The thrill of discovery

April 24, 2008 at 7:08 pm 57 comments

I struggled as a youngster to unite Christianity and Science. I wanted the two things to agree. I wanted these two aspects of my life to gain consistency. I did silly things, like conscientiously objecting to the teaching of evolution in my 10th grade science class, and instead did a self-study courtesy of the Institute for Creation Research which makes me blush to this day. As an older, college-age Christian, I was enthralled with Hugh Ross and hoped that it was all starting to fall into place. But in the end, the dichotomy crumbled and my de-conversion took place. I managed to escape before Intelligent Design took over as the creationist model of choice, although my poor parents keep buying me books on the subject.

I am a scientist first and foremost, and my life is defined by the concept of falsifiable hypotheses. Religion is not falsifiable, and therefore it can never be consistent with science. We can try to explain things, either in a Christian sense or an Atheist sense, but they will never be proven. I disagree with Dawkins in some aspects of this, as I don’t believe we can claim the non-existance of God any more than we can prove it. I am not interested in fundamental research trying to “prove” the origins of life are purely biological any more than I try to prove that they are not. I am mystified by the fuss over “Expelled” right now since anything designed to preach to the converted is destined to do only that. I don’t believe that scientific evidence is the key in the religious debate.

In some ways I fall into a distinct minority within atheist and agnostic circles, in that I have no interest in an emphasis of proof. I concur with the concept that the relationship between belief and knowledge is impossible. My goals as a scientist and a de-convert do not include trying to “prove” anyone right or wrong, but only to open a discourse about what may or may not be felt as part of the human experience. I am interested in epistemology but there are few concrete answers, few defined intersections between truth and belief. The range of truth is narrow, the range of belief is large. Therefore the range of knowledge is indefinable.

As a scientist, I wonder if we try too hard. If we are too concerned with general relativity or the origins of life to see the fine details exploding right in front of our faces. A classic “missing the trees for the forest” problem. My own branch of science concerns human suffering, and I worry that we don’t know why babies are born prematurely or why cancer kills people in the prime of their lives. We get distracted with the grand problems and miss the opportunities to solve the local ones. We miss the opportunities that we have to influence local human suffering, in the hopes of achieving fame and fortune in developing a theory of everything.

The theory of everything that we try to develop includes either God or the Lack-Thereof, depending on the philosophical bent of the “scientist” in question. We want to prove God exists or doesn’t exist, we want to prove life originates with God or independently of God. We therefore are biased before ever entering the problem, and it takes away the best part of science (not to mention the fundamental tenet). We miss surprise. We miss the opportunity for discovery. For shock. For the joy in the unexpected. This is my greatest criticism of both the confirmed Christians and the devout atheists. We do not leave ourselves open to possibility, we think we know it all a priori.

My de-conversion story includes a realization that I could leave the fold and find greater happiness than when I behaved in a “Christian” manner, at least according to my Evangelical family and friends. The surprise element of this was fantastic. The ability to question everything was fundamental. Certain aspects of my Christian upbringing have stayed with me–I do indeed enjoy watching the service from the Vatican on Christmas Eve, I find great peace in singing in Evensong in an Anglican service, but I do not restrict my life to the “commandments 11-102″ mentality that dominated my early Christian existence. Contrary to popular Christian belief, this “liberation” has not involved debauchery or a lot of “sin”, just more a freedom to enjoy the windy road of life as it comes. And that is particularly related to the bliss associated with the element of surprise. When life throws you lemons, make lemonade. Or lemon cheesecake. Or hollandaise sauce. The possibilities are endless. The problem with Christianity is the lack of creativity and unexpected results. Dictation of behavioral norms ruins the ride that is life. Instead, enjoy the ride. And don’t be scared to be surprised by the results. Humans can live as scientists do, with theories but open minds about the outcome of the study. A negative result is still a result. We have still learned something. You only lose when you try to force the outcome.

- ExEvangel

Entry filed under: ExEvangel. Tags: , , , .

Abstinence and Education Branding an Adolescent Mind

57 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Jersey  |  April 24, 2008 at 9:08 pm

    Science used to be about trying to just figure out how “God’s creations worked”. It was never meant to support or de-support its existence. I too am finally of the minority, that I am not there to prove or disprove its existence any longer. When I take up science, I am there to study, to observe. I am not there to bias or judge, or at least I try not to.

  • 2. HumanistDad  |  April 24, 2008 at 9:47 pm

    I like to define ‘belief’ as an assertion based on observable evidence whereas ‘faith’ is an assertion based on no evidence (or even contradictory evidence). Thus, ‘believers’ are really ‘faithers’.

    Dawkins claims the non-existence of god because it is statistically true. Evolution is not 100% true and never will be but it’s safe to say it’s 98% true thus, statistically, true. Science has essentially shown god does not exist since the probability is very low so I think we can consider the question answered and move on.

  • 3. More cross-posts « Unsaved  |  April 25, 2008 at 4:17 am

    [...] I had been preparing in the background, about science, proof and religion.  It’s called The Thrill of Discovery and it maps my life from a young evangelical creationist (gulp, how embarrassing!) to a modern [...]

  • 4. Godamn  |  April 25, 2008 at 4:37 am

    Y’know, Humanist Dad makes an excellent point on definitions. Xians are always accusing science of being another belief system just like xianity, but HD’s def. makes a pretty clear distinction – that the belief of science is based on evidence and faith is not. I don’t think scientists would have a problem with sci. being a belief under that kind of definition.

  • 5. exevangel  |  April 25, 2008 at 6:53 am

    HumanistDad and Godamn,

    there is no such thing as statistically true. There is only statistically probable. There is always some uncertainty. Thus is the magic of science. We can’t prove, only disprove. Typically in much of science the guideline is actually only 95% certainty, certainly that’s the norm in medical research. Remember that next time your doctor recommends any course of treatment–or no course of treatment. 5% big question marks. And that’s assuming there was no bias or error in the study to increase the uncertainty. That’s part of how drugs get pulled from the market and gold standard treatments get changed.

  • 6. artificialhabitat  |  April 25, 2008 at 8:19 am

    Interesting post, but I can’t help but comment on some of the points where I disagree.

    Science doesn’t concern itself with ‘proof’, that is something which resides only in the realm of mathematics. Science is concerned with, as you say, falsifiable hypotheses. Ultimately nothing is ‘proven’, we simply have those hypotheses which have not been falsified.

    No scientists are trying to ‘prove’ that God does not exist, that would be silly and unproductive. Scientists do look into the ultimate origins of life, and the Universe, but not as a means of proving that God does, or does not, exist. They merely seek to better understand the Universe in which we live – a noble goal in itself. Maybe they go home at night and think about whether or not a god is behind things, but it is not a driving force in their work. This ‘minority’ you say you’re a part of isn’t really a minority at all, I think most would agree with your positions with regard to ‘proof’.

    This is my greatest criticism of both the confirmed Christians and the devout atheists. We do not leave ourselves open to possibility, we think we know it all a priori.

    What is a ‘devout atheist’? I haven’t met any. Now, if this was a fundamentalist religious blog, I might expect to be told off because I think I know it all a priori, but I’m somewhat surprised to encounter that opinion here. The truth is that I don’t think like that at all, and I am yet to encounter an atheist who does. That’s the point really. Rationalist atheists/agnostics, are usually more than happy to admit the limits of their knowledge, and are often those who are the most open to changing their minds when confronted with evidence.

    As a scientist, I wonder if we try too hard. If we are too concerned with general relativity or the origins of life to see the fine details exploding right in front of our faces. A classic “missing the trees for the forest” problem. My own branch of science concerns human suffering, and I worry that we don’t know why babies are born prematurely or why cancer kills people in the prime of their lives. We get distracted with the grand problems and miss the opportunities to solve the local ones. We miss the opportunities that we have to influence local human suffering, in the hopes of achieving fame and fortune in developing a theory of everything.

    Got to disagree with you here. I understand your concern, but, to use your analogy, we need some people to ‘miss the trees for the forest’, because the forest is interesting and important too. People are inspired and motivated by different things. For some people, it is a focus on the ‘local’ issues that you describe that drives them on, but for others it is the ‘grand problems’ that motivate them. We need both kinds of people – and others in between – working on science at every conceivable scale.

    “We miss surprise. We miss the opportunity for discovery. For shock. For the joy in the unexpected.”

    I don’t think we do. As I’ve said, most scientists aren’t in it to prove the god angle, either way. The surprise, the discovery, the joy in the unexpected – these things truly are the ‘best part’ of trying to understand the world through science, and they haven’t gone anywhere.

    Sorry If I’ve gone on long. I enjoyed the post, and I like this blog: it comes at things from a different perspective to my own (I’m essentially a lifelong atheist).

    Best regards,

  • 7. Slapdash  |  April 25, 2008 at 8:59 am

    I agree with much of artificalhabittat’s comments above. My boyfriend, pretty much a lifelong atheist, is a biochemist who studies protein-protein interactions. Whether or not God is involved in what he studies is totally irrelevant to his work. You will never see his grant proposals or his articles include the word “God” one way or another because, as arthab said above, most scientists aren’t in it to prove the god angle. He’s certainly not.

    My boyfriend really enjoys the process of discovery for its own merits: as such, your comment about missing surprise, opportunity for discover, for shock, etc. just doesn’t apply – neither to him, nor to any of his colleagues at his institution. He is often surprised by what he sees, observes, learns in his work, and that’s often what makes for very publishable articles: the unexpected, the novel.

  • 8. LeoPardus  |  April 25, 2008 at 10:53 am

    I like the post. Mucho to say, but need to do some work right now.

    Spotted an error you may want to edit. Third paragraph, second line, “no interest inan emphasis of proof”. You need a space to separate ‘in an’.

    More later.

  • 9. exevangel  |  April 25, 2008 at 11:47 am

    artificialhabitat

    I disagree, I’ve certainly never met a devout agnostic (ha!) but I have certainly met devout atheists.

    Slapdash

    I was trying to specifically address scientists that work on origins of life issues, although I think it’s still true that if you go into anything with a set answer (either pro-“God exists” or against) you are likely to be blinded by other possibilities no matter how hard you try. The scientific literature is full of people hoping to believe a drug worked or that their pet theory was “true” to the point that they had blinders on looking at their own data. In most of science your religious world-view might not have a primary role, and so as you said it then has nothing to do with what we do day to day.

    LeoPardus

    Thanks for the good eye, I (hopefully!) just corrected the space. I’ll look forward to seeing what else you have to say!

  • 10. artificialhabitat  |  April 25, 2008 at 12:35 pm

    I disagree, I’ve certainly never met a devout agnostic (ha!) but I have certainly met devout atheists.

    OK, then perhaps you could furnish me with a description of what a ‘devout atheist’ is.

    As far as I can tell, ‘devout’ is close to a synonym for ‘religious’. Presumably you don’t mean it in that sense. It can also mean something like ‘sincere’, but that still leaves me confused about what a ‘sincere atheist’ is. And if you’re using it in that sense, couldn’t an agnostic be ‘sincere’ too?

    Perhaps you have met atheists who are sure they know it all. I don’t think there are many non-religious people who genuinely think like that.

  • 11. LeoPardus  |  April 25, 2008 at 1:12 pm

    Devout:
    From old French or Latin: “dedicated by vow”
    Meanings/synonyms:
    -earnest: sincere; hearty
    -to give up wholly
    -to addict
    -directing or consuming the whole or greater part of one’s attention
    -to attach
    For example, to devote one’s self to science, to one’s friends, to piety, etc.

  • 12. artificialhabitat  |  April 25, 2008 at 1:19 pm

    Thanks, LeoPardus, but now calling someone a ‘devout atheist’ seems to make even less sense!

    No-one devotes themselves to atheism!

    Sure, one could still be a ‘sincere’ atheist, but what do you mean by that?

    I’ll put it another way. How would you characterise a ‘devout atheist’? What traits would that person display?

    It’s a minor quibble really – I don’t want to distract too much from the main issues in the post

  • 13. LeoPardus  |  April 25, 2008 at 1:32 pm

    I too wasted a good deal of study and effort in getting science and creationism to line up. Actually doing my thesis on comparative immunology finally finished off the damnable idiocy of creationism.

    Point of order; science is based upon both falsifiable and verifiable hypotheses. Some things can’t be falsified well if at all. Other things are darned hard to verify. A combination of both may be needed. Evolution is actually a good case in point for this.

    But of course you’re absolutely right that overall science proceeds on probability. Even if an hypothesis can’t be completely verified (or falsified), we can say that the probability of it being false (or true) is very small and so proceed to draw a plausible conclusion.

    My goals as a scientist and a de-convert do not include trying to “prove” anyone right or wrong, but only to open a discourse about what may or may not be felt as part of the human experience.

    I like that. I’ll be looking for a chance to use it in conversation someday. :)

    Like you I’m in the human suffering arena of science. I’ve actually had the privilege of being part of bringing successful treatments to market. It’s very cool to see someone with a condition and to know that I had some small but active part in their being able to walk, being free of pain, being not dead, etc.

    And I find myself almost daily marveling at what science shows me of the way things work (in the body, in space, in physics, etc.). I used to think I was discovering the “marvels of God’s creative genius”. But now that I know I’m really discovering the “marvels of nature” sans deity, it lessens my marvel not at all. It’s just darned cool no matter how it all got here.

    commandments 11-102

    HA! I’m gonna use that one for sure.

    You only lose when you try to force the outcome.

    Preach it sis!

  • 14. LeoPardus  |  April 25, 2008 at 1:35 pm

    artificialhabitat:

    I know there are atheists who are attached, addicted, or whose attention is consumed wholly or in large part by atheism. That would fit the bill as I see it.

    Are we in danger of being devout ‘logophiles’? :D

  • 15. LeoPardus  |  April 25, 2008 at 1:48 pm

    artificialhabitat:

    Science doesn’t concern itself with ‘proof’, that is something which resides only in the realm of mathematics…. Ultimately nothing is ‘proven’, we simply have those hypotheses which have not been falsified.

    Au contraire. There are things that are proven.
    -Objects subjected to identical gravitational forces fall at identical rates regardless of mass, unless acted upon by additional forces.
    -Objects in motion/at rest, remain in motion/at rest unless acted upon by outside forces.
    -60cc of phenobarbitol IV is lethal to a human.

    Science deals in both certainties and probabilities.

    No scientists are trying to ‘prove’ that God does not exist,

    Sadly there are a few who are wasting there time in such silly pursuits.

    Scientists do look into the ultimate origins of life, and the Universe, but not as a means of proving that God does, or does not, exist.

    Au contraire again. Isn’t his just what a lot of ID and creationist types are doing? It’s an utter waste of time as you already said, but they are trying none the less.

    Anyway, I just wanted to speak up to clearly point out that such dolts do exist.

  • 16. Stephen P  |  April 25, 2008 at 1:59 pm

    The first and last paragraphs of this post are fine, but in between it goes astray. ‘Artificialhabitat’ is quite right in his/her/its comments on science and proof, and I also wondered what a devout atheist was.

    I am mystified by the fuss over “Expelled” right now since anything designed to preach to the converted is destined to do only that.

    “Expelled” is not designed to preach to the converted. It’s likely that in the end it will mostly be the converted that watch it, but it was designed for a much wider audience. And when you consider that the makers have distorted both history and science in a most disreputable fashion, lied about the people who were supposedly expelled for holding contrary views, lied to the people who were interviewed, infringed copyrights, made fools of themselves kicking one of the interviewees out of a showing and then further made fools of themselves by making ridiculous statements about it afterwards, then it’s hardly surprising that people have made a fuss about it.

    As a scientist, I wonder if we try too hard. If we are too concerned with general relativity or the origins of life to see the fine details exploding right in front of our faces. A classic “missing the trees for the forest” problem. … We get distracted with the grand problems and miss the opportunities to solve the local ones.

    Having known a number of scientists personally and got to know others via the net, I don’t recognise this statement at all. Not even slightly. If you know certain scientists that are at fault in this direction, then identify who you are talking about.

    We miss surprise. We miss the opportunity for discovery. For shock. For the joy in the unexpected.

    Who is the “we” here? It looks as if you are talking about scientists. But I can scarcely believe that a scientist would write this about scientists. About religious people, yes. But about scientists?? Read ‘Lucy’, or ‘Endless Forms Most Beautiful’, or ‘The Double Helix’ or ‘The Beak of the Finch’. Read the work of Sagan or Gould. Read the posts on recent work in inummerable science blogs. Joy in the unexpected is the very driving force of science.

  • 17. exevangel  |  April 25, 2008 at 3:30 pm

    Stephen P:

    re:
    As a scientist, I wonder if we try too hard. If we are too concerned with general relativity or the origins of life to see the fine details exploding right in front of our faces. A classic “missing the trees for the forest” problem. … We get distracted with the grand problems and miss the opportunities to solve the local ones.

    Having known a number of scientists personally and got to know others via the net, I don’t recognise this statement at all. Not even slightly. If you know certain scientists that are at fault in this direction, then identify who you are talking about.

    Not individual scientists so much as the scientific establishment, but in an effort to seek funding and stay relevant many individual scientists follow like sheep.

    “The human genome project is going to fix medicine! Personalized drugs and pharmacogenomics!” One of the leading causes of death in the 3rd world is diarrhea. Another is Malaria. It’s near impossible to get funding in basics, the drug companies won’t touch things that won’t make money which means they focus on lifestyle drugs for the masses, not diseases for third world companies or conditions that hit only a small proportion of people like rare cancers.

    “Nanotechnology is going to revolutionize everything!” Yes, maybe nanotechnology will help in the future. But in the present civil engineering departments in the US are falling apart while whole bridges fall down due to the crumbling US infrastructure. Practical stuff like materials for better bridges and ways to monitor the health of the infrastructure are hard to fund.

    re:
    We miss surprise. We miss the opportunity for discovery. For shock. For the joy in the unexpected.

    Who is the “we” here? It looks as if you are talking about scientists. But I can scarcely believe that a scientist would write this about scientists. About religious people, yes. But about scientists?? Read ‘Lucy’, or ‘Endless Forms Most Beautiful’, or ‘The Double Helix’ or ‘The Beak of the Finch’. Read the work of Sagan or Gould. Read the posts on recent work in inummerable science blogs. Joy in the unexpected is the very driving force of science.

    Joy is a driving force of science right up until the point that you are in a tenure track academic job, from the experiences of most of my young scientist friends. The joy part may be what drives people to go into science but it’s not part of the daily grind, nor is writing popular science books. The greatest age of science is over, now we have funding constraints, derivative and incremental work, publish or perish, shameless self-promotion… there’s not much room for surprise or excitement or discovery. I’d bet a lot of science blog writers are grad students and post-docs…

  • 18. exevangel  |  April 25, 2008 at 3:38 pm

    I do know a few devout atheists, both within theological debate circles and within science. In either case I would categorize them as having many of the same qualities of devout Christians: trying to evangelize, criticizing or mocking others who do not share their beliefs. I’m sure it’s one of those things where one could easily spend years never encountering someone like that–I didn’t until about 2 years ago, I mostly knew peaceful agnostics–but now I definitely know several atheists. I’m interested that anyone would try to claim that such a concept didn’t exist, it’s like saying “no one believes that” without having the evidence to back it up from having sampled the population, dang back to that statistical thing again.

    LeoPardus makes an excellent point that I had neglected: there are scientific laws such as gravitation which are theories sufficiently deemed “true, universal and absolute” Other good examples are the first and second laws of thermodynamics and Hooke’s law for elastic stiffness. But I do dispute that laws cannot be broken: they are still, like theories, true until proven otherwise. Some of the fine details about the definitions of these words are admittedly discipline-dependent, especially for biological vs. physical sciences.

  • 19. The Apostate  |  April 25, 2008 at 4:18 pm

    exevangel,

    I disagree, I’ve certainly never met a devout agnostic (ha!) but I have certainly met devout atheists.

    leopardus,

    I know there are atheists who are attached, addicted, or whose attention is consumed wholly or in large part by atheism. That would fit the bill as I see it.

    artificialhabitat,

    but now calling someone a ‘devout atheist’ seems to make even less sense!
    No-one devotes themselves to atheism!

    First of all, artificialhabitat, unless you are in someone else’s exact position with their exact religious history and exact mindset, you have no right whatsoever to say what someone does. I would suggest you look up “empathy” in the dictionary before you say what you think someone can devote themselves to.

    That said, let me say that I am, for better or worse, a devout agnostic. We must dispense with what is considered “religious” for a moment because our language is constructed in the past, and the past has been dominated by both primitive and sophisticated religiousity. Obviously when I say I am “devout” I am not speaking of devotion to a god of some sort. I am speaking of commitment, as in my commitment to my family, or a commitment to a certain philosophical worldview.

    I am devout because that is my personality. I am passionate about what I agree and disagree with. I do not concern myself with things that I perceive do not matter. I am devout because I was an extremely religious person. I am devout because my entire life was consumed by a Christian worldview and when you are as deep as many of us are/were, devotion does not become eliminated from our vocabulary.

    I am a devout agnostic, but I am not devoted to agnosticism. Agnosticism is simply a term that I identify myself with because it shows that I cannot know about things which have not been revealed to myself. I am a committed agnostic because I believe that holding a position of ignorance in such matter is more honest than any other. It does, again for better or worse, consume much of who I am, but that is my issue and no one else’s. I wish I could simply chose, as many do, that God does or does not exist with certainty – but the fact is, my choice does not matter to the truth. Unfortunately, what someone believes about God and the afterlife defines who they are and how they treat others, and I am surrounded by that reality whether I like it or not. I must hold to my agnosticism devoutly because I am surrounded by devout believers and devout nonbelievers – but I always invite either side in for a good debate.

  • 20. orDover  |  April 25, 2008 at 4:27 pm

    One of the leading causes of death in the 3rd world is diarrhea. Another is Malaria. It’s near impossible to get funding in basics, the drug companies won’t touch things that won’t make money which means they focus on lifestyle drugs for the masses, not diseases for third world companies or conditions that hit only a small proportion of people like rare cancers.

    I think you are really off base here. Just two years ago there was a new vaccine approved for the virus that causes diarrhea. The first diarrhea vaccine was approved in 1998, but needed improvement, which has resulted in the 2006 vaccine. That’s almost ten years of work, personnel, funding, and resources, put into ending deaths caused by diarrhea, not even counting the years and dollars it took to produce the first vaccine.

    There are several drugs that are currently on the market for treating malaria, and although there isn’t a vaccine yet, a quick Wiki skim will reveal that “this is an active field of research.”

    These two illnesses are not being ignored. I think that you’re buying into “Big Pharma” propaganda here. Developing vaccines for malaria and diarrhea are indeed areas of research that will end up making money in the long run. The diarrhea vaccine has now been added to the routine childhood vaccination list, and I’m sure that a malaria vaccine would be similarly widely used. Imagine the revenue brought in if the millions of children in just the US alone are being given the diarrhea vaccine.

    There is also this notion that pharmaceutical companies are only interested in “designer drugs” for rich people and their mild ills. One thing I’ve hear frequently criticized is the drug that treats Restless Leg Syndrome, which was advertised on tv. Do you think that years of research grants went into finding a cure of Restless Leg Syndrome? If you do, you are mistaken. The drug that is most widely prescribed to treat RLS was developed for Parkinson’s Disease, and found a second use with RLS.

    Likewise Viagra is often criticized, but it was originally developed to treat heart disease and high blood pressure, which I think we would all agree are serious conditions. Viagra is prescribed for both erectile disfunction as well as pulmonary arterial hypertension. These researchers didn’t set out to find a way to give guys better erections, they set out to cure heart disease, and along the way they found that their drug had another (beneficial) side effect.

  • 21. exevangel  |  April 25, 2008 at 5:00 pm

    orDover

    I am not on a crusade against big pharma and am definitely out of my base scientific area when talking about the third world. However, a great deal of evidence suggests that the high mortality rates, both in children and adults, in Africa and many other places, would never happen in the US today. Whatever the means to do so, the existing technology is not getting to people.

    Last I checked, however, there was not a single cause of diarrhea, but a multitude of conditions. One vaccine, even in perfectly executed delivery to all with unclean drinking water, would not help.

  • 22. orDover  |  April 25, 2008 at 5:19 pm

    Diarrhea can be caused from everything from the flu to bad chicken, but the leading cause is from the rotavirus, which, as it’s name indicates, is indeed a virus, and which the vaccine protects against, so it would help. Rotavirus is transmitted through feces, so this is the bugger which causes diarrhea from unclean drinking water. I agree that cleaning water is much easier to vaccination a population, but it all comes down to money, like anything else. (Although I feel compelled to mention that scientists are actively looking for cheap ways to purify water. I know this first hand as a professor at my university has developed a system that uses ultraviolet light and is as cheap as the cost of purchasing an ultraviolet light bulb and powering it with electricity.)

    My point was that pharmaceutical companies have put money into making these vaccines, which you claimed they didn’t do. They vaccines have been developed, or in the case of malaria, treatments have been developed, but unfortunately they aren’t free. This has actually lead researchers, at least in the case of malaria, to develop treatments which are both effective and cheap.

    There are a lot of factors that go into ridding third world nations of the diseases that ravish them, and most of them are centered around levels of poverty.

  • 23. LeoPardus  |  April 25, 2008 at 6:18 pm

    Well, since some of ya jumped into the big pharma bit….. Keep reality firmly in mind when thinking about big pharma companies. Particularly economic realities.

    Suppose Pharma for Africa Inc (fictional company) sets up shop to make a vaccine or cure of onchocerciasis (real disease). They get some venture capital and spend years developing a drug. Now they have to test it in humans to see if it works. They have to test in in Africa of course. But there’s precious little infrastructure to do that in Africa. And it’s gonna cost a bundle. (To say nothing of the bundle they’ve already spent getting this far.) But by some prodigious effort they show it is effective. Now they want to use it in Africa.

    Who’s gonna pay for it?

    The Africans who need it haven’t got enough money to pay for a bus pass. Pharma for Africa Inc. is never going to be able to make any money on the drug. Result: Pharma for Africa Inc. declares chapter 11 and that’s the end of that sad story.

    Simple economic reality. You can’t make anything for free. Somebody has to pay. Bill Gates is doing a great job of just that, but even he has limited resources.

    So next time you hear someone going on about nasty pharmaceutical companies and their big profits. Stop and do the math. (I’ll be glad to give you the numbers, or tell you where they can be found.)

    Oh, and if you like, I can also give you a list of the diseases and conditions that are now being treated, and sometimes even cured, by big pharma drugs. You might be amazed at how few of them are “lifestyle” conditions.

  • 24. Slapdash  |  April 25, 2008 at 6:28 pm

    orDover, I’m not sure you’ve got your facts right. It’s odd, I had this very conversation two nights ago over dinner with my boyfriend and a mutual friend. My boyfriend is a scientist in a non-profit institution; his funding comes from the NIH and other federal entities. The friend is a researcher for a major pharma, which of course funds its own R&D programs. We were discussing the philosophical and social angles of third world disease, and as it turns out, yes, there are SOME treatments/vaccines being created to treat malaria, etc. However, pharmas aren’t doing the research. It’s NIH-funded scientists who are doing it.

  • 25. exevangel  |  April 25, 2008 at 6:30 pm

    LeoPardus

    many thanks for this, I admit to being not in the drug discovery or utilization for third world countries business. But I am interested in your list of cures to third world country ailments being addressed by big pharma! So do tell. Not my area at all, so I admit ignorance with an interest. My interests are more in premature birth and infant mortality.

  • 26. LeoPardus  |  April 25, 2008 at 6:31 pm

    Slapdash:

    The Bill and Melinda Gates foundation funds a lot of that sort of research too. Mostly academic scientists get that money and do the research.

  • 27. Slapdash  |  April 25, 2008 at 6:33 pm

    Right, thanks for correcting. My main point is that it’s not big pharma who is developing this stuff. They are far too profit driven to direct their energies to such research agendas.

  • 28. Barbara  |  April 25, 2008 at 7:54 pm

    Just found your site here….its perfect for where I am. I’ll be back to read more.

  • 29. exevangel  |  April 26, 2008 at 1:47 pm

    Ironically there was a written debate this week on the Guardian online with the topic: ‘religion is the greatest threat to scientific progress and rationality today’

    http://education.guardian.co.uk/higher/news/story/0,,2275634,00.html

  • 30. Anonymous  |  April 28, 2008 at 10:03 am

    What’s strange about Genesis is that on the sixth day God created man and woman, and yet after that the Bible says that God couldn’t find anyone to till the ground, so he made man. He then decided that man needed a partner, so he created woman. If Christians are believing in these passages, they need to start believing in something else. I mean , what if God created man from apes? For me, I don’t know how God created us, and I really don’t care. It’s just a silly arguement to me. Besides, I think that Genesis is just a story, kind of like a legend or something.

  • 31. Andrea  |  April 28, 2008 at 1:05 pm

    My mother recently read my blog, and had a panic attack. She thought I was an Atheist. I had to further explain, it is outside the realm of Science to disprove god’s existence. I was only supporting Atheist’s Constitutional rights to believe in no god.

    I am tired of people (especially my own family) telling me I must believe something, that I must have faith. I’ve had enough of faith. All I want is Science.

  • 32. wtewryhser  |  April 29, 2008 at 7:13 am

    eh5uhj3ahede-conversion Home About Archive Links Contributors
    ——————————————————————————–
    The thrill of discovery
    April 24, 2008

    I struggled as a youngster to unite Christianity and Science. I wanted the two things to agree. I wanted these two aspects of my life to gain consistency. I did silly things, like conscientiously objecting to the teaching of evolution in my 10th grade science class, and instead did a self-study courtesy of the Institute for Creation Research which makes me blush to this day. As an older, college-age Christian, I was enthralled with Hugh Ross and hoped that it was all starting to fall into place. But in the end, the dichotomy crumbled and my de-conversion took place. I managed to escape before Intelligent Design took over as the creationist model of choice, although my poor parents keep buying me books on the subject.

    I am a scientist first and foremost, and my life is defined by the concept of falsifiable hypotheses. Religion is not falsifiable, and therefore it can never be consistent with science. We can try to explain things, either in a Christian sense or an Atheist sense, but they will never be proven. I disagree with Dawkins in some aspects of this, as I don’t believe we can claim the non-existance of God any more than we can prove it. I am not interested in fundamental research trying to “prove” the origins of life are purely biological any more than I try to prove that they are not. I am mystified by the fuss over “Expelled” right now since anything designed to preach to the converted is destined to do only that. I don’t believe that scientific evidence is the key in the religious debate.

    In some ways I fall into a distinct minority within atheist and agnostic circles, in that I have no interest in an emphasis of proof. I concur with the concept that the relationship between belief and knowledge is impossible. My goals as a scientist and a de-convert do not include trying to “prove” anyone right or wrong, but only to open a discourse about what may or may not be felt as part of the human experience. I am interested in epistemology but there are few concrete answers, few defined intersections between truth and belief. The range of truth is narrow, the range of belief is large. Therefore the range of knowledge is indefinable.

    As a scientist, I wonder if we try too hard. If we are too concerned with general relativity or the origins of life to see the fine details exploding right in front of our faces. A classic “missing the trees for the forest” problem. My own branch of science concerns human suffering, and I worry that we don’t know why babies are born prematurely or why cancer kills people in the prime of their lives. We get distracted with the grand problems and miss the opportunities to solve the local ones. We miss the opportunities that we have to influence local human suffering, in the hopes of achieving fame and fortune in developing a theory of everything.

    The theory of everything that we try to develop includes either God or the Lack-Thereof, depending on the philosophical bent of the “scientist” in question. We want to prove God exists or doesn’t exist, we want to prove life originates with God or independently of God. We therefore are biased before ever entering the problem, and it takes away the best part of science (not to mention the fundamental tenet). We miss surprise. We miss the opportunity for discovery. For shock. For the joy in the unexpected. This is my greatest criticism of both the confirmed Christians and the devout atheists. We do not leave ourselves open to possibility, we think we know it all a priori.

    My de-conversion story includes a realization that I could leave the fold and find greater happiness than when I behaved in a “Christian” manner, at least according to my Evangelical family and friends. The surprise element of this was fantastic. The ability to question everything was fundamental. Certain aspects of my Christian upbringing have stayed with me–I do indeed enjoy watching the service from the Vatican on Christmas Eve, I find great peace in singing in Evensong in an Anglican service, but I do not restrict my life to the “commandments 11-102″ mentality that dominated my early Christian existence. Contrary to popular Christian belief, this “liberation” has not involved debauchery or a lot of “sin”, just more a freedom to enjoy the windy road of life as it comes. And that is particularly related to the bliss associated with the element of surprise. When life throws you lemons, make lemonade. Or lemon cheesecake. Or hollandaise sauce. The possibilities are endless. The problem with Christianity is the lack of creativity and unexpected results. Dictation of behavioral norms ruins the ride that is life. Instead, enjoy the ride. And don’t be scared to be surprised by the results. Humans can live as scientists do, with theories but open minds about the outcome of the study. A negative result is still a result. We have still learned something. You only lose when you try to force the outcome.

    – ExEvangel

    Entry Filed under: ExEvangel. Tags: christianity, de-conversion, religion, science.

    31 Comments Add your own
    1. Jersey | April 24, 2008 at 9:08 pm
    Science used to be about trying to just figure out how “God’s creations worked”. It was never meant to support or de-support its existence. I too am finally of the minority, that I am not there to prove or disprove its existence any longer. When I take up science, I am there to study, to observe. I am not there to bias or judge, or at least I try not to.

    2. HumanistDad | April 24, 2008 at 9:47 pm
    I like to define ‘belief’ as an assertion based on observable evidence whereas ‘faith’ is an assertion based on no evidence (or even contradictory evidence). Thus, ‘believers’ are really ‘faithers’.

    Dawkins claims the non-existence of god because it is statistically true. Evolution is not 100% true and never will be but it’s safe to say it’s 98% true thus, statistically, true. Science has essentially shown god does not exist since the probability is very low so I think we can consider the question answered and move on.

    3. More cross-posts « &hellip | April 25, 2008 at 4:17 am
    [...] I had been preparing in the background, about science, proof and religion. It’s called The Thrill of Discovery and it maps my life from a young evangelical creationist (gulp, how embarrassing!) to a modern [...]

    4. Godamn | April 25, 2008 at 4:37 am
    Y’know, Humanist Dad makes an excellent point on definitions. Xians are always accusing science of being another belief system just like xianity, but HD’s def. makes a pretty clear distinction – that the belief of science is based on evidence and faith is not. I don’t think scientists would have a problem with sci. being a belief under that kind of definition.

    5. exevangel | April 25, 2008 at 6:53 am
    HumanistDad and Godamn,

    there is no such thing as statistically true. There is only statistically probable. There is always some uncertainty. Thus is the magic of science. We can’t prove, only disprove. Typically in much of science the guideline is actually only 95% certainty, certainly that’s the norm in medical research. Remember that next time your doctor recommends any course of treatment–or no course of treatment. 5% big question marks. And that’s assuming there was no bias or error in the study to increase the uncertainty. That’s part of how drugs get pulled from the market and gold standard treatments get changed.

    6. artificialhabitat | April 25, 2008 at 8:19 am
    Interesting post, but I can’t help but comment on some of the points where I disagree.

    Science doesn’t concern itself with ‘proof’, that is something which resides only in the realm of mathematics. Science is concerned with, as you say, falsifiable hypotheses. Ultimately nothing is ‘proven’, we simply have those hypotheses which have not been falsified.

    No scientists are trying to ‘prove’ that God does not exist, that would be silly and unproductive. Scientists do look into the ultimate origins of life, and the Universe, but not as a means of proving that God does, or does not, exist. They merely seek to better understand the Universe in which we live – a noble goal in itself. Maybe they go home at night and think about whether or not a god is behind things, but it is not a driving force in their work. This ‘minority’ you say you’re a part of isn’t really a minority at all, I think most would agree with your positions with regard to ‘proof’.

    This is my greatest criticism of both the confirmed Christians and the devout atheists. We do not leave ourselves open to possibility, we think we know it all a priori.

    What is a ‘devout atheist’? I haven’t met any. Now, if this was a fundamentalist religious blog, I might expect to be told off because I think I know it all a priori, but I’m somewhat surprised to encounter that opinion here. The truth is that I don’t think like that at all, and I am yet to encounter an atheist who does. That’s the point really. Rationalist atheists/agnostics, are usually more than happy to admit the limits of their knowledge, and are often those who are the most open to changing their minds when confronted with evidence.

    As a scientist, I wonder if we try too hard. If we are too concerned with general relativity or the origins of life to see the fine details exploding right in front of our faces. A classic “missing the trees for the forest” problem. My own branch of science concerns human suffering, and I worry that we don’t know why babies are born prematurely or why cancer kills people in the prime of their lives. We get distracted with the grand problems and miss the opportunities to solve the local ones. We miss the opportunities that we have to influence local human suffering, in the hopes of achieving fame and fortune in developing a theory of everything.

    Got to disagree with you here. I understand your concern, but, to use your analogy, we need some people to ‘miss the trees for the forest’, because the forest is interesting and important too. People are inspired and motivated by different things. For some people, it is a focus on the ‘local’ issues that you describe that drives them on, but for others it is the ‘grand problems’ that motivate them. We need both kinds of people – and others in between – working on science at every conceivable scale.

    “We miss surprise. We miss the opportunity for discovery. For shock. For the joy in the unexpected.”

    I don’t think we do. As I’ve said, most scientists aren’t in it to prove the god angle, either way. The surprise, the discovery, the joy in the unexpected – these things truly are the ‘best part’ of trying to understand the world through science, and they haven’t gone anywhere.

    Sorry If I’ve gone on long. I enjoyed the post, and I like this blog: it comes at things from a different perspective to my own (I’m essentially a lifelong atheist).

    Best regards,

    7. Slapdash | April 25, 2008 at 8:59 am
    I agree with much of artificalhabittat’s comments above. My boyfriend, pretty much a lifelong atheist, is a biochemist who studies protein-protein interactions. Whether or not God is involved in what he studies is totally irrelevant to his work. You will never see his grant proposals or his articles include the word “God” one way or another because, as arthab said above, most scientists aren’t in it to prove the god angle. He’s certainly not.

    My boyfriend really enjoys the process of discovery for its own merits: as such, your comment about missing surprise, opportunity for discover, for shock, etc. just doesn’t apply – neither to him, nor to any of his colleagues at his institution. He is often surprised by what he sees, observes, learns in his work, and that’s often what makes for very publishable articles: the unexpected, the novel.

    8. LeoPardus | April 25, 2008 at 10:53 am
    I like the post. Mucho to say, but need to do some work right now.

    Spotted an error you may want to edit. Third paragraph, second line, “no interest inan emphasis of proof”. You need a space to separate ‘in an’.

    More later.

    9. exevangel | April 25, 2008 at 11:47 am
    artificialhabitat

    I disagree, I’ve certainly never met a devout agnostic (ha!) but I have certainly met devout atheists.

    Slapdash

    I was trying to specifically address scientists that work on origins of life issues, although I think it’s still true that if you go into anything with a set answer (either pro-”God exists” or against) you are likely to be blinded by other possibilities no matter how hard you try. The scientific literature is full of people hoping to believe a drug worked or that their pet theory was “true” to the point that they had blinders on looking at their own data. In most of science your religious world-view might not have a primary role, and so as you said it then has nothing to do with what we do day to day.

    LeoPardus

    Thanks for the good eye, I (hopefully!) just corrected the space. I’ll look forward to seeing what else you have to say!

    10. artificialhabitat | April 25, 2008 at 12:35 pm
    I disagree, I’ve certainly never met a devout agnostic (ha!) but I have certainly met devout atheists.

    OK, then perhaps you could furnish me with a description of what a ‘devout atheist’ is.

    As far as I can tell, ‘devout’ is close to a synonym for ‘religious’. Presumably you don’t mean it in that sense. It can also mean something like ’sincere’, but that still leaves me confused about what a ’sincere atheist’ is. And if you’re using it in that sense, couldn’t an agnostic be ’sincere’ too?

    Perhaps you have met atheists who are sure they know it all. I don’t think there are many non-religious people who genuinely think like that.

    11. LeoPardus | April 25, 2008 at 1:12 pm
    Devout:
    From old French or Latin: “dedicated by vow”
    Meanings/synonyms:
    -earnest: sincere; hearty
    -to give up wholly
    -to addict
    -directing or consuming the whole or greater part of one’s attention
    -to attach
    For example, to devote one’s self to science, to one’s friends, to piety, etc.

    12. artificialhabitat | April 25, 2008 at 1:19 pm
    Thanks, LeoPardus, but now calling someone a ‘devout atheist’ seems to make even less sense!

    No-one devotes themselves to atheism!

    Sure, one could still be a ’sincere’ atheist, but what do you mean by that?

    I’ll put it another way. How would you characterise a ‘devout atheist’? What traits would that person display?

    It’s a minor quibble really – I don’t want to distract too much from the main issues in the post

    13. LeoPardus | April 25, 2008 at 1:32 pm
    I too wasted a good deal of study and effort in getting science and creationism to line up. Actually doing my thesis on comparative immunology finally finished off the damnable idiocy of creationism.

    Point of order; science is based upon both falsifiable and verifiable hypotheses. Some things can’t be falsified well if at all. Other things are darned hard to verify. A combination of both may be needed. Evolution is actually a good case in point for this.

    But of course you’re absolutely right that overall science proceeds on probability. Even if an hypothesis can’t be completely verified (or falsified), we can say that the probability of it being false (or true) is very small and so proceed to draw a plausible conclusion.

    My goals as a scientist and a de-convert do not include trying to “prove” anyone right or wrong, but only to open a discourse about what may or may not be felt as part of the human experience.

    I like that. I’ll be looking for a chance to use it in conversation someday.

    Like you I’m in the human suffering arena of science. I’ve actually had the privilege of being part of bringing successful treatments to market. It’s very cool to see someone with a condition and to know that I had some small but active part in their being able to walk, being free of pain, being not dead, etc.

    And I find myself almost daily marveling at what science shows me of the way things work (in the body, in space, in physics, etc.). I used to think I was discovering the “marvels of God’s creative genius”. But now that I know I’m really discovering the “marvels of nature” sans deity, it lessens my marvel not at all. It’s just darned cool no matter how it all got here.

    commandments 11-102

    HA! I’m gonna use that one for sure.

    You only lose when you try to force the outcome.

    Preach it sis!

    14. LeoPardus | April 25, 2008 at 1:35 pm
    artificialhabitat:

    I know there are atheists who are attached, addicted, or whose attention is consumed wholly or in large part by atheism. That would fit the bill as I see it.

    Are we in danger of being devout ‘logophiles’?

    15. LeoPardus | April 25, 2008 at 1:48 pm
    artificialhabitat:

    Science doesn’t concern itself with ‘proof’, that is something which resides only in the realm of mathematics…. Ultimately nothing is ‘proven’, we simply have those hypotheses which have not been falsified.

    Au contraire. There are things that are proven.
    -Objects subjected to identical gravitational forces fall at identical rates regardless of mass, unless acted upon by additional forces.
    -Objects in motion/at rest, remain in motion/at rest unless acted upon by outside forces.
    -60cc of phenobarbitol IV is lethal to a human.

    Science deals in both certainties and probabilities.

    No scientists are trying to ‘prove’ that God does not exist,

    Sadly there are a few who are wasting there time in such silly pursuits.

    Scientists do look into the ultimate origins of life, and the Universe, but not as a means of proving that God does, or does not, exist.

    Au contraire again. Isn’t his just what a lot of ID and creationist types are doing? It’s an utter waste of time as you already said, but they are trying none the less.

    Anyway, I just wanted to speak up to clearly point out that such dolts do exist.

    16. Stephen P | April 25, 2008 at 1:59 pm
    The first and last paragraphs of this post are fine, but in between it goes astray. ‘Artificialhabitat’ is quite right in his/her/its comments on science and proof, and I also wondered what a devout atheist was.

    I am mystified by the fuss over “Expelled” right now since anything designed to preach to the converted is destined to do only that.

    “Expelled” is not designed to preach to the converted. It’s likely that in the end it will mostly be the converted that watch it, but it was designed for a much wider audience. And when you consider that the makers have distorted both history and science in a most disreputable fashion, lied about the people who were supposedly expelled for holding contrary views, lied to the people who were interviewed, infringed copyrights, made fools of themselves kicking one of the interviewees out of a showing and then further made fools of themselves by making ridiculous statements about it afterwards, then it’s hardly surprising that people have made a fuss about it.

    As a scientist, I wonder if we try too hard. If we are too concerned with general relativity or the origins of life to see the fine details exploding right in front of our faces. A classic “missing the trees for the forest” problem. … We get distracted with the grand problems and miss the opportunities to solve the local ones.

    Having known a number of scientists personally and got to know others via the net, I don’t recognise this statement at all. Not even slightly. If you know certain scientists that are at fault in this direction, then identify who you are talking about.

    We miss surprise. We miss the opportunity for discovery. For shock. For the joy in the unexpected.

    Who is the “we” here? It looks as if you are talking about scientists. But I can scarcely believe that a scientist would write this about scientists. About religious people, yes. But about scientists?? Read ‘Lucy’, or ‘Endless Forms Most Beautiful’, or ‘The Double Helix’ or ‘The Beak of the Finch’. Read the work of Sagan or Gould. Read the posts on recent work in inummerable science blogs. Joy in the unexpected is the very driving force of science.

    17. exevangel | April 25, 2008 at 3:30 pm
    Stephen P:

    re:
    As a scientist, I wonder if we try too hard. If we are too concerned with general relativity or the origins of life to see the fine details exploding right in front of our faces. A classic “missing the trees for the forest” problem. … We get distracted with the grand problems and miss the opportunities to solve the local ones.

    Having known a number of scientists personally and got to know others via the net, I don’t recognise this statement at all. Not even slightly. If you know certain scientists that are at fault in this direction, then identify who you are talking about.

    Not individual scientists so much as the scientific establishment, but in an effort to seek funding and stay relevant many individual scientists follow like sheep.

    “The human genome project is going to fix medicine! Personalized drugs and pharmacogenomics!” One of the leading causes of death in the 3rd world is diarrhea. Another is Malaria. It’s near impossible to get funding in basics, the drug companies won’t touch things that won’t make money which means they focus on lifestyle drugs for the masses, not diseases for third world companies or conditions that hit only a small proportion of people like rare cancers.

    “Nanotechnology is going to revolutionize everything!” Yes, maybe nanotechnology will help in the future. But in the present civil engineering departments in the US are falling apart while whole bridges fall down due to the crumbling US infrastructure. Practical stuff like materials for better bridges and ways to monitor the health of the infrastructure are hard to fund.

    re:
    We miss surprise. We miss the opportunity for discovery. For shock. For the joy in the unexpected.

    Who is the “we” here? It looks as if you are talking about scientists. But I can scarcely believe that a scientist would write this about scientists. About religious people, yes. But about scientists?? Read ‘Lucy’, or ‘Endless Forms Most Beautiful’, or ‘The Double Helix’ or ‘The Beak of the Finch’. Read the work of Sagan or Gould. Read the posts on recent work in inummerable science blogs. Joy in the unexpected is the very driving force of science.

    Joy is a driving force of science right up until the point that you are in a tenure track academic job, from the experiences of most of my young scientist friends. The joy part may be what drives people to go into science but it’s not part of the daily grind, nor is writing popular science books. The greatest age of science is over, now we have funding constraints, derivative and incremental work, publish or perish, shameless self-promotion… there’s not much room for surprise or excitement or discovery. I’d bet a lot of science blog writers are grad students and post-docs…

    18. exevangel | April 25, 2008 at 3:38 pm
    I do know a few devout atheists, both within theological debate circles and within science. In either case I would categorize them as having many of the same qualities of devout Christians: trying to evangelize, criticizing or mocking others who do not share their beliefs. I’m sure it’s one of those things where one could easily spend years never encountering someone like that–I didn’t until about 2 years ago, I mostly knew peaceful agnostics–but now I definitely know several atheists. I’m interested that anyone would try to claim that such a concept didn’t exist, it’s like saying “no one believes that” without having the evidence to back it up from having sampled the population, dang back to that statistical thing again.

    LeoPardus makes an excellent point that I had neglected: there are scientific laws such as gravitation which are theories sufficiently deemed “true, universal and absolute” Other good examples are the first and second laws of thermodynamics and Hooke’s law for elastic stiffness. But I do dispute that laws cannot be broken: they are still, like theories, true until proven otherwise. Some of the fine details about the definitions of these words are admittedly discipline-dependent, especially for biological vs. physical sciences.

    19. The Apostate | April 25, 2008 at 4:18 pm
    exevangel,

    I disagree, I’ve certainly never met a devout agnostic (ha!) but I have certainly met devout atheists.

    leopardus,

    I know there are atheists who are attached, addicted, or whose attention is consumed wholly or in large part by atheism. That would fit the bill as I see it.

    artificialhabitat,

    but now calling someone a ‘devout atheist’ seems to make even less sense!
    No-one devotes themselves to atheism!

    First of all, artificialhabitat, unless you are in someone else’s exact position with their exact religious history and exact mindset, you have no right whatsoever to say what someone does. I would suggest you look up “empathy” in the dictionary before you say what you think someone can devote themselves to.

    That said, let me say that I am, for better or worse, a devout agnostic. We must dispense with what is considered “religious” for a moment because our language is constructed in the past, and the past has been dominated by both primitive and sophisticated religiousity. Obviously when I say I am “devout” I am not speaking of devotion to a god of some sort. I am speaking of commitment, as in my commitment to my family, or a commitment to a certain philosophical worldview.

    I am devout because that is my personality. I am passionate about what I agree and disagree with. I do not concern myself with things that I perceive do not matter. I am devout because I was an extremely religious person. I am devout because my entire life was consumed by a Christian worldview and when you are as deep as many of us are/were, devotion does not become eliminated from our vocabulary.

    I am a devout agnostic, but I am not devoted to agnosticism. Agnosticism is simply a term that I identify myself with because it shows that I cannot know about things which have not been revealed to myself. I am a committed agnostic because I believe that holding a position of ignorance in such matter is more honest than any other. It does, again for better or worse, consume much of who I am, but that is my issue and no one else’s. I wish I could simply chose, as many do, that God does or does not exist with certainty – but the fact is, my choice does not matter to the truth. Unfortunately, what someone believes about God and the afterlife defines who they are and how they treat others, and I am surrounded by that reality whether I like it or not. I must hold to my agnosticism devoutly because I am surrounded by devout believers and devout nonbelievers – but I always invite either side in for a good or

  • 33. wtewryhser  |  April 29, 2008 at 7:16 am

    gooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo
    mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa
    mamama

  • 34. Anonymous  |  April 29, 2008 at 1:38 pm

    There are atheists who believe in an all-pervading unifying field of energy that interconnects everything. It’s just that atheists will never say that it is God. Life is empty without God. I’ve tried the atheist thing and it didn’t work out for me. A lot of atheists believe in God- they don’t want to admit it. If they do, they feel like there’s a God out there that will judge them. There are two problems with this: 1)God isn’t a judge. If he is, then he’ll judge in a way you’ll never expect-without criticism or punishment 2) God isn’t “out there”, he’s within. If I’m wrong then answer me this: Why is it that atheists only try to attack a God of vengeance? They find the most ignorant and hateful parts of the Bible to defend why they don’t believe in God. Why not ignore those part and believe in a more compassionate God? Who said that God is hateful? It certainly wasn’t God. If it was God he would have written himself, but he didn’t.

  • 35. LeoPardus  |  April 29, 2008 at 2:26 pm

    Anon:

    Life is empty without God.

    Lots of folks hereabouts found it empty when they believed there was one.

    I’ve tried the atheist thing and it didn’t work out for me.

    So does that somehow mean that it’s wrong just ’cause it didn’t “work out” for you?
    [Maybe you didn't really understand atheism. Maybe you didn't have a personal relationship with nonGod. ...... Sorry folks. Felt like reversing the canned categories for fun.]

    A lot of atheists believe in God

    Definitionally that’s impossible. But I’ll grant that some atheists allow the possibility of a god.

    God isn’t a judge. If he is, then he’ll judge in a way you’ll never expect-without criticism or punishment….God isn’t “out there”, he’s within.

    And you get this from where? ….. No need to answer, we already know it came from your own imagination where you made up a nice deity to cuddle.

    If I’m wrong then answer me this: Why is it that atheists only try to attack a God of vengeance?

    You can’t attack something that doesn’t exist. But we may attack the idea of God/gods. And if you bothered to read around here, you’d have known that we don’t spare the nicey-nice views of God. Atheists think they are all silly and imaginary.

    They find the most ignorant and hateful parts of the Bible to defend why they don’t believe in God.

    Once again, if you’d take the time to read around here, you’d already know that statement wasn’t true. But don’t let me dissuade you from your comfortable, preconceived notions and ignorance.

    Why not ignore those part and believe in a more compassionate God?

    Because a “more compassionate God” is just as imaginary as any other.

    Who said that God is hateful? It certainly wasn’t God.

    The first thing you’ve gotten right so far. It certainly wasn’t a non-existent being.

  • 36. exevangel  |  April 29, 2008 at 5:13 pm

    LeoPardus,

    thanks for that, I wish we could go for coffee and discuss! It seems like we would have an interesting time. I was out with my Anglican chaplain for coffee tonight and we have a great time with debates and discussions.

    Anon,

    “Judge not lest ye be judged” is a standard in the faith lexicon. Not to mention a major scare tactic in religious circles.

  • 37. LeoPardus  |  April 29, 2008 at 5:28 pm

    I wish we could go for coffee and discuss!

    Yep. As a couple of scientists/decons there would be much to talk over. You’re not anywhere near CO are you though?

  • 38. exevangel  |  April 29, 2008 at 5:39 pm

    LeoPardus,

    No, I’m across the pond these days although I seem to hit Boulder about once a year.

  • 39. Anonymous  |  April 30, 2008 at 10:06 am

    If there is not a God, then answer me this, everything is made up of the same material-atoms, electrons, protons, electrons, and so forth. The particles are made of the same material, and everything is made of energy. Particles and subatomic particles are made up of quarks, and those quarks are made of particles as well. They go on for infinity. There are many atheists who are saying that there is a unifying intelligent field, a living field. Tell me LeoPardus, what is this beginning to sound like? You guessed it-God. Many religions speak of God as a infinite, all-encompassing being. How can religions over thousands of years old say the same thing as the emerging sciences of today. Oh yeah, since many of these physicists don’t believe in God, they couldn’t have looked to ancient texts for support. I believe in God because I know what God is like. I’ve experienced God. No one can truly know that God exists until they experience God for themselves. That’s why Christianity isn’t working for our society anymore. No one is teaching that God comes from within. Because of this, many people are finding trouble sticking to their faith. It’s because people don’t like the fact of a judgmental God, and they have every right to feel that way. And one more thing, just because God doesn’t work for you, doesn’t mean that he doesn’t work for me.

  • 40. Anonymous  |  April 30, 2008 at 10:09 am

    Oh yeah, I didn’t get my “ideas” from my imagination. I got them from many ancient texts from around the world. Read upon them more often.

  • 41. Cthulhu  |  April 30, 2008 at 10:35 am

    Particles and subatomic particles are made up of quarks, and those quarks are made of particles as well. They go on for infinity.

    Care to back that statement up with the science? Unless you are a string theorist, quarks are the most fundamental particles found to date. Please provide a reference to the research that states with empirical evidence that sub-atomic particles ‘go on for infinity’. I’m throwing the BS card on that one. If you haven’t noticed – there are quite a few scientists and people with hard science degrees here. And which atheists (or scientist who isn’t a closet or open creationist) are talking about ‘an underlying intelligent field? Once again – provide references or stop throwing your opinion around as ‘fact’. And I have read a lot of the texts from other faiths…they are still BS.

  • 42. LeoPardus  |  April 30, 2008 at 11:29 am

    exevangel:

    I’m across the pond these days although I seem to hit Boulder about once a year.

    Really? That’s my neck of the woods. If I pop into your blog and give you an email addy, will you let me know when you’re going to be in Boulder?

  • 43. Anonymous  |  April 30, 2008 at 12:41 pm

    I don’t have to back up my ideas with science. All you need is plain common sense. Think about it: If atoms are made up of subatomic particles, then those subatomic particles are made up of something, and that something is made up something. Everything needs to be made up of something in order to support itself. Since everything needs something else to support its structure, then that must go on for infinity. If you have any ideas that differ, then tell me why they are so right, cause apparently I don’t any evidence to back up your claims, unless you tell me. Oh yeah, what makes other texts BS when you never really gave them a shot. It’s like everyone can criticize something without trying it for themselves, that is, if doesn’t harm anyone. Currently, you have not explained yourself, I think you are full of BS.

  • 44. Anonymous  |  April 30, 2008 at 12:53 pm

    Oh yeah, chew on this. If many religions and cultures believe that all life is created from spirit and/or believe in a God figure, then how come they all say pretty much the same thing, that God is in everything, and yet they are centuries apart, some millenniums, and continents apart. They couldn’t have come together to agree on that, and judging by religious intolerance, that would be near impossible. Some African tribes believe that spirit dwells within everything and so did Native Americans. Indian texts speak of God as encompassing everything and Christian and Muslim scriptures speak of God as living within everyone. How can they be so different, and yet alike?

  • 45. Anonymous  |  April 30, 2008 at 1:27 pm

    Does anyone know how I can post an article on this site? I really wanna know.

  • 46. Cthulhu  |  April 30, 2008 at 3:32 pm

    I don’t have to back up my ideas with science. All you need is plain common sense.

    Then there is no value in conversing with you.

    Currently, you have not explained yourself, I think you are full of BS.

    I am not the person flinging BS particle physics/quantum mechanics non-facts around. If you want to spout about science than back it up with facts. Your ‘opinion’ means nothing in science…but apparently you do not spend much time worrying about facts – in your world I guess people like Einstein are mere fools. Good day…

  • 47. exevangel  |  April 30, 2008 at 4:03 pm

    LeoPardus:

    yes, of course, although I don’t know that I’ll be there in this calendar year, first half of 2009 is more likely.

  • 48. LeoPardus  |  April 30, 2008 at 5:14 pm

    exevangel:

    Well, till next year then. I put an email addy in a comment to your blog introduction. If you do try to reach me though, do it here first. I don’t check that addy often at all.

  • 49. The Apostate  |  April 30, 2008 at 10:41 pm

    Anon states, matter of factly,

    If many religions and cultures believe that all life is created from spirit and/or believe in a God figure, then how come they all say pretty much the same thing, that God is in everything, and yet they are centuries apart, some millenniums, and continents apart.

    1) They don’t all say pretty much the same thing, that God is in everything. Panentheism is very common, but hardly universal: try pre-rabbinical Judaism/Yahwehism or many traditions of Buddhism for example.
    2) Panentheism is easily explained as humankind’s perpetual need to comprehend the universe that surrounds it. Not only does panentheism attempt this, while obviously simplifying reality, it also allows the religionist to place him or her self at the center of the universe, often portrayed or replicated in his or her country (Palestine, Saudi Arabia), city (Jerusalem, Mecca), temple, or in the case of Christianity, soul.

    I would suggest Mircea Eliade’s “The Sacred and the Profane” – you may find it enlightening.

  • 50. Anonymous  |  May 5, 2008 at 11:26 am

    I’m back! clearly there’s no need in trying to de-convert me because you haven’t put up a decent arguement to counter my claims. So far, I have not had anyone tell me what their beliefs are and how they can counter and defeat mine. No one has told me WHY my views are BS. All I’ve been getting are opinions as well. I can’t state my opinions but you can? That doesn’t make any sense. In the defense of my religious claims, there are many religions that do say that there is God in everythin, or at least everyone. The best way to prove this is to experience it for yourself. Face the facts, you will never have anyone be able to prove that God exists, only you can do that. Self-discovery is the key to knowlecge, and believe me, there’s much knowledge and wonder in the realm of spirituality. Like nature, there are many mysteries within spirituality. You just have to keep an open mind. Oh yeah, if Einstein was alive today, would you tell him that the God he believes in is a fraud, because last time I checked he was Jewish. (Lighten up, it’s a little joke)

  • 51. Anonymous  |  May 5, 2008 at 11:36 am

    I only heard about Einstein being Jewish, but I did look up what he believes about God. He believed that we are all one with God. He belived that science and religion should be merged, and I believe so too. I don’t understand why religion and science have to be separate. Oh I know why-It’s because people keep it separate. That in itself is lunacy. Spirituality in itself is a science, and it needs the same kind of attention as every other science out there. I guess people keep science and religion separate because they fear being wrong, and that’s for both sides. Scientists and religious people must realize that they can’t be right all the time.

  • 52. The Apostate  |  May 5, 2008 at 12:18 pm

    Anon,

    …clearly there’s no need in trying to de-convert me…

    There isn’t. Nor I we trying. You found us, you came here with your sewage, you dropped a bit of pseudo-science and airy-fairy New Age spiritualism and left. We see trolls from a mile a way. Some are worth engaging with, others… aren’t. Personally, I have no problem with a discussion, no matter how obscure it appears, so long as my philosophical opponent has some initial and hopefully ongoing respect. My guess, however, by the way you “barged” in here giving a bunch of non-argument, that you wouldn’t do that in my house face to face. I don’t respect that. I wouldn’t crash into your house, point my finger making ludicrous assumptions about your belief system, build a straw man, push it over, and then stomp out the door, only to come back and laugh about the straw all over the floor and everyone ignoring the mess.

    But if you need to know why we are ignoring you, it might have something to do with these following comments:

    Life is empty without God.

    A lot of atheists believe in God- they don’t want to admit it. If they do, they feel like there’s a God out there that will judge them.

    Why is it that atheists only try to attack a God of vengeance? They find the most ignorant and hateful parts of the Bible to defend why they don’t believe in God.

    Particles and subatomic particles are made up of quarks, and those quarks are made of particles as well. They go on for infinity. There are many atheists who are saying that there is a unifying intelligent field, a living field…

    How can religions over thousands of years old say the same thing as the emerging sciences of today…

    I believe in God because I know what God is like. I’ve experienced God. No one can truly know that God exists until they experience God for themselves….

    …just because God doesn’t work for you, doesn’t mean that he doesn’t work for me.

    Oh yeah, I didn’t get my “ideas” from my imagination. I got them from many ancient texts from around the world. Read upon them more often.

    I don’t have to back up my ideas with science. All you need is plain common sense.

    Everything needs to be made up of something in order to support itself. Since everything needs something else to support its structure, then that must go on for infinity.

    It’s like everyone can criticize something without trying it for themselves, that is, if doesn’t harm anyone. Currently, you have not explained yourself, I think you are full of BS.

    then how come they all say pretty much the same thing, that God is in everything, and yet they are centuries apart, some millenniums, and continents apart.

    In the defense of my religious claims, there are many religions that do say that there is God in everythin, or at least everyone. The best way to prove this is to experience it for yourself.

    Self-discovery is the key to knowlecge, and believe me, there’s much knowledge and wonder in the realm of spirituality.

    [Einstein] belived that science and religion should be merged, and I believe so too

    Spirituality in itself is a science, and it needs the same kind of attention as every other science out there. I guess people keep science and religion separate because they fear being wrong, and that’s for both sides.

    You make a lot of claims but you back nothing up. If I am going to spend time “defeating” your claims, I need something to defeat! So far there appears only to be the ramblings of a New Age flake.

  • 53. Anonymous  |  May 23, 2008 at 4:47 pm

    I was hoping that I could find someone with a good enough claim to disprove mine. Apparently, the people who argued against me before couldn’t rise against me again. You attack me and call my beliefs false, and I just want to know what scientific claims disprove my beliefs. For instance, use science to prove that instinctual belief in God comes from somewhere else other that God. If you can’t do that, don’t bother talking to me. You can attack Christians because the God and statutes in the Bible are contradictory, but what about those who already know these things, yet still believe in God? Or what about those who have claimed to have had terminal illnesses healed by God? It is good that you attack many scriptures of the world, but there will always be someone with questions and ideas jou’ ve never heard of before on this subject. Oh yeah, if you look up Einstien’s beliefs about God, they are quite surprising. And what’s wrong with trying to experience God for yourself? Anyway, what I’m saying is that there is more stuff out there than you think, and if you are to defend your beliefs, you must have real answers to anything that might arise. The sole purpose of me coming here is to challenge your beliefs, as well as find someone who seeks the truth in this world filled with hypocrisy and lies. I guess I have to go elsewhere.

  • 54. The Apostate  |  May 24, 2008 at 10:59 am

    Anon,

    Apparently, the people who argued against me before couldn’t rise against me again.

    Or everyone saw that you were only making claims without and evidence or support and didn’t bother.

    For instance, use science to prove that instinctual belief in God comes from somewhere else other that God.

    What if my instincts told me that unicorns and fairies are existent creatures because that is what I learned at a young age? Science can rarely disprove absence (although mathematics often does). Furthermore, what does “instinctual belief” have to do with anything? “Instinctual belief” sounds like an excuse to believe whatever you want. What if you were a sociopath and your instinctual belief was to murder people? This doesn’t make it a correct, it only shows you that your, for lack of a better word, “reasoning” process is seriously flawed.

    You can attack Christians because the God and statutes in the Bible are contradictory, but what about those who already know these things, yet still believe in God?

    I thank you for your permission for the former, but the for latter, who are you speaking to? Personally, I have no qualms with the belief in a god of some sort – I just am unsure of what this god’s job is or what this god has to do with me. I am not simply going to believe in it because the people around me do, I need a reason to do so – some substantial evidence of some sort. I could definitely go for Kenneth Miller’s sort of “quantum mechanics” god, but that feels like a grasping at straws or filling of an unknown gap than a real intimate experience with the divine.

    Or what about those who have claimed to have had terminal illnesses healed by God?

    Simply because people are ignorant of the natural processes, we shouldn’t assume that some equally unknownable being is behind it all – or else you risk, once again, science explaining away the mysteries that were once attributed to the gods.

    It is good that you attack many scriptures of the world, but there will always be someone with questions and ideas jou’ ve never heard of before on this subject.

    I don’t attack many scriptures. I criticize many of their religious and supernatural claims, but I find grand ethical and wisdom sayings in them. I don’t, however, believe everything I read.

    Oh yeah, if you look up Einstien’s beliefs about God, they are quite surprising.

    Sure, if you Google them out of context with no understanding whatsoever of Einstein’s view of science and religion. I would not be surprised because I have seen every quote of Einstein’s view on God in its entirety and I recommend you do the same (not that Einstein, or anyone else, should give credibility to theism, atheism, or anything in between).

    And what’s wrong with trying to experience God for yourself?

    Nothing. The problem is that you will spend your entire life trying to grab air.

    Anyway, what I’m saying is that there is more stuff out there than you think, and if you are to defend your beliefs, you must have real answers to anything that might arise.

    “More stuff,” eh? I don’t think I ever said I am some all-knowing being. If anything, that seems closer to your claim. I am only saying that if you want to convert people to some wishy-washy New Age belief, you better have something worth believing in.

    The sole purpose of me coming here is to challenge your beliefs, as well as find someone who seeks the truth in this world filled with hypocrisy and lies. I guess I have to go elsewhere.

    I have no idea why you came here. You haven’t engaged in anything anybody has replied to, which is why they are ignoring you. Feel free to find people who feel like talking to a broken record.

  • 55. Thom  |  May 24, 2008 at 7:04 pm

    ‘Religion is not falsifiable, and therefore it can never be consistent with science.’

    I falsified religion. My deconversion came from investigating history, not science.

  • 56. karen  |  May 25, 2008 at 12:37 am

    I falsified religion. My deconversion came from investigating history, not science.

    Interesting, Thom. I am constantly running across people who will claim that the events depicted in the bible have all been proven 1000 percent accurate and verifiable historically. I think they have absolutely nothing to back up this statement, it’s just something they’ve heard in Sunday school (like I did).

    What historical investigations did you do that led to your deconversion?

  • 57. Thom  |  May 26, 2008 at 8:36 pm

    Quite a few. Lots of reading and taking careful notes from history books.
    I wasn’t trying to falsify religion at the time. I was trying to better understand Christianity and naively assumed that everything was true and therefore verifiable by historians who weren’t out looking to either support or take down religion, but were only reporting their findings.
    Eventually I found out that I was doing way to many intellectual acrobatics to somehow make the bible and history congruent.
    If you want to talk about the gospels, I ask which one?
    And it’s not even some list of ‘historical contradictions to the bible,’ but an overall understanding of Palestinian history where it becomes clear what component the various religions played, and approximately how and when they came about.
    Other questions, such as ‘was there an actual person (or persons) whom the legend of Jesus was based on exist, and if so to what extent?’ remain open questions to me still. Also, some of the old testament can be used with other sources to get an idea of where the various tribes in ancient Palestine moved, what conflicts they were involved in, and so on, but what history there is is mixed with a fair amount of legend.
    I could go on but I think that you get the idea. Would you like me to recommend how to begin your own research?

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Attention Christian Readers

Just in case you were wondering who we are and why we de-converted.

de-conversion wager

Whether or not you believe in God, you should live your life with love, kindness, compassion, mercy and tolerance while trying to make the world a better place. If there is no God, you have lost nothing and will have made a positive impact on those around you. If there is a benevolent God reviewing your life, you will be judged on your actions and not just on your ability to blindly believe in creeds- when there is a significant lack of evidence on how to define God or if he/she even exists.

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