Read: Part One, Part Two, and Part Three.

So I’m standing on line at Subway, contemplating the very long wait between me and my turkey on wheat, when I happen to overhear part of the conversation going on among the people immediately in front of me. There were four people, an older woman and three teenagers. At this point I thought the woman was the mother of the three teens, but later I would learn they were not related.

The woman was talking animatedly to the kids. “Did you see those people with the Happy Atheist shirts?” she said. “They were handing out leaflets.”

I perked up. Sadly, I had noticed no such people. If I had I would have gone over to lend them some moral support.

The woman continued. “I wish one of them were here. I can’t imagine how they can respond to all the evidence for design.” I won’t swear those were her exact words, but it was something very close to that.

How could I resist?

“Well, I’m an atheist,” I said. “Why don’t you ask me?”

She was taken aback, but recovered quickly. The three teenagers seemed immediately interested. In the course of the conversation I discovered that one of the teens was a nineteen year old student at the University of Tennessee, the other two were high school students, one boy (sixteen years old) and one girl (I didn’t catch her age). The sixteen year old boy ended up monopolizing much of the conversation, The girl said very little.

Things started off cordially enough when the college student asked me how I responded to the arguments made in the morning talks. I replied that for the most part they weren’t providing the full story. I also pointed out that many of the things they said were simply false. I started to describe the many reasons why their probability calculations were nonsense.

This is where the sixteen year old started chiming in. I had mentioned that in the probability calculation from Jay Richards’ talk, the number 1/10 was simply made up from nothing (See Part Two for the details). Sixteen year old felt compelled to remind me that 1/10 was a conservative estimate. I replied that he had no basis for asserting that it was conservative, and that actually it was simply invented. When he seemed inclined to persist along these lines, I reminded him that since the video hadn’t bothered to tell us what the symbols in the equation stood for, he had a lot of nerve passing judgment on the reasonableness of the numbers being used. We also discussed the importance of having independent events when multiplying probabilities together. Here again the sixteen year old tried to challenge me on that point, but I don’t think he really understood what we were discussing. This, even after I whipped out some examples based on playing cards to illustrate the idea.

This was the last point in the conversation where I was allowed to utter several consecutive sentences without getting cut-off. From here pretty much every time I started to say something, either the woman, the college student or the sixteen year old cut me off to ask some new humdinger of a question. As is typical in conversations of this sort (I’ve been involved in quite a few of them), we didn’t stay on science for very long. Things turned very quickly to the historicity of the Bible and the basis for morality. I won’t try to recreate the whole conversation, but there are a few points that struck me.

First, the teenagers were far more engaged and intelligent than the woman was. The sixteen year old was confused on many points of science, but he was bright and articulate, and had clearly devoted some time to learning about this issue beyond what he heard in school. The college student also struck me as very bright, and was the least hostile to what I was saying. The other high school student didn’t say much, but when she did speak it was always to say something interesting. I rather enjoyed talking to them.

The woman was less impressive. I think she was still caught off guard by having her bluff about being interested in what atheists have to say called by my inconvenient presence. When she spoke up it was mostly to insert one strikingly dumb remark after another. At one point, while we were discussing the Bible, she asked me, snottily, whether I believed in history.

Since I consider myself fluent in fundamentalese I was rather surprised by this question. I couldn’t fathom what she was getting at. So I replied that I didn’t think we were created five minutes ago complete with memories intact and asked her to clarify her point.

“Well,” she said, “then you should believe in the resurrection of Jesus. That’s history.”

“Is that so?” I asked.

Then, like I were the crazy one in this conversation, she said, “More than five hundred people witnessed it! How can you deny it!”

Oh, wow. I think the business about the five hundred witnesses is based on Paul’s account in Corinthians, where he mentions that number. Keeping my cool, I replied that five hundred indpendent accounts of a resurrection would impress me, but one person telling me what five hundred other people saw is pretty thin gruel. Somewhere in here the college student whipped out the old liar, lunatic or Lord argument (the idea that someone saying the kinds of things Jesus is reported to have said could only be a liar, a lunatic or precisely what he claimed to be (that would be the Lord option.) We have C.S. Lewis to thank for this ridiculous chestnut.) As it happens, both liar and lunatic strike me as acceptable options in that trichotomy. But my answer to the college student was simply that there is a fourth option. Specifically, that the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ life may not be accurate depictions of what he actually said and did.

Somewhere around here there was some serious eye-rolling going on in my general direction. Clearly a man would have to have his head completely thrust up his own backside to deny something as self-evident as the idea that two thousand years ago one particular dead body behaved in ways that no dead body before or since has ever behaved. Now struggling a bit to stay cool I pointed out that it would be easy for me to get a few friends together and write down an account of how we saw a man get resurrected from the dead. I suspect, I said, that they simply would not believe my account.

They were unconvinced by this. Suprise!

So on and on it went. We spent some time on morality. The college student helpfully offered that the only reason he doesn’t kill people is because the Bible tells him not to. I told him I doubted that was true, but that if he needs the threat of punishment to keep him from doing evil he might consider what the state will do to him if he commits murder. He came back with how he was clever enough to avoid getting caught and I replied that he might be surprised how hard it is to get away with murder and we wasted a few minutes down this blind alley.

How could consciousness be explained without reference to the soul? Where did the universe come from? How could DNA just have created itself? It carries a message for heaven’s sake! What about all the evidence of fine-tuning? You think it’s all an accident?

Somewhere around here a new player entered the game. I was in the middle of one staggeringly eloquent point or another when the woman immediately behind me on line, I will call her Mary though that was not her name, decided she had heard enough. In an act of staggering rudeness she cut me off and started speaking directly to the three teenagers. Without making eye contact or even acknowledging me in any way she said something like, “I just want to say that I think you three are beautiful children and that it’s very important that you read the King James Bible and that you beware of people who have been educated beyond their intelligence.” The emphasis on being “beautiful children” and the importance of reading the “King James Bible&rdquo, were points she made repeatedly.

As for the part about people being educated beyond their intelligence, it’s possible that was directed at me.

I’ve attended quite a few of these creationist gatherings and at virtually every one of them I have found myself involved in a conversation of this sort. As long as there is only one atheist among a large number of creationists, they tend not to feel threatened and instead treat you like some sort of zoo animal, or perhaps someone from a different planet. I’m still uncertain as to the best way to handle the situation. My instinct upon being peppered with ignorant creationist talking points from people utterly convinced of their own erudition is to unload with both barrels. Generally, though, I think that’s counter-productive. However temporarily satisfying it may be to fire a real zinger, I think if there’s any hope of doing long-term good it comes from being scrupulously polite. I suspect that a lot of the fire-breathers, like Mary, live in very insulated communities and simply don’t often come into contact with people who think differently from her on these kinds of issues. So let them see an atheist who on the one hand is completely unafraid of any challenge they might throw his way, but who also has no desire to be insulting or aggressive.

And in a way I was flattered by Mary’s interruption. The somewhat desperate tone in her voice suggested to me that she feared I was having some impact on the beautiful children.

So when Mary finished I simply affected a hurt expression and asked meekly, “Are you suggesting that I am not beautiful?”

She laughed and told me that I too was beautiful and that she prayed that some day I come to know the Truth (I’m pretty sure she intended for it to be capitalized). College boy, after thanking her for her testimony, then interrogated her pretty severely about her emphasis on the King James version as opposed to other versions of the Bible. She eventually conceded that any version was acceptable so long as it had Jesus featured prominently.

The other woman seemed very happy to have someone else on her side and moved closer to Mary. For a few moments the two of them started talking about me in the third person. I took the opportunity to return my attention the the teenagers and we resumed where we had left off. The sixteen year old was terribly keen to see how I could possibly explain the origin of the universe, especially in light of that “Everything that began to exist had a cause,” argument. I asked him why he believed that cause had to be supernatural. Because otherwise you would just have an infinite string of natural causes that never ends. Indeed you would. So what? But that’s impossible! he declared. I asked him why that was impossible. He had no answer.

This was something else I noticed throughout our conversation. Sixteen year old seemed very fond of simply declaring that certain things were impossible, without feeling the need to back up such assertions in any way. It’s impossible for the physical processes of the brain to produce consciousness. It’s impossible for the universe to come into existence without a God to make it so. It’s impossible to have a firm basis for morality without God. When I confronted him on each of these points he seemed shocked, like I was denying the obvious.

At any rate, another interesting exchnage occurred when the original woman, apparently having absorbed some of Mary’s energy, asked me pointedly why I found it so hard to believe in God. She even used the old line about how it requires more faith to be an atheist. I asked her why she finds it so hard to believe in unicorns. (The college student thought that was funny). I said that just I like I see no evidence that unicorns exist, I also see no evidence that God exists. Utter flabbergastation from my interlocutor. I continued that you don’t really explain anything by invoking God. Nonsense, she replied. God explains all sorts of things. I said I did not agree. She was simply taking everything that was mysterious or hard to undrstand in the world and simply placing the label “God” on it. That’s not an explanation.

Then I asked her, “If you think God explains how the universe came into being, then tell me how he did it.” “He spoke the world into existence.” “Just like that?” “Just like that.” “He said let there be light and there was light.” “Yes.” “And you find that easy to believe?” “Yes.”

I guess she won that round.

Of course, it wasn’t all disagreement and hostility. We did manage to find rapprochement on one point. That was when we started discussing whether evolution contradicted the Bible. I agreed, of course, that evolution, and modern science generally, completely contradicted the Genesis account. I also pointed out though that there are a great many Christians who feel that accepting the Genesis account is hardly essential to Christian faith and that they consider themselves good Christians even though they reject it as history. The two women suddenly looked like they were sucking on lemons, and even the teenagers seemed incredulous. I added that I agree with them that casually discarding certain parts of the Old Testament leaves them without any sound basis for deciding which parts of the Bible are historical, and which can be ignored. They liked that, and started discoursing enthusiastically about the absurdity of such people calling themselves Christians. I recommended they read Ken Miller’s book for an eloquent presentation of that view. I doubt they will take me up on that suggestion.

We were on line for a very long time indeed. Somewhere around here Mary grabbed me by the hand and claimed my soul for Jesus. I resisted the temptation to tell her that my soul was not hers to claim. Instead I merely thanked her awkwardly and tried to get back to the teenagers. She seemed uninclined to release my hand however, and went on to explain that she knows that God will grant me an awakening and that I will come to Jesus and that we will meet again in heaven and that I will know her name when I see her there. I offered that anything is possible and redoubled my efforts to extricate my hand.

I have only recounted a small portion of the things we discussed. Several things were clear. First, that the two women did not have the slightest interest in anything I was saying. Second, that they had complete and total confidence in every word in the Bible, and regarded it as utter impertinence to challenge them on any such point. Third, that they had very little concept of what science is or how scientists approach their work. And fourth, that they tended to view me as an object of pity, and generally behaved very condescendingly toward me.

At some point, however, a genuine miracle occurred. It was my turn to order my turkey on wheat. But to fully understand this next part of the story, I have to reveal a personal detail that I have not mentioned here before.

I hate cheese. Despise it in fact. I don’t understand how anyone can stand to it. Eating it makes my physically ill, and I don’t much enjoy watching other people eat it either. I think it’s foul-tasting, foul-smelling, foul-looking, and has a foul texture. I often find it difficult to eat in Italian restaurants because of the strong cheese smell.. Oddly enough, I’m not allergic to it. I do eat pizza, at least when there is a relatively small amount of cheese on it. But the fact remains that I’d have to be starving to death before I’d eat a hunk of the stuff in any other context, and even then I’m not so sure.

I ordered a turkey on wheat. They were out of wheat. So I asked for it on their “Italian” bread. They were out of that as well. Visions of Monty Python’s cheese shop sketch started going through my mind. What sort of bread do you have? He rattled off a few options, all of them involving words like parmesan and asiago.

So after all that, I went hungry. I asked Mary if God was punishing me. She replied that He was not. My growling belly was not amused.

Coming Up: The exciting conclusion! Behe blathers. The speakers take the “tough” questions. I am challenged to explain how air can be conscious.

Comments

  1. #1 Kevin
    March 29, 2007

    OT but I’m sure you will get to this TIME cover:

    http://www.registan.net/index.php/2007/03/26/the-dumbing-down-of-america/

  2. #2 coturnix
    March 29, 2007

    You are brave.

  3. #3 coturnix
    March 29, 2007

    The two women are beyond repair, but I hope that you sowed a seed into the brains of the young ones. It is a slow, long process, but perhaps you have started it.

  4. #4 Kevin
    March 29, 2007

    “As for the part about people being educated beyond their intelligence, it’s possible that was directed at me”

    Well, it obvious that you are highly intelligent but its also clear that you’ve had WAY too much book lernin.

    “I offered that anything is possible and redoubled my efforts to extricate my hand.”

    Which is more important? Your soul or your hand?

    “So after all that, I went hungry” ??? Give me a ham sandwich and hold the bread! You couldn’t find anyting to eat? Or did the robots behind the counter not understand if your order did not include bread to put it on?

    GREAT POST. I laughed and cried and then offered up a sacrifice for the preservation of your immortal soul.

  5. #5 Chris Harrison
    March 29, 2007

    An excellent recount. I find it fascinating to read how God/Bible/Evilution discussions proceed when a hardlined theist meets a dissenting opinion. It appears that theists often tick off every “obvious evidence” of God they know of in one breath. “What about Jesus?!” Well what about the origin of the universe!?” “oh! and morality too!”
    It’s like a firing range in which the shooter refuses to consider the merit of any counterargument.
    Fun to read, at least.

  6. #6 Tyler DiPietro
    March 29, 2007

    This series has been great thus far, except for this part…

    I often find it difficult to eat in Italian restaurants because of the strong cheese smell.

    BLASPHEMY! Fuck Jesus, may the gods of Parmesan, Mozzarella, and Provolone forgive you…

  7. #7 Kevin
    March 29, 2007

    WHile the FSM ADVISES that you DO put grated parmesean cheese on him, you don’t HAVE to. It’s OK. really.

    you do have to like tomato sauce though. What about it Jason. Are you tomatophobic as well?

  8. #8 Kurt
    March 29, 2007

    BLASPHEMY!

    But surely there is some denomination of Flying Spaghetti Monsterism that holds the parmesan?

  9. #9 Ex-drone
    March 29, 2007

    We stalwartly advocate to keep creationism and ID out of public schools in order preserve the integrity of science education. In the meantime, close to a million US children (US Census Bureau) are home-schooled, and of these, almost a third are doing it for “religious reasons”. When I think of this, I envision the type of mother discussed above teaching from curricula developed by the “experts” discussed throughout this post. It is not a dire situation, but sadly, it undermines the nation’s potential.

  10. #10 Ginger Yellow
    March 29, 2007

    “But surely there is some denomination of Flying Spaghetti Monsterism that holds the parmesan?”

    My denomination, the Eristic Piratehood, does. I’m quite partial to cheese in general, especially melted cheese, but parmesan smells like vomit to me.

    Jason, how long did this queuing/standing in line take? Either it was extremely long or that must have been the fastest Gish Gallop of all time.

  11. #11 John Pieret
    March 29, 2007

    In case you’ve never seen it, or need a refresher course, Morton’s Demon is an excellent explanation of the behavior of Jason’s acquaintances.

  12. #12 John Pieret
    March 29, 2007

    Opps. Sorry, wrong link. This is the one for Morton’s Demon.

  13. #13 R P Bird
    March 29, 2007

    This isn’t so much an argument with religion as with the politically empowered wingnuts of the religious right. The Catholic Church and several major protestant denominations (I think the Methodists are among them) state categorically that there is no conflict between science and religion. They adhere to what might be called the Gould Principle: Science and Religion are Non-Intersecting Magisteria (NOMA!). Here’s my favorite quotation from the original essay, the full text at http://www.stephenjaygould.org/library/gould_noma.html

    “At lunch, the priests called me over to their table to pose a problem that had been troubling them. What, they wanted to know, was going on in America with all this talk about “scientific creationism”? One asked me: “Is evolution really in some kind of trouble. and if so, what could such trouble be? I have always been taught that no doctrinal conflict exists between evolution and Catholic faith, and the evidence for evolution seems both entirely satisfactory and utterly overwhelming. Have I missed something?”

    “A lively pastiche of French, Italian, and English conversation then ensued for half an hour or so, but the priests all seemed reassured by my general answer: Evolution has encountered no intellectual trouble; no new arguments have been offered. Creationism is a homegrown phenomenon of American sociocultural history�a splinter movement (unfortunately rather more of a beam these days) of Protestant fundamentalists who believe that every word of the Bible must be literally true, whatever such a claim might mean. We all left satisfied, but I certainly felt bemused by the anomaly of my role as a Jewish agnostic, trying to reassure a group of Catholic priests that evolution remained both true and entirely consistent with religious belief.”

    Recent surveys demonstrate that even in science, which is top-heavy with those disinclined to religion, twenty percent of scientists classify themselves as “very religious.”

    Let’s know our enemies, and not create more enemies. That said, if a religious person can’t chat about their beliefs in a cordial manner with an atheist, there may be something wrong with their commitment to their own beliefs.

    By the way, the part about accepting all the Bible as literal truth or rejecting it all is old, old Fundamentalist bunk. I recommend ‘Misquoting Jesus’ by Bart Ehrman as a partial curative for this view. Please also keep in mind the flexible nature of the Bible in the first four centuries of Christianity. What was in it and what belonged in it was up in the air until the Council of Nicaea. Long after, too. The Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant branches of Christianity all have slightly different versions of the Bible. . . .
    Sorry, I’m watching The Daily Show even as I type (“InDecision Version 2.0008…tubal internets…” Show’s over. Explain to the cat he can’t go outside. Check on Mom, she’s still asleep, her next pills aren’t for two hours. Back to action!). The Bible is not Fox News of the Ancient World. The difference between Fundamentalists and more orthodox Christians about the Bible can be summed up this way: “Inviolate Word of God,” “Divinely Inspired.” One admits no error, the other realizes the fallibility of humanity, even those inspired by God.

    Good night and good luck.

  14. #14 Evil Bender
    March 30, 2007

    Thanks for this excellent recap. But I have to say, I sincerely don’t understand people who don’t like cheese. In that respect, I suppose I’m like the two women–except that I don’t think you’re going to hell for not liking cheese.

    /off to worship at the temple of fresh mozzarella.

  15. #15 DaleP
    March 30, 2007

    Our local Subways will sell a sandwich with no bread and call it a salad. Good luck next time.

  16. #16 Tyro
    March 30, 2007

    As much as I hate the “worldview” argument as a defense for theism, I think this shows there’s something to it. These people (especially the two women) have no interest at all in evidence or in honestly evaluating the facts. It’s a moral question and reality can go to hell.

    Have you ever tried going in with your own questions instead of sitting on the defensive, but instead of launching in about evidence (which they don’t care much about), attack the moral issues? Like the kid who said he would kill people if it weren’t for God – what does that say about his own moral compass? Hell of a spokesperson for the theistic community.

  17. #17 Anna
    March 30, 2007

    Perhaps because I was raised in a non-Fundamentalist, Christian home, I’ve always been puzzled by claims that the Bible had to be word-for-word true or else it and the Christian faith were meaningless. As often as I’ve encountered the attitude, I’ve never known how to respond. I much prefer the Jewish approach to Biblical interpretation, where the original document is sacred but requires constant study and reinterpretation for a changing world – similar to the way we interpret and reinterpret the Constitution. To my mind, that is the norm, and it’s both ridiculous and exotic somehow when people like those two women isolate themselves from any thought about the Bible or reasonable discourse with people who regard it differently. The account is as fascinating as a travelogue to some far off land, but terribly disconcerting when I am reminded that the seemingly exotic, primitive society exists within our own.

  18. #18 snafu
    March 30, 2007

    Jason –

    I now see your point! How could I ask you to write about Plantinga when you have stories like this up your sleeve?
    ;)

  19. #19 Lettuce
    March 30, 2007

    A good strategy would be for the creationists to hold thier next big meeting in Milwaukee or Madison.

  20. #20 snafu
    March 30, 2007

    R P Bird –

    The problem I have with NOMA is that it only works if the religion makes precisely *zero* claims that are vulnerable to evidence. I could make up a religion that conforms to this (it would be pretty minimal!), but I know of none that are like this in reality.

    As you mention the Catholic faith, it’s worth saying that they make the distinction that the Church is only authoritative on matters of faith and morals. This certainly makes a great deal of scientific knowledge (including evolution) acceptable to them. But now the problem is that historically, they’ve broken this distinction so frequently that I see no reason to give them carte blanche to dictate unprovable beliefs to me, especially ones that appear unlikely from philosophical considerations.

    (This brings me back to the first point: any religion that is above a minimal level of richness is going to have to make empirical claims that don’t stand up).

  21. #21 Novlangue
    March 30, 2007

    How far does DNA go back? Can it tell us whether we’re descended from Neanderthal man?

  22. #22 Sean
    March 30, 2007

    I don’t get how you can be “educated beyond your intelligence.” It’s like saying you’re taller than you are short. If you don’t process and absorb your education — which requires intelligence — it’s useless. More education is greater intelligence. So… yeah….

    Hopefully the youths will have some of those terrible doubts spread into them.

    Oh, and if the woman had tried to save my soul, I’d probably have asked her to try to have Jesus stave off my next cold as well.

  23. #23 BANNED by KCFS, RSR, etc.
    March 30, 2007

    Hilarous post, Jason!

    You love the point out the religous background of your opponents, but pretend like your atheism is not a factor.

    Obviously, your account can not be relied on; whats that you always like to say, “anecdotal evidence is not evidence”?

    Who ya kiddin?

  24. #24 Danon
    March 30, 2007

    Dude, you’re the man!

  25. #25 Chuck
    March 30, 2007

    Keep fighting the good fight here in Tennessee.

  26. #26 J-Dog
    March 30, 2007

    Jason – You’re a better man than I! I would have pulled out the Creos are Idiots line in about 30 seconds. Thanks for the report; looking forward to some Good Old Fashioned Behe Bashing.

  27. #27 Mustafa Mond, FCD
    March 30, 2007

    RE Cheese:

    I think it’s foul-tasting, foul-smelling, foul-looking, and has a foul texture.

    So what’s not to like?

  28. #28 Mustafa Mond, FCD
    March 30, 2007

    As you mention the Catholic faith, it’s worth saying that they make the distinction that the Church is only authoritative on matters of faith and morals.

    Unfortunately for the relevance of that distinction, the Holy Roman Catholic Church once declared that belief in a geocentric Universe was a matter of faith and morals.

  29. #29 Mustafa Mond, FCD
    March 30, 2007

    By the way, the part about accepting all the Bible as literal truth or rejecting it all is old, old Fundamentalist bunk. I recommend ‘Misquoting Jesus’ by Bart Ehrman as a partial curative for this view.

    1) As Jason already points out, if you are willing to discard some parts of the Bible and accept others, why? Doesn’t it become arbitrary?
    2) Bart Ehrman’s scholarship into New Testament origins drove him to agnosticism.

  30. #30 JimV
    March 30, 2007

    I like cheddar cheese, but that gooey, stretchy stuff they put on pizzas, gumming up into a big wad in the stomach … that makes me slightly sick as well. But no worries, Domino’s will make you a thin-crust, pepperoni pizza with no cheese. They usually cut it up all cross-hatched in cracker-size rectangles, too. At that point, it is actually good for you (except for all that pepperoni).

    The only problem is, it tends to cool off by the time they deliver it, without the heat capacity of the cheese. Pick-up is better.

  31. #31 Doc Bill
    March 30, 2007

    Chicken is fowl-tasting, fowl-smelling, fowl-looking and has a fowl-texture.

    I bet you eat chicken.

    (Obviously, I am educated beyond my intelligence!)

  32. #32 John Farrell
    March 30, 2007

    I’m telling you, Jason, you got the makings of a real Sundance winner here.

    (buy a camcorder!)
    :)

  33. #33 stogoe
    March 30, 2007

    About the only time I find myself despising cheese is on a chicago deep dish style pizza.

    Other than that, I am full of teh cheese love.

  34. #34 tonyl
    March 30, 2007

    Mustafa Mond, FCD:As Jason already points out, if you are willing to discard some parts of the Bible and accept others, why? Doesn’t it become arbitrary?

    The bible is not a single book, dictated by god, and written all at once. It is a collection of books and letters written (and re-written) by different authors at different times. As such, it is completely reasonable to consider some books more reliable than others.

    Why do fundamentalists and anti-fundamentalists insist that it’s all or nothing, when it such an unreasonable idea? That’s like insisting that you have to accept that George Washington cut down the Cherry tree or else toss out all accounts of the American revolution and it’s participants.

  35. #35 TXatheist
    March 30, 2007

    I know the feeling. On most saturday’s I go to a local planned parenthood and counterprotest the religious folks. Usually it’s me and 2-4 of them but last Saturday some church group was there. Me and 20 xians. Only 1 guy preceeded to come over and argue with me and I let him have it as far as holding my own.

    Good for you in being level-headed and willing to explain atheism.

  36. #36 AustinAtheist
    March 30, 2007

    I was referred here by the Friendly Atheist. Good stuff! The IDiots will be descending on Dallas soon. I’ll see about driving up there, but I can’t promise anything.

  37. #37 Fred
    March 30, 2007

    Tonyl– Whether there’s one author or a thousand authors… whether it took one year to write or a thousand years to write, what evidence is there that any of it is true? And how do you choose what’s true and what is a writer’s embellishment or fabrication?

    If it is divinely inspired, then the changes and rewrites have been done at the request of the client (God) and therefore are make it more accurate.

    As for the Cherry Tree/American History analogy, that’s an awful one because there’s TONS of testimony and evidence (including undeniable physical evidence) about American History. But for Jesus (etc.) all we have is the Bible; there’s nothing else, no third-party corroboration at all. The Bible is, essentially, taking one person’s word for it (whether one person wrote it or not), whereas American History is a wealth of accounts and evidence.

    A better analogy, and still sticking with US history, is to take one single history book. In that case, yes, if you find one or two major errors it may make you doubt the validity of the rest of the book, except for facts which you know to be true from other sources.

  38. #38 Gary Walsh
    March 30, 2007

    No argument, no matter how eloquent, will convince a believer to immediately become an atheist. It takes time, especially considering how religious beliefs are bound up with culture and social relationships. The best you can do is plant the seeds of doubt. Some books that you might recommend and that don’t require them to give up Christianity completely, are “The Jesus Mysteries: Was the Original Jesus a Pagan God”, “The Laughing Jesus: Religous Lies and Gnostic Wisdom” and Jesus and the Goddess: The Secret Teachings of the Original Christians” by Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy. These well annotated books show that the Jesus story is just a retelling of a myth that originated with the Egyptians and was central to many mystery cults extant in the middle east when Christianity originated. They also shows that much of the Bible is not historically accurate but invented by priests. Abraham, Moses, David and Solomon are non-historical mythological figures just like Jesus was.
    Of course, a skeptical atheist may not be persuaded by these authors’ gnostic point of view, but the books seem to me to be very well researched and good at demolishing the belief in the historicity of the Bible, as well as being enjoyable to read.

    On another subject, when Christians bring up the subject of the human “soul”, one might point out that a billion Buddhists are quite content to have a religion and morality without the necessity of a soul (doctrine of anatta), though I doubt one could persuade them to study Nagarjuna’s Mulamadhyamakakarika.

  39. #39 Jim C
    March 30, 2007

    Jason,
    I never would have fingered you as an anti-fromage-ite. Shame.

  40. #40 Max
    March 30, 2007

    “Because otherwise you would just have an infinite string of natural causes that never ends. Indeed you would. So what? But that’s impossible! he declared. I asked him why that was impossible. He had no answer.”

    I do believe that the universe had a natural cause, and I do think some day scientists will find that cause (or maybe it wasn’t a cause). I think the answer he should have given you is that ‘it’s impossible to exhaust an actual infinite’ (I forget who said that). If the universe did in fact have an infinite string of natural causes, then there would be no way to reach the point we are at now, since you said it could go back infinitely. I am interested in hearing more of your thoughts on how the universe came into existence.

  41. #41 Paul
    March 30, 2007

    I’m currently imprisoned in Knoxville by a beautiful and wise wife, and can only nod my head sadly at your experience (BTW if you ever come back I’ll help you find some good food!)

    Somewhere you said “And then there is the fact that in many cases people positively resist scientific explanations for commonplace phenomena, preferring instead various sorts of mysticism and irrationality. The rudiments of logical thinking, crucial to serious scientific investigation, are things that have to be taught and practiced before they seem natural”.

    IMHO the problem is a general move away from accepting rational thought and argument, whether the current ID controversy, astrology, or chiropractic.

    A book by Fareed Zakaria observes that we may now have too much democracy, where every lunatic gets believed. Why go through learning rational thinking when fantasy is equally or better rewarded?

    Please keep us posted.

  42. #42 anukexpat
    March 30, 2007

    On the subject of pizza, I am afraid that there is no way you can call what is served in “pizza” places in the US “pizza”. Try proper Italian pizza and you will see the difference.

  43. #43 Mustafa Mond, FCD
    March 30, 2007

    The bible is not a single book, dictated by god, and written all at once. It is a collection of books and letters written (and re-written) by different authors at different times. As such, it is completely reasonable to consider some books more reliable than others.

    Why do fundamentalists and anti-fundamentalists insist that it’s all or nothing, when it such an unreasonable idea? That’s like insisting that you have to accept that George Washington cut down the Cherry tree or else toss out all accounts of the American revolution and it’s participants.

    Shucks, you forgot to answer the question. You say some of the books are more reliable than others. Well, which books, which parts of those books, and what criteria do you use to judge them so?

    Your George Washington example – do you realize there is better evidence for some of the stories about Washington than about others? For example, that he served as leader of the Continental Army and served as first president are really pretty well-documented.

  44. #44 Steve Reuland
    March 30, 2007

    She laughed and told me that I too was beautiful…

    Is there no end to their lies?

  45. #45 GuLi
    March 30, 2007

    Max,

    If the universe did in fact have an infinite string of natural causes, then there would be no way to reach the point we are at now

    Oh, yes there would – from yesterday, in about a day.
    Do you argue more than “…then there would be no knowing how
    it all started” ? I don’t know why there should be, actually.
    We could as well live in a (temporally) open universe. Our
    physics has singularities.

  46. #46 Max
    March 30, 2007

    @GuLi
    “Oh, yes there would – from yesterday, in about a day.”
    [sorry I don't know how to quote]

    That’s not what I mean. I mean if the universe came about in an infinite string of natural causes, that means the string would have to go back in time infinitely.

    Say for example you have a time scale.

    (past)——-|——|——|——|——-|——P-(future)

    The unit could be anything, but since you said one day in your example, I’ll use that. If that scale went on infinitely into the past, there would be no way to reach the first mark, or mark P (P for Present time). In order to reach the first mark (first mark on my scale, but it could be any day in history), that string would have to go through an infinite number of days, and that’s impossible, since infinity never ends. There would be no way to exhaust that infinite. Unless infinity had a limit, which isn’t what our concept of infinity is.

  47. #47 Kristine
    March 30, 2007

    I suspect that a lot of the fire-breathers, like Mary, live in very insulated communities and simply don’t often come into contact with people who think differently from her on these kinds of issues.

    I think at this point most Americans live in insulated communities, no matter where they are, even if they are not Republican or conservative. I’ve bumped up against liberal Democrats lately who had no clue that there were any atheists left after Madalyn Murray O’Hair was murdered, and who think they’re horrible people, bad Americans, etc. People drive to work and then home; they stay home and watch TV; and most of them don’t work, as I do, in an environment where one must interact with people from all cultures and must treat all religions, ancient and modern, exactly equally (and I do). ;-)

    I commend your courage, Jason.

  48. #48 GuLi
    March 30, 2007

    I mean if the universe came about in an infinite string of natural causes, that means the string would have to go back in time infinitely.

    At least Zeno would agree :)

    There would be no way to exhaust that infinite.

    True, but why should there be one?

  49. #49 morgan-lynn lamberth
    March 30, 2007

    Existence [the cosmos]is the ultimate source of explanations and causes , the greatest and necessary being and through natural selection the organizer of life. As Occam’s razor shaves God from the working of the universe the cosmological,ontological and teleological arguments are null.I owe this to Quentin Smith .

  50. #50 Kevin
    March 30, 2007

    “As you mention the Catholic faith, ”

    I was getting on the ferry tonight and there was a lady with a sign that said “Only Roman Catholics can go to Heaven”

    I laughed like that bully in the Simpsons and some guy with her told me I was going to hell.

    HA HA!
    guess it has something to do with a dead christ on a stick.

  51. #51 coturnix
    March 30, 2007

    After reading this, I just had to go to Subway today and get as cheezy sub as I could get!

  52. #52 Max M. Thomas
    March 31, 2007

    I have just realized that for the past several years I have identified natural selection as evolution theory. After looking around the net for a while I discovered that natural selection is only one of the mechanisms for evolution. So, here is my question, can we think that evolution is really nothing more than the view or fact that any living thing that has changed came from some other living thing before it?

    There are perhaps only three possibilities for explaining the alteration of any critter. (1) There is natural change from one living thing to another living thing, maybe even another kind (species) of thing. Of course, the two are related to each other because the first was the cause of the second. (2) There is a change from a nonliving thing to a living thing, which was called spontaneous generation, I believe. (3) God caused a critter to come into existence unchanged. Evolutionary theory rules out #2 and #3 based on observation.

    Although we have observed many instances of #1, we have observed no instances of #2 or #3. In fact whenever we thought we observed those latter two, further investigation showed we were mistaken and that the change resulted from #1.

    Now, within #1 we can find the mechanism of natural selection that produces the change, but we can also find that the mechanism is an accidental mutation of genes. There may be other mechanisms, e.g., Lamark.

    Am I anywhere near the right track, except for the crack about Lemark?

  53. #53 Blake Stacey
    March 31, 2007

    If we think it plausible that the Universe could last forever into the future, shouldn’t we be willing to entertain the possibility that it existed infinitely long ago in the past? In principle, this is even compatible with the Big Bang, because our knowledge only stretches back so far (to the epoch when atomic nuclei first formed, more or less). I haven’t yet found a good popular explanation of eternal inflation, but it’s a fascinating concept to learn and think about.

  54. #54 Paul Sunstone
    March 31, 2007

    You’ve got more guts than me, Jason. I never volunteer to get into debates with Creationists on the grounds such debates are potentially deadly: It’s easy to be bored to death.

  55. #55 Mustafa Mond, FCD
    March 31, 2007

    (2) There is a change from a nonliving thing to a living thing, which was called spontaneous generation, I believe.

    There is a careful distinction to be made here between spontaneous generation and abiogenesis. Sontaneous generation was a pre-modern belief that complex modern living things arise from non-living material on a regular basis; e.g. flies arise from manure. This was disproven by experiments of Redy, Pasteur, et.al.

    Abiogenesis is the theory that the first primitive life arose naturally from non-living material. On planet Earth this happened over 3 billion years ago. One of the leading theories of abiogenesis is the “RNA World theory.” RNA can both carry information (like DNA) and catalyze chemical reactions (like proteins) so it is a good candidate for the first self-replicating molecules.

    Abiogenesis is a genuine scientific field of study which is compatible with evolutionary theory. Spontaneous generation is not.

  56. #56 Lisbeth Andersson
    March 31, 2007

    I’ve been reading your articles about the Knoxwille visit, and I’ve found them very interesting, but – no cheese? You must have had a very unintelligent designer. (Just kidding, actually I think it demonstrates the randomness of the evolutionary process.)

  57. #57 Jason Kreul
    March 31, 2007

    Mustafa Mond Wrote:

    “One of the leading theories of abiogenesis is the “RNA World theory.””

    The theory I find most plausible is the theory proposed by A. G. Cairnes Smith which is the old primordial soup theory that every dittohead likes to mis-portray. I believe the argument is that the notion that the creation of organic macromolecules by a method of crystaline structures ‘self repicating’ is highly unlikely; but I would like to address that point as well, as long as I’ve brought it up.

    The problem with ID in a nutshell is that the whole argument is teleological in nature. Behe, himself summed it up in his arguments about irreducible complexity. Folk psychology would have us believe that everything has a reason. Now, notice I mention reason here. I am not referring to ontological causation, as in A causes B, and B causes C, therefore C could not happen without A. What I am talking about is raison d’etre (whatever that would mean). What is implied is that everything exists to fulfill some purpose. I don’t care which of these adherents you are talking to, this IS the bottom line, which has some very important implications I will not go into here, A while back I posted on the Plantinga argument and made some remarks that perhaps should have been clarified. From inside our personal identity it is difficult to provide any ontological account of what it is like to be anything other than ‘I’. It is equally difficult to accept any first person account of anything in a scientific setting. Of course, what I was aluding to was what Dennett referred to was the idea of adopting the ‘intentional stance’ and the approach to dealing with first person account with the heterophenomenological perspective. While both of these ideas are important to keep in mind while engaging the IDiots neither deal with ontological cause and effect arguments. To boil all this down, what I am saying is that these folks argue their points on many different levels mixing what is ontological fact, logically possible/probable, socially acceptible, and those things that would appear to make sense from the old folk psychology perspective.

    Now, to add further fuel to this fire, I would like to address the improbability factor that the crystalization of muds mixed with preorganic molecular compounds were the ontological cause of organic self-replicators and ultimately the person sitting here writing this possibly confusing little post is exactly in favor of the very argument I am proposing. What my interlocutors would fail to relize is the very fact that the universe is a pretty big place. Were we to find the whole of the universe teeming with life, it might just be the nail in Darwin’s coffin. But so far, the evidence seems to be in our favor. Our little rock is just one in a staggeringly large number of similar rocks orbiting glowing orbs of superheated gases all over the universe. We are not the center of everything, and thus far there is no empirical evidence that there is no magical diety to make us feel special. But let us tally up just how special we are at this point. The universe has been estimated at probably 13 to 15 billion years old. Earth is one of at least billions of planets orbiting billions of stars. Our little planet is 4.5 billion years old. It took approximately 1 billion years for life to form here, another 3 and a half billion to get us. A comparison I once heard goes a little like this.

    If you were to make a timeline of life on planet earth and stretch it from your shoulder to your fingertip, all of human existence would not amount to more than the dust off the fingernail on the middle finger of the extended hand. I believe this is a pretty important understanding to wrap our minds around. While our minds come pre-evolved with a folk understanding of math where we can identify the difference between one and several, we have no intuitive notion of large numbers. What does a crowd of 100 people look like? Great, now what about 10000? Could you look at 10000 people in an area and tell me if there are 10000 or 17000? What would 1,000,000 look like? How long is 1000 generations? And yet this is about one-fifth of anatomically modern homo-sapiens has been traced back. So we really have very little intuitive notion of really large numbers. We are also a vastly improbable anomoly in the universe. This, by no means an invocation of the God or Gods. It does, however, grant us a certain special identity. Life itself is an amazing, beautiful thing. For those of us who have no delusions of a higher authority or an afterlife, we see this life as our only go around. There is no second chance for us. We owe our existence to our forebearers and social convention has taught us to respect the past by honoring those before us by providing for those who come after us. This is one basis for a secular morality. But in the process we should learn to choose our battles with the less informed carefully, both for personal safety and for our subjects own emotional security. This is why I happened to mention the notion of heterophenomenology. Tread lightly in the less stable worlds of these less informed and introduce scientific truth gradually.

    Thanks to Mustafa for giving me a diving board to jump in off of. I was not by any means addressing this posting at anything he was trying to point out.

  58. #58 The Alpha
    March 31, 2007

    //”…beware of people who have been educated beyond their intelligence.”///

    The sad part about the above remark is that it was meant to be some type of insult.

  59. #59 R P Bird
    April 1, 2007

    Ah, another religion heard from. Empiricism at its extreme limits falls into egocentricism (the philosophical concept, I’m not throwing insults). I have another problem with empiricism, it makes little sense given what we know about the nonrational nature of human thought processes and the nearly impenetrable thicket of quantum mechanics and string theory (impenetrable to me if no one else). The problem with untestable hypotheses, they cut both ways. Dramatic claims need dramatic proof, yet on which side does that fall? A theist would claim the atheists as having the outlandish claim. No testable way of determining if there is a God, no testable way of determining if there isn’t. Assume one way, theist, assume another, atheism. Either way, it’s a choice. Untestable choices make religions. If the sole criteria were the testability of the God hypothesis, which is untestable, wouldn’t it be better not to choose at all? I think that’s called agnosticism.

    But where does this leave religions without a personal creator god, like Tibetan Buddhism? Or so-called secular religions like Communism (in its pure form it has a Judgement Day and a Heaven on Earth, with historical determinism in the place of God)?

    Is religion hard-wired into the human brain? A few neuroscientists think so. Where does that leave us, both the religious and the non-religious?

    I don’t think Gould’s idea of NOMA is in the realm of theory or analysis, it’s practicality. Religion obviously isn’t going away. NOMA is a method by which religion and science can co-exist in the same culture. Perhaps more of a way religionists can live with science.

    But this isn’t what it’s about, is it? By shrewd manipulation of state and federal politics, by using the tactics of edge politics and the marginalization of opponents, the Republicans and their partners on the religious right have taken power. We cannot defeat them using edge politics, we don’t have that big an edge. They’ll always have at least 20% – 30% of the population, probably until Dark Energy takes away the stars. NOMA gives us the power to beat them, by enabling atheists and agnostics to combine forces with moderate religionists of all persuasions. NOMA makes life livable for all of us. It keeps the peace. Imagine NOMA to be one of the social fictions holding civilized life together – who called civilization a “consensual hallucination”? I forget.

    The goal is to put moderates in control of the government. That’s harder than it seems. Religious zealots have been around for a long time. They’re hard to stop. Ever heard of Alexander of Abonuteichos and Glycon? He was a religious leader living around 160 AD, who had somewhere obtained a python. He stuck a plaster head and wig on the snake Glycon and proclaimed it the reincarnation of Asclepius (the Greek and Roman god of healing). Lucian, an ancient Roman version of the Amazing Randi, exposed him as a fraud. Despite that, Alexander gained the support of members of the Imperial court. Both the snake and its handler were mortal, and eventually died. Romans were still worshipping Glycon as a god a hundred fifty years later. Only the advent of Christianity did in the cult. You think religion’s easy to get rid of? Go tell that to the python.

  60. #60 MartinM
    April 1, 2007

    If the universe did in fact have an infinite string of natural causes, then there would be no way to reach the point we are at now

    Starting from when, exactly?

  61. #61 Max
    April 1, 2007

    @MartinM

    That’s my point exactly. There would be no start. If it went backwards in time infinitely there would be no beginning point.

  62. #62 Mustafa Mond, FCD
    April 1, 2007

    Shucks, you forgot to answer the question.

    tonyl, I’m still waiting. The question was not rhetorical: You say some of the books are more reliable than others. Well, which books, which parts of those books, and what criteria do you use to judge them so?

  63. #63 Kevin
    April 2, 2007

    “Were we to find the whole of the universe teeming with life, it might just be the nail in Darwin’s coffin.”

    at which point the merely vapid devolved into spewl.

    .

  64. #64 Max M. Thomas
    April 2, 2007

    Thank you, Mr. Mond, FCD. But your reasoning is precisely the reason I used “spontaneous generation.” Now, I wonder if you have an answer to my original question:

    So, here is my question, can we think that evolution is really nothing more than the view or fact that any living thing that has changed came from some other living thing before it?

  65. #65 Patrick Craig
    April 2, 2007

    I will forego a one billion-word comment post and simply compliment you on the following: your incredible courage, your great intelligence, and your amazing patience. You give the Atheist a good name, and I thank you for that.

    “So let them see an atheist who on the one hand is completely unafraid of any challenge they might throw his way, but who also has no desire to be insulting or aggressive.

    I catch TONS of flack from other Atheists on a daily basis for doing precisely this. What’s your secret?

  66. #66 MartinM
    April 2, 2007

    That’s my point exactly. There would be no start. If it went backwards in time infinitely there would be no beginning point

    And?

  67. #67 Ginger Yellow
    April 2, 2007

    “So, here is my question, can we think that evolution is really nothing more than the view or fact that any living thing that has changed came from some other living thing before it?”

    Er, no. Evolution in general is the idea that all life on earth can be explained as having originated from a single or small number of ancestors through descent with modification. Evolutionary theory seeks to explain how exactly that happened.

  68. #68 tonyl
    April 2, 2007

    MustafaMond:tonyl, I’m still waiting. The question was not rhetorical: You say some of the books are more reliable than others. Well, which books, which parts of those books, and what criteria do you use to judge them so?

    Sorry, your impatienceness, but I don’t have time to post to blogs all day long.

    I said it was reasonable to claim that some books are more reliable than others. I have no answer about the absolute reliability of the books, but the relative should be assesd the same way any collection of old stories is assesed. The stories in genesis were most likeley passed down orally for generations before the talking notes were compiled as Genisis, so I think it’s reasonable to put this at a low reliablility. Some (not all) of the writings were written not too long after the events they claim to describe. Now if you choose to believe that they weren’t lying (I admit that’s a big if) the relative proximity of time would make it reasonable to consider them more reliable.

    Now, I understand you put the absolute reliablility so low as to make the scale pretty flat. I have no problem with that. However, if someone else were to consider one section, say Peter’s letters, to be farily reliable, there could be plenty of room for that person to rank the various portions. (And, no, I won’t provide a personal ranking because I lack the expertise and time to do an even slightly reasonable job. Plus, I just don’t care that much.)

  69. #69 kevin
    April 2, 2007

    “The stories in genesis were most likeley passed down orally for generations before the talking notes were compiled as Genisis, so I think it’s reasonable to put this at a low reliablility. ”

    YA THINK?

    You think a good reason to put a LOW reliability (like a minus 28?) on the creation myth because it was an ORAL tradition? FORGET that it is completely falsified by physical evidence and contains no FACTS? you reject it because an oral tradition introduces errors?

    what like calling it genisis instead of genesis?

  70. #70 Mustafa Mond, FCD
    April 2, 2007

    The stories in genesis were most likeley passed down orally for generations before the talking notes were compiled as Genisis, so I think it’s reasonable to put this at a low reliablility. Some (not all) of the writings were written not too long after the events they claim to describe.

    Bart Ehrman says none of the New Testament books were put to paper until 30-40 years after the alledged events. “Not too long” is a bit ambiguous, but I don’t think that would meet my standard. Textual scholars are in general agreement that some of the Old Testament books were written after the events they (allegedly) prophesied. Then there’s the qeustion of independent verification. Matthew, Mark and Luke are generally acknowledged to draw from the same source, so are not truly independent (not to mention that they are contradictory on some points). Verification of New Testament books by sources outside the Bible are virtually nonexistent. Et cetera.
    .
    Then there’s the question of the standards of factuality of the time. There are plenty of miracle stories from the same era about prophets other than Jesus; e.g. Honi the Circle-drawer. Bart Ehrman mentions several such figures in a debate with William Lane Craig. I’d want to know why you accepted unverified accounts about Jesus H. Christ if you rejected similar accounts by other persons.

  71. #71 Science Avenger
    April 2, 2007

    Jason said: As long as there is only one atheist among a large number of creationists, they tend not to feel threatened and instead treat you like some sort of zoo animal, or perhaps someone from a different planet. I’m still uncertain as to the best way to handle the situation.

    My experience is that the best way to handle it is to stay polite, remember that your target audience is, well, the audience, not the people you are debating, and to force them to admit that it’s possible to be wrong and focus on the nonfalsifiablity of their views. I go into greater detail on my blog.

    Max said: That’s my point exactly. There would be no start. If it went backwards in time infinitely there would be no beginning point

    Martin snarked: And?

    I’m going to ruin the Socratic fun here and spell the point out. The argument that the universe has no beginning is just that. It is not to say that the universe had a beginning, but one that is infinitely removed from the present, which is what the Kalam argument amounts to.

    Another way to look at it is that no matter what point in time one chooses from the FTSOA infinite past, it is a finite distance from there to the present.

  72. #72 plover
    April 2, 2007

    her emphasis on the King James version as opposed to other versions of the Bible

    Is possible that this lunacy might be responsible for the woman’s emphasis on the King James version of the bible?

  73. #73 Max M. Thomas
    April 2, 2007

    Thank you, Ms. Yellow:

    “Er, no. Evolution in general is the idea that all life on earth can be explained as having originated from a single or small number of ancestors through descent with modification. Evolutionary theory seeks to explain how exactly that happened.”

    How can we be sure that a species or some feature of some critter came about by one mechanism rather than another? You might present an argument that thus-and-so came about by natural selection, and I might argue that it came about by an accidental combination of genes occurring. Is there some way to know which conclusion is right? (I’d appreciate an example, if you have one.)

  74. #74 Max M. Thomas
    April 2, 2007

    Dear Ms. Yellow:

    If we say that all life arose “as having originated from a single or small number of ancestors through descent with modification,” how is the theory of evolution adversely affected if we think there were more than a “small number of ancestors”?

    We know that the conditions on Earth were right for producing at least a single life form (the single ancestor). If those conditions were right in one place and at one time, then we can assume they could have been right in a small number of other places at other times (a small number of ancestors). If we think those conditions were right in only a small number of instances, what evidence assures us that those conditions were not replicated in thousands of places at thousands of other times (a large number of ancestors)?

  75. #75 friartimothy
    April 3, 2007

    Reflections upon the awaiting of service at The Most Popular Subway Franchise in the Galaxy and upon falling into the way of the heathen.

    To dispute the feckless maunderings of the Pre-Approved, to assail them with irritating facts that they can do quite nicely without, thank you — this is scarcely a sin; entirely negotiable when the time comes. But to recklessly blaspheme one of Nature’s most Perfect Foods? This, sir, is infamous.
    For is it not written in the Gospels that, following the second Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes, the people waxed wroth and, muttering amongst themselves, did come up unto Jesus and spake thusly: “What, tuna fish sandwiches again? So it would kill you to maybe serve a nice grilled cheese every once in a while, Mr. Big-Shot?”
    These people, of course, all went to Hell. But you get my point.

  76. #76 MartinM
    April 3, 2007

    I’m going to ruin the Socratic fun here and spell the point out

    Damn you! :P

  77. #77 tonyl
    April 3, 2007

    Mustafa Mond, FCD Bart Ehrman says …

    That’s all well and good, but how does that change whether it is reasonable to consider sections written by some author’s more reliable than those written by other authors? This isn’t a binary system of absolutely reliable and complete and totally unbelievable. (I’d put it more of a scale of dubious reliability to totally unrealiable, but that’s immaterial to this discussion) This time, you didn’t answer the question: If someone were to consider one book reliable enough for his personal standards, why would it be unreasonable for him to consider other books of a more dubious pedigree to be less reliable?

  78. #78 Kevin
    April 3, 2007

    Max M. Thomas

    “I might argue that it came about by an accidental combination of genes occurring.”

    err Max? that’s what is meant by modification. There could be a few causes of a modification, which is then “naturally selected”. modification first, selection second.

    “how is the theory of evolution adversely affected if we think there were more than a “small number of ancestors”?”

    Max, the point is that there were ONLY a small number of ancestors, i.e. all live on earth shares a RNA/DNA core. It’s the same core for all life, so all life came from the same type. If there were competing RNA strands in the soup, they did not get through the bottleneck..

    We have to say more than one because WE WEREN’T THERE! but it wan’t alot because they all lokked the same. There is some interesting things going on with theis:

    Eucaryotic cells evolved into being between 1.5 and 2 billion years ago. Eucaryotic cells appear to have arisen from procaryotic cells, specifically out of the Archaea. Indeed, there are many similarities in molecular biology of contemporary archaea and eucaryotes. However, the origin of the eucaryotic organelles, specifically chloroplasts and mitochondria is explained by evolutionary associations between primitive nucleated cells and highly developed respiratory and photosynthetic bacteria that led to the development of these orgnanelles and the associated explosion of eucaryotic diversity.”

    So I’m unclear if there was not two types of life that was combined.

    Maybe you should do some study on your own. Your “You might present an argument that thus-and-so came about by natural selection, and I might argue that it came about by an accidental combination of genes occurring.” was particuarly specious.

  79. #79 Mustafa Mond, FCD
    April 4, 2007

    That’s all well and good, but how does that change whether it is reasonable to consider sections written by some author’s more reliable than those written by other authors? This isn’t a binary system of absolutely reliable and complete and totally unbelievable. (I’d put it more of a scale of dubious reliability to totally unrealiable, but that’s immaterial to this discussion) This time, you didn’t answer the question: If someone were to consider one book reliable enough for his personal standards, why would it be unreasonable for him to consider other books of a more dubious pedigree to be less reliable?

    If someone considers one book reliable enough for his personal standards, why should I care? Especially if that person has not established that his personal standards are any better than rolling dice, or confirmation bias of what one already chooses to believe?

    I’m sure that some books of the Bible are less inaccurate than others. For example, I would rate anything with talking animals pretty low. I would also rate any book that claims events that should have been recorded by non-Biblical historians, but weren’t, pretty low. (E.g. a census that never happened, rulers who were not on the throne at the time of alleged events, slaughter of children, earthquakes and mid-day darkness that went unnoticed by well-respected historians living in the region.)

    And if the person rejects a book that explains “The Fall”, it would be very peculiar for the person to accept a different book explaining man’s redemption from The Fall.

  80. #80 Mustafa Mond, FCD
    April 4, 2007

    Allow me to re-word it for you. If someone chooses to believe in Leprechauns but not in Invisible Pink Unicorns, am I supposed to be impressed that they figured out the data on IPUs is not convincing?

  81. #81 Max M. Thomas
    April 4, 2007

    Dear Kevin:

    Thank you for your response. It looks as though few on this site are interested in legitimately curious people. Perhaps it could be called, “Darwin and Design: toe the line or we’ll make fun of you.” If fact, I am embarking on my own study of evolution with no effort to discredit it or to discover its accuracy. If this site is not inclined to discussion to those other than the choir, I’ll happily go some place else. If I were looking for sarcasm, I’d talk to my children.

    I took an entomology course a few years ago and I was fascinated by the evolutionary explanation of things. As I think more about these things I become more fascinated by the possibility of accidental modifications that are not affected by natural selection; i.e., they neither prevent a species from continuing to survive nor do those modifications help the species to survive better.

    First, you say, “There could be a few causes of a modification, which is then “naturally selected”. modification first, selection second.” But it seems possible that there is a modification without subsequent selection. Maybe our appendix, tonsils or some people’s ability to grow moles and freckles are examples of such modifications. Now, of course, no modification can oppose natural selection; i.e., no creature can have a modification to is detriment and still survive.

    Second, you say, “the point is that there were ONLY a small number of ancestors, i.e. all live on earth shares a RNA/DNA core. It’s the same core for all life, so all life came from the same type. If there were competing RNA strands in the soup, they did not get through the bottleneck.”

    I see this point. Competing strands would reduce the number of ancestors, but if they were not competing, then why couldn’t there be many ancestors?

  82. #82 Kevin
    April 4, 2007

    “If I were looking for sarcasm, I’d talk to my children.”

    I can see why you would elicit that response.

    you say

    “I see this point. Competing strands would reduce the number of ancestors, but if they were not competing, then why couldn’t there be many ancestors?”

    but you ignore the first sentance in the paragraph. Now I’m no EB or PHD or real scientist but I try to understand what is going on.

    “It’s the same core for all life, so all life came from the same type. If there were competing RNA strands in the soup, they did not get through the bottleneck.”

    “so all life came from the same type” That’s why there can’t be alot of ancestors. IF there WERE other POSSIBLE ancestors, they didn’t make it. except of course of the CO-OPERATING ones I was speculating about.

  83. #83 Kevin
    April 4, 2007

    It looks as though few on this site are interested in legitimately curious people. Perhaps it could be called, “Darwin and Design: toe the line or we’ll make fun of you.”

    legitimately, you say legitimately hum..

    you say you have an open mind. Let’s look at the question: “So, here is my question, can we think that evolution is really nothing more than the view or fact that any living thing that has changed came from some other living thing before it”

    a) really nothing more – or less I guess. why ask it like that?

    b) any living thing that has changed – or has not changed.

    are you asking if babies have parents? Is that the question? or if babies can be different from their parents? It does not seem a normal question to me. or others here I suspect.

    http://evolution.berkeley.edu/evosite/evo101/IIIADescent.shtml

  84. #84 Karen
    April 5, 2007

    I was with you until you started insulting cheese!

  85. #85 Mustafa Mond, FCD
    April 5, 2007

    As I think more about these things I become more fascinated by the possibility of accidental modifications that are not affected by natural selection; i.e., they neither prevent a species from continuing to survive nor do those modifications help the species to survive better.

    Sounds like neutral drift.

    Now, of course, no modification can oppose natural selection; i.e., no creature can have a modification to is detriment and still survive.

    A modification can be beneficial in some ways and dterimental in others. Take for example the widowbird and its long tail. A long tail makes it harder to fly, which is essential for seeking food and escaping predators, etc. And yet, long tails are beneficial because the babes love them. Also, a modification could be beneficial in one environment byt neutral or detrimental in another.

  86. #86 Michael DePaula
    April 11, 2007

    I buy blocks of cheese at the grocery store just to take home and cut big chunks off of so I can have a slick slab of something delicious to go with my beer. Mmm mmm delicious!

  87. #87 Phobos
    April 13, 2007

    Kudos on keeping your cool, Jason, (and for braving that conversation)…and thanks for sharing this story.

    “…educated beyond his intelligence”.
    That’s a riot!

  88. #88 Jack Fletcher
    May 7, 2007

    Excellent posting!

    I’ve always thought the most interesting tack
    to take would start with something like:
    God created the universe.
    Man wrote the Bible.
    We have to take our pick.
    and see what response that gets…

    Jack

  89. #89 geciktirici
    December 23, 2007

    If someone chooses to believe in Leprechauns but not in Invisible Pink Unicorns, am I supposed to be impressed that they figured out the data on IPUs is not convincing?

  90. #90 geciktirici
    September 16, 2008

    Instead, I was given ridiculous portion sizes, left hungry all the time, and made to feel like I was inferior, like I was less of a person. Until

  91. #91 seks shop
    September 16, 2008

    thought on the Grimms v. Disney style? The Grimms tales were hand-me-down distillations, so probably closer to what most people want and need. The Disney versions were one person’s work with one aim in mind, so don’t have so much human ‘applicability’, as JRRT would have termed it.

  92. #92 motorkuryem
    January 4, 2009

    kurye, kuryeler, h?zl? kurye, yaya kurye, ac?l kurye, kadikoy kurye, istanbul kurye, motor kurye, arac kurye

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