Chris Masterjohn on Religion and Paleo

It's been nearly a month since I posted on Jimmy Moore's raising of the subject of potential conflicts between low-carb and paleo lifestyles and religion. I was surprised to see Chris Masterjohn take up a bit of his time to get involved in the comment thread.

At any rate, apparently the topic interests him enough that he penned a rather lengthy article on the subject: Can Christians Be Paleo? Christianity, Faith, Evidence, Dobzhansky, Evolution, and More. In that post he referenced my post, as well as one by frequent commenter here, Ned Kock: Atheism is a recent Neolithic invention: Ancestral humans were spiritual people.

It's Ned's post I wanted to principally address vis-a-vis Chris' post.

For the sake of simplicity, this post treats “atheism” as synonymous with “non-spiritualism”. Technically, one can be spiritual and not believe in any deity or supernatural being, although this is not very common. This post argues that atheism is a recent Neolithic invention; an invention that is poorly aligned with our Paleolithic ancestry.

Our Paleolithic ancestors were likely very spiritual people; at least those belonging to the Homo sapiens species. Earlier ancestors, such as the Australopithecines, may have lacked enough intelligence to be spiritual. Interestingly, often atheism is associated with high intelligence and a deep understanding of science. Many well-known, and brilliant, evolution researchers are atheists (e.g., Richard Dawkins).

I do have a beef with that position, so here's my comment on Chris' post, slightly edited.

Ned Kock's thesis -- that atheism is neolithic -- kinda takes liberty with what atheism means or at least should mean.

Atheism is merely the lack of belief in the supernatural, particularly as when expressed in terms of some supreme being. "Atheists" who go a step further to assert that "there is no God" are stepping out of line logically, asserting things that can't be tested.

On the other hand, the question is no more important than would be the wringing of hands over whether unicorns exist. Yes, asserting that they do not is stepping out of line in a scientific sense; but mainly, it's stepping out of line because until there is actually some testable evidence for unicorns put forth under the onus of proof principle, the entire thing is arbitrary.

The whole religion thing ought properly be rejected out-of-hand as quickly as one would similarly reject unicorns, Santas, Easter Bunnies and Tooth Fairies: on grounds of arbitrariness. It's that that makes it ridiculous; and that's the proper atheist position, in my view.

...And so, as a principle element of thought, reason, logic, rationality...atheism it is not neolithic but as paleo as you can get.

Throughout those millions of years, we evolved the capacity of complex conceptualization that has as its fundamental and essential characteristics: logic (non-contradictory identification), reason, rationality.

Making up arbitrary stuff out of whole cloth and thin air because we do not have the capacity or the knowledge, as of yet, to explain ultimate origins or to explain how the notion of an ultimate origin is bogus (I'll assume here some familiarization with the logical can of worms that the notion of "nothing exists" implies), is testament to our fallibility in emotion (fear, principally), authority seeking and a host of other things.

Put another way, it is a fundamental misuse of our minds which, so far as we know -- and have no good reason to doubt -- are merely evolved organs with the amazing capacity to integrate sensory data in order to perceive and then conceptualize reality into a logical hierarchy of conceptual tags we call words (and words are tools and we're tool makers first and foremost). The human mind is not a reality creating organ or device.

Religion merely represents another stepping out of line in order to attempt to create reality.

But I suppose it's baked into the cake. Complex conceptualization implies metaphor, simile, allegory, parable and so on.

Yes, it is a marvelous thing that we can learn great lessons and meanings in a social animal context from mere "made up stories." The vast and rich world of literature is testament to that and yes, in some respects, so too is the world of religious literature. It is a profoundly good thing that we can make up a story to teach valuable lessons in social cooperation and personal development.

...Which gets me back to my original point from my post that was linked here: literalism. In the simplest sense, what's really going on is that some literature (religious) is afforded special dispensation. And I suppose how that happens is an interesting study.

Further to all that I might say that what I think Ned is really meaning to get at is that, in the context of a complex, conceptualizing intelligence that can make up stories to teach valuable social lessons, it is perhaps materialism that is neolithic.

The question is, is materialism a good tool, since we're tool makers and this is merely another in a long list of them that will continue as we continue to evolve. I tend to think that it is, but within limits, by which I mean that we have no good grounds on which to think that we are merely organic machines executing a computer program and not beings possessing free will.

For myself, I have for many years described myself as a materialist that believes in free will. The question of free will is as unimportant to me as is the question of some ultimate origin or "why am I here" (for my own sake is my answer to that). There are two reasons I think that's not contradictory:

  1. Believing you have free will is tantamount to free will.
  2. There's no meaningful distinction between a computer program so complex as simulate free will such that its subjects believe they possess it and act on that basis, motivating reaction from other hosts and so on, down the line, and free will itself.

In summary I think that religion or spirituality, and atheism as I've expressed it here are all elements of our evolving brains. As we're understood more about the nature of things in and around us we have tended to become less mystical, more rational. That in itself is the real evolution.

What is neolithic is agriculture and the institutional bedfellows of church and state agriculture and its accumulation of wealth gave rise to. Church and state are merely two sides of the same neolithic con: perpetuate and manipulate convenient "truths" for mass consumption, such "truths" always having the same themes: fear and guilt.

Comments

  1. Church didn’t meet state until church got state believing and then giving them money and status.

    Although baptized a Roman Catholic (hey, I was three weeks old, it’s not like I got a lot of say in the matter) I am totally non-spiritual. What’s called “god/allah/jesus/buddha/cthulhu/flying spaghetti monster/whatever” is an invention of man to retain power, control and cash flow. My philosophy of life, such as it is, comes from E.B. White through the words of a talking spider–we’re born, we live a little while, we die. Sorry, I know we have the brains to think more but that’s what it boils down to. We are important to our loved ones but no one else.

  2. I’m not convinced that fear and guilt were necessarily associated with European neolithic cultures before the spread of Christianity. Were the Greeks and Romans driven by religious fear or guilt?

    The Romans, of course, were famously proud of being agrarians, even when they’d become decadent patricians, yet their morality doesn’t seem to have been driven by fear of Zeus’ wrath and certainly not by guilt. They were eventually converted to Christianity, and their empire declined and fell, perhaps just a coincidence.

    Homer’s heroes certainly make their ritual offerings to their petulant gods, for all the good it seems to do them, but their actions don’t seem to be driven by fear of retribution nor guilt.

    • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vestal_virgins#Punishments
      “Allowing the sacred fire of Vesta to die out, suggesting that the goddess had withdrawn her protection from the city, was a serious offense and was punishable by scourging.[15] The chastity of the Vestals was considered to have a direct bearing on the health of the Roman state. When they entered the collegium, they left behind the authority of their fathers and became daughters of the state. Any sexual relationship with a citizen was therefore considered to be incest and an act of treason.[16] The punishment for violating the oath of celibacy was to be buried alive in the Campus Sceleratus or “Evil Field” (an underground chamber near the Colline Gate) with a few days of food and water.”

      • Melissa,

        Congratulations, you seem to have mastered the skill of pasting Wikipedia text into a comment box. Next, you might want to consider learning the sublime skill of directly addressing someone’s arguments.

        The Vestal Virgins comprised a tiny select priestesshood in Rome. The strict adherance and enforcement of such is a matter of debate. Gore Vidal portrays them as temple whores, but what does he know, he probably never had access to Wikipedia.

        Regardless, I don’t see how this applies to the religious fear and guilt factor of Roman society as a whole. Roman soldiers could also suffer terrible punishment for disobeying orders. And they were much more numerous than vestal virgins.

        Are you just regurgitating some PC shit you learned in college about exploited women or do you have an actual point to make?

      • Futue te ipsum!

        I have no contact with PC bullshit. I’ve never taken a woman’s studies class in my life and am decidedly unfeminst. But I think it’s total bullshit that Roman religion had no guilt, punishment, or fear involved.

        In fact, it’s so stupid and can be so easily demolished by a simply Google or Google Scholar search

      • ahem, that I’m not going to bother slinging papers your pathetic way.

      • Ok, that was just a bombastic assumption on my part.

        I don’t have the impression that Roman or Greek religion was based on guilt. There were no Ten Commandments. The morality of the religion, such as it was, tended to be things like avoid hubris (like flying into the sun with wax wings). How important was religion to them? One of the reasons monotheism might have ultimately been a stronger meme was that it provided more structure (by telling people how to live their lives and using guilt as prod).

        Of course you could sling papers my way (as opposed to lengthily quoting wikipedia about vestal virgins) but it is so fucking stupid and obvious why bother?

      • Melissa,

        In regards to Sean’s criticism – I have developed a tool I call the “Esotery Transcriber” (patent pending) that can be used in a pinch by anyone who does not have the time, fortitude, or strength of character to develop the sublime skills of directly addressing someone’ argument over the inter-web. The “Esotery Transcriber” (patent pending) can absolutely address, in the most direct manner, any inter-web based argument no matter how tangentially recondite! I have plugged Sean’s latest response into my “Esotery Transcriber” (patent pending)…just wait one moment…calibrating…Aha! It recommends with 99.836% certainty that the most direct response to Sean’s argument is: “Now you’re just being a dick”.

        I hope that helps you with whatever PC-college-women-vomity-bullshit point you are trying to make. Your welcome.

      • Yeah, I was being kind of a dick. What’s wrong with just saying that outright?

        On the other hand quoting 50 lines of wikipedia on the vestal virgins to ‘prove’ that Romans religion was all about guilt is pretty idiotic.

    • Sean: I didn’t say religious fear or guilt. I said fear and guilt.

      While there are others manipulations, fear and guilt form the basis for how centralized control structures operate.

      “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.” HL Menken

      And of course you can substitute organized religion for practical politics.

      • Ok, I get you, Richard.

        Still, there are those who see HG spirituality as some idyllic utopia and all that after came as somehow contrived and against our nature. I’m skeptical of this imaginary dividing line, it strikes me as paleo-reenactment. Were the Homeric Greeks with all their pantheistic gods and myths any less ‘spiritual’ than the HG Celts or whoever they displaced? Were their religions even that different?

      • Come to think of it, the Homeric Greeks couldn’t really be said to have practiced organized religion. They arrive on the shores of Troy, make an altar and sacrifice some animals for luck. I don’t recall any priests or priestesses being involved. There is talk of making offerings in a temple, where I suppose formal religious figures were employed. Of course these guys were all warlord aristocracy so who knows how formal or structured was the typical peasant’s religion.

        Unfortunately, no blogs from that time have survived.

      • Homeric Greeks? By this you mean “Greeks from the time of Homer”? Or simply “Greeks written about by Homer”? Certainly you don’t consider Homer to be historically accurate in it’s entirety, it was written quite a bit of time after the actual events transpired. And you can’t use the Greeks in Homer’s epic to describe the Greeks in Homer’s time, because, as I said, it was composed well after the Trojan War. Furthermore, I find it hard to believe that “Homer’s Greeks” would have offered up sacrifices simply for “luck”, but I’d have to look at the original Greek (not a translation, as those tend to be oversimplified).
        By contrast, the characters in Virgil’s “Aeneid” seem to practice organized religion (takes place directly before/after the Trojan War). Whether that’s anachronistic or not, however, I can only speculate.

      • No Luditism here, Sean.

        It is curious however, that so far I seem to be able to get along fine with the paleos who seem to have an anti-technology bent.

      • Anti-technology bent? Is that a euphemism for paleo-reenactment?

        And when did I ever accuse you of being a Luddite?

      • You misunderstand, Sean.

        I was agreeing and reiterating in different terms.

        “Still, there are those who see HG spirituality as some idyllic utopia and all that after came as somehow contrived and against our nature. I’m skeptical of this imaginary dividing line, it strikes me as paleo-reenactment.”

      • Aha. Totally didn’t catch that.

  3. Richard,

    I like how you combine toolmaking and religion. Douglas Adams talks about this in a very nice way: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=msAF_MDYWNE

  4. Isn’t it just silly to say that X is a neolithic invention, therefore X is inferior to not-X??

    By Ned’s reasoning, you could say: ” is neolithic, therefore the paleolithic superstitions are superior.”

  5. I’m just angry at God for not making beer paleo.

  6. Excellent last line there, Richard. Spot on. I’m not religious at all, but I do like to listen to Christmas carols, decorate, and do all of the other Christmas-y things this time of year. It’s the tradition and connection to memories that prompt this behavior. That, I believe, is spiritualism. No religion involved for me.

    I love how people on Facebook berate others in their statuses for taking “Christ” out of Christmas and other such nonsense. Funny how they forget that Christmas, Easter, and many other major religious holidays of all faiths are based on the solstices and equinoxes of our lovely sun.

    • Me too, Laurie and the only reason I’m sitting at my computer now with family arriving is to put on some Xmas music streaming to the sterio.

      As I told someone in comments on another posts, all the symbols aren’t representative of some fantasy, but taken in themselves for what they are, in themselves.

  7. This claim that early humans were religious/spiritual is pure assumption. Take for example the Amazonian Piraha Tribe;

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BNajfMZGnuo

    Cheers,

    Sean.

    • But if you read Everett’s book you will find they do believe in spirits. But it’s not blind faith- they actually see things that Everett couldn’t see (or think they do). For example, one morning a group of them was making a big deal about something and pointing to a bank across the river. They said that the snake spirit was there and threatening them. Daniel couldn’t see anything.

      • I’m not sure what the “But” is for Melissa. That example exactly adds to my point, not detract from it. It is an example of a mistaken belief based on too little evidence and not spiritualism. If I believe I saw Bigfoot/Nessie/Ghost/spirit/unicorn/demon/spirit/elf etc that does not make me spirtual. How I interpret these sightings (ie what I bring to the evidence presented) dictates the level of spiritualism. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

      • You should read Everett’s book. It’s got more than that.

    • I lived with Ese’eja and Piro tribes in Peru. I have talked to various Paleontologist who have been in contact with various other Amazonian tribes and one major common denominator is that they all are VERY SPIRITUAL. To say that you believe in something by faith is not intellectual suicide and does not make you more advanced or evolved.

      I have never met a non-bitter and happy Atheist, never, Agnostics, yes. I would have to question the bitterness and anger behind any atheist who would use an expression such as “christshit”

      • “I have never met a non-bitter and happy Atheist, never, Agnostics, yes. I would have to question the bitterness and anger behind any atheist who would use an expression such as “christshit””

        LMAO.

        You’re projecting. Big time.

      • LMAO – well, I just wanted you to know I was still around! Have a great time with the family during the holidays!

      • I’ve never met a religious person that wasn’t deluded.

      • Jimbeaux,

        I hope that post was a joke…

        In case it wasn’t, it is amazing arrogant to A) make claims about other peoples metal states and B) assume that you met all examples of Athiests.

        It would be like me claiming “All religious people are motivated by fear” or “Only religious people are arrogant enough to expect an enternal life”.

        Ridiculas.

      • jimbeaux, I’m happy to assume the role of bitter, unhappy atheist at times. However, keep in mind that the bitterness and unhappiness (more correctly labeled “disdain”) are domain-specific political expressions with respect to the insidiousness of religion, and not a reflection of my own satisfaction with life. I’m also bitter and unhappy with respect to petroleum-based energy policy, CAFO farms, partisan propaganda politics, and wheat in soy sauce. It is a critical mistake to fail to delineate political sentiments from life and philosophy.

        I also reject the idea that detached or irreverent atheism is a somehow enlightened position (as Melissa seems to imply). To the contrary, I find this position acutely naive in a world in which Christian Zionism piggybacks on the holy real estate claims of Judaism which then collides with those of Islam. It is a simple fact that theocracy is alive and well, and that huge swaths of various populations yearn for an even more magic-based government (see ‘American Fascists, etc.’). I’d submit that Swedes (etc.) “just don’t care” because they don’t live in a country overrun by right-wing authoritarians in which only 16% of the population believes in evolution.

        But maybe that’s all just my “reactionary” inner-Jefferson, Madison, and Paine shining through.

      • Swedes have a growing problem…

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zZtc2ma2GEQ

      • Thanks Todd. Pat Condell fan, here, for quite a while.

        In that case, this speech that just came to me via email seems apropos.

        http://gatesofvienna.blogspot.com/2010/12/elisabeth-sabaditsch-wolffs-speech-in.html

      • The lights are going out in Europe. Freedom of speech is under threat. Apart from Elisabeth and Geert Wilders, there are so many being denied the right to voice their fears about islam.
        Who speaks for and defends the christians of Pakistan, Iraq and Egypt? The West is conspicuous in it’s silence.
        Here’s another article for you to take in. I know it’s probably easier to discuss the best ways of cooking flank steak, but the times they are a changing. Not for the better either. Wake up one and all, think of your grandchildren living under sharia law. It’s coming. Certainly in Europe.
        I don’t give a shit about other peoples’ delusions, just so long as they don’t affect me. It’s different though when it comes to islam. As an atheist, I’m dead meat down the line. Dhimmitude is already here in the UK.

        http://gatesofvienna.blogspot.com/2010/12/setting-up-of-tommy-robinson.html

        http://www.newenglishreview.org/custpage.cfm/frm/63122/sec_id/63122

      • I bet you have met many happy atheists, but they’ve never told you they are atheists because you never asked. When most people think of atheists they think of Dawkins and the other nutters who bandy the word atheist around like they are members of some enlightened religious sect.

        The term agnostic is a slippery one. Richard’s atheism as described in his post is held by many as an agnostic stance. But that just leads to all sorts of sophistry and circular arguments about ontology and metaphysics.

  8. I have to suspect that the reason you’ve never met a non-bitter, happy atheist is that the sort of atheists who talk much at all about their atheism tend to be pissed off about the indoctrination they received as kids — which really does mess you up for some time. It can be pretty traumatic when people first become atheists and their subconscious keeps telling them that they’re going to burn forever in hell, and it’s during this first period when people tend to be particularly vocal about their atheism.

    I work in the sciences, so naturally most of the people I interact with every day are atheist or agnostic. Plenty of them are contented and happy, as am I.

    Sampling bias likely accounts for much of the effect you’re describing, but you may be right that atheists may be less happy on average. While I certainly believe that belief in no deity until proven otherwise is the most epistemologically reasonable position, I can see how irrational certainty in the rightness of everything that happens and belief that a powerful being that loves and watches over you is with you at all times might contribute to happiness. Personally, I can’t believe something just because it would please me. I’m partial to this quote from Eugene Gendlin:
    What is true is already so.
    Owning up to it doesn’t make it worse.
    Not being open about it doesn’t make it go away.
    And because it’s true, it is what is there to be interacted with.
    Anything untrue isn’t there to be lived.
    People can stand what is true,
    for they are already enduring it.

  9. Hi Richard.

    That post actually makes several points, including some related to cave paintings and shamanism. I hoped that the post would serve as a basis for some lively debate. I guess this is happening, so I am happy to have contributed and continue contributing. But I wanted to take the opportunity and bring up a related issue.

    Like I’m sure happens with you, often when I am working on a post I am thinking about how I can help at least some people with it. There are too many people, particularly in this country, who are very religious. For better or worse, they are. It is just reality. Some of them are very good people who are sick, fat, and don’t know what to do to fix the problem.

    So, one issue that I think would be useful to address is this: What if one is deeply religious and wants to feel good about adopting a Paleo way of living?

    The other day I was talking with a friend about adopting a more evolutionarily sound diet, which I was pretty sure would help him. This is a very smart guy, very smart indeed; and he is deeply religious.

    He told me to basically back off, because he saw Darwin’s views as being atheistic. But in the same breath, he said that he saw a friend go Paleo and improve his health dramatically. So, in other words, he was saying “back off” but “not so much”.

    As we are increasingly finding out, among those who ditch the worst offenders among Neolithic foods, the ones whose health doesn’t improve dramatically seem to be a minority. We do see problems when people go to extremes; e.g., push the envelope and end up losing a lot of weight very fast. Otherwise we tend to see improvement.

    So I just told him that he should eat those foods that were not man-made, period. Forget about Darwin or evolution. And if it is man-made, consume the food that is closest to its natural state; e.g., butter, as opposed to an industrial see oil.

    He liked that, and is now quasi-Paleo. In his mind, not man-made = made by God. I believe he still eats grain products in moderation. As one could expect, his health has improved.

    I don’t think that trying to change his religious views would be helpful, and neither would be trying to frame the evolutionary argument in religious terms.

    The latter is very difficult. It is the type of thing that folks who do PhDs in theology try to do.

    • I think if someone has issues with the evolutionary rationale behind the diet, then it might be useful to frame it as a “hunter-gatherer” diet or a “pre-industrial” diet. I think evidence of the health of modern hunter-gatherers compared to those on SAD is one of the strongest “selling points” anyway.

  10. B. Dalton says:

    Atheists” who go a step further to assert that “there is no God” are stepping out of line logically, asserting things that can’t be tested.

    You’ve conceded the whole game to the religionists with this. This ultimately ends up as pure skepticism. Skepticism leaves open the door for theism. The god-concept is not a subject for the hard sciences to disprove. That is the hypothetico-deductive/Poperian method of Richard Dawkins and it is wrong. The god-concept is an epistemolgical issue and it can be *totally* invalidated epistemologically. We don’t need to test it in a laboratory; ie physics envy.

    There is no god because it is a metaphysical impossibility. The god-concept invalidates everything we know about human cognition. It is an exercise in context dropping and faulty definitions. It *is* arbitrary and thus possesses no epistemic status as it refers to nothing. It is thus entirely logical to say with total confidence that THERE IS NO GOD. The falisification standard you are using is flawed. It is part of the thorough false and epistemologically corrupt analytic/synthetic dichotomy – a true disaster in epistemology.

    I agree with most of the rest of what you say including the origin of the god-concept which probably is something close to what Julian Jaynes laid out in his ‘Bicameral Mind’ theory. But this insistence on falsification is wrong and dangerous. It is a TOTAL concession to the theists. Why give them such a victory?

  11. “You’ve conceded the whole game to the religionists with this.”

    C’mon. You’re taking me out of context to make a point. I continued, IMMEDIATELY after:

    “On the other hand, the question is no more important than would be the wringing of hands over whether unicorns exist. Yes, asserting that they do not is stepping out of line in a scientific sense; but mainly, it’s stepping out of line because until there is actually some testable evidence for unicorns put forth under the onus of proof principle, the entire thing is arbitrary.

    “The whole religion thing ought properly be rejected out-of-hand as quickly as one would similarly reject unicorns, Santas, Easter Bunnies and Tooth Fairies: on grounds of arbitrariness. It’s that that makes it ridiculous; and that’s the proper atheist position, in my view.”

    Now what does “On the other hand” mean to you? Perhaps I should have written “Conversely?”

    My point, simply stated, was to contrast the pure scientific method, a discipline with a purpose and _limited context_, with how thinking humans ought to conduct their quotidian affairs.

    “The god-concept is an epistemolgical issue and it can be *totally* invalidated epistemologically.”

    I tend to agree, but you haven’t taken any steps to show why and I’d welcome that you did (incidentally, I think I know where you’re coming from, but I don’t want to spill the beans).

    “There is no god because it is a metaphysical impossibility.”

    Less enthusiastic about that claim. Metaphysics is the given. Unfortunately, I don’t think we know enough about it to make a concrete assertion. I think we may know enough to say that it’s very highly unlikely. But given that metaphysics is the start point for our conceptual delving into constructing a hierarchy of conceptual knowledge, we can no more firmly assert that there can not possibly be any supreme beyond beyond that metaphysics than we can firmly assert that nothing caused the Big Bang, if it even happened.

    I maintain that “I’m pretty sure but don’t absolutely know…and anyway it doesn’t matter” is the most proper position epistemologically.

    That’s not wanton skepticism. It’s careful, precise thinking, making critical distinctions.

    Cool that you read Jaynes. Me too. For the rest: “The Origin of Consciousness in the Bi-Cameral Mind,” or, as I have said many times over the years: you have no idea how schizophrenia may have molded humanity.

    :)

    I am a Popper fan, BUT, only, only, in the context of the scientific discipline. The problem is not with Popper, but with how people have attempted to take him out of context.

  12. “In summary I think that religion or spirituality, and atheism as I’ve expressed it here are all elements of our evolving brains. As we’re understood more about the nature of things in and around us we have tended to become less mystical, more rational. That in itself is the real evolution.”

    This reminds me of a lecture I recently saw of Neil DeGrasse Tyson at the 2006 Beyond Belief Conference. It is about prominent scientists throughout the scientific revolution and their relationships between explaining the natural world and belief in God.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0vrpPPV_yPY

    The core of what I got out of his talk was that belief in God manifested when these scientists confronted things they couldn’t understand and reached the limits of their abilities to explain the natural world.

    But this doesn’t even begin to address the epistemological issues of of interpreting biblical scripture.

  13. D.M. Murdock, a.k.a., Acharya S, has written a number of books that completely debunk the current, and earlier, versions of the bible. She clearly shows that it is often identical to other, earlier mythological systems, and was often blatantly copied from them. Her research is massively through and impeccable.

    Among her works are: The Christ Conspiracy; Suns of God; Who Was Jesus?; Christ in Egypt; and The Gospel According to Acharya S.

    Barbara Walker is the author of Man Made God.

    Both of these authors demolish the usual “gospel”, and demonstrate that the bible was written several hundred years AFTER the alleged events took place and that, most, if not all of them, did NOT take place.

    I am sure that a lot of people have something they call “faith”; and that they have “faith” that the bible is the inspired “word of god”.

    I wonder if they have ever read the whole bible, and seen how often it contradicts itself; and if they have noticed how violent, vicious, and completely lacking in love and compassion the “god” of the bible is – you will burn in hell for eternity, if you do not believe in him. Your adult life on earth may last all of 50 or 60 years; and this “god” will “compassionately” burn you in hell FOREVER! Is that lopsided or what? But, “god’ is compassionate and loving! HAH!

    • LCforevah says:

      I just finished reading Man Made God, and it made me very angry. Having been raised RC, I thought I knew all the garbage that the RC church had done, but boy, was I wrong.

      One of the things that made my eyes roll back into my head was the concept of “holy lying”. One of the bishops of the early church made up much of what was presented to the ignorant believer peasants, and this dogma is still kept in the church!

      Whatever beliefs aside, the RCC is reprehensible for its actions.

      • I have no reason to make a wholesale defense of the Roman Catholic church, nor a wholesale defense of Augustine, and indeed I would never do either of those things, but this book looks like a pretty abominable piece of pseudo-scholarship. Apart from the impossible format of its references (as viewed on Google Books) with almost all secondary sources often listed by just the first name of the author, it appears that these “holy lying” quotes are taken so wholly out of context as to render the quoting, or rather misquoting, of them an act of lying:

        http://www.thedevineevidence.com/christian_quotes_saint_augustine.html

        Chris

      • Other books by the author include tarot card decks and “the craft of multicolor knitting.”

        Chris

      • Chris, you forgot to append, “not that there’s anything wrong with that.” :)

      • There’s NOTHING wrong with knitting. In fact my grandmother is a BIG FAN. And I love my grandmother to death. But I’d consider the Seinfeld episode you’re referring to a better source of historical knowledge than this book. I mean, not that there’s anything wrong with pretending to be a historian. ;-)

        Chris

      • At any rate, I recall watching some of Acharya S’s (D.M. Murdock) YouTube videos some time ago with some interest.

        http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=Acharya+S&aq=f

        But I never read any of her books. Today when these comments began popping up I took a look at the Amazon reviews.

        http://www.amazon.com/Acharya-S/e/B001UXZSBM/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1292894987&sr=8-1

        my sense is that she got pretty much hammered on her first book in ’99 with negative reviews from people who are non-blievers, into this sort of thing, but nonetheless unimpressed.

        What is fascinating is that in subsequent books she seems to do better and better in the review department, even with formerly negative reviewers acknowledging progress.

        Well, that’s usually good, in and of itself.

        For me, I’m simply not interested enough to take time. I don’t require continual affirmation that the fantasies people hold as dear are nonetheless fantasies, no matter their power to inspire.

      • Just to be abundantly clear, in case it seemed I was being sarcastic, I do think knitting is hella awesome. :)

        Chris

      • LCforevah says:

        She does quote Augustine at least once, but the bishop who does the holy lying isn’t he.

      • “Early Chrstian writers, like Eusebius (c. 263-339), liberally engaged in “holy lying” and many of his lies are still put forth as true (18). Even St. Augustine (City of God, 4.31) deemed it “expedient” to make people believe certain things that are false and to conceal other things that the ‘vulgar crowd’ should not know (19). Through the centuries, religious ‘fathers’ have deliberately forged, fabricated and dissembled the beliefs demanded of their ‘children,’ for, as St. Gregory Nazianzen (330-389/390) allegedly wrote to St. Jerome (c. 347-420), the people are childlike, and ‘the less they understand, the more they admire’ (20).”

        It seems to me that Augustine is one of her three examples of holy lying. While Eusebius is used for his historical writings, and while it is very unfortunate if in fact Eusebius believed in “holy lying” that Eusebius is one of the major historical sources at that time, I don’t think the Roman Catholic church would give much weight to him in terms of doctrine or ethics since he was an Arian. The source for the “alleged” quote from Gregory is a German philosopher writing in 1813, as cited in yet another source by someone named Harpur. The quote from Augustine is completely emasculated. After spending five minutes looking at this paragraph and its references, I wouldn’t even dream of putting this book on my to-read list.

        Chris

      • Of course you would NOT read the whole book, Chris; and I am sure you will not read any of Murdock’s books, either – your mind is clearly made-up and completely CLOSED (your comments here regularly show this).

        Using a site called “The Divine Evidence” to support your FAITH has little credibility – drinking your fellow christians bath water, and you all believe the bible is “divinely inspired”.

        How do you justify the ugly vicious violence of the “god” of the bible, Chris? Do you seriously BELIEVE that people who did not believe in your “god” for 40 to 60 years of their adult life will BURN in HELL FOREVER? What a vicious, hate-filled, EGOMANIAC the “god’ of the bible is. Good Lord!

        How do you justify the ugly vicious violence of the “god” of the bible, Chris? Do you seriously BELIEVE that people who did not believe in “god’ for 40 to 60 years of their adult life will BURN in HELL FOREVER? What kind of a vicious, hate-filled egomaniac is the “god’ of the bible?

      • Terrence,

        I think you are exaggerating what I said a little bit. First, the reason I would not read the book has nothing to do with my mind being closed. I will probably read “The God Delusion” when I have some time, because, while I disagree with Dawkins on some epistemological issues, I consider him a scholarly fellow. The reason I would not read this book is because what I read of it showed clear evidence that it is not a piece of scholarship. The references are not given in full, the quotes are misquoted, and sometimes distorted to their complete opposite meaning, and quotes are attributed to people from the fourth century based on “allegations” made in the nineteenth century rather than actual quotes from their extant works.

        I did not offer that site to support my or anyone else’s “faith.” I don’t think I even brought up the issue of faith. Rather, I Googled the quotes offered in the book, and this site contained fuller quotes that provided the context. Therefore, I posted the link becuase it contained the full quote and demonstrated why the context implied in the book was erroneous.

        You use an awful lot of capital letters to attribute views to me that I never expressed.

        Chris

      • Hitchens’ God is Not Great is far better than Dawkins’ in my view. Far more lettered in style.

      • Thanks Richard. I doubt I’ll get to either of them until I graduate next year (spring? summer?), but I’ll probably take a look at both.

        What do you think of Dawkins’ assertion that Karl Popper and Popperians are “truth-hecklers”?

        Chris

      • Could you PLEASE BOTHER to ANSWER my QUESTIONS, CHRIS?

        I will repeat them for you:

        How do you justify the ugly vicious violence of the “god” of the bible, Chris? Do you seriously BELIEVE that people who did not believe in “god’ for 40 to 60 years of their adult life will BURN in HELL FOREVER? What kind of a vicious, hate-filled egomaniac is the “god’ of the bible?

        If you, or any with an open mind, wants a different view of the bible, they should check out http://www.evilbible.com/.

        The site gives a large number of very damning examples of the sheer evil the bible contains, especially the vile creature referred ot as “god” (and other names.

      • Chris:

        If I understand you that Dawkins is criticizing Popper, which I’m only used to from Randian Objectivists, that would be news to me.

        Can you link me some context?

        Generally, I’m a Popper fan and while I admit readily that I’m certainly not a scholar in these matters, what does matter to me with Popper is that he set a scientific standard.

        Too often, I think, Popper is a tool that gets used out of context. The principle of falsifiability ought to be applied only to _scientific_ propositions in my view, and applied rigorously and in a “do it or we slit your throat and eat your liver” kind of ferocity.

        But humans do not, nor should they live their lives according to science, in general nor in the particular. Science merely informs us, and it does so marvelously if only we are patient.

        Humans have to live, day in and day out and it is foolhardy to think that we must wait on authorities to develop falsifiable hypotheses for us to live.

        The better way is we live, and we adjust as the truly valid science comes in. Popper contributes greatly to the _discipline_ of that process, but he ought not be used as a tool for general skeptics who would prefer everything remain unknown.

      • Hey Richard,

        Unfortunately I didn’t read it in an original source, but it a peer-reviewed paper:

        Stamos, D. Popper, Laws, and the Exclusion of Biology from Genuine Science. Acta Biotheoretica. 2007;55(4)357-75.

        ========
        http://www.springerlink.com/content/hv36717up42ww732/

        “Biology also, and arguably the same is the case in physics, clearly seems to have not only verifiable but verified theories, such as the basic theory of evolution itself, or, to use two examples provided by Dawkins (2003), that DNA is a double helix and that there were no human beings during the Jurassic. These are not ‘hypotheses awaiting falsification; not temporary approximations to an ever-elusive truth’ (p. 17), as he puts it. Instead, they began as theories but are today established truths. Indeed Dawkins, quite rightly it would seem, using the court case analogy for science, places Popper and Popperians among the rangs of what he calls ‘truth-hecklers’ (p. 16).”
        =========

        The citation is Dawkins R (2003) A devil’s chaplain: reflections on hope, lies, science, and love. Houghton Mifflin, New York.

        So I’m not sure the original context, although I think the analogy of science to a court room is deeply flawed for a variety of reasons.

        I agree with you 100% about scientific propositions versus criteria for acting and living. In fact I was planning on making that exact point a little more elaborately in my upcoming analysis of the IOM vitamin D report!

        Chris

      • Hi Terrence,

        I did respond to your question by writing, “You use an awful lot of capital letters to attribute views to me that I never expressed.” In other words, you ask me to justify views I never expressed, which in a court room would be called a “leading question” and be grounds for objection, and in ordinary parlance is called “not listening” or “poor conversational skills” or something like that.

        I would be happy, of course, to have a conversation with you about these matters, but it seems you do a great deal of textual “yelling” and hardly any listening or conversing, and I don’t find it a pleasant or efficient use of my time to subject myself to getting yelled at.

        The link is interesting, but it looks like it is mostly made of quotes from the Bible. I own several Bibles and have read the whole Bible, so I don’t think I’ll find the site very useful, but I do appreciate you providing the link.

        Chris

      • LCforevah – you may want to check out the web site http://www.evilbible.com/.

        However, you may want to take small bites – it may infuriate you.

        The site documents a large number of examples wherein it shows what a violent, hate filled EGOMANIAC the “god’ of the bible is. The “god” depicted in the bible is a REALLY, REALLY, REALLY VICIOUS MONSTER (just have to add a few UPPER CASES for Chris).

        You may also want to read some of D.M. Murdock’s (Acharya S). She documents a great deal of the blatant fantasy world the bible presents, and blatantly STEALS from other older sources.

        PS – you can safely ignore Chris Masterjohn’s comments about both Barbara Walker and Murdock – he clearly does not have even a rudimentary understanding of either author’s work. He actually takes REVIEWS, and NEGATIVE REVIEWS, as representative of the texts – he does NOT go to the SOURCE (that would take some TIME, EFFORT, and independent THOUGHT), he BLINDLY ACCEPTS THIRD PARTY HEARSAY! (Just added a few more UPPER CASES for Chris).

      • Hi Terrence,

        I’m curious why you think I utilized a review when I did not reference one, and when I quoted a full paragraph from the book and discussed the references therein. As I indicated in my previous post, I read the text of the book directly through Google books. Both the relevant paragraph and the associated references are available.

        The relevant paragraph can be found here, at the second indentation on the page:

        http://tinyurl.com/36ly54v

        The associated references can be found here:

        http://tinyurl.com/3xt3az8

        I put a lot of time and effort into most things I do, but if I can accomplish something more efficiently with a little help from the internet, I find it wise to do so.

        Chris

      • LCforevah says:

        Chris,

        I read Man Made God straight through without bothering to check the bibliography. I don’t much care really, at this point, for a straight-arrow, thoroughly researched tome regarding a “man-made god” since all gods are inventions of the human mind. I’m not sure that splitting hairs over Eusebius’ lies or those of Augustine or how they’re quoted serves much of a purpose. The fact remains that they lied, they thought they had the right to lie, and many of those lies are still being used today.

        As a woman and a recovering RC, I have no respect for a woman-hating, child-molesting institution. I just found Walker’s book interesting in yet again bringing more information to light regarding the RCC’s woman-hatred. Is that information as thoroughly researched as it could be? Perhaps not, and unfortunately it doesn’t really make any of the church’s misogyny any the less true.

        I am quite sure that you didn’t mean it this way, but when men try to imply that because the misogyny wasn’t quite well enough researched that somehow I need to give it pass.

        Not. Happening.

        LCForevah

      • LC, I appreciate your comments and I realize that this might be a minor point not worth debating for you, which is fine.

        I did not say anything about the topic of misogyny, and I don’t give any type of hatred a pass, including misogyny, and I don’t give the Roman Catholic Church or even Augustine a pass as I already stated.

        However, the topic of “holy lying” as treated in the book itself constitutes a lie or something very close to it. You say perhaps Augustine’s lying wasn’t well researched, but he nevertheless supported lying. No, that is not accurate. The author cites passages where Augustine concluded that lying was evil, but misquotes Augustine as to render him an advocate of lying. This is incredibly dishonest. Likewise, the “evidence” presented that Gregory Nazianzen supported lying to fool the childish masses based on an “alleged” quote from an allegation made 1400 years after Gregory lived does not in any way support the hypothesis that Gregory advocated lying.

        Within the references, I do not see any clear indication that Eusebius promoted lying either. Gibbon and some others accuse him of having lied, but there is no quote given to the effect that Eusebius himself admitted lying or advocated it. Perhaps Eusebius lied left and right. The RC church gives no endorsement to Eusebius, so it hardly reflects on that church.

        Like I said before, however, I would not give the RC church a ‘pass’ as there are a million and one legitimate criticisms that could be levied. I’m not sure this is one of them.

        Chris

      • LCforevah says:

        Chris

        If all you read was the part on “holy lying” then you would not know that the book makes a play on words in its title. Man Made God refers both to the fact that gods are human made and made by males for their own exploitative purposes. I assumed you knew that the essays collected in the book are primarily about religious misogyny.

        LCforevah

      • LCforevah,

        Thank you for pointing that out, although you only brought up the holy lying part in your initial comment, and it was the holy lying part that I was interested in and looked at, that’s why I only commented on that part. Nevertheless, it doesn’t give me much confidence in the content of the book as a whole, if the quality is similar.

        Chris

  14. I wonder if our minds are not somehow hardwired to believe or disbelieve. By definition, a belief is whatever a person accepts as true. To me, it makes little sense to commit to belief in an idea (explanation) for which little or no evidence exists.

    One consideration not yet discussed here is that there are two kinds of proof: legal and scientific.

    Legal proof can involve eyewitness testimony or expert (scientific) opinion. Scientific proof involves empirically derived evidence from observation or experiment.

    As an historical document the Bible is either a collection of fanciful stories, a mixture of fanciful stories and eye witness accounts, or a more or less accurate representation of the historic interactions of humans with Deity. In other words, it’s either a pack of lies or a legally valid argument for the existence of God.

    Forgive me, but comparing belief in Got to belief in Santa or the Easter Bunny is like comparing the eyewitness testimony of a PhD philosopher to that of a 4-year-old.

    Committing to belief in the evolutionary explanation for the origin of life make little sense because there is, as yet, no empirical evidence that time and chance can give rise to even the simplest of life forms.

    So where does that leave us? Hey, just believe what you want but don’t label me irrational if I choose eye witness testimony from the past over time and chance. And don’t automatically attribute to me an extreme viewpoint if I embrace the Biblical creation narrative in it’s most general sense – that is to say God, not chance, did it. Beyond that, nobody really knows what happened or how long it took.

    As for the Paleo position that milk and grains and potatoes are bad, consider the fact that some people have difficulty with red meat just as some have difficulty with dairy or wheat. Heck, consume raw dairy and sprout the wheat or use millet and barley instead of wheat. Figure out what’s appropriate for your metabolism and don’t worry about rules. Just don’t eat peanut butter sandwiches for lunch 5 or 6 times a week for forty years. The omega-6 content ruins your health after a while.

    As a child, I didn’t live under a guilt pile afraid God would damn me if I did wrong any more than I feared that my own father would beat my brains out if I disobeyed him. We kind of had a joke abut that. Dad would say, behave yourself or I’ll beat your brains out. As a 4-year old, with memory of occasional painful spankings with a belt, I thought that was pretty funny and would reply, “Daddy. Please don’t beat my brains out.”

    As for primitive religious belief, I suggest readers visit this web page: http://custance.org/old/evol/2ch1/2ch1.html

    @ Ned Kock, Loved the two Methuselah’s YouTube clips.

    @ Michael, While I enjoyed listening to Neil DeGrasse Tyson, he seemed to suggest that religious belief has inhibited scientific progress in the past and continues to do so. Therefore, it would better if all of the top scientists were atheists. Interesting hypothesis. I wonder if it’s true. Apparently, a lot of people in positions of authority believe that one can’t do science properly if one does not embrace evolution dogma.
    http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/expelled-no-intelligence-allowed/

    • Evolution dogma. Hilarious. Behold the Spectacle’s recuperative tendencies.

      This pap is typical of fingers clinging to the crumbling religious facade. It longingly asks us to bequeath equal standing to magic in relation to science. I vehemently reject the request, as should everyone with any inkling of scientific endeavor. Despite the propaganda, there is a mountain of empirical evidence supporting evolution, and a mountain of cultishly vapid social reinforcement supporting the theistic wish-thinking of its detractors. Whether this monotonous drone – of gasping hope to escape death and have meaning bestowed upon one’s existential void – is blatant intellectual dishonesty or latent cognitive dissonance is up for debate, but it certainly ignores the evidence (‘Why Evolution Is True‘).

      Evolution is a scientific fact. Deal with it.

      We are hardwired for error prone heuristics. We are hardwired for anthropomorphism. We are hardwired to rationalize and derive causation from correlation. We are hardwired for self-delusion in service of self-preservation. In other words, we’re hardwired to make approximate sense of our surroundings by any means necessary. Religion was the best method of approximation before science. Its influence lingers beyond the razor’s edge of understanding thanks to cultural transmission, but that horizon is pushed closer to obscurity every day.

      • Andrew,

        I believed in evolution and doubted faith from seventh grade (when I was given an assignment to do a report on Charles Darwin) until I got married 14 years later. Talk about cognitive dissonance! Mine was not at all latent. During that time I still attended church because Cristian values such as chastity before marriage, fidelity in marriage, and kindness toward all appealed to me, and still do.

        I am not ashamed to say that I have never, ever enjoyed worship services, except for the occasional well delivered sermon containing novel information. But hey. That’s just me. I realize that I’m surrounded by people who love attending worship services. And I don’t begrudge them that pleasure.

        But I am who I am. I’m as comfortable discussing (but not arguing) evolution with atheists as I am comfortable discussing theology with Christians. And actually, I disagree with both sets of dogma. On the Christian side are those who believe that one must hear the Gospel and receive Christ to escape Damnation. I just can’t square that doctrine with verses such as this:
        “For the Grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men…”
        “I see now that God is no respecter of persons but in every land, the one who fears (respectfully honors) God and does what is right is acceptable to him.”

        I imagine evangelical salvation dogma comes from verses such as this: “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ. But I say, surely they have never heard, have they? Indeed they have.” Then the writer cites this Old Testament verse: “The Heavens are telling of the glory of God; And the firmament is declaring the work of his hands. Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night reveals knowledge.” Which fits with this verse: “I will bless the Lord who has counseled me; indeed, my mind instructs me in the night.” Like, who knows where all our thoughts originate?

        What this boils down to is this. We acquire information through observation, experience, and speech (including the written word). It seems to me that if God indeed exists, information about Him can be acquired through observation (nature), revelation (scripture – eye witness accounts and visions), and inspiration (God speaks directly to the mind). I’ve never had a vision myself but that doesn’t lead me to conclude that others haven’t.

        Regarding your argument that a mountain of empirical evidence supports evolutionary dogma, I would point out that none of it is experimental. True, there’s dauermodifications (similar to epigenetics) from which we learn to appreciate the built in plasticity and adaptability of life forms in response to changing environmental conditions. And natural selection certainly operates in nature giving rise to varieties within a species. But that’s not evolution in the sense of the term.

        I’ve ordered a copy of Why Evolution is True. Thank you. I’ll read it. I suggest you read “Amazon.com: Evolution or Creation? (9780310229810): Arthur C. Custance.” Then get back to me on this.

      • “Regarding your argument that a mountain of empirical evidence supports evolutionary dogma, I would point out that none of it is experimental.”

        Since you intend to read Coyne’s book, I’m confident that you’ll see otherwise. I’m only leaving this comment so others reading the thread may discover that there is experimental empirical evidence to support evolution included in the “mountain” I haphazardly referenced… I would direct them to Coyne as well.

    • “no empirical evidence that time and chance can give rise to even the simplest of life forms.”

      Life’s Building Blocks Found on Surprising Meteorite:

    • I totally disagree with your basic premise David, but I did enjoy reading what you have to say. This is why I love Richard’s blog. For some reason it is quite conducive to a (more often than not) reasonably wide spectrum of well thought out opinions. I really hope Richard never gets tired of this or that it becomes so mainstream that it becomes swamped and vapid.

      • “I really hope Richard never gets tired of this or that it becomes so mainstream that it becomes swamped and vapid.”

        Well the reason for negative in the former is because of the latter.

        Nope, never happen. And with 100,000 visitors and 200,000 page views per month and counting, why should it? I’m far beyond the need of attracting traffic by dumbing down the message and style to appeal to least common denominators and wide markets.

        In fact, I think there’s likely room for hundreds of thousands more who have a sense of what I’m doing here and why…who grok the method to my madness.

        So, yea, thanks to many and all for great, intelligent, diverse commentary. At this point for many entries, the post itself is usually just the entree to what is the real meat of the thing in total.

    • In Chapter Six of The Blind Watchmaker (Origins and Miracles), Richard Dawkins convincingly explains the origin of life and dismantles the whole improbability of life arising by chance argument.

  15. Not sure what to tell you, Kevin. I suppose the essential point to take away is that we evolved brains that are good at perceiving and understanding reality. The complexity is such that we can make up reality — stories — and even learn lessons from various morals or social or cultural norms embedded within those stories.

    But they aren’t real in any literal sense. Out minds don’t create reality. Just because we can conceive of something doesn’t make it literally real. We need also to use our brains to make critical distinctions between the real and the imagined and unreal.

  16. Dave Fish says:

    Interesting debate but I don’t see how it really matters in the grand scheme of things. Unless you are a fundamentalist who believes that the earth is 5,000 years old and that evolution is a crock, believing, or disbelieving in God shouldn’t have any impact on what you eat or how you exercise which is the primary reason people become interested in the Paleo movement (looking to improve their health).

    I know some people go whole hog on the Paleolithic thing, but for me I just try to eat like our paleolithic ancestors and move (exercise) like them. I’m quite happy with my comfortable house, bed, car, electronics, etc. and have no desire to adopt my ancestors’ life style or belief systems.

    I gave up following Paleo and Primal Twitter feeds or reading forum postings because of the idiots who think you aren’t Paleo if you don’t eat with your hands or hunt and gather your own food.

    So whether our ancestors where spiritual people or not is interesting from an anthropological point of view, it doesn’t affect my decision on what or how to eat or how to exercise.

  17. “I gave up following Paleo and Primal Twitter feeds or reading forum postings because of the idiots who think you aren’t Paleo if you don’t eat with your hands or hunt and gather your own food.”

    Amen to that. I only follow those with a modern scientific view for the most part. You know, I like going barefoot because I tried it and found I like, at least in the spring & summer, and in the house. Yes, the idea is formed by the recognition that our feet evolved bare and are amazing if you reawaken them. But I do it because I actually like it.

    Same with eating with hands. When the dish calls for it, like sushi or a plate of thinly sliced roast beef, sure. But other plates are bowls are simply best with the tools we have developed: forks, knives, spoons.

    • Richard,

      Years ago I took my hiking boots off and hiked about three miles barefoot in Glacier Park. Felt good.

      People think I’m crazy because I hike and garden and do carpentry with minimal foot protection. My favorite warm weather footwear is moccasin slippers I buy at a Pay Less shoe store. Actually, they keep my feet much cleaner than tennis shoes.

      “no empirical evidence that time and chance can give rise to even the simplest of life forms.”

      Life’s Building Blocks Found on Surprising Meteorite: “Scientists have discovered amino acids, the building blocks of life in a meteorite where none were expected. The finding adds evidence to the idea that some of life’s key ingredients could have formed in space, and then been delivered to Earth long ago by meteorite impacts.”

      I guess I should have said that there is no experimental evidence demonstrating that “life’s key ingredients” somehow got organized into a life form by time and chance. There’s a big gap between randomly formed amino acids and the simplest life form. It takes a correspondingly large leap of faith to assert with a sense of certainty that spontaneous generation of life took place. It could have happened but doesn’t seem likely. And, it’s never been duplicated through intelligent human design.

      In the Biblical sense, the Greek word translated into faith (PISTIS) means “firm persuasion, a conviction based upon hearing.” This stands in contrast to “an opinion held in good faith without necessary reference to its proof.” Since there is no actual (experimental) scientific proof for the evolutionary hypothesis (it’s all based on speculation about the mountain of empirical evidence), to me it looks like the evolution narrative is just an opinion made up out of thin air. I like my beliefs to be based on something more substantial. Eyewitness testimony appeals to me more than speculation.

      Regarding faith and food intake, I’d say any source of nutrition is acceptable so long as it furnishes nutrients in a configuration that one’s peculiar metabolism can utilize to best advantage. For some, raw dairy fills the bill. Others need to avoid it. My brother-in-law does not tolerate red meat. My sister (his wife) needs red meat.

      • “I guess I should have said that there is no experimental evidence demonstrating that “life’s key ingredients” somehow got organized into a life form by time and chance. There’s a big gap between randomly formed amino acids and the simplest life form. It takes a correspondingly large leap of faith to assert with a sense of certainty that spontaneous generation of life took place. It could have happened but doesn’t seem likely. And, it’s never been duplicated through intelligent human design.”

        What’s the alternative, that some being with sooper powerz created life?

        And who created him, and so on, ad infinitum.

        This line of though always amuses me, as though the religious aren’t subject to the same problem of “first origins” that the non-religious are.

        And if the answer to that, as it often is is that “god always existed,” it is no different than assuming that life always existed in the universe, constantly evolving, banging, crunching, steady state, galaxies and solar systems coming into existence and succumbing to entropy many billions of years later.

        “In the Biblical sense, the Greek word translated into faith (PISTIS) means “firm persuasion, a conviction based upon hearing.” This stands in contrast to “an opinion held in good faith without necessary reference to its proof.””

        Fine, then tell me which word you would use to describe belief in absence of evidence or in contradiction to evidence and we’ll use that instead.

        “Since there is no actual (experimental) scientific proof for the evolutionary hypothesis (it’s all based on speculation about the mountain of empirical evidence), to me it looks like the evolution narrative is just an opinion made up out of thin air. I like my beliefs to be based on something more substantial. Eyewitness testimony appeals to me more than speculation.”

        Please. This is just a wanton display of ignorance I’m sorry to say.

        I don’t know how much actual, formal experience you’re had with religion, but I can say, at least, I’ve been firmly on both sides. I was raised in religion, attended divinity school after graduating from a Christian HS. Thank God I went to divinity school. I may never have actually seen the total absurdity of the whole con had I not.

      • I haven’t been to divinity school but there was a period in my life when I immersed myself in theological and scientific literature in conjunction with Bible reading to resolve certain issues such as the age of the Earth, free will and God’s sovereignty, and whether there is a valid argument for the evolution belief system. Wanton display of ignorance?Really now! Every book I’ve read favoring the evolution view contains several features that I came to recognize as characteristics of a weak argument; excessive repetition, excessive use of superlative, appeal to consensus of opinion or scientific authority, logical fallacies such as the idea that holding a religious belief bars one from thinking scientifically or rationally. Note that I ordered a copy of “Why Evolution is True.” Let me read that and get back to you with an evaluation. Meanwhile, why don’t you read a little Arthur Custance. He’s my favorite commentator on matters of science and faith.

      • “Meanwhile, why don’t you read a little Arthur Custance. He’s my favorite commentator on matters of science and faith.”

        I doubt I could gain anything by that, David. Some years back at the urging of a friend I read some of Ken Wilbur’s stuff along the lines of a reconciliation of faith and science. Since it come from an Eastern, contemplative perspective which is not altogether literal interpretation vs a more literal Western perspective I figured I might be able to figure out what all this need for reconciliation was about.

        Alas, there was no essential difference. There simply is no reconciliation and from my perspective these are all simply pleas that the scientists stop making the religionists look so bad, forcing them to constantly hedge their bets and contradict what they’ve been saying for hundreds of years or millennia.

        Even the catholic church accepts evolution and there was a time that even believing in it and expressing that belief would get you tortured until you recant, then killed to purge your soul.

        I simply find almost no value in religion. Anything you can demonstrate of value, I can show how the same values can be taught just as well or better from a secular position.

      • “I simply find almost no value in religion. Anything you can demonstrate of value, I can show how the same values can be taught just as well or better from a secular position.”

        Noted. As Abraham Kuyper observed: in view of man’s Total Depravity, “the world goes better than expected,” and in view of the fact of its redemption, “the Church goes worse than expected.”

      • I’ll take it, David.

      • Ken Wilbur? Unitarianism?

        Sounds like most of the non-mainline Christianity stuff you’ve been exposed to is wishy washy.

        Have you read any Eastern stuff not contaminated by hippies?

      • God help the miserable soul who believes in the total depravity of man.

        Chris

      • “Sounds like most of the non-mainline Christianity stuff you’ve been exposed to is wishy washy.”

        By fundamentalist standards, everything that’s not fundamentalist and certain is wishy washy.

        “Have you read any Eastern stuff not contaminated by hippies?”

        You tell me.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yasuhiko_Kimura

    • Dave Fish says:

      I also like going barefoot when I can, though in Colorado in the winter it isn’t so much fun outdoors. I’ve also given up shampoo, primarily based on reading your post on that topic, and like you have seen great results. As long as Paleo doesn’t become dogma (something I know you’ve “preached” against) and people aren’t belittled for picking and choosing the things that work for best for them, the movement will have my backing.

  18. Hey Richard,

    You make lots of good points. Living one’s life out of guilt and fear is a miserable and crippling existence.

    If you haven’t already read it, you might like (love?) Leonard Richards’ book on Shays Rebellion:

    http://www.amazon.com/Shayss-Rebellion-American-Revolutions-Battle/dp/0812236696#reader_0812236696

    He overturns the traditional story and shows how the state of MA turned it into a fictitious propaganda campaign to convince the founding fathers that the rebels would abolish private property unless there was a strong central gov’t. In fact many of the rebels were rich, including Emily Dickinson’s whole family, and they were never arguing for debt reform. They were for decentralization of power.

    Chris

  19. You ever hear girls say that, “I’m not religious, but I’m spiritual”? I like to reply with “I’m not honest, but you’re interesting!” – Daniel Tosh (Comedian)

    I find it strange to make a distinction between spirituality and religiosity. In our modern context, spirituality is too often just code for “dualism” (hence the “spirit” bit at the front). In practical application, dualism and [modern] religion are synonyms. I think a lot of people simply mean “awareness” when they talk about spirituality. And… that’s something very different from spirituality.

  20. Sometimes I think going paleo has made me more spiritual, but when I reflect, it has really just been a loss of faith in science, or the awareness that Andrew talks about.

    It’s a good feeling, with much less anxiety that I have to choose a side. Nobody has to prove anything to me, because I don’t believe in proofs anymore.

  21. As I said on Chris’ blog, what’s the point of using the bible as a dietary guide when it’s thousands of years out of date? Everything to do with food has changed.

  22. KettlebellWitch says:

    And then there’s us Pagans! Definitely Paleo. Been around for millenniums… before Chirst and Moses.

    • Whenever the subject of religion comes up I just explain that I worship Thor, God of Thunder

      /Thor has no interest in what we eat or do not eat

  23. This is an interesting topic to me, as I am a fundamentalist Christian. I was previously a liberal feminist, but I got over that. I do believe that the Bible is true, and I believe that evolution is false.

    That having been said, I believe that a meat based diet IS Biblical. I have found that most grain based diets are rooted in some sort of Eastern religious thought, so I don’t understand why, with all the evidence against it, people still keep clinging to grain.

    If you think about it, religion is highly involved in the push for a grain based diet. Those folks want you eating grain so you don’t eat their great grandparents via a cow.

    But meat is featured prominently in the Bible as the favored food.

    And it strikes me that rather than eating a paleo diet, of “primitive man,” it seems more to me to be a shepherds diet that your’re promoting. Lot’s of meat always at hand, for example.

    I am not trying to be critical or looking for a fight, but it seems as if an evolutionary eating pattern was truly only hunting & gathering, the human race never would have made it this far.

    I mean, we’d all end up like Chris McCandless trying to survive in some kind of imaginary evolutionary feeding pattern, no? Dead on Bus 142 before there ever was such a thing.

    Anyway, Richard, your blog is interesting. I love looking at your meat/food pics and reading your recipes.

    Merry Christmas to all!

  24. The opposite of the religious fanatic is not the fanatical atheist but the gentle cynic who cares not whether there is a god or not.
    Eric Hoffer

    - Josh