Defending the Faith: Maybe the firing squad was on your side

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  • Twin Lights Louisville, KY
    March 3, 2014 5:16 p.m.


    Okay. But you do not address how such a god avoids being evil (and responsible for evil).

  • sharrona layton, UT
    March 3, 2014 2:47 p.m.

    RE: Twin Lights, humans “by nature deserving of wrath”:

    Rom 9:17-23, v18 … he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.19… For who can resist his will?” 20… who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? …

    The OT viewes history as God's sovereign and predestined plan. The idea of prophecy rests upon this truth. If God does not sovereignly control and predestine whatever comes to pass then how he could make statements that are predictive and expect specific results in the future?

    The NT does not differ from the OT teaching of predestination. The coming of Jesus, his death, resurrection, ascension into heaven, all fulfilled God's eternal plan and purpose (1 Peter 1:20; 1 Cor 2:7; Acts 2:23).
    Christians have obtained an inheritance, having been Predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of His will," (Eph1:11 ESV).

  • bj-hp Maryville, MO
    March 1, 2014 9:46 p.m.

    Some have questioned the creation but fail to understand that what transpired. For instance "in the beginning I created the heaven and the earth upon which thou standest. And the earth was without form and void; and I caused darkness to come up upon the face of the deep; and my Spirit moved upon the face of the water; for I am God."

    It wasn't until the third day or third created period where water, the trees, bushes and grasses which included the herbs every kind were placed upon the earth.

    Science has proven this over and over again. It is proven via the growth of lava and others that land must be separated from the water and then the plants and all else comes.

    We are only beginning to learn of other worlds through out the universe. So in the end Science is proving the Bible and the scriptures to be true. We have no idea how many years or anything is the creative periods but we do know the creation is not evolutionary in whole but in part. The best is that when the Savior comes again we will know ALL things.

  • Verdad Orem, UT
    March 1, 2014 6:16 p.m.

    The Taxman: "paranoid denigration of scientists and scientific thought"

    Are you referring to a column that opens approvingly with the words "Sir John Polkinghorne, the eminent British theoretical physicist-turned-Anglican priest" and then continues, raising no apparent objections at all, with a discussion of the expansion of the universe and of recent scientific measurements of the "cosmological constant" or "dark matter"?

  • The Taxman Los Angeles, CA
    March 1, 2014 1:36 p.m.

    "And it's somewhat amusing to listen as people who disdain faith in an unobserved and unprovable God take refuge, when confronted with the possible religious implications of fine-tuning,in the concept of unobserved and unprovable other universes."

    Perhaps Dr. Peterson would like to defend his strawman argument by telling us exactly who distains faith and is taking refuge in the concept of other universes. And perhaps Brokenclay would like to defend his strawman argument that people "exclusively employ an epistemology that by definition can only study the physical world?"

    The fact is that many scientists believe in an omnipotent being and do not totally discount religion. The strategy of setting up a "boogyman" on the other side to attempt to justify your view is tired and simply not useful.

    People who follow scientific inquiry closely know that the theory of many universes exisiting is testable. Not by religious means of course, but through scientific means. If religion wants a seat at the table of scientific discovery, perhaps it should be earned by helping to move scientific descovery forward, and not by paranoid denigration of scientists and scientific thought.

  • DocHolliday reno, NV
    Feb. 28, 2014 11:35 a.m.


    There doesn't have to be a chemical test for the american revolution.. Do you think a chemical test is the only form of scientific testing? There is plenty of other evidence for the american revolution, I am sure you know about it. Your side stepping of the Joseph Smith story question leads me to believe that you may already know that it doesn't add up.

  • Tyler D Meridian, ID
    Feb. 28, 2014 10:22 a.m.

    @brokenclay – “you're mixing categories when you compare the accomplishments of religious epistemology and empiricism when it comes to explanations about the natural world.”

    I see your point and perhaps you’re right, but your conclusion does presuppose that these are mutually exclusive epistemological categories. For many I think they are, but if science can expand its territory of investigation to include all human experience – and there are scientists who do, see research by Willoughby Britton as one example – then the categories may not be as separate as some (e.g., Dawkins) suppose.

    Your point about wheelbarrows, etc. is cogent…

    As for visions (and the literature on religious experience across traditions suggest these are intermediate experiences at best – not high level or ultimate), I’ve heard enough vision/auditory induced conversion stories that go both ways to not be convinced of the exclusive truth of any one doctrine.

    I’m more in the camp of – different religions exist (i.e., God allows it) because different people have different needs and will resonate with different teachings.

    This has been a real pleasure – too bad we can’t have a much longer dialogue.

    Reached comment limit…

  • brokenclay Tempe, AZ
    Feb. 28, 2014 7:34 a.m.


    I find myself in substantial agreement with you concerning science's value in discovering truths about the natural world. The results serve to justify the method, to some degree. But at the same time, you're mixing categories when you compare the accomplishments of religious epistemology and empiricism when it comes to explanations about the natural world. This isn't to say there isn't any common ground between the two; I speak in generalities. So in other words, it's not really an argument against the validity of religious epistemology to say that it doesn't teach us much about wheelbarrows, telescopes, math, stars, etc.

    I'm excited that you brought up the issue of visions. Have you done any research into the contemporary phenomenon of Muslims having dreams and visions of Jesus? Granted, Jesus is featured in the Qur'an, but in these encounters, Jesus is leading these Muslims into Christianity. This is occurring across a variety of Muslim ethnicities and countries. In fact, there is apparently a young Iraqi in my church in Chandler that was converted through this means.

  • Rockyrd Gilbert, AZ
    Feb. 27, 2014 9:53 p.m.

    How obvious! We ALL have a lot to learn. However, I do not understand how a theologian or scientist can look at the order in the world and the universe and say it all happened by accident. Just my humble opinion.

  • sharrona layton, UT
    Feb. 27, 2014 9:31 p.m.

    RE: intelligent purpose undergirding the universe. most people worldwide would call “God.

    Christians, and Jews believe that God created all that exists ex nihilo (out of nothing). Mormonism is quite different in its cosmology, claiming that God fashioned the universe out of preexisting material. God is eternal in some forms of LDS theology, but so is preexisting matter, including the material used by God to create human beings.

    Christ himself is the Creator who made everything in heaven and earth, the things we can see and the things we can’t; the spirit world with its kings and kingdoms, its rulers and authorities; all were made by Christ for his own use and glory.(Col 1:16 LB)

    For in him we live and move and have our Being...(Acts 17:28)Creation is dependent on God for it’s very existence.

    In (2Tim 1:9 & Titus 1:2)God existed before time, implying he created time.

    (Romans 4:17 NIV) God who gives life to the dead and Calls into Being things that were not.

    (Ecc 12:7)… the spirit shall return unto God who gave it .

  • Danite Salt Lake City, UT
    Feb. 27, 2014 4:32 p.m.

    @Weber State Grad,

    I've never thought of that like that before.... I think I just lost my Faith.

  • Weber State Graduate Clearfield, UT
    Feb. 27, 2014 3:25 p.m.


    Since the column indeed involves a philosophical foundation for a belief in design, the universe, and multiple universes, Joseph Smith is fair game with respect to his claims about the cosmos.

    For example, Smith's cosmology is at extreme odds with science. According to Smith, Kolob is "the great governing star" of our universe, the earth's sun "borrows its light" from the revolutions of Kolob, and God created the Earth first, then He created the Sun, Moon and stars and the rest of the universe afterwards. These extraordinary claims certainly do not reconcile with any scientific reality.

    There have been attempts to explain away such obvious scientific discrepancies on the part of LDS apologists using metaphorical exegesis, but such rhetoric obscures any logical reasoning and diverts attention away from what Smith actually claimed.

  • Verdad Orem, UT
    Feb. 27, 2014 2:04 p.m.


    Indeed, you can "start with the Joseph Smith story." But that hasn't been the topic here.

    It seems that you've shifted ground -- from the scientific question of "fine-tuning," which is the subject of Peterson's column and seemed to be the subject of your post, to questions about the history of Joseph Smith.

    I wonder, though, why you appear to think that "science" is the proper method for evaluating historical issues. This seems odd: After all, there's no chemical test for the American revolution, no particle accelerator that can answer questions about the biography of George III, no geological theory that can explain the Lutheran Reformation, no biological specimen able to prove that Caesar was assassinated by Brutus.

  • Florwood American Fork, UT
    Feb. 27, 2014 1:53 p.m.


    I think Verdad was actually asking if you have anything to say about the original column. Dismissing a column on fine tuning as a philosophical foundation for a belief in design, by saying 'But Joseph Smith...' seems odd. Shouldn't you actually reserve those comments for the next time Mr. Peterson writes something about Joseph Smith?

  • Tyler D Meridian, ID
    Feb. 27, 2014 1:39 p.m.

    @brokenclay- “Tyler, just because science has falsified many religious claims (and it has, this is agreed), (1) This doesn't mean that it will inevitably falsify all religious claims…”

    Even though my last comment came after this, it was addressing your first (10:21am) comment.

    Regarding this comment, again you make some good points. And while I agree science has not falsified all religious claims (not sure that’s even logically possible), it has falsified many and the gain in knowledge about the natural world has (since modern science came on the scene) been totally one-directional. If anything, this fact seems to significantly strengthen the epistemological foundations of science.

    Your point about science establishing religious claims is an interesting one. There’s some room for agreement here, but this may favor eastern religious metaphysics more than what we find in western religious texts.

    It’s quite impressive actually that eastern religion going back to the Axial Age (and perhaps before) made many statements that could have been uttered by Einstein, Heisenberg or Schrodinger (popularized in books like The Tao of Physics).

    Thanks for the enjoyable and elevated discussion…

  • Brahmabull sandy, ut
    Feb. 27, 2014 1:18 p.m.


    I can start with the Joseph Smith story. Scientifically speaking, there is no proof of his claims. No proof that the gold plates existed - as they were whisked off to heaven without being examined by anybody (except of course the witnesses who were either family of close associated of Joseph). Some religious people claim that this lack of evidence is in fact, evidence that it happened.

    The short sighted LDS view is that it happened no matter what - that faith is enough and they don't need any proof. That they don't consider any other possibility is shortsighted.

    Just an example.

  • Verdad Orem, UT
    Feb. 27, 2014 12:11 p.m.


    Peterson cited two really well respected men -- an internationally famous scientist and a reputable philosopher. And (I happen to know) there are quite a number of other philosophers and scientists who have gone on public record to say that they're impressed by the "fine-tuning" arguments that Peterson mentions.

    You don't seem to be doing justice to either the arguments or these philosophers and scientists when you simply brush them aside as "short sighted" and having "no real merit." Do you have any actual counterarguments? Would you be willing to share them?

  • Danite Salt Lake City, UT
    Feb. 27, 2014 12:06 p.m.

    Why are so many, so consumed by driving such a chasm between science and religion? I believe it was Joseph Smith who once gave a sermon titled, "God the Scientist".

    Both science and religion can compliment each other and build off each other, let us not be too shortsighted and think its a "one or the other" proposition.

  • Tyler D Meridian, ID
    Feb. 27, 2014 11:46 a.m.


    Well I don’t agree with your views here (unless we can unpack the term “transcendent God” which is where I suspect our disagreements will really show), I have to applaud your statement in general.

    It was articulate and well-reasoned (a far cry from most religious retorts) and responds to the naturalist epistemology in about the only way left open to the religiously inclined.

    Where your methodology (for getting to know God) may break down is when we look at the literally billions of people who have employed it and have gotten different, and sometimes mutually exclusive, results.

    When a Hindu starts having visions of Jesus or a Christian of Vishnu, irrespective of cultural influence, then you might be onto something.

    Here’s a question to ponder – do people across faith traditions having religious experiences that are similar (in phenomenological content)? If so, not only would this have implications for sectarian religion but also suggest these experiences may be open to scientific investigation.

  • brokenclay Tempe, AZ
    Feb. 27, 2014 11:38 a.m.

    A priori assumptions are not necessarily bad things. Everyone has them. The only point I'm trying to make is that a thoroughgoing philosophical naturalist who employs an empirical epistemology cannot in good faith say that he is interested in knowing God. The position and the claim made are mutually exclusive.

    Tyler, just because science has falsified many religious claims (and it has, this is agreed), (1) This doesn't mean that it will inevitably falsify all religious claims, and (2) It neglects serious claims that science has in fact done much to help establish certain religious claims. I understand that you're not making a deductive claim in (1), simply an inductive inference, and that you would contest (2). But to falsify all religious claims scientifically, you would require exhaustive empirical knowledge, something that we are not even close to obtaining. This significantly weakens the inference made in (1).

    Science and religion have always coexisted since ancient times-- God never revealed the invention of the wheelbarrow, the pulley, knowledge of engineering, etc. It wasn't his intent. Just because the knowledge supplied by science has increased quantitatively in recent times doesn't mean the two are not incompatible.

  • Craig Clark Boulder, CO
    Feb. 27, 2014 11:13 a.m.

    20,000 years ago. A man clad in animal skins emerges from the edge of a primeval forest as a crescent sliver of white dips below a hilltop. “What is that?” he muses aloud, the age old question no one has answered. The object changes shape from night to night. It grows, it shrinks. Sometimes it’s round and bright. Other times it’s nowhere in sight.

    The curious Pleistocene fellow finally has the mystery figured out. The full round disk leaks stars that drift across the sky. When it’s out of milk, it goes off to get filled up so it can leak more stars. But where does it go to get filled up? That’s the puzzle.

    “This is fun,” he exults. “I think I’ll call this scientific inquiry.”

    “Call it faith,” a faint voice whispers.

    Grabbing his spear, he turns in the direction from which the voice came. No one is in sight to answer his calls. He’s once again alone in the cold dark night. Was it a dream?

    “Wind in the trees,” he decides as he goes back into the forest.

  • ultragrampa Farmington, UT
    Feb. 27, 2014 11:05 a.m.


    It seems to me that what you are saying, in terms a guy like me can understand, is that lots of folks go about using science to try to understand stuff, and that in attempting to use only science, we skew our perspective that there might be a "god" involved somewhere along the way. You say that our preconceived notions get in the way of seeing what you think would be the truth.

    And then you say that if we are "sincere about getting to know God" we have to "employ a means that has a chance for success."

    But is this not implying, and hypocritically so, that we should this same sort of "apriori philosophical assumption" to "know" your god that you just criticized us for using in our scientific search for truth?

    Hint: yes, it is.

  • brokenclay Tempe, AZ
    Feb. 27, 2014 10:21 a.m.

    Science can verify or falsify many religious claims. This is true. Science and philosophy have taught us much about God's actions.

    On the other hand, the explanatory scope of science is not boundless. If you were genuinely interested in meeting the transcendent God, why would you exclusively employ an epistemology that by definition can only study the physical world? Methodological naturalism has its virtues, but an encounter with the divine is not one of them.

    What this suggests to me is that any augmentation of a naturalist's epistemology is overridden by his a priori philosophical assumptions (philosophical naturalism).

    If one is sincere about getting to know God, let him employ a means that has a chance for success, not one that excludes the divine from the start.

  • Tyler D Meridian, ID
    Feb. 27, 2014 9:14 a.m.

    Putting aside the question of who (or what) designed the Universe for a moment – as there may be any number of answers including an incredibly advanced alien kid running a ‘universe’ simulation on his computer – let’s remind ourselves how we acquired this knowledge in the first place.

    It wasn’t by consulting Bronze Age books; it wasn’t by talking to burning bushes; it wasn’t by listening to prophets, or praying, or by any of the ways religion promotes the acquisition of knowledge & wisdom.

    It was by science – the hard work and painstaking 100% human endeavor that has consistently, and with a still growing record of something like a million to zero, replaced our past religious explanations about facts in the natural world.

    It may be the case that God did indeed design our universe, by if so why have his most ardent followers been so wrong about his handiwork for millennia?

    If the afterlife is anything like what I learned in Sunday school that’s the first question I’d like to ask the Big Guy.

  • Brahmabull sandy, ut
    Feb. 27, 2014 8:43 a.m.

    More often then not, things can be explained by science or common sense. Religious people always try to link all random events to destiny, or god, or miracle. This line of thinking is very short sighted, and has no real merit other then in the minds of those who create such extraordinary explanations.

  • brokenclay Tempe, AZ
    Feb. 27, 2014 8:20 a.m.

    Good stuff. I've heard rumors that Robin Collins will be releasing a decisive book soon on the topic of the teleological argument. Looking forward to it. Antony Flew would have loved to have read it also, even though some think that being diagnosed with nominal afasia (difficulty in remembering names) makes you a senile, old man with nothing more to contribute to the conversation.

  • Weber State Graduate Clearfield, UT
    Feb. 27, 2014 8:13 a.m.

    "And it's somewhat amusing to listen as people who disdain faith in an unobserved and unprovable God take refuge, when confronted with the possible religious implications of "fine-tuning," in the concept of unobserved and unprovable other universes."

    It's equally amusing to listen to people who disdain science, when confronted with possible scientific explanations for reality, offer nothing but "God told me so" or "God told the prophet" who told us so.

    Here's something to consider...the great benefit of science includes a willingness to admit mistakes with limitless opportunities to gain further knowledge and understanding through a thoughtful and systematic process of observation, trial and yes, error.

    The true danger with an intransigent religious culture is it leaves no room for any alternative explanation for truth whatsoever. After all, God's explanation (depending on the countless men who claim to speak for God with the myriad of religious interpretations that exist) rules reality. And any alternative Copernican or Galilean explanation of the universe that challenges a conventional religious "truth" in many faiths is sure to bring pious condemnation against such a perpetrator with threats against his salvation, exaltation, or soul.

  • Mountanman Hayden, ID
    Feb. 27, 2014 7:09 a.m.

    Another awesome article Dr. Peterson!