Pride and Prejudiss



When I was very young my parents attended a church where, during worship, women would praise dance with streamers in the back. I thought the women looked like princesses and I wanted to do it too. When asked my mom if I could, she said yes – but I needed to understand why I wanted to do it. Was it because I wanted to look pretty and have people like me? Or was it to worship God in selflessness and humility? She said if I wanted to do anything out of pride and selfishness, that I should not do it. After thinking about this, I chose not to dance.

Christians have a whole set of vocabulary and cultural ideas to deal with this idea of modesty, which is entirely foreign to a nonreligious mindset. An action is ‘good’ or ‘bad’ depending on whether the pleasure you get out of it…

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The divine watchmaker argument suggests that things which are the product of an intelligent designer’s design are immediately apparent to us by their complexity and intricacy. It was British religionist William Paley who perhaps most famously enunciated this contention when he wrote in his Natural Theology:
In crossing a heath, suppose I pitched my foot against a stone, and were asked how the stone came to be there; I might possibly answer, that, for anything I knew to the contrary, it had lain there forever: nor would it perhaps be very easy to show the absurdity of this answer. But suppose I had found a watch upon the ground, and it should be inquired how the watch happened to be in that place; I should hardly think of the answer I had before given, that for anything I knew, the watch might have always been there.


But this seems to suppose that the pocket watch itself sprung fully-formed from the mind of man, needing and having neither antecedent technology nor a chain of ancestry for the men who invented it (and observe that the pocket watch is the technology of choice for this illustration because, naturally, the evolution of the wristwatch was yet incipient). In Paley’s day, then, startling a conception as it may be, the pocket watch likely represented the very height of peacetime portable technological advancement — and, indeed, more modern variations of the argument have substituted things such as 747 airliners and cellular phones (both of which by no small coincidence necessarily have time-keeping devices built into them). And yet, the very first ‘pocket watch,’ assembled at some early point in the 1510s, was necessarily made from some simple parts which had been made for only passingly similar purpose, or even for some other purposes entirely, but which were loosely and handily adapted for use in making that first pocket watch. Nor would it be correct to assume that the very first attempt to make a pocket watch was a complete success; surely it may have worked well enough to draw a few oohs and aahs, but as surely it was a primitive thing when put next to its more advanced descendants.

In fact, the earliest handily portable timekeeping devices which might be called ‘pocket watches,’ born in the early Sixteenth Century, were relatively heavy brass boxes several inches across, with a single hand — an hour hand. Mechanisms able to accurately reflect smaller increments had not yet evolved. And even that hour hand didn’t rightly tell the hours, typically tending to be off by several of them per day. Metal grillwork, instead of glass, covered the face, and the whole thing was combined by tapered pins and wedges, as screws usable for this purpose had not yet evolved either. Though they needed twice-daily winding to be kept running at all, they were as a practical matter useless as timekeeping devices, impossibly inaccurate and inconsistent. Their use was strictly ornamental, as baubles for show.

But the passage of time and generations of watchmakers developing new innovations, incorporating some and discarding others as obsolete or unhelpful, brought about a gradual and continual advance. Smaller and smaller gears shrank the whole of the thing; more finely tuned springs improved accuracy until it became feasible to add another hand to count off minutes. Lighter and more durable materials were found or innovated, the grillwork was replaced with a glass face. Eventually — in the far future even from Paley’s perspective — inventions were added ranging from the second hand and a little window displaying the date, to the quartz crystal to keep time, to the watch battery and the digital display.

But were we to come upon even an Eighteenth Century pocket watch on the heath, though we might in an instant recognize it as the product of an intelligent craftsman’s hand, we would in the same instant be as well assured that the watch was not produced by a person who had himself never studied watchmaking or some analogous art, nor seen or interacted with a pocket watch. Nor would we credibly assume that the only possible explanation for the existence of the pocket watch on the heath was that it was plopped into existence from nothing by an all-powerful genie who happens, for the sake of arbitrariness, to impose punishment on all people who eat grapes and wine in the same meal, or who have sex with others of a disfavored tribe.

Nor would we be justified in imagining any capacities for the watchmaker other than that he was physically and mentally up to the task of making this one watch, and — possibly most intriguingly for this analogy — that he had been taught the particulars of how to make that watch by someone initially more learned on the subject than himself, though the advance of knowledge necessitates that with the passage of generations, some future craftsman would indeed exceed their teachers and improve the craft itself. And so, if a pocket watch implies a watchmaker, it at the same time implies a string of predecessors to the watchmaker, each of whom taught the next and likely improved on the craft itself.

Nor, again, does the finding of the watch demonstrate that the ability to manufacture pocket watches has existed with man, the designer, since time immemorial. Even the hundred most able and intelligent men amongst the Ancients of Greece or Rome or the Dynasties of China would have been unable to build such a device. To the contrary, man began with no way to estimate time but for the following of the sun and moon, first with eyes alone, then with sundials and other stationary devices which caught and distributed their shadows. Then came hourglasses, water clocks, and candle clocks (which measured time by the stable melting time of candles of certain lengths), and finally, only after metallurgy and the consequent discovery of the spring, the true clockwork-mechanism time-telling devices. And even these took countless models, countless small improvements, occasional combinations of innovations, to go from nothing to the modern clock over a few thousand years — an eyeblink in the vaster geological time scales over which the biological form of evolution occurs.

So, when someone proposes finding a pocketwatch on the heath and wonders how it got there, the accurate response is that it came from a long and unbroken line ancestors which sprang by unbidden coincidence from the elements, and evolved.

Word Of The Day: Pandeism



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also known as pan-Deism (from Ancient Greek: πάν pan “all” and Latin: deus meaning “God” in the sense of deism) – a term describing beliefs incorporating or mixing logically reconcilable elements of pantheism (that “God”, or its metaphysical equivalent, is identical to the universe) anddeism (that the creator-god who designed the universe no longer exists in a status where it can be reached, and can instead be confirmed only by reason). It is therefore most particularly the belief that the Creator of the universe actually became the universe, and so ceased to exist as a separate and conscious entity.

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Pandeism is a modern, indeed revolutionary, theological theory derived from logic and reason, reconciling elements of Pantheism and Deism. Pandeism may be tested by asking one simple question:

If you believe that it is possible that ours is a created Universe, then is the Creator in which you believe powerful enough to have set forth the Universe exactly as we experience it, in every particular while needing do nothing more than set forth the initial energy of this Universe and the governing dynamics which control the behavior of that energy?

Is it powerful enough to initiate a Universe where everything which we experience comes to pass — stars, planets, the origin of life, the rise of complex ecosystems, the rise of intelligent life, machinery, technology, and social institutions — by doing no more than causing the Creation?

Is it powerful enough to bring about our experience of our world without needing to interfere again, after the moment of Creation?

If the Creator in which you believe is not this powerful, then it is by definition inferior to one which is.

Now, you may claim that it has such power, but that you believe it has continued to intervene….

But if it was powerful enough to bring about our Universe in every particular without intervening… that would include bringing about the appearance of intervention where there is none.

And you may claim to believe your Creator has told you otherwise….

But if it was powerful enough to bring about our Universe in every particular…. that would include bringing about your belief that you have been told things — even when you have not.

And you may claim to believe your Creator would not mislead you….

But every faith has its own holy books and sacred traditions. And though these contradict and conflict with one another, most of their adherents share the conviction that theirs is the only truth, and that their Creator would not mislead them.

But if our Creator was powerful enough to bring about our Universe in every particular, without intervening in any way after the very moment of Creation…. that would include bringing about your belief, and everyone else’s competing belief that you would not be mislead.

But then, there is the Creator discerned by the theological theory of Pandeism….

The pandeistic Creator is not only powerful enough to bring about our Universe in every particular –including the existence of intelligent life and all of our beliefs and traditions–through nothing more than a singular transformative moment of Creation….

It is powerful enough to have actually done this!!

And this accounts for our Universe in every particular — including all beliefs to the contrary.

Naturally, you may yet deny that this theological model fully accounts for every aspect of our Universe….

You need only confess that your God lacks the power to set forth our Universe in such a manner.