Guest Post: Don Page on God and Cosmology

Don Page is one of the world’s leading experts on theoretical gravitational physics and cosmology, as well as a previous guest-blogger around these parts. (There are more world experts in theoretical physics than there are people who have guest-blogged for me, so the latter category is arguably a greater honor.) He is also, somewhat unusually among cosmologists, an Evangelical Christian, and interested in the relationship between cosmology and religious belief.

Longtime readers may have noticed that I’m not very religious myself. But I’m always willing to engage with people with whom I disagree, if the conversation is substantive and proceeds in good faith. I may disagree with Don, but I’m always interested in what he has to say.

Recently Don watched the debate I had with William Lane Craig on “God and Cosmology.” I think these remarks from a devoted Christian who understands the cosmology very well will be of interest to people on either side of the debate.


Open letter to Sean Carroll and William Lane Craig:

I just ran across your debate at the 2014 Greer-Heard Forum, and greatly enjoyed listening to it. Since my own views are often a combination of one or the others of yours (though they also often differ from both of yours), I thought I would give some comments.

I tend to be skeptical of philosophical arguments for the existence of God, since I do not believe there are any that start with assumptions universally accepted. My own attempt at what I call the Optimal Argument for God (one, two, three, four), certainly makes assumptions that only a small fraction of people, and perhaps even only a small fraction of theists, believe in, such as my assumption that the world is the best possible. You know that well, Sean, from my provocative seminar at Caltech in November on “Cosmological Ontology and Epistemology” that included this argument at the end.

I mainly think philosophical arguments might be useful for motivating someone to think about theism in a new way and perhaps raise the prior probability someone might assign to theism. I do think that if one assigns theism not too low a prior probability, the historical evidence for the life, teachings, death, and resurrection of Jesus can lead to a posterior probability for theism (and for Jesus being the Son of God) being quite high. But if one thinks a priori that theism is extremely improbable, then the historical evidence for the Resurrection would be discounted and not lead to a high posterior probability for theism.

I tend to favor a Bayesian approach in which one assigns prior probabilities based on simplicity and then weights these by the likelihoods (the probabilities that different theories assign to our observations) to get, when the product is normalized by dividing by the sum of the products for all theories, the posterior probabilities for the theories. Of course, this is an idealized approach, since we don’t yet have _any_ plausible complete theory for the universe to calculate the conditional probability, given the theory, of any realistic observation.

For me, when I consider evidence from cosmology and physics, I find it remarkable that it seems consistent with all we know that the ultimate theory might be extremely simple and yet lead to sentient experiences such as ours. A Bayesian analysis with Occam’s razor to assign simpler theories higher prior probabilities would favor simpler theories, but the observations we do make preclude the simplest possible theories (such as the theory that nothing concrete exists, or the theory that all logically possible sentient experiences occur with equal probability, which would presumably make ours have zero probability in this theory if there are indeed an infinite number of logically possible sentient experiences). So it seems mysterious why the best theory of the universe (which we don’t have yet) may be extremely simple but yet not maximally simple. I don’t see that naturalism would explain this, though it could well accept it as a brute fact.

One might think that adding the hypothesis that the world (all that exists) includes God would make the theory for the entire world more complex, but it is not obvious that is the case, since it might be that God is even simpler than the universe, so that one would get a simpler explanation starting with God than starting with just the universe. But I agree with your point, Sean, that theism is not very well defined, since for a complete theory of a world that includes God, one would need to specify the nature of God.

For example, I have postulated that God loves mathematical elegance, as well as loving to create sentient beings, so something like this might explain both why the laws of physics, and the quantum state of the universe, and the rules for getting from those to the probabilities of observations, seem much simpler than they might have been, and why there are sentient experiences with a rather high degree of order. However, I admit there is a lot of logically possible variation on what God’s nature could be, so that it seems to me that at least we humans have to take that nature as a brute fact, analogous to the way naturalists would have to take the laws of physics and other aspects of the natural universe as brute facts. I don’t think either theism or naturalism solves this problem, so it seems to me rather a matter of faith which makes more progress toward solving it. That is, theism per se cannot deduce from purely a priori reasoning the full nature of God (e.g., when would He prefer to maintain elegant laws of physics, and when would He prefer to cure someone from cancer in a truly miraculous way that changes the laws of physics), and naturalism per se cannot deduce from purely a priori reasoning the full nature of the universe (e.g., what are the dynamical laws of physics, what are the boundary conditions, what are the rules for getting probabilities, etc.).

In view of these beliefs of mine, I am not convinced that most philosophical arguments for the existence of God are very persuasive. In particular, I am highly skeptical of the Kalam Cosmological Argument, which I shall quote here from one of your slides, Bill:

  1. If the universe began to exist, then there is a transcendent cause
    which brought the universe into existence.
  2. The universe began to exist.
  3. Therefore, there is a transcendent cause which brought the
    universe into existence.

I do not believe that the first premise is metaphysically necessary, and I am also not at all sure that our universe had a beginning. (I do believe that the first premise is true in the actual world, since I do believe that God exists as a transcendent cause which brought the universe into existence, but I do not see that this premise is true in all logically possible worlds.)

I agree with you, Sean, that we learn our ideas of causation from the lawfulness of nature and from the directionality of the second law of thermodynamics that lead to the commonsense view that causes precede their effects (or occur at the same time, if Bill insists). But then we have learned that the laws of physics are CPT invariant (essentially the same in each direction of time), so in a fundamental sense the future determines the past just as much as the past determines the future. I agree that just from our experience of the one-way causation we observe within the universe, which is just a merely effective description and not fundamental, we cannot logically derive the conclusion that the entire universe has a cause, since the effective unidirectional causation we commonly experience is something just within the universe and need not be extrapolated to a putative cause for the universe as a whole.

However, since to me the totality of data, including the historical evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus, is most simply explained by postulating that there is a God who is the Creator of the universe, I do believe by faith that God is indeed the cause of the universe (and indeed the ultimate Cause and Determiner of everything concrete, that is, everything not logically necessary, other than Himself—and I do believe, like Richard Swinburne, that God is concrete and not logically necessary, the ultimate brute fact). I have a hunch that God created a universe with apparent unidirectional causation in order to give His creatures some dim picture of the true causation that He has in relation to the universe He has created. But I do not see any metaphysical necessity in this.

(I have a similar hunch that God created us with the illusion of libertarian free will as a picture of the true freedom that He has, though it might be that if God does only what is best and if there is a unique best, one could object that even God does not have libertarian free will, but in any case I would believe that it would be better for God to do what is best than to have any putative libertarian free will, for which I see little value. Yet another hunch I have is that it is actually sentient experiences rather than created individual `persons’ that are fundamental, but God created our experiences to include beliefs that we are individual persons to give us a dim image of Him as the one true Person, or Persons in the Trinitarian perspective. However, this would take us too far afield from my points here.)

On the issue of whether our universe had a beginning, besides not believing that this is at all relevant to the issue of whether or not God exists, I agreed almost entirely with Sean’s points rather than yours, Bill, on this issue. We simply do not know whether or not our universe had a beginning, but there are certainly models, such as Sean’s with Jennifer Chen (hep-th/0410270 and gr-qc/0505037), that do not have a beginning. I myself have also favored a bounce model in which there is something like a quantum superposition of semiclassical spacetimes (though I don’t really think quantum theory gives probabilities for histories, just for sentient experiences), in most of which the universe contracts from past infinite time and then has a bounce to expand forever. In as much as these spacetimes are approximately classical throughout, there is a time in each that goes from minus infinity to plus infinity.

In this model, as in Sean’s, the coarse-grained entropy has a minimum at or near the time when the spatial volume is minimized (at the bounce), so that entropy increases in both directions away from the bounce. At times well away from the bounce, there is a strong arrow of time, so that in those regions if one defines the direction of time as the direction in which entropy increases, it is rather as if there are two expanding universes both coming out from the bounce. But it is erroneous to say that the bounce is a true beginning of time, since the structure of spacetime there (at least if there is an approximately classical spacetime there) has timelike curves going from a proper time of minus infinity through the bounce (say at proper time zero) and then to proper time of plus infinity. That is, there are worldlines that go through the bounce and have no beginning there, so it seems rather artificial to say the universe began at the bounce that is in the middle just because it happens to be when the entropy is minimized. I think Sean made this point very well in the debate.

In other words, in this model there is a time coordinate t on the spacetime (say the proper time t of a suitable collection of worldlines, such as timelike geodesics that are orthogonal to the extremal hypersurface of minimal spatial volume at the bounce, where one sets t = 0) that goes from minus infinity to plus infinity with no beginning (and no end). Well away from the bounce, there is a different thermodynamic time t' (increasing with increasing entropy) that for t >> 0 increases with t but for $latex t << 0$ decreases with $latex t$ (so there $latex t'$ becomes more positive as $latex t$ becomes more negative). For example, if one said that $latex t'$ is only defined for $latex |t| > 1$, say, one might have something like

t' = (t^2 - 1)^{1/2},

the positive square root of one less than the square of t. This thermodynamic time t' only has real values when the absolute value of the coordinate time t, that is, |t|, is no smaller than 1, and then t' increases with |t|.

One might say that t' begins (at t' = 0) at t = -1 (for one universe that has t' growing as t decreases from -1 to minus infinity) and at t = +1 (for another universe that has t' growing as t increases from +1 to plus infinity). But since the spacetime exists for all real t, with respect to that time arising from general relativity there is no beginning and no end of this universe.

Bill, I think you also objected to a model like this by saying that it violates the second law (presumably in the sense that the coarse-grained entropy does not increase monotonically with t for all real t). But if we exist for t >> 1 (or for $latex t << -1$; there would be no change to the overall behavior if $latex t$ were replaced with $latex -t$, since the laws are CPT invariant), then we would be in a region where the second law is observed to hold, with coarse-grained entropy increasing with $latex t' \sim t$ (or with $latex t' \sim -t$ if $latex t << -1$). A viable bounce model would have it so that it would be very difficult or impossible for us directly to observe the bounce region where the second law does not apply, so our observations would be in accord with the second law even though it does not apply for the entire universe. I think I objected to both of your probability estimates for various things regarding fine tuning. Probabilities depend on the theory or model, so without a definite model, one cannot claim that the probability for some feature like fine tuning is small. It was correct to list me among the people believing in fine tuning in the sense that I do believe that there are parameters that naively are far different from what one might expect (such as the cosmological constant), but I agreed with the sentiment of the woman questioner that there are not really probabilities in the absence of a model. Bill, you referred to using some "non-standard" probabilities, as if there is just one standard. But there isn't. As Sean noted, there are models giving high probabilities for Boltzmann brain observations (which I think count strongly against such models) and other models giving low probabilities for them (which on this regard fits our ordered observations statistically). We don't yet know the best model for avoiding Boltzmann brain domination (and, Sean, you know that I am skeptical of your recent ingenious model), though just because I am skeptical of this particular model does not imply that I believe that the problem is insoluble or gives evidence against a multiverse; in any case it seems also to be a problem that needs to be dealt with even in just single-universe models.

Sean, at one point your referred to some naive estimate of the very low probability of the flatness of the universe, but then you said that we now know the probability of flatness is very near unity. This is indeed true, as Stephen Hawking and I showed long ago (“How Probable Is Inflation?” Nuclear Physics B298, 789-809, 1988) when we used the canonical measure for classical universes, but one could get other probabilities by using other measures from other models.

In summary, I think the evidence from fine tuning is ambiguous, since the probabilities depend on the models. Whether or not the universe had a beginning also is ambiguous, and furthermore I don’t see that it has any relevance to the question of whether or not God exists, since the first premise of the Kalam cosmological argument is highly dubious metaphysically, depending on contingent intuitions we have developed from living in a universe with relatively simple laws of physics and with a strong thermodynamic arrow of time.

Nevertheless, in view of all the evidence, including both the elegance of the laws of physics, the existence of orderly sentient experiences, and the historical evidence, I do believe that God exists and think the world is actually simpler if it contains God than it would have been without God. So I do not agree with you, Sean, that naturalism is simpler than theism, though I can appreciate how you might view it that way.

Best wishes,

Don

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960 Responses to Guest Post: Don Page on God and Cosmology

  1. David Thiessen says:

    Hi Sean, from David Thiessen, SciAm Bright Horizons 19 to SE Asia. On your post of yesterday, 3/19, I left a comment about a GMAIL I sent you about you and Craig [you are in the photo] being mentioned in the Wheaton College (IL) Autumn Alumni Mag about the God & Cosmology conference at NOBTS Feb 21, 2014 and also news about Chris Hirata’s and Annika Peter’s new addition to their family. I had a letter in the December issue about the Craig article and the G & C conf. I would like to know if you received it. I know you are very busy, so just a thumbs up or down would be appreciated. Thanks

  2. Metatron says:

    Many questions that arise on the deeper issues of cosmology are better addressed in the context of a complete theory of quantum gravity. In light of our most promising candidate theory (in this regard), string/M-theory, it is inescapable one must consider tachyon phenomenology in any serious discussion of the ontology of the universe.

  3. Brent Meeker says:

    Don Page is a fine physicist and I’ve read many of his papers to my advantage. And I quite agree with his point that fine-tuning is meaningless absent some probabilistic model.

    But when he cites the historicity of Jesus as raising his posterior Bayesian probability of theism, he is both wrong and inconsistent. First, the historical evidence for the existence of Jesus is less than that for Paul Bunyan or the Loch Ness monster. The Quran can at least be attributed to a historical person.
    Second, as Vic Stenger used to point out, absence of evidence is evidence of absence if what is absent should be there. If the Christian god existed, what should we expect? Unambiguous direct personal messages – not ancient myths about a chosen people. No childhood leukemia. Some useful response to prayers. As Anatole France observed at Lourdes, “So many abandoned crutches and wheelchairs, but not a single artificial leg or glass eye.” Elimination of terrible diseases like polio and smallpox….oh, nevermind WE took care of those (I guess it was too hard for God). When you do Bayesian probability estimates you have to consider contrary evidence as well as favorable.

  4. Charlie says:

    The idea I find reprehensible is that good folks are going to be tortured eternally for coming to the wrong conclusion about the simplest model of the universe or the historicity of Jesus Christ. I’m not even qualified to evaluate the historicity of Marco Polo.

    I don’t know if this view is held by Don (I’m guessing not) but it is dominant among theists. I reject it on moral grounds.

  5. Rick says:

    Several of the comment authors could benefit from reading a good scholarly survey of the historical issues around the resurrection from the “pro” perspective. N. T. Wright’s “The Resurrection of the Son of God”, or Michael Licona’s “The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach” are fascinating and informative reading, regardless of where you stand on Christianity.

  6. Daniel Kerr says:

    @Magnema: There is definitely an empty model for a lot of axiomatic theories like set theory (since operations on the empty set and only the empty set I believe do satisfy all of the axioms as vacuous truths), I’m not sure they exist for propositional logic given the axiom of the excluded middle (requiring that all elements of a model be either true or false). You definitely don’t have the analogy of the empty set as a set of “in/out” elements since the model containing all true or all false statements will not satisfy the axioms of propositional logic. That’s actually a perfect example of where the most “simple” model is not syntactically permissible within the theory.

    I guess the point I’m getting at though is even if this complete theory allows trivial models to solve it, expressing “‘nothing’ is the simplest solution” still requires being able to specify the theory. This “nothing” needs a context. The formulation of this complete theory requires a model that formulates the complete theory’s axioms in the first place. Saying “nothing” requires a definition of the formalism to characterize that “nothing.” I think we’re stuck in the paradox that we can only consider models that can express the axioms of the complete theory. That’s just my conjecture though. It’s possible all models have to be that expressive, which like propositional logic would disallow empty models de facto.

    If you put an information theoretical metric on such models…huh I’m not sure. I’m not knowledgeable enough to really say for sure what you would get. For cases where all combinations of elements are permissible (like set theory), I would imagine this works and you could define trivial solutions with this metric. For predicate logic or propositional logic, I’m not sure if the information really changes enough from model to model. I think it would best be evaluated in a modal logic framework to get a feel for how that works.

    Nonetheless, I hope I’ve made the point that defining simplicity is not trivial and it’s not obvious what metric should be used fundamentally or absolutely to assign which models are trivial and which aren’t.

  7. michaud says:

    When a theist starts to use the Bayesian approach and puts mathematics in the text to argue his theism I just sigh. Religion is not science or philosophy. If you introduce a god you disqualify yourself from the discussion. You make the discussion impossible by imposing your willingness to accept contradictory arguments, impossibilities and undefinable nonsense.

    And then the language: ” the world is the best possible; I believe that god exists; I do think that if one assigns theism not too low a prior probability, the historical evidence for the life, teachings, death, and resurrection of Jesus can lead to a posterior probability for theism (and for Jesus being the Son of God) being quite high.”. Just putting words together doesn’t make them sentences. If we stop agreeing about our way of communication it starts to become impossible to exchange views.

    If you don’t have a prior probability for god then it’s all mute and if you do you can’t use mathematics anymore.

  8. James B. says:

    Thank you for the letter Don. I 100% appreciate your critique of both sides, something I wish people would do more often.

    So the question I have for anyone in general: Can Bayes’ theorem really work as described in the first couple paragraphs? I thought the idea was that no matter what idea you start with, as new evidence comes in you will move towards truth. But if you can only determine the probability of the new evidence based on the previous idea… that kind of really screws things up. Bayes’ theorem becomes useless then if the starting point is SO messed up and touches all subsequent iterations.

  9. kashyap vasavada says:

    Dr. Page:
    It is very interesting to know that a physicist of your caliber is a theist. My question to you is: why do you think, there is so much anti science feeling in Abrahamic religions and practically no anti science feeling in non-Abrahamic eastern religions? Of course feel free to comment on differences between these two types of religions. Thanks.

  10. Bob Zannelli says:

    I think invoking some form of agency as an ‘explanation” for the existence of the universe is a category error. We do observe that events we experience day to day seems to be based on causal relationships, but arguably, our day to day experiences fall into a different category then when what we are describing the whole universe, which by definition is everything there is. ( Here I mean a expansive version of universe, called the Multiverse if that exists)

    Also, there is something psychological going on. We evolved to see agency behind all our day to experiences, because this was a safer assumption for a hunter gatherer. Better to think that the sound we heard was a saber tooth tiger than the wind blowing, since we could survive the second assumption if it were wrong.

    In addition, assuming agency in natural events gave us the illusion of some kind of control over our circumstances, we might be able to appease the deity involved with some kind of offering or by sacrificing a child or virgin. For primitive man every event he experienced was the action of a capricious god or goddess.

    At some point the pantheon of gods and goddesses merged into one all powerful god. Side by side with this idea emerged science, an empirical -rational process that dispensed with the god explanation, even if only methodologically. It was a major intellectual leap, to understand that there are natural events, absent any agency. Even today, humans struggle with this fact.

    It’s not difficult to see why this scientific approach came into conflict with the god does it world view. I don’t need to recount the long history of the conflict between religion and science which continues to this day. One would think that as science has proven itself to be a remarkably successful method of inquiry, religion would just fade away. But this has not happened, though science has been successful in at least reducing the influence of god does it ideology in the more enlightened parts of the world.

    Humankind now faces grave issues which will require global cooperation. Climate change, the ever present danger of nuclear war, imagine a Tea Party president , over population and so on. We are clearly failing to address these threats, despite our amazing advances in technology and science. I dare say, we no longer have the luxury of leaders who reject science in favor of the god does it ideology. Offerings to the gods has never really been very successful.

  11. arch1 says:

    Don, you said that you believe by faith that God is the cause of the universe. What do you mean when you say that you believe this, or anything else (for example, that the opaque box over there in the corner contains a blue golf ball) “by faith”?

  12. (following what Bob Zannelli said)

    The practical effect of Christian apologetics (whether it has that as its conscious motivation or not) is to support the ideology and policy objectives of the current Republican Party. In this political framework, any actions that are done collectively through government, whether it is addressing problems with the environmental, health care, or income inequality, are considered to be an affront to God’s dominion, and God should be left to work through a free-of-government market with His invisible hand.

  13. mechtheist says:

    I understand wanting to allow a friend to have his say, and I’m sure Dr. Page is a great guy and a great physicist. That said, I’m gobsmacked that anyone could seriously think they are being serious, making a serious argument, for the existence of god with the assumption that ‘we live in the best possible world.’ There’s only two ways I can think of for that to be true, we live in the only possible world-not a provable assertion, or there’s some kind of guiding force to make sure of it, this is even necessary for ‘best’ to have a coherent, non-nebulous meaning. So it’s what you will find, sometimes buried very deeply, in nearly all of these arguments, an assumption that requires a god.

    His general Bayesian assertion is even more pathetic-all you need to do is believe god might exist strongly enough and presto, you can believe he does exist. I surely don’t understand Bayes that well, but how can a prior probability for anything supernatural be anything higher than vanishingly small? What rationale tops a complete and total absence of any evidence of any kind at all? Or of any mechanism to allow such things? And on top of that, the sad truth that all religions are ridiculous/absurd at some level, in some way, that is usually quite clear to the non-believers of that religion, not just to rationalists? My favorite e.g. for this are The Doctrines of The Trinity and Transubstantiation, where one person’s profoundly reasoned principle ain’t nuthin but word salad to anyone unafflicted with catholicism.

  14. Bob Zannelli says:

    Philip Thrift says:
    March 20, 2015 at 11:00 pm
    (following what Bob Zannelli said)

    The practical effect of Christian apologetics (whether it has that as its conscious motivation or not) is to support the ideology and policy objectives of the current Republican Party. In this political framework, any actions that are done collectively through government, whether it is addressing problems with the environmental, health care, or income inequality, are considered to be an affront to God’s dominion, and God should be left to work through a free-of-government market with His invisible hand.

    ))))))))))))))))))))))))

    The meme of religion most often seeks to align itself with power establishment in society. In the United States we are seeing a new manifestation emerging , a strange mix of Ayn Rand extremism and Christian theology. In this new “theology” the wrathful Abrahamic god of the bible has become merged with the god Ayn Rand types worship, the “free” market. Hence the free market fulfils the role of the Abrahamic god, it rewards and punishes. Therefore the poor deserve their pain and the uber rich deserve their privilege and power. Anything that interferes with this Yahweh-market god is the work of the devil and must be opposed. The great Satan works through that most evil godless institution, the federal government, which is forever interfering with god’s great plan. The Tea Party a grass roots uprising , bought and paid for by oil billionaires , is the true party of god and is on a holy crusade to drive the great Satan from government. This movement , even as it rejects biological evolution, embraces a rabid form of social Darwinism.

  15. Simon Packer says:

    How did the present Jewish people originate? Why are many back in Biblical geographic Israel? Why are many of them still called by a Jewish tribal name? Why is the Bible paralleled by a fair bit of history and archaeology? (You can still stand in Hezekiah’s Tunnel, for example). Why did the Church start? Why did it rapidly take hold? Why do Judaism and Islam, which both reject Christ as God, have a fair bit to say about him? Someone mentions Mohamed, saying he is more plausible historically, and Mohamed had a fair bit to say about both Jesus and Christians.

    Scientists can be prone to quite a bit of patronizing mental conceit over things they have very little grasp on. This seems especially true about the Bible. Most popular books on atheism make simplistic points which are answered in plenty of Christian literature. They clearly have not even begun to read anything out of their intellectual comfort zone, otherwise their arguments would be more sophisticated.

    It seems to me to be denial bordering upon dysfunction to seriously claim Jesus Christ never existed, bearing in mind the impact he had on history.

    Assuming he did, you actually have to look at the resurrection and come up with an alternative explanation. Try it, then some Christians might listen! I hear a lot of second hand attacks on it from people who haven’t bothered to look. All the ones I have heard are either pretty ridiculous, second hand or very vague indeed. I really am looking for atheists to get definite here, rather than hide behind generalizations, distance or ridicule. If Christ existed and was who he said he was, then there are no others with the same claim on your life as him and those claims simply cannot be overlooked indefinitely. He claims to be creator, redeemer and the one who holds your eternal destiny.

  16. “…to me the totality of data, including the historical evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus, is most simply explained by postulating that there is a God who is the Creator of the universe, I do believe by faith that God is indeed the cause of the universe….”

    I’m sure the writer is a brilliant fellow, but how many logical fallacies could any one of us find in this statement? I found at least three.

  17. Bob Zannelli says:

    Simon Packer says:

    Assuming he did, you actually have to look at the resurrection and come up with an alternative explanation. Try it, then some Christians might listen! I hear a lot of second hand attacks on it from people who haven’t bothered to look. All the ones I have heard are either pretty ridiculous, second hand or very vague indeed. I really am looking for atheists to get definite here, rather than hide behind generalizations, distance or ridicule. If Christ existed and was who he said he was, then there are no others with the same claim on your life as him and those claims simply cannot be overlooked indefinitely. He claims to be creator, redeemer and the one who holds your eternal destiny

    ))))))))))))))))))

    In Islam Mohammed ascended into heaven on a white house. How is this claim any different than there was a person named Jesus who arose from the dead? Just because something is claimed in some holy book doesn’t mean I have any obligation to “prove ” it didn’t happen. Lots of unlikely claims are made in all the religions of the world, there is simply no reason to take any of them seriously. If you really believe there is some obligation to prove these various claims untrue, I think you have a large job in front of you.

  18. rtkufner says:

    Cognitive dissonance at its finest!

    Fascinating, if disturbing.

  19. PR Blondlot says:

    I think Islam is currently the best argument against God, religion and the idea that we live in the best of all possible worlds.

  20. Simon Packer says:

    Bob

    There is an account in the Koran of a night visitation of Mohamed by a white mythical creature (buraq) and an angel, who took ‘the prophet’ to the heavens. It is recounted by Mohamed alone in the first instance.

    The crucifixion and resurrection of Christ were public physical events. Jesus did not write the accounts. People who in three cases were probably martyred for their faith in it did; the forth was imprisoned on a Greek island, Patmos. You can go there today. The New Testament writers believed it and held it to be common knowledge that Jesus had been seen alive after the crucifixion. He was executed by Roman soldiers who knew their job; it was a routine business. The Jewish authorities were well acquainted with Jesus and sought to discredit him. Roman soldiers could be executed for failing on their orders, both to kill him and to guard the tomb. The Jews wanted to find the body to disprove his claims.

    The crucifixion of Christ and Mohamed’s alleged supernatural experiences are simply not in the same category with regard to interaction with world affairs of the time.

    The Koran reveres Jesus as a prophet but says someone who looked like him was crucified.

    The Bible itself is, from the literary viewpoint, a loose collection of writings written over a period of over one thousand years. There is no claim that God or Christ wrote any of it directly. The Koran, believed by Muslims to be the word of God revealed to Mohamed directly, is the work of one man; the ‘prophet’ himself.

    Analysis of the resurrection of Christ has been going on for centuries. Influential people from various walks of life have been persuaded by it’s historicity. A former British Lord Chief Justice is a well known example; he has been quoted in sermons for years. This seems to have lead Richard Dawkins on a search to discredit the story. Perhaps he should just look at the data?

  21. Simon Packer says:

    Mark Jones

    I don’t know if Don Page intends to say why he believes in Christ as God from a rational but not scientific/cosmological perspective. There are a lot of frequently arising questions over God and Christianity; the sort of things Christopher Hitchins seems to have thought he was the first to notice.

    The question of the existence of evil in a cosmos created and overseen by God has been addressed by many: CS Lewis is still very influential, ‘The Problem of Pain’ and ‘Mere Christianity’. ‘The Reason for God’ by Timothy Kellor is a good contemporary book addressing this issue and many other popular objections and questions.

    God created conscious beings with a degree of similarity to himself. Genuine freewill and responsibility were imputed to them. They were created with real roles. He created them with the potential to become evil by their choices, attitudes and actions. He does not desire evil, but has set in motion a cosmos where it is likely to arise, and it has. God has allowed the creation, as well as the creatures, to reflect the cosmic fallen spiritual environment.

  22. Simon Packer says:

    Bob

    Since your believe your mind evolved to confer a survival advantage as a hunter-gatherer, perhaps you’d better acknowledge that it is not set up for finding absolute truth at all. Your logic works both ways, surely?

  23. Simon Packer says:

    Freethinking Jew

    I think Dr Page is maybe saying that Christ, his life, teachings, death, and resurrection, are indicative of a supernatural realm ordered by God. So that even if the cosmos seems at some point to have a purely naturalistic/reductionist explanation (though personally I struggle to see what that might look like) there remains a supernatural realm to explain. The New Testament teaches that Christ was the creative agency of the Godhead (Colossians 1v16, Hebrews 1v2).

  24. Coel says:

    Hi Simon Packer,

    “The crucifixion and resurrection of Christ were public physical events.”

    How do you know that? Aren’t you just assuming what you want to prove?

    “Jesus did not write the accounts.”

    On this one we agree.

    “People who in three cases were probably martyred for their faith in it did; the forth was imprisoned on a Greek island, Patmos.”

    We have virtually no idea who the writers called “Mark”, “Matthew”, “Luke” etc actually were. We have essentially no evidence of their lives, motives or deaths. Most likely all the accounts were at least 40 years after the supposed events, and none of them even claims to have spoken to an eyewitness. We don’t know whether the first, Mark, even thought that he was reporting real events, as oppose to, say, writing a theological allegory. The later writers then just seemed to have copied from and embellished Mark.

    “The New Testament writers believed it and held it to be common knowledge that Jesus had been seen alive after the crucifixion.”

    We don’t know that. Mark might have thought he was writing a theological allegory. The gospels themselves contain lots of allegorical stories, called parables, that were not intended as literal events.

    “He was executed by Roman soldiers who knew their job…”

    Question begging again.

    “The Jewish authorities were well acquainted with Jesus and sought to discredit him.”

    How do you know that? Do you have any independent verification of that from Jewish sources? Or are you just taking the gospels as necessarily true?

    “The Jews wanted to find the body to disprove his claims.”

    How do you know that? Do you have any independent sources saying that?

    What you’re doing is a common apologetic game. The game goes: “Let’s take everything in the gospels as literal truth. Given that, now find an alternative explanation for the resurrection events”.

    Well, sorry, but I’m not going along with the first part of that. If you want an alternative (one of several possible alternatives), how about: Mark made the whole thing up as a theological allegory. The others then copied, developed and embellished it.

  25. Bob Zannelli says:

    Simon Packer says:
    March 21, 2015 at 12:37 pm
    Bob

    Since your believe your mind evolved to confer a survival advantage as a hunter-gatherer, perhaps you’d better acknowledge that it is not set up for finding absolute truth at all. Your logic works both ways, surely?

    ))))))))))))))))

    We evolved to see agency where none exist, not the other way around. Only religion claims to have absolute truth, not science.