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Your_Majesty's avatar

Can one becomes a mid-atheist?

Asked by Your_Majesty (8215points) April 22nd, 2010

So I’m a Christian and I believe in God but somehow I’m also a rational-skeptical person. Honestly I tend to miss my prayer and religionist duty,and let myself busy with my other real-world jobs most of the time. Sometime I considered that I’m an atheist but at the same time I still believed I haven’t lost my faith. So I struggle to decide my identity when someone ask me about it. I know I’m selfish to consider that I’m a mid-atheist and since I enjoy both world and I always try to do both thing at different time.

Can I really keep both world and live with it? Do you think a mid-atheist and mid-religionist person could really exist?
I even feel guilty to write this…

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144 Answers

TexasDude's avatar

I think that, as a human, it is perfectly acceptable to have irrational beliefs that can’t be consolidated or justified, as long as you aren’t hurting anyone. Think about it. It’s impossible to be totally objective about everything, and if we all took two steps back as people, we’d realize that we are all just hypocrites in the end, so we might as well just accept our mixed up, irreconcilable emotions and beliefs and move on.

I think you are okay.

nikipedia's avatar

You could just be agnostic.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

I think most people are like you and are afraid to say it when asked.

roundsquare's avatar

There’s two different things here. You say you believe in god. If thats true, then your not an atheist, period. What you seem to be saying is that you don’t feel like a “good Christian.” If thats the case, I think you need to look into why. (Disclaimer: I’m not Christian or at all sure about religion). Eventually you’ll figure it out. Either you will decide its important to make it to prayer, etc… and do that, or decide that isn’t critical to religion and be okay with it. I wouldn’t worry, the fact that you are even thinking about the question means your being honest with yourself and you’ll find an answer.

wundayatta's avatar

Deconstruct your behavior. You take a skeptical view of the world. Fine. You also like the community built by your congregation—a community built by ritual that includes the reading of traditional wisdom that people try to apply to current life with dubious success.

We use stories to keep communities together. God is one such story. So is the Bible. So is prayer and Sunday gatherings and religious music and religious schools and good works and on and on. Many of these things do good in the world, and others serve to glue people together. These are all important things, whether in the secular or religious world.

Religion is a community-building technology. It uses “belief” to communicate that people are part of one community of another.

You don’t have to call yourself a mid-atheist. You’re an atheist who wants to be part of a community and the only communities available are religiously oriented. Don’t worry about it. Belief is a straw man. It’s not what is really important. What’s really important is what people do, no matter why they say they do it. So participate away! It doesn’t change your skepticism one bit.

PacificToast's avatar

If you believe in God you aren’t an atheist. The whole point of being an atheist is not believing in God. If you feel guilty about your feelings, you should look into it. Have you any trusted friends in the church you can confide in? Out of the church? Maybe you just like the community sense the church gives you. It seems you may be in what I call a “valley experience”. A valley is when I feel guilty for not glorifying God, and feel like I should do more, but don’t because I’m lazy. This leads to regret and repentance. The valley is opposite the mountain in which you are feeling God’s love almost as if you are at a perpetual concert of joy.

Rarebear's avatar

I’m a Jewish atheist, and I’m perfectly comfortable with it.

jerv's avatar

@nikipedia That is how I roll :)

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

First, God is not a religion.

Second, Get over the guilt. That’s what religion teaches

jazmina88's avatar

you“re a fence sitter…..
If you arent faithful, God still wont leave you.

WolfFang's avatar

One cannot serve God and mammon. Plain and simple right there in the Bible. Your religion specifically states that you cannot be both. You must do one or the other. I hate when people come up with new categories to label themselves with. Why use a label at all just be yourself right?

Nullo's avatar

There are rational skeptics who are also solid Christians, you know. They have found proof enough to be satisfied.
At least one, Lee Strobel, has written a book about how he came to terms with his faith.
That said, one of the lesser running themes in the New Testament is that it’s better to walk away completely than to be a fence-sitter. The lost can be found, but the lost who thinks that he’s not lost is nigh-hopeless.

This is ultimately between you and God; I suggest that you two sit down and talk it out. Involve a pastor, if you like.

kheredia's avatar

I grew up catholic. But the older I get, the less I practice catholicism. I believe in God, I just stopped believing in religion. Therefore, I call myself agnostic.

WolfFang's avatar

@kheredia but true christianity, from what I gather, isn’t supposed to be religion anyways.

kheredia's avatar

@WolfFang Well I guess that’s good news for me then because I am not religious.

Nullo's avatar

@kheredia I second @WolfFang. The real question is, “How’s your relationship with Jesus?”

jeanmay's avatar

As well as having a chat with God about all this, you might find it useful to look further into atheism too. A good book on the subject is The God Delusion by Richard Dawson. You can read it here on Google books.

thriftymaid's avatar

You haven’t yet found your own philosophy. Your life will be more meaningful if you can come to a place of peace within yourself about your own beliefs.

Brian1946's avatar


“That is how I roll”

Interesting- I don’t know if I’ve ever seen an agnostic joint. ;-)

mattbrowne's avatar

Many Christians are rational-skeptical persons. It’s a good thing. And many are not afraid to say it when asked. I’m not. Kant wrote a book called ‘Religion within the Bounds of Bare Reason’.

In my opinion it’s the people with blind faith who actually serve the mammon.

When it comes to the ultimate why question all answers do require an act of faith (and intuition), whatever the answer. We can see God as the reason for the universe and the way it works (an act of faith) or we can believe in a self-explanatory universe (also an act of faith).

Science is restricted to answer questions which are part of the realm of science using scientific method. The God question is not part of the scientific realm.

If you want to learn more about atheism I do not recommend Richard Dawkins. He’s a zealous polemical antireligious crusader who should have kept his focus on biology, a field where he’s really brilliant.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

@WolfFang “christianity, from what I gather, isn’t supposed to be religion”

This is true. The original movement was called “The Way”. There are numerous scriptures to confirm this. Very similar to The Way described by Buddhists.

It became a religion upon the introduction of rules and regulations (read dogma).

That’s what humanity does to every thing of purity. We ultimately cannot leave purity alone, and must taint it with our own subjective necessities. It’s the very mechanism that we use to confirm that we are right.

i.e…. If I can convince you that you are doing it wrong, then it confirms that I must be doing it right.

Ego: The birth of Dogma. The death of Purity.

Qingu's avatar

@Doctor_D, ultimately, you can label yourself whatever you like. Lord knows there are people with the exact same beliefs as me (an evangelical atheist) who nevertheless call themselves “Christians” or “Jews.” Many “Jews” believe the Jewish god Yahweh is a fictional character. That’s never made sense to me, which is why I call myself an atheist, but people will call themselves what they want.

What’s more important than the label you use to describe your beliefs is the actual content of those beliefs. Do you think that Yahweh, as described in the Bible, exists? The god who, in the Mesopotamian mythological tradition, created the sky as a solid dome, headed a pantheon of heavenly beings, and then created man and woman from clay to be his worker-slaves? Then flooded the earth when his creations annoyed him?

Do you believe that a Jewish cult leader amed Yeshua living in Roman occupied Judea was actually the son of Yahweh and also Yahweh (thus, his own father), and became a zombie to save humanity from his own need to punish us for not following the absurd, pro-slavery, genocidal bronze-age legal code he supposedly gave to us thousands of years ago?

If not, I personally wouldn’t bother calling yourself a Christian, but that’s just me.

Qingu's avatar

@mattbrowne, I’ve seen you repeat that whole “Richard Dawkins is a zealot!” criticism a lot on Fluther, but I don’t really think it stands up to scrutiny. He’s actually quite polite. He makes it clear that he has little problem with your style of belief in God (what he called the Einsteinian God).

And based on our conversations, it seems that you would agree with his assertion that belief in the Biblical God is, in fact, “delusional.”

Rarebear's avatar

@mattbrowne Richard Dawkins is not a zealot. He is a scientist. His claim is simply, to boil it down, that if there is a God this should be a scientifically provable hypothesis.

jeanmay's avatar

@mattbrowne I think Richard Dawkins makes some interesting and thoughtful points about religion and his book provides some real insight into what it means to be an atheist. Even if he is anti-religious and a zealot, I don’t see how that means one should dismiss what he has to say about atheism. Quite the opposite I would have thought.

WolfFang's avatar

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies what a clever insight. I’ll remember that ;)

mattbrowne's avatar

Of course Richard Dawkins is polite. I’ve watched several videos featuring debates. One can be polite and still be an antireligious fanatic, promoting radical atheist views. Yes, he makes thoughtful points about rain gods and vengeful tribal gods. Yes, he does acknowledge the notion of an Einsteinian God. My criticism is related to his missionary zeal distorting of the Christian religion in general and selling his personal philosophical assessments as science. The issue is his “wider, cluster-bomb onslaught”. I recommend taking a look at Alistair McGrath’s response to get a better understanding of the trouble moderate believers like myself see with Dawkins book and how it was received and reviewed. Here are some key points:

“The book is a very uneven collection of scriptural ridicule, amateur philosophy, historical and contemporary horror stories, anthropological speculations, and cosmological scientific argument.”

“While civility is not entirely absent from his deliberations, the tone of his discussion tends all too often to be surly, arrogant, and self-congratulatory.”

“The God Delusion sounds like a personal vendetta, complete with elitist undertones and some uncomfortably dictatorial passages. In the preface, he expresses the hope that religious readers who open the book will be atheists when they put it down. That is academic arrogance.”

“So great is his loathing for religion that it sometimes overwhelms his reasoned argument. Dawkins steamrollers over such complexities. The result, ironically, is that he ends up sounding as naive and unworldly as any happy clappy believer.”

“The God Delusion contains little science. It is mainly philosophy and theology. Dawkins is not a philosopher, though, he’s a biologist. Even taking this into account, much of the philosophy he purveys is at best jejune. You might say that some of his forays into philosophy are at best sophomoric, but that would be unfair to sophomores. Many of his arguments would receive a failing grade in a sophomore philosophy class.”

“Dawkins is, of course, quite right to express horror at Biblical fundamentalism, especially in the neocon form that centres on the book of Revelation. But it is not possible to attack this target properly while also conducting a wider, cluster-bomb onslaught on everything that can be called religion.”

“Dawkins’ tone ranges narrowly from strident to snide. He is deluding himself if he thinks The God Delusion would impress any reasonably informed theist.”

“It has been obvious for years that Richard Dawkins had a fat book on religion in him, but who would have thought him capable of writing one this bad? Incurious, dogmatic, rambling and self-contradictory, it has none of the style or verve of his earlier works.”

My approach is respect, understanding and appreciation. I appreciate all moderate forms of atheism. People have found valid answers that work for them. I expect that all moderate forms of faith also trying to help make a better world are appreciated as well. History is full of positive examples: – German Lutheran pastor and theologian who was also a participant in the German Resistance movement against Hitler – political and spiritual leader of India during the Indian independence movement and a pioneer of resistance to tyranny through mass civil disobedience – an American clergyman, activist and prominent leader in the African-American civil rights movement. His main legacy was to secure progress on civil rights in the United States – a South African cleric and activist who was an opponent of apartheid and who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 – who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989 – a German pastor who helped to organize the Peace Prayers as part of a joint protest action of Protestant youth organizations in the GDR since September 1982. He was also one of the leading figures and organizers of the 1989 Monday demonstrations in East Germany which finally led to the German reunification and the end of the GDR in 1990 – who founded the Network of Spiritual Progressives and who promotes religious pluralism and progressive or liberal approaches to political problems – American president who also won the Nobel Peace Prize

All people of faith.

People win the Nobel Peace Prize for building bridges not burning them adding fuel to the flames. That’s my point.

jeanmay's avatar

I see your point, @mattbrowne, but none of the above are reasons not to read The God Delusion in my opinion. How can @Doctor_D settle on a set of beliefs before he has heard all the arguments? I assume you’ve read the book? So you know for sure that you disagree with Richard Dawkins, but how can anyone else if they haven’t read it? I think exposure to extreme views can be incredibly useful when forming your own beliefs and opinions. Extreme views will probably excite feelings in you, either way, and that way you can determine your own standpoint. The fact that it is an extreme book is the precise reason I recommend it, even if it just turns out to be a case of know thy enemy.

Qingu's avatar

@mattbrowne, many Christians would not consider you to be a Christian and would, in fact, claim that it is so-called “moderates” like yourself that are twisting Christian religion into what amounts to a secularist/deist wash.

iirc, you don’t believe Jesus actually rose from the dead, correct? You’re basically a fan of (some of) his moral philosophy but don’t think he’s any more supernatural than any other famous moral philosopher?

I mean, I’ve talked to you a lot about your religion; I don’t remember everything, I may be misrepresenting your actual views, but I don’t think your views reflect some kind of “nuance” or “complexity” in the Christianity that Dawkins so vehemently criticizes; I think you just pick and choose what you like—and you end up ignoring most of the content of that religion. With all due respect… that’s not “complexity,” that’s arbitrary cherry-picking.

Ultimately, I don’t understand why you get so worked up and offended at Dawkins when you clearly agree with him that most of Christianity and the Bible is bullshit.

Qingu's avatar

I also think it’s a bit odd to point out a list of “people of faith” (many of whom are extremely secular about their faith) as evidence of the value of religion.

I mean, do you honestly think I couldn’t take five minutes and come up with a list of mass-murderers motivated directly by their faith or by the Bible’s teachings? Should we go tit-for-tat? Pretty sure you’d lose out.

Rarebear's avatar

@mattbrowne I’m curious what you mean by ‘radical atheist views”.

mattbrowne's avatar

@jeanmay – If @Doctor_D decides to become a “mid” or full atheist it is my sincere hope that he becomes a moderate one, not an aggressive one. Therefore my comment, let’s be careful about Dawkins. He’s got the potential to radicalize people. Daniel Dennett for example uses a far more moderate style of communication.

mattbrowne's avatar

@Qingu – A few radical American Christians who are part of the evangelical movement would not consider me to be a Christian and yes, would, in fact, claim that it is so-called “moderates” like myself that are twisting Christian religion into what amounts to a secularist/deist wash.

I can live with that. We should not get influenced by the opinion of religious nutcases who think the Earth is 6000 years old. The vast majority of European Christians does consider me to be a Christian. And I’m sure at least 60% of the Americans as well. I met many American Christians during my time as a student in the US. My minister in Germany also thinks that I’m a Christian and I’ve had very interesting philosophical debates with him. He also sees revelation as a symbolic spiritual act, instead of a Q-style God sending Odo the shape shifter who looks like Jesus Christ. He agrees with me that ‘son of God’ does not have biological meaning and that Mary was not a virgin in a biological sense.

Gregor Mendel was a German priest and scientist who founded the study of genetics. It was his curiosity that eventually helped revolutionize modern medicine saving millions of people. A very Christian motive.

Georges Lemaître was a Belgian priest and physicist who wondered about Genesis and he was the first to propose the big bang as the origin of the universe. Many of the greatest secrets of our world have been revealed not by atheists, but by people of faith.

Now if the creationists think Mendel and Lemaître were not Christians, again, does this really matter? Creationists do not speak for the entire Christian faith.

And how do you explain the genius of Mendel and Lemaître if you think that most Christians are some kind of retarded superstitious cavemen who would not consider me to be a Christian.

How am I different from Mendel and Lemaître? (except that I’m not even close to their scientific genius)

mattbrowne's avatar

@Rarebear – Okay, maybe this is a simple explanation:

Dawkins distinguished between superstitious beliefs in rain gods and an Einsteinian God. So far so good. But Dawkins does not distinguish between fundamentalist forms of religion and evil fundamentalist forms of religion and conservative forms of religion and positive conservative forms of religion and all kinds of liberal forms of religions. His loathing for religion and “wider cluster-bomb onslaught” targets everything. And what he does is in fact counterproductive. Creationists love him telling everyone, see, evolution is an atheists theory. They point at Dawkins and say it’s either him or us. Dawkins is partly responsible for the increase in religious fundamentalism.

You can find a more elaborate explanation here

See D4 in my classification on atheist fundamentalism:

“The cosmos we observe has precisely the properties we should expect and there is no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind pitiless indifference. God or any other deities do not exist [this is a fact]. Natural science has authority over all other interpretations of life, such as philosophical, religious, mythical, spiritual, or humanistic explanations. Natural science is capable of describing all reality and knowledge and when doing so it clearly leads to atheism. Therefore the belief in God is a delusion while religion should be seen as a obscurantist, dictatorial and oppressive force and the world would be a better place without it. Atheist fundamentalists typically reject classifications of atheism. They often also reject classifications of various forms of religions, as they are seen as minor variations of the same religious delusion. They argue that atheism and spirituality cannot coexist, because any concept of spiritual atheism is fundamentally flawed. The word spirit refers to the supernatural and has therefore to be rejected.”

Qingu's avatar

@mattbrowne, “And how do you explain the genius of Mendel and Lemaître if you think that most Christians are some kind of retarded superstitious cavemen who would not consider me to be a Christian.”

I think you’re misinterpreting what I’m saying (and what Dawkins is arguing).

I don’t really care who counts as a “real” Christian. When I quibble about the semantics of the word, it’s purely because I’m a stickler for semantic clarity. It’s not because I care one way or the other about whether or not you count as a Christian on some metaphysical level.

Your question seems to imply that I think most Christians are “retarded.” Actually, I’m pretty sure I feel the exact same way about the broad group of people labeled “Christians” as you do. Most of them, including evangelicals, are decent human beings. Many of them are not fundamentalists and are basically secular. Many of them cherry-pick things to believe from the Bible, based on whether it lines up with enlightenment values. Some of them are, as you yourself said, “nutcases” with regards to their fundamental beliefs. A good portion of Christians act politically based on things (such as abortion) that I believe are unfounded.

Rarebear's avatar

@mattbrowne First of all, there’s no such thing as an “Einsteinian” God. Einstein was an atheist.

Second of all, you misunderstand Dawkins’ point of view. I will restate it again. His point is that if there is a god or other supreme being that was involved with the structuring of the universe then it is a scientifically testable hypothesis. If there is a God, prove it.

The question of whether there exists a supernatural creator, a God, is one of the most important that we have to answer. I think that it is a scientific question. My answer is no.

Qingu's avatar

@Rarebear, Einstein occasionally mentioned God, but his God was basically Nature, i.e. the pantheist God, which is when you get down to it functionally indistinguishable from atheism.

Many “Christians,” such as @mattbrowne, have beliefs that strongly resemble Deism as opposed to a belief in Yahweh. Deism is actually quite close to pantheism, and much closer to atheism than it is to a belief in a religious deity.

Rarebear's avatar

@Qingu I occasionally mention God too. That doesn’t mean I’m a theist. I have no issue with @mattbrowne‘s beliefs. I have issue with his characterization of Dawkins as a “radical” atheist, as that has a strongly negative connotation. Dawkins is simply saying, when it comes to God, “Prove it.”

mattbrowne's avatar

@Qingu – Thanks for the clarification. Yes, that makes sense to me too and I agree that semantic clarity is very important.

@Rarebear – As @Qingu pointed out Einsteinian God is not my term. It was created by Dawkins. And yes, my belief strongly resembles Deism but in a combination with a modern form of the Christian religion. Deism as such is pretty empty. No community, no symbols, no rituals, no prayer, no vision, no code of conduct etc.

A supreme being that was involved with the structuring of the universe is a scientifically testable hypothesis? This is exactly where Dawkins is very wrong and why he is such a poor philosopher. Testable hypotheses only exist within the realm of math or physics or biology or geology or any other science. For the realm of math we already know for sure that for certain sets of axioms we can’t prove all arithmetical truths or even the consistency of such mathematical systems.

The concept of a God who doesn’t interfere in the effects of the natural laws is not part of the realm of nature, neither our universe, nor a hypothetical multiverse. Using tools of math and science we can neither prove or disprove this. It remains an act of faith. God is either the author of the natural laws of our universe or the author of a meta law of a multiverse which would include a universe-generating and law-generating mechanism (for example as outlined by Tegmark). If God doesn’t exist (which could be the case) the universe/multiverse must be self explanatory. There must be a meta law capable of creating and explaining itself. I recommend the following book by Paul Davies (an agnostic). He compares various metaphysical concepts in a neutral manner.

Qingu's avatar

I would argue that if your Deist-y God isn’t a scientifically testable hypothesis than he’s functionally irrelevant.

If he doesn’t interact with the universe we live in and has left no trace of evidence of his existence in the universe we live in… what’s the difference between that and no god at all?

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

The trace of evidence is the mark left upon my most inner core of being. It is not for you, or science, to test and analyze. It is beyond your capacity to know, even if it were laid out right before your very eyes. You would not recognize it as anything worth considering at all.

It is specifically designed to look most foolish to you. And my perceived foolishness is the temptation of your ego to deny the revelatory experiences of others. That’s all you will ever get from it. That’s all you are capable of contributing to it.

It is nothing to you. As it should be. For it is not meant for you any more than your personal enlightenment’s are meant for me. I would be foolish to claim authority over your personal enlightenment’s. What praytell, will you speak to me of mine?

It is the Knowing that not even science can provide. The science that we both love. The science that we both know is incapable of absolutely proving anything at all. What will our science speak to the grace known in my heart? For it is a grace that flies in defiance of all evolutionary preachings. This grace removes me from my flesh and bone, revealing that I am much more than any temporal smatterings, irreducible to mere flotsam and jetsam that comprises the common material that is destined for rancid spoil.

Yes, my relationship with IT is truly beyond any functional relevance for you. And my foolishness is safe and secure with your every attempt to claim authority over it.

Qingu's avatar

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies, God sure does seem to work in mysteriously convenient ways.

“There’s no evidence that faeries exist.”
“Of course not—that’s just the way the faeries like it!”

mattbrowne's avatar

I rest my case.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Not quite like that. The faeries don’t really mind if you know of them. But they care enough not to force themselves upon you. It only happens when you are able to accept. Until then… Carry on

And honestly Qingu, what kind of God would God be if ITs ways were not mysterious to humans? I’m consistently entertained by the infinite ways that humans attempt to make G fit into a box of understanding… both Atheists and Theists alike.

I’d have better luck trying to get my dog to understand why I tie my shoe.

Qingu's avatar

God is selectively mysterious to humans. In the Biblical myths, he is to humans as humans are to our pets—not mysterious at all. My cat doesn’t think I’m mysterious. He may not understand why I do things, or how I’ll react, or why he isn’t allowed to do things, but my existence isn’t mysterious to him.

God only gets mysterious when people ask you to prove he exists.

Rarebear's avatar

@mattbrowne If a god exists, and is not involved at all in the design of the universe (or multiverse if it exists), then that this God, in my view, is irrelevent. If the God is involved in the design, as @RealEyesRealizeRealLies believes, then it should be scientifically testable.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

It is testable. You just don’t accept the parameters of the test. Perhaps you reject it because it is such a simple test. Perhaps you chose to wait for a black swan of naturally occurring code. Perhaps a strict adherence to Marxist Dialectic Materialism prevents the evidence from being considered with the veracity it deserves.

I really don’t know why or how anyone could reject such a simple test. But they do, and unfortunately the rejection is based upon a limited ability to allow the God concept to expand beyond traditional fundamentalist depictions.

How ironic that dogmatic Atheists insist upon Theists sharing their own specifically narrow perceptions of what a G being and the supernatural must be like, unwittingly becoming a parody of the very religious fanatic they would otherwise set out to mock.
OK… here’s the test…

Find a code, and infer sentient authorship.

It’s that simple. It is predictable. It is testable. It is repeatable. It is also falsifiable upon someone demonstrating another mechanism besides sentient authors that can produce a genuine code.

And. This same test is the same one used to attribute anonymous code to sentient authors, so putting the author on display is not a parameter of the test.


When speaking of cosmic singularities, I can make no testable claims as to whether it was created or not. No code has been discovered to attribute any sentient design. We can have all the philosophical debates we want. But the fact remains, no code = no design.


When it comes to life… Well, we do indeed have a genuine code. Science demands that we infer sentient authorship, regardless if that author is anonymous or not.

What we make of that author is another matter for speculation. Some will jump to conclusions and claim it as a traditional religious deity. Some will jump to conclusions and reject the test parameters specifically for the same reasons of it being a traditional religious deity. How unfortunate for both.

Some will take smaller steps, acknowledging the evidence for what it is, sans dogmatic interpretations, and thereby allow science to progress in its never ending quest for truth… no matter where that truth may lead us.

Rarebear's avatar

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies We’ve had this debate before, but your initial statement, “Find a code, and infer sentient authorship” is flawed. That’s not a test, it’s an assumption.

Of course Jerry Coyne says it better than me.

Qingu's avatar

Whatever sentient author designed the genetic code sure did a sloppy-assed job.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

@Rarebear Yes we have had this discussion before. But I’m sorry, Coyne doesn’t depict anything close to what I’m speaking of. He never addresses the necessity for code to have sentient authors. Nor does he refute the claim either.

He does address the issue of “complexity”. And he is right to do so. But that’s not the same as code. It’s two different subjects. I’m disappointed that they are often conflated as being the same.

The three main points of that article never touch anywhere near the concepts I put forth.

1) it was all started by God,

Yet another Atheist insisting upon traditional fundamentalist interpretations of what a God being must be like. Let’s call it, the God in a Box phenomenon.

2) had God-worshipping humans as its goal

Confirmation in his insistence upon God in a Box. And I would suggest that he uses the word “worshipping” in a rather sarcastic manner. I imaging that he includes every form of interaction between human and deity to be a form of worship, whether it be actual worship, or simple prayer and acknowledgment. His term is meant as a sarcastic insult, and not one to uncover any great truth, or move the discussion forward in a civil manner. Coyne cooks flame-bait.

3) that the evidence for all this is that life is complex, humans evolved, and the the “fine tuning” of physical constants of the universe testify to the great improbability of our being here—ergo God.

My hypothesis never mentions supposed “fine tuning” or “complexity” as anything close to being supportable. That is an argument for the cosmos alone… but it does not address the issue of sentient authored codified information whatsoever.


You are welcome to have your opinions. I’ve heard many such accusations. But regardless of your differences, I’m pleased to know that you at least acknowledge the necessity of a sentient author for the source code.

Perhaps if you stopped ignoring the faeries, they would gladly point you to the suggestion box.

Rarebear's avatar

You’re right, the Coyne blog post didn’t exactly address what you’re talking about; he was responding to the blog post on the Huffington Post. I probably shouldn’t have used it as an example.

Qingu's avatar

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies, I hope you are being coy and have not mistaken my joke as an actual acceptance of the idea that the genetic code has a sentient author.

Just to be abundantly clear: I don’t think the genetic code has an author at all; in fact I think the suggestion is absurd and contradicts a vast amount of evidence at hand.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar


I would be very pleased to learn of a demonstrable natural mechanism that could stand substitute for sentient authorship in crafting an authentic code which conforms to Purlwitz, Burks, and Waterman’s definition of probability space A mapped to probability space B.

Please do not lead us down the path of abiogenesis. But if you have new scientific evidence of a mechanism that I’m unaware of, I would very much appreciate hearing about it.

I would even consider new mathematics if it were determined that it is remotely possible for genuine code to arise by chaotic mechanisms. Thus far, I am unaware of any that even come close.

I will consider all viable proposals with great interest. The presenter of such a mechanism would surely be in line for the next Nobel Prize.

mattbrowne's avatar

@Rarebear – I said God is involved in the design of the natural laws of the universe or multiverse, but is actually not part of it. We can’t test this. And we can’t test laws able to explain themselves either.

Qingu's avatar

What on earth are you babbling about? Probability space?

Look, this isn’t actually all that complicated. We know that cell-shaped “bubbles” of lipid bilayers form spontaneously when lipids mix with water. We know there were lipids in the early earth. We know there were nucleotides and amino acids in the early earth. We know that RNA can function both as a catalyst and a “code,” like a prototype of DNA.

A lipid bubble enclosing all of that would give us an early version of a replicating cell. It only has to happen once.

We don’t know every step in the process—we don’t have a time machine, and even if we did it would be practically impossible to find “the one” that this actually happened with—but no sentient author is required for this to happen. At all.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

My particular babbling centers around Information Theory.
Perhaps this is part of my foolishness that I warned you of earlier.

You are correct that what you have described isn’t “all that complicated” to imagine and theorize about. But unfortunately, all you describe is replication and building blocks. I agree with you on this. It could have happened, possibly… although only one of the ribozymes necessary to allow for this appear in nature. Another has been created in the lab (yet I doubt the authenticity of a synthetic ribozyme), and two others needed to complete the theory don’t even exist.

While no natural ribozyme is known that can utilise a nucleoside triphosphate for polymerisation, considerable advances have been made using synthetic ribozymes

But still, this only explains the building blocks. It does not account for the programming. Though inconclusive and highly speculative, we possibly have a medium. But I’m afraid that the medium is not the message. Where did the information arise from?

And that’s the issue to consider most vehemently. A code can be presented upon any physical object as a medium that expresses information. But the information is not reducible to the medium which expresses it.

Abiogenesis does not account for the huge chasm between the laws of Physics and the laws of Information. It can get us the building blocks, but it cannot provide the Info necessary to program for living organisms. That requires a code. And all codes come from a mind.

Challenge the theory to its own gigantic conjecture that base pairs definitely strand in the soup. Then clarify how the quaternary code appeared without reference to a synthetic ribosome produced in a lab. A synthetic ribosome will never do.

That’s why Leslie Orgel (renowned Abiogenesis proponent) said: the self-organization of the reductive citric acid cycle without the help of “informational” catalysts would be a near miracle.

Shall we leap to believe in miracles?

But let’s go ahead and take a leap of faith and start with “a membraine enclosed ribozyme capable of plymerising itself and its counterpart copy…”

Martin Line makes a great case in A Hypothetical Pathway from the RNA to the DNA World, but in the end still warns us that:

“The pathway proposed is not intended to represent reality”

and requires…_“a formidalbe conceptual leap”_… and hopes that

“If support for some of these steps can be shown, final resort to an intelligent creator for the origin of life (Gibson, 1993) may yet be premature”

Nanoarchaeum has the smallest number of base pairs that we know of at 480,000. That’s 4^480,000 potential configurations… that’s 10^200,000. The entire universe is only estimated to have 10^80 atoms

So you must know what a mind boggling miracle you are asking for. WHAT ODDS?

But let’s give the cosmos an even easier problem to work on. The Math behind Abiogenesis is a rework of the Infinite Monkey Theorum. I’ve given you the building blocks, just like the Monkeys were given an alphabet. But there’s not enough time since the Big Bang to even come close to writing 130,000 character sentence.

“The text of Hamlet contains approximately 130,000 letters…Even if the observable universe were filled with monkeys typing for all time, their total probability to produce a single instance of Hamlet would still be less than one in 10^183,800.” As Kittel and Kroemer put it, “The probability of Hamlet is therefore zero in any operational sense of an event…”, and the statement that the monkeys must eventually succeed “gives a misleading conclusion about very, very large numbers.”
This is from their textbook on thermodynamics, the field whose statistical foundations motivated the first known expositions of typing monkeys


Sorry for the babbling, but please don’t be upset with me for sharing known science. That’s all I’m doing.

Qingu's avatar

Yeah, that has about as much to do with actual information theory as “flood geology” has to do with geology.

Quote-mining doesn’t really help your intellectual case either.

I don’t really know where to even start in pointing out the flaws of your logic. I guess we can start with the way you calculate “odds.”

Can you tell me what the odds are of all the molecules in a stormcloud coming together to form such a complex system? Storms, after all, are somewhat similar to living things—they respond to their environments, they sustain themselves, they grow and “die.” There are a huge number of molecules in a storm cloud—can you explain how you would calculate the probability of a storm cloud forming without an “intelligent creator”?

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Storm clouds don’t need a designer. They are a product of chaos. They require no code to assemble. They are fractal patterns, and quite the opposite of codified information.

Pattern = Irreducible Complexity

Code = Always reducible down to one bit.

Pattern = Cannot be copied exactly

Code = Can be copied exactly

Pattern = Never symbolic representation

Code = Always symbolic representation

Pattern = Without syntax, semantics, error correction, noise reduction

Code = With syntax, semantics, error correction, noise reduction

Pattern = Probability space A

Code = Maps probability space A to probability space B

Patterns = Must have code to describe them

Code = Must have a pattern to describe

Patterns = Only represent themselves

Code = Always represents something other than itself

Pattern = No transmitter, not receiver

Code = Must have transmitter and receiver

Pattern = Never predicts a physical reality

Code = Can predict a physical reality

Pattern = Never needs a programmer

Code = Always needs a programmer

The only thing similar between Tornadoes and Life is that they consist of the same physical materials. But tornadoes do not represent information. Life requires information.

We can produce information about a tornado, but that tornado doesn’t have anything to say about itself. Tornadoes cannot speak and have no desire to do so.

The only information we have about tornadoes is the end result of a sentient observer codifying their observations… then, and only then, does information about a tornado exist.

As well, we should be very careful not to personify fractal patterned objects produced by chaos… i.e.: Tornadoes do not die. They don’t die, because they never lived. Tornadoes dissipate, but nothing about them justifies using terminologies that describe living organisms. Science should not take poetic license when describing observable phenomenon.

Quote mining is only relevant if the quote is not linked or if it is taken out of context of its original intent. I’ve provided support for my hypothesis. Unfair to reduce it to quote mining. I’m quite sure you’re not just going to take my word for it, and I’ve no intentions of bantering unsupported opinions back and for with you or anyone.

This has everything to do with Information Theory. DNA was discovered to be a genuine code through that discipline. You can read all about it here: Information Theory, Evolution, and the Origin of Life, by Hubert Yockey.

It specifically describes in great detail how Yockey and Gamov (a Russian Linguist) discovered DNA to be the only molecule that adheres to Perlwitz, Burks, and Waterman’s definition of code and why it is not to be considered as a fractal pattern from chaos.

”“The genome is sometimes called a “blueprint” by people who have never seen a blueprint. Blueprints, no longer used, were two-dimensional, a poor metaphor indeed, for the linear and digital sequence of nucleotides in the genome. The linear structure of DNA and mRNA is often referred to as a template. A template is two-dimensional, it is not subject to mutations, nor can it reproduce itself. This is a poor metaphor as anyone who has used a jigsaw will be aware. One must be careful not to make a play on words.

It also confirms the use of Information Theory to map the communication protocols.

”“Information, transcription, translation, code, redundancy, synonymous, messenger, editing, and proofreading are all appropriate terms in biology. They take their meaning from information theory (Shannon, 1948) *and are not synonyms, metaphors, or analogies.*”

Claude Shannon protocols HERE

Compare this to Yockey’s model for Transcription. They are identical

You will note the term “Message”. Tornadoes don’t have one.

Qingu's avatar

Uh, you didn’t even attempt to answer my question.

How would you calculate the odds of a sustained stormcloud forming?

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Benoit Mandelbrot would tell us that it depends upon the amount of information we have at our disposal. It can be accomplished, but only with a vast amount of sentient observation codified into genuine information.

The accuracy of the calculations are directly relevant to the precision of the observed codified descriptions. Can’t make calculations without an information source. And that source is not the tornado. The source is the mind of an observer.

Theoretically, if the superposition and velocities of all particles were known, and programmed into an incredibly unimaginable super powerful computer, one could in theory make calculations and form probability curves from that observed data. The big problem with this theory, is that although it may be capable of producing probabilities for a mute universe sans any life forms, it would not be capable of predicting the free will judgments of organisms that may A-ffect the trajectories of the particles. The theory only stands without life in the universe.

Rarebear's avatar

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies I suggest you read a couple of books on Complexity Theory. A good place to start is Roger Lewin’s book entitled Complexity.

Qingu's avatar

Define “life.”

Do viruses count as alive? What about prions? Why aren’t storms alive? There is a storm that has been “living” on Jupiter for at least 300 years, and “eats” other storms.

Where is the boundary between life and nonlife that makes such calculations magically impossible to do without sentience?

I also fail to see what free will has to do with this, as I doubt you’re arguing bacteria or proto-cell lipid-enclosed RNA replicators have free will.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

For me, the argument of What is Life is settled.

Anything with a genome is alive, albeit to differing degrees. Thus, viruses and prions are living organism. Storms have no genome, thus storms are not living. They don’t eat anything. They should not be personified.

For me, the argument of Free Will is settled.

Anything that can author code possesses free will, albeit to differing degrees. Thus, honeybees have a limited amount of free will based upon their ability to encode distance, direction, optimum route, wind drift, and quality of pollen, into their figure 8 waggle dance. Ants on the other hand, cannot encode for anything, and therefor have no free will. They simply react to environmental and pheromone triggers.

Mysteriously however, when observing the ant colony as a whole, it does seem to exhibit free will. This may be a form of quasi free will, but I’m still studying this fascinating phenomenon.


Thanks for the tip on the book. I will check it out.

Qingu's avatar

So RNA molecules alive?

Because we know that RNA can self-assemble. No author required.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

@Rarebear Thanks for the correction. I should not have spoken before researching properly. My bad and I retract that statement.


I think you’re still missing the point on this. Self assembly is not the only critical component for life. As we discussed earlier, storms self assemble, with no author required. Nor is replication the only critical component. And although the Discovery channel would like us to believe that wherever there be water, there should also be life, unfortunately that’s just not the case either.

We need more stuff. We need Information added to the mix. The Info makes a thing alive.

Information is an Immaterial Agent. It is not a physical thing. The Genome is pure Information. The Genome is immaterial, and quite non-physical.

Code is not Information. Code represents Information.

The Genetic Code is not the Genome. The Genetic Code represents the Genome.

I fear that much of molecular biology has spiked the punch against recognizing this fact. Perhaps you have gleaned your knowledge from statements such as this:
Molecular self-assembly is ubiquitous in biological systems and underlies the formation of a wide variety of complex biological structures. This Harvard paper promotes a common theme, in that “self-assembly… underlies the formation”.

That is an erroneous assumption, a non-statement, a flawed perspective, and its widespread acceptance is sending molecular biology on a wild goose chase.

Self assembly DOES NOT underlie the formation.

Self assembly IS the formation.

Formation: The process of forming, or achieving form… i.e.: Self Assembly

That position completely leapfrogs over the requirement for Information. For organic life, only Information can determine HOW an organism self assembles (formation) and into each and every precise form. The code represents the Info, and the Info determines the final form.

No code is needed for non living phenomenon. The self assembly (formation) is a chain of cause and effect adhering to the laws of physics.

As to whether RNA is alive or not, well that’s certainly up for speculation. It’s a tangled web. I should say no, because RNA does not have a genome. It works in conjunction with the genome represented by DNA. I should also conclude that DNA is also not alive, for in all operational sense, it does not have a genome either. It’s simply the physical code that represents the non-physical genome. However, some peculiar statements about its properties do give me cause to consider whether it is alive or not.

“A goal for the future would be to determine the extent of knowledge the cell has of itself, and how it utilizes this knowledge in a thoughtful manner when challenged.”
Barbara McClintock, Gifts of Speech

“Molecular genetics has amply confirmed McClintock’s discovery that living organisms actively reorganize their genomes (5). It has also supported her view that the genome can “sense danger” and respond accordingly (56).”
James Shapiro A 21st Century View of Evolution

“It appears that the languages we were looking for, are, in fact, hidden in the 98%, “junk” DNA contained in our own genetic apparatus [4]. The basic principle of these languages is similar to the language of holographic images [5] based on principles of laser radiations of the genetic structures [6] which operate together as a quasi-intelligent system, as in [3] It particularly important to realize that our genetic devices actually perform real processes which supplement the triplet model of the genetic code.”
P.P. Gariaev, M.J. Friedman Wave Genetics Response

“Extent of Knowledge”?
“Respond Accordingly”?

Something to think about.

Qingu's avatar

Storms have information, dude. Any state has information.

Again, you don’t really seem to understand the ideas you’re trying to interact with. Someone else mentioned a book on complexity theory—you seriously might want to check that out.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

We observe and describe storms. Only our descriptions are Info. The storm is just an observable phenomenon.

How does the storm transmit information to humans? How does the storm complete the Shannon protocols. Information can only be known, transmitted, or received upon a code. Storms have no code, and observable phenomenon are not equal to information.

You must see the irony in this. Claiming that Information is everywhere is unwittingly supporting mysticism and folklore of whispering streams, talking trees, and burning bushes that give instructions to birth a violent nation.

Storms can’t speak. And if they cannot speak, then they have no information, and NO MESSAGE to communicate with humans.

@Qingu “Any state has information”

False. Any state may be observed and described. Only the description is information.

“Information is information. Not energy and not matter. Any materialism that does not allow for this cannot survive in the present day.”
Norbert Weiner, Cybernetics p147

Qingu's avatar

You are free to define information however you like. But in the context of information theory, it’s simply not what the word means. If you think it is, you clearly don’t know the first thing about information theory, and I don’t really see how we can have a meaningful discussion about this when you are operating under the assumption that up means down.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

How then would you distinguish the differences between codified descriptions and observable phenomenon?

How do you answer Norbert Weiners quote that Information is non physical?

The etymology of the word describes properties of mind.
“The English word was apparently derived from the Latin accusative form (informationem) of the nominative (informatio): this noun is in its turn derived from the verb “informare (to inform) in the sense of to give form to the mind, to discipline, instruct, teach

Information is the process of manifesting thought into form. That form being a physical code that can express the thought to others.

How will you answer to Yockeys adherence to Information Theory when mapping the transcription process? He specifically states that the biological terminologies “take their meaning from Information Theory” and are not “synonyms, metaphors, or analogies.”

The list includes the word “Information”.

And if his reasoning is sound, and justly earns DNA the title of Code, why then do we not have similar terms for Tornado Code, Storm Code, Mudslide Code, Solar Flare Code…? Why don’t we see anyone apply these phenomenon to Shannon’s communication protocols?

And lastly, if Information is everywhere, how will SETI determine the differences between information from the cosmos, and information from an intelligent life form?

If you insist upon defining “information” synonymously with “observable phenomenon”, how then will you account for the absence or presence of code, when it is appropriate to information, and when it is not?

Qingu's avatar

Uh, that is not how I’m defining information.

You aren’t even trying to tie this into information theory anymore. You’re just rambling.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

I’ve asked you seven direct questions. You avoid answering any of them by accusing me of rambling.

Qingu's avatar

I would have trouble answering your questions because you aren’t using a coherent definition of “information,” or presenting your point in a way that interacts meaningfully with actual probability or information theory.

I know it sounds mean, but what you wrote really is rambling.

Tell you what: why don’t you start a new question about information theory? I feel bad dismissing what you’re saying out of hand; I’d love to try to explain more about how information theory actually works, but I honestly don’t have the time right now. I’m sure some other flutherites could chip in, though, and I’ll try to when I’m less busy.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Hey don’t feel bad. We’re both busy and I wasn’t counting on getting this deeply involved either. But Qingu, I did my best to answer your questions and support them the best I can. I don’t have much faith that your schedule will permit answering mine, now or later.

A Discipline Independent Definition of Information explains in great detail numerous definitions of Information, how they came about, how they differ, and explains the beginnings of “Information Theory” even before Claude Shannon’s time. This article clears the air between disciplines, and promotes a “hierarchical model of stacked processes”, and unravels some of the common misunderstandings between viewing Information as a “thing” vs Information as “knowledge”.

In other words, Information may be understood as the value attached or instantiated to a characteristic or variable returned by a function or produced by a process.

“value attached” or “instantiated to” refers to phenomenon being observed and described.

Rarebear's avatar

@mattbrowne Rejoining the debate here. You said, “I said God is involved in the design of the natural laws of the universe or multiverse, but is actually not part of it. We can’t test this. And we can’t test laws able to explain themselves either.”

I answer: If God is involved in the design of the natural laws of the universe or the multiverse, then that’s a hypothesis that should be scientifically tested.

mattbrowne's avatar

@Rarebear – I can’t think of a test. And I don’t know if God was involved in the design of the natural laws. I just believe he did, but I could be wrong. I also can’t think of a test that would show that God was not involved in the design of the natural laws. Proving a negative in this case isn’t possible. We can certainly prove that a computer program solving the halting problem does not exist. We can prove this negative. But in the case of God, we can’t.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

That’s the point I’m getting to as well. We cannot prove that anyone was involved in the design of anything unless we have a set of plans to refer to. In the case of the Universe, we have no such plans.

As well, when we say, The Laws of the Universe, let’s remember that humans wrote those laws. We did not receive a message from the cosmos. We simply describe observable phenomenon.

Absence of a pre-existing plan prevents claiming design. The test IS the absence or presence of a codified set of instructions.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

However, as you know, I’m with Matt on this one, believing that there must have been a creator God like being for the Universe as well. My support for this ultimately comes from our observations of cause and effect. Adhering to scientific observation, our only viable solution demands theorizing about a first un-caused cause. One that operates outside the confines of our known space/time.

Qingu's avatar

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies, curious as to how you determined the universe itself cannot be the uncaused cause, since the universe itself (by definition) contains all of spacetime.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Well the problem with the Universe itself being the first uncaused cause, is that it is subject to the laws of physics, and the laws of physics specifically promote cause and effect. A self creating Universe is a violation of the very laws it produces. Therefor, the cause must be from an agent outside of our Universe.

Furthermore, I believe that Truth, is the only uncaused cause. Truth being, The Way It Is, however that way may be. So the only question for me to pursue is… Is Truth Sentient?

Qingu's avatar

You must have missed where I said the universe contains spacetime.

How do the laws of cause and effect apply to the universe as a whole if there is nothing before or after the universe?

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

That’s a novel approach to depicting the universe. I’ve never looked at it as a “container” before. So in effect, the “container” is no more subject to the properties of that which is “contained” any more than a bucket is subject to the properties of the water within it.

Interesting perspective.

Therefor we should determine if the universe is a physical thing or not. When you say “nothing before or after”, that means no-thing as in no-physical-thing as in not made of energy and matter. What would we call things that are not physical things?

I propose, Immaterial Agent. So, is this “container” an Immaterial Agent, or a Material Agent?

Qingu's avatar

Define “physical” and “material.”

Are the concepts of space and time physical? Angular momentum? The inverse square law? Is a boson physical? What about theoretical bosons that don’t interact with what we call “matter”?

The problem with the way you’re framing it is that it’s dualist. It doesn’t make sense to look at the universe in terms of these two categories (physical/immaterial) because there’s no bright-line distinction between them in the universe.

Rarebear's avatar

@mattbrowne “I just believe he did”

And that’s where we differ in a fundamental way. I don’t accept anything on faith alone.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Physical material phenomenon consist of energy and matter. Are you suggesting that there is also immaterial phenomenon? I do.

And I have no problem with dualism. Every sentence written is an image/object relationship. I suggest that is also the relationship between brain and mind.

Qingu's avatar

This is why you should read up on emergence.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Where do you believe that emergence would differ with any of my statements? And what does it have to do with material vs immaterial realms?

Qingu's avatar

Because emergence theory basically explains what you are talking about far better than dualism does. It also ties into your ideas about the difference between codes and patterns.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Perhaps I’ve misread or missed something altogether. I see no problem with emergence explaining fractals, but nowhere do I detect anything that suggests it can be a mechanism for authoring genuine codified information. What am I missing here?

Rarebear's avatar

@mattbrowne (and I apologize for running two separate threads here, but Fluther doesn’t allow for imbedding—kind of like the old wis). Just to piggyback on what I said before, you said that you believe that “God was involved in the design of natural laws.” I would argue that there is no difference between saying that God was involved in the design of natural laws and saying that some geek with so much acne he can’t get a date stuck in a science lab in another universe was involved in the design of natural laws, and maybe he created the universe. Or a little green man.

But, if we discovered that God WAS involved with the creation of the natural laws as you maintain, don’t you think that would be a very important scientific discovery? And if there isn’t a God that was involved in the creation of the natural laws, don’t you think that that’s equally as important?

By saying, in effect, that “God did it” to me is a cop-out. It dismisses the possibility (nay probability) that the universe is entirely here naturally. That, to me, is a much more beautiful solution than saying some supreme being did it.

Qingu's avatar

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies, first of all, you have an odd conception of “genuine codified information.” Evolution and abiogenesis are both examples of emergence, and the latter would be an example of how natural “codes” arise, though not the only one. (Another example would be the “codes” ants use to signal each other, or language amongst primates).

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

You’re acting as though abiogenesis is a proven fact. It is a hypothetical, at best. As well, if valid, it only accounts for the building blocks (an alphabet), but it does not account for programming.

And as I said before, I have no problems with noting that once the source code is in place, that it may indeed have been programmed to re-author itself based upon reaction to external stimuli. A.I. and computer science confirms this in spades, but in all cases, it must be programmed from the beginning with this functionality.

My conception of genuine codified information is exactly the same as Purlwitz, Burks and Waterman’s definition of code. And I share my odd conception with Hubert Yockey, the biologist who mapped the transcription process to Claude Shannon’s communication model based upon said definition of code, being Probability space A mapped to probability space B.

And although I agree that certain animal species do indeed utilize codified information to communicate, I’m not so convinced that ants are one of them. Thus far, my research into apparent ant communication has been explainable by simple cause and effect reaction to stimulus triggers. It is very different than bee communication with the figure 8 waggle dance, or primate sign, or whale song, or wolf howls…

I cannot run the apparent ant communication through the Shannon/Yockey protocols. I cannot run tornadoes or hypothetical abiogenesis through the Shannon/Yockey protocols. The others mentioned can be run through the Shannon protocols effortlessly.

There is a difference between Cause/Reaction and Thought/Action. There is a difference between Cause/Effect and Mind/Affect. Never should the two be conflated.

Qingu's avatar

Man, nucleotides forming coding molecules isn’t even the controversial part of abiogenesis.

You’re not allowed to mention Claude Shannon until you settle on a definition of information that actually has to do with Shannon’s formulation.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

For Shannon, Information is a measurement of entropy. I really don’t understand why you think I’m having a problem with this. He wasn’t necessarily concerned with meaningful message content. He just wanted to address throughput and compression. But that does not negate the fact that Shannon’s Info was still a calculation… a measurement from a mind.

And I’ve already provided a specific definition of Information earlier that fits Information Theory perfectly well. Again…

A Discipline Independent Definition of Information explains in great detail numerous definitions of Information, how they came about, how they differ, and explains the beginnings of “Information Theory” even before Claude Shannon’s time. This article clears the air between disciplines, and promotes a “hierarchical model of stacked processes”, and unravels some of the common misunderstandings between viewing Information as a “thing” vs Information as “knowledge”.

In other words, Information may be understood as the value attached or instantiated to a characteristic or variable returned by a function or produced by a process.,

“value attached” or “instantiated to” refers to phenomenon being observed and described.

And it goes on to say in the very next sentence… Using the proposed hierarchical model of stacked processes one may model existing ideas about information, including the communication model proposed by Shannon, information as thing or information as knowledge.

This paper is from UNC School of Information and Library Science

If you have issues with my definition of Information, then you also have issues with theirs.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

@Qingu “nucleotides forming coding molecules isn’t even the controversial part of abiogenesis.”

Apparently you missed my earlier post where Abiogenesis proponents admit that it would be a “near miracle” and “requires a formidable conceptual leap”, and “is not intended to represent reality”,

and of course my favorite…

If support for some of these steps can be shown, final resort to an intelligent creator for the origin of life (Gibson, 1993) may yet be premature”

mattbrowne's avatar

@Rarebear – Well, it’s not blind faith. My faith is based on indicators, above all the nature of the natural laws themselves. They seem too perfect. Why is carbon an abundant element in the universe and beryllium isn’t? You need three alpha particles instead of two. And why does this coincide with carbon’s wonderful chemical properties? Another puzzling element is the strength of the gravitational force and quantum fluctuations in the early universe. Strong enough to support the formation of galaxies and smaller stars, but not too strong to create a universe full of black holes and not too weak either to create a boring soup of hydrogen and helium. The introduction of a multiverse requires a universal law-generating mechanism and the puzzle is pushed up one layer.

All of this isn’t proof. That’s what I meant earlier. But it isn’t blind faith either.

Atheists depend on an act of faith as well: a meta law capable of creating and explaining itself. The self-explanatory universe cannot be proven, but it makes a lot of sense to atheists and I respect that. I do not call this blind faith and I expect that my faith isn’t called blind either. I have given this a lot of thought and read numerous books about it. One way or another we can’t get around dealing with infinite regress. It’s either an uncreated infinite creator or an uncreated infinite multiverse. And if you think about it, the concepts are not really that different.

I do not see abiogenesis or evolution as a miracle. They are the consequences of the nature of our universe. Unexplained is not inexplicable. We will be able to explain abiogenesis one day. I think in our lifetimes actually.

Qingu's avatar

Again, you’re quote-mining, you don’t seem to have a grasp of the material you’re quoting, and you still fail to acknowledge that Shannon’s information is different from the type of information you were talking about in earlier posts when trying to establish astronomical odds for abiogenesis. I think we’re done here—but again, if you’dl ike to start a new question about information theory, I’d be happy to participate.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Sorry Qingu, I don’t just spout unsupported opinions. Accuse me of quote mining and misunderstanding all you wish, but everything I’ve stated about Info Theory comes from UNC School of Information and Library Science and Yockey’s book Information Theory, Evolution, and the Origin of Life and even Shannon’s book, A Mathematical Theory of Communication.

I shall not entertain your fancies further, for my linking to unbiased research is brushed aside as quote mining, and put against your unsupported opinion. Not one quote listed from you. Not one link, not one shred of support for anything you have stated. Nothing but your opinion. Yet I’m the one accused of babbling.

Q? for you… In other threads, where I know you are very fond of citing scripture to debase religious teachings, in doing so… are you quote mining? Now correct me if I’m wrong, but you do do this, don’t you?

Rarebear's avatar

@mattbrowne Well, hydrogen is way more abundant than carbon, actually.
In terms of your natural laws, if the multiverse theory that you and Thanos like so much is true, then that means that there is an infinite number of universes out there. If that’s so than there is a random statistical certainty that a universe with laws that ours have would exist. No God required.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

As we are so fond of considering What created God, then, in the same spirit, allow me to beg the question What created the Infinite Multiverse?

Either way, any answer that is limited to the confines of our temporal (dis)order, is a non-answer. Either way, we are forced to consider realms of Immaterialism, and finally move beyond the clutches of Hard Marxist Dialectic Materialism… the latter of which offers only a brick wall of reason. We must break through this materialistic barrier once and for all. It is the only way to move any concept of beginnings forward.

mattbrowne's avatar

@Rarebear – Of course hydrogen is more abundant than carbon, that’s not my point. A lot of simple elements are not abundant like Li, Be and B while carbon is. That was my point.

Of course God or a self-explanatory multiverse is required. We can prove neither. What would explain an infinite number of universes out there? And the mechanism for varying the laws and constants of nature.

germanmannn's avatar

if you have any doubt about god watch this video .

eden2eve's avatar

@Rarebear and @Qingu

I spoke at length with someone who knew Einstein, and asked him this very question. He was Edward Teller, and I met him at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, which he founded, and where I was employed.

Teller was 94 years old at the time, wheelchair bound due to a stroke, but still intellectually brilliant and with his memory intact. He said that Einstein certainly did believe in a God. Mr Teller said, that despite some reports to the contrary, he believed in God as well. He said that being a scientist doesn’t necessarily destroy one’s belief in a higher power, because the more he learned about the complexities of the creations, the more obvious it became to him that some rational mind must have been responsible for its creation.

Some quotes by Einstein I’ve found don’t seem to come from someone who denies the existence of God. I think it is a construct when people say that some people claimed in public what they decried privately, and I certainly don’t think Einstein could be accused of that.

“God doesn’t play dice.”
“God may be subtle, but He isn’t plain mean.”
“Before God we are all equally wise – and equally foolish.”
“What really interests me is whether God had any choice in the creation of the world.”
“My religion consists of a humble admiration of the illimitable superior spirit who reveals himself in the slight details we are able to perceive With our frail and feeble minds. That deeply emotional conviction of the presence of a superior reasoning power, which is revealed in the incomprehensible Universe, forms my idea of God.”
— Quoted in the New York Times obituary April 19, 1955
“I want to know how God created this world. I am not interested in this or that phenomenon, in the spectrum of this or that element. I want to know his thoughts. The rest are details.”
(The Expanded Quotable Einstein, Princeton University Press, 2000 p.202)
“In the view of such harmony in the cosmos which I, with my limited human mind, am able to recognise, there are yet people who say there is no God. But what makes me really angry is that they quote me for support for such views.” (The Expanded Quotable Einstein, Princeton University Press, p. 214)

So he’s talking about a Being who may be subtle, isn’t mean, can judge if we are wise or foolish, and may or may not have had a choice in creating the world. That sounds like a sentinent being, not some manifestation of nature.

Einstein was a Jew, not a Christian. He apparently didn’t believe in the same attributes of said God as some others may express. He frequently made conflicting statements in his life, but Teller who was also a Jew, said that in their private conversations Einstein did acknowledge His existence. I believe an eye witness.

germanmannn's avatar

“God doesn’t play dice.” well it turns out he does ,

Rarebear's avatar

@eden2eve Sorry, I trust the writings of Einstein himself than the recollections of a 95 year old man.

“I received your letter of June 10th. I have never talked to a Jesuit priest in my life and I am astonished by the audacity to tell such lies about me. From the viewpoint of a Jesuit priest I am, of course, and have always been an atheist. ”

- Albert Einstein, letter to Guy H. Raner Jr, July 2, 1945, responding to a rumor that a Jesuit priest had caused Einstein to convert from atheism; quoted by Michael R. Gilmore in Skeptic, Vol. 5, No. 2

eden2eve's avatar


The quotes I posted were not from the recollections of a 94 year old man. The quote you posted could be construed in several ways.

Rarebear's avatar

@eden2eve Interesting. How else would you construe it? Seems pretty clear cut to me? And just because Einstein used the word “God”, doesn’t mean he was a believer. I say, “God damn it” on occasion. That doesn’t make me a theist.

mattbrowne's avatar

Einstein seems to have been a deist.

Rarebear's avatar

@mattbrowne Let’s say for the sake of argument that Einstein was a deist. So what? That doesn’t make the existence of God any more true, just like it doesn’t make the existence of Zeus or Thor any more true.

eden2eve's avatar

I think that the point of that discussion was that a man who was dedicated to Science, and a brilliant and respected one at that, could still see the rationale behind believing that an intelligent being was the Creator of the Universe. That the two schools of thought aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive.

Too often on this board I observe those who choose not to accept the possibility of an intelligent creation to be patronizing and insulting to those who do. Just as some “born again Christians” are smug and rude to those who don’t believe as they do. I think that in each case, the poster would be well served to be more respectful of the POV of others.

Rarebear's avatar

@eden2eve And those scientists will admit to you that their faith in a deity is just that—faith without any basis in science.

This thread is very long, and I’m not going to go through all the prior posts. I will restate my point of view for you, however: The existence or non-existence of God is an extremely important question, and not one to be taken lightly. If there is an all-powerful supernatural being (call it the God Hypothesis) that created everything, that would be an extremely important scientific discovery. I put the God Hypothesis in the same boat that I put any other non-verified scientific hypothesis. For example I’ve seen people write, “What caused the Big Bang? Could it have been a supernatural being (usually denoted as “God”?” Yes, that’s a perfectly valid hypothesis, and it needs to be studied like any other scientific hypothesis.

If the God Hypothesis is identified as a cause of the Big Bang (or as @realeyes would like you to believe DNA coding) then there should be solid peer-reviewed independently verified evidence to that effect.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar


Earlier I suggested that the question of What created the Universe could not be answered within the confines of pure hard materialism. Would you agree with that assessment?

Whether there be a God Hypo or a mindless uncaused first cause, to explore any further than our current understandings, mustn’t we consider the notion of immaterialism to move the discussion forward?

Rarebear's avatar

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies I’m not sure what you mean by “pure hard materialism”. Please define that.

mattbrowne's avatar

@Rarebear – Yes, I agree. Deism is not a science. It’s an act of faith. The existence of God is not a scientific question.

Rarebear's avatar

@mattbrowne We disagree on your second point. In my view the existence of God is a very important scientific question.

germanmannn's avatar

yes because that would mean their are other life forms out there,thats all “god” would be is a higher life form . yes ?

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

“Materialism is a radically empirical philosophy, akin to positivism, that is based in the conviction that all phenomena originate from a physical cause and can be understood and explained through natural science. According to materialism, matter is the total explanation for space, nature, man, society, history and every other aspect of existence. Materialism does not acknowledge any alleged phenomenon that cannot be perceived by the five senses such as the supernatural, God, etc.”
Dialectic Materialism

“Dialectical materialism is a strand of Marxist theorizing”

mattbrowne's avatar

@Rarebear – I think that wishful thinking, because by definition the realm of scientific method is limited.

Rarebear's avatar

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies I can’t speak to Marxism, as I’ve not read Marxist philosophy in many years. I think, though, that I reasonably clearly stated my point of view above.

@mattbrowne Then if you assert that the existence of a supreme being cannot be proven or disproven (an agnostic position), then I assert that that supreme being is completely irrelevent.

mattbrowne's avatar

@Rarebear – Irrelevant to you. I accept that. Relevant to me. I hope you accept that too.

Rarebear's avatar

@mattbrowne Let me try a different tack. Why is your personal God, which I assume (but I might be wrong) is somewhat akin to Yahweh so real to you? Why not Zeus, or Hermes, or Thor, or Set, or Anubis?

mattbrowne's avatar

@Rarebear – I don’t believe in a personal or tribal God.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

I don’t either Matt. But that’s a bit of a loaded statement. I don’t believe in a personal God any more than I believe in a personal planet. But that planet and God are there nonetheless. And it is very relevant to my personal existence. And my experiences with both of them are extremely personal to me and me alone.

I could share some of those experiences with you. But they are not for you. They are for me, personally.

Rarebear's avatar

“But that planet and God are there nonetheless. ”

I can jump up and down and feel the planet beneath my feet. A planet has a verifiable existence. A God does not. That’s the difference.

I acknowledge that both you and Matt have your own experiential (sp?) proof of a deity, and believe it or not (heh) I’m not trying to talk you out of it. What I’m trying to get (Matt espeically) to admit is that:
a) The belief is based upon faith
b) Faith pretty much by definition has no scientific basis
c) Experiential (sp?) evidence is worthless in a scientific context
d) Because it’s worthless it is not based upon reason.
e) If it’s not based upon reason it is by definition irrational.

So an irrational belief in God (or in a soul as in the other thread where we are debating this) I’m fine with, as long as the believer admits that it’s irrational.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Ah but there is the shining difference between us illustrated in your comments here and my comments experimenting with you on the other thread.

You say “belief is based upon faith”.

I say “faith is based upon belief”.

Now if what you say is true, then my belief in your further comments on the other thread were justified by faith. But you claim that faith is irrational, and therefor, I should not have any basis at all for believing that you would comment further.

But if what I say is true, then my faith in your further comments is justified by belief.

I prefer the latter, because just as faith is justified by belief, so too is belief justified by experience. And therefor, my underlying experience is the justification for my belief, and my faith. Experience is a valid tool in the scientific method.

Rarebear's avatar

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies Experience is a valid tool in the scientific method only if that experience is verifiable, reproducible, and measurable.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

I propose that Wave Genetics is beginning to do that.

It speaks to the notion of Phantom DNA, and how it is detectable even one month after the spectrometer was cleared by nitrogen.

“The spectrometer readings in 10 minutes after the removal of the cuvette with the DNA sample. After the cuvette part of the spectrometer was cleared by gaseous nitrogen, the spectrometer started giving the background readings, like in the Figure 1a. above, but within 5–8 minutes a “phantom” was registered again. This procedure was repeated many times, and each time a “DNA phantom” would return. Approximately in one month the “phantoms” gradually disappeared, or ceased to be registered, shifting beyond limits of sensitivity of the spectrometer.”

eden2eve's avatar

These arguments put me in mind of the basic argument in the TV series, “Lost, which recently aired it’s much-anticipated and much-discussed final episode. The series seemed to devolve around the differences between two basic belief systems, that of Science versus Faith.

We know which of the two took the laurels in this series, much to the distress of many of it’s followers, but in the real world, this will be an on going disagreement for as long as I can imagine. I can’t see an end to this until, either everyone ceases to exist, or everyone doesn’t.

It’s my opinion that the argument can never be won by either proponent, because they can not agree upon what constitutes “proof”.

It seems to me that most individuals can agree upon the value and importance of science in our progressive understanding of the workings of our Earth and it’s environs, but the disagreement seems to come when those who consider science to be akin to their “God” expect that the faith-based individuals among us should apply the same standards of proof to their arguments that are employed in science. And perhaps some of the faith-based individuals attempt to prove their arguments based upon concepts that their “opponents” consider to be lacking in scientific merit. Particularly when some use flame-baiting and patently absurd arguments to attempt to further their cause. It must be obvious to all concerned that the minute someone makes a rude or disparaging comment, the discussion flies out the window.

I have attempted to liken this to the discussions where racial, political or sexuality issues become heated. No individual nor group of individuals is comfortable when another individual or group is dismissive, patronizing or disrespectful to that group or a member of that group. Rightfully, every persuasion has a right to expect their culture or opinion to be respected and valued equally. This discussion is no different.

It would be very progressive if each “side” in these arguments would accept that “scientific method” is valuable, but that there are other equally valuable and important methodologies that some people employ in order to understand and determine their world view. This might allow both parties to respect the views and perspective of the other, and in so doing, there might be a time when respectful and mutually edifying exchanges might be employed between the two groups. Neither group needs to win! But perhaps we can all learn from one another if we can apply deference to, and be tolerant of, our differences.

Rarebear's avatar

@eden2eve Don’t get me wrong. I have the highest amount of respect for @RealEyesRealizeRealLies and @mattbrowne, and they know it. I’ve known them both for several years and we’ve had these discussions here and elsewhere. What you’re seeing is the tip of an iceberg of a very old debate between us. (Actually, @RealEyesRealizeRealLies has helped me a lot on a completely different subject, photography, and I just started @mattbrowne‘s book last night). If I didn’t respect them, I wouldn’t be debating them.

Now, to a key point in your post: “but that there are other equally valuable and important methodologies that some people employ in order to understand and determine their world view.” This is a typical postmodern point of view and it’s not true—and frankly dangerous. This is a typical argument used by proponents of homeopathy, accupuncture, chiropractic, etc.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

OK so when are you going to send those photos you promised? :)

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar


The flame baiting mostly fizzled out on this forum when the crowd moved over. At least that’s my perspective. I was one of the late comers, but when I joined, just over a year ago, there were all sorts of attacks from both sides. A lot of egotistical attitude has matured into reasonable discussion since then.

I have a few theories as to why, but none that deserve sharing in this context.

As far as the importance of the Scientific Method is concerned, well I liken that to a comparison between Classic Newtonian Physics and Quantum Physics, or Classic Evolution vs Neo Darwinism. The classics are still valuable, but they take a back seat to newer methodologies.

Cloud Computing is quite possibly having the same effect upon Classic Scientific approaches.

Welcome to the Age of the Petabyte. The End of Theory:
The Data Deluge Makes the Scientific Method Obsolete

I truly believe that humanity is beginning to learn how to image Absolute Truth, sans subjective interpretation. Truth doesn’t need humans as a mouth piece any longer. It’s beginning to speak for itself.

Rarebear's avatar

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies Crap! I forgot, sorry. I’ll do it. I just took a couple of more two nights ago.

mattbrowne's avatar

@Rarebear – Please show us your proof of the self-explanatory universe.

Rarebear's avatar

@mattbrowne I’m not sure what you’re talking about. Where did I say the universe can explain itself? The universe is not a living being that can talk.

mattbrowne's avatar

@Rarebear – Why is there a universe, and why does it have a mass greater than zero violating the first law of thermodynamics?

superjuicebox's avatar

I am agnostic, that means i believe in the fact that we don’t know what happens, but i am also partly gnostic meaning i’m a seeker of that knowledge. I don’t think any religion has it right, but i think they might have the right idea ? I think that at least our energy, or soul, gia, whatever you want to call it goes somewhere after we die. I mean, look at the law of conservation of energy. Don’t get me wrong but doesn’t that state that energy nor matter can be created nor destroyed ? Where does our energy go when we die ? Do we just get converted into lifeless matter ? Who knows ? My answer has more questions in it than the question itself ! Lol

sandalman's avatar

It’s like having one foot in binge-eating and another in calorie-watching. The question really is: which set of beliefs do you find easier to defend? Why? Direct your rationalism and skepticism inwards and let your mind do the sorting out. This might take a while, but sooner or later, you’ll gravitate towards one camp or the other.

submariner's avatar

OP: Here’s an essay you should read: “The Will to Believe”, written in 1895 by William James, an influential American philosopher and psychologist. He asks whether it is ever rational to take anything on faith and believe it without having clear proof that it is true. He concludes that it can be. You can find his essay here:

germanmannn's avatar

Angels are very tiny, and undetectable with any instrument we might devise. Space is filled with them. There’s a quantum sea of angels everywhere in the universe, in every nook and cranny. Why does a body fall? Simple. Angels pass it from one to another like a fireman’s bucket brigade. They do this in strict accordance to the “Angelic Operations Manual”, written by the hand of God, in which angelic procedures are carried out precisely so that everything that happens in the universe “goes by the book”. Therefore everything conforms to the equations found in physics books—equations that scientists imagined they discovered. Once in a while a directive comes down from on high that certain procedures are to be suspended or modified when a miracle is required, but mostly things run like clockwork.

Rarebear's avatar

@germanmannn Oh, do you mean neutrinos?

germanmannn's avatar

@Rarebear i didn’t know there was oldtrinos?

Carol's avatar

Oh, y’all do go on.

An aethiest by definition does not believe in god.
There are “hard” aethiests and “soft” aethiests (I really don’t think there’s a god…but..)

I have no idea what a mid-religionist is. You’re either a religious person or you ain’t. It’s been my experience that people who gravitate toward religion don’t necessarily care which religion it happens to be. Specific religions can be predicated on belief in god or not. For instance, the B’hai religion is founded on the belief that there is a god. No god, your out. One can consider ones self to be a Jew by culture or by birth but not believe in a god.

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