Night Owl Mk. II

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Boldfaced statements are parts of the original essay (or a subsequent reply) to which the respondent has directed his comments.

Italicized/emphasized comments
prefaced by (R) are those of the respondent and are presented unedited.

My replies appear under the respondent's comments in blue text and are prefaced by my initials (MB).

(R) I feel the need to refute your comment early in your essay that

No disconnected societies have evolved beliefs in the same Gods with the same stories surrounding them.

(R) i have read your replies and you seem very well educated on the subject but here you are flat out wrong. I am not sure of the exact numbers but over 100 religions encompassing the globe have a flood story, many very similar to the story of Noah's Ark. These religions developed independently of one another.
(MB) First, these various flood tales don't always involve any Gods. Second, the ones which have similar elements are always derivative from versions first told by earlier neighboring tribes. The changes normally involve interjecting local heroes or deities into the story to make it focus upon the new group. The Biblical tale of Noah's Ark, for example, is drawn from the Sumerian epic of Gilgamesh.
The main point of the quoted comment was to state that *disconnected* societies have never evolved beliefs in the same Gods and used the same stories to describe them. If this had ever happened, it would be a mark in favor of the validity of the stories (if not the Gods). However, since such stories and Gods are never reconcilable, it is reasonable to assume that they were all inventions of the particular group(s) that maintained them.

(R) This also supports a scientific belief in an ice age.
(MB) The major problems with equating ice ages with Flood stories are in the speed and dynamics of events that each can cause. Glaciers advance and retreat very slowly while floods ravage the land very quickly. The evidence left behind by each is easily identifiable and unmistakeable to geologists.

(R) And the flood story is not the only example, mind you. Why is it that some people strive so hard to drive a wedge between religion and science?
(MB) The two use diametrically-opposed methods to approach and describe the universe. Science approaches the issue through the use of facts, observation, experiment and reason. Religion approaches it with more concern for what sounds good and is easier to understand without regard for any evidence.

(R) I believe that the two work hand in hand and that one is the other. Or perhaps a better way to say it is that one attempts to explain the other.
(MB) Religion and science are two different disciplines. That doesn't mean that they can't coexist, but they are better off when they don't try to encroach on the other's turf.

(R) I guess I don't really understand why people try to reason their way through such a profound subject.
(MB) If you are seeking to describe the reality of the universe, the only reasonable way to do it is by using methods which are grounded in that same reality. That is what science is all about. Religion is more about a code of beliefs and behaviors for its adherents.

(R) I strongly feel that there is only so much you can grasp with reason before you come to a stopping point, and the rest is left to actual experience. This relates to everything in life: if someone explains something to you as vividly as they possible can, there is only so much you may understand without actually experiencing it.
(MB) That depends upon what you are attempting to experience. The facts of the universe can easily be grasped by the scientific method alone. Anything that is more of an emotional appeal gets away from science.
You do make a good point, however. Somebody can accurately explain to me in every detail everything about, for example, the Great Wall of China. But I can never experience the true wonder of it without actually seeing it in person. The emotional experience can never be grasped by any amount of facts, but no level of emotional experience can change the facts about the Great Wall itself. This is what many religious devotees fail to understand. No matter how deeply they may believe, the universe remains the same.

(R) Have you ever tried drugs? Have you ever had someone try to explain the effects to you? You just don't get it until you've experienced it yourself. And even then, the effect is individual and never will human words be able to adequately describe a personal experience.
(MB) True. However, the physical causes of "getting high" and their effects on the brain can be accurately described. So, we can know what's happening without being able to completely or accurately understand an individual experience. It's just another manifestation of the "facts vs. emotions" issue.

(R) I also feel that you are looking at scientific evidence from a very one-sided view, although you say you are unbiased?
(MB) How is that? I line up all the facts that can contribute to understanding the reality of a given thing, strip out any emotional diversions and presuppositions that can not contribute, and use proper methods of analysis to reach conclusions. Then, I accept the conclusions even if they might not be what I might like them to be. Is there a better way?

(R) My view is that the more we learn about our world the more proof there is that there is something higher than what we know, something immeasurable, uncontainable, just something else.
(MB) Kind of like the old adage, "The more we learn, the less we know", eh? This is more a question of perspective than anything else. Until we built telescopes, we had no idea of how many strange and wonderful things were a part of our universe. As we examine it further, the more things we uncover. Our knowledge continues to increase rapidly -- including the knowledge that we have so much more yet to learn. This keeps science exciting. Even with all we've learned, we know of nothing for which there isn't an explanation that is grounded in the fundamental physical laws that govern everything we've yet examined. The more we learn, the less need there is for appealing to the supernatural or other arcana to explain things.

(R) And many of the things presented in the Bible and other religious canons correspond to scientific findings.
(MB) Many things in the Bible have had believers bend over backwards trying to reconcile them with what we know from science. Unfortunately for them, their efforts have always been abject failures. The best (or worst, depending on your point of view) examples of such failures are the attempts to show that the story of Noah's Ark describes something that really happened in accurate detail.

(R) I do believe that the coded messages in Genesis is a bunch of crap, but that is the fault of an overzealous human attempting to convince people of something that they have to convince themselves of.
(MB) So are almost all similar attempts to turn Biblical stories into scientific fact. Why can't they just be accepted as the myths and legends of the people who wrote them? Then, they become valuable as insights into their culture and history without dragging along all sorts of useless baggage.

(R) Do you realize that not all christians believe that there were really only seven days of creation and adam and eve fostered all people?
(MB) Of course. In fact, it would be extremely difficult to find any Biblical story or detail that all Christians would agree upon.

(R) Do you realize that a day to a supreme being may be incomprehensible to us?
(MB) Of course. However, "day" is a word that has a specific meaning to inhabitants of this planet and that meaning wouldn't change no matter what sort of supernatural entity might be lurking around.
One does wonder, however, why any omnipotent being would require six days (however long a "day" might be) to create the universe. Couldn't he just bring the whole thing into existence in a second with one wave of his hand? Furthermore, why would any such all-powerful being need to rest after finishing his work?

(R) Are you aware that the Bible may not just be a word for word literal work, but may be full of analogies and figurative language, just like any other book ever produced?
(MB) Of course. In fact, that's my exact opinion of it. Refutations of the literal interpretation of the Bible are only necessary because of those who try to posit such interpretations and use them as support for their views.

(R) I just don't understand why people try so hard to refute religion.
(MB) Primarily because of the actions of the believers. If they had not attempted to foist their beliefs off on others and persecute those who don't share their beliefs, it's doubtful that there would be many issues of any consequence to dispute. One can't go around proclaiming "I'm right" without inviting debate on the subject.

(R) Like anything else, yes it has been harmful, but that is because of humans, not religions.
(MB) Since religion was invented by humans, it is reflective of human actions. When questionable actions are undertaken in the name of religion, it is reasonable to subject that religion and its beliefs to scrutiny.

(R) Religion can bring meaning and hope to an otherwise meaningless, hopeless life, so why must you try to scientifically disprove it?
(MB) Why would you consider life to be meaningless and hopeless without the imposition of religion?

(R) It may never be disproven or proven so why does everyone have to get so hung up on it?
(MB) Again, it's because of the demands and actions of the believers. We are all entitled to our opinions. We also all have the right to reject the opinions of others. Opinions become valid only through the amount of evidence which supports them and not by how loudly one expresses them or by the seriousness of any threats leveled against those who reject them.

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