Thursday, August 31, 2006

The Real Genesis

1 The following is what the majority of Western scientists believe in 2006. They may be wrong in some details, although it is likely that the broad strokes are correct. If reality contradicts this book, this book is wrong. The following are literal truths as we currently understand them and not metaphors.

2 Time and space began approximately 14-16 billion years ago.

3 Space began at a single point and expanded rapidly.

4 Stars and galaxies formed over a few billion years.

5 Earth formed between four and five billion years ago.

6 Around four billion years ago, nucleic acids were formed.

7 Shortly afterwards, at least one nucleic acid began to reproduce.

8 Within one or two million years, cells formed.

9 Around 600 million years ago, land animals evolved.

10 Around 250 million years ago, dinosaurs ruled the Earth.

11 Around 65 million years ago, the dinosaurs died out, probably due to a meteorite.

12 Around 50 million years ago, mammals rose in prominence.

13 Around 3 million years ago, hominids evolved.

14 Around 100,000 years ago, homo sapiens evolved.

15 Around 6,000 years ago, the first cities were built.

16 Around 4,000 years ago, writing was invented.

17 The rest is history. Literally.

83 comments:

CyberKitten said...

Yup. I go along with that........

XGH said...

Nice idea. But if your intent is to make a comment regarding Genesis, I think you need to fill in a bit more detail between points 14, 15 and 16, which after all is when Genesis is set (apart from the first 2 chapters).

Marina Grace said...

At least this version of history makes sense...

Baal Habos said...

I see you really are reading Hawkings.

About the 65 Million years and the dinosaurs, heres a super book. The title is corny, but IIRC it's written by the one who put together all the Jig-saw pieces and figured it out.

Great reading for the non-scientist.

http://www.amazon.com/T-Rex-Crater-Doom-Vintage/dp/0375702105/sr=8-2/qid=1157034850/ref=sr_1_2/104-5704007-2893561?ie=UTF8

Jewish Atheist said...

EXGH:

Nice idea. But if your intent is to make a comment regarding Genesis, I think you need to fill in a bit more detail between points 14, 15 and 16, which after all is when Genesis is set (apart from the first 2 chapters).

This is only chapter one. This version isn't going to have mythological patriarchs or quote dialogue from before the invention of writing. Just the facts, as best as we understand them.

Let's see... We can certainly do a better job of explaining the history of language than the Babel story. I'm not sure we should get into morality or philosophy, though, except perhaps as a survey of the history of each (including religious history.)

jewish philosopher said...

Change "evolve" to "appeared". That's all the fossils show us.

Scott said...

2 Time and space began approximately 14-16 billion years ago.

How?

Jewish Atheist said...

scott:

Here's one you won't hear from religious authors: "We don't really know."

We have some idea of what happened very very shortly after the Big Bang, but the exact details are obviously something of a mystery.

Jewish Atheist said...

It's certainly not any more vague than:

And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.

Scott said...

But what caused the Big Bang? My problem with your time line is that it doesn't go back far enough.

Jewish Atheist said...

Scott,

According to the standard Big Bang theory, time *began* at the Big Bang. Consequently, there can be no "cause" of it, since causes must precede effects and nothing preceded the Big Bang. There are some other theories out there about multiverses and other complicated things, but basically everybody agrees that either there literally was no "before" the Big Bang, or else that it's literally impossible to know what happened "before" the Big Bang.

I recommend Hawking's book.

Baal Habos said...

Scott, in other words, according to Einstein and others, "Time" itself is a "creation". Time, Light and Matter are all interconnected. As the velocity of a moving object increase, the slower time moves. Literally. I think think has been proven with experimentation. Read A brief History of time. . I use the word creation because I have no other word to describe it. Not in the religious sense.

CyberKitten said...

JA said: Here's one you won't hear from religious authors: "We don't really know."

Indeed. Though I like to think "We don't know - yet."

Personally don't knowing the answer to everything doesn't bother me in the least - in fact its rather exciting. But I guess that it just makes some people nervous & uncomfortable... Strange eh?

Scott said...

I think creation is a fine word. So is effect. Effect certainly implies cause and creation always implies creator.

If every action requires an equal or opposite reaction then there must have been an action preceding the reaction that caused time or space or light or matter or whichever.

CousinOliver said...

Homo Erectus. *giggle* Related: http://dovbear.blogspot.com/2006/08/what-did-i-do-with-your-mom-last-night.html

dbackdad said...

If every action requires an equal or opposite reaction then there must have been an action preceding the reaction that caused time or space or light or matter or whichever. -- That is a law of motion and applies to relatively large objects and slow speeds. Quantum mechanics and relativity address address small objects and high speeds, respectively.

Scott said...

Which is all well and good but doesn't address my point.

Something does not come from nothing.

asher said...

You mean all of civilization encompasses a mere 1% of all of time (it's actually alot less). That humans have been around for a mere few years and have explored the world, ventured into outer space, developed agriculture, technology and medicine, while all the other creatures on earth are busy playing with their own feces?

The bigger questions is: who cares?
It's nice to have theories about how old the earth is, but if it's 30 billion years or 5,000 years, what difference does it make?

I'm still trying to figure out where all the creatures that didn't make it due to bad developmental traits all wound up. I mean there should be a fossil record for zillions of unknown creatures who predated the ones with which we are familiar. In other words, a billion monkeys working at a billion typewriters and one of them might turn out "Hamnlet" is a nice theory, but where is the evidence of the all the untold other monkeys?

Oh, teach the kids ID in the classroom and let them see what a silly theory it is.

Irviner Chasid said...

>other words, a billion monkeys working at a billion typewriters and one of them might turn out "Hamnlet" is a nice theory, but where is the evidence of the all the untold other monkeys?

There is a website doing this. Most they have gotten so far is 10 lines from a play. Its random letter simulator.

Orthoprax said...

"I'm still trying to figure out where all the creatures that didn't make it due to bad developmental traits all wound up."

They didn't make it..hence they ended up dead.

Orthoprax said...

JA,

"According to the standard Big Bang theory, time *began* at the Big Bang. Consequently, there can be no "cause" of it, since causes must precede effects and nothing preceded the Big Bang."

It makes no sense to propose an uncaused effect and it is also nonsensical to propose an infinite series of causes. Suffice it to say, we cannot say anything rational about the mechanics of the universe's origins. Rock and a hard place.

However, what is more important is whether one believes the universe's origins were some accident and therefore insignificant or if the universe has something much more significant going for it and that something very profound is afoot.

I side with profundity. This is what I mean when I think of God.

Jewish Atheist said...

Scott:

Something does not come from nothing.

How do you know?


Orthoprax:

However, what is more important is whether one believes the universe's origins were some accident and therefore insignificant or if the universe has something much more significant going for it and that something very profound is afoot.

Can't it be a profound accident?

Random said...

Nitpick:

"4 Stars and galaxies formed over a few billion years."

Star formation commenced a billion or so years after the Big Bang and is still going on. I don't think galaxy formation is an on-going process (except in the case of two galaxies colliding and a new one being created out of the mess, anyway) though. Rest of the timeline seems fair enough.

And to those who are having trouble getting their heads around the idea that time began at the Big Bang (and to those who seem to think it's some sort of killer fact against the whole God problem) - can I just point out that this is in fact the orthodox Christian position, and has been since at least Saint Augustine taught that the first day was exactly that, i.e. that time started then, and there was none preceding it? (When someone asked him what God did before the first day, he is supposed to have replied somewhat testily "creatiing Hell for people who ask questions like that"...) This is the part of the reason why mainstream churches are perfectly comfortable with Big Bang cosmology and regard excessive litertalism of the Creationsist variety as something of an irritation.

As for "something does not come from nothing" - well, it depends on how you define "nothing". It's a surprisingly difficult thing to do - come back when you've managed it:-)

BaconEating AtheistJew said...

Is number 8 supposed to be million or billion?

Great discussion about God is here:

Our existence is meaningless

JA, check out that blog, you'll be impressed. JP, please stay away from it.

Jewish Atheist said...

Is number 8 supposed to be million or billion?

"Million." Cells apparently followed very quickly after the formation of NAs.

JA, check out that blog, you'll be impressed.

Will do, thanks.

Scott said...

Something does not come from nothing.

How do you know?


Just simple logic. In what scientific setting has it ever happened?

CyberKitten said...

scott said: Just simple logic. In what scientific setting has it ever happened?

In Quantum Mechanics... apparently. Though what we understand as 'logic' doesn't work at the sub-atomic level....

Orthoprax said...

JA,

"Can't it be a profound accident?"

I don't see how. Sounds like a contradiction to me.

Jewish Atheist said...

Orthoprax:

Surely a result can be profound without it being intentional. If we go to the cliche'd million monkeys typing Shakespeare randomly... the resulting Shakespeare would be as profound as our current one.

asher said...

Where are the other monkeys.....we should at least see them in the fossil record!!!

Even Darwin said the fossil record is not accurate and that we should "use our imagination". Imagine that.

BaconEating AtheistJew said...

Asher, your statement shows a total misunderstanding of evolution.

At the time of Darwin, 150 years ago, the fossil record was a lot more incomplete than it is today.

I challenge you to watch the videos here, so you can at least be on an equal playing field with high school students who take science classes.

CyberKitten said...

I do like it so much when people bring up Darwin as the ultimate authority on Evolution. They forget that Darwin basically *started* things off. What he said & theorised is not the *last* word in Evolution but the *first* words. Science in all areas has moved on just a little since the 1850's... After all he had no idea about genetics... and I'm sure he was wrong about certain things too...

'Origin of Species' is NOT The Bible of Evolutionists!

cipher said...

Scott,

But if we posit God as the prior cause, we're left with the same problem - what "caused" God? Philosophers and theologians have dealt with the problem of infinite regression in different ways. Buddhism also insists that there can be no phenomenon without a prior cause, but the philosophers of their classical period felt that this proves that there can't be a creator.

It's best, I think, if we don't try to conceptualize it as linear. Instead of "What caused (or came before) the big bang", it may be better to ask, "Why is there something, rather than nothing?"

asher said...

Bacon,

I get it now...
the term "theory" doesn't mean theory,

the term "science" doesn't mean a reproduceable effect that can be explained,

the term "evolution" may mean many things that are constantly changing with new discoveries,

I refer you to George Owells' book
1984 and the concept of Newspeak.

BaconEating AtheistJew said...

Asher, did you watch the videos? Will you at least read this article?

Scott said...

scott said: Just simple logic. In what scientific setting has it ever happened?

CK: In Quantum Mechanics... apparently. Though what we understand as 'logic' doesn't work at the sub-atomic level....


It's kind of a rhetorical question though, isn't it. In our current universe we're always dealing with something. There is no such thing as nothing. You're always dealing with some sort of sub-atomic particle, or light, or energy, or something. Before we could even test the theory creating something from nothing we would have to create nothing. Which, ironically, would require something.

But if we posit God as the prior cause, we're left with the same problem - what "caused" God?

Not really. If you try to do that you are trying to define a God who is by definition, infinite. You're applying physical scientific reasoning to something that isn't physical. In essence you're mixing your science and religion.

CyberKitten said...

scott said: In essence you're mixing your science and religion.

A bit like saying a Supernatural being (which is by definition beyond explanation) 'created' a Natural universe...

Yeah, Right.....

Still more than happy with the "we don't know yet" explanation.

asher said...

Bacon,

Deal with it.

I saw the video and read the article. It comes down to this:

Evolution is a scientific fact. Why?
Cause,
cause,
cause,
cause

I'm the Mommy, that's why.

Still looking to prove that organisms evolved. Oh it's so obvious isn't it?

Sure it is. How can you deny it?Just look at the evidence. We have fossils!

Yes, we have fossils of creatures that lived and no longer are around. And this proves what, exactly?

I'm sorry to be talking on a 4th grade level but it comes down faith.

The real question would be, how many paleontogists believe in God and if it's 1%, aren't the vast majority of them merely advancing their agenda.

Hey...they're scientists!

Scott said...

Wait...what?

Orthoprax said...

JA,

"Surely a result can be profound without it being intentional. If we go to the cliche'd million monkeys typing Shakespeare randomly... the resulting Shakespeare would be as profound as our current one."

That just doesn't seem very likely.

Jewish Atheist said...

orthoprax:

Whether it's likely or not is a different question. The point is that something doesn't have to be intentional to be profound.


asher:

I know I shouldn't bother, but I'm curious. What would constitute sufficient proof of evolution for you? Specifically?

Orthoprax said...

JA,

"Whether it's likely or not is a different question."

True. But in your scenario with the monkeys, the profundity would only be by virtue of perception not by objective measure. It would only be profound in the sense of what we could take from it.

BaconEating AtheistJew said...

Another question for Asher: Why does the idea of evolution bother you so much that you have to believe that biology and geology is one gigantic conspiracy?

Another question, do you know of any find in the field of biology or geology that proved the earth is young and that evolution is crap?

Why does evolution scare you so much?

Jewish Atheist said...

True. But in your scenario with the monkeys, the profundity would only be by virtue of perception not by objective measure. It would only be profound in the sense of what we could take from it.

Exactly. I see the universe the same way.

Irviner Chasid said...

On the topic of " Our Existence is Meaningless...", this doesn't really apply to Judaism at all.

The reason why Gd created the World in Judaism was so that Gd could have a relationship with people and thus give over the greatest good possible. Can't have a relationship with angels and non physcal beings because they have no free-will, no ability to get away from the divine. In a physical world, it becomes possible to remove yourself from Gd, and when its possible to remove yourself, it also becomes possible to have a relationship.

The problem of "what created Gd" is answered in the book of Genesis when Gd says "and it was good"

Orthoprax said...

JA,

"Exactly. I see the universe the same way."

Well, I suppose that is the difference between you and I. I believe that the profundity of the universe is a real one.

When I first read Shakespear I promise that the first thing I _didn't_ think of was the poor state of those monkeys' fingers.

CyberKitten said...

Orthoprax: Why do you consider the existence of the Universe to be 'profound'..? What do you mean by that?

What criteria did you use to come to the conclusion that the Universe is unlikely to exist without God in it?

Jewish Atheist said...

When I first read Shakespear I promise that the first thing I _didn't_ think of was the poor state of those monkeys' fingers.

Well, yeah, you know as well as anybody how poor an analogy the million monkeys really are to evolution. Evolution is itself awe-inspiring.

Assuming you don't believe God specifically designed things like the Grand Canyon, are they any less moving because they're the product of thoughtless natural processes?

asher said...

A good proof of evolution would be a fossil record showing the 10,000 species that came between our nearest ancestor, monkeys, and homo sapaiens. Hey, they must have taken a good million years or so, and there should be at least 500 or so bones showing the gradual change between apes and humans.

It's hard to prove a negative. I also can't come up with proof showing aliens didn't build the pyramids.

Face facts. Evolution is all you got when you don't believe in God.
Put on your rose colored glasses and interpret it that way and you got yourself a "theory of science" which is neither a theory nor science.

swurgle said...

Asher - You hold the existence of evolution to a very high standard of proof. What is your standard ofr proof for the existance of God?

Orthoprax said...

cyber,

"Why do you consider the existence of the Universe to be 'profound'..? What do you mean by that?"

That there is something going on beneath (or above) the superficial material world which we perceive. There's more to existence.

And don't misunderstand me, I'm not talking spiritual planes or anything (though that may be just other words for similar ideas) but in a very Kantian sense, noumenal existence vs phenomenal existence.

"What criteria did you use to come to the conclusion that the Universe is unlikely to exist without God in it?"

The very aspect of the universe in which I believe there is more than materialism is where God (whatever that means precisely) is playing a direct role.

God doesn't exist "in" the universe, God is inseparably linked with the universe on the most transcendental and/or fundamental ways.


JA,

"Assuming you don't believe God specifically designed things like the Grand Canyon, are they any less moving because they're the product of thoughtless natural processes?"

We're not talking about evolution or specific objects in our universe, we're talking about the universe itself.

From whence did evolution or these other natural processes find the very orderly existence necessary for their operations?

As far as we know, we've only got one universe. If it began on random principles (though I don't know how such randomness could even exist outside of a universe) then I would expect nothing but chaos to be formed. Yet not only do we have existence, we have an orderly existence.

Even from a scientific perspective I am incredibly suspicious of convenient just-so coincidence stories. The we-got-really-lucky hypothesis for the universe's origins just doesn't seem very persuasive.

Jewish Atheist said...

Orthoprax:

1) You might want to read up on chaos and complexity theories. They're all about how fantastically complicated phenomena can arise from the simplest starting conditions.

2) Isn't an omnipotent Creator the ultimate "just-so" story? There are a range of explanation which seem simpler than special creation -- for example the multiple universes theory or just the anthropic principle.

Orthoprax said...

JA,

"You might want to read up on chaos and complexity theories."

I am familiar with them. The bottom line is that they require some set of orderly rules on which to operate on.

"Isn't an omnipotent Creator the ultimate "just-so" story?"

Quite right. I don't buy that either.

Jewish Atheist said...

So you believe in a semi-potent Creator?

Orthoprax said...

JA,

I cannot qualify what I cannot understand.

CyberKitten said...

So orthoprax...

You seem to be saying that as you feel that 'something is going on' beyond what we perceive at the material level we call reality that gives rise to the idea that the Universe *is* God. Interesting (though please correct me if I'm misrepresenting you).

For many years I too thought that 'something funny' was going on but as I read & thought about things I realised that the feeling doesn't really lead anywhere productive. The Universe is strange and apparently strangely ordered but that doesn't make me think (or feel) that the Universe *is* God.

If the Universe wasn't 'just so' then we wouldn't be here to observe it. It appears ordered to us because we live here & have developed senses that see order sometimes where none exists. If the Universe was chaotic then we wouldn't be here. Order is not 'inexplicable' in the way you seem to be looking at it... again please correct me if I'm misreading you.

Orthoprax said: in a very Kantian sense, noumenal existence vs phenomenal existence.

Sorry. But you're going to have to explain that to me.

Sadie Lou said...

Scott said,
Which is all well and good but doesn't address my point.

Something does not come from nothing.


Which is why the classic question, what came first, the chicken or the egg? is so retarded.
Of course the chicken came first. What in the world would be the function of an unfertalized egg?
It couldn't be fertalized because that evidence would point to there being a chicken or two chickens (rooster) involved, wouldn't it?
It's the same with the question, if God exists, who created God?
There has to be a beginning.
Something does not come from nothing and Scott asked, in what scientific setting has that ever happened? God started the whole thing and set everything in motion and that includes your big bang theory--now, take God out of the equation what started events into motion?
Nothing?
hmmmm...

Irviner Chasid said...

>There are a range of explanation which seem simpler than special creation -- for example the multiple universes theory or just the anthropic principle.

Your definition of simple is quite bizzare.

It took seemingly 0 years for homosapiens to believe in an after life. (according to the scientific records)

It took generations upon generations of science to concieve of a way in which "randomness" could create a highly structred universe(even though it doesn't work in the lab for anything on the macro scale)

The concept of an infinite being creating an ordered universe with added aspects of variablity is much more "simple" than the concept of complete randomness creating in 1 species on earth a sense of an afterlife. (not that neadrathals and homo-erectus are never found burried with items next to them, only Homosapiens have graves and tombs and signs of thoughts of an afterlife)

CyberKitten said...

[sigh]

The opposite of planned is not random - it's unplaned.

The Universe is not random. This does not mean that it was either planned or created. Evolution is not random. That's why its called Evolution by Natural Selection. Mutations are randomly produced. Selection is not random.

Just because Evolution, the Universe or the banding together of atoms to form molecules is not random it does not follow that it *must* have been planned by God.

If the 'rules' of physics and chemistry that have been discovered over the past centuries did not exist and things only happened randomly then we would not be having this debate as nothing would exist.

Irviner Chasid said...

>un·planned (ŭn-plănd') pronunciation
adj.

1. Not intended; unintentional.
2.
1. Having no particular purpose, organization, or structure; random.
2. Not thought out or prepared in advance; spontaneous: an unplanned adventure; an unplanned picnic.

So, whats the difference between having no structure, being random, and being unplanned again?

Jewish Atheist said...

Orthoprax:

Whatever it is that you think you're describing with the word "God" it has NOTHING in common with what any of the other commenters here mean by it or what most religious people mean by it. I don't see how it's fundamentally different from the multiverse or branes or infinitely expanding-contracting theory.

Well, I do see how it's different -- you're implying an intelligence without actually saying so because you know that saying so is absurd. It seems to me like you're trying to have it both ways.

Sadie Lou

Funny, I never thought about this, but the chicken-egg dilemma gets to the heart of the evolution-creation debate. If you believe in evolution, of course the egg came first, since whatever the first chicken's mother was, it wasn't a chicken. (Not that real evolution works so abruptly, but if we're going to draw a line somewhere, it would have to be before the egg, since any mutations or recombinations would have happened before the egg was fertilized.)

Of course, if God created animals from scratch/dirt, then the chicken would have to come first.

Irviner Chasid said...

>"God" it has NOTHING in common with what any of the other commenters here mean by it or what most religious people mean by it.

I dissagree.

It has everything in common with the way Judaism ultimately defines Gd when you get down to the details.

Its called Panathiesm, which is different from panthiesm.

It sounds to me like your education about Gd never went past elementary school, where you think about a "big guy in a funky chair"

Jewish Atheist said...

It has everything in common with the way Judaism ultimately defines Gd when you get down to the details.

Its called Panathiesm, which is different from panthiesm.


Are you saying Judaism does not hold that God spoke to Moses or appeared in a burning bush or split the Red Sea or dictated the Torah? Because I'm sure Orthoprax doesn't believe those things.

It sounds to me like your education about Gd never went past elementary school, where you think about a "big guy in a funky chair"

Not that it's particularly relevant, but I went all the way through high school and beyond in Orthodox institutions.

Irviner Chasid said...

>Not that it's particularly relevant, but I went all the way through high school and beyond in Orthodox institutions.

As did I, and never did the schools go beyond the elementary school definition of Gd.

Unless you had a class specifically dedicated to G-d, odds are you never learned beyond the level of the simple meaning of the midrash.

How many books have you read that deal specifically with the question of defining Gd, and how can Gd be part of our world?

>Are you saying Judaism does not hold that God spoke to Moses or appeared in a burning bush or split the Red Sea or dictated the Torah? Because I'm sure Orthoprax doesn't believe those things.

I can't say what orthoprax believes or doesn't, however the words his has written in this thread do not preclude the concept of Gd interacting with our perceptions of the world around us.

Orthoprax said...

Cyber,

"You seem to be saying that as you feel that 'something is going on' beyond what we perceive at the material level we call reality that gives rise to the idea that the Universe *is* God."

Not exactly. It isn't the universe itself that is God, but the fundamental 'thing' going on behind the scenes that I identify with God. See the most recent post on my blog - I use the word hypokeimenon.

"If the Universe wasn't 'just so' then we wouldn't be here to observe it. It appears ordered to us because we live here & have developed senses that see order sometimes where none exists. If the Universe was chaotic then we wouldn't be here."

But the universe is not chaotic and we _are_ here. It doesn't just appear ordered, it really is. That's what makes it possible for complex structures and processes to go on in the first place.

As far as I know, we've only got one universe - and it's an ordered one. I don't believe we just lucked out that the one universe happened to be such a good one for complex stuff like humankind to form.

Only if you believe that universes are common events in some superuniverse with a universe generating machine do the properties of our one universe no longer seem impressive.

But to believe that is just a different kind of faith.

"Sorry. But you're going to have to explain that to me."

Kant's noumenal reality is the unseen, utterly unknowable reality of things-in-themselves and how they really exist - as opposed to the phenomenal world which is populated by objects and things as perceived through the human sensory organs and processed through the human mind. Our perceptions and our use of human reason are inherently flawed for the effort of determining the true nature of ultimate reality.

Orthoprax said...

JA,

"Whatever it is that you think you're describing with the word "God" it has NOTHING in common with what any of the other commenters here mean by it or what most religious people mean by it."

You may be right. Most religious people have very limited understandings of what God could actually mean in a realistic setting.

But I don't think you've considered some of the great philosophical/theological minds of the past. My ideas have some resonance with Plato, Aristotle, Kant, Spinoza and even Maimonides and the Besht.

"I don't see how it's fundamentally different from the multiverse or branes or infinitely expanding-contracting theory."

Ah, and that's the beauty of it! They may not realize it yet, but scientists and theologians may very well have been searching for the very same thing all along.

"Well, I do see how it's different -- you're implying an intelligence without actually saying so because you know that saying so is absurd. It seems to me like you're trying to have it both ways."

I don't know what it would mean for an intelligence to exist by itself and then 'form' the universe. It doesn't make any sense to me. But none of the other supposed explanations make much sense either. Honestly, I can't say what the nature of God may be. I don't know.

Orthoprax said...

IC,

"I can't say what orthoprax believes or doesn't, however the words his has written in this thread do not preclude the concept of Gd interacting with our perceptions of the world around us."

Just to remove all doubt, the truth is that I do not believe God interacts with mankind in terms of miracles or revelations - at least not as far as they are commonly understood.

Perhaps 'revelation' or 'prophecy' could be the effect of some highly perceptive mind experiencing the Ultimate (like in some eureka-type moment, or perhaps a profound experience) but in no sense would I say that God talks to man as in conversation, telling stories and giving commandments.

At the very best, I might say that the stories in Tanach are the expressions of people's perceptions of God, but even then it must be recognized that a lot of what is in there must have been from baser sources.

Jewish Atheist said...

Orthoprax:

But I don't think you've considered some of the great philosophical/theological minds of the past. My ideas have some resonance with Plato, Aristotle, Kant, Spinoza and even Maimonides and the Besht.

I may simply lack the mental apparatus necessary to understand what those guys were saying, but when I see something like

the unseen, utterly unknowable reality of things-in-themselves and how they really exist

I get the impression that they're just basically making stuff up and calling it God. If it's "unknowable," how can we talk about it? What evidence is there for this "reality of things-in-themselves?" Don't we know by now that Plato's Platonic forms, for example, are just a bunch of metaphysical silliness? There's no Platonic horse, just a bunch of things similar enough to each other that we can get away with calling them horses.

Most of the people on your list were complete geniuses who wanted desperately to believe. Yes, they can concoct some idea of "God" which is ultimately unfalsifiable, but the "God" they leave us with isn't appreciably different from my atheism, as far as I can tell.

One thing's for sure -- and I think you'll even agree with this -- if some form of God does exist, my atheism is probably still closer to the truth than most theists' simple faith. And certainly your panentheism/Platonic idealism/whatever provides no more guidance for how to live than my naturalistic materialism does.

Orthoprax said...

JA,

"I get the impression that they're just basically making stuff up and calling it God."

Many of these guys were philosophical originators on grand scales. They created whole new ways of thinking about the world. You could say that such efforts were just "making stuff up," but it would be a severe insult.

"If it's "unknowable," how can we talk about it? What evidence is there for this "reality of things-in-themselves?""

See, you're stuck in the philosophical perspective of scientific skepticism or positivism where if something cannot be measured it can be considered as if it does not exist.

But you know very well that there simply _must_ be things that cannot be measured that do, in fact, exist. You are cutting yourself off from that whole section of reality just because it doesn't fit into the category of things to which you grant allowance.

There are things out there that are real even though we have no evidence for them. There are real things out there that the human mind is simply unable to conceive or for the human senses to perceive. Is this really so anathemical to your belief system? As evolved beings, do you think we were 'designed' to comprehend every aspect of our existence? It's a miracle we can understand anything at all.

Our powers of Reason have limits - and even though we may never find that black cat running around in a dark room (which may not even be there) we are still drawn to do so by our power of reason which lead us to ask the questions yet which cannot offer many answers.

The evidence for noumenal reality is not going to be the hard stuff of science, but the tracing patterns found in transcendental philosophy.

"Most of the people on your list were complete geniuses who wanted desperately to believe."

Perhaps. But perhaps you ought to also consider the possibility that they really thought it was the best solution.

"..but the "God" they leave us with isn't appreciably different from my atheism, as far as I can tell."

The difference lies in the attempt to fill in the blank. They filled it with something, while you are content to leave it blank. Yet leaving it blank is surely an incorrect answer as any test-taker will tell you.

"One thing's for sure -- and I think you'll even agree with this -- if some form of God does exist, my atheism is probably still closer to the truth than most theists' simple faith."

Probably. I'd put anyone who's thought out the subject matter thoughtfully and critically above simple faith any day.

"And certainly your panentheism/Platonic idealism/whatever provides no more guidance for how to live than my naturalistic materialism does."

Perhaps not, but that's hardly the whole of my religious philosophy.

Even were a straight up theist to come and give his spiel on theistic ontology, it wouldn't tell us anything about how to live life.

At best, all that I've offered here so far is food for thought. (Which works out nicely since I believe thinking, considering, imagining, wondering is a key aspect of life and the human experience.)

Irviner Chasid said...

>Just to remove all doubt, the truth is that I do not believe God interacts with mankind in terms of miracles or revelations - at least not as far as they are commonly understood.


Thats a fairly meaningless statement. Almost every rishon I have read on the topic has described prophecy as something that happens only within the mind of the prophet. If you were with Moshe at the burning bush, you would not have seen any fire.

asher said...

Irviner chasid..

Wow..you've just described mental illness. Hard to believe the rishonim could pre-date Freud by that many years.

Voices talking to you in your head;
and this is prophecy?

Sadie Lou said...

since whatever the first chicken's mother was, it wasn't a chicken.

What the heck?
That still does not solve the problem.
Even if the first 'chicken' was actually a dinosaur of some kind, the answer is still, "the chicken came first" even if the "chicken" was actually a dinosaur.
Where did this little, chicken-like dino come from?
It still poses the question, did something come from nothing? And if the answer is "yes", was it an isolated event? Because normally, nothing comes from nothing.

Orthoprax said...

IC,

"If you were with Moshe at the burning bush, you would not have seen any fire."

If I were at the Red Sea, would I have seen walls of water? Were I at Sinai, would I have heard God's voice?

Orthoprax said...

Sadie,

"Even if the first 'chicken' was actually a dinosaur of some kind, the answer is still, "the chicken came first" even if the "chicken" was actually a dinosaur."

A chicken is not a dinosaur. It's really that simple. Dinosaur eggs came way before the first chicken - hence the egg came first.

However, the first _chicken egg_ could only have come out of that first chicken and therefore the chicken came before the chicken egg.

You have to be more specific.

CyberKitten said...

sadie Lou posed the question: Where did this little, chicken-like dino come from?
It still poses the question, did something come from nothing? And if the answer is "yes", was it an isolated event? Because normally, nothing comes from nothing.

If you go back far enough then the something you're probably thinking of is a bunch of chemicals in a sea or lake somewhere... So something actually came from previous somethings all the way back to the Big Bang...

Scott said...

...where something came from nothing.


Or not.

CyberKitten said...

I have no idea scott... but I don't think that "God did it" counts as an 'explanation' - at least not to me...

I'm not sure that we can even talk about the origins of the Big Bang in day to day language... but I don't know enough about it to debate it fully.

Irviner Chasid said...

>If I were at the Red Sea, would I have seen walls of water? Were I at Sinai, would I have heard God's voice?

The sea... who knows. The Torah is not really explicit in that, and the midrashim contradict eachother.

As for Gd's voice... You have to define that, there is no vocal chord with which to make a voice. But there is no doubt that if you were a Jew and you were at Mount Sinai would you know that Gd was communicating with you.

as for the mental illness comment, and Freud... What do you think the Jewish concept of Yezter Harah, Yetzer Tov, and Neshama are?

Sadie Lou said...

Orthopax--
You'd have to go back and read what JA actually said about chickens not coming from chickens and I was just trying to make sense of it.
:)

Simon said...

One thing I found out today, Dinosaurs are not extinct!

"The current scientific consensus holds that birds evolved from theropod dinosaurs. Using the strict cladistical definition that all descendants of a single common ancestor are related, modern birds are dinosaurs and dinosaurs are, therefore, not extinct."

Yay! I look forward to Jurassic Park 4 featuring a few pigeons and a couple of ostriches. And geese can give you a nasty nip, I can tell you.

David said...

One of the most astounding things I learned this year (which, of course, may end up being not true, or true) from reading Brian Greene's "The Fabric of the Cosmos", is that the Singularity, at the time of the Big Bang, may have weighed at most on the order of about 20 pounds! The entire universe.

The "inflationary period" in the Big Bang, during which space itself began expanding at a rate much faster than the speed of light, itself caused matter to be created, from energy. The Singularity seems to have been a point of nearly infinite energy and order (as opposed to chaos/entropy) - the universe has been winding down, entropy increasing, ever since.

This, and the existence of human consciousness, and of course the fact the there is existence rather than nothingness, may be about the only facts that cause me to question atheism, and leave me clinging to agnosticism. I know I know, teapots may just as well be orbiting the sun, but I'm an atheist in progress ;-)

alex said...

Simon wrote: "The current scientific consensus holds that birds evolved from theropod dinosaurs."

Larry Martin [one of the world's foremost experts on the birds of
the Mesozoic era], The Sciences, March/April 1988: "I began to grow
disenchanted with the bird-dinosaur link when I compared the
eighty-five or so anatomical features seriously proposed as being
shared by birds and dinosaurs. To my shock, virtually none of the
comparisons held up....the moral of the story is that such poor
attention to detail has been repeated with almost every feature
cited to support a bird-dinosaur relation. No wonder that [the book
criticizing the link] has an undercurrent of righteous outrage, or
that it has been so bitterly attacked by the practitioners of the
faulty logic it exposes."

Anonymous said...

Nucleic acids "reproduced?" That's not science.