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Understanding God and 'Free Will' in the Context of Modern Science

Updated on April 29, 2015

The parallel between nature and scripture is so complete, we must necessarily believe that the person who is asking questions of nature and the person who is asking questions of scripture are bound to arrive at the same conclusions. - Origen


Job 12:7-9 - But ask now the beasts, and they shall teach thee; and the fowls of the air, and they shall tell thee: Or speak to the earth, and it shall teach thee: and the fishes of the sea shall declare unto thee. Who knoweth not in all these that the hand of the Lord hath wrought this?

It’s become almost common place to see our modern understanding of the world according to science as contradictory to God, and to see belief in God as an archaic outdated belief system humanity is slow to let go of. There’s this growing consensus that our modern understanding has elevated us beyond such childish beliefs and promises to propel us even further once humanity can finally let go of this concept of a God imagined and fabricated by Bronze Age societies thousands of years ago.

From the believer's perspective, some feel their beliefs are under attack by modern science, not understanding that it's only the age old interpretations of an ancient text that have been proven inaccurate. These interpretations, like a global flood or Adam being the first human to exist, were formed centuries ago before we knew as much about the natural world and its history as we do today. These interpretations were formed solely by reading a vague text that doesn't give much in the way of context or setting, leaving a lot of room for imagination to fill in the blanks. And when you also reject modern knowledge because it seems contrary to your beliefs, you're left with no solid ground to build a strong foundation of understanding atop of.

The view presented in this hub is part of an idea that attempts to more fully understand God informed by the accumulated knowledge of science. Rather than reject modern knowledge, this idea embraces it and hopes to better redefine our concept of God grounded in reality as we know it today. Science cannot speak about whether or not God exists. He's simply outside of its jurisdiction. But what science can do is inform us as to how God's creation works, which offers insight and possible deeper understanding of God Himself.

God's Will

Science reveals to us the methods of God. The way God accomplishes His will. Or, more accurately, the way existence accomplishes God's will. It's not magic. It doesn't just go 'poof' and become something immediately. It's a very granular process. Like a tree that comes from a seed. Time is the thing at play here that makes the process so apparent. Without time there's just what exists and what doesn't. There's no 'before' existing or 'after'. There's just whether or not something exists. Abraham Lincoln and Albert Einstein exist. They don't exist 'now', but they do exist as part of this universe. At one point in time they were single cells. At another point in time they were aging men. Take the process of time out of the picture and they exist. They are a part of this existence. And during their existence they had an impact on the world around them, just as the world around them had an impact on them. And the same goes for all of us.

And just like us humans, who go from sperm/egg, to initial cell, to embryo, infant, toddler, adolescent, adult, etc., so too are trees and animals. And, as we've learned through scientific inquiry, so too are rocks and sand and air and stars. They all have a beginning and an end. Even at the most granular level of the process that brought about a human/rock/tree/sun, that thing exists. And even before, the events that lead to the creation of each are already in motion. In each 'moment' in time, each thing exists in a particular form. It exists as a cell/element/seed/subatomic particle at conception. As the ticks of time progress, the intricate interplay between the behavioral nature of an object acting in accordance to the laws of this universe, results in becoming something. To exist in a form that from beginning to end, and from the initial granular step through to the very last, is a process that time reveals as being never-ending change. The laws of this universe create an environment in which matter reacts/responds, resulting in a metamorphic change that takes many different forms over the course of 'time'.

The conditions of the environment and the intricate way in which matter responds to it, or behaves within it, is what creates us. We are the result of matter under the influence of those laws. Laws that are constant and unchanging. They don't change over time as matter does. We do. Rocks and trees and even the geographic landscape do, but the laws don't. In the matter/law collision, it's the matter that's impacted.

This is how God created the universe. He created an environment in which matter becomes stars/planets/plants/animals/us simply by existing within the space that these laws govern. Like a droplet in a pool that causes a resulting 'ripple', we are the result of an interaction between the two impacting elements. God's will becomes manifest, not instantaneously within the construct of time, but as a process, which reveals itself to be a perpetually changing thing made up of matter reacting to the environment. We all, in this moment, exist as we do during this particular 'tick' of time as part of a 'ripple' that started billions of years ago and will go on for billions more.

Like everything else within this universe, the dimension of time itself also has a beginning and an end. It began when the universe did. Or, more accurately, because the universe exists, time exists. And because we are part of the result of the universe existing, we exist within the dimension of time. From our perspective every form that matter exists in has a beginning and an end. But that's only true from our perspective. It's not the 'ultimate' truth. And the same goes for space. Space and time both only exist within this universe with us. It is only from our perspective, from within, that there is a 'here' and a 'there', or a 'now' and a 'then'. We move around in space over the course of time, behaving only in accordance to the laws that govern the matter we're made up of. Or do we?

René Descartes' illustration of mind/body dualism.
René Descartes' illustration of mind/body dualism.

Free Will

We like to think we have free will. That we're not just the result of our brains, being made of matter, simply behaving in accordance to the laws of nature. We like to think we have some level of control. That we choose our own path. Make our own destiny. But if matter is all we are, then that is all we can be.

Life has its own sets of behaviors as it acts in accordance to its own laws. It behaves in ways that compels it to keep existing. To 'be fruitful and multiply'. To change in whatever way is necessary to survive. To adapt. To learn. And in much the same way that matter is sculpted by the laws of the environment, so too is life sculpted by the environment it exists in. But unlike inanimate matter, life is compelled from within to perpetuate the ripple. To keep it going, actively. Even if that means creating more and more complex biological machines over the course of numerous generations to do so. To move better to actively seek out the elements it needs to continue living and procreating. Life on this planet today was shaped by the environment in which it lives, compelled by an unseen 'will' that propels it forward. Until the dawn of reason.

It's when we began to reason for ourselves that we began to choose our behavior apart from programmed instinct alone. Now, rather than matter simply behaving 'naturally' in accordance to the laws of the environment, we are 'consciously' observing the environment, ourselves within the environment, and we are choosing our actions and behaviors through reason. Whatever animates us and compels us to 'be', has adapted over the course of numerous generations of trial and error to become intelligent, self-aware beings capable of reason. Whether or not these reasoning, self-aware brains of ours really do empower us to behave 'free' of the influence of the natural laws is still very much a debate not yet resolved. If there is indeed a non-physical, undetectable soul that makes up a part of our 'self', then its possible to behave free of natural/physical law. If there isn't, then it isn't possible. But beyond a will simply driven to survive and procreate, we have a will of our own that drives our choices and preferences, our likes and dislikes. A will that can manipulate the matter we're made of to carry out its wishes. To choose the best way in which to do it and execute. Just as the matter of the world becomes God's will, the will that compels life and our physical bodies to "be fruitful and multiply", we too can control the matter of our bodies to carry out our will. For our wants that have no physical form to become action in the material world.

It's no coincidence that behavior, and whether or not that behavior is with or contrary to the will of God, is a major theme throughout the bible. Science only accentuates that point further. Existence exists because matter behaves in very specific ways in accordance to the laws of nature. Since before living organisms had brains capable of reason, they too simply behaved in accordance to its laws. It is through reason that behavior is now altered. And if the delicate balance that science has revealed this planetary ecosystem to be is any indication, how something behaves can have a dramatic impact on the nature of the 'ripple' it creates. For humans to truly have a 'free will' capable of choosing our behavior, based on our limited perspective, is a big responsibility. It is a gift that must, just as everything else that exists, be honed and shaped by the environment. It must learn how best to 'be'.

Free Will Versus Natural Instinct

There's two different 'kinds' of will, and they don't necessarily need to be on the same page. There's the conscious will to live and the subconscious (body). If you consciously want your life to end, you have to kill the body. And the body will fight back. Hold your breath and your body will force you to breathe. Cut yourself and the body will immediately begin to try to heal the damage. The body sneezes, coughs, vomits, gags, shivers, sweats, to live, in spite of whether or not you consciously want the same.

The will to live is present in all living things. It could be that the our ancestors passed on genes that create offspring driven to live. If so then this would have had to have been one of the very first traits developed as every living thing from the simplest to the most complex share it.

Before life could establish such mainstays also common amongst all living things, like homeostasis, metabolism, growth, adaptation, response to stimuli, etc, the will to live AND procreate had to be there. It's what propelled life to be what it is today. Without it we wouldn't have evolved. It's like the default state of life. Our bodies are an extension of that. Each individual cell possesses these same behaviors. Just as each life form, no matter how simplistic, does. These traits at every level are absolute. The above traits are what define organic matter as biologically 'alive'.

Consciously it's a different story. Our conscious minds are made up entirely of learned information gathered through our senses throughout life experience. To us, the outside world, other people, even our own bodies are foreign and strange to us. Our own bodies, which the brain and conscious mind are products of, feel separate from our conscious minds. We're not consciously aware of what the body does inherently. We have to learn it.

This falls right in line with what the bible describes. It begins with the creator of the universe commanding life to 'be fruitful and multiply'. It then deals almost exclusively with these conscious wills of ours that are often at odds with the natural world and that is often even at odds with our own physical bodies. Our conscious mind has a will of its own. An individual will that is yours and mine and that is under our conscious control. And its the behavior of this conscious mind that the bible focuses on. The one thing in all of existence not determined solely by its physical make-up. It's a truly 'free' will.

Without God, without a component of ourselves being a non-physical soul, then we can only be biological machines. We cannot have free will, but rather all our choices and behaviors must be the product of the behavior of the physical matter we are made of.

Source

God's Perspective

Long before scientific enlightenment enabled us to grasp the concepts of time and space, the bible spoke in that language when speaking of God. Below are a few examples that illustrate how the God described in the bible thousands of years ago remains consistent with things we have only learned very recently ....


Of course, it all begins right from the start by explaining that God is the creator of the Heavens and the Earth, which by our present understanding makes the rest of these verses ring true ...

Genesis 1:1 - In the beginning, God created the Heavens and the Earth.

Time
Psalm 90:4 - A thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night.
2 Peter 3:8 - But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.

Space
Psalms 139: 7-10 - Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.
Proverbs 15:3 - The eyes of the Lord are in every place, watching the evil and the good.

Perspective
Psalms 33: 13-14 - From heaven the Lord looks down and sees all mankind; from his dwelling place he watches all who live on earth—

The Power of Free Will

God, being the creator of the universe, cannot be subject to its laws or change over the course of time. His existing apart from this universe means that, from our perspective from within, He exists exactly the same in every space and in every moment, unchanged. Change only applies to things that exist within this universe. And from the perspective of the observer from within, everything in this universe has a beginning and an end. Something 'causes' something else, resulting in things that exist. A couple conceives a child. A bee pollinates a flower. A hydrogen atom fuses with another hydrogen atom. Something causes something else to happen. And each cause results in a 'ripple' effect. The universe itself is one big 'ripple'. My conception caused a smaller ripple that is me. And yours you. From our perspective, we can hardly even conceive of something that does not have a beginning because through our experience everything we have ever known has a finite existence with both a beginning and an end.

The story in Genesis 22 where God tests Abraham by commanding him to sacrifice Isaac is a good example that illustrates both an omnipotent/omniscient God as well as highlight how truly powerful a free will really is. The way we now understand the universe makes sense out of how God is described in the bible. Both time and space are dimensions within this universe. God, being the creator of the universe, exists apart from/outside of/before and after this universe. From His perspective there is no span of time separating past from future and no span of space separating here from there. And from our perspective He is exactly the same, unchanged, in every moment everywhere.

The story where God tells Abraham to sacrifice Isaac is telling. At first it seems contradictory that this omniscient God would need to test Abraham. After all, if He knows all then He should know what Abraham would do, right? Well, not necessarily. Not if free will is truly free. In everything else God knows. Without time, anything we say or do from the beginning of time to the end can only happen one way. We, in the moment, really do have the freedom to choose how to be. But from God's perspective the decision you made in that one moment in time was always that choice. Everything from the beginning of time to the end happens just one way, unchanged. However, in the story of Abraham God actually intervened by addressing Abraham and giving him this command. If He had not then Abraham's decision never would have existed because he never would have been put in a situation to have to make that decision. This illustrates just how powerful free will really is, and just how 'free' we are. God actually had to test Abraham, actually had to create the situation that made Abraham choose, to know what he would do. The same goes for the regret it says God felt about placing humans on the earth in Genesis 6. Only behavior born of a free will could cause God to regret something because, unlike everything else that adheres to God's one unchanging will, the outcome when free willed beings are involved is determined by a wildcard variable that cannot be predicted.


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      Methodskeptic 3 years ago

      All in all, just as a general critique, it's difficult to know what the thesis of your essay actually is. It's kind of rambling, you don't connect your topics very well and I'm not really sure what you're going for, up until the end when you shift gears into the religious without a great deal of connection to the opening paragraphs.

      As before, you also say a number of things which aren't necessarily or demonstrably true:

      {{Whether or not these reasoning, self-aware brains of ours really do empower us to behave 'free' of the influence of the natural laws is still very much a debate not yet resolved. If there is indeed a non-physical, undetectable soul that makes up a part of our 'self', then its possible to behave free of natural/physical law. If there isn't, then it isn't possible.}}

      Correct. However, there is no evidence that the soul actually exists. We experience our decision making process as though we do have free will, but the degree to which it can be altered, primed, misdirected and otherwise impacted by experiment or injury belies that as an illusion.

      Thus far, on every question yet tested, determinism wins and free will is not found.

      Despite acknowledging that the matter is not resolved, later you glibly assert that free will exists. "An individual will that is yours and mine and that is under our conscious control," you say, and yet, all the actual evidence found to date shows that it is not. Objection, your honor: assumes facts not in evidence.

      {{The body sneezes, coughs, vomits, gags, shivers, sweats, to live, in spite of whether or not you consciously want the same.}}

      No mysticism is required to explain this beyond the differentiation between the voluntary and autonomic nervous system. That the prefrontal cortex does not have an absolute veto power is only to be expected given that it's the most lately evolved part of the brain, with involuntary functions doing quite well on their own without this Johnny-come-lately executive function barging in and trying to override their normal operation. There's an evolutionary advantage to being able to exert partial control over some function--holding your breath while hiding from a predator, or not stopping to eliminate waste at a time or place that's inconvenient or even dangerous. But any degree of conscious control that could lead to diminished survival, well, those variations would tend to eliminate themselves from the gene pool quite naturally. Some things our conscious minds just aren't wired into at all, or only very indirectly. There's a reason we have zero control over our heartbeat.

      {{Before life could establish such mainstays also common amongst all living things, like homeostasis, metabolism, growth, adaptation, response to stimuli, etc, the will to live AND procreate had to be there.}}

      The so-called "will to live" doesn't exist. Self-replication is a process of chemistry: even simple amino acids can chain together. Some of those chains catalyze the formation of copies of themselves. Even though they're not alive, some of them do so more efficiently or easily than others. Those forms proliferate and scoop up whatever raw material is available in the primordial soup. Molecules which don't have the capacity to replicate, don't replicate. Molecules which replicate slowly or imperfectly are necessarily in competition with those that are around them and better at it. It's not mystical, it's barely more than tautological. Calling it "the will to (whatever)" only asserts teleology where none is necessary.

      Gradually, step by step, the mechanisms by which replicators replicate get more and more complex until they cross an arbitrarily-designated threshold that we call "life." But at the end of the day, an elephant is still just a DNA molecule's tool for making more copies of itself, and equipping those copies with the means to continue the process.

      The only reason to encrust things like cognition and biology with religious and spiritual overtones is to shore up assumed conclusions, and to preserve preconceived perceptions which fail when subjected to inquiry.

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      Jeremy Christian 3 years ago from Texas

      Hey Methodskeptic, it's good to hear from you again and I appreciate you sharing your thoughts on this hub. I totally agree with you that this hub is more of a rambling, stream-of-consciousness kind of thing that definitely needs some work. Most hubs take me days or even weeks to complete, where this one I finished in an hour or so.

      Re: Evidence for a soul/free will

      This goes back to the primary issue we've discussed before. When speaking of a soul we're talking about something that has always been described as being non-material/non-physical, long before anyone knew the significance of making the distinction, so it's an expected result that there's not going to be physical evidence for something that is metaphysical. The same goes for free will. Like a soul, it's not something you can test for and positively confirm. There's simply no way to objectively verify one way or the other whether or not our behavior is purely determined or whether or not we actually have a free will. This is the issue I'm attempting to tackle here, drawing the distinction between physical/metaphysical, and recognizing the drawbacks you run into when attempting to fit the entirety of existence into a purely material box. All the observable physical material fits in that box, but if taken as nothing more than material it ends up giving the impression that all that life is is purely mechanical. An impression I believe to be inaccurate and short-sighted.

      I often find myself more at odds with believers than non-believers in many regards, but once place I simply cannot get on board is where many atheists who staunchly oppose the concept of a God by standing by a purely materialist viewpoint will then turn around and refer to themselves as secular humanists. All the while apparently not acknowledging that if you follow this purely materialist viewpoint through to its logical conclusions you find that it actually robs humanity of everything that makes us most human.

      Re: mysticism in regards to the disconnect between bodily function and conscious thought

      I'm not claiming mysticism here. I'm simply drawing the distinction. Something I'm sure I made much more clear in my 'evolution of the mind, pt1' hub than I did here. In that hub I do go into how the conscious mind came about way later and is made up entirely of information gained through the senses throughout life experience. And I understand that the behaviors of the body that increase the chance of survival (gagging, coughing, sneezing, etc) are very likely traits gained through evolution where those who lacked these things were simply less likely to pass on their genes.

      Though it should be pointed out that the conscious mind does have more control than you're stating. Heart rate, for example, can be controlled at least to some extent. Panic attacks and anxiety are clearly born of the conscious mind, yet have a significant impact on the functions of the body and can even cause dangerous medical issues.

      Re: the will to live

      This, in my opinion, is part of the danger of the purely materialist viewpoint. It's too easy to boil things down too simplistically and dismiss vital pieces of who we are as being nothing more than purely mechanical/chemical happenings, when in actuality it may very well be more than that. And please understand this doesn't come from a need to inject God or anything supernatural as much as it has to do with wanting to establish and understand the real truth of things.

      I understand what you're saying in the context of those first replicators in the primordial pool. But once you get into locomotion and the ability to move, I don't see it boiling down so simply. I mean, yes, those more capable of moving will be more successful in reaching resources that others are unable to get to, but somewhere along the way came the drive to actively 'hunt' for food. And the trick to that is that actively hunting in and of itself requires energy and increases the risk of damage, so there's a balance that has to be struck to be successful.

      Before the evolution of hunger pangs and the pleasure center, nerves and pain associated with damage, before the evolution of hormones like leptin and ghrelin where fluctuations accompany feelings of hunger, living organisms had to feed to even reach those levels of complexity. Living things are motivated to live. Motivated by the want to avoid discomfort or dissatisfaction. Even the capability to learn, to alter behavior in ways that increase success, requires a 'want' or a 'will' to be successful or learning would achieve nothing.

      Whether you buy into the God aspect, I think it's important to note these things and not be so quick to boil them down to being nothing more than mechanistic happenings. While it does make logical sense in many regards, it also makes it possible that we could be rendering ourselves incapable of recognizing some pretty significant pieces of the puzzle because we're too quick to dismiss these things through pure assumption that this or that 'must have come about this way'.

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      Methodskeptic 3 years ago

      TOPIC: FREE WILL

      (I'm going to tag by topic because Hubpages doesn't support multiple threads of comments.)

      {{{Like a soul, it's not something you can test for and positively confirm.}}}

      'Positively confirm' is not quite correct. It goes back to basic philosophy of science: the criterion is not solely whether you can confirm--that way lies confirmation bias as I've criticized you for on multiple subjects--but whether the notion can be falsified.

      The existence of anything metaphysical is non-falsifiable--not only to you admit this, you seem to actively insist on it, as though it were a strength. In fact, it is a glaring weakness, as without falsifiability you have no objective means to determine whether your belief is true or false.

      {{{There's simply no way to objectively verify one way or the other whether or not our behavior is purely determined or whether or not we actually have a free will.}}}

      You can ask questions and do tests. For example, say I hook you up to an EEG machine and measure your brain activity across multiple areas. We know where "volition" resides--in the prefrontal cortex.

      Say I say to you "In the next minute or so, just raise your arm. Whenever you like." Now, this would be an instance of free will in play. If free will existed, then we would see impulses originate in the frontal lobes, followed by the motor control areas, activating the nerves going to your arm.

      In fact, we do not see this. The motor center activates first, and the impulse to raise the arm is actually already en route to the muscles by the time the so-called "Executive Function" areas activate with the conscious "decision" that was already made unconsciously.

      Now, we already disagreed on whether God has the power to meddle in the world--magic powers, in so many words. You say he doesn't have to, not entirely coherently, but we'll leave that alone for the moment. Free will, on the other hand, necessarily treads squarely into that territory. Our brains are physical, they are impacted by chemical, hormonal, cognitive, even electromagnetic inputs. Material processes occur trillions of times per second.

      Now, for truly metaphysical free will to exist, you effectively assert that the soul possesses the magical power to interfere in these physical processes. To deny the physical inputs to the brain and override them in order to make a truly free choice. In point of fact, I can replace every instance of the word "Metaphysical" and replace it with the word "Magical." There is no semantic difference.

      Why should I believe in magic? There's no evidence for it. We don't need it to explain our observations. Sure, I can imagine it existing. I can also imagine that God created the entire world last Thursday with everything in perfect motion such that it appeared exactly as if it were billions of years old. But there's no way to falsify that position, or free will, so there can be no evidence for it, and no good reason to believe in it.

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      Methodskeptic 3 years ago

      TOPIC: LIFE

      {{{It's too easy to boil things down too simplistically and dismiss vital pieces of who we are as being nothing more than purely mechanical/chemical happenings, when in actuality it may very well be more than that.}}}

      If it is "in actuality" more than that, then demonstrate it. Provide evidence. Reality is what the facts are. Provide facts, provide a means to test, propose a method to determine whether it is IN ACTUALITY true or false. Until then, all the "may be's" and "might be's" are nothing but fanciful speculation.

      If you want to establish and understand the real truth of things, as you say, then there is only one means that has ever measured up and demonstrated an ability to separate what is true from what is false: reason, logic, and the scientific method. I want the same: I want to believe as many true things as possible, and as few false things as possible. The only way to rationally go about that is to suspend belief unless and until evidence is found.

      {{{somewhere along the way came the drive to actively 'hunt' for food.}}}

      What's food? Food is just chemicals that something can consume in order to manufacture more of itself, or to extract chemical energy from in order to catalyze other processes. Even in the chemical replicator world, some structures are better able to assimilate raw materials than others, sometimes so much so that they can even "steal" amino acids from less stable complexes.

      I generally hate to send people to YouTube, but this is one of my favorite videos: The Origin of Life - Abiogenesis [cdk007]: www.youtube.com/watch?v=U6QYDdgP9eg

      What you describe as "drive" or "hunt" for food is only anthorpomorphizing undirected behavior. The simplest bacteria follow chemical gradients toward food or away from danger. There's nothing magical there. Nothing more than mechanistic happenings is necessary to explain them. If there are significant pieces of the puzzle in play, then provide evidence for them. There's no "assumption" that things must have come about this way, there is only investigation into that which is available. On the contrary, you are the one making assumption after assumption about how things are, multiplying the factors involved beyond that which can be supported by available evidence.

      The vast majority of life forms on this planet either by biomass or sheer number of speces do not have any motivation to live or any capacity to experence anything like discomfort or dissatisfaction. They just exist, consume, reproduce, and this was the state of affairs for likely billions of years. They don't hunt, they don't have drives. The only thing I see driving your argument is a romanticized heterotrophic fantasy about what life itself is, and an insistence that your speculations not be excluded from consideration prematurely, even though you have no evidence.

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      Methodskeptic 3 years ago

      (god, the typos...that's what I get from just typing straight into Notepad on a slow day at work.)

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      Jeremy Christian 3 years ago from Texas

      Hey Method,

      "without falsifiability you have no objective means to determine whether your belief is true or false."

      Of course, but because there are no objective means to determine something, does that mean that 'something' does not exist? Let's say, for example, I'm thinking about the first time I kissed a girl right now. Are there any objective means to determine whether or not that memory is really in my mind right now? So, does that mean that memory doesn't actually exist? Or does that mean that there are things that exist that simply cannot be objectively determined?

      "Say I say to you "In the next minute or so, just raise your arm. Whenever you like." Now, this would be an instance of free will in play. If free will existed, then we would see impulses originate in the frontal lobes, followed by the motor control areas, activating the nerves going to your arm."

      How do you know that's free will? That could all be determined by conditioning. Their personality would determine whether or not they raise their arm or how long they wait. Maybe they were a middle child and tend to just follow instructions. Maybe their awkward interacting with people and just do whatever to get out of a situation. There's no way of knowing.

      Brain activity doesn't change. Just because we can see this or that light up and we can draw conclusions by comparing numerous cases, none of this tells us anything in regards to free will. It's still just a physical brain working. And because the physical body is responding, then there's no surprise that there's activity in the brain that correlates. But that doesn't mean that we can conclude one way or the other whether or not these actions are true free will or determined.

      "Now, for truly metaphysical free will to exist, you effectively assert that the soul possesses the magical power to interfere in these physical processes. To deny the physical inputs to the brain and override them in order to make a truly free choice."

      Not quite, but you're definitely catching on. It doesn't have to 'deny physical inputs', it simply steers the ship, so to speak. Magic? Maybe. If that's the word you want to assign to it. But what you're talking about is still one of the biggest philosophical conundrums discussed since the days of Descarte/Hobbs, and even back to ancient Greece. It's known as the mind/body problem... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mind%E2%80%93body_pro...

      For example, let's say you're watching a movie and a particular scene inspires a thought where you imagine someone you love in some truly horrendous situation that you are powerless to stop. The thought just comes to you, seemingly out of nowhere. This isn't a memory, just something you imagined. And as you do you feel pressure behind your eyes as tears well up in your eyes and a lump forms in your throat that makes it hard for you to swallow your popcorn because this is obviously an upsetting thought. Now, nothing physically happened. Neither you nor your loved one are physically harmed and you didn't even witness a physical activity that upset you. It's just something you imagined. It's a mental scenario that had a physical impact. That's the mind/body problem. How do mental activities have physical effects and vise versa? By what mechanism do those particular thoughts in the form of firing neurons result in that particular reaction? Clearly it's a sad/troubling thought. But it's just a thought not unlike the thoughts you had to decide to go to the movies in the first place. Yet these resulted in a lump in your throat and tears in your eyes.

      Now, imagine that for a minute in the context of reality as we now understand it in this scientific age. That means we humans are able to willfully make an impact on the physical world. Maybe it's wiping out an entire species because we like their pelts. Maybe it's wrecking the ozone or the environment because we're more concerned about making money than making responsible decisions that have an impact on others. That's kind of a big deal. Everything else in existence just behaves as it always has and everything works marvelously. But we humans get it in our minds that we're right and they're wrong so we decide it best to go take their land and wipe out their whole population.

      Our choices have real consequences on how this reality plays out. Like Chaos theory and the Butterfly effect. We generally have no idea the long reaching effects our actions can have, yet here we are consciously making decisions left and right everyday with no real grasp of what will come of them. Somewhere along the way we gained reason and ever since we've taken the wheel, so to speak, deciding our actions. That right there is significant enough, in my mind at least, for a creator capable of creating all of existence to get involved. The whole story of the God of the bible had to do with His interest in our behavior. Now, here we are, thousands of years later and we're still trying to figure the same things out. Are we actually in control? Because if we are then our behavior is different than anything that came before because our behavior is decided via reason and self-awareness, and not pure instinct or our 'nature'. That's a big deal and we've obviously had an impact since then. We've altered the landscape considerably. We've even reached beyond our own planet. We've bombed entire cities with splitting atoms. And the more we learn the more dangerous we get. We already have the know-how to make this planet uninhabitable if we so chose to, completely changing things for anyone who would have come after that decision had we not made it.

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      Jeremy Christian 3 years ago from Texas

      Method,

      Re: Life

      First off, I appreciate the referral. That is a good video, and it perfectly illustrates what I'm talking about. You keep talking about magic. Like the last line in the video says, "It's just chemistry". It's just simple bacteria following chemical gradients. Or, binding together and forming spherical structures is just what lipids do. Or allowing monomers to pass through the walls of the structure, but not polymers, is just how these things behave. No magic, just chemistry.

      For some reason, in your mind, if a creator were involved we'd see these 'natural' processes being overridden or manipulated in some way. Or, I guess, we just wouldn't see any discernible 'natural' cause? Isn't that really just your own assumption of what you should be seeing if existence had a creator? What if we see example after example of seemingly simplistic components having these mutually beneficial behaviors that when interacting with one another in the right conditions become something much more? Like a seed planted in fertile soil, matter was introduced into an environment where it continually and progressively built up into more and more complex systems, spawning stars and planets and eventually more and more complex forms of life. All of it the direct result of that initial seed that began in much the same way as everything that followed.

      Applying reason, logic, and knowledge gained via the scientific method is exactly what I'm using. What is being so nonchalantly passed off as 'just chemistry' IS the evidence. Chemical components that 'naturally' form the capability to 'learn' by passing on information from one generation to the next IS evidence. You keep looking for something else other than exactly what we see, convinced that what we see means nothing. It's just what happened. Yet I see a reality that's deliberately intended to 'be'. Not just something that haphazardly 'fell' into place.

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      Methodskeptic 3 years ago

      TOPIC: FREE WILL

      "without falsifiability you have no objective means to determine whether your belief is true or false."

      {{{Of course, but because there are no objective means to determine something, does that mean that 'something' does not exist?}}}

      It means there's no good reason to believe in your claim. I think if your claims were true that there *would* be some way to verify them, so your insistence that they can't be makes me more disposed to believe that they are, in actuality, false.

      So, I don't plan to believe in it until something comes along to change that. It means there's nothing there to convince anyone that it's true, and that should include yourself. I can posit that Alien Space Bats uplifted primitive hominids to consciousness using Arbitrarily Advanced Technology, and there'd be nothing to prove or disprove it. Does my theory deserve equal time? Does it deserve even a moment of time? If I bent over backward to deflect every avenue of investigation, would you believe me more or less?

      {{Let's say, for example, I'm thinking about the first time I kissed a girl right now.}}

      You've chosen a terrible example that has nothing to do with your actual claim. We know for a fact that men and women kiss probably millions of times per day: the prior probability that you have such a moment to recall is rather high to begin with. The neurology of language is such that typing the sentence is sufficient to invoke the recollection. In so many words, there's every reason to take your word for it, your assertion is sufficient evidence for such a ubiquitous event. It's also a trivial claim--there are no existential implications as to whether I believe it truly or falsely.

      Something that's invisible, undetectable, undemonstrable, unproven is not only different from your first kiss in every conceivable way, it's also identical in every aspect with something which doesn't exist. The strength of an analogy lies in how much it has in common with the matter at hand, for which your example is zero.

      {{{Not quite, but you're definitely catching on. It doesn't have to 'deny physical inputs', it simply steers the ship, so to speak.}}}

      No. Quite exactly. The universe is, no matter what else, material. The brain is, no matter what else, physical. It takes in stimuli. It is affected by inputs, prior experiences, sensory data. Physical processes are constantly occurring. If libertarian free will exists, it means you can take an action which is not caused by prior factors, which means the extant inputs which would have determined the opposite action necessarily were denied and/or overridden in some way.

      You are positing something that can supernaturally intervene in the natural order of things.

      That's called "magic," and I'm sorry that you are so utterly determined (no pun intended) to deny the implications of your worldview. There's a little unmoved-mover that needs to exist for your view to be true.

      The fact that my identity and desires are the result of prior factors is no more troubling to me than the fact that my body is entirely made up of atoms I ate or drank only in the last seven to ten years. Every molecule present when I graduated college has been consumed, absorbed, and in turn replaced by other molecules and cycled back into the environment. But I don't worry about the state of the steak I ate on a summer day in 2006: even though there's utterly no method available to trace and track every atom of that meal and where any of them in me today, there's no question that I'm made up of relatively young molecules. Similarly, the deterministic, mechanistic inputs that make up my identity have been fully digested and incorporated as well.

      (You continually conflate that which cannot realistically be measured with that which cannot even in principle be measured, but that's a separate issue.)

      {{{For example, let's say you're watching a movie...Now, nothing physically happened.}}}

      No, lots of physical things happened. There were cascades of hormones and neurotransmitters released, there were situations modeled that had undesirable outcomes. Mirror neurons activated, to place me and mine in similar circumstances, which evolved because being able to anticipate and avoid harm to your loved ones is advantageous, as is being able to understand and account for others' feelings and experiences.

      Emotions are brain states, ones which can be evoked by stimuli. The fact that all this arises and takes place unbidden and without any ability to prevent or suppress it supports my side, not yours. The fact that you invoke the historical context of the "mind-body problem" is no more convincing than a creationist insisting we should "teach the controversy." I'm interested in facts and how well you make your case, and you don't present much to compel me to agree with you.

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      Methodskeptic 3 years ago

      TOPIC: LIFE

      {{{For some reason, in your mind, if a creator were involved we'd see these 'natural' processes being overridden or manipulated in some way.}}}

      Well, certainly many theists do make that claim, but notwithstanding, you're the one positing a "drive" or "life force," so if you are correct, we would see "something" in addition to undirected thermodynamics. I'm responding to *YOUR claim,* where you said, "the will to live is present in all living things" and stated it as a precondition to homeostasis, metabolism, growth, adaptation, and reproduction. Every one of those things was addressed at least briefly by the hypothesis presented in the video. You've repeatedly asserted the evidence of a "will to live" in multiple essays, so I'm asking you: where is this supposed animating force, when simple chemistry and thermodynamics and evolution can account for it on their own?

      {{{...What if we see example after example of seemingly simplistic components having these mutually beneficial behaviors...What is being so nonchalantly passed off as 'just chemistry' IS the evidence. Chemical components that 'naturally' form the capability to 'learn' by passing on information from one generation to the next IS evidence. You keep looking for something else other than exactly what we see, convinced that what we see means nothing. It's just what happened. Yet I see a reality that's deliberately intended to 'be'. Not just something that haphazardly 'fell' into place.}}}

      Oh, okay. It's just your opinion that the laws of chemistry and thermodynamics point to a creator. You are asserting that your subjective perception of teleology is fact. I don't agree.

      William of Ockham cautioned us against the "multiplication of entities." What became known as "Occam's [sic] Razor" is commonly misstated as "the simplest solution which fits the facts," but that's not quite right. The razor slices away unnecessary assumptions, the "entities" is archaic language for the factors involved.

      Really, it's just parsimony. The word "phenomenon" just means something which is observed, not something unexplained or inexplicable. So, we observe this phenomenon we call life. We investigate it and we discover that biochemistry is really really complicated.

      Do we explain it in terms of things we know exist? We know thermodynamics is a thing. We know how organic molecules behave. We have a dim idea of the conditions at the time. Do we investigate explanations which make use of known facts, or, do we acknowledge all of the above PLUS a colossally powerful, transcendent, timeless being in whom we only even conceive of because we come from a culture that believed in a Bronze-Age anthropogenic immortal storm god with magic powers?

      It is fundamentally an unnecessary assumption, and the only reason it's appealing is because we have a primitively-evolved perception of intentionality and an instinctive tendency to imbue all sorts of objects and processes with a perception of personality. I see no reason to give such primitive superstitions a moment's consideration unless and until there's a reliable way to test them. The fact that you accuse me of being "nonchalant" about it tells me that you're arguing from an emotional position and you object to the fact that science requires one to be dispassionate.

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      Jeremy Christian 3 years ago from Texas

      Methodskeptic,

      First off, to be clear, all of this stuff regarding the universe, life, the mind, free will, etc, these are not reasons I'm giving to 'prove', or convince you, of God's existence. This is just the first, unfortunately necessary, phase of the discussion. This is to simply flesh out the real facts of the case and to shine a light on some misconceptions that are muddying the waters.

      To look at the natural behavior of molecules or atoms and say 'see, no God required' is just as baseless as to look at these same things and say, 'see, God is required'. Point being, all the knowledge gained through science has in no way informed us one way or the other. It's only driven home the fact that whatever 'caused' matter/energy and the laws to begin with is the answer. And that 'cause', whether it be a multiverse, God, or a Spaghetti Monster, is beyond the scope of science. So nobody can say what is or isn't required because we don't know what's required for the matter/energy and the laws that cause what we observe. Everyone is on the same level playing field here. Contrary to popular belief, science hasn't changed anything in this regard.

      LIFE ...

      "you're the one positing a "drive" or "life force," so if you are correct, we would see "something" in addition to undirected thermodynamics."

      Why? What 'something' should we see? The 'something' IS a will to live. A naturally evolved drive that's essential to the survival of life. You're still looking for some kind of 'supernatural' manipulation of otherwise 'natural' processes. The 'something' IS the 'natural' behavior. We're still talking about matter/energy and the laws of the universe, both of which are of unknown origin, culminating in the existence of organisms that exhibit an observable will to survive.

      "where is this supposed animating force, when simple chemistry and thermodynamics and evolution can account for it on their own?"

      But what accounts for the simple chemistry and thermodynamics? If we can't account for the cause of these things then we haven't answered the ultimate question. I understand that in your mind there must be 'something' detectable. Something we can measure in some way. This is how we modern science age people are conditioned. Instead, we just see 'natural behaviors'. But understand it's only your own preconceived ideas of what should be seen that are ruled out. So why are you looking for what you're looking for? Where does this whole idea of there having to be 'something' come from?

      Think about the difference in states between life and death. There's no molecular difference between a living and dead organism, and the laws of thermodynamics certainly haven't changed, so what's the difference between something that's alive and something that's dead? There's no detectable 'something' to account for it. Yet when something's alive you've got all this activity- homeostasis, metabolism, growth, adaptation, etc. When it's dead there's nothing. So what changed?

      "I see no reason to give such primitive superstitions a moment's consideration unless and until there's a reliable way to test them."

      That right there is why I got into the Genesis/History stuff. It's because of the reasons above that we must then look for an alternative. Scientists chasing down ideas in regards to multiverses are looking for alternatives. Finding legitimacy in Genesis is a potential alternative I have found. Because the information that allows for seeing cohesion between history and Genesis has only been known for the past couple of decades or so means there very well could be something more to these texts than they're given credit for. There are things they simply could not have known. There's a span of 2000 years covered, over 1000 years before the invention of writing, that's incredibly accurate.

      Nevermind all the history of religion. Set aside all of that for just a minute and just consider the implications if there's something to this ancient document accurately describing events of the ancient past. Think of what could be learned if we could actually pinpoint in both time and place exactly what these documents are talking about. These texts offer insight into history and history offers insight into these texts. If the truth is the goal, then this, if true, would be a goldmine.

      Just in my own experience, all I did was create a timeline template based on ages given, then set that template against history based on the idea that the Egyptians existed during the Abraham stories, meaning that 2000 year template could not sit any earlier than roughly 5500-3500 BC. In just doing that this model predicted the Sumerians and that dramatic behavioral change I'm sure I mentioned. Neither of these things I had any prior knowledge of. I was only vaguely aware of the Sumerians, but knew nothing about them. The prediction was that if events as significant as those described really did happen in a populated location, a location it specifies, then the impact should be obvious. That's when I began to learn about the Sumerians who just happen to fit what I predicted better than I could have imagined. The other was that behavioral change. If these events really happened in that time/place, then a significant impact should be seen in human behavior because that's the story's direct claim. Just as I began the daunting task of researching the cultures of these regions across the board I ran across two studies looking for the same thing for different reasons. And the results, again, were exactly what I predicted, yet so much more than I could have imagined.

      So maybe you can at least see why I find this so hard to just drop. If what I'm seeing is accurate, then I feel it's my duty as a human to make it known. Not for religious or spiritual reasons. But just in the interest of arriving at the real truth of things.

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      Methodskeptic 3 years ago

      I'm going to give my responses in reverse order, it just seems to work better this time.

      {{{If what I'm seeing is accurate, then I feel it's my duty as a human to make it known. Not for religious or spiritual reasons. But just in the interest of arriving at the real truth of things.}}}

      That’s the problem. You have no way to demonstrate that what you show is accurate. It’s chockablock with logical fallacies, subjective opinions, unverifiable assumptions, and other flaws which not only make your case uncertain, but give every indication that what you’re asserting is materially false. You say you want the real truth, but the way you’re going, you will never, ever, ever get there. If you think you already have, you are deluding yourself.

      {{{all I did was create a timeline template based on ages given}}}

      I’ve already told you how this is completely unproven. If you have to take the truth of the account as a given in order to show that the account is true, you’re constructing a circular argument. It is a fact, to the highest possible degree of certainty, that humans cannot live more than (and let’s be really generous) 150 years. If you cannot provide evidence otherwise, your timeline template is necessarily wrong, it is based on fiction. You are taking myths as true over known facts about human physiology. Sorry. You’re wrong. I asked you to provide evidence and you just gave me a bedtime-story excuse about Adam's lineage being superhuman.

      {{{In just doing that this model predicted the Sumerians and that dramatic behavioral change I'm sure I mentioned.}}}

      And I’ve already told you that this dramatic behavioral change is a pathetically weak argument. It doesn’t need a supernatural explanation, it doesn’t fit your mythical timeline closer than a margin of error less than a thousand years, and it doesn’t correspond to Genesis in any recognizable way. (It also presupposes that Free Will is true, which is not a premise you can claim is a settled issue.) As a result of this and other failures, let me be clear: I consider your assertions about both the "timeline" and this "behavioral change" being tied to the bible are so unlikely that I'm comfortable placing them in the category of "definitively false" until such time as you have any valid evidence to support them. You’ve already established you are willing to accept extreme inaccuracy as accuracy, extreme vagueness as precision, and confirmation bias as insightfulness, so if this is where you’re going to go back to I’m not going to continue the conversation.

      {{{That right there is why I got into the Genesis/History stuff. It's because of the reasons above that we must then look for an alternative. }}}

      Thus much for the false assertion that your Genesis/History stuff is in any way, shape or form a “reliable way to test them.” You haven’t even given me any reason to consider that an alternative is necessary, let alone made your case as to that alternative.

      {{{Yet when something's alive you've got all this activity- homeostasis, metabolism, growth, adaptation, etc. When it's dead there's nothing. So what changed?}}}

      Nothing magical, that’s for sure. Homeostasis and Metabolism are frenetically dynamic systems in which chemical energy is constantly being absorbed and spent, proteins constantly manufactured and disassembled, DNA being unpacked, transcribed, copied, repaired, and zipped back up for storage. While all those functions are ongoing in a state of dynamic equilibrium, it’s alive. When those processes collapse, it’s dead. I’m sorry, I really don’t understand what you’re asserting—there’s no fundamental difference between a cell that’s alive and dead than there is between a factory that’s humming and productive versus one that’s broken down and wrecked. I don't even understand where you are even seeing this "will" to live that you keep talking about.

      {{{But what accounts for the simple chemistry and thermodynamics? If we can't account for the cause of these things then we haven't answered the ultimate question.}}}

      I’m more sure than ever that you don’t have the answer. You’ve got a mountain of confirmation bias and unsupported speculations that fall into exactly two categories: things that cannot be shown to be true, and things that are completely wrong that you perversely continue to insist are true.

      {{{We're still talking about matter/energy and the laws of the universe, both of which are of unknown origin, culminating in the existence of organisms that exhibit an observable will to survive.}}}

      “Observable.” You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means. Or, more to the point, you keep insisting your opinions and subjective perceptions are observable fact, and you’re wrong.

      {{{This is to simply flesh out the real facts of the case and to shine a light on some misconceptions that are muddying the waters.}}}

      Sorry, but the more you go on, the fewer real facts you present and the more you deliberately make the waters muddier, and then turn around and claim that nobody can see any more clearly than anyone else. Science doesn’t have all the answers, science knows it doesn’t have all the answers, and that’s because Science is not a body of knowledge. Science is a methodology, the only process in all of human history that has ever shown the ability to separate things that are true from things that are false, the only way to keep the waters from getting muddy in the first place. You clearly eschew scientific methodology, or at least do not understand it, and you don’t seem to realize that when you assert that this or that is outside the realm of scientific investigation, you are necessarily asserting that no one will ever know for sure. In that moment, you utterly abdicate any right to claim that you know the truth or have any interest in understanding the actual reality of things. For you to then claim that you are driven to share your resulting “insights” with humanity is all at once perverse, ignorant, and dishonest.

      You’ve still given me nothing to go on, just the same old bad arguments you always use, and you’ve wandered far afield of the content of this particular essay. Hopefully your next piece actually has some substance. Until then, I’m done for this round, thanks for the conversation.

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      Jeremy Christian 3 years ago from Texas

      Methodskeptic,

      "It is a fact, to the highest possible degree of certainty, that humans cannot live more than (and let’s be really generous) 150 years."

      Yes, I know. And Genesis acknowledges that in the chapter immediately following the one that said Adam and his descendants lived for centuries .... Gen6:3 - Then the Lord said, “My Spirit will not contend with humans forever, for they are mortal; their days will be a hundred and twenty years.” It directly makes the distinction between 'mortal' humans and Adam's family. And every civilization born of that age/region, from the Sumerians/Akkadians/Babylonians, to the Egyptians, Hittites, Canaanites, to the Greeks/Romans speak of immortal male/female beings in their ancient past as if it were their actual history. And while I know it's popular nowadays to look down our noses at these bronze age people, they were the ones that gave us math, astronomy, writing, government/laws, the wheel, school, civilization.... and on and on and on. Clearly, they weren't as ignorant as we modern folk like to make them out to be.

      "You say you want the real truth, but the way you’re going, you will never, ever, ever get there."

      And I can say the same about you. In one breath you acknowledge the limits of science, in the next you still insist that all that is admissible is knowledge gained via science. You say I'll never get there the way I'm going. I say that if the truth includes anything beyond the material, you've already rendered yourself incapable of recognizing it. Therefore, by your standards, the only conclusion you can possibly reach is the one you already believe. And everything beyond that simply confirms your bias. Anything else, pitch it.

      I understand that science is the only way we have to determine real truth in material matters. But if there's anything more to reality than material, and we already know there's at least a couple of things, then to find real truth we're going to have to step out a bit and use our heads.

      "You clearly eschew scientific methodology, or at least do not understand it, and you don’t seem to realize that when you assert that this or that is outside the realm of scientific investigation, you are necessarily asserting that no one will ever know for sure. In that moment, you utterly abdicate any right to claim that you know the truth or have any interest in understanding the actual reality of things. For you to then claim that you are driven to share your resulting “insights” with humanity is all at once perverse, ignorant, and dishonest."

      I understand just fine. You're right, I'm not a scientist. You're not either. We're just talking about reality and we're using knowledge of reality gained through science. I didn't set out to make a scientific claim or discovery. I set out to define my worldview. What I believe and why. And in doing so I found one simple answer that when applied to everything we do know, brought the whole picture into focus. It simultaneously closed every major gap left, every unexplained or barely explained development, and told one single story that at once wrapped up all we know about science, history, God, humanity, mythology into one neat package. One answer that manages to tell one cohesive story without once conflicting with the facts. That's how you know a model is sound.

      Again, I'm simply being realistic. The only one here being dishonest is the one defining prematurely what is and isn't possible. I'm not injecting certainty anywhere it doesn't belong. I know you think you're the realistic/logical one here, but there's a fundamental flaw in your viewpoint. A self-made blind spot. I have a mountain of information that backs up what I'm saying, yet without really getting into it you've already dismissed it because you don't agree with my approach, and use that to categorically dismiss everything else. Whatever the ultimate truth is, it will answer all the questions no matter what they are. What I've found here, this model, it's the closest thing yet that I've found. Many people beyond you have picked at this, and while they have plenty of objections, just as you do, about 'how' I arrived at this, not a single one has any evidence that contradicts it. Not a single one. No matter what direction they come at it. And it's been tested from every conceivable angle, by both believers and non-believers. What I'm talking about covers thousands of years of history that we actually know quite a bit about. It should be really easy to find just one thing that contradicts what I'm saying and shut me up. Yet out of the now dozens of people who have tried, I'm still here.

      "Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.” - Albert Einstein

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      Methodskeptic 3 years ago

      I'm not interested in imaginings. I want to have as many true beliefs and as few false beliefs as possible.

      "I can live with doubt and uncertainty and not knowing. I think it is much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers that might be wrong." --Richard Feynman.

      And I have never said that scientifically verifiable things are the only things that do exist. They just happen to be the only things that we can *know* exist. By definition, if you can't show it, you don't know it. I have yet to see you present any methodology by which actual knowledge can be gained, for all your bleating about my supposed closed-mindedness. I'm not closed-minded, I just recognize really really bad arguments, fallacies, and circular reasoning when I see it.

      I finally figured out why your argument was bugging me: you're basically making a pseudohistorical and pseudoscientific version of Pascal's Wager.

      And my response is the same to you as it is to theists concerned for my soul: which truth? If I lowered myself to your standards of evidence--perhaps several blows to the head--I'd be in a position where I'd accept your mountain of fantasies, the next guy's pile of palaver, the bucket of baloney from the man next door, on and on and on, all of them making competing truth claims and no way to separate who's right and who's wrong.

      God forbid I actually start judging and evaluating and telling people their pet theories stink like the diaper pail I put my dog's leavings in, because I wouldn't want to hog-tie myself and cut myself off from some other way of knowing, even though I had to believe it and accept it as true in order to have the evidence to show that it's true.

      Your theory is riddled with flaws, and I don't believe it for a second. You claim a mountain of evidence but everything you present is the opposite: you give me more and more reasons to safely conclude you're totally wrong about every identifiable detail.

      See you on your next essay.

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      Jeremy Christian 3 years ago from Texas

      Methodskeptic,

      Nobody ever said to just accept what I'm saying. I'm making a very particular, very specific to time and region, claim. Test it. Make arguments against it. Look at our history, our transition from hunter-gatherer/early horticulture to civilization, and see if you see anything that agrees or conflicts with what I'm proposing. Evaluate behavioral changes, how they're determined, and where they happened. Maybe arguments can be made against this based on genetic data. I am simply putting forward a model using all available information in an attempt to explain what we observe, just like anything else. That's how it's done. People put forward hypotheses and models in an attempt to explain the things we observe but can't explain, and others weigh in, test where possible, etc.

      The same way you feel about accepting what I'm saying is the same way I feel in regards to the human condition being entirely mechanical and haphazardly evolved/formed. I feel like it would take several blows to the head before I'd be able to accept that love and a sense of humor and an appreciation of art and music are nothing more than chemical and biological mechanics. But if information comes to light where we can actually determine that for certain then I'm going to have to re-evaluate some things. I'm at least going to acknowledge that my 'feeling' is exactly that and nothing more.

      You say my theory is riddled with flaws. Demonstrate. That's all I'm asking. If you just want to read what I have to say and then determine for yourself whether or not this is worth listening to or considering, fine. But if you're going to insist on telling me how dumb it is, or how I did it all wrong, or whatever, then I'm going to insist that you demonstrate how you know I'm wrong. So far all your reasons have the same flaw that I've been pointing out throughout. It's determining prematurely what is and isn't possible. Your objections so far are all rooted in your own personal leanings and nothing more.

      If you're content with simply not knowing what can't be determined scientifically then that's fine with me. But I'm not. Because a lot of these things go right to the heart of who we are, where we came from, why we're here, why we do what we do. If what I'm proposing is even 10% true then it's a significant and defining chapter in human history.

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      Methodskeptic 3 years ago

      I try, but you just keep saying things than I just can't leave alone--

      {{I'm making a very particular, very specific to time and region, claim. Test it.}}}

      Not my job to test it. Your job to demonstrate it. Your claim requires A) a myth-based presupposition that human beings of a certain family could have lived for centuries. Your claim requires B) a myth-based presupposition that a god exists. Your claim requires C) a blithe assertion that free will exists, which is a subject of controversy. You’ve constructed a circular argument that requires one to believe that the Book of Genesis is true in order to show that the Book of Genesis is true so that you can argue that the Book of Genesis describes events that are different than that which is depicted in the Book of Genesis! It’s nonsensical on its face, I barely need to do anything else.

      At a minimum, until you can independently verify with hard evidence A, B, and C, your claim is not supported, and no one, not me and not you, should assert that it is true.

      Moreover, the particulars of your claim both in its nature and its remoteness in the dark backward and abysm of time, place the specific circumstances you describe outside the realm of verification. So the most we can say is “we don’t know.” However, since it relies on presupposing as valid a book of myths and fables that's about five thousand years younger than the events you say it describes, which describes those events in no good amount of detail, which requires you to pick and choose which parts of it are true or false, and by your own admission you can't make the timeline work to a margin of error less than a thousand years, I’m pretty confident going from “we don’t know” well into the realm of “probably not.”

      Your theory, in a word, sucks.

      {{{I feel like it would take several blows to the head before I'd be able to accept that love and a sense of humor and an appreciation of art and music are nothing more than chemical and biological mechanics. But if information comes to light where we can actually determine that for certain then I'm going to have to re-evaluate some things. I'm at least going to acknowledge that my 'feeling' is exactly that and nothing more.}}}

      Measurements of oxytocin in the brains of pregnant human beings during gestation predict with astonishing accuracy the degree of post-partum maternal care along metrics of gaze length, frequency of checking, and time spent in physical contact with their infants. Mice with oxytocin receptors that have been genetically disabled fail to display social behavior and maternal bonding with their litters. Think about that for a while: to a certain degree, how much your mother loves you was biologically determined before you were born.

      That's what I've been saying: all the "information that has come to light" points to emotions and minds and everything that they do being functions of the brain. I find it *fascinating* that emergent behaviors can result from the iterative complexity of such simple building blocks; you don’t like it and refuse to acknowledge the facts, but the facts don’t care.

      {{{You say my theory is riddled with flaws. Demonstrate. That's all I'm asking.}}}

      See above. It relies on selective interpretations, presuppositions, logical fallacies, and strained readings of the text, all of which I've detailed at length elsewhere as well. How many more times must I go over its shortcomings?

      {{{But if you're going to insist on telling me how dumb it is, or how I did it all wrong, or whatever, then I'm going to insist that you demonstrate how you know I'm wrong.}}}

      The logical fallacy of SHIFTING THE BURDEN OF PROOF. You present the claim. The burden of proof is on you to demonstrate it. Your evidence is not sufficient. End of story.

      {{{So far all your reasons have the same flaw that I've been pointing out throughout. It's determining prematurely what is and isn't possible.}}}

      No, no, no, no, no. If that's what you think you need to go back and reread every single one of my comments. I haven't determined *ANYTHING* is or isn't possible except where the evidence indicates it: e.g., to a first approximation, it is impossible for a human being to live longer than 150 years. I say that based on what we know of biology and human senescence. You respond with the Special Pleading fallacy of "Adam's lineage was special." Okay, fine, prove it.

      *crickets*

      There’s an argument to be had as to what is or isn’t testable, but you continually fail that question by asserting things which can’t be verified by their nature, or just relying on data which is utterly unavailable. If something isn’t testable, then you can’t know that it’s true.

      If something is possible, if something is *real*, then the evidence will necessarily support it. The truth is what the facts are. The situation that we have, where you have no facts to present, you exclude things from requiring evidence, you present opinions as solid and fantasies as fact, is the flaw. Your CLAIM is the thing rooted in your own personal leanings, and is unconvincing to one who does not share them, and you totally fail to present any reason why a stranger should adopt your personal leanings as the superior position.

      I do insist on evidence. I do insist that claims be both logically valid and sound. That is the only way to separate what's true from what's false. Anything outside of that is necessarily just "we don't know." I don't know, and neither do you. And--this now is my opinion but it seems reasonable to me--what we don't know, we ought not to believe in.

      {{{If what I'm proposing is even 10% true then it's a significant and defining chapter in human history.}}}

      If it were true, then the evidence would point to it. The question is, is there any reason to believe that you're even 10% right? Not enough, or at least, not so much as to resolve the potential between a thousand competing claims and you simply can't go around believing every fantasy that fits a cherry-picked set of facts--although if you're so inclined and have a funny haircut apparently you can get a gig on the History Channel.

      If I were to trouble myself with all the things probably aren't true but would be earthshaking if they were true, I'd never get any sleep. If human consciousness were the result of meddling by Alien Space Bats then it would be significant and defining, but there's just as much evidence for that theory as there is for yours.

      So, yes, your hypothesis could be true, if:

      Human beings actually have ever lived more than a century in premodern times,

      if God exists,

      if contracausal free will exists,

      if the timeline of agricultural development is correct,

      if humans actually experienced an abrupt psychological change that isn't just the result of changing culture and lifestyle,

      if any part of Genesis is five thousand years older than the evidence suggests,

      if your personal interpretations of what is and isn't literally true in Genesis is correct.

      Lots of "ifs." No few of them are probably false. Quite a lot of personal opinion involved at every level. Almost no hard evidence. So, your theory is not very convincing. Remember, the whole "free will" interpretation of Genesis isn't even in the text in so many words, and a lot of Christians eschew the concept of free will entirely, also based on the Bible.

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      Methodskeptic 3 years ago

      Just to make absolutely clear:

      "If something isn’t testable, then you can’t know that it’s true."

      That doesn't mean that something untestable is necessarily false. It means you can't know. And like I said, if you don't know something, you shouldn't affirm that it's true.

      And, if it flies in the face of all the other evidence, it's that evidence that says it's probably false, not an a priori assumption.

      Methodological Naturalism is not the same as Philosophical Materialism, please don't conflate or confuse the two.

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      Jeremy Christian 3 years ago from Texas

      "I try, but you just keep saying things than I just can't leave alone--"

      Haha... I know what you mean. And ditto.

      "Methodological Naturalism is not the same as Philosophical Materialism"

      Yes, I know. This .... " I haven't determined *ANYTHING* is or isn't possible except where the evidence indicates it" is a foundational statement of philosophical materialism. Because your requirement for what's admissible is limited to only what can be affirmed via the physical sciences, that right there limits the possibilities to material only. Just because we've discovered the scientific method to determine what is/isn't true in regards to the material world doesn't mean it covers all that reality is. The mental experience that we each experience personally and therefore 'know' exists is invisible to science. So there's at least one thing we know for certain, that's a vital part of reality and that has a significant impact on it, that falls outside of your requirements. Is it the only thing? Highly unlikely considering it's the one and only thing we humans can personally experience.

      "Think about that for a while: to a certain degree, how much your mother loves you was biologically determined before you were born."

      I don't deny that physical happenings in relation to what we do/how we behave happen in the brain, and that physical manipulation of these happenings can result in altered behavior. The brain, in this viewpoint, enables interaction with the physical world and it's level of capability to do so has an impact. It's evolved from countless generations of mammals, so those things are going to have a significant impact on how it (we) function. But in a purely material viewpoint the fact that these things evolved at all in a purely callous/randomly mutated/survival of the fittest kind of reality makes very little sense. Yes, there's going to be biological/chemical things attributed to a parent/child relationship, but the goose bumps I get on my arms every single time I hear the crescendo towards the end of Radiohead's 'Exit Music (for a film)'? Or what determines that this band, or that movie or book, as being my favorite? Finding something funny and laughing? Or crying? There's so much beyond the kind of example you point to that's not so directly tied to success/failure of surviving. The totality of the human condition, like in your example, must first be reduced to pure mechanics to work, rendering us something less than human. While those mechanics may be happening, that doesn't explain what brought them to fruition in the first place. Were they randomly mutated characteristics that are now prominent throughout humanity because they were that successful to survival? Mammalian nurturing characteristics, certainly that could be the case. Finding something funny or being moved by a piece of music? Just doesn't jive so well. I do acknowledge the facts. It's the facts that make me think there's more to the story than the material box so many keep trying to stuff it into.

      "to a first approximation, it is impossible for a human being to live longer than 150 years. I say that based on what we know of biology and human senescence. You respond with the Special Pleading fallacy of "Adam's lineage was special." Okay, fine, prove it."

      Well, I'm not out in the field doing the digging, so that might be difficult. And given how it's described, you're talking about a handful of people that would equate to a single needle in a massive haystack, many of which it says were swept away in a flood. I'm not saying the physical evidence isn't out there. It may very well be. And the right hypothesis, if one were so inclined as to steer their investigation in accordance to it, might turn up results we're not finding otherwise.

      But just take a minute to think about what we've got. Given the timeline and region I'm speaking of, descendents of Adam/Eve who lived extended lifespans would have lived from roughly 5500-3500 BC, with the last of them dying off around the time of Abraham. By the time the earliest known forms of literary stories begin to appear in written texts starting about 2700BC (epic of Gilgamesh), nearly 1000 years later, the very first thing these people start writing about are these immortal gods, male and female, who were moody and unpredictable, who actually interacted with their ancestors, claim the advancements that their ancestors accomplished were not discovered by taught, and in some cases intermingled with humans. Gilgamesh, for example, was a demigod. And though there were numerous independently formed civilizations in that region, who each had their own unique language and culture and who each independently developed their own systems of writing, they all claimed the same thing. That these immortal beings were their actual history and played a signficant role in their past. The Sumerians/Akkadians/Bablylonians, the Egyptians, the Indus Valley (India), the Hittites, the Canaanites, the Greeks, the Romans, etc. All in the same region, all telling very similar stories, yet all separated by independently formed language and culture.

      And what is our current theory regarding these mythologies? This must have been bronze age people trying to make sense of what they didn't understand. That's our answer. Never mind we're talking about at least half a dozen independent cases, with unique languages and cultures. Nevermind we don't see the same in other civilizations that came later elsewhere. This is our assumption. This must be what they were actually doing. Well, if what I'm saying is true, then all of that makes way more sense. I mean, we know the things these stories attribute to being the impact of these gods actually happened (numerous inventions, civilization, class stratification, behavioral changes, etc). It seems odd that they wouldn't give credit to their ancestors. And it seems odd that we don't see the progression towards these inventions and advancements that you'd expect. In many cases these changes seem to have happened incredibly rapidly.

      "Remember, the whole "free will" interpretation of Genesis isn't even in the text in so many words"

      Right at the start, the two main characters are given one rule by the creator that just spoke the entirety of existence into being a chapter before break His rule. Then it says 'the eyes of both of them were opened' and they immediately become aware of their being naked. It then goes into specific things they'll have to endour that mirrors that behavioral change. So, you've got a will apart from the creator, you've got enhanced self-awareness, you've got the change that actually did happen where the status of women decreased in these societies, you've got people transforming to a lifestyle where they work for their food rather than forrage like the rest of the animal kingdom.

      "which requires you to pick and choose which parts of it are true or false, and by your own admission you can't make the timeline work to a margin of error less than a thousand years"

      I'm not sure what you're referring to here. For one thing, my timeline is rather specific. According to Genesis 1656 years passed between Adam's creation and the flood. And Cain's banishment happened within the first 130 years of that (1656-130=1526). So the Ubaid culture (5500-4000BC) lasting the same length of time and coming to an 'abrupt end' lines up exactly with preflood Genesis in both time and place. As does the city it says Cain built, even though he was only the 3rd person on Earth according to the traditional interpretation. The first city-state existed in the Ubaid, and was built around 5300BC. There's evidence of a flood in Ur that pinpoints the end of the Ubaid. Then about a century later, a climate change that actually did cause massive migrations much like the Babel story (5.9 kiloyear event-3900BC), which also happened about a century later. And, that climate event is tied directly to the formation of multiple civilizations directly after (Sumer 3500BC, Egypt 3400 BC, etc). As for my 'picking and choosing', I'm not. I'm taking the first 11 chapters in their entirety chronologically.

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      Methodskeptic 3 years ago

      Please, before we do anything else:

      {{{Because your requirement for what's admissible is limited to only what can be affirmed via the physical sciences, that right there limits the possibilities to material only.}}}

      PLEASE PROVIDE A METHOD FOR VERIFYING OR FALSIFYING YOUR MAGICAL THINKING. Or else it's all just opinion and speculation.

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      Methodskeptic 3 years ago

      {{{Well, I'm not out in the field doing the digging, so that might be difficult.}}}

      Allrighty then, therefore I don't believe you for a second, because you're asking me to take something profoundly, colossally improbably totally on faith as a fundamental keystone for your theory to work.

      That's a total and complete epic fail and it means your theory is dead in the water.

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      Methodskeptic 3 years ago

      {{{As for my 'picking and choosing', I'm not. }}}

      You totally are. This whole fantastical myth-explaining exercise you've embarked upon is based on the apparent contradiction between Adam & Eve and their family being the only humans in existence, which the text clearly states and if you claim otherwise you're a blatant liar, versus Cain's lament about getting his ass kicked by anyone and everyone.

      You've elected to believe that the Adam & Eve side of the story is wrong, that there were other human beings around, even though the text doesn't support this.

      Then again, what the text does or doesn't support is hardly of any great concern to you, considering your preposterous notions about Genesis 1, which don't even bear repeating.

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      Jeremy Christian 3 years ago from Texas

      Methodskeptic,

      "PLEASE PROVIDE A METHOD FOR VERIFYING OR FALSIFYING YOUR MAGICAL THINKING. Or else it's all just opinion and speculation."

      The same could be said of string theory, M-theory, multi-verses, and any other hypothesis that attempts to explain the origin of the universe beyond the big bang. Even though multiverse theories are the go-to argument for explaining the exactness of the laws of the universe that in themselves strongly suggest intelligent intent. So, what you're basically saying is there's no way to verify/falsify so we should just give up. Even if that means totally ignoring copious amounts of supporting evidence.

      Labeling and dismissing this as 'magical thinking' is a cop-out. This whole line of reasoning is a cop-out.

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      Jeremy Christian 3 years ago from Texas

      Methodskeptic,

      "Allrighty then, therefore I don't believe you for a second, because you're asking me to take something profoundly, colossally improbably totally on faith as a fundamental keystone for your theory to work."

      I'm not asking you or anyone else to take anything I'm saying on faith. I'm asking you to test/verify/falsify what I'm saying can be true in relation to actual events/known evidence. I'm giving you what you and every other materialist demands, falsifiable evidence. I've laid a very specific framework that lines up with 2000 years of known history in a very specific geographic location. An explanation either conforms to the evidence or it doesn't. If it's total hogwash then that should be easy to estabilsh given all we know about this timeframe/region. Instead, you are, again, categorically dismissing the whole concept based on a flawed and short-cited philosophy that justifies ignoring the evidence entirely.

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      Jeremy Christian 3 years ago from Texas

      Methodskeptic,

      "This whole fantastical myth-explaining exercise you've embarked upon is based on the apparent contradiction between Adam & Eve and their family being the only humans in existence, which the text clearly states and if you claim otherwise you're a blatant liar,"

      Show me where. The only source that says Adam/Eve were the first humans ever are the traditional interpretations of the text. That's it. What the actual text says is that humans were created in chapter 1. I'm sure you've noticed the two accounts of man's creation between Gen1 and Gen2 don't match, right? Well, that's because they're separate events. Then Gen4 says there are others Cain fears and that he later built a city. Even though, according to the traditional interpretation, he's only the 3rd human on the planet. The 6th chapter talks of humans being mortal and only living 120 years as opposed to the 'sons of God'. And it's made clear throughout the rest of the bible that the 'sons of God' are Adam and his descendants. In fact Luke 3 directly says everyone from Joseph to Solomon to David to Abraham to Noah to Enoch to Seth to Adam are the sons of God.

      "You've elected to believe that the Adam & Eve side of the story is wrong, that there were other human beings around, even though the text doesn't support this."

      I've only said human interpretation of the text is wrong, not the text itself. I can show you in excruciating detail that the text very much supports what I'm saying. In fact this one 'tweak' to how it's interpreted clears up the whole story. That's another way I know I'm on the right track. Not only does it conform to history, conform to the evidence, and even conforms to the other mythological stories of that region, but that very same answer also clarifies the entirety of the biblical story. Every question is addressed by one single, simple answer.

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      Methodskeptic 3 years ago

      {{{So, what you're basically saying is there's no way to verify/falsify so we should just give up. Even if that means totally ignoring copious amounts of supporting evidence.}}}

      Oh my god, that is the exact OPPOSITE of what I'm saying. I'm demanding over and over that you present some way to verify or falsify what you say, and *you're* the one who is giving up by continually sidestepping the core issues, which is that you have presented something that you cannot verify or falsify.

      The problem is not that I'm ignoring copious evidence, it's that your so-called evidence isn't anything of the kind and rests on an extremely shaky set of foundational assumptions which could quite easily be false, and probably in fact are actually false.

      I'm not "giving up," I'm saying, over and over and over again, "that's not good enough. How do you know? You don't know that thing you just said is true. Give me something more."

      But you never do. You never address the criticisms, you never bring up anything new. All you have is a collection of fairy tales, which, if you presume they're true and not just Bronze Age fictions whose origins are utterly lost to history, can sort of cobble together a rough chronology that comes within a few thousand years of certain events in the archaeological record, and on that basis I should conclude the myths and the book of fables that contain them are true and accurate.

      About those higher end cosmology questions? Scientists are investigating those. They're lodging trenchant criticisms against whether various models can be tested. They're suspending judgment and apportioning certainty to the evidence. They savage one another over the slightest mistakes. For crying out loud, they didn't certify the discovery of the Higgs Boson until the error percentage was 0.00001%. Up until they get that level of certainty, it's "we don't know, maybe, we're still looking." It is risible for you to equate your crackpot speculation with real, legitimate science that is spending billions of dollars and entire careers to uncover new information. Anything they put forward which required so much strained interpretation, so much vagueness, so many unknowns just accepted without evidence, would be just dismissed immediately.

      It's also not true that stuff beyond the Big Bang can't be investigated. If what came "before" has an effect on our observable universe, then we can learn about it. If the conditions and properties of our universe are a certain way, then that tells us certain things.

      Your theory doesn't measure up on any level.

      Lack of precision doesn't faze you, if you're willing to accept an error of plus or minus a thousand years. Any legitimate scientist would discard such a proposition out of hand.

      Lack of evidence doesn't faze you. You cannot possibly verify any of the particular events in the myths you're looking at, and it requires so many leaps of logic and presuppositions that it really baffles me how you can assert their truth with a straight face. All you have is a VAGUE resemblance to actual events. You can't possibly know that what the bible says about human lifespans is true, but hey, you believe it anyway. You can't verify that its timelines are accurate, and there's no discrepancy between Genesis and the archaeological record which would be sufficient for you to ever say "I'm wrong." You go to a physicist, they'll talk your ear off over lots of possibilities, and then shrug and say "but we're probably wrong about that." I've HAD that conversation with a PhD scientist from CERN and Fermilab. Your armchair pseudohistory has some stiff competition, I'm here to tell you.

      Lack of specificity doesn't faze you. You cherry-pick legends from multiple cultures for common threads, and dismiss any disagreement over the text as "human interpretation of the text is wrong." Good god, you've got some huevos, to take it upon yourself to come along at this late date and declare that your particular reading is correct. You blithely assert that any contradiction to your theory is "the traditional interpretation" even though the traditional interpretation is to read the text as written, and there are many, many other alternative explanations as to why the text contradicts itself in places, but thank goodness you're here to lay all those controversies to rest.

      I say, YOUR interpretation is wrong. Genesis 2 describes how god made a man, the man was *alone* and subsequently made a woman. It *doesn't* say anything that all this was done in the midst of a thriving population of humans. It doesn't say that God *didn't* create Eden as a sealed terrarium to keep his chosen pets isolated from the wide world full of people, but in order to justify that interpretation, you have to add details to the text that are not there. It's like all the attempts to unify the gospels, when people say that first this person, and then these people, and then that person, and then someone else found the empty tomb, since none of the Gospels agree on who found it or who was there when they did. Or the death of Judas, when they say he hanged himself *in* Potter's Field, and then the tree branch broke sending his corpse tumbling headlong. In doing so they, and you, create a narrative which does not agree with the text as written. It's called "harmonization" and apologists have been engaging in this unconvincing exercise for centuries; you're no different.

      Talking with you is like talking to any other creationist, it's just you've particularly narrowed the scope of your creationism. You're still fundamentally making the argument that biology is insufficient to explain the wonders of life, of emotions, of love, and you're fundamentally making the argument that your book of bedtime stories is a better explanation for the history of the world; you just happen to have a different interpretation of that book, one which you can't support beyond just flatly asserting that you're right and everyone else is wrong. You don't "know you're on the right track, You're still making a Pascal's Wager that it *might* be true and I wouldn't want to miss the boat if so; as though that were a good argument.

      And at the end of the day, you don't have any evidence, because you don't understand what evidence is. You don't have a sound argument, because you don't understand how arguments are or aren't sound and valid.

      So, thus much for what you have presented thus far. Can you please give me something real?

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      Jeremy Christian 3 years ago from Texas

      Methodskeptic,

      "I'm demanding over and over that you present some way to verify or falsify what you say, and *you're* the one who is giving up by continually sidestepping the core issues, which is that you have presented something that you cannot verify or falsify."

      Wrong. How can you possibly say there's no way to verify/falsify a narrative that covers the course of a very specific timeframe and region? Are you kidding?

      "it's that your so-called evidence isn't anything of the kind and rests on an extremely shaky set of foundational assumptions which could quite easily be false"

      Those 'foundational assumptions' are only shaky by your materialist standards, but, even that is irrelevant. My 'so-called evidence' is much more specific then you're willing to acknowledge and is very much falsifiable. Whether or not you agree with my approach, if the dots are lining up they're lining up. If they don't they don't.

      "I'm saying, over and over and over again, "that's not good enough. How do you know? You don't know that thing you just said is true."

      You're right, I don't know that any of it is true. But I've yet to find anything to dispute it, which, again, is kind of hard to believe considering it covers a span of 2000 years. And not a "rough chronology that comes within a few thousand years of certain events in the archaeological record", but very specifically 5500-3500 BC. You keep saying this about the timeline being vague and I have no idea where you're getting that. It's the Ubaid Period/Preflood Genesis (5500-4000BC), followed by the Uruk culture (4000-3100)BC, which leads right into the emergence of both Sumer and Egypt, both of which become part of the Genesis story during the time of Abraham. And both the Sumerian texts and Genesis say Uruk was founded not long after the flood. It all lines up and it's all very specific.

      "It's also not true that stuff beyond the Big Bang can't be investigated. If what came "before" has an effect on our observable universe, then we can learn about it. If the conditions and properties of our universe are a certain way, then that tells us certain things."

      Then you're clearly misunderstanding something about the big bang. All matter/energy, the fundamental laws, space-time, every single component that is observable in this universe came from that. There is nothing beyond that that can have an effect on our observable universe, and even if there was there'd be no way to confirm it or even recognize it. If you understand science then you understand this.

      "Lack of precision doesn't faze you, if you're willing to accept an error of plus or minus a thousand years."

      Again I ask, where did you get that? This is extremely precise. If it wasn't I wouldn't bother talking about it.

      "Lack of evidence doesn't faze you. You cannot possibly verify any of the particular events in the myths you're looking at, and it requires so many leaps of logic and presuppositions that it really baffles me how you can assert their truth with a straight face."

      Until you stop putting forth fallacious reasons to justify not even getting into the evidence, you're not justified to make that statement. You can verify because, again, I'm saying it really happened in a very specific place and time and the evidence so far overwhelmingly supports it. And there was a time when you could have said 'it requires so many leaps in logic and presuppositions' about the big bang or any number of other theories we now take for practically certain. Just the stuff we already know to be true is fantastical by anybody's standards, so why you feel justified in saying 'no, that's not possible' is beyond me. If we've learned anything to this point it should be that we know nothing.

      "Lack of specificity doesn't faze you."

      Again, I'm not cherry-picking anything. Notice how you've only given a cursory scan over what I'm talking about, yet somehow you know it all well enough to insist I'm just cherry picking and giving vague timelines and everything else. When in actuality that couldn't be further from the truth. And believe me, it isn't lost on me that I'm just a nobody from nowhere, TX claiming to see something so many others don't. That's yet another reason why I've been so diligent in my research. I was convinced for the first year that I was delusional. I was trying to prove myself wrong so I could just get back to playing music and videogames and such. Believe it or not this isn't exactly what I'd choose to do with my free time.

      "I say, YOUR interpretation is wrong."

      Imagine you're an archaeologist from 1000 years in the future and you just unearthed a copy of Gone with the Wind. You translate and interpret the texts, you get a sense of the overall story, but the sheer separation of time and culture makes a lot of it completely foreign to you. Then, after another few decades of investigating, you begin to learn about the American civil war and what life was like in the south during that time and you get a much better sense of the climate of the setting those texts are set against and all of the sudden it all makes a lot more sense. Context is the difference. Context is what we have not had up until very recently. Science has given us context. When read against the proper context it becomes plain as day. For centuries it was read as if Adam were the first human because there was no reason to think otherwise. Now there is. And now, in that context, it makes way more sense. Not just Genesis, but the whole story. The story actually said it all along. I'm not claiming anything out of bounds like you're suggesting. I'm simply applying proper context and finding clarity.

      "a collection of fairy tales", "just Bronze Age fictions", "the myths and the book of fables that contain them".. That right there is part of the problem. Contrary to what you keep insisting, I'm not claiming any of this is 'true'. I'm not insisting I'm right. As I've said right from the beginning, I want it tested and criticized. I can find no reason to dismiss it. I only find more support for it. You only assume I'm insisting I'm right. I'm just insisting that it not be dismissed for reasons of personal bias or broken logic. You're the one inserting certainty where it doesn't belong. Dismissing things with no solid ground to do so. You're the one defining what's possible before we even know what's possible. I'm not cherry-picking, I'm not confirming bias, I'm taking all of the information in. The science, the history, all the texts within and far outside of the bible, every religion, every culture, EVERYTHING. I have found one simple answer that addresses it all much more precisely than you're willing to acknowledge or even look at, and I'm asking that people prove it wrong. And after 4 years of doing so, while I've gotten plenty of objections about how un-sciency my approach is, I've yet to get a single shred of concrete evidence that contradicts it. In fact, much of the definition that so much grounds this thing came from people trying to break it down. It only gets stronger.

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      Methodskeptic 3 years ago

      {{{How can you possibly say there's no way to verify/falsify a narrative that covers the course of a very specific timeframe and region? Are you kidding?}}}

      Because there's much more to your construct than just the timeframe and region. There's the existence of god, which is a prerequisite. Any actual evidence of Adam's mythical longevity. All your waxing philosophical about all the "metaphysical" aspects which you've specifically claimed are exempt from measurement or testing, then criticized me for not believing in that which cannot be confirmed. For crying out loud, in the next breath you jump right back on my supposed "materialist standards." Bottom line, every tenet of your theory fails on one or more points:

      It's based on your opinion of text,

      It's based on assertions of history that are utterly out of reach just due to the passage of time,

      or are based on metaphysical/magical assertions that you claim are outside the realm of science.

      {{{Again I ask, where did you get that? This is extremely precise. If it wasn't I wouldn't bother talking about it.}}}

      Okay. I found the pull quote I was looking for, but I'll let you go first: in *precisely* what year did humanity gain its free will, this "sudden behavioral shift" and how did you arrive at that date? Be specific, or provide a link and a paragraph reference to one of your other hubs where it's explicitly stated. If I've misinterpreted something along the way, correct me, because I'm under the impression that your precise timeline is plus or minus a thousand years earlier or later based on other hubs and comments.

      You've many times made referece to a "sudden cultural shift" or words to that effect. In what year did that take place, what specifically caused it, and what exactly do you peg it to in the Archaeological record? I've reread over your "On the Evolution of the Human Mind" posts and I'm at a loss to understand what specific event you hang your hat on, as it seems to me that cultural and civilization shifts were happening all over the place many times over from the Paleolithic all the way up into Classical times, and at no time is there the slightest need for a supernatural explanation.

      So, please: be precise, tell me exactly what, when, and how.

      {{{Then, after another few decades of investigating, you begin to learn about the American civil war and what life was like in the south during that time and you get a much better sense of the climate of the setting those texts are set against and all of the sudden it all makes a lot more sense.}}}

      And then, if I'm Headlyvonnoggin, I conclude that Gone with The Wind is a true and factual account, and I begin poring over it for insights into that time period. Do you see the problem there? Correspondence is not enough. The fact that it lines up with the timeline is not enough. That the book GWTW was even closer to the Civil War by thousands of years than Genesis was to your purported "cultural shift" isn't enough.

      {{{I have found one simple answer that addresses it all much more precisely than you're willing to acknowledge or even look at, and I'm asking that people prove it wrong. }}}

      And I've read what you have written and I get neither precision nor explanation out of it. Archaeology and our knowledge of the ancient world come from actually going out and digging in the dirt, not looking for clues in ancient myths. Timelines and events and the rise of civilization and culture come from artifacts, carbon dating, actual evidence, not combing through texts written thousands of years too late to be firsthand accounts.

      And I'm going to say it as simply as I can: your approach is wrongheaded. You obviously believe your account is true, and are presenting the reasons why you think so. It is not upon me to give you evidence one way or the other, the only question is, have you given sufficient evidence to justify the claim? You have not, therefore I don't accept your claims.

      I don't believe that humans can or ever have lived for hundreds of years and you've given me no reason to change my mind.

      I don't believe that a god exists and you've given me no reason to change my mind.

      I don't believe that libertarian free will exists and you've given me no reason to change my mind.

      I don't believe that any part of Genesis predates about 1000 BCE and you've given me no reason to change my mind.

      I don't believe that there was ever a sudden behavioral shift that can't be EASILY accounted for by natural reasons and you've given me no reason to change my mind.

      I don't believe that that your particular interpretations of the bible are correct and you've given me no reason to change my mind.

      Absent these underpinnings, your theory has no basis to be believed.

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      Jeremy Christian 3 years ago from Texas

      Methodskeptic,

      Let me first address this, then I'll get to the rest.

      "...can't be EASILY accounted for by natural reasons..."

      To clarify, We're talking about the creator of the universe, the designer of matter/energy. Not some specter moving stuff around. We're not looking for manipulation or magic. We're looking for deliberate intent. Is what happens 'naturally' deliberate? Or haphazard? Natural causes are simply 'how'. We're not looking for anything other than 'natural' causes.

      "in *precisely* what year did humanity gain its free will, this "sudden behavioral shift" and how did you arrive at that date?"

      It started with Eridu(5300BC). That's where the first known signs of the behavior change are found. Eridu was the first settlement of the Ubaid period(55000-4000BC). Thousands of years later the Sumerian King's List says Eridu was one of 5 pre-flood city-states and it's where the gifts of civilization (mes) descended from heaven. What they attribute to being their "decrees of the gods foundational to those social institutions, religious practices, technologies, behaviors, mores, and human conditions that make civilization". - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Me_%28mythology%29

      According to the Sumerians, Eridu was established by an immortal god named Enki. According to Genesis Cain built a city.

      "The Ubaid period as a whole, based upon the analysis of grave goods, was one of increasingly polarised social stratification and decreasing egalitarianism." - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ubaid_period

      Though there had been largely populated communities for thousands of years since the discovery of agriculture to the north, these people had always behaved much like hunter gatherers for tens of thousands of years prior. There was no interest in possessions, males and females had equal status, no one had any more than anyone else. Domestic homes were uniform. Labor was shared equally. And there was no violence. Eridu is the first human settlement classed as a 'city-state' because this is the first human settlement where the city was built around a temple. And in that temple lived the ones who governed the city. This was the first sign of class stratification. Other city-states like this one were established throughout the Ubaid over the course of over a thousand years. Then the Ubaid period came to an abrupt end...

      "The archaeological record shows that Arabian Bifacial/Ubaid period came to an abrupt end in eastern Arabia and the Oman peninsula at 3800 BC, just after the phase of lake lowering and onset of dune reactivation.... This might be due to the 5.9 kiloyear event at the end of the Older Peron." - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ubaid_period

      "Archaeologists have discovered evidence of an early occupation at Ur during the Ubaid period. These early levels were sealed off with a sterile deposit that was interpreted by excavators of the 1920s as evidence for the Great Flood of the book of Genesis and Epic of Gilgamesh ." - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ur

      "The 5.9 kiloyear event was one of the most intense aridification events during the Holocene Epoch. It occurred around 3900 BC (5,900 years BP), ending the Neolithic Subpluvial and probably initiated the most recent desiccation of the Sahara desert. Thus, it also triggered worldwide migration to river valleys, such as from central North Africa to the Nile valley, which eventually led to the emergence of the first complex, highly organised, state-level societies in the 4th millennium BCE." - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/5.9_kiloyear_event

      It's in the centuries following that event that this behavioral change can be seen in every civilization that sprang up. First in Sumer as Uruk flourished(3500BC), then in Egypt(3400BC), then the Indus Valley(3300BC). All of these places began to adopt the very same behavioral traits first seen in the Ubaid. There was class stratification, women were reduced to second class citizens, and violence erupted. And this change can be traced from that region/timeframe through to the rest of the world. Though the planet was already populated, it was populated by 'matrist' cultures, hunter-gatherers, horticulture/agriculture settlements, tribal indigenous people. Everywhere the 'civilized' people went, this behavior took over.

      This is all well documented in James DeMeo's study 'Saharasia'. I first learned of it in 'The Fall' by Steve Taylor, which I came across while studying that climate event.... "The Fall, then, refers to a change which occurred in the psyche of certain human groups around 6,000 years ago. It was the point in history when these peoples developed a strong and sharp sense of ego. The Fall was, and is, the intensification of the human sense of "I" or individuality." - Steve Taylor

      This is when humans stopped living in harmony with the natural world and began to bend it to their will. The changes in humanity were significant. Civilization was born here. Writing was born here out of a need to keep track of what's 'individually' owed. Mathematics and Astronomy. Laws were first established here. The boom of inventions is unreal, like nothing that had been seen before for the thousands of years that there had been large communities. And all of it independently of one another. The Egyptians were notable inventors as well as the Sumerians.

      This behavioral change that we're just now becoming aware of was significant enough that writers of some of these first civilizations wrote about it ...

      "There broke out ... all manner of evil, and shame fled, and truth and faith. In place of these came deceits and trickery and treachery and force and the accursed love of possession ... And the land, hitherto a common possession like the light of the sun and the breezes, the careful surveyor now marked out with long boundary lines." -Roman poet Ovid

      DeMeo speaks of this change being attributed to psychological 'armouring'. Taylor sees it as the emergence of the modern human ego, or a stronger sense of "I". Both attribute it to being the result of that climate change. This, according to what I"m talking about, is free will. And that climate change is 'how' God accomplished what He set out to do at Babel when the descendants of Shem/Ham/Japheth were dispersed throughout the world. The same things the Adam/Eve story spoke of really happened. Women were reduced to being 'below' men. And societies became all about the work, building up a surplus, building an economy. Having to 'work' rather than the land providing. Personal possession became a big deal as seen in graves. Individual wants.

      Plato talking about Atlantis during the 'golden age' before humans changed .. the people "[bore] lightly the burden of gold and other property they possessed; neither were they intoxicated by luxury, nor did wealth deprive them of their self-control and thereby cause their downfall."

      The climate changed back and forth from desert to greenland multiple times during this period, much like Genesis talks about. There was a flood according to both Genesis and the Sumerians not long before Uruk(3800) was built. One of the oldest, largest ziggarauts (tower) is in Eridu. It's from here that all the people who eventually transformed the region, then the world, came from. Egyptian written history begins with the arrival of nomads from the desert.

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      Methodskeptic 3 years ago

      I asked you for specifics, but I had to go over it all and untangle it, and lay out the timeline in order to make sense of your answer.

      To recap:

      Ubaid Period begins: 5500 BCE

      Eridu 5300 BCE

      Ubaid period ends: 4000 BCE

      5.9 KY event: 3900 BCE

      Uruk: 3500 BCE

      Egypt: 3400 BCE

      Indus Valley: 3300 BCE

      You never actually come right out and answer the question, and in your "On the Evolution of the Human Mind" Part 2, you say "it appears something significant happened in the development of the human mind somewhere very near that 3500 BC mark. If we're to associate changes in behavioral patterns with these intellectual advancements, then it appears the change happened closer to roughly 5500 BC."

      So yeah, right there, in your own words, plus or minus 1000 years. It takes you 5,000 words to even get to the point of that hub, so it's not very well-written just from a "supporting your thesis" essay-writing perspective, but throughout that hub, you're talking about constant and ongoing changes of which the 5.9 Kiloyear event was just one more in thousands of years before, and thousands of years after.

      So, we have a choice: we can either say, hey, maybe these drastic cultural, class, lifestyle and gender role shifts were CAUSED BY the changing lifestyle, that gender role shifts were CAUSED BY the shift to backbreaking agriculture, that greed and violence were CAUSED BY the innovation of stored wealth and material goods, all perfectly obvious non-supernatural effects...

      ...or we can posit the intervention of a God who suddenly gave everyone free will at that moment because we have a book of fables from almost three thousand years later that says something maybe somewhat similar with some embarrassing vagueness that relies on your specific interpretation of the text being right and three thousand years of everyone else's being wrong, even though your interpretation of the text is a narrative that is different from what the book actually says. Wow, just...wow.

      Sure, not all of these changes came at once in lockstep with the development of agriculture and large population centers. In a sense, a lot of these cultural innovations were, in essence, new inventions. And if a particular set of new cultural norms were more effective under the new conditions, it's only natural that their influence would spread rapidly. To use Richard Dawkins' terminology, things like gender hierarchy, ownership, rulership, division of labor, are memes--ideas which can be passed along.

      Occam's razor has a lot of slicing to do for your completely unecessary and unwarranted assumptions. Your theory is about as non-parsimonious as it is possible to be.

      Plus, you're still wallowing in the romanticized quackery of Taylor and Demeo, who are pseudohistorians with no credibility in that field. They are not historians or archaeologists in any legitimate sense of the word.

      So, you've looked to myths to explain quackery, rejected perfectly obvious naturalistic explanations out of hand, and you wonder why I think your theory is stupid. And when I point out that your theory is riddled with flaws at every conceivable scale of resolution, from the overall picture down to the individual details--you accuse me of being closed-minded. I'm not. Your theory is just a romanticized fantasy trying to shore up belief in the Bible, that's all. I've got no use for it.

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      Jeremy Christian 3 years ago from Texas

      Methodskeptic,

      You're right, it's not very well written. The comment about 3500BC was in reference to when writing first began as an indicator of when the modern human mind was most definitely present, mentioned at the beginning. My approach here is about trying to narrow down exactly where/when the modern human mind first emerged, and the span of time I focus on is from the beginning of anatomical modernity (200k BC) through to the dawn of writing(3500BC). Then, once I've covered behavioral patterns and such, I say that bit about how if you're to take behavioral patterns into account and associate those with 'the modern human mind' then it would seem the most significant change happened around 5500BC.

      To be clear, this hub wasn't about supporting my thesis. I'm not a scientist or a historian. I'm trying to have a conversation. And much of what I refer to in those conversations is not common knowledge, at least not yet. So I wrote a hub detailing exactly what the title says, the evolution of the mind and the origin of free will. Something I could then refer to that details these various ages and follows behavioral changes throughout homo sapien history. I'm not trying to say "look at this and recognize this as being the absolute truth". I'm saying "I see something here that seems significant to me". I keep trying to stress that I'm not insisting this is true. I just find way more here than what I feel should be just flippantly dismissed. My interest is and always has been the truth. I don't have to be right. It's not about me. It's just that I see something that seems significant to me that nobody else was saying. So I want to inject this into the discussion for consideration. So this hub wasn't so much about presenting my thesis as it was about just putting all that's known on the topic in one place. The only mention of my thesis is the bit at the end where I say I find it interesting how this parallels Genesis.

      I appreciate your reading and sharing your thoughts. I'll take them to heart and try to do better in the future in my writing, in my studying, and thinking. I still think there's something important here. If I've gotten anything across I hope you can see the correlation between the timeline of that story and actual history. Outside of what I'm presenting, any research into finding the events of Genesis in history work from the time of Jesus backwards, and often place the time of Abraham and Moses to being 1500 years later than what I'm saying. Whether or not a God was involved, whether or not Adam/Eve were immortal beings created as described, I hope it can be seen that there is a very real correlation between these stories and actual developments along the timeline I'm pointing out. Changes that we're only just now becoming aware of fit along with what's written incredibly well. Just think, we didn't even know anything about the Sumerians 100 years ago. We just recently found out the Hittites are real. And we're only finding out in the past decade or so that the behavioral change that all those Greek/Roman mythologies talk about appears to have been a real thing too.

      Again, I appreciate the conversation and I appreciate you taking the time to try to really understand. I'm fine with you dismissing this, not agreeing, finding it stupid, as long as you understand what you're dismissing or finding stupid. After this post I get the sense that you really do get it. I can't ask for more than that.

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      Jeremy Christian 3 years ago from Texas

      Methodskeptic,

      There's a couple of things I'd like to address.

      Re: Close-minded

      I understand your reasoning regarding science and it being our best approach to date for establishing objective truth. But I think we often get the wrong idea in thinking it addresses everything existence is. There's a difference between using science as a tool to establish objective truths about the material world and deeming any idea that suggests there's anything more to reality as being inadmissible or pointless to pursue because it doesn't lend itself to being objectively verified. So, to be clear, my objections about your viewpoint aren't specific to what I'm proposing. They're just in general. This viewpoint basically just predisposes you to only finding material answers, even if the actual truth is more than that. You'll never know it. It's not a very realistic way of thinking about things. If science has taught us anything to this point it should be that there's still a lot we don't know. Certainly not enough to go ahead and determine from the get-go that the material is all there is.

      Second, your discrediting of Demeo and Taylor carries little weight. If you can refute the ideas they put forward or the evidence they site in support of those ideas, that's different. To just categorically dismiss anything they have to say and basically slander their reputation by calling them 'pseudo-whatever' doesn't accomplish anything. There are sound reasons behind their ideas and real evidence that they're based on. And remember, this behavioral change was a prediction of mine. It's not like I was aware of their ideas and then built a story around it. I predicted a behavioral change that was then supported by this work. it just happened to be exactly what I expected. In any other arena that in itself would be significant.

      "...or we can posit the intervention of a God who suddenly gave everyone free will at that moment because we have a book of fables from almost three thousand years later.."

      For one thing, we don't know when Genesis was written. The date I assume you're referring to according to the Documentary Hypothesis is a guestimation based on a critical analysis of the text as it appears in the oldest surviving copies. But the stories it tells are clearly older. Similar stories from the flood to the babel story to the Adam and Eve story have been prominent in the region for as long as writing as existed. For another, it wasn't exactly 'sudden'. Personally I think it was genetic as it propagated much in the same way that a genetic trait that in some way makes some dominant over others would propagate. This behavioral change clearly made these people more aggressive and even driven to impose their will on the world around them, unlike any other point in human history up to that point.

      "says something maybe somewhat similar with some embarrassing vagueness"

      What exactly is vague about a specific timeline given directly in the text and specific events that had the same impact being described spaced apart by the same number of centuries as what's described? This can actually be demonstrated. Just the flood and subsequent Babel story lines up both with what the Sumerians described and actual history. We can actually see the abrupt end of a 1500 year old culture and we can actually see those massive migrations and we can actually see the direct relation of that to the spawning of multiple civilizations later. Mixed languages, the whole bit. Both the Sumerians and the Genesis story specifically say Uruk was built not long after the flood, and the actual Uruk actually was built just after the end of the Ubaid. They both also attribute the founding of Uruk to a 'mighty hunter'. How smart is it really to ignore all of this and dismiss it categorically as fictitious fables?

      "So, we have a choice: we can either say, hey, maybe these drastic cultural, class, lifestyle and gender role shifts were CAUSED BY..."

      Accept that these conditions were not unique to this age/region, but the results were. This is part of the problem. This is one of the most defining series of events in human history and so far what we've got as far as explanations are these vague guesses, basically. Like the explanation about the mythologies of these civilizations. Here we've got the inventors of civilization and writing and mathematics taking the time to write down stories they obviously found to be meaningful because those texts survived thousands of years because they were made permanent, yet our assumption is basically, "Yeah these ignorant bronze age people made this stuff up because they didn't understand the natural world". And here, again, assumption after assumption. Nevermind nothing like it happened again anywhere else even though the agricultural revolution happened everywhere else. Nevermind they specifically wrote about how they did what they did. Let's go with our random guesses instead.

      "So, you've looked to myths to explain quackery, rejected perfectly obvious naturalistic explanations out of hand, and you wonder why I think your theory is stupid."

      Quackery? And why is it that you consider my referring to climate changes and floods that actually happened to me 'rejecting naturalistic explanations'? As I said before, you're the only one looking for 'supernatural'. Everything I've stated throughout, with the possible exception of the creation of Adam and Eve, I've referred to natural explanations. I'm just pointing out that the order in which these natural processes happened is correctly described. Everything from the formation of the Earth through the creation account to the climate events and changes, I'm acknowledging these natural processes. And as I said before, like in the case of the Babel story, that 'natural' climate change is 'how' God accomplished what He set out to do in this context. Still a natural occurrence.

      Basically I'm showing that the evidence matches up with what we should expect to see if this hypothesis is correct. I didn't know the mythologies first, I only found out later that they describe exactly what I expected to see. I didn't know about the Sumerians before, or the climate change, or the abrupt end of the Ubaid, or the behavioral change. These were all things I predicted by simply placing this hypothesis against known history and then later found them to be the expected result.

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      Methodskeptic 3 years ago

      Been a busy couple of weeks...

      {{{This viewpoint basically just predisposes you to only finding material answers, even if the actual truth is more than that. You'll never know it. It's not a very realistic way of thinking about things. If science has taught us anything to this point it should be that there's still a lot we don't know. Certainly not enough to go ahead and determine from the get-go that the material is all there is.}}}

      The point is, even if the actual truth is more than that, YOU will never know it. I've said it before and I'll say it again, the quote from Dara O'Briain: "Science knows it doesn't know everything, otherwise, it would *stop.* But just because science doesn't know everything doesn't mean you can fill in the gaps with whatever fairy story most appeals to you."

      There are vast gulfs in the universe of things *we don't know.* But that's the most we can say, "we don't know." If you have some other way of gaining knowledge I'd love to hear it. But despite your protestations, at the end of the day, you're just telling me to "consider" other explanations. Okay, I considered them. I don't think there are good reasons to believe you.

      It takes more than consideration of supernatural possibilities: we need to account for how our theories correspond to the world around us. You look at both theories and you ask, which one accounts for all the data with the fewest amount of background assumptions that we just have to accept, and then we make an inference to the best explanation. You say that naturalism limits me, but I disagree--it simply eschews unnecessary assumptions.

      Your theory requires me to accept, on faith, that one particular nuclear family thousands of years ago was created by magic and endowed with unnaturally long life. It requires me to accept on faith that free will exists and was imbued to homo sapiens by magic at a discrete time and place. It requires me to accept on faith that a god exists, whose substance is pure magic as far as I can tell.

      These are colossal assumptions. Indeed, to paraphrase St. Aselm, it is the assumption none greater than which can be conceived. If you really wanted to prove your theory without fallacies, you'd have to start at the beginning and first demonstrate god exists, demonstrate that free will exists, and yes, go dig in the dirt or find someone else who has and provide hard evidence that this fairy tale of hypergeria has any basis in reality. Absent those things, your theory is completely dead on arrival. It's built on a foundation of fables, myths, and presuppositions, not on any evidence. Correspondence and your ability to kinda sorta make the timeline fit is not evidence.

      If god doesn't exist, you're definitely wrong. If the bible isn't based in fact, you're definitely wrong. If nobody has ever lived that long, your chronology has no basis. So how about proving all that before you assign belief to something that, let alone convince anyone else, that you yourself can't possibly know is true?

      I'm not saying all these things are false, either--you keep saying I'm excluding other possibilities a priori, when in truth, all I'm doing is excluding that which is not actually *known to be true* as a basis for inferring the best explanation. As soon as it is known to be true, I'll happily consider it. *Methodological* Naturalism is not presupposition. It is merely parsimony. Considering an explanation that is not known to be based on true things is to commit a logical fallacy. You manifestly have no issue with using bad logic and unsound reasoning. I do.

      Answers to specific points will follow, just needed to once AGAIN correct your confusion that methodological naturalism is not philosophical materialism.

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      Methodskeptic 3 years ago

      {{{Second, your discrediting of Demeo and Taylor carries little weight. If you can refute the ideas they put forward or the evidence they site in support of those ideas, that's different. To just categorically dismiss anything they have to say and basically slander their reputation by calling them 'pseudo-whatever' doesn't accomplish anything. }}}

      They have no credibility in the scientific community. Their ideas are not put forward for peer review in legitimate scientific press, rather they are self-published works directed at laymen. Demeo in particular is a proponent of Orgone Energy which is pure pseudoscience. Their ideas carry little weight and if you're going to cite their ideas as evidence, then the burden of proof is on the person making the claim. I reject their hypotheses.

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      Methodskeptic 3 years ago

      "says something maybe somewhat similar with some embarrassing vagueness"

      {{{What exactly is vague about a specific timeline given directly in the text and specific events that had the same impact being described spaced apart by the same number of centuries as what's described? }}}

      I'm not talking about the chronology. I'm talking about the narrative in Genesis 2-11 surrounding that chronology: it only vaguely resembles the narrative you want it to describe. It requires you to exploit ambiguities and contradictions in the text in order to even approach vague resemblance to the actual facts of prehistory. Other parts of the narrative flatly contradict your theory equally well, but you use semantics to dance around those problems. I reject your interpretation.

      {{{For one thing, we don't know when Genesis was written. The date I assume you're referring to according to the Documentary Hypothesis is a guestimation based on a critical analysis of the text as it appears in the oldest surviving copies. But the stories it tells are clearly older.}}}

      In order for your theory to hold, you need Genesis to be a LOT older than the evidence supports, so to you I say: YOU don't know when Genesis was written. There is no evidence to place *any part* of it earlier than 1000 BCE which is several thousand years too young for your purposes. And huge chunks of it certainly are not even that old, because they refer to things which did not exist before certain dates. The oldest actual fragments we have are centuries younger than that.

      I agree, it has some passing resemblance to other Semitic myths. It probably drew on those myths for inspiration. But to assert that such moderate, easily-accounted-for resemblance actually validates a chronology that relies on dozens of specific data points being exactly true? That is pure, corn-fed--pardon my language but there's no other word--Bullshit. I reject your conclusion.

      And, incidentally, the Septuagint and the Hebrew Bible don't agree on the chronology, so the "specific chronology given in the text" doesn't even exist in the first place, so you have no certainty on this point. I reject your chronology.

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      Methodskeptic 3 years ago

      {{{as I said before, like in the case of the Babel story, that 'natural' climate change is 'how' God accomplished what He set out to do in this context. Still a natural occurrence.}}}

      Wait, wait, wait, wait.

      Are you seriously saying that natural climate change led one particular lineage to spontaneously, simultaneously evolve both Free Will and preposterous longevity?

      And if this came about, and I don't believe for a second it actually did, through natural causes, how do you know God had a single thing to do with it?

      I'm sorry, compared to the spectacularly improbable tower of fallacies, wishful thinking, creative interpretation and outright fantasy you've come up with, yes, "these ignorant bronze age people made this stuff up because they didn't understand the natural world" is a lot simpler of an explanation for damn near everything, and it's an explanation that does not require us to make up anything that isn't evidently true already. There's no reason to reject it.

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      Jeremy Christian 3 years ago from Texas

      Methodskeptic,

      First I want to say that I do enjoy these discussions and appreciate the thought and consideration you've put into all of this. But, having said that, I want to reiterate that I'm not bringing this to you to consider. You came to me and began giving me your reasons why you don't accept what I'm saying. Which is fine. But if I see something that just doesn't jive in the reasons you give, then I'm going to point it out. There are some illogical reasonings you sight that I can't get on board with. And I would even go so far as to say they're detrimental and a potential hindrance to further progress in our learning.

      "...doesn't mean you can fill in the gaps with whatever fairy story most appeals to you"

      Again, these aren't just some fairy tales I'm drawing from or just some dreamt up apparition. These are multiple corresponding ancient texts that all share a common geographic origin. The age of Genesis isn't all that relevant. It's whether or not they're accurate. You may like to assume they were just ignorant imaginings of bronze age people (who forever altered how humans live on this planet for tens of thousands of years prior, including the invention of writing itself), but that's all that is. Your assumption. It was assumed for centuries the universe was infinite and static. It was assumed for centuries that the earth was the center of the universe. Assumptions can be wrong.

      "one particular nuclear family thousands of years ago was created by magic ....imbued to homo sapiens by magic ....a god exists, whose substance is pure magic as far as I can tell."

      "It's built on a foundation of fables, myths, and presuppositions, not on any evidence."

      It's this right here that's the issue. You keep trying to degrade everything down by insisting it's 'magic'. By trying to put this fairy tale spin on it that you're certain it is. It's this personal bias you hold that distorts how you perceive things.

      Why does it have to be magic? Essentially we're talking about an intelligent being, right? Intelligence does exist. And we didn't create it. It's a natural occurrence. We don't yet fully understand it, but it definitely exists in nature.

      Imagination is a key component to our scientific growth throughout the centuries. String theory, M-theory, dark matter/energy, the cosmological constant, the higgs boson, these were all products of imagination. And sometimes it just so happens that what was first imagined turns out to be very much like the actual answer to the question that inspired it. Based on what is observable, we make guesses at what's not observable, then find ways in which to test it. Some don't lend very well to testability, like string and m-theory , because they deal with multiverse/parallel dimension concepts that are beyond what's observable. But that doesn't stop anybody. from trying to peer beyond that curtain. And these theories postulate gargantuan numbers of whole other universes. I'm just postulating intelligence existing elsewhere and playing a role in the formation of this observable existence. Is that really so out of bounds? Why?

      "It takes more than consideration of supernatural possibilities: we need to account for how our theories correspond to the world around us."

      How is what I'm doing not that? Much like any other hypothesis that attempts to define the unobservable (see gravity/frequencies of light and sound beyond what we perceive/etc), I'm looking to either confirm or refute this hypothesis based on physical evidence. Does the evidence support or refute these events from having actually occurred as described?

      "If you really wanted to prove your theory without fallacies, you'd have to start at the beginning and first demonstrate god exists, demonstrate that free will exists"

      How? If God is as described, not by me but by ancient texts that claim to be documented accounts of this God's direct interaction with them, the way He described Himself according to them? If God were the creator of the causal chain that we read to determine what's what, how can the creator of that chain be a detectable link in it? It doesn't make sense that there would be demonstrable proof of God's physical existence. If there were, then we're not dealing with anything that created the universe, we're dealing with something else. Something that's a product OF this universe. Because that's the only way you're going to have demonstrable proof as you're insisting. The same goes for free will, being the product of a non-material mind, there's no objective confirmation of anything. This has long been the case and continues today.

      "go dig in the dirt or find someone else who has"

      DeMeo has. V. Gordon Childe has. WJ Perry and Richard Gabriel. Archaeologists and anthropologists agree on the behavioral change and the dramatic explosion of inventions and discoveries. It's archaeologically traceable that these changes came directly after that climate event and the migrations it caused.

      DeMeo's ideas and theories are not what I'm citing. It's the evidence that he's also referring to. It's exactly what my hypothesis predicted. Detectable behavioral changes that can be traced through the evidence to show that it originated where predicted and spread like predicted.

      "Are you seriously saying that natural climate change led one particular lineage to spontaneously, simultaneously evolve both Free Will and preposterous longevity?"

      No. I'm saying these traits were first introduced in a being created outside of the evolutionary chain as described roughly 1800-1900 years prior and had first flourished in one specific region before that culture came to an abrupt end. Then, a small number of survivors who still had these traits (Noah/Shem/Ham/Japheth and their respective families), continued interbreeding, with gradually decreasing lifespans diluted by 'mortal humans' (Gen6:3), then spread out into the world by climate change. Like seeds planted in fertile soil, sprouting new technologies and discoveries and behavioral changes in all the humans that populated the river bank regions they traveled to.

      "And if this came about, and I don't believe for a second it actually did, through natural causes, how do you know God had a single thing to do with it?"

      If the story proves to be true, and that's what the story says, then that's how we can know. Just like anything else unobservable/undetectable (see gravity, etc), you look at the impact this hypothesized unobservable thing would have had on what is observable.

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      Lucid Psyche 2 years ago

      I believe in God. If this were being written 100 years ago I could back up my belief with reason. Now I also have the advantage of an endorsement of that reasoning through the auspices of naturalistic science itself.

      It's very important for atheists to deny the obvious logical implications of the Big Bang. Here's why.

      The Big Bang is established science. The universe began to exist. To be specific, time, space, and matter all literally and simultaneously began to exist. If atheists / naturalists are to claim the high road of science as their own sovereign territory then it is reasonable to expect them to abide by the evidence yeilded up by methodological naturalism.

      Again. The universe began to exist and thus ... it had to have a cause. The Principle of Causality is one of The First Principles of Logic. I have actually witnessed atheists arguing causality when they finally grasped full, door slamming in their face significance of The Big Bang.

      There was no time, no space, no matter before the inception of the universe (no natural order). Thus by the foundational principles of naturalistic thought the universe could not have had a naturalistic cause!

      A supernatural (by definition) First Cause sufficient in energy and information is required for the universe (natural order) to begin to exist. That is a minimalist definition of God that is irrefutable if rationality and intellectual honesty are meaningful.

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      Jeremy Christian 2 years ago from Texas

      That's an excellent point. I've made a similar point in the past, but not worded in that way. That were was indeed no natural order. I've made the point that without the existence of time how could the singularity even begin to change states? But it's not just time, it is the entirety of the natural order. And whatever that cause is, if it is indeed something that existed outside of or apart from the singularity, then it is by definition super-natural.

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      Lucid Psyche 2 years ago

      Yes, you're spot on. The "argument from contingency" is also related. Every contingent thing (that could either exist or not exist) requires an explanation. Since it's now proved that the universe began to exist, we can know that it's existence is contingent (upon a sufficient cause). That cause is equivalent to the "necessary being" of the "argument from contingency" because it cannot ... not exist.

      All contingent things require an explanation.

      The universe is a contingent thing and thus requires an explanation.

      That explanation is a "necessary being".

      Therefore God exists. (to posit the idea that God is contingent is the same thing as invoking an infinite regression of causes)

      There is also The Principle of Sufficient Reason which states that for everything which exists, there must be a sufficient reason for it's existence. The universe exists therefore there must be a reason for it's existence. That reason must be greater than the universe itself.

      Positing the multiverse theory (etc) is susceptible to a number of problems. First it's pure speculation not established science and also opens the door to an infinite regression of Big Bangs which would be subject to entropy just as this universe is. If the past were infinite, total entropy would have been reached in the infinite past.

      Great original article btw. Please keep up the good work,

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      Jeremy Christian 2 years ago from Texas

      One common argument to suggesting God is the first cause is that God requires a cause as well. However, causes and beginnings only apply where time exists. Where there is not time there is no need for beginnings and endings. There is only what exists and what doesn't. Beginnings are irrelevant where there is no time. So there is no need for a cause to begin something where there is no time.

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      Lucid Psyche 2 years ago

      Excellent summation. Time itself is a difficult concept to work with logically from a naturalistic perspective. But the facts are what they are.

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