“Osama bin Laden, as a person, is far more understandable to me and far less reprehensible, personally, psychologically, than Trump.”
— Sam Harris (ACE OF SPADES)
This is chapter 15 (The Ghost In The Machine) from Richard Milton excellent book entitled, “SHATTERING THE MYTHS OF DARWINISM,” as well as a bit from near the end of the book regarding a “spellchecking” program to shore up his ideas from chapter fifteen. It really has to do with responding to the idea that a computer program is shown to “evolve.” That in some way there is an increase in novel information in the program that is adding to the specificity of the program apart from the designers/software engineers.
I would be remiss to not link to an article that also goes through this example well:
- Weasel, A Flexible Program For Investigating Deterministic Computer “Demonstrations” Of Evolution (Creation.com)
- Dawkins’ Weasel Revisited (Creation.com)
- Evolution Program (Creation Wiki)
- Weasel Words: Refuting A Common Ploy To Persuade People That Evolution Has Been “Proven By Computer” (Creation.com)
Enjoy… mind you this book was read by me in 1998, but the ideas here have been sustained through today.
Ghost in the Machine
[167>] Russel and Seguin’s 1982 picture of a human-looking “evolved” version of a dinosaur was an impressive feat combining science and imagination in a constructive and entertaining way. Yet few in 1982 foresaw that in little more than a decade, over 100 million people around the world would pay to be scared by the even more impressive feat of the computer generated dinosaurs of “Jurassic Park”.
Nothing that has entered the evolution debate since Darwin’s time has promised to illuminate the subject so much as the modern computer and its apparently limitless ability to represent, on the monitor-screen, compelling visual solutions to the most abstruse mathematical questions.
The information handling capacity of electronic data processing, with its obvious analogy to DNA, has been enthusiastically enlisted by computer-literate Darwinists as offering powerful evidence for their theory; while genetic software systems, said to emulate the processes of genetic mutation and natural selection at speeds high enough to make the process visible, have become a feature of most up-to-date biology laboratories.
The computer has been put to many ingenious uses in the service of Darwinist theory. And it has changed the minds of not a few skeptics by its powerful visual imagery and uncanny ability to bring extinct creatures – or even creatures that never lived – to life in front [168>] of us. But, compelling though the visual images are, how much confidence should we put in the computer as a guide to the evolution of life?
In his book The Blind Watchmaker Richard Dawkins describes a computer program he wrote which randomly generates symmetrical figures from dots and lines. These figures, to a human eye, have a resemblance to a variety of objects. Dawkins gives some of them insect and animal names, such as bat, spider, fox or caddis fly. Others he gives names like lunar lander, precision balance, spitfire, lamp and crossed sabers.
Dawkins calls these creations “biomorphs”, meaning life shapes or living shapes, a term he borrows from fellow zoologist Desmond Morris. He also feels very strongly that in using a computer program to create them, he is in some way simulating evolution itself. His approach can be understood from this extract:
Nothing in my biologist’s intuition, nothing in my 20 years experience of programming computers, and nothing in my wildest dreams, prepared me for what actually emerged on the screen. I can’t remember exactly when in the sequence it first began to dawn on me that an evolved resemblance to something like an insect was possible. With a wild surmise, I began to breed generation after generation, from whichever child looked most like an insect. My incredulity grew in parallel with the evolving resemblance…. Admittedly they have eight legs like a spider, instead of six like an insect, but even so! I still cannot conceal from you my feeling of exultation as I first watched these exquisite creatures emerging before my eyes.
Dawkins not only calls his computer drawings “biomorphs”, he gives some of them the names of living creatures. He also refers to them as “quasi-biological” forms and in a moment of excitement calls them “exquisite creatures”. He plainly believes that in some way they correspond to the real world of living animals and insects. But they do not correspond in any way at all with living things, except in the purely trivial way that he sees some resemblance in their shapes. The only thing about the “biomorphs” that is [169>] biological is Richard Dawkins, their creator. As far as the “spitfire” and the “lunar lander” are concerned there is not even a fancied biological resemblance.
The program he wrote and the computer he used have no analog at all in the real biological world. Indeed, if he set out to create an experiment that simulates evolution, he has only succeeded in making one that simulates special creation, with himself in the omnipotent role.
His program is not a true representation of random mutation coupled with natural selection. On the contrary it is dependent on artificial selection in which he controls he sees some resemblance in their shapes. The only thing about the “biomorphs” that is biological is Richard Dawkins, their creator. As far as the “spitfire” and the “lunar lander” are concerned there is not even a fancied biological resemblance.
The program he wrote and the computer he used have no analog at all in the real biological world. Indeed, if he set out to create an experiment that simulates evolution, he has only succeeded in making one that simulates special creation, with himself in the omnipotent role.
His program is not a true representation of random mutation coupled with natural selection. On the contrary it is dependent on artificial selection in which he controls the rate of occurrence of mutations. Despite Dawkins’s own imaginative interpretations, and even with the deck stacked in his favor, his biomorphs show no real novelty arising. There are no cases of bears turning into whales.
There is also no failure in his program: his biomorphs are not subject to fatal consequences of degenerate mutations like real living things. And, most important of all, he chooses which are the lucky individuals to receive the next mutation – it is not decided by fate – and of course he chooses the most promising ones (“I began to breed from whichever child looked most like an insect.”) That is why they have ended up looking like recognizable images from his memory. If his mutations really occurred randomly, as in the real world, Dawkins would still be sitting in front of his screen watching a small dot and waiting for it do something.
Above all, his computer experiment falsifies the most important central claim of mechanistic Darwinian thinking; that, through natural processes, living things could come into being without any precursor. What Dawkins has shown is that, if you want to start the evolutionary ball rolling, you need some form of design to take a hand in the proceedings, just as he himself had to sit down and program his computer.
In fact, his experiment shows very much the same sort of results that field work in biology and zoology has shown for the past hundred years: there is no evidence for beneficial spontaneous genetic mutation; there is no evidence for natural selection (except as an empty tautology); there is no evidence for either as significant evolutionary mechanisms. There is only evidence of an unquenchable optimism among Darwinists that given enough [170>] time, anything can happen – the argument from probability.
But although Dawkins’s program does not qualify as a simulation of random genetic mutation coupled with natural selection, it does highlight at least one very important way in which computer programs resemble genetic processes. Each instruction in a program must be carefully considered by the programmer as to both its immediate effect on the computer hardware and its effects on other parts of the program. The letters and numbers which the programmer uses to write the instructions have to be written down with absolute precision with regard to the vocabulary and syntax of the programming language he uses in order for the computer system to function at all. Even the most trivial error can lead to a complete malfunction. In 1977, for example, an attempt by NASA to launch a weather satellite from Cape Canaveral ended in disaster when the launch vehicle went off course shortly after takeoff and had to be destroyed. Subsequent investigation by NASA engineers found that the accident was caused by failure of the onboard computer guidance system – because a single comma had been misplaced in the guidance program.
Anyone who has programmed a computer to perform the simplest task in the simplest language – Basic for instance – will understand the problem. If you make the simplest error in syntax, misplacing a letter, a punctuation mark or even a space, the program will not run at all.
In just the same way, each nucleotide has to be “written” in precisely the correct order and in precisely the correct location in the DNA molecule for the offspring to remain viable, and, as described earlier, major functional disorders in humans, animals and plants are caused by the loss or displacement of a single DNA molecule, or even a single nucleotide within that molecule.
In order to simulate neo-Darwinist evolution on his computer, it is not necessary for Dawkins to devise complex programs that seek to simulate insect life. All he has to do is to write a program containing a large number of instructions (3000 million instructions if he wishes to simulate human DNA) that continually regenerates its own program code, but randomly interferes with the code in trivial ways, such as transposing, shifting or missing characters. (The system must be set to restart itself after each fatal “birth”.)
[171>] The result of this experiment would be positive if the system ever develops a novel function that was not present in the original programming. One way of defining “novelty” would be to design the program so that, initially, its sole function was to replicate itself (a computer virus). A novel function would then be anything other than mere reproduction. In practice, however, I do not expect the difficulty of defining what constitutes a novelty to pose any problem. It is extremely improbable that Dawkins’s program will ever work again after the first generation, just as in real life, mutations cause genetic defects, not improvements.
Outside of the academic world there are a number of important commercial applications based on computer simulations that deserve to be seriously examined. A good example of this is in the field of aircraft wing design where computers have been used by aircraft engineers to develop the optimum airfoil profile. In the past wing design has been based largely on repetitive trial and error methods. A hypothetical wing shape is drawn up; a physical model is made and is aerodynamically tested in the wind tunnel. Often the results of such an empirical design approach are predictable: lengthening the upper wing curve, in relation to the lower, generally increases the upward thrust obtained. But sometimes results are very unpredictable, as when complex patterns of turbulence combine at the trailing edge to produce drag, which lowers wing efficiency, and causes destructive vibration.
Engineers at Boeing Aircraft tried a new approach. They created a computer model which was able to “mutate” a primitive wing shape at random – to stretch it here or shrink it there. They also fed into the model rules that would enable the computer to simulate testing the resulting design in a computerized version of the “wind tunnel”- the rules of aerodynamics.
The engineers say this process has resulted in obtaining wing designs offering maximum thrust and minimum drag and turbulence, more quickly than before and without any human intervention once the process has been set in motion.
Designers have made great savings in time compared with previous methods and the success of the computer in this field has given rise to a new breed of application dubbed “genetic software”. Indeed, on the face of it, the system is acting in a Darwinian manner. The [172>] computer (an inanimate object) has produced an original and intelligent design (comparable, say, with a natural structure such as a bird’s wing) by random mutation of shape combined with selection according to rules that come from the natural world – the laws of aerodynamics. If the computer can do this in the laboratory in a few hours or days, what could nature not achieve in millions of years?
The fallacies on which this case is constructed are not very profound but they do need to be nailed down. In a recently published popular primer on molecular biology, Andrew Scott’s Vital Principles, this very example is given under the heading “the creativity of evolution”. The process itself is called “computer generated evolution” as though it were analogous to an established natural process of mutation and selection.
The most important fallacy in this argument is the idea that somehow a result has occurred which is independent of, or in some way beyond the engineers, who merely started the machine by pressing a button. Of course, the fact is that a human agency has designed and built the computer and programmed it to perform the task in question. As with the previous experiment, this begs the only important question in evolution theory: could complex structures have arisen spontaneously by random natural processes without any precursor? Like all other computer simulation experiments, this one actually makes a reasonable case for special creation – or some form of vitalist-directed design – because it specifically requires a creator to build the computer and devise and implement the program in the first place.
However, there are other important fallacies too. The only reason that the Boeing engineers are able to take the design produced on paper by their computer and translate that design into an aircraft that flies, is because they are employing an immense body of knowledge – not possessed by the com put er – regarding the properties of materials from which the aircraft will be made and the manufacturing processes that will be used to make it. The computer’s wing is merely an outline on paper, an idea: it is of no more significance to aviation than a wave outline on the beach or a wind outline in the desert. The real wing has to actually fly in the air with real passengers. The decisive events that make that idea into a reality are a long, complex sequence of human operations [173>] and judgments that involve not only the shaping and fastening of metal for wings but also the design and manufacture of airframes and jet engines. These additional complexities are beyond the capacity of the computer, not merely in practice but in principle, because computers cannot even make a cup of coffee, let alone an airliner, without being instructed every step of the way.
In order for a physical structure like an aircraft wing to evolve by spontaneous random means, it is necessary for natural selection to do far more than select an optimum shape. It must also select the correct materials, the correct manufacturing methods (to avoid failure in service) and the correct method of integrating the new structure into its host creature. These operations involve genetic engineering principles which are presently unknown. And because they are unknown by us, they cannot be programmed into a computer.
There is also an important practical reason why the computer simulation is not relevant to synthetic evolution: because an aircraft wing differs from a natural wing in a fundamental way. The aircraft wing is passive, since the forward movement of the aircraft is derived from an engine. A natural wing like a bird’s, however, has to provide upthrust and the forward motion necessary to generate that lift making it a complex, articulated active mechanism. The engineering design problem of evolving a passive wing is merely a repetitive mechanical task – that is why it is suitable for computerization. So far, no-one has suggested programming a computer to design a bird’s wing by random mutation because the suggestion would be seen as ludicrous. Even if all of the world’s computers were harnessed together, they would be unable to take even the most elementary steps needed to design a bird’s wing unless they were told in advance what they were aiming at and how to get there.
If computers are no use to evolutionists as models of the hypothetical selection process, they are proving invaluable in another area of biology; one that seems to hold out much promise to Darwinists – the field of genetics. Since Watson and Crick elucidated the structure of the DNA molecule, and since geneticists began unraveling the meaning of the genetic code, the center of gravity of evolution theory has gradually shifted away from the earth sciences – geology and pale-ontology – toward molecular biology.
[174>] This shift in emphasis has occurred not only because of the attraction of the new biology as holding the answers to many puzzling questions, but also because the traditional sciences have proved ultimately sterile as a source of decisive evidence. The gaps in the fossil record, the incomplete-ness of the geological strata, and the ambiguity of the evidence from comparative anatomy, ultimately caused Darwinists to give up and look somewhere else for decisive evidence. Thanks to molecular biology and computer science they now have somewhere else to try.
Darwinists seem to have drawn immense comfort from their recent discoveries at the cellular level and beyond, behaving and speaking as though the new discoveries of biology represent a triumphant vindication of their long-held beliefs over the irrational ideas of vitalists. Yet the gulf between what Darwinists claim for molecular biological discoveries and what those discoveries actually show is only too apparent to any objective evaluation.
Consider these remarks by Francis Crick, justly famous as one of the biologists who cracked the genetic code, and equally well known as an ardent supporter of Darwinist evolution. In his 1966 book Molecules and Men, in which he set out to criticize vitalism, Crick asked which of the various molecular biological processes are likely to be the seat of the “vital principle”. “It can hardly be the action of the enzymes,” he says, “because we can easily make this happen in a test tube. Moreover most enzymes act on rather simple organic molecules which we can easily synthesize.”
There is one slight difficulty but Crick easily deals with it; “It is true that at the moment nobody has synthesized an actual enzyme chemically, but we can see no difficulty in doing this in principle, and in fact I would predict quite confidently that it will be done within the next five or ten years.”
A little later, Crick says of mitochondria (important objects in the cell that also contain DNA):
It may be some time before we could easily synthesise such an object, but eventually we feel that there should be no gross difficulty in putting a mitochondrion together from its component parts.
This reservation aside, it looks as if any system of [175>] enzymes could be made to act without invoking any special principles, or without involving material that we could not synthesize in the laboratory. 
There is no question that Crick and Watson’s decoding of the DNA molecule is a brilliant achievement and one of the high points of twentieth-century science. But this success seems to me to have led many scientists to expect too much as a result.
Crick’s early confidence that an enzyme would be produced synthetically within five or ten years has not been borne out and biologists are further than ever from achieving such a synthesis. Indeed, reading and rereading the words above with the benefit of hindsight I cannot help but interpret them as saying “we are unable to synthesize any significant part of a cell at present, but this reservation aside, we are able to synthesize any part of the cell.”
Certainly great strides have been made. William Shrive, writing in the McGraw Hill Encyclopedia of Science and Technology, says, “The complete amino acid sequence of several enzymes has been determined by chemical methods. By X-ray crystallographic methods it has even been possible to deduce the exact three-dimensional molecular structure of a few enzymes.” But despite these advances no-one has so far synthesized anything remotely as complex as an enzyme or any other protein molecule.
Such a synthesis was impossible when Crick wrote in 1966 and remains impossible today. It is probably because there is a world of difference between having a neat table that shows the genetic code for all twenty amino acids (Alanine = GCA, Praline = CCA and so on) and knowing how to manufacture a protein. These complex molecules do not simply assemble themselves from a mixture of ingredients like a cup of tea. Something else is needed. What the something else is remains conjectural. If it is chemical it has not been discovered; if it is a process it is an unknown process; if it is a “vital principle” it has not yet been recognized. Whatever the something is, it is presently impossible to build a case either for Darwinism or against vitalism out of what we have learned of the cell and the molecules of which it is composed.
It is easy to see why evolutionists should be so excited about cellular discoveries because the mechanisms they have found appear to [176>] be very simple. But however simple they may seem, as of yet no-one has succeeded in synthesizing any significant original structure from raw materials. We know the code for the building blocks; we don’t know the instructions for building a house with them.
Indeed, the discoveries of biochemistry and molecular biology have raised some rather awkward questions for Darwinists, which they have yet to address satisfactorily. For example, the existence of genetically very simple biological entities, such as viruses, seems to support Darwinist ideas about the origin of life. One can imagine all sorts of primitive life forms and organisms coming into existence in the primeval ocean and it seems only natural that one should find entities that are part way between the living and the nonliving – stepping stones to life as it were. It is only to be expected, says Richard Dawkins, that the simplest form of self-replicating object would merely be that part of the DNA program which says only “copy me”, which is essentially what a virus is.
The problem here is that viruses lack the ability to replicate unless they inhabit a host cell – a fully functioning cell with its own genetic replication mechanisms. So the first virus must have come after the first cell, not before in a satisfyingly Darwinian processes.
But despite minor unresolved problems of this kind Darwinists still have one remaining card to play in support of their theory. It is the strongest card in their hand and the most powerful and decisive evidence in favor of Darwinian evolutionary processes.
[223>] Earlier on I referred to computers and their programs as a fruitful source of comparison with genetic processes since both are concerned with the storage and reliable transmission of large quantities of information. Arguing from analogy is a dangerous practice, but there is one phenome-non connected with computer systems that could be of some importance in understanding biological information processing strategies.
The phenomenon has to do with the computer’s ability to refer to a master list or template and to highlight any exceptions to this master list that it encounters during processing. This “exception reporting” is profoundly important in information processing. For instance, this book was prepared using a word-processing program that has a spelling checker. When invoked, the spell checker reads the typescript of the book and compares each word with its built-in dictionary, highlighting as potential mistakes those it does not recognize. Of course, it will encounter words that are spelled correctly but are not found in a normal dictionary – such as “deoxyribonucleic acid”. But the program is clever enough to allow me to add the novel word to the dictionary, so that the next time it is encountered it will be accepted as correct instead of reported as an exception – as long as I spell it correctly.
In other words, the spelling checker isn’t really a spelling checker. It has no conception of correct spelling. It is merely a mechanism [224>] for reporting exceptions. Using these methods, programmers can get computers to behave in an apparently intelligent or purposeful way when they are really only obeying simple mechanical rules. Not unnaturally, this gives Darwinists much encouragement to believe that life processes may at root be just as simple and mechanical.
In cell biology there are natural chemical properties of complex molecules that lend them-selves to automatic checking and excepting of this kind. For example many molecules are stereospecific – they will attach only to certain other specific molecules and only in special positions. There are also much more complex forms of exception reporting, for instance as part of the brain’s (of if you prefer, the mind’s) cognitive processes: as when we see and recognize a single face in the crowd or hear our name mentioned at a noisy cocktail party.
In the case of the spelling checker, the behavior of the system can be made to look more and more intelligent through a process of learning if, every time it highlights a new word, I add that word to its internal dictionary. If I continue for a long enough time, then eventually, in principle, the system will have recorded every word in the English language and will highlight only words that are indeed misspelled. It will have achieved the near-miraculous levels of efficiency and repeatability that we are used to seeing in molecular biological processes. But something strange has also been happening at the same time – or, rather, two strange things.
The first is that as its vocabulary grows, the spelling checker becomes less efficient at drawing to my attention possible mistakes. This unexpected result comes about in the fallowing way. Remember, the computer knows nothing of spelling, it merely reports exceptions to me. To begin with, it has only, say, 50,000 standard words in its dictionary. This size of dictionary really only covers the common everyday words plus a modest number of proper nouns (for capital cities, common surnames and the like) and doesn’t leave much room for unusual words. It would, for instance include a word like ‘great’ but not the less-frequently used word “grate”.
The result is that if I accidentally type “grate” when I really mean “great”, the spell checker will draw it to my attention. If however, I enlarge the dictionary and add the word “grate”, the spell [225>]checker will ignore it in future, even though the chances are that it will occur only as a typing mis take – except in the rare case where I am writing about coal fires or cookery.
One can generalize this case by saying that when the dictionary has an optimum size of vo-cabulary, I get the best of both worlds: it points out misspellings of the most common words and reports anything unusual which in most cases probably will be an error. (Obviously to work at optimum efficiency the size of dictionary should be matched to the vocabulary of the writer). As the dictionary grows in volume it becomes more efficient in one way, highlighting only real spelling errors, but less efficient in another: it becomes more probable that my typing errors will spell a real word – one that will not be reported – but not the word I mean to use. Paradoxically, although the spelling checker is more efficient, the resulting book is full of contextual errors: ‘pubic’ instead of ‘public’, ‘grate’ instead of ‘great’ and so on.
It requires a human intelligence -a real spelling checker, not a mechanical exception reporter to make sure that the intended result is produced.
I said two strange things have been happening while I have been adding words to the spelling checker. The second is the odd occasion when the system has highlighted a real spelling mistake to me- say, “problem” instead of “problem” – and I have mistakenly told the computer to add the word to its dictionary. This, of course, has the very unfortunate result that in future it will cease to highlight a real spelling mistake and will pass it as correct. The error is no longer an exception it is now a dictionary word.
Under what circumstances am I most likely to issue such a wrong instruction? It is most likely to happen with words that I type most frequently and that I habitually mistype. Anyone who uses a keyboard every day knows that there are many such ‘favorite’ misspelled words that get typed over and over. Once again, only a real spelling checker, a human brain, can spot the error and correct it.
The reason that the computer’s spellchecker breaks down under these circumstances is that the simple mechanisms put in place do not work from first principles. They do not work in what electronics engineers call ‘real time’ (they are not in touch with the real world) and do not employ any real intelligent understanding [226>] of the tasks they are being called on to perform. So although the computer continues to work perfectly as it was designed to, it becomes more and more corrupted from the standpoint of its original function.
I believe that this analogy may well have some relevance to Darwinists’ belief that biological processes can at root be as simple as the spelling checker. It is easy to think of any number of simple cell replication mechanisms that rely on exception reporting of this kind. I believe that if biological processes were so simple, they too would become functionally corrupt unless there is some underlying or overall design process to which the simple mechanisms answer globally, and which is capable of taking action to correct mistakes. This is the mechanism that we see in action in the case of the “eyeless fly”, Drosophila; in Driesch’s experiment with the sea urchin and Balinsky’s with the eyes of amphibians; the ‘field’ that governs the metamorphosis of the butterfly or the reconstitution of the cells of sponges and vertebrates.
Darwinists believe that the only overall control process is natural selection, but the natural selection mechanism could not account for the cases referred to above. Natural selection works on populations, not individuals. It is capable only of tending to make creatures with massively fatal genetic defects die in infancy, or to make populations that are geographically dispersed eventually produce sterile hybrid offspring. It is such a poor feedback mechanism in the sense of exercising an overall regulating effect that it has failed even to eliminate major congenital diseases. Natural selection offers only death or glory: there is no genetic engineering nor holistic supervision of the organism’s integrity. Yet we are asked to believe that a mechanism of such crudity can creatively supervise a program of gene mutation that will restore sight to the eyeless fly.
This is plainly wishful thinking. The key question remains: what is the location of the supervisory agency that oversees somatic development? How does it work? What is it’s connection with the cell structure of the body?
- Richard Milton, Shattering the Myths of Darwinism (Rochester, VT: Park Street Press, 1997), 167-176; 223-226.
(Editor’s Note. The author did not footnote what page he was quoting from, he only cited the work itself)
Larry Elder corrects the record on a quote by Martin Luther King, Jr., often taken from its larger context. On Thursday, May 28th, the quote was the 11th most searched item in Google “A riot is the language of the unheard“
THE AMERICAN SPECTATOR deals with the above misquoting of MLK (misunderstanding his intent of that statement) very well:
MY RIOTESS THOUGHTS
I feel bad for the Floyd family. Not because of their loss (although that was my first emotion and care, was for the loss of their son… even if it was more heart related, the officer in question could have saved his life if he wasn’t kneeing his neck), but because I do not care about the incident all that much any longer. I am more focused on the fruits of a culture that has been brewing since gay author/professor first fired a warning shot over the New Left’s bow (the beginning of the culture war):
- There is one thing a professor can be absolutely certain of: almost every student entering the university believes, or says he believes, that truth is relative. If this belief is put to the test, one can count on the students’ reaction: they will be uncomprehending. That anyone should regard the proposition as not self-evident astonishes them…. The relativity of truth is… a moral postulate, the condition of a free society, or so they see it…. The danger they have been taught to fear is not error but intolerance. (Allan Bloom, The Closing of the American Mind [New York, NY: Simon and Schuster, 1987], 25.)
These riots have nothing to do with that officers’ actions. It has to do with how a large segment of society brands people for seeking categories for society to adhere to (SIXHIRB: sexist, islamophobic, xenophobic, homophobic, intolerant, racist, bigoted). Unless people (a) counter these histories found in horrible university texts like the one pictured to the right with actual histories that work in the real world when applied… not some fantasy Utopia; (b) or at least invigorate adults to challenging themselves to enter into real conversations about our body politic (which requires discussions about our nation’s history, past and current politics, our nations roots in cities like Athens and Jerusalem), we will see more of this:
All culminating in America’s “Trinity”:
One needs to also confront the idea that in the black community cults like the Five Percenters (The Nation of Gods and Earths) and Nation of Islam in some of these communities of color (an aside: if I had said colored communities — that is racist — but not communities of color). If MLK hated this radicalism, then why do people support it in the black community but rebuff it in the white?
People [read here adults] need to challenge their beliefs with thinking outside their lifelong or university taught Leftism. Pick a site from the following and visit it a couple times a week [hint: Powerline will be the quickest reads]:
- THE AMERICAN MIND,
- THE CITY JOURNAL,
- THE FEDERALIST,
- THE WASHINGTON TIMES,
- LAW & LIBERTY,
- AMERICAN GREATNESS,
- NATIONAL REVIEW,
- THE AMERICAN SPECTATOR,
- or LEGAL INSURRECTION
– just to name a few with good writing and represent some counter thinking to the CNN’s and WaPo’s of the world. They offer an excellent introduction to how Conservatives view our political landscape. Stop feeding these lies about American history based on emotion rather than testing one’s own viewpoints. PICK UP A SINGLE BOOK AND READ. Preferably one you disagree with and would otherwise read. If we don’t figure out how to do this, the cities that most need businesses and stability will lose them over and over. This is exactly what we can expect to happen:
Here is something I said in July of 2013:
- A conservative think tank had to have their yearly meeting in an undisclosed place due to threats of violence, Michael Steele had Oreo cookies thrown at him, conservative speakers like Ann Coulter need body guards when going on to a campus when speaking (the reverse is not true of liberal speakers), eco-fascists (like this CBS story notes) put nails in trees so when lumber jacks cut through them they are maimed, from rapes and deaths and blatantly anti-Semitic/anti-American statements and threats made at occupy movements [endorsed by Obama], we are seeing Obama’s America… divided, more violent; [NOT OT MENTION] forcing Christians to photograph, make cakes for, and put flower arrangements together for same-sex marriage ceremonies… to pro-choice opponents with jars of feces and urine taken from them after chanting “hail Satan” and “fuck the church,” a perfect storm is being created for a real culture war… all with thanks to people who laugh at terms like “eco-fascists” and “leftist thugs.” The irony is that these coal unions asked their members to vote for Obama. Well, the chickens have come home to roost.
The chickens indeed are coming home to roost (Obama’s pastor’s saying after his “Goddamm America” sermon), just for the people that except such a bad ethos. With the NYTs 1619 project. Professors teaching a generation that America was and is the most oppressive racist nation. Media making things up about Republicans being racists since Goldwater. And the calling of a President who has Jewish religious kids and grandkids an anti-Semite/racist. The comedic newsers like Trevor Noah, Colbert, and the like confirming such lies to a millennial generation that gets their news from the “Jimmy Falons” of the world (not to mention CNN, NPR, WaPo, MSNBC, NYT, etcetera).
THE AMERICAN MIND has a great article saying similar things:
With Michelle Obama recently railing on White Americans for “white flight” from her Chicago neighborhood as a kid, Larry explains his experience with the same phenomenon growing up in Los Angeles. However, he describes a very different experience with the issue of race relations, and it’s not as black and white as one would think.
Rich or poor, most people agree that wealth disparities exist. Thomas Sowell discusses the origins and impacts of those wealth disparities in his new book, Discrimination and Disparities in this episode of Uncommon Knowledge.
Sowell explains his issues with the relatively new legal standard of “disparate impact” and how it disregards the American legal principle of “burden of proof.” Sowell and Robinson discuss how economic outcomes vary greatly across individuals and groups and that concepts like “disparate impact” fail to take into account these variations.
They chat about the impact of nuclear families on the IQs of individuals, as studies have not only shown that children raised by two parents tend to have higher levels of intelligence but also that first-born and single children have even higher intelligence levels than those of younger siblings, indicating that the time and attention given by parents to their children greatly impacts the child’s future more than factors like race, environment, or genetics. Sowell talks about his book in which he wrote extensively about National Merit Scholarship finalists who more often than not were the first-born or only child in a family.
Sowell and Robinson go on to discuss historical instances of discrimination and how those instances affected economic and social issues within families, including discrimination created by housing laws in the Bay Area. They discuss unemployment rates, violence, the welfare state in regards to African American communities, and more.
I will add to this over time.
Dennis Prager always speaks to a whole generation being bored. This quote from Chesterton reminded me of that idea… that is, how one approaches/views life offers meaning or boredom: …oddities only strike ordinary people. Oddities do not strike odd people. This is why ordinary people have a much more exciting time; while odd people are always complaining of the dulness of life. This is also why the new novels die so quickly, and why the old fairy tales endure for ever. The old fairy tale makes the hero a normal human boy; it is his adventures that are startling; they startle him because he is normal. But in the modern psychological novel the hero is abnormal; the centre is not central. Hence the fiercest adventures fail to affect him adequately, and the book is monotonous. You can make a story out of a hero among dragons; but not out of a dragon among dragons. The fairy tale discusses what a sane man will do in a mad world. The sober realistic novel of to-day discusses what an essential lunatic will do in a dull world. G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy (San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press, 1995), 20.
Dennis Prager always speaks to a whole generation being bored. This quote from Chesterton reminded me of that idea… that is, how one approaches/views life offers meaning or boredom:
…oddities only strike ordinary people. Oddities do not strike odd people. This is why ordinary people have a much more exciting time; while odd people are always complaining of the dulness of life. This is also why the new novels die so quickly, and why the old fairy tales endure for ever. The old fairy tale makes the hero a normal human boy; it is his adventures that are startling; they startle him because he is normal. But in the modern psychological novel the hero is abnormal; the centre is not central. Hence the fiercest adventures fail to affect him adequately, and the book is monotonous. You can make a story out of a hero among dragons; but not out of a dragon among dragons. The fairy tale discusses what a sane man will do in a mad world. The sober realistic novel of to-day discusses what an essential lunatic will do in a dull world.
G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy (San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press, 1995), 20.
“But what we suffer from to-day is humility in the wrong place. Modesty has moved from the organ of ambition. Modesty has settled upon the organ of conviction; where it was never meant to be. A man was meant to be doubtful about himself, but undoubting about truth; this has been exactly reversed.” G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy (San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press, 1995), 36-37.
“But what we suffer from to-day is humility in the wrong place. Modesty has moved from the organ of ambition. Modesty has settled upon the organ of conviction; where it was never meant to be. A man was meant to be doubtful about himself, but undoubting about truth; this has been exactly reversed.”
G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy (San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press, 1995), 36-37.
Take first the more obvious case of materialism. As an explanation of the world, materialism has a sort of insane simplicity. It has just the quality of the madman’s argument; we have at once the sense of it covering everything and the sense of it leaving everything out. Contemplate some able and sincere materialist, as, for instance, Mr. McCabe, and you will have exactly this unique sensation. He understands everything, and everything does not seem worth understanding. His cosmos may be complete in every rivet and cog-wheel, but still his cosmos is smaller than our world. Somehow his scheme, like the lucid scheme of the madman, seems unconscious of the alien energies and the large indifference of the earth; it is not thinking of the real things of the earth, of fighting peoples or proud mothers, or first love or fear upon the sea. The earth is so very large, and the cosmos is so very small. The cosmos is about the smallest hole that a man can hide his head in. It must be understood that I am not now discussing the relation of these creeds to truth; but, for the present, solely their relation to health. Later in the argument I hope to attack the question of objective verity; here I speak only of a phenomenon of psychology. I do not for the present attempt to prove to Haeckel that materialism is untrue, any more than I attempted to prove to the man who thought he was Christ that he was labouring under an error. I merely remark here on the fact that both cases have the same kind of completeness and the same kind of incompleteness. You can explain a man’s detention at Hanwell by an indifferent public by saying that it is the crucifixion of a god of whom the world is not worthy. The explanation does explain. Similarly you may explain the order in the universe by saying that all things, even the souls of men, are leaves inevitably unfolding on an utterly unconscious tree— the blind destiny of matter. The explanation does explain, though not, of course, so completely as the madman’s. But the point here is that the normal human mind not only objects to both, but feels to both the same objection. Its approximate statement is that if the man in Hanwell is the real God, he is not much of a god. And, similarly, if the cosmos of the materialist is the real cosmos, it is not much of a cosmos. The thing has shrunk. The deity is less divine than many men; and (according to Haeckel) the whole of life is something much more grey, narrow, and trivial than many separate aspects of it. The parts seem greater than the whole. For we must remember that the materialist philosophy (whether true or not) is certainly much more limiting than any religion. In one sense, of course, all intelligent ideas are narrow. They cannot be broader than themselves. A Christian is only restricted in the same sense that an atheist is restricted. He cannot think Christianity false and continue to be a Christian; and the atheist cannot think atheism false and continue to be an atheist. But as it happens, there is a very special sense in which materialism has more restrictions than spiritualism. Mr. McCabe thinks me a slave because I am not allowed to believe in determinism. I think Mr. McCabe a slave because he is not Allowed to believe in fairies. But if we examine the two vetoes we shall see that his is really much more of a pure veto than mine. The Christian is quite free to believe that there is a considerable amount of settled order and inevitable development in the universe. But the materialist is not allowed to admit into his spotless machine the slightest speck of spiritualism or miracle. Poor Mr. McCabe is not allowed to retain even the tiniest imp, though it might be hiding in a pimpernel. The Christian admits that the universe is manifold and even miscellaneous, just as a sane man knows that he is complex. The sane man knows that he has a touch of the beast, a touch of the devil, a touch of the saint, a touch of the citizen. Nay, the really sane man knows that he has a touch of the madman. But the materialist’s world is quite simple and solid, just as the madman is quite sure he is sane. The materialist is sure that history has been simply and solely a chain of causation, just as the interesting person before mentioned is quite sure that he is simply and solely a chicken. Materialists and madmen never have doubts. Spiritual doctrines do not actually limit the mind as do materialistic denials. Even if I believe in immortality I need not think about it. But if I disbelieve in immortality I must not think about it. In the first case the road is open and I can go as far as I like; in the second the road is shut. But the case is even stronger, and the parallel with madness is yet more strange. For it was our case against the exhaustive and logical theory of the lunatic that, right or wrong, it gradually destroyed his humanity. Now it is the charge against the main deductions of the materialist that, right or wrong, they gradually destroy his humanity; I do not mean only kindness, I mean hope, courage, poetry, initiative, all that is human. For instance, when materialism leads men to complete fatalism (as it generally does), it is quite idle to pretend that it is in any sense a liberating force. It is absurd to say that you are especially advancing freedom when you only use free thought to destroy free will. The determinists come to bind, not to loose. They may well call their law the “chain” of causation. It is the worst chain that ever fettered a human being. You may use the language of liberty, if you like, about materialistic teaching, but it is obvious that this is just as inapplicable to it as a whole as the same language when applied to a man locked up in a mad-house…  Ernst Haeckel (1834-1919), a German biologist, monistic philosopher and evolutionary theorist who believed that he had proved that there was no immortal soul, free will or personal God. G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy (San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press, 1995), 27-30.
Take first the more obvious case of materialism. As an explanation of the world, materialism has a sort of insane simplicity. It has just the quality of the madman’s argument; we have at once the sense of it covering everything and the sense of it leaving everything out. Contemplate some able and sincere materialist, as, for instance, Mr. McCabe, and you will have exactly this unique sensation. He understands everything, and everything does not seem worth understanding. His cosmos may be complete in every rivet and cog-wheel, but still his cosmos is smaller than our world. Somehow his scheme, like the lucid scheme of the madman, seems unconscious of the alien energies and the large indifference of the earth; it is not thinking of the real things of the earth, of fighting peoples or proud mothers, or first love or fear upon the sea. The earth is so very large, and the cosmos is so very small. The cosmos is about the smallest hole that a man can hide his head in.
It must be understood that I am not now discussing the relation of these creeds to truth; but, for the present, solely their relation to health. Later in the argument I hope to attack the question of objective verity; here I speak only of a phenomenon of psychology. I do not for the present attempt to prove to Haeckel that materialism is untrue, any more than I attempted to prove to the man who thought he was Christ that he was labouring under an error. I merely remark here on the fact that both cases have the same kind of completeness and the same kind of incompleteness. You can explain a man’s detention at Hanwell by an indifferent public by saying that it is the crucifixion of a god of whom the world is not worthy. The explanation does explain. Similarly you may explain the order in the universe by saying that all things, even the souls of men, are leaves inevitably unfolding on an utterly unconscious tree— the blind destiny of matter. The explanation does explain, though not, of course, so completely as the madman’s. But the point here is that the normal human mind not only objects to both, but feels to both the same objection. Its approximate statement is that if the man in Hanwell is the real God, he is not much of a god. And, similarly, if the cosmos of the materialist is the real cosmos, it is not much of a cosmos. The thing has shrunk. The deity is less divine than many men; and (according to Haeckel) the whole of life is something much more grey, narrow, and trivial than many separate aspects of it. The parts seem greater than the whole.
For we must remember that the materialist philosophy (whether true or not) is certainly much more limiting than any religion. In one sense, of course, all intelligent ideas are narrow. They cannot be broader than themselves. A Christian is only restricted in the same sense that an atheist is restricted. He cannot think Christianity false and continue to be a Christian; and the atheist cannot think atheism false and continue to be an atheist. But as it happens, there is a very special sense in which materialism has more restrictions than spiritualism. Mr. McCabe thinks me a slave because I am not allowed to believe in determinism. I think Mr. McCabe a slave because he is not Allowed to believe in fairies. But if we examine the two vetoes we shall see that his is really much more of a pure veto than mine. The Christian is quite free to believe that there is a considerable amount of settled order and inevitable development in the universe. But the materialist is not allowed to admit into his spotless machine the slightest speck of spiritualism or miracle. Poor Mr. McCabe is not allowed to retain even the tiniest imp, though it might be hiding in a pimpernel. The Christian admits that the universe is manifold and even miscellaneous, just as a sane man knows that he is complex. The sane man knows that he has a touch of the beast, a touch of the devil, a touch of the saint, a touch of the citizen. Nay, the really sane man knows that he has a touch of the madman. But the materialist’s world is quite simple and solid, just as the madman is quite sure he is sane. The materialist is sure that history has been simply and solely a chain of causation, just as the interesting person before mentioned is quite sure that he is simply and solely a chicken. Materialists and madmen never have doubts.
Spiritual doctrines do not actually limit the mind as do materialistic denials. Even if I believe in immortality I need not think about it. But if I disbelieve in immortality I must not think about it. In the first case the road is open and I can go as far as I like; in the second the road is shut. But the case is even stronger, and the parallel with madness is yet more strange. For it was our case against the exhaustive and logical theory of the lunatic that, right or wrong, it gradually destroyed his humanity. Now it is the charge against the main deductions of the materialist that, right or wrong, they gradually destroy his humanity; I do not mean only kindness, I mean hope, courage, poetry, initiative, all that is human. For instance, when materialism leads men to complete fatalism (as it generally does), it is quite idle to pretend that it is in any sense a liberating force. It is absurd to say that you are especially advancing freedom when you only use free thought to destroy free will. The determinists come to bind, not to loose. They may well call their law the “chain” of causation. It is the worst chain that ever fettered a human being. You may use the language of liberty, if you like, about materialistic teaching, but it is obvious that this is just as inapplicable to it as a whole as the same language when applied to a man locked up in a mad-house…
 Ernst Haeckel (1834-1919), a German biologist, monistic philosopher and evolutionary theorist who believed that he had proved that there was no immortal soul, free will or personal God.
G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy (San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press, 1995), 27-30.
Clean Version of the below is Here
One of the reasons I am a bibliophile and love to follow references given in one book with the purchase of the referenced book is many of the same quotes used by multiple authors on a subject do not give the full weight and gravity of the larger quote. I will give you an example. In J.P. Moreland’s work from 1987, “Scaling the Secular City: A Defense of Christianity,” he quotes Huw Parri Owen’s work, Christian Theism. In a more voluminous work, he and William Lane Craig use the same quote:
A great quote for sure.
I was finally able to get a good bound copy for a VERY reasonable price (previously when I looked for a copy, they were very expensive). While this book will enter my hopper to be read in full, I read the chapter the quote came from, and loved this larger quote from the section… and it deals with the self-stultifying aspect of Marx and Freud. I will add another quote by an excellent authot=r that does much the same, but first here is H.P. Owen’s larger reference:
Here is a smaller section from Dr. Roy Clouser critiquing Freudian determinism as well as throwing a stone in Taoism’s shoe:
I kept getting this quote in conversation thrown at me proving Jefferson’s “anti-war” stance on Twitter. Here is one such use of it followed by an ultimatum:
- “I abhor war and view it as the greatest scourge of mankind.” ~Thomas Jefferson. Now you still want to argue your thinking?
The quote comes from a letter to Elbridge Gerry, and can be read here. Here is a larger section where this comes from… I will italicize the quote used already, and after the larger quote emphasize what follows that gives the sentence context:
Here is the sentence in whole — again:
- Much as I abhor war, and view it as the greatest scourge of mankind, and anxiously as I wish to keep out of the broils of Europe, I would yet go with my brethren into these, rather than separate from them.
There is a lot of qualifying that the sentence ripped from it’s context does not allows a reader to better understand Jefferson’s position. Also note that the letter included the history and knowledge of the Silas Deane affair as well as what is missing from the letter… which we know because we have the rough draft:
As an aside… Jefferson would have liked to see the French Revolution be more bloody if it succeeded in it’s aims:
Below are examples of atheists and theists agreeing that if atheism is true, truth is no longer a category to be trusted (find many more or fuller quotes and videos HERE):
✦ Determinism is self-stultifying. If my mental processes are totally determined, I am totally determined either to accept or to reject determinism. But if the sole reason for my believing or not believing X is that I am causally determined to believe it I have no ground for holding that my judgment is true or false. (H.P. Owen)
✦ If my mental processes are determined wholly by the motions of atoms in my brain, I have no reason to suppose that my beliefs are true…and hence I have no reason for supposing my brain to be composed of atoms. (J.B.S. Haldane)
✦ The principle chore of brains is to get the body parts where they should be in order that the organism may survive. Improvements in sensorimotor control confer an evolutionary advantage: a fancier style of representing [the world] is advantageous so long as it… enhances the organism’s chances for survival. Truth, whatever that is, takes the hindmost. (Patricia Churchland)
✦ He thus acknowledged the need for any theory to allow that humans have genuine freedom to recognize the truth. He (again, correctly) saw that if all thought, belief, feeling, and choice are determined (i.e., forced on humans by outside conditions) then so is the determinists’ acceptance of the theory of determinism forced on them by those same conditions. In that case they could never claim to know their theory is true since the theory making that claim would be self-referentially incoherent. In other words, the theory requires that no belief is ever a free judgment made on the basis of experience or reason, but is always a compulsion over which the believer has no control. (Roy A. Clouser,)
✦ If what he says is true, he says it merely as the result of his heredity and environment, and nothing else. He does not hold his determinist views because they are true, but because he has such-and-such stimuli; that is, not because the structure of the structure of the universe is such-and-such but only because the configuration of only part of the universe, together with the structure of the determinist’s brain, is such as to produce that result…. They [determinists – I would posit any philosophical naturalist] want to be considered as rational agents arguing with other rational agents; they want their beliefs to be construed as beliefs, and subjected to rational assessment; and they want to secure the rational assent of those they argue with, not a brainwashed repetition of acquiescent pattern. Consistent determinists should regard it as all one whether they induce conformity to their doctrines by auditory stimuli or a suitable injection of hallucinogens: but in practice they show a welcome reluctance to get out their syringes, which does equal credit to their humanity and discredit to their views. Determinism, therefore, cannot be true, because if it was, we should not take the determinists’ arguments as being really arguments, but as being only conditioned reflexes. Their statements should not be regarded as really claiming to be true, but only as seeking to cause us to respond in some way desired by them. (J. R. Lucas)
✦ …a lecture he attended entitled “Determinism – Is Man a Slave or the Master of His Fate,” given by Stephen Hawking, who is the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge, Isaac Newton’s chair, was this admission by Dr. Hawking’s, was Hawking’s admission that if “we are the random products of chance, and hence, not free, or whether God had designed these laws within which we are free.” In other words, do we have the ability to make choices, or do we simply follow a chemical reaction induced by millions of mutational collisions of free atoms? Michael Polyni mentions that this “reduction of the world to its atomic elements acting blindly in terms of equilibrations of forces,” a belief that has prevailed “since the birth of modern science, has made any sort of teleological view of the cosmos seem unscientific…. [to] the contemporary mind.”
✦ If we were free persons, with faculties which we might carelessly use or willfully misuse, the fact might be explained; but the pre-established harmony excludes this supposition. And since our faculties lead us into error, when shall we trust them? Which of the many opinions they have produced is really true? By hypothesis, they all ought to be true, but, as they contradict one another, all cannot be true. How, then, distinguish between the true and the false? By taking a vote? That cannot be, for, as determined, we have not the power to take a vote. Shall we reach the truth by reasoning? This we might do, if reasoning were a self-poised, self verifying process; but this it cannot be in a deterministic system. Reasoning implies the power to control one’s thoughts, to resist the processes of association, to suspend judgment until the transparent order of reason has been readied. It implies freedom, therefore. In a mind which is controlled by its states, instead of controlling them, there is no reasoning, but only a succession of one state upon another. There is no deduction from grounds, but only production by causes. No belief has any logical advantage over any other, for logic is no longer possible. (Borden P Bowne)
✦ What merit would attach to moral virtue if the acts that form such habitual tendencies and dispositions were not acts of free choice on the part of the individual who was in the process of acquiring moral virtue? Persons of vicious moral character would have their characters formed in a manner no different from the way in which the character of a morally virtuous person was formed—by acts entirely determined, and that could not have been otherwise by freedom of choice. (Mortimer J. Adler)
✦ Atheist Daniel Dennett’s assertion that consciousness is an illusion is not the result of an unbiased evaluation of the evidence. Indeed, there is no such thing as “unbiased evaluation” in a materialist world because the laws of physics determine everything anyone thinks, including everything Dennett thinks. Dennett is just assuming the ideology of materialism is true and applying its implications to consciousness. In doing so, he makes the same mistake we’ve seen so many other atheists make. He is exempting himself from his own theory. Dennett says consciousness is an illusion, but he treats his own consciousness as not an illusion. He certainly doesn’t think the ideas in his book are an illusion. He acts like he’s really telling the truth about reality. (Frank Turek quoting Dennett)
The following comes from the best biographical look at Einstein and religion:
[p. 90>] When the Northwestern Regional Conference of the American Association of Theological Schools convened at the Theological Seminary in Princeton in May 1939, one of the few nontheologians invited to address the meeting was Einstein. The mimeographed transcripts of his lecture carried the title “The Goal.” 34 Einstein began his talk by recalling that in the last century it was widely held that scientific knowledge and religious belief conflict with each other and that the prevailing trend “among advanced minds” was to replace belief with knowledge. The function of education was therefore confined to the development of rational thinking and knowing. Although “the aspiration toward such objective knowledge belongs to the highest of which man is capable… knowledge of what is does not open the door directly to what should be. One can have the clearest and most complete knowledge of what is, and yet not be able to deduct from that what should be the goal of our human aspirations.” Scientific thinking alone, Einstein continued, cannot lead us to the ultimate and fundamental purpose of our existence.
To make clear these fundamental ends and valuations, and to set them fast in the emotional life of the individual, seems to me precisely the most important function which religion has to perform in the social life of man. And if one asks whence derives the authority of such fundamental ends, since they cannot be [p. 91>] stated and justified merely by reason, one can only answer: they exist in a healthy society as powerful traditions, which act upon the conduct and aspirations and judgments of the individuals; they are there, that is, as something living, without its being necessary to find justification for their existence. They come into being not through demonstration but through revelation, through the medium of powerful personalities. One must not attempt to justify them, but rather to sense their nature simply and clearly. The highest principles for our aspirations and judgments are given to us in the Jewish-Christian religious tradition. It is a very high goal, which, with our weak powers, we can reach only very inadequately, but which gives us a sure foundation to our aspirations and valuations.
Compared with his 1930 essay, this talk had a much more reserved tone and its ideas were acceptable even to orthodox theologians. It should be noted, however, that the topic of Einstein’s 1930 essay differs distinctly from that of his 1939 talk; while the former dealt mainly with the origin and nature of religious beliefs, the latter deals almost exclusively with questions related to the purpose and goal of our life, a subject on which agreement is more easily attainable than on the nature of religion. In fact, Einstein’s 1939 talk was sympathetically received by almost all participants of the conference.
This was probably one of the reasons that Rabbi Louis Finkelstein, a prominent religious leader, president of the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York, and member of the organizing committee of the “Conference on Science, Philosophy and Religion,” scheduled to convene on Sep-[p. 92>] tember 9-11, 1940, at the Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York, thought it appropriate to invite Einstein to address this conference as well. Einstein agreed to write an essay, “Science and Religion,” to be read at this conference.35 Neither he nor Finkelstein anticipated the serious controversies and harsh acrimonies that this essay would evoke.
Einstein agreed, not only out of respect for a distinguished leader of liberal Judaism but also because of his well-known magnanimity to respond to all requests he thought to be ingenuous. Thus, in 1936 when Phyllis Wright, a sixth-grade student in the Sunday school of the Riverside Church in New York, asked whether scientists pray and, if they do, what they pray for, he gave a reply that can serve as an introduction to his essay for the 1940 conference.
“Scientific research is based on the assumption that all events, including the actions of mankind, are determined by the laws of nature. Therefore, a research scientist will hardly be inclined to believe that events could be influenced by a prayer, that is, by a wish addressed to a supernatural Being. However, we have to admit that our actual knowledge of these laws is only an incomplete piece of work (unvollkommenes Stuck-werk), so that ultimately the belief in the existence of fundamental all-embracing laws also rests on a sort of faith. All the same, this faith has been largely justified [p. 93>] by the success of science. On the other hand, however, everyone who is seriously engaged in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that the laws of nature manifest the existence of a spirit vastly superior to that of men, and one in the face of which we with our modest powers must feel humble. The pursuit of science leads therefore to a religious feeling of a special kind, which differs essentially from the religiosity of more naive people. With friendly greetings, your Albert Einstein.”36
EINSTEIN’S CONTRIBUTION to the 1940 conference was presented to an audience of over five hundred participants. The article begins with the question of what, precisely, we understand by science and by religion. Science, says Einstein, can easily be defined as “the attempt at the posterior reconstruction of existence by the process of conceptualization”; but to define religion is a much more difficult task. We can reach this definition by inquiring first what characterizes the aspirations of a religious person. “A person who is religiously enlightened,” says Einstein, “appears to me to be one who has, to the best of his ability, liberated himself from the fetters of his selfish desires and is preoccupied with thoughts, feelings, and aspirations to which he clings because of their superpersonal value.” What is important, according to Einstein, is “the force of this super-personal content…. regardless of whether any attempt is made to unite this content with a divine Being.” From these presuppositions, Einstein then derived the definition [p. 94>] of religion as “the age-old endeavor of mankind to become clearly and completely conscious of these values and goals and constantly to strengthen and extend their effect.”
These definitions enabled Einstein to repeat what he had already said in his essay, “The Goal,” namely, that because science ascertains only what is, but not what should be, no conflict between the two can exist. Only intervention on the part of religion into the realm of science—if, for example, a religious community insists on the absolute truthfulness of all statements in the Bible—can give rise to conflict, as has been the case in the struggle of the Church against the doctrines of Galileo or Darwin. Even though the realms of religion and science are distinctly marked off from each other, strong reciprocal relations exist between the two. Though religion determines the goal, science, in its broadest sense, shows the means for attaining this goal. However, “science can only be created by those who are thoroughly imbued with the aspiration toward truth and understanding. This source of feeling, however, springs from the sphere of religion…. I cannot conceive of a genuine scientist without that profound faith. The situation may be expressed by an image: science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.”
Had this statement been the final conclusion, the article probably would have been acclaimed by all the participants. But Einstein qualified his statements about the compatibility of religion and science “with reference to the actual content of historical religions.” “This qualification,” he continued, “has to do with the concept of God.” He then mentioned, though more briefly than in his 1930 essay, his theory of the three stages in the evolution of religion and the concept of God and declared that “the main source of [p. 95>] the present-day conflicts between the spheres of religion and of science lies in this concept of a personal God.” Although he conceded that the doctrine of a personal God could never be refuted, because such a doctrine could always take refuge where science has not yet been able to gain a foothold, he called such a procedure
not only unworthy but also fatal. For a doctrine which is able to maintain itself not in clear light but only in the dark, will of necessity lose its effect on mankind, with incalculable harm to human progress. In their struggle for the ethical good, teachers of religion must have the stature to give up that source of fear and hope which in the past placed such vast power in the hands of priests. The further the spiritual evolution of mankind advances, the more certain it seems to me that the path to genuine religiosity does not lie through the fear of life, and the fear of death, and blind faith, but through striving after rational knowledge. In this sense I believe that the priest must become a teacher if he wishes to do justice to his lofty educational mission.
Some background is necessary to assess correctly the reaction that this article—in particular, its denial of a personal God—evoked among the theologians attending the conference and the wider public. Einstein did not anticipate that the denial of a personal God would be misinterpreted as the denial of God. That such a misinterpretation was not uncommon can be gathered from a 1945 encyclopedia of religion that defined the term “atheism” as “the denial that there exists a being corresponding to some particular definition of god; frequently, but unfortunately, [p. 96>] used to denote the denial of God as personal.”37 That Einstein was neither an atheist nor an agnostic—certainly not in the usual sense of the term coined in 1869 by Thomas Henry Huxley—follows not only from Einstein’s above-mentioned statements concerning his cosmic religion but also from statements made by all those with whom he had intimate discussions about his religious conviction. Thus, for example, his close friend Max Born once remarked, “he [Einstein] had no belief in the Church, but did not think that religious faith was a sign of stupidity, nor unbelief a sign of intelligence.”38 David Ben-Gurion—who visited Einstein in Princeton a year before inviting him to become President of Israel—recalled that, when discussing religion, “even he [Einstein], with his great formula about energy and mass, agreed that there must be something behind the energy.”39 With respect to religion, Ben-Gurion and Einstein had much in common. Like Einstein, Ben-Gurion was an ardent admirer of Spinoza. He also declared his belief “that there must be a being, intangible, indefinable, even unimaginable, but something infinitely superior to all we know and are capable of conceiving,”40 a belief not much different from Einstein’s belief in the impersonal God of his cosmic religion.
At a charity dinner in New York, Einstein explicitly dissociated himself from atheism when he spoke with the German anti-Nazi diplomat and author Hubertus zu Lowen-[p. 97>]stein: “In view of such harmony in the cosmos which I, with my limited human mind, am able to recognize, there are yet people who say there is no God. But what really makes me angry is that they quote me for support of such views.”41
 A. Einstein, “The Goal,” lecture delivered 19 May 1939, Ideas and Opinions, pp. 41-44; Out of My Later Years, pp. 25-28.
 A. Einstein, “Science and Religion,” Transactions of the First Conference on Science, Philosophy and Religion in Their Relation to the Democratic Way of Life (New York, 1941); Ideas and Opinions, pp. 44-49; Out of My Later Years, pp. 28-33; Nature 146 (1940): 605-607.
 Einstein to P. Wright, 24 January 1936. Einstein Archive, reel 52-337.
 V. Ferm, ed., An Encyclopedia of Religion (Philosophical Library, New York, 1945), p. 44.
 Born—Einstein Letters p. 203.
 M. Pearlman, Ben Gurion Looks Back (Weidenfeld and Nicolson, London, 1965), p. 217.
 Ibid., p. 216.
 Prinz Hubertus zu Lowenstein, Towards the Further Shore (Victor Gollancz, London, 1968), p. 156.
Max Jammer, Einstein and Religion (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1999), 90-97.