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Sunday, May 18, 2014

Coping with the "Big List" of Attacks on the LDS Faith

One of the challenges in defending one's faith is coping with critics who use the "Big List" technique in their attack. This involves throwing out numerous arguments to create the impression of an overwhelming barrage that decimates the faith in question (see the related post, "If Only 10% of These Charges Are True..."). The Big List is loaded with barbed questions that weren't written in search of a real answer. If there is a good defense to the arguments raised at first, never mind, there are many more to be launched in different directions.

As with many topics in fields like history, science, and religion, the issues raised in Big List attacks are often complex and may require exploring abundant details to answer questions properly. Even for those who are prepared to answer questions on a wide variety of topics, the time it takes to lay a foundation and properly answer a question can be taken by the instantly impatient critics as an admission of weakness and confirmation that they are right, and then it's time to move on to the next attack and the next. If reasonable answers are promptly provided for some attacks, or if the alleged weakness on further examination actually proves to be evidence in favor of the faithful position, the response can be ignored as new attacks from the Big List are hurled out.

This doesn't just happen in anti-Mormon attacks. Attacks on many other faiths use the same approach. Interesting, attacks on some aspects of modern science by religious fundamentalists or young earth Creationists also may rely on the Big List approach, much to the exasperation of scientists who know there are good answers to the attacks, but often may not be able to adequately deal with the barrage of questions from critics not really interested in the answers. Some scientists call the tactic the "Gish Gallop" after Duane Gish, a Creationist noted for hurling numerous brief arguments to overwhelm opponents in debates on evolution.

One interesting recent example is discussed by famous science blogger PZ Myers in the post, "No! Not the list of stumpers again!" at Pharyngula. Myers writes:
There’s a common tactic used by creationists, and I’ve encountered it over and over again. It’s a form of the Gish Gallop: present the wicked evolutionist with a long list of assertions, questions, and non sequiturs, and if they answer with “I don’t know” to any of them, declare victory. It’s easy. We say “I don’t know” a lot.

Jack Chick’s Big Daddy tract is a version of the creationist list, and contains a fair amount of fantasy as well. You know what they believe will happen: they’ll ask that one question that the scientist can’t answer, and then they’ll have an epiphany, a revelation, and realize that all their science is a lie, at which time they’ll resign from their university position and join a good bible-believin’ church.

It happens to me all the time, too. At one talk I gave, there was a woman at the door who had printed a 5-page, single-spaced list of questions, and she was telling everyone going in to ask me to answer them — I invited her to come in and listen to the talk and ask them herself, and she ran away. I’ve had a Canadian creationist do the same thing, and then I talked to him for several hours in the hallway after the talk. He seemed stunned and angry that I actually had answers for most of his questions. I have been confronted by people with questions (more like ignorant assertions) about biology, who once I’ve answered them and reveal that I’m a biologist, switch to asking me about geology and the Big Bang, to get me into a corner where I’d have to say, “I don’t know.”
This approach, often launched by some of the same religious folks who like to denounce The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is painfully familiar to me.

By the way, for the record, I believe in God and believe that He is the Creator, yet believe that science and religion will ultimately be compatible when properly understood. I have no problem with the earth being billions of years old and with evolutionary tools being part of God's toolkit for preparing a planet like ours for the miraculous spectrum of life that we have here. While I disagree with the arguments used by many Creationists, as one who loves science, I definitely believe that the majesty of the cosmos and the many intricacies of life cannot be reasonably explained as mere accidents, but are evidences of a remarkably clever and artistic Creator. So while I do not share some of PZ Myers views, I can related well to the frustration of being hit with Big List attacks from religious critics not really interested in understanding or dialog.

One of my first experiences in helping to teach the Gospel after graduating from school and taking my first job in Appleton, Wisconsin involved a young college student, a new LDS convert, who had been given volumes of anti-Mormon literature by her former pastor. She came in with a stack of books, relying especially upon a thick tome published by a popular anti-Mormon organization. She asked one pointed question after another, all of which turned out to have reasonable answers, in my opinion, that we were able to offer on the spot. We dealt with them one at a time, turning to answers from the scriptures, when appropriate, or making points based on logic or other sources of information.

After about 40 minutes of this, she grew impatient and said something like, "Look, maybe you've got answers for the questions I’ve raised, but there are hundreds more arguments in this book. How can the Church be true when there are so many arguments against it?"

I said that it's easy to make arguments against anything. I reminded her of the days of early Christianity when there were numerous false witnesses against Christ, when there were paid witnesses who said that the tomb had been raided by Christians to fake the Resurrection, when all the elite religious leaders of the Jews spoke against Christ, and when the whole Roman world seemed to speak against Christ and the Christians. There were volumes and volumes of arguments against the Church back then, too. "If you were living them, how could you see past the massive arguments and recognize the divinity of the Son of God and the truth of Christianity?"

Unwilling to acknowledge the importance of a spiritual witness, she returned to her anti-Mormon books. I pointed out that while we had examined only a few of the arguments, the ones she had raised had reasonable answers, and some even demonstrated a lack of integrity on the part of the authors. Her answer surprised me: "I don't care. Even if only 10% of that book is true, that's enough to prove the Church is false."

Ah, the fallacy of the Big List, a key tool in the Adversary's arsenal. Impress them with shear volume, wear them out with endless attacks, and many will succumb, overwhelmed by the image and impression of strength.

A few years ago I received a letter from a former LDS member explaining why he and his wife were leaving the Church. In that letter, he acknowledged that there may be "excuses" to deal with each anti-Mormon argument when taken individually, but that taken together as a whole, the case against the Church is overwhelming. He then listed a barrage of arguments, mentioning DNA and the Book of Mormon, anachronisms, 4,000 changes in the Book of Mormon, racism, polygamy, the Temple and masonry, etc. -- problems that each can be dealt with if one takes the time to understand the issues and examines the assumptions behind them. Even then, one must be willing to recognize that there always will be some gaps in our understanding and that no amount of evidence and study will remove the need for faith or replace the power of a witness from the Holy Ghost. But in many cases, there are answers, sometimes powerful answers that turn apparent weaknesses in the Book of Mormon, for example, into strong evidence for authenticity. Such insights do not come from a superficial glance at the text and related literature. Sadly, he became another victim of the fallacy of the Big List.

There are tough arguments, indeed.
DNA and the Book of Mormon is an example of this. For a meaningful understanding of the issues, one must identify assumptions and evaluate information from a variety of perspectives. In so doing, one can come away with a better understanding of what the Book of Mormon is and what it is not. But the Adversary would have us just fold based upon a superficial examination: "Wow, there's no obvious Jewish DNA in the Americas. End of story!"

To help those coping with Big List issues, I've begin compiling my own list of recommended reading for students of the LDS religion. I hope it will be helpful to some. I'm not saying that you have to read this list before you leave the Church (or join it), but if you're willing to look at answers and evidences, it might be a great place to start.


The Gospel is true, and the Book of Mormon is a divine, authentic book of scripture, in spite of whatever mountains of books and brochures against it the enemy can mount. And Jesus is the Son of God, no matter how many false witnesses and PhD's and celebrities take a stand against Him. It's not about who can shout the loudest and longest, but Whose gentle voice we listen for amidst the senseless shouting of men.



174 comments:

Rusty Southwick said...

When a list of criticisms of the Church leads off with a string of several demonstrably false accusations, it's a clear indication that the compilers of such a list have not done their research, but that they're merely engaged throwing out propaganda.

The shotgun method of argumentation reveals a position of desperation and not a well-thought out analysis. It shows that the arguer doesn't know his or her material well enough to focus on the key issues. Alas, they don't even know what the key issues are.

Anonymous said...

I think many of us know what this is in reference to: the recent letter written to the Church Education System that's making waves on the internet.
The heart of the matter, from my perspective, is that so many faithful LDS people have never, ever been presented with the information in that letter, and so they're overwhelmed and shaken. And rightfully so. I remember when I first heard the story of Fanny Alger's life. It's still a thorn in church history for me, especially considering her own words and actions in later years.
When the blanket reply from LDS leadership is "oh that's just anti-Mormon hogwash, pay it no mind," one can't help but take a longer peek behind the curtain. It's human nature.
It's time for the church to take the blinders off and address concerns in a sincere way, without berating accusers.

b0yd said...

There is much truth to the points the author presents, in that volume does not prove anything.

That said, the author then employs his own logical fallacies and errors in much the same way.

After all said, the central claims of the lds church do not stand up to any reasonably close scrutiny.

Saying "is easily dealt with" is not an answer. Its an attempted whitewash.

The author would be good to detail the 4 core issues detractors (not "antis") have and respond to them.

They are: multiple and conflicting versions of the first vision.
Clear source plagiarism and anachronisms in the book of Mormon.
Book of Abraham translations proven to be utterly wrong
Polygamy, and marrying other men's wives who were on missions.

The author says there, and all others, are easily explained, well, blogs have as much space as needed and no deadlines, the floor is all his.

Yes, the paper termed "CES letter" details well in one easily readable format the main problems the church has with it's foundational claims. I could note 50 or 60 off the top of my head, but those 4 are sufficient

David said...

Oh don't you worry about a huge list, just tell me why Joseph lied to Emma about marrying other women, including 14 year old girls, or tell me why he used a HAT to "translate" the Book of Mormon without using the plates, or tell me why he died while calling from help from the Masons, just pick one or shut up.

AussieOi said...

Let me take a crack.

"When you look closer at what appear to be troubling questions, you discover that there are simple answers to them if you are prepared to make the effort to find them".

I think that answers your question clearly enough.

I guess there are no more questions then.

SilverRain said...

It's amusing when supposedly intelligent people prove your point by trying to refute it.

Thanks for pointing out a major flaw in their thinking. Nothing is as dangerous to reason as one who has only a passing acquaintance with it. They know the form, but not the substance of it.

Anonymous said...

"Interesting, attacks on some aspects of modern science by religious fundamentalists or young earth Creationists also may rely on the Big List approach, much to the exasperation of scientists who know there are good answers to the attacks, but often may not be able to adequately deal with the barrage of questions from critics not really interested in the answers"

Mormons are religious fundamentalist and young Earth creationist...lol

You sound like the Catholic church complaining about Copernicus and Galileo providing to much evidence...

Will Roberts said...

So in other words, "turn up your confirmation bias and throw reason to the wind." Got it.

Will Roberts said...

Unfortunately the author and yourself have provided nothing of any substance whatsoever to refute the CES Letter. FAIR took a shot but actually ended up agreeing with most of the letter. And the parts where they disagreed were largely laughable.

Ryan G said...

As your link points out, "The Gish Gallop is the debating technique of drowning the opponent in such a torrent of small arguments that their opponent cannot possibly answer or address each one in real time."

The Letter to a CES Director is not a debate, and it's not presented in real time. There are no time constraints on addressing the points made and questions asked individually or together. Calling the document a "Gish Gallop" is akin to calling Copernicus' De revolutionibus orbium coelestium a "Gish Gallop" against geocentrism.

If the document contains problems, fallacies, or falsehoods, address them specifically, at any pace you care to set. You've got all the time and space you need.

Pierce said...

"That said, the author then employs his own logical fallacies and errors in much the same way"

"The author would be good to detail the 4 core issues detractors..."

"Unfortunately the author and yourself have provided nothing of any substance whatsoever to refute the CES Letter"

Who said that this post is an attempt to address all of the points of the CES letter, or to address any criticisms for that matter? This is a post directed at criticizing the "big list" technique of dissuading people from a certain thing, like the LDS church or even science. Interesting that you would miss the point of this post and yet prove it.

"The author says there, and all others, are easily explained, well, blogs have as much space as needed and no deadlines, the floor is all his."

Jeff has 1786 blog posts to date--most of which dealing with criticisms--as well as a separate website dealing with difficult issues. Let us know when you're all caught up ;-)

"Mormons are religious fundamentalist and young Earth creationist...lol"

The only thing I'm laughing about is your assumption that I am a young earth creationist.

Nick Boyer said...

Basically, you're not up to the task of responding with the effort you say is required to give the "simple" answers. If you're saying it is worthy of that much attention then give it. If you're just going to post this then you're a hypocrite.

Anonymous said...

Let's face it. If a person, a member or investigator, has these questions they're going to look for answers. The a-horse-is-a-deer and that-anti-is-discredited stuff is only going to work for so long. Eventually, a person needs real answers that don't make them feel like a fool to swallow.

You can see it in the lifelong members who just can't make themselves believe anymore despite the generations that apply guilt and the whole church communities who won't pressure one another to keep up pretenses such as Sweden & much of Europe and the millennials who realize they haven't swallowed the Koolaid & still have a choice not to.

Mormonism will always work for a certain number of people who like living in a highly controlled environment and are lulled into complacence. But the curtain (or veil, if you will) has already been pulled back on the fabric of myth held together with prevarication. If you choose that, then fine. But it's too late to demand that other people sign on to confirm your bias.

Anonymous said...

"Jeff has 1786 blog posts to date--most of which dealing with criticisms--as well as a separate website dealing with difficult issues. Let us know when you're all caught up ;-)"

Yet with this immense resource he still chose not to directly confront any of the glaring issues that the CES letter presents in this article.

If he has answers to all these difficult questions, why isn't he taking the time to post links? Wouldn't that help alleviate the troubled souls that are out searching for answers? Wouldn't a simple step by step explanation help people less faithful than himself find comfort? Wouldn't this be seen as God's work? Wouldn't he be saving the souls of his brothers and sisters from the endless torment of Lucifer himself?

Maybe the author just feels that heaven is going to be too crowded so he opts not to help out. Or maybe he feels that it would be better for those sinful masses to gather the information for themselves. Or maybe he simply wants to hide his candle under a bushel so that it doesn't interfere with others trying to find the light...

Bah I say... You're excuse for why he didn't expound on the problems is worse than his lack of expounding.

Pierce said...

I can see that I'm not speaking with someone who is able to comprehend the meaning of this post. That makes things difficult for me. You are creating a strawman in which you are avoiding the actual point and content of this post in favor of what you think the content should be, namely, addressing every point of the CES letter (which specifically was brought up in the comments, not the article). He even stated that he spent 40 minutes explaining these points to a young woman. So how is a he a hypocrite?

It's like me saying this: Hey, if you are going to come on here and comment on this blog and be critical of anything that Jeff says, then you must have have previously or simultaneously addressed these questions. that Jeff has posed to critics, and it should be pretty convincing and in-depth. If you do not, you're hypocrites and are blinded by your biases and don't have a right to post a comment without.
How's that?

I don't have an "excuse" for why he didn't expound on the problems that you invented in the comments section. You're the one who missed the whole point of this post.

Anonymous said...

Here is the crux of this entry: "The Big List is loaded with barbed questions that weren't written in search of a real answer."

It is illuminating because of course the CES letter is asking questions that beg answers. It merely asks that the answers arise from history and fact and don't end with the necessary conclusion that the Book of Mormon is authentic. Apologetics will always fail to find answers if they don't come to the proper conclusion and therein lies the basic flaw of this entry.

How sad if a religion can't begin by encompassing the truth.

Anonymous said...

"The only thing I'm laughing about is your assumption that I am a young earth creationist."

D&C 77 6-7 Joseph did teach that the earth was 6-7000 years old. The heading of that chapter reads:

Revelation given to Joseph Smith the Prophet, at Hiram, Ohio, about March 1832. Joseph Smith’s history states, “In connection with the translation of the Scriptures, I received the following explanation of the Revelation of St. John.”

So he received this revelation from God. In the selected verses he states that each of the 7 seals represents 1000 years of the temporal existence of the Earth.

So who was lying? Was god not ready to reveal to man that the earth was old (god lying)? Or was JS not explaining to the young earth believers of his time that god was trying teach them about their ignorance (JS lying)?

Stop trying to put your educated 21st century mind into those who have come hundreds if not thousands of years before you.

Jonathan A. Cavender said...

Wow, I cannot imagine how anyone could take the 79 page polemic "Letter to a CES Director" as anything other than the most illogical of screeds. I had not seen it before a link was posted in this thread, and after reading through the first 40 pages, there was nothing that I hadn't (a) heard before, and (b) already had an answer to deal with. With a tone that was equal parts hatred and smug condescension (the fruits of his efforts?), about the only thing valuable in this document is J. Reuben Clark's quote in the beginning. This website has answered about 90% of the issues raised, the author of the letter clearly has no experience with the writings of Nibley, and his polygamy section could use a dose of experience with Meg Stout's Faithful Joseph series at Millennial Star.

Pierce said...

No, your interpretation of D&C 77 leads you to believe that Joseph attempted to explicitly state the age of the earth from the beginning of creation.

I don't have to agree with your assumption. Like most scriptures, there are many ways to view them. You can take "thousand year" language and fit it into a "periods" paradigm, similar to how "day" is interpreted in Genesis. This model would also specifically apply to the context of Revelation, and follow the same motifs, symbolism, numbers, and language found therein. You can also view this as referring specifically to the timelines the Bible gives as far as times of events and people, which does not include the creative process. Usually the "thousand years" language refers to Adam onward.

But hey Anon, thank you for once again indirectly supporting the nature of this original post--that these kinds of accusations are much deeper than someone like you gives credence to, and is indeed "loaded with barbs that weren't written in search of real answers."

Chris said...

"With a tone that was equal parts hatred and smug condescension (the fruits of his efforts?)"

Oh the hypocrisy...

Pierce said...

"Stop trying to put your educated 21st century mind into those who have come hundreds if not thousands of years before you."

So...stop thinking? All I said was that I am not a young earth creationist, so how is that superimposing anything onto Joseph Smith? I honestly don't know whether or not the age of the earth was revealed to Joseph. So it doesn't really matter, and I am not limited by what Joseph may or may not have known.

I'm sorry that I am not as fundamentalist as you accused me of being. You'll find that most Mormons aren't.

Anonymous said...

1) The tone of Jeremy Runnell's Letter to a CES Director is hardly hateful or smug. It was anything but illogical and it was the furthest thing from a screed. It was thorough, logical, well researched and respectful of doctrine and traditions that the author had grown up with and held central to his life into his adulthood. Not liking what the author had to say does not make it any of the things Mr. Cavender wishes it were. It would have been nice for Mr. Cavender to have been as even handed and rational.

2) Having heard something before or knowing that FAIR has issued some double speak concerning it does not constitute rebuttal or negation. Mr. Runnell has pointed out in updates that FAIR admits or remains neutral on nearly 3/4 of what the CES letter asserts.

Jonathan A. Cavender said...

Pierce:

As regarding the beliefs of Joseph Smith and others, contemporary writings seem to indicate that the 7,000 years referenced were both a literal 7,000 years (from Adam onward) and also related to the standard of one day equaling a thousand years (although, to my understanding, no revelation was cited). Thus there are writings of contemporaries of Joseph who state that the Earth was 2.55 Billion years old (7,000 years with each day lasting 1,000 years = 2.55 Billion years).

The point of this is not to forestall debate, but rather to point out that young-Earth creationism is not necessitated by an understanding of the Restoration.

Anonymous said...

Pierce,

Context is everything. The figurative speech to which you are referring is given during a dream sequence in revelation that also includes all sorts of interesting references. Few if no religious honestly believe in giant hailstones and mosquitoes large enough to carry away a man. Hence their use as symbolism is easily accepted. However the use in the OT and here in D&C is not in the context of symbolism. It is in the context of reality. This is why many generations have passed believing that the earth is less than 10000 years old and was molded by the creator himself in 6 days (each day being 1000 years). The majority of Americans today still believe this as is indicated by recent polling. If this is a falsehood, than god had an excellent opportunity to clear things up with D&C 77. You are again proving my point that you simply take your understanding to mold the data to your wishes… The ancient Hebrews also used the word lucifer. Not as a reference to an evil being, or even a brother of Christ, but as the word for Venus, the star of the morning. Jews themselves don’t believe in a “devil”, they believe all good and evil comes from god. They are truly monotheistic. So while you use one figurative speech to your advantage, you would deny another. Many examples of this can be found throughout Christianity.

As for your continued reference to the “purpose” of this article… I would love to hear what you believe the purpose to be. From my reading it boils down to “Don’t be afraid of Big Lists”. It builds itself by saying that these lists can easily be handled and one shouldn’t get overwhelmed by the length or depth of the list. The problem isn’t the list; it is what is contained in the list. Even if some of the list is wrong or inaccurate the problem isn’t the list. I don’t understand why the length matters. In any other situation you would want a long list. If you were looking for a surgeon you would want a long list of options. If you felt healthy and were diagnosed with cancer you would want a long list of doctors for second opinions.

So how is it a straw man for a person to want to know about the list instead of the existence of the list when the contents are the source of the problem? Perhaps the article itself is a straw man since it is distracting from the perceived problem.

Pierce said...

Jonathan,

Good points, and ones that I missed in my responses. I have also read similar statements made by early authorities about formulas that put the earth at billions of years. I also agree that these didn't come by way of revelation, but were personal beliefs and speculations of the time.

We are not beholden to those who had a more limited understanding of science, and I'm glad that our religion does not require us to.

Anonymous said...

“So...stop thinking?”

Isn’t that technically a straw man since that wasn’t my intended meaning? A quip shows that you don’t want to address the issue. You know that by putting your understanding of the universe in place of the people who have come before you that you change all the meaning of the scriptures. You are not alone; billions have done it before you, each with their own outcomes.

“All I said was that I am not a young earth creationist, so how is that superimposing anything onto Joseph Smith?”

By all accounts JS was a young earth creationist and his revelations, directly from god, mean you should be. Otherwise someone isn’t being clear. A sin of omission is still a sin. Either every time he said “I received a revelation” is true, or they all may stand in error. If you have to apply meaning to make it fit to your belief (meaning that was never implied when it was given) then you are distorting the truth.

“I honestly don't know whether or not the age of the earth was revealed to Joseph. So it doesn't really matter, and I am not limited by what Joseph may or may not have known.“

This is why such discussions are pointless. There is a lot you don’t know about your own faith and you choose not to find out.

If you can’t take god, or his prophets, at face value, then what value do they have? Why do all revelations and books require so much speculation and “interpretation” in order for them to fit within the psyche of a human? Most immediately drop to “test of faith” when confronted with such a question. Not much of an intelligent design to create universe, that when questioned, continues to gives answers that go against god. Give credit to religion though, it is able to adapt and change its dogma quickly without losing many of its followers.

Anonymous said...

"The point of this is not to forestall debate, but rather to point out that young-Earth creationism is not necessitated by an understanding of the Restoration."

Doesn't that really just mean that if some prophet in the past says something crazy that makes no sense now we can just brush it aside like it has no meaning (even though the message was given to said prophet by god himself)?

Polygamy, bigotry, racism, murder... Those have no bearing on my understanding of the Restoration. In a sense are you not just picking and choosing which elements of the restoration are "meaningful"? In the end how is that any different than an atheist or humanist choosing to pick up the old ladies purse that dropped on the sidewalk so that she wouldn't have to bend over to pick it up herself? It is meaningful...

I would think that if god bothered to tell a person on this planet ANYTHING, that it should be of great importance. JS told the Mormons that god told him the earth was going to be 7000 years old temporally... Not as Abraham said about a day and a thousand years, not as a figurative term used in a dream about the end of the world... he just said, "This is what god said". If you have to change what god said to JS in order for your psyche to still work than there is a problem

Jonathan A. Cavender said...

For those who seek to defend the Letter to a CES Director against a claim of hatred and smug condescension, you need look no further than his section on Mark Hoffman to see what I am referring to.

"Why would I want my kids singing “Follow the Prophet” with such a ridiculous 183 year track
record? What credibility do the Brethren have?" Letter at 42.

Such usage of rhetorical questions, hostile and derogatory, are exactly what I am referring to (and the tone goes throughout the letter -- it is just the most recent example I came upon). What's more, to say that the Mark Hoffman scandal was a scandal on the Church (as opposed to the critics) likely didn't live through the time period. The Church released the letters, just like the Church released the papyri and just like the Church released the Joseph Smith papers.

The tone persists throughout -- the pictures of the translation, snide asides, and so forth. Almost as though in this attitude of pointing and mocking that anyone could believe the Gospel claims. Fortunately, someone with experience is never at the mercy of someone with an argument.

Pierce said...

Anon,

"However the use in the OT and here in D&C is not in the context of symbolism. It is in the context of reality."

Really? Where does it say that? I don't see how your response really warrants much more of an explanation from me. You are presenting complex information and saying that there is only one way to view it. Section 77 is a brief question/answer segment, with no real context given. The only context is that it refers to Revelation, and you are trying to tell me that Revelation does indeed use symbolism, but this part of it cannot be viewed symbolically, metaphorically, or linguistically different. I do not find your arbitrary assertiveness on book Revelation interpretation to be very compelling. It is, however, your opinion, I don't think it's a bad one to be honest.

The ancients believed a lot of things that I do not believe, like their version of the cosmos. I do not believe that they viewed the cosmos the way I do. However, I do not have to be beholden to their beliefs in order to be a thinking and faithful Christian or Mormon.

"I would love to hear what you believe the purpose to be"

Maybe the only way you can truly understand the purpose of this article is to have been on the receiving end of it, where you give perfectly good explanations of perceived (or real) problems, only to hear the rejoinder "yeah, but what about THIS" ad nauseum. These lists typically are designed to overwhelm people by sheer numbers, with quality often being tossed out the window. These critics often won't pare down their list or filter their claims in light of logical or overwhelming evidence to the contrary. They simply count on people to either not know any better, or to simply move on to the next issue. To deny that this happens when it comes to criticisms of the LDS church is a display of ignorance. Jeff even provided an example of it happening BY religious people. People should be aware of "big list" style of debate or criticism because there is so much more to it than a sweeping statement or accusation, as demonstrated by our "young earth" conversation. Really, if you guys read this again you will understand that this is the purpose of the article and is not meant to be a point-by-point response to the CES letter (which was brought up in the comments section). That's why what you are saying is a straw man--because you then criticize the author for not fulfilling your own agenda that you created.

Jonathan A. Cavender said...

Anonymous:

""This is what god said". If you have to change what god said to JS in order for your psyche to still work than there is a problem"

I know those who would find this amusing -- I am the most orthodox of the orthodox, which brings some people no end of consternation...

The issue is not denying what God said. The issue is understanding what God said. My testimony is not, at its heart, intellectual. Thus if I was certain God said "7,000 years since I made the Earth" then that would be what I believe. After all, I believe God made flesh came to the Earth and died and was resurrected. Once you accept that truth, there is little that reductive materialism can do that offers you any real concerns. But that is not my understanding of what God meant. I believed it once, I have since become convinced that it is not the way the Lord did His work.

My current belief is that guided evolution best describes the process of creation as detailed in Abraham, Moses, and Genesis. I further believe that, ultimately, if I am wrong on this issue and young Earth creationism is right it will not in any way affect my eternal progression. I will get to the other side of the Veil, ask the Lord how it was done, and He will tell me. And that will be that.

I have enough problems living the commandments to spend too much time worrying about the mechanics of Creation.

Pierce said...

"Isn’t that technically a straw man since that wasn’t my intended meaning?"

No, that is not what a straw-man is. A sarcastic quip is not a straw-man argument, as I did not base the rest of my argument on my quip.

"By all accounts JS was a young earth creationist and his revelations, directly from god, mean you should be"

He may or may not have been. The only thing you're really going to see in our scriptures about the age of the earth, as far as I know, is in the scripture you quoted, and I have already demonstrated (though others can do it better) that there is more than just YOUR way of interpreting it. I don't have to accept your dichotomy, even if it works for you. I would expect a fellow honest thinker to return the gesture.

"If you have to change what god said to JS in order for your psyche to still work than there is a problem"

The problem is that you have based your whole 'argument' on your own interpretations and assumptions about this passage of scripture. I view this scripture with a whole different framework than you do, and you don't have the decency to acknowledge that that this is a valid possibility. And no, I don't have to view everything the way a 19th century prophet did, the same way that a modern Christian doesn't have to view things the same way that Moses did, and the same way that you may not be beholden to older ideas of your predecessors. Because I haven't seen a nice, clear expose written by God about creation, I am not beholden to people's ideas surrounding a rather ambiguous passage of scripture.

"There is a lot you don’t know about your own faith and you choose not to find out."

Ah Anonymous. You know me very well. I disagree with you so now I don't know about my own faith. Good one.

Anonymous said...

Pierce:

“You are presenting complex information and saying that there is only one way to view it. Section 77 is a brief question/answer segment, with no real context given.”

Yes, the complex information was discussed in a brief question/answer segment. That is the context. If you choose to make it more complex than it is, that is your choice.

“However, I do not have to be beholden to their beliefs in order to be a thinking and faithful Christian or Mormon.”

That isn’t what I said. When you superimpose your beliefs and understanding on the scriptures you change their intended meaning, which means you change the word of god to suit yourself. What was written was not written for you, it was written for them. To interpret it any other way is to change the very message they were trying to save. To understand what any verse was intended to be, you would need to know the mind-set of those during the time period. So often we take for granted the knowledge that the earth spins around the sun and not the other way around.

“These critics often won't pare down their list or filter their claims in light of logical or overwhelming evidence to the contrary.”

Two problems with this. One is that why is there so much? Two, everyone views data differently. What would change one person’s mind about faith would have no effect on another. That doesn’t mean that different questions have different importance.

“Really, if you guys read this again you will understand that this is the purpose of the article and is not meant to be a point-by-point response to the CES letter”

I believe that is why I have criticized. FAIR and FARMS couldn’t handle a point by point analysis of the CES letter, neither can this author. So instead he confronts the method of argument and tries to put people at ease by saying big lists are not scary or that any big list is simply made up of questions that can be easily answered.

“Big List” is a fair style of argument… and the first question a “believer” should be asking is, “why is there such a big list”. The second should be, “What is in this list”? Then after thoughtfully evaluating the claims the reader could give whatever merit to the list is warranted, but to casually dismiss all big lists is silly. It would be like casually dismissing the list of stocks you can invest in with your 401k. It just doesn’t make sense.

Jonathan A. Cavender said...

Anonymous:

"Big List” is a fair style of argument… and the first question a “believer” should be asking is, “why is there such a big list”. The second should be, “What is in this list”? Then after thoughtfully evaluating the claims the reader could give whatever merit to the list is warranted, but to casually dismiss all big lists is silly. It would be like casually dismissing the list of stocks you can invest in with your 401k. It just doesn’t make sense."

Rhetoric has certain rules that are followed, and the rules currently are best followed in the legal arena (for better or worse). The "Big List," in the legal context, has a different name -- the Spaghetti Defense. If you have a couple of strong, discrete issues you present those strong, discrete issues hoping to win on the merits. If, on the other hand, you lack any strong issues, you instead go for the Spaghetti Defense -- you throw as much 'spaghetti' against the wall and hope that somehow somewhere something sticks. In persuasive rhetoric, the presentation of numerous arguments is in itself an admission that no individual or small grouping of arguments is sufficient.

Thus the question as to why there is such a Big List is that there is not a silver-bullet argument that has can be relied upon. There are many arguments because there is not one good argument.

Pierce said...

I hope readers can now understand the point of this post concerning "big list" criticisms of the church. Just look at all of the dialogue that the accusation of "Mormons are religious fundamentalist and young Earth creationist...lol" has generated. Now imagine that one sentence on a list with 100 other things. Hopefully these comments add a bit of validity to the intent of this post, and that 100 of these types of accusations do not prove or disprove anything.

Will Roberts said...

"For those who seek to defend the Letter to a CES Director against a claim of hatred and smug condescension"

Does it matter whether it's condescending and smug? It's either making valid points or it isn't. Smugness does not affect validity.

"I have enough problems living the commandments to spend too much time worrying about the mechanics of Creation."

Ahh, the old "not pertinent to my salvation" defense. Here's why it's pertinent to your salvation: if JS's revelations about the mechanics of creation are completely and totally demonstrably wrong (without conveniently re-defining words and intent), then he was probably wrong about some other things too. He may have been wrong about what is required for a man to be saved. We ought to investigate all his claims and revelations to ensure we're "in the right religion."

The truth will never be harmed by questioning.

Anonymous said...

Pierce:

“I am not beholden to people's ideas surrounding a rather ambiguous passage of scripture.”

God gave the answer to JS. Why is it ambiguous?

“The problem is that you have based your whole 'argument' on your own interpretations and assumptions about this passage of scripture.”

Well, if I didn’t have a view there wouldn’t be a discussion. Your interpretation has no more “truth” than mine. However I can argue that mine is based off of what is written (basic Q&A), and not what I have to add too it (separate meaning, unimportance of these particular words from god, etc..).

“Ah Anonymous. You know me very well. I disagree with you so now I don't know about my own faith. Good one.”

I guess one good quip deserves another.

Jonathan A. Cavender said...

Will Roberts:

"Does it matter whether it's condescending and smug? It's either making valid points or it isn't. Smugness does not affect validity."

True enough. I believed that I made the point as well that it was not making valid points by my statement that I had answers to each and every argument raised.

"Ahh, the old "not pertinent to my salvation" defense. Here's why it's pertinent to your salvation: if JS's revelations about the mechanics of creation are completely and totally demonstrably wrong (without conveniently re-defining words and intent), then he was probably wrong about some other things too. He may have been wrong about what is required for a man to be saved. We ought to investigate all his claims and revelations to ensure we're "in the right religion."

The truth will never be harmed by questioning."

(a) As you should be able to tell I do not believe that Joseph Smith was wrong on the mechanics of creation (after all, contemporaries of his openly advocated the 2.55 Billion year age of the Earth, which is within an order of magnitude and far closer to current scientific understanding than anyone else had at the time); and (b) religion is not a scientific text book. If Moses, in Genesis, was wrong on the nature of the creation because he viewed the creation of this world and interpreted that vision according to his best knowledge and understanding, do we condemn Moses for misunderstanding what he saw according to scientific principles discovered millennia after his life or do we praise God that He opened Moses's eyes to a vision of creation? Do we condemn Isaiah for describing in his visions roaring lions and wheels of flint rather than modern transportation, or do we stand in awe of the prophetic visions he also received?

The truth WILL never be harmed by questioning. But if you think you can, using your limited intellect (not an aspersion -- we all have limited intellect), discover the true nature of God and reality, then you are certainly more confident than I am. Good luck using that very intellect to sort through the various doctrines, dogmas, religions, and creeds to discover the truth.

Once again, a person with experience is never at the mercy of a person with an argument.

Anonymous said...

Pierce:

“Just look at all of the dialogue that the accusation of "Mormons are religious fundamentalist and young Earth creationist...lol" has generated”

Yet I addressed one point. That you choose to not believe the same way your founder does, even though his knowledge came from god and yours comes from science.

Perhaps this is a better example of what type of mental gymnastics one must go through in order to maintain faith in the LDS dogma.

“Hopefully these comments add a bit of validity to the intent of this post, and that 100 of these types of accusations do not prove or disprove anything.”

Actually, what this simple topic proves is that very few teachings in religion can be taking at face value. It requires one to make them “fit”. What one can infer from that simple statement alone.

Pierce said...

"If you choose to make it more complex than it is, that is your choice."

You are claiming that the book of Revelation is not a complex text and is plain to modern day readers such as yourself? Not very convincing.

"When you superimpose your beliefs and understanding on the scriptures you change their intended meaning"

See this statement is what amazes me here. I have never said "this is how to interpret Joseph's writing in section 77." The only one making "truth" statements is you--therefore, you are the one superimposing your understanding onto the text to prove a very strange point--that I should be a young earth creationist according to a verse of scripture. I am the one who is acknowledging that scripture can be viewed differently, with validity belonging to each view. I grant validity to your view, but you dismiss the possibility of validity outside of your bias.

"why is there so much?"
"the first question a “believer” should be asking is, “why is there such a big list”

Because people can say whatever they want to say! Sheer numbers don't make it valid or take into account all perspectives. I noticed that barley wasn't part of the CES letter's list of BOM anachronisms, since it is no longer considered an anachronism, yet it used to be on these big lists, and still are. Did the author of the letter acknowledge that tidbit? No. You as a reader are to accept his perspective and move on. There are plenty of Christian fundamentalists making big lists against evolution--are you persuaded in young earth creationism because of the large numbers of criticisms?

Anonymous said...

Jonathan:
“Thus the question as to why there is such a Big List is that there is not a silver-bullet argument that has can be relied upon. There are many arguments because there is not one good argument.”

Nor did I say to rely upon it. Yet if there is a big list it raises the question, “why”? It is up to the individual to actually go through the list and evaluate it. If being confronted with a lot of information scares you away, than life in this day and age will be difficult.

Also, if you have all the answers, please due share. Take the time to build a defense against the CES Letter and post it for all to see. Allow your responses to be independently reviewed and criticized by both sides of the debate. Right now thousands are falling away from the church due to the CES Letter. A letter written by a former member looking to the organization he loved for answers to tough questions that were battering his testimony. If you have all the answers to so easily dismiss the CES letter, and you are not building a defense to help so many of your fellow brothers and sisters… why what would god say?


Anonymous said...

Pierce:

“If you choose to make it more complex than it is, that is your choice."

“You are claiming that the book of Revelation is not a complex text and is plain to modern day readers such as yourself? Not very convincing.”

Umm. If you read back you’ll see we were both speaking about D&C 77, not revelations. So this seems like a bit of a dodge.

“The only one making "truth" statements is you”

You have spent numerous words defending your side of the story, thus expressing your “truth”. I just keep pointing out there is more than one way to look at it. I choose to look at it at face value, without having to add additional meaning to make it work.

“Did the author of the letter acknowledge that tidbit?”

The author tried his best to research the subjects to find the truth. If he wantonly added previous claims that have been disproved his article wouldn’t be getting discussed today. He was a member and wanted to continue to believe. When FAIR found some errors he acknowledged them and fixed them. He wrote the letter and submitted it to the CES department. He waited months before he made his letter public. And he only did that because the church chose to ignore him. If the source doesn’t have the answers…

“There are plenty of Christian fundamentalists making big lists against evolution--are you persuaded in young earth creationism because of the large numbers of criticisms?”

No, but that didn’t stop me from reading their arguments and evaluating if their conclusions had more merit than what science teaches.

Anonymous said...

Jonathan:

“The Church released the letters, just like the Church released the papyri and just like the Church released the Joseph Smith papers.”

Yes… eventually they did release them all, eventually.

Pierce said...

"That you choose to not believe the same way your founder does, even though his knowledge came from god and yours comes from science."

You have failed to address the fact that there is more than one way to interpret scripture, and have relied on your broken record statement that I am contradicting Joseph Smith and "god" as your main, convincing point. You have not quoted anything from God that clearly states that He started his creative process 7000 years ago. You have instead had to interpret a scripture to fit your own bias, while ignoring the possibility of there being other ways to view that scripture.

Keep ignoring it though.

"what this simple topic proves is that very few teachings in religion can be taking at face value"

Geez, anyone of us could have told you that. Even the term "face value" is subjective. I know this makes it hard for you to make my beliefs what you want them to be, but taking things at 'face value' (meaning, without having to examine its meaning and the possibility of other meanings), especially in philosophy, history, or religion, is generally an absurdity.

Anonymous said...

Pierce:

“You have failed to address the fact that there is more than one way to interpret scripture, and have relied on your broken record statement that I am contradicting Joseph Smith and "god" as your main, convincing point. You have not quoted anything from God that clearly states that He started his creative process 7000 years ago. You have instead had to interpret a scripture to fit your own bias, while ignoring the possibility of there being other ways to view that scripture.

Keep ignoring it though.”

Since you just asked me to prove the existence of something that doesn’t exist, “god”, you know I can’t. You can’t prove a negative. I can simply go off the facts that are at hand and are measurable. The majority of all Christians/Jews/Islam (pretty much humanity) have agreed that the earth was created some 7000 years ago. This agreed upon fact is based off of the bible and people’s supposed communications with the creator. So I am basing my argument off of consent among Christians. What are you basing yours on? You seem to be going against everything god has revealed to his children for nearly 5000 years.

“Geez, anyone of us could have told you that. Even the term "face value" is subjective. I know this makes it hard for you to make my beliefs what you want them to be, but taking things at 'face value' (meaning, without having to examine its meaning and the possibility of other meanings), especially in philosophy, history, or religion, is generally an absurdity.”

I couldn’t agree more.

Jonathan A. Cavender said...

Anonymous:

"Also, if you have all the answers, please due share. Take the time to build a defense against the CES Letter and post it for all to see. Allow your responses to be independently reviewed and criticized by both sides of the debate. Right now thousands are falling away from the church due to the CES Letter. A letter written by a former member looking to the organization he loved for answers to tough questions that were battering his testimony. If you have all the answers to so easily dismiss the CES letter, and you are not building a defense to help so many of your fellow brothers and sisters… why what would god say?"

Two points. First, it is painfully obvious after reading this letter that it was not "A letter written by a former member looking to the organization he loved for answers to tough questions that were battering his testimony." The letter writer had left the Church long before he wrote this letter. Secondly, what you have missed several times is my answer to why I am able to so easily dismiss the CES letter. I have included it in (now) three posts. A person with experience is never at the mercy of a person with an argument. There are intellectual responses to each and every claim, but none of them will persuade someone who does not have the underlying knowledge that comes from experience. Was Joseph Smith a serial rapist akin to Warren Jeffs, or was he a prophet of God? I can present the obvious evidence that despite Joseph clearly not being infertile, he fathered no children with any woman other than Emma while Warren Jeffs (like every other fertile, sexually-active polygamist) fathered countless children (60 in Jeffs' case). But unless you have a testimony, that information will only be an excuse to argue again. If, however, you have a testimony that evidence is confirmation that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God.

Line by line, such refutations are possible with the letter (some easier than others -- the entire section on science was downright silly). But intellectualism does not led to truth -- that road leads to the philosophies of men. But with a testimony, and a proper understanding of the facts, then it does become easy to dismiss the letter (although painful to see the damage that the letter is causing).

Pierce said...

" If you read back you’ll see we were both speaking about D&C 77, not revelations."

How familiar are you with D&C 77? The heading includes this context:
"I received the following explanation of the Revelation of St. John."
This information must be viewed in the context of the book of Revelation, and is not meant to be some individual island of revealed truth.

"I just keep pointing out there is more than one way to look at it. I choose to look at it at face value, without having to add additional meaning to make it work."

Did you now. So you don't have any problem with me choosing one of these "more than one way to look at it" viewpoints other than yours? Whether or not there are additional meanings to make it work are a matter of opinion.

"You have spent numerous words defending your side of the story, thus expressing your “truth”."

That is not a truth statement. A truth statement sounds something like this: "the use in the OT and here in D&C is not in the context of symbolism. It is in the context of reality."
That is a truth statement, and you are hanging your whole argument on it. What's my position? That there is more than one way to view scripture.

But based on your comment, I guess you're all about differing viewpoints now. So now we can finally speak to each other as equals.

Anonymous said...

Jonathan:

“First, it is painfully obvious after reading this letter that it was not "A letter written by a former member looking to the organization he loved for answers to tough questions that were battering his testimony." The letter writer had left the Church long before he wrote this letter”

You are welcome to look up Jeremy Runnells. Learn for yourself about the man before you judge. He was an active member in good standings in the church when the letter was released to the public. If anything, the lack of response, or the assumptions about his character aiding in his departure from his faith. To this day he still hopes for an official response.

“A person with experience is never at the mercy of a person with an argument.”

I read it all three times. It doesn’t present any meaning since your “experience” is simply that, yours. It provides no more proof or fact to the conversation than me saying there is a teapot in orbit between Mars and Saturn. Which is why I have ignored it.

I’m not sure what Joseph having to father additional children has anything to do this with conversation. That does not prove he didn’t have relations with the women (and girls) he married. There is sufficient testimony from members in the church during the time period to show that regardless of what his exact relationship was, it wasn’t appropriate in all cases. If you include sources from non-church sources you get a picture of a man out of control. The “truth” is probably somewhere in between.

“But intellectualism does not led to truth”

I guess it depends on which definition you wish to look at. The first is, “development of power to think: the development and use of the ability to think, reason, and understand”. In that case, yes… yes it would, but I understand your point. Paying too much attention to thinking can lead people in circles. This happens frequently on both sides of the debate.

Lastly on the “intellectualism” subject. If we were to simply look at the advances humanity with adherence to the scientific method vs thousands of years to adherence to god, one can draw some pretty “damming” conclusions. I can’t prove there is a god just as much as you can’t prove there isn’t a teapot in orbit around the sun. All we can do is observe the world and draw our conclusions.

Anonymous said...

"contemporary writings seem to indicate that the 7,000 years referenced were both a literal 7,000 years (from Adam onward) and also related to the standard of one day equaling a thousand years"

- So in a Q&A, to a modern audience, the Lord answers with equivocation rather than with a straight-forward, modern, clear answer. Great job, God!

Jonathan A. Cavender said...

Anonymous:

"You are welcome to look up Jeremy Runnells. Learn for yourself about the man before you judge. He was an active member in good standings in the church when the letter was released to the public. If anything, the lack of response, or the assumptions about his character aiding in his departure from his faith. To this day he still hopes for an official response."

John Dehlin presented himself in the same fashion. So did Thomas Phillips. So did, if you want to go historical, Sonia Johnson. I have read what he has written, and there is no question that he wrote that having already made up his mind the Church was not true. The only reason he would want an official response is for the same reason Thomas Phillips sued President Monson -- the spectacle.

"I read it all three times. It doesn’t present any meaning since your “experience” is simply that, yours. It provides no more proof or fact to the conversation than me saying there is a teapot in orbit between Mars and Saturn. Which is why I have ignored it. "

So you ignored it. That was a mistake. If I understand from your prior posts (and, as I don't know how many Anonymous posters there are, I admit this is speculation), you do not believe that there is a god and you are, in essence, a reductive materialist (aka a follower of scientism, or the idea that all things can be explained by science eventually, even if not now). If I have experience of one event in my lifetime unereconcilable to reductive materialism, then that argument has no power towards me. Thus a person with experience is never subject to a person with an argument. Provide to me the best argument man has conceived for atheism or reductive materialism, and I know it to be false. Add to that the fact that witnesses are considered to be evidentiary in almost every case, and you have to deal with the fact that I am claiming experience demonstrating atheistic, reductive materialism to be false. So you ignore it. So be it.

"I’m not sure what Joseph having to father additional children has anything to do this with conversation. That does not prove he didn’t have relations with the women (and girls) he married. There is sufficient testimony from members in the church during the time period to show that regardless of what his exact relationship was, it wasn’t appropriate in all cases. If you include sources from non-church sources you get a picture of a man out of control. The “truth” is probably somewhere in between."

It makes no sense for me to argue this since it has already been handled so well elsewhere. Please read the Faithful Joseph series by Meg Stout at millennialstar.org. After reading it, perhaps discussion might be useful. Until reading it, it probably is not.

"Lastly on the “intellectualism” subject. If we were to simply look at the advances humanity with adherence to the scientific method vs thousands of years to adherence to god, one can draw some pretty “damming” conclusions.'

Damning of the sciences. I am a believer in science and the scientific method. I also recognize that most of the major scientific contributions in the history of the world were made by scientists seeking out God in the world around them. The myth of the atheistic science progressing man is just that -- a myth. Name me a major atheist scientist, and I will point out a dozen theists. Show me an atheistic society, and I will show you death following in its wake. That doesn't make a modern atheist responsible for the mass-murders perpetrated by atheists in the past, but one would think that an atheist would be a little more circumspect about a comparative review of history. The body count is not in the atheist's favor.

"All we can do is observe the world and draw our conclusions."

And there, you see, we differ. There is another source of knowledge.

Anonymous said...

(New Anonymous here, love the exchange above though)

You know, I've seen these debates before on Mormanity.

They always come back to the testimony argument.

All of them.

Why?

Because let's be honest: miracles are crazy and obviously a farce. But why do we never see anyone look at Mormonism and mention how crazy it is for angels of God to exist and talk to people? For Jesus to have resurrected? For people to be guided by something supernatural?

These claims are just as damning as the facts about anachronisms, plagiarisms, etc.

They require "spiritual" proof.

And nothing is more convoluted and contradictory and inconsequential as people debating what some "spirit" told them.

You say you have a testimony, Jonathan, and that's a great buffer for believing in absolutely anything you have to.

And anonymous, you have facts on your side, and those are great for convincing people of how ridiculous this all is.

But no one is going to be convinced of something when they're not ready to receive it.

And that's the real issue with Big List attacks, and attacking in general.

Everyone here is on the defensive. Notice how nobody changed their mind here.

I'd like to see both sides try to convince a newcomer. Someone impartial and not wrapped up in Mormonism.

I guarantee you, the non-Mormon would win.

Jonathan A. Cavender said...

Anonymous #2:

"Because let's be honest: miracles are crazy and obviously a farce"

You have not experienced a miracle, and while others have claimed to have experienced a miracle (or miracles), you choose not to believe them. How, exactly, is your absence of evidence proof of anything. I have never been to Shanghai -- I am not so foolish to argue that Shanghai doesn't exist.

"But why do we never see anyone look at Mormonism and mention how crazy it is for angels of God to exist and talk to people? For Jesus to have resurrected? For people to be guided by something supernatural?"

Atheists look at Mormonism that way all the time. Mormons look at atheists and point out how crazy it is for people with reductive materialistic beliefs to twist themselves into intellectual pretzels to explain that there is something rather than nothing, and that the nothing we have is conducive to life.

"You say you have a testimony, Jonathan, and that's a great buffer for believing in absolutely anything you have to. "

I will gladly accept this as an accurate assessment.

"And anonymous, you have facts on your side, and those are great for convincing people of how ridiculous this all is."

I haven't seen anonymous present very many facts, much less facts so dispositive as to convince people that theism is ridiculous.

"I'd like to see both sides try to convince a newcomer. Someone impartial and not wrapped up in Mormonism.

I guarantee you, the non-Mormon would win"

Every day you are proven wrong. Otherwise, why would there be convert baptisms?

There is, though, one thing I have always found humorous in discussing religious matters with atheists. There is no logical motivation for an atheist to be evangelizing their position if their worldview is correct. Ultimately, if there is no God and no moral Law, they are wasting their time arguing online which could be better spent in any number of ways maximizing their absurd existence however they may choose. Their worldview cannot explain their own behavior. The religious worldview, however, very accurately explains the evangelizing efforts of atheists.

Jonathan A. Cavender said...

"I'd like to see both sides try to convince a newcomer. Someone impartial and not wrapped up in Mormonism."

One last point -- watch any debate between a Christian and an atheist. The only defense that the atheist has is there isn't enough evidence to prove the case to their satisfaction. All the evidence is on the side of the theist. Between the cosmological argument, the teleological argument, the testimony of witnesses (Paul is particularly difficult for the atheist to explain), the moral argument, and the vast number of personal spiritual witnesses, I have yet to see an atheist who has had a counter-argument of any real merit.

Anonymous said...

Pierce:

“How familiar are you with D&C 77? The heading includes this context: “

I think I’m not clearing stating why I’m even bothering with this line of argument. You kept equating this to a complicated issue. How it can be interpreted in so many ways. Your own Seminary teaching resource manual states:

“Many people consider the book of Revelation one of the most difficult of all the books of scripture. Yet the Prophet Joseph Smith said, “The book of Revelation is one of the plainest books God ever caused to be written” (History of the Church, 5:342). One reason for the Prophet’s confidence in John’s revelation might be his inspired revision of the Bible. Joseph Smith worked on the New Testament between March 1831 and February 1833. In March 1832 the Prophet took questions concerning the book of Revelation to the Lord and received section 77 in response.” -- DOCTRINE AND COVENANTS AND CHURCH HISTORY SEMINARY TEACHER RESOURCE MANUAL

The prophet states that revelations is easy to understand. The question and answer session was directed by the people of the time because they didn’t understand “one of the plainest books god ever caused to be written”. It isn’t that he was in some trance spouting off whatever sounded good. These were answers to the questions people were confused about. They understood and accepted that the earth was 7000 years old. It made sense to them because that is what they believed. If it didn’t make sense they would have asked another question. So yes… I am familiar with the context of D&C 77. I would never say Revelations was plain… the deluded ranting’s of a man on LSD? Yes, plain, no. Personally I don’t like the prevalent belief that the world is going to end soon. It makes some people make choices that they might not otherwise make. So D&C 77 was not meant to be a section to be “interpreted” to fit the facts, it was meant to be the facts.

“So you don't have any problem with me choosing one of these "more than one way to look at it" viewpoints other than yours?”

No. Not at all, but that doesn’t mean I can’t express why I think your viewpoint is wrong. I don’t understand what you are trying to get at. I have arrived to my conclusion because of my analysis of the facts. If I were given facts to support a different conclusion, I would research them and weight them against what I current believe. If they won, I would change my beliefs. Would you? I have been trying to show that D&C 77 was intended to be fact. Which shows JS spoke incorrectly about the age of the earth. Even with trying to make it fit (7000 * 1000 * 365 = 2.55 billion) it is still way off. This was not his educated guess based off the facts, this is what god told him. He said “during the seven thousand years of its continuance, or its temporal existence”. That is pretty straight forward when answering a question about “one of the plainest books”.

Anonymous said...

Pierce:

“What's my position? That there is more than one way to view scripture.”

Our world shows this to be true. Yet, no one disputes that objects of different weights fall at the same rate in a vacuum. And if someone did, we could easily prove it. Regardless of how angry or heated the debate may become, there would be a simple resolution. Drop a bowling ball and a feather in a vacuum.

Yet with religion this can’t be done since god didn’t provide a way to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he does in fact exist. Regardless of how much you feel or believe him to be there, I can find another of a different belief that feels the same way. The extremists that flew planes into the WTC were treated as men of god. Their families were revered and rewarded. Yet there is nothing you can do to prove they were in fact not acting in the name of god. If god commands it, you do it. If you try and fall back on “by their deeds ye shall know them”, then we need to toss out the god of the OT for killing children with bears, the god of the NT for killing a married couple at the behest of his disciples for not paying taxes, the god of the BoM for instructing the death of a drunk man, and the god of JS for allowing his disciples and prophets to suppress a whole race of people for 100+ years. These are only single examples in each period, many more exist, which I’m sure you’re aware of.

“But based on your comment, I guess you're all about differing viewpoints now. So now we can finally speak to each other as equals.“

I am treating you as an equal by expressing my point of view and supporting it with fact and example where I can. We have been treating each other as equals the whole time by refraining from excessive use of insult and name calling. If you have finally come to the conclusion that I’m an equal than I will take that as a victory, since that means before this post you have not considered me such. Just because I chose a different point of view from the get go (that you should be a young earth creationist due to your leaders remarks) I have never considered you “unequal”. Just different. Argument/debate/discussion can be an entertaining way to spend an afternoon, especially if both sides walk away with something new.

Anonymous said...

Jonathan:

“Every day you are proven wrong. Otherwise, why would there be convert baptisms?”

Look up the trends of “converts”. If atheism were a religion (please let’s not get into that one if you believe it is), than it would be the fastest growing trend in the US, as well as a large parts of the world. It completely obliterates Mormon growth rates which have been trending down. Much of the current Mormon grow is through child of record, not convert.

“Mormons look at atheists and point out how crazy it is for people with reductive materialistic beliefs to twist themselves into intellectual pretzels to explain that there is something rather than nothing, and that the nothing we have is conducive to life”

I feel pretty safe to say that no atheist believes they are twisting themselves into a pretzel. Atheists for the most part follow fact. Even outspoken atheists like Bill Maher say that if proof was given they would believe in Jesus and God. Yet none has been presented. On the contrary a recent research project had people with similar diseases broken up into three groups. One was prayed for, but not told, another was prayed for and told, and the last was not prayed for. The group that was prayed for and told had the worst morality rate. Doctors theorize that it had to do with performance anxiety. I don’t warp any sort of belief to make it work… I simply look at the evidence and choose if it warrants consideration.

“I haven't seen anonymous present very many facts, much less facts so dispositive as to convince people that theism is ridiculous.”

Facts… Well, I’m not sure how many facts there are to present over JS being a young earth creationist. I have presented a few, but this is not a topic there lots of “facts” can be spewed out. Sorry to disappoint. If we were to dive deep into evolution vs creationism… that would be a different story.

“How, exactly, is your absence of evidence proof of anything.”

This is trite. The burden of proof of existence is upon those who wish to prove it. Prove to me there is not a teapot orbiting the sun between Mars and Saturn. The absence of proof may not be proof of something not existing, but until some evidence is given one must logically assume it doesn’t. Personal experiences, flashes of light, dreams, cancer remission, sudden healing of diseases… these are all examples of “miracles” that have been equally blessed upon all faiths or those without faith. You may not have been to Shanghai, but you also haven’t been to the Lost City of Atlantis. There are stories of both, there are books about both and I bet you could find maps of both on the internet. Does that mean we finally found the lost city of Atlantis?

“they are wasting their time arguing online which could be better spent in any number of ways maximizing their absurd existence”

Wow… while I’ll address this insulting comment I’m guessing it will not sink in much. It doesn’t take a lot to look around and see why atheists would be “evangelizing”. Family members are shunned and in some cases killed because they are gay or choose to believe differently. Laws are enacted that stomp on the rights of a human being simply because of their gender, race or sexual preference. Girls are kidnapped for trying to get an education. These examples alone are enough to stand up and say “enough is enough”. The list is much longer, but not worth discussing at this time.

Anonymous said...

Jonathan:

“All the evidence is on the side of the theist.”

What? I’ll look at these one at a time:

Cosmological argument: Religion has been consistently changing their beliefs on the cosmos since science has proved them wrong. Flat world, sun orbiting earth, stars as angels, etc… Many scientists were killed for trying to show religion was wrong and many of those scientists were faithful members of the churches that killed them (Giordano Bruno is but one example). They just wanted to try and expand the greatness of god. Religion has failed over and over with respect to cosmology. They even adopted the big bang by saying, “well, who set off the big bang then”?

Teleological: I don’t think you are using this correctly. It is defined as, “the philosophical doctrine that final causes, design, and purpose exist in nature”. Why would an atheist care? They don’t believe in a life after death or a greater purpose designed by a creator. It doesn’t even apply.

Testimony of witnesses: This again doesn’t make sense. Atheists don’t believe the bible to be the word of god, or a reliable witness for anything. So using the bible as a means of proving the bible… If you can’t see what is wrong with that there is really no point to continue.

The moral argument: Why do theists believe they own the moral argument? Psychologists have shown reasons for every “moral” belief we follow. As an agnostic/atheist type person myself I don’t adhere to “moral laws” for fear of punishment. I respect women and value their contribution to society. I pick up a pencil that a co-worker drops because being nice makes for a better social environment. If you claim the moral high ground due to your bible, than why do you not follow all of its teachings literally when dealing with women, blacks (slaves), or the LGBT community? Even the BoM kills for no other reason than because god says to. How is that any different than the extremists that flew a plane into the side of the WTC? Maybe you have the wrong god and Islam has the right one. Now they are justified because god told them to do it, and what god says, is A-OK for everyone.

Vast Number of Personal Spiritual Witnesses: So numbers have it? Well if this is a numbers game, the Mormon faith fails the test. Islam and Catholicism have far more spiritual witnesses. Go read some of them online. You’ll even find those who left Mormonism because they had a spiritual experience that lead them to the “true faith”. Spiritual Witnesses, when taken as a whole, not the limited view of a single religion thinking about itself, is about as reliable as the ground hog predicting the weather. If this is the only way we have to prove god, we are all screwed, since your belief is no more or less valid than any other person’s belief and everyone knows they are right.

“ I have yet to see an atheist who has had a counter-argument of any real merit.”

Really what it sounds like is you don’t understand what an atheist is. You simply sit on your pedestal and call others absurd for existing. While I have disagreed with you and Pierce, I in no way think your existence is absurd.

Pierce said...

I said that we were talking as equals because for a minute--just a minute--you had expressed that you were merely offering "a different viewpoint," rather than "fact." My position was that of "here's a viewpoint of mine," rather than trying to shove my "facts" down your throat.

Being outside of the church, and critical to faith, you may find it more favorable to take a literal approach to scriptures. I have chosen a more figurative interpretation, as I believe that scriptures in general employ figurative speech and symbolism (and none more than Revelation) and was not meant to be a modern-style history book with exact numbers and reporting.

I also believe that some viewpoints hold more weight than others, like you. The problem here is that you aren't able to see past your own bias enough to acknowledge that 1. D&C 77 can be interpreted differently than how you interpret it and still be valid and 2. A true believing mormon doesn't have to be a young earth creationist because of this passage of scripture.

I find it humorous that you quoted Joseph's statement that the Book of Revelation is the plainest book to support your argument. It's obvious hyperbole, and he knew it. Why else would we have had section 77 dedicated to understanding it more? Besides, maybe it was plain to Joseph the prophet. But it's not to me. Nor to most others in my experience. If you can't accept the idea that the thousand year periods could be viewed other than literal, than we don't have much to talk about. Even when I was in high school I didn't think it was literal years, or else we would know when the world would end. But no matter.

One thing I need to clarify: I don't believe the Bible is clear on the actual age of the earth. I don't believe God has revealed the details of creation. People have made many assumptions about it based on scant readings of scripture over the centuries, and their assumptions have changed based on better information.
So you can attribute their assumptions to God if you like. Most of them would say that they did. But I don't. God gave us just enough to understand His hand in it, and he gave us reason to learn about creation on our own (which to me coincides withe the idea of exaltation). But until He says something REALLY definitive and clear on creation, I think we will be on our own for a while.

Anonymous said...

Why would there be converts, Jonathan? There are probably many reasons but lying to them by omission about what the church is and requires of them ("milk before meat") would certainly be high among them. If you doubt that simply check your conversion numbers against the retention numbers.

Another would be the shameful practice of "baseball baptisms" wherein young "converts" either didn't identify that they were being baptized or allowed it under the coercion of being allowed to join sports teams or play in the only air conditioned venue in a hot climate. I understand that that practice was discontinued once it came, embarrassingly, to light, but it's the church's practice to continue to count those unfortunate and possibly unknowing and unwilling souls as conversions nonetheless until they are 105 years old.

If it's numbers which confirm your bias that you're interested in, Jonathan, I hope you'd at least have the integrity to also count the thousands who are leaving the church every year including the BIC like the author of the CES letter and converts who, in time, can't accept things they were never informed of prior to their baptism or grew to find intolerable.

another anonymous

Jonathan A. Cavender said...

A number of responses (broken into multiple posts):

"One was prayed for, but not told, another was prayed for and told, and the last was not prayed for. The group that was prayed for and told had the worst morality rate."

Methodological problems exist -- namely that rote, non-denominational prayers were mandated. Earlier studies that allowed for prayers said according to the inspiration of the praying party had different, and statistically-significantly positive effects.

"The burden of proof of existence is upon those who wish to prove it."

Clever rhetorical trick, but you cannot deny that you are seeking to prove something. You argue that the evidence is all on your side, and yet you argue that you are not required to provide evidence. The burden properly rests on the individual seeking to demonstrate that the bulk of the human experience with the divine (in whatever manner they have experienced it) is false.

"Cosmological argument: Religion has been consistently changing their beliefs on the cosmos since science has proved them wrong. Flat world, sun orbiting earth, stars as angels, etc… Many scientists were killed for trying to show religion was wrong and many of those scientists were faithful members of the churches that killed them (Giordano Bruno is but one example). They just wanted to try and expand the greatness of god. Religion has failed over and over with respect to cosmology. They even adopted the big bang by saying, “well, who set off the big bang then”?"

You do not understand the cosmological argument. Please refer to any number of sources to become familiar with it. A simplified version of it is to say that were reductive materialism true then nothing would exist because something cannot come from nothing and materialism requires an infinite regression of causality (which is, itself, counter-scientific). I find the statement that religion has failed over and over with cosmology to be particularly amusing -- as the Big Bang was first discovered and proven by a Christian scientist trying to demonstrate how Genesis occurred (and, coincidentally, was opposed by atheistic scientists fearing that the Big Bang model proved the existence of God until the evidence became overwhelming). History is a wonderful thing if it is not fully forgotten in the pursuit of a current rhetorical ambition.

"Teleological: I don’t think you are using this correctly. It is defined as, “the philosophical doctrine that final causes, design, and purpose exist in nature”. Why would an atheist care? They don’t believe in a life after death or a greater purpose designed by a creator. It doesn’t even apply."

You also do not understand this argument. The teleological argument, to briefly summarize, is that the establishment of various constants in the universe is set in such precise detail to allow for the existence of life as we know it as to make that result from random chance completely improbable to the point of impossible.

"Testimony of witnesses: This again doesn’t make sense. Atheists don’t believe the bible to be the word of god, or a reliable witness for anything. So using the bible as a means of proving the bible… If you can’t see what is wrong with that there is really no point to continue."

Again, you do not understand the argument. The disciples of Christ had dispersed and believed their Messiah had died. Fifty days later, they were actively preaching the risen Christ. Paul was going around killing Christians. Then, in a short period of time, he changed his whole life to become willing to be martyred for Christ. These are each historical facts independently confirmable without reference to the Bible. Why would these people change their beliefs so suddenly and so completely to allow themselves to be martyrs? That change is evidence.

Jonathan A. Cavender said...

"The moral argument: Why do theists believe they own the moral argument? Psychologists have shown reasons for every “moral” belief we follow. As an agnostic/atheist type person myself I don’t adhere to “moral laws” for fear of punishment. I respect women and value their contribution to society. I pick up a pencil that a co-worker drops because being nice makes for a better social environment. If you claim the moral high ground due to your bible, than why do you not follow all of its teachings literally when dealing with women, blacks (slaves), or the LGBT community? Even the BoM kills for no other reason than because god says to. How is that any different than the extremists that flew a plane into the side of the WTC? Maybe you have the wrong god and Islam has the right one. Now they are justified because god told them to do it, and what god says, is A-OK for everyone."

You do not understand the moral argument. The moral argument, in essence, is that in a reductive materialistic universe morality (including truth) are arbitrary, meaningless, and absurd. For morality to exist there must be an independent standard to base that morality upon. We each understand intuitively that this morality exists (you agree with that, as you clearly believe that your position is 'right' on, say, the LGBT community). If morality exists, then reductive materialism is false. If reductive materialism exists, 'right' does not exist -- only socially acceptable behavior.

"Vast Number of Personal Spiritual Witnesses: So numbers have it? Well if this is a numbers game, the Mormon faith fails the test. Islam and Catholicism have far more spiritual witnesses. Go read some of them online. You’ll even find those who left Mormonism because they had a spiritual experience that lead them to the “true faith”. Spiritual Witnesses, when taken as a whole, not the limited view of a single religion thinking about itself, is about as reliable as the ground hog predicting the weather. If this is the only way we have to prove god, we are all screwed, since your belief is no more or less valid than any other person’s belief and everyone knows they are right."

It is not a numbers game, but a reductive materialist must answer for the countless people who have had experiences that lead them to believe in the transcendent.

"Really what it sounds like is you don’t understand what an atheist is. You simply sit on your pedestal and call others absurd for existing. While I have disagreed with you and Pierce, I in no way think your existence is absurd."

Sadly, you also don't know what absurd means. I was not using that as a derogatory word -- absurd is the philosophical delineation for a belief that the universe is ultimately without purpose, meaningless. Reductive materialism (atheism, secularism, etc.) is an absurd philosophy by its own definition.

"If it's numbers which confirm your bias that you're interested in, Jonathan, I hope you'd at least have the integrity to also count the thousands who are leaving the church every year including the BIC like the author of the CES letter and converts who, in time, can't accept things they were never informed of prior to their baptism or grew to find intolerable. "

It is sad to see so many people go, and I believe you are likely correct that many go because they feel that things they were not informed of were things they should have been informed of. But just because I wasn't informed of the mechanics of human reproduction when I was five doesn't mean that sex is bad or unexplained, but rather that I needed to mature before I was ready to hear about it. It is the same for us as individuals and for us as a Church.

In short, you can take a Big List of claims against the Church (all of which can be answered by believers) and I'll take the five arguments I have raised (cosmological, teleological, witnesses, moral, and personal testimonies) that atheists cannot answer.

Will Roberts said...

"It is sad to see so many people go, and I believe you are likely correct that many go because they feel that things they were not informed of were things they should have been informed of. But just because I wasn't informed of the mechanics of human reproduction when I was five doesn't mean that sex is bad or unexplained, but rather that I needed to mature before I was ready to hear about it. It is the same for us as individuals and for us as a Church."

This is so not a valid comparison. The church doesn't have a time or place where those ready for "meat" can get it. My mom at 71 learned about polyandry a few months ago. She's apparently mature enough to handle it because she's still faithful, but how and why did she make it to. 71 without knowing this? She taught seminary for a decade and has served in just about every female leadership calling there is at a ward/stake level. The church intentionally withholds the information and you know it. That is totally different than being too immature to handle it.

"In short, you can take a Big List of claims against the Church (all of which can be answered by believers) and I'll take the five arguments I have raised (cosmological, teleological, witnesses, moral, and personal testimonies) that atheists cannot answer."

I hereby challenge you to visit /r/ DebateAnAtheist on Reddit and ask your profound questions. You will have your rear end handed to you if you do.

Jeff Lindsay said...

This was not specifically about the CES Letter, and does not seek to address its specific fallacies. This post was motivated by the needs of some who were dealing with Big List issues before that letter came out regurgitating the usual stuff. I think Temple Blindness and much of my LDSFAQ area touches more directly on some issues in the CES Letter which I've only glanced at (mostly looked at the silly dispute with FAIR Mormon over whether changes are allowed in the temple presentation). That letter does not seem to be gathering much attention over here in China.

Anonymous said...

Pierce:

“My position was that of "here's a viewpoint of mine," rather than trying to shove my "facts" down your throat.”

This comment has multiple implications. Discussions like this tend to go nowhere because one side uses logic and facts to try and show their “viewpoint” while the other simply dodges never picking a particular stance. Perhaps in future discussions with those who don’t agree with you, you should pick a story and try and support it, rather than say “stop attacking me I just don’t agree with you”. I.E. Don’t play the victim in a discussion. If you believe something, stand up and present your evidence.

“1. D&C 77 can be interpreted differently than how you interpret it and still be valid and 2. A true believing mormon doesn't have to be a young earth creationist because of this passage of scripture.”

Part of the issue at hand is that anyone CAN interpret scripture to mean anything they want. This is a problem, not a perk. In reality we do not allow vast numbers of interpretations. In medicine doctors work towards finding a fact. They may offer many suggestions to a particular symptom, but in the end they find the solution to the problem. Same can be said in mathematics, physics, finance, even psychology. The fact that scripture can be a wish-washy as you want it isn’t a good thing. If there is a god, there is a reason why he said what he said when he did. It doesn’t change, it stays the same “yesterday, today and tomorrow”. D&C 77 is answering specific questions about revelations. If god still wants to be vague and misleading when asked directly I guess that is his provocative, but one would think that if his children, who he loves so much, ask him a question he would just answer it.

“But until He says something REALLY definitive and clear on creation, I think we will be on our own for a while.”

While I get what you’re saying, it can’t really be 7000 years old because of all the evidence, it still states definitively in D&C the earths continuance, or temporal age. I mean he used two words to clarify the matter. It sounds like you will only trust your god as long as it fits within your paradigm. How many other things do you “interpret” to make religion fit?

Pierce said...

Anon,

"Discussions like this tend to go nowhere because one side uses logic and facts to try and show their “viewpoint” while the other simply dodges never picking a particular stance."

What part of what I'm saying is not logical to you? You don't know what my stance is yet? Besides, what facts have you actually brought?

You sound like you might be familiar with how statistics work. I don't know all that much about them but I do know this: raw data does not equal meaningful statistics. The data must be interpreted, and this method of interpretation must be valid and accepted, especially if conclusions are drawn from them. D&C 77 is the raw data. What you have done is you have taken that raw data and jumped to your conclusion--without sustaining your method of interpretation and by ignoring the complexities of what the data could represent. You call it fact. And then you complain that raw data should be so plain and clear and only one way of interpreting it. You project your own expectations onto religion and criticize it for not following your expectations, with statements like "but one would think that if his children, who he loves so much, ask him a question he would just answer it" and "If god still wants to be vague and misleading..." Those with ears...

You haven't stopped to consider that your paradigm of viewing scripture leads to a certain conclusion. Part of your paradigm is that you have defined "temporal existence" (as including the creation period) and then criticized me because I did not follow your definition--throwing in jabs that I depart from what God said and that he is so capricious. You have chosen a literal interpretation of the data, that 1,000 years are a literal thousand years, and could not possibly mean an "age," despite many thinking people that choose the "age" paradigm. Until you can accept that data or "facts" need to be interpreted, and that the paradigm of interpretation needs to be thoroughly evaluated, then your conclusions will fall on deaf ears, and you will continue to display a willful ignorance. In my opinion, it takes a lifetime's work to refine the paradigm, which is something I am supposing that you are not willing to do. And people, even Latter-Day Saints, differ in their paradigms. That is human nature. I am glad that we can have different opinions and still fellowship and learn together.



Anonymous said...

Jonathan:

“Earlier studies that allowed for prayers said according to the inspiration of the praying party had different, and statistically-significantly positive effects.”

And those “statistically-significantly positive effects” were identical to those who had support from loved ones. The studies show over and over that the positive effects are from knowing you are loved, not from knowing god is helping you.

“Clever rhetorical trick, but you cannot deny that you are seeking to prove something. You argue that the evidence is all on your side, and yet you argue that you are not required to provide evidence. The burden properly rests on the individual seeking to demonstrate that the bulk of the human experience with the divine (in whatever manner they have experienced it) is false.”

Not a trick, standard procedure when evaluating the truth of a claim. I claim nothing exits, you claim something does. It is impossible to definitively prove nothing exists (prove the teapot is not there). I never claimed the evidence is all on my side. I say the evidence that we have leads more towards no creator. It is not definitive because it cannot be. Science has also done many studies to show that by stimulating areas of the brain people experience visions, pillars of light, voices, feelings of peace, and “spiritual experiences”. You just choose to ignore these studies or say that god uses the mechanic that man has discovered to create spiritual experiences. Note: It really makes zero sense to say that I believe the evidence is on my side and then say that I’m not require to provide evidence in the same sentence. Evidence is all that atheists deal with. Based on this evidence they conclude that god does not exist.

“something cannot come from nothing”

This is called “garbage” in most debates between atheists and theists. It can easily be flipped on its end by saying, “than who created god”. Something cannot come from nothing so something created god. If you can apply that logic to science’s attempt to explain the universe than it is equally valid with god. Yet if god did come from nothing (he was just always there) than why can’t the big bang have “just happened”. It is a failing argument.

Anonymous said...

Jonathan:

“the Big Bang was first discovered and proven by a Christian scientist”

So you take the entire complex theory that was worked on by several top scientists of numerous faiths (and lack thereof) and simply claim Georges Lamaitre figured it all out. Never mind Vesto Slipher, Alexander Friedmann, Albert Einstein and Edwin Hubble’s contributions to the discovery. Not to even mention that science ALWAYS questions discoveries until proven. I read an article just yesterday saying they were attempting to create matter from light. A couple of guys though it was possible. In the same article they interviewed other scientists that doubted they could do it. This is how science works.

“as the Big Bang was first discovered and proven by a Christian scientist trying to demonstrate how Genesis occurred (and, coincidentally, was opposed by atheistic scientists fearing that the Big Bang model proved the existence of God until the evidence became overwhelming). History is a wonderful thing if it is not fully forgotten in the pursuit of a current rhetorical ambition.”

Speaking of how history is forgotten… “By 1951, Pope Pius XII declared that Lemaître's theory provided a scientific validation for existence of God and Catholicism. However, Lemaître resented the Pope's proclamation. When Lemaître and Daniel O'Connell, the Pope's science advisor, tried to persuade the Pope not to mention Creationism publicly anymore, the Pope agreed. He persuaded the Pope to stop making proclamations about cosmology. While a devout Roman Catholic, he was against mixing science with religion.” That is lifted right off Wikipedia. Several references are included to prove that he disliked his science used to prove god and that he kept science and religion separate. So please keep your claims of fact, factual.

“is that the establishment of various constants in the universe is set in such precise detail to allow for the existence of life as we know it as to make that result from random chance completely improbable to the point of impossible”

You mean kind of like the existence of god, being improbably to the point of impossible. With each new discovery his possibility of existing continues to diminish. We threw off the shackles of Zeus, Thor, Hara and many other gods that everyone knew existed. We can add one more.

Anonymous said...

Jonathan:

“Fifty days later, they were actively preaching the risen Christ. Paul was going around killing Christians. Then, in a short period of time, he changed his whole life to become willing to be martyred for Christ. These are each historical facts independently confirmable without reference to the Bible. Why would these people change their beliefs so suddenly and so completely to allow themselves to be martyrs? That change is evidence.”

In short… this has a lot of misleading statements and errors. The earliest known gospel wasn’t written till some 30 years after Christ died, so there is no “fifty days later” without the bible. Paul’s conversion is not held in consensus since Paul himself never accounts the story of being blinded by the sight of Jesus. It actually has to be inferred. Why would they change? Donno… why did you or someone of your ancestry suddenly change and become Mormon? Would you be a martyr for god? There are plenty on the planet who would… which is a problem, not a perk.

“For morality to exist there must be an independent standard to base that morality upon.”
“If reductive materialism exists, 'right' does not exist -- only socially acceptable behavior.”

Right doesn’t exist. Morality is completely subjective and you see it every day of your life. Name any high and mighty moral law you like and I can point out examples to which you will give exceptions. I’ll name a few. Murder. Is there ever an instance when killing another person is acceptable? (Self-defense, punishment for heinous crime, defending your nation from an aggressor) Killing is killing, if you believe in the sanctity of life you would beat your weapons into plows. Lying. (“Honey do I look fat?” “Dad is Santa real?”) We sometimes lie to protect innocence or to promote healthy relationships. A lie is a lie. Honor thy father and thy mother. (Dad molests his child, mother abuses her children) Should those children still honor them simply because they fathered them? Perhaps if they honestly reconcile their actions. It is so easy to poke holes in religious morality. The bible praises slaves as did the early church. I guess god finally took pity on the black man. Women in the OT/NT are treated like property, as they were in the early church. I guess they finally caught god’s eye. Religious morality, as taken from the good books, is horrid. I don’t kill everyone I see because I realize that life is better when I help people. It also is a proven survival technique not only in human history, but in nature as well. God’s morality seems to shift about as frequently as man’s “socially acceptable behavior”.

“It is not a numbers game, but a reductive materialist must answer for the countless people who have had experiences that lead them to believe in the transcendent.”

I did, we can, using science, reproduce experiences that lead people to believe in the transcendent. We can also name and demonstrate the areas of the brain responsible for these feelings. We can also name the chemicals the body uses to trigger these sensations and we know where the chemicals are produced. This is a really easy google search away from understanding.

Anonymous said...

“Sadly, you also don't know what absurd means”

Sighs… really?
ab•surd
[ əb súrd ]


1.ludicrous: ridiculous because of being irrational, incongruous, or illogical
2.meaningless: lacking any meaning that would give purpose to life
3.meaninglessness: the condition of living in a meaningless universe where life has no purpose, especially as a concept in some 20th-century philosophical movements.

I don’t know if you intend it or not, but much of your tone in your discussion is extremely condescending. I expect some of this, it is the nature of such debates, but you give more than most I have talked with. I get that you are firm in your belief and feel that you speak with authority and understanding. Fine. Yet to throw out a word like absurd and expect anyone to interpret it as the meaninglessness of existence… If you truly wished to confer that meaning you would have chosen a word that is not traditionally steeped in negative connotation. Yet I’m sure you know and understand the first two definitions of the word and so you intentionally use it to confer a passive aggressive insult (whether you admit to it or not). It speaks volumes of your character. If you dislike me, just say it.

“that atheists cannot answer”

Atheists have answered. Over and over. They use studies, experiments, logical examples… the problem is some theists have a really hard time listening.

Pierce said...

I realized now that arguing the age paradigm isn't exactly what I want to argue. I don't know enough about Revelation to take a strong stand on whether or not each seal is figurative or literal.

Here is my final challenge to you, Anonymous: prove that the seals spoken of in Revelation 5-6, and particularly the first seal, includes the creation period. Because this is the context of "temporal existence" spoken of in Section 77. The question that prompted the response asks about what the 7 seals represent. Here is what we know about the first seal from Revelation 6:

1 And I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals, and I heard, as it were the noise of thunder, one of the four beasts saying, Come and see.

2 And I saw, and behold a white horse: and he that sat on him had a bow; and a crown was given unto him: and he went forth conquering, and to conquer.

D&C 77:6-7 is referring to the seven seals. This is the first seal that was broken. Your claim is that "temporal existence" includes the creation of the earth (hence the accusation that we believe the earth to have been created 7,000 years ago, hence you telling me that I am technically a young-earth creationist). You now must show us that those two verses, which talk about the first seal, decisively include creation timeframes.

For the record, Bruce McConkie interpreted the white rider as being Enoch, who came even long after Adam. So technically that is where we measure the thousand year seal periods from, as that is the interpretation I still find in our materials and on our website. My conclusion then is that the term "temporal existence" begins with this white rider, whom our apostles have identified as Enoch. It does not include the creation period, or even the time between Adam and Enoch, for that matter.

This is how my paradigm interprets the term "temporal existence." I would like you to refute the above, and show me support for your paradigm in a similar manner.

Will Roberts said...

Jeff,

"This was not specifically about the CES Letter, and does not seek to address its specific fallacies."

I would *love* to see your explanation of the fallacies contained in the CES Letter. Since you supposedly can refute it so easily, you ought to make an attempt. I imagine it will be very similar to FAIR's embarrassing attempt.

"That letter does not seem to be gathering much attention over here in China."

Neither is Mormonism.

Anonymous said...

Pierce:

“You don't know what my stance is yet? Besides, what facts have you actually brought?”

Sighs. Your stance is that it can be interpreted as a general period of time. Thus you can believe that the earth is 4.5 billion years old without causing any harm to your belief. Your basis for believing this stance according to your efforts in this argument is that scripture can be interpreted differently and there is nothing wrong with that. Your evidence is that… I kinda get lost here. You spend far more time complaining that I don’t understand your stance than you do actually defending it.

The evidence that I have brought consists of what people of the time believed with respect to the age of the earth. The header saying that this was directly from god, the Mormon Church’s interpretation according to their printed seminary manual that states this was a question and answer session to help the members understand the scripture so there wouldn’t be a need to interpret it different as well as its prophet proclaiming that (at least for him) it is easy to understand, and all of recorded Christian history that believes that the earth is literally around 7000 years old. I’m pretty sure I had other things too, but I have gone over too much…

“In my opinion, it takes a lifetime's work to refine the paradigm, which is something I am supposing that you are not willing to do.”

If it takes a lifetime to figure out what god is saying to his most loved and prized creations… While at the same time everyone else thinks they are right about their understanding of god because god told them… Not much of a plan.

Many mormon’s I have associated with over the years are closed minded. Especially those in Utah. They don’t realize that that everyone interprets the scriptures differently. They don’t realize what this issue has caused not only in their own brief history, but the history of humanity a lot of problems both big and small. You are open minded more than most by the simple fact that you continue the discussion (that or just stubborn, but I try and think the best in people). The truth can never hurt.

Jonathan A. Cavender said...

"It is impossible to definitively prove nothing exists (prove the teapot is not there)."

And yet, isn't that the very definition of an atheist?

"This is called “garbage” in most debates between atheists and theists."

Christopher Hitchens couldn't answer it. Richard Dawkins couldn't answer it. David Hume couldn't answer it. It is the great question that every atheist has to deal with...and cannot. Theists, on the other hand, can point to an eternal Being capable of creation. It is internally consistent with our philosophical worldview, while the atheist has no answer internally consistent with their philosophical worldview.

"Not to even mention that science ALWAYS questions discoveries until proven."

The issue isn't that scientists were skeptical (as well they should be, and we should be more skepticism now), but rather why they were skeptical. Fred Holyle, Hermann Bondi, and Thomas Gold (and many others) proposed a number of theories and fought against the Big Bang because it lead to the conclusion that there was a Creator. So you have scientists doctoring the results to fight against a theory that leads to the conclusion of a Creator, and then when the evidence becomes overwhelming they suddenly adopt the theory and claim that it never really pointed to the existence of a Creator in the first place. Call this whatever you like, but it is clearly not 'following the evidence.'

"That is lifted right off Wikipedia."

Chuckle. Lemaitre was a believer, and the Big Bang was his effort to discover the mechanism by which Genesis occurred. The joke is an atheist who now uses the Big Bang as 'proof' that atheism is correct and theism is incorrect.

"With each new discovery his possibility of existing continues to diminish."

With each new discover as to the sheer improbability of life, the probability of atheism being correct diminishes. Even the most prominent atheists in the world are recognizing that. Look to Nash. Heck, look to Christopher Hitches who said that the teleological argument was the most persuasive that he ever encountered, and that he had no answer for it.

"In short… this has a lot of misleading statements and errors. The earliest known gospel wasn’t written till some 30 years after Christ died, so there is no “fifty days later” without the bible. Paul’s conversion is not held in consensus since Paul himself never accounts the story of being blinded by the sight of Jesus. It actually has to be inferred. Why would they change? Donno… why did you or someone of your ancestry suddenly change and become Mormon? Would you be a martyr for god? There are plenty on the planet who would… which is a problem, not a perk."

Not talking about the Gospels (as an atheist generally doesn't accept the Bible), but rather independent sources (what little we have from that time period) confirming these accounts. Paul himself never accounts for his story? That's not accurate. But even if we assume that it is, how do you explain a man who is slaughtering Christians who becomes a zealot for Christ (willing to be tortured and killed for his new-found beliefs)?

Jonathan A. Cavender said...

"Right doesn’t exist."

Thank you for pointing this out -- many atheists lack your intellectual integrity to point out the obvious and necessary conclusion to their worldview. But if you feel -- deep in your core -- that there is a right and a wrong, not a social construct or system of beliefs, then you cannot be an atheist. Atheism allows for no right and no wrong. Pick an issue you care deeply about, and think of the person who is most hostile to that position, and understand that you are not right and they are not wrong. Feel yourself rebel against that false belief. Understand that the feeling you are feeling is cognitive dissonance between the truth you know (there is right and wrong) and the belief you hold (atheism, which does not allow for right and wrong).

"Yet to throw out a word like absurd and expect anyone to interpret it as the meaninglessness of existence…"

Perhaps you are correct in your criticism of me here. I made the assumption that in a discussion on theism and atheism that the use of the word absurd would be interpreted in light of its attachment to this particular issue. I do not dislike you (I do not know you). Absurd is the correct word to have used, but I probably should have defined it first. My apologies.

"Atheists have answered. Over and over. They use studies, experiments, logical examples… the problem is some theists have a really hard time listening."

Speaking of condescending. 'If only the theists would open their minds to the evidence that is out there, they would join us atheists. It is their stubborn refusal to look at the facts that make them theists.' This is a continual conceit of atheists -- that weight of the science and evidence and reason and arguments stand on the side of atheism. I still have not seen an answer from anyone in this thread on the cosmological argument, other than to say that religion has a problem there too. That claim (what caused God?) is the only response ever really presented to this argument. To a Mormon, there is no validity to it -- we believe that God is eternal and uncaused. Thus the cosmological argument can be answered within our belief structure. To an atheist who denies the existence of God (or anything eternal or uncaused), the cosmological argument destroys their belief system. Something cannot come from nothing. I don't expect to hear one, since this has been unanswerable to the great atheist philosophers of all time. Same with the teleological argument.

Anonymous said...

Pierce:

Meh.. I’ll give it a shot, but I don’t have the time for an in-depth research project that might or might not satisfy your desire.

It can be covered in a nutshell fairly quickly by using D&C 77, revelations, and headings approved by the Church.

Start in D&C 77:7. He details what each seal means, a thousand years. Verse 9 he speaks of the angel ascending from the east. This is Elias which was come to gather the tribes of Israel and restore all things. Verse 10. This coming of Elias to restore all things and start the gathering of the tribes of Israel is to be accomplished in the sixth thousand years or the opening of the sixth seal. The header of Revelations 7 states that “John also sees in the sixth seal the Restoration of the gospel”. The church specifically references verse 3, but honestly I don’t know why… someone thought it was that for one reason or another. According to church history Joseph and Oliver were visited by three angels on 3 April 1836. The last was Elias which he recorded ushered the start of the recovery of Israel and the restoration of all things. I’m sure that you can recall numerous lessons and talks by authorities speaking to the “restoration of all things” as well as to the recovery of the tribes of Israel and us being in the “last days”.

All this in the sixth seal.

The seventh seal has to deal with all the death and destruction of the world and the final reaping. So it seems that there is sufficient scripture to indicate that the sixth thousandths year started on 3 April 1836. If we take it literally, that puts us about 6178 years into the continual or temporal existence of the Earth. Which is pretty darn close to what young-earth fundamentalists believe.

My guess is that there are tons of talks from general authorities over time that both support and detract from my interpretation. However, since we are dealing with specific people (Elias) and specific events (gather the tribes of Israel and restore all things) it seems pretty solid.

Anonymous said...

Why must right and wrong come from a religious construct? Right and wrong are simply practical solutions to what makes it possible for people to live among one another with common understandings about what promotes peace and security. They are simply what people have honed out over generations that make societies work.

A 4 year old begins to create the same "rules" out of play that societies codify in laws and ethics and he or she doesn't need god to do it. It comes out of the same human understanding that the Greeks called the Golden Rule and they never needed a single or a Christian god to recognize it. Nor did they need much of a philosophical treatise.

another anonymous

Anonymous said...

Jonathan:

“Christopher Hitchens couldn't answer it. Richard Dawkins couldn't answer it. David Hume couldn't answer it. It is the great question that every atheist has to deal with...and cannot”

And when presented with the exact same question, neither can you. Where did god come from? Something cannot come from nothing. Like many they debated, you dodged.

“Big Bang because it lead to the conclusion that there was a Creator”

This is a gross assumption. If/When science finds out what happened before the big bang, than religion will simply move back another step and say “well god started that”.

“Chuckle. Lemaitre was a believer, and the Big Bang was his effort to discover the mechanism by which Genesis occurred. The joke is an atheist who now uses the Big Bang as 'proof' that atheism is correct and theism is incorrect.”

I agreed that he was a believer. You seem to be ignoring the fact that Lemaitre disliked the church using his science to prove itself. That really puts a dent in your whole argument. Science doesn’t care where science comes from, only that it can be proven.

“teleological argument was the most persuasive that he ever encountered”

I completely agree. Yet it can easily be put into perspective by simply looking into the night sky.

“Paul himself never accounts for his story? That's not accurate”

Actually: “In Galatians 1:16 he writes that God "was pleased to reveal his son to me." In 1 Corinthians 15:8, in listing the order in which Jesus appeared to his disciples after his resurrection, Paul says "last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also."(NASB) These passages from his epistles, coupled with the two separate accounts he is reported to have given to both Jewish and Roman authorities in Acts, have been interpreted to refer to his road-to-Damascus conversion experience which he elsewhere had described as the resurrected Jesus appearing to him.” It is accurate.

“But even if we assume that it is, how do you explain a man who is slaughtering Christians who becomes a zealot for Christ (willing to be tortured and killed for his new-found beliefs)?”

People change? I don’t know what you are referencing to prove this actually happened. Much of Paul’s life according to the bible is in dispute. However in our society we find militant Islam extremists who convert to Christianity. So?

“But if you feel -- deep in your core -- that there is a right and a wrong, not a social construct or system of beliefs, then you cannot be an atheist. Atheism allows for no right and no wrong. Pick an issue you care deeply about, and think of the person who is most hostile to that position, and understand that you are not right and they are not wrong. Feel yourself rebel against that false belief. Understand that the feeling you are feeling is cognitive dissonance between the truth you know (there is right and wrong) and the belief you hold (atheism, which does not allow for right and wrong).”

This is just childish. It was the religious that coined the word/concept of atheos and they have been modifying it ever sense. Atheism is not a belief system. No matter how badly you want it to be, it just isn’t. The vast majority who are associated with it simply believe there is no god. “Atheism is to religion like abstinence is a sexual position”. The theist loves to tell the atheist how they feel so as to try and make them theist. It just doesn’t work. I have rights and wrongs in my life and I can be an atheist if I choose. The two are not related no matter how badly you want them to be for the sake of an argument.

“To an atheist who denies the existence of God (or anything eternal or uncaused), the cosmological argument destroys their belief system. SOMETHING CANNOT COME FROM NOTHING.” (emphasis added)

Where did god come from?

Pierce said...

Anon,

I appreciate you taking a crack at it. But What you said completely and entirely sidesteps my challenge, as well as the substance of my post. The position that you have been arguing is that the timeframes in section 77:6-7, known as "temporal existence," include creation timeframes and give us the age of the earth. I demonstrated that the first seal deals with a man and a horse (no bathroom humor intended) and has been interpreted by us to mean Enoch. It is at this point that the other seals are opened every thousand years (if we are looking at these literally--but that's a different discussion). Your response ignores when the breaking of the first seal happens, or what is involved. The crux of your argument rests on this! Even if the man on the horse is not Enoch, you are going to have a very, very difficult time demonstrating that creation begins with with the opening of the first seal.
The stuff about Elias has nothing to do with when the first seal was broken, who the man on the white horse was, and where the creation narrative fits into any of the 7 seals periods.

Researching it in the realm of LDS doctrine can be done in 2 minutes:

http://x.co/4flQf
(See Symbolism in the Six Seals)

The fact of the matter is that your interpretation of what "temporal existence" means is without substance and is refuted by the scriptures, apostles, and a bit of logic. It's OK! You're not LDS and are not expected to dive into these kinds of things. But this is why I was merely trying to demonstrate earlier on that there are different ways of viewing scriptures, and I didn't want to "bash" your interpretation. I just wanted you to recognize that scriptures truly are complex. Hopefully now you see that.

Anonymous said...

Pierce:

Why redo research that has already been done. This is as good as any to explain how each seal equates to the time periods of human history.

http://godourlight.info/?p=504


As to your requirement of Bruce R McConkie. You do know his beliefs on this subject right? Let me refresh your memory.

"There is no harmony between the truths of revealed religion and the theories of organic evolution."
- Apostle Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, p. 256

“Evolutionary theories assume that hundreds of millions of years were involved, first in the creation of the earth as a habitable globe, and again in the evolution of spontaneously generated, single celled forms of life into the complex and multitudinous forms of life now found on its face. We have rather specific scriptural indications that the creative period was of relatively short duration."
- Apostle Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, p. 255

"There were no pre-Adamites. Any assumption to the contrary runs counter to the whole plan and scheme of the Almighty in creating and peopling this earth."
- Apostle Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, p. 254

"Adam and Eve and all forms of life, both animal and plant, were created in immortality; that is, when first placed on this earth, all forms of life were in a state of immortality. There was no death in the world; death entered after the fall."
- Apostle Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, p. 252

Maybe Bruce could answer your question with your restriction, since he was a young earth creationist.

Jonathan A. Cavender said...

Another Anonymous:

"Why must right and wrong come from a religious construct? Right and wrong are simply practical solutions to what makes it possible for people to live among one another with common understandings about what promotes peace and security. They are simply what people have honed out over generations that make societies work. "

Then right and wrong, fair and unfair, equal and unequal, moral and immoral, do not exist. If I have a magic button that, by pressing it, will give me every thing that I have ever wanted as far as earthly desires (money, prestige, women, power) -- but to press it will kill a small child painfully somewhere else in the world, but I can never be blamed for it, then there is no reason in an absurd universe why I should not push that button. If atheism is real, then the soldier that dies defending freedom has made a poor decision, and the coward who runs away has made a wise one (because bravery does not exist). And so on...

"And when presented with the exact same question, neither can you. Where did god come from? Something cannot come from nothing. Like many they debated, you dodged."

But you see, I did not dodge. I explained how that wasn't a problem in my worldview. Using inductive reasoning with unfalsifiable hypotheses is a valid technique, although it is not experimental science (some argue it is not science generally, but few argue that it is not knowledge). When the hypothesis is unfalsifiable, the question becomes is the set of observations consistent with the general worldview. A reductive materialistic worldview requires a cause for each effect. Thus, the cosmological argument is a problem. The theist worldview recognizes an eternal, uncaused Being. Thus the cosmological argument does not trouble the theist.

"This is a gross assumption. If/When science finds out what happened before the big bang, than religion will simply move back another step and say “well god started that”."

That was a historical statement, rather than an advocation for God in the gaps.

"That really puts a dent in your whole argument. Science doesn’t care where science comes from, only that it can be proven."

I do not understand this argument (not refuting it, just making the statement that I do not understand it). He sought out evidence of the Big Bang to find scientific confirmation for Genesis. He found it. He presumably disliked the Church from using his findings to 'prove' God existed. Ok, how does that put a dent in the argument that the Big Bang theory was proposed by theists and opposed by atheists as a means of demonstrating anti-theism bias among atheist scientists such that it affected their conclusions and pro-theist bias among theist scientists that guided them to discoveries?

"I completely agree. Yet it can easily be put into perspective by simply looking into the night sky."

I do not see an argument here. At all. Considering that the teleologgical argument is the one that converted Anthony Flew, the most famous atheist philosopher of the late 20th Century to deism, you would think it would deserve a more proper response than "look up." When I look up, I see a bunch of stuff that shouldn't be there, but for a creator. The fact that I see it means that I was created by some cause and the universe itself has conspired to create an intelligent being that can appreciate its beauty. You see...what exactly that argues against this?

Jonathan A. Cavender said...

"Actually: “In Galatians 1:16 he writes that God "was pleased to reveal his son to me." In 1 Corinthians 15:8, in listing the order in which Jesus appeared to his disciples after his resurrection, Paul says "last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also."(NASB) These passages from his epistles, coupled with the two separate accounts he is reported to have given to both Jewish and Roman authorities in Acts, have been interpreted to refer to his road-to-Damascus conversion experience which he elsewhere had described as the resurrected Jesus appearing to him.” It is accurate."

I believe you misunderstood me by this sentence. I state that Paul accounted for his story.

"Much of Paul’s life according to the bible is in dispute."

By whom? There is always ambiguity when peering that far into the past, but there is little dispute as to the general outline of his life. He hated Christians, and then he became Christian. People change? Ask yourself what evidence of Mormonism would be required to convince you to covert and be willing to suffer torture and death for the faith. Paul, a classically trained, sophisticated, logical, Roman citizen experienced something that caused him to change his whole life. That level of life change is evidence that he saw what he says that he saw. You may not find it convincing, but to deny that it is evidentiary is to deny the basic value of witnesses.

" I have rights and wrongs in my life and I can be an atheist if I choose. The two are not related no matter how badly you want them to be for the sake of an argument."

Where do morals come from, if not from God? Fairness is a meaningless concept, so I may steal so long as I can get away with it. After all, it might have negative social utility, but it has positive individual utility. And if morality is not Divine, then it is a social construct that can be changed or ignored by the individual. Think of any given crime -- murder, theft, rape, torture -- or any negative behavior -- racism, sexism, bigotry -- and know that if there is no God, then these things you stand against (to the extent you stand against them) are just arbitrarily assigned by you (or assumed knowingly or unknowingly from a social history). But morality does not exist without God. If you feel something right or something wrong, you are implicitly acknowledging that right and wrong exist. And right and wrong cannot exist without God because without God right and wrong are subjective.

"Where did god come from?"

See above. He is eternal, which is permissible in my worldview but impermissible in yours. As the evidence that we have shows that an infinite regression of causality is not possible, that would seem to show that the worldview that you have adopted is incorrect.

Pierce said...

I have never seen such a sidestep in all my days on this site. A person who fancies himself as one who possesses evidence, fact, and logic should not have given the response that you just gave. I guess you are grasping at straws, for whatever reason.

Thank you for the article posted by "admin" (sounds legit). It does nothing whatsoever to strengthen your claim. I get a weird article that doesn't add to this discussion or strengthen your persistent assertions, and more or less of an ad hominem attack on BRM. Those quotations have nothing to do with what's being discussed. I even said, putting aside BRM's belief that the man on the white horse is Enoch, you are going to have to prove that the 7 seals time periods include the creation of the earth. Will you do it or not? If you cannot (and you can't, because it doesn't), then let's call this one. At least show some integrity to this 2 day debate.

Anonymous said...

Jonathan:

“When the hypothesis is unfalsifiable, the question becomes is the set of observations consistent with the general worldview”

This is where we diverge. Since we both hold that the set of observations supports our own belief system it makes continuing the argument worthless. I have tried to show how history has caused religion to shift, but that doesn’t concern you due to your unfalsifiable hypotheses. We are both looking at the same point from two different sides. As science causes that point to move, both of our opinions change. Interesting that god hasn’t moved that line in a long time, and when he did he moved it with inaccurate information. And while your method of argument may be valid, saying you don’t have to account for an argument you present due to your argument not being applicable to the question… is a dodge.

“Ok, how does that put a dent in the argument that the Big Bang theory was proposed by theists and opposed by atheists as a means of demonstrating anti-theism bias among atheist scientists such that it affected their conclusions and pro-theist bias among theist scientists that guided them to discoveries?”

Prove this. Show how the scientific community… all the scientific community rejecting him because his facts were attributed to religious belief. Everything I find shows that the scientists treated him like any other. When he presented the findings, they said “prove it”. Let’s take you at your word. All these scientists ridiculed him for his “crazy” space expansion idea. Then when he presented his theory with all its accompanying facts, the community accepted it. So they put aside their bias to accept it. Novel idea. And it is a dent because the person you praise reprimanded the religion he belonged to for using it exactly how you are using it. If he were alive today he would dislike the use of his name to prove god using the big bang. Or in other words, you are disgracing his memory by ignoring his request.

“You see...what exactly that argues against this?”

I’m not arguing. I agree. Given the small chance of this happening naturally it does give credence to a god, but it in no way proves him. Even if it only happens once in a trillionth of a trillion… it would still happen in our universe. While intriguing, it proves nothing. I’m an engineer… finite doesn’t fit into my vocabulary well. Perhaps the other gentleman you speak of was not so.

“I state that Paul accounted for his story.”

Yes, he accounted for it, but there is a problem. “The story of Paul’s dramatic conversion on the road to Damascus is a bit of propagandistic legend created by the evangelist Luke; Paul himself never recounts the story of being blinded by the sight of Jesus” - Aslan, Reza (2013). Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth. Sure, it is just a minor detail that people in the bible seem to have such a difficult time coming to any kind of consensus about any experience, event or timeframe.

Anonymous said...

Jonathan:

“Ask yourself what evidence of Mormonism would be required to convince you to covert and be willing to suffer torture and death for the faith.”

This happens with some frequency. Many who convert to the Islamic faith would be willing to suffer and die for their faith. This is not unique. It has happened with every religion throughout history. So again I say… So? If he were the only individual to ever have such a “change of heart” than your argument would have merit. Yet since these types of conversions have been seen in everything from Buddhism to Mormonism it is meaningless.

“Where do morals come from, if not from God?”

We can look to nature to see that working in groups provides advantages. Wolves hunt in packs. Does that mean they worship god? Why don’t wolves just kill each other? It would be easier than hunting down food. There are a host of reasons why I don’t lie, steal, cheat or murder. Working in social groups provides distinct advantages to any species. These moral rules you speak of didn’t even exist until the 10 commandments. How did humanity not destroy itself before god decided to say, “hey, maybe we shouldn’t do all the killing and raping”. If anything your creator lead the way by showing if you don’t like how things turn out, just kill EVERYTHING and start over.

“He is eternal, which is permissible in my worldview but impermissible in yours.”

But wait! I’m using deductive reasoning with falsifiable hypotheses, which is permissible in my worldview but impermissible in yours. Seriously, it is a dodge, get over it. Science doesn’t demand an answer to everything. It hopes to find answers to everything and makes the assumption there is, but it isn’t a requirement. I have no issue with not knowing what was before the big bang, yet you have to develop logical techniques to deal with not knowing what was before god.

Anonymous said...

Pierce:

“Will you do it or not?”

I did. You must not have read the article. It clearly steps through each time period starting with the temptation of Eve BEFORE the fall. The creation time period ended with the fall of man (or woman). The author then painstakingly goes through the rest of the seals associating them with world events. He supports his claims using numerous references both scriptural and historical. With the exception of the BRM thing with Enoch it completely satisfies your request. You didn’t say I had to produce it myself, or that it had to be based off your worldview (although it is based off your bible and human history). If this one isn’t to your liking, I’m guessing there are many other interpretations that can be supported by scriptural and historical evidence out there.

As for an attack on BRM. Please. You asked me to confirm the creation in the first 1000 years as well as restricted me to explain how BRM places Enoch within the seals. Yet it isn’t important that BRM is a self-proclaimed young earth creationist? This means you used him to try and “defeat” me when his own personal views support me. How is that an attack on his character? I’m showing that he believed as your prophet did. Young earth. I did nothing but quote his book showing his beliefs on the subject. They are relevant as his addition of Enoch makes so many inconsistences crop up between the Bible and the Mormon faith that even the other Mormon leaders questioned to do a second printing of Mormon Doctrine. While you called this a jab it is more applicable now than it was then, don’t understand your own faith.

Integrity. I’ll let those who read these comments be the judge of who argued with integrity.

Jonathan A. Cavender said...

Anonymous:

Our dialogue is becoming less and less productive, as you refuse to engage in my arguments.

"This is where we diverge. Since we both hold that the set of observations supports our own belief system it makes continuing the argument worthless."

My belief system presupposes an eternal, uncaused Being. Your belief system presupposes a causal relationship for every effect. You hold to that belief system tenaciously despite the evidence against it (as did Sir Fred Hoyle, who fought against the Big Bang for theological reasons). But you are right -- if you won't engage the argument, the argument is worthless.

"And while your method of argument may be valid, saying you don’t have to account for an argument you present due to your argument not being applicable to the question… is a dodge. "

You say there are only white swans, and I say there are white swans and black swan. A logical deduction that a black swan exists causes me no consternation, and imperils your worldview. This is not a dodge, it is reason and logic. My worldview encompasses an eternal Being, yours requires cause and effect. An infinite regression of causes is not possible. No dodging required on my part.

"Show how the scientific community… all the scientific community rejecting him because his facts were attributed to religious belief."

Nice throw-in of the word "all," making what I argued untrue and then attacking the straw man. Sir Fred Hoyle fought against the Big Bang Theory for theological reasons even after the discovery of CBR. The whole idea of a steady-state was a philosophical attempt to excise God from science. The word "Big Bang" was originally a pejorative to denigrate the theory for its theological background.

"Even if it only happens once in a trillionth of a trillion… it would still happen in our universe."

Once in a trillion of a trillion is 1x10^30. The problem is that is orders of magnitude lower than the actual probability. Multiplicative probabilities rapidly make the result far more likely. Between the Earth forming to support life, each cosmological constant, the necessary matter, the existence of recent supernovae to create the heavy elements, the odds on formation of protein chains (and that those protein chains occur close enough together and in a format that are self-replacating), and that the Moon was formed to keep us from being tide-locked to the Sun, and so on and so forth. 1 chance in a trillion trillion is much lower than the actual chance of this Earth forming as it did. And that is with the arbitrary constants that exist in a manner to make the probability even possible in the first place.

"“The story of Paul’s dramatic conversion on the road to Damascus is a bit of propagandistic legend created by the evangelist Luke; Paul himself never recounts the story of being blinded by the sight of Jesus”"

Once again, this is a bit of clever sophistry, where you add language to make a true statement untrue. Paul recounts that he saw Jesus (but does not mention the blindness). So if Paul saw Christ, but wasn't blinded at the sight, it makes his willingness to die for the faith less important?

"So? If he were the only individual to ever have such a “change of heart” than your argument would have merit. Yet since these types of conversions have been seen in everything from Buddhism to Mormonism it is meaningless."

But your denominational view denies some key points of our understanding -- namely that God can be found in most religions. We do not doubt that transcendent experiences can happen to Buddhists or Muslims. And if one, only one, such experience is correct then your worldview is wrong. Thus you must categorically state that every person who has every experienced something transcendent was wrong and you are right (despite them being in the best position to evaluate their own subjective experience).

Jonathan A. Cavender said...

"We can look to nature to see that working in groups provides advantages. Wolves hunt in packs. Does that mean they worship god? Why don’t wolves just kill each other? It would be easier than hunting down food. There are a host of reasons why I don’t lie, steal, cheat or murder. Working in social groups provides distinct advantages to any species. These moral rules you speak of didn’t even exist until the 10 commandments. How did humanity not destroy itself before god decided to say, “hey, maybe we shouldn’t do all the killing and raping”. If anything your creator lead the way by showing if you don’t like how things turn out, just kill EVERYTHING and start over"

Yours is an argument for socially beneficial behavior, and anti-social behavior. It is not an argument for right and wrong.

"But wait! I’m using deductive reasoning with falsifiable hypotheses, which is permissible in my worldview but impermissible in yours. Seriously, it is a dodge, get over it."

So you feel comfortable describing my approach as a dodge, when you cannot accurately repeat it back to me? My worldview permits X. Your worldview demands not X. Not X cannot exist. A problem for you and not a problem for me. It is practically a syllogism.

Syllogism #1:
(1) Reductive materialism demands a cause for every action (regardless of whether that cause is known or unknown, disoverable or undiscoverable).

(2) An infinite regression of causality is impossible according to the standards of reductive materialism.

(3) Therefore, reductive materialism is not a valid philosophy according to the standards of reductive materialism.

Syllogism #2 (Flawed):
(1) Theism demands that there exists an eternal, uncaused Being.

(2) An infinite regression of causality is impossible according to the standards of reductive materialism.

(3) Therefore, theism is not a valid philosophy according to the standards of reductive materialism.

The conclusion of syllogism #2 does not follow from the arguments. Thus theists have no problems with the cosmological argument.

In any event, I have wasted enough time wandering down this particular rabbit hole. I think I am done with this thread, although I encourage you to check out any of the number of quality debates that exist between theists and atheists, to read up on the subject and become aware of what has been written and thought on the subject, and follow the evidence where it leads. Good luck to you.

Anonymous said...

Jonathan:

I believe you are going to win this simply because I tire of your unique style of logic. So this may be my last response… but we’ll see… who knows I may get a second wind.

“You hold to that belief system tenaciously despite the evidence against it”

Uh… k. Other than your relentless argument of the ideological concept of the cosmos you really haven’t provided a ton of evidence, and defiantly not enough to warrant such a comment. Perhaps if those who followed god got their science from god we could have a discussion, but even Lamaitre based all of his conclusions from science done before him, not by praying to god and asking if it is right. This is probably why he didn’t like mixing religion and science.

“You say there are only white swans, and I say there are white swans and black swan.”

Evolution actually explains the black swans, not god. Still a dodge.

“The problem is that is orders of magnitude lower than the actual probability.”

No matter how many zeros you put at the end of the number your still saying there is a chance. I consider that chance about equal with there being a god to orchestrated this terrible design.

“where you add language to make a true statement untrue”

I did no such thing. I simply pointed out that luke doesn’t tell the same story as paul. There are numerous problems like this. Some are bigger than others. *shrugs* It was all I cared to look for.

“And if one, only one, such experience is correct then your worldview is wrong. Thus you must categorically state that every person who has every experienced something transcendent was wrong and you are right (despite them being in the best position to evaluate their own subjective experience).”

Really? Yes, if one such experience could be proven true it would change many people’s world view. The problem is they can’t, but they can be replicated using science (something I don’t recall you addressing). The originator of an experience is no where near the best person to evaluate the experience. They are by FAR the most biased towards is meaning. Independent third party without an agenda would be the best to evaluate. Like a scientist trying to recreate the experience by shocking the brain. Huh…

“It is not an argument for right and wrong.”

Dodge. It is an argument for right and wrong. I have stated numerous times that there is no perfect right or wrong. Any example you give me you would have an exception for yourself. Be it killing another person, or lying to your daughter that Santa is real. You simply try and blur the issue instead of confronting it.

“when you cannot accurately repeat it back to me?”

My apologies. I really lost interest in you trying to use an argument method as a means to avoid answering a question (yes yes I get it, you did answer the question, you are immune to it). Scientists theorize in order to better understand our world. Theists can do the same.

I would say I enjoyed this, but once you bunkered down to the tried and true theist camps and resisted any form of logic or example to show they can be incorrect, I quickly lost interest.

Laters.

Pierce said...

I tried to defeat you with BRM? Interesting. I thought all I was doing was stating the Mormon position concerning the scriptures in question. Obviously, I don't expect you to consider him an authority. But, like I said, his interpretation is one the church still holds (perhaps others are instigators or supporters of it too, I don't know). That is all I was doing.

We are arguing in a Mormon framework. You have come to this blog and made the statement that based on a Mormon scripture, I am a young earth creationist. When confronted with actual Mormon doctrine contextualizing your one scripture proof, you grab a random assessment of Revelation from "admin" and use it as a some sort of rebuttal. Did YOU read his article about the first seal? The guy ends up going on a Catholic bashing rant. Sounds legit...

If you are going to be debating a mormon about mormon doctrine, then you should do so in the realm of mormonism. You can't prove my beliefs by grabbing any old person off the internet that you want. I presented to you what the mormon interpretation of those scriptures were, and the context to which they belong, and what the seals mean to us. What "admin" believes on his own website doesn't concern me, so again--why are you sidestepping things?

"It clearly steps through each time period starting with the temptation of Eve BEFORE the fall"

Are you telling me that the temptation of Eve in the Garden of Eden occurs before creation? EVEN IF "admin" was correct in his assumptions, "temporal existence" then begins at the opening of the first seal AFTER creation, since it began with Eve's temptation, and Eve was created after the earth/Garden were created. At that point, you can only make the case that "temporal existence" began with Adam and Eve, which is fine. But it is still not indicative of the age of earth itself.

So no, you have not "done it." You have not demonstrated creation timetables in Section 77 or Revelation 6.

Try it one more time. Let's agree to give it on more shot. Or you could just say "good points, man" ;-)

Anonymous said...

Pierce:

k.. second stab from: https://www.lds.org/manual/new-testament-student-study-guide/the-revelation-of-saint-john-the-divine/revelation-5-7-a-book-with-seven-seals?lang=eng

Begin

Modern revelation teaches us that each of the seals represents a thousand-year period of history (see the introduction to Revelation 5–7 above).

When the first seal was opened, John saw a man with a crown riding a white horse and conquering. Elder Bruce R. McConkie said that this represents Enoch, who helped his people conquer their enemies—including Satan—and establish a city of purity and righteousness symbolized by the white horse (see Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3:476–78). The opening of the second seal revealed the violence, death, and destruction that occurred in the time of Noah and the Flood.

The opening of the third seal represented a time when God’s people were affected by famines. Abraham moved because of a famine, and the history of Jacob’s (Israel’s) family was very much affected by famines. The opening of the fourth seal reminds us that the time between 1000 B.C. and Christ’s birth was a time of warfare among the covenant people. It was a time when they were conquered, taken captive, and scattered throughout the world by foreigners. The fifth seal revealed what faithful Saints of John’s day were then encountering—giving their lives for their testimony.

Events depicted in the opening of the sixth seal are more detailed. They pertain to the dispensation in preparation for the Savior’s Second Coming.

End

I’m sure you’ll be quick to point out that this does not include the creation. So by inference you could claim that the earth is 4.5 billion years old! There is the small problem of this though:

If Adam had not transgressed he would not have fallen, but he would have remained in the garden of Eden. And all things which were created must have remained in the same state in which they were after they were created; and they must have remained forever, and had no end. -- 2 Nephi 2:22

Here you may interpret “all things” to be solely in the garden. I am going to personally label this the “Sub-space bubble theory of creationism”. It is also supported by teachings in Gospel Principles (2010) and Gospel Doctrine (2014).

Ya got me again. I guess as long as you are willing to believe the Sub-space bubble theory of creationism, that god was speaking to Joseph Smith symbolically, and that many modern prophets and apostles held the young earth view, you can in fact believe that the earth was 4.5 billion years old as a Mormon. Dang. I must concede. While I do so sarcastically, I really do. I wish you had pointed out the “facts” of the Mormon teachings rather than I finding them myself, but hopefully we both learned something.

If you don’t see the problems created by this line of thinking (hence my sarcasm) there is really no reason to continue. The implications caused by the outline of events proposed by the seals timeline and the addition of 2 Nephi 2:22 are immense. These implications as well as the mental gymnastics required to get to this point are more than likely why outsiders like myself still believe Mormons are young earth creationists (or at least should be). I will not make a list as that simply causes me to “make a big list”. Which would be silly given the source of this blot post. If you are interested in what types of problems arise I will gladly continue via email. Simply drop some crappy email address here and I’ll be more than happy to expound (which I’m sure doesn’t surprise you). I say crappy cuz who knows who/what might pick up the email address and the last thing anyone wants is tons of spam in their primary email address.

It was fun!

Chris said...

This is a long discussion. I would like to point out one thing to Pierce though. Can you see why big lists develop? It felt like Anonymous had to guide you through the thought process of how members of the LDS faith can believe in an old earth. Maybe you just chose to not assist him, but that is what it seems like. In the end you had to interpret some of the scriptures and teachings to match your personal understanding or beliefs. While Anonymous may understand your belief now, it just leads to more questions as to how you got there. It also leaves a wake of conflicts with other gospel principles. So you won, but did you? I am a former member of the church, so I am sure my view is biased to some degree, but it really seems like all you did was create more problems with your own belief. The house on top is pretty, but I would not trust the foundation. Just my two cents.

Pierce said...

Anon,

"I’m sure you’ll be quick to point out that this does not include the creation."

That was the crux of the whole argument.

"So by inference you could claim that the earth is 4.5 billion years old! "

I don't know how old the earth is. I don't think anyone truly knows, and I don't believe that information to have been revealed.

"Here you may interpret “all things” to be solely in the garden"

I think that's a valid interpretation, since that seems to be the context of the passage. Granted, many LDS have believed this idea to be the world at large, but that idea is losing traction with the acceptance of scientific evidence that suggests older fossils.

"These implications as well as the mental gymnastics required to get to this point are more than likely why outsiders like myself still believe Mormons are young earth creationists (or at least should be)."

Oh, I'm sure that you'll continue on with your opinions. I could tell that this would be the case given how assiduously you tried defending it, despite valid reasons why a person such as myself doesn't have to. You call it "mental gymnastics." I find this especially humorous, since all I have done is shown you that your opinion is based off of an invalid framework for viewing a particular scripture, and that more than one viewpoint can be held regarding it. Calling this mental gymnastics is a cheap, parting jab. I don't understand your passion for your position in regards to another's beliefs.

2 Nephi 2:22 to me doesn't indicate anything substantial since it didn't happen. This is a bit of philosophy with an "alternate history" take. And that's about all we have on the idea in the scriptures.

Anyway, it has indeed been fun, and I appreciate the mutual respect shown here.

Pierce said...

Hi Chris,

"Can you see why big lists develop?" They can develop for many reasons. But they almost never consider both sides of the coin, and all of the context and background information is absent in them. They are, in my view, disingenuous and usually are calculated to serve a purpose. Usually, not always. Some are genuine.

"It felt like Anonymous had to guide you through the thought process of how members of the LDS faith can believe in an old earth."

You should know that I wasn't trying to prove old earth creation theory at all. I was hoping early on to just agree that there are different ways of viewing scripture--a principle that I think is far more important to explain to a critic than "you're wrong about this issue and I'll prove it." Although that's what it turned into.

"In the end you had to interpret some of the scriptures and teachings to match your personal understanding or beliefs."

That's true to an extent. But much more true for Anonymous. He was the one with a truth statement: "Mormons are young earth creationists...lol." He based his conclusion mostly on the history of other LDS opinions and off of a faulty scriptural interpretation. What did I do? I only demonstrated that his scriptural interpretation is incorrect and that I am not beholden to other's opinions in absence of clear revelation. In essence, I did not set out to prove that old earth creationism is correct. I only set out to disprove that the evidence he was using to support his claims was invalid. His conclusion he can keep, although it is merely an opinion with a little less support for it.

"It also leaves a wake of conflicts with other gospel principles. So you won, but did you?"

I don't believe that it really conflicts with gospel principles, per se. I view true gospel principles as being few and well-defined. For example, I view Christ's atonement as a gospel principle. I do not view McKonkie's view on pre-Adamites to be a gospel principle. You might have had other things in mind, but I'm just saying that how one views creation, based on the scant details we have, will most likely not conflict with the gospel message.

"but it really seems like all you did was create more problems with your own belief."

Personally, I think that being "forced" to believe in young earth creationism because of how this person views section 77 would cause much more problems for my belief than my explanation to the contrary could. A more correct interpretation and context is a better foundation to build a conclusion on than an incorrect one.

See, this is the exact problem with "big lists"--you can provide a perfectly good explanation for a criticism, but now the critic or reader is ready to move on to "more problems"-- the "yeah BUT" rejoinder. Look at all that went into this to demonstrate that one of those problems wasn't really a problem. And yet the onus is on us to have to do all the digging for every claim.

And that is why I sympathize with the point of Jeff's original post.

Anonymous said...

I think the Church is doing a pretty good job addressing this with the recent articles on DNA and Priesthood on the church website. I really hope they keep coming out with those articles because I think it is going to address the problems with trying to just ignore the challenges against the church.

Will Roberts said...

I'm really enjoying these philosophies of men mingled with scripture. Maybe we ought to sing a good ol' Protestant hymn next.

Jonathan A. Cavender said...

Really, Will?

You were one of those demanding answers to the CES Letter, and having two of the issues addressed, you now complain about people engaging in a defense of their beliefs (but, of course, you retain the right to complain about all of the questions not being answered even while you complain about the audacity of people providing some of the answers).

I thought I had left this thread (I meant to, really!) but this comment dragged me back in. So, as I leave once again, I offer a parting quote from C. S. Lewis:

"For let us make no mistake. If the end of the world appeared in all the literal trappings of the Apocalypse, if the modern materialist saw with his own eyes the heavens rolled up and the great white throne appearing, if he had the sensation of being himself hurled into the Lake of Fire, he would continue forever, in that lake itself, to regard his experience as an illusion and to find the explanation of it in psycho-analysis, or cerebral pathology."

As it is with the Gospel. Leave unanswered a question, and it is fear of the truth. Answer a question, and it is the philosophies of men. While some experience doubt, others choose not to believe.

Will Roberts said...

"As it is with the Gospel. Leave unanswered a question, and it is fear of the truth. Answer a question, and it is the philosophies of men. While some experience doubt, others choose not to believe."

You "answered" the age of the earth issue with mountains of your own philosophies, all of which were almost certainly foreign to Joseph Smith. Either God was speaking to JS in a language he couldn't understand (even though he certainly understood D&C 77 the way 99% of church members would understand it) or your argument is way off in left field completely lacking any form of reasonability. Mormon apologetics is *all about* plausibility rather than reasonability, which is why it convinces only like-minded people.

Pierce said...

Oh Will. You're adorable. Coming in at the end of a huge debate, parroting the same thing Anonymous said about section 77, with the same assumption that the age of the earth (including creation) is mentioned in Section 77. That debate is over, unless you can accept my challenge of providing evidence that the first seal was opened before or during creation. There is no commentary in Section 77 from Joseph Smith that he accepted your version of the term "temporal existence," and whether that included the creation period or not.

So please.

I saw that D&C 77 is completely about Revelation 5-7 and specifically about seals. I didn't use philosophy. I used scripture. I encourage you to try it.

I have made no attempt to guess what Joseph's views on creation time tables were. It does not make one lick of difference to me if he was a young earth creationist. The fact is there has been no clear revelation giving details and exact time tables of creation, so I am inclined to believe that Joseph just didn't know all of the details.

Will Roberts said...

The most adorable thing about your argument is the complete lack of reasonability.

"My" version of the term "temporal existence" was the prevailing thought in Joseph Smith's day - The thing that he *most likely* believed when he made up D&C 77. That's why no one had any problems with it until science completely demolished that idea. This is the most reasonable and simple interpretation.

If you want to argue that this 7000 year period didn't include the creative period, you've now got two problems:

1. Hundreds of years from now, if Christ still hasn't come, you'll have to start re-defining things again. If you're ok with that, then you're better off just saying "I don't know" instead of coming up with ever-so-slightly plausible interpretations of D&C.

2. You have to deal with all those things that died before the fall.

Jeff Lindsay said...

D&C 77 does not necessarily say anything about a young earth. See my post, D&C 77 and the Age of the Earth. For more details on Latter-day Saints teaching or accepting an old earth, see my LDSFAQ page on science and Mormonism.

Mateo said...

Pierce said: "You call it "mental gymnastics." I find this especially humorous, since all I have done is shown you that your opinion is based off of an invalid framework for viewing a particular scripture, and that more than one viewpoint can be held regarding it. Calling this mental gymnastics is a cheap, parting jab."

If what you are stating is that scripture and prophecy are no better than wild conjecture or poems... I'd totally agree. I'm rather profoundly confused how one can see such teachings as honest, true or remotely helpful though.

I mean seriously. If the revelations from god COULD mean any of a number of things... why did it bother to reveal them? Especially when so many important and useful things could be answered.

Dr. Doctorstein said...

Jeff is absolutely right that "D&C 77 does not necessarily say anything about a young earth."

By the same token, the Revelation of John does not necessarily say anything about the future, the story of Sodom and Gomorrah does not necessarily say anything about homosexuality, and the Book of Mormon does not necessarily say anything about American history or geography.

For each of these texts (and many more) there is a wide range of defensible interpretations.

Anonymous said...

Oh… I too thought I had left… but I just can’t ignore Jeff’s comments and I might as well pick up some of Peirce’s while I’m here.

Jeff, the church has no official stance. So yes, you can quote any Tom, Dick or Sterling to prove any point you like. I was hoping my long discussion with Pierce would show one thing about the Mormon faith, it has almost no solid doctrine. Any type of “scientific” problem is simply ignored by the general authorities. In the case of my discussion with Pierce the church has no official position so defending young earth or old earth is pointless (a point I fully understood when I started). Also your article on D&C 77 tries to define 7000 years as “periods” instead of literal years, while your church’s manuals go through and define them as literal. They may not give an exact date, but they do break them up into approximately 1000 year periods. So you too are teaching against your churches stated doctrine.

I used LDS literature to show that the church teaches that each seal is literally 1000 years. Regardless of what Pierce or Jeff wishes to believe, the “1000” years comment by Joseph is taught as literal within the church. Hence the nice timeline that was given in one of the NT teaching manuals that I quoted above. Pierce is correct to point out that it does not include the creation period. That point I conceded. The problem is that Mormon doctrine has always taught that the Adam and Eve story is literal, not figurative. So Pierce’s comment about saying 2 Nephi 2:22 didn’t happen is somewhat problematic. If you only believe about half of what your faith teaches as literal, than I’m not sure you are really a member of that faith. This is why I originally posted the quip about Pierce not understanding his own faith. Although now that I think about it, based on how you interpret that, Pierce understands his “own” faith far better than anyone else on this earth. However, many of those beliefs do not line up with what has been taught by prophets both new and old. That is for him to deal with.

The Mormon faith has had to evolve to deal with its assorted past. These “big lists” bring all these issues out into the light. Some obviously are more damning than others. I have watched many logical and loving people who have had to deal with these problems. Some read through them and their brains can’t handle the dissidence, others simply change the original meaning in order to make it fit. It doesn’t make either group good or bad, I just personally would prefer to see people take a more logical stance to such a problem rather than force themselves to believe. Yet to fight against the big list concept itself. It is silly and beyond pointless. There are a lot of problems with the church’s teachings and the CES Letter really only scratches the surface. Each topic he brings up could probably be turned into a book evaluating all the statements made by church leaders and how each one disturbs other doctrine. If I had to guess, Jeff like Pierce and Jonathan dismissed that girls claims by using his personal interpretation of the facts, not the church’s official stance. His 7000 years article shows that he uses whatever theory by whatever person that makes him feel good. To say that the son of the former apostle Talmage (who wrote enough issue causing literature) is a valid source, when an approved church teaching book states otherwise is disturbing.

Anonymous said...

In all reality if I can find any prophet or official church document that says “X”, a Mormon shouldn’t be able to counter, yet they do all the time. The church claims the BoM the most correct book on earth and that they have living prophets to help answer any questions that the general population may have. What have these two things given the church? We have a book that is full of errors, and a man who never answers questions. Again, the CES Letter has caused thousands to leave the church. Wouldn’t god want to keep his children? Can’t he answer a few questions? Yet there has been only silence from the prophet regarding every question. Even the recent articles the church has released on DNA, blacks, or other topics are one: Not definitive in their answers, leaving room for wide and vast interpretation. Two: Not signed or endorsed by the first presidency themselves. Three: Are extremely speculative. So technically, if in the future they are proven wrong, they can simply say it was a man who wrote it, not the prophet of god. Not that that would have any meaning, since prophets now talk as “men” sometimes even when they are claiming to talk as god.

Pierce while you scoff at “mental gymnastics”, it is a very valid term to use. I didn’t use mental gymnastics, I dug down until I found enough facts from LDS sources to answer all of your requests. To have you come back and say, “ya, I don’t believe in the literal story of Adam and Eve” as an escape to avoid the issues of the sub-space bubble theory of creationism is pretty much the definition of mental gymnastics. You are free to believe and interpret as you will, but when your interpretations directly counter what the church has officially released, you cannot simply say, “ya, I look at it differently” and still call it a “Mormon” belief. I really can’t blame you though. Many of these “official” teachings counter each other, so members are left with having to create their own interpretations to make things fit because their prophet will not answer them himself.

Many people are starting to get sick of this, which is why so many are leaving. Yet it could all be stopped if the prophet would simply ask god for answers so that his children would stop leaving the church, but apparently god wants to leave all the contradiction and confusion so that we can rely on frequently fallible internal feelings or blind faith to resolve them. Even that idea goes against scripture since 1Cor:14:33 says “For God is not a God of Confusion but of peace”.

Anonymous said...

Well said, Anonymous @ 11:05.

You remind me of the so called Swedish Rescue which Marlin Jensen (a former official Church Historian and Recorder and, at the time, a Seventy) and Richard Turley, Jr. (Asst. Church Historian) undertook in Nov. 2010.

Faced with questions similar to those outlined in the CES letter that had sent the church in Scandinavia and parts of Europe into a tailspin, they prepared what they hoped would serve as answers and traveled to meet face to face with the concerned members. It was just such an opportunity as you see to provide some clarity and spiritual foundation. Nevertheless, what they provided amounted to a vain attempt to exhort blind faith when history and reason only added to the confusion, frustration and embarrassment.

A transcript of the full meeting and what served as answers is available to anyone who cares to google it.

Believing and struggling members deserved better from such highly placed authorities especially selected for the sensitive meeting. That the church didn't prevail on god to provide them with more clarity has to leave us breathless when it makes the claim to have a living prophet and continuing revelation.

another anonymous

Anonymous said...

One last tidbit that came to mind. I mentioned that the church officially states it has “no position” on these matters. Yet they still have official documentation that are approved by the First Presidency to be taught to its current members. While this is yet another contradiction within the church, I would like to stress one point.

Why should I or anyone care or believe Jeff’s, Peirce’s, or FAIRMormon’s “opinions and interpretations” over that of the approved manuals of the church in order to overcome the cognitive dissidence caused by the original faulty revelations or doctrine? Especially when said opinions directly counter what those approved manuals declare.

Another way of thinking about this is to realize why these blogs exist in the first place. People come here because either by chance or design they encountered information that caused cognitive dissidence. They are looking for anything to reaffirm their cognitive bias. They don’t realize that regardless of how many followers Jeff has, or how eloquent Pierce or Jonathan have been in this debate, these people have no authority in the church. They try and make their personal interpretations of the scriptures seem more valid by quoting prominent members in the church that support their interpretations, but then immediately complain when an equally prominent member (sometimes the same member) is used to show that their interpretations are wrong. Hopefully this is very confusing, because it should be.

Religions are like water, they take the path of least resistance. At times they run into obstacles which cause them to back up, but eventually they find an outlet that allows them to flow in the new direction of truth and righteousness. Jonathan was the only logical debater here. Rather than try and defend something he knew was fallible (religion) he chose to defend a creator. That can only be defended because we still have questions about ourselves and our place in the universe. Someday I believe that will change, but until then we will always have to deal with religions.

Pierce said...

Anonymous (why don't you pick a moniker? that would blow my mind),

We have a gross misunderstanding here. What I meant by 2 Nephi 2:22 not happening was this:

"And all things which were created must have remained in the same state in which they were after they were created; and they must have remained forever, and had no end."

Since that did not happen (things remaining in the same state), I don't see why it's being discussed, or how it relates to an age-of-the-earth conversation. I believe in the events of the Garden of Eden as it has been described. So hopefully we're pretty square now.

Anonymous said...

“Anonymous (why don't you pick a moniker? that would blow my mind),”

I thought about it… but it has been too entertaining to remain with Anonymous. I would guess it is easy to pick me out by now though.

“Since that did not happen (things remaining in the same state), I don't see why it's being discussed, or how it relates to an age-of-the-earth conversation. I believe in the events of the Garden of Eden as it has been described. So hopefully we're pretty square now.”

Sighs. Guess it isn’t the most correct book than. Wonder what else may be wrong about it or the religions that use it. Yep, we are square.

Pierce said...

Anon,

Defending something that is fallible is not "illogical." I feel that my argument against your interpretation of D&C 77 was quite logical and accomplished what I had set out to do. You too defended a fallible position, remember.

I don't think anyone here cares about my opinion much. I haven't pretended to be some authority. The thing that you do not understand is that everyone on this blog, in this church, and in this world is on their own journey. Let me stress that: they are on their own journey. They will have different experiences with the divine and at different levels. Their understanding about things will be different. I do not wait around for church authorities to bring me those experiences. They have given me enough, and I have learned through experience that I know how to seek these things for myself. I also embrace everything else that my religion can bring me. That is the gospel. All this stuff that we're going on about and speculating about I consider a little hobby.

This is an active process. It is something that I have and will continue to dedicate myself to because I like what I receive from it. I don't understand it all. I don't claim to. No church authority has understood it all. They were on a journey too. Do I experience cognitive dissonance? Yes. Do I have doubts? Yes. Do I look to understand my doubts better and get comfortable with them? You bet. And yet I choose to remain. I think it's funny to say that religions take the path of least resistance. In today's world, I think it would be much easier to jump on the athiest bandwagon and buy into everything on the big list. Nothing about my discipleship is easy.

The church doesn't have an official position about a lot of things. So? The things that it does have an official position on are the important things. By important, I mean important for the salvation of mankind. I know this idea frustrates our critics a lot. But maybe they're trying to affirm their own biases too much.

You can marginalize what I am saying by just calling it personal opinions and personal interpretations. Opinion is bound to happen at some point, and you can't exclude religious folk from human nature. But everyone has a bias, friend. Everyone. You've displayed yours quite openly.

Pierce said...

"Guess it isn’t the most correct book than. Wonder what else may be wrong about it or the religions that use it. Yep, we are square."

Care to explain this? I really am lost on what you're going on about. I accept the BOM, and I accept that scripture, even in the context of this dialogue. I just don't know what you're talking about.


P.S. Come on...give us a name.

Anonymous said...

Pierce:

I believe now I can say I understand you. I have no problem with people wanting to choose their own path in this world. There are many of the faith who would disapprove of your methodology since it is not bound to the more orthodox teachings of the church, but they are the ones to which much of my sting was directed. Free thinkers who seek to find truth in their life are what this world needs. You, like myself probably enjoy picking a side and defending it, even if you don’t fully agree with it. I was a Mormon for many years and never during that time did I consider myself a young-earth creationist. I only became aware of the young-earth vibe in the church after I left.

There is only one quote I want to take from your last post (One? Really? I know!):

“I think it would be much easier to jump on the athiest bandwagon and buy into everything on the big list. Nothing about my discipleship is easy.”

Having been on both sides of the fence with respect to god, I make this plea. Don’t judge your path any more steep or rocky than that of an atheist. While I would consider myself still somewhat agnostic, I lean heavily atheist. The grass is not greener, it is just a different shade of brown. Atheists no longer have the freedom to think of a second chance, or an omnipotent being guarding and loving them. Yet I have found that relationships have filled that void for me. They just seem to have more… meaning.

Well played Pierce. I wish you peace and knowledge on this shared journey of life.

Chris said...

Pierce:

Fine fine… I’ll give you a first name.

“And all things which were created must have remained in the same state in which they were after they were created; and they must have remained forever, and had no end."

The scripture clearly states that all things must have remained the same. It is pretty much accepted that the earth did not age and that there was no death during the time before the fall. People have had to interpret it as only the area of the garden was under this constraint. There is ample evidence that this is the church’s teaching (especially since it is in the BoM).

If the whole earth didn’t age, than the earth would be geologically and evolutionarily 7000 years old (which we know it isn’t), if it was only the area of the garden that didn’t age… well, that brings up a whole slew of issues.

Honestly it was very difficult to not stray from the 1000 years to a seal thing… there are so many other problems that causes, which is why interpreting them as generic time periods is so much easier… which is what I did.

Pierce said...

I respect your position, Chris. I don't mean to judge that moving away from religion isn't easy. I believe it would be very difficult. My statement isn't much as "my cross is heavier," rather "doing my own thing seems like it would be easier."

I would say you do indeed have a good understanding of where I'm at. I think that the trend in Mormonism is redefining what orthodoxy is or should be. I think a lot of "orthodox" ideas were steeped in assumptions and it took time to see past them--in no small part thanks to the information age. I consider it a positive thing and am glad to be a part of it.

"The scripture clearly states that all things must have remained the same."

A couple of things here.
One: the garden was planted eastward in Eden after the 7 creative days (periods). See Genesis 2:8. Man was then formed and placed in the garden. How long did this process take? What was the process used to create the earth? We don't really know. The Garden was then planted eastward in Eden. So at this point, 7,000 has not entered the picture at all, and no scriptures indicate that time can be measured starting at Day 1 with the formation of the earth.

Two: Lehi's statement about things remaining as they were is unique in scripture. So we really only have that scripture to go off of. That means that we must parse out what the words "all things" mean. Does it mean all things on earth? All things in the Garden?
The sentence before that says that Adam "would have remained in the garden of Eden. And all things must have remained the same".
So the text that we draw this idea from can very easily be taken to mean all things in the garden of Eden would have remained in the same state. After all, we don't really know anything outside of the garden. So taking the context, and seeing the overwhelming evidence for evolution, the finding and dating of fossils, etc., I don't see why this interpretation doesn't hold more weight.

Granted, many other LDS have chosen the "whole earth" view. Joseph Fielding Smith and BRM were big proponents of this idea, which affected a lot of modern thought in the church. B.H. Roberts and Talmage disagreed with them. But again, in absence of real revelation about the creative process and age in the earth, "there is no official position on this."



Chris said...

Pierce:

I get that you can place the time for the earth in a couple of different places This doesn’t change the fact that the early church taught and believed in young earth for over a hundred years and only started to change their view when the evidence started to stack up. Perhaps it isn’t important to one’s salvation, but the concept of “where did we come from” has focused our minds for thousands of years. Not to mention that it is a frequent pick-up line for Mormon missionaries. This is part of that question, and god has remained silent on it ever since proven wrong with respect to the age of the earth.

Personally I said the earth aged during the time of Adam and Eve and ignored the whole “not ageing” thing. Really I didn’t even know that was taught doctrine until after I left the church and started researching some of its claims. None of this changes the problems that exist in faith based systems of science. If you believe in Adam and Eve, then you believe they walked the earth about 6500 years go (based off of bible lineage). If you are a Mormon, you have been told the Garden was in Jackson County, MO. The size of the list that stems from these two “facts” is well beyond big. There is a ton of evidence that disproves the bible’s sequence of events for the past 6500 years. To dismiss this evidence you have to dismiss a lot of science that we directly or indirectly benefit from.

Lehi’s statement may be unique, but the BoM is sold as containing information that other sources lack and does so in a plain way. It really appears to be no different than any other scripture; it raises more questions than it answers. The bible can at least say that it has been through numerous translations and handlers, but the BoM is supposed to be a direct communication with god prepared and preserved for the final dispensation. JS didn’t look at the plates while translating and even the church acknowledges that Joseph translated the plates by placing his head in a hat looking at a rock he found in a stream. So either he made the whole thing up, or it should have been word for word what god wanted us to hear. Journal entries from all of Joseph’s scribes to the BoM confirm that he would correct words and punctuation while performing the translation. While this is a minor issue, it still shows that this plain book requires alternative methods of understanding (that have evolved over time) in order to make such statements as “all things” fit within scientific fact.

Everything changes. My god wasn’t the same yesterday, today or forever. I could see how he changed in the past, made exceptions for the present, and was on the path to change for the future. Just in my lifetime so much has changed… so much that was revealed by god and then changed by god. I guess he is god, he can do what he wants, but why are we all so caught up in worshiping him when at any moment he can change what we know to be true, to be false. Personally, I would rather be a meaningless bag of star stuff.

Pierce said...

" This doesn’t change the fact that the early church taught and believed in young earth for over a hundred years and only started to change their view when the evidence started to stack up."

I wouldn't try to force my view on what the early church taught or believed. I think that would be futile and frankly wrong. Whether or not young earth was officially taught is a matter of investigation, but I don't really care. What I care about is relevance to today.

They were using the same scriptures as we are today, so it's not that the text has changed or that God has changed. It's that our paradigms and framework that we use to view the scriptures has changed because of the newer evidence. I don't understand the criticism of a changing paradigm when every responsible institution does it--from science to health to other religious.

"but the BoM is supposed to be a direct communication with god prepared and preserved for the final dispensation."

I have shown that I don't see a real problem with 2 Nephi 2:22. Again, different frameworks have different implications. And frankly, I don't see a compelling reason to believe that God has changed here. Seems like it's just our views that change and how we've interpreted scripture.

"The size of the list that stems from these two “facts” is well beyond big."

That we are in agreement on. I am not a scientist. I don't know everything about the subject, and I certainly don't have all the answers. I have faith that we will continue to uncover truth over time.




Jonathan A. Cavender said...

Pierce and Chris:

"This doesn’t change the fact that the early church taught and believed in young earth for over a hundred years and only started to change their view when the evidence started to stack up."

That just isn't true. Check out the article Jeff linked to. It has a quote from Brigham Young:

"I am not astonished that infidelity prevails to a great extent among the inhabitants of the earth, for the religious teachers of the people advance many ideas and notions for truth which are in opposition to and contradict facts demonstrated by science, and which are generally understood. You take, for instance, our geologists, and they tell us that this earth has been in existence for thousands and millions of years. They think, and they have good reason for their faith, that their researches and investigations enable them to demonstrate that this earth has been in existence as long as they assert it has. . . . In these respects we differ from the Christian world, for our religion will not clash with or contradict the facts of science in any particular. You may take geology, for instance, and it is true science; not that I would say for a moment that all the conclusions and deductions of its professors are true, but its leading principles are; they are facts--they are eternal; and to assert that the Lord made the earth out of nothing is preposterous and impossible. . . . How long it's been organized is not for me to say, and I do not care anything about it. As to the Bible account of the creation we may say that the Lord gave it to Moses. If we understood the process of creation there would be no mystery about it, it would be all reasonable and plain, for there is no mystery except to the ignorant."

Pierce is correct to say that we are not bound by the scientific opinions of the early prophets, but to say that they were Young Earth Creationists is just not true. We have nothing from Joseph Smith (although contemporary writings indicate that he believed the age of the Earth was 2.55 Billion years) and we have an actual quote from Brigham Young saying the world is millions of years old. What more could you ask for from early Church leaders?

Chris said...

Jonathan! Welcome back.

Again, the church has no official doctrine on this subject. I have quoted well respected apostles who disagree with Brigham young. There have been prophets who alluded or flat supported young Earth beliefs such as Wilford Woodruff and Joseph Fielding Smith. For example:

Begin

I will state frankly and positively that I am opposed to the present biological theories and the doctrine that man has been on the earth for millions of years. I am opposed to the present teachings in relation to the age of the earth which declare that the earth is millions of years old. Some modern scientists even claim that it is a billion years old. Naturally, since I believe in modern revelation, I cannot accept these so-called scientific teachings, for I believe them to be in conflict with the simple and direct word of the Lord that has come to us by divine revelation.- Answers to Gospel Questions, 5:112 (This appears to date to 1959.)

I regret that modern education in this country and largely in other countries, is dominated today by men holding these views. Having said this, permit me to say that I am not going to engage in a controversy over these so-called scientific views. I think it must be admitted, after all is said, that they are only theories. It is my purpose merely to call your attention to some of the revelations from the Lord and ask you to carefully consider them, to give me your explanation and show me how you can harmonize them with your evolutionary theories. I will quote a few passages that have been accepted as doctrine by the body of the Church.

[Moses 3:7 quoted to show Adam as first man. D&C 77:6 quoted to show that the earth has a temporal or temporary fallen existence wherein time is measured for only 7000 years including the millennium. Abraham 5:13 is referred to, showing that the earth was on Kolob’s time until the fall, therefore 1 "day" with God is 1000 of our years and the creation took 7 "days," or 7000 years. 2 Ne 2:22-25 quoted, showing that things would have remained in their created state with no change, there was no death for any living thing until after the fall.]

Chris said...

Continue

According to this [2 Ne 2:22-25]–and it must have been approved by the Lord or it would not be in the Book of Mormon–there was no death of any living creature before the fall of Adam! Adam’s mission was to bring to pass the fall and it came upon the earth and living things throughout all nature. Anything contrary to this doctrine is diametrically opposed to the doctrines revealed to the Church! If there was any creature increasing by propagation before the fall, then throw away the Book of Mormon, deny your faith, the Book of Abraham and the revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants! Our scriptures most emphatically tell us that death came through the fall, and has passed upon all creatures including the earth itself. For this earth of ours was pronounced good when the Lord finished it. It became fallen and subject to death as did all things upon its face, through the transgression of Adam.
-published in 1909 entitled The Origin of Man [the first article in this collection] was signed by Presidents Joseph F. Smith, John R. Winder, and Anthon H. Lund. (The Improvement Era, November 1909:75-81.)
End

Oddly enough his whole argument echo’s pretty much exactly what I have been saying the whole time.

Chris said...

Jonathan:

With regard to Brigham Young, he gave this discourse on May 14, 1871. “On the Origin of Species” was published on 1859, the sixth edition of “On the Origin of Species” was published in 1872. BY wasn’t being prophetic, he was changing with science, like the church has done since it started.

What more could I ask? Plenty, but a nice starter would be examples of consistent revelation that clearly predated scientific research that was valid. While I bet you can find a hand full simply because when you write SO much you are bound to hit something every now and again (kinda like a big list). If these men were led by god and speaking in his behest, their “hits” wouldn’t be buried in a puddle of “misses”.

Oh… and while looking around for sources for this I ran into this gem from the Origin of Man.

“God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens!” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 345)

So what came before his god? ;) I really don’t need an answer. I’m pretty sure you are still fine maintaining your cosmology argument be it one god or a string of gods. I believe this line is a fairly heavily disputed line from the church… and really, I don’t want to go into another line of questioning on the same thread, so if you counter I’ll just say we both got a word in.

Chris said...

Pierce:

“I don't understand the criticism of a changing paradigm when every responsible institution does it--from science to health to other religious.”

I can give you my take, which seems pretty shared around the communities that complain about it. It is kinda two fold. It stems from the “god is the same yesterday, today and forever” concept. Which can be found in various forms throughout all the LDS’s standard works. In addition, you have the idea that men are talking to god and proclaiming god’s will for his people. If god can changed based off of what current societal trends demand than people don’t see a need for a god. Especially when faiths change slower than society.

It also frequently enrages atheists when the comparison is made with science. There is a huge difference. Science starts with the assumption of the unknown and test until it can be verified or disproven. Religion starts with the known and only changes once there is so much counter evidence that it can no longer hold to the belief. Another big difference is that science applauds being proven wrong. It furthers their understanding. You can see countless examples of this throughout the science community. Religion, on the other hand, has killed people, quietly silences them with buy-outs, or tucks away old dogma that no longer works. I.e. Science applauds change, while religion resists it. Not all people in all religions are like this, but based off our own politics in the US, a large majority of all faiths are like this.

So people dislike seeing you change your opinion simply because it is convenient to do so in order to fit with science. Thousands of men and probably trillions of dollars was spent by the scientific community to solidify the Theory of Evolution. It is a bit of a kick in the shorts to have religion make an about face on their teaching and suddenly say “isn’t it awesome that god has correct our old belief that we praised for thousands of years so we can now praise him for this new belief”. Hopefully that makes sense.

Pierce said...

Chris,

There is no doubt that church members as well as church authorities have differences of opinion in regards to this, as you and Jonathan demonstrated. It is just enough to show that you cannot continue with the assumptions that Mormons are young earth creationists and have been teaching it since the beginning.

"god is the same yesterday, today and forever”

I agree that this is used in the circles of critics--way too much. This one verse of scripture, used illustrate a certain point, has been thrown around so much and applied to every situation of change that it has become one of the silliest arguments and complaints out there. God is the same yesterday, today, and forever; does that mean that humans don't change? You think that this discussion has anything to do with God's nature? No my friend, this has everything to do with man's learning and comprehension.

"It also frequently enrages atheists when the comparison is made with science. There is a huge difference."

I don't mean it to be a direct comparison--it's not. I understand what science sets out to do and how it does it and I respect it for it. I am merely saying that it changes its paradigms in light of better evidence. Scientists don't change the nature of the things they are studying, though they may change what that thing means. Religious people can do a similar thing. They don't change the nature of God or even scripture, but in light of better evidence they change their paradigms and interpret the data in a way that is more consistent.

It's true that religion resists change. There is a lot more at stake with new information, and there are innumerable implications that need to be considered with change.

To be bugged by that is silly, in my opinion.

Anonymous said...

I remember when my 14-year old daughter engaged online with someone who challenged Mormonism, and gave her ten tough questions to answer. My daughter and I discussed them, and came up with responses to each. The challenger's responses was to write back, 'Yes, but here are ten more questions." I knew it was a fool's game to continue the discussion.

Mark Steele

Chris said...

“It is just enough to show that you cannot continue with the assumptions that Mormons are young earth creationists and have been teaching it since the beginning. “

I totally get that. I’m just explaining why other people think it. There are a ton of quotes by prophets. If you read the last long one I sent to Jonathan you see that the prophet states, “Anything contrary to this doctrine is diametrically opposed to the doctrines revealed to the Church! If there was any creature increasing by propagation before the fall, then throw away the Book of Mormon, deny your faith, the Book of Abraham and the revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants!” Doctrine, like Love they god before all else doctrine. When others see such emphatic statements by the church’s prophet, they have a hard time taking individual members beliefs anything nothing but opinions, and rightly so. Only prophets have the right to make claims to change in doctrine. When religions finally shift you are left with the question, “Why did god reveal it the other way before”? Since revealing something like young earth/old earth back in the late 1800’s to mid-1900’s would have brought little to no conflict with other churches/scientists and would have shown that the prophets do have some kind of an edge. So while I don’t personally feel that one MUST have a young earth view, the scriptures, quotes and other logical arguments make me feel you SHOULD have one if you were to follow your church’s doctrine. (Note: The whole issue that two different prophets said two different things is being ignored. Although if you read the whole quote from Yount by Jonathan (not leaving out text from the “…”), there is room to interpret that he was not so pro old-earth. The statement itself really focuses more on how he dislikes secular schools and he was setting up BYU to fix that problem. I noticed that this is the FairMormon quote and had to go to the source to read the full quote.

“does that mean that humans don't change?”

This really applies to the remark above (why was bad information given in the first place). It also appeals to my logic and fairness meters. If god treats all people and all generations so vastly different with circumstances and knowledge how exactly are people judged fairly when it is all said and done? Being taught in the afterlife is a method the church deals with this, but it seems like you would have a bit of an edge knowing you died. Just saying. That is totally my personal take on it though, I can understand there are many others.

“I am merely saying that it changes its paradigms in light of better evidence. Scientists don't change the nature of the things they are studying, though they may change what that thing means.”

Right. I totally agree. Normally there would be no reason to consider this unacceptable. Let me explain that a little. It is easy for us give humanity a pass on their belief in alchemy because they had not yet discovered chemistry. It is difficult to blame someone for a lack of knowledge. With religion however, god supposedly told us how it is. It would be like god giving the church alchemy, only to be denounced by science, then have the church release a new revelation saying how awesome chemistry is 50 years after chemistry was accepted by the science community. That seems pretty buggy. This type of thinking within religions happen all the time.

Chris said...

Mark Steele:

Without knowing what 10 tough questions were asked, or what 10 responses you gave, I really can’t say how satisfied the 14 year old was with your solutions. I too have a daughter around 14. The level of understanding of these intricate topics and their consequences just isn’t there yet. I have done my level best to stay on the topic of young/old Earth. I did so successfully pretty much up until Pierce and I felt we understood each other. Now we have been batting around some more personal type feelings about how and why people react to changes and doctrine (and most of this is still on topic).

I feel pretty confident that I could take your 10 questions and 10 answers and not say, “Well, there are these 10 other things”. Going 100 posts on a topic as narrow as “Was Joseph’s 7000 years comment literal and if so does it imply required young earth worship” is pretty amazing. However it also greatly depends on the person. It took Pierce and myself nearly all 100 posts to finally come to an understanding about who the other was and how they interpret the world. That understanding is far more important in a debate than the simple issue. When I realized that Pierce was more of a truth seeker and less of an orthodox Mormon nearly all of his posts made a ton of sense (especially since that was how I dealt with these issues). Honestly my hot head to prove a point probably hid that fact for 20+ posts… My apologies to Pierce for that. Bias is always there. Interesting thought. I would have disclosed that I was a former long-time Mormon right off the bat if so many Mormon’s didn’t immediately use that information to dismiss everything I say as “anti-Mormon” simply because I “can’t leave the church alone”. Shame on the leaders for implanting that in the membership. It creates so much conflict where none needs to exist. I get the feeling now that neither Pierce nor Jonathan would have held that against me.

I can always show that Mormonism is intended to be more orthodox than most members believe or practice. Comments like the one from the First Presidency when headed by Joseph Fielding Smith are prevalent through the church’s history (read comment above to Jonathan if you don’t know what I’m talking about). Mormonism was never intended to be an A la cart religion. Even in recent conferences the leaders have warned against ideas on doctrine that are not officially sanctioned by the church. These unofficial doctrines would include nearly all of FairMormon, most all personal blogs like this one, the letters on LDS.org (DNA, blacks, etc… since they are not officially signed by the First Presidency) and more than likely large parts of your response to the 14 year old girl. While Pierce and Jonathan have shown that other Prophets, leaders and prominent members have quotes that are in line with their thinking. It is my opinion that should only add to the confusion of the whole system, not relieve a person’s cognitive dissidence. I have that opinion because both claim to be speaking for god. The information that was originally released was wrong. If you are speaking for god, and giving invalid information, there should either be one hell of a reason for god to lie, or something is really wrong. Yet the brain abhors contradiction, so it all too frequently fills the cup of sweet cognitive bias with information from any source in order to keep life in balance. (Listen to me wax poetic)

There is little to nothing I could ever say that would change Pierce or Jonathan’s mind. That type of change must come from within. However I do enjoy testing my own understanding, learning new things (creation didn’t go in the 7000 years) and learning points of view from other people. In the end I feel I can better respect those like Jonathan and Peirce, even though their views differ greatly from my own.

On a side note, I would be more than happy to take on your 10 questions… but again, that probably isn’t surprising. ;)

Chris said...

Mark Steele:

One correction, I noticed that you didn’t state the age of the person asking questions. I made the assumption that they were the same age given that your daughter was the recipient of the questions. If they were not 14, than perhaps they argued as if they were. Many who are new to leaving the church do not have the background or patience to research their own side of the story and their opponents. It is a transition period for most. They haven’t quite figured out why things don’t click in their own head yet. They haven’t found enough facts to break the cognitive bias (speaking of course as one who believes the church to be false and has ample proof to defend that belief). It can be just as frustrating as trying to debate with a true believing Mormon (TBM) who has a shallow understanding of the LDS faith and its history.

Cuz hey… one big list deserves another. Yet another reason I feel this article is pointless, but the discussion has been entertaining.

Pierce said...

"There are a ton of quotes by prophets."

I certainly do agree there. And had I lived during their times then I probably would have believed those kinds of statements. I mean, I did for a while. There is an excellent case to be made that the general attitude of the church, most especially in the past, was that the earth is young. I think what we can ultimately agree on is that Mormons CAN believe in young earth creationism based on statements made by past leadership (do they still believe it now, I'm not sure. I haven't heard it from the pulpit in recent memory). So CAN instead of SHOULD. Similarly, LDS CAN believe in an old earth view and still be in harmony with scripture. SHOULD and MUST orthodoxies are very rarely a requirement to be a faithful mormon when it comes to doctrinal belief.

"I can always show that Mormonism is intended to be more orthodox than most members believe or practice"

You will always be able to show that many, many saints TREATED heavy handed orthodoxy as a requirement, but I'm not sure about intended. Any Mormon will tell you that is especially true of JFS's term, and many people are products of that period--my parents included. To illustrate, we weren't allowed to play with face cards growing up. Investigating and shedding assumptions that have been built up over time leads to rich possibilities in understanding, knowledge, and practice. Consider Joseph Smith's words:

"The Methodists have creeds which a man must believe or be kicked out of their church. I want the liberty to believe as I please, it feels so good not to be tramelled. It does not prove that a man is not a good man because he errs in doctrine."

“Why did god reveal it the other way before”

Well that's the question, isn't it. It seems just ambiguous enough that it's hard to really rely on. I don't know why. But I have a theory. My theory coincides with the plan of salvation, and how the point of us being here is to become godly beings. I think that he leaves room for discovery and for natural, organic growth of humans. We don't exist here to be handed all of the answers, but to seek them. Now true there seems to be flaws in this idea, but I think this short life we live was made for personal growth rather than a place where everything is handed to us. I think he gave us just enough to challenge our own understanding, find answers, but still remind us that He is the ultimate designer.

"If god treats all people and all generations so vastly different with circumstances and knowledge how exactly are people judged fairly when it is all said and done?"

This is a really neat question, and I could have a great long conversation about it. I think it boils down to 3 things:
1. The parable of the laborers in the vineyard
2. We know next to nothing about the afterlife and how things will be conducted there
3. God seems to judge people about who they are and what they want to be (D&C 76,137:7) Not on what their world views were.


BTW, I'm also glad to have came to an understanding. It's a rarity in an online discussion.

Jonathan A. Cavender said...

Chris:

Thanks for your posts. I think I posted earlier that I am one of the most orthodox and orthoprax Mormons that you will ever meet (in theory, I still struggle to live the things that I believe in practice). Where I draw the distinction, and why the issues that you raise don't give me heartburn, is that I am a firm believer that the Lord is far more interested in what we do and become then what we know.

My opinion on Young Earth Creationism isn't going to help me to be more Christlike to the person that cuts me off in traffic. I was once YEC, now I am not, but the variable made me neither more nor less Christlike in my actions. Same with just about everything else that is difficult with the doctrine. The Church is the Priesthood Ordinances and the direction from the Priesthood leaders. We don't give up our own reason or understanding, the thinking doesn't stop when the Prophet speaks, but we do and then we learn.

As for the ten questions, I would love to give you ten questions to answer if you are willing, and you could give me your ten questions in response (to which I would be willing to answer). Let me know.

Amidore said...

I have to agree that anti-Mormons are experts at Gish Galloping. They'll present dozens of so called "evidences" of the falsity of the Church and hope that no one listening has the time, expertise, and wherewithal to refute them.

The evolutionists do the same thing. They present hundreds of "evidences" of evolution that sound scientific and complex with hope to dazzle people into submission.

In fact, probably the two best examples of the gish gallop are anti-Mormons and evolutionists.

Anonymous said...

Criticisms and answers to criticisms abound. The real question is which ones reflect reality.
If you don't accept the Holy Ghost as a legit answer to these questions, then most if not all of your faith-based 'evidence' is out. I don't trust ghosts first and foremost because I can't be sure that my ghost experience doesn't somehow have a naturalistic explanation. I don't think we humans know how our brains work well enough to explain away other possibilities.

Beyond that, we must be willing to experiment from both a faithful perspective and from outside the faith-based context to really see the big picture. Have you ever left your faith? If you have not, you have not been truly honest with yourself.

I spent thirty years within the LDS context. I was born in the covenant. There came I time where I had to see things without a faith-tinted perspective. So I did. I went back and forth for a time and came to the conclusion that a naturalistic world view is best. I'm still open to a god's voice but after much experimentation I'm not sure how I could know if a god was speaking. Essentially, as I see it, I'd have to pretend to myself that a god is speaking to me. Frankly it seems a bit childish now, but I do understand the motivation. Some of it is awe. Some is fear (primarily of death). Some is social acceptance.

If you're truly honest, you must allow yourself to see both sides of an argument before making a choice. If you won't take a critic's argument seriously because your church authorities warn you against it, you are living by fear. In contrast, if you won't truly experiment with religious ways of 'knowing' you won't be able to see the contrast clearly.

Whether the list of arguments is big or small, we must realize that all religions have different lists, and all of them have their religious experiences to back up their faith. The labels for these experiences are the only significant ways in which they differ, in my time-tested personal opinion. Religious experience (i.e. Holy Ghost-type witnesses) are commonplace. It's easy to 'know' things because you have some flavor a potent, dare I say 'undeniable' subjective experience. Well, until you will let yourself deny it, you won't be open enough to perceive a new reality.

Chris said...

Amidore:

“I have to agree that anti-Mormons are experts at Gish Galloping.”

Hah! Have you ever read through FairMormon? They frequently take a single topic and will toss lots of speculative answers to try and “resolve it”. When debating with normal members on doctrine topics it is amazing the number of justifications will be used to show its validity. One other thing to keep in mind. Typically (not always) atheists and evolutionists use facts. “No god” and evolution are theories from the scientific standpoint. That doesn’t mean they are good ideas, it means it is the prevailing explanation to which all of the cold hard facts point too.

“The evolutionists do the same thing. They present hundreds of "evidences" of evolution that sound scientific and complex with hope to dazzle people into submission. “

You should take the time to study their “evidences”. Again, science doesn’t build a theory off of speculation like religion. They build it off of experiments that can be reproduced reliably. Then they submit their findings to the community for review to insure their findings are accurate. If in any point during this process red flags arise, they must repeat the process until it passes review before it is considered a fact. Religion does none of this. It has one man sit at the top and dictate the “truth”. Then everyone else listens and decides for themselves if that “truth” fits their own paradigm. Not very reliable or consistent.

Amidore said...

Chris, like many anti-Mormons, you seem to have a naive Baconian understanding of how science operates. Most of evolutionary science does not proceed by repeatable experiment. How could it?

I have investigated the so-called evidences of evolution and had found them wanting. But since they control liberal academia and will tyrannically suppress opposing views, kids aren't legally allowed to hear both sides in public schools. That's how they like it and necessary for them to operate their gish gallop. They bank on most people not having the time, patience, or interest to unravel their false arguments on their own.

Watch any debate between a design theorist and an evolutionist and you will plainly see the evolutionist gish galloping.

Amidore said...

Chris,

"No God" isn't a scientific theory. It's dogmatism masquerading as science. There is nothing in the natural world that is explained by the non-existence of God. I agree that atheism and evolutionism have a lot in common in their methodologies, but presupposing what you want to believe then seeking out facts you find consistent with it is not science.

Finally, a website like FairMormon is necessary to try and deal with the anti-Mormon's gish galloping attacks on the Church. It's thorough and detailed, something you oddly take to be a point against it, because it takes a lot of time to explain what is wrong a talking-points list of long-refuted arguments.

Chris said...

Pierce:

The whole “can” and “should” thing relates to the rest of your comment. We live in such a unique society. We have answers to questions that our ancestors would never even have dreamed of. I think this large amount of knowledge is pushing away the orthodox aspect of religion. It really seems that science and society has progressed to a point where the idea of a single spiritual leader having the capability of dictating all of life’s moral and scientific decisions is beyond believable. Most religions seem to be moving in this direction.

What seems to be getting lost in this transition is the purpose of religion in general. This is probably what happened to Norse beliefs. I’m sure many would watch the news and disagree, but that is a very biased opinion. In general we have less crime of pretty much all types per capita now than we have had since like the 60’s… It might be even before that, I don’t recall the exact date from the research I read. Our instant information age however makes every “bad” thing stick out. Personally I think the world is on the right track, but still has a long ways to go.

That quote from Joseph is kinda funny in context to how he ran the church. He kicked people out all the time for not agreeing with him. He was also fond of condemning people or himself to death if they didn’t do what he wanted. I get the purpose of the quote though. It can be easily applied to any school of thought. Your personal belief has no bearing on my life. It is when people take their personal beliefs and force others to do things without justification other than “god tells us”, or “because you should listen to me” that I get upset. I need rationality to understand why a law needs to be enacted.

The judgment thing has always played in the back of my head. Your third bullet continues to support your overall comment. If we are good people, why would god condemn any of us, regardless of which religion is true? I always disliked the whole, “if you leave the church after knowing it to be true you are going to outer darkness for eternity”. Sin against the witness of the spirit. That always came off as fear mongering to me. If god is out there, he has to be better than that. Few people realize that over nine million children under the age of 5 die every year. That is 17 a minute. It is mind boggling to think of the number of children who have died just in the time we have carried on this conversation. These children didn’t choose their circumstances and come from all walks of life (though not equally). For me, in order for god to be god, he has to have a better plan than what the LDS faith teaches (especially the orthodox teachings) otherwise heaven will just be full of kids who never had a chance to be tested.

Pierce said...

"Most religions seem to be moving in this direction."

I think they will continue to be completely relevant, but their responsibilities may shift, like moving from "this is how the cosmos operate" to simply, "God exists and this is how we can access him." We tend to separate "religion" and "science," but many, many religious people don't view them as divorced.

" He kicked people out all the time for not agreeing with him."

I'm not sure that he kicked people out all the time for not agreeing with him. Usually people were excommunicated for apostasy, and after a court was held that included Joseph's peers in the decision making. I don't recall people being kicked out for little doctrinal differences. But he did have a hot head at times. That quote is in relation to an incident where an elder was teaching a personal belief about a doctrine, and others were wanting action to be taken against him. That was Joseph's response. I think it's pretty applicable to the kinds of stuff we're talking about.

“if you leave the church after knowing it to be true you are going to outer darkness for eternity”. Sin against the witness of the spirit."

This is pure conjecture on the part of the members. Witness against the Spirit can occur at many levels. But my understanding is that it is open rebellion against a sure knowledge of God. That is way too subjective to throw around accusations about Joe Schmoe who leaves the church for good or bad reasons, who may have felt the good vibes of the Spirit in church.

"For me, in order for god to be god, he has to have a better plan than what the LDS faith teaches (especially the orthodox teachings)

There are definitely things that it seems that I would do differently. But I don't really know all of God's plan. And what I do know, I don't think I've explored every nuance of it.

"otherwise heaven will just be full of kids who never had a chance to be tested."

This to me is one of the mysteries. My best theory about it right now: Many people had progressed so naturally in their pre-earth life, and were so righteous that they could afford to be among those that died early. We know that Christ was God before he came here, so the agency he exercised before this life and the being he became basically made the need to be tested obsolete. He didn't sin when he was here, perhaps in part because of who he was before he came here. My theory is that he wasn't alone in that progression, and that many were at the level. Just a theory I have as I've pondered it. Many will disagree.

Chris said...

Amidore

You need to clarify your stance. Are you arguing that Evolution doesn’t happen? Are you advocating a young earth model of creationism? Your answer to such questions would greatly change how I address your comments.

“How could it?”

Repeated testing of every from of dating to insure we are getting the best possible results. Continued search for evidence and fossil records to help build a chain of evidence from modern man to the first protein chains. Lab tests to try and duplicate results of the evolutionary process. Detailed records on species both in and out of captivity to show effects of natural selection. Exploring other planets to establish baselines, Deep space study to help verify and strengthen our current theories. The list goes on and on.

“They bank on most people not having the time, patience, or interest to unravel their false arguments on their own.”

This is where your personal belief would direct my response. However, from my perspective, I would rather have theories taught in my school that have mountains of independently tested evidences than those which rest on little more than feelings. Fortunately they have private and charter schools for those of the population who don’t wish to join the majority or have their side taught alongside evolution. Since the government is paying for the public schools, they can’t endorse one religion over another. Since evolution is strictly non-religious and based off of observable data, it is what should be taught. I’m guessing you don’t agree though.

Chris said...

Pierce:

“This is pure conjecture on the part of the members”

The scripture references don’t really help either. Depending on which version you go buy you pretty much have to publicly deny Christ and maybe even kill someone. It isn’t clear. Similar teachings about most parts of the church exist though to one degree or another. Do this or else. I sometimes wonder if that is just because we as a species can’t give a rule without a punishment.

“Many people had progressed so naturally in their pre-earth life, and were so righteous that they could afford to be among those that died early.”

This was one of my early takes too. For me there are too many other scriptures that refute this. You have stories from Job to the many references of the elect being deceived… It kinda dissolves. Now is the time to prepare to meet god. If you were so good that you never needed to be tested… that would almost imply that all these children were better than Christ. Even Christ was tempted, while these kids only had to make a short visit to get a body. It does make for a much more happy doctrine compared to the old Catholic belief of they just go to hell or purgatory or limbo.

The whole body thing doesn’t make much since either when you think about it. God can make bodies for us all in the resurrection since most of us will return to star stuff before that happens. Interesting note on that, there are a few chemicals that are not in enough abundance to have every human that has ever lived be made from the dust of the earth. He’ll have to pull some raw materials from somewhere else. Yet if we have to come to earth to have a body, have to get baptized, have to be sealed… Then I feel like we are falling back into the more “must do” type orthodox religion. How can one put a higher emphasis or importance on one word from god than another? It just makes my head hurt trying to resolve all the little illogical inconsistencies sometimes. Honestly I’m surprised I lasted as long as I did.

Chris said...

Amidore:

“"No God" isn't a scientific theory”

I would disagree with this statement. In science, everything is a theory. The reason why such large sections of the world stopped believing in god wasn’t due to satan running around, it was due to large amounts of data that show how much of the traditional beliefs held by Christians simply wasn’t true. Many thousands of religions have been pushed out of practice for the same reasons. When you take chemistry, germ theory, evolution and astronomy and realize how much of “god” has been lost with those discoveries over time, it starts to generate a theory that god may not exist. Not everything can be tested like a chemical reaction. Some things must be tested through multiple findings or events. Since we no longer believe illness, droughts, eclipses, or birth defects to be signs or curses from god, it builds evidence that there may not be a god directing this world as we once thought. As with any theory, science (and I) am open to new findings. Honestly being able to live forever with my family in eternal bliss sounds a lot better than just ceasing to exist, but from my review of the available data, the latter seems more likely.

“Finally, a website like FairMormon is necessary to try and deal with the anti-Mormon's gish galloping attacks on the Church.”

Wait… Mormon’s claim to be directed by a living prophet. So why again is there a need for FairMormon? God may not have to answer every single little question, but there are several glaring difficult issues happening in the church right now that god should care about answering. Especially since “He” had a part in those issues.

“It's thorough and detailed, something you oddly take to be a point against it, because it takes a lot of time to explain what is wrong a talking-points list of long-refuted arguments.”

Oh I wasn’t taking a point against it. I was pointing out how they use the exact same tactics that you were complaining about “anit-mormons” use. Do we really have to label them anti? So they researched the data and fount it lacking and made a personal choice to look for truth elsewhere. That warrants labeling them with a negative term? I guess I’m also anti-olives, anti-fat, anti-eggplant, and anti-truck. If it wasn’t so sad to label an entire class of people for their personal beliefs it would be funny.

Chris said...

Anonymous from 11:43 AM, May 23, 2014

Well said. We have similar experiences.

Chris said...

Jonathan:

“We don't give up our own reason or understanding, the thinking doesn't stop when the Prophet speaks, but we do and then we learn.”

I guess that depends on which quote you want to read and how you wish to interpret it. My favorite is from James Talmage:

“God has not established His Church to make of its members irresponsible automatons, nor to exact from them blind obedience. Albeit, blessed is the man who, while unable to fathom or comprehend in full the Divine purpose underlying commandment and law, has such faith as to obey. So did Adam in offering sacrifice, yet, when questioned as to the significance of his service, he answered with faith and assurance worthy the patriarch of the race: "I know not, save the Lord commanded me."”

Or, god didn’t make us robots, but how blessed you’ll be if you are one (sarcasm added). I love how frequently the church double speaks. It is nearly impossible to see while in the church, but once out it is extremely glaring. I shouldn’t be too sarcastic though. I am grateful that fewer and fewer people tend to be automatons and are instead much more open to free thought.

As for the 10 questions, while it is appealing, the amount of time I have been spending here is really starting to add up. I have a full time job, a side project and next week I’ll probably be doing some contract work. I need to wrap this up before then. I totally wordsmith my comments. That perfectionist side in me. I’m still amazed at how many mistakes I make after reading these things like 10 times. Perhaps some other time.

Pierce said...

"The scripture references don’t really help either"

Well it is a fact that this does occur, and in all fairness there does need to be a warning to those that do openly rebel against God. I'm not saying it's not applicable, but I am saying that it's wrong for members to say it when a regular son, daughter, ward member, etc. leaves for certain reasons. They should be taking the "lost sheep" approach rather than quoting this scripture, that to me very, very rarely applies.

" Even Christ was tempted"

He was tempted, but He remained sinless. I don't believe that He needed to come here to be tested or personally refined. I believe that he had a mission, and that part of his sacrifice was that he didn't NEED to suffer for sin. Given our knowledge of the pre-earth life, I find it very likely that many others were of a similar stature, even if He was the greatest.

"Yet if we have to come to earth to have a body, have to get baptized, have to be sealed…"

Can't say I completely understand it, but I do believe in covenants and conversion. God uses symbolic rites as it relates to our transformation into godhood, and nobody is exempt from it. There are simply things that we must do while we're here, and accepting God's plan in full is part of that progression. That nobody is exempt from it makes sense. I'm just glad that He has included a way for everyone, and not a select few. But like I said, there are so many nuances to it, and I feel it's part of the "mysteries." While it makes me reel thinking about it as well, I also find immense satisfaction from the things I discover from it.

"I was pointing out how they use the exact same tactics that you were complaining about “anit-mormons” use"

Do they though? Refuting claims and criticisms by providing explanations and context isn't the same thing as making a Big List of criticisms against someone else. They don't make it a habit to analyze the doctrines of Lighthouse Ministries and bullet point a hundred of the "problems" with their beliefs. I think there is a difference.

" but there are several glaring difficult issues happening in the church right now that god should care about answering"

There will always be criticisms, and answering them will never satisfy our critics and enemies. Even though Jesus had immense knowledge while in the flesh, he was still often silent when criticized or questioned.

Can't say I wouldn't like a whole heck of a lot more real revelation about things, though.

Chris said...

Pierce:

“They don't make it a habit to analyze the doctrines of Lighthouse Ministries and bullet point a hundred of the "problems" with their beliefs. I think there is a difference.”

Perhaps they don’t analyze their beliefs, but it hasn’t stopped them from building up lists critical of their people in order to defame. They are more subtle about this. It is hard to find a single page with a list of defamations, but you could build such a list by visiting many of their pages. They try and do their best with what they are given. I don’t envy their jobs. They also rarely have a single defense. It is usually building up a large list of quotes and references that help explain the problem. They frequently take quotes out of context, or stretch to find meaning when there isn’t any there. They will also list multiple alternatives with no apparent heed to how crazy or off the wall some may be. It is a big list, they too are letting the spaghetti fly. They serve a different purpose, that I understand, but their methodologies are eerily similar.

I also notice that censorship is dramatically different between the two camps. Many Mormon blogs and sites do not allow comments, many do not take criticism well, and many will censor or manipulate posts (this is a serious problem of LDS.org contribution areas). I can’t think of an exmormon site that does any of these things. My gist from being in the “ex” camp is that many of them really never wanted to leave and would prefer to still have the comfort and security the LDS faith gave them, but they can’t overcome the evidence against it. It is an interesting position to be in.

I found most of the CES letter refreshing compared to past compilations. Jeremy really did want to just have answers. I believe they recently did a post cast interview with him. I’m curious to listen to it. I have chatted with him before. He loved his faith, but couldn’t take the lack of answers anymore. I think many people can ignore the issue for a while, but eventually it eats them up. I left over three years ago… Really I’m pretty much the exact same person I was. Although I do enjoy a cup of coffee from time to time. It is funny to slowly read the CES letter though. You can totally see how talking about it gets him worked up. He starts off far more analytical and by the end you can see the emotion cracking though. It made me laugh cuz I’m totally the same way.

Jonathan A. Cavender said...

Chris:

"Jeremy really did want to just have answers"

I have gone back, after being challenged on that earlier this thread, and reviewed his history. He was posting mocking and derogatory posts about the Church over a year before he first got the opportunity to write his letter. Maybe he wanted answers at one time, but by the time he was writing he was no longer at that point. It was not that Jeremy really did just want answers -- he is couching things in that light but he was against the Church long before he started to pull together his letter.

Amidore said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Amidore said...

Chris,

The idea that science must proceed by repeatable experiment is held by no philosophers of science. It has less respect in its field as young earth creationism does in its. Several of the examples you listed in an effort to support evolutionary theory did not involve anything that could reasonably be described as an experiment.

Equating rejecting evolution with young earth creationism is a rhetorical tactic mean to distract from more responsible criticism.

The proposition that God does not exist is not a scientific one. It is a metaphysical one. It necessarily cannot be tested soley by empirical means. Plumbing might not require the existence of a God to explain it, but the existence of plumbing does not prove there is no God. How scientistic and naive do you have to be to believe that?

Chris said...

Jonathan:

I can’t speak for Jeremy, but my disaffection from the church took several years. Probably closer to five or six. The fact that he was attacking the church a year before the letter isn’t surprising. I would guess that his letter took longer than a year to collaborate. I also hate to judge an individual based off so little information. I can’t prove you wrong, but what proof you have given is not enough to dissuade me from believing he loved his faith and wanted to find answers to these questions.

“but by the time he was writing he was no longer at that point”

I partially agree with this statement. By the time he started the letter, he probably had collected so much information that his “shelf” had broken. When my shelf started to break I felt like I had an unquenchable thirst for knowledge and answers. At first I sought them through scripture and prayer, then I sought them through official resources like lds.org and apostle talks, than I moved to unofficial sources like FairMormon. FairMormon actually introduced me to MormonThink. By the time I had a similar knowledge to what the CES letter contains (which took me a good sold year or more) my shelf crumbled. That is the point where I could have written my own letter. I actually started to until I ran across Jeremy’s collection. It was sufficient and thorough so I felt I didn’t need to write my own.

Yet even at the point I’m at, I would still jump back in if I could find sufficient evidence and logic to believe that it was true, or that it would make me a better person. For me, it just isn’t there. I have looked over and over. The number of times I have prayed on my knees for understanding, for direction, for anything. Cruel people say that I was past feeling, or that I was committing sin that prevented me from hearing god. I would almost cry inside when people would say such hurtful things. Saul was given light, the sons of Mosiah were given light, these and so many others were actively fighting against the church and they were given light. Hell even Lamen and Lemual got to see an angel. Even with these examples people around me would claim I was doing something so terrible that I couldn’t have the spirit speak to me in my greatest time of need.

I can’t adequately describe how much I wanted the lord to direct me, yet nothing came. No calm, no peace, no still small voice, no blinding light nothing. For some there comes a time in life where they feel like there is nothing else in life to live for. They turn to god in the hopes He can comfort them. For some, he doesn’t come. If he is there, if he chose to be busy, then he will have to explain to me why he left me alone. He wasn’t there to carry me. I was in this delicate spiritual state for probably 2 or more months straight and on and off several times before that. It isn’t like I just did it once and said “nope, no one there”. I knocked, no one answered and I knocked for a long time.

You can judge me or people like Jeremy all you like as to why our experiences different from yours or from some other well-dressed general authority giving a spiritual talk during conference. It will never change the fact that for me, there was no god there to answer my pleas during my most vulnerable moments. I turned to the only thing I had left. My own ability to find knowledge. This is where it has led me and I couldn’t be happier with where I am.

Chris said...

Jonathan

I have never felt like I have had more purpose. My wife eventually followed me after much trial and months of being near divorce. We were going to split up and leave our children in a broken home because of religion. Yet now that she has looked through the evidence and drawn the same conclusions, we have never been so happy. Our family has never been so happy. We have never been so aware of our fellow man, or how important it is to respect all life. We both consider ourselves better people now than we were before. The exact opposite outcome of what most people think of exmormons.

Yet I went through a time where I was extremely bitter. It still flairs up at times. Not because I fell like Satan is tearing me up inside, but because I feel like the LDS faith took something from me. They took my money, my choices, and my identity. They used fear and manipulation to insure that I wouldn’t leave the ranks. They held my family over my head saying I would lose them forever if I left. Looking back into the house I once lived in I don’t see peace and happiness, I see bigotry and fear mongering laced with honorable principles to keep it from imploding. I just don’t see faith and god like you do. I see faith causing conflicts from the newly married couple to great nations at war. I see a world that would be much better off without god, but again, that is my opinion. I’m not looking to argue it, this topic just made me want to share it.

Anyways I babble. Needless to say, don’t judge people like Jeremy hastily. You really know very little about him or what he went through.

Chris said...

Amidore:

I’m really having a hard time knowing if you are just a troll trying to make mormon’s look bad or someone who is really just poisonous.

I’ll try and explain myself one more time, but I really don’t have the patience or desire to deal with people who speak so condescendingly for no apparent reason. Your anger and venom serve no purpose and probably turn those away who would otherwise believe in god. It definitely reaffirms the beliefs of those who say there is no god.

“The idea that science must proceed by repeatable experiment is held by no philosophers of science.”

The Oxford English Dictionary defines the scientific method as:

"a method or procedure that has characterized natural science since the 17th century, consisting in systematic observation, measurement, and experiment, and the formulation, testing, and modification of hypotheses.”

Honestly if you just go read the wiki page on the “Scientific Method” it does a great job of explaining how science uses observation and experiment to prove, disprove or otherwise modify a theory. So I’m not really sure what you trying to stay. “Science” is the whole process, from an educated guess to proof through observation, measurement, and experiment.

“It has less respect in its field as young earth creationism does in its.”

Um… I know I don’t believe that, and I’ll just let history and the other readers of this blog judge that one.

“Several of the examples you listed in an effort to support evolutionary theory did not involve anything that could reasonably be described as an experiment. “

The scientific method involves more than a physical experiment. Again I’ll let those reading and the scientific community judge that one.

“Equating rejecting evolution with young earth creationism is a rhetorical tactic mean to distract from more responsible criticism. “

Actually I was just really trying to understand what stance you hold, since if I have no clue what you believe to be “true” I can’t really debate you. Yet you seem to be far more interested in just criticizing me. Which is fine. Internet criticism really is painless.

“The proposition that God does not exist is not a scientific one. It is a metaphysical one. It necessarily cannot be tested soley by empirical means.”

Now this is just silly. You can’t prove something doesn’t exist. Read the wiki page on Russell’s teapot (sometimes called celestial teapot or cosmic teapot). This is why I continue to say that the burden of proof is on the shoulders of those who claim there is a god. If there is something, you can test for it. If there is not something, you can only build up observations to make the chance of that thing less likely. Will science ever be able to definitively prove there is no god? Probably not, but as we continue to learn more we leave less room for him to exist. If you believe my logic to be in error than give me proof or studies that show your stance (whatever it may be) is a valid theory. Otherwise I’ll just apply Hitchen’s Razor to everything you say, “What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence”.

Pierce said...

Amidore:
“Several of the examples you listed in an effort to support evolutionary theory did not involve anything that could reasonably be described as an experiment.“

I am not a scientist. But I am friends with a bio-chemist who is LDS and these kinds of statements bug him to no end (his words). Something that he has taught me that has stuck with me is that often times, a scientific theory is an established or accepted interpretation of data. Which is something that I feel is akin to understanding scripture and doctrine (side note). Basically, you have many different studies, examinations, experiments, findings, fossils, data, facts, and evidence, and you use compose a theory to explain and harmonize all of these interrelated things. Like you do with gravity. The theory of gravity is a “theory.” It explains all of the things that I have related and explains why I recently dropped a heavy book on my foot. If you are going to choose the position that evolution does not exist, or that things do not evolve, then you have to find a way to re-interpret all of the different studies, examinations, experiments, findings, fossils, data, facts, and evidences, that are explained by evolutionary theory. The scriptures don't do that. Religion doesn't attempt to do that. It was never its true job. My faith in the scientific community leads me to believe that evolution exists. It doesn’t mean that I have arrived at some of the same conclusions that some people do (therefore God did not create us). And I know there are loads of nuances that I haven't even considered. But I'll continue to seek to understand.

Chris:
"Now this is just silly. You can’t prove something doesn’t exist"

Which puts it out of the realm of science, technically and makes it metaphysical. But because it cannot be empirically tested, doesn't mean that it should be completely ignored. I think Jonathan made a good case for why the issue of God should be taken seriously earlier, with the sheer number of people who believe to have interacted with the ethereal. Anyway, in my view, science has a purpose, and religion has a purpose. It’s when we try to superimpose one over the other that problems arise, and that goes both ways.

Chris said...

Pierce:

“Which puts it out of the realm of science, technically and makes it metaphysical. But because it cannot be empirically tested, doesn't mean that it should be completely ignored.”

I don’t personally completely ignore it, but the more I learn the more I tend to lean Atheist. Atheist… I hate that word too. All these labels. I think Jonathan’s arguments hold a lot of logical merit, but they don’t really have evidence to back them up. I found them more of a logical thought problem than theoretical proof. I believe the teapot is intended to have the same effect. Jonathan’s arguments made me feel like since I can’t empirically prove there is no god, then there must be one. I don’t agree with that line of thinking. It pushes the burden of proof onto the non-believer which again means trying to prove something doesn’t exist. Which cannot be done with something as large as the scope of god (for now). I’m always tempted to just use Hitchen’s Razor on these arguments since they lack the type of good faith effort that science uses to observe, measure and experiment in order to validate a theory. I’m not aware of such arguments being presented for peer review and accepted by a body of science as proof there is a god. It is however proof that we don’t know something. Which is probably related to the god of the gaps argument, but again, it is just an argument. How small do the gaps have to be before there can’t be a god? They get smaller every year.

Science doesn’t ask to believe or disbelieve in a god. I guess that makes it metaphysical since science’s purpose is not to prove or disprove god (as you said), but to simply progress our understanding of all things. They have done studies to try and show god exists, but none of them have yet to give credence to the theory. Which makes you wonder why He goes through so much trouble to not be proven. Yes, yes, probably that whole faith thing, but as we continue to unravel the mysteries of our world and universe, I believe we will continue to edge him out to the point where faith will not be enough to overcome fact. I use history as an example of this happening over and over with so many other gods. Honestly we may be there already if any one of us could fully understand everything science has revealed. Again, strange plan from someone who is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent.

Jonathan A. Cavender said...

Chris:

I was not presuming to judge Jeremy, but rather to show that he was not honestly seeking at the time he wrote that letter. What's more, I think he would agree (his letter explicitly states his bias, and the title includes how he lost his testimony).

"I think Jonathan’s arguments hold a lot of logical merit, but they don’t really have evidence to back them up. I found them more of a logical thought problem than theoretical proof."

The things about it is, there are logical proofs (and logical proofs are the bases of theoretical proofs -- if you do not accept a logical proof then the basis for your theoretical proofs becomes unsound as well) that materialism as we know it is false. It is very difficult to come to a LDS Testimony through logical proof, but on the bigger issues the proofs are out there. For example, off the top of my head (meaning memory -- I don't presume to have been smart enough to have made these up myself):

1) Material science requires the second law of thermodynamics apply at all places at all times (entropy, all thermodynica systems returning to the thermodynamic equilibrium);

2) Reductive materialism (the theory that everything can be reduced to the stuff it is made of -- matter, energy, information, etc. -- and is sometimes called scientism, atheism, or secularism) requires a natural cause for every effect, whether that cause is known or unknown (and quantum mechanics is no exception, as the field becomes the cause);

3) Any place influenced through natural means by any other place shares a natural system (meaning that whether you think this universe is all there is, or there are many or infinite worlds, they are part of the same system if they can influence each other through natural means);

4) If every effect requires a natural cause, there must an infinite regression of natural causes, meaning an infinite age of the natural system;

5) Over an infinite period of time, the second law of thermodynamics requires that the entire natural system must return to thermodynamic equilibrium, which does not currently exist;

6) Therefore, because we are not at a thermodynamic equilibrium and because the second law of thermodynamics applies over an infinite causal regression requires that we must be at this point at a thermodynamic equilibrium, reductive materialism (the belief that we are nothing more than stuff and naturalistic cause and effect explains the entire natural system) is false by its own terms.

This argument represents a sound syllogism for with reductive materialism cannot dispute either the premises, or the conclusion that follows. I have seen this used (far better than I have here) by a Deist in an argument with an atheist, and watched the atheist state that science does not compel the second law of thermodynamics be universally applied (he is wrong, but that was his defense). The Deist, without missing a beat, responded: "Oh, the system where the second law of thermodynamics no longer applies? You mean Heaven, right? Isn't that what you are describing?" There was much chuckling in the audience.

We are in a difficult position here in mortality. On the one hand, everything around us seems to be explainable through natural means (at least the vast majority of the time -- I have considered my life to have been one full of direct miracles of the Lord and yet I am talking about only three momentary events in 40 years that are truly unexplainable by naturalism). On the other hand, logic dictates that what we see cannot be the true nature of things.

Jonathan A. Cavender said...

So we each have to come to an understanding of how the world actually works. The problem with reductive materialism as a philosophy is that it is cogently disprovable. There are, I believe I mentioned, the five standard proofs of God (agree with them or disagree with them). There are about a dozen more proofs that reductive materialism is wrong (an easier matter logically, as you can imagine). There is something at work in the universe that defies a naturalistic cause and effect pattern. The irony is that the more that we learn, the more we learn that reductive materialism cannot answer the big questions.

" I believe the teapot is intended to have the same effect."

Here are the problems with the teapot argument. (1) there are no observable causes of the teapot; (2) the existence of the teapot has no consequences according to its own definition; and (3) the vast majority of humanity over time has not testified of personal experience with the teapot.

The teapot is an attempt to shift the burden of proof. I am a lawyer, and I well know that he who has to prove something often loses. The teapot argument is a way of saying that the Deist argument is logically unsound, but it avoids the big questions that can plausibly be answered by God and not the teapot and the testimony (evidence) of everyone who has had interactions with Deity. The teapot argument seeks to discount all Deist evidence, and then requires Deists to provide still more evidence without providing evidence of their own.

"Jonathan’s arguments made me feel like since I can’t empirically prove there is no god, then there must be one."

That wasn't exactly what I was trying to do. What I was trying to do was to show that the worldview of reductive materialism was unsound and illogical. Science cannot be everything -- not talking about God in the gaps, but rather our understanding of cause and effect is fundamentally incongruent with the universe in significant ways.

" I’m always tempted to just use Hitchen’s Razor on these arguments since they lack the type of good faith effort that science uses to observe, measure and experiment in order to validate a theory."

I love Hitchen's Razor, because it is an open acknowledgement of the weakness of the atheist position ('we cannot prove our position, so we will adopt a rule that we need provide no evidence'). "What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence." Having been a lawyer all my professional life, I can tell you that testimony is evidence. Logical proofs are evidence. Both have been promoted in this thread and throughout human history. Theism has been asserted with evidence, and atheism must respond (the burden is shifted to them, whether they like it or not). Since testimony of non-interaction with deity has little probative value (considering its definitional abundance), and since it is impossible to disprove a negative, then the atheist is forced to argue logically in order to respond to the evidence. The problem with that is that the logical proofs (the one area where the atheist is on equal footing with the theist) is the area where the atheist is getting their hats handed to them.

Jonathan A. Cavender said...

" I’m not aware of such arguments being presented for peer review and accepted by a body of science as proof there is a god."

Peer review is applicable to science, but not philosophy. That does not mean that philosophy is inapplicable for the discernment of truth. In fact, the scientific method is simply a particular branch of philosophy (natural philosophy). If something is logically proven, it is truth regardless of whether I can prove it experimentally.

"How small do the gaps have to be before there can’t be a god? They get smaller every year."

God in the gaps is not what I am arguing. I am arguing that the naturalistic explanation of the universe cannot be true. The God in the Gaps is one of the most misapplied counterarguments currently. God in the Gaps is the idea that when we do not know something (why the sun rises, where the rain comes from, etc.) we ascribe it to God. That is not what I am doing here. I am not saying that things we don't understand are 'God.' I am instead saying that no matter how far we compress the gaps, there is a logical necessity that is never going to be answered naturalistically. That is a different argument.

"Which makes you wonder why He goes through so much trouble to not be proven."

LDS Theology states that this life is a test. If we could scientifically proven God today, what value would there be in this test? We see politicians every day going to church and kissing babies because they are focused on the reward and not the change.

"Again, strange plan from someone who is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent."

Ok, let's take the Doctrine and Covenants challenge. Come up with a better solution that (a) acts and a reasonable test for convincing not only our Judge but also ourselves (every knee shall bow) as to what our true motivations and intentions are -- overcoming even our own persistent self-deceptions; (b) provides us a mortal body; (c) provides us an opportunity to make mistakes without those mistakes permanently damaging us; (d) provides an environment that maximized our capacity for growth and change; and (e) above all else respects the moral agency of all of His children. That isn't everything this life has to do in order to achieve the Lord's objectives, but that is a limited list. It is difficult to imagine a scenario for me where they are accomplished better than in a word where God can be found, but it never forced to be found.

Anyhow, I have rambled enough this morning (can you tell I'm a lawyer that loves his job?). I admit to have been enjoying our discussion (obviously, since I keep coming back to this thread). Please note that I don't judge you for looking, and I know how hard it is to reconcile the things you find with what you know. I guess if I could encourage anything, it would be to really look into what has been said and thought on these issues. Don't just stick to atheistic arguments, but read the best that has been thought and said by Theist apologists as well. And I am not even talking about with Mormonism, at least not yet, since that is a more complex issue, and many of the explanations are "God did it," which is only persuasive if there is a God. You will find, as you study, that atheism (and I deliberately say atheism as opposed to your agnosticism -- so do not think I am saying the same about you here) is logically indefensible and primarily an emotional reaction rather than a reasoned argument (even among the best thinkers and supporters of atheism, this much is clear). There is a reasons theists have been winning these arguments for thousands of years -- theists have the better arguments.

Jonathan A. Cavender said...

Just to throw in a few of those arguments (a Theist Big List!) -- you will be familiar with the first five:

Cosmological: Everything contingent requires a cause, therefore something must not be contingent. That which is not contingent is God.

Teleological: The universe shows purpose and careful design. Design implies Designer.

Moral: Absolute morals are not derived from naturalism. We feel intuitively the existence of absolute morality. Therefore, our morals come from a source other than nature. This Source is God.

Witnesses: People tend to act on their beliefs according to the strength of those beliefs. Changes in behavior tend to be the result of changes in events. The Apostles had left and returned to the professions after the death of Christ, but then saw something (which they testified was the risen Christ). Their actions, including their willing deaths, were consistent with individuals who had seen what they said they had seen (see also, Three and Eight Witnesses of the Book of Mormon).

Personal Testimony: Countless billions claim personal testimony of interactions with the Divine (be they Muslim, Mormon, Baptist, or Hindu -- our theology can accommodate all such interactions). Their actions subsequent are consistent with those professions of belief. Such a personal witness is available to all.

Intellectual Mechanics (this was C. S. Lewis's favorite): Atheism demands that our mind is nothing but our brain, and our brain is nothing more than biochemistry and physical senses. As a randomly designed machine, we can have no confidence in any thing we think or experience. Therefore the end result of atheism is to know nothing. And, if I may add my personal touch, I have seen many atheists and agnostics make a big deal about the fact that transcendent experiences can be replicated by electrical impulses to various areas of the brain (as though that conclusively disproves their validity). Electric impulses to various areas of the brain can stimulate thoughts and senses, which the atheist relies upon and state have merit despite the capacity to replicated those thoughts and senses artificially. Why then not recognize transcendency in the same fashion -- it can be duplicated artificially but has value when it occurs naturally (or supernaturally, as the case may be).

Evolution (I have always thought this one was clever): Atheism answers the fine-tuning argument and the improbability of life by arguing that any probability (however low) that is less than zero will, over an infinite amount of time and in an infinite amount of space, ultimately occur. Assuming the truth of that position (infinite time and infinite space such that any non-impossible event will ultimately occur), doesn't evolution indicate that an intellect could evolve which could escape through evolution the boundaries of time, space, and entropy? If this is a possibility, doesn't that make it a certainty over an infinite amount of time and space? And wouldn't by definition, a being outside of the boundaries of time, space, and entropy be 'god?'

Free Will: In a reductive materialistic universe, bound by cause and effect, we do not have free will and we are not truly self-aware (we are just well-evolved meat robots who gain evolutionary advantage from feeling self-aware because of the self-preservation and self-maximization actions that feeling of self-awareness creates). If we are not self-aware and lack true free will, how can we independently come to truth of anything?

And, of course, I gave you the entropy argument. I have to take care of kids, so I will cut this short. But there are the sense argument, the miracle argument, the evidentiary argument, the supernatural system argument, the causation argument, and so forth. Good luck on your research (there is a lot out there).

Amidore said...

Chris,

Appealing to a dictionary definition , which is simply common understanding of a term, to describe what philosophers of science think is just plain ignorant.

Repeatable experiment is one way that science can be done, but it is hardly the only way. There is no such thing as "the scientific method." Rather, science proceeds by a series of related methods for drawing conclusions from observations. All of this is so uncontroversial in philosophy of science that you won't find anyone who disagrees.

Most of what happens in evolution science cannot be called a repeatable experiment without doing abuse to those terms. You appear to be confusing the notion of "testing" with experiment, among other things. Almost everything you tried to list in favor of evolution does not involve experiments. A mere prediction isn't an experiment.

The proposition that *all* life is descended from a single ancestor, also known as common ancestry, is untestable.

Finally, you are contradicting yourself. You went from arguing that "no God" is a scientifically established theory to arguing that you can just assume that position until demonstrated otherwise. Pick something and go with it. Science coming up with ideas that are consistent with the existence or nonexistence of God isn't anything like science demonstrating there is no God.

When it is pointed out that your view that "no God" is a scientific theory is ignorant, you just switch arguments entirely and say the burden of proof isn't on you. First, if you want to assert God doesn't exist, then there is a burden of proof on you to establish that point. Second, obviously I and almost every single human who has ever lived thinks there is good reason to believe in God.

Chris said...

Amidore:

While you continue to rant and insult me, you have yet to state any particular position. You just nitpick at what I say rather than saying anything useful about your own beliefs. So feel free to say whatever you like about whatever I say. Until you actually defend a position all your words are pretty meaningless. I never stated that “no god” is a scientifically established theory. Look back through all my posts and you’ll see that my stance is agnostic leaning atheist, not pure atheist (i.e. I still hope for a god). If you wish to take one sentence out of context from pages of discussion that is your prerogative. I’m tempted to discuss your points and show how they are invalid, but I can pretty much guess where that would go. I concede to whatever argument you are trying to make since continuing a logical discussion with you is pretty much impossible and a complete waste of my time.

Chris said...

Jonathan:

You are very persistent, but, at least for me, not very convincing. Your arguments, though sound, are simply sleight of hand. You insist on taking the logic of our understanding as proof that god must exist. Yet when presented with alternate logic based off of our understanding, you dismiss it. I’m by no means an expert on these arguments, so I simply respond by what I do understand. I have researched them further and still found them lacking. I’ll briefly discuss why (again).

Cosmological: This still applies to god, especially the Mormon god. He wasn’t always god, he was a man who became a god. Who was his god, and his, and his… This argument only proves we don’t know something about our universe, but to say such a simple logical construct as “everything requires a cause except god” is a fallacy of logic. True logic can be applied in all cases without exception. If science must attest for the universe, religion must attest for a god. Simply stating “he was always there” is no more an answer than “the big bang just happened”. I know you have your other play on words to try and excuse god from such scrutiny. I look at it as dodge, especially since your logic only exists due to humanity.

Moral: I have a hard time not being offended by this argument. Simply take the time to see how all cultures, regardless of their origins or beliefs, have developed similar core morals to compliment the existence of the species. Some did better than others. Countless examples can be seen throughout the animal kingdom. Morality is subjective and is in no way proof of a god. If anything it could be used to show the lack there of.

Witness: *shakes head* I have discussed this before. I don’t believe the bible to be the word of god. If anything I believe it can be used to show how godless those people were based off of the actions that were recorded and the questionable circumstances to which it was complied. Every faith has their martyr, you chose JS as yours. As for the three and the eight. Read up on many of the faiths that started up during this time. Nearly all had witnesses, most of which were far more believable than the 11 you speak of. The Strangeites were far more respectable. They were not related or well known by Strange, they each wrote their own testimony that they signed (as opposed to the testimony written by JS and signed by his family and friends), and they never recanted their testimony either. If I recall correctly nearly all the witnesses of the BoM became Strangeites for some period of time. So many examples of how unrealizable this argument is.

Personal Testimony: This has been disproven. We can, right now, cause individuals to have “spiritual experiences” through injection of chemicals or direct electrical treatment of areas in the brain. This eliminates any type of peaceful feeling, vision, sense of wonder, or spiritual witness from the argument. Unless you wish to move to the position of god is just using the mechanic we discovered, which is what the theist has been doing ever since science has challenged the revealed “truths” of god. Oh. Just read the Intellectual Mechanics… you did already move your position. Why can’t we recognize transcendence in the same fashion? Because if god can only do what we can do, then why do we call him god?

Chris said...

Jonathan:

Intellectual Mechanics: This is a huge play on words. I simply don’t prescribe to them. “I think therefor I am”. Why do you think morality is subjective? One could wear a one piece swimsuit to a pool without a single Mormon freaking out, yet if you were to walk downtown some good Mormon would probably call the police and call it public indecency. Good Mormons are in favor of capital punishment, some are in favor of abortion. There is zero consistency here, yet your quote by CS Lewis tries to force every aspect of Atheism into a single conclusion. I love CS Lewis, but not everything he spoke was enlightened.

Evolution: I find it interesting to read what you focus on with each of these arguments. Evolution is an alternate idea to creationism. It was such a good idea that it has pretty much been integrated into every religion on earth. You claim it to be so unlikely that it requires infinite time and infinite space. What do you base that claim off of? Calculations made by scientists that have incomplete data about how difficult it really is for life to start. So you are trying to build a solid argument on shaky ground. Evolution has shown 6000 years just isn’t possible. It has showing that we didn’t stem from two parents, twice (Adam and Noah). Geology, archeology and common sense throws out so much more of traditional Christian belief.

Free Will: Prove that we have free will. Logical charades can and have been presented to draw the conclusion that we don’t have free will. Those charades are just as sound as your logic you are using with each of these arguments. I don’t know if you have ever been atheist, or really ever let go of god. I have been on both sides of the fence. I served a mission, I knew it was true. I defended the faith over and over. There were some things that bothered me, but I did my best to put them on my shelf. Eventually that shelf became too heavy and reality came crashing down. I now read and look at arguments differently. I was Mormon for 30 years, I have been agnostic/atheist for only three. Until you can show me that you have weighted both sides equally, which can really only be done by living both sides, your opinion far more likely to be biased than my own.

Entropy: Much of what you claimed with entropy and thermodynamics requires a closed system. The universe and the earth are not closed system. It isn’t hard to find papers and research showing how no laws have been broken and that entropy has been preserved. I have listened to many debates with theists who try and hold this line of argument. None of their backgrounds are in physics. They researched enough to snag some key words, but failed to understand how these rules are applied. I believe you are doing the same.

I believe this line shows your bias: “There is a reasons theists have been winning these arguments for thousands of years -- theists have the better arguments.” If their arguments are so much better than why is atheism growing faster than any other religion? Why are scientists, the guys behind all the logic we are tossing around, becoming more atheist? Some may scream correlation is not causation. So true, yet one can still infer a lot by these two facts. I would feel safe to say that the majority of humanity on earth today are more Agnostic/Atheist than Deist/Theist. How many people feign faith in order to avoid confrontation? At every turn, fear and manipulation is god’s plan.

Yes… there is a lot of information out there and infinitely more ways to interpret it to your liking.

Will Roberts said...

"There is a reasons theists have been winning these arguments for thousands of years -- theists have the better arguments."

That's a funny joke. Since theist arguments are so much better, please present them over at http://reddit.com/r/DebateAnAtheist.I'm sure you'll have no trouble winning over there since your arguments are so much better.

Anonymous said...

Monotheism verses polytheism.

Amidore said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Amidore said...

The universe isn't a closed system.

It isn't?

Chris read somewhere that what's wrong with saying the second law of thermodynamics contradicts evolution is that the earth isn't a closed system. It is supplied with heat energy from the sun. He then extrapolates this to a different argument about the universe and ends up asserting the ultimate closed physical system isn't closed.

So it is with atheism. A little bit of knowledge and a lot of confusion.

Chris seems to think he can dismiss the fact that theism has been the belief of almost every person who have ever lived, but that in of itself provides sound reason to believe God exists.

If he doesn't think so, perhaps he can explain what is wrong with this argument:

http://alexanderpruss.blogspot.com/2010/07/another-sound-argument-for-existence-of.html

Jonathan A. Cavender said...

If I may go in reverse order...

Will Roberts:
"That's a funny joke. Since theist arguments are so much better, please present them over at http://reddit.com/r/DebateAnAtheist.I'm sure you'll have no trouble winning over there since your arguments are so much better."

Will, to be frank you haven't added much to this conversation thread. If anything is going to read that this civilization's greatest metaphysicians are found on reddit, it will be society's epitaph.

Chris:

"Your arguments, though sound, are simply sleight of hand."

This demonstrates a misunderstanding of the rules of logic. If the logic is sound, and the premises are accurate, the conclusion necessarily follows.

"This argument only proves we don’t know something about our universe, but to say such a simple logical construct as “everything requires a cause except god” is a fallacy of logic."

You have missed the point of the argument. There are contingent or caused things, and there are uncontingent or uncaused things. Reductive materialism cannot recognize uncaused things, but uncaused thing or things are necessary.

"I have a hard time not being offended by this argument."

I find that typical (not meaning that as an insult). If you are offended by this argument, you do not understand it. This is not saying that an atheist isn't moral (many are). It is saying that if the atheistic worldview is correct no one is moral, because there is no absolute morality.

"Morality is subjective"

Easily said, but I have yet to met a person who actually believed this principle. In your heart, you know that right and wrong exist. Wait 'til your ox is gored.

"I don’t believe the bible to be the word of god."

You don't have to believe that to believe that the Apostles changed.

"This has been disproven."

Not true, as you recognize below.

Intellectual Mechanics...

I think you missed the argument here, or I completely missed your counterargument because we are not communicating on this issue.

"Evolution is an alternate idea to creationism."

This is a false choice fallacy by atheists. It is impolite to continue arguing against young earth creationism, since I have explicitly told you that I am not a young earth creationist.

Jonathan A. Cavender said...

"You claim it to be so unlikely that it requires infinite time and infinite space. What do you base that claim off of? Calculations made by scientists that have incomplete data about how difficult it really is for life to start."

Actually, there is good research on cosmology as to how very difficult it is to have conditions for life even before we talk about the unlikely nature of abiogenesis. We can do the math from there. We need a certain galaxy size and age (10% of the galaxies we have found). We need a certain vicinity to supernova eruptions (1% of the stars), we need a certain number of nearby white binaries for adequate flourine production (1%), and so forth. You multiple the probabilities together (in this case, 10% x 1% x 1%), and you get a cumulative number of the probability of a habitable planet being formed randomly (in this case, with these three variables, 1 in 1x10^5). Adding what we know about the formation, the golden zone, the stellar system, where we need to be to avoid tidal sheering, what had to happen to avoid being tide locked to the Sun, and all of these other variables and the number becomes pretty ridiculous very very quickly (1 chance in 1x10^98 is the lowest I have seen). You are, in essence, thumbnailing the probability according to orders of magnitude. When you consider that our best estimate is that there exists only 1x10^24 planets in the universe (at an average of 100 planets per star), it means that the odds on the Earth forming as habitable to life is extraordinarily unlikely (and that is before considering the fundamental physical constants and the unlikely nature of abiogenesis). 1 chance in 100,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000.

"Evolution has shown 6000 years just isn’t possible."

Chris, you are still arguing against young earth creationism. It is easy to win an argument if you are unwilling to listen to arguments you don't agree with. If I had to argue what you thought I had to argue, then of course you would prevail. Please address the arguments I am making, not the ones you think I should be making.

"Until you can show me that you have weighted both sides equally, which can really only be done by living both sides, your opinion far more likely to be biased than my own."

This reasoning is fallacious, as I am certain you can see. If I am not an atheist, you claim I can not argue against atheism and my reasoning is unsound. Ad hominem.

"Much of what you claimed with entropy and thermodynamics requires a closed system. "

With an infinite amount of time (a requirement for reductive materialism), all contacting systems are closed.

"None of their backgrounds are in physics. They researched enough to snag some key words, but failed to understand how these rules are applied. I believe you are doing the same."

Please do me the courtesy of engaging my arguments rather than arguing credentials. Once again, this is an appeal to authority and an ad hominem attack. And, ironically enough, it is not accurate. I have a background in physics (though not a degree) and married a physicist.

"If their arguments are so much better than why is atheism growing faster than any other religion?"

There are plenty of reasons for this phenomenon, and none of them require that atheism have the better argument. The most common correlation is that increased wealth leads to decreased belief in God, although there is also a correlation between education level and secularism. But frankly, most atheists I have talked with have no familiarity with theist arguments (or atheist arguments, for that matter, beyond the teapot).

Jonathan A. Cavender said...

"Why are scientists, the guys behind all the logic we are tossing around, becoming more atheist? "

Three points. First, most scientists are very poor philosophers, speaking from experience (they are not behind the logic we have been discussing). Second, studies have shown that studying the sciences does not tend towards atheism, but rather atheists tend to study the sciences (self-selection). Third, again, it doesn't matter if every scientist in the world was an atheist, because the logic is sound regardless of who believes or disbelieves it. Appeal to scientists is an incorrect appeal to authority.

" I would feel safe to say that the majority of humanity on earth today are more Agnostic/Atheist than Deist/Theist."

I disagree (and have statistics to back that up). According to one 2007 estimate, atheists make up about 2.3% of the world's population, while a further 11.9% are nonreligiou (pulled from wikipedia, chuckle, but still within the realm of believability). But you seem to indicate that you wouldn't believe them if presented them (evidence based?). But even if you were correct, what does that tell us?

"Yes… there is a lot of information out there and infinitely more ways to interpret it to your liking."

Yes, you can force evidence into your chosen worldview. I don't feel comfortable believing a worldview without an argument in its favor.

"I believe this line shows your bias:"

True, I am biased in favor of the theist arguments, because I have engaged them and found them persuasive. What I have not found is a persuasive atheistic argument. Nor has one been presented above. The atheist argument is that the theist argument does not convince, not that they have an argument for the non-existence of God. All the atheist can do is deconstruct the arguments of the theists. This, logically, is a horribly weak place to be (as you can imagine). I wish you the best of luck there.

Will Roberts said...

"The atheist argument is that the theist argument does not convince, not that they have an argument for the non-existence of God."

Atheists are still waiting for theists to present an argument for God that isn't self-refuting. If I was convinced that fairies in my garden make the plants grow and I gave you logical arguments for why I know that to be true, you'd laugh. I'd then say, "all you have is an argument for the non-existence of fairies. You can't prove the fairies don't make my plants grow."

How is your theist argument better than my fairy arguments?

Amidore said...

Will -

The reasons people believe in God are more compelling than thinking faeries exist because plants grow. It would be nice if you could manage to demonstrate that you have even a modicum of familiarity of justification of belief in God before reaching to offensive comparisons.

You then assert all arguments for God are self-defeating. No, merely being wrong won't do for you. They all have to be defeated by their own internal logic.

So it'll be no trouble for you to explain why everything Dr. Swinburne writes here:

http://www.amazon.com/Existence-God-Richard-Swinburne/dp/0199271682/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1279309833&sr=8-3

is not only wrong, but self-defeating. Thanks in advance.

Chris said...

Jonathan:

I must say it has been entertaining, but I believe this will be my last post. I have devoted way too much time to this article, but it has not been in vain. I wish to thank both you and Peirce for being very civil in your arguments. It is a breath of fresh air to end a discussion with two people obviously passionate about their beliefs and their desire to know about them. I could honestly say that after these discussions I would be happy to have you guys over for dinner.

I’ll only touch on a few things that stood out as I read your last post.

“This demonstrates a misunderstanding of the rules of logic. If the logic is sound, and the premises are accurate, the conclusion necessarily follows.”

I don’t agree. I believe you are overstating the power of logic. Your foundation for all your logic is our current understanding of the universe and logic itself. You also take a construct such as “reductive materialism” to an extreme. I don’t have to abide by your interpretation or be placed in the small corner you wish me to be placed. If god exists, and he can performs miracles to bring his children closer to him, perform one. This is sound logic, it is possible within your belief system, yet you can’t do it. Even worse you have to apply an exception such as, “god doesn’t work that way” or “only an evil and adulterous generation asks for a sign” in order to shame the asker. Then to make things worse, that very concept of asking for a sign has been done many times in the scriptures and the result was a sign. Does that mean god doesn’t exist? No, but it doesn’t make the logic any less sound.

I deal with logic all day. I write code. Many times I have created sound logical statements that should cover every case. Yet it doesn’t. There are times where an error is made prior to my logic. I have to apply an exception to my logic due to the pain or inability to repair the prior mistake. This is how I view you attempt to paint the atheist argument into a tiny corner. I think it belittles something that is much larger than you give credit. Yet it makes it easier to defend your ground when you have so little to worry about. From my perspective, it is a dodge and a weak argument because it lacks… thought.

Lastly, all your arguments ignore the actual tangible “facts” we have at hand. The extremely large number of contradictions we have stemming from the Bible, Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, Pearl of Great Price, faithful member’s diaries, and recorded history is insane. The CES letter (regardless of its origins) hardly scratches the surface of the issues. While your logic for god may seem sound, if god does exist, the result of his handy work on this planet is anything but logical. I realize we haven’t touched on these and I by no means intend this to be a parting jab, but I believe the realization of false testimony from these sources is making religion crumble. Just like it did for the Greek Pantheon.

“Easily said, but I have yet to met a person who actually believed this principle. In your heart, you know that right and wrong exist. Wait 'til your ox is gored.”

Morality is subjective. Regardless how much you wish to appeal to my inner heart, you know that my morality is different than yours. As is pretty much every other person’s on this planet. Morality can go from being willing and honored to fly a plane into a building killing thousands, to not willing to kill a spider. In a sense, you are taking your morality and imprinting it on others. I consider this a mild form of bigotry, which is why I, and many other atheists, consider it insulting. Given the right catalyst, this profiling of people could lead to disaster. History is ripe with such things…

Chris said...

“1 chance in 100,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000.”

“So you’re saying there’s a chance!” I kid. Again your numbers are based off of what we know. The percentage of goldilocks planets has changed twice in just the past year due to the Kepler telescope. They are more common than we originally thought. We also cannot accurately judge if other galaxies have more or less dense percentages of these planets. Science takes an educated guess based off of what we can see within our own galaxy and then applies it to the billions of other galaxies that they have found. These numbers are anything but static and are nothing more than an educated guess. Your argument cannot hang on them, because there just isn’t enough data to support them. You are also taking the worst possible case for each of your percentages. The Drake Equation estimates 10,000 communicative civilizations in the Milky Way alone. Just because you picked the least likely method in no way means it is the only. I don’t have to accept your conclusions when it is based on speculation or educated guesses.

Sorry about the young earth comments, I think those snuck in due to Amidore. I can easily accept the conclusion that Pierce and I came to with respect to young/old earth. Or really almost any interpretation other than a literal young earth… hello fossil.

“Please do me the courtesy of engaging my arguments rather than arguing credentials. Once again, this is an appeal to authority and an ad hominem attack. And, ironically enough, it is not accurate. I have a background in physics (though not a degree) and married a physicist.”

I have some background as well. Yet it is easy to find respected peer reviewed papers that show how our Earth and Universe do not break the second law of thermodynamics or the laws of entropy. I will differ to them as I do not have the background to adequately address them. However keep in mind, in a real debate, if you were to spout “facts” about physics “laws” and were questioned why we should trust your interpretation I bet you could guess the reaction of the audience if you replied “I’m married to a physicist”. Simply saying I’m arguing credentials is a dodge. I don’t have the credentials, and neither do you. Therefore regardless of our ability to debate, unless we took our findings to be peer reviewed by multiple people in the field, our words are just that… words.

“This, logically, is a horribly weak place to be”

I think your bias prevents you from seeing a logical atheist argument. I have tried to show that atheists do not have to be confined to the small corner you wish to paint them in. Any number of logical constructs could be formed off the completely illogical actions of religion. The problem alone of having a system of belief that requires individual interpretation and confirmation of “truth” with no ability to confirm said beliefs is so illogical one must wonder how the theist can dare attempt to form a “logical” debate against atheism.

I admire your dedication Jonathan, but your arguments have very little meaning on an individual who views the world for what it is. Religion has no logic, has no proof, and has no foundation. Every religion claims to be the correct one, every believer claims to have witness from god. Yet everyday people move from religion to religion, everyday people are killed in the name of god, everyday families are stressed due to religious issues. I applaud your arguments for their ability to show the possibility of a creator, but real life shows the complete lack of one.

Word!

Jonathan A. Cavender said...

Chris:

"I must say it has been entertaining, but I believe this will be my last post. I have devoted way too much time to this article, but it has not been in vain. I wish to thank both you and Peirce for being very civil in your arguments. It is a breath of fresh air to end a discussion with two people obviously passionate about their beliefs and their desire to know about them. I could honestly say that after these discussions I would be happy to have you guys over for dinner."

As would I.

Lars Larson said...

I enjoyed the post...but if you had just gone ahead and written the last paragraph first, I would have saved some time...

"The Gospel is true, and the Book of Mormon is a divine, authentic book of scripture, in spite of whatever mountains of books and brochures against it the enemy can mount. And Jesus is the Son of God, no matter how many false witnesses and PhD's and celebrities take a stand against Him."

This is stuff you have "written in stone" before you do any thinking. You make everything fit around it, just like the lamed-brained Young Earth Creationists. No matter what. Nothing can make you change your mind. So, what, may I ask, is the point of ever asking a hard question?

Anonymous said...

To Chris if you come back to read anything else: Your bias clearly shows. You claim it is LDS blogs, and apologetic sites such as FAIR Mormon and others that spin facts/Scripture, will not allow dissenting comments, are rude to people who disagree with the LDS position, and so forth. You then say the anti Mormon sites allow anyone to say what one wants to say, and that anti Mormon sites are fair and balanced. HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA. What a load of BS, MS, and PhD. I have been banned from anti Mormon sites because I get under their skin for exposing their lies and caricatures of LDS beliefs. I have been called every name possible. My words and position have been twisted. The anti Mormons are very calculating in their questions to trap LDS to make the LDS look like idiots.
You say you are not biased, yeah right and I have ocean front property in Arizona to sell you (as the song says).

I have exposed less than honest information on many anti sites, like using quotes out of context, using ellipses, using Scripture out of context, deliberate lies and so much more. I have never seen a pro LDS blog treat anyone the way antis treat LDS. I have seen some comments deleted for vulgarity and personal attacks on LDS sites. Typical that ex Mormons take the side of the true deceivers, and can not concede anything even with truth in black and white. Your credibility was ruined with the absurd statements of antis being upright people. There is a LDS blog that showed emails with Sandra Tanner conceding she was less than truthful in one of her articles then tried to justify it, then she started attacking. So typical. Antis can not contain their hatred for the LDS. Real Christian of them, like the street belchers spitting on brides and grooms coming out of the Temple and calling the bride whore and other horrible names. Yeah, Chris, rhe antis are the nice ones. NOT! You are delusional and lying. You and all the other exMormons who have an axe to grind show how true it is that people leave the church but can not leave the church alone. So so typical. And I had to deal with people like you all the time in my ex family so I know what I am talking about.



Pierce said...

Anonymous,

You are a troll or a buffoon. Chris did not claim that all so-called anti-mormon sites are fair and balanced. In my discussion with Chris, he admitted his bias and I admitted mine. Everybody has it.

" I have never seen a pro LDS blog treat anyone the way antis treat LDS."

Your comments are useless and your mean-spiritedness is not welcome. The Tanners have NOTHING to do with Chris. All this is your bitter, unfounded rantings against a straw-man your named Chris. My conversation with him ended up being very productive and positive. He doesn't have to love FAIR or this blog for that matter.

Again, you're a troll or you're an over-zealous dope. Either way, your comments won't be taken seriously here.

Anonymous said...

How sad to see members attacking other members for trying to defend the church. There is no need for name calling.
Unfortunately, tone of "voice" is not discernable in type. So Pierce, your comments to Anonymous were uncalled for. I was mistaken about this site. I had no idea this Pierce person could determine who was welcome to comment.
Another Anonymous.

Pierce said...

AA,

Sometimes our overzealous members need to be taken down a peg. Sure, my comments were uncalled for. But just because that Anonymous is a member does not give him the right to rant against Chris. His comments were indeed abrasive, rude, absurd, disrespectful, and damaging.

Another Anonymous, if you want to defend someone who comments thusly: "HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA. What a load of BS" and "You are delusional and lying", all the while ranting about anti mormon sites (which Chris was not even defending), then do it. Explain why this person is a great example of a "member" and why his comments are productive.

I told him his mean-spiritedness was not welcome. Maybe you like picking on non-Mormon visitors who visit a Mormon blog, but I don't.
This person was not defending the church. He was being a bully and taking out his frustrations about anti's like the Tanners out on someone that I just got finished having a good discussion with. So I was a bit worked up when I saw his absurd comment. You passing judgment on me is really no different than what I did.

Mormography said...

One the commenters astutely pointed out this post probably had a lot to with CES letter, which itself is nothing new, but a well put together compilation (the forest) of items Mormanity and FAIR have struggle to provide real responds to after decades of trying (LDS FAQ).

The real interesting part is not the CES Letter, but the Debunking FAIR’s Debunking, essentially proving Mormanity and FAIR can only concede the majority of the time and when the straw men and ad hominems are removed they are left with practically nothing.

One of the humorous parts of the thread above is the repeated fallacy that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, which was dealt with in the Debunking.

This Mormanity Big-List-Retort is a euphemism for not looking at the forest, but rather his carefully selected few trees only.

Wizard of OZ: Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

Mormanity: I plead with you, please, please do not consider the forest for the trees, pretty please. Oh, look at this leaf that may or may not have fallen off a delicious tree here, oh what a beautiful time of year Fall is. [While standing in the middle of a coniferous forest in summer].

This is one of many deceptive behavior patterns that can be observed over the decades. After decades incorrigible could be the behavior descriptor.