgivably fallacious.

      • Oh dear. I was hoping that your replies would allow us to make progress, but for the moment they have only muddied the water.

        1.Complex= simplest living cell
        So far, so good.

        2.Natural=absent of God.
        How do you scientifically determine the absence or presence of God? Do you see the problem of mixing religious and scientific concepts?

        3.Viable=observable in the lab
        On account of the difficulties created by 2. this has no meaning. How do you intend to scientically verify the presence or absence of God …. in a lab?

      • As a naturalist you sure have a hard time understanding what a natural processes. I’m not buying your attempt to avid to the question.

        Nothing to add about your fallacious analogy?

      • So you can’t explain how you would scientifically determine the presence of God in any given process?
        I’m not surprised. Nobody can.
        Listen to me, Nat. I presume that you and I both believe that God is Sovereign, From a belief point of view, God, as Omnipresent, can never be “absent” in the sense that a person can be absent.
        This automatically means that your questions 2 and 3 make no sense. And I’m OK with that. I do wish that you would stop trying to make God small enough to fit into a test tube.

        My analogy was valid, since I was not comparing scientific processes just the way we interpet phenomena in the absence of sufficient information. I will not make my faith in God dependent on scientific “facts” which could be invalidated within a few years. Neither should you.

        I can see that you are very caught up in the whole I.D. thing. I understand. It can be reassuring. But, in all humility now, I hope you can start to see that you are visibly and embarrassingly dodging issues and questions, for reasons that only you can know. Frankly, I do not wish this upon you.
        If you truly believe that an Omnipresent and Omniscient God can be “absent” from “black holes” then I must admit that I fail to understand your theology. I guess you have to rewrite the whole of Christian theology, removing “Omni” wherever it occurs.

      • “So you can’t explain how you would scientifically determine the presence of God in any given process?”

        -_- Sine when were we talking about the presence of God!? We are talking about the appearance of design in nature. Your doing the same thing you did with the anthropic fine-tuning argument, you simply retreat out of the discussion by saying “oh well blah blah I don’t put my faith in scientific facts because I have no need for such childish things ” This has nothing to do with the source of mine or anyone else’s faith! I already told you my faith is NOT dependent upon scientific facts. I’m merely suggesting that through studying the natural laws and processes we can reasonably infer an intelligent designer. You counter by saying no we can’t. Then when I proceed to press you on the issue you just try exalting yourself by preaching a spiritual based faith that has nothing to do with the conversation.

        Nobody is trying to put get God into a test tube, on one is claiming to have God’s DNA, we are merely reasoning through deductive arguments as to which worldview is best supported by science, atheism or theism. Atheist is a false world-view just like all the false religions that seek to draw people away from God. Proponents of ID such as my self and Meyer are counter-attacking this notion that God is superfluous and irrelevant.

        The core of my faith comes from obeying from the heart the Gospel that was delivered to us. This doesn’t mean that I can’t attempt to defend God through various fields of study that Satan would otherwise use for his own advancement.

      • @ Nathanael: “-_- Sin(c)e when were we talking about the presence of God!?”
        Since you defined Natural as “absent of God”.
        I confess that I sometimes have some difficulties deciphering your English grammar, but I’m not going to make an issue of it. The very fact that you use the. word “absent” implies a possibility of “present”. Since you chose this definition, it seemed obvious that you would have criteria for determining whether God is absent or present.

        You say that you are “attempting to defend God through various fields of study.” We can see that you are saying that it looks like the universe was designed. Just as for centuries it looked like the Sun was in orbit around the Earth.
        In the 12th and 13th centuries, the Cathars would have agreed with you that the Earth is designed. They believed it was designed… by Satan. I take it you would have disagreed with them. However, since there is no straight line from ID science to the Cross, I fear that far from defending anything to do with God, you are just holding yourself and your beliefs up to ridicule.

        I see that you have not yet mastered basic logic and reasoning, since you are having a problem following through on your own ideas. This often happens to people who claim to be proponents of ID science, but who are not themselves scientists. You are not alone. But that doesn’t make you right. If it’s of any reassurance to you, I have no scientific proof that I am right either. Fortunately, I don’t need your deductive arguments to bolster my faith. Obviously at this point in your life, you do. I am trusting that you will grow out of that need one day.

      • Your right I did put “Absent” which I agree wasn’t the right word to use there. Because it was obvious that you knew what I meant by natural processes from the beginning I didn’t really take much time to explain myself properly. Obviously I wasn’t referring to the absence of Gods presence in general, I was contrasting between the supernatural in which God feeds in a new event, as opposed to the natural laws and mechanics that God established when He created the heavens and earth. You know as well as I do what natural processes means. If you make me spoon feed you basic definitions we are never going to get anywhere.

        You’r right that ID doesn’t lead straight to the cross, but leading people to the reality of God is the first step in the process.

        “We can see that you are saying that it looks like the universe was designed. Just as for centuries it looked like the Sun was in orbit around the Earth.”

        Your implying that possibly the universe won’t look designed one day. But the scriptures already tell us that God can be known through that which is made. That’s why I’m bewildered at how self professing Christian can make such contradictory remarks to the scripture. The word of God says that we can know about Gods eternal power and Godhead through that which He has made, this has only become exceedingly more and more true as science develops, I don’t see why you are so unwilling to accept this reality, you don’t need to be afraid, God’s word wont let you down.

        ” Fortunately, I don’t need your deductive arguments to bolster my faith. Obviously at this point in your life, you do”

        Why do you persist on speaking lies and putting words into my mouth, your like a serpent who keeps twisting everything I say. I don’t need scientific facts, I have been a Christian for over 10years without them, God has only begun to bless me with the knowledge and wisdom to represent Him in new ways and diverse fields in hope that I will help many people have been deceived by the scientific community. You have no clue about the things which you are talking about.

        “I have no scientific proof that I am right either.”

        How could you have any when you firmly deny science as evidence in the first place?

      • One of the first rules of intelligent debate is: never assume that you know what the other person is thinking. You could be wrong, as you were when you said:” Because it was obvious that you knew what I meant by natural processes from the beginning ”

        You then proceed to give a definition which is the complete opposite of what I, and most people, would call “natural processes”.
        ” I was contrasting between the supernatural in which God feeds in a new event, as opposed to the natural laws and mechanics that God established when He created the heavens and earth.”
        So you were comparing God getting the show on the road and God tweaking it on the way.

        Noun: natural process
        A process existing in or produced by nature (rather than by the intent of human beings)
        “the natural process of natural forces”;

        Noun: nature
        The phenomena of the physical world collectively, including plants, animals, the landscape, and other features and products of the earth, as opposed to humans or human creations.

        Not only are you imputing to me a definition of natural processes to which I have never held, your definition can not be found in any dictionary. You have invented a private definition, and then claimed that it was obvious that I knew what you meant!

        This is a perfect example of why it can be essential to come to an agreement on the uses of basic words and expressions before entering into any kind of debate. Otherwise we are talking at cross purposes, and getting very irritated with each other.
        Try not to fall foul of the fallacy of “everybody knows”.

        On another claim that you made :”You’r(e) right that ID doesn’t lead straight to the cross, but leading people to the reality of God is the first step in the process..”
        Could you please provide your evidence for this?

      • ” your definition can not be found in any dictionary.”

        Noun 1. natural process – a process existing in or produced by nature (rather than by the intent of human beings)

        I think your ignorance has all but reached it’s pinnacle. Have a good day sir

      • by the way if you ever choose to answer my question feel free. I’ll lay it out for you a little better so you can understand it

        Complex – simplest living cell

        Natural processes – based solely on the features and products of the universe and the inherent laws and mechanics that govern our world, explain how the simplest cell could have arisen.

        Viable – if we can test it in the lab and recreate the scenario then we know that, technically speaking we don’t need to invoke a cause that exceeds the natural processes.

        Welcome to the world of apologetics 😉

      • Well, that seems like an honest challenge, Nat.
        Just two questions before I take it up:
        1. Am I allowed to use inference from the best explanation, like your ID pals?
        2. In parallel, would you explain how a simple cell arose from a design created by the God of the Bible? We need to maintain a balance here.

        Once I have received your answers, I will provide mine. It might be a bit long. Don’t forget it took S. Meyers 600 pages to explain the Signature in the Cell. Were you hoping for less?

      • “1. Am I allowed to use inference from the best explanation, like your ID pals?”

        Sure! But why would you to use inferences from the best explanation when you can just prove it in the lab? Are you suggesting that assembly of the simplest cell falls outside the strict purview of naturalism? Wont this just be the same “pseudo-science” that you so often criticize the ID community for? I thought you were trying to distinguish yourself from our elementary tactics. Are you forfeiting question #3?

        “2. In parallel, would you explain how a simple cell arose from a design created by the God of the Bible? We need to maintain a balance here.”

        Unlike naturalism, ID doesn’t offer a mechanical explanation for origins. God is an explanation from agency! This is apparently what distinguishes you scientist from us “pseudo-scientist”… right? Your the ones claiming that the origins of simple cells ought to be described on a mechanical level. We make no such claims as to be able to describe the mechanical process of how the simplest cell came arose. Hence, inference from the best explanation. We make deductive arguments based on the what we do know and also we make arguments based on the evidence of absence. The mechanical process of self organization is reserved by the naturalist. So by all means please proceed to explain how the simplest cell came about by purely natural processes! I’m eager to hear your explanation.

        “Don’t forget it took S. Meyers 600 pages to explain the Signature in the Cell. Were you hoping for less?”

        I think we can do without the prologue, appendix, epilogues and all the interesting side facts. For convenience sake you can just make it as short and sweet as possible.

      • « Unlike naturalism, ID doesn’t offer a mechanical explanation for origins. » (Correct. It doesn’t offer any explanation at all. It just says “God-did-it.”)
        Oh dear. Just when I thought we were getting somewhere, you have once again muddied the issue by your sloppy use of language, Nat.
        First you ask about how the simplest cell « arose. »
        Now you have just swapped « arose » for « assembly ». (Sneakily implying an Assembler.)
        And now you have floated away into something you call “origins”. (The word usually associated with the discussion about the origins of life – OOL.)
        I’m going to be kind, and assume that you meant the same thing in all three cases. (Maybe English is not your first language?) This makes your question, “How did the first fully-formed eukaryotic cell appear if God didn’t magic it into existence?”
        The answer is simple : since the most advanced scientists don’t know, neither do I.

        It would be impossible to go into the fascinating studies of cell-formation, however, without first drawing attention to your intellectual dishonesty.
        You know that we do not have a full explanation fo the origins of life.
        You know that life can not be systematically produced in a laboratory.
        Therefore you think that you have played your trump card in asking me a question to which everybody knows we have no answer.
        Why would you do that? Simply in order to produce your God-of-the-gaps theory. Whatever we don’t know is proof that God-did-it.
        Or as you say, “God is an explanation from agency!”
        (Notice the smug, exultant exclamation mark.)
        You then continue with that tired, old, fairy-tale stuff:
        “Hence, inference from the best explanation. We make deductive arguments based on the what we do know and also we make arguments based on the evidence of absence.”
        This is called guessing.
        You would have been more honest to say, “inference from the best explanation so far.” Just as the geocentric orbit of the Sun was the best inference at the time, based on available knowledge.

        You have also dishonestly tried to hi-jack the words of Richard Dawkins by failing to point out that he then went on to say that the appearance of having been designed was nothing more than that – appearances only. He even invented a neologism to describe this phenomenon – designoids.
        Yes, the most prominent atheist thinkers all agree. They also all agree with Dawkins : it is nothing more than appearances.

        The irony in all of this silliness is the fact that neither of us has an explanation. My not having an explanation is not a problem for me or the vast majority of people – atheists and theist alike.
        The Creationist/ID fraud has made the issue a problem for some. Your “guess” that God did it is no explanation at all. It is most certainly not science.

        Oh – and I notice that you have avoided my question:
        You said, “You’r(e) right that ID doesn’t lead straight to the cross, but leading people to the reality of God is the first step in the process..”
        Could you please provide your evidence for this? Or are you just guessing again?

      • Your absolutely right! even the most advanced scientist have no clue how the simplest cell first arose by natural processes, thank you for finally conceding that! You just took your first step in the right direction. Interesting, isn’t it? How so many prominent atheist thinkers agree that the world looks designed, yet they all insist a designer is superfluous even though they have no clue how life could have arisen by natural processes. Almost as if they created a scientific paradigm that precludes God as a possibility, where you fall in all this I still have no clue. Call it “God of the gaps” or whatever you please, the reality is that the evidence points to a creator. I’m sorry you find this such a repulsive idea.

      • ID doesn’t lead straight to the cross, but leading people to the reality of God is the first step in the process..”
        Could you please provide your evidence for this?

        The life of Anthony Flew and Dean Kenyon are good examples.

      • One of the first rules of intelligent debate is: never assume that you know what the other person is thinking. You could be wrong, as you were when you said:” Because it was obvious that you knew what I meant by natural processes from the beginning ”

        You then proceed to give a definition which is the complete opposite of what I, and most people, would call “natural processes”.
        ” I was contrasting between the supernatural in which God feeds in a new event, as opposed to the natural laws and mechanics that God established when He created the heavens and earth.”
        So you were comparing God getting the show on the road and God tweaking it on the way.

        Noun: natural process
        A process existing in or produced by nature (rather than by the intent of human beings)
        “the natural process of natural forces”;

        Noun: nature
        The phenomena of the physical world collectively, including plants, animals, the landscape, and other features and products of the earth, as opposed to humans or human creations.

        Not only are you imputing to me a definition of natural processes to which I have never held, your definition can not be found in any dictionary. You have invented a private definition, and then claimed that it was obvious that I knew what you meant!

        This is a perfect example of why it can be essential to come to an agreement on the uses of basic words and expressions before entering into any kind of debate. Otherwise we are talking at cross purposes, and getting very irritated with each other.
        Try not to fall foul of the fallacy of “everybody knows”.

        On another claim that you made :”You’r(e) right that ID doesn’t lead straight to the cross, but leading people to the reality of God is the first step in the process..”
        Could you please provide your evidence for this?

      • the science of trajectory is correct and follows our uniform and repeated experience. the only difference is that we didn’t realize we were the rock and the sun was the boy swinging it.

      • Let’s try and take it one question at a time.
        Give me an example of something, anything, which (in your opinion) is not designed.

      • To me something which is undesigned is something which neither has a purpose nor an explanation. In my honest opinion I can’t really think of any such thing. If you have an idea on something undesigned I’m open to hear it.

      • Me, at 5:37 am : If one adheres to the notion that God created everything, then nothing should appear undesigned. …… At this point, the nonsense of ID becomes undeniable.

        Nathanae,l at 5:05 pm: To me something which is undesigned is something which neither has a purpose nor an explanation. In my honest opinion I can’t really think of any such thing.

        You’re right on cue, Nathan. Well, done.
        (Sorry. I couldn’t resist that.)

  8. ” You can only recognise design by contrasting it with undesign.”
    The concept of design can not be isolated from a concept of purpose or intention – teleology.
    The reference to animal tracks is spectacularly useless in this context.( Unless you want to claim that the animal wanted to leave the tracks in order to be found or whatever.)
    Certainly it can be a reference to those sciences where evidence can only be inferred – the historical sciences. I think of forensics and palaeontology. Proponents of ID often appeal to these sciences to justify their “argument from the best explanation.”
    Recognizing design can only be achieved by identifying a designer’s intention. The classical example of this kind of reasoning, of course, is William Paley’s watchmaker analogy. The next step would be to identify the designer.
    One may adhere to the Big Bang theory of the origins of the universe, but in order to claim that it is a proof of design, one has to identify why it banged and who made it bang. People like Nathanael leap onto this and say, “Look! There was a Big Bang. God made it bang in a big way so that the planet Earth would appear as a place where homo sapiens could live. QED.”
    If one adheres to the notion that God created everything, then nothing should appear undesigned. It’s all part of God’s plan. God’s intentions and purposes. Teleology. This requires starting with the premise that God exists, then finding evidence to prove that God exists. Since everything is designed, everything can be used as evidence. At this point, the nonsense of ID becomes undeniable.

    • haha that’s a bit of a stretch but nice try! I think the implication is more that black holes are the blank part of the canvas. This of course is speaking in terms of physical matter only, I doubt black holes have any significance to spiritual beings such as God.

      • I have to ask this Nathanael – do you actually know how black holes come into being? Describing a phenomenon which is created by the operation of the laws of physics as “a blank part of the canvas” does sound as if you haven’t thought through this example.

        But anyway, as I take it that you are not constantly stumbling across black holes as part of your everyday life, black holes are presumably not what you are using as a basis for the distinguishing what is designed from what isn’t.

        We recognise design by contrasting it with what isn’t designed. For most people, this means nature. I am not begging the question here, I am just trying to point out how most people will use the distinction. A watch is designed and even if you had never seen one before and found one lying in the forest, you would realise that it was qualitatively different from the tree you found it under. Every positive needs its negative and you can’t say of anything that it has an attribute, x, unless you at least have a concept of ~x. In order to be able to use the term (e.g.) “white” meaningfully, it is essential that you have an understanding of what it would mean for something to be “not white”. If everything was white and you have no concept of “not white” is, then the term “white” becomes completely meaningless.

        So when you say that nature shows evidence of design: what is that evidence? If I say that a house shows evidence of having been burgled, then people would expect me to be able to explain that in terms of specific things about the house (e.g. lock on door broken and damage surrounding it, owners belongings in disarray, valuable items missing) which would have looked different if it had not been burgled.

        If you want anyone to take your claim of “evidence of design” seriously then you must be able to describe how the evidence is different from what we should expect to see if it were not designed. If you can’t do that, then your “evidence of design” argument is just empty noise.

      • I see what your saying, that we need to be able to contrast design with undesign in order to know what design looks like. But I think this just speaks back to my last point, that since we live in a world that is designed, as even the most prominent atheist thinkers all agree, then there’s no way to really speculate what an undesigned world would look like.

        I would think of it as if one figure in a painting said to another figure in the painting, that in order to prove they were a painting they needed to find a part of their existence that wasn’t part of the painting, and only then could they ascertain that they themselves were a painting. But since their world is purely subjected to the painting in which they were created this is impossible.

        I’m sure you have heard it before, but us proponents of ID like to talk about the flagella a lot http://jb.asm.org/content/193/15/3863/F1.large.jpg
        Nano technology like this existing inside our cell are some of the key indications that we are highly designed, because our uniform and repeated experience tells us that things of such complexity don’t arise by natural processes. This argument of cause and effect is predicated on the premise that we shouldn’t invoke exotic causes to explain things of the past, rather we should look to what we know through our current observations of cause and effect and apply that to understanding the past. Only acting intelligence has been known to create such complex and intricate systems as the flagella. This is also why the sequencing of the DNA being similar to computer programming is also another tell tale sign for someone looking for signs of intelligence.

  9. Your correction should have extended further. Dawkins did not say the whole world appears designed. He said that the world included some complex things which appear designed. That makes his position very different from yours.

    I am not sure why you think that Richard’s acknowledgement of the fact that scientists do not know how the first simple cell came about is such a triumph. That is a classic God of the gaps argument. Nobody knows so God must have done it? No. Nobody knows = nobody knows = nobody knows. That’s all.

    The case of Anthony Flew does not support your claim. He became a deist, not even a theist, much less a Christian.

    Your painting analogy misses the real point. The two figures in the painting do not need to find something within the painting in order to argue about whether or not they live in a painting. They *do* need to have a concept of what it is (1) to be a painting and (2) not to be a painting. Even if they have no experience of the latter, they still must have some concept of what it means or the conversation can’t even take place.

    Try to imagine how your two painted figures would have this conversation. Let’s say its a painting of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.
    Eve: Adam, you know that we are a painting?
    Adam: What do you mean?
    Eve: That we are 2-dimensional marks on canvas, produced by an artist, representing things that exist in the 3-dimensional world.
    Adam: I don’t understand what you mean by “2-dimensional” or “3-dimensional”. But how could things be different?
    Eve: Well, we are flat, unmoving figures on a plane surface. If we existed in the 3-D world we could move, not just up and down, but outwards and inwards too!
    Adam: Unmoving? Move? Outwards? Inwards? What do these words mean?

    This conversation could never take place, not just for the obvious reason that painted figures can’t talk but because even if they could talk, they would not have the concepts required for it to take place. Adam and Eve would have no understanding of what it was not to be a painting and more significantly, they would also have no idea of what it was to *be* a painting.

    My conversation with you has followed a familiar trajectory of all conversations I have with theists arguing from design. It starts with the theist saying that some features of the world show the distinctive hallmarks of design. When pressed to explain what these distinctive hallmarks are, the theist invariably retreats into claiming what they are obliged by theism to claim: that now they come to think of it, *everything* bears the hallmarks of design. But if everything bears the hallmarks of design, then there is nothing distinctive about design, in which case how can we recognise it?
    William Paley said that if he found a watch while walking through the forest, he would recognise it as a designed object and be able to deduce that there must be a watchmaker. But Paley’s problem, and yours, is that on his world-view, the watch should have been indistinguishable from its surroundings, because if God designed everything then Paley was walking on a path of watches, through a forest of watches, in a country of watches, in a world of watches, in a universe of watches.

    This conversation has drifted somewhat from my OP, the point of which was that what we believe is what we believe and that will not necessarily be at all the same as a position we argue.

    I think I’ve made all my points now as fully as I can.

    You may now have the last word, if you wish.

    • Don’t atheist likewise fill in the gaps with a natural unguided process the same way that theist fill in the gaps with God? If Biology is the study of complex things that look designed then shouldn’t ID be the default position? especially if there doesn’t even appear to be a modicum of evidence to support self-organization. If you don’t want to accept design as the default for biological life then you have to study the empirical data and attempt to prove away the appearance of design, you need to prove how complex things that appear designed aren’t really the product of a designer. God of the gaps is just a text book dismissal from you’r evolutionary debating manual that implies that a creator is generally a superfluous explanation. But again, why do you refer to it as “God of the gaps” when life appears to be designed?

      The reality is that the absence of evidence is the evidence of absence, It’s basic logic, something that is frequently dismissed these days. Your more than welcome to simply assert that scientist are still working on the origins of life, matter, space, and time, but one can see how naturalist could perpetuate this argument for ever “We simply haven’t discovered it yet”. Our technology is astounding and beyond sophisticated, yet for all that it is, we can’t even begin to understand how life could have self-organized. If God did create life, isn’t this precisely what we would expect? Yet when naturalism hits a dead-end, which again says a lot considering our technology, people such as yourself simply dismiss it as inconclusive. Well until you atheist or naturalist or whatever you want to call yourself, start coming up with some more compelling evidence for a natural unguided process, I don’t see why we shouldn’t go with the obvious answer. And this is all that ID is, an inference to the best explanation based on logical and substantiated deductive arguments. Until you guys can start making some progress your in danger of falling behind, as the evidence for immense complexity continues to pile on top of your shrinking world-view

      “Adam: Unmoving? Move? Outwards? Inwards? What do these words mean?”

      Exactly, undesign? what does this word mean? you can’t tell me anymore than I can tell you.

      “because if God designed everything then Paley was walking on a path of watche’s”

      I can only laugh and assume you’re taking for granted how amazingly complex everything is behind the curtains

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