My conversation with and Jen P. and James I. moderated by Benjamin H. on 10/10/11

Following is the second half of a conversation that finished up a couple of days after the first half started. Jen P is the (presumably) born-again who’s admitted that she believes in Satan and demons, and who since this conversation has directly admitted that she isn’t open-minded (after pleading that I be with her bullshit claims). James I is an admitted young Earth creationist (more on that later). My text is in italics. Theirs is in bold. My comments are [in brackets]. And comments following.

Anton Hill ‎@James You say “Then look for it…” in regards to evidence. It’s not my job to prove your claim. It’s yours. You’d have to prove “thousands of years” as, last I heard, the nearest Christian and secular estimate was just over 2,000 years for all books. As for “several continents”, if you include the MIddle East as different continents, I guess. But both of these are irrelevant in regards to claims made. I find it fascinating when believers claim fulfilled prophecy and then either attempt to explain away often very vague verses that, like tarot cards, could “mean” just about anything, or they ignore the fact that if Book 2 was written after Book 1, then there’s nothing stopping the Book 2 author from writing his book in such a way as to comply with what Book 1 claimed. If you have a prophecy which you can prove, not assert and insist, but prove has been fulfilled, and you can prove how, and I can go and verify your evidence through reproducible experiment, then by all means, please do so.

As for archaeology, two things. One, finding a piece of physical evidence of natural claims made in the Bible, such as a temple or city mentioned, proves that and that alone. But two, I’m sure you’ll agree that confirmation of the part doesn’t necessarily equal confirmation of the whole. Or did you have a piece of archaeological evidence of even one supernatural claim made in the Bible that somehow eluded the entirety of the religious, academic, scientific, and press communities? For if not, then going by your reasoning, I must accept that Odysseus spoke directly to Athena because the Odyssey says he did and there really was a Troy.

I find a discussion on the “internal consistency” of the Bible a waste of time as, in my experience, for any inconsistency I point out, you have a rationalization. I don’t know what you mean by “external verification” other than your previous point on archaeological evidence, so please refer to my response on that. Please feel free to prove the “scientific accuracy” of the Bible and also refer to my point on archaeological evidence. I’ll happily visit the site you recommend, but, if it’s like every other apologist site I’ve visited, like AnswersInGenesis.com etc., it’ll be nothing but baseless assertions, assumption, logical fallacies, emotional appeals, and plain, good old fashioned dishonesty. Here goes nothing…

James I I would say that I can’t prove that the Bible is right, just like someone can’t prove that evolution is true.

[This really blows my mind; that there is a voting adult who sincerely believes that evolution hasn’t been proved.]

I would say that it is harder for me to believe that God doesn’t exist and the Bible isn’t 100% correct given the information I have seen.

[This also blows my mind. I often hear statements ending with something like “…given the information that I’ve seen,” and when pressed, that information is usually some pseudo-science-pleading web site.]

I think that your heart is hardened toward God and no matter how much reason you are presented to why you should believe, you will find a way to not believe. Then again, I don’t really know you sooo maybe there is a shot.

Jen P ‎@Anton: does it bother you that I believe in God? ‘Cause it seems to. (But God believes in YOU!)
To answer your question regarding my grandpa’s visit to my dad: my dad saw him standing at the foot of his bed. Later, when my folks were at my grandpa’s church making arrangements, they sat in a pew where he always sat. As they got up to leave they both felt a hand on their chests, pressing them to sit back down. My folks aren’t ones to really believe in ghosts per say, but neither questions that experience. @James: so glad you are stepping in here. Anton is quite verbose and frankly I’m over it.

[What I didn’t get about Jen P was that she claimed with absolute certainty that there’s a God, Jesus, angels, Satan, demons, Heaven, and Hell, and yet ghosts are somehow beyond the pale? I like her little snarky “frankly I’ve over it” as if we were in some junior high recess debate. My style may bother you, Jen P, but that doesn’t mean I’m wrong.]

Benjamin H James, evolution can be proved beyond all reasonable doubt. If you don’t believe in it, it’s because you actually know very little of the information that there is out there supporting it. I’ve sat on the sidelines for most of this conversation for 2 reasons. First, because Anton is doing a reasonably good job of representing my position on it. Second, because I don’t really see much point in arguing something with someone who acknowledges that they are willing to believe it despite a lack of compelling evidence (as Jen has).

That being said, I do take issue with someone being unwilling to believe something despite an overwhelming amount of evidence, as there is in the case of evolution, the big bang theory, and many other scientific subjects on which uneducated people (who correlate disturbingly with religious people), because they don’t like the idea of it. Frankly, if you don’t believe in these things its because you actually don’t know or understand very much of the mountain of scientific research and education that supports them. There is a word for that. That word is ignorance.

(Hell, even I believe in some things for which there is less compelling evidence than there is for evolution.)

James I I just have a hard time believing that in the beginning NOTHING exploded and billions of years later here we are. That sounds like a fairy tale to me. I think you can prove variation in species, mutations etc. I think you have a hard time trying to extrapolate that out to full blown macro evolution (change of one kind of animal into another), or nothing exploding and spontaneous life coming from a primordial ooze. Where is the evidence for these? What experiments can be made to prove these? What observations can be seen in nature today? I got it, it is just too complicated for my tiny mind. Just add time to the equation and everything just works out.

Sorry for the sarcasm, I was kinda reacting to the assumption that I am just another ignorant Christian. These FB debates are often unfruitful, but unlike some I don’t really get surprised or upset of other view points and I actually think its fun (okay maybe I am a little weird). I suppose that some day the truth of all these things will be revealed to each of us.

[What I love about James I’s little outburst is he’s offended at being called “ignorant” and yet that’s exactly what he is. Hey, we all were at one point. I made a whole video on it here.]

Jen P Chew on this: I believe God came up with evolution. Bam!

[I love that this was Jen P’s big “gotcha” moment! I wonder how long she sat there coming up with it. :)]

Benjamin H ‎James I – I’ll concede that there are still things that science can’t/hasn’t explained. I don’t think that necessarily means that it won’t be able to at some point, but I’m also willing to accept that, in those places, there may be the work of a “higher power.” But, if such a being exists, I don’t think that he/she/it is really anything we can comprehend or in any way like the way that they are often described/explained by any religion out there. Also, I don’t see any actual evidence that such an entity ever takes an active role in our universe on a “day-to-day” basis and I find the idea of an interventionist “god” who has some sort of “plan” for everyone pretty silly.

Jen P – Sure. That’s possible. But if so, I would think that he also came up with physics, and all the other scientific processes that govern the universe and hasn’t really interfered with them since then. And, if that’s the case, it really makes science the truest study of his work.

James I I disagree, if there is a God and he created everything or at least set everything in motion (I believe in the first scenario), then surely he would be smart enough to have a way to communicate to us. I think you are right in that He is beyond our comprehension. I contend that the Bible is that communication piece that can bring us to an understanding that is sufficient for our existence here on earth.

[I actually completely agree with James I’s logic here. It does stand to reason that if a being has the power to create a universe, then that being also has the power to effectively communicate with us (even through multiple translations). This begs the question why there are so many contradictory interpretations of this being’s alleged perfect word.]

My whole point is that Evolution and Creation are both religions and they require faith. Those that believe in Evolution do not have all the answers as to our origins definitively and neither does Creation.

[If evolution requires “faith”, then so does every other scientific theory like gravity and relativity. I love it when the religious make this claim because they’re simultaneously conceding that not only does religion require faith, but that faith itself is thus something to be scrutinized (and yet they make an exception in faith’s case). Wouldn’t creationism by definition have all the answers to our origins?]

Jen P Studying science in the name of God? I’m all for it! God truly is in my everyday life. I see miracles when I look at my girls. I do not believe such beautiful gifts are merely flesh and bone.

[I’ve never understood what a miracle is. I’m guessing it’s a temporary suspension of natural laws, but babies can hardly be described that way. Clearly, Jen P was arguing that life or consciousness is beyond “flesh and bone”, but all evidence points to the contrary.]

But shit people, I’m so over this conversation. You are using your time to debate something you don’t even think exists, what’s the point? With that, I’m signing off.

Anton Hill ‎@James I don’t understand how your first statement, conceding that you can’t prove that the Bible is 100% true leads to your second statement, that you don’t think that evolution is true. The two have nothing to do with each other. I suspect the only reason you brought up evolution is the only reason any Christian brings up evolution. It’s always this odd, “I can’t prove mine, but you can’t prove yours either!” kind of thing. First, as I’d said earlier, as the asserter of the positive claim–that Christianity, specifically the Bible, is true–it’s your job, no one else’s, to prove it. Second, since you obviously can’t do that, rather than be honest about that and say, “I can’t prove my claim,” you attempt to shift the focus. Unfortunately, as Ben’s already stated, evolution has been proved, just like gravity, and general relativity. To deny such is to do that and that alone–deny. There’s even a specific rhetorical term for this, Appeal to Personal Incredulity. This is, “I don’t believe this, therefore it isn’t true,” while also ignoring supporting evidence. What’s the evidence? The genetic record and fossil record to name two.

You said, “…given the information I have seen.” What is that, specifically? As I told Jen earlier, I’m more open-minded than she is because, unlike her, I hold few beliefs to be absolutely true and I’m always willing to consider new evidence. You may be absolutely right that my heart is “hardened” toward God. It certainly is toward Zeus and Thor, so why not be an equal-opportunity hard-heart? As I told Jen, I used to be a believer, but encountered zero evidence for any claims made. I didn’t want to become an atheist. In fact, I really, really enjoyed church. But I’m concerned with what is true, not what is comfortable. You’re right that you don’t know me, but go ahead. Give me your best reason as to why I should believe you and your claims of God over any other person and his claims of Zeus, Thor, Quetzalcoatl, or any other supernatural claim ever made.

Anton Hill ‎@Jen I’ll try to keep my responses to you less “verbose.” It doesn’t bother me at all that you believe in God beyond three points. One, by your own admission, you believe something while fully acknowledging that it has no evidence to support it. I don’t understand how that’s a good thing. Two, if you allow your religious convictions to influence your vote, that’s dangerous to public policy as has been demonstrated in the passing of Prop 8 in ’08 and the current popularity of politicians such as Michelle Bachmann. Three, if you tell your kids that they may end up in a place of eternal torment for having broken some rules, that amounts to little more than socially acceptable psychological child abuse. My friend, a recovering Southern Baptist, was terrified as a little girl that she’d go to Hell if she didn’t pray every single night. You’d be hard pressed to prove to me the value of her parents’ having taught her that.

I don’t know what you mean by God believes in me. I’m demonstrable. How is your dad’s vision of his father and a sensation of something pressing against one’s chest evidence of your claim? Sorry for the “verbosity” that you’re “frankly” over. 🙂

Anton Hill ‎@james This may surprise you, but I agree with you, but I’ll use a linguistic model because I know that better. I don’t just find it hard to believe that all human language evolved from imitative grunts in approximately 100,000 years, I find it impossible. I don’t understand how that possibly could’ve happened. But, per the evidence, it did. Your claim of “macro” evolution (which I find humorous as no legitimate scientist uses these terms–they were created by Christian apologists who had to concede some of evolution, but didn’t want to concede it all) has already been proved. Go to a museum of natural history. “Nothing exploding” is a mystery to me, but I’ve heard Hawking explain it in pretty sublime detail. Check him out. As for primordial ooze, etc. I think the difficulty you’re having is the complexity of consciousness that you experience every day seems to be such that it couldn’t possibly have arisen, given any amount of time, out of raw chemicals. As much as I agree with your reservation, I feel the same way with Shakespeare having arisen out of imitative grunts. But the evidence is clear. There actually was an experiment, Miller-Urey, that proved that the chemical processes hypothesized to have begun the process we call “life” could have happened. As for nature, I don’t recall which island it was, so feel free to look it up, but there are lizards which, over about three decades, adapted to a new environment and thus underwent numbers physical changes. “Species” is a type of classification, like “Caucasian.”

Anton Hill ‎@Jen Believing that God came up with evolution is still a claim that would have to be proved. It also gives rise to any number of moral questions, such as why would an omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent God create a system in which it were routine for the overwhelming number of creatures not only to have to feed on each other, but also to go extinct? Pointless, preventable, incalculable suffering. 🙂

James I There are so many topics that we have spilled over 2, I can’t keep it straight anymore, lol. I will take some of the blame. Sorry Ben for hijacking your thread here.

Let me try to take one topic and make some points. I and other young earth creationist delineate between micro and macro evolution, because they are different.

[I don’t know how the fuck I missed this when I was actually having this conversation. He ADMITS that he’s a young Earth creationist in PUBLIC! Like, honestly! Goddamn, I should’ve leaped on this! These people need to be ridiculed and I totally missed my opportunity! Bad Atheist Asshole! For shame! And seriously, how is Benjamin H friends with someone like this??]

Micro evolution is observable, verifiable and frankly beyond dispute. Darwin observed this with his little finches. I have a problem when we extrapolate that out to macro evolution or one kind of animal changing into another type of animal. There is only DNA enough in a chimp to make another chimp. Maybe a slightly different type of chimp, but still a chimp or at the very least a monkey type of animal. There isn’t DNA to make a horse. Your lizard example, they are still lizards…There should be hundreds if not thousands of transition creatures, but I have yet to hear of a real life one.

James I I picked a direction and went with it, may be a little off topic though…

Jen P Hello? Ever see lion King? It’s the circle of life!! Hakuna matata!!

Benjamin H http://www.skepticblog.org/2010/01/11/then-why-are-there-still-apes/

Skepticblog » Then Why Are There Still Apes?
http://www.skepticblog.org
SkepticBlog hosts weekly posts by several prominent skeptics including: Brian Dunning, Daniel Loxton, Donald Prothero, Mark Edward, Michael Shermer, Ryan Johnson, and Steven Novella

Anton Hill ‎@Jen “Ever see lion king?” The “circle of life” could have been anything. The one God chose, per you, was life feeding on other life and most of it going extinct. If God is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent, He can stop that, but chooses not to, He knew it would happen, and is okay with that, and He can’t possibly to be benevolent for, to create creatures that must feed on each other, then stand by and watch, I’m sure you’d agree isn’t quite benevolent.

[I should’ve gone more into this during the conversation, but I loved that Jen P’s justification for incalculable worldwide suffering due to the need of life feeding off of life and the fact of near universal extinction is just… the way it is. And… she’s okay with that.]

Anton Hill ‎@James (This is a little long, so we may have to continue in private messages.) Please provide citations of a single legitimate, peer-reviewed, mainstream evolutionary biologist who actively uses terms such as “micro-” and “macroevolution.” I use all those qualifiers because you’ll undoubtedly cite someone who has a “Dr.” before their name or a “PhD” after their name, but I’m not talking about any “doctor” or “scientist.” I’m talking about someone who’s done real, peer-reviewed, published, testable work in the field who has consistently and sincerely used the terms you’ve cited. And not one funded directly or indirectly by a church or other sectarian organization.

The issue I have with your “one kind of animal turning into another…” is that you’re relying solely on our modern species classification system to build your case against evolution. But the species classification system is that and that alone. A classification system. Let me illustrate with linguistics (because that’s what I know.) We can agree that there are Italian, Spanish, French, Portuguese and there was Latin. We can agree that these are universally considered to be separate languages. I challenge you to find the “transitional form” from Latin to any of the modern Romance languages. Yes, you’ll find documents in which one feature of Latin was still in use and another document in which a modern feature of Spanish replaced what Latin had done, but you’ll never find a hypothetical “Latish.” Why? Because there was no historical landmark by which the Spanish people declared, “We no longer speak Latin; Now we speak Spanish.” The fact is that in language, as in all systems that evolve, small changes occur over long periods of time.
Linguistics illustrates evolution on a much smaller time-scale than biology. For example, I’m sure you’d agree that German and English are different languages. But only 1,000 years ago, they weren’t so different. In fact, if you take even a cursory glance at documents, you’ll find that Old English and Old German were in many ways no different than slight mispronunciations of each other. When did English become English? French influence helped. So did Old Norse. But where can you truly draw the line and declare, “This, not anything before, is English!”?

You’re right that a chimp mother doesn’t produce a horse child. But this is a misrepresentation of what evolution states. By that same token, a Spanish speaker doesn’t have a Latin-speaking child. But, provided enough generations, a Spanish speaker’s great-grand child might be a Future Spanish speaker.

I find your declaration that there “should be” hundreds of transition creatures odd. Says who? Your pastor? Per scientists who’ve studied this, we’re lucky we have as many fossils as we do. Should we also have hundreds, if not thousands, of transitional “Latish”es? Additionally, a “real-life” transitional form wouldn’t make much sense, would it, if that line had died out replaced by its modern descendent?

[I wish I’d cited more specific examples. Oh well.]

Interestingly, I followed up with both Jen P and James I over private messages. Jen P and I corresponded for a while until she got tired of it. James I never responded. Honestly, the thing that bothers me so much about these people is the dishonesty. They claim things like “I don’t believe evolution because it hasn’t been proved”, then when you point out the proof, they find some rationalized reason to object to it. So they’re not really interested in proof. They’re interested in maintaining their viewpoint by any means necessary. But doing so is logically circular desire. As Jen P separately admitted to me, “I’ll never change my mind.” As a friend pointed out, “So she’s an asshole?” What I think he meant by this was if you’ve determined to believe something either with no evidence or with evidence to the contrary, what does that say about you? It says that you’re a stubborn person who insists on maintaining ignorance for the sake of something which has little demonstrable value and has demonstrated a great deal of damage. And really, what is the point of maintaining such a thing? Because it’s comfortable? Because it feels good? How valuable are such emotional experiences in the face of human suffering and the impediment of human progress?

Not a whit.

4 Responses to “My conversation with and Jen P. and James I. moderated by Benjamin H. on 10/10/11”

  1. “My style may bother you, […] but that doesn’t mean that I’m wrong.”

    It seems like once you present logical arguments that are irrefutable, everything in the world becomes a red herring. When I was confident of my claims, I was “arrogant.” When I got upset, I was “angry” at God. When I’ve tried staying cool and logical, I was “supercilious.”

    This conversation here nicely demonstrates my current mantra: you can’t have a conversation with someone who refuses to acknowledge when you’ve made a valid point.

    Enjoying your blog. Subscribed via RSS, not that this does you a bit of good in any material way but hey whatever. 🙂 Cheers.

    • Anton A. Hill Says:

      Hi Tek,

      Thanks for dropping by. Yeah, the “arrogant” thing really baffles me. Why is it arrogant to say, “Hey, look at what science has demonstrated with this mountain of objectively verifiable evidence”, yet it’s “humble” to claim, “Some guy made all this because he wanted to and if you don’t follow his rules outlined in this book, he’ll torture your forever”? How do you know that? “Faith.” How is that not arrogant?

      I love the “angry” at god thing too. I have to believe in something in order to be angry at it. 🙂

      Thanks for the subscribe!

      Best,

      Anton.

  2. Hey Anton,

    Do you know of any Introductory resources that on Biological evolution. If so could you please give me some references.

    Im interested in studying this

    Kind regards,

    • Anton A. Hill Says:

      Hi Ryan,

      Thanks for stopping by. Off the top of my head, I suggest the Cassiopoea Project. Not to send flippant, but you could also try Google, YouTube, Richard Dawkins foundation, etc.

      Best,

      Anton.

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