The relationship between science, faith and academic freedom

I blogged recently about atheist philosophers Thomas Nagel and Bradley Monton, informed atheists, who both support the idea that intelligent design could potentially be researched using ordinary scientific methods. I thought it was interesting especially in the case of Nagel, who has this famous quote about his reasons for adopting atheism:

“In speaking of the fear of religion, I don’t mean to refer to the entirely reasonable hostility toward certain established religions and religious institutions, in virtue of their objectionable moral doctrines, social policies, and political influence. Nor am I referring to the association of many religious beliefs with superstition and the acceptance of evident empirical falsehoods. I am talking about something much deeper–namely, the fear of religion itself. I speak from experience, being strongly subject to this fear myself: I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and, naturally, hope that I’m right in my belief. It’s that I hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that.
(”The Last Word” by Thomas Nagel, Oxford University Press: 1997)

The thing is, Thomas Nagel has written a paper supporting ID as science, and now I’ve learned that he is rejecting Darwinism as a full explanation of human origins. (H/T Denyse O’Leary’s related post at the Post-Darwinist). Nagel contrasts the idea that natural selection is responsible for our mental capacity, or whether some other explanation is needed.

Nagel writes:

I see no reason to believe that the truth lies in the first alternative. The only reason so many people believe it is that advanced intellectual capacities clearly exist, and this is the only available candidate for a Darwinian explanation of their existence. So it all rests on the assumption that every noteworthy characteristic of human beings, or of any other organism, must have a Darwinian explanation. But what is the reason to believe this? Even if natural selection explains all adaptive evolution, there may be developments in the history of species that are not specifically adaptive and can’t be explained in terms of natural selection. Why not take the development of the human intellect as a probable counterexample to the law that natural selection explains everything, instead of forcing it under the law with improbable speculations unsupported by evidence? We have here one of those powerful reductionist dogmas which seem to be part of the intellectual atmosphere we breath.

It’s interesting that Nagel is breaking from the pack, because my post about A. N. Wilson’s return to faith highlighted the peer-pressure that atheists feel with regards to the need to project intelligence to their peers. It’s almost as they feel the need prove themselves as better than other people, perhaps to make up for some past rejection that gave them a deep sense of being unworthy.

Wilson said:

If I bumped into Richard Dawkins (an old colleague from Oxford days) or had dinner in Washington with Christopher Hitchens (as I did either on that trip to interview Billy Graham or another), I did not have to feel out on a limb. Hitchens was excited to greet a new convert to his non-creed and put me through a catechism before uncorking some stupendous claret. “So – absolutely no God?” “Nope,” I was able to say with Moonie-zeal. “No future life, nothing ‘out there’?” “No,” I obediently replied. At last! I could join in the creed shared by so many (most?) of my intelligent contemporaries in the western world – that men and women are purely material beings (whatever that is supposed to mean), that “this is all there is” (ditto), that God, Jesus and religion are a load of baloney: and worse than that, the cause of much (no, come on, let yourself go), most (why stint yourself – go for it, man), all the trouble in the world, from Jerusalem to Belfast, from Washington to Islamabad.

Anyway, Denyse O’Leary also talks about some research done by Jeffrey Schwartz on her blog the Mindful Hack. I saw Schwartz present this research before in a live debate with Michael Shermer, another atheist I like somewhat. (I own, and have watched dozens of debates and hundreds of academic lectures – and I sponsor them, too! I love civil, fact-based disagreements!)

Denyse cites from a forthcoming paper of hers, as follows:

UCLA psychiatrist Jeffrey Schwartz, a practitioner of Buddhist mindfulness, saw OCD as a good candidate for a non- pharmaceutical—essentially non-materialist—approach to treatment….

Schwartz used neuroscience techniques to identify the cause of the disorder. Specifically, the cause is most likely a defect in the neural circuitry connecting the orbitofrontal cortex, cingulate gyrus, and basal ganglia, from which panic and compulsion are generated. When this “worry circuit” is working properly, we worry about genuine risks and feel the urge to reduce them. But, Schwartz found, when that modulation is faulty, as it is when OCD acts up, the error detector can be overactivated. It becomes locked into a pattern of repetitive firing. The firing triggers an overpowering feeling that something is wrong, accompanied by compulsive attempts to somehow make it right.

He then developed a four-step program (Relabel, Reattribute, Reassign, and Revalue) to help patients identify and reassign OCD thoughts, until they felt that they were diminishing in severity. Schwartz was not simply getting patients to change their opinions, but to change their brains. Subsequent brain imaging showed that the change in focus of attention substituted a useful neural circuit for a useless one. For example, it substituted “go work in the garden” for “wash hands seven more times.” By the time the neuronal traffic from the many different activities associated with gardening began to exceed the traffic from washing the hands, the patient could control the disorder without drugs. The mind was changing the brain.

Schwartz called this “mental effort” in the debate, and he used the treatment successfully on people like Leonardo DiCaprio.

The issue of mind as a non-material cause is an area of specialty for Denyse. She recently wrote a book on it for Harper-Collins called “The Spiritual Brain”. I bought 7 copies of that book and gave them to 6 of my friends for their Christmas presents. (One was for me!) Check it out. I hate (but use) philosophical arguments for substance dualism. Her book provides lots of hard scientific evidence that I prefer to use instead.

Atheism, science and free speech

As Denyse O’Leary notes in her post on Colliding Universes, Christian researchers in the sciences have to jump through hoops to keep their jobs and get tenure, in an establishment dominated by activist atheists. She links to this story in Science, regarding a Christian professor who is brilliant, but who has to watch his step in secular-leftist-dominated academia.

Szilágyi sees his religious faith and his research efforts as two complementary aspects of his life. Within the scientific environment, “I have some options where I can express my faith,” Szilágyi says. He directly referred to God both in the acknowledgements of his master’s and doctoral dissertations and while receiving his awards. He runs a Bible-study group for young adults, and together with a friend he founded a Christian scientific group.

But although Szilágyi’s views often lie far outside the scientific mainstream, he expresses those views only off-campus and in his personal time. For him, “the debate over evolution, design, creation, supernatural intelligence, etc., is not a scientific question in the first place but the collision of worldviews, the confrontation of materialism and idealism,” he says. He takes the Bible literally, but when he lectures on the subject–outside of work–he presents what he calls “the options” and indicates which one “to me … seems to be more probable.” But he insists that it is up to “everybody to make his or her own decision.”

“As a Christian who works in the field of science, I find it quite important to deal with the relation of Christianity and science,” Szilágyi says. But “I know that it is a minefield in today’s scientific life and can be quite dangerous for one’s scientific career. … Therefore, I do these activities absolutely separately from my university work. … I am very cautious and careful that whenever I am talking [about these issues] I do not represent my university.

“My belief is very important for my career because this is the first thing that gives me my motivations so that I could work hard and I could achieve the best I can,” Szilágyi says.

Denyse, who sees the battlefield better than anyone I know, comments:

It is sad when talented people must grovel and cringe just to keep their jobs. The thing is, in the end, that never works.

“Theistic evolution” is just a way of adjusting to a world run by atheists.

Practical questions like “Does the world show evidence of design” are scientific if the answer appears to be no, but unscientific if it appears to be yes.

Denyse also wrote about this comment on the Post-Darwinist, which emerged during the recent Texas School Board hearings.

“If our students do not feel the freedom to simply raise their hand and ask a question in science class, then we are no longer living in the United States of America.”

Common sense, combined with the pressure of at least 14,000 constituent communications in favor of allowing students to discuss all sides of science theories, finally prevailed.

You may also remember the case of Guillermo Gonzalez, who, despite outperforming virtually everyone in his department, was denied tenure thanks to a crusade by an activist atheist professor of religious studies, Hector Avalos. Persecution of outspoken Christians by secularists goes on all the time in academia. If you come out as a Christian, the secularists will be offended, and then you have to suffer the consequences.

And don’t forget, as public Christianity declines in the face of persecution by secularists, so has the right to free speech. The Democrats have recently tabled bills to enact hate crime laws and to imprison bloggers who are critical of the government.

How progressive social policy enlarges the size of government

Great editorial by Ed West writing in the UK Telegraph. Is it possible to be a social leftist and a fiscal conservative? Or does the former impact the latter negatively? West’s editorial assesses the impact of feminism and sex education on government budgets, which receive much funding from the productive private sector.

First, Britain’s social program for unwanted children is seeing record enrollment:

Last night’s Rageh Omaar programme, Lost in Care, is timely. The number of unwanted children in Britain has reached 80,000, and that figure was calculated before the recent Baby P surge. Of those unwanted kids, 10,000 live in children’s home.

And what are the costs to the taxpayer for this skyrocketing number of unwarranted children?

The show reminded us how awful the statistics are for care home children; only 13 per cent get good GCSEs [high school diplomas] and almost half achieve no qualifications. One in four prisoners were in care, as were one in three homeless. and one in five girls in care are pregnant within a year of leaving. No wonder there is currently a desperate drive to find more foster parents, a calling that is seriously heroic.

Well, I already talked about how leftist domestic policies destroy marriage here (socialism), here (same-sex marriage) and here (no-fault divorce). But the interesting thing is the cost of the anti-family, anti-child policies of the left. They were in such a rush to rebel against social conservatives, that it never occurred to them that those moral rules were in place to protect the interests of all parties.

Recklessly impregnating someone or getting pregnant without the ability or willingness to look after that child ruins another person’s life, and also costs the state £25,000 a year for that matter.

This is the problem with people who enact policies based on the need to feel compassionate and superior, while disregarding the logical consequences. Should we really be voting in people who undermine traditional morality run our government? If we do, it will cost us. To see more about how leftist policies increased the size of government and raised tax rates, see this previous post.

For more news from abroad, check out my recent post on the state of free speech in Canada, the United Kindom and Cuba.

UPDATE: Just noticed this over at OneNewsNow: Obama would ax abstinence-only funding.

Excerpt:

If Congress approves President Obama’s budget requests, there will be no more federal funding of abstinence-only education programs.

Barack Obama has recommended completely zeroing out Title V abstinence programs to states, as well as abstinence education programs to community-based organizations (CBAE) and replacing them with more than $100 million for contraceptive-based sex-education programs. The massive omnibus bill signed by the president had already reduced funding to abstinence programs by $14 million.

And then there is this story from mensactivism.org, entitled “Number of Unwed Moms in the U.S. Rising.

Story here. Excerpt:

‘(AP) The percentage of births to unmarried women in the United States has been rising sharply, but it’s way behind Northern European countries, a new U.S. report on births shows.

Iceland is the leader with 6 in 10 births occurring among unmarried women. About half of all births in Sweden and Norway are to unwed moms, while in the U.S., it’s about 40 percent.

France, Denmark and the United Kingdom also have higher percentages than the United States, according to the report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.’

Oh, well. Ideology beats out fiscal prudence, I guess. I don’t think that immorality of the parents is too good for the children who are affected, either. Bible: 1, Atheists: 0.

NRSC backs RINO Crist against conservative Rubio

Yes, when I champion the Republican party, obviously I mean the conservatives within the Republican party. (See my blogroll, and notify me if any changes are needed. I would also link to true conservatives in other countries!).

I think we need to remember that the NRSC has an abysmal record at picking and backing the right candidates. Not only did they opposed Pat Toomey when he ran against that squish Arlen Specter, (now a Democrat), but now they are backing Crist against a Cuban-American.

Excuse me? Without a conservative message, we cannot win.

Here is the main post about Rubio vs Crist from the Maritime Sentry:

The NRSC has once again decided to stick it to us Conservatives in an extremely rare move; they immediately came out and endorsed Gov. Crist over Conservative Marco Rubio. Even appearing to go so far as to try and get Rubio to drop out. Of course, obviously, we should never support the NRSC I was hopeful that when Sen. Cornyn, a Texan, took over he would recruit Conservatives.

Instead he has made it apparent he will only recruit and support RINO’s. He supported Specter before his defection, he encouraged Ridge to run, and now he is taking sides in an open primary to support Crist. What good does it do us if we elect Senators who agree with the Democrats the majority of the time. It is just repeating the mistakes of the Bush years. Senator Cornyn should step down.

And what should we do?

Until the establishment wants to support Conservatives they should receive no support from the base. I am actually quite excited about this development though. They are not hiding the fact that they plan on blowing us Conservatives off. If we get behind good Conservative candidates like Rubio and Toomey. The grassroots could be responsible for electing Conservative candidates and putting the Party establishment on notice. They believe Crist will raise more money than Rubio; let’s prove them wrong.

Marco Rubio profile video:

Marco Rubio on Fox News:

This is exactly the kind of candidate the NRSC should be backing! My previous post on Rubio and Toomey’s candidacy announcements is here, and there are more videos in that post!

Interview posted at NRO!!!

UPDATE: Here is an interview over at the National Review blog with Rubio! (H/T The Maritime Sentry)

Excerpt:

FREDDOSO: How are [Republicans] failing?

RUBIO: Two things. There’s one group of Republicans who feel our slogan should be, “If you can’t beat them, join them.” That, in essence, it’s too hard to take on this expansion of government, this overreliance on government to grow our economy and create jobs. And so what we should do is just be more like the Democrats. Another group of Republicans believes that we should basically be the party of opposition without any ideas in return — that all we have to offer is ideology, but without any new ideas behind the ideology.

I think both sides of that debate are wrong. We are a party that should have a very clear vision about government’s role in our economy and government’s role in our country, and we should back that up with specific solutions for the future. That’s what I’ve built my career on, and that’s what our candidacy should be about.

And here’s my favorite, oh, how I wish that the economic-illiterates could understand this:

FREDDOSO: What do you make of President Obama’s plans to change the taxation of deferred corporate income?

RUBIO: He’s dealing with a symptom rather than the cause. There’s a reason why companies move their assets overseas and do these things. Those are legal loopholes that exist because they’re trying to escape the punitive and anti-competitive nature of the American tax system. If we had a system that’s fair, there are few countries in the world people would rather do business in. . . . Our laws are stable; their contracts will be enforced here; we have a system of infrastructure that’s still superior to the rest of the world; we still produce the best college graduates in the world. So all things being equal, everyone would rather be in America doing business and headquartering their companies here.

And there’s another thing that’s really wrong with our tax system, and we’ve been complicit in it as Republicans. We’ve allowed the system grow so complicated that it benefits those people who can afford to hire lawyers and accountants to find loopholes, and lobbyists to create loopholes. And I think the Republican party stands to blame for that as well. So I think the Republican party is ripe for reform — if not from the inside out, then from the outside in.

You want to shut down manufacturing and ship jobs overseas? Elect a democrat who will raise corporate taxes, regulate companies with mandatory health-care and impose cap and trade. Mark my words: unemployment will be 12% by December, if cap and trade passes. And rising!

Four-minute overview of 11 arguments for Christianity by William Lane Craig

I thought that I would post a few videos from the two debates featuring William Lane Craig and Christopher Hitchens. The first video may be useful to Christians who have never heard any arguments for the existence of God. (See my index of apologetics posts for some arguments and responses)

Here is Bill’s concluding speech from the first skirmish at the Dallas Christian Book Expo debate:

Here is a video clip of an exchange they had in their debate at the massive Biola University showdown:

And here are some snippets from the pre-debate press interviews with Craig and Hitchens:

Here’s more information of the Biola University debate between Craig and Hitchens.

Remember what the atheist reaction in the blogosphere was: (H/T MandM)

When Debunking Christianity puts up a post entitled William Lane Craig “Won by a Landslide” Against Hitchens I think it is safe for all to say Craig bested Hitchens.

Common Sense Atheism states “Craig was flawless and unstoppable. Hitchens was rambling and incoherent, with the occasional rhetorical jab. Frankly, Craig spanked Hitchens like a foolish child.”

Now that we have the answers to the atheist questionnaire, we’ll be able to answer why people become atheists shortly. We’ll see in the coming days!

Here’s a hint from atheist philosopher Thomas Nagel of New York University. Nagel says this:

“In speaking of the fear of religion, I don’t mean to refer to the entirely reasonable hostility toward certain established religions and religious institutions, in virtue of their objectionable moral doctrines, social policies, and political influence. Nor am I referring to the association of many religious beliefs with superstition and the acceptance of evident empirical falsehoods. I am talking about something much deeper–namely, the fear of religion itself. I speak from experience, being strongly subject to this fear myself: I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers.

I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and, naturally, hope that I’m right in my belief. It’s that I hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that.”
(”The Last Word” by Thomas Nagel, Oxford University Press: 1997)

By the way, Nagel is not, I repeat, not a the kind of atheist I usually rail against. He is one of the informed ones, and has even argued in defense of intelligent design as science, as has another informed atheist Bradley Monton. These are fair, honest, educated atheists – like Anthony Flew and Dean Kenyon were before they changed their minds. More on Nagel’s paper, and Monton’s reaction.

BONUS:

Remember the debate between William Lane Craig and Internet Infidel Richard Carrier? Audio of the debate is here. Carrier’s admission of defeat is here, on his blog. Craig’s two-part post-debate response to Carrier (MP3 podcasts) is here and here.

Interview with the atheist, part 2: the answers

Last time, we went over the plan for this atheist interviewing operation, including the list of questions and how you can participate by sending in your own questions and answers.

The order of the answers is rotated so different people are listed first, second, etc. Note that all attempts to malign theism or Christianity or to employ tu quoque arguments in your answers were DELETED. Wherever possible, I sought clarification. I will answer the questions myself later, and then you may comment on my answers.

Atheist/Agnostic/Unitarian answers: [10 respondents]

Question 1: Is there a God? [YES: 1 NO: 8] and is he knowable in principle, if he existed? [YES: 2 NO: 1]

  • It just didn’t seem to make sense. No matter how hard I tried to include scientific fact and personal experience into religion there came  point when there was so much, indeed overwhelming evidence, that religion was based on a premise (a hypothesis) that did not stand up to testing.
  • There is no God, and we can know he does not exist
  • There is no God, I have no presumptions or beliefs concerning the “origins of the universe”.
  • Don’t know. Don’t know
  • There is a God, but he is remote, unknowable and disinterested in humans

Question 2: Which religion were you raised in?

  • Jewish. Strict
  • Atheist (x3)
  • Catholicism (x2)
  • Catholic, strict.
  • Hinduism
  • Episcopalian. They took it seriously but not literally.
  • Quaker

Question 3: Explain some events, not arguments yet, that altered your spiritual worldview.

  • I prayed to pass an important exam, and I failed (unanswered prayer)
  • None
  • Parental abandonment
  • I found the beliefs and practice of the Catholic church to be irrational and contrived
  • Unanswered questions from early age onwards

Question 4: What are your main objections to God’s existence and knowability?

  • I have nothing against religious belief. I don’t feel that I need it to cope with or explore life.
  • All religions are all man-made
  • All religions are the same
  • Religions all have the same goal, to make people act morally
  • Religions all have the same goal, to make civilization survive
  • Belief is when you suspend critical thinking because you want, so much, for something to be true. That’s not very grown up, is it?
  • Evolution shows that a Creator and Designer aren’t needed to explain life
  • The world operates according to natural laws. Even if Creator God, no obvious mechanism how this Creator can communicate with people.
  • Progress of science, naturalistic explanations of natural phenomena
  • The hiddenness of God
  • There is too much moral evil and suffering in the world
  • The suffering in the world makes me wonder whether God is good, even if he existed
  • I don’t a reason why God would allow certain instances of suffering
  • The plurality of religions, and the way your religion is set by where you were born
  • God is unknowable because he is non-material, eternal, etc.
  • I don’t find the scientific arguments from the big bang and fine-tuning arguments convincing because science changes all the time
  • I don’t to drop my own personal moral standard and purpose and exchange it for anyone’s else’s
  • As long as people are good, then then they should not be punished in Hell for an eternity
  • Biblical contradictions
  • Bible outdated
  • I don’t like the idea of Hell
  • Religion is not testable
  • There is no empirical evidence
  • Canonization was done by the victors at Nicea
  • Religious believers are not significantly more moral than non-believers

Question 5: What is the ontology of moral values and moral duties? [Individual relativism: 8] [Cultural relativism: 2] [Objective: 0]

  • Subjective. The standard varies by each individual. What we ought to do is whatever we want to do.
  • Subjective/Cultural. The standard varies by each culture’s evolved social conventions. What we ought to do is to do whatever the majority of the people are doing in the society we live in. Morality is like driving/traffic laws, just do what is right for where you live
  • Subjective. Abstract values can only exist in brain states of individual people
  • Subjective. They reflect properties of the mind. They can be codified as law and custom.
  • Subjective. Moral values are ideas that get passed from person to person.
  • Subjective/Cultural. They don’t exist. What does exist is a social contract that we make with each other so that we might have a better life.
  • Subjective. Morality exists in our minds and, given what we know about our animal cousins, likely evolved in us as a means to ensure group cooperation and safety.
  • Subjective. Moral and ethical values appear to be properties of minds (which are themselves physical entities with complicated causal explanations).

Question 6: Does your worldview ground free will, which is required for consciousness, rationality, moral judgments, moral choices and moral responsibility? [NO: 8] [YES: 0]

  • There isn’t any
  • I don’t know
  • No good evidence for free will, and people do what they do because of genes and environment. Still, to the extent that we can change our environment, it’s worthwhile to create an environment that deters atrocities.
  • There is no free will.
  • I do not think the concept of “free will” is logically coherent.
  • I don’t think that there is such a thing as free will – not in the sense that you mean anyway.

Question 7: Is there a way for you to rationally persuade an atheist dictator to grant you mercy? [NO: 10] [YES: 0]

  • There is no way
  • I would be pleading for my life for the sake of life itself, or if I had dependents, I would ask to be spared for their sake.
  • It would be pretty pointless wouldn’t it? When bad people do things for their own good you can’t persuade them to do otherwise.
  • Would point out that international sanctions might get tighter if Kim commits atrocity
  • I don’t know
  • There’s no way to get mercy from an atheist who wishes to harm you and does not fear human reprisal.
  • I would probably ask what he wants from me to spare my life.

Question 8: Is it rational for you to risk your life to save a stranger? [NO: 10] [YES: 0]

  • It would be an emotional or intuitive decision. Not a time for rational calculation.
  • Self-sacrificial acts are not rational on atheism, there is no reason to do it
  • No
  • Self-sacrifice isn’t necessarily rational, but not everything an atheist does has to be purely rational.
  • I use happiness in more of an Aristotelian sense.  Happiness is not something that I necessarily feel at this very moment.  I know that I would feel bad if the little girl died, but it would be more than just immediate feelings.
  • I behave in a way that I hope others will. It works pretty well most of the time.

Question 9: Could you condemn slavery in a society where it was accepted, on rational grounds? [NO: 10] [YES: 0]

  • No. I do not believe in praise and blame and judging others. I would not try to persuade them for fear of repercussions, up to and including my death at their hands
  • I would not because slavery is the custom of that society. Each society has different customs, and slavery is their custom. If I moved there, I would not oppose it because I would get used to it
  • Would use evidence that all people are basically similar neurologically, and ask slaveowners to empathize with enslaved. Might work with Thomas Jefferson.
  • I don’t know
  • No but I personally oppose suffering
  • I can oppose slavery by merely opposing slavery.  True, moral subjectivism does not provide an objective basis for deciding the question of slavery, in and of itself.
  • If I traveled back into time then it would be me who traveled.  So I would oppose slavery.  If I were born into that time period, it would be different.
  • I would argue that people deserve the right to be free from slavery because I think that’s a good idea.
  • I wouldn’t “use” atheism as it doesn’t come with any particular tenets or morals or behavioral requirements.
  • I would oppose slavery because I would *want* to, not because I think there’s some extrinsic reason I ought to.

Question 10: Is there ultimate significance for acting morally or not? I.e. – does it affect your or anyone else’s destination if you act morally or not? [NO: 10] [YES: 0]

  • There is no ultimate significance
  • Acting morally makes life easier
  • Too long after I’m dead for me to care about.
  • It always matters to maximize my happiness now. I don’t care what happens in 20 billion years.
  • There’s a preceding question that hardly ever gets asked. “Is there a meaning to life?” I don’t think there is.

Question 11: Is there an objective purpose to life, (or does each person decide for themselves)? [NO: 10] [YES: 0]

  • Mine is to feel good about myself and to feel respected by others.
  • Mine is to enjoy it. I’d hope that I go about it in a way that doesn’t interfere with others enjoyment and that when it does we can compromise.
  • Mine is to relieve inordinate suffering, while leaving room for constructive suffering that lead to creativity and progress. Based on empathy.
  • Mine is to help the species survive by having lots of children, because that lasts after you die
  • Each person decides for themselves. My purpose is to have happy feelings
  • My purpose is to have happy feelings by doing what most of the other people are doing and avoiding social disapproval
  • I have no “objective” purpose. I do what I can to be happy, all things considered.
  • To live as contented as possible. To find answers to big questions. To prepare my children for adulthood. I chose these things because that’s what I like. I don’t care what another’s purpose is as long as they don’t harm anyone.
  • My purpose is to seek happiness while doing no harm (or as little harm as is it may be possible to do) for as long as I’m alive. Of course it’s just my own purpose – I can’t presume to choose another’s purpose. That being said, I do presume everyone has more or less the same goal of happiness and fulfillment, but the precise methods of going about it are always going to vary from person to person.
  • I want to be happy. I generally like other people, and I want them to be happy too.

Question 12: Would you follow (and how would you follow) Jesus at the point where it became clear to you that Christianity was true? [NO: 7] [YES: 2]

  • I have no idea
  • I would not follow. My own goals are all that I have, and all that I would continue to have in that unlikely situation. I would not yield my autonomy to anyone no matter what their authority to command me
  • I would not follow, because God doesn’t want humans to act any particular way, and he doesn’t care what we do
  • I would not follow. Head is spinning. Would go to physician to find out if hallucinating.
  • If I found there was no trickery? I’d have to change my mind wouldn’t I! Not really likely though is it?
  • I would keep doing what I am doing now, acting morally. That’s what all religions want anyway. (In response to my triumphant scribbling, he realized he had fallen into a trap and changed his answer to the right answer) Oh, wait. I would try to try to find out what Jesus wanted and then try to do that.
  • I hope I would be courageous enough to dedicate my life to rebellion against God.
  • I would not have to change anything unless forced to and all that would change is my actions not my values.  I would certainly balk at someone trying to force me to change my behavior as would you if you were at the mercy of a moral objectivist who felt that all moral goodness is codified in the Koran.
  • He would have to convince me that what he wants for me is what I want for me.

Question 13: What would be the hardest adjustment you would have to make to live a faithful, public Christian life?

  • I don’t know
  • It would not be that big of a change for me. I already act morally, I’m already public about my beliefs, and I don’t care what people think about what I believe. I don’t mind disagreeing with people and being unpopular for it. I think the 10 commandments are good. I could find out what to do and start doing those things.
  • I would not be able to believe in miracles, so there would be cognitive dissonance
  • Sacrificing my personal moral standards to take up a standard from a book that is very old and outdated
  • The most difficult would be the fact that I believe something without good evidence.
  • I work many hours a week for institutions and organizations that are charitable. I’m certainly not going to swap those for hours for “prayer time” and waste them.
  • I would certainly balk at someone trying to force me to change my behavior as would you if you were at the mercy of a moral objectivist who felt that all moral goodness is codified in the Koran. Obviously, it is possible that if I became a Christian, then I would have different values then I have now.
  • The most difficult thing would be trying to believe the ridiculous claims of Christianity. As for what a Christian finds difficult, how would I know?
  • I could never obey God from gratitude and love, only from servility inspired by fear and cowardice. I do not see myself as servile, fearful or cowardly, and to behave in such a manner would injure my self-esteem and self-image.

To my atheist interviewees: Thank you for giving me these answers. I will be commenting on them shortly, and posted my own answers.

Bear in mind: It does not matter to me whether you can do something irrationally by an act of will, (supposing that you could even have free will on a materialistic, deterministic universe). I only cared whether you could give a rational argument based on evidence. When the chips are down, people act on what is rational to them.

UPDATE: Hot Air on the atheism agenda.

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

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