BioLogos goes all Natural Theology

October 1, 2012 • 1:36 am

I’ve lost most of my interest in the BioLogos site since they got rid of the few real pro-evolution people they employed, and also decided to change their mission from helping evangelical Christians accept evolution to engaging in apologetics, twisting biology however necessary to soothe the feelings of Darwin-affronted Christians. And, in truth, I don’t think BioLogos has accomplished much, despite getting another pot of money thrown at them by the Templeton Foundation. I find the organization pathetic in its fervent attempts to osculate the rump of evangelical Christianity.

From the outset  Biologos has hosted an “Answer to Big Questions” forum, a sort of FAQ site where perplexed Christians can get answers about evolution that don’t upset their faith. They’ve just added a new Q&A topic, though: “The questions update: Why should Christians consider evolutionary creation?

The answer to this question clearly shows the big flaw in BioLogos’s approach and methodology: their insistence of finding God’s hand somewhere in evolution. That, of course, does not comport with the way scientists view evolution. Scientists don’t think that somewhere in the hominin lineage God injected us with souls, nor that God engineered mutations on the sly to allow the evolution of H. sapiens. We simply don’t need such hypotheses.

As the new Q&A shows, BioLogos is engaged not in promulgating good science, but in promoting an updated “natural theology“: the discipline of finding evidence for God in nature. Natural theology is the bastard offspring of religion and science, a hobby of 19th-century British parsons that largely disappeared when Darwin arrived.  As you can see below, though, BioLogos is reviving it:

The heavens declare the glory of God (Psalm 19:1) and show his eternal power and divine nature (Romans 1:20). The Bible is our primary source of knowledge about God, and God’s character cannot be derived by looking at nature alone. But for those who know and trust God as their savior, the created order has the stamp of the Creator all over it. The starry heavens show God’s glory (Psalm 19), the thunderstorm displays God’s power (Psalm 29), and ecosystems show God’s care for plants and animals (Psalm 104:10-18). Today we know much more about God’s creation than the Biblical authors knew; telescopes and microscopes have expanded our horizons to the very large and the very small. Through science, we’ve learned how things work and fit together, too. Joining study and worship, we can think God’s thoughts after him, tracing his hand through the physical laws he used to create our world, marveling at the way he provides for creation as much as at the endless forms most beautiful he has created.

I contend that there is no conceivable observation about nature that couldn’t be used as evidence for God.  The horrors of natural selection? It’s all part of the mechanism God created to produce humans and the luxuriance of life we so admire, and it’s simply impossible for God to allow evolution without causing suffering. (That’s not true, of course.)  Gratuitous evils for humans, like childhood cancers and tsunamis? Those are unavoidable byproducts of God’s plan of allowing cell division during development and the movement of tectonic plates as part of Earth’s geology.

Sophisticated Theology™, which reaches its efflorescence in BioLogos, is sufficiently clever at doublespeak that even something like the Holocaust can be seen as evidence for God’s greatness. Or, if you completely fail to explain something, simply appeal to God’s unknowable nature—in which case you’re not entitled to even say that God is loving, omniscient, omnipotent, or chose to use natural selection as His means of creation. You either know God’s nature or you don’t: it’s not kosher to know just the parts of it that support your looney apologetics.

If you want to see modern natural theology in action, here’s an example from the BioLogos “answer” (emphasis is mine):

Here are three examples of biblical attributes of God emphasized by studying evolutionary science.

  • God is extravagant. God did not create just one type of flower, but uses the system of evolution to create a huge variety of flowers, of every size, shape, color, and scent. As opposed to being “wasteful,” a biblical view of evolution helps us appreciate it as a pointer to the extravagance of God’s loving gift of life to the whole earth. God’s creation does not reflect a cold efficiency, but the transformation of such “waste” into worship, just as Jesus honored the woman who poured expensive perfume on his feet (Mark 14:3-9, John 12:3-8).
  • God is patient, and most often works gradually rather than instantaneously. In the natural world, we see God creating life over billions of years, not instantly, and grand geological processes playing out slowly over time, as well. Similarly, in the Bible we read of the centuries that passed between God’s covenant with Abraham and his covenant with David and the centuries more before Jesus appeared “in the fullness of time” (Galatians 4:4). In individual lives, God often works by planting his Word deep in us and letting it grow slowly over time. God seems pleased with the slow but extraordinary unfolding of his universe, just as he is patiently unfolding his plan of redemption.
  • God is the provider. He provides for his creatures in each moment, giving them what they need to survive, adapt and thrive in communities of life. The Bible speaks of God feeding and caring for animals (Jonah 4:11, Psalm 104), and modern evolutionary science is shedding light on how God has arranged complex ecosystems that support many different kinds of creatures together. But God provides for his creatures even at the genetic level, giving species a measure of biological “creativity” to help them respond to new challenges. As biologist Richard Colling says, “Evolution is not about the imposition of death and destruction and survival of the fittest. Those things are a part of it, but not the main core of what evolution is. . . [The] evolutionary process of creating duplicate genes that give rise to new possibilities [is] redemption, it’s possibility, and it’s hope.”

As an evolutionary biologist, I would see this as deliberate humor if I didn’t know better. For I could think of several not-so-nice characteristics of God also manifested by “studying evolutionary science.” But I’ll leave this amusing exercise to the readers. I’ll mention only one: if God isn’t wasteful, why did more than 99% of the species that ever formed go extinct without leaving descendants?

What characteristics of God do you see from studying nature and evolution?

152 thoughts on “BioLogos goes all Natural Theology

  1. This is why I don’t think science and religion should mix. Believe what you want to believe in a religious context but understand it has no place being mixed into a science context.

    Where religion and science conflict and you just can’t give up on your religion, be open-minded enough to understand it may be your understanding of the religion that is flawed.

    So many of those ancient text, we have lost all context of the literary genre they were written in. Was the world literally created in six days or was six days used for a literary effect that we have now lost? The answer isn’t central to Christian theology, so why not consider that it may not have even been written to imply six literal days?

    1. We can also consider the possibility that people writing books thousands of years ago didn’t really know much, and they were just making up stories at the limits of their imaginations to placate the insecurity that comes from such profound ignorance. Diseases, droughts, and thunderstorms must have been much more terrifying in those days. They needed some means of at least emulating a sense of control.

      Today the religious seem to be inculcated with an unquestioned assumption that ancient texts must carry profound wisdom that was widely available thousands of years ago, and somehow has become obscured from us today. If we drop the reverential valorization of these texts and consider them on their merits alone in what is known of the historical context, we can see that the authors can’t be given credit for knowing anything at all about the origin of the universe, so we can disregard what they have written entirely as products of their creative imaginations.

      1. Of course, only their ancient texts.

        I pretty much doubt that other ancient texts (e.g. Sumerian, Egyptian, Greek, etc.) are treated with the same reverence or are given the same benefit of the doubt.

        1. It depends upon what circles.
          The ancient Sumerian flood story for example is very similar to the Noah story, except it uses 7 days instead of 40.

          Both 7 and 40 are numbers of completion, though slightly different context generally surrounds them, but that was the first hint I had growing up that it was not literal.

          Two different stories, virtually identical, but with different numbers yet the numbers used in both had similar context. That told me the numbers were there for literary meaning and not literal meaning and perhaps the same was true with other early stories.

    2. …we have lost all context of the literary genre they were written in. Was the world literally created in six days or was six days used for a literary effect that we have now lost? The answer isn’t central to Christian theology, so why not consider that it may not have even been written to imply six literal days?

      Christian theology isn’t central (or even tangential) to morality or reality, so why not consider that the ancients just made it all up?

  2. “What characteristics of God do you see from studying nature and evolution?”


    Random mutation. Natural selection (drift, gene transfer)

    Chemistry. Physics.

    If there are other mechanisms in operation, I’d be happy for anyone to provide evidence for them. “Assume the existence of a deity, then shoehorn reality into it” doesn’t work for me.

    1. “What characteristics of God do you see from studying nature and evolution?”

      God is a casino operator. He has no problem using semi-random gains and losses among patrons to produce the end result he wants.

      Occasionally he might intervene and throw someone out directly, but most of the time he doesn’t need to – he can just let the nature of the game do the work for him.

      1. Excellent analogy. This reminds me of a joke (quite a long one, sorry).

        A man is driving along a forest road, when all of a sudden a voice from Heaven says “STOP THE CAR”. Terrified, the man slams on the brakes, and just as his car comes to a stop a tree falls over a little further along the road.
        “I would have been crushed! Thank you God, why did you save me?” the man says.
        “Wow, all of my money, really?” the man asks.
        “I AM THE LORD!” is God’s only reply. So the man does as God commanded him to, he withdraws all of his money from his bank account & buys a plane ticket to Las Vegas. As he lands, he says a small prayer. “Well God, I’m here. What would you have me do now?”.
        “GO TO CAESAR’S”. So the man gets in a taxi & goes to Caesar’s Palace. Again, he prays and asks what God would have him do.
        “GO TO THE ROULETTE TABLE, PUT ALL OF YOUR MONEY ON NUMBER 7”. The man obeys. The roulette wheel spins, the ball lands… on number 8. The man is dumbfounded, and the voice from Heaven says:
        “….SHIT, NOT AGAIN”

    2. Correct. While I was cleaning my office out last night I found a paper about Richard Colling and was reminded that he saw God in randomness. For floating that notion he was effectively sacked from Olivet Nazarene, so it is not possible to see God in randomness. It has been decided. (And it’s in their manual, right there at 903.8.)

  3. He provides for his creatures in each moment, giving them what they need to survive, adapt and thrive in communities of life.

    Except when he doesn’t and he leaves them to starve to death, or die of innumerable ghastly diseases.

    1. or when it’s necessary that they don’t survive so that something else *can* survive, adapt and thrive.

    2. My avatar on this site is a good example of God’s care for his creatures. It a fossil of a Pterosaur that died apparently because it got a plant jammed through it’s lower mouth and starved. The image and description comes from this site:

      “Notice the frayed plant leaf wedged firmly between the lower jaws. Presumably this animal mistook the leaf for a fish and as it swooped to catch it the pointed leaf penetrated the pterosaur’s throat pouch. Unable to reach the leaf with its fingers the animal was incapable of extracting it. This prevented it from closing its mouth and catching fish: presumably it starved to death. The frayed ends of the leaf attest to the pterosaur’s futile attempts to rid itself of the leaf by rubbing it against the ground. “

  4. God is the provider. He provides for his creatures in each moment, giving them what they need to survive, adapt and thrive in communities of life.

    This is clearly a lie, otherwise there would still be huge dinosaurs wandering about. There would be no famine; there would not even be such a thing as natural selection. But aside from that, how does God deal with the conflicting interests of a parasite, like the organism causing malaria, and its host? If God is a provider, he is like an arms dealer who supplies both sides during a war that he himself instigated.

  5. I know you don’t like NOMA but is there any sense in which science and religion can be compatible? I read the following in Why Evolution Is True, page xx:

    “Accepting evolution… Nor need it promote atheism, for enlightened religion has always found a way to accommodate the advances of science…. The truth… is surely more satisfying than the myth that we were suddenly called into being from nothing.”

    One of your fanboys at another site says you’re just bagging god-of-the gaps type arguments, but it seemed to me that you were just saying that someone who accepts science, including evolution, at face value is just someone who accepts science, including evolution, at face value. They don’t thereby become an atheist, agnostic, Hitler, Stalin, or anything else.

    1. I still believe in God but I do both religion and science a favor and don’t mix them. Religion has no place in science and science has no place in religion.

      Even if what I believe is hogwash – it doesn’t matter to scientists if I keep it away from science 🙂

  6. Surely we can see the blessed mercy of our savior in his design of cancer cells. And the AIDS virus. And birth defects, Smallpox, the Black Plague, Polio, Malaria, etc.,etc.,etc.,

    Can I get a big PRAISE JEEZZUSSSS!!????

    1. Stendahl, French playright and general polymath in the early 19th C, stated it succinctly:’God’s only excuse is that he doesn’t exist’.

    2. Absence

      Absence implies existence.

      The prime characteristic of God that I draw from studying nature and evolution is that God is a villain in an inexplicably popular anthology of really bad ancient faery tales.


  7. I have two positions (at the moment) on all this.

    1. Anything that will help the fundamentalists let go of their literal reading of the bible, so that the schools can get on with the teaching of science would be helpful. This means that the next generation have a different foundation. There has to be a national science curriculum re evolution, and an exam which students must pass. So we could see a step-wise progression away from the preEnlightenment reading of the bible.

    2. For those who have passed that psychological goalpost, then the sorts of debates which are held on lofty groups such as this one, are interesting. We have thought through all the arguments, and are content in our happy atheism. However, this is a journey which we can’t expect those mired in the religious trance to do quickly.

    Biologos should have a general notion of a deity, and then help the fundamentalists come to terms with evolution. They could leave the deity as unknowable, ineffable and other poetic terms, and focus on teaching evolution and answering those same questions that the creationists keep regurgitating. Stick to the facts, and help them with the evolutionary narrative.

    However, we know that deity for the fundamentalist group leads to ‘ergo Jesus’, however Biologos could hold a straight deity line and teach evolution. Or at least get Dawkin’s App out to as many as possible.

    Or is Biologos’ brief to look at the Xtian god in particular?

    1. While Idea #1 seems theoretically promising on a superficial level, in practice Biologos doesn’t seem to have contributed to such shifts. To Collin’s credit, an increase in acceptance such as you suggest does seem to have been one of the goals when he founded the group. However, the organization seems over time to be shifting so as to progressively de-emphasize science and re-emphasize the importance of Biblical authority. This shift has happened in the mere five years since its founding — less than a fifth of a generation. This suggests such organizations are unlikely to individually be effective in the shaping change between generational cohorts. It’s possible that a series of such may arise, become corrupted, and fall into disfavor and disuse, but I think their effective lifetime vs. formation frequency will leave them a minor factor at best.

      1. abb3w, Sigmund and others have pointed out BioLogos’ ‘drift.’ And Dawn, yes BioLogos is only concerned with the xian god and lately the one in the minds of conservative evangelical xians. I along with both atheist, agnostic and xian colleagues were interested in helping Collins do exactly what Dawn’s #1 summarizes – get the science/religion discussion out of classroom by providing public school teachers with resources to direct students to appropriate venues for their science-faith issues. Giberson, Enns, etc., could then work on ‘harmonizing’ science and faith at BioLogos and not in the public classroom. Well we know how well that worked out for Karl and Pete and others who saw potential in Collins’ vision. I think that BioLogos is now preaching to a different choir.

      2. Thanks for this abb3w – it is disappointing result re a group reaching out to the fundies, to become corrupted by the very group they were trying to connect with.

        So that leaves us with the dreaded word ‘faith’ and how to help break people’s loyalty to it.

        I imagine there are studies asking people who have escaped, what their pathway was. I guess having the loud and proud atheists, such as the four horseman were helpful. I know that for many trapped in huge faith communities, that their journey out is lonely and scary.

        1. And Douglas E. Sounds like you were part of the original plan. The main way to break the chains is by giving the students information which they have to pass at a national level. They have to be able to write essays, explaining and defending evolution, much as they would the ‘theory of electricity’. There are so many faith-based schools (and even Australia is gaining more of them – not to mention the dreaded home-schooling, that are not teaching science – and simply can’t have the ability to do so without laboratories.

          Thanks again for your input.

          1. Dawn – although not part of the original plan, my good friend and colleague Joe McInerney and I were cautiously supportive of Francis’ newly formed foundation. Joe is the former director of the Biological Sciences Curriculum Study [BSCS] the publisher of evolution-based biology texts, and I was a CU biology professor and also had written the inaugural immunology chapter for the BSCS Blue Version. Joe is a long time and prominent champion for keeping creationism, ID and other such non-science out of the science curriculum and the science classroom/laboratory, often doing battle with school boards across the nation about textbood adoptions. Our attempted collaboration with BioLogos and trying to deal with the Templeton Foundation is a very long story, one that Joe and I may write about one day. But for the time being, we just have a beer and shake our heads.

            1. Douglas,
              I think our posts crossed in the night. Thanks for your info and some of your journey in being helpful in the process. Many decades ago, I was a science teacher in Australia, and had to broach all this at first with the year 8 (13yr olds). My aim was to tread lightly around their issues with god, however to help them see that the Genesis story, was a story not meant to be taken literally. As it was Australia, I didn’t ever have any complaints, and the kids just accepted that we had an ancient earth. I carried on as if there was no problem between religion and science, and they happily accepted it.

              Yes, do write a book about your experiences – sounds like scar tissue on your back.

              1. Yes it’s difficult to tell who is writing from where and what time zones are being represented. Normally I am in the Mountain Time Zone, US, but an now in Heidelberg, 9 hours ahead of MDT. And our experiences won’t make a book, at least without serious embellishment; probably a long essay….someday. No scar tissue, much bewilderment.

          2. PS
            I wasn’t suggesting anything about discussions, just to ensure that the science teachers can do their job and that there is a national curriculum. I would like to see a national exam, however I guess that would be too intrusive.

            I’ve now looked again at Biologos. It isn’t built for us, its to extend a hand towards those that are in fundyland. Its an awful place to be and we have to show some sort of compassion. The only, only, only way out is through education.

            I sorted my issue when I was a teenager in school learning about evolution – that did it for the literal meaning. And at that stage it didn’t dampen my interest in churchy things – that came a little later. This was decades ago. The other aspect of education is sociology – stepping outside your culture and viewing it as an anthropologist.

            I’d like to see Jerry ask this group for serious suggestions about how to help those people, rather than turning it into a free-for-all dust up.

            1. Dawn – understood. The sad sad news is that in the US, evolution in the curriculum and in state standards is actually decreasing rather than increasing – just one reflection of the sorry state of science education in the US.

              1. I follow US politics and of course am obsessed with the evolution issue. We are lucky that Australia is essentially a secular society with a few nutters.

                I’ve been a clinical psych for many years, so am also interested in the psychological process required for people to cross that very first barrier – the literal interpretation.

                I am very saddened that such a great country as the US is mired in such nonsense.

              2. The trend in the standards isn’t monotonic. For example, Florida’s science standards improved considerably the last time around (2008). Kansas has swung the pendulum back and forth a couple times.

                Attempts to erode them, however, are continuous.

        2. I’m unconvinced “corrupted” is the best way to characterize it, since I’ve not noticed much drift in the individuals involved. Rather, the organization’s drift seems to be the result of turnover in membership. This assessment may just be a result of my not paying close attention.

          If you’re interested in studies, one of my favorites is Amazing conversions: why some turn to faith & others abandon religion by Altemeyer and Hunsberger. Their “Atheists” study is also fascinating reading, though less focused on the deconversion process. Altemeyer’s “The Authoritarians” (available free on line) is even less directly relevant, but quite interesting and with wider import.

          I’m not yet convinced the Horsemen did more than continue developing the existing trends from Sagan, O’Hair, Darrow, and earlier. America’s shift to irreligiosity seems to have been going on for a long time. The 2012 Georgetown/PRRI study hints at signs of actual impact, but it’s a small enough study it may be a “jellybean”, a transient, or else an anomaly from sampling method. The 2012 GSS may give further hints when it gets released.

          1. abb3w

            Thanks for the lead on studies of how people abandon the loyalty to their faith. Yes, studies do need corroboration due to all the facets you mention – sampling etc. Sagan was a wonderful force, however I think that there is an extra force behind the horsemen – web pages and social media. America’s shift is slow, and the south has quite a way to go, and have so much power! I like your hopeful reading and it will help my impatience, and ire at the scientific lies which are propounded. Appreciate you input. 😉

  8. What characteristics of God do you see from studying nature and evolution?

    A lack of imagination when it comes to plumbing? For example, if you look at a horse and a human, a lot of the reproductive plumbing looks similar and works in a similar manner.

    — bold snarktag on
    But I think the best example of God in Nature is that before the Fall of Man, humans could not reproduce. After the Fall of Man, women were punished by having their internal organs and reproductive plumbing rearranged so that they could:
    a) reproduce; and
    b) have a lot of pain while doing it.

    Note that the re-arrangement was done so that the plumbing for pregnancy and birth in humans looks and works a lot like other placental mammals.

    I am glad that gods don’t exist. I would feel really depressed living under the dictatorship of such a nasty being.

      1. “As biologist Richard Colling says:
        redemption, possibility, hope.”
        These three abide; but the greatest of these is Hope.

        God must be a WebMaster, awaiting with infinite patience the slow unfolding of his upgrade plan for his not terribly intelligent website hosting design.

        Or maybe Preview and Edit functions will, you know, just evolve?

        Anyway, keep your coupon ready for Redemption. (There’s always a Possibility.)

    1. If I were designing the plumbing, I sure as hell wouldn’t put the playground next to the sewage works. So much for Intelligent Design.

  9. Plangina makes the stupid argument that omni-God can make those flourishes-extravagance whilst limited God would be more parsomonious!
    Of course, all is moot due to that certain Coyne argument!
    Just as full animists find intent for their many spirits, so per Lamberth’s reduced animism argument, so do reduced animists for their one spirit, and thus theists are so superstitious.
    Theists ever use the arguments from personal incredulity and from ignorance whilst we skeptics use Lamberth’s the argument from the conservation -background- of knowledge.
    I make explicit what already is implicit in the literature.
    The horror is that theists who murder each other do so in the name of that superfluity called God. Aquinas’s superfluity argument, which boomerangs on him with his silly, five failed arguments, notes that none should add God to explanations as that adds nothing.
    Percy Bysshe Shelley explains the matter:” To suppose that some existence beyond, or above them [ the descriptions-laws- of Nature,B.G] is to invent a second and superfluous hypothesis to account for what already is accounted for.” To then claim he makes a category mistake begs the question.
    ” Logic is the bane of theists.” Fr. Griggs
    I learned of this argument from the papers on-line of Peter van Inwagen who denies that God is a hypothesis: he has God in his heart.
    Advance theology just another manner of making woo!

    Skeptic Griggsy,etc.

  10. The answer to this question clearly shows the big flaw in BioLogos’s approach and methodology: their insistence of finding God’s hand somewhere in evolution.

    They see that as part of what is required for a Christian to accept evolution. However, it is pointless. Christians will always find God’s hand in whatever they look at, and they don’t need help for that.

    1. Ahh!

      There is the crux of the matter!

      For those who are too afraid, lazy, or whatever to take the time and effort to look at,and try to understand, things as the scientific study of nature discloses them, there is always the easy escape back to the myth of their religion.

      It is so simple to just say “goddidit”!

  11. There must be an unclosed italic tag in comment #9. Everthing following that seems to be italic. This is probably a wordpress bug – it should automagically close all unclosed tags when accepting a comment.

  12. God isn’t wasteful alright. (He) wiped out all living creatures on the earth that (he) produced, except for the arkfull. Of course (he) also knew that (he) was going to do it long before it happened since (he) knows the past and the future.

  13. What I really don’t understand is how these Sophisticates™ can still call themselves Christians, let alone Baptists, Catholics, Lutherans, etc. given the kind of god they claim to believe in.

    Or do they secretly still believe the Not So Sophisticated Stuff™you are required to believe if you want to rightfully be considered a member of one of those denominations?
    I would be deeply shocked if this turns out to be true 😀

  14. Nature shows us that god is one grandiose entity, figuratively and literally filled with itself and out to impress and awe. Most of us would not tolerate those characteristics in people, but with god belief, anything is permitted, including the glorifying of an egomaniac.

    Divine worship is nothing special as it comes from a primitive and basic desire of animals to spare their lives from stronger creatures. In other words, worship is just grovelling, rolling on your belly, hoping nothing will be taken away from you as long as you show complete submission.

    Religious belief cements this hope into the fantastic leap of faith that everything was made for us–see how essential we are, we are not just flotsam and jetsam! Not only will we get to keep what is ours, that is, our life, we get more in heaven! It is grovelling which has morphed into greed.

    When there is a social safety net as there is in secularized Europe, cooperation based on mutual benefit replaces blind hope, need to grovel, oops, worship, and greed. Though it is tempting that a teething ring should be given to religious believers to ease this transition, I suspect all it really does is to impede their acceptance of reality based on the evidence we so abundantly have.

  15. A fundamental part of natural selection involves creatures dying off before they can reproduce and pass on genes. “Selection“ in this context is in so small measure synonymous with “untimely death”. Natural selection is a fact, but it is not our friend.

    It does indeed take impressive mental gymnastics to attribute natural selection to a benevolent and all-powerful god. I almost feel bad for those who feel the need to keep trying, except that their ignorance is consistently shown to be largely willful.

    1. What is the evolutionary difference in the brains of those who have the “God” dependency?

      What is the evolutionary difference in the brains of former, dedicated evangelicals who have succeeded in breaking away as compared to those who seem incapable of such a break.

      Or is it simply a matter of those who have taken the time to learn and study as opposed to those who haven’t?

      (I’m making the very probably wrong presumption that there almost has to be some sort of evolutionary difference in the subject brains)

  16. “…just as Jesus honored the woman who poured expensive perfume on his feet….”

    I suspect he must have had really bad foot odor for her to waste such expensive perfume on his smelly feet.

    I imagine the conversation went something like this.. “Here my lord, let me make your feet smell like wonderful flowers” and then thinking “rather than the rotting animal feces they currently smell like, you think if he can turn water into wine he could at least make his feet smell a little less offensive.”

  17. I fail to see the difference between God subtly engineering mutations so it looks like drift and selection and God subtly burying fossils so it looks like species go extinct and the earth is old.

    1. If God created a planet with life that goes through climatic and geological changes, it makes sense that he would create that life to adapt to those changes.

      But it also makes sense for life that evolved on such a planet to naturally adapt.

      So it’s a question of do you want to believe. If you want to believe, more power to you, just keep your belief in church or wherever, not in the science class 🙂

  18. God seems pleased with the slow but extraordinary unfolding of his universe, just as he is patiently unfolding his plan of redemption.

    ‘Seems pleased’? Pleased with what exactly? With plagues, genocide, destruction, unbearable suffering? How the hell do they know that God ‘seems pleased’? Did he invite them for coffee?

    What characteristics of God do you see from studying nature and evolution?

    Mind-boggling cruelty and an inordinate fondness for horrible people.

  19. What characteristics do I see?

    Epic bloodlust. The flipside of Evolution is a huge pyramid of pointless death. Countless gametes, embryos, eggs, young, adults that got infected or eaten.

    Even the organisms that produce offspring all die, generally in painful, drawn-out or horrid ways.

    Would an omnipotent god ever have created carnivores or parasites at at all? Why can’t we all live off minerals directly?

        1. I’m only saying that evolution is the best way to get solid organic self-aware machines and that if I was God, I would let that process processing…

            1. That would be far too unsophisticated for a hip designer God. That is sooooo 18th century. Today’s hip God has outgrown that naive simplicity, and understands that to keep pace with the times, a racy flirtation with empirical fact is needed to add that perfect stylish accent. The semblance of rigor in today’s world of fashionable theology is undoubtedly de rigeuer.

              1. it is “rigueur”.

                Absolutely correct. This is your best post yet. You left out all the unfounded hypotheses and baseless speculation about god.

            2. @Ant
              Because, believe it or not, the no-thing we call God is also a natural phenomenon that has to deal with real life for real. It is not a magician that can act like the laws of nature doesn’t exist. he is a part of the process or I should say, the frame of the process. Or like the white scree that allows a film to be projected.

              I’m not a creationist, I don’t think the Bible is a reliable source…

              1. “the no-thing we call God is also a natural phenomenon”

                What “we”?

                There’s nothing – no thing, no no-thing – that I call “God”. Except (before Ben jumps in) any of a varied set of incoherent ideas. I don’t recognize what you describe amongst that set. It stretches even pan(en)theist ideas.


              2. All traditions have their mystique where they explain in detail the nature of God (or Emptiness in buddhism). Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism are basically saying the same things about the ultimate nature of God, about how God is a space in which all opposites are reunited.. I was really surprised by this. But I had a bigger surprise when I found that jewish mysticism was offering what I think the best synthesis. Here is a short passage:

                “According to Azriel, Ein-sof unifies within itself being and nothingness, “for the Being is in the Nought after the manner of the Nought, and the Nought is in the Being after the manner [according to the modality] of the Being… the Nought is the Being and Being is the Nought.[11] For Azriel, Ein-sof is also “the principle in which everything hidden and visible meet, and as such it is the common root of both faith and unbelief.”[12]

                Azriel further held that the very essence of the Sefirot, the value archetypes through with Ein-sof is manifest in a finite world, involves the union of opposites, and that this unity provides the energy for the cosmos.[13]

                The nature of sefirah is the synthesis of every thing and its opposite. For if they did not possess the power of synthesis, there would be no energy in anything. For that which is light is not dark and that which is darkness is not-light.”

                But I guess it can only make sense when you are able to see for yourself that consciousness is uncreated.

              3. Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism are basically saying the same things about the ultimate nature of God, about how God is a space in which all opposites are reunited.

                Oh, what bullshit.

                According to Islam, there is no god but Allah and Muhammad is his prophet.

                According to Christianity, Jesus Christ is the only begotten son of God the Father, and none shall come to the Father but through Jesus.

                And Buddhism, for the most part, rejects the notion of an all-powerful creator god.

                See? This is why empiricism is your friend. Trusting your inner woo leads you to spew nonsense like this. Had you empirically investigated the most obvious basic facts about the three religions, you wouldn’t be stepping in shit right now.


              4. When it comes to the nature of God, Buddhism, Islam (sufism), Judaism and Christianity will talk about the same concepts. I could put back to back sme texts of Ibn Arabi, Meister Eckhart, the Buddha or any kabbalist and you’ll see a lot of resemblance, especially when it comes to how God is beyond opposites. They’ll have some distinction but they share a same core. That won’t be found necessarily in the official holy books but in the mystic works of those traditions.

              5. @Bebop

                When it comes to the nature of God, Buddhism,

                Now my bullshit detectors are on red alert. In Buddhism there is no concept of god, there is no deity. There are enlightened beings, but every human can aspire to become an enlightened being. To claim there is a Buddhist concept of God is just another example of your “Wow, everything is connected” sloppy lazy thinking that attempts to draw in and assimilate everything while distorting it enough to pretend that it confirms your preconceived notions.

                As far as I know, Buddhism is entirely agnostic about whether the universe was created or not, whether it has a beginning and end or not. To suggest there is a God in Buddhism may have been done incorrectly by some of his followers, but the notion of God is not one that Buddha dealt with. If I’m wrong, why don’t you show us an authentic quote from Buddha that talks about God?

              6. This is blog so I won’t talk here about the divine aspect of Nirvana or the nature of Buddha, but the main reason why buddhism is considered an atheist religion is because God, or we should say Oneness, is not something exterior to you, it is within you.

                It is in fact a very cocky religion!

                As for the uncreated…

                “To necessarily attain nirvana is [to attain] eternal bliss. Eternal bliss is ultimate tranquility. Tranquility is supreme nirvana. Supreme nirvana is uncreated dharma-body. Uncreated dharma-body is true reality. True reality is dharma-nature. Dharma-nature is suchness. Suchness is oneness. Amida Tathagata comes forth from suchness and manifests various bodies – fulfilled, accommodated, and transformed”

                Compiled by Gutoku Shinran
                Disciple of Sakyamuni

  20. And another thing:

    On what basis can he possibly assert that “god seems pleased with his creation”? Where is any evidence whatever that provides a clue to his mental state?

    Anyway, if he is pleased, he’s a sadist.

    1. “Anyway, if he is pleased, he’s a sadist.”

      Indeed. If one assumes the existence of ‘god’ then the inevitable conclusion is that we are the subjects of some sort of supreme-being-middle-school 8th grade science project. Our particular project being assigned to the juvenile delinquent in the class.

      1. We grasp the world through opposites, physically and psychologically. It has no choice to be like this on a space/time material plane. That is why we have tomorrows and yesterdays, high and low, nights and days or good and evil.
        But from God’s perspective, that duality doesn’t exist since God is above the opposites by which we grasp the world. That is why we are finite and God would be infinite and uncreated.

        That is also why the oriental traditions put a lot of emphasis on being able to reach an egoless perception where you could check by yourself that you are borrowing right now your own self-awareness from God’s uncreated consciousness and that good and evil are actually distortions felt and seen because of our dual lens.

  21. “For I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me” ( Deuteronomy 5:9)

    And so the LORD created epigenetic modifications to ensure that people who engage in uhealthy activity will have children and grand-children more prone to cancer and obesity.

  22. “What characteristics of God do you see from studying nature and evolution?”

    100% Indifference. And that is the opposite of Love. So, a God with Zero Love.

    Even Santa Claus displays more Love! He gives, and never issues death, destruction (e.g. tornadoes). And Santa is visible at least once a year! I’ve seen hundreds, thousands of pictures of Santa! The question once posed by Italian journalists to the Pope, “Where is God, and why is He hiding out?” (Acrimonious but unhelpful reply from Pope about the extreme impiety of such a question).

    Santa Claus FTW!!! Followed by Thor, Zeus, and a few others. Xtian “Supreme, Three-Part Being” way, waaaaay, back in the pack..

    1. I’ve seen hundreds of pictures of God too, and his son (which is also himself), but not of his prophet Mohammad.

  23. I had to look up “osculate” and “efflorescence” reading this post.

    Enigmas in natural theology re suffering can always be resolved by falling back on the “where were you when I made the world?” that God pulls out at the conclusion of the Book of Job, to which I would answer I want either a new God or no God. As best I can see the creator of this world is a bungling tinkerer.
    Cancer and the Holocaust are the big issues for me.

    Natural theology goes back to pre-Christian ancient times. You can find some elements of it in Plato as well as in medieval thought. Much of it deals with various forms of trying to establish God’s existence from the “Argument from Design” which carries little weight post-Darwin.

  24. Have been reading two wonderful/horrible new histories of WWII: “Bloodlands” and “The Taste of War.”

    They are remarkable evidence-based histories but also literally nauseating to read. Live cannibalism among other things will do that.

    Bottom line – tens of millions of people died of starvation and related illnesses. Most due to purposeful, society wide homicidal and suicidal frenzies along with year after year policies.

    Certainly that is a lot of evidence of a divine being that is extravagant in killing and destroying whole peoples and societies and patient in doing so.

    However, the only thing that was “provided” was inexpressible horror, terror and death.

  25. Somehow I don’t see mass extinction events as being especially compatible with God “providing and caring for plants and animals.”

  26. “the thunderstorm displays God’s power”
    When I was a kid I was told, at church, that thunders were the results of angels playing with giant sacks with big rocks inside!!

  27. To see evolution as a part of god’s master creative plan is pretty much part of the larger view that the universe is the way it is because god wants it that way. The problem with that is that it doesn’t explain anything: there’s no difference between a universe like ours that originated naturally and one that is the pure expression of god’s plan, except that god is in one and not the other. So there seems to be no reason to posit a god.

    1. You don’t know about this because if our universe has what you’ll call a divine presence (which means it would be still natural), that may be the explanation for reason, meaning, subjectivity (and so objectivity), morals, science, intentionality, beauty, joy and of course, the negative effects that come with this.

      On the contrary, if a universe without any divine phenomenon could come to existence, it could mean it would be empty of the quality above.

      But it would be hard for that universe to pop out since it looks like God is the limitless ground that allows nothingness and somethingness to make things happening…

      1. “…it looks like God is the limitless ground that allows nothingness and somethingness to make things happening”

        No, no it doesn’t.

      2. I have absolutely no idea what you are saying here. “That MAY be the explanation . . . it COULD mean . . . it LOOKS like . . .” bla bla bla.

        I think it is much more important to ask HOW instead of WHY. We see what the universe IS (although very imperfectly) and we know some of the HOW. “WHY” is highly overrated as a question, because it’s always a matter of speculation. It implies that some intelligence was motivated to act to bring about a state of affairs, and since we don’t know that was the case at the beginning of the universe, it doesn’t seem like a fair question. We don’t usually ask WHY a tree grows, so why ask it about the universe’s origin?

    1. To be fair, the gods do exist…but only as characters in storybooks.

      You can’t go and shake Harry Potter’s hand, but there certainly is some insubstantial representation of Harry Potter in your mind — and that insubstantial representation is as real as anything else that goes on inside your brain.


      1. I will side with Ben on this thread and in 34. Gods do exist in people’s minds, although I posit that such gods are idiotypic even for any group that claims to accept the same god. Real problems arise when folks believe that the god in their minds should be the god in the mind of others, i.e. religion. I have no problem with folks having faith in god – sometimes it even has a positive impact on behaviors; but, all too often it has negative effects on behaviors that negatively impacts others.

  28. To be fair, the gods do exist…but only as characters in storybooks.

    to be fair, TL’s response was relevant to what we learn from studying evolution and nature, not fictional books.

        1. Dude, I’m not.



          It’s obvious that the gods don’t exist as claimed — it hardly takes a genius or a deep analysis of nature to dismiss the claims of theists.

          But it’s equally obvious that there’s something that people are pointing to when they use the word, “god.”

          Obviously, that something is the same sort of something as any other fictional character.

          Hamlet ain’t any more real than Jesus, but that doesn’t mean you can’t go see him give his famous soliloquy on stage Friday night.

          Now, was that so hard for you to understand?


          1. So, the analogy would be to watch someone play God. Lessee, there was George Burns, Morgan Freeman, oh, and my favorite: Alanis Morisette! I suppose it’s possible that there’s something in the human brain that likes to imagine god, but it’s no different from any hero–from Achilles to Superman. The same thing goes for Santa Claus. It’s why “Miracle on 34th Street” is still a favorite holiday movie. The difference is, SOME people are serious about believing in a god, whereas we might on occasion indulge in a fun fantasy.

  29. “I find the organization pathetic in its fervent attempts to osculate the rump of evangelical Christianity.”

    another addition to my quote file.

  30. What characteristics of God do you see from studying nature and evolution?

    I think others have already said something similar, but callousness. I think that whenever I consider Antarctica, and of the lush ecosystems it used to host, only to be slowly killed off as the land drifted ever southward. This goes for the Gaia crowd, too. How can anyone pretend there’s some benevolent force from the planet when an entire continent’s worth of life went extinct?

  31. “Scientists don’t think that somewhere in the hominin lineage God injected us with souls, nor that God engineered mutations on the sly to allow the evolution of H. sapiens. We simply don’t need such hypotheses.”

    God doesn’t need to inject any soul. What we call soul is only a high concentration of self-awareness. That is the difference between humans and most animals. Everything that is alive is somehow conscious but the degree of self-awareness varies a lot from a species to another. Human is the most self-aware species. That is what allows subjectivity (and objectivity), creativity, morals, meaning, etc… and culture on a social scale, to appear.

    So evolution can be seen as a process consciousness uses to increase the quality of self-awareness. God doesn’t need to intervene, consciousness does alone by itself what it is required to increase self-awareness through a natural random process. It is the best way you can use if you desire to get reliable self-aware organic machines.

    1. “What we call soul is only a high concentration of self-awareness”
      So it doesn’t survive beyond death then. That’s not what most people would think of as a soul.

      “So evolution can be seen as a process consciousness uses to increase the quality of self-awareness”
      Not if we’re trying to describe it accurately.

      1. I think consciousness is uncreated. A lot of oriental traditions developed techniques so you can check this for yourself.
        Consciousness being a highly subjective “matter”, you’ll understand that there are aspects of it that escape the scientific method and that our senses and our intellect, when experienced on our average default mode, have some limits.

        But if consciousness is truly uncreated, it wouldn’t mean you carry your self with yourself when you die. It would mean that you would re-merge within the original state (uncreated) of consciousness.

            1. Here is someone who gets it!


              Not really the kind of guy you expect to be a mystic… Well maybe…

              “Bentov was born in Czechoslovakia and moved to Israel. In Israel, Bentov was part of the Science Corps within the Israeli Defense Forces, a military branch known by the Hebrew acronym HEMED, where he designed Israel’s first rocket for the War of Independence.” -Wiki

              1. That is a good question that can be only answered personally when the ultimate test will come.
                But since what I could see is useful and corroborated by many testimonies and traditions, explicitly when it comes to buddhism, and that for technical reasons, science can’t deal with this, I’ll go with what is useful. Because usefulness is useful.

              2. Well, that only tells us something that we already know: That people are susceptible to the same kinds of delusions, which are interpreted according to social and cultural traditions. It’s not at all clear that “science can’t deal with this” (awareness of uncreated consciousness) as it’s already well established that science can deal with NDEs, OBEs, and all the other examples that Ben enumerated elsewhere previously.

                It is utter hubris (woobris?) to assume that your mental states are privileged compared to such other delusions and forever beyond scientific analysis.


    2. “So evolution can be seen as a process consciousness uses to increase the quality of self-awareness. God doesn’t need to intervene, consciousness does alone by itself what it is required to increase self-awareness through a natural random process.”

      I can sort of see how you got there, and I suppose when I was a LOT younger and more ignorant I may have had a similar hypothesis. But there are so many problems with it I don’t know where to begin. I suppose for starters it’s somewhat Lamarckian–the “hopeful monster” idea that “I’m not very self-aware yet, but in a few hundred thousand years I will be.” The idea of a self doesn’t evolve because evolution purposely moves in that direction. Your statement that consciousness “uses” evolutionary processes, i.e., random mutations favorable to survival, in order to develop self-awareness, seems self-contradictory in that suggests that a random process can have a purpose. That doesn’t make sense to me.

      1. A random process with a purpose may only seem problematic because of language. Because if this is what is truly happening, you’ll understand that the process doesn’t care about language… I would think au contraire that it is an healthy paradox.

        But consciousness itself wouldn’t really evolve. First, I believe that it is uncreated and a basic property of the universe, beyond space and time.
        Second, for the same reason that it is in the nature of water to wet, it is in the nature of consciousness to “aware”, and that nature can only lead to an exponential curve of awareness that ultimately leads to self-awareness, which can lead to enlightenment, i.e.: to see for yourself the uncrated nature of consciousness that supports the egotic self which is fed by our default mode of grasping.

        So in that sense, consciousness can’t evolve because it has no beginning and no end, beyond space and time. But what can evolve, or change, is our conception of our self, which is only possible if you have reached a certain degree of self-awareness.But you have to look for it.

  32. “God’s creation does not reflect a cold efficiency, but the transformation of such “waste” into worship, just as Jesus honored the woman who poured expensive perfume on his feet (Mark 14:3-9, John 12:3-8).”

    So- what does a woman being honored rather than reviled for “wasting” expensive perfume have to do with how many varieties of flowers there are? Did God create them in order to worship himself?

    “God often works by planting his Word deep in us and letting it grow slowly over time. God seems pleased with the slow but extraordinary unfolding of his universe, just as he is patiently unfolding his plan of redemption.”

    So- God plants his word deep in us; what about those who run out of time before they “get it”, and burn in Hell forever? And just how does one tell whether God is “pleased” or not? Fewer earthquakes? The stock market goes up? You got laid last night?

    “God is the provider. He provides for his creatures in each moment, giving them what they need to survive, adapt and thrive in communities of life.”

    So what about the coyote who dies an agonizing death from mange? Or the reindeer who plunges through thin ice on a lake and dies slowly of exposure? The cattle who starve for want of grass, or die of thirst when drought strikes? For that matter, what of the human animals being tortured, raped, and slaughtered every day in ridiculous conflicts over slight differences in religious views; the human infants who grow up stunted and retarded because of malnutrition, etc., etc.?

    The paradoxical nonsense that’s being spewed out here is, as usual, astounded, but entirely expected.

    1. Consciousness, when embodied on a space/time material plane, can only be experienced on a dual mode where the world is grasped through opposites (good vs evil, south vs north, night vs day…). And while it may look that this material plane and what derives from it is absolute, it wouldn’t be the case if God exists. And if God exists, it wouldn’t be surprising that he wouldn’t be subjected to our default dual mode of perception. That would also mean that consciousness would then be an uncreated property of the universe and that the dual mode experienced, pain like joy, would “only” be transitory feelings and sensations caused by our dual lens. But in “reality”, the uncreated consciousness that is borrowed by the deer or the coyote and all humans to feel pain, the core itself isn’t affected.

      1. Bebop – you sound like a Dembski- or Platinga-in-training, and thus think thoughts way too deep for us common folks.

        Here is a recent Dembski-ism:

        What’s significant, however, for this discussion is the associated flow of logic, namely, FROM an information-theoretic marker of intelligence (specified complexity) TO an intelligent cause responsible for that marker (a designer). Specified complexity is an information-theoretic property exhibited by certain systems. A combination of mathematical and empirical factors characterizes it. Specified complexity is a sign. A sign of what? An intelligent cause.

        1. That’s an excellent example of the kind of stuff I used to think was “deep.” I like to think it all started with Jung, but that’s only because that was my first exposure to high-sounding murk. What it took me many years (to my regret) to figure out is that my lack of understanding wasn’t my fault!

            1. kz1 – I can relate to your experiences with “deep thoughts” [was that an SNL routine?]. And you are spot on with science sometimes being difficult but understandable, and in a way that is similarly/identically understood by all rather than by interpreting the deep thoughts however one pleases. I love to ask my biology students “Make sense?” and if they get it, it does!

              1. Douglas E: “. . . in a way that is similarly/identically understood by all rather than by interpreting the deep thoughts however one pleases. ”

                Yes! That is exactly the thought I wanted to add but couldn’t think of the words for. Thanks!

        2. I’m not arguing for a designer. Consciousness is a free uncreated agent that do what its nature pushes it to do. That’s it.
          And in our case, the nature in question produces side effects like subjectivity and morals for example, when consciousness is able to become highly self-aware like in humans. Nothing deep here…

      2. Nearly 40 years ago I used to take acid. I once saw my uncreated consciousness spurting from the top of my head like a great glowing fountain of light reaching around the globe to connect with the consciousnesses of unlimited numbers of unknown people everywhere in a very intimate way.

        I used to think that really meant something, but we eventually grow out of it. The cool thing about believing in God but not the Bible is you can make up any kind of shit you like.

        1. So are you also saying that the oriental traditions with their techniques that allow you to see for yourself the uncrated nature of consciousness is bullshit? I guess so.

          By the way, our brain is constantly under chemical. That something like acid (which I never took) helps you to see things differently doesn’t make that perspective necessarily false. A new study showed that the brain under psylocibine (magic mushroom) is less active than a normal brain. That isn’t something that was expected since it was presumed that this drug would stimulate more the brain…

          “Huxley posited that ordinary consciousness represents only a fraction of what the mind can take in. In order to keep us focused on survival, Huxley claimed, the brain must act as a “reducing valve” on the flood of potentially overwhelming sights, sounds and sensations. What remains, Huxley wrote, is a “measly trickle of the kind of consciousness” necessary to “help us to stay alive.”

          A new study by British researchers supports this theory. It shows for the first time how psilocybin — the drug contained in magic mushrooms — affects the connectivity of the brain. Researchers found that the psychedelic chemical, which is known to trigger feelings of oneness with the universe and a trippy hyperconsciousness, does not work by ramping up the brain’s activity as they’d expected. Instead, it reduces it.”

          1. So are you also saying that the oriental traditions with their techniques that allow you to see for yourself the uncrated nature of consciousness is bullshit? I guess so.

            I think you have a reading problem. I can’t see where I said one word about “oriental traditions”. Evidently you see that somewhere.

            Certainly some Eastern traditions are bullshit. There is a lot of fraud and pretense involved in mystic and occult practices and beliefs. I don’t believe in any gods, so you can chuck all that out. Bells and incense and circumambulating and prostration and offerings don’t help anyone. I’m most familiar with Buddhism, and have traveled a bit in India, Nepal, and Mongolia. My conclusion is that of all the Buddhists in the world, a large percentage couldn’t even tell you what the four noble truths are. It seems common that they think of Buddha as a kind of deity to make offerings to and ask favors of. Very few meditate. They are mostly just ordinary people with ordinary worries, fears, and concerns, and they have no special access to mystical truths. One thing I would speculate on is that in the Buddhist world they take compassion and generosity more seriously than most Christians do.

            I think that meditation and yoga can train the brain in ways that deepen focus and concentration, and can improve one’s state of mind. This is like athletes training the body to build its strength.

            I don’t believe anybody can “see the uncr[e]ated nature of consciousness”.

            Here are a few questions for you to answer about the “uncreated consciousness”, as you see it (perhaps with your third eye).

            When does the uncreated consciousness enter the body?

            What triggers this event?

            Where does the uncreated consciousness come from?

            In what form and by what method does it travel from its source to its destination, and how does it locate its destination? Is it a lightening bolt, a sphere, a glittering swirl of particles, is it a long tubular connection like a hose, does it materialize spontaneously as though traveling through a wormhole?

            Since it is a non-physical dualist entity, how does it bind to the physical brain? By what force does it transfer its willed movements to the nervous system?

            Certainly if it can transmit impulses to the nervous system it’s presence and effects are detectable. Why has no one constructed a test to prove the existence of your uncreated consciousness?

            Your argument about psychedelics implied that brain activity throttles or hinders the uncreated consciousness. Yet if it can communicate with our senses and body it must effect matter, which means we must be able to measure its influence and activity. And if lower brain activity somehow indicates streamlined pathways for the consciousness, why do meditation experts show increased brain activity in certain areas compared to the typical person when subjected to various stimuli?

            Can your uncreated dualist entity be consciously aware and retain memories outside of the body?
            If so why does brain damage cause memory loss or unconsciousness?
            If not what does it add to the human mind?

            When the borrowed uncreated consciousness has a thought, is it caused or uncaused?
            If caused, what is the cause?
            If uncaused, by what power does it originate a thought out of no pre-existing impulse?

            1. I won’t answer everything since it is too long but basically, if something is uncreated, it means it has no cause, no beginning and no end.

              I was asking about oriental traditions because they talk a lot about the uncreated aspect of consciousness and how you can see it for yourself.

              But thoughts are created. They are like prints on the uncreated consciousness. Otherwise they wouldn’t be appearing through discontinuity. Sensations and thought are feeding the ego, who in returns can only reason on a discontinued mode. So the cause of the thought is the ego (the memory), the body. That is why it is so hard to keep the mind quiet, without a thought.

              Now, that the uncreated nature of consciousness is veiled for the ego is normal because the ego is the veil. And since something uncreated is limitless and not a thing, it is normal that it can’t be detected by a material device. All we can see about it is the echo it leaves (meaning, morals, subjectivity, etc…) or the physiological traces it produces when interacting with the body. You know personally and intuitively what this interaction produces since you are a human but I can’t explain how this happens, even science is still puzzled by that.

              And it is just normal that if the brain is damaged, it will affect how consciousness, even if it has an uncreated origin. The signal my TV stays the same, even if I slam my TV with a hockey stick…

              But that can’t be tested. We are conscious agents. All what we are doing, specially on a scientific level, requires consciousness. Asking consciousness to recognize itself would be like asking water to wet itself or light to light itself. It can’t be done.

              Well it can be. But not through the scientific method because science deals with objects and consciousness is not an object since it is uncreated. You know that for sure. But you prefer to believe books instead.

              1. And what is beyond materialistic monism isn’t necessary dualism.

                “There is, O monks, a state where there is neither earth, nor water, nor heat, nor air; neither infinity of space nor infinity of consciousness, nor nothingness, nor perception nor non-perception; neither this world nor that world, neither sun nor moon. It is the uncreate. That O monks, I term neither coming nor going nor standing; neither death nor birth. It is without stability, without change; it is the eternal which never originates and never passes away. There is the end of sorrow.”

              2. I believe that the fundamental error of your way is claiming that consciousness is not an object. Everything is an object – what we may define as mystical or non-physical is ultimately defined by real atoms, molecules, chemicals, etc. Some day the state of consciousness/unconsciousness, memory, and so on will be understood at the molecular level, joining the other things that supposedly had to be created, or in this case, phantasmically uncreated.

              3. “And since something uncreated is limitless and not a thing, it is normal that it can’t be detected by a material device.”

                And yet you claim our material brains can detect it.

                “science deals with objects and consciousness is not an object since it is uncreated.”

                No. Many times, no. Science deals with any and all phenomena and consciousness is a phenomenon.(Quite apart from there being no evidence of this “uncreated” consciousness.)


              4. To Douglas: You say “Everything is an object”.
                That is a philosophical position that often leads to scientism. It is like if you were living in Flatland and claim that everything has a maximum of 2 dimensions. Is “meaning” an object?

                To Ant: the brain doesn’t detect consciousness, it manages it. Of course science can deals with phenomenon associated to consciousness but they can’t deal with consciousness just like I can’t taste an apple for you. Tell me when science will find a piece of consciousness. No. don’t bother, it won’t because consciousness is not an object. It can’t be an object.

              5. I must resign now and repair to the study, to meld my uncreated consciousness with my likewise uncreated unconsciousness, with the clear physical object of choice being a fine chilled hefeweizen by Schöfferhofer. Tschüß

              6. @Bebop

                To Ant: the brain doesn’t detect consciousness, it manages it.

                As usual, you don’t know what you are talking about. That is obvious from your refusal to adequately answer the questions I posed about your model of consciousness.

                You are making statements as if they are fact, when you know nothing, you have no evidence for your positions. You have untested ideas. You have invented a fiction you find pleasing, but it has no correspondence to any known reality. You are offering nothing but faith based speculations. To convincingly pretend one knows what one is talking about is the hallmark of every religious charlatan and con man that ever lived. You won’t find a gullible audience here, so you may as well quit pretending. You are only digging a deeper hole for yourself.

                The above statement to Ant is particularly annoying, not only because it is totally wrong, but you state it with absolute certainty without the slightest trace of conditionality or tentative hedging. Apparently you are so narrow mindedly certain about your ideas that you can’t even entertain the notion of an alternative possibility. And you have the nerve to mention scientism when you are practicing this naked form of blind religionism.

                You claim that the brain is like a receiver of TV signals. Right there you are committed to the notion that this consciousness signal can affect the material of the brain. Otherwise it would be effectively non-existent, or invisible to us entirely. If you walk through a room with a radiation source in it, if it is weak, you don’t even feel the effects. Yet we can detect that. But your hypothesized signal must interact with our brains in an even stronger way, by exciting or moving or vibrating or in some way transferring energy to nerve cells, which we have a very in depth understanding of. Otherwise consciousness would not be able to generate an impulse to, say, move your fingers. That means we can build a detector for it and detect its existence, its presence. That is how we detect radiant energy of all kinds: by its indirect effects on matter.

                Evidently you have not carefully considered or understood the inevitable paradoxes caused by introducing a non-material form of energy or mind or god or whatever you like to name your pet idea, that can interact with and control the body, or be controlled by the body, yet remain unknown and undetectable to us. That’s okay, everybody has to learn one way or another.

                There is no important distinction between ‘detect’ and ‘manage’ for purposes of this discussion. I’m sure you have no specific idea what you mean by ‘manage’, and you couldn’t possibly explain to us exactly what that entails. Nobody is fooled by your pretense. If the brain can ‘manage’ consciousness in any way at all, that means your consciousness is a phenomena that we could build a detector for because of this interaction with the material brain.

                Also, you denied that your idea of consciousness is dualism. You again do not know what you are talking about. In the context of discussions of consciousness, there is something called the mind/body problem. The idea that the mind and body consist of separate and distinct substances, that the body is material and that consciousness is non-material, is exactly the definition of dualism. Descartes was a famous proponent of dualism, advancing an idea not unlike your own. There are other usages of the word dualism, but in this context you are most definitely a dualist, whether you care to admit it or not.

              7. Well Jeff, I would have expected that you would explain why what I say doesn’t work instead of just claiming it doesn’t work. But you are maybe not aware of the traditions who would agree with what I mostly say. I didn’t made this up. It is based on some experiences and what I could read after about those experiences in mystic traditions.

                This is why I cited the Buddha. You seem to know a bit about his teaching. He really explains in the quote how what is non-dual (beyond opposites) can only be called as such because of language. But in “reality”, non-duality is beyond non-duality itself. But again, because of language, we have no choice to define it in opposition to what we know. So we’ll label what is beyond materiality with the word “immateriality” but the “core” of what is beyond materiality is also beyond immateriality.
                Because our mind works on a dual mode, it can only define as non-material what would be beyond matter, but I’ll re-repeat it again, this a semantic issue caused by our mode of grasping. What is uncreated is beyond what we are able to imagine and talk about.

                As for the TV analogy, it was an analogy that was given only to show that the signal is not the receptor. But I don’t say consciousness is a signal or a radiation. I say only it has no material origin and that science can’t deal with what has no beginning no end and is beyond time. I don’t invent that. This is well known since a few centuries in all mystic traditions. Mysticism is not something that can evolve or devolve because it deals with an uncreated phenomenon that can only be grasped subjectively, but on an egoless level, which in reality is a superjective level or space, beyond the average dual objective/subjective opposition.

                As for my tone, I decided to write without a shadow of conditionality because the ideas are clearer, but mainly because when I write with too many “would” “maybe” and “if”, people tend to focus on the conditionality as if the hypothesis is not valuable and can’t be proven.

                I just can’t see why our senses would be absolute censors and that it would detect absolutely everything in the universe, not to forget the possible limits of our intellect and the possibility to see beyond those limits…

              8. To Jeff. You explain why consciousness as a thing can’t be undetected so my first sentence is not correct, sorry about that.

                So basically, something not material can’t exist because if it existed we would detect it since it interacts with the brain.

                Is that basically your point?

  33. Joining study and worship, we can think God’s thoughts after him, tracing his hand through the physical laws he used to create our world, marveling at the way he provides for creation as much as at the endless forms most beautiful he has created.

    Simply put, this is ignorance and intellectual laziness. Science and reason demand more, and for that reason alone religion and science will never be compatible. I simply hate ignorance, particularly the willful variety.

    As history demonstrates, the religious will continue to back-pedal in an attempt to accommodate our ever growing empirical understanding of the universe. I can’t wait until it backs right off a cliff. Orgs like Biologos are only postponing the inevitable.

  34. God extravagant, my arse. “huge variety of flowers, of every size, shape, color, and scent”. Rubbish.

    Every size? God has made flowers ranging in size roughly from 10^-3 meter to 10^0 m. Of all the sizes he had available he limited himself to only 3 orders of magnitude. Some extravagance. Where’s the electron microsope flower? The flower that covers the Himalayas?

    Every colour? I’m not sure charcoal black is available, despite the fact that some extremely plentiful substances have that colour (graphite, coal, oil).

    Every scent? A flower smelling of Chanel no 5, would’ve been handy and saved us some time and money (this from a God who ‘provides his creatures with plentiful’). Flowers smelling of a 3-course dinner?

    Rather a limited god, this one.

  35. Well Jeff, I would have expected that you would explain why what I say doesn’t work instead of just claiming it doesn’t work. But you are maybe not aware of the traditions who would agree with what I mostly say.

    Tradition does not make something true. We have countless examples of traditions that were founded on incomplete knowledge, speculation, supposition, and wishful thinking.

    I did explain one aspect of your thought that doesn’t work, and why it doesn’t work: a dualist conception of consciousness, which yours is, leads to certain irreconcilable paradoxes.

    The distinction between material and immaterial is unsound. We used to think of electricity and gravity and magnetism as immaterial forces. Since E=mc2 and quantum theory, we have unified energy, force, and material.

    If there were something immaterial, either it would have no effect on what we know to be material, or it would have an effect.

    If it has an effect, we could detect and measure its consequences on the material, and it effectively becomes part of what is material, along with gravity and light and other non-massive material forces.

    If it has no effect, could it be a central component of consciousness? I can’t see how, and the burden is on you to explain it. If it has no effect, what is the basis for considering it a real phenomenon? What is the basis for ever knowing and understanding any of its properties? What is the difference between something completely ineffective and non-interacting with us and all we know, and something that is purely imaginary and non-existent?

    On the other hand, if indeed it has an effect on material, there is no reason to call it immaterial.

    You have several times made comments that seem to indicate you equate empirical measurement with the human senses. This is a mistake. Our senses are notoriously unreliable. We use instruments that can be calibrated and tested and verified independently as providing accurate and consistent results. That is what we trust, not our senses.

    I asked you several questions in another post that you couldn’t answer. If you make extraordinary claims, the burden of proof should be on you to explain why your ideas “work”, not on me to disprove them. If you tell me there is a Flying Spaghetti Monster, you should be required to give some evidence, some basis for according your claim the status of at least tentatively a possibility.

    I should think that the fact you can’t answer my questions from the earlier post should give you pause, and open up some doubt. Do you really understand what you believe well enough if there are some simple questions about it that you can’t answer? Do you really understand it well enough to be certain it is true?

    There is no notion of God in Buddhism because Buddha rejected the idea of a creator, an origin, a first cause. In the historical time and place of Buddha, Brahma was the widely accepted creator god, and Buddha rejected Brahma, or even the need for a concept like Brahma. So you have to really stretch to say Hinduism and Buddhism are saying the same things. Same with Islam and Christianity.

    It’s a nice tidy theory that all religions are really just different languages for some common truth, like spokes on a wheel with a central hub of absolute truth they all share. I held that view myself long ago. But it really doesn’t stand up to careful scrutiny. It is an abstract idea that has appeal, but it doesn’t fit the details.

    There are some common concepts between Jesus and Buddha and Socrates. For example the rejection of wealth, and viewing friends and enemies, or the pious and the sinful, with equanimity and compassion. I think all three men had some notion that attachment and suffering were inseparably linked. I think this is more a matter of great minds thinking alike. It doesn’t mean they tapped into some underlying common well of cosmic consciousness. Newton and Leibniz both invented Calculus, also for very pragmatic reasons. There is no great surprise that very intelligent people might form similar conceptions of reality in different times and places. After all, they all experience similar challenges and limitations, and have similar biological capacities. I would be much more surprised if two people imagined the same 256 digit number at the same time, a feat anyone can accomplish, than if two people developed similar spiritual and philosophical conceptions of reality, or developed the same mathematical concepts coincidently.

  36. The little life and God lessons that the Biologos site draws from “nature” are past moronic. I am a Christian theologian trying to deal with the issues of “nature red in tooth and claw” and the rest that Tennyson wrote about in In Memoriam. Obviously whoever wrote that pious BioLogos bullshit needs some sort of reality therapy (and needs to meditate on that poem which makes the 19th Psalm look like a sadistic joke.

  37. You stated, “I could think of several not-so-nice characteristics of God also manifested by “studying evolutionary science.” But I’ll leave this amusing exercise to the readers. I’ll mention only one: if God isn’t wasteful, why did more than 99% of the species that ever formed go extinct without leaving descendants?”

    I have not read all of the comments but I just wanted to respond with some thoughts.

    I don’t quite understand what you feel is gained by thinking that such a problem would have to have been God’s design and intent. It seems you are making some philosophical assumptions that many xtians would not hold themselves. If you grant the idea of a Xtian God then you should also grant the idea that he has created a world in which wills other than and contrary to his own affect the creation. If I’m going to undo my belief in God’s existence I don’t think rationalizations like that above is going to help. I do not see how the science of the matter warrants the confidence you exhibited in your question.

    I read your book earlier this year and enjoyed it and found it helpful. For the most part it was irenic (which I appreciated!) but there were a couple of times that you used the same logic above and it seemed that you were being intentionally unfair. It may be that you are/were rejecting certain forms of theism and not necessarily all. Perhaps I’ve missed something? This is entirely possible so hopefully your reply will help me better understand.

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