Saturday, March 10, 2007

"Mind" -> Intellectually Honest?

Recently in a conversation that I had with an atheist, he stated that there wasn't enough proof for God. It would "intellectually dishonest" for him to believe in God because of this lack of evidence.

However, what would be enough proof for an atheist?

What would I need to do to prove that God exists? If I performed a "honest to God" miracle in front of him, would this be "proof enough" and would he convert? If I did several, and he couldn't figure it out by means of instruments, would he say, "well there is a God" or would his world view cause him to say, "Theo is a sly devil, and a good fooler."

We all know that it would be the latter.

This is one of the reasons why the story of Jesus rings so true. The stories told in the gospel seem to mirror how we know people would react. Some will believe and some will doubt. Even in the light of evidence.

The human race seems to be wired to ignore what they don't want to hear. This is true for Christians and well as atheists. The point on this is not to say "well the atheist is an easy fool." The point is to say, "we are all easy to fool."

If you are a Christian and if you have no doubt, then you have no faith. And without faith it is impossible to please God. Christian that say they have no doubt are contradicting the Word of God, and they are self-delusional. As a follower of Christ, God knows that we are made to have doubts.

Do not hide from your doubts. Be honest and admit them. Then overcome them.

Now, we must really ask ourselves: What does it mean to be intellectually honest?

I see it as follows:

1. Honesty is pursuing data, and be willing to have your mind changed about anything
2. Then acting on this data, no matter where this path leads you.

Now, what keeps humans from being intellectually honest? I believe, in 9 out of 10 times, it have lack of discipline in doing research and in follow-up on what you find.

a. You have to seek for the truth
b. You have to act on it

Example: If we are overweight, which we know is bad for us, we need to not only say "I need to eat less" but also actually stop eating so much.

Example: If we want to live more productive and secure lives, we need to do things like saving and working out.

Example: If we find out their is no God, then we need to leave our old religion behind.

Example: If we want to live longer and healthier, we need to research the data on nutrition, and follow up on what we learn.

Let's us look at the last example more in depth:

For a number of years, I have been following nutrition. In college, I would sneak down to the University of Washington medical library and read the journals. One epidemiological study that grabbed my attention was by the Clinical Journal of Nutrition in 1996. They found out that populations that took Vitamin E and Vitamin C would drop their chance of dying by 44%. (Interestingly, a multiple vitamin does not seem to help.) The more you'll research the combination of C&E (dirt cheap at any Walmart), the more you'll see overwhelming evidence. This evidence has been around for years, and only grows with time.

Did you know that C&E can lower your rates of Alzheimer's desease?

Epidemiological studies in Cache county, Utah, show that taking Vitamin C and Vitamin E will drop you chances of getting Alzheimer's by some thing like 40-60% (I saw a lecture on this, and I can't remember the exact number.)

The other substance of great research is Omega-3.

If you cruise Pubmed on Omega-3, the beneficial effects are just like science fiction. It lowers depression, whacks your triglycerides, and looks to stop dysfunctional behavior in prison populations.

The fact is that by taking a few pills you can do wonders for your life.

But:

1. Why don't people do this?
2. Why doesn't the press talk about this?
3. Why don't people research the evidence for themselves?

I will tell people about how good vitamins are. I will give them links to what is an overwhelming amount of evidence. And while some respond, most simply ignore the evidence. What is interesting to me is that I do have some that do respond. How do they respond? They go to Walmart and buy a bottle because I told them to buy a bottle. They start taking Omega-3 because they trust me.

None of them seem to dig in the evidence to explore the data for themselves. It drives me a bit crazy.

Worse than this, recently the newspapers reported that antioxidents could be bad for you.

My friend see one headline, and they are now wondering if they should be taking antioxidents at all. (The newspapers basically left out that the evidence for taking C&E in combination seems to have overwhelming evidence for a positive impact to quantity and quality of life. Taking E by itself, for example, increases Alzheimer's, which has been know for a while.)

If people can't believe in Pubmed and do a little bit of research on how to improve the quality of their life, why should I expect that they are willing to look at eternal life?

Now, how does this relate to Christianity?

Once you understand that we can be fooled as Christians or as atheists, we must ask ourselves about Pascal's wager. I have covered this before, but I will recap here:

Since both the Christian and the non-Christian agree that the truth is found after death...

1. If the atheist is correct, then both the Christian and the atheist are on the same ground. Nothing more exists.

2. If the Christian is correct, no matter how "unlikely", then atheist is in very big problems.

I am not surprised that we don't have real Christians in this life.

If I can't get my friends to do the research on Pubmed for them to gain hour upon hour of productive lifespan, I understand why it is difficult to get them to think about eternal life, where the study is harder but the impact is bigger.

I don't believe that most people--Christian or Atheist--are intellectually honest. In conversation with my friends, I use the above "vitamin test" to see if they are willing to act on fact. My thought is that if you are intellectually honest in small things, you will be intellectually honest in big things.

However, you may be a vitamin taking atheist that has studied Pubmed. In this case, I commend you for your convictions. Then I would ask

a. Are you saving $100 per month so that you can be a millionaire in 45 years?

b. Are you working out 3-4 times per week with weights and running to maintain mental acuity and push out sarcopenia?

If you are apply intellectual honesty to all aspects of your life (vitamin taking, saving for the future, physical activity) then I respect you tremendously.

I would then simply challenge God to show himself. If he doesn't, let me know. I'll have a talk with him.

While unfair because it is inductive logic, it has been my experience that the "intellectual honesty" argument is only used on things that we want to dismiss. It is not used as an effective principle that we allow to infuse into all areas of our life.

If you are intellectually honest, I believe that you will arrive at the following:

There is little to no downside in becoming a Christian:

1. You spend time learning the Bible, which may be a bit of a waste of time, but it is agreed to be a great piece of literature by everyone.

2. You spend time in prayer, which seems to lower stress

3. It would appear that you gain happiness

4. You give alms to the poor.

5. You forgive others.

Now, everybody can point to one example of "an awful Christian. However, when people bring this up, I think of the one headline on "vitamins being bad." The fact is that for most people, Christianity leads to at least neutral if not better behavior.

Therefore, you have everything to gain, and nothing to lose.

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