Ann Gauger's latest salvo against Dennis Venema's arguments against an original pair of human beings

(Richard Wright) #538

Hello Jon,

I’m still not sure what you’re disagreeing with. That you know that, “nature could have done it” beyond the point of needing faith? Or that there was no known physiological explanation.

(Richard Wright) #539

Hello TA,

One: He does, but that doesn’t include the miraculous healings in the bible, including those of Jesus.

Two: Some people would say that they saw God (somehow) in the healing that affected themselves, as Jon Garvey said above concerning the healing of his patient. However, according the the strict philosophical meaning of God’s hiddenness, one would have to say that God remained hidden in the healing.

(Richard Wright) #540


I don’t think people are deliberately trying to mislabel Dawkins. His most famous work is The God Delusion, and it’s the only book of his that a lot of people like myself have read from him. However, and I could be mistaken, but I don’t remember Dawkins calling himself anything but an atheist or anti-theist in it. He freely and gleefully admits that the purpose of the book was to convert people to atheism. He called God a, “flying spaghetti monster” (or something like that), and all of it is laid out in sardonic vitriol. In other words, in his most famous book, Dawkins presents himself as a hard-line evangelical atheist. Yes, he at one point talks about a small % of doubt in his position, but the thrust of the book is definitive in its tone.

Apparently he’s changed his tune since 2006 (TGD). I could be wrong and I don’t want to judge Dawkins, but it could be that, in debating theists he came to understand that there is a big philosophical problem in claiming that God doesn’t exist.

(Jon) #541

I quoted the specific statement I disagreed with. Let me break it down for you once more. I disagree with this.

Since there was no known physiological explanation for the disappearance, anyone who believes that, “nature did it” also believes by faith.

This means I disagree with this.

Since there was no known physiological explanation for the disappearance,

I also disagree with this.

anyone who believes that, “nature did it” also believes by faith.

Consequently, I disagree with this.

Since there was no known physiological explanation for the disappearance, anyone who believes that, “nature did it” also believes by faith.

I hope that’s clearer. As I have pointed out before, the “god of the gaps” reasoning which you and Jon Garvey repeatedly promote is neither good science nor good theology.

(John Dalton) #542

It seems to me he’s exactly as much of a vitriolic anti-theist and atheist today as he was in 2012 and 2006. He also recognizes that his knowledge has limits, which is reflected in an agnosticism which he described in nearly equal terms in 2012 and 2006. I don’t see any conflict there. Many people call themselves agnostic atheists for such reasons, myself included.


Dawkins is an atheist. The mistake is in thinking that atheism requires the belief that no gods exist. Atheism is simply the lack of belief that gods exist, but it still allows for the possibility that gods do exist. At the same time there are atheists who also hold the additional belief that gods does not exist, but Dawkins is not one of those atheists.[quote=“Richard_Wright1, post:540, topic:36790”]
He called God a, “flying spaghetti monster” (or something like that), and all of it is laid out in sardonic vitriol. In other words, in his most famous book, Dawkins presents himself as a hard-line evangelical atheist. Yes, he at one point talks about a small % of doubt in his position, but the thrust of the book is definitive in its tone.

I am sure that there are theists who mock other religions and claim that other religions are harmful and misguided. This isn’t limited to just atheists. I remember watching anti-Mormon documentaries during church services when I was a kid (non-denominational protestant church). You can find Christians galore who think Muslims are misguided and deluded. Dawkins just happens to take the position that nearly all human religions are misguided and deluded. Sir Kenny apparently didn’t understand this nuance as it relates to atheism as shown by the fact that he was surprised that an atheist would allow for the possibility that God exists.

(Richard Wright) #544

Hello Jon,

I’m hardly a God-of-the-gaps promoter and I believe you’re misusing the term here. From The Westminster Dictionary of Christian Theology, the God-of-the-gaps phrase describes, “a tendency to postulate acts of God to explain phenomena for which science has yet to give a satisfactory account.” I have no such tendency.

(Jon) #545

Both you and Jon Garvey have said “there was no known physiological explanation for the disappearance, so God did it”. That is the God of the gaps. Jon Garvey reaches for this explanation on a consistent basis. In fact “God did it” is typically his preferred explanation for events, even over natural causes (mainly because he has serious issues with the concept of “natural causes”). Both of you deny you’re fundamentalists, but I only see fundamentalist reasoning from you.

(Richard Wright) #546

That’s not the situation at all. In this very thread I told Anne Gauger that God is a, “methodological naturalist”. Believing that God made a coronary obstruction in an answer to prayers is not saying, “God did it” for every unknown physical phenomenon. In fact, even if it were later to be attributed to a physiological cause, I still believe that God healed him.

(Jon) #547

I agree. But that is patently not what I am talking about. I pointed out that in this case the claim that “God did it” is being made specifically on the grounds that “there was no known physiological explanation for the disappearance”. This was your first recourse, not your last resort. That is “God of the gaps” reasoning whether you do it once or one hundred times.

The fact that you think that people who believe the remission was due to natural causes are just believing something on faith, strongly implies you think that actual scientific reasoning in this case is just a matter of faith. That says a lot about your attitude to science.

(Richard Wright) #548

Again, you’re misrepresenting my view. I think God healed him since John said that people were praying for him, and not because there is no known physiological explanation. If Jon said the person was healed gradually over a year and I stated that I believed God healed him, would you object?

Science is the study of God’s creation. It can’t detect a direct intervention by God but that doesn’t mean He didn’t intervene. You seem to think that God won’t directly intervene to heal someone, unlike what you said in a previous post. Also, it wasn’t merely a remission, Jon labeled it as a, “spontaneous resolution of a coronary atherosclerosis”. Whether scientists later find a, “natural” cause for these resolutions matters not to me - I still believe by faith that God answered prayers - in this particular case.

There is some degree of faith involved, otherwise you are excluding direct divine interventions. This is not a God-of-the-gaps argument - I’m not claiming that God is doing all of these healings or that natural causes won’t be found later on.

(Jon) #549

Yes. I would have even more grounds to object.

I agree.

No. I just don’t think that “This person experienced a surprising medical event which is very rare, therefore God healed them” is a good argument, either logically or theologically. And I don’t think it is an argument which is made any better by saying “But someone prayed for them”.

I think you’re quibbling over words, but why even bother mentioning this?

Yes you do, you believe by faith. But when scientists conclude otherwise, they do not do so by faith. They do so on the basis of scientific evidence.

When there are no good grounds on which to include direct divine intervention in a particular case, then faith isn’t involved.

Then it looks like you’re loading the dice; if there’s no known natural cause then God did it, and if there’s a known natural cause then God still did it. I don’t see how that’s logically coherent.

(John Dalton) #550

Hi Richard, I’ve been thinking about this a bit, and I was wondering how you can state this with certainty. A couple of questions occur to me: If God wanted one to be detected by science, couldn’t he ensure that it happened? Might it not even happen inadvertently, or at least evidence be left? If God acted with some consistency over time, might signs of that be detectable through scientific methods?

(GJDS) #551

Questions such as these imo presuppose a number of matters which, if I may say, indicate a naïve theological outlook. The first and probably the most important is the theological outlook that is dogma, that God is known through revelation. The second is what the Gospel has shown, that direct observation of healings by Christ simply caused more controversy - trying to argue that nowadays we will avoid such controversy through science simply begs the question.

But perhaps the matter that seems to escape your attention is the importance of prayer and faith. I believe that the healing is due to these, and God has no interest in other matters such as you may envisage.

I find this entertaining - if I spoke of chemistry while avoiding or recasting my understanding of the chemical bond, would anyone take me seriously? I think not. Yet discarding Christian theology is not only permitted, but it seems to be done in the hope that a serious discussion can be carried out. Not possible :confounded:.

I suppose this may also lead to more controversy - but believe it or not, it is all about faith.

(Richard Wright) #552

Hello John,

I’m responding on my phone waiting out my 2 hour delayed flight. :weary:

It’s a good question about detection. If God wanted to be detected by a clear, obvious supernatural event, He could. He chooses not to. So there is an assumption that nature will behave as it always does. If God arranges the clouds to clear for an outdoor wedding, or for a coronary obstruction to suddenly disappear, it wouldn’t be detectable. Of course Christians will say that Jesus performed many supernatural events in plain view of many people. I believe that by faith, though there is historical evidence. But much more powerful is the personal, “evidence” of God moving someone’s heart as they read the gospels and see what Jesus did for them. In addition, seeing their life change as they repent of sins and start to live as a follower of Christ.

If God initiated the physical paradigm to have an inbred intelligence to unfold to create increasingly complex biological systems, as I believe, then He wouldn’t be able to be detected through nature. If God continuously works through the physical to evolve the universe to man, as Jon Garvey believes, He still wouldn’t be detectable through the scientific method, as Jon has stated many times on this board. I’ve asked him why isn’t there a fossil out of place if God is working in the world beyond its own workings, but he didn’t engage that question.

The questions get thornier when we talk about God manipulating nature to answer prayers, as you can see here.

(Jon Garvey) #553

You’ve been doing pretty well, Richard, on the “healing” discussion, so I haven’t interrupted. Instead I’ll pick up on a couple of your own points.

Let me address the “sunny wedding”, since it is involved with God’s “hiddenness”. The question of detectability, it seems to me, is based entirely on ones assumptions about what causes weather, ie whether one has embraced that old “Nature hypothesis” upon which I entered the thread.

An anology: one of my relatives is moving next week, and her friend runs his own company, in which (to steal the phrase) he says to one man “Go” and he goeth, and to another “come” and he cometh. In this case (at my relative’s request) he’s decided to divert a few of his guys and the vans to do the removals, rather than for my relly to pay a removals company.

This is obviously (a) an intervention in response to a request (b) somewhat outside the usual business plan but © involves exactly the same vans, the same guys, and the same heavy lifting that he pays them to do every other day. So you could say that to an outside observer, who knows nothing of the management structure of the company, his intervention is “hidden” - but it’s hidden in plain sight, because as soon as you realise that he runs the company, you suddenly see that every job is an “intervention”. His hand is everywhere to be seen - nothing is, in the end, running itself.

Now his role in ultimate causation is not altered one jot by the question of whether his management style is to run round the office delegating the day’s tasks personally, or in most cases to follow a plan (ie via secondary causes) he made in January, delegate admin staff to execute it, and play golf… though the latter gets harder to envisage when a one-off house-move at an individual’s request is involved. But he’s not hiding, even though he’s totally invisible to anyone watching the work being done… phone him up, and he’ll speak to you and maybe even do a job for you, if he isn’t on the golf course.

Returning to the natural scenario, the fact that one can, to some extent, investigate regular causal chains in the weather doesn’t negate the governing will of God, any more than the causal chains within a company negate the overseeing role of the owner. They simply show there is some order in what he plans.

Weather, of course, is notoriously lacking in lawlike order, though. Whatever causes its chaotic variations, the concept of “natural law” is impossible to apply in detail practically, so that it’s customary to invoke hypothetical interactions of many laws (which can’t actually be tested or even shown to be real as a concept) or concepts like “chance”, which is (as we’ve discussed before) an epistemological gap, not a cause. Meanwhile, meteorologists makes short-term forecasts based on limited regularities and computer models, and what Michael Polanyi calls “personal knowledge”, ie human experience.

Even in more controlled situations than weather, though, thinking through the implications shows that the concept of natural law, and even the predictability of the universe, is problematic, as philosophers of science like Nancy Cartwright - no theist, as far as I can tell, have explored in detail. Amongst other things, she reasons that “laws of nature” can make no sense apart from God - one reason she doesn’t believe there are laws of nature! Incidentally, she follows most other PoS people in being more careful to distinguish scientific “facts” from “laws” and “theories” than some here.

I’ve asked [Jon] why isn’t there a fossil out of place if God is working in the world beyond its own workings

I missed the context of this, so am not sure exactly what you mean. But the short answer is that, on any scientific understanding, no fossil can actually be out of place. They are regularly found to be so, according to existing knowledge, and since they are a real phenomenon, they are either used to modify the theory (“Mammals evolved far earlier than we thought!”), or treated as anomalies either to be ignored or explained away if they are too far off the current explanatory paradigm (just one controversial example here).

If you’re thinking of the overall trajectory of the fossil record, for which there is much clearer evidence than for the exact origins of pretty well any taxon within it**, it’s suggestive of common descent, but that tells you nothing to the point of your question except that, under theism, God wanted to do it that way. Or to phrase it another way, the reality that we see (which doesn’t include precambrian rabbits, as it happens) tells us not only how we might understand efficient causes scientifically, but equally how we might understand God’s creative activity and final causes theologically.

“Working in the world beyond its own workings…” is the phrase I dislike. It implies a belief that the world has its own workings apart from God (and understand here that this has nothing to do with lack of secondary causes, but only autonomous secondary causes). If you believe that, however he does it, nature is what God does, then you see God everywhere, and the wedding weather or the miraculous healing are just special cases of the usual. If you believe Nature to be a system operating apart from God, then of course he’s completely hidden, and answers to prayer and miracles become anomalies to be explained away, or ignored agnostically for “lack of verifiable evidence”.

“It is the theory that determines what you can observe” - not a quote from a Nancy Cartwright, but from Albert Einstein.

** It’s quite a big deal that this year the taxonomy of the entire “dinosaur” tree was completely revised after 100 years.

(John Dalton) #554

I’m a simple man with a simple theological outlook, so I guess I’m not surprised. :slight_smile:

I don’t think I was trying to know God, or avoid controversy. I’m simply wondering how there can be such certainty about God’s intent or that his methods would necessarily be undetectable by us.

I understand your belief, but not sure how it conflicts with the possibility of scientific confirmation. If God has no interest, would he care if we could detect them?

It seems to me the discussion is on the border between scientific inquiry and Christian theology. I don’t seek to discard the latter, but to understand it. Its not my intent to trample on anything, but I don’t think this is an area where anything can be roped off by any particular interest. If it were purely a matter of theology, I wouldn’t seriously involve myself.


I think this is the core of what I’m trying to say. How do you know this?

What if he simply used the optimal method to ensure the person’s future health? Would that necessarily be undetectable or conform with what would be expected in nature from a middle-aged, not totally healthy adult?

Good point :slight_smile:

I understand. I’m not trying to cast doubt on this, and I don’t think what I’m saying is necessarily inconsistent with it.

I see :slight_smile: My point is, for example, what if God consistently healed people who prayed under certain circumstances. Couldn’t that conceivably be detectable by a statistical analysis of some kind? I don’t understand why it necessarily couldn’t be detectable (which is not to say provable) if God was acting with any kind of consistency. I guess if it’s a very rare occurrence, it could be difficult, but over time, I’m not sure it would necessarily be impossible either.

(Phil) #555

If that were the the case, that would seemingly make God our puppet to be twisted to our own purpose.


True. That’s what magic is–forcing the hand of the gods. In pagan belief systems, even the gods are subject to what is sometimes called the “metadivine realm.”

(GJDS) #557

The simple answer to what God did is provided by the testimony of two people - this is as evidentiary as it gets. We choose to believe or not to believe them.

Generally, it is every Christian’s hope that God would heal us all and the world (cosmos) would be free from sin, disease, hunger, violence, etc. Until that day, we live in hope and live by faith.