Tie a yellow ribbon…

Perhaps some of you watched Oak Tree: Nature’s Greatest Survivor in the last fortnight. It was a fascinating story of a year in the life of a four hundred year old tree, using the most modern methods of analysis. I found it riveting.

We saw the acorn springing into life, for all the world like an embryo, following the ingenious plan which ensured a new, unique, pattern of genes each time. We studied the root pattern with all its flexibility needed to ensure the right nutrients, and the right support for the great mass of the tree. At each change of the seasons we saw how the tree recognised the changes and produced the various hormones required to prepare for coming conditions.

Strictly, one cannot refer to an intelligent tree, but certainly we are looking at a highly complex, flexible and intelligent system – one good enough to keep the tree in good fettle since it was born at the time of the Civil War. And I rejoiced in it because God was right at its heart. Through his wonderful idea of evolution, this marvel was made. And, if I had to discern God’s major characteristic, without any other evidence, I would say that he is in love with, besotted with, life.

Of course many of a scientific mind would laugh at my credulity. Everything, they would say, can be explained though cause and effect – even if we don’t yet have all the answers. They would call me superstitious, and I am glad of that because the word literally means ‘to stand above’. I do not believe that the oak tree explains itself. I do not believe that the natural world explains itself. I do not believe that human life explains itself. I do believe that the world has meaning precisely because there is an infinite power which ‘stands above’.

I am reminded of the late Frank Sheed, the great lay Catholic theologian. He taught that every atom of the universe is a sign of God’s presence because it is held in existence by his active creative will. Were he to withdraw his will that atom would revert to its previous condition – nothingness.

Nowadays I see the beginnings of a change in the scientific mind. I am not thinking of the troll-like undergrowth whose instinctive reaction to belief is mockery. It is the thinkers I have in mind. They may not know the answers, and some may wish to avoid the answers. But the questions still come. Is there a purpose to my life? Why do I know that I must achieve good and avoid the evil? What is love? What does choice mean in a world of cause and effect? Science is good at finding out facts, but it cannot address the big questions. And, in the end, it is the big questions which matter.

Oak Tree is on Iplayer, available until 22 October, at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b06fq03t/oak-tree-natures-greatest-survivor

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About Quentin

Science Editor, Catholic Herald. Portrait © Jacqueline Alma
This entry was posted in evolution, Quentin queries, Spirituality. Bookmark the permalink.

47 Responses to Tie a yellow ribbon…

  1. Brian Hamill says:

    Quentin, What a glorious article! I saw the programme and agree with everything you say. May I add just one little comment. You say that Frank Sheed taught that every atom of the universe is a sign of God’s presence because it is held in existence by his active creative will. To me it seems even better to say that every atom in the universe is being actively loved into existence every moment. Our very existence each moment is the proof of God’s ever-present and active love for us – and everything.

  2. G.D. says:

    Quentin i’m pleased to agree with everything you said.
    I add my thoughts because ….. I just can’t not! ……….

    The meaning & the means themselves are only and always ‘…. God’s major characteristic, without any other evidence, …. that he is in love with, besotted with, life. …’

    When we view creation as such (with no desire for proof // evidence) religious belief or none, named or mystery, we touch the creative potential of God and are open to God’s Spirit. And, experience that Love. Live love even!?

    This is the ‘non-dual’ ‘contemplative’ state of awareness.
    We are ‘Surprised by Joy’ as the author (?) said. Confusing as it may seem.

    To ‘name’ (possess/own) loses it, that is why we don’t accept it more.

    In recognising our inability to ‘grasp’ ‘own’ create that ‘love & meaning’ we enter into the ‘silence’ and ‘hear’ the small whisper of the spirit beyond the storms of our quest(ion)ing ….. “We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.” (Little Gidding)

    It’s when we DO cease ‘from all our exploring’ we are ‘Surprised by Joy’.

    To attempt to prove / gather evidence for this ‘meaning & Love’ of Life, we lose it. It becomes something other than it is in reality.
    The tree IS the tree – no matter what we see it as, how we explain it’s existence.

    Yet of course we (some of us at least) must have points of reference to share it with others. And that’s fine. But, when the references become ‘my points for you to see the meaning of the tree’ (the programme could be presented differently) the Wonder & Awe cease, ego has taken over, demanding ‘control’.
    This is where so much of the travesty of life comes from I believe.

    But can’t end on a down beat! More and more people, as you say (even scientists!!) are starting to ‘see’ in a different way.
    There is a ‘spirit’ blowing throughout the universe that will always bring creation ‘to arrive where we started and know’ ……….. ‘Surprised by Joy’.

    • Peter Foster says:

      Surprised by Joy (The shape of my early Life) by C.S.Lewis.
      His autobiography. “How could the author of The Problem of Pain, The Screwtape Letters and all those other works so radiant with the sense of God have ever been without the sense of God himself? And how in the end did he attain to it?”

  3. Geordie says:

    It always amazes me how atheists will say and do anything in order to avoid the big questions. They will not face up to question of free will. They avoid facing up to good and evil. They will accept any form of infinity (eg multi universes) as long as God doesn’t come into it. I’m quite happy with multi universes; it is just another example of the majesty of God.
    Thank you for your post, Quentin. It is excellent.

  4. Vincent says:

    I think that we have to be careful of our definitions here. The word atheist suggests a position which holds that God does not exist. But I think that such people are few and far between. For instance, Professor Dawkins does not maintain that he does not exist because a negative cannot be proved. He would say that he sees God’s existence as unlikely, and certainly as an unnecessary hypothesis to explain the universe as we know it.

    Some philosophers would argue that the question: does God exist?, is, on analysis, meaningless. It remains meaningless until we can show what criteria are necessary in order to answer it.

    A secularist (although the term is often used interchangeably with atheist) is somewhat different. It would refer to someone who is only concerned with the world as we can experience its material nature. He might deplore religious belief as a distraction, or he might value it since, true or untrue, it can bring many psychological benefits to believers, and perhaps to society.

    I would argue therefore that the vast majority of these people are agnostic. They maintain that we do not know, and cannot know, of the existence of God. It is a respectable position.

    • Quentin says:

      I think that a secularist might go further than just material nature. He might, for example, look at the moral sense. He might argue, as David Hume did, that we have benign emotions. Had evolution been understood at that time, Hume would have supposed that human beings who lacked benignity would have been disadvantaged compared with those who gave, and received, care from their fellows. Social virtues are evolutionarily desirable.

    • Alan says:

      Vincent,

      Perhaps you, or anyone else, can clear up my possible confusion about the term agnostic. The bit that I’m unsure of is “and cannot know”. Does this refer to our current knowledge and understanding of God or does the agnostic position suggest that we can never know or resolve the question of his existence? If it is the former then I am happy to be an agnostic. If it is the latter then I am more properly a “weak” or “implicit” atheist I think (what Ignatius calls a “soft” atheist). Like you, I think that explicit/strong atheists are rare. I don’t think I’ve ever really come across one.

      • Vincent says:

        Back to the dictionary (Oxford Concise). First definition = believes that nothing is known, or can be known…. Second definition = uncertain or non-committed… So I was formally correct. If I understand you, you are in the second category. Both depend on the etymological ‘gnosis’ or knowledge,.

  5. ignatius says:

    “I would argue therefore that the vast majority of these people are agnostic. They maintain that we do not know, and cannot know, of the existence of God. It is a respectable position…”

    There are a lot of people who fall between the categories of atheist and agnostic. These are not strident in their positions and might thus be called ‘soft’ atheists. For them the question of God is simply not particularly interesting or relevant. These people think of themselves as basically decent, rational sorts and are mainly preoccupied with the simple issues of daily life:family, work, hobbies, politics, compassion. This type is polite about religion, declares itself agnostic, but is in fact profoundly uninterested. They go by the motto:
    ‘do unto others as you would be done by’

    This group are it seems to me pretty ubiquitous…they baffle me though I respect them and generally see them as the salt of the earth.

  6. Nektarios says:

    Is the world one of cause and effect, or is it yet another theory posing as a fact?
    So, to answer your question, Quentin, `what does choice mean in a world of cause and effect?’
    Well first, I question the philosophical position that the world is merely cause and effect, making all that the universe is and we are, mere cause and effect.
    What does `choice’ mean? It means in every case, division. I choose this but not that; I like this but not that; I believe this, but not that and so on, the list is endless. When man faced with choice in his Fallen nature, he will choose that which pertains to his likes, his passions, interests and so on even religious choices.
    A person who God has made one of His Children in Christ, does not choose God, rather the other way around, He choose us. Entering in to that, does not bring division (choice) but into something the natural man never knows, wholeness and all that pertains to the spiritual life and so on.

    • Peter Foster says:

      Nectarios, you challenge Quentin’s world of cause and effect. I discussed this in “Where’s the evidence” Friday 8 August 2014, and again in “The Hard Problem” 25 April 2.27.
      Karl Popper has demonstrated that universal scientific cause and effect is untenable so that choice and freewill are at least possible.

      • Nektarios says:

        Peter Foster,
        I was not directly challenging Quentin’s view, but questioning it.
        As I said, `choice’ in every situation, all will mean division. As for freewill, such a perception can be deceptive.

      • Quentin says:

        There is mystery here. We are taught that the goodness in our actions and choices is the outcome of grace. But it would be a mistake to think of this (‘actual, as it is called) grace as though it were an external compelling force. Yes, it is wholly an action of grace and wholly an action of human choice. We cannot understand this, but we can benefit through thinking about what it means.

        You are right, I believe, to claim that many of our choices are not free – although we may not be aware of the factors which influence or compel us. Yet we must hold on to the possibility of free will if we want to count ourselves as members of the human race.

  7. Brendan says:

    How wonderful and how privileged we are today that modern science can – carrying out Gods work – open up the wonders of the natural world bestowed in a mere ‘ tree ‘.
    Just what is meant by ” salt of the earth ” Matthew 5:13 in the sermon on the mount . Strictly speaking it
    can only be said of a follower of Christ – the Christian……..” will he not much more who look after you , you who have little faith ? ” Over and above nature then….. ” every hair on your head has been counted.” Matthew 10: 30.
    ‘Salt’ ( Grace ) is the life-giver, bringing the spark of God ( His Spirit ) to any situation by the receiver . If left to ‘go off ‘ it is useless and can only be thrown out. Life goes on , we go on , but we are useless unless invigorated by this ‘ salt ‘. This ‘salt ‘ also gives flavour to our Christian life making it acceptable to the world giving freshness to its meaning and a constant appeal to every generation. So one will ‘ know ‘ the christian…..” you will be able to tell them by their fruits .” Matthew7:20

  8. St.Joseph says:

    Brendan, you make a wonderful definition of ‘salt of the earth’, ir brings to mind the creation story of God making Adam from the earth or dust of the earth.meaning they are our first parents.
    Maybe a little far fetched but got me thinking!

  9. ignatius says:

    I also agree with Quentin about the ‘sea change’ going on around us. It does seem that we have moved away from a (false) scientific certainty into something a little more humble and a little more honest.
    I would locate three reasons for this:
    1) The general realisation that theoretical physics is making it up as it goes along. Much literature is now given over to the bafflement of physicists rather than their certainty.
    2) The kickback effect of strident atheism ala dawkins et al, where the underlying agenda of arrogant and bullyingly aggressive assertion becomes plain.
    3) The uncertain nature of the world as we currently know it.

    Overall I think the change is a good one.

    • RAHNER says:

      “sea change”..really? According to the Pew Research Centre the number of people in the USA describing themselves as religiously unaffiliated has risen from 16% in 2007 to 23% in 2014.

  10. John Nolan says:

    ‘Strong’ atheists (and I’ve met a couple over the years) maintain as an article of faith that religion (any religion) is positively harmful, and always has been. One such would not on principle set foot in a church, not even to admire the architecture. To maintain this doctrinal position requires a considerable distortion of history. The Catholic Church is of course the primary axis of evil, and yet criticism of it is not based on any real understanding of the institution, neither in the present nor in the past.

  11. ignatius says:

    I was talking to one such’strong’ atheist last week who told me he could debunk the bible in two minutes. A quarter of an hour later he was forced to change the subject. I think these people are relatively rare because of the futility of their position which can be so easily debunked. Most reasonable people that I have met can be persuaded to back track a little given time to think and see the absurdity of their opinions – especially those concerning ‘religion being the cause of all wars’ etc. I’m quite a strong believe in free choice myself and this means that it is important to put the counter argument to what appear as reasonable thinking but are in fact cliches.

  12. Alan says:

    Just so that it is clear that we have two different ideas of what the term “strong” atheist means I should perhaps point out that mine has nothing to do with a person’s view on the relative merits of religion. It only relates to the nature of the person’s belief about God’s existence.

    • Nektarios says:

      Alan,
      Can I ask you, Alan, what is your understanding of the nature of or about God’s existence?

    • ignatius says:

      Alan,
      This is an interesting thing. I’m fascinated by the relationship of a persons ‘belief’ about the nature of God’s existence and the way they,themselves, interrogate their own beliefs. Because it seems to me that though a person, for whatever reasons, may hold that God does not exist,that person should also be able to see that, in the presence of billions of people, attesting to the existence of God, the atheist view might need a good look at itself and accept its own weakness.

    • Alan says:

      You want to know how I feel about God’s existence?

      I think it’s possible there is such a being, but I’ve a strong suspicion that our quite limited experience encourages us to believe in such things whether they are real or not. There seems to be some evidence to suggest people do this quite readily. I don’t think agnostic describes me accurately since, as we see in this thread, that position seems to rule you ever being able to know that God exists.

      I can’t imagine myself ever looking at some wonder of “creation” that we cannot explain ( from atoms and oaks trees to everything in between and beyond) and deciding “this needs an explanation and that explanation cannot be natural”. Great minds still puzzle over the “big” questions. They are not ignored from an atheist’s potential point of view and I see them being addressed quite regularly and seriously in scientific publications. Consciousness, free will, how the universe and life began are frequent topics. There are no definitive answers if that is what someone expects or needs. I do not. A theory, scientifically speaking, doesn’t make me think of something inadequate. The criticism “just a theory” or “only a theory” makes little sense to me in that context.

      Does “standing above” these problems and answers offer a better vantage point from which to spot an alternative hypothesis? Not so that I can tell.

      I cannot include all the detail and thoughts that I would like here. Far from it. Mostly because I cannot present them to my own satisfaction without spending much more time on it than I have. I am not much of a writer. The above is unsatisfactory too, but it was that or nothing! So I will leave it there for what it is worth and see if that leads somewhere.

      • Vincent says:

        In my experience, secular scientific investigations into, say, consciousness or the beginning of the universe, confine themselves to material explanations. Thus they would write about how the brain might present for us those things of which we are conscious, but they don’t look at consciousness itself. In seeking for how the universe came about, they look for more remote material causes but they do not ask how something can arise from nothing. A better start for them would be to ask what sort of answers would be needed to provide satisfactory explanations. I would love to hear an agnostic scientist saying: Science as such can only answer questions concerning empirical, material explanations. But there are other, more profound, questions which are beyond the scope of science.

      • Nektarios says:

        Alan
        To reply to some of the points you raised.

        The day of Pentecost was a most notable and vital day for the Christian church, and it was also one of the great turning points in the history of the world. Without understanding it, it is quite impossible to have any correct notion as to the character and nature of the Christian church and the Christian message. In Acts 2 we have the first sermon that was ever preached under the auspices of the church, and therefore it is of unusual importance. I am calling attention to Peter’s sermon because we are confronted by the tragic fact that the world, speaking generally, is not interested in this message. That is particularly staggering since we now find ourselves in a world that we understand less and less.
        The other day I was reading an article in a learned journal that pointed out that toward the last quarter of the nineteenth century scientists had become exceedingly confident and optimistic. Even a great and sane man like Lord Kelvin did not hesitate to say that it was merely a matter of time before all the secrets of nature would be discovered. Discoveries and inventions had led men and women to believe that scientific research and endeavor held the key to unlocking the secrets of life. But the article went on to point out, quite rightly, that in a very short time indeed all such notions were exploded. By what? Well, by further discoveries of science! The discovery of X-rays shattered nineteenth- century optimism and dispelled the idea that all the mysteries of the universe would soon be fathomed. The discovery of radium increased the sense of mystery, and then later research in the twentieth century on the nature of the atom and so on completely destroyed this optimism.
        The universe has become mysterious. But apart from that, what is life itself? What is the purpose of it all? What are we doing here? And then, of course, there is death, that inevitable event toward which everybody is moving. What is it? What lies behind it? We are only here for a short while— threescore years and ten, says the Bible. Some are taken beyond that, yes, to ninety and even more, but death is bound to come. So is it not amazing that, confronted by such ignorance about the universe, ourselves, life, death, and eternity, the majority of men and women will still not consider the only book, the only teaching, that gives us even a modicum of explanation and understanding?

        It is astounding that people in the world can still go on in their fatal optimism in spite of facts that are shaking their world, even in the face of their own discoveries, and even when confronted by the sort of event that is undoubtedly uppermost in the minds of all the people of this country at present. But this is the truth that is before us, and I assert once more that the only help and guidance we have is to be found here, in the pages of the Bible.

      • Alan says:

        Nektarios – “Discoveries and inventions had led men and women to believe that scientific research and endeavor held the key to unlocking the secrets of life. But the article went on to point out, quite rightly, that in a very short time indeed all such notions were exploded.”

        This is a lesson that suggests to me that I shouldn’t trust the conclusions of science implicitly – and I don’t. To me that feels like the strength of a theory as opposed to the weakness some people make it out to be. But I don’t get any feeling that the lesson tells me anything about how trustworthy the alternatives are.

      • Alan says:

        Vincent – “But there are other, more profound, questions which are beyond the scope of science.”

        Rather than how can something arise from nothing can I ask how you feel about “Why is there something rather than nothing?” and any possible scientific, religious or philosophical answer?

      • Vincent says:

        “Why is there something rather than nothing?” What prompts the question ‘why’? The very asking of that question, it seems to me, assumes that nothing is random. We don’t ask why this spun coin came down as heads, although we realise that this needed a string of causal effects to bring it about.

        The next question therefore would be what would be an adequate cause to bring about the universe (or, if you prefer, everything there is)? Philosophically, we would have to say that the cause must be powerful enough to bring something out of nothing. (We speak as if this cause acted at some time in the past, but of course time is a concept we use from our perspective and when there is nothing there is no time.)

        Using the principle that the effect cannot be greater than the cause, we might begin to list some aspects of the cause. For example, since the effect contains persons, we should assume that the cause is personal. From such aspects we might build up a crude picture of the cause. But the Judaeo Christian contention is that the cause reveals itself, at least in part, to his creatures. Finally Christianity goes to the ultimate stage of teaching that the cause chose to become one of us so that creation might be brought back in harmony with the cause. So the circle completes.

        How’s that for life, the universe and everything in a few lines?

  13. Brendan says:

    Perhaps to help move this conversation along ; for he Christian … ” the nature of a persons belief about God ‘s existence .”….is predicated on how one mirrors , in ones living out , God in his ‘ nature.’ While we cannot possibly ‘ know ‘ God in this way , we can emulate him though the Jesus Christ , The Second Person of the Godhead ( The Holy Trinity ) and His concrete word through example.
    The Apostle Matthew , particularly in his Gospel , redolent in Chapters 5,6,7 etc., gives the positive stance that the Christian should take in relationship to the world in declaring God’s existential presence.
    That stance is summed up in one word…. humility. Without the existentialist position that comes with ‘ a faith ‘ ( the stance ) the professed atheist will fail to grasp that vital point. Only in this way can the nature of the Christian’s position be explained/ shown to a contrary world. Conversely , if only for the sake of argument , it is for the atheist’s world to demonstrate to others the nature of the atheist world.

  14. Brendan says:

    P.s. So what the ‘ believer ‘ sees in Quentin’s example of the wonders unfolded by science in the life-cycle of the oak tree is nothing less than the nature of God Himself in action through Creation. Faith yes, but humility is the key to unlock that which is ‘ beyond ‘ .

  15. G.D. says:

    Brendan ……….’ for the Christian … ” the nature of a persons belief about God ‘s existence .”….is predicated on how one mirrors , in ones living out , God in his ‘ nature.’ “.

    Brendan, I’m a bit confused by your post.
    Are you saying that if one lives love & goodness statements (of belief or nonbelief in God) are of ‘secondary’ importance; and the reality lived is (what a Christian would call) the life of God?

    Which is what I think you mean.

    Or, only the person who consciously acknowledges Jesus and tries to ‘mirror’ him can reflect God’s life?

    And more confusion for me ……
    Humility is that which can know what is ‘beyond’ i.e. brings ‘beyond’ here & now?
    (Put in Christian terms ‘living the kingdom of God’)
    So, a humble person (of any or no belief) can be living that life too? ……….. even when it’s not explicitly stated as such.

  16. Brendan says:

    G..D. – On your first uncertainty about what I perceive as the Christians stance in what amounts to ‘ a life in Christ ‘, your second question beginning … ” Or, only the person . etc .. ” is very similar , and a concise summing up of the first question , with subtle qualification.
    To take the first question then ; I am taking about subjective faith ( belief ) : ‘ non-belief ‘ does NOT enter here as one accepts Christ as Saviour at baptism … and no-one else. So what flows from this ‘ love and goodness ‘ is not secondary ( your word ) but flows naturally from and is the outcome of… ” what Christians would call ‘ the life of God ”.. in Christ. I believe Saint Paul would call this real but unworldly stance ( in the secular domain ) ‘ metanoia ‘ – again which the natural outcome flowing from that super – natural grace endowed by God through ‘ faith ‘ that lives through and in Christ. As you put it existentially , ‘ living the Kingdom of God. ‘
    Finally, without quoting ‘ chapter and verse ‘ you will know exactly what I mean when Christ tells us in no uncertain terms ; that to really know Him we must be like ‘ little children ‘ at His feet – in love with Him and in awe of His Truth . Hence , it is the likes of those who are the least in the world , those humble souls ( ‘ poor in spirit ‘ ) that God – in -Christ in the Spirit favours with the Truths of our very existence and what we are meant for . This is our total happiness ; for it is then that we ‘ see ‘ ( given that insight ) as to what awaits us ‘beyond’ ourselves in this present life.
    I hope I have made myself clearer G.D. Please come back with thoughts on this, if any.

    • G.D. says:

      Thank you, for clearing that up Brendan.

      I find it difficult not to see the ‘Kingdom of God’ present and active when i see/experience love in action in sincerely good ‘non-believers’, as well as people who profess belief in God; therefore (what i would call) the love of Christ ‘working’ through them.
      The confusion probably came from my own assumptions.

      • Brendan says:

        It may be your ‘ own assumptions ‘ – only you can know. It is certainly common to see the good in everyone – we would not be true to Christianity if it were any other way. ” My house has many mansions ” aside ; as I said ‘ humility ‘ through fa’faith ‘ in approaching God ( who is infinitely greater than ourselves ) is the interpretive key to everything ….I find .

  17. Brendan says:

    Alan – I can see how humans construct a kind of ‘ demi-urge ‘ as some sort of psychological need to quiet/ justify ones existence ; particularly when faced with existential fear – which most sane human beings confront frequently/ infrequently in life ? I believe atheistic Communism termed such manifestations along with belief in God as the ‘ phantasmagorical ‘ in material sense. Who knows ?
    I am more interested in how a person ‘ comes to faith ‘ through living ; which I believe to be the more fruitful avenue to pursue. I , from the perspective of a believer , find your reply interesting ; but there is one statement that I haven’t quite grasped about you….” A theory ,scientifically speaking , doesn’t make me think of something inadequate. The criticism………..to me in that context .”
    I would be grateful if you could flesh the meaning of that out .

    • Alan says:

      Brendon – In science it’s not possible to improve upon an explanation such that it becomes more than or better than “a theory”. Scientific theories are never proven. They never become certain knowledge. Theories are as good as it gets. It’s not the same meaning as the common use of the word (which confuses things somewhat). Theories represent the very best, extensively tested, explanations on offer. It’s true that they can still be wrong. And they can still be improved upon in light of new information or contrary evidence (facts), but they are always the best expert opinion on offer. As such, “just” or “only” the best explanation makes little sense to me. It’s a criticism that seems to demand better than the best that is possible!
      I hope that helps a little.

      • Brendan says:

        Thank you Alan . For me that explains you being a little more than a – gnostic. Suggesting open- mindedness and a certain amount of awareness of the possibility of something ‘ bigger than oneself .’ – theoretical materialism not always the last word ?
        If true of you, the interface between science and religion would become more amenable to fruitful exchange with each other , from the point of view of dialogue between the aggressive atheist and the world of the theist ( Christian ) .

      • Nektarios says:

        Alan
        You wrote in reply to me,
        “This is a lesson that suggests to me that I shouldn’t trust the conclusions of science implicitly – and I don’t. To me that feels like the strength of a theory as opposed to the weakness some people make it out to be. But I don’t get any feeling that the lesson tells me anything about how trustworthy the alternatives are.”

        Are you looking for alternatives to the truth? You will look in vain, Alan. I am also concerned the different ways you are useing terms like, ` that feels like’ or ` you don’t get any feeling’? Are your feelings, intuitive or otherwise, the arbiter of truth? I think not, for so often our feelings can be partial, often biased and leads as it does so often to a completely wrong conclusion.

        In your reply to Vincent you asked, ` “Why is there something rather than nothing?” and any possible scientific, religious or philosophical answer?”

        Nothing does not indicate the absence of anything. It means that which appears, something, proceeds from NO THING. In otherwords it proceeds from that which is not `a thing’, like something created, but from that which is beyond all things and uncreated.

        As this would be too high for our frame or mind to take in, we have only a statement given by God, (no thing) in Genesis1:1 In the begining God created the heavens and the earth….. remembering, we too are created beings, proceeding from that which is uncreated, partially, the rest of us is is of the dust of the created earth.

        So there you have it, Alan, a biblical, religious, philosophical and scientific explanation.

      • Alan says:

        Nektarios – “Are you looking for alternatives to the truth?”

        I meant the alternative approaches offered to discovering the truth. Those other than the scientific method.

        N – “Are your feelings, intuitive or otherwise, the arbiter of truth? I think not, for so often our feelings can be partial, often biased and leads as it does so often to a completely wrong conclusion.”

        My feelings about a claim, argument or idea are critical to how compelling or believable I find it … be it the truth or not. So the truth doesn’t have to coincide with those feelings necessarily, but I can’t find it very convincing if it doesn’t. Can anyone?

  18. Brendan says:

    Thanks – you are astutely placing our respective contributions in good order , Quentin.

  19. Nektarios says:

    Alan
    It has been interesting discussing with you. What it seems you will or will not accept as truth, places you at the centre that decides all things. This is as I have pointed out in previous topics is simply humanism.
    One can be taught the rudiments of the Gospel, but by your book, unless one agrees , feels. senses or otherwise would only raise all sorts of arguments to defend ones own non- believing position, more accurately I see it as sitting on the fence, undecided.
    Lastly, Alan, it is not you or I or anyone else who will judge the Holy Scriptures, the Bible, but they
    will judge us.
    Jesus said, `Search ye the Scriptures, for in them ye think ye have eternal life, but they are they that testify of Me.’
    If one denies the testimony of Scriptures to Christ, in all that he has said and done, and will yet do, then we deny Christ and His Salvation to us. I trust you see the seriousness of your position?

  20. Alan says:

    Nektarios – “What it seems you will or will not accept as truth, places you at the centre that decides all things. This is as I have pointed out in previous topics is simply humanism.”

    It has been interesting to discuss this. May I ask you if there are any examples of something that you accept as truth which you don’t feel are believable? Can you perhaps have faith that something is true but not feel that it is true? I’m afraid don’t see how to separate these things.

    Nektarios – “If one denies the testimony of Scriptures to Christ, in all that he has said and done, and will yet do, then we deny Christ and His Salvation to us. I trust you see the seriousness of your position?”

    I do appreciate the seriousness of the issue should it be true. But seriousness isn’t the arbiter or an indicator of truth either I don’t think. So I hope you can understand why I would try my best not to let that seriousness influence my view on how true or believable it is.

    • Nektarios says:

      Alan
      I was positing that seriousness was the arbiter or indicator of truth. The seriousness referred to your seeming position.

      • Alan says:

        Nektarios
        I understand. I’m just trying to make it clear why that makes no difference to me in terms of how believable/unbelievable I find it.

  21. St.Joseph says:

    I want to thank you for your prayers, that I asked for a few weeks ago, with suspected cancer in my spine it,is a relief to know that it isn’t. only wedges from a fractured spine in 2012.
    So thank you all again and to Our Lord and His Blessed Mother.

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