Faith in the Fictional War between Science Fiction and Faith

Is science fiction innately and naturally inclined to be hostile to religion?

After all, in FOUNDATION, the church of the Galactic Spirit turns out to be a hoax, likewise the messiahship of Muad-Dib in DUNE, likewise the Church of Foster in STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND, likewise the evil church of evil on GATHER, DARKNESS or RISE OF ENDYMION, likewise the church of the rebels in SIXTH COLUMN. On the other hand, Christians as a whole are pretty hostile to false prophets and heretics, and Americans, like all good Protestant nations, are pretty hostile to organized Churches. Roman Catholics, on the other hand, would like our church to get organized, and we will get around to that real soon. So are these portrayals of false religions innate to science fiction, or are they merely the dramatic inventions of stories who are not necessarily condemning religion as much as condemning falseness?

I would say this question breaks into three questions: (1) is there anything innately hostile in SFF to religion portrayed as a man-made institution? (2) is there anything innately hostile in SFF to religion portrayed as supernaturally-made institution? (3) is there anything innately hostile in SFF to supernaturalism in general?

All of these are difficult and subtle questions, and I am in the middle of writing a Christian Science Fiction book right now, where Mary Baker Eddy teams up with Nikolai Tesla to repel an invasion of the lepers of Mars with the help of a mind-reading lion, called ASLAN IS A SLAN, so I can deal with these difficult and subtle questions in only the most shallow and trivial way.

Let us start with a definition: science fiction is the mythology of a scientific age.

Like all myths, the mythology called Science Fiction must treat with metaphysical questions and questions of the human condition. Being scientific myth, it must cast those questions in terms of a naturalistic idea that scientific progress will open either the box of Pandora or the cave of Wonders of Aladdin, or both, such that if the story does not concern some aspect of a change in society or life brought about by a speculated advance in technology, it is not really science fiction.

This would seem to rule out religion as part of the worldview science fiction used by definition. If you travel into the future using the time machine of HG Wells, you are in a science fiction tale; if you travel into the future escorted by the ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, you are in a fantasy. If you turn invisible like Frodo by means of a magic ring, it is fantasy; if by means of chemicals like Griffin the Invisible Man or by cosmic rays like Sue Storm the Invisible Girl, that is science fiction. Your magicians can do everything in science fiction they do in a fantasy, provided only you call your magic ‘parapsychology’ or ‘psionics’ on the grounds that psionics is a natural if unknown phenomenon, whereas magic is a supernatural and unknowable phenomenon (or, technically speaking, a nuomenon).

To craft an SFF book, we use all the same tools and tricks as a mainstream writer, with one difference. The one thing we do that writers of Westerns, Romances, Detective novels or Pirate Stories does not do is world-building. They use a setting the audience already knows: we invent a new one, even if the invention is no more than the tired repetition of a consensus background many other authors has used, such as the generic ‘space opera space empire’ background adopted by STAR WARS.

So the question becomes whether religion can be part of that background? This breaks into two questions: the natural portrayal of religion, and the supernatural.

DUNE, like all SF that portrays a fantastic or futuristic society in some detail, must portray a fantastic or futuristic religion as well, since religion is one of the great constants of human nature: but the nature of science fiction is inherently interested in the variables in human society, not the constants. So in a period of history where most of the readers are Christian, those of us who want to hear sailors stories and travelers tales from fictional travel into other worlds and future eons do not want to hear about our own religion.

We want weird tales. (I suppose if the demographic has atheists outnumber Christians, the atheists who are as imaginative as science fiction readers boast themselves to be will want to hear about Christian worlds, merely because then that to them with have the haunting aura of strangeness.) In sum, fantasy is the weirdness of the Odyssey; science fiction is the weirdness of Einstein.

Compare Heinlein’s MOON IS A HARSH MISTRESS, where the marriage customs, for example, of the Loonies are as odd and uncouth as the marriage customs of Eskimos, early Mormons or Turks, with the marriage of the Gray Lensman to the Red Lensman in GALACTIC PATROL by EE Smith: the marriage customs portrayed in Heinlein’s book are mind-bogglingly unrealistic, but it is very fine science fiction, because it is a speculation that a change in the environment creates a change in social custom. On the other hand, the marriage in Smith’s book is so realistic it is not science fiction at all.

Likewise, the conceit in FOUNDATION that the Scientists of Terminus could simply sit down one day and invent a religion of the Great Galactic Spirit, and use their advanced science to perform tricks to befuddle the yokels of worlds (whose fathers and grandfathers, come to think of it, remembered that selfsame science, and presumably had books or tapes of such things), and that anyone would find such a synthetic religion feasible or believable is itself not believable.

This theme is a favorite of Sciffy writers, and occurs again in GATHER, DARKNESS by Fritz Leiber, and SIXTH COLUMN by Heinlein. Nonetheless, it is perfectly cromulent science fiction, since it is a speculation of a social change caused by a change in technology. (In this case, the tech change must be invention of the Idiot Cap which makes whole populations really gullible in a fashion only atheists are gullible enough to think could ever happen in real life.)

Compare this with the way religion is treated in GALACTIC PATROL, where the Earthmen seem to have some sort of nondemoninational Protestantism, and, again, since nothing is different from the world of the reader, the make-believe world does not dwell on, nor even mention by name, the church that the Civilization of the Lens follows.

That is on the one hand. If the writer wants to argue that the natural needs of drama of science fiction make is easy to portray all cults as deceptive, and all space churches as monstrous, he’ll get no argument from me.

Science fiction is naturally inclined to dramatize and glamorize skepticism. It is easy to write about frauds like those of the ancient shrine of the Serapeum, with its speaking tubes and hollow statues. Using modern technology to fool the yokels is a natural thought to anyone impressed with Hollywood illusions or the cunning of stage magic. So the story in GATHER, DARKNESS proposes a world of illiterate dupes ruled by hierarchy of Hollywoodized technocrats. On the other hand, the merely technical difficulties of writing about fraudulent atheist conspiracies or institutions deceptively hiding the evidence of miracles and resurrections might deter the authors into less difficult projects.

No SF writer to my knowledge has written one of these “mega-conspiracies that fool the entire world” books starring an atheist conspiracy armed with high-tech tricks, even though the technique of airbrushing unpersons out of old photographs was invented by a real-life and still-in-business mega-conspiracy, namely, the international communist movement.

It is easy to pick on evil institutional churches in SF for the same reason it is easy to pick on evil institutional businesses, or evil institutional governments. Who wants to read about a benevolent Galactic Empire? We want to hear about Jack the Giant Killer. No one wants to hear about Giant the Jack Killer. To portray a galactic-wide institution, secular or spiritual, as Jack facing a foe worthy of the name of a giant would require rare skill.

On the other hand, the other hand of the argument is purely definitional. Is STAR WARS science fiction or science fantasy? In that same way that it is abundantly clear that the DC comicverse takes place in a Judeochristian background, with orthodox devils and angels coming onstage in the pages of SWAMP THING or THE SPECTER, it is abundantly clear that STAR WARS takes place in a vaguely Taoist-flavored New-Age-y universe ruled by a mystical ‘Force’. But Taoism is a religion. The materialistic premise that all supernatural beliefs are merely man-made myths and lies and self-deception cannot be true in the galaxy long long ago and far far away. The Force is not portrayed as parapsychology. It is not studied by mind-scientists and stopped by mind-shield-generators: it is practiced by an order of samurai-Templar style knights with distinctly monkish overtones, and stopped by moral evil called The Dark Side.

So, if we wish, we could simply define any story which took place in a universe that had a supernatural aspect to it as officially out of bounds and ‘not true science fiction.’ This would call for some nicety of judgment, since the miracles performed by, say, Paul-Mu’ad-Dib or Michael Valentine Smith might be parapsychology as natural as the mind reading powers of a Slan or a Psychohistorian, or they might be a manifestation of the divine as supernatural as the reincarnation of Gandalf the White. This would also eliminate as science fiction books like STARMAKER by Olaf Stapledon, which, while criminally unknown and unread in these days, has had as much influence defining the genre as anything by HG Wells.  Nonetheless, God Almighty comes onstage as a character in the last act of STARMAKER, and, as befits the weirdness of a science fiction story, it is a cruel or Darwinian god, a weird god not at all in keeping with the expectations or experience of the audience.

Now, I cannot use that definition, since I defined science fiction as the mythology of a scientific age, so I cannot rule mythology as out of bounds for the definition of science fiction. Indeed, I would venture to say that every genre of science fiction except maybe for military SF deals more often with mythical or religious themes than with mundane or worldly ones. When is the last time you read an SF story about the danger of a Negative Balance of Imports or Deficit Spending?

Think of any supernatural miracle or magic, and I bet some reader could name a science fiction book that treats with it. Is the resurrection of Spock so different from the resurrection of Alcestis or Aesculapius? For that matter, Gene Autry is brought back from the dead in a resurrection machine in the serial PHANTOM EMPIRE, and so is Klaatu in DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL, and so is everyone who ever lived in RIVERWORLD by Farmer.

Tiresias or St. John may have visions of the future, but then again, so does Paul Mu’ad-Dib, or, for that matter, so does Lion-o of the Thundercats. Professor Pinero in Heinlein’s first published story ‘Lifeline’ knows the day and hour of any man’s death, as does the prediction machine in ‘Alpha Ralpha Boulevard’ as does the time traveler in ‘Try and Change the Past!’ by Fritz Leiber.

Other miracles such as bi-location and levitation show up in science fiction as often as a Star Trek transporter malfunction or an experiment with cavorite.

The transcendence promised by religions both Eastern and Western happen in SFF so often that there is a name for it: the Singularity, Transhumanism, even though the book that is one of the earliest portrayals of posthuman evolution was purely “parapsychological” (i.e. purely mystical) in nature: CHILDHOOD’S END by Arthur C. Clarke, which seemingly took its inspiration from LAST AND FIRST MEN by Olaf Stapledon.

So, the hostility of SF to supernaturalism, if it exists, exists only in a nominal way. All the supernatural events and themes of mythology are endlessly repeated in Science Fiction, but merely given a different machinery and a different name. A saint healing the blind by means of prayer would not be regarded as a legitimate science fictional speculation in an SF book, but an optic-nerve-regeneration hocuspocusulator invented on the spot by Dr. McCoy at Sector General would be regarded as legitimate, even if it was mere handwavium-powered baloneytronics.

Certainty the things that are the topics and themes of myth appear far, far more frequently in SF than in mainstream literature: I can name seven ‘Chosen Ones’ right off the top of my head (and without sneaking a peak at the TV Tropes webpage) from SFF movies and books (Buffy, Harry Potter, Chandler Jarrell, Aenea, Paul Mu’ad-Dib, Neo, Liu Kang) whereas I defy anyone to name a single Chosen One from a Western, a War Story, a Soap Opera or a Detective Story.

As far as I can tell, the only difference between science fiction and fairytales from elfland, is that the sciencefictioneers have to leave unsaid who chooses the Chosen One, or they call it parapsychology rather than magic or miracle.

So, my answers would be: (1) is there anything innately hostile in SFF to religion portrayed as a human institution? Yes, a little, and for the same reason there is an innate hostility to human institutions of business and government as crops up in any story where the Big Guy is the Bad Guy.

(2) is there anything innately hostile in SFF to religion portrayed as supernatural? No; the matter tends to be ignored by SFF and for the same reason that the supernatural foundations of the Church Militant  does not come up in Westerns or in Samurai stories. Readers of weird tales want stories about weird things, not about the things we know from the fields we know. Only a very rare writer — only GK Chesterton, in fact — can portray ordinary things as if they are weird, and bring out the fantasy and wonder from our own backyard garden.

(3) is there anything innately hostile in SFF to supernaturalism in general? Yes, definitely. Science fiction writers are fond of saying that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, but we make this distinction every time we call one book science fiction and another one fantasy.

Yarns with “science-flavored” magic in them, such as the parapsychologists, prognosticators or telepaths crowding the worlds of STARSHIP TROOPERS or DUNE or FOUNDATION or CHILDHOOD’S END or SLAN or STAR TREK, technically speaking, are fantasy, because the author has presumed a supernatural background, not a change brought about by technology or the scientific method.

But we science fiction types, despite our love of technology, do not speak technically, and we consider magic to be fair game even in so called hard SF like the books listed above, provided someone somewhere in the book clears his throat and drops the hint that the magic powers were discovered by psychiatrists rather than by witches, or that they developed by Darwinian evolution or eugenics rather than were granted by hidden powers of heaven or hell or elfland.

For that matter, an author like Frank Herbert can call his magic-users ‘Witches’ and get away with being shelved as science fiction, and Sheri S Tepper can call her mind-readers ‘Demons’ and get away with being being shelved as science fiction, just as long as someone in the book drops the hint that their magic is caused by genetics rather than consorting with spirits, because ‘genetics’ sounds nice and scientifrriffic, whereas spirits smacks of spiritualism.

Science fiction in fact is so seeped with religions ideas and ideals, themes and myths and mysticism, that we should pause in astonishment to consider why anyone is even talking about an alleged hostility. One might as well ponder whether science fiction is hostile to fiction.

The clue is not in the question but in the questioner. Some gullible folk in the last century were persuaded by a book called something like THE WAR BETWEEN SCIENCE AND RELIGION (I am not willing to google the title and look it up) and it made the case that Protestants were the Sons of Light and Catholics were the Children of Darkness, and therefore the Catholic Church and her most remorseless Inquisition drove all scientists to England, where they invented everything ever. These evil Inquisitors no doubt included Nicolaus Copernicus, Gregor Mendel, Georges Lemaître (!!), Albertus Magnus, Roger Bacon, Pierre Gassendi, Roger Joseph Boscovich, Marin Mersenne, Francesco Maria Grimaldi, Nicole Oresme, Jean Buridan, Robert Grosseteste, Christopher Clavius, Nicolas Steno, Athanasius Kircher, Giovanni Battista Riccioli, William of Ockham, and their familiars among the laity Galileo Galilei,Rene Descartes, Louis Pasteur, Blaise Pascal, André-Marie Ampère, Charles-Augustin de Coulomb, Pierre de Fermat, Antoine Laurent Lavoisier, Alessandro Volta, Augustin-Louis Cauchy, Pierre Duhem, Jean-Baptiste Dumas not to mention Pope Sylvester II .

NOTE TO THE HISTORICALLY ILLITERATE : If you do not recognize more than half the names on the list given above, you are not allowed to have an opinion on any question regarding the history of science, so shut up and sit down.

My guess is that the attempt by the International Roman Catholic Church and our albino monk Opus Dei assassin squads of antiscientific antiscientists to suppress science would be more effective if the Roman Catholic Church would only stop founding schools, universities, and producing top-notch physicists whose work is the foundation of the the heliocentric theory, genetic theory, the Big Bang theory, and so on.

Meanwhile, the pro-scientific scientists of the League of Science are busily promoting real science with real scientific advancements, such as the ‘materialistic dialectic’ theory of Karl Marx who discovered the scientific basis of history; the theory that everyone who criticizes Freud suffers from Oedipal Complexes who discovered the science of not having to produce predictions or results; and the theory of Lysenko that grain inherits characteristics from the environment by means of class struggle in dialectic opposition to other grain-seeds.

For those of you unfamiliar with the name, Lysenko was the Soviet Master Scientists under Stalin. “Scientific dissent from Lysenko’s theories of environmentally acquired inheritance was formally outlawed in 1948, and for the next several years opponents were purged from held positions, and many imprisoned.”

Ah! And let me not fail to mention the scientists at East Anglia University who hoaxed their data concerning anthropogenic global warming in a scientific attempt to scientifically fool the unwashed masses into accepting the inconvenient truths of scientifically sciencified science.

I believe the same scientists who discovered that the Piltdown Man was the missing link confirmed these findings which were then peer-reviewed by the magnificent Rachel Carson Institute for the Abolition of Bird-Egg-Destroying Chemicals, that bastion of scientifically integrity.

Naturally, the chief of the League of Science (all of whom have vowed to destroy the evil science-hating anti-scientists of the Roman Catholic Church) is Ilya Ivanovich Ivanov. He was involved in a controversial attempt to create a human-ape hybrid for the Soviet military. Unfortunately, Ivanov attempted to organize the insemination of human females with chimpanzee sperm in Guinea, but the French Government interfered, no doubt under orders from the Vatican.

That is real science for you! SCIENCE! It can do ANYTHING! It is AWESOME!

NOTE TO THE HUMOR IMPAIRED: Ilya Ivanov and his man-ape experiments are real. I am not actually writing a book about Christian Scientists and Mad Scientists and Mind-Reading Lions fighting Men from Mars, even though that is a Way Cool idea. There is no Anti-science cabal of Catholic Jesuits and Inquisitors out to kill scientists, and there is no League of Science who use their rocket packs and rayguns to hunt down and burn up Inquisitors and Jesuits even though that would also be Way Cool if it happened. Rachel Carson is actually a scientific fraud, as is Freud, as is Marx, as is Lysenko, as is anthropogenic global warming.

NOTE TO THE SCIENCE IMPAIRED: Real science is about physical things you can measure, observe, and repeat the observation. Physical things, like ballistics, astronomy, chemistry, and so on. Speculations about Id and Superego and scare-stories about Ozone Layer depletion are no more scientific than speculations about Morlocks and scare-stories about Frankenstein’s Monster. They are stories with a scientifical decor to them. The number of people who have seen an Id and the number of people who have seen an Eloi is exactly the same: zero.

All kidding aside, the sad fact is that secularization of the scientific community has arguably decreased the rate of the advance of science. Universities founded by or run by the Church study real knowledge and produce real science, because they believe God is Truth, and the cosmos was made by Him to be studied and understood. Institutions funded by the government study government-approved science, which, if not correct, is politically correct. They understand where their grant money comes from.

So where did the idea of a War between Science and Faith arise?

With apologies to my fundamentalist brethren in Christ, all that happened is that one small group in schism with the Roman Catholic Church, militant fundamentalist Christians who reject the authority of the Magisterium to interpret and teach scripture, has decided on a literal interpretation of Genesis, and insist on a six-day timeline of creation that does not fit geological, astronomical, or biological evidence.

Meanwhile, another small group in schism with the Roman Catholic Church, militant fundamentalist atheists who reject the authority of science to say what is and what is not science, has decided on a mystical, Shavian, Hegelian or Marxist misinterpretation of Darwin’s Origin of Species, and insist that scientific learning gives them the right to decree that abortion, eugenics, euthanasia, and the sterilization or genocide of those they deem unfit is licit, whereas the condemnation of fornication, abomination, or polygamy is illicit.

(These Utopians do not consider themselves cultists nor heretics, but their beliefs are mystical and religious in character, even if not in name, and copy Christian eschatological models.)

These two groups, neither of whom represent mainstream Christianity or mainstream scientific thinking, have decided that there is a war going on between science and Christianity. It is an article of faith with them, and no evidence to the contrary, scientific or historical, can persuade them otherwise.

The solution I propose is that both groups return to the Church, say confession, get shrived, make peace. I cannot imagine a less popular solution, but neither can I imagine any other that will work.

Most science fiction readers can tell the difference between science and fiction. The war between science and religion is fiction, and apparently an entertaining fiction indeed, as many who believe in it continue to do so.

About John C Wright

John C. Wright is a practicing philosopher, a retired attorney, newspaperman, and newspaper editor, and a published author of science fiction. Once a Houyhnhnm, he was expelled from the august ranks of purely rational beings when he fell in love; but retains an honorary title.
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79 Responses to Faith in the Fictional War between Science Fiction and Faith

  1. Likewise, the conceit in FOUNDATION that the Scientists of Terminus could simply sit down one day and invent a religion of the Great Galactic Spirit, and use their advanced science to perform tricks to befuddle the yokels of worlds (whose fathers and grandfathers, come to think of it, remembered that selfsame science, and presumably had books or tapes of such things), and that anyone would find such a synthetic religion feasible or believable is itself not believable.

    What, you never heard of Scientology?

    Ozone Layer depletion

    Are you asserting that one cannot measure the concentration of ozone in the atmosphere, or the resulting absorption spectrum?

  2. Let me get this straight: you, a presumably rational individual who writes science fiction stories for a living, sincerely believes that the creator of our 13.7 billion year-old universe of 70 sextillion stars magically impregnated a human female about 2000 years ago – a woman who then gave birth to a son named Jesus who performed miracles, rose from the dead and served as the creator’s messenger to humanity?

    This might make for a mildly interesting, if outlandish, science fiction story, but the source of your belief system? If you’re going to base your life philosophy on absurd myths, why not choose something a bit more interesting? Why not master the Dark Side of the Force or the Golden Path, becoming a Sith Lord or a God-Emperor and strive to rule a Galaxy? Why choose something as ridiculous and wretched as Christianity? I must admit I am rather perplexed…

    • I am more than a presumably rational individual, I am a champion of atheism who gave arguments in favor of atheism so convincing that three of my friends gave up their religious belief due to my persuasive reasoning powers, and my father stopped going to church.

      Upon concluding through a torturous and decades-long and remorseless process of logic that all my fellow atheists were horribly comically wrong about every basic point of philosophy, ethics and logic, and my hated enemies the Christians were right, I wondered how this could be. The data did not match the model.

      Being a philosopher and not a poseur, I put the matter to an empirical test.

      For the first time in my life, I prayed, and said. “Dear God. There is no logical way you could possibly exist, and even if you appeared before me in the flesh, I would call it an hallucination. So I can think of no possible way, no matter what the evidence and no matter how clear it was, that you could prove your existence to me. But the Christians claim you are benevolent, and that my failure to believe in you inevitably will damn me. If, as they claim, you care whether or not I am damned, and if, as they claim, you are all wise and all powerful, you can prove to me that you exist even though I am confidence such a thing is logically impossible. Thanking you in advance for your cooperation in this matter, John C. Wright.” — and then my mind was at rest. I had done all I needed to do honestly to maintain my stature as someone, not who claimed to be logical, objective and openminded, but who was logical, objective, and openminded.

      Three days later, with no warning, I had a heart attack, and was lying on the floor, screaming and dying.

      Then I was saved from certain death by faith-healing, after which –

      I felt the Holy Spirit enter my body, after which –

      I was visited by the Virgin Mary, her son, and His Father, not to mention various other spirits and ghosts over a period of several days –

      And a week or so after that I had a religious experience where I entered the mind of God and saw the indescribable simplicity and complexity, love, humor and majesty of His thought, and I understood the joy beyond understanding and comprehended the underlying unity of all things, and the paradox of determinism and free will was made clear to me, as was the symphonic nature of prophecy. I was shown the structure of time and space.

      And then Christ in a vision told me that He would be my judge, and that God judges no man. I mentioned this event to my wife. Then about a month later, when I was reading the Bible for the first time beyond the unavoidable minimum assigned in school, I came across the passage in the book of John, a passage I had never seen before, and to which no Christian in my hearing had ever made reference, which said the same thing in the same words.

      And then I have had perhaps a dozen or two dozen prayers miraculously answered, so much so that I now regard it as a normal routine rather than some extraordinary act of faith.

      So I was prepared to say adieu to logic and reason and just take things on faith, when I then found out that the only people who think you have to say adieu to logic and reason in order to take things on faith are crackpots both Christian and atheistic. Every non-crackpot thinks faith is that on which you rely when unreasonable fears tempt you to disbelieve that to which your reason has consented. If your father says you can dive off the high dive with no risk of death, and he has never lied in the past, and your reason tells you to trust him, it is rational to take his word on faith and jump, and it is irrational to let your eyes overestimate the danger poised by the height.

      I then discovered that the Christian world view makes sense of much that the atheistic or agnostic worldview cannot make sense of, and even on its own philosophical terms, is a more robust explanation of the cosmos and man’s place in it, answering many questions successfully that atheists both claim cannot be answered, and then, without admitting it, act in their lives as if the question were answered, such as how to account for the rational faculties of man, the universality of moral principles, the order of the cosmos, how best to live, etc.

      Turning to my atheist friends, I then discovered none of them, not one, could give me even so reasonable an argument as I was expert in giving in favor of atheism.

      They reasoned as follows: “God cannot possibly exist. Therefore any evidence that you encountered that God exists must be hallucination, mis-perception, faulty memory, self-deception, coincidence, or anything else no matter how farfetched and absurd. Since any evidence that you encountered that God exists must be hallucination, mis-perception, faulty memory, self-deception, coincidence, or anything else no matter how farfetched and absurd, therefore none of your evidence proves God exists.”

      I found their perfect, childlike faith touching.

      No matter what they saw, no matter what they heard, no matter how the world was against them, they would go to the lions rather than look at the evidence, lest their faith in their faithlessness be shaken.

      When I pointed out that this was circular reasoning, they called me bad names.

      One skeptic, in a bit of a lapse of his vaunted presumably rational character, told me solemnly that I could not possibly have had Jesus tell me something from a book in the Bible I had never read before. He said that I had read it after wards, and developed the previously undiscovered ability to edit and rewrite my memories, which I then used on myself, so that I only remembered Jesus telling me about the nonjudgmentalism of God. Then I used it again to make myself forget that I had the power to make myself forget things.

      I asked him if I also had the power to rewrite my wife’s memory, since she remembers me telling her about this before I read it. He then tried to cut the conversation off, while accusing me of being irrational. He did not call me names to my face, but I overheard him doing so to others.

      Another atheist told me I induced a heart attack in myself with my previously undiscovered heart-attack inducing power. And then cured the heart pain with my previously undiscovered heart-attack-curing power. When I questioned him about such things as my medical record, and asked to see the evidence supporting this theory, more than one called me bad names.

      Another atheist told me that that heart failure was a coincidence, not a direct result of my prayer tempting God Almighty, and if that had not happened, something else like a car accident would have happened, and since I am irrational, I would have drawn an improper post hoc ergo propter hoc conclusion no matter what happened, on the grounds that God cannot exist no matter what the evidence says nor how obvious it is, and so anyone who draws the obvious conclusions from the evidence MUST be irrational.

      He, at least, did not call me names, aside from making the claim that I would have made an irrational lapse in judgment no matter what had happened after praying my one experimental prayer to a God in which I had no particle of belief, in order to sustain and support my (nonexistent, at that time) belief. He continues to suffer the false to facts belief that he can read my mind back through time and see the internal workings of my psychology during events where he was not present. For a skeptic, he is really, really gullible.

      I tried gently to point out the logical error in trying to use reason to persuade me that he, a stranger to me, knew that I suffered from a mental illness that prevented me from reasoning, whereas I, who have access to things like my past history and my medical records and the contents of my thinking, have more authority to speak to the issue than does he, until and unless I am impeached as a witness.

      In general, the argument that I am impeached as a witness on the grounds that my testimony did not confirm the prejudices and assumptions of a third party is not one likely to prevail in a court of law, or as a debate among sober philosophers, scientists, nor anyone trained in rigorous reasoning.

      And so far not one atheist has approached me with a legitimate argument, such as the Problem of Pain, or the Paradox of Determinism, or any apparent inconsistencies in the Bible. The only feeble effort in this last direction was from someone who insisted that the Gospels were written in the late Second Century, but could give no argument to support this extraordinary revolution in the standard model of history, nor quote an authority in the field in support.

      None have even erected a child’s argument, such as asking whether God could create a stone too heavy for Him to lift.

      I used to be one of you, and I was good at my job, and you all embarrass me with the feebleness and silliness of your attempts to do what I once upon a time did so well.

      But enough about me!

      My question for you is this: if science discovered tomorrow that the universe was half its apparent age, and estimated the stars as half their current number, would the believe in God somehow be twice as credible in your eyes?

      If so, why so?

      If not, then, logically, the age of the universe and the number of stars has no bearing on the credibility of belief in God or in the Incarnation.

      Again, if you are attempting to persuade me that I should not believe in unusual events or unheard-of or hard-to-believe on the grounds that no unusual nor unheard-of nor hard-to-believe events never happen, simply logic shows that this cannot be the case:

      Logically, every ordinary event is unheard-of before we hear of it, and the first example of even repeated events is unusual until the second example occurs, and events are hard-to-believe when and only when our expectations and our experience does not match: therefore every novelty is as incredible as the platypus when first encountered. Therefore not only do incredible events happen, they must happen, for if they did not the concept of credibility could not exist.

      If, on the other hand, you are arguing that I ought not believe reports of miracles on that grounds that miracles do not exist, and that we know miracles do not exist on the grounds that no believable reports exist, you are arguing in a circle.

      The argument, even if it were not circular, is less persuasive than may at first appear, when proffered to a juror who is himself a skeptical eyewitness to several miracles, answered prayers, visions, religious experiences, knowledge of events before they happened, et cetera. Obviously, I who have seen miracles, cannot adopt the a priori assumption that miracles cannot exist.

      • Mrmandias says:

        Let up on the flamethrower, you’re crisping the ashes.

      • Patrick says:

        This is by far the most patient, rational self-disclosure ever offered from a philosopher to a nameless, lonely, spirit-broken internet nerd (sorry, Sith Master) I’ve seen, perhaps ever.

        For the record, I ally myself entirely with said gruesome nerd in the heart, and studying his blog, I feel I somehow understand the pressure he’s under.

        On behalf of both of us and everybody who recoils from sheer familiarity with the countenance of his spiteful, worthless posturing, thanks.

      • Dude, I don’t doubt that you had a powerful experience and I totally accept your right to live by whatever myths seem real to you. But even if everything you say is true, I would still reject your religion because I simply don’t want anything to do with this demiurge you call God.

        Any being who a) created this vast, hostile universe and this planet full of suffering and b) takes a personal interest in each human being’s sex life, among other trivialities, and threatens to burn them in a lake of fire for all eternity as a consequence, is either evil or insane. The repugnance and sheer absurdity of Christian teachings forces me to reject this creature, even if he were to appear before me in the flesh and threaten me with eternal damnation. I would laugh the bastard right out of the room!

        As far as how the size and age of the universe is relevant, this is just common sense. I reject the mythology of Iron Age Semitic tribes for the same reason I reject the myopic myths of other primitive peoples: because we can see now that the world is much larger, older and stranger than they ever suspected. As Richard Feynman put it:

        “It doesn’t seem to me that this fantastically marvelous universe, this tremendous range of time and space and different kinds of animals, and all the different planets, and all these atoms with all their motions, and so on, all this complicated thing can merely be a stage so that God can watch human beings struggle for good and evil — which is the view that religion has. The stage is too big for the drama.”

        It’s rather stunning to hear an otherwise rational person defending the reality of pure fantasy stories and ancient miracles. The human mind is nothing if not awesome in its capacity for self-delusion!

        Having said all this, I realize that this debate is utterly futile, and understand that these matters will have to be decided on the battlefield. At this point I’d say your side is losing badly. If your God is so powerful, why are you so f*cking weak?

        • Since I have already addressed the hallucination theory, and, indeed, stated the hallucination theory more rigorously than you restate it here. The argument that the universe is too big to the human drama likewise was already shown irrelevant. There is no need to address comment already refuted.

          “The human mind is nothing if not awesome in its capacity for self-delusion!”

          Likewise, there is no need to address a comment that refutes itself.

          “At this point I’d say your side is losing badly. If your God is so powerful, why are you so f*cking weak?”

          This I regard as a serious question, and will give a serious answer.

          Our God uses the weak and foolish things of the world to overcome the wise and great, so that no man will have cause to vaunt. We always look like we are losing.

          I have it on good authority, from the Saint John the Revelator, that things will get much, much worse for our side, even to tribulations like none ever seen, before the hour when we triumph absolutely and eternally. We are going to look like we are losing (and very badly up) until that very hour.

          Pagans worship worldly strength. That is why Marxists regard all human interaction, even the most mutually beneficent, as a pitiless power struggle; that is why modern feminists are constantly seeking ‘strong’ portrayals of strong and powerful women in literature. Both have abandoned the sanity of the Christian worldview, and returned to the simplistic lust for strength and glory of Homeric figures, but without acknowledging the Homeric melancholy which logically follows. That is why Nietzsche is childish and risible: he is a strength-worshiper, but his idols all perished in the Bronze Age, in the childhood of Man. The rest of us grew up.

          For myself, if the number of Christians in the world dwindled to the point where we were as weak and pathetic as the captive and weeping Jews in mighty Babylon, I would remind myself how that story went. When is the last time anyone saw Babylonian, or, for that matter, a Philistine, Hittite, or Midianite?

          And if the number of Christians dwindled further, till we were no more than, say, eleven men and one virgin widow, why then, our fortunes would be no worse than the entire Christian community on Earth between the Ascension and the Pentecost. Ah, but they accomplished much, and none of it by their own wit nor strength.

          Christians have otherworldly strength. That is why we never can be defeated. Even if you nailed our god to a tree, and murdered him by slow torture, we would still prevail, and your torments would become our glory. You cannot wound us any more than you can cut the shadow of a cloud with the sharp edge of a sword.

          A member of the scattered and submicroscopic cult of Nietzsche should perhaps not vaunt to a member of the largest and oldest human institution in the world that we are outnumbered, or that our hour is nigh. Your hour is past, old ghost.

        • The OFloinn says:

          I reject the mythology of Iron Age Semitic tribes

          Do you object to the tribalism, the Iron Age, or is it the Semitic part?
          At least folks have corrected the old “Bronze Age mythology” thing.

          However, I do not think you are using “myth” correctly. There is a good discussion in Jan Vansinna, ORAL TRADITION AS HISTORY.

          Also: the Demiurge is precisely defined in Plato and while there are several points of similarity — if something is true, it is no surprise if lots of people catch glimpses of it — the Demiurge is not congruent with Existence Itself (capital-G God).

        • Patrick says:

          “takes a personal interest in each human being’s sex life, among other trivialities”

          Sex – the creation of new human life – is a triviality?

          You’re not a serious person.

        • Thomas says:

          “Any being who a) created this vast, hostile universe and this planet full of suffering and b) takes a personal interest in each human being’s sex life, among other trivialities, and threatens to burn them in a lake of fire for all eternity as a consequence, is either evil or insane. The repugnance and sheer absurdity of Christian teachings forces me to reject this creature, even if he were to appear before me in the flesh and threaten me with eternal damnation.”

          It is fairly obvious that he doesn’t know Christian teaching. He needs to do further research on the subject before showing his ignorance.

          • It is not ignorance; it is arrogance.

            He is as proud as the devil, who does indeed know for certain that God is real and demands what is right and best for us, and, loving what is wrong and worst for us more than he loves life or salvation or self, he deliberately chooses pain, and suffering, and the loss of life itself rather than give up the sins he worships.

            Pride is the chief of sins because it is the only sin that can motivate a man to love wrongness and suicide, self deception and self destruction FOR THEIR OWN SAKE. Our ‘Sith Lord’ here talks like a child wants to be deceived and wants to be destroyed, because anything else might bruise his pride.

        • deiseach says:

          This is no new argument. Feynman is not original there, he is only re-stating what J.B.S. Haldane (British scientist) said before (please note: language usage in this quote dates from a time now only in the memory of dinosaurs such as myself where “queer” had the primary meaning “strange, odd, unusual”):

          “I have no doubt that in reality the future will be vastly more surprising than anything I can imagine. Now my own suspicion is that the Universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose.”
          Possible Worlds and Other Papers (1927), p. 286

          The answer to which most of us would give, as Chesterton – an ordinary believer who argued from his own understanding and was not a professional theologian or apologist but a jobbing journalist and poor ordinary devil like the majority of us – did, is this (from “Orthodoxy”) – oh, and again, let me just identify who Herbert Spencer is, since you probably never heard of the man (sic transit gloria mundi!) He was “an English philosopher, biologist, sociologist, and prominent classical liberal political theorist of the Victorian era.”:

          “But modern thought also hit my second human tradition. It went against the fairy feeling about strict limits and conditions. The one thing it loved to talk about was expansion and largeness. Herbert Spencer would have been greatly annoyed if any one had called him an imperialist, and therefore it is highly regrettable that nobody did. But he was an imperialist of the lowest type. He popularized this contemptible notion that the size of the solar system ought to over-awe the spiritual dogma of man. Why should a man surrender his dignity to the solar system any more than to a whale? If mere size proves that man is not the image of God, then a whale may be the image of God; a somewhat formless image; what one might call an impressionist portrait. It is quite futile to argue that man is small compared to the cosmos; for man was always small compared to the nearest tree. But Herbert Spencer, in his headlong imperialism, would insist that we had in some way been conquered and annexed by the astronomical universe. He spoke about men and their ideals exactly as the most insolent Unionist talks about the Irish and their ideals. He turned mankind into a small nationality. And his evil influence can be seen even in the most spirited and honourable of later scientific authors; notably in the early romances of Mr. H.G.Wells. Many moralists have in an exaggerated way represented the earth as wicked. But Mr. Wells and his school made the heavens wicked. We should lift up our eyes to the stars from whence would come our ruin.
          But the expansion of which I speak was much more evil than all this. I have remarked that the materialist, like the madman, is in prison; in the prison of one thought. These people seemed to think it singularly inspiring to keep on saying that the prison was very large. The size of this scientific universe gave one no novelty, no relief. The cosmos went on for ever, but not in its wildest constellation could there be anything really interesting; anything, for instance, such as forgiveness or free will. The grandeur or infinity of the secret of its cosmos added nothing to it. It was like telling a prisoner in Reading gaol that he would be glad to hear that the gaol now covered half the county. The warder would have nothing to show the man except more and more long corridors of stone lit by ghastly lights and empty of all that is human. So these expanders of the universe had nothing to show us except more and more infinite corridors of space lit by ghastly suns and empty of all that is divine.”

        • deiseach says:

          I’m glad you don’t mind about the Iron Age, seeing as how we’re still living in it. Yes, we ourselves are Iron Age tribes (even if not specifically Semitic).

          Oh, sure, someone might like to say this is the Silicon (or maybe even Graphene, if the latest developments pan out) Age, and I myself think we should talk about the Petroleum Age since that’s the engine driving all our industry and technology, but still – stuck in the Iron Age, alas!

        • deiseach says:

          Sean, hello and at least by hearing from you we know you’re still alive and well.

          Now, as to “laughing the bastard out of the room”, that presupposes you have the power to do such a thing. Lovecraft’s alien entities, which were not gods or demons but appeared to our primitive human understandings as such, would not be responsive to such an approach. Neither Nylarhotep nor the Mi-Go would leave merely because you told them they were idiots.

          Heck, even a common robber with a knife or a bat in his hand wouldn’t leave just because you were scornful of him.

          So, while your attitude might do you credit for bravery and/or foolishness, it relies upon the facts that (1) you have a definition of “good” and “evil” (2) you have a functional belief that “might does not make right” and that (3) even in the face of superior power, a true human person does better to scorn to pay homage to the wielder of such on the mere grounds of power.

          Now, how such attitudes cohere with the desire to become a Sith Master who will and can wield power over the universe of material things, which includes persons, who will (presumably) have to bow to your will or be annihilated regardless of whether they accept what you will and do to be good or evil – I don’t quite see how that matches up.

        • seebert says:

          “But even if everything you say is true, I would still reject your religion because I simply don’t want anything to do with this demiurge you call God.”

          At which point, you should WANT to go to hell, because you just gave the basic Catholic definition of it.

      • Foxfier says:

        So I was prepared to say adieu to logic and reason and just take things on faith, when I then found out that the only people who think you have to say adieu to logic and reason in order to take things on faith are crackpots both Christian and atheistic.

        Turn of phrases like this are part of what I really enjoy in your blogging.

      • seebert says:

        The above needs to be in a separate blog post, that we can link to, to create a honeypot for bad atheist theories trying to disprove your subjective experience.

    • lectorpoemarum says:

      What possible relevance could the size and age of the universe have to the question of whether Christianity is true?

      That’s a purely emotional argument, and only convincing even on an emotional level if one assumes that God’s dealings with humanity were necessarily his only interventions in the universe – which I see no reason whatsoever to assume.

    • The OFloinn says:

      C’est drole! Always the dream of power and rule — and over a galaxy, no less! Does one get to wear arm brassards and jackboots, too?

      Also, the ancient adolescent confusion between size and power. “Mine is bigger than yours!” But compared to a universe, a galaxy is a puny thing, too; so what matter if one rules over a minuscule congeries of stars? Supergalactic clusters are small. And when everything is small, what significance does smallness have?

      But why should the universe not be large? Examine any artisan’s workshop and you will find clutter beyond counting compared to the art constructed. Consider the countless dandelion seeds strewn to the winds to make a single dandelion. Why should there not be a universe left over after making as world?

  3. The OFloinn says:

    the heliocentric theory, genetic theory, the Big Bang theory

    Gadzooks! Never realized it, but three practicing Catholics, including a monk and a priest!

    I sense a subtle disagreement with this fellow:

  4. lectorpoemarum says:

    Even if false [I don't think it is - in essence, anyway], I don’t think anthropogenic global warming can be a *fraud* – which implies intentional falsity. It hardly originated with the current media/public policy interest in it – Svante Arrhenius came up with the basic principle in the late 1890s; and a fraud/conspiracy lasting 110+ years is a bit beyond what I’m willing to believe.

    (Which doesn’t rule out frauds on the smaller scale, of details and degree, of course. But at the very least the hypothesis/theory/idea/whatever cannot be in its origin or essentially a fraud.)

    Of course, most of the current debate — on both sides — is largely focusing on the wrong issues, treating tangential details as if fundamental to the idea of AGW, and ignoring or treating as tangential the fundamentals. So the picture that is presented is largely false [and sensationalized], but even by the media I don’t think intentional fraud is a dominant component [not to say it's *nonexistent* - but a good part of the bad presentation is because it is now simply not possible on the 'soundbite' level to give an accurate picture, as the wrong ideas are now so ingrained...]

    • The intentionality of the fraud is well documented. It is called Climategate.

      Leaked emails from the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit disclosed intentional tampering with the data to achieve the desired politically correct result and manipulate public opinion and political institutions. That constitutes fraud.

      A false representation of a matter of fact (whether by words or by conduct, by false or misleading allegations, or by concealment of what should have been disclosed) that deceives and is intended to deceive another so that the individual will act upon it to his legal injury.

      (In this particular case, since the money and time and effort wasted or stolen was public money and scientific grant money, the doctrine of sovereign immunity perhaps prevents legal action. Had a private individual relied on falsified scientific data, such as an x-ray technician retouching a photograph in order to convince a patient to suffer expensive and needless surgery, grounds for fraud would exist, even if the surgery were paid for from public coffers.)

      Allow me to quote in full an article by Christopher Booker, writing in the Telegraph in 2009.

      A week after my colleague James Delingpole , on his Telegraph blog, coined the term “Climategate” to describe the scandal revealed by the leaked emails from the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit, Google was showing that the word now appears across the internet more than nine million times. But in all these acres of electronic coverage, one hugely relevant point about these thousands of documents has largely been missed.

      The reason why even the Guardian’s George Monbiot has expressed total shock and dismay at the picture revealed by the documents is that their authors are not just any old bunch of academics. Their importance cannot be overestimated, What we are looking at here is the small group of scientists who have for years been more influential in driving the worldwide alarm over global warming than any others, not least through the role they play at the heart of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

      Their importance cannot be overestimated, What we are looking at here is the small group of scientists who have for years been more influential in driving the worldwide alarm over global warming than any others, not least through the role they play at the heart of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

      Professor Philip Jones, the CRU’s director, is in charge of the two key sets of data used by the IPCC to draw up its reports. Through its link to the Hadley Centre, part of the UK Met Office, which selects most of the IPCC’s key scientific contributors, his global temperature record is the most important of the four sets of temperature data on which the IPCC and governments rely – not least for their predictions that the world will warm to catastrophic levels unless trillions of dollars are spent to avert it.

      Dr Jones is also a key part of the closely knit group of American and British scientists responsible for promoting that picture of world temperatures conveyed by Michael Mann’s “hockey stick” graph which 10 years ago turned climate history on its head by showing that, after 1,000 years of decline, global temperatures have recently shot up to their highest level in recorded history.

      Given star billing by the IPCC, not least for the way it appeared to eliminate the long-accepted Mediaeval Warm Period when temperatures were higher they are today, the graph became the central icon of the entire man-made global warming movement.

      Since 2003, however, when the statistical methods used to create the “hockey stick” were first exposed as fundamentally flawed by an expert Canadian statistician Steve McIntyre , an increasingly heated battle has been raging between Mann’s supporters, calling themselves “the Hockey Team”, and McIntyre and his own allies, as they have ever more devastatingly called into question the entire statistical basis on which the IPCC and CRU construct their case.

      The senders and recipients of the leaked CRU emails constitute a cast list of the IPCC’s scientific elite, including not just the “Hockey Team”, such as Dr Mann himself, Dr Jones and his CRU colleague Keith Briffa, but Ben Santer, responsible for a highly controversial rewriting of key passages in the IPCC’s 1995 report; Kevin Trenberth, who similarly controversially pushed the IPCC into scaremongering over hurricane activity; and Gavin Schmidt, right-hand man to Al Gore’s ally Dr James Hansen, whose own GISS record of surface temperature data is second in importance only to that of the CRU itself.

      There are three threads in particular in the leaked documents which have sent a shock wave through informed observers across the world. Perhaps the most obvious, as lucidly put together by Willis Eschenbach (see McIntyre’s blog Climate Audit and Anthony Watt’s blog Watts Up With That ), is the highly disturbing series of emails which show how Dr Jones and his colleagues have for years been discussing the devious tactics whereby they could avoid releasing their data to outsiders under freedom of information laws.

      They have come up with every possible excuse for concealing the background data on which their findings and temperature records were based.

      This in itself has become a major scandal, not least Dr Jones’s refusal to release the basic data from which the CRU derives its hugely influential temperature record, which culminated last summer in his startling claim that much of the data from all over the world had simply got “lost”. Most incriminating of all are the emails in which scientists are advised to delete large chunks of data, which, when this is done after receipt of a freedom of information request, is a criminal offence.

      But the question which inevitably arises from this systematic refusal to release their data is – what is it that these scientists seem so anxious to hide?

      The second and most shocking revelation of the leaked documents is how they show the scientists trying to manipulate data through their tortuous computer programmes, always to point in only the one desired direction – to lower past temperatures and to “adjust” recent temperatures upwards, in order to convey the impression of an accelerated warming. This comes up so often (not least in the documents relating to computer data in the Harry Read Me file) that it becomes the most disturbing single element of the entire story. This is what Mr McIntyre caught Dr Hansen doing with his GISS temperature record last year (after which Hansen was forced to revise his record), and two further shocking examples have now come to light from Australia and New Zealand.

      In each of these countries it has been possible for local scientists to compare the official temperature record with the original data on which it was supposedly based. In each case it is clear that the same trick has been played – to turn an essentially flat temperature chart into a graph which shows temperatures steadily rising. And in each case this manipulation was carried out under the influence of the CRU.

      What is tragically evident from the Harry Read Me file is the picture it gives of the CRU scientists hopelessly at sea with the complex computer programmes they had devised to contort their data in the approved direction, more than once expressing their own desperation at how difficult it was to get the desired results.

      The third shocking revelation of these documents is the ruthless way in which these academics have been determined to silence any expert questioning of the findings they have arrived at by such dubious methods – not just by refusing to disclose their basic data but by discrediting and freezing out any scientific journal which dares to publish their critics’ work. It seems they are prepared to stop at nothing to stifle scientific debate in this way, not least by ensuring that no dissenting research should find its way into the pages of IPCC reports.

      Back in 2006, when the eminent US statistician Professor Edward Wegman produced an expert report for the US Congress vindicating Steve McIntyre’s demolition of the “hockey stick”, he excoriated the way in which this same “tightly knit group” of academics seemed only too keen to collaborate with each other and to “peer review” each other’s papers in order to dominate the findings of those IPCC reports on which much of the future of the US and world economy may hang. In light of the latest revelations, it now seems even more evident that these men have been failing to uphold those principles which lie at the heart of genuine scientific enquiry and debate. Already one respected US climate scientist, Dr Eduardo Zorita, has called for Dr Mann and Dr Jones to be barred from any further participation in the IPCC. Even our own George Monbiot, horrified at finding how he has been betrayed by the supposed experts he has been revering and citing for so long, has called for Dr Jones to step down as head of the CRU.

      The former Chancellor Lord (Nigel) Lawson, last week launching his new think tank, the Global Warming Policy Foundation, rightly called for a proper independent inquiry into the maze of skulduggery revealed by the CRU leaks. But the inquiry mooted on Friday, possibly to be chaired by Lord Rees, President of the Royal Society – itself long a shameless propagandist for the warmist cause – is far from being what Lord Lawson had in mind.

      Our hopelessly compromised scientific establishment cannot be allowed to get away with a whitewash of what has become the greatest scientific scandal of our age.

      • lectorpoemarum says:

        But “Climategate” was not the creation of the idea of anthropogenic global warming — it was over a century too late for that.

        (It’s, furthermore, a stupid fraud intended to sensationalize – the “hockey stick graph” doesn’t even touch on the really important questions scientifically…)

        I did not deny frauds *about* AGW — but AGW itself is not one.

      • lectorpoemarum says:

        Just so it doesn’t look like I’m making unsupported statements about the early origin of the idea…

        From Svante Arrhenius, Worlds in the Making, 1908 [apparently the original Swedish version was 1906] – note that this is basically a book about natural processes; the mentions of anthropogenic climate change are more a curiosity than anything Arrhenius seems to have attached real importance to.

        “The actual percentage of carbonic acid in the air is so insignificant that the annual combustion of coal, which has now (1904) risen to about 900 million tons and is rapidly increasing, carries about one-seven-hundredth part of its percentage of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. Although the sea, by absorbing carbonic acid, acts as a regulator of huge capacity, which takes up about five-sixths of the produced carbonic acid, we yet recognize that the slight percentage of carbonic acid in the atmosphere may by the advances of industry be changed to a noticeable degree in the course of a few centuries. That would imply that there is no real stability in the percentage of carbon dioxide in the air, which is probably subject to considerable fluctuations in the course of time.” (p. 54)

        “We often hear lamentations that the coal stored up in the earth is wasted by the present generation without any thought of the future, and we are terrified by the awful destruction of life and property which has followed the volcanic eruptions of our days. We may find a kind of consolation in the consideration that here, as in every other case, there is good mixed with the evil. By the influence of the increasing percentage of carbonic acid in the atmosphere, we may hope to enjoy ages with more equable and better climates, especially as regards the colder regions of the earth, ages when the earth will bring forth much more abundant crops than at present, for the benefit of rapidly propagating mankind.” (p. 63)

        The reasons the idea did not become widespread (despite Arrhenius’ significant stature) till decades later were complex, but even then it *was* accepted pretty broadly in the scientific community long, long before any media attention existed (note that the 1970s “global cooling” thing was media-driven with a few maverick scientists; the scientific community was actually moving strongly toward acceptance of anthropogenic warming in the 1970s.)

        • Ordinarily, when people use the phrase ‘Global Warming’ they are using it to express the Al Goresque idea that Western civilization has recently had massive influence on the climate and will trigger a catastrophic warming period. You are referring to a theory from over a century ago that coal burning had an minor effect on the climate. It is similar to a theory found in Gibbon’s DECLINE AND FALL that tree cutting in Eighteenth Century Europe led to a warmer clime there as compared to the Middle Ages.

          In effect, you are talking about something other than what I was talking about. When I said ‘Manmade Global Warming is a fraud’ is it irrelevant to bring up Arrhenius — or Edward Gibbon — who were talking about a different topic, and to pretend that the corruption of the scientific community to the point where large numbers of scientists conspired to slander and suppress scientists whose work and conclusions were politically inconvenient did not happen.

          Technically speaking, a pedant can say that ‘Manmade Global Warming is not a fraud’ on the grounds that somewhere, some nobody from decades and centuries ago was honest when he put forth his theory, speaking honestly, that sort of pedantry is a half-truth: using cherry-picked truths to create a false impression.

  5. Sean Michael says:

    Dear Mr. Wright:

    Again, a very interesting essay. And the autobiographical note in the comment box0 about your former atheism and how you came to have faith in Jesus Christ was moving as well as fascinating. Nothing like the visions and miracles you mentioned has happened to me. I’m just a very ordinary, very boring Catholic who is no where as good a Christian as I should be.

    I would like to respectfully urge you yet again to collect, revise, expand, integrate into a whole, etc., your essays about religion and science fiction into a book. I think many many readers would be fascinated. Esp. if you included a chapter similar to the autobiographical note in the comment box.

    Sincerely, Sean M. Brooks

  6. Faith in the Fictional War between Science Fiction and Faith

  7. Pingback: The Resurrection of Spock, the Looting Lepers of Mars | Junior Ganymede

  8. lordredlady says:

    (I originally posted this comment on livejournal, but it seems as if the party is over here, so I’m posting it again, with minor corrections):

    I am an atheist who does not think there is necessarily a conflict between science and faith. Scientific findings are based on evidence, faith is based in beliefs that arise independent of direct empirical evidence. It seems to me that the two can easily coexist in one individual’s mind without undue dissonance.

    I also follow (I think) and agree with your argument that the Catholic Church has been instrumental, even a prerequisite, for the scientific method to develop. The yearning to discover the mind of God giving rise to methods for knowing the truth objectively, etc.

    It is clear to me that Christianity (or at least Catholicism) is in no way inherently opposed to science, but not so clear to me that the reverse is not the case. Since science rests on replicable observation and demonstrable evidence, doesn’t this explain why SOME adherents of a secular worldview (materialists, I suppose we’d call them) reject religion as a whole? There’s no experiment, nor one that I can readily imagine, that can “prove” a single religious tenet. Is there not a danger (for Christians, I myself couldn’t care less) that the very Science that has been made culturally possible by Catholicism contains the seeds of it’s destruction, or at least holds the potential to sow seeds of profound doubt among the faithful? It occurs to me that your response might be that Science must remain subservient to Church, that it is merely a tool. But doesn’t the very existence of such a powerful tool pose a threat? (double-edged sword, “The blade itself incites to violence,” whatever half-baked metaphor works :)

    • Patrick says:

      “There’s no experiment, nor one that I can readily imagine, that can “prove” a single religious tenet. Is there not a danger (for Christians, I myself couldn’t care less) that the very Science that has been made culturally possible by Catholicism contains the seeds of it’s destruction, or at least holds the potential to sow seeds of profound doubt among the faithful?”

      This seems to me to be asked and answered: actually, science itself doesn’t “prove” scientific tenets, it only establishes the basis for our assumptions about reality in a system of theories – if you take light from Wittgenstein, Kuhn, and Popper – said theories consist of little outside of mathematical linguine and sophistic yarn-spinning about meaning essentially devoid of a co-relationship to the classical idea of fact, which they would radically consider defunct.

      I like to think of it as if science were a realm, like a country; scientism, the unphilosophy you allude to, is to the realm of science what the perversity of nationalism is to nationhood.

      And the popular Postmodern conception of science is like the senile Emperor that can’t or won’t keep his pants on while he parades around the realm, avatar waving in the breeze, here and there stopping only to found new contradictions for his subjects to endure.

      • lordredlady says:

        I am aware of the difference between theory and fact, that’s why I typed prove with quotes around it (“prove”)–a bad choice of words. I don’t see how the question has been answered, though. I’ll try to restate it better.. For those who demand empirical evidence to establish fact (scientists, scientismists, whatever), how is the existence of God not called into question, when it cannot be (or at least has not been so far) demonstrated as a fact or argued up from specific facts into a workable theory?

        I ask this question in good faith. I am not a proponent of “scientism” as I understood you to mean it. I have just as little faith in Science (with a big S) as I do in Religion, and am just trying to understand science’s role as Catholics view it. At this point my understanding, and it may be simplistic, is that the basic assumption that God exists is exempted from scrutiny, and taken as axiomatic. For the record, that’s fine with me, as I take the equally basic assumption of his nonexistence on faith (i.e., without evidence). It seems to me that to err on the side of observational caution (I have not seen this, therefore I don’t believe in it) is preferable to erring on the side of accepting the existence of something on authority.

        Just trying to understand how the other half lives, so to speak. I apologize if I’m stumbling over myself expressing the issue.

        • Stephen J. says:

          “For those who demand empirical evidence to establish fact… how is the existence of God not called into question, when it cannot be (or at least has not been so far) demonstrated as a fact or argued up from specific facts into a workable theory?”

          I think primarily because the nature of God as Catholicism and Christianity understand Him is by definition beyond the scope of empiricism.

          Empiricism is a technique for figuring out the rules of a system based on the presumption that those rules are consistent; empirical evidence is that which can be established by reproducing identical experiments under controlled and identical conditions to establish consistent results. Empiricism can demonstrate nothing about *why* those rules are both existent and consistent in the first place, except through the presumption of a larger environment of meta-rules, which is simply moving the question outwards. It also can demonstrate nothing about what lies outside the rules if forbidden to assume the existence of greater meta-rules. Since this is precisely what we hold God to be — the Creator of the rules who exists transcendently outside and apart from them — empiricism’s “inability to prove” Him real is no more a problem than being unable to use the rules of chess in themselves, no matter how well I know them, to predict how likely it is my opponent will cheat.

          As a counterquestion, let me ask you this: What purely empirical evidence would you consider conclusive proof for the existence of God? And given that for it to be purely empirical, it would have to be consistently reproducible and controllable, how could it be held to prove God rather than simply another new part of the laws of physics?

          • Faith healing with statistically significant effects. For extra credit, regrow amputated limbs.

            • Stephen J. says:

              Why would documented and repeatable faith healing indicate the existence of a divine being specifically, rather than “merely” a previously-undiscovered capacity of some human brains to directly manipulate matter and energy, via some as-yet-unknown mechanism, in another organism to heal its injuries?

              As the parable says, if people will not believe Moses and the prophets, they will not believe Lazarus even should he rise from the dead.

              (For what it’s worth, my additional criterion would be: Does it work perfectly, every time, on anything and everything? I can construct plausible arguments for believing in the possibility of conscious alteration of reality by mental intent alone, but the one hallmark of any human-derived capacity or human-controlled process, in an entropy-affected universe, is the capacity to screw it up. Zero failure rates is God’s province alone.)

              • If a man prays, and a double amputee rises from his bed, this does not of itself prove, in the sense of a mathematical theorem, that the first man is correct to attribute the healing to the intercession of a divine being; true. But it would certainly cause me to pay some attention to his interpretation of events. There’s such a thing as the balance of evidence, and what it takes to convince a reasonable man. I took it that your request for ‘conclusive proof’ was merely sloppy language, and answered instead the question of what would convince me.

                • TheRealAaron says:

                  “I will believe Mom loves me only if she gives me a cookie now, and every time I ask for one from now on.”

                  To be clear, I’m not claiming that’s what you’re saying. I don’t think you’re some kind of spoiled child.

                  But I think you’re misunderstanding the Catholic conception of God, kind of like how this theoretical kid is misunderstanding the role of his mother. God is a Person with a mind and will, not a form of magic or technology that can be manipulated to produce the exact results you want.

                  • Either faith healing works, or it does not work. By ‘work’ I mean that, given 1000 patients who receive faith healing, and 1000 who do not, with the groups otherwise identical, a higher percentage of the first group than of the second group recovers; and the difference is statistically significant. This does not require faith healing to work every time, it just requires that it work more often than would be the case for plain random chance. If faith healing cannot make this claim, then I do not see how you can consider it evidence for anything. Also, please note the context: Someone asked what evidence would convince an atheist, and I answered. If that’s not the evidence that convinced you, or any particular theist, this is quite irrelevant.

                    • Mary says:

                      Either asking for a cookie works, or it does not work.

                    • Indeed that is so. I think you’ll find that asking for a cookie from your mother does, indeed, work, in the sense of giving you a cookie more often (with statistical significance) than not asking. But then again, the existence of your mother is not in dispute.

                    • Mary says:

                      Even when I have loudly declared, outside the window where she is, that I am asking for the cookie to perform experiments on her, and not because I want a cookie?

            • deiseach says:

              “For extra credit, regrow amputated limbs.”

              Wouldn’t suffice, since there is already evidence (seemingly) for regeneration in humans (from a Wikipedia article):

              “Fingers: In May 1932, L.H. McKim published a report in The Canadian Medical Association Journal, that described the regeneration of an adult digit-tip following amputation. A house surgeon in the Montreal General Hospital underwent amputation of the distal phalanx to stop the spread of an infection. In less than one month following surgery, x-ray analysis showed the regrowth of bone while macroscopic observation showed the regrowth of nail and skin. This is one of the earliest recorded examples of adult human digit-tip regeneration.”

              If someone ever did show up with a re-grown limb, I can forecast the reactions as follows:

              (1) It’s a lie, a hoax, a deliberate deception! He never lost that arm/leg in the first place! (Based on seeing a website where dismissal of miracles by the host included the line indicative of disbelief in Biblical accounts of the Resurrection – either of Jesus or Lazarus – “Maybe he wasn’t dead in the first place!” If we can’t even agree on what counts as a definition of “dead” for the purposes of argument…)

              (2) Since there is already evidence of fingertip regeneration (see above) this is not supernatural; humans have been proven to have the capacity to regrow lost extremities. (Based on arguments against miraculous cures of cancer, etc. by saying that we have better medical understanding of such diseases nowadays and it was probably just gone into remission, or cleared up due to the medical treatment, or it was the placebo effect, or even – yep, it wasn’t cancer in the first place, just a wrong diagnosis).

              Like the man said “If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.”

              • I suggest anyone interested in the observation of a miracle cure look into the case of Dr. Carrel, a famed atheist who witnessed such a cure at Lourdes.

                “The name of Alexis Carrel (1873-1944), a Nobel laureate, is not a household word today. Yet many a household should feel greatly indebted to him. Carrel developed, with the assistance of Charles Lindbergh, the heart pump without which bypass surgery would be inconceivable. Three decades before that, in the opening years of this century, Carrel pioneered in blood-vessel surgery in humans, in organ transplants in animals, and in keeping alive tissues from warm-blooded animals—feats for which he received the Nobel Prize in 1912.”

                “…. 23 year-old woman, Marie Bailly [was], dying of tubercular peritonitis. Hers was a well-attested case in the medical circles of Lyons. In April 1902 doctors refused to operate on her lest they hasten her death. Because of her desperate condition, she had no hope to obtain a doctor’s permission to get on the train. But through the ruse of a nurse, she was spirited on board just a few seconds before the train departed from Lyons at 1 PM on May 26. During the night Carrel, fearing she would die aboard the train, gave her morphine injections. Marie Bailly was half-unconscious when the train arrived at Lourdes, around noon on May 27. She did not realize she was in Lourdes until evening of that day.

                Some (though far from all) basic details of what happened on the train and during the next two days were narrated by Carrel himself in his , published in 1949, four years after his death. The next year, there followed an English translation, . It is possibly the most moving account of a miracle in Lourdes and of an agnostic doctor’s wrestling with his conscience. But precisely because Carrel’s account is so personal and moving, it lacks many scientific and documentary details. Such details alone would have turned the book into a major scientific testimony to a scientifically unexplainable event.

                In 1949 and 1950, when the French and English-speaking worlds were regaled by that book, its major credibility lay solely in the fact that Carrel was a Nobel laureate and that he refrained, as much as he could, from accepting the cure of Marie Bailly as a miracle.

                Of course, a miracle it was. At 2 PM on May 28, when Marie Bailly was taken, against all medical advice, from the hospital to the grotto and the baths next to it, she was literally dying. After her hugely swollen abdomen, with hard lumps and hardly any liquid within it, had been washed three times with water from the baths, she began her spectacular recovery. By 4 PM her abdomen was flat; by the evening she was sitting up—chatting, eating and not vomiting at all, although she had hardly been able to retain any food for the previous five months.

                On the next morning, May 29, she got dressed and, a day later, with no one’s help, she boarded the train back to Lyons, getting better and better on the 24-hour train ride. On arriving in Lyons, at noon on May 31, she walked through the station without leaning on anyone, took the streetcar to the home of her relatives who could not believe that it was Marie Bailly—and threw herself in their arms.

                Carrel’s book does not contain data on the following crucial matters: Marie Bailly’s tubercular parents and two of her siblings; her own detailed medical history; the depositions made in Lourdes on that memorable afternoon; Carrel’s own notes, made between 2 PM on May 28 and 6 PM on May 29—from hour to hour, and during that memorable afternoon of May 28, from minute to minute; the failure of Carrel and other doctors in Lyons to find traces of hysteria in Marie Bailly; the astonishing steps of her recovery to full physical strength during the following six months.

                There is nothing in Carrel’s book about the close scrutiny to which the Sisters of Charity had subjected Marie Bailly’s health. Only when they were fully satisfied did they accept her as a postulant, so that she could depart in late November, 1892, from Lyons, to begin her novitiate in Paris. There is nothing about the medical data referring to her health until 1906; nothing about the clinically attested disappearance from her entire body, including her lungs, of traces of tuberculosis (decades before the discovery of antibiotics); and finally, nothing about the fact that she lived the arduous life of a Sister of Charity for 30 more years, without ever contracting any other malady than old age.”

                Is there really such a difference between this and the request to see an amputee regrow a limb?

                • Yes: You missed my phrase “statistically significant”. Post hoc, ergo propter hoc is a fallacy. In any large population of desperately sick people, there are bound to be a tiny percentage who recover when doctors have given up on them. In that percentage, some will, at the time of recovery, have turned to religion in whatever form; and will, very naturally, attribute their recovery to whatever prayers or rituals were being performed. Anecdotes of Lourdes, and such stories as your own, always miss the crucial, the all-important clincher: They lack a control group. What is the percentage of heart attack victims, or victims of tubercular peritonitis, or whatever, who recover without having a faith healer come by, or going to Lourdes, or whatever the `miracle’ might be?

                  Although amputation is dramatic, the important part of my post is the statistical significance. This cannot be demonstrated by any anecdote, no matter how well attested. And if you do not have statistical significance – if those prayed over recover at the same rate as those not prayed over – then I do not see how you can claim that faith healing works, no matter how dramatic any single case may look.

            • deiseach says:

              Lourdes by Fr. Robert Hugh Benson, an account published in 1914 of his visit there in 1908 or so, including how the miracles were investigated – and an interesting little side-view on the famous 1894 novel by Zola:

              I had read Zola’s dishonest book The epithet is deliberate. He relates in his book, “Lourdes,” the story of an imaginary case of a girl, suffering from tuberculosis, who goes to Lourdes as a pilgrim, and is, apparently, cured of her disease. It breaks out, however, again during her return home; and the case would appear therefore to be one of those in which, owing to fierce excitement and the mere power of suggestion, there is a temporary amelioration, but no permanent, or supernatural, cure. Will it be believed that the details of this story, all of which are related with great particularity, and observed by Zola himself, were taken from an actual case that occurred during one of his visits—all the details except the relapse? There was no relapse: the cure was complete and permanent. When Dr. Boissarie later questioned the author as to the honesty of this literary device, saying that he had understood him to have stated that he had come to Lourdes for the purpose of an impartial investigation, Zola answered that the characters in the book were his own, and that he could make them do what he liked. It is on these principles that the book is constructed. It must be added that Zola followed up the case, and had communications with the miraculée long after her cure had been shown to be permanent, and before his book appeared.”

          • lordredlady says:

            “Since this is precisely what we hold God to be — the Creator of the rules who exists transcendently outside and apart from them — empiricism’s “inability to prove” Him real is no more a problem than being unable to use the rules of chess in themselves, no matter how well I know them, to predict how likely it is my opponent will cheat.”

            I’d agree, though I think a better analogy would be to say that though we can learn all of the intricacies of the rules of chess and every possible strategy, that still wouldn’t tell us if chess were invented by a single individual (or who that might have been) or developed organically over many generations by a process of gradual accretion of pieces, rules, and play conventions. But point taken, science can tell us nothing about something unscientific (in this case theological). I do not mean that in a pejorative way.

            “As a counterquestion, let me ask you this: What purely empirical evidence would you consider conclusive proof for the existence of God? And given that for it to be purely empirical, it would have to be consistently reproducible and controllable, how could it be held to prove God rather than simply another new part of the laws of physics?”

            I haven’t a clue. Perhaps some sort of Foucauldian panopticon usable by anyone at will, situated so that any scene taking place at any time/place in Hell (and/or Heaven, for that matter) could be viewed/heard. This would allow us to confirm eternal life/damnation for those deserving of such by an extension of the human sensory apparatus (scientific observation), while the ability to “replay” the scenes would satisfy the scientific method’s requirement of reproducible results. Hypotheses about various types of behavior and their consequences could be tested (“Yep, sure enough, Hitler’s sitting in the Lake of Fire.. See him… over there, the little dude with the weird mustache.”). My example is flippant, but that’s what it would take to convince me. Not a private experience that can’t be replicated or exhibited, but a bona fide means of reliable confirmation of theological claims.

            But as I’ve tried to express, I’m not attempting to refute theism, but rather assert the intellectual equivalence of atheism (both assume things that are unprovable). I’m happy to coexist.

            • If you had an apparatus that allowed you to see scenes from any time, and you believed it gave accurate results, you would not need to look into Heaven or Hell; Earth would do. Just check all the crucifixions in or around Jerusalem from, let’s say, AD 20 to 40, and see if any of the victims were (in defiance of Roman law) taken down from the cross and then (in defiance of biology) rose from the dead. Or, if your tastes are more Judaic, have a look at the miracles of the Old Testament. It may be worth pointing out that the Old Testament contains the earliest known account of a scientific experiment, in the sense of having a control group, experimental symmetry, and peer review; it would be interesting to know whether the published results were accurate. (Alas, peer review is no guarantee against plain old fraud.)

        • Pierce O. says:

          “At this point my understanding, and it may be simplistic, is that the basic assumption that God exists is exempted from scrutiny, and taken as axiomatic.”

          As Stephen noted above, we take the existence of God to be a question outside of the scope of empirical science. That question is best taken up by the science of philosophy, which is where we have gotten such things such as St. Aquinas’s Prime Mover/First Cause arguments, among others (though even among Christians there is debate as to which arguments are satisfactory; for example, the monk Ganelon wrote a rebuttal of Pascal’s Wager). Other Christian denominations, such as Calvinism, take God’s existence as axiomatic, but the Catholic position is that His existence can be shown to be logical. If the sciences are ways of searching for Truth, and we believe Jesus to be ‘The Way, the Truth, and the Life’, then we have nothing to fear from them, since they will lead men to a greater knowledge of Creation and its Creator.

          • This may tangential to the topic, but does anyone think that the arguments for or against the existence of God show any less rigor than, say, arguments for or against the death penalty, or the empirical method, or ethical egoism, or dualism, or any other philosophical argument whatsoever?

            • Stephen J. says:

              I know *my* arguments have nowhere near the rigour of Augustine, More or Aquinas, but that’s my ineptitude at understanding and expressing it.

              I’d certainly contend that the arguments about God have more rigour than, in my experience, arguments about the death penalty, simply because in my observation that conflict tends to be a clash of basic fundamental premises (consequentialism vs. moral essentialism). Which is a fancier way of saying it reminds me of Monty Python’s Argument Sketch: “No it isn’t!” “Yes it is!”

        • Pierce O. says:

          Also, the existence of God provides explanations for things such as the Problem of Good, or how Life can arise from non-Life.

        • Patrick says:

          “For those who demand empirical evidence to establish fact (scientists, scientismists, whatever), how is the existence of God not called into question, when it cannot be (or at least has not been so far) demonstrated as a fact or argued up from specific facts into a workable theory?”

          God isn’t an argument standing behind an accrual of controlled data, like a scientific theory is supposed to be. It’s important to have the proper concept for what a God is, before you begin: an essential characteristic of God (of any religion) is personhood; just as the plane or zone of reference upon which ‘Patrick’ and ‘lordredlady’ interact (and outside of which, we become objects to one other) is personhood – as opposed to, say our digestive systems, or cellular lives. So, theories of God are theologies or theodicies, etc. and not physics or geometries – modes of analysis fit to address God on the the appropriate plane of meaning. Our relationship to god must needs be purely subjective, just as our relationship with rocks is purely objective – the philosophy can’t be done any other way. Supernature is not nature.

          Data – from cosmology, herbology, non-linear mathematics, history or sociology – will never converge on a starting point for a theory of God’s personhood, let alone our own. No amount of studying flowers will tell us who we are. To imagine that we are hot on the trail of some big reveal from natural science that says “yes! God exists / doesn’t exist; here’s our theory of who he is / why he isn’t” – is a modern fantasy – which scientism’s adherents (as distinguished from science, which makes no such claims) awaits; like an eschaton, an end of history, you might call it. This is an a priori irrational assumption, itself based on no theory, no analysis, proceeding from no reasoning, emergent from no observation.

          Basically, I’m saying that rational people don’t look for God in rocks and trees.

          All this is just long-hand for, “dude, it’s in the Bible.” (1 Kings 19). (apologies if this is a double-post)

        • Patrick says:

          One more, and thanks for your patience:

          ALL who believe, believe on the authority of their own experience. Is there any other way to learn that God exists – i.e. to know Him – than to experience Him? No Christian believes because they’re told to – we tell others what we have experienced.

          That’s why materialists, et. al., disarmed of the confirming experience of sensing God and unable to reason about what they have not fruitfully sought or experienced, can only produce insolence and fulminations and arguments from the wrong domain to the effect that “here’s why you’re crazy / mistaken” – as if God were an interpretation of a subset of controlled events validated by consensus, and not a formal Acquaintanceship.

          Christians say that God is Love; we notice some people, based on the evidence they derive from their study of gastronomy, come to doubt that proposition, and ,sensibly, we question their ability to reason effectively.

          • Stephen J. says:

            “No Christian believes because they’re told to – we tell others what we have experienced.”

            With the follow-up that *how* we’re told can well constitute part of our experience. My parents, to use my nearest and dearest example, didn’t just teach me the Faith and tell me of God; they *lived* it, and still do, in a way that to me constitutes a real witness to divine love.

            I haven’t had an outright livesaving miraculous experience the way Mr. Wright has, but I do hear God’s voice in my head quite regularly. (I can usually tell it’s Him because the voice is telling me what I *don’t* want to admit.)

            • “I haven’t had an outright livesaving miraculous experience the way Mr. Wright has….”

              Keep in mind that I am a very slow learner when it comes to divine things. Wiser people can listen to a still, small voice without needing any trumpery or fantastic shows.

          • Mary says:

            You are assuming a uniformity in the experiences of Christians that is not, I think, justifiable.

            Many Christians, no doubt, believe because they have been told to. Then, many Christians no doubt believe in the existence of the Solar System on the same grounds.

        • The OFloinn says:

          For those who demand empirical evidence to establish fact…, how is the existence of God not called into question, when it cannot be (or at least has not been so far) demonstrated as a fact or argued up from specific facts into a workable theory?

          People with hammers are always looking for nails. So people whose only training is narrowly within the bounds of empiricism will always be looking for “empirical proof.” And never mind that there can never be empirical proof of anything; since as Russell observed, no quantity of particular instances can add up to a general truth.

          First of all, empirical evidence does not establish fact. The facts are the empirical evidence. For example, you can see the sun going around the earth. That is empirical fact. Turns out not to be true; but “true” and “fact” are different concepts.

          Secondly, the God of traditional theology is not a scientific hypothesis, like phlogiston, framed to explain a set of facts. The whole reason why scientific theories other than evolution by natural selection are “falsifiable” is that through any finite collection of facts, you can draw an unlimited number of theories. They cannot all be true, and it may be that none of them are true. (The intrumentalists content themselves with whether they are “useful” or not.)

          No truths are more absolutely established than the truths of mathematics; and yet no mathematical proof is premised on empirical facts and data. In fact, if you draw an empirical circle and measure the circumference and diameter, you will always find their ratio is a rational number, and not the irrational π.

          The traditional proofs of God – indeed, all metaphysical proofs regarding immaterial beings like truth, beauty, justice, etc. – start, like demonstrations in the physics, with empirical facts. There is motion [change] in the world, there is an ordering of efficient causes, there are natural laws that work “always or for the most part” toward an end, etc. (Please note: neither Paley’s watchmaker, nor the kalam argument qualify as a traditional argument, and the former is seriously flawed.)

          However, unlike demonstrations in the physics, which are inductive, proofs in the metaphysics proceed by deduction. IOW, the “proof from motion” is not a hypothesis trying to explain motion; it is a deduction of the consequences from the existence of motion. In this sense, metaphysical proofs are more like mathematical proofs than they are like physical demonstrations; although like physical demonstrations they proceed from empirical facts.

          Hope this helps.

    • deiseach says:

      “There’s no experiment, nor one that I can readily imagine, that can “prove” a single religious tenet.”

      That is a very true point you make there. You could not, for instance, take a sample of the Most Precious Blood (the wine after consecration in the sacrifice of the Mass) and run it through a HPLC (high performance liquid chromatography, from my laboratory technician qualification of nearly three decades ago) and show any change from wine to human blood.

      “Is there not a danger (for Christians, I myself couldn’t care less) that the very Science that has been made culturally possible by Catholicism contains the seeds of it’s destruction, or at least holds the potential to sow seeds of profound doubt among the faithful?”

      No, because things don’t quite work that way. If some earnest scientist did the experiment outlined above, and then said to the nearest Catholic (not even going as high as the Pope) “I have conclusively proven that what you say happens during the celebration of the Eucharist does not, since this sample still has the same qualities of wine after the words of institution were spoken as it did beforehand, and so it has not turned into the blood of an Iron-Age Semitic male from Roman-occupied Galilee, and so all your beliefs are false and God does not exist”, then the Catholic would say “Dude, I *know* that already. We talked about it back in the 13th century, even before they had spectrometers or chromatographs: Tommy A gave a definition of transubstantiation where he puts it in the technical philosophical language of “The accidents remain the same but the essence changes”.

      (May I take the opportunity to express my appreciation of your courtesy in dialogue?)

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  10. DGDDavidson says:

    Just for the record, I would be very eager to read Somewhither or Aslan is a Slan if they ever came into existence, and I hope you’re working on “Lightning Swords of the Nosferatu of Kyoto” in there somewhere, too.

    • Somewhither is up to chapter thirteen.

      • Pierce O. says:

        And, judging from the description, it appears to be the sequel to The Hermetic Milleniums, correct? So the series is Count to a Trillion, The Hermetic Milleniums, Somewhither, and fourthbook?

        • No, I was unclear. SOMEWHITHER is just something I am working on between my other jobs. The four book series does not have settled titles yet, but the working titles are (1) COUNT TO A TRILLION (2) HERMETIC MILLENIUMS (3) JUDGE OF AGES (4) COUNT TO THE ESCHATON. It is science fiction.

          SOMEWHITHER is something I don’t know if it will be one volume or a trilogy. It is fantasy. I do not even have working titles or an outline at this point.

        • No, I was unclear. SOMEWHITHER is just something I am working on between my other jobs. The four book series does not have settled titles yet, but the working titles are (1) COUNT TO A TRILLION (2) HERMETIC MILLENNIUMS (3) JUDGE OF AGES (4) COUNT TO THE ESCHATON. It is science fiction.

          SOMEWHITHER is something I don’t know if it will be one volume or a trilogy. It is fantasy. I do not even have working titles or an outline at this point.

          • Manwe King of the Valar says:

            I can’t wait! But a few things first:
            1) I take it this will be the first saga you have written since becoming Christian, correct?

            2) We know the release date for “Count to a trillion”, but what about the others? Do you expect them to be released yearly?

            3) And as for the fantasy, “Somewither”, what kind of fantasy is it? (High fantasy, urban, sword and sorcery ect)

            4) Last but not least, what would you classify the new SF saga AND Somewither as (using your own classifications you came up with in a previous post)?
            Count to…-Hard SF, Soft SF, Space opera
            Somewither-Hard fantasy, Soft fantasy, ‘Elf opera’

            I am very curious!

  11. Tamquam says:

    As to religion in sci-fi, one can always point to the magnificent A Canticle for Leibowitz by Waler M. Miller Jr. The posthumous sequel, Saint Leibowitz and the Wild Horse Woman, was a disappointment.

  12. wrf3 says:

    Is science fiction innately and naturally inclined to be hostile to religion?

    A [far] future in which Jesus has not returned is, if not hostile, at least anti-Christian, isn’t it? Or is the bodily return of Jesus a misplaced hope of the Church?

    • CPE Gaebler says:

      Is it not already a far future in which Jesus has not returned? What cares God for two thousand years, or twenty thousand?

      • icowrich says:

        That’s exactly right. Faith is not insulted by such future stories. Plenty of science fiction novels treat faith with a great deal of respect. A Canticle for Leibowitz, perhaps, chief among them. Gene Wolfe and Orson Scott Card are also great examples of writers who integrate faith into their works.

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  16. seebert says:

    I think you need to take a time out and go look up Robert Hugh Benson’s science fiction on Project Gutenberg. I’m currently reading Lord of the World- which was science fiction when it was written and would be considered a steampunk dystopia now- and it’s all about an atheist/anti-Christ conspiracy, using the freemasons, to take over the world (told from a rather interesting point of view- an English House of Commons minister and a priest who just happens to look like the anti-Christ and whose idea of The Order of Christ Crucified saves the church in a world gone very peacefully mad).

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