Monday, June 29, 2009

A Fish Story

A couple of weeks ago my friend’s daughter ran into her house and told her mom that she saw a fish fall out of the neighbor’s tree. My friend, at first, did not get up to go investigate. Fish don’t fall out of trees, whatever happened couldn’t be that. But her daughter’s declaration continued to reverberate in her mind until she decided to venture to see what this was all about. She crossed her yard to join her daughter under the tree. Upon the ground laid a fish, fresh, but still, now dead. No one around had been fishing and no practical joke was unearthed. Simply a fish had fallen from the tree. The best explanation I would wager is that a bird had plucked it from a body of water nearby and it fell from its talons through the tree and unto the ground below.


I find it fascinating how often a child will make a statement that adults think preposterous and dismiss as a child’s fantasy when in reality the child was telling the truth. An adult might not be so quick to go running around telling everyone they saw a fish fall out of a tree. But a child is unwavering in what they know to be true without regard to what others may think.


How much do our adult minds hinder us from seeing what is really true because life has taught us such a thing doesn’t happen? We have a greater mental maturity than a child and yet sometimes the child is more aware of what is really true for they tell it as they see it. I wonder if this is one of the reasons Jesus said we ought to be as little children to see the Kingdom of God. It isn’t that the Kingdom of God is some fantasy only fit for children. Nor is it that He didn’t want adults to uncover the truth of its non-existence and so it would be better for them to think childishly. No, it’s that children see what it is really there without preconceived notions of what’s proper or acceptable. They aren’t swayed by what’s respectable to society, but what really is before them.


A child can often perceive the reality of things much better than adults. They lack the fear that holds adults back from accepting something that seems too incredible to be real as reality. Children don’t concern themselves with all that, they just tell you what they know to be true even when a fish falls from a tree.

27 comments:

CyberKitten said...

A childs world view is naive because they are inexperienced - which means that they sometimes accept things which a more cynical adult would automatically dismiss.

This does not mean however that we adults should put our experience to one side and simply accept things that are presented to us. We have a critical faculty for a reason - to help us separate the wheat from the chaff. Most of the time it works. Being open minded to new information is good but if you take it too far you just end up being gulible and probably somewhat poorer....

Remember, children believe things that are simply not true - like Santa. Things are bad enough as it is without wanting more people to be even more gulible!

Karla said...

I am not advocating gullibility nor childishness. But am advocating seeing clearly like a child can.

Another child I know was questioned about the medal he wore around his neck. He said he got it for running 30 miles. The adults in the room quickly scoffed and said he, a boy of 8, couldn't have run 30 miles. A knowing parent spoke up and said the program was for 30 miles over the course of a few months not in one run. So the child was correct.

I think often times we need to withhold judgment until we get that extra info to see if what doesn't look true might be true after all.

GCT said...

Which is why you withhold judgement about god's existence, right...oh wait...

Karla said...

I'm like the girl saying the fish has fallen out of the tree. I've seen the reality of what I'm alleging. You are the ones that would be the investigators of its reality. I'm the one making the positive assertion as you like to point out. I've tasted what I am asserting.

GCT said...

You're making a positive assertion all right, and all based on your preconceptions. Instead of the idea that a child can't run 8 miles, you've instead adopted the preconception that god does and must exist, and that all data, evidence, etc. must fit that preconception, or else it is wrong. In what way would you consider that to be open to ideas like the children that you claim to be emulating?

Karla said...

You seem to use much more absolutist language than I ever do.

I am asserting I have experienced God, that I have a real relationship with Him and that logic and reason back up that reality.

However, in this post, I was merely telling a true story to illustrate what I see as a true principal. That's it. You can disagree with the principal if you want to.

cl said...

Nice post, Karla. I was able to read between the lines and extract the positive message.

GCT said...

"You seem to use much more absolutist language than I ever do."

Not at all, I simply call a spade a spade and don't mince words.

"I am asserting I have experienced God, that I have a real relationship with Him and that logic and reason back up that reality."

Yeah, I got that. I responded to it.

"However, in this post, I was merely telling a true story to illustrate what I see as a true principal. That's it. You can disagree with the principal if you want to."

And, in the comments, you said that you were like the child trying to tell us adults (CK and myself) about god. Yet, the reality of it is much different. You are the one who has decided that something is true and that nothing can contradict that, so if I tell you that your ideas of god are wrong, you simply do not accept that that possibly could be the case. Another problem with your analogy is that we haven't decided that god does not exist, we simply need you to actually show us the fish that has fallen out of the tree. What's happening is that we are going to the tree and finding no fish, while you are insisting that the fish is actually there (and claiming it's invisible or something), even though no evidence of it is present, no fish is physically present, etc.

cl said...

I believe the following misguided logic is exactly why these discussions are destined not to resolve: "Another problem with your analogy is that we haven't decided that god does not exist, we simply need you to actually show us the fish that has fallen out of the tree." (GCT)

No believer can do what GCT asks, so really, what's the point here? I've never understood atheists who think believers can tap God on the shoulder and say, "Excuse me God, but can manifest to this doubter?" Even if that were possible, there is still a decision involved. I believe that if God were to appear to certain atheists, they'd simply chalk it up as a neurological misfire or post hoc reasoning. Generally speaking, atheists are very fond of evidence - yet they themselves know damn well that evidence doesn't always change minds no matter how conclusive - if it did, there would be far less young-Earth creationists, right? An ironclad case for God's existence does nothing without a decision to believe.

It is impossible to prove God in the manner most atheists demand, and I'm really confused by most atheists' dire inability to realize the unfalsifiable nature of the demand.

After all, in our discussion about what religion has contributed to society, GCT himself finally alluded to my conclusion when he conceded to the difficulty of proving that a certain advance in knowledge came from religion. Well, and so-called "evidence" or manifestation of God remains subject to the same problem.

Karla said...

GCT "we simply need you to actually show us the fish that has fallen out of the tree. What's happening is that we are going to the tree and finding no fish, while you are insisting that the fish is actually there"


I'm working on it. I know this is where we are at at present.

GCT said...

"I'm working on it. I know this is where we are at at present."

Yet, you still don't get it. When you and I go to the tree, there is no fish that either of us can see, yet you are still claiming that not only was it there, but it still is, only now it's invisible. OK, the analogy is stretching to the breaking point, but the point is that the mind that is obstinate and made up is your mind. Your mind is the one that is shut to the possibility that you may not be correct.

CyberKitten said...

cl said: It is impossible to prove God in the manner most atheists demand, and I'm really confused by most atheists' dire inability to realize the unfalsifiable nature of the demand.

So, what is the point of any God debate - apart from entertainment? None as far as I can see. Theists cannot present the kind of evidence atheists seek. Atheists cannot simply 'believe' when asked to - that's just silly.

What I find totally amazing is that *so* many people believe in something that simply cannot be demonstrated to a reasonable person. The only conclusion I can draw from that is that believers have faulty reasoning abilities.

If there is no evidence of God (unless you already believe in Him and have an interesting definition of what constitutes evidence) and you cannot reason your way to Him (at least not by what *I* would call reason) then I singularly fail to understand how any reasonable person can believe in God.

Karla said...

Cyber, I still haven't seen you or GCT provide a good definition for what you would accept as evidence of God's existence, or more specifically Christianity. If I recall the most you have responded with is saying that it needs to be reasonable. But then we need to define what constitutes reasonable, as we seem to disagree or at least think we have a different standard. We can't know until we define our terms.

Karla said...

GCT, I have "seen" the now proverbial fish. I am not declaring God invisible in that He cannot be known. The wind may not be able to be seen with the eyes, but we can know it is there through other means.

You are telling me I do not know God exists and yet I do. I'm going to God and I see His reality and I am trying to show you how you can know it too.

And just so you all know, I like getting to know what you guys think and how you look at the world even if you never ever agree with me. I'm not out to win arguments, but to encourage people in their journey for truth.

CyberKitten said...

karla said: Cyber, I still haven't seen you or GCT provide a good definition for what you would accept as evidence of God's existence, or more specifically Christianity.

I have no idea what might constitute good evidence for the existence of God. Obviously something that I am presently unaware of. I do know that Christianity exists however. I pass by several churches both to and from my work every day....

karla said: But then we need to define what constitutes reasonable, as we seem to disagree or at least think we have a different standard.

Oh, I definitely think we have different standards.

karla said: We can't know until we define our terms.

A reasonable explanation of the existence of God cannot assume that God already exists. Nor can it use arguments like:

The Universe exists.

Something *must* have created it.

The only being who could possibly have done it is God.

Therefore God exists.

That is an example of *bad* reasoning.

GCT said...

"GCT, I have "seen" the now proverbial fish."

You certainly think you have, and your mind is made up that you have, and no amount of argumentation, evidence, etc. can convince you otherwise. That's the point.

"Cyber, I still haven't seen you or GCT provide a good definition for what you would accept as evidence of God's existence, or more specifically Christianity."

I believe that I have.

Present a rational argument that necessarily leads to god and is supportable with logic and evidence.

Or...

Present verifiable empirical evidence or at least repeatable evidence that demonstrates that your god does exist. Personal testimonies do not count, as they can be faked, mistaken, etc. (just think of how many people have been exhonerated from crimes after being convicted on eye-witness testimony). Unverified hearsay accounts do not work, as they suffer from the same problems as testimonies.

I suggest you look at the following links:

testimony

Convert an atheist

Karla said...

Cyber, the usefulness of starting with God's existence or starting with his non-existence which is equally unsupported starting place, is we do have to look at each scenario from it's starting place to see which makes better sense of the world. So starting with God doesn't mean taking that staring place for granted, but it means looking from that lens to see what can be seen.

Likewise to start with God's non-existence is to look at the world through that lens and compare the two.

If God's existence is real that is the right starting place after all, and if it is not then the atheists is in the right starting place. But regardless of where we start the point is to find what is true and I think we have an agreement on that.

Karla said...

GCT, to return to the fish analogy once more to squeeze one more thing out of it. . .

Hypothetically, If the girl who saw the fish returns to where she saw it and is pointing it out to her mother and her mother sees the fish under the tree and insist that it did not fall from the tree but someone placed it there. The girl saw it fall from the tree and she is going to stick to her story no matter what other explanation the mother comes up with.

It seems I point to something as evidence of God and you guys respond with no it happened this way (an explanation that doesn't include God). The explanation may be viable, but it ignores my experience or the other possibility that while a natural answer could be given, that doesn't rule out a supernatural one.

The mother could be right and the child could be lying and she got a fish from a friend who returned from fishing and placed it there herself. But the mother would have to ask herself if the child is in a habit of lying or telling the truth.

The mother and daughter are looking at the same fish, but disagreeing on how it came to be on the ground. One having experienced seeing its fall and the other not having seen it. How would the daughter prove to an unbelieving mother that it did indeed fall from the tree?

GCT said...

"Cyber, the usefulness of starting with God's existence or starting with his non-existence which is equally unsupported starting place, is we do have to look at each scenario from it's starting place to see which makes better sense of the world."

That is not what I do (probably not CK either). I don't simply assume god's non-existence and then shape my world around it. When you assume that god exists, you're adding an extra layer to the world. When I do not adopt your assumption, I'm not adding any extra layers, I'm simply not adoption your assumptions and adding your layers.

"If God's existence is real that is the right starting place after all, and if it is not then the atheists is in the right starting place."

No, that is incorrect. It's only the right starting place from the sense that your lucky guess ends up being correct. Using irrational means, however, do not add up to "correct" in a rational sense. In order to start with a god assumption, there needs to be good supporting reasons and evidence for making that assumption.

"It seems I point to something as evidence of God and you guys respond with no it happened this way (an explanation that doesn't include God). The explanation may be viable, but it ignores my experience or the other possibility that while a natural answer could be given, that doesn't rule out a supernatural one."

Natural explanations make supernatural "explanations" superfluous. They should be excised by Occam's Razor. It doesn't mean that god isn't guiding evolution, but what reason do we have to believe that is so?

"But the mother would have to ask herself if the child is in a habit of lying or telling the truth."

So, if the child doesn't habitually lie, then the child can't be lying in this case?

"How would the daughter prove to an unbelieving mother that it did indeed fall from the tree?"

By looking for bruising patterns on the fish that indicate a fall from a height comensurate with the tree. By finding traces of the fish in the tree. Checking the vital signs of the fish to ascertain how long it has been dead (would put a cap on how long a trickster would have to pull off the stunt). I'm sure I could come up with more.

CyberKitten said...

karla said: But regardless of where we start the point is to find what is true and I think we have an agreement on that.

The best place to start is by making as few assumptions as possible. You don't say "What part of Gods Plan is served by X?" or "How can X possibly be explained by Gods Will?" Neither do we need to say "Assuming God does not exist, how do we explain X?"

We observe phenomena called 'X' Then we start asking lots of questions about it. We test the answers we get to our questions which often result in more questions. We go on testing until we have a pretty good idea what X is. Asuumptions about God really don't come into it.....

Karla said...

When you think about the origins of X they will crop up as an option.

GCT said...

Only for those who wish to give up and claim magic.

Karla said...

So you really don't see any possibility whatsoever for God's existence . . . It seems the way you look at it is that there is always a naturalistic answer even if it has not yet been discovered, nothing else is possible.

CyberKitten said...

karla said: So you really don't see any possibility whatsoever for God's existence . . .

*Possibility* - Yes.

*Probability* - No.

karla said: It seems the way you look at it is that there is always a naturalistic answer even if it has not yet been discovered, nothing else is possible.

A naturalistic answer is my first resort. My second resort is ignorance.

If you want to propose a supernatural explanation you will need a mountain of evidence to support it!

Karla said...

Cyber "If you want to propose a supernatural explanation you will need a mountain of evidence to support it!"

The naturalists position requires defense as well. It leaves a lot of unanswered questions and has it's own set of assumptions.

CyberKitten said...

karla said: The naturalists position requires defense as well. It leaves a lot of unanswered questions and has it's own set of assumptions.

I think that it defends itself very well. There are many unanswered questions - thankfully - which ones in particular do you mean?

Every philosophy has a set of underlying assumptions. I presume that naturalism is no different in that. It's just that most/many of them can be demonstrated or even proven.....

GCT said...

"The naturalists position requires defense as well. It leaves a lot of unanswered questions and has it's own set of assumptions."

It's well defended, and I'm still waiting to hear what the set of assumptions required is.