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ByFaithAlone last won the day on June 10 2013

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About ByFaithAlone

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    Fencing (epee), chess, science, history, theology, apologetics, chemistry, philosophy, politics, cosmology, teaching, backpacking

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  1. ByFaithAlone

    Let's Start a Dialogue

    First of all, let me welcome you to the discussion Abdicate. Although not originally intended to be a discussion on theistic evolution it seems to have evolved into one (pun intended). Also it is quite nice to meet a fellow chemist. I did a lot of research in a biochemical/bioengineering laboratory as an undergraduate. Now let's go through your points as best we can. On your first point, you mention that some people assume they know everything and that assumptions tend to cause problems when searching for truth. I would completely agree with you that this would be a bad starting place and simply assuming things to be true would not be good science. You give several examples of assumptions that are made. Let's talk in brief about each of them. First, let's deal with the idea that our planet was seeded by extraterrestrial (although perhaps not sentient life - for example on theory of this seeding is that basic microbes came via a meteorite). This hypothesis attempts to deal with the question of abiogenesis which is a difficult field of study with no hard evidence pointing in one direction or another. This is indeed a hypothesis but has little evidence to support it and is not recognized as a well-proven theory by the scientific community (unlike evolution and the Big Bang for example which are regarded as having sufficient scientific evidence to warrant the title of theory). Next, let's deal with the question of the age of the universe and planets. Now this is calculated through a variety of methods from the isotopic decay of certain elements or based on the speed of certain galaxies and their distance from us. By extrapolating backwards scientists can calculate the age of certain objects and the universe. Lastly, let's deal with the speed of light issue. Speed of light is not constant and whoever told you that probably meant that speed of light in a vacuum is constant. This is true and that speed is the value of c that we see in numerous equations. If there is a paper that says otherwise I'd be interested in looking at it but no such evidence has been provided. Now, let's discuss some of your other points. In regards to the issue of Adam, there was a previous point made about this so I would ask that you look back in the thread to look over that issue. Next, let's deal with the "problems" you see within evolution. As to if evolution has stopped, the scientific evidence shows that it hasn't. Although it is harder to notice in animals due to their relatively longer lifespans, plants, short-lived animals and bacteria are probably the fastest to change. For example, the salsify family of plants which used to be one species back around 1900 has since split into several. E. coli is another quite famous example with multiple subspecies evolving from a single genetic heritage in laboratories. The apple maggot fly and the sea urchin Echinometra are some good examples of allopatric speciation. You and I agree that Scripture it true and that God is the Creator - an Uncaused Cause that made the universe and imparted upon humanity His image. I would simply disagree with a literal interpretation of the creation account found in Genesis. I would suggest that an allegorical view would better represent the historical views of the Early Church and would also line up with our understanding of God's creation through science.
  2. ByFaithAlone

    Let's Start a Dialogue

    Ok so now you aren't even addressing the issues I raised in your last argument. Let us at the very least be courteous to each other and consider each other's points. I have addressed your concerns about logical fallacies that a person holding my position may need to be wary of committing. Please do not debase the discussion to the point of ad hominem attacks. Scripture notes that we should always be ready to defend our views in a respectful manner (1 Peter 3:15-16) and commends those that study the works of the Lord (Psalm 111:2).
  3. ByFaithAlone

    Let's Start a Dialogue

    Sorry about my delay in response. I've been away for a bit. So let's deal with the fallacy of composition argument. Later, Michael aslo mentions a slightly different fallacy (argumentum ad populum) although he doesn't mention it by name. Just for those who do not know what they are and may need a reference, here are some definitions. Fallacy of Composition - the error of assuming that what is true for a member of the group is true for the group as a whole. Argumentum ad populum - the fallacious argument that says the proposition must be true because most people believe it to be true Michael is arguing (and please correct me if I am wrong) that just because Origen and others believed that the allegorical view of the creation account Genesis is correct does not mean that the entire Early Church believed it to be the correct interpretation (that would be a fallacy of composition as he rightly points out). On this, he and I completely agree. I have never argued that everyone in the Early Church viewed the creation account as allegorical. I have merely pointed out that it is a well-known, orthodox and historical viewpoint held by many members. Origen is one but as I mentioned there are other early Christians and contemporary Jewish scholars who held that view of Genesis (Augustine, Irenaeus of Lyons, Philo, etc.). There are of course people who thought it was literal as well. St. Basil is probably the oldest example that comes to mind. I think he is slightly outnumbered by those in the Early Church who wrote about the allegorical nature of the creation account but there were certainly people who voiced support for a literal six day creation. Now, I would never call Basil or anyone else who believe in a literal six day creation a heretic for doing so. However, I would still disagree with him as I believe that an allegorical view of creation is supported by science (the study of God's creative work) and by an orthodox interpretation of Scripture. Michael then goes on to mention that I am arguing that it is a widely accepted theory and thus it must be true. This would be a slightly different fallacy mentioned in my second definition - argumentum ad populum. When it comes to evolution this idea (or an appeal to authority) is a common objection thrown out by detractors. The main difference between such logical fallacies and the field of evolutionary biology is that in the scientific field evidence is required before a hypothesis is given enough support and weight to be called a theory. So scientists do not tend to hold the belief that evolution is an accurate theory for explaining the current state of life because of the vast amount of people that believe it but rather due to the scientific evidence that we have gathered over the last century or so. The last thing to discuss is the matter of Origen. As I have already mentioned Origen was certainly not flawless when it came to his theological beliefs. Some beliefs he had were hotly debated during his lifetime and afterwards with some of them being later viewed as unorthodox and even antithetical to the beliefs of the Church. My point behind addressing Origen, Augustine, Philo, etc. was to show that this was a historical view of creation that was never viewed a heresy by the Early Church nor was it considered to be a "lack of faith" as Michael thinks it to be. An allegorical view of the creation in Genesis does not mean that someone's faith is lacking. Rather, in more Thomistic terms, it means that the theistic evolutionist can accept both God's revelation through Scripture and his revelation through nature.
  4. ByFaithAlone

    What Argument Do You Use for God's Existence?

    Personally, I would not use this argument. This is certainly a classical argument along the lines of the Watchmaker Argument and has been used in the past but is probably one of the weaker way to argue for God's existence. This is essentially an argument from biological complexity. In other words, how could life be so complicated with out a creator? Although this argument may be convincing to some, I don't think atheists who are well-versed in evolutionary biology will have much of a problem with this argument as although evolution gives no answers as to the origins of life (that falls under the study of abiogenesis) it does present a reasonable explanation as to the development of complexity through mutations. Of course, you are free to disagree with those explanations. But I would say it would not be particularly effective as an argument if you want to convince an atheist especially if they are well-versed in evolutionary biology. Arguments based around modal logic or the past-finite nature of the universe would be much more interesting to me personally and would be more effective in my view.
  5. ByFaithAlone

    Existence of Life proves there is God

    Ok let's just go over a few things. Firstly, you understanding of evolution is not quite correct. You state that "By evolution, I mean the process or processes whereby life as we now know it has come about from an originally inorganic universe through purely mechanistic actions in conformity with the laws of the physical universe." This is just an incorrect definition for evolution and more closely resembles a definition for abiogenesis although it still probably needs a few edits to fit. Evolutionary biology only deals with what occurs after life already exists. Next let's also take a look at the end of your argument. I have edited the text formatting so as to make it easier to read but none of your words have been changed. Ok so this is just incorrect on so many levels. Firstly, you start off with pure speculation and another assumption about evolutionary biology. Evolutionary biology does not argue for some sort of ultimate pinnacle of biological fitness. The entire idea of an "ultimate consummation" of evolution does not exist. Additionally, you speculate that one can evolve to have features that are non-biological (omnipotence for example). This is simply not how evolutionary biology works. Secondly, there is no evolutionary way to become no longer subject to time if you exist within the universe as space and time are intrinsically linked. Physicists generally just refer to it as spacetime nowadays. I would agree with you that some creatures and perhaps eventually humans could aim and perhaps achieve some sort of biological immortality (i.e. not dying due to old age/disease) but nothing within the universe could ever be truly immortal. Firstly, everything in the universe is past-finite (see below for more on this). Secondly, current cosmological models indicate the heat death of the universe in the far distant future and even if you could live until that point you would eventually run out of energy and thus die along with the rest of the universe. Lastly, not only would this be impossible but I believe it would be antithetical to the theistic view of the universe and God. Current physics suggest that any inflationary universe (such as our own) is past-finite (geodesically past incomplete). Theists would argue that there must be a cause for the universe which would be an Uncaused Cause or God. In the model you present it is quite the opposite with the universe pre-existing before God exists and God coming into being. This would not be a classical definition of God as such a God would be past-finite. Thus it clashes with theistic thinking on the matter and there still remains the problem of a past-finite universe.
  6. ByFaithAlone

    Let's Start a Dialogue

    I am not saying Origen was perfect. None of us have a perfect theological understanding and obviously I don't agree with everything Origen had to say. Obviously, some of his views should rightly be considered to be flawed. However, let us note that even in the quote you post above it mentions that he also defended "orthodoxy" and Christian groups still hold to some of his ideas just not all of them. Also note that the allegorical interpretation of the creation account was not one of the theological positions condemned in 553. Instead you are throwing the baby out with the bathwater. In debate one might call this an ad hominem attack or an attack on the character of the person (i.e. because one thing someone said is incorrect, everything else they say must also be incorrect). As I mentioned before, he is not the only one in the Early Church to hold such views on Genesis and the creation account. Irenaeus of Lyons who wrote "Against Heresies" and criticized certain dogmas of the Alexandrian school of thought (which Origen belonged to) also commented on the allegorical nature of the creation in Genesis. St. Augustine who is probably one of, if not the most, respected theologian and Church Father in the Western tradition also uses allegorical interpretation. Simply pointing out that certain members of the church were wrong about one or multiple aspects of theology does not indicate that we should reject them altogether. After all, I am sure we are all wrong about some matters of theology. My point is that it is a well documented historical and common interpretation of the Early Church that the creation account was allegorical in nature and none of these views were condemned by any of the Early Church councils when all Christians were still unified.
  7. ByFaithAlone

    Let's Start a Dialogue

    I would agree to this in part. I would say that some people may find certain philosophical arguments for God's existence compelling and others will not. As you say, at the very least it is a starting point. For others, it may encourage a theistic or deistic approach to the universe if perhaps not a Judeo-Christian one. I very much follow in the footsteps of Augustine, Aquinas, Bacon and others who thought reason and science was one way for us to experience God in our lives. As you say, this is not the only way to experience God nor do I claim it is the best way. All I know is that it works for me and I am grateful for that. I think I always specified that it is the creation account as allegorical. If I misspoke once and said the entirety of Genesis please forgive me. When Origen, Augustine and others talk of the allegorical nature of Genesis, they refer to the creation account. Also remember that just because a specific name is used by Christ don't assume that the person is historical. Context is key. For example, when Jesus tells the parable of Lazarus and the rich man most Christians do not assume that particular Lazarus existed (obviously there is the other Lazarus who was a friend of Christ who's story is not told in allegorical form). He does not need to state that Lazarus and the rich man are not historical figures as this was and is understood. Rather, they are part of a parable by which Christ taught about humility, salvation and the afterlife among other things. If we apply the context of the Jewish thinkers at the time and the Church Fathers it seems to indicate that many prominent Jews, apostles and the earliest followers of the Christian faith took an allegorical approach to the creation account. With regards to the specific individuals you mention, theistic evolution in general does not deny the possibility of a historical Adam or historical descendants. Some theistic evolutionists believe Adam and Eve to be historical while others view them as allegorical. Either way, most theistic evolutionists would argue that it is unlikely that they are the only humans given that in Genesis it notes that Cain was fearful of being killed by those "in the land of Nod." One.opinion linked an article on this thread or perhaps the other active thread regarding a historical Adam and theistic evolution coexisting. Nor do theistic evolutionists deny the possibility of a historical flood although most if not all would argue that the flood was a localized event and that water covered "the whole land" is a better translation into English then the translation water covered "the whole world." In regards to God creating humanity, a theistic evolutionist would agree that this is true. However, we would contend that this creation is within the framework of biological evolution. In other words, God created man through that process and imbued humanity with the imago deo (Image of God). The Image of God and our relationship with the creator is what makes humans unique. Thus, theistic evolutionists do not deny God's creative power and still place God as the Uncaused Cause or Prime Mover in Thomistic terms. Once again, such an interpretation seems consistent with the Jewish thought on the matter at the time (see the work of Philo) and early Christian thinkers that were taught either directly by apostles or by the followers of the apostles.
  8. ByFaithAlone

    Let's Start a Dialogue

    I'm not entirely sure what your point is here. I agree with you that Origen talked with many pagans. And he did reference philosophy, Scripture, logic and science in his discussions with these pagan intellectuals. Origen was part of the Alexandrian school of early Christian thought. Alexandria is thought to have been evangelized by St. Mark and held a special place in the early Christian Church (hence why the Catholics/Orthodox/Coptics/some Anglicans refer to Alexandria as the See of St. Mark the Evangelist) as it was a center for Christian theology. As your little snippet above mentions, Origen saw science, logic and philosophy as all pointing towards the divine providence of God. Augustine and later Aquinas, Moore, Bacon and others would also share this view. The most famous example is probably the writings entitled "Against Celsus" which was sort of an open letter between him and the aforementioned Celsus debating the merits of Christianity with Origen championing the Christian cause. However, I am not entirely sure how this is relevant other than proving that Origen was an early evangelist and intelligent man. If you are trying to claim that science somehow warped Origen's view, please see below. In your statement earlier you said the following regarding an allegorical interpretation of the creation account in Genesis. I rebutted this by saying that Origen, Augustine, etc. (early Christians) and Philo (a contemporary Jewish scholar) all held this allegorical view of the Genesis account. This was long before they could have ever known about evolutionary biology or modern cosmological ideas of a past-finite inflationary universe. There was no science available to them that could have suggested the age of the Earth or the universe as a whole. They held these views of Scripture long before any scientific input you claim is used to "misinterpret" Genesis. Instead, we need to an acknowledge that an allegorical interpretation of Genesis was around long before modern science could tell us the age of the universe or before we had access to the genomes of plants and animals. It is a historically authentic, theologically consistent and perfectly orthodox way of viewing Scripture held by some of the greatest and most influential minds in the Early Church.
  9. ByFaithAlone

    Let's Start a Dialogue

    Regarding your first statement, you have either not been reading what I am writing or are deliberately misinterpreting my statements. Those who I quote are Origen, Philo, Augustine and many others in the early church. They held these positions long before modern cosmological models or evolutionary biology were understood. So you are incorrect that these claims were made to match with science. Rather, it was a historical position of many members of the early church and Jewish thinkers from the time of Christ. Now you are free to disagree with these thinkers. Just realize that by doing so you are disagreeing with some of those closest to the disciples in terms of both time and historical views on Scripture and you are criticizing those who shaped the Creeds we espouse today. As to your second point that the Theory of Evolution alone cannot provide a basis for universal moral law I would agree. Hence the theistic part of theistic evolution. In my worldview, God is still responsible for universal moral law. As to your closing statement, I would argue that using historical sources (the members of the early church) in combination with analysis of text and our understanding of God's creation through science, an allegorical approach would be the most logical and straightforward approach to Genesis (as opposed to the literalism you espouse).
  10. ByFaithAlone

    Let's Start a Dialogue

    Once again, I would agree with you 100% if I agreed that Christ and his disciples viewed Genesis as a literal telling of God's creative work. I would argue that they likely did not view Genesis with such literalism. Why would I argue that? Mainly due to contemporaries of Christ (Philo of Alexandria for example) did not view Scripture in that way nor did a majority of the early church (once again see Origen of Alexandria, Augustine, etc.) Those in theistic evolution camp (myself and many of the early church included) would argue instead that Genesis is allegorical and shows the relationship between God and creation (Infinite Creator and Finite Created) and that when Paul, Christ and the early church talk about the death caused by the fall they are talking about our death in terms of sinfulness. Paul uses this metaphor several times for example talking about how we die with Christ and are raised anew with him through baptism. This does not mean that we literally die when we are baptized or perhaps there are some ministers and priests that need to be actually tried for hundreds or thousands of murders. The problem in my mind for those who interpret Genesis in a literal manner is two-fold. Firstly, they assume that Christ, his apostles and the early church viewed it in such a way. As I mentioned above, based on the writings we have discussing the subject this is likely not the consensus among those closest (historically) to Christ. Secondly, it assumes that God has deceived humanity through nature by allowing for such vast misinterpretation of the scientific evidence. This contradicts my theological understanding of God (as well as the early church - once again see the writings of Augustine, Origen, etc.). For both these reasons, I would argue against such an approach to Genesis.
  11. ByFaithAlone

    Tricks Theists Play (Part 1)

    BioLogos is another Christian organization that has many articles related to theistic evolution from historical, scientific and theological perspectives if people want to check that out. Members include Francis Collins, world renown geneticist from the human genome project, theologian and historian NT Wright and many more.
  12. ByFaithAlone

    Let's Start a Dialogue

    Bacon very much falls in line with Augustinian and Thomistic thought on that matter. Augustine's 5th century commentary on the book of Genesis is very interesting if people are interested in getting an understanding as to how the early church viewed Genesis.
  13. ByFaithAlone

    Let's Start a Dialogue

    If I had to guess (and Michael please correct me if I am wrong) Michael would argue that evolutionary thought is incompatible with a literal reading of Genesis. I would assume that Michael would reject anything other than a literalistic interpretation of the creation account (6 days, young earth, etc) and sees anything less as a dilution of Scriptural inerrancy. On the other hand, I would of course contend that an allegorical interpretation of Genesis fits with both scientific knowledge of the universe and with the understanding of Genesis held by the Early Church and the Patristic and contemporary Jewish sources we have available.
  14. ByFaithAlone

    Let's Start a Dialogue

    Thanks to everyone for the replies so far. Even back in the day evolution was always a contested topic around here although there were a lot more cosmological discussions which I tend to find a bit more interesting. There used to be a mathematician (viole I think was the username) that had an excellent grasp of the math behind the inflationary cosmology (aka the Big Bang) and theoretical physics in general. She was always interesting. But I digress. To answer your question, I don't think I see my work that much differently than my friends and colleagues who are atheists or Jewish or Muslim or any other philosophical bent. Ultimately, in science the goal is to discover some sort of truths about nature and the universe we inhabit. I take a Thomistic view on the matter seeing science as a way to appreciate the beauty of God while I think my fellow chemists who happen to be atheists tend to view that beauty as wonderful but not of divine origin. I do agree with you in part. I would concur that science has no jurisdiction outside of the natural. However, I would contend that science can be somewhat helpful in discussing certain philosophical arguments for God's existence. For example, the classical Prime Cause philosophical argument first codified in Christian philosophy by Aquinas and since updated and revised numerous times is helped (at least in my mind) by modern cosmological ideas of a past-finite universe (something not known during the time of Aquinas). Certainly both Friedmann and Lemaitre (both devout religious men) thought that inflationary spacetime was best philosophically explained by a creator. I don't think everyone will believe based on these philosophical arguments but they are a starting point for discussion at the very least. I have noticed a lot of threads tend to head towards the evolution debate which I personally find a bit odd as I am a theist who also concurs with the majority of the scientific community on evolution. As you mention above, the important thing to a theist (at least in my mind) is not the method or process of creation but rather that the universe has a creator. Of course many people are very literal when it comes to the writings of Genesis. I am in more of the camp of some of the Church Fathers who viewed the creation as written in Genesis as allegorical (Origen of Alexandria, Iraneaus of Lyons, St. Augustine and Philo - a Jewish contemporary of Christ and the early church). That is perhaps not a popular view around here but it is mine.
  15. ByFaithAlone

    Let's Start a Dialogue

    Ok so it's a long time since I've posted on this forum. I used to be active back in the day but not so much recently. And I used to really enjoy the conversations I had with both believers and nonbelievers on this site regarding science and religion. However, after looking over the forum I have become to notice that things have become rather one sided with believers posting things and demanding that nonbelievers defend against 30-50 bullet points. It all just seems like a phone that only goes one way. I am sure that it must be somewhat annoying for nonbelievers and seekers to be "preached" at all the time. Sometimes people just post a block text of things that they want nonbelievers to account for ranging from abiogenesis to cosmology to evolutionary biology. I am not saying that such threads are unimportant or that people should not be asking questions but I think it's time to turn the tables slightly. I was interested in starting a dialogue between those of faith and those that are interested in leaning more or curious about why people believe what they believe. On Reddit and other such sites there are Ask Me Anything posts (AMAs) where users get to ask a person anything they want related to the person's profession, etc. So let's open up the game and turn things around. I'm a Christian and a scientist with degrees in chemistry and history. I'm going to be an open book as best I can. I am sure there are questions that I will be unqualified to answer but I will try my best. Other people can hop in with their own responses of course and anyone is free to disagree with me and ask more questions. Let's start a dialogue on Science and Faith. AMA.