What does the Webb telescope reveal about God?

July 27, 2022 • 9:15 am

A few days ago, a reporter for the Voice of America‘s website called me and said she was working on a piece about the compatibility of science and religion, all prompted by some religionists’ claim that the Webb Space telescope revealed the handiwork of God.  I guess she interviewed me because I’m an advocate of incompatibility, and it was clear she was looking for voices on both sides (I suggested that she contact some accommodationists, including Ken Miller at Brown, who features in her piece).

You can read the article below for free (click on screenshots):

The article begins with a tweet by Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), who clearly saw the Webb’s first images as, well, you can see what he said:

Author Mekouar notes that Rubio’s post got pushback on social media from those saying that it was science, not God, that not only provided the images, but would analyze them. She then begins quoting from the dueling interviews.

Unfortunately, I’m the only one quoted arguing that science and religion are incompatible. In contrast, three people (four, if you count Georges Lemaître) argue for compatibility of science and faith. As for “equal time,” well, a crude count on my part showed that in an article whose content was about 1150 words, 214 came from opponents of compatibility (i.e., me) and 753 from the four who see no incompatibility. That’s a ratio of 3.5 words from incompatibilists to words soothing accommodationists.

To me that seems unbalanced, both in terms of space (which doesn’t concern me so much) but especially in terms of  the”experts” consulted. The ratio is four to one against atheists. Where are the other scientists who see an incompatibility between science and faith: people like Richard Dawkins, Steve Weinberg, Lawrence Krauss—or even Carl Sagan? These people wrote and spoke far more eloquently than I about the science/faith incompatibility.  They are not mentioned, though two of these (and a passel of others) could have been interviewed. So it goes.

I’ll put the entirety of what I said below and some quotes from the accommodationists, along with my comments. All indented quotes are from the article.

The skeptical comments are emblematic of the long-standing, ongoing debate about whether science and religion can be reconciled.

“There are a gazillion religions, each one making a different set of claims about reality, not just about the nature of God, but about history, about miracles, about what happened. And they’re all different, so they can’t all be true,” says Jerry A. Coyne, an evolutionary biologist and professor emeritus at the University of Chicago.

Coyne, who likens religion to superstition, wrote a book called, “Faith Versus Fact: Why Science and Religion are Incompatible.”

“The incompatibility is that both science and religion make statements about what is true in the universe,” Coyne says. “Science has a way of verifying them and religion doesn’t. So, science is based on this sort of science toolkit of empirical reasoning or duplication experiments, whereas religion is based on faith.”

Coyne says he was raised a secular Jew and became an atheist as a teenager.

“Scientists are, in general, much less religious than the general public. And the more accomplished you get as a scientist, the less religious you become,” he says.

A 1998 survey found that 93% of the members of the National Academy of Sciences, one of the most prestigious scientific organizations in the U.S., don’t believe in God.

I’m happy with what I said. (I think the “duplication experiments” will be changed to “duplicating experiments”).

The rest of the article is about scientists who see science as not only compatible with religion, but also buttressing religion. One of these is Ken Miller, who first explains, to his credit, that people see an incompatibility because religion is sometimes hostile to science. (He says there are other reasons, but this is one, and I’ve seen it cited in surveys assaying why young people are becoming “nones”.)

“I personally think there’s a couple of reasons for that,” says Kenneth Miller, a devout Roman Catholic and professor of molecular biology, cell biology and biochemistry at Brown University in Rhode Island. “One of them, to be perfectly honest, is the out-and-out hostility that many religious institutions or many religious groups display towards science. And I think that tends to drive people with deep religious faith away from science.”

Later, however, Miller explains why science has actually buttressed his Roman Catholicism. First, though, we have a STEM person from Boston University explaining the supposedly reinforcing nature of science and faith:

“Science actually underlines the importance of religion because God told us that He created the Earth and the heavens,” says [Farouk] El-Baz, who is also director of the Center for Remote Sensing at Boston University. “And the heavens, there are supposed to be all kinds of things out there. And scientific investigations have actually proved that, yes, there are all kinds of things out there.”

Maybe God told El-Baz that, but he forgot to tell the rest of us doubters.  He argues that “scientific investigations have actually proved that, yes, there are all kinds of things out there”, but what kinds of “things” constitute evidence for God? El-Baz doesn’t say (or maybe he told the interviewer). And yes, of course there are things out there that we don’t understand, like dark matter, but why on Earth would that be evidence for God? That’s the Argument for God from Ignorance.

People like El-Baz are not objective about their faith: they’re looking to the Webb photos—and the rest of science—as evidence to reinforce religion. It’s confirmation bias, and not very good confirmation bias. One could argue, for instance, that the vast, lifeless emptiness of most of space is evidence not for God but for the laws of physics.

Miller reappears:

Miller argues that the perceived conflict between scripture and science comes from those people who take the Bible literally:

Miller accepts the theory of evolution and says much of scripture is metaphorical, an explanation of the relationship between Creator and His creation in language that could be understood by people living in a prescientific age.

“[The book of] Genesis, taken literally, is a recent product of certain religious interpretations of scripture,” Miller says. “In particular, it’s an interpretation that became quite influential in the latter part of the 19th century among Christian fundamentalists in the United States. And the reality is that much of scripture is figurative rather than literal.”

Can Miller tell us exactly which bits of scripture are figurative rather than literal? Yes, Genesis is metaphorical, but what about the miracles of Jesus—or the existence of Jesus himself?  And what about the Crucifixion and especially the Resurrection? Are those literal phenomena or figurative? (Some think the person of Jesus has no historical basis, and certainly not all Christians think that even a real Jesus was both the son of God/part of God and came back to life after he was crucified.)

What about the Exodus of the Jews from Egypt, or the Census of Quirinius , which supposedly drew Joseph and the pregnant Mary to Bethlehem? These are not metaphors, but simple errors, as neither assertion is true. This is exactly what you’d expect in a book confected and written by humans. All the “evidence for God” adduced by Christians simply comes down to assertions from the Bible, which, as Miller notes, isn’t literally true.

Miller—and I emphasize that he’s both a nice guy and has done good scientific work, as well as writing definitive textbooks—is also a remarkable theologian, as he’s able to winnow the metaphorical from the true, all in a single book written by humans. He also seems to know that science itself has told us what kind of God we have, even though there’s no evidence for a deity:

In Miller’s view, the concept of God as a designer who worked out every intricate detail of every single living thing is too narrow a vision of the Creator.

“The God that is revealed by evolution is not a God who has to literally tinker with every little piece of trivia in every living organism, but rather a God who created a universe in a world where the very physical conditions of matter and energy were sufficient to accomplish his ends,” Miller says. “And to me, that conception of God creating this extraordinary process that nature itself allows to come about is a much grander vision than a God who has to concern himself with every little detail.”

This is a god for which there is no possibility of disconfirmation, because everything that science tells us—stuff like evolution that used to be taken as evidence against God—is now seen as evidence for God. (That’s an idea that John Haught has been pushing for years.) The idea that the more we learn about science, the grander God becomes, winds up as a non-starter of an argument. If we’ve learned everything about the universe, and it all comports with the laws of physics, does that make God the most grand of all? This is an Argument for God from Science!

El-Baz uses the same dodge:

El-Baz says some people fear that science will reduce their religiosity, but the reverse is true for him.

“We understood through God’s guidance that humans evolved from other creatures, and evolution is still going on, and there’s absolutely no conflict between what science and religion are informing us,” he says. “It’s very easy to consider that a creator, or a force of creation — God or whatever faith you have — that it’s a force that put all of these things together, that created all of this.”

It’s interesting that the “design” of organisms was once seen as some of the strongest evidence for the existence of God. Now that we know that this design arises via the naturalistic process of natural selection, well, now it’s even stronger evidence for god.  The religionists can’t lose!

The article also quotes Accommodationist #4,  intellectual historian Hava Tirosh-Samuelson, who says this, among other things:

Jewish tradition also accepts evolution, according to intellectual historian Hava Tirosh-Samuelson, who suggests that the rise of the religious Christian right in the United States also influenced more observant Jews to harden their position against evolution.

“Medieval Jewish philosophy basically followed the Muslim paradigm,” says Tirosh-Samuelson, a professor of history and director of the Center for Jewish Studies at Arizona State University. “The Muslim theologians and the Muslim scholars showed Jews how you can integrate a monotheistic tradition together with Greek and Hellenistic science … and showed how scientific knowledge is always a tool that enables you to understand the divinely created world better.”

She too, has bought into The Arguement for God from Science.

The line taken by all three quoted accommodationists thus takes the same form, which I characterize this way:

“We know the universe was divinely created, so the more understanding of that universe brought to us by science, the greater the glory of God, and the better we understand Him.”

Of course, we also know from science that this God kills many innocent people that he could have saved were he either all-loving or all-knowing, and we also know that God loves empty space, which is why the Webb scope show us the huge, fantastic theater that serves as a backdrop for the puny history and aspirations of humans!

The fatal flaw of all of these scientists and historians is this: None of them give us evidence for God in the first place.  Everything comes from the Bible and Qur’an, and nothing from extra-scriptural evidence. Combine that unsubstantiated assumption with the argument that scientific understanding must always reinforce the glory of God, and you have an airtight case for accommodationism—there can be no conflict between science and religion.

I suspect that if you read this article, on balance you’ll find that it supports the case that science and religion are compatible. But judge for yourself.

51 thoughts on “What does the Webb telescope reveal about God?

  1. Quote: “There are a gazillion religions, each one making a different set of claims about reality, not just about the nature of God, but about history, about miracles, about what happened. And they’re all different, so they can’t all be true”

    But they can all be false.

  2. On the other hand, society features science and religion, and they both seem to be doing well, so they seem to be quite compatible.

    1. So is pedophilia and religion. See my book if you want to know my definition of “compatibility”, which is NOT “coexistence in society” or “the presence of religious scientists”.

      1. As well as dictatorships and democracies, both cover about the half of the globe. The existence of superstition does not justify its existence.

  3. “Miller accepts the theory of evolution and says much of scripture is metaphorical, an explanation of the relationship between Creator and His creation in language that could be understood by people living in a prescientific age.”

    If the reporter is accurately summarizing Miller’s view then he seems to be suggesting that the writers of the Bible knew that what they wrote was metaphor, but had to write in a manner that the “little people” could understand. What proof does Miller have that the authors knew that they writing in metaphors and not literally? It seems to me that it is much likely that the authors believed every word they wrote.

    1. This is a solid criticism. It’s helpful to compatibilitists to draw a gauzy veil over the origins of the scriptural texts and not ask too many questions about the original authors. This allows the selective reinterpretation of the text as metaphor rather than as narrative.

      1. In fact, religions are as much a vice as the “Struwelpeter” and used consciously or not as a disciplinary tool. From the Wikipedia:

        Der Struwelpeter is an 1845 German children’s book by Heinrich Hoffmann. It comprises ten illustrated and rhymed stories, mostly about children. Each has a clear moral that demonstrates the disastrous consequences of misbehavior in an exaggerated way. The title of the first story provides the title of the whole book. Wikipedia

            1. Well, no, the correct spelling is “Struwwelpeter”, but the problem is the relevance not the spelling. What are you trying to say about metaphorical or literal interpretations of scripture?

    2. I agree. Certainly the church fathers like Augustine and Aquinas, while thinking that the Bible could be read on a metaphorical level, also insisted that it be read on a literal level. That is, Genesis is literally true.

    3. I have never been able to locate the parts of the bible that say that some other parts of the bible are metaphor.

    4. There were a whole range of people who wrote the various bits of the Bible, and some of them would have been codifying oral tradition. So (likely) there is no one answer on this. And, also, in past times people didn’t necessarily adopt the clear distinction between literal storytelling and myth that we can adopt today. Likely all stories were mythified.

      Did the author of Jonah and the Whale regard it as literal? Maybe not. Did the author “Mark” of the first gospel regard it as literal, or did he regard himself as writing a theological allegory?

      Did the “little people” understand the writings as literal? Again, there were likely a range of attitudes, though perhaps most Christians over time have taken a much more literalist approach to the Bible than many do today.

    5. It would be difficult to believe that the authors knew they were writing metaphorically, since there were no scientific explanations for disease, the solar system, evolution, and on and on.

  4. These compatibilist articles at first irritate, but then I remember they are not meant for me. They are instead meant for the religionists who need a little nudge to move away from dark age superstitions toward the 21st century. These are people who hold political power, sit on school boards, vote, and raise children. Anything less than a full-on compatibility spin would trigger an instant rejection. They wouldn’t even read it.

    1. Sorry, but I don’t understand the point. You’re saying that the author wrote this article with a pro-compatibility slant go get people to accept—what? The stars and galaxies? Please explain. It doesn’t say anything about biological evolution, you know.

    2. Supporting Mr. Sturtevant’s comment here :

      I understand this as a matter of audience.

      I think the idea is that the audience this article is for is one which is educated, but not ready to take a substantial overhaul of either their Deeply Held Beliefs of, more likely, the Deeply Held Beliefs of others they might need to serve.

      That PCC(E) got a crystal clear spar into the otherwise mush of an article is all kinds of good because it has a chance of getting that audience to grapple with the whole faith thing.

  5. One can always concoct an ad hoc conception of a deity that seems compatible with the currently available science/evidence. But mere compatibility is not the same as there being positive evidence for the existence of the entity in question. What should we predict the universe to look like if there is a God versus if there is no God? If one cannot answer this basic question, then there is no way to adjudicate the issue, and further discussion is futile.

  6. The same logic and reasoning needed for the argument about the existence of a god needs to be applied to the new paper in Science reiterating the argument for the Wuhan market as the source of Covid 19. But the same ERROR is committed: the paper Rasmussen defends does not in any way
    rule out the possibility that a human being already infected elsewhere did visit the market and
    thus infect other people either directly or indirectly. I am stunned that this fact has not been pointed out, and doubly so that the paper under scrutiny does not mention this possibility either. Given the failure to apply impartial reasoning and analysis in this paper, which is not yet peer reviewed, no credibility can be imparted to this paper. Methinks the market promoters doth protest too much. Methinks their science is faulty. Methinks they have ulterior motives. Methinks that the answers are still eluding us and that this paper is premature as well as misleading. For shame….

  7. The VOA article is a salve that soothes those who are afraid that their worldview risks collapse at the hands of scientists. It’s a salve that sells. Whether the author believes that the Webb provides evidence for God or not, many of her readers want to believe it. So, why not give the nod to them?

    Here’s why not: Because it’s not true. “There are all kinds of things out there” is as lame as it gets. As for Miller, it’s convenient that religionists can pick and choose what’s literal and what’s metaphorical. How can they do this without some way to justify their choices? Well, they can’t. They already know in advance the beliefs they want to support, and they choose their scriptural passages accordingly. They have unlimited flexibility to bob and weave to keep their story safe. Scientists don’t allow themselves that flexibility. They require evidence.

    The fundamental difference (IMHO) between the religionists and scientists is that scientists employ rules of evidence and reason that are different from religionists. Religionists hold their beliefs a priori, and cleverly concoct unfalsifiable arguments to protect them. Scientists simply won’t do this. Scientists by design put their claims at risk.

    Who’s got it right? Scientists, obviously. If it weren’t for science, we would not be building telescopes—the Webb—that look back 13.8 billion years in time. Science has over time narrowed religionists empirical claims one by one forcing them into the box they are in today, a box that contains no more than specious arguments, appeals to authority, and unfalsifiable assertions.

    1. I’m a little supprised by all of this. Is it possible that none you have never seriously wrestled with Aquinas’s 5 ways? The need for a non-random, unchanging, uncreated creator and sustaining principle of the universe Is just as necessary to scientific knowledge as it is to any knowledge. Obviously, you have to look at the historical, moral, and theological claims of the ” gazillion religions” critically to decide if any are right. But, scientific atheistic skepticism IS superstition. The reason that duplicative experiments can have truth value relies on a number of assumptions. Among them that the external universe is intelligible, that the laws of logic, reason, and mathematics are valid and that you can fundamentally trust your internal experience as one consistent reality. If you can make these assumptions to successfully use science then proving that a God is necessary is trivial. If you reject those principles as unknowable the science is no better that augery or witchcraft because its epistemology is founded on “well it works”. And again I promise you if you asked Montezuma why he sacrificed and ate multiple people a day his response would be. “Look at my civilization, my towers, my fields and cities, look at my tributes and conquests. The bloody thing just works” Science is not the only way to know a thing it is not even the foundation of knowledge.

      1. The “assumptions” of science are supported by the fact that they work in leading us to a better understanding of the world. We don’t have to prove them a priori to do science. But when you say that “proving a God is necessary” then becomes trivial,” you’re talking garbage, and Montezuma’s “success” was political power, not an understanding of the universe.

        This is in fact one of the looniest arguments I’ve ever heard for God, so take your theism and go over to BioLogos.

      2. Never a surprise when folks like SASAI focus only on epistemology and never on ontology.

        Plus s/he denigrates the intelligibility of the universe as an assumption, but I bet s/he still waits for the light to change.

  8. Why, if the universe was created by a God who made us as its/his/her image, it takes so long to understand so litlle about natural phenomenons? You would think that if God was so close to mankind, it would have been easier for us to understand the rest of the creation because we would share some of the divine mind-process. But it is not the case. Worst, religion often prevent us to understand reality.

    It is the case for Rubio: the picture declares nothing about any god’s glory. The telescope was made by humans, the data analyzed by humans, the pictures seen by humans. No god helped or acted (or was hurt) in the process. You need religious hallucination to see God in this picture.

  9. “The God that is revealed by evolution is not a God who has to literally tinker with every little piece of trivia in every living organism, but rather a God who created a universe in a world where the very physical conditions of matter and energy were sufficient to accomplish his ends,” Miller says.

    If only the religionists would fully embrace this non-tinkering, non-meddling god who is in principle neither verifiable nor falsifiable. Then they could have their separate magisteria and leave the verifiable material world to the rest of us.

    1. That is what we would call Nature – but then the religionists add Love and Creating and Judgement and Intention and Criminality – all human traits to make this god in our image and give life a supreme purpose

    2. As we’ve seen, the theological types will then follow with an exclamation that this means an absentee god (that is conveniently undetectable) is somehow far more powerful than a super-fiddly and involved god. Violations of physics and causality? God. Physical laws and random stuff happening everywhere and all the time, without a hint of intervention? Super duper god.

    3. A God who doesn’t bother with the earth or its people has zero appeal to the vast majority of believers. It’s a coldfish concept that only appeals to theologians who can’t bring themselves to believe in conventional monotheism but don’t have the fortitude to go atheist. Their deist God allows them to be “spiritual” and lord it over the masses who still believe Jesus is their friend.
      Most believers want a God who acts like an invisible parent or protector. And they want to satisfy their amour propre by believing they’re carrying out God’s wishes (unlike all the sinners out there). Deism simply doesn’t have mass appeal.

  10. A bunch of logical fallacies committed by the accommodationists in this article, viz., ambiguity, equivocation, special pleading, begging the question. They continue to change the definition of god as science expands our body of knowledge. This to me is the kicker: They need to come up with a sensible definition of a deity before a fruitful discussion can even begin. Cf. TMM, who has some good videos on this topic. https://www.youtube.com/user/TheMessianicManic

  11. “Science actually underlines the importance of religion because God told us that He created the Earth and the heavens,” says El-Baz, who is also director of the Center for Remote Sensing at Boston University. “And the heavens, there are supposed to be all kinds of things out there. And scientific investigations have actually proved that, yes, there are all kinds of things out there.”

    Checkmate, atheists! I can’t tell if he is serious.

    The article is not journalism, but rhetorics in service of accommodationism. It suggests that the views of the accommodationists are not ridiculous. Scripture does not say anything, metaphorically or figuratively, that in any way resembles our understanding today in about anything. I bet even the scripture tips on goat herding are obsolete. They don‘t know their scripture or they decided to give false testament about it.

    The article also pretends that the accommodationists share the same vision. But do they? Miller’s statements seem to be incompatible with El-Baz. The way it’s written, they seemingly complement each other, with a nice “anything goes” accommodationism by Tirosh-Samuelson at the end. Not journalism, but highly tendentious.

    Scripture is right when you abstract far enough that not only apples and oranges are the same thing, but also hairpins and wavelengths.

    Further, scripture is not merely rendered so that people at the time could understand it. It contains falsehoods as false as they come. First off, the journalist could have mentioned that God didn’t reveal himself to ape-like ancestors who just climbed out of a tree, but to peoples who already lived in great civilisations. He was still a more personable God when the great Greek philosophers thought out loud, but he somehow decided to never talk to them. God turned fiercely private no sooner Christians had scriptoriums by the hundreds, where he could have dictated exact words and formulas for future scientists to study. God, the Almighty All-Knower was instead content with Christian scribes repeating ‘misunderstandings’ and falsehoods.

    And why would he dumb it down? Humans already existed for tenthousands of years. He could just wait a thousand years longer, if that was really the issue. However, he can create galaxies, but can’t formulate sentences that are both accurate and generally understandable? Furthermore, the way he simplified things was also misleading, not just wrong.

    If religion, or scripture was in any way revelatory, it would have played a major role in science, at least to provide hypotheses to guide research. It plays and played no role. The awe people feel when confronted by the infathomable vastness of the cosmos is not God. Just because someone is in awe, and conditioned to associate this with God, does not make their research motivated by religion.

  12. Marco Rubio once again founders on the rocky shoals of his own mind. There are dumber US senators — Wisconsin’s Ron Johnson and Tennessee’s Marsha Blackburn come to mind — but none so shallow as Marco Rubio.

    1. Marco RUBE!

      Sorry that he represents you and millions of others in your state…as well as Scott. Goddamn, how and when did Senators get so dumbed down and craven? Social media promotes simplicity and stupidity, that’s for sure, but wow, what a massive change in recent years of what the Senate used to represent. I put the blame squarely on religion…esp. the white national fundamentalist stripe of xtianity that Trump has enlivened. It’s no surprise the states elect these gerrymandered House wackos, but the Senate? And I always have to point out when on the subject: why should a voter in Wyoming have 67 times more power than a voter in California? Elections don’t need to be rigged for the minority to wield the power, as our current predicament illustrates.

      1. elections need to be rigged…anyway, the edit button needs implementation. This comment is so late to the party, don’t really matter. blech

  13. Although it is pretty obvious, bible scholars such as Francesca Stavrikopolou (?sp.) maintain that the bible is mostly fiction, not fact. That was what they did in those far off days. There was no Moses, Exodus, Abraham, Isaac, etc.
    There was no bloody awful conquest – thank dog. Most of the Pentateuch was written during or after the Babylonian exile – as a Nation Building Attempt.

    Because the Romans inflicted Christianity on their empire – on pain of death, we have this non-sense inflicted on us. And, humans regard themselves as intelligent??

  14. If you start from an imaginary state of affairs then you can make up anything you like to support it. That’s religion,

  15. One of the more striking aspects of these discussions is that religionists rarely, if ever, specify what “religion” is. Prof. Coyne makes the point that there are thousands of religions around the world — to conclude that they cannot all be true — but this also raises the issue how we recognize them as “religion” or “religious”. Tylor, wrestling with this definitional problem in the late 19th century, offered a short, rough-and-ready definition that both serves the purpose well and also highlights the “superstition” side. Tylor wrote that religions are beliefs about and practices related to the supernatural. Pretty much exactly what “superstitions” are.

  16. The problem with the “God used evolution” folks is they haven’t really thought about what that implies. If you really consider the physical processes involved, the God of evolution would not be the loving Father of the New Testament. He would be an unspeakable monster.

  17. To me, science is for figuring out how the universe works when God isn’t breaking the rules, assuming there is a God that does intervene. Having a relationship with a higher power (not the same thing as religion in my mind) is as natural as breathing for many of us. They aren’t compatible/incompatible any more than apples are compatible/incompatible with oranges. They’re just different. I don’t see how science can address the question of the existence of God or how belief/disbelief in God can validate/invalidate science. I don’t think it’s helpful for scientists to ask people to use science to make important decisions about the direction of civilization at the same time as they tell people that God doesn’t exist. It’s just asking to be ignored.

  18. Wow
    Just wow

    I have been looking for true intellectuals for years to discuss such topics

    If it’s ok, I’m going to share some of my thoughts here, which are frankly a bit unusual

    I agree with so much of what you said – in particular the “accommodationists” as you call them, use is coffee biases. But to be clear, EVERYBODY has cognitive biases – hence institutional racism, etc. It’s incumbent upon us all to seek out our biases and deal with them.

    Ok, so, I’m a Christian. I have a little formal training in biblical studies. I’m also a massive science fan boy. I read a ton of articles and participate in discussions, but I cannot do the math and have no formal training. I don’t pretend to.

    My view is basically summed up with the following fundamental “realities”:
    – the “spiritual” may or may not exist. Nobody actually KNOWS anything.
    – every religion that exists today is descended from religions that existed before written language and are subject to the “telephone game”. IF there is ANY truth in religion, it’s purest form is buried deep in the past. All modern religions and their respective texts are known for a fact to contain concepts, stories, and characters in fact or in model that originated in extinct belief systems discovered by archaeologists. If any adherent wants to TRULY understand their faith, he or she must learn about those faiths from the very dawn of civilization.
    – I draw a rhetorical distinction between “truth” and “fact”. Facts are tangible, mathematical, physical, absolute. Truths are philosophical, ethereal, subjective. I also like to say there’s no such thing as capital T Truth. Not even in religion. Any religion. If it did exist then there wouldn’t be disagreement between sects inside a religion. Amy Truth posited can be deposed. Usually easily.
    – BECAUSE there is no “Truth”, adherents to religion must rely on Faith. The whole point of faith is belief that has no basis in intellectual analysis. If the universe contained even a single element of evidence for God, then faith is not even remotely necessary. One of my pet peeves with my fellow Christians is they say they “know” something that in actuality it’s merely a belief.
    – The only evidence for a higher power of any kind is the FACT of the universe. Not it’s beauty or intricacy or anything else. The universe is akin (if not in fact) to a first person shooter video game. Everything in the game was created by a programmer, but usually not directly. Instead the programmer makes the rules and the software creates the world. If there were a sentient non player character, that character would be totally unaware of a reality outside of his own. The rocks and buildings and plants would have appeared instantly in their completed form. If a programmer were creating a habitat for sentient NPCs, then the environment may have mysteries embedded for the characters to study and learn, and they might be able to construct a history by looking at all these things in detail.
    – one of the biggest arguments that I get into, ironically, with the most dogmatic Christians is when I assert to them that God is GOD. He’s not subject to our universe, it’s rules, to our belief system or our personal beliefs. If we believe the Bible, the Bible at one point says “God turned from the evil he was going to do”. Thus, God can be evil if he chooses because he is not subject to our rules. He’s not subject to rules of morality or time or space or anything. If he exists at all, he’s an infinite extra terrestrial interdimensional being of unlimited intelligence and power. He’s more interested in this clockwork reality we inhabit than any of us individually.
    – at this point people try to peg me to whether I think the Bible is literal or not. But that question is so limited in scope it’s insane to even ask in the first place. The Bible is comprised of ancient wisdom literature that inherits from many even more ancient sources. It predates Greek thinking entirely. It’s purpose is to create a civilized society. The author behind the intent is definitely human, and whether those humans were spiritually inspired, high on mushrooms, or extremely intelligent and creative is a matter for the jury to decide – just like a jury, we reach have to look inside and determine if we have that faith inside of us or not. Either way, the Bible literally tells us not to judge people who don’t have the faith or who have a different kind of faith.

    I know that’s a lot and I’m basically trying to hijack your thing here, it’s just been SO long since I’ve encountered someone who was capable of engaging in these topics.. I guess I’m a bit desperate lol

  19. Science and Christianity are completely compatible, each describing different aspects of reality. The late mathematical quantum physicist and Anglican priest John Polkinghorne has written extensively on the relationship between science and religion. I suggest the author read some of his writings or watch the few short videos of his on the internet.
    There are two books everyone should read, the Book of Nature and the Book of Scripture. If one reads them correctly, they have no conflict because they have the same author.

    1. If you read my book Fact Versus Faith, you’ll see that I’ve read all the modern “compatibilists”, including Polkinghorne, Haught, and many others. And no, he didn’t convince me. You didn’t even do a search for “Polkinghorne” on this site. There are several references to his work; here are two:



      Please do your homework before you start telling me to do mine!

      I found your post somewhat amusing because the author of the book of nature is physics and the authors of the book of Scripture were humans. You’re making claims about God’s existence for which you have no evidence whatsoever, and the only aspect of Christianity that “religion” describes is people’s fervent desires to have a father figure and to escape death.

      I suggest you go join BioLogos. On this site we don’t make truth claims without evidence, which you’ve just done.

    2. “[ insert famous scientific or religious authority here ] has written extensively on the relationship between science and religion.”

      I love that argument – “written extensively” .. well, I love how it _sounds_.

      Wow! Good for them! So proud.

  20. Scientists: ‘Webb shows more of law-abiding space’.
    The superstitious: ‘For me it looks like [my gods]’.

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