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Michael,

Superb post. I linked to you as well. Great stuff.

Thanks, DH! I appreciate it.

I don't quite find your points convincing. Here are a few reasons why:

1) Most of this fine tuning is needed to ensure that the universe exists, and is in a form that is recognisable to us. It is entirely possible that by trial and error with these variables the universe could have failed to exist a great many times. We would then observe a universe that is fine tuned to our specifications.

This only seems more contrived than a Creator if you find the idea of a lot of cosmic activity going on without us disturbing.

On a smaller scale, the planet and our galaxy are well tuned to our life. But it makes far more sense, and there is evidence for this process, that our life is well tuned to the planet. Either way works

2) Again, all the failed attempts at life (there are an awful lot of planets and there was an awful lot of time before life) are not observed. We merely see the one occurence of life and consider it remarkable without considering how the numbers stack up.

3) Suppose there is a God. Why should you do what he says? Out of gratitude?

That is an arbitrary moral decision. Unless you are doing this all out of fear of hell (which rules out your point 5. The purpose to life is too behave like an unruly dog and avoid punishment?). So you either have to make the arbitrary decision of a moral code or the arbitrary decision of following God's and the assumption that he exists.

4) A plant (and all animals in the Christian definition as I've had it explained to me) has no soul. Can a plant not be beautiful? As a human is qualitatively more remarkable and well constructed (by evolution's hand for the secular) why can that not be considered so special as to be worth defending against all comers without religious interference?

5) This view makes little sense. In the Christian view. Be good. Live forever in happiness. In the atheist view; have your time then die. As time is far more limited in the atheist view it would seem particularly important to make the most of it. Therefore the time that constitutes your life has more meaning.

6) Science was massively and chronically held up by religion. Take a look at an economic historian such as Joel Mokyr for a detailed explanation of why there was a need for a move away from the received truth of religion towards a more sceptical and enquiring mind.

Equally, I think that given the Crusades to the Inquisition and countless other persecutions as well as our current religious wars that record is at least debatable. See Richard Dawkins for a powerful polemic on the record of religion in creating conflict and his reasoning for this.

7) I've yet to see any evidence of the paranormal that does not fall apart under critical examination in record time. Most of the paranormal claims are also not terribly religious (does Christianity belive in seances?).

As for the final bit. If you're looking for happy people science would suggest you need to talk to the Buddhists they'll point you in the right direction. Does that mean you'll now switch to Buddhism...

Sorry if I've been confrontational. I guess Atheists are angry...

Ah yes, the pointlessness, of a cosmic accident spending a lifetime trying to find out why he's a cosmic accident. No thanks Mr Sinclair. Most of us think Mr Prescotts way of looking at the cosmos, is rather more satisfing. Maybe I am just worm food when I die, but maybe not either. You takes your chances, don't you?

On pointlessness. What is the point of human life under Christianity? To worship God in return for a reward after death?

If so then your entire point as a person is to feed the ego of a being that is already omnipotent and omniscient. Surely that is the definition of a wasted life?

God would already know he is pretty great without needing you to tell him. You can then spend all enternity getting bored talking to a lot of people you agree with (all the rest are in hell).

The progress and story of humanity is more than enough of a purpose for me.

Matthew,

Thanks very much for your comments. But as I said in the post itself, "I don't claim that this brief summary proves anything. I'm just setting out the broad outline of how my thinking changed."

Clearly it would take much reading and study to elaborate on these various ideas. Three books that take this tack are God: The Evidence, by Patrick Glynn, Modern Physics and Ancient Faith, by Stephen M. Barr, and Jenny's Universe, by Ken Pedersen. I recommend all three to those who are interested.

With regard to the origin of life, my understanding is that statisticians have calculated that there was not enough time in the entire 15-billion-year history of the cosmos for a single cell to form by random chance. This is why origin-of-life scientists now talk about "self-organizing systems." But there is no evidence, at least so far, that biological systems actually are self-organizing.

My main point was that atheistic materialism was simply not a satisfying or meaningful philosophy for me. If it is satisfying and meaningful to you, as I have no doubt it is for many people, then by all means stick with it. I'm a great believer in not fixing something if it ain't broken. For me, my belief system was broken - and I'm in the process of fixing it.

I can see that Matthew's views (and perhaps some of Michael's as well) come from a materialist mindset (you might be surprised, but it's true!) For me, the topic of God goes infinitely beyond explanation for the universe, fine-tuning, and even - believe it or not - the meaning of existence! So much so that I'm ridiculously early in the process of understanding it. I genuinely think it transcends the human mind to conceive.

In what I've learned from much thought over the last year or so, it seems to me that you're both taking on the concept of God from this stance: you're trying to dis/prove God scientifically, statistically, or at least logically (by which I mean basic logical arguments).

For me, it goes much deeper than that, though; you can't really move into the depths of the topic before you realise a certain way of perceiving things (something which came to me from just thinking. It's nothing profound, but thinking for yourself gradually gets you there). I'm taking it too seriously, mind you, but I assure you that I'm being sincere.

Taking the issue of why the universe exists, for example, rather than going on about how it formed, what caused the big bang, how many times has it happened, consider: why should it have happened at all? Why should anything exist to cause it to happen? Why should the law exist that when X happens, Y is triggered? Indeed, if anything could or does exist, doesn't that at least imply a higher way of seeing things than through our minds? It's hard to express.

There are many ways of looking at every topic under the sun, but you can't understand someone else's views through arguments alone; you have to think about it your own way, if you know what I mean.

I'm not even an adult yet (probably surprised you there!), but this kind of thing isn't something that life experience necessarily teaches you, but just a bit of thought in a certain direction. In fact, it's the one thing which I think is explored most by thought alone.

I think we all fool ourselves when we think we have the final solution on the subject, though; we can always be thinking deeper about it. Our views should be evolving to encompass and fit in what everyone has to say about it, yet stay true to what you believe yourself. But it's something you can't really understand until your train of thought twigs onto it.

But I think I've still got too small a grasp on it to actually be talking about it to others! I guess maybe a belief system isn't something to be fixed, but expanded on.

But God really is bigger than meets the eye. If you ask me, Michael, the best road to being comfortable with your beliefs is to just think... that is, when you've got the time!

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