1. Let them know that it is not abnormal to experience doubt. This does not mean that your children will experience significant doubt, it just means that doubt is a common issue they will experience, to varying degrees, in a fallen world. Typically, your child’s struggles with doubt will not start until he reaches adulthood and begins to stand on his own two feet in many ways, including in his faith walk. But if you have helped your child understand that doubt is something common to all Christians, he won’t be scared to share his struggles when they arise later in life.

2. Share with them some of the doubts you struggle with. Of course, this is assuming you have brought your children up in the faith, showing them the strength of your faith as well. However, from time to time you should feel free to let them see you wrestling with God. This lets them know you are real, especially when they are older and more reflective. Showing them your doubts may embarrass you somewhat, but it can also go far in demonstrating that your faith is not shallow, but rather is marked by thoughtfulness. Sharing your doubts from time to time legitimizes the faith you do have, so they will be less tempted to think you are just a naive follower when they are older.

3. Help them prioritize their faith now. Make sure they don’t believe all issues are equal. Help them see the difference between negotiables and non-negotiables, essentials and non-essentials, cardinal and non-cardidal issues. Ensuring they understand the distinction between doctrine and dogma prevents the “house of cards” problem so that, even if they come to question one particular issue (i.e., creationism, inerrancy, premillenialism, Calvinism, etc.), they do not find it necessary to reject their faith completely.

4. Facilitate a love of Christian heroes. With all the exposure to cultural heroes (actors, musicians, models, etc.) so typical today, it is important that your children see the characteristics of godliness exemplified by real-life Christians. These examples should come from inside and outside the Bible. Reading about the heroism of Perpetua and her servant in their martyrdom is very difficult (and may be “R” rated), but your children need to know about people who actually lived out their faith with the same resources available to them today. Learning about Augustine’s life of sin before he was converted may be something you think you need to protect your children from, but perhaps they will remember the common struggle with sin when they are older and not feel so alone (which is the most fearful thing when one is doubting).

5. Allow for a great deal of mystery. We live in a western world and we love systematic theology. We want all the I’s dotted and the T’s crossed. But often, when we provide answers to all of our children’s questions, we don’t allow them to develop a respect for God’s inscrutability. He is beyond figuring out. His nature and his ways are mysteries to us. From “Why did God create the dinosaurs?” to “Why does God allow Satan to have so much power?” these questions need to be left unanswered (at least dogmatically). Allowing for and rejoicing in the mystery of God will help your children, giving them the freedom to worship in mystery and truth.

6. Ask the difficult questions. Many times we attempt to protect our children from hard issues that we think may cause them to doubt their faith. However, this is not wise. In fact, parents should be the first ones who bring up difficult issues, working through them with their children. “Why do you think God would take Spot away when he knows how much you loved him?” “It has been so long since Jesus rose from the dead, I don’t think he is coming back. What do you think?” Of course, you are guiding them to talk through things they may not have thought of otherwise. If you push them on these things early, they will be better prepared to hold on to their faith when their professor in college asks them similar questions in a much more hostile environment.

7. Make sure they know the heritage of their faith through church history. We all need to know that the anchor of our faith goes deeper than mom and dad. Again, times of doubt are intensified because we feel alone. However, these feelings of loneliness can also create doubt. By cultivating knowledge of church history, it will help your kids trace their faith origins back to the very beginning, making the picture of their faith much clearer when times of confusion arise.

8. Continually teach your children an apologetic defense of the faith. It is never too early to start your kids in apologetics. The most important doctrines of our faith are the simplest to defend. Your kids should know about all the arguments for the existence of God, the resurrection of Christ, and the reliability of Scripture. Often, this can be done by parents taking the antagonist role, then allowing the children to come up with the answers. I remember a time when Katelynn, my oldest, forgot a pencil that she needed for school.  I asked her why God, so powerful, allowed her to forget something so important. She prayed for the pencil to miraculously appear in her bag; when it did not, I told her, “I don’t think he exists.”  She responded, “Dad, that is dumb. If there was no God, there would not be a pencil to begin with.” Simple, correct, and profound.

9. Take your child on a missions trip. Kids in the U.S. have a strong sense of entitlement, believing they must have everything their friends have (and more!) or they are suffering abuse. The skewed points of reference they normally encounter (friends, neighbors, people they see on TV) create an inability to see the blessings they do have in their lives. Taking your child on a missions trip early (say, around age 12), reorients their perspective and gives them a good dose of reality.

10. Give them a chance not to believe. I remember hearing Billy Graham talk about a conversation he had with his son Franklin when he very young. He said, “Frank, your mother and I have decided to follow Jesus. We hope one day you will do the same thing.” And he left it at that. You children need to know they are free to not follow your same path so they take ownership of their own beliefs, rather than feel forced or tricked into believing the way you do. This disarming approach is very important for the future reality of their faith.

11. Prepare them for suffering. There is nothing that causes people to lose faith more than unexpected or “meaningless” suffering. This is where good theology is of utmost importance. When your children get older, they will surely suffer a great deal in one way or another. If they perceive that their suffering is something that was not supposed to happen, if they believe it is not God’s will for people to suffer, they will be very confused later in life, not knowing how to square what they believe with their life experience. But if we have taught our children well, giving them a strong biblical theology of suffering (i.e., we live in a fallen world; they should expect pain and difficulty), then disillusionment will not be a source for doubt.

12. Teach them to take care of their bodies. Many times doubt is brought about or intensified due to poor physical health. Your children need to know how vital the connection is between the spirit and the body. When one suffers, so does the other. A good eating and exercise routine will do much to prevent this type of doubt – which may be the most unnecessary of all sources of doubt (and depression).

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C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo House Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. He can be contacted at [email protected]

    122 replies to "Twelve Ways to Prepare Your Children for Times of Doubt"

    • Irene

      Thanks, Michael, this is a really important one! This may be the first blog post ever that I actually print out and save!

      Under #1 “Let them know it is not abnormal to experience doubt.”, I would slip in there making sure they know the difference between a difficulty and a doubt. What’s that saying? Something like A thousand difficulties do not a doubt make. (Who said that?)

      Under #10, “Give them a chance not to believe,” I’m not quite clear what you mean. Do you mean not tell them, “As long as you live under this roof, you’re going to church on Sunday.” or “No joining the Muslim Student Union.” If so, that is the one section I’d have to disagree with, but maybe I just don’t get what you mean.

    • theoldadam

      Great ideas!

      I’d like to add a couple. Baptize them and make sure they receive the Lord’s Supper regularly. And teach them that there, no matter how they feel about it, the Lord is truly with them, in all of the winning and losing in life.

    • robin

      These are very good, especially the idea of allowing your child to have some space to own his/her belief.

    • Tsela

      Thank you very much for posting this article!!!

    • J. Warner Wallace

      Great post Michael! I will be re-tweeting this one later today. We often say that it is far better to inoculate our kids than to isolate them. They need to know what is waiting for them long before they actually encounter it. We, as parents, are on the front lines. This is a responsibility that we cannot delegate to teachers or youth pastors.

    • Lora

      Since doubt is viewed in such a negative manner most of the time, it is refreshing to read a list like this.

    • Lora

      “allowing your child to have some space to own his/her belief”

      Robin—I’m glad this concept is meaningful to you. It is also meaningful to me.

      Overcoming my own doubt……
      Nearly 12 years ago, our family was attending a small Baptist church that taught Reformed doctrine. At the time, I was interested in psychology and philosophy.

      Since I did not hide my interest in these two topics, the preacher believed it was necessary to bash both topics–so he could set me straight? Or to overcome his own insecurity? Hard to tell….

      A retired Reformed Baptist pastor from New York state was visiting our church. He asked me what I thought of the preaching. I shared my ambivalence concerning the preacher’s comments about my interest in psychology and philosophy.
      He asked if I was interested in reconciling my interest in psychology and philosophy with Scripture. I told him yes.
      He brought me a book by J.I. Packer….
      Fundamentalism and the Word of God (1958)

      As I read Packer, the doubt and the confusion from my fundamentalist background began falling away….Packer’s book even restored my trust in the truth of God’s Word.

      Comparing the behavior of both preachers in light of relationship….four pillars:
      Love, Trust, Respect, and Understanding…..

      When these four pillars of relationship are in place, then it is easier for others to receive our message.

    • Andrew

      There seems to be some contradiction between 8 and 10. If you give your children a choice in what (if anything) to believe, then you should not be pushing the defence of a particular faith upon them from an early age.

    • C Michael Patton

      There is no contradiction so long as you see apologetics as giving honest rational, not manipulative rational. It’s kinda like giving reasons why u believe that a man landed on the moon yet not being emotionally manipulative in your arguments. Often parents do not give their children the option in their beliefs. Whether through fear or emotional manipulation, they force their kids into belief. This is just like anything else. Eventually u have to let them go so that they can excel. .

    • Ian

      Here’s a useful one I’ve found.

      As long as you beat any rational or critical thought out of them, destroy any desire for reason or truth and flatly refuse to be drawn into intelligent debate, then they will keep their (read: your) faith.

    • grace

      As Richard Dawkins has just commented on twitter, this is a twisted way to parent. I am so glad I was brought up in an atheist household with no beliefs pushed upon me. Disgusting

    • Andrew

      The contradiction lies in the fact that in number 8 you are endorsing one particular religion from an early age, whereas in 10 you are seeking to give children a free choice. If you endorse a religion from early in a child’s life, they have a diminished choice.

      • C Michael Patton

        It is impossible to bring your children up in neutrality in any area. To even suppose such is an option lacks any practical wisdom, and, more importantly, is an attempt to foster (or indoctrinate) a worldview of neutrality. At some point your children will begin to doubt this “neutral” upbringing. My sugestion at this point would be to follow the advice of this article. At some point you are going to have to give a defense for this. And I suggest you present them with all the strengths and weaknesses of your worldview, whatever it is. I simply happen to believe that Christianity is the most defendable option of all.

    • Leila

      Entirely emotional manipulation. This whole piece, that is absolutely dripping in psychological shenanigan, is so very much like Scientology that it strikes me just how damaging Christian brainwashing is for children. Done in the way this blog describes, young people have so little chance of choosing their own paths in adulthood, and have years of guilt and struggle ahead of them in order to dig out of the propaganda by which they’ve been victimized. I agree with Billy Graham — before a young mind has reached adulthood, Christian parents should have the confidence in their own faith enough to simply tell their children “This is what WE choose to believe, and we hope you’ll share our interest and devotion one day.” They should not be manipulated in such a vile and destruction way.

      I suggest every person of faith who is also a parent watch Julia Sweeney’s one-woman show “Letting Go of God” in order to understand that each individual must be given the freedom of education, worldliness and an open mind and heart to be able to TRULY be a believer of Christ. Otherwise, you only make them feel deceived, and fearful of their own destinies when they grow up and realize their perhaps well-intentioned parents just unloaded all their own personal dogmatic ideals unfairly onto them. Do the truly wise thing by teaching them ethics, laws, and allowing them to find their own way spiritually. When they want your input, they will come to you.

      • C Michael Patton

        Why wouldn’t teaching them ethics be brainwashing?

        I appreciate your candor, but your emotions cloud your antagonism. There is simply no reason why anyone should place their faith in what you have said. The apologetics point in your kids lives should deal with many alternatives, but those that have no rational basis (such as everything came from nothing or that the universe has always existed) should only recieve time relative to its strength and influence. As well, giving them morals without a sustainable rational basis is a worthless irresponsible activity. So, yes, I would say stay away from the bronze-age stuff, but that would most certainly disqualify any form of hard atheism. I would figure the best representative of secularism would be soft agnosticism or soft skepticism without the atheistic option being given too much time. Again, this will be disarming to your children when they get older.

    • John

      Sickening. Forcing and indoctrinating Bronze Age myths onto children is just wrong. It should be deemed as child abuse.

    • […] Michael Patton – 12 Ways to Prepare Your Children For Times of Doubt: […]

      • C Michael Patton

        Richard Dawkins just tweeted a link to this post. His comments? “What a sick & twisted way to parent.” I wonder if he even read the post. So much for being “open minded” or “free thinking.” So long as you teach something that is against his worldview it seems the designation “sick” and “twisted” get attached to it.

        I wonder . . . Is “sick & twisted” a moral designation? If so, what is the healthy and straight way to help children through their doubt in this faith-based claim.

    • Rune

      I feel the need to apologise, as an atheist I can see concern in certain methods here but the lack of respect by some people who’ve came here is terrible.

      Frankly I find that loud atheists can be just as bad as loud religious people sometimes :-/

      • C Michael Patton

        Loud people of whatever stripe do disservice to their cause, especially among the most thoughtful. But the power of emotion cannot be denied. For good or ill hateful sound bites makes the person think they are saying something substantial.

    • Leila

      “…should only recieve time relative to its strength and influence”

      This sums up the entire problem with your method. (And btw, I’m not questioning the teachings of Christ here. I’m questioning the manipulation of children by human beings.) In your above statement, YOU have already decided what universal theories or opposing religious doctrines are “strong” or “influential.” YOU are not giving your child the right to discover the world and its mysteries on their own; YOU are damaging their ability to make these decisions for themselves by marginalizing the faith of others for the express purpose, admitted to or not, of influencing the child’s own rational conclusions. I’m not saying that you have to compromise your own belief system. You will naturally share those principles as it IS your home and your child will live by your rules while they’re there. However, it is far easier than some people here would pretend to give whatever amount of time the child would be interested in talking about alternative beliefs. If your faith is strong, you shouldn’t mind continuing discussions about what others believe, or exploring atheism, agnosticism, science, ANYthing. You simply let the child know those are not YOUR beliefs but you respect the right of others to explore the universe in their own way. …unless you don’t.

      There IS no wisdom in mind control, which is what you suggest here. There is only fear. And perhaps this is at the heart of the problem. Christianity hopes to instill a “healthy” fear of God and punishment in order to keep man in check. So if you’re a Christian parent, you are acting out of that same fear, and desperate to keep your child from suffering on earth or in their afterlife. I see how being terrified would cloud your judgement, and make it darn near impossible to see the difference between neutrality and balance. If you childishly see the world as black and white, good and evil, healthy balance is impossible. Keep kids…

    • Leila

      Teaching a child ethics isn’t brainwashing because we, in this country, have determined that in order to have a fair and just society, we all must agree on a set of rules. Killing, stealing, or disturbing a person’s life, liberty and pursuit of happiness is simply unfair. You may believe what you want, live pretty much how you choose, but you may not negatively affect the lives of others, or come into their homes and behave destructively. It’s about how your conduct impacts others. Creating laws doesn’t necessarily say stealing is immoral. Creating laws says we simply do not tolerate it, and for it, you will be punished by your American peers. Justice is not brainwashing. Religious mythology was meant to instill a fear of supernatural ramifications. Repetitive enforcement that your soul will be banished to Satan’s lair to be tortured for eternity is brainwashing. Stating the reality that it is illegal in this country to rob someone is imparting a fact. Sharing the knowledge with a child that treating other people with kindness is rewarding and uplifting is simply the truth. I guess it’s about consequences. Reality is emotional pain, injury, prison or death. Brainwashing is repetitive enforcement of a superstitious belief or punishment. Nuance.

    • C Michael Patton

      Leila,

      Not that these are on par with atheism necessarily, but do you think I should give equal time to the flat earth theory or those who believe that 911 was created by Bush or those who believe in solapsism? Or do you think we should pre filter those that are rationally and historically legitimate according to their rationality and relative influence?

      And, of course, your list may be slightly different than mine, it is clear that there are world views that are going to be higher up these scales than others.

      When your children doubt it is often because they have been brainwashed and shielded from the way others think and believe. Our only responsibility as parents is to be able to explain and give reason for what we believe and why and give our children an education of what we believe to be legitimate options. Atheism will definitely be discussed in our family but I cannot lie and act as if it holds more legitimacy than it does. I don’t really expect you to do the same. All of us want our children to believe the truth, therefore we will attempt to give reasons for our persuasion accordingly. As long as we are intellectually honest, their doubt will not be caused by our overprotection. In this case, whatever they end up believing will be more true.

    • C Michael Patton

      “Teaching a child ethics isn’t brainwashing because we, in this country, have determined that in order to have a fair and just society, we all must agree on a set of rules. Killing, stealing, or disturbing a person’s life, liberty and pursuit of happiness is simply unfair. You may believe what you want, live pretty much how you choose, but you may not negatively affect the lives of others, or come into their homes and behave destructively.”

      Who determines that this is moral? What obligation to I have to believe that happiness and life are moral imperitives? Kant could not even pull this off with consistency. To say “you may not negatively affect the lives of others” is indoctrination of a worldview just as much as saying Jesus died for our sins.

      So, once again, there is no way for a parent to stay neutral. Your worldview that says the determination of the masses or the pusuit of happiness has to have some apologia tied to it. My advice would be to follow the advice of this post, just placing your faith in the place of mine. It will help in times of doubt. But remember, doubt is not a bad thing for through it true assensus is birthed.

    • Alex

      #13: Provide them with some evidence that God actually exists. Oh wait, there is none – scratch that.

    • James Cape

      @C Michael Patton,

      The difference (and I imagine core complaint from many commenters here) is that your worldview does not prepare children to learn knew things or distinguish fact from fiction outside the realm of religion.

      You’re advocating teaching children to overcome their doubts by deciding in advance what beliefs are important to them and sticking to them, rather than by figuring out how to test if their doubts are valid and conduct those tests honestly.

      • C Michael Patton

        “The difference (and I imagine core complaint from many commenters here) is that your worldview does not prepare children to learn knew things or distinguish fact from fiction outside the realm of religion.”

        That is an assertion from what I can tell. And it assumes a particular worldview. We all have to presuppose something. There is no value or virtue in vancancy. On top of this, we believe, as parents, our worldview to be legitimate, even if it is the assertion of agnosticism. Most of the time children will want to be like their parents. And if the parents are truly convinced of their worldview and it has implications, as most do, then the parents will want their children to believe as they do.

        This encourages critical thinking so that the belief sustained will be as stable as warranted. I really don’t think anyone should are fur against this post as all they have to do is insert their own worldview into it to see it work.

        Of course I believe that every advantage will go to the Christian worldview so long as true critical thinking and representation are done. This is the best a parent can do.

        Check out the doubt category on this blog. I write extensively on Christian doubt. Doubt can easily be eliminated from an intellectual standpoint. But from an emotional and spiritual standpoint (the source of most doubt and unbelief) the problems are much more complicated.

    • Joli

      Good post and interesting comments.
      I think Joshua 24:15 says something about this subject.
      He tells other people that They can choose other gods, but in his house they will serve the Lord.  It is a given that the Lord exists and that is who his family will serve.

      Thanks.

    • Glenn

      I am God. Since I am God, I know that you are doubting my claim to be God. Why? Am I any less than Jesus Christ? I don’t see Jesus Christ posting here. Therefore, the only logical conclusion is that you ought to be doubting the claims of Christians that Jesus Christ is God AT LEAST AS MUCH, IF NOT MORESO than my claim to be God. If you are incapable of doing this, then you are incapable of rational thought. Simple.

    • Thespar

      Don’t forget to teach them how capricious God is. If you’re not sure of an example, try Job.

    • anonymous

      Thank you for this post.

      Such a prayer now that our children would never deny our God-Father, Son, Spirit in any way, but stand firm in faith, by His will and power; and that we each and all are convicted to take His words on our hearts and teach them diligently to our sons and shall talk of them when we sit in our house and when we walk by the way and when we lie down and when we rise up. Deut 6,11

      I think the Lord will be asking us if they were interested in this.

    • BJ

      5. Allow for a great deal of mystery. “Allowing for and rejoicing in the mystery of God will help your children, giving them the freedom to worship in mystery and truth.” – – How can there be mystery and truth? The only one of the 12 points that I agree with is #10. Give them the chance not to believe. <—– That is a very good idea!

    • Irene

      @Rune

      Thanks for your comment and your civility. Honestly, as a Christian, when I read those unnecessarily aggressive and rude posts, it just makes me feel defensive and dig in my heels, and they are not in the least bit persuasive, nor do they inspire any respect for the opinions of their authors.

    • Kevin Bullock

      Michael, I have three sons that I am attempting to bring up. I have no wish to merely indoctrinate them into a faith that they do not take up for themselves. These points are ones that have been on my radar but not articulated as clearly as you have here.

      One of the most deeply meaningful experiences my oldest son and I have shared together was during a mission trip to Honduras, he was 11 at the time. It still informs OUR worldview to this day.
      Excellent points excellent post.
      Thank you for your contribution to our home.

    • Lora

      Robert Filmer wrote his La Patriarcha in early 1600s…he twisted Scripture to justify absolute monarchy.

      John Locke’s challenge to Filmer was published in 1690 as First Treatise Concerning Civil Government. Locke confronted Filmer’s twisting of Scripture in a fair and reasonable manner.

      Filmer’s view of children as property of father is known as traducianism.
      Locke’s view of children as gifts from God to be raised for His glory (instead of the father’s glory) is known as creationism.

      I believe this disagreement can be resolved by understanding the difference between traducianism and creationism….

    • Irene

      Fellow Christian parents,

      Notice, reading some of these comments from athiests, how we not only must prepare our children to participate in the arena of ideas –now we must also contend with the notion that it is WRONG to teach our children what we have come to know as truth. We are told it is not ethical or healthy to do anything other than leave our children’s brains and spirits “neutral”.

      My children, while they are children, are my responsibility. Therefore I simply must teach them what I believe to be truth. Surely everyone can agree that it would be unloving, disrespectful, unreasonable, and unwise to do otherwise. I won’t bypass truth to comply with some imagined, impossible “neutrality.”

      *So, if anyone is interested in the minds of my children, try to change MY perception of truth, instead of telling me it is wrong to TEACH my children truth.*

    • Irene

      @Lora

      Can you please explain a little further? I won’t have time to discuss, but am interested in what you are saying.

    • Curtis

      I understand what you are saying about teaching your children about what you have found as truth. In the same regaurd do you think it is ok for parents to teach their kids to hate another race or religion if the parents see it as truth?

    • Lora

      Thank you for your kind question, Irene.

      There seems to be lots of extremist thinking on both ends of the spectrum–atheism vs. fundamentalism.

      Considering the damage from my own fundamentalist background, I believe fundamentalists are wrong.
      As a Christian, I consider atheists to be wrong as well.

      When I was raising my children, I mostly read Dobson….which was okay. I just wish I had read more from other perspectives….during their teens, I studied the enneagram.

      WHen I homeschooled them, I learned about classical education and the trivium.
      When my children started high school, I went back to college to get my master’s degree. I was fascinated by the similarities between the trivium and Jean Piaget’s Cognitive Learning Theory–
      (If you are homeschooling, Bloom’s taxonomy is great for teaching critical thinking skills to your teens.)

      As I read chapter about Abraham Maslow for class one day, the Holy Spirit kept telling me to read I John. Once I read I John and recognized the parallels with Maslow, I knew the Lord was telling me to leave our fundamentalist church.
      So one Wednesday evening, I obeyed the Lord and refused to go to church with my husband that evening. Although he ranted and raged, the peace of God filled my heart.

      The Lord knows each one of us so well—He knows how to lead us, and He knows how to guide us. By the grace of God, my children have grown to be healthy responsible adults.
      They each go to a church of their own choosing….neither one of them are Bible thumpers and they both appear to be “worldly.” But the Lord knows their hearts….

      As far as Christian ethics…..my favorite author is Lewis Smedes. He openly refers to himself as a Dutch Calvinist AND he has rejected the pitfalls of fundamentalism.

      Hmm…I’m thinking that I didn’t answer your question very well, Irene :-/

    • robin

      Hi BJ, I think mystery and truth can definitely co-exist, scripture says that we see through a mirror darkly in our present state and I think this implies that we have an idea of what it is we are looking at and get glimpses of the actual details but we do not know fully. Someday we will see face to face and it will be over and above anything we have dreamed of as written in Epesians:

      To him who by means of his power working in us is able to do so much more than we can ever ask for, or even think of: 21 to God be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus for all time, forever and ever! Amen.

    • Chad Dougless

      @Andrew, #8

      Andrew, in your mindset, what would you say when your child asks why you believe in Jesus? Would you simply respond that your prefer not to answer because it could be construed by others as pushing a view on them? Or would you simply respond with a defense of your viewpoint? Likewise, if you child asks why other people go to church and believe in Jesus, would you refuse to answer based on the idea of not forcing your viewpoint upon them?

      My guess is that your realize the pointlessness of your particular view in these statements. You of course would provide a defense for your beliefs (and yes, atheism is a belief). Do you hold yourself to the same standards you espouse are good and right? Or do you believe that children are so daft that if you were to defend your viewpoint that they would not “learn” from it? Would you counter your viewpoint with a balanced exposition of all other possible viewpoints so as to not unduly influence them?

      @Ian, #10

      Please define rational and critical thought. Or do you only define rational and critical thought as thoughts that agree with your particular viewpoint? That would be an irrational view, thus negating your initial premise. Please read and respond rationally and critically instead of with blatant emotionalism that is both not supported in Christian belief nor in the article you are responding to.

      It is always important to teach rational and critical thought, just as it is important for apologetics in general to use logical, rational, and critical thought for the defense of their position. Why you falsely believe that all Christians are simply uneducated, backwards, irrational morons certainly says more about your own irrational beliefs than those whom you oppose.

    • Irene

      @Lora,

      Well, you may not have exactly answered it, but still interesting! You are correct in thinking I may be another homeschooler! In fact, I am primarily doing it for academic reasons, with classical education specifically in mind. In other realms of the web, I have read about the controversy whether Dorothy Sayers knew what she was talking about and whether she was in line with historic classical education. Right now I tend to think that her connection of the trivium with child development is useful, but also that it shouldn’t replace the content, the meat, of classical Ed. Anyway, don’t want to get too far off topic here.

      I often get the impression athiests believe all Christians to bring up their children in a closed-minded stubborn way. This is such a mistaken notion. Open-mindedness is good! But it is not the pinnacle of education either. If the open mind in which an idea is contemplated is not well-trained and mature, no worthwhile contemplation can occur. The mind must be skilled in reason and expression. And there must be some knowledge of truth to work from. In other words, open mindedness has to be more than just a gateway to nothing. There has to be some “there” there. Thus my reference in a previous comment about truth (at least the desire for it) being necessary, and the idea of ignoring truth for the sake of “neutrality” being nonsense (and leading to nonsense!).

      Thanks for some interesting items to add to my “read about” list.

    • Irene

      @Curtis

      Well, I suppose that would be their prerogative. I would say what they are teaching is wrong, but their judgement would be authoritative in that case, not mine. I would try to change the mind of the parents, instead of saying the parents don’t have a right to teach their own children. Now, if they were teaching violence against other people, that would be different. That would be crossing a line necessary for civilized society, which protects the rights of the parents in the first place.

    • Carrie Hunter

      So many bananas to peel and not enough time.

    • Carrie Hunter

      Ok in all seriousness…

      Hey atheists. Can you prove to me the laws of logic exist. But do so by providing same type of evidence you demand Christians provide for the existence of God.

      We need the following:

      Detail what the law of non-contradiction looks like (as in physical features not some written out explanation of what it entails.)

      Detail what the law of non-contradiction sounds like (what sound does it make when it is singing in the shower?)

      Detail what the law of non-contradiction taste like (is it pungent, sweet, savory etc?)

      Detail what the law of non-contradiction feels like (what is its physical texture?)

      Detail what the law of non-contradiction smells like (what smell does it emit?)

      Until you can demonstrate to me the physical properties of the law of non-contradiction, you have no grounds for appealing to logic. (Well you do have grounds as it is properly basic to use logic, but using your own criteria of evidence, you have no reason to believe it exist in the first place to use it at all.)

    • Francis

      Wow, Rich Dawkins!!! (Never read his stuff, but I do like his accent :))

      Any education has to involves a certain degree of indoctrination. No one can possibly give a completely unbiased view on everything with a myriad of options and let the child decide for themselves whether or not they have reached a certain maturity to decide for themselves. For one example, I wonder whether Dr. Dawkins teaches his kids to look both ways before crossing the street?

    • […] Patton has a nice article detailing 12 ways we can prepare children for times of doubt in their Christian […]

    • […] Thanks to Michael Patton at Credo House for these excellent tips: […]

    • Lora

      Robert Filmer wrote his La Patriarcha in early 1600s…he twisted Scripture to justify absolute monarchy.

      John Locke’s challenge to Filmer was published in 1690 as First Treatise Concerning Civil Government. Locke confronted Filmer’s twisting of Scripture in a fair and reasonable manner.

      Filmer’s view of children as property of father is known as traducianism.
      Locke’s view of children as gifts from God to be raised for His glory (instead of the father’s glory) is known as creationism.

      I believe this disagreement can be resolved by understanding the difference between traducianism and creationism….

      So how can this disagreement be resolved?

    • Lora

      Traducianism of Robert Filmer has been passed down to the 20th century…known as fundamentalism.
      My two biggest problems with fundamentalist PRACTICE is that they tend to exalt authority at the expense of morality and they tend to exalt faith at the expense of reason.
      Even though I am a Christian, I must commend atheists for recognizing these problems even if they are unable to verbalize it in terms acceptable to me as a Christian.

      Enter my favorite philosopher: John Locke.
      During his years in college, Calvin’s Institutes was required reading for all students. John Locke owned 2 of his own copies in his personal library.
      In his political philosophy, John Locke preserved the Calvinist concept of morality superseding authority based upon Acts 5:29.
      In his work The Reasonableness of Chrisitanity and his Essay Concerning Human Understanding, Locke described the ludicrous nature of faith CONTRARY to reason. He described the resurrection of Jesus Christ as faith ABOVE reason. He deplored an unexamined faith, as do I.
      The scholar Nicholas Wolterstorff has defined the complementarist view of faith and reason, making a connection between John Locke and Thomas Aquinas.
      He also described the preconditionalist view of faith and reason held by Augustin and Calvin. Since this second view of faith ABOVE reason depends on the Holy Spirit, it is suitable for those inside the church but not for those outside the church.

      If Christians want their ideas to have credibility in the cultural marketplace, then it would be best for them to learn more about the complementarist view of faith and reason, especially as it relates to the light of nature, that is faith ACCORDING to reason.

    • Clint Roberts

      Very good, Lora. I like.

      We should all be concerned any time we begin to hear militant language from anti-religionists who, having untethered their thinking from all previous foundations of reason and ethics, presume to know best how to raise everyone’s kids. Secular ‘Big Brother’ will not be delivering us into any future utopias. Quite the opposite.

      In a speech on Nov. 6, 1933, Hitler said, “When an opponent declares, ‘I will not come over to your side,’ I say calmly, ‘Your child belongs to us already … You will pass on. … In a short time they will know nothing but this new community’.”

    • James Cape

      @C Michael Patton:

      It’s poorly stated, but it is not an assertion. The only way to distinguish fact from fiction is science, narrowly understood. Hypothesis, Test, Repeat. And the only reasonable way to determine if science is the only reasonable way is also science (i.e. the hypothesis that “this non-scientific method of telling truth from fiction is valid” must be able to be tested through experimentation).

      Critical thinking—at least as far as Wikipedia defines it—is not a valid way to separate fact from fiction. Its plainly valuable as a way to clarify your own thinking about a subject—a way to ask yourself “what do I believe,” It allows you to come up with a coherent explanation for some part of how the world works. Great, but that isn’t good enough. “What do I believe” is simply another way to say the more sciency-sounding “what is my hypothesis.”

      So the next step—the important step—is to design an experiment that will tell you if your hypothesis is wrong. Critical thinking will prove useful here too, but thinking isn’t a substitute for experiment (or experimental results). It facilitates the operation of science, but it isn’t a replacement for it, just as a can of gasoline isn’t a replacement for an engine.

      If you aren’t actually performing experiments, however, then you don’t actually know if what you believe is true, and teaching children not to put their beliefs through actual experiments, on purpose, reminds me of nothing so much as ritual foot binding.

    • C Michael Patton

      James,

      You said “The only way to distinguish fact from fiction is science, narrowly understood. Hypothesis, Test, Repeat. And the only reasonable way to determine if science is the only reasonable way is also science (i.e. the hypothesis that “this non-scientific method of telling truth from fiction is valid” must be able to be tested through experimentation).”

      Can you scientifically prove this philosophical assertion? Have u ever heard of logical positivism? Your categories are too narrow and your epistemology fails to warrant its own premises.

      Either way, experimentation, from a historical standpoint, is impossible. Historical warrant is, nevertheless, justifiable. In other words, we can be fairly certain about the past.

      As well, though you cannot test it, you can be fairly certain that other minds exist and that you were not created ten min ago with preprogrammed memories. As well, though sciences says nothing about it, I don’t think solipsism is true, do you.

      Science assumes properly basic beliefs that it cannot proves, does it not? Can you scientifically prove the law of non-contradiction exists?

      I think you need to be more critical of your own epistemology. It is simple, flawed, and philosophically absurd. (Not to mention that it has nothing to do with this post, either in refutation or support).

    • Lora

      I believe this disagreement could be resolved by considering the scientific experiment described in II Kings 4 (didn’t work for Gehazi, but it worked for Elisha)
      Hmmmm….I wonder why?

      I just posted my comments at the end of the thread: Is Bad Doctrine a Sin

    • James Cape

      Yes, I have heard of logical positivism. Should I insult you by assuming you’ve never heard of Karl Popper? Or were you simply too reflexively defensive of the verbal carpet bombing from Frankfurt that you failed to notice that I was describing falsifiability, not verifiability? Perhaps the village neither wants nor needs to be “saved” from the godless Evidentialists?

      And yes, experimentation is impossible with history, because history is the observation, not the hypothesis, experiment, or theory. Arguing about the quality of your observation—or what hypotheses are coherent with the observation—seems like a useful diversion, but ultimately just grist for the progress machine.

      And no, I don’t believe there are practically basic beliefs. You’re welcome to read up on the alternatives to foundationalism on your own.

      I will say that I’m heartened by the fact that you’re at least nominally attempting to avoid the brain in the jar discussion, if only because that’s only actually interesting to madmen and billionaires, of which I’m neither.

      In terms of how it’s related, I flat-out said why it’s related: teaching your children that it’s OK to wall off foundational beliefs from examination is damaging to them, because—as you’re attempted to goad me into allowing—once you allow one belief to be treated as a fact without subjecting it to experiment, the door is open for all sorts of wacky nonsense to walk right in.

    • Michael T

      @ James,

      1. Moral and ethical systems are not falsifiable. They are only better or worse depending on whatever one believes to be the goal of ethics and morals. The goal, whatever it may be for each persons worldview, is neither testable nor falsifiable. Despite this I think you would agree that ethics plays a great role in the progress (or regress depending on your view) of society.

      2. Are you saying that statements like “other minds other than my own exist” or “the physical world is real” are not basic beliefs? If not how would you suggest testing these in a falsifiable manner?

    • James Cape

      @C Michael Patton:

      1. Yes, so moral and ethical systems cannot be “disproven” (Just in case: theism is neither a moral nor an ethical system, it’s a hypothesis about the universe.) “Ethics plays a great role in the progress […] of society” is a hypothesis worth experimenting on. 😉

      2. So: billionaire, or madman?

      One of the wonders of science is that untestable hypotheses can properly be dismissed out of hand for what they are: a total waste of time.

    • C Michael Patton

      James,

      “One of the wonders of science is that untestable hypotheses can properly be dismissed out of hand for what they are: a total waste of time.”

      So the epistemological grounding for the whole scientific theory proves that science is a waste of time? I would not go there. It’s much easier to admit that there are properly basic beliefs that need not be tested as they cannot.

      Again, can you scientifically prove the law of non-contradiction? Is this learned or assumed. Nurture or nature?

    • James Cape

      Ugh, more quibbling about the limits of observation and pretending that it’s somehow some deep critique of the scientific method, or makes science somehow insufficient, requiring a bunch of a-priori holes which you’ll then attempt to drive a belief-you-were-taught-as-a-child shaped truck through. Observations are limited. Hypotheses are imperfect. The math describing the world is messy and complicated. Life is messy and complicated. So what?

      The claim that the world is real, and you’re not in the Matrix is falsifiable: Look for evidence that you’re living in the Matrix. Start with quanta, that seems to be a promising line of inquiry. Given enough rigor and time, you’ll have a preponderance of evidence one way or the other.

      But that’s a real problem, not the philosophical brain-in-a-vat problem. You’re looking for a response to the impossible “we keep changing the definition of the Matrix such that it shrinks smaller and smaller, it eventually becomes a belief without any possibility of ever having evidence to support it,” problem. I’m telling you point blank that’s a silly game.

      (As an aside, assuming you were a brain in a jar has no effect on the workings of the scientific method at all. Science will still allow you to create an incredibly accurate description of life inside the jar, everything is implicitly caveated: “in this jar”.)

      Further, you’re still missing the distinction between falsifiability and verifiability. Can you falsify A = A? Sure, show me where A != A. I know what that would look like—it would be a mind-bender, but I have some idea of what to expect, because set theory actually came close to doing just that (and some mis-interpretations of quantum physics still do), but it turned out that the set theory itself was poorly defined, not the law of non-contradiction.

      So there’s evidence in favor of the law of non-contradiction, and we haven’t found any examples of contradiction.

    • Michael T

      1. I am not CMP. Different Michael

      2. “Ethics plays a great role in the progress […] of society” is a hypothesis worth experimenting on”

      Your missed the point here. The point was not concerning whether or not ethics plays a role in society. The question was whether or not one can falsify a choice in regards to what one thinks the goals of ethics should be (e.g. greatest good for the greatest number, congruency with some divine law, or personal happiness)

      3. “The claim that the world is real, and you’re not in the Matrix is falsifiable: Look for evidence that you’re living in the Matrix.”

      If you are living in a Matrix with no real free will and everything that you think and feel is determined how would one be able to know it and see the evidence of it? Wouldn’t we, just like the people in the movie, completely miss the incongruities and glitches? You don’t really provide any concrete way to falsify the hypothesis that we are living in a Matrix or a brain in a vat. What evidence of this would expect to see if it were true?

      “You’re looking for a response to the impossible “we keep changing the definition of the Matrix such that it shrinks smaller and smaller, it eventually becomes a belief without any possibility of ever having evidence to support it,” problem. I’m telling you point blank that’s a silly game.”

      Not sure what you mean

      “Can you falsify A = A? Sure, show me where A != A”

      If all that is required is to show how something could theoretically be proven false then “god” would seem to qualify. One could, hypothetically, show that god cannot be by, for instance, showing that the concept is logically incoherent.

    • James Cape

      Yes, noticed that after I hit “submit” and the timer expired, apologies.

      I believe I’ve already agreed with you that a “goal” cannot be falsified in and of itself. However, that does not mean all goals are created equal. Disproving the assertions behind a goal could make the goal incoherent, but it can’t falsify it. To put it another way, if your goals include accessing latent psychic abilities, riding already-existing unicorns, or getting into heaven, you’re gonna have a bad time.

      You can also falsify the claim that a particular set of ethics or morals is the optimal way to reach a particular goal. Christianity, in particular, seems to be spectacularly bad at not breaking “God’s Laws”… Orthodox Judaism? Same laws, but not so much.

      The fact the universe appears to be quantized is one such piece of evidence that we are, in fact, living in a simulation. But again, that is actually attempting to answer the question “am I a brain in a vat,” which isn’t a question you actually want answered. You’re looking for a pseudo-intellectual diversion big enough to stuff a religion into.

      Let me put my rejection of the question into the language of the unemployed: The brain in a vat problem, particularly when offered as an attack on evidentialism, is absurd.

      Yes, “god exists” is a falsifiable hypothesis for most definitions of “god” (certainly for the theistic ones). It should be experimented on.

    • […] C. Michael Patton. Twelve ways to prepare your children for times of doubt. This does not mean that your children will experience significant doubt, it just means that doubt is a common issue they will experience, to varying degrees, in a fallen world. […]

    • Geoff

      I have nothing against any of these suggestions. But I would suggest one more thing. We all have innate knowledge of God. But we are sinners at heart and we want to do whatever we want.

      So on practical level, going to college and wanting to have sex with someone will cause more doubt than anything intellectually speaking.

      I’ve seen almost any objection there is and haven’t seen anything earth-shatering. It’s more the emotional response stuff I think is the issue. Your father was harsh so you turn into an atheist. You experienced some loss so you wonder how a good God (who never promised you everything would be wonderful) could exist. You don’t want people to think you are stupid so you take up atheism because all the cool kids are doing it. Stuff like that. Intellectual arguments come after, in my estimation of most cases, as a post hoc rationalization.

    • James Cape

      @Geoff,

      [citation needed]

      😉

    • Francis

      James,

      You said: “god exists” is a falsifiable hypothesis for most definitions of “god”. Please clarify. Most propositions about “falsifiable god hypothesis” that I’ve come across hasn’t made a lot of sense.

      Thanks.

    • Carrie Hunter

      “The math is complicated”…

      I’d say.

      You can’t empirically observe numbers. You can not prove the existence of numbers with your “science.”

    • Michael T

      “Let me put my rejection of the question into the language of the unemployed: The brain in a vat problem, particularly when offered as an attack on evidentialism, is absurd.”

      I am not making an attack on evidentialism per se. Rather an attack on a form which would argue that there are no basic beliefs (which you earlier asserted). I feel completely justified in believing that the universe is “real”, other minds other than my own exist, or that the universe wasn’t created 10 seconds ago with the appearance of age. None of these can I prove evidentially or even falsify one way or the other if I were to present it as a hypothesis.

    • James Cape

      @Carrie Hunter,

      I can empirically observe that when I have one apple, and you give me two apples, I now have three apples. I just generated evidence for 1 + 2 = 3. It’s kindergarten-level stuff, which we all do and take for granted. But who ever said science was the exclusive domain of the hyper-educated and badly attired?

      (I’m also pretty sure that the observation of sets came before formal set theory.)

      @Francis,

      “There is a being in existence who ‘created’ the universe and inspired the authors of the book known as the Bible into writing down laws, advice for life, and paeans to the being. This being will punish or reward us at some undetermined date in the future on our ability to follow those laws and advice.”

      You should see evidence of a created universe. You should be able to discover a mechanism for the being to influence the authors of the bible. You should see him return at some point. Ideally you would find a way to repeatedly contact this being: “Direct a neutrino stream at a concentration of anti-protons with a high ratio of inverse technobabble and bam: God radio.”

      We’ve never seen any such evidence; never any such results. Further, theologians are seemingly content to jerk around with intellectual diversions rather than do anything like those investigations—you can easily hypothesize reasons why they don’t conduct those studies, but naturally you’d have to conduct a study to validate it. 😉

    • James Cape

      @Michael T,

      Nonsense. Every instant of your existence in this reality is evidence both for your existence and for this reality. Every interaction with a “mind other than your own” is evidence for “minds other than your own.” Do you remember life from more than 10 seconds ago? Hey, that’s pretty strong evidence that there was life older than 10 seconds ago.

    • C Michael Patton

      It is an unscientific assumption to believe that you were not pre programmed with memories and created 10 minutes ago. However, it is a properly basic belief…just like morals, other minds (not simply brains), and the law of non-contradiction. All of these assumptions form a bedrock of everyone’s belief and are necessary preconditions for any scientific inquiry. As well, transcendence is a presupposition to all knowledge or free will. But the latter are more complicated, so the former need to be thought of first to establish the admission of properly basic beliefs. But once this is conceded, God is really not even a step away. At the very least, the whole idea that I only am required to believe what science can prove (a statement that science cannot prove) goes out the door. At this point one is not simply on epistemologically shaky ground, but grounded in mid-air.

      This is why all arguments for atheism are self-defeating and why atheism is the most anti-intellectual position one could ever assume.

    • Michael T

      “Nonsense. Every instant of your existence in this reality is evidence both for your existence and for this reality.

      Nonsense. It is evidence that I exist, but not for the existence of anything else. There are numerous scenarios under which reality as I experience it is not actually reality at all. This shouldn’t be that controversial. Somebody on a hallucinogenic drug experiences a reality that is not actually as things truly exist (for instance thinking they can fly).

      “Every interaction with a “mind other than your own” is evidence for “minds other than your own.””

      Nonsense. It is again evidence that my mind exists, but for all I know everyone else is in my mind. I can’t get outside of my own mind to prove otherwise.

      Do you remember life from more than 10 seconds ago? Hey, that’s pretty strong evidence that there was life older than 10 seconds ago.”

      Nonsense. The fact I think I have memories prior to 10 seconds ago just shows how good the creator was at making things appear as if there was age. It put those memories there so that I would think the universe was really really old.

      Now as to being falsifiable the hypothesis that, for instance, the universe was created 15 billion years ago is falsifiable in one sense, but not in another. It can be shown whether or not, according to science, the universe was created 15 billion years ago. However, the statement that science gives us an accurate depiction of the age of the universe is ultimately not falsifiable. It is quite possible for the universe to have been created at some intermediate point with the appearance of age leaving no trace of evidence for science to detect to show that this was the case

    • James Cape

      @C Michael Patton, @Michael T,

      I thought I had telegraphed the entire game two days ago:

      [You are trying to make] science somehow insufficient, requiring a bunch of a-priori holes which you’ll then attempt to drive a belief-you-were-taught-as-a-child shaped truck through

      You’re looking for a response to the impossible “we keep changing the definition of the Matrix such that it shrinks smaller and smaller, it eventually becomes a belief without any possibility of ever having evidence to support it,” problem. I’m telling you point blank that’s a silly game.

      Every moment of existence in this reality is also evidence for this reality. Ipso facto. Throw however many restatements of the “brain in a vat” problem as you like (that’s where your hallucinogen argument ends, BTW), that does not change that. You must ultimately be able to present evidence that the evidence is wrong, and that this is not, in fact reality.

      Every interaction with what appears to be another mind is evidence in favor of the “other minds” hypothesis. In order to overturn that hypothesis, you must show it to be flawed in some way. You must present evidence that other minds do not, in fact, exist.

      Same story with “made with age”.

      Eventually, all these protestations get weirder and more conspiratorial, and are labeled appropriately: crank psychology, crank physics, crank history. You’re demanding I take TIME CUBE seriously, because epistemologically it isn’t that different from taking Jesus seriously.

    • Carrie Hunter

      Oh dear.

      1, 2, or 3 … none of them have physical properties which you can empirically observe James.

      All you did was show the symbols we have assigned to the immaterial concepts of numbers.

      The apples you mention are physical. The numbers you used to tally them are not.

      You can not observe the physical properties of the number 3 because it doesn’t have any.

      Not everything that does exist can be observed physically. Science itself can not ascertain what the number 3 sounds like or looks like or feels like. It doesn’t make a sound, it has no physical appearance and it lacks any texture which you can rub your hand over.

      The existence of numbers if foundational to all the sciences yet there is no scientific method that can be sued to observe them.

    • […] Twelve Ways to Prepare Your Children for Times of Doubt […]

    • James Cape

      @Carrie,

      Numbers are an abstraction of set theory, which is an abstraction of the relationships demonstrated in the physical world. If the abstraction is valid, then it will not conflict with the physical world.

      If you treat numbers as some metaphysical truth, then Russell’s Paradox is a description of A != A. If you don’t, then it is simply a demonstration that naive set theory was an incomplete abstraction of the real world, and needed to be revised (which it was with ZFC).

    • Carrie

      Sorry James you merely described something about numbers and how they function. You have not given physical evidence for their existence.

      Which I’m sure you will say you don’t have to because we see how they parallel truths within physical reality.

      Which I don’t discount that immaterial things do parallel truth found in the material world. But see my worldview allows for that. Your’s however does not.

      You have to borrow from a system that allows for the existence of the immaterial (in this case numbers) to even begin to build your system that disallows the existence of the immaterial altogether.

      If you can’t understand what is being said here then I have failed to be clear or you simply haven’t addressed the consequences of the ideas I have set forth. You haven’t thought about what is being said. Quick to give an answer slow to consider the propositions set forth..

    • James Cape

      @Carrie,

      Where do you think numbers came from, exactly?

    • Carrie

      It doesnt matter if the are self creating. It dosent matter where they come from in relation to the point I am making.

      The point is you can not prove their existence using the methods you are suggesting we use to know the truth about reality.

    • James Cape

      That wasn’t what I asked. I asked where you thought they came from.

      Yes, abstract concepts like numbers don’t have any existence apart from the systems they are describing. That’s a feature, not a bug.

    • Carrie

      How can you not see the absurdity of that James?

      These numbers have to exist even apart from the system else you would not be able to build the system to begin with.

      When you say they exist within a system that does nothing to offer physical evidence of them or of the system for that matter. The very system to which you appeal doesn’t have physical properties either. Yet you freely punt to these things as though it solves the dilemma.

      What are the physical properties of Godel’s incompleteness Therom? Doesn’t have any.

      The point is not everything that exists has observable physical properties. That being the case numbers and the systems in which we find them can not be proven by what you think are the only methods for finding truth.

    • […] From C. Michael Patton: […]

    • Francis

      James,

      I don’t know if you realize this. But you haven’t exactly explained how “‘god exists’ is a falsifiable hypothesis for most definitions of ‘god'” (perhaps I wasn’t clear enough?).

      Rather, you are foregoing the more important question of “Is ‘god exists’ a falsifiable hypothesis”, and went directly to placing “god exists” as a valid, falsifiable hypothesis within your framework, and just ran with it.

      As I said, most propositions about “falsifiable god hypothesis” that I’ve come across haven’t made a lot of sense. Do you mind addressing this question?

      Thanks again.

    • James Cape

      @Francis,

      I gave an example of “god exists” restated as a falsifiable hypothesis, and showed some ways it could be falsified. What are you looking for, specifically? A percentage of god hypotheses that are falsifiable? (I don’t have one, and I was overstating to say “most,” though I’ve said in other comments here that I consider non-falsifiable hypotheses to be silly.)

      “Most propositions about falsifiable god hypothesis haven’t made a lot of sense, can you address them?” Can I address other people’s propositions about god hypotheses? Nope, afraid not. Can I address a complaint you have about my view that god hypotheses are at least sometimes falsifiable? Sure, but you have to state the complaint ;-).

      @Carrie,

      When I asked you where numbers came from, I was asking you for a history of how human beings invented our number system. What steps did humans take in the creation of math? Was it all handed down on stone tablets from the sky?

      Or did people look at the world around them (observe), attempt to develop an abstract way to describe that world (hypothesis), and revise that abstraction when it proved incomplete in describing the world (test and repeat), until eventually deciding on [naive set] theory. And lo, when the theory was shown to be unworkable, they did revise it. And there were many blessings.

      Seriously, numbers are nothing more than a representation of sets, which is 1:1 to the real world. Becoming so used to them that we mistake them for a-priori truths, rather than just a convenient shorthand with near-universal application doesn’t impart them with some mystical existence. It just means we’ve taken them for granted for so long that we’ve forgotten that at one point in our lives we had no idea what a “3” was, or why 1 + 2 = 3, and somebody had to convince us, with evidence, that 1 + 2 = 3.

    • Carrie Hunter

      James where they come from is of no consequence in relation to anything I have said.

      Just do this. Prove to me using the scientific method the statement you made is true:

      “Seriously, numbers are nothing more than a representation of sets, which is 1:1 to the real world.”

      Give me at least one physical property of that statement that I can observe using the scientific method.

      If you can not then I have no reason to believe you, using your own criteria that is.

    • James Cape

      @Carrie,

      Sure. The full hypotheses is:

      – Numbers are an abstraction of sets of “things” (broadly defined) with physical existence

      And the true question is whether that is testable within a scientific, observe, hypothesis, test. (Don’t whine about restatement, that’s plainly the meaning I’m driving at).

      So, the first thing to do is look at existing observations—our existing evidence for the hypothesis. Hence the history lesson. Every class of numbers has such a connection to the real world: either an abstraction of sets directly, or, worst-case, an abstraction required to handle the manipulation of a set with physical existence.

      A conclusive experiment as to whether numbers are an abstraction of sets of “things” is one which can detect if a number cannot be representative of a group of “things” in the real world.

      You don’t seem to understand that by reclassifying numbers as a conceptual shortcut around descriptions of the real world within an evidence-based framework, numbers don’t need to have independent existence. They still “work”, and their workings are validated by the physical universe. If their workings aren’t validated by the physical universe, then they change.

      Now, since you seem to think I don’t get it (as opposed to “considered and rejected it years ago”), please describe what you think a number is, and explain why that is the case. While you’re at it, please explain why Russell’s Paradox is not a problem for your view of numbers.

      Or, you could explain why you think it’s worth either of our time for you to play silly word games with “exist” as it relates to abstract concepts in order to crowbar some non-falsifiable version of Jesus into a finite universe.

    • Carrie Hunter

      @James

      You gave me not one shred of physical evidence for a number other than to say they correspond to things in the real world.

      I think numbers are immaterial things which subsists in minds. In the context of my asking for physical evidence of them, it is irrelevant to what they correspond to in the real world. The point is they are immaterial thus can not be touched or smelled or felt etc.

      Numbers are immaterial James. Immaterial things have no physical properties. They don’t magically grow physical properties because they correspond to the physical world.

      In all you have said, you have only said “numbers are real because we use them”. That conflicts with your very basis of “evidence” and your “method” used for knowing truth about the world around us. You have yet to show how that is incorrect.

      @Greg

      There is nothing I have said that contradicts my previous comments on another discussion.

      I said I personally lean heavily towards a presuppositional approach. Here you can see that played out.

      What I also said was, I am not going to harp on someone who is engaging in another method especially while they are in the middle of engaging in another method. Other methods can be helpful Greg. I personally don’t use them, but I have seen people have great success with them.

      To both of you, at the end of the day, in light of everything that happened in my state, engaging in this discussion is something that has been relegated to a very low priority.

      By no means do I wish to diminish the importance of the subject, but I realize after repeatedly stating the same thing to you James and being met with the same response each time, and that because you Greg like to find a way to argue about the smallest iota it is unwise for me to continue.

      In light of what is going on today with relief efforts, my time today and for the next few weeks will be better spent with that.

    • Francis

      Hi James,

      In science, we propose a testable hypothesis, make sure that the hypothesis is valid under the framework in which it will be studied, then study it. It’s this first step that you glossed over. In fact, you did not give an example of “god exists” stated as a falsifiable hypothesis, but gave an example of how “god exists” as a false hypothesis may be proven.

      On the other hand, the reason why you didn’t justify how “god exists” serves as a falsifiable hypothesis, may be because, as you said, “though I’ve said in other comments here that I consider non-falsifiable hypotheses to be silly”. Hence “god exists” MUST be a falsifiable hypothesis, and it MUST be a falsifiable hypothesis under your particular framework.

      The validity of your philosophy notwithstanding, I see no more than a carelessness in throwing around the term “hypotheses”, and arriving at a conclusion that you intended before hypotheses were even made.

    • James Cape

      @Francis,

      Do you feel as though “God exists” is a statement about the universe in which we live?

    • James Cape

      @Carrie,

      My point, which I’ve stated, is that I do not believe numbers have an immaterial existence, because “immaterial existence” is just another phrase for “assertion”. If it exists, you should be able to prove it. If you can’t prove it, then you can only assert it.

      The whole point of an evidential approach which restricts itself to things which can be tested is to restrict what you believe to things you can actually prove. For those interested in the psychology, I recommend empathizing with the apostate perspective: when you do reject religion, you cannot help but feel like a sucker. So you naturally look for methods to not get suckered again, and a radical evidentialist epistemology which depends on scientific processes is about as stringent as you can get.

      Good luck with your efforts.

    • Michael T

      “You must ultimately be able to present evidence that the evidence is wrong, and that this is not, in fact reality.”

      “You must present evidence that other minds do not, in fact, exist.”

      Actually not at all. Why believe the evidence in the first place? Why should I trust my senses or science? The burden is on you to show that the system is reliable. Unfortunately absent basic beliefs the only thing to show the validity of the the system is….well….the system. As long as there is a way (in fact multiple ways) for the system to be flawed and lead to false results then one should have very limited confidence in the ability of the system to accurately portray reality.

    • […] and Pen, perhaps the reason many adolescents and young adults have faith collapses is because they aren’t properly conditioned on dealing with doubts. Must reading for Christian […]

    • James Cape

      @Michael T,

      Wait. Are you actually suggesting that it’s better to use bald assertions than potentially bad data, because you can’t be 100% confident in the data, but you can in your assertions?

    • Hman

      Hello Christian, hello Atheist.

      Atheist, you claim that the existence of God cannot be proven simply because you see no signs of his existence. Have you thought about the fact that even though there may not be signs of him today, God could show himself tomorrow? Can you honestly say you have concluded anything on the existence of God, other than what you have observed today? That you would not change your mind if God revealed himself to you tomorrow? You try to convince Christian to admit the obvious, that God is hidden. Christian constantly refuses, avoiding to deal with the truth. God is hidden, and you are frustrated by the fact that Christian does not ackknowledge that.

      Christian, you bash Atheist with the argument after argument of that proof of God is evident. It is evident you cannot. You feel frustrated and saddened knowing God’s word saying Atheist is facing God’s wrath resulting in eternal death. You want nothing more than showing him that, but you cannot get through. You cannot produce the evidence Atheist is asking for. You simply cannot take God by the hand and lead him to Atheist, which is the only evidence that would convince him. Then there is the inconsistency in Atheist’s argument disproving God based on what you can show him today. If Atheist only understood that if he just waits until the day of his return. This must be frustrating for you as well.

      Atheist, Christian, it appears to me as if the two of you are talking about two different matters. That you are talking past each other.

    • Hman

      Atheist, Christian, meet my friend Faith. She is mysterious, she cannot be analysed, she is neither true, nor false. She is different from her sister Hope, in that Hope sometimes can be false. Faith is never false, but she is never true either. She never speaks. Faith can never convince anybody else about her existence and that makes her hard to handle. But for those who accept her for what she is, she is a great comforter. Christian, Atheist, please let her in, spend a little time with her and let her work her magic before you show her to the door with your methodical, super sharp brains. She is very shy, timid and fragile but once you sat down with her your life will change. In her presence I can comfortably soak in ideas that cannot be logically proven, I can rest assured that she will not keep me there against my will. I can familiarize with alternative views that may have scared me in the past, and even some that sounds impossible or even crazy. She will not hold me responsible for convincing her about anything. She is not demanding, but radiates of peace. Please invite her, if only for a minute. It is worth it.

    • James Cape

      @Greg,

      “Properly basic belief,” “a-priori truth,” and similar terms are euphamisms for “bald assertion.”

      Now, I’ve already explained that the brain in the jar as a philosophical problem is absurd. If you’re planning on re-hashing that discussion—or starting one that has no where to go but there—then you’re wasting your time and mine.

      If not, you can use “The earth revolves around the sun” as an example of a non-assertion.

    • Michael T

      @ James,

      “Wait. Are you actually suggesting that it’s better to use bald assertions than potentially bad data, because you can’t be 100% confident in the data, but you can in your assertions?”

      The bald assertion is unavoidable unless you prefer circular reasoning (i.e. using a system based observation to prove that senses used for observation are reliable).

      “Now, I’ve already explained that the brain in the jar as a philosophical problem is absurd.”

      You have really done no such thing. You made some bald assertions of your own, but not really proven anything.

    • James Cape

      @Michael T,

      You are saying that rather than simply take the lifetime of evidence I already have at face value, I must instead assume that the evidence must be corrupt (because you have read about a fiendish, hypothetical conspiracy in which it may be corrupt without my knowing it), and must therefore just assert, without evidence, the same conclusion I could have just as easily made with the evidence.

      Why am I doing this, again?

      Oh, that’s right, so I can convince myself of other assertions, for which there is no evidence.

      Random thought: Do you happen to earn your living selling pre-owned automobiles?

    • Hman

      @Greg: You are amazing. I just love reading your posts. Thanks for taking on the task to sort people out. You are (no, you are perhaps not, but you come across that way to me anyway….) like the USA incarnated. Brill. Can’t wait til you’re done with James. I’ll come back in about 800 posts. Peace out bro. 🙂

    • Michael T.

      “You are saying that rather than simply take the lifetime of evidence I already have at face value, I must instead assume that the evidence must be corrupt (because you have read about a fiendish, hypothetical conspiracy in which it may be corrupt without my knowing it), and must therefore just assert, without evidence, the same conclusion I could have just as easily made with the evidence.”

      Yup – If you’d like for there to epistemic justification for the reliability of your senses (and science along with them) that is. Otherwise there is no non-circular reason for trusting science to give you accurate answers.

      “Do you happen to earn your living selling pre-owned automobiles?”

      Worse….Attorney

    • James Cape

      @Greg,

      Do you have any evidence that numbers exist as something other than a formal system invented by humans to describe the physical world? If you don’t, then numbers *are* just an abstraction.

      @Michael T,

      The use of multiple sources of input that can be used to provide independent evidence while simultaneously providing validation for each other is standard practice, it simply requires care. In order to adequately test new high-precision clocking, for example, you will typically get as many different high-precision clocks as you can afford and use them to calibrate each other so they are all telling the same story. Then you use that mutually-dependent story to justify statements about your new clock.

      If the mutually-calibrated clocks are all telling the same story, and the new clock is not, then you can say with some degree of confidence (depending on how close the m-c clocks are to each other, how often that happens, etc.) that the new clock is wrong. Likewise, if they are all telling the same story, then you can say with a degree of confidence that the new clock is right. And then you repeat the test. Eventually you have enough measurements to describe the new clock’s performance.

      Unless you can identify a flaw, you cannot describe resulting beliefs about the new clock’s performance as unjustified. If you just call those results “unjustified” without being able to provide any actual evidence, you’re just being a crank, right up there with any other conspiracy theorist.

      Why should the story my senses tell me about the physical universe be treated any differently?

      Why isn’t BIAV just “HAARP for Philosophers?”

    • James Cape

      @Greg,

      You mean evidence besides the history of the number system, and math as a method for manipulating it? Sure: In a question of existence, with no evidence on the table, non-existence is the proper null hypothesis (unicorns, bigfoot, Russell’s teapot, etc.).

      Things in the real world are abstracted into numbers in order for math to apply. Assuming the conversion is valid, then the results from the math should correspond to what you see in the universe. I’ve already mentioned Russel’s paradox and what it means, repeatedly.

      Certainty of 2 + 2 = 4 is axiomatic within the formal system, but the system is only accepted in the first place because you have never seen any evidence that 2 + 2 != 4.

    • Michael T.

      Let’s see my observations tell me that my observations are accurate therefore my observations must be accurate??? Please…..

    • James Cape

      @Michael T,

      Perhaps you’d like a salacious example instead:

      If you are intimate with someone, then you (ideally) have all five senses telling you the same story: you hear, feel, smell, taste, and see the person. Each independent sense backs up the others, because they all tell the same story.

      If you only hear someone, but do not see, smell, taste, or touch them, then you should be less confident that you actually heard them.

      Of course, I actually gave a real-life example of how you would use multiple potentially incorrect measures to decrease the likelyhood of error, which you simply glossed over to charge ahead with an obtuse misreading:

      In order to adequately test new high-precision clocking, for example, you will typically get as many different high-precision clocks as you can afford and use them to calibrate each other so they are all telling the same story. Then you use that mutually-dependent story to justify statements about your new clock.

      If the mutually-calibrated clocks are all telling the same story, and the new clock is not, then you can say with some degree of confidence (depending on how close the m-c clocks are to each other, how often that happens, etc.) that the new clock is wrong. Likewise, if they are all telling the same story, then you can say with a degree of confidence that the new clock is right. And then you repeat the test. Eventually you have enough measurements to describe the new clock’s performance.

      Unless you can identify a flaw, you cannot describe resulting beliefs about the new clock’s performance as unjustified. If you just call those results “unjustified” without being able to provide any actual evidence, you’re just being a crank, right up there with any other conspiracy theorist.

      Why should the story my senses tell me about the physical universe be treated any differently?

      In other words, you cannot trust any given clock, so you aggregate multiple clocks.

    • Michael T.

      There aren’t multiple clocks though. Just one clock, the one between your ears. That is it. Yes you may experience more than one sense, but they are all being processed by the same brain.

    • James Cape

      @Michael T,

      No, there are multiple instruments and one processing center. In the example, you must correlate the outputs of the clocks into a single machine using equal-length cables (to ensure equal signal speed).

      In other words, being able to measure two clocks in relation to each other requires they go through a single, third piece of equipment. Otherwise, relativity and QC on the gear means you’re going to have a bad time.

      Could there be a problem with the central processor? Sure, but without any evidence that it’s malfunctioning, it’s a tough sell.

    • Michael T.

      “Could there be a problem with the central processor? Sure, but without any evidence that it’s malfunctioning, it’s a tough sell.”

      Since everything is processed by the central processor there would be no way for there to ever be any evidence that it is malfunctioning (at least in the way that we are concerned about) hence you ultimately have simply moved the basic belief up a step perhaps from “my senses are reliable” to “the brain which processes my senses is reliable.” Ultimately the result is the same. There must be a basic belief at some point upon which the system is built which the system itself is incapable of testing.

    • James Cape

      @Michael T,

      There are plenty of ways to determine if your brain is malfunctioning—other people can tell you, for one (please think through the consequences of the obvious objection carefully). You can also record your observations of some experience, then recreate the experience and see if your perception had changed.

      Science cannot prove anything to a certainty, nor has it (or I) ever said it could. It’s always “good enough,” always “to the best of our understanding”. I cannot “prove” that I am not a brain in a vat to the degree you seem to think is necessary, but so what? If you *had* to judge the probability you were living in the Matrix based solely on the evidence, how confident would you be? 80% 99%? 99.999%? Do you have more than 4 minutes a year worth of experience that points at reality not being real? I kinda doubt it (unless you have serious issues with hallucinogens).

      What you’re proposing is that I throw out all the evidence I’m not a brain in a vat and simply assert that I am not a brain in a vat, because it’s possible that all the evidence I have is wrong in the same direction. I have no reason to think all the evidence is wrong, but better to be safe and throw it all away and just assert the conclusion the evidence was pointing at anyways.

      Do you see why I think that is silly?

    • James Cape

      @Greg,

      The history of numbers as a formal system invented by humans to describe the physical world is relevant as evidence whether or not numbers are anything beyond that. If nothing else, it sets a minimum threshold of things we can agree on about numbers. Arguing beyond that minimum that requires evidence. Since you are trying to argue beyond that, that does put a burden of evidence on you.

      Otherwise, you are doing exactly what you claim I am doing: asserting you have no burden of evidence to show that numbers are anything other than a useful abstraction.

      Unfortunately, non-existence is *still* a proper null hypothesis, so you actually have to show they have existence.

      And no, you don’t just get to say “numbers have independent existence because I say they do.” That is an example of an actual bald assertion.

      On the subject, of numbers-as-abstraction, please add two cats to two different cats. What is the result?

      As it turns out, the only way to make that go is:

      Set(first cats) = { *, * }
      + Set(second cats) = { *, * }
      – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
      Set(all cats) = { *, *, *, * }

      And then note that the cardinality of the resulting set of cats is 4. You first create abstract sets to represent the cats, then perform the math on that abstraction, then realize the abstraction to get the result. If the number of actual cats matches the result, then you have evidence in favor of your process of abstraction and your math.

      Still confused? Try adding a chair and a cat. Non-abstract numbers requires that “1” be both a chair and a cat. Unless you concede that the “1” is simply representational of set cardinality.

      Otherwise it’s a bunch of claptrap. Explain any of your objections without scare-quoting phrases you quite obviously do not understand, or move along.

    • James Cape

      Of course I cannot be certain of anything in a philosophical sense, but act in ways indistinguishable from certainty to outside observers. That is your great revelation?

      Let’s figure out what “certainty” looks like. In my own life, I have only ever believed I was actually a brain in a vat once, for around 4 hours. I’m 32 years old, which means those 4 hours are just over 0.001426% of my life. This means that 99.998574% of the evidence that I have is pointing towards me not being a brain in a vat, and as it happens, the history of how that 0.001426% came to be causes me to doubt the validity of the impression I had for those 4 hours.

      So there would be 7.4 minutes per year contemplating life in the vat (decreasing year over year, of course) if I were 99.998574% confident I wasn’t a brain in a vat.

      You then call it a sin to short-change the time I should spend worrying whether I’m a brain-in-a-vat. Have you not been reading the conversation? I’m paid up for years.

      As for the rest of it, allow me to point out that thumping a bible isn’t evidence. Neither is thumping your chest.

    • James Cape

      @Greg,

      So your certainty only appears certain to outside observers, but really isn’t? That’s what you’re saying.

      No. I was attempting to say “I can understand how you could be mistaken, but here’s several paragraphs explaining what acting with unjustified certainty actually means in this context.” You blithely ignored those paragraphs, of course, because you’re not interested in being right, you’re interest in pushing your ideology.

      Yes, I refuse to “acknowledge” something that I have seen zero evidence for. And yes, you haven’t once even mentioned evidence. That’s precisely the point.

      But it really doesn’t matter: you have removed the need for me to pretend you aren’t the petty tyrant Carrie seemed to think you are when you first showed up.

      You believe I deserve to die for not thinking the way you want me to think—for not letting you and your ilk demand I believe your grand pronouncements about the nature of the universe without any evidence.

      Exactly what sort of reaction do you expect when you claim that not thinking the way you want me to is “a capital crime.” The fact you do this while claiming to serve eternal, transcendental, love is just a nice little goose-step thrown in for good measure (go read Orwell’s England Your England if you do not understand the reference).

      And capital crime according to whom? The ideological ancestors of the people who invade countries, burn accused witches, blow up buildings, and behead people on the streets?

    • James Cape

      @Greg,

      Are you familiar with the Documentary Hypothesis?

    • Michael T

      “There are plenty of ways to determine if your brain is malfunctioning—other people can tell you, for one (please think through the consequences of the obvious objection carefully).”

      I generally wouldn’t make the obvious objection. But since you don’t believe in basic believes you must first prove that those other people exist. As is for all you solipsism could be true.

      “You can also record your observations of some experience, then recreate the experience and see if your perception had changed.”

      If your observations have changed, couldn’t your present observation of the past record also change?

      “What you’re proposing is that I throw out all the evidence I’m not a brain in a vat and simply assert that I am not a brain in a vat, because it’s possible that all the evidence I have is wrong in the same direction”

      You have not presented any reliable source of evidence one way or the other that you are or are not a brain in a vat, or that you weren’t created 5 minutes ago with all your memories intact, or that other minds exist. All you have done is make bald assertions about the reliability of your “evidence” with no proof thereof. Ultimately you are no better better than those who claim basic beliefs. You just don’t like the phrase because it opens doors that you don’t want opened.

    • James Cape

      @Michael T,

      So the other minds are part of the conspiracy, then? The computer running my vat has put the other minds there in order to have these horrifically boring debates with ideologically motivated simpletons about whether I’m a brain in a vat so I will… what? Question seriously whether I’m a brain in a vat? Get defensive?

      I seem to recall saying days ago that at some point, as the possibility of evidence diminishes further and further, the conspiracy must get weirder and weirder in order to be sustained.

      Which means at some point the conspiracy is unfalsifiable, and just plain stupid. Do you understand what I’m saying here? BIAV make you little better than a conspiracy theorist, ranting about chemtrails and how I can’t disprove mind-controlled aliens working for the CIA were responsible for the JFK assassination and 9/11.

      Nobody but a fool takes that nonsense seriously. I don’t have to assert that mind controlled aliens working for the CIA were not responsible for the JFK assassination and 9/11, just like I don’t need to assert that I am not a brain in a vat.

      If there were any evidence for either of those conspiracy theories, then you could present it. If you can’t present it, then I have no reason to take it seriously. Claiming that all the evidence I do have that I’m not a BIAV isn’t good enough is just fancy footwork. You may as well claim that the 9/11 conspirators covered up all the evidence that secret ninjas planted explosives in Tower 1, it’s an equally facile claim.

      You do not need to “assert” that there was no 9/11 conspiracy: those who think there is a conspiracy must demonstrate it. Just like you do not need to assert that you aren’t a BIAV, those who think you are must demonstrate it.

    • James Cape

      @Greg,

      Sure, would you like me to copy and paste the first few sentences of Wikipedia, or the OED? “The extent to which an event is likely to occur, measured by the ratio of the favorable cases to the whole number of cases possible.”

      The Documentary Hypothesis is not an “attack on scripture.” It simply takes a historical approach to the books of the law. It does have the added benefit of explaining the seemingly confusing disparities within the books (i.e. why different segments of the books have such wildly different writing styles, call god by different names, etc.)—the hypothesis is that they were written for political purposes, to serve the various kings of Israel in their internal political struggles.

      It surely cannot hurt to understand what mainstream theologians have been saying about the Bible for the last 40 years.

      Now, how about Evolution by mutation and natural selection? Are you comfortable with your understanding of evolutionary processes as at least a plausible occurrence? The “ratchet effect”, etc.?

    • James Cape

      @Greg,

      I accept the definition of probability in OED and pasted it here, because that is the actual definition of the word probability. The word doesn’t have different definitions in different “realms.”

      Evolution and the documentary hypothesis aren’t “attacks on god”, they are a theory about how life diversified from a simple organism, and a historical hypothesis about how the first five books of the bible were written, respectively. Surely you can at least admit that it’s at least possible that evolution is true, and it’s at least possible the documentary hypothesis may be valid.

      Let’s talk about chemical bonding. I’m sure you’re familiar with chemical bonding: inject two parts hydrogen, one part water into a sealed beaker, and you will end up with water, because the atoms will naturally want to share electrons.

      Let’s assume there is a big, complicated molecule that has it’s elements lined up just so, and when you put a similar number of molecules next to it, you will end up with a copy of the original molecule.

      I shouldn’t need to point out what happens if you can get even one of these molecules to form: it will keep generating copies of itself. Strictly by natural processes, the interactions of the electrons will help the corresponding atoms line up. So one of these molecules is going to turn into lots of these molecules assuming you have enough of the various elements around.

      As it turns out, that’s a simplified explanation of how RNA molecules work (and RNA-only lifeforms, like SARS, Ebola, etc.). The fact that the copies don’t always turn out perfectly is the “random mutation”. I use RNA because it’s simpler to explain, but DNA is not all that different, chemically.

      Do you see how it’s possible that once you’ve formed the first RNA molecule, every other RNA molecule can simply be an imperfect copy of it?

    • James Cape

      @Greg,

      Please be so kind as to answer the challenges I have put to you:

      Is it possible that first five books of the Torah were written for reasons of internal politics in the Israeli kingdom?
      Is evolution by random mutation and natural selection possible?
      Is DNA replication as a function of chemistry possible?
      Is it possible that the universe started expanding all on it’s own, based strictly on sub-atomic interactions within the pre-bang singularity?

      Or more simply: is it possible that all this can happen naturally, without divine involvement?

    • James Cape

      @Greg,

      Again, please be so kind as to answer the challenges I have put to you:

      Is it possible that first five books of the Torah were written for reasons of internal politics in the Israeli kingdom?

      Is evolution by random mutation and natural selection possible?

      Is DNA replication as a function of chemistry possible?

      Is it possible that the universe started expanding all on it’s own, based strictly on sub-atomic interactions within the pre-bang singularity?

    • Michael T

      “So the other minds are part of the conspiracy, then? The computer running my vat has put the other minds there in order to have these horrifically boring debates with ideologically motivated simpletons about whether I’m a brain in a vat so I will… what? Question seriously whether I’m a brain in a vat? Get defensive?

      I seem to recall saying days ago that at some point, as the possibility of evidence diminishes further and further, the conspiracy must get weirder and weirder in order to be sustained.”

      It doesn’t seem that strange at all that if you were a brain in a vat that those controlling you would create hallucinations for you to interact with.

      “Which means at some point the conspiracy is unfalsifiable, and just plain stupid. Do you understand what I’m saying here”

      The proposition that your faculties reliably present reality as it truly exists is equally unfalsifiable. There are numerous ways they could be unreliable and you would have no way of knowing it.

      “BIAV make you little better than a conspiracy theorist, ranting about chemtrails and how I can’t disprove mind-controlled aliens working for the CIA were responsible for the JFK assassination and 9/11.”

      Thank you. I of course do not believe you are actually a BIAV, but it is rather a thought experiment about how one comes to knowledge at its most basic level. As Greg rightly points out this is a conversation you are unwilling to have and instead resort to bald assertions and ad hominem attacks.

    • Carrie Hunter

      I have deleted the last few comments between Greg and James as this blog isn’t the type of blog where that stuff is allowed.

      Also I have closed comments to prevent further bizarre behavior from occurring here.

      Honestly, that was just weird.

    • […] Here is a very helpful article about 12 ways to help your children prepare for times of doubt. […]

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