Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Thaumaturgical Decline Principle

"Faith is deciding to allow yourself to believe something your intellect would otherwise cause you to reject - otherwise there's no need for faith."


In Matthew 18:3, Jesus said, "And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven."

Have you ever talked to a kid? I mean, seriously sat down and talked to one? They would believe pretty much anything you tell them. Don't take my word for it - experiment yourself Calvin's Dad-style! Fill their impressionable little heads with fairy folks, monsters, dragons, unicorns, superheroes, aliens, magic, and Lovecraftian mind-breaking horrors; they will drink it all up like it's the very word of God itself. When I was little boy, my father fed me rubbish like how I should always ask permission from wandering spirits and tell them to move aside when I want to pee outdoors, or they would steal my boy-bits away. He also told me that if I point at the moon, my finger would bleed and fall off. It took me years and years before I fully exorcised myself of those superstitious kookery. The very first time I dared to even point at the moon was when I was in high school! Imagine that! And I still catch myself automatically asking spooks to move out of the way of my stream of urine when I'm not paying attention. You can say that I'm pretty much scarred for life.

Jesus' line about becoming little children may sound cute, but I have always subconsciously read it as, "You have to be a real gullible moron to believe me." Hey, don't get pissed at me for saying that! A Christian gave me my first Bible - he asked me to judge for myself the worth of God's teachings and not rely on what other people say about it. I'm only following instructions.

Besides, Jesus was right. How else can you believe in the ridiculous miraculous stories about talking snakes, parting seas, virgin births, and men who came back from death if you're not an unquestioning, incredulous infant?

The Thaumaturgical Decline Principle
Any hypotheses on why this is so?

The Qur'an elected a different tact. In Surat Al-'Isrā', verse 59, Allah said "And nothing has prevented Us from sending signs except that the former peoples denied them. And We gave Thamud the she-camel as a visible sign, but they wronged her. And We send not the signs except as a warning."

Muhammad was never witnessed by anyone to perform any miracles. The reason given by Allah was pretty much "We can totally do it (and trust us, we've totally done it before), but we chose not to now because you're not going to believe them anyway." How convenient. That thought popped into my mind very frequently every time I read the Qur'an. It's all so convenient.

We simply have to take his word for it that the book was conveyed entirely to him by Allah via the angel Jibrīl. We also have to believe him when he said that he did indeed ride a magic handsome white animal (that's slightly bigger than a donkey) to the "farthest mosque" where he lead other prophets such as Adam, Moses and Jesus in prayer before ascending to heaven to haggle with Allah over the number of prayers Muslims must fulfill per day. All of that makes perfect sense to Mohammedans all over the world it seems.

Hey, don't proclaim a jihad on my ass for that! The muslimah I first discussed Islamic theology with told me to read the Qur'an on my own and see its beautiful truths for myself. It's not my fault that you don't like the not-so-pretty conclusions I've reached.

Somehow, when I don't agree with the believers, it's always me who got it wrong. How very convenient also.

And thus concludes today's lesson on the comparison between the world's two biggest competing religions and what they have to say about faith and miracles. As it turns out, it all boils down to, "Believe us without any proof, or our God will torture you for eternity!" Questions?

Wouldn't fool himself,
k0k s3n w4i


Kampung Girl said...

It's up to every individual what they want to believe or don't. For me, what's important is to respect each other. It's not really nice to ridicule others' opinion/belief/thought, yes? :-)

Anonymous said...

@Kampung Girl:Well respect should be earned not just given out.And well every individual has the right to believe what they want as long as it doesn't effect the lives of others.However religion does effect both the personal and professional lives of others,even those who are not involved with any religion whatsoever.

Anonymous said...

@kampung girl
Belief is a personal choice but unfortunately some of its adherents are only too eager to evangelise.

Everyone has the freedom to offend.

k0k s3n w4i said...

Kampung Girl: thanks for commenting. in your opinion, no one should criticise other people's beliefs? there's an indigenous tribe of people in papua new guinea called the etoro. they believe that the young boys in the tribe must ingest the semen of their elders to properly mature and grow strong. obviously, what they practice is scientifically wrong - is it wrong to point that out. this is the same thing i do when i write about other superstitious beliefs, like your religion. i believe in the free market of ideas. you are free to believe whatever nonsense you want to, but you shouldn't expect your faith to be free from ridicule. in fact, if you like, you can argue against my godlessness. i expect people to respect me as a human being and my right to believe or not believe in anything, but not once in my life do i expect people to automatically respect my opinions. i am not as spoiled as religious people who constantly demand respect for their kooky superstitions.

Anonymous: it's funny how religious people are free to believe that atheists such as myself will burn in hell for eternity - but when we try to point out how stupid their beliefs are, they suddenly demand respect. what a horrible, self-centred bunch of nutcases.

Anonymous: it's dangerous to respect everyone's beliefs - just like it was dangerous to respect, and refrain from criticising beliefs such as those held by herr hitler.

xlanxdiablox said...

i like your blog. hehe. it gives me something to think about as a muslim.

i also happen to have a few friends which are atheist. i never diss any of their questions on religion or islam for that matter because their questions are honest questions. questions of people looking for answers. if i can answer them, i will. but if i can't i'll bring forward their questions to the experts.

Believe us without any proof, or our God will torture you for eternity!


i can't say much from the perspective of other religion, so my opinion here will solely be from the point of view of islam.

i actually prefer not to talk about miracles and magics and so on. i just want people to think. in the quran there is a record on creation of babies in mother's womb. long before people actually proved it scientifically. and given that during that time, there's no proper medical tools to actually prove it, i want us to think, how is it possible that a scripture from thousand of years ago could have a detailed record of creation of babies?

k0k s3n w4i said...

xlanxdiablox: you want people to think, but you aren't thinking. everything the qur'an said about the development of a human embryo have already been described by greek physicians and philosophers centuries before muhammad's time - and they did it by dissecting chicken eggs at different periods of gestation and studying the products of conception which were miscarried. and here you are, oh so impressed by a bit of plagiarism. and the qur'an is dead wrong about many things regarding the conception of human beings. for example, one of the stages described is when the embryo is a bit of clotted blood (alaqa), which is rubbish. the qur'an also gave specific timings which are erroneous like how the man's fluid remain in the woman's body for 40 days (when semen can only survives in a woman's body for 7 days), becomes a clot for 40 days (haha), and then a lump of chewed flesh for 40 days (by that time, the embryo is already distinctively humanoid). there's also that bit where the qur'an said that bones were created first and then clothed with flesh - that is false because bones and flesh started forming from the mesodermal layer simultaneously, and in fact, the flesh finish forming before the bones do, which will continue developing throughout childhood. also, if the qur'an actually mentions spermatocytes and ova instead of talking about fluids (like the greek physician galen did), i would have been impressed. go ahead, just read the qur'an and sit for a written quiz on embryology and see how well you'll score.

i can go on and on, but i think i'm wasting my time. even if i go through the entire qur'an pointing out all the stupidest scientific mistakes to you, you will remain unmoved. i mean look at you now - you are telling me lies about detailed records of the creation of infants in the qur'an, when in fact, there aren't any. or perhaps, you are blindly believing what the imams and mullahs told you.

xlanxdiablox said...

wow. getting hostile, aren't you? hehe. chill man.

this is exactly why i like people like you. you guys could show the other point of view which i have never thought of before.

and just like i said earlier, i'm no religious man and physician either. i only know what i have heard/learnt from other people. and apparently i'm learning something from you too. that the creation of babies has long been told by greek physicians.

i have to say, at the moment, i have no answer for your argument. so i'll just forward your argument here to anyone i think may be able to answer.

by the way, may i know your source? just to get a better read at it.

p/s: chill dude. hehe.

xlanxdiablox said...

ok. i'm going to throw you this question.

"but first of all, were the findings of the Greek physicians mentioned by the writer known to Arabs in the 7th-century AD? Specifically, would the prophet Muhammad, who did not know how to read or write, have been able to come across such information?"

and could you be quick with your source. i really am interested in this. and i need the exact names of those greek physicians as well if you still remember.

xlanxdiablox said...

a friend recommended this link.

what do you think?

k0k s3n w4i said...

xlanxdiablox: no, i can't be quick because i am a working man and i do 36 hour calls in a hospital. i'll answer you at my own time.

I'll start by answering your first question first:

"but first of all, were the findings of the Greek physicians mentioned by the writer known to Arabs in the 7th-century AD? Specifically, would the prophet Muhammad, who did not know how to read or write, have been able to come across such information?"

i'll answer you on a completely logical basis. which is more plausible? muhammad know about these things from the learned companions and followers he kept, or that a magical cosmic superbeing told him?

when you find that your car have disappeared, do you think it's because a thief have stolen it or that fairies have hidden it with magic? c'mon, you are not five years old anymore. i was honestly amused when you said that you want people to think.

now, name me ONE thing the qur'an said about embryology which could not be known using the medical knowledge and tools at the time. name me just ONE. when i refute that ONE thing, will you admit that the qur'an is really nothing special?

for example, muhammad knowing that mixing of male and female fluids is crucial in the genesis of a new human being is plain common sense. he had a buttload of wives (the horny old goat). you'd think that at some point, no matter how stupid, unschooled, unlearned you would like to think he is, he'd notice that his wives will only get pregnant when he ejaculates into them. and if you cut open any pregnant mammals, you'd find the layers the developing creature is covered in. in fact, medically speaking, there are more than the 3 layers described by the qur'an, but a casual observer would easily make thing that mistake.

on top of that, remember that the qur'an is WRONG about embryology. that's the crucial point you are missing completely. it's useless to argue about how muhammad could have known what greek and indian physicians know when what the prophet said was wrooooong.

the greek physicians i was referencing was galen, aristotle and hippocrates. just a glance at that link you showed me - at the table comparing galen's findings to the poetic, unspecific language of the qur'an - told me that galen was immensely more accurate in describing the development of embryos in utero. shouldn't you believe galen more compared to muhammad, since galen was more correct?

my source? pick up any embryology book except those written by keith l. moore. like i said, just study the qur'an and go sit for a quiz on human embryology. see for yourself how "detailed" and "miraculously accurate" the qur'an is on the subject.

more sources: Embryology in the Qur'an and Islamic Embryology and Galen.

xlanxdiablox said...

owh so you're a doc then? no wonder you're so well-verse in this issue.

"muhammad know about these things from the learned companions and followers he kept, or that a magical cosmic superbeing told him?"

i believe the latter. because i'm pretty sure we're still talking about miracles, aren't we?

and considering that the arabs at the time of islam's coming were untutored in such sophisticated science, the lack of details in the quran's verses on how human beings were created was understandable. lack of details and inaccuracy are two different things though.

k0k s3n w4i said...

xlanxdiablox: you are still missing the point. the qur'an verses on human embryology not only lack details. it is also inaccurate and wrong. this can mean a few things - mainly either muhammad authored a few poetic - but wrong - verses that sound vaguely descriptive of human embryology without divine input, or allah is so stupid that he got simple first year med student embryology wrong. either way, the qur'an is rubbish.

i often wonder why i take the time to explain anything to people who already think they have the answers.

xlanxdiablox said...

i need to rewind our discussion a bit.

first, you have to understand scholars of the quran, even the prophet, never said the quran is a book of science. but it is a book of signs. it is a book that gives us signs which we ourselves have to derive and see where do these signs lead us to. thus, it is only natural that
second, our discussion lacks something. we haven't discussed about the context/historical background of the arabs when the quran was revealed.

we have to understand that the people at that time were called as jahiliyah people of which you can loosely translate it to ignorant people. they're a bit like europeans during the dark age. but worst. haha. you know how arabs are.

so yeah, when you asked me,

"which is more plausible? muhammad know about these things from the learned companions and followers he kept, or that a magical cosmic superbeing told him?"

i said the latter because i find it difficult to see how can the prophet learn anything from the jahiliah people? his companions, his followers, everyone at that time, everything that they learnt came from the knowledge revealed unto him.

it was islam that started the internal revolution of these jahiliah people as islam has made them to start to think more critically and intellectually about this world. and i believe you also know that there were quite a number of muslim scholars emerged after the rise of islam, even in the field of medicine.

and i believe we have crossed the notion that he might have learnt anything from the greeks.

so what option am i left with? he learnt about the process by himself? by experimenting with his wives? but how could an illiterate, unlearned man like him could come up with sophisticated concepts of the process like alaqah, mudghah, etc.? for someone who came from the jahiliah society, you have to say, those concepts were way too advanced for him.

and i have to ask you, i could not find the verse where you said the quran describes

"how the man's fluid remain in the woman's body for 40 days".

and you said,

"i often wonder why i take the time to explain anything to people who already think they have the answers."

maybe because you're not actually explaining anything to me more that you're trying to explain to yourself why do you have such belief?

and i don't have the answers for you. i'm here just to get engaged in a healthy and critical discussion of our beliefs. that's all. as a matter of fact, i'm the one hoping that you could provide me the answers. seriously. you have made me think, so i guess it's only right that i ask you to elaborate more on it, right? and at the end of the day, no matter of our different beliefs, whatever we get from our discussion here is hopefully something beneficial for the two of us.

k0k s3n w4i said...

xlanxdiablox: fine, let's discuss the historical context and background of the arabs. as i understand it, the concept of jahiliyyah refers to the "ignorance of divine guidance" rather than an ignorance of worldly sciences. the regions surrounding the middle east such as india and the mediterranean are known for their hellenistic and ayurvedic medical traditions; and pre-islamic arabia traded with these kingdoms. i'm afraid that there couldn't possibly be as big a vacuum of secular knowledge as you assert there is. your claim is baseless.

and no, we cannot cross out the notion that he could have learned anything from the indians and the greeks. it is still infinitely more logical and believable compared to him learning it from a cosmic superbeing. i also suggested other mundane manners by which muhammad and his companions could learn basic embryology (through miscarried foetuses and dissection of gravid animals). being uneducated is no obstacle to making scientific discovery. off the top of my head, i recall that gregor mendel discovered genetics from planting peas. besides, describing the fetus as clotted blood (alaqah) and a lump of chewed flesh (mudghah) is not at all sophisticated.

but like i said, i really dislike having this conversation because you kept missing the most important point, even though i have said it many times: it doesn't matter how muhammad knew. the important thing is what he knew was wrong, as i've explained in detail in my initial reply to you.

you could not find the "40 days" verse in the qur'an because it is in the hadiths. it's muhammad's elaboration of surah 23:14.

personally, i feel like i gained nothing from discussing this subject with you. i have heard nothing from you that i have not heard a million times from other muslims trying to convince me how miraculous the qur'an is because zomg it talks about some clearly rubbish embryology. do all of you listen to the same imam?

ame said...

pretty hot-topic-to-discuss,discussion is good as long in a good admin..what makes you believe that galen is more accurate than qur'an? you believe in his writing right plus with the knowledge that you learn as a doctor..galen is more to the facts that science tell us..i dont know much about him..move to other point..but i just say something based on my logic.personally we cannot judge something on its translation only, example the quranic translation that you word is very should read the deeper translation or 'tafsir'..words that are translated cannot be understood correctly without further is the same when we study science..reading the word embryo only is not enough for person who doesn't know about science..needs to further read to understand the real meaning..about the 40days you should read the explains explicitly..thats all.

ame said...

i'm not saying quranic verse is wrong (refer to the 40days and other stuff) but when you have completely said that the quranic verse is false then you may not see the truth till the end..

xlanxdiablox said...

ok then i can only apologise for my lack of knowledge. obviously that's because i am no expert of either science or religion.

but i'll give you a link. youtube link. it's a debate between dr. william campbell who wrote a book on scientific errors in the quran, with dr. zakir naik. it's a long debate. but if you really want to seek knowledge in order to not fool yourself, i would recommend you watch this video. when you're free of course. i know you're busy.

please do watch it. because as far as my knowledge goes, the above is all i can say to you. and hopefully by watching the video you can gain something from these two experts' intellectual debate.

owh. the link that i put here is just for part one. hehe. there are eight parts altogether. it's a long debate after all.

the truth is really out there if you're really looking and learning.

and lastly, could you please stop being derogatory and demeaning towards other people's beliefs. everyone has their own belief. no matter islam, christian, judaism, even atheism like yours. if i can respect your belief, why can't you respect what i believe? you're an intelligent man yourself, so i do think you know that respect is earned, not given. if i have ever hurt your feelings in any way, thousand apologies from me. and thank you too for your time entertaining me. hehe. i do appreciate it. and i do appreciate your knowledge.

k0k s3n w4i said...

ame: typical. just a lot of assertions without any actual proof. it seems like a common tactic employed by muslims to avoid addressing my arguments. it happened in all my previous posts about islam. show me the tafsir you are talking about, or you're just another liar.

xlanxdiablox: summarise whatver factual arguments you have unless you want me to reply with a 100 youtube videos on why the qur'an is rubbish. and you are absolutely right! respect is earned, not given. i do not expect any respect from you. i never expect anyone to automatically respect my beliefs or unbeliefs. if religious people attack my atheism, i would defend myself on logical grounds. so no, i wouldn't stop criticising your childish primitive misogynistic and illogical religion. why do muslims always demand respect from me just because they believe in some unsubstantiated fairytales? how spoilt.