I’ve recently run into a Christian named Diana Lesperance. She is the classic evangelical Christian, creationist, and sure that her version of Christian is the only “right” one. She’s written a book “The Narrow Way: biblical and historical proof that God is Great” as a response to Chris Hitchens’s book.
That book must be quite a train wreck. I suppose I could get a copy for a penny on Amazon but then I’d still have to spend $3 getting the silly thing. Luckily, we can see some of Diana’s evidence and logic in her blog and it’s a great demonstration of how a religion needs to rely on fear, ignorance and lies to keep going. Her blog is also a fascinating lesson on how Christians create their religion to fit them.
I’ll address one of her recent blog posts in its entirety but the most interesting points in it is that Diana wants to focus on what evidence we have now and not what we might discover or what we have discovered that she ignores through willful ignorance. This is the only way a creationist, conservative Christian can function, to deny anything and grudgingly move forward as their god is squeezed to nothing in gaps that are ceasing to exist. It is only by saying that we can’t find something out that they cling to what they have left for a little longer. Her post also points out the hypocrisy since we have no evidence of the essential events in her bible and she requires that we accept those claims. She also conveniently forgets that her creationist compatriots have been promising evidence for creationism for decades now and still haven’t produced one bit. The Discovery Institute, the Institute for Creation Research, etc not one dribble of fact that their god created anything.
In her one blog post “The false religion of naturalism”, we can see that it starts out with quite a bang, the good ol’ accusation that atheists are practicing a religion. Naturalism is, well, let’s let the OED say it “the philosophical belief that everything arises from natural properties and causes, and supernatural or spiritual explanations are excluded or discounted.” Nothing in it about religion, which is the “a personal set or institutionalized system of religious (“relating to or manifesting faithful devotion to an acknowledged ultimate reality or deity”) attitudes, beliefs, and practices “. In this definition (from merriam Webster), it talks about faith, which is the belief in something without evidence. It also shows that no matter how a theist may claim that their god hates religion and that they have a “relationship”, they indeed have a religion. It always seems that the best argument that theists have is that atheists aren’t any better than they are, not that they are actually correct.
In this, there is no conflict between those who believe in the basis of naturalism and in experimental evidence that indicates that this is how the universe works. Diana, and some of the folks she quotes, do their best to gin up some conflict between the two, and all it boils down to is that humans don’t know everything, so their gods must exist. There is no “war between science and naturalism”.
Diana claims that the following are evidence which supports her claims of war:
- The origin of the universe
- The cosmic fine-tuning
- The origin of life (biological information)
- The sudden origin of the Cambrian phyla
- The habitability/observability correlation
The short version is Diana is depending on the god of the gaps argument, that if we don’t’ know everything, then her god simply must exist. She also depends on ignorance of what she claims. If she was truthful about being concerned about understanding science, she’d already know that her claims fail in basic ways.
In number 1, the evidence we have now supports the conclusion that physical laws can explain the origin of the universe. We may not know all of the details *yet*, but we working towards knowing. Theistic belief depends on the idea that we don’t look any further than what the theist wants us to. We also know that there is no evidence for a supernatural e.g. outside of physical laws and the universe, source for the universe’s creation, especially not for one version of one god of one religion.
There is no evidence for “fine-tuning”, #2. This is the usual creationist nonsense that the universe was built for humans and nothing else. There is evidence that we fit in quite well with a universe that has these physical laws and arose because of them; they did not arise because of us or because of a magical being liked us a lot. Another problem with the “fine-tuning” argument is that much of the earth and the universe is entirely inimical to human life. This is the usual creationist “goldilocks” earth argument that depends on utter ignorance of the cosmos. What we usually get is “golly, the earth is perfect for us, the orbit is perfect, the sun is perfect, etc.” which ignores that people regularly die because of normal physical action on this earth, that the sun is not stable and can really screw up our lives, etc. I mean, really, what kind of a god creates a supposedly perfect world where the primary source of light causes a lot of cancer? (and no, I certainly didn’t come up with that pithy observation).
Number 3 is another attempt at the god of the gaps argument. We do not yet know how life originated, but that doesn’t mean “goddidit”. Nor does this mean that Diana’s version of a god did it. Again, we are getting closer and closer and the gaps are getting smaller and smaller.
The origin of Cambrian phyla, ala the “Cambrian Explosion” trotted out in #4 is another one of those creationist claims that requires a willful ignorance of the subject. It seems that so many creationists seem to think that scientific research into these things stopped with Darwin. Alas for their arguments, it hasn’t. This “explosion” has been noted to have taken from between 5 million to around 40 million years, quite a slow-motion bang. Fossils from the Ediacarian period show evolution, and multicelled critters and evolution just seems to just keep on going. (http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CC/CC300.html) There is evidence that there was a massive glaciation event that may have killed off most of the Ediacarian critters and then left plenty of niches for others to fill, and fill them they did just like evolutionary theory predicts. And in any case, these fossils show that the creationist claim of man appearing by magic fully formed and woman made from a rib is still hilariously wrong. Of course, even creationists can’t agree on what the bible is “really” saying, and they have no evidence to prove any one of their nonsense hypotheses. Young earthers think old earthers are wrong. We have a bunch of different guesses on what a “day” means in Genesis. It’s like watching fans of Star Trek try to work up excuses for why the series’ stories don’t make much sense in shared universe. (and I am one of those fans)
Now, Diana does mention something called “The habitability/observability correlation” in #5. Now this idea is often claimed by creationists but is seldom explained, mostly because it fails so badly if one knows what it really says behind those big words. It seems to be that since humans are alive right now, we have some kind of ‘special’ chance to observe the universe, and therefore “goddidit”. This is part of the goldilocks planet nonsense, and we have no idea or ability to prove that the earth is special in anyway. This idea seems to be mainly that of William Dembski, with his website “uncommon descent” which also seems to advocate that the earth is the center of the universe too. The problem with the claim of habitability/observability is that we don’t have a very nice view of the universe. That pesky atmosphere has made it very hard to do observations for a very long time. Surely this god could have made it clearer? It’s taken lots of time and research to compensate for natural obstructions. It takes a certain ignorant arrogance to think that we have some special place. It’s like the common theist who thinks it’s okay his god doesn’t heal amputees because we have c-limbs and antibiotics now. They forget that people have been suffering with and dying from amputations for millennia.
So, despite Diana claiming that one has to cultivate a genuine interest in science, she has not done so and has intentionally ignored all of the arguments that show her nonsense to be false.
Unsurprisingly, she repeats the common creationist claim that one only needs to look at nature to see their god. And each religion says you can see their particular god; Christianity says this directly in Romans 1. Can they prove that it is their god and no other? No. Diana claims that the evidence is that JC existed, but alas, there’s no evidence for that either. The bible also presents claims that are demonstrably false if one uses science (the scientific method: observe, hypothesize, predict, experiment, reproduce). There aren’t any magical warehouses that store hailstones like the bible claims, and there is no reason to think that this is anything but what a primitive human believed, not some pre-thought out metaphor. This disagreement presents a problem, should one believe one source or the other if one is a Christian?
Diana then tries to insist that one must place the above in a “historical context”. This is her history:
- In pre-scientific times, atheists maintained that the universe was eternal
- In pre-scientific times, atheists maintained that a life-permitting universe was as likely as a life-prohibiting universe
- In pre-scientific times, atheists maintained that the cell was a simple blob of jello that could spontaneously emerge in some warm pond
- In pre-scientific times, atheists maintained that the sudden origin of the Cambrian phyla would be explained by subsequent fossil discoveries
- In pre-scientific times, atheists maintained that there was nothing special about our galaxy, solar system, planet or moon
The one problem with this is what does “pre-scientific times” mean? Is this 50,000 years ago? Is this 200 years ago? Is this 87 years ago? There is no way to know. It also seems that Diana wants to conflate the term atheists with scientists
- It was not only some, not all, atheists who said this (Fred Hoyle being the most famous). Religions have claimed the universe to be eternal and other ways for the universe to be created/recreated. Hoyle is also the fellow whom creationist constantly cite as evidence for creationism, the infamous tornado in a junkyard quote.
- I’m not sure why it shocks Diana that some people thought that a lifeless universe was as likely as one with life. It seems that some hypotheses now do the same thing (multiverses) and we may be able to prove them true. Does she have some evidence that one is preferred over the other?
- No, no one thought there was jello in a pond. This demonstrates that Diana is quite ignorant about the original and current ideas about abiogenesis. She presents a strawman to ignore the fact that the gaps are closing on this too.
- This is the weird one in light of the vagueness of whatever “pre-scientific times” means. If pre-scientific is 50000 years ago, then it seems unlikely that anyone made any kind of claim about fossils. If it were 87 years ago, we would still be finding fossils. If it’s a minute ago from *now*, then we are still finding fossils, and Diana’s faith depends on never finding another. We also do have fossil evidence that this rapid specialization has occurred before and since. These multiple times show that the idea of a singular “genesis” as creationists try to claim is nonsense. And again, 5-40 million years isn’t “sudden”, not as Diana uses it.
- Yep, and we are seeing that that is the case that the sun, earth, moon and solar system aren’t special at all. All follow physical laws that we know. All act like we predict. All don’t need some magical force. There are bunches of galaxies, solar systems, and thus bunches of planets, and likely bunches of moons as soon as we get instruments good enough to sense them. The gaps are squeezing in. The bible mentions none of this, and indeed can’t even get that stars aren’t specks of light on a layer of something else. There is no reason to think that the bible is anything but a series of writings by people who didn’t know any better, and no god told them otherwise.
The sciences have progressed by doing experiments and making observations. The bible? Well, we certainly get more and more disagreements on what this god “really meant”.
- Astronomers and astrophysicsts have discovered redshift and the cosmic background radiation. It indicates that the universe is billions of years old. Creationists can’t agree on how old the universe “ought” to be.
- No, scientists haven’t discovered the “fine-tuning of gravity and of the cosmological constant.” There is nothing to say that something designed them that way.
- Biologists have discovered protein sequencing. The term “junk DNA” was rarely used by actual biologists. It was a short hand term used to say that there is DNA that we do not know the function for *yet*. We discovered that it often does have functions and there are parts that may still have none. The gaps are getting smaller.
- No, paleontologists haven’t discovered a “shorter Cambrian explosion”. It’s still under debate on how long it took, and it’s still millions of years. We now have evidence of an earlier diversification than that one: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avalon_explosion And one wonders just how much Diana knows about fossil formation. Soft things don’t leave many fossils. The burgess shale and similar sites are very unusual for their preservation. Again, this is the god of the gaps argument and still doesn’t show her god exists or that the bible is correct in its nonsense.
- And oh this one “Scientists discovered galactic habitable zones and circumstellar habitable zones and more!” Yep, more of the goldilocks nonsense. Ah, the simplistic arrogance of so many Christians. Again, we live in those ranges because we can, not because they were “made” for us. We have no idea about other life. At this point, it seems that liquid water is very useful to have life. We don’t know if that is always the case.
It’s hilarious that Diana wants to claim that the “trend of discoveries” is going against naturalism. It isn’t. We have plenty of data that shows that our theories are correct. There is still no evidence of creationism, Christian or otherwise, despite years of claims of “we’ll get it real soon now” from people like Michael Behe, William Dembski, etc. Diana has intentionally decided not to look at the evidence we have “today”, so much for her insistence that anyone who really want to know the truth will do that. She has demonstrated she is not guided by reason and has demonstrated that she has constructed a worldview that does leverage speculations about what she wants to pretend doesn’t exist. Since it is quite a bit more probable to believe in evidence in hand, rather than in speculations about a god that has none to support it, it makes more sense to not believe in an improbable god.
And finally more lies about other people told by a Christian. I guess that ol ‘thou shalt not bear false witness” and Romans 3 are a bit inconvenient, when you want to try to support your religion and have little else. She says that atheists “worship” science. I’m an atheist and nope, I don’t. Diana wants to claim that everyone who doesn’t agree with her is “filled with rage and enmity against what science has revealed about nature.” Nope, not at all. I’m very happy to see that Rosetta and Philae have done well, and I am very happy to note that science has revealed that what Diana claims is not true at all.
Alas for Diana, atheism is not rooted in religion. Not in the least. Naturalism isn’t even a religion but I guess that doesn’t stop such nonsense if you need to tell a lie. What we do see is that science is always corrected by science. It wasn’t some pastor who said that the Piltdown man was a fake, it was science.
But let’s ask Diana to provide some of this evidence that science supposedly presents that supports that her version of her Christian god exists. Where is the evidenced arrived at by the scientific method that supports a supernatural entity that created the universe and made a magic flood and came to earth be temporarily killed as a sacrifice to itself? I’m waiting and I’m sure others are too. We’ve been promised this evidence for a long time now and still haven’t gotten it.
I suspect we still won’t now.
24 thoughts on “Not So Polite Dinner Conversation – science proves Chrisitanity is true? Oh do tell.”
I’m so tired of hearing theists bleat on about the Cambrian Explosion like they actually know something. It took, at most, roughly 250 thousand years to go from ape in the trees to modern humans. The Cambrian Explosion took tens of millions of years. 65 million years ago we know that dinosaurs went extinct in a short time. The environment changed drastically and life was forever altered. I don’t hear them arguing that this is not true. The fact is that the environment can change drastically and not only for the worse. it would take only one such change to make the world more habitable for vastly diverging species. In favorable but highly competitive environments, evolution accelerates. Remember that there was huge space available, so isolated groups could quickly evolve without pressures we see today. Any mutation could survive, many did. As populations grew they fell into niches through competition and limited resources that now are defined as phyla.
There was a huge arms race in the zoo, and the winners all became royalty of certain niches. Success meant long term survival which meant firming up the dna coding to remain in that niche — moving out of it meant less survival. Phila are born of this process. So says my guess.
Awesome! I do so love the “earth is the centre of the universe” nonsense. It’s actually true, deadly true, but so is EVERY spot in the universe. No matter where you go you will always be at the exact centre of the universe 🙂
This is a brilliant post
Why do many believers have a problem separating other areas of study from atheism.
thanks, mak, you make me blush. 🙂
If I had to give a guess to why so many believers have such a problem in seperating atheism from other areas of study, I’d have to say that atheism is such a threat to their religion, and thus self-worth, that they are desperate for anything to support their nonsense. Even if it means having to be willfully ignorant and/or telling outright lies.
I’ve also ruminated about why Diana doesn’t seem to even try to defend her claims. I have arrived at a few possibilities:
1. she can fantasize about being such a martyr
2. She is looking for someone to give her a reason not to believe
3. she wants to respond but that would require her to become familiar with the subject matter and thus place her comforting ignorance in danger.
there is a lady am engaging whose every response is a bible verse or something close. I fear Diana could be reading her bible for the correct bible verses or she has just given up on you.
could be. I think I may have scared her with the request that she do the altar thing with me or show up at a hospital to do some healing. Seems like so many christians scatter they are asked to put up or shut up.
you know that is a call that puts them on the hot seat. I wouldn’t take that offer unless I am a Houdini
indeed. But where is the faith? 😉
On the Internet only,
I’m sorry Clubschadenfreude, but responding to you would have taken up a lot of my time at this point in my life and . . . whew . . . I just didn’t get over here! But I felt the need to be here in my bones!
I can assure you I don’t fantasize about being a martyr and I’m not looking for a reason to not believe. Perhaps I’m ignorant . . . I’m not a scientist. I specialize in history. This is why I was interested in Wintery Knight’s application of a narrative to the scientific debate over the evidence for origins.
I hope you will forgive my delay. I look forward to a rousing interaction where you will take great pleasure in grinding me into the ground with an attitude of mockery and intellectual superiority. I’m so excited!
Since it’s difficult to know where to start, I’ll just toss out some questions:
How were the fossils in the Cambrian Explosion formed? (Since I probably don’t know much about fossil formation.)
What were the pre-Cambrian fossils and how were they preserved? What does their existence prove? How are they connected to the Cambrian explosion?
Again, I’m not a scientist and I admit I’m pretty ignorant, but I’m willing to learn.
You can google fossil formation quite easily. I’ll get back you your post this evening. Talk Origins has some good anaylsis of creationist claims and the evidence against them: http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/
I’ll get back to your post tonight. I will say that most if not all theists who make claims of how much evidence they have always suddenly find that they have no time when a non-theist calls them on their claims.
Feel it in your bones? Or perhaps from just reading comments like everyone does. 🙂
Well, you’ve had quite a few years to learn things about evolution and from what I can see on your blog, you have chosen not to and to spread falsehoods about it without question. That doesn’t speak much to your claim of being willing to learn but to a desire to remain willfully ignorant. You don’t have to be a scientist to learn. You have also shown you are quite ignorant in history for supposedly specializing in it.
You have asked a couple of questions that could have been answered by simply googling them. There are also plenty of books on evolutionary theory and on paleontology available, either to buy or to get at a library (either there or through interlibrary loan). I will do my best to educate you. However, I do assign homework and I do expect you to read what I recommend and do what I ask.
“What were the pre-Cambrian fossils and how were they preserved?”
The Precambrian is quite a long period in Earth’s history. It ended only about 541 million years ago and the age of the earth is quite a bit older than that, around 4.5 billion years. The fossils of the Precambrian are start with bacteria from around 3.8 billion years ago. We don’t have fossils from earlier than that because of geologic processes, essentially the same ones as are around now, though there were plenty more meterors hitting. Fossils are created in many ways: carbon films, mineralization of soft tissue preserved usually in an anaerobic environment, preservation of calcareous parts of an animal, mineralization of bones are the usual ones. Then we can get trace fossils which are imprints of body parts, burrows, etc. Fossils are not always made because the necessary environment isn’t always available.
Later in the Precambrian, we have algae, stromatoliltes which are very cool since you can see tidal patterns in them, etc. We see the predicted increase of complexity.
“What does their existence prove?”
The fossils existence? Fossils provide strong evidence for the fact that biological entities existed.
“How are they connected to the Cambrian explosion?”
They appear to be its source. That’s how evolutionary theory works and what you would know already if you were interested in evolutionary theory and paleontology. I suspect you may claim you were too busy to find out about such things. It does seem that you weren’t too busy to read about creationist nonsense and to spread their lies. Can you tell me which kind of creationist you are, since even they can’t agree or show that their particular version is true?
There is no evidence for your scriptures to be true. Your post about how science supports your religion was full of false claims which I addressed here. I am waiting for evidence for your claims like, oh, that the trend of discoveries is going “against” naturalism. It was also quite interesting to see your false claims that everyone who disagrees with you is somehow “ “filled with rage and enmity against what science has revealed about nature.” No, not even remotely.
I’ll ask you the question I asked at the end of my post again: “But let’s ask Diana to provide some of this evidence that science supposedly presents that supports that her version of her Christian god exists. Where is the evidenced arrived at by the scientific method that supports a supernatural entity that created the universe and made a magic flood and came to earth be temporarily killed as a sacrifice to itself? Please do present this evidence.
“Fossils are not always made because the necessary environment isn’t always available.”
What is the “necessary environment” for fossils to be formed? Most scientists agree that there must be a “quick burial in moist sediment or other material that tends to prevent weathering and to exclude oxygen and bacteria, thereby preventing decay.”
Read more: fossil: The Formation of Fossils | Infoplease.com http://www.infoplease.com/encyclopedia/science/fossil-the-formation-fossils.html#ixzz3NVuKAzf4
Why is there such a profuse fossil record all over the world?
The existence of fossils points to a massive quick burial in sedimentary rock layers.
“Sedimentary rocks are types of rock that are formed by the deposition of material at the Earth’s surface and within bodies of water. Sedimentation is the collective name for processes that cause mineral and/or organic particles (detritus) to settle and accumulate or minerals to precipitate from a solution.”
Even coal (a fossil fuel) is “the fossil record of whole forests.”
For there to be so many fossils to suddenly appear is a miracle. The record of this is often called the the Big Bang of Evolution.
The fossil record is actually massive proof of a world-wide flood. (Or “magic flood” as you would say.)
How do you explain the existence of the fossil record? How were so many species suddenly quickly preserved in sedimentary layers all around the world?
I think this leaves scientists in a quandary. If they admit to a catastrophe, then their uniformitarian (millions of years) views on the formation of the fossil record go out the window, but if they don’t admit to a catastrophe then they have to explain the Cambrian explosion, and the pre-Cambrian fossil record does not explain the varied life forms found in the Cambrian explosion.
My view is that God created the animals and plants suddenly, and that he caused the world to be flooded at a certain point in time. The world shows physical evidence that this is true.
be back tomorrow. So much for your claims of ignorance.
I’ve replied her so we can keep things neater: https://clubschadenfreude.com/2015/01/01/not-so-polite-dinner-conversation-another-challenger-who-is-sure-that-the-bible-flood-happened-diana-lesperance/
I felt it in my bones because my own life was so busy and I had no chance to get over here and respond to your challenge. As some of my other atheist friends know I’m the mom of eight kids and I have five grandkids. My husband has become blind and needs help, I do the bookkeeping for the family business, I had to remodel my daughters leaking bathroom, the holidays are demanding, I just wrote another book and signed a contract with a publisher, my son was sick with a horrible case of mono, and I’ve been remodeling a building for a new church plant, designing logos, Facebook pages, etc . . . for a new church, plus all the cooking, shopping, and cleaning it takes to keep us all going. My life is full.
But I also feel a need to defend the truth of the scriptures. It’s my passion. So as a treat, I try to post a column or enter into a debate for a while. Being here with you, Clubschadenfreude, is actually a little tidbit of delight for me. 🙂
I call this the Underwear Gnomes school of theistic thought
Step One: Find something that current scientific models are unable to measure or sufficiently explain
Step Two: (Shrug)
Step Three: Declare the God of Christendom exists!
hah 🙂 Hi doug, how are things?
I’m feeling a bit down, between work pushing me around, S.O. pushing me around, and then being dogpiled at WWGHA(including by mods) for failing to toe the PC line, this time on gender issues. I left for a few months before after being chastised for being too aggressive with a moronic theist when he asked “why do you post here?”…when the same mod who chastised me started insulting the same theist later in the same thread. Sorry to dump here, but you are one of the few people that I know who would understand.
But I think you would have loved the post that I got chastised for. 🙂
most likely 🙂 I think I’ve lurked a bit on WWGHA about twice in the last few years. always bizarre that one can get whined at for being “too” aggressive on a website that is called WWGHA.
My empathies that work and the SO are being aggravating.
Found said post:
I am speaking with you to just dance intellectual circles around you and show how superior my position is to your through you continued failures. Since it would be detrimental to do this with the deluded fools that surround me in my real life, impolite to go onto Christian forums and do it, I do it here, for those sorry saps like yourself who are asking for it. Laughing up my sleeve at your continued engaging in falsehoods, dodges, fallacies, and your utter inability to understand the difference between what is in your head and reality. Smirking at your continued inability to comprehend the difference between claims and evidence, as well as your foolish and clumsy attempt to avoid the fact the only demonstrable difference between a fairy tale and a religion is the number of people who currently(or historically) believe in said story.
And on occasion when I can mop the floor mentally with the likes of you, just like nearly every atheist vs. theist debate; some fence sitter watching realizes, “Wow, the Emperor really has no clothes.” Because of the democratization of information, a higher and higher percentage of the population becomes atheists every day. Slowly but surely the concept of a trans dimensional alien space wizard named Jehovah and all the detriment to society that belief brings will be consigned to the trash heap of history along with slavery, demons causing illness, phrenology, monarchy, dogmatic Communism, and race based oppression.
The end of religion does not create a utopia by any means. However one thing that drives men to kill each other that is completely imaginary, would be eliminated. One completely imaginary thing that gives men the bullheaded courage that their way is the only way, that those the oppose them are irredeemable. One imaginary thing that puts shackles on the ankles of progress, and allows people to sanctify there indifference to the plight of others would be gone.
In essence, the world wouldn’t be a perfect place, but it would be a better place.
Very good post. A well written elegant version of the truth.