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Browsing Posts tagged god

It occurred to me today that any naturalistic argument against supernatural beliefs is inherently flawed from an angle I hadn’t considered before.  I came to this conclusion while listening to some Christmas music and reflecting on the beauty of the seasons and how well they meet the human desire for variety and our appreciation for both cold and warm weather activities.  I was thinking about how awesome it is that God designed the earth’s precessional rotation in this way so that nature could undergo its seasonal changes and so humans could enjoy them.  But as I often do when considering supernatural ideas, I also thought of what other explanations there may be for this wonderful pairing of nature and human pleasure.  As I considered that natural selection could have tuned our minds to appreciate this cyclical pattern much as the plant and animal kingdoms do, I began thinking of other places this line of thinking can lead.

This led me to consider the idea that religion, too, is the product of natural selection.  This isn’t a novel idea, but I thought about what it means for naturalists who like to argue against religion on the grounds that it has caused a great deal of harm to humanity throughout history.  If there is nothing but the natural, as they purport to believe, then religion too must have been naturally selected.  But if religion is as harmful to humanity’s development and progress as naturalists claim, then why hasn’t it been naturally deselected by now?  Certain religions have fallen by the way-side, yes, but humanity’s collective choice to embrace the idea of a supernatural has hardly diminished throughout our short history.  In fact, it is alive and well now as ever, despite the best efforts of naturalists to fight it.

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A recent blog post of mine was the beginning of an online exchange between myself and a friend and coworker, Marcelo.  Marcelo and I disagree on the subject of God’s existence, he being a naturalist while I’m a Christian.  But we also enjoy a good, reasonable discussion, and thought that even if we don’t end up changing each other’s beliefs in the matter, it could be a mentally stimulating exercise that could broaden both of our perspectives.  If you’re interested in this topic, I encourage you to follow along on my site and on his.  The following is in response to his post linked below.

Response to “Religious Worldview: It Doesn’t Suit Me

Marcelo wrote: One set of rules tells me that questioning is bad and that I’ll go to hell if I even think about questioning it. The other one tells me that if I question the rules and find something interesting, I may even get a prize for it and perhaps be recognized in history as a smart person. It also doesn’t require me to “believe” anything, for everything is discoverable. If I want, I can try to prove it all by myself, and unless I make a mistake, or find an error in their rules, I’ll arrive to the same conclusions. Needless to say, I’d rather spend 60 years trying to understand the Big Bang than reading a story that must not be tampered with, or I’ll forever roast in a pit of lava while others rejoice.

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As an engineer, I work with a lot of smart people who are logically- and scientifically-minded.  I share this perspective, so it makes for a comfortable and enjoyable environment for me.  However, many at my workplace and in the larger scientific community hold to a naturalistic worldview akin to that espoused by its more vocal proselyte, Richard Dawkins.  While I do not intend in this post to present a complete rebuttal to this perspective, I do want to explain how I, a self-considered “reasonable” man, can be both a devout Christian and an honest lover of science.  I’ve already presented much of this in a video series that I’m almost done uploading (ran into a snag with Blip.tv and I’m migrating to Vimeo), so feel free to check it out.  But I thought it’d be valuable to give a more succinct summary in writing.  I considered writing an original post, but then read through an exchange I had with an atheist friend of mine a while back, and thought I’d just post it.  I’ve paraphrased his comments so as not to reprint them without permission.

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I’ve begun reading Timothy Keller’s book The Reason for God at the recommendation of a pastor friend of mine.  The following excerpt from the introduction describes exactly the viewpoint I’ve come to consider to be profoundly important for our society.  I honestly believe that the failure to take this approach in forming one’s beliefs is one of the greatest problems facing Americans today.  It affects how we interact with and respect one another, and how we determine those beliefs upon which our worldview is based.

“A faith without some doubts is like a human body without any antibodies in it. People who blithely go through life too busy or indifferent to ask hard questions about why they believe as they do will find themselves defenseless against either the experience of tragedy or the probing questions of a smart skeptic. A person’s faith can collapse almost overnight if she has failed over the years to listen patiently to her own doubts, which should only be discarded after long reflection. Believers should acknowledge and wrestle with doubts—not only their own but their friends’ and neighbors’. It is no longer sufficient to hold beliefs just because you inherited them. Only if you struggle long and hard with objections to your faith will you be able to provide grounds for your beliefs to skeptics, including yourself, that are plausible rather than ridiculous or offensive. And, just as important for our current situation, such a process will lead you, even after you come to a position of strong faith, to respect and understand those who doubt.

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I recently took a road trip with my family to California and spent the travel time catching up on some reading.  The first book I read was given to me by my grandmother for Christmas, a choice ostensibly inspired by my recent purchase of a motorcycle.  Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance was written in 1974 by Robert M. Pirsig and received widespread acclaim for the novel way in which it presents fresh philosophical ideas.  Here’s my review.

Zen is a rather remarkable book in that it brings together many genres of literature into one fairly lengthy but enjoyable book.  Depending on what part of the book you’re referring you, it could be categorized as a travelogue, psychological drama, presentation of alternatives to traditional forms of higher education, or innovative philosophical theory.

The whole of Zen appears to be a semi-autobiographical account of a motorcycle trip the author takes with his son, Chris, and two friends.  Where they visit is hinted at, but not ultimately important.  The important details are the thoughts the narrator shares during the long stretches of road that separate the group’s various stops and personal interactions.  The heart of the book is contained in these passages, and it is here that the book is interesting, fresh, and at times strange.

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