Atheism and Civil Rights, Again

Rereading my post from Friday, I notice that I never actually answered the question I posed in the title. Is atheism a civil rights issue?

Happily, other bloggers have stepped into the breach. Mike Dunford gets us started:

Atheists, unfortunately, do face a great deal of discrimination. Actually, I should rephrase that. The discrimination is not faced by all atheists. It’s faced by those people who, for whatever reason, choose to publicly identify themselves as nonbelievers. For one set of examples, you need look no further than child custody cases. Volokh has a laundry list of appeals court cases dealing with child custody. In all of these cases, judges – people sworn to uphold the Constitution – decided that a religious upbringing is “in a child’s best interest,” and used that as a factor in restricting custody rights of non-religious parents. There are plenty of other examples, many cited in the posts I linked to in the first paragraph.

I’m not trying to evoke (or, for that mater, spark) anything comparable with Selma, Alabama, but I think that when you have judges berating you for the damage that your lack of belief does to your children, you’re talking about more than just a public image problem. The legal protections are there, so atheists don’t face wholesale, legalized discrimination. That’s good, but there are still a hell of a lot of retailers out there.

See the original for links.

P.Z. also weighs in:

There are unconstitutional laws on the books in several states that in principle preclude atheists for running for any office; that is a civil rights issue. We have schools that try to make our kids take a loyalty oath which includes acknowledging a nonexistent god; that is a civil rights issue. We have government support of ridiculous “faith-based” charities that exclude secular institutions; that is a civil rights issue. We have widespread bigotry against atheists that is encouraged by authorities — try living in the rural midwest if you think there aren’t such situations going on all the time.

Again, see the original for links.

Ed Brayton also piles on:

The last part is a quote from Grothe’s column. I can only say that Grothe is abysmally ignorant if he really believes that there is no such thing as atheist-bashing. All he has to do is talk to the plaintiffs in practically any church/state lawsuit filed in the last century. He will find that each of them, almost without exception, received harassing and threatening phone calls, emails, letters and comments. Here’s a recent example that involved not atheists but a Jewish family who was challenging Christian prayers being offered in the schools there.

This goes back a long, long way. The families that filed lawsuits to end the mandatory pledge of allegiance, forced prayer in schools and other forms of Christian hegemony almost invariably received death threats and required police protection. Their homes were vandalized (one had dog feces smeared all over their porch), they were told that if they didn’t leave town “something bad might happen.”

In some cases the harassment has been so bad that the courts have allowed suits to be filed anonymously, as in Doe v Santa Fe (which still didn’t stop the harassment; they simply went after anyone they thought might be involved, including a Baptist family that literally had to get up and leave the church after being pointed out by their own pastor during a sermon). Even a Federal judge, himself a Christian, came in for the same treatment in the Dover trial. To pretend that such harassment does not go on is folly.

You know where to go to find the links.

What is plain from these examples is that there is indeed genuine discrimination and bigotry (as opposed to mere distaste) directed at atheists. And it is not just found in a handful of isolated cases. That said, the civil rights dimension is not the primary front in the battle for the social acceptance of atheists. As I explained in my previous post, the point of the comparison with past civil rights movements is not to compare levels of hardship. It is to emulate the tactics that have led to success in the past.

Comments

  1. #1 Jonathan Lubin
    July 2, 2007

    Right on. The discrimination faced by lesbians and gay guys is quite different from the discrimination faced by Blacks; yet both are discrimination, and in both cases, it’s a civil rights issue. Similarly for the discrimination faced by atheists.

  2. #2 Explicit Atheist
    July 2, 2007

    If you look at the Boy Scouts of America’s legal web site, bsalegal.org, you will see the classical ‘atheism is a immoral/unethical choice’ and ‘only theists can be the best kind of citizens’ justifications for characterizing their official no atheist members policy as not being personal creed discrimination of the type that disqualifies non-profit membership organizations from receiving government subsidies and support.

    Of course, all beliefs are in some sense choices, but for many people this is not a choice in the same sense as choice of clothing, it is more a decision arrived at by considering evidence and applying logic with significant personal political orientation context involved also, and as such it is an element of our conscience and of who we are. There is simply no good basis, none, for permitting two legal standards, a general government non-discrimination standard for theists and another government discrimination standard for atheists.

  3. #3 guyanakoolaid
    July 3, 2007

    While no atheist would disagree about widespread discrimination against them, what’s even more galling is that to simply stand up for your own rights, you are attacking the other party’s beliefs, and are “hostile” to religion. Atheists must remember to keep a clear, rational mind when confronting religion, and not become angry. Use the reasoning that brought you to your atheism. We must remain to be the same person we want them to become: compassionate, accepting, tolerant, rational. Of course this is how I have seen most atheists behave already, as we realize our time here together is short, yet still our name is impugned… however let’s never embellish the truth in our defense, it is all we need.

  4. #4 Explicit Atheist
    July 3, 2007

    From bsalegal.org ‘That Boy Scouts also has traditional values, like requiring youth to do their “duty to God” and be “morally straight” is nothing to be ashamed of and should not be controversial. No court case has ever held that Boy Scouts discriminates unlawfully, it is unfortunate here that anyone would characterized Boy Scouts’ constitutionally protected right to hold traditional values as “discriminatory.” That is just name-calling.’

    The BSA gets millions of dollars each year in government grants, plus an unknown amount of government subsidies (land and office rent subsidies) and other government support. That government assistance would be unlawful if governments upheld their non-discriminate mandates.

  5. #5 Tegumai Bopsulai, FCD
    July 3, 2007

    If it was only about having laws on the books, then lynching of blacks in the deep South a couple generations ago would not have been a civil rights issue, since there are indeed laws against that sort of thing.

  6. #6 Bill Mossburg
    July 3, 2007

    I think it is a bit over reaching to say that Atheism is a civil rights issue IF the intent is to elevate the rights of Atheists over any other group.

    America is a democracy -not a theocracy- so as a Christian I feel a great appreciation for and responsibility to our system of government. I’m glad we live in a country where people can disagree openly and debate ideas on Weblogs such as this without fear of government forces kicking down the door and hauling us away.

    My idea of a “perfect world” would be where no one was injured in any way by any one; where the rights of all were upheld and protected. Since we do not live in such a world, each group must stand and fight for its rights.

    I wish I could convince Atheists to see it my way, but I am very glad that neither they or I have absolute power with which to force the other into submission.

    Throughout the centuries the rights of many have been violated by individuals, governments, courts and those claiming to represent Christian and Atheistic points of view. I truly believe that there are many Atheist who want exactly what I want: a country full of clear thinking and well behaved people living at peace that is only disturbed by the passionate debate about our ideas.

    Unfortunately this will probably never fully be realized. I feel compelled to add that even Jesus said to his followers that there would be trouble and persecution for them. And of course we all know that Jesus’ claims of deity landed him on a cross.

    I truly hope that all Atheists’ rights will be protected.

  7. #7 MartinM
    July 3, 2007

    I think it is a bit over reaching to say that Atheism is a civil rights issue IF the intent is to elevate the rights of Atheists over any other group.

    …well, it isn’t.

  8. #8 LCR
    July 3, 2007

    After reading Grothe’s original article several times over and reviewing some background information on the issue of different types of “rights” and their definitions, I think this issue is being falsely contained within the definition of “civil” rights.

    Within our Bill of Rights, we have an amendment to our constitution which protects our right to worship as we please, defined as one of our basic human rights. This protects our choice of which religion we follow, but I think, more importantly, it protects us from being forced by other people or by our government to follow a particular religion. As a Christian, you can not be forced to worship the Gods of Hinduism, and vice versa. Follow this to its logical conclusion and no one can be forced to follow any particular religion, meaning that atheism and agnosticism are protected under this particular right.

    So at its root, no, perhaps atheism and agnosticism are not civil rights issues. They are bigger than that, falling under the protected basic human rights listed in that very important document laid out by our founding fathers.

    That said, however, if someone’s status as an atheist or an agnostic causes someone else to discriminate against them and limit their civil rights (losing a job, child custody issues, renting an apartment), then OF COURSE it becomes an issue of civil rights. It doesn’t matter if this occurs one time or a million times. It doesn’t matter if it reaches the magnitude of discrimination experienced by African Americans or by homosexuals, it is still an issue of civil rights if someone’s civil rights have been limited in way directly related to their choice not to follow any particular religion.

    I have also said in other comments on other blogs that Atheism and Agnosticism, as publicly vocal viewpoints, are in their infancy and THAT may be why they have not been subjected the to level of discrimination experienced by other groups. I think that will change as more and more non-theists become more confident and outspoken in their views. A larger population of noisy atheists and agnostics will simply scare the pants off of the extreme religious right, and I think they will respond with an increase in discriminatory behavior. Then this discussion will be null and void and even Nisbet and Grothe will recognize that this is indeed a civil rights issue of significant magnitude.

  9. #9 D.J. Grothe
    July 3, 2007

    Agreed about strategy, guyanakoolaid, but I would disagree about “widepsread discrimination.” I’d add that emphasizing only the civil rights issue, rather than working to increase mind-share, or emphasizing only how dumb theists are and how smart atheists are, rather than promoting competitive and satisfying alternatives to the religious and supernatural worldviews, only hurts us. What Nisbet says in this regard oughtnt get our hackles up. This is a conversation the blacks, gays and women have had, and Nisbet’s kind of argument eventually won influence among the strategizers in those groups (especially for the gay rights movement, with which I am most familiar).

    And yes, Jason, until 1961 (the Torcaso decision), atheists were prevented from testifying in court, holding public office, etc. No one disputes this, and we didnt in our two articles from three years ago that created this kerfuffle.

    What we did dispute is whether or not atheists really now need to wage a civil rights struggle, replete with Marches on Washington, etc., as some atheist leaders suggest.

    Atheists now have constitutionally guaranteed civil rights in America, the same that protect religious belief. What what we don’t have is popularity and mind-share. Neither a Buddhist, Wiccan, Satanist, or communist would likely anytime soon be elected to high office, but none needs to respond by starting a civil rights movement all their own. Can you imagine a Wiccan civil rights movement, with strained analogies to racial and sexual minorities’ struggles for civil rights? As I have cited elsewhere, certan leaders in the atheist movement say that where atheists are in terms of their civil rights is where gays and lesbians were 25 years ago, and that that atheists actually need Marches on Washinton in order to “achieve our rights.” But again, atheists already have their civil rights in America. They don’t have popularity, but popularity isnt a civil right. And there are things we can do to gain more mind-share and popularity without dishonestly pretending to wage a pitched civil rights struggle, likening our movement to the civil rights struggles faced by gays, blacks and women. Atheists do not suffer comparable harm. And as a gay man, I find it slightly offensive when a fellow atheist suggests we atheists do.

    And yes, as I have stated elsewhere, just because we currently do have our civil rights, it doesnt follow that with this Supreme Court that we will always have them. We do need to be vigilant, and to work hard to defend the civil rights we currently have (and teh civil rights of all Americans, which are threatened). But to defend the civil rights atheists are now afforded is not the same thing as to pretend we should be pitched in a civil rights struggle on par with racial and sexual minorities (again, as certain leaders of the “atheist movement” do in fact say, and with which we originally took exception).

    Regarding learning from the other groups: to quote myself (something only necessary when people appear not to have read what you have said on the subject before arguing with you about your position):

    “This is all not to say that the “atheist movement” can’t learn from the organizing strategies of various other social movements (civil rights struggles, and even the abortion rights movement, the vegetarian movement and animal rights movement, union organizing, and the Christian Right.) But learning from their history of the civil rights, feminist or GLBT civil rights struggles doesnt mean that we should equate ourselves with them. . .”

    In case people want to read some of the things we said on this topic: the original article that Nisbet cited is at:

    http://www.secularhumanism.org/index.php?section=library&page=grothe-dacey_24_2

    and a followp article is at:

    http://djgrothe.com/Response_to_Tabash_and_Downey.pdf

  10. #10 realpc
    July 3, 2007

    This is nothing like other civil rights cases. Atheists such as Dawkins despise religion and are waging a verbal war against it. Why should religious believers feel any compassion for a group that despises them?

    Of course some atheists mind their own business and are tolerant of religion. But many do not.

    Atheism is probably not very good for children, but that is not a reason for teaching them religion. Atheism is increasing and it might cause a lot of damage, but of course pretending to have faith is useless.

    I think there are some deep truths in religion, in general, and it’s a shame to deprive children of these truths, and the happiness they can generate. Of course, religion has often been used to control and frighten children, so it cuts both ways.

  11. #11 BigO
    July 3, 2007

    realpc,
    Do have have any evidence to back up your claim that atheism is bad for children? I will say this, I am bringing up my children to believe in reason and science.They still are quite young, nevertheless, I have to hold my breath everytime my 5-year-old tells me that the topic of God or Jesus popped up in his Kindergarten class, because he sees nothing wrong with stating that there are no such things as gods (much like elves or dragons), I keep expecting that his teachers or his friends parents are going to treat him differently because of his family’s beliefs. This was my experience, growing up atheist, whenever I came out I usually lost friends, or was threatened with some sort of physical harm from “god fearing Christians.”

    I moved my family to a very diverse neighborhood, filled with Muslims, HIndus, Jews, Christians and Atheists. The only serious problem we have yet faced came when my son’s gymnastics instructor asked a group of 5-year-olds to bow their heads in a prayer circle at his public elementary. I went straight to the administration who agreed that in the interest of preserving the multi-ethnic and diverse nature of the neighborhood that the instructor would be asked not to repeat this activity. Funny, the adminstrator never thought to mention the Constitution though. The gymnastics instructor quit. Sad really, she was. afterall, asking non-christian children to participate in her religious traditions. I can’t help but feel that all we have done was dodge the first bullet. In time, sadly, my children will learn just how intolerant people really are of atheists.

    Tah reminds me, is it harmfull to children to be an atheist about Zeus, Odin, or Vishnu?

  12. #12 Mark Herbert
    July 3, 2007

    Atheism and religion are 2 completely different things. Atheism being lack of belief in a deity while religion is merely a set of guiding principles that you choose to hold as important. The trick is to think of religion without God. In my opinion it’s better to live peacefully and responsibly because it makes the world a better place for me and for those around me rather than to do it because I’m afraid I’ll be punished by God for not doing it. It means you have to think about your actions and their consequences all the time.

  13. #13 Kevin
    July 3, 2007

    “Tah reminds me, is it harmfull to children to be an atheist about Zeus, Odin, or Vishnu? Posted by: BigO | July 3, 2007 08:35 PM ”

    Odin, yes. Zeus no cause he is busy with the ladies and vishnu I think not because he’ll get you next time around.

  14. #14 Science Avenger
    July 3, 2007

    Big O reasonably asked: realpc,
    Do have have any evidence to back up your claim

    The Troll never bothers with such pathetic details. He simply makes shit up.

  15. #15 realpc
    July 4, 2007

    “is it harmfull to children to be an atheist about Zeus, Odin, or Vishnu?”

    God is a concept that is known by many different names. It’s the same concept though. Believing in a god, or gods, gives you a perspective on life which is very different from atheism. Now, there is no benefit in believing in lies or hallucinations, and of course that’s what you atheists think religious people believe in.

    I don’t think atheists have special access to the truth about the universe. You have chosen to not believe in anything not already understood by science — assuming that science pretty much already understands all the basics.

    There is no way to settle the argument. Some believers have sound reasons for believing, we are not all meekly following authorities. Science cannot answer the question, and often it comes down to personal experiences.

    My personal experiences of god are valuable and meaningful to me. My life would be greatly diminished without faith. I’m sad that so many children are being raised without faith, because lack of faith can forever close the doorway to spiritual awareness. It’s too bad.

    As compensation, they will have faith in the potential of science and humanity. I have so very little faith in humanity, but then I am not everyone. For your children, it will have to be enough.

    I love science, but it is not my religion. My religious faith is in things that are beyond my understanding. So how can I believe in things I can’t completely understand? Well, I accept that, as an earth animal, I have limits. I can believe and trust without having all the facts. If I waited for all the facts, I would wait forever, because god is infinite.

  16. #16 BigO
    July 4, 2007

    Realpc,
    You know that most people of faith would disagree with you vehemently on this point that all gods (Vishnu, Zeus, Odin . . .etc) are just different names for the same concept. In fact, throughout history, much blood has been shed in defense of one creed’s “concept” of god over another’s.

    Be as sad as you like about children being raised by atheist parents. I was raised as such and have turned out just fine, and my own chidlren seem to be developing as well as any other kids.

    I think I know where the middle ground is here though. You seem to have a Universalist take on religion, so try this one out. I’m free to choose my own concept of god, no? So my god is REASON. And I teach my children to love reason and to be devoted to reason. And when we look up into the night sky together we find both a sense of wonder and peace in knowing that we, as human beings, have used reason to answer many of the most pressing questions posed by the very existance of our Universe, but still know that we have much yet to learn. For bedtime stories my children ask me to tell them about the Big Bang, or how the Earth and Moon formed, or about the Evolution of human kind. And each night I tuck them in, and they do not say prayers to some other big daddy in the sky, instead they exercise their own minds and imagine answers to those deep mystical questions that only small children would ever ask. And where will they find these answers? From Zeus? Thor? Whole pantheons of gods? No. The answers come from REASON. God is a concept you say? Fine, our “god” is reason.

  17. #17 realpc
    July 5, 2007

    Reason is fine, but severely limited. There is so much more than what our little brains can grasp.

    As for different religions fighting over which one is correct — well that’s human nature. One more reason for me not to worship the human brain and its reasoning abilities.

    I don’t think you have found the perfect “religion,” although it seems you feel that way. There is infinitely more to this universe, or universes. To me the universe is alive and intelligent and I belong to it, am part of it. Therefore I am significant and my life has special meaning. When I trust the universe, my life can be amazingly wonderful. When I separate my ego from the universe, I suffer terribly.

    How could I have this kind of faith in a dead, mindless universe? As an atheist, your universe is dead. How can your children feel connected to something infinitely greater than humanity and its little brain?

    Faith is powerful, as even materialist science recognizes. What you believe tends to happen. If you believe you are a good, smart, successful person, you probably will be. No mysticism is required to explain this.

    But I think faith is far more powerful than science recognizes. If I believe and trust there are gods who care about my life and its unique purpose, I am a very different person than if I consider my life to be the result of pointless accidents.

    Now which philosophy is true — yours or mine — is not easily decided by reason. I could write long arguments to support my views but there isn’t time, and you would continue believing what you prefer anyway.

    However, my faith is based on reason. I don’t worship reason like you, but I do try to use it. And reason has led me to have faith, and to value faith.

  18. #18 BigO
    July 5, 2007

    “How can your children feel connected to something infinitely greater than humanity and its little brain?”

    Stardust, we are all stardust. Every molecule, every atom inside of our bodies was formed within a star. We are connected to the Universe, no spiritualism or religion proper is needed to recognize that. You have never given me a compelling reason to believe that taking gods out of our explanation of the Universe (or rather, never inserting them in the first place) is actually harmfull to children. What is harmfull to atheist children is when theists try to force them to pray, threaten them violence with or inact physical harm upon them, or treat them as social outcasts because they see no more validity in the belief in gods then they do the belief in unicorns.

  19. #19 Science Avenger
    July 5, 2007

    See BigO, toldja so.

  20. #20 LCR
    July 5, 2007

    realpc says:

    “As an atheist, your universe is dead. How can your children feel connected to something infinitely greater than humanity and its little brain?”

    Um… no… not dead. The universe (not “mine”… “ours”) is breathtakingly alive and complex. As a scientist, I am in awe of its complexity and grateful to be a part of it (ESPECIALLY because it so statistically unlikely to happen). And why should I limit myself to humanity and “its little brain”? Because of my understanding of science and evolutionary theory, I have a more complete understanding of just how interconnected all life is. We are more that just humanity. We are part of life itself. How fortunate we are and how fortunate my children are to be alive in this world. I don’t need a god for that awe and gratitude. In fact, I would strongly argue that a belief in a god distorts and disguises the magnitude of complexity that surrounds us and takes away from that awe with an absurdly and falsely simple statement of “God did it”.

    “If you believe you are a good, smart, successful person, you probably will be. No mysticism is required to explain this.”

    There is nothing wrong with faith, but notice that there is no need in faith in a mystical being (“no mysticism is required” as you say) in order to lead a good, moral life and for good things to happen to you. Faith in yourself, faith in your friends and family, faith that “love will find a way”, and faith that there are good people in this world regardless of their beliefs.

    “If I believe and trust there are gods who care about my life and its unique purpose, I am a very different person than if I consider my life to be the result of pointless accidents.”

    I agree with your word “different”. I would have objected had you used the word “better”. But I certainly hope that you NOT are suggesting that as an atheist, I do not have a unique purpose? My purpose may not be “God-given”, but that doesn’t leave me with a life less meaningful. But without a dependence upon God, you must work independently (and with those other small-brained humans) to make sure your life has purpose and meaning.

  21. #21 realpc
    July 5, 2007

    LCR,

    God(s) loves you just as much, whether you believe or not. I am not any more special than you just because I believe I am connected to a living universe. You are just as connected as I am — your conscious ego just doesn’t know it.

    “Faith in yourself, faith in your friends and family, faith that “love will find a way””

    Yeah, that’s the trouble. As long as your friends and family never let you down you’ll be ok. As long as you don’t go broke or get sick, and there’s always at least one devoted human at your side.

    There were times I felt there was no one with me. Yes I had relatives but I could tell they thought I was a loser. Those were the big turning points in my life, when I had nobody except some vague unfathomable thing I call god. When I felt I had nothing and no one, I could finally ask for help, and you always get it when you finally ask.

    And we all end up alone at the moment we realize yes it’s over now. No friends and family can go with you. So if you have depended on them all your life, as a secular humanist, however strong the love you will have to leave it here.

    It’s human nature to focus on the real people in this world who we can see and touch. But they are the shadows, and god(s) is the reality that generates the shadows. When you love friends and family you actually love your god, who gave them to you.

    Yes it’s fine to love the shadows, to value reason, and all that. But it’s unfortunate to deny the reality that generates it all.

    Now as I said, there is no use having faith just because faith is good and powerful and protective. Your faith has to be in something you absolutely think is true.

    Contemporary scientific “naturalism” is robbing millions of children of the real power of faith. Our education system has decided what is true. But it’s ok, because science and reason have given us Prozac.

  22. #22 LCR
    July 5, 2007

    realpc says,

    “God(s) loves you just as much, whether you believe or not.”

    See, that just makes me chuckle. Its so like my son telling me how cool SpongeBob is and how it would be fun to live in Bikini Bottom. My son is only four, however, and still understands that Spongebob, regardless of how “cool” he is, is not a real being. God is a creation of man and exists only in the believer’s mind. I recognize that you feel this concept of “God’s love” is a valuable truth and a beautiful, comforting thought, but to someone who doesn’t share your particular delusion, the idea that a god loves me is about as useful as saying “SpongeBob loves crabbie patties”.

    You also said:

    “And we all end up alone at the moment we realize yes it’s over now. No friends and family can go with you. So if you have depended on them all your life, as a secular humanist, however strong the love you will have to leave it here.”

    Interesting viewpoint. See, I don’t depend upon my family and friends in the way you suggest. They are a wonderful part of my life, but I am responsible for myself and my actions. When I die, I die. That is the end of my life and yes, I leave behind my family and friends and the love I have for them. For that reason, I had better make sure that I lived my life to the fullest, doing my best to be kind and good and to leave this world better for my being here. I don’t need the comfort of a god for that, nor do I need some mythical belief that I will still have life after death to remove that fear of death. I don’t fear dying. I only fear not taking full advantage of this one life I was given.

    “It’s human nature to focus on the real people in this world who we can see and touch. But they are the shadows, and god(s) is the reality that generates the shadows.”

    People are only shadows and God is what is real? I find that idea absurd and sad. To put real, flesh and blood people second to an imaginary being is twisted and an insult those people in your life.

    “But it’s unfortunate to deny the reality that generates it all.”

    Couldn’t agree more. But as an atheist and a scientist and a person, I am not denying the “reality that generates it”… I dedicate my life to a greater understanding of the natural world around me. By depending upon an imaginary being to get you through life, you are denying reality.

    “Contemporary scientific “naturalism” is robbing millions of children of the real power of faith.”

    Again, your idea of what is “real” is anything but.

    Religion is robbing millions of opening their minds to the incredible complexity and wonder of the universe because it makes many (not all) people believe that it is okay not to look any further than a holy book or a god. They close their eyes and exist in an ignorant bliss waiting for an afterlife that won’t come. THIS is the life we have now. This is the time to think and explore and learn and be curious and question what we see and hear and feel. To close ourselves to that is truly a crime and a waste of life.

    “But it’s ok, because science and reason have given us Prozac.”

    Did you mean that as a joke or are you serious? Either way, it gave me more insight into the type of person you are and the way you view life. You are welcome to your belief in a god. You couldn’t pay me enough money to make me live your life as you do. What a false, limited life that would be.

  23. #23 realpc
    July 5, 2007

    You think you know the truth, LCR, but you don’t. I don’t believe in god(s) because I need a a pacifier. I believe because reason has led me to the conclusion that the universe is alive. But I’m glad not to be under the delusion of atheism anymore. Faith is not limiting. You have your own kind of faith, in science, which provides your foundation and sense of reality. Science is a religion for you and other secular humanists. That’s fine, but you don’t recognize it as religious faith. You don’t see that you don’t actually know the truth, and that ultimate truth is beyond all of us.

    My faith is in the infinite unknowable. I don’t imagine I have the truth. If I saw good evidence for scientific atheism, I would be an atheist. I was an atheist before I started questioning the authorities. I thought religious believers were stupid. Now I think that yes, they may believe some ridiculous things but all that matters is their faith in something greater and beyond. It doesn’t matter what they call it. No, I don’t like fanaticism or intolerance any more than you like it. But fanatical intolerance is generated by human nature, not by religion. Plenty of atheists are fanatical and intolerant.

    And I’m glad I don’t need Prozac. I do not think medical science and its chemicals are the answer to our spiritual cravings.

  24. #24 Explicit Atheist
    July 5, 2007

    D.J. Grothe | July 3, 2007 06:04 PM wrote

    “Atheists now have constitutionally guaranteed civil rights in America, the same that protect religious belief. What what we don’t have is popularity and mind-share. Neither a Buddhist, Wiccan, Satanist, or communist would likely anytime soon be elected to high office, but none needs to respond by starting a civil rights movement all their own. Can you imagine a Wiccan civil rights movement, with strained analogies to racial and sexual minorities’ struggles for civil rights?…”

    I can imagine a Wiccan civil rights campaign to allow use of Wiccan holy objects instead of bibles when taking a government oath, to have Wiccans participate in making start of government meeting prayers, to have a Wiccan symbol recognized in military cemeteries (they recently got this), to permit Wiccans to utilize military chapels to worship (if there are any refusals as I recall there may have been in the recent past), and such. And to hold demonstrations in favor of such basic equality goals. I don’t understand why you have trouble imagining this, it seems plausible and reasonable to me.

  25. #25 LCR
    July 5, 2007

    “You think you know the truth, LCR, but you don’t.”

    Strawman. I never claimed to. :-) I don’t seek truth (however you define it), I seek understanding and knowledge.

    “I believe [in god(s)] because reason has led me to the conclusion that the universe is alive.”

    Define “reason”. Science uses reason and logic. I don’t think that is what you mean by “reason” and therefore you use the incorrect word.

    “But I’m glad not to be under the delusion of atheism anymore.”

    You used the word “delusion”… your refusal to see the irony is adorable!

    “Faith is not limiting.”

    That depends upon what faith you are talking about. Faith in reality (friendship, family, the search for knowledge) is not limiting. Faith in myths is limiting. It closes doors left and right.

    “Science is a religion for you and other secular humanists.”

    False. It is the direct opposite of a religion.

    “You don’t see that you don’t actually know the truth, and that ultimate truth is beyond all of us.”

    Again you falsely speak of “truth”. That is not the intent of science. The search for “truths” falls into the realm of philosophy and religion, not science which only seeks understanding and knowledge of the world around us.

    “My faith is in the infinite unknowable.”

    That’s very poetic but meaningless.

    “I don’t imagine I have the truth.”

    But with no evidence, you believe that an imaginary being does.

    “I was an atheist before I started questioning the authorities.”

    What “authorities”? And you were never an atheist. I think you were more likely non-religious, meaning you were non-practicing. You express no understanding about what atheism actually is. You don’t speak with any knowledge of how an atheist views the world.

    “But fanatical intolerance is generated by human nature, not by religion. Plenty of atheists are fanatical and intolerant.”

    “Plenty”, huh? Supporting evidence?

    Yes, intolerance and bigotry are natural expressions of within group vs. between group behaviors, but guess what? Religion and a belief in a god are also natural expressions of our human need to understand the unknown (and by the way, religion encourages intolerance and bigotry… examples abound in the Bible). Just because they are natural expressions of human nature, doesn’t decide whether or not the behaviors are good or bad. Is/ought fallacy. So 50 years down the road, it is my great hope that we as humans realize that religion and belief in mystical beings can be just as damaging to society as intolerance and bigotry. That is where my “faith” and hope resides.

  26. #26 realpc
    July 5, 2007

    “What “authorities”? And you were never an atheist.”

    I was an atheist just as much as you are, and for the same reasons. I thought science had demonstrated, with logic and evidence, that there are no “supernatural” beings. I believed the authorities — college professors — because I assumed they had special knowledge and understanding. Back then, I thought people became professors because they were special and knew more than the rest of us.

    My faith in all kinds of authority has been shaken and demolished over the years. I read all kinds of books and realized the important questions are still unanswered. My professors weren’t lying — they thought they knew the truth, as it had been passed down from their professors.

    “Religion and a belief in a god are also natural expressions of our human need to understand the unknown”

    And atheism and disbelief in a god are also natural expressions of our human need to understand the unknown

  27. #27 Science Avenger
    July 5, 2007

    It’s human nature to focus on the real people in this world who we can see and touch. But they are the shadows, and god(s) is the reality that generates the shadows

    And people wonder how religion can promote such violence. Who cares about killing a bunch of shadows?

  28. #28 Science Avenger
    July 5, 2007

    “My faith is in the infinite unknowable.”
    That’s very poetic but meaningless.

    I disagree. It means he worships ignorance. Shocker.

    “I was an atheist before I started questioning the authorities.”
    What “authorities”? And you were never an atheist. I think you were more likely non-religious, meaning you were non-practicing.

    Or he was just angry at his gods. Tons of fundies think they were atheists, but they reveal quite clearly (as he did again in his last response) when they talk about it that it is no atheism we atheists would recognize.

    “But fanatical intolerance is generated by human nature, not by religion. Plenty of atheists are fanatical and intolerant.”
    “Plenty”, huh? Supporting evidence?

    He’s from the creationist wing that thinks in terms of raw figures, not proportions. Thus, 100,000 intolerant atheists in the world would qualify as “plenty” to him, despite it being less than 1% of the total.

    Either that, or he just made it up, as he does with irritating regularity. You might as well try to have an intelligent conversation with a furbie.

  29. #29 realpc
    July 5, 2007

    Ok I meant that other people are shadows with respect to our faith. Putting your faith in other people is like depending on shadows. That is not to say we are shadows. However, we are reflections of the creative powers of the universe, and our isolated separateness is an illusion.

    It’s human nature and human politics that promote violence, not religion. It would be hard for any religion to compete with Marxism as a promoter of violence. Religion can’t be separated from other aspects of human society, so it takes the blame.

    You can respect other people and life in general whether you are religious or not. You can be moral and live a happy life whether you are religious or not. But denying religion means closing a door to worlds of experience and great sources of wisdom.

    Religion is not for everyone. In the past, everyone had to at least pretend. But it’s like anything — not everyone is into sports, or mathematics, or wine-tasting. To each his/her own.

    Let’s say you were completely tone deaf and couldn’t see why people got exited over music. You would not assume they were all hallucinating idiots. You would just say music is not one of your interests and leave it at that.

    It’s the same with religion and atheism. You don’t get a kick out of religion, so don’t bother with it. But you don’t have to wage war against it.

  30. #30 LCR
    July 5, 2007

    No, realpc, you don’t speak with the voice of an atheist, even one who used to be an atheist. You do speak as one who seems to have an ax to grind with the “authorities”, i.e., the professors from your college days. You questioned the authorities and came to see that atheism was false? You incorrectly equate professors with atheism. They are not one and the same and this false connection makes your story come across as a fairy tale. Only if the majority of your science professors were atheists would this ring true and that scenario doesn’t represent your average science department on our college campuses. And, yes, I speak from experience on this matter.

    RE religion and violence, yes, religion absolutely promotes violence. To say otherwise reveals a complete lack of understanding of the bible’s contents as well as an appalling failure on your part to recognize the religious history of our world. Have you ever heard of the Crusades? How about the Inquisition? Maybe 9/11 rings a bell? All are violent events in our history related directly to religious intolerance of others, and sadly, they are only a few of many such events.

    “You don’t get a kick out of religion, so don’t bother with it. But you don’t have to wage war against it.”

    And I would be delighted to leave religion alone. Keep it to yourself, practice your faith as you see fit privately in your home and house of worship, and I will gladly leave you alone. I promise not to cross the threshold of your church and pester you with challenges to your beliefs.

    HOWEVER, if you choose to speak up in a public arena, such as this one, if you take your faith from a private setting to one where all individuals of various world views may gather, then it is not only my right to speak up and challenge the inconsistencies and falseness of those beliefs, it is my responsibility as a citizen and a scientist to question them publicly so that others are aware of the contradictions and hypocrisy of religious belief. To remain silent is to give the false impression that I condone it… and I would be setting a terrible example for my children if I did that. I will not tolerate the willful ignorance and intolerance found in many religious beliefs that could lead to additional violent events that will threaten the peaceful world my kids have every right to expect in their future.

  31. #31 Science Avenger
    July 6, 2007

    Let’s say you were completely tone deaf and couldn’t see why people got exited over music. You would not assume they were all hallucinating idiots. You would just say music is not one of your interests and leave it at that.

    Yes, IF the things these people said about their musical experience was consistent, both with established facts and each other. But with religion that isn’t what we get. We get the equivalent of all of you sitting in a room claiming to be listening to music, with one of you claiming to hear opera, another metal, a third the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and a fourth a dog whistle. Then, sorry, any reasonable person would conclude that you were either hallucinating or lying.

    But you don’t have to wage war against it.

    Yes we do, as long as you keep trying to use your religion to deny children a decent science education, or sexual education, or to stop legitimate scientific research, or to control what women do with their bodies. Stop that, and we’ll be no more concerned about you than we are about people who believe in astrology.

  32. #32 realpc
    July 6, 2007

    You’re talking to me, Science Avenger? I’m not an intolerant Christian, not even a Christian. I’m a pro-science, liberal, scientist.

    All the things you and LCR blame religion for should be blamed on human nature and its politics. If you could abolish religion, you would still have plenty of intolerance and violence. The Marxist revolutions are perfect examples of this.

    The Old Testament is full of war and violence — but that’s because human civilization has always been violent. The Old Testament is as much about history and politics as it is about religion.

    You think that abolishing religion would free the world from ignorance and hatred. No, you’re wrong, it is not that simple. Ignorance and hatred have other causes. You’re making the same mistake that Marx did — he despised religion and his followers did their best to get rid of it. Then they proceeded to murder everyone who opposed them, everyone who stood in the way of their creation of an ideal society.

    I am not equating athieism with Marxism, just showing that eradicating religion won’t solve the problem.

    And by the way LCR I never said ALL professors are atheists. But college is where the message of scientific atheism is being passed along, increasingly. I wouldn’t mind if the message were true or in any way supported by scientific evidence. But it is just another ideology, based on faith and personal preference. Just like all the different religions who each insist they are the only true one.

    Religious intolerance started with monotheism, by the way. Polytheistic religions do not insist that only their gods are real. They understand that god is infinite and unlimited, and can take on any form.

  33. #33 Science Avenger
    July 6, 2007

    You’re talking to me, Science Avenger? I’m not an intolerant Christian, not even a Christian. I’m a pro-science, liberal, scientist.

    You’re an equivocating ignorant lying troll with no respect for evidence or logic who simply makes shit up (eg I’ve never said or implied that abolishing religion would free the world from ignorance and hatred) rather than deal honestly with the arguments people actually make.

  34. #34 LCR
    July 6, 2007

    realpc said:

    “All the things you and LCR blame religion for should be blamed on human nature and its politics.”

    As I have said, and you refuse to acknowledge, religion (and ITS politics) is ALSO an expression of human nature and is directly linked with violent acts of intolerance.

    “If you could abolish religion, you would still have plenty of intolerance and violence. The Marxist revolutions are perfect examples of this.”

    Strawman. Never said there wasn’t violence outside of religion. No one has. But examples of extra-religious violence does NOTHING to reduce the severity, the horror, and the injustice of the violence and loss of human life that results from religiously inspired/sponsored agression and intolerance.

    “You think that abolishing religion would free the world from ignorance and hatred.”

    No, I don’t. Strawman argument. See above. But, yes, it would sure help.

    “And by the way LCR I never said ALL professors are atheists.”

    You need to read more carefully. I said “majority” of your science professors, which is what YOU implied, and that is still an incorrect generalization.

    “But college is where the message of scientific atheism is being passed along, increasingly.”

    College is where people are taught to think and reason and process information and to explore other cultures. That’s why students sometimes become non-believers… not because their professors teach it, but because they reason it out for themselves. Reason and logic are the enemies of blind religious faith, not college professors. You appear to have a massive chip on your shoulder about the “authorities” in our universities and its skewing your view of reality.

    “I wouldn’t mind if the message were true or in any way supported by scientific evidence. But it is just another ideology, based on faith and personal preference.”

    That’s right, scientific facts and evidence are the result of personal preference. How foolish of me to have not seen this before.

    To put it bluntly, you are no scientist, you were never an atheist, and I seriously doubt you are a “liberal” in the true sense of the word. Your lies are tiring and you are obviously not actually reading and processing what I (and others) are saying. Science Avenger is correct. This is a futile exercise.

  35. #35 realpc
    July 6, 2007

    “scientific facts and evidence are the result of personal preference”

    Of course not. But scientific atheism has nothing to do with scientific facts. It’s a preference, a way to help its believers feel superior and non-ignorant. Why do you think Dawkins calls himself and his followers “brights?”

    It’s also a way of have hope for future generations. Science will find answers and improve the lives of your descendents.

  36. #36 LCR
    July 6, 2007

    “But scientific atheism has nothing to do with scientific facts.”

    First and foremost, science says nothing about god because it can only answer questions about the natural world, not the supernatural. It can only speak to those things that are testable, which does NOT apply to issues of faith and religion. It is impossible to prove god exists, but it is also logically impossible to prove that god DOESN’T exist, so science has no more to say on atheism than it does on god.

    Individuals like myself, who question the existence of god, look to science, not to prove that god doesn’t exist, but to see if god is even necessary at all. We read and learn about the natural processes that have shaped our world and many of us have come to the conclusion that a supernatural being was not necessary to create what we see today. Therefore, unless someone produces evidence that a god does exist (and I’m not holding my breath), it is unnecessary to believe in the existence of a god.

    So, no… “scientific atheism” is not a wishy-washy preference. It is a conclusion based upon the available evidence, something you can’t seem to understand because you do not understand how science works. For scientists and students of science, the goal is not superiority over non-scientists. That sounds a lot like a goal of one religion competing against another… and science is not a religion, it is a process, a tool, a method of study. Science is not an ideology that competes for followers. It does not seek faithful. It can’t. That is not how it works. The goal of science and those who practice it is simply a more complete understanding of our natural world.

    That is important, so I will repeat it:

    THE GOAL OF SCIENCE IS SIMPLY A MORE COMPLETE UNDERSTANDING OF OUR NATURAL WORLD.

    Until you get that (and you don’t), this conversation is at a dead end.

  37. #37 realpc
    July 6, 2007

    “many of us have come to the conclusion that a supernatural being was not necessary to create what we see today.”

    Right — you are using science for what you just said it cannot be used for. There is absolutely no scientific evidence that the world could have been thrown together by chance — unless you believe the neo-Darwinist propaganda.

    Nothing in science supports your atheism, so atheism is a philosophical preference, just like any religion.

    (I believe in evolution).

  38. #38 LCR
    July 7, 2007

    realpc,

    Read it again. You are not getting it, perhaps because you don’t want to.

    Atheism is not a belief that there is no god. Atheism is a lack of belief in any god. Do you see the difference?

    And I didn’t say that science supports atheism. I said that nothing in science supports the existence of a supernatural being. That is a HUGE difference. If there is no support for the existence of a god, the default position is atheism, which again is a LACK of belief in a god. Until anyone provides empirical evidence of a supernatural being, there is no logical reason to believe in one.

    And you can’t possibly UNDERSTAND evolution (the word “believe” is incorrect as evolution is a process, not an ideology) and use the term “neo-Darwinian propaganda” at the same time. No self-respecting person of science would say that, as they would understand what a ridiculous term it is. Yet another lie we can attribute to you.

  39. #39 realpc
    July 7, 2007

    So LCR, you won’t believe in anything until scientists have provided evidence for it?

    —-

    And you may define atheism that way, but it’s typically defined as a denial that anything considered “supernatural” can possibly exist.

    —-

    I believe in evolution, and I don’t believe the current standard theory adequately explains it.

    There are two positions on evolution:

    A. Life is an unlikely accident in a mindless universe.

    B. Life is a natural expression of a living universe.

    Position A is being taught in biology classes. So metaphysics is being injected into science. Students are taught that scientists can explain life, when in fact they cannot.

  40. #40 LCR
    July 7, 2007

    “So LCR, you won’t believe in anything until scientists have provided evidence for it?”

    Please read carefully. I said “anyone”, not “scientists”… it just has to be empirical evidence.

    “And you may define atheism that way, but it’s typically defined as a denial that anything considered “supernatural” can possibly exist.”

    I don’t care how it’s “typically” defined. “Typical” does not equate with “correct”, especially in this particular definition.

    “I believe in evolution, and I don’t believe the current standard theory adequately explains it.”

    Then you are managing to believe in something that you do not adequately understand. Not very scientific of you.

    “There are two positions on evolution:
    A. Life is an unlikely accident in a mindless universe.
    B. Life is a natural expression of a living universe.”

    No! No! No! Again, you display just how very little you understand anything in this discussion. Evolution has nothing, ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to say on how life began. That falls under the study of abiogenesis, not evolution. Evolution can not occur until life (and reproduction of some sort) already exists.

    Let’s reiterate. You don’t understand what atheism is, so you could not possibly have been an atheist. You don’t understand basic concepts of science, so you can not be a scientist. You don’t understand the basic principles of evolution, and you spout creationist nonsense (“neo-Darwinian propaganda” and confusion with abiogenesis) and yet you say you “believe” in evolution.

    The only person you could possibly be fooling is yourself.

  41. #41 realpc
    July 7, 2007

    A. The origin and evolution of life is an unlikely accident in a mindless universe.
    B. The origin and evolution of life is a natural expression of a living universe.”

    Is that a little better?

    “Then you are managing to believe in something that you do not adequately understand. Not very scientific of you.”

    Right, if you define science as the delusion that we can completely understand things. By that definition, I am not scientific.

  42. #42 Science Avenger
    July 7, 2007

    Yeah, LCR, all you science types think you are so smart. Of course the origin of life is a natural expression of a living universe. If it were an unlikely accident in a mindless universe, it would take, gosh, billions of years for it to happen, and we all know it happened in just a few days.

  43. #43 LCR
    July 7, 2007

    “Is that a little better?”

    No.

    “Right, if you define science as the delusion that we can completely understand things. By that definition, I am not scientific.”

    Actually, given your opinion of those “authorities”, I would guess this WOULD be your cynical definition of science. I would prefer “Science is a method or process by which we can strive to understand things in our natural environment.” And even then, you are not being scientific.

  44. #44 LCR
    July 7, 2007

    Science Avenger chastises:

    “Yeah, LCR, all you science types think you are so smart.”

    We do? :-) I actually believe that scientists aren’t really any smarter than anyone else. I just think they are clever enough not to blather on about a topic they know little or nothing about. When they lack knowledge about a particular topic, most of them know well enough to admit it and ask lots and lots of questions to resolve their ignorance.

    realpc could really benefit from putting that into practice.

  45. #45 realpc
    July 7, 2007

    I am a “science type.” Yes you can be scientific without being an atheist.

    And I agree LCR that scientists aren’t smarter than non-scientists. They just have specialized knowledge in some area. I admit my area of specialization is not biology but I have asked lots and lots of questions and read lots and lots of books. And since the internet, have read lots and lots of blogs like The Panda’s Thumb.

    I think the evolution controversy is extremely important, extremely interesting.

    I’m happy being a non-atheist but have no interest in converting you or anyone. You’re happy being an atheist, and we should all just live and let live. My concern is with logic and evidence. These questions are so difficult and subtle, so easily twisted, I just can’t resist getting involved in this debate.

    I am constantly called a Christian creationist or a right-wing fanatic, just because I am skeptical about the neo-Darwinist consensus. Scientific atheists refuse to believe an educated scientific type could ever doubt the neo-Darwinist orthodoxy.

  46. #46 Tyler DiPietro
    July 7, 2007

    “Scientific atheists refuse to believe an educated scientific type could ever doubt the neo-Darwinist orthodoxy.”

    No, the “scientific atheists” (which strangely includes many non-atheists) are simply able to recognize dubious arguments against the science when they see them. That they don’t credulously accept any half-baked criticism of a consensus that’s been developed over decades to centuries doesn’t amount to enforcing a rigid “orthodoxy”.

  47. #47 Stanton
    July 8, 2007

    I think the evolution controversy is extremely important, extremely interesting.

    What controversy???
    realpc, if you actually read about biological sciences, you would realize that there has been no “controversy” about biological evolution for the past century and a half. Those people who insist on questioning the validity of biological evolution are not biologists, if not scientists, at all.
    Do realize that the evolution controversies within Biology are concerned with vital details within biological evolution, such as the arrangement of phylogenic trees, or evolutionary rates, show that there is absolutely no major dissent, if any dissent at all, concerning the validity of biological evolution. realpc, if there was major dissent over the validity of “neo-darwinist orthodoxy,” we would not be having discussions about whether spiders were more closely related to trilobites, or if crabs and insects share a common ancestor. We would be still trying to decide whether trilobites were Animal, Mineral or Vegetable.
    Furthermore, no genuine proponent of biological evolution uses the term “Neo-Darwinist Orthodoxy.” The only people who use the term “Darwinist” to refer to proponents of biological evolution are creationists who use that term as a pejorative, in conjunction with the term “evolutionist,” in order to suggest that these people are some sort of wacky cultists of a competing cult, as though they were Scientologists.

  48. #48 realpc
    July 8, 2007

    Stanton,

    You don’t understand anything I said, or didn’t read it. I said I believe in evolution, repeatedly. I don’t believe random mutations plus natural selection are adequate to explain evolution. The standard accepted theory is that random mutations plus natural selection are the essential basis of evolution.

    I do not doubt evolution, and all the evidence is for evolution, not for the standard current theory.

    Scientists admit they can’t explain the origin of life, but they insist they have explained the origin of species. Then we hear about all the overwhelming evidence for evolution, but no evidence at all that the explanation is true.

    There is a difference between adaptation and the origin of new species, but this difference is denied or minimized.

    I am criticizing your certainty that life originated and evolved as an unlikely series of accidents in a dead universe. I believe the origin and evolution of life is a natural expression of a living universe (I realize I said that but have to repeat everything constantly).

    I am not a Christian creationist, or a Christian. I believe in evolution. I do not think science has explained evolution.

    That is the essence of the debate. ID is not Christian creationism. It’s almost impossible for people to understand that there can be something other than two irrational extreme views.

  49. #49 Tyler DiPietro
    July 8, 2007

    Time to dump realpc in the killfile. It’s become increasingly obvious that this guy is the lowest of low-hanging fruit.

  50. #50 SmellyTerror
    July 8, 2007

    Aww, ya big meanie Tyler! I don’t think he’s so bad. I’m actually keen to hear what on earth a “living universe” is, as opposed to our “dead” one. What does that actually mean? That the universe is alive? It is. What do you think we’re made out of?

    realpc: regarding the apparent objections to evolutionary theory / macroevolution, are you familiar with stuff like this? http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/macroevolution.html

    (Note also the link at the top of that page to http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/comdesc/)

    I mean, I’m willing to hear objections to the evidence, but to deny it altogther seems, well, ignorant. You seem a pretty intelligent human, so maybe you’ll come up with objections that haven’t already been answered over and over again. But if you can’t, well, you just seem to have staked out a position in the early stages of an argument that was lost a long time ago. That just seems pointless.

  51. #51 Science Avenger
    July 8, 2007

    I said I believe in evolution, repeatedly.

    You also lie repeatedly. To wit:

    The standard accepted theory is that random mutations plus natural selection are the essential basis of evolution.

    No it isn’t, and that has been explained to you numerous times, yet you keep on lying like a good little troll.

    Tyler is right. It’s time to deny this propogandist his podium.

  52. #52 realpc
    July 8, 2007

    Science Avenger,

    This was recently discussed at PT, but I guess you missed it. After a long conversation, everyone involved seemed to admit that random mutations plus natural selection is the basis of it all. The other stuff just modifies slightly. I did not see you object.

  53. #53 Science Avenger
    July 8, 2007

    Then you didn’t look very carefully, I was one of the first objectors, and everyone involved did NOT “admit” any such thing.

    Yes, IF, sexual selection is counted as part of natural selection (to which I objected then and object now), and IF genetic drift, gene duplication, and all the other types of variations that occur are included as “random mutation”, then it would suffice.

    But that isn’t what you mean when you chant “NS + RM” and you know it. It’s just another liars game of equivocation with you, as is everything else. You can’t make your ignorant arguments against the entirety of evolutionary theory, so you attack a straw man subset.

  54. #54 Stanton
    July 8, 2007

    realPC, your reply doesn’t make a lick of sense. Your claim that “evolutions claim that life is simply a series of accidents in a dead universe” does not describe what biologists, geneticists or paleontologists do or study at all. Would it kill you horribly with flaming poisoned papercuts if you were to actually take the time to read books on evolutionary biology and paleontology before you come to a sensible conclusion?
    They have lots of books at all sorts of reading levels from children’s books to coffee table books to books written by specialists for the interested student to textbooks for students.
    Eyewitness Books: Evolution
    Trilobite! Eyewitness to Evolution
    Evolution: The Triumph of An Idea
    Evolution
    Early Vertebrates

  55. #55 realpc
    July 9, 2007

    RM + NS is the essence of the current standard theory, and you know it. The variations have no purpose or direction AT ALL, according to NDE. The variations are not aware of their environment — the organism they are part of, or the environment outside the organism. NDE DEPENDS on the hypothesis that nature is not intelligent, that intelligence depends on and is generated by physical brains. NO OTHER system (unless designed by humans) can have intelligence. ONLY BRAINS.

    And yet, you have practically no idea how brains work, how they generate intelligence.

    Your NDE theory absolutely insists that nature is not intelligent. Yet it somehow, by chance and selection, generates intelligent organisms with brains.

    THAT is your theory, and THAT is what ID questions.

    It seems to me that ID is being pretty reasonable, questioning dogmatic assertions that have no evidence behind them.

    So of course you love it when people confuse NDE with evolution theory in general, and when they confuse ID with Christian creationism. Then you can win easily. It is not so easy for you to win when the real questions are being debated.

  56. #56 LCR
    July 9, 2007

    “Your NDE theory absolutely insists that nature is not intelligent. Yet it somehow, by chance and selection, generates intelligent organisms with brains.”

    Your objections are absurd. Are you trying to establish an argument that only something intelligent can produce intelligence? And do you understand you have nothing to back up that belief but conjecture?

    I have no idea why an unthinking natural set of instructions (i.e., those who reproduce more successfully in a given environment will pass on more of those genes that led to their success) should cause anyone consternation over the fact that one end result of those instructions is an intelligent brain.

    Nature has no legs and yet somehow it has produced creatures with legs.

    Nature has no wings, no lungs, no heart, no leaves, no reproductive organs, no pollen, no tentacles, no gills… and yet it has produced organisms with all of these features.

    Do you have a problem with the evolution of all of these features (and more) or is it just intelligence that you have a problem with? Because intelligence is a physical expression of our genes and our environment, no more and no less than any other expression. Our brain may still pose as a puzzle for neurobiologists because of its complexity, a puzzle that time will help solve, but in the long run it is simply a product of evolutionary processes, ALL OF THEM, just like all other fascinating and incredible physical structures.

    Your objections, which you share with ID enthusiasts, have no merit as you are establishing false, non-existent, unsupported boundaries to the evolutionary process, based solely upon the point that YOU can’t possibly imagine how it could happen.

  57. #57 realpc
    July 9, 2007

    “Our brain may still pose as a puzzle for neurobiologists because of its complexity, a puzzle that time will help solve, but in the long run it is simply a product of evolutionary processes,”

    That is a statement based entirely on faith in the ideology of materialist science. If you like believing it, fine, but at least admit it’s faith. And let other people choose their beliefs, rather than trying to indoctrinate every child into your preferred ideology.

    Can you see that your prediction is a hope, not a fact? Should children be taught that something is true because you expect that there will be evidence some day?

  58. #58 Science Avenger
    July 9, 2007

    It trolled thusly: That is a statement based entirely on faith in the ideology of materialist science.

    That’s like claiming the theory that the Egyptians built the pyramids without the help of aliens is based on faith until we can provide a step-by-step explanation for how they did it. Never mind that there is no evidence whatsoever that aliens have ever visited this planet, or even exist at all.

    Egyptians existed, and there is no reason they couldn’t have built the pyramids, therefore they are the most reasonable hypothesis. That’s not faith. Believing aliens had to have helped them is faith. It doesn’t matter if we can’t explain every single step of the process. First demonstrate that there even are aliens, and then we’ll talk. Until then, Egyptians are all we’ve got to go on, and whether or not you have personal difficulty accepted that they were capable of such a thing is completely irrelevant.

    The creationist/IDer attacks on evolution use the exact same flawed reasoning. Evolutionary mechanisms exist, and are capable, in principle, of accomplishing all that evolutionary theory asks of them. Therefore they are the most reasonable hypothesis. That’s not faith. Believing some designer had to have lended a hand is faith, because there is no evidence that there even is a designer. Of course, when you explicitly forbid even discussing the nature of the hypothetical designer, it’s really tough to acquire evidence for it. That naturally is why ID’s designer remains such a piece of conjectural puffery.

  59. #59 LCR
    July 9, 2007

    realpc said:

    “Can you see that your prediction is a hope, not a fact? Should children be taught that something is true because you expect that there will be evidence some day?”

    Two points that you overlooking/ignoring/ignorant of:

    1. I base my confidence in science not on hope, nor upon faith, but simply upon experience. Open your eyes and take a look at human history, particularly in relation to advances in science. Read a science book, for gosh sake. Think of the progress that has been made in medicine, in astrophysics, in neuroscience, in engineering, in agriculture… we, as a species, using science, have been to the moon, for heaven sake! The problems we have managed to solve using science and our curiousity and our imagination is utterly awe-inspiring (more so than any god could inspire, frankly). Considering what we have been able to accomplish, how dare you suggest that we might NOT be able to decipher the mystery of the human brain in the next 100 years…

    2 … unless people like ID supporters manage to convince others that things are too hard, or too complicated, or meant to remain a mystery since we can’t possibly understand how or why God works. To assume that we CAN’T better understand the world around us is certainly a path to failure.

    No, science hasn’t solved all of life’s mysteries… not yet and perhaps never. We are mearly fallible humans after all… we will need lots and lots of time. Who are we (actually, you) to say that we should stop looking for answers to those mysteries? We have no way of knowing what the future will bring, so why pre-emptively place limits on that future? Who knows what might be possible if we continue to be open to all that we can accomplish using science as a tool of learning about the world around us.

    So lets see… confidence in science leading to incredible leaps in human knowledge leading to better, healthier, happier lives on this wonderful planet on ours… or your way, in which we doubt science, lack confidence, look to a supernatural being for the answers… and wait for answers that never come. I’ll take the former choice; you go ahead, place your faith in the supernatural being of your choice (I won’t stop you) and stagnate.

  60. #60 realpc
    July 10, 2007

    “Considering what we have been able to accomplish, how dare you suggest that we might NOT be able to decipher the mystery of the human brain in the next 100 years…”

    If someone deciphers the mystery of the brain, within a materialist framework, then you can say the brain can be understood within a materialist framework. Right now, it cannot be. It is not reasonable to assume everything can potentially be explained within that framework.
    I believe in science, which should not be restricted to materialism. There is much more going on in the brain, probably, than what scientists currently imagine. Their understanding is blocked by preconceptions.

    “No, science hasn’t solved all of life’s mysteries… not yet and perhaps never. We are mearly fallible humans after all… ”

    That’s right LCR, we are.

    “we will need lots and lots of time. Who are we (actually, you) to say that we should stop looking for answers to those mysteries?”

    I don’t recall ever saying we should stop looking for answers. You have managed to reverse my whole point. I think assuming everything has a materialist (and yes, I realize that word needs to be defined) explanation, blocks understanding in some important areas.

    What I mean by the materialist framework is the ideology that nature has no intelligence. I have never said that some supernatural being designed life so we should stop trying to understand it. That’s ridiculous, and ID researchers aren’t saying that either. If the universe has some kind of creative intelligence, that in no way discourages us, who are part of that universe and share its creative intelligence, from trying to understand ourselves and our world.

    There is absolutely nothing about the ID theory that wants to stop science. That’s a ridiculous idea, and I don’t know where you got it.

    “incredible leaps in human knowledge leading to better, healthier, happier lives on this wonderful planet on ours”

    Yes, we’ve had incredible leaps in human knowledge. That’s because of science, not because of materialist ideology.

    But technology has given us more than the wonders of indoor plumbing and climate control, TV and the internet, non-invasive surgery, etc. It also gave us a polluted environment and weapons too deadly to be used. I’m not against science (saying it for about the 50th time), but you’re like some kind of evangelist. There is good and bad in everything, science and technology are certainly no exception.

  61. #61 LCR
    July 10, 2007

    realpc said,

    “There is absolutely nothing about the ID theory that wants to stop science. That’s a ridiculous idea, and I don’t know where you got it.”

    From ID supporters just like yourself. Whenever you suggest that the answer to a scientific problem is that God did it (i.e., a non-natural, “non-materialistic” explanation), an “answer” which is not an answer at all, than you are bringing inquiry and exploration of our natural world to a dead-end brick wall. You can’t take it any farther than that. It leaves no room for additional questions and study, because the answer will always be the same. A non-testable, non-measurable, non-detectable, nonuseful explanation of “God did it”. That is the logical endpoint of the viewpoint you espouse.

    “Yes, we’ve had incredible leaps in human knowledge. That’s because of science, not because of materialist ideology.”

    So science is okay, but the way we use it or interpret it is wrong because we view it through our materialistic lenses? Do I have that right?

    The problem is with your definition of “materialistic ideology”, as the idea that matter is the only reality. My understanding is that “matter” is anything we can detect, measure, touch, see, or manipulate. Science can only address issues that fall into this realm of reality. It can’t explore questions that can’t be addressed with testable explanations and measurable results. Things like “God” and “how many angels can dance on the head of a pin”. So as “materialistic ideology” is defined by ID supporters, it can not be separated from science. It is a requirement of the scientific method.

    “It also gave us a polluted environment and weapons too deadly to be used. I’m not against science (saying it for about the 50th time), but you’re like some kind of evangelist. There is good and bad in everything, science and technology are certainly no exception.”

    Science is a tool. Like a hammer or a screwdriver or sewing needle, it is neither good nor bad. But like all tools, good things and bad things can be done with them. Man takes the products of science and uses them, for good or for bad. You are blaming science for actions that are the fault of man. Corrupting science by incorporating issues of non-materialism (i.e., “faith” or “beliefs” of “God”) into it will not help stop the bad things that humans do.

    “Evangelist”. That’s funny! Using a religious term to insult me. Irony abounds. And I don’t really care how many times you say that you are not against science. The rest of your words tell us that you are either not telling the truth, or that you don’t understand science enough to realize that you are wrong.

  62. #62 Science Avenger
    July 10, 2007

    ID researchers aren’t saying that either.

    Ah yes, those anonymous ID researchers doing double secret science and, you know, super smart stuff at hidden locations so as to not have their work destroyed by the Evil Darwinist Conspiracy ™. Their work is going to shatter the materialistic atheistic strangehold on truth by finally getting God, er, The, no, A, yeah that’s it, A designer back into, I mean into, schools.

    And that research is coming out any day now. Here it comes. Wait for it.

    Soon.

    Any time now, just you wait and see.

    Really, they mean it this time.

  63. #63 realpc
    July 10, 2007

    ” “matter” is anything we can detect, measure, touch, see, or manipulate. Science can only address issues that fall into this realm of reality.”

    That’s the catch 22 at the heart of the controversy. If you don’t already have the instruments to meaure something, you say it’s outside the province of science and cannot be investigated. The possibility that forces, fields, substances, etc., exist that current instruments were not designed to detect never occurs to “naturalist” scientists.

  64. #64 LCR
    July 10, 2007

    “That’s the catch 22 at the heart of the controversy. If you don’t already have the instruments to meaure something, you say it’s outside the province of science and cannot be investigated.”

    Very good! It is absolutely true that we can NOT measure the effect of God in the natural world, so God is indeed outside the province of science and can not be investigated using scientific methods. That is exactly correct. No catch-22 involved, that is simply the reality of the situation. You can’t force a square peg into a round hole, no matter how much you redefine it.

    However, ID proponents are certainly welcome to come up with instruments that measure the “God effect” so that it CAN be investigated by science. Go for it. Scientists haven’t been able to do that yet in the entire history of science, but surely ID supporters are clever enough to do it? And, besides, if this is so important to you, why rely upon those “authorities” to do it? They would just distort it with their “materialist ideology”… heaven forbid.

  65. #65 realpc
    July 10, 2007

    I have not been talking about god at all, and you know it. I have been talking about universal intelligence, for one thing. And I think it’s very possible that bio-fields and bio-energies exist, which cannot be measured by existing instruments. There is no attempt, in mainstream science, to develop that kind of instrument because these fields and energies are assumed to be imaginary and mythical.

    Of course, most holistic health practitioners assume they do exist. There doesn’t seem to be any communication between mainstream biology and holistic medicine. Probably because mainstream biology is absolutely certain there is nothing of any value whatsoever in holistic medicine, or in holistic (non-materialist) science.

  66. #66 LCR
    July 10, 2007

    “I have not been talking about god at all, and you know it.”

    No, actually, I don’t know that. You argue that materialist scientists are ignoring non-materialist (supernatural) approaches, you harp against atheism (the original topic on this thread), you support intelligent design, and you believe in a supernatural intelligent designer. Don’t tell me God is not part of this discussion.

    “I have been talking about universal intelligence, for one thing.”

    And the definition of “universal intelligence” is…?

    “And I think it’s very possible that bio-fields and bio-energies exist, which cannot be measured by existing instruments.”

    Then it is up to you and others who agree with you to produce the instruments and equipment and evidence to support your beliefs that such fields exist.

    “There is no attempt, in mainstream science, to develop that kind of instrument because these fields and energies are assumed to be imaginary and mythical.”

    To be honest, I really have no clue what you are talking about when you refer to “bio-fields” and “bio-energies”, and I don’t know what you are trying to explain by referring to them. I DO know that in many science fields, even things that weren’t initially directly detectable, such as distant planetary bodies, and quarks, and black holes, were at least indirectly detectable as their presense caused other objects to behave unexpectedly. If your “bio-fields” and “bio-energies” really do exist, then their footprint should have some type of signature somewhere… so stop whining about scientific “authorities” ignoring your pet idea and go look for them.

    Science is not to blame if you are not willing to put in more than a lot of hot air into the effort of doing research. The Discovery Institute has a lot of wealthy supporters and it sounds like your ideas would be appealing to their ideological views. Apply to them for support and get to work.

  67. #67 realpc
    July 10, 2007

    “top whining about scientific “authorities” ignoring your pet idea and go look for them.”

    I will probably try to get into alternative research some day. After I got a PhD I realized there is almost no funding available for anything non-traditional. I’m not at all interested in being poor so I have been working in IT, which I like. And after I have been a software developer for 20 or so years, those skills might be very useful for whatever kind of research I eventually get into.

    And in the meantime I’m thinking, reading and writing, and getting ideas. Whatever the intelligent universe has in mind for me is ok.

  68. #68 Science Avenger
    July 11, 2007

    LCR said: To be honest, I really have no clue what you are talking about when you refer to “bio-fields” and “bio-energies”

    That’s OK, he doesn’t either.

    It dissembled thusly: …there is almost no funding available for anything non-traditional

    Yeah, that’s right, that’s why science has been so stagnent over the last few decades. Life and technology is pretty much the same as it has been. /sarcasm

    New and different has a shot. It’s old and discredited that’s likely to be received with a collective yawn from the investing community, and all this baloney about energy fields is very very old. When you spend a lot of time among the purveyors of woo, “energy” is a word you learn to be wary of. It’s a very good indicator that bullshit is about the follow.

  69. #69 LCR
    July 11, 2007

    “When you spend a lot of time among the purveyors of woo, “energy” is a word you learn to be wary of. It’s a very good indicator that bullshit is about the follow.”

    Yes, I’ve heard my fair share and this has all the tell-tale signs… but if he could get DI to throw some of its money at researching his beliefs, seems like that would be a [ahem] good use of their money? I mean, shouldn’t we be encouraging DI to spend as much of its investor’s money as possible on all of that promising research they keep talking about?

    I’m still waiting for a definition of “intelligent universe”, since he said that he is apparently not talking about God.

  70. #70 realpc
    July 11, 2007

    There has been great progress in technology in the past 50 or so years, mostly related to microcomputing. But certain areas of science have made almost no progress. Medical research in cancer, for example, has not done well at all. Neuroscience has some great technology for studying the brain, but the brain mostly remains a mystery. In physics, the structure of reality has not become any clearer — just the opposite, it’s stranger than ever.

    Complexity is becoming an important area of research, for good reasons.

  71. #71 Stanton
    July 11, 2007

    Medical research in cancer, for example, has not done well at all.

    Then how come they’ve identified two regulatory genes that, when mutated, cause most forms of cancer?

  72. #72 David D.G.
    July 11, 2007

    Medical research in cancer, for example, has not done well at all.

    Riiiiiiight. Yet cancer survival rates are improved over what they were just a generation ago. I suppose you think this means that the “intelligent universe” is just being more merciful and not smiting us quite as hard?

    ~David D.G.

  73. #73 realpc
    July 11, 2007

    “cancer survival rates are improved over what they were just a generation ago.”

    Diagnostic technology has improved greatly. That means cancer is detected earlier, and survival therefore has to be extended. If a cancer is diagnosed two years earlier than it would have been a generation ago, for example, then survival will be extended by about two years, automatically. No improvements in treatments would be necessary to show this kind of improvement.

    Earlier detection also means the same old treatment approaches have some chance of working. Surgery, radiation and chemical poisoning might work in very eartly stages.

    Cancer researchers are not being honest in reporting these “wonderful” advances. Either that, or their results are being misunderstood and distorted by overly enthusiastic non-experts.

    Another source of confusion is the fact that most very early cancer is cured by the immune system, with no treatment at all. So if a patient is diagnosed with very early cancer, the treatment is credited with the cure, even if it did nothing at all.

    The current approach to cancer, although it might work in some cases (and it’s hard to tell because, as I said, very early cancer might disappear without any treatment) is torture for patients, and is often useless.

  74. #74 David D.G.
    July 11, 2007

    “cancer survival rates are improved over what they were just a generation ago.”

    Diagnostic technology has improved greatly. That means cancer is detected earlier, and survival therefore has to be extended. If a cancer is diagnosed two years earlier than it would have been a generation ago, for example, then survival will be extended by about two years, automatically. No improvements in treatments would be necessary to show this kind of improvement.

    And just how does this in any way discredit cancer research as having done “not well at all”? Diagnosis is a part of the medical process, too; in fact, it is literally of first importance. You can’t cure, treat, or surgically remove what you can’t detect. The sooner it can be detected, the sooner treatment can be started, enabling the treatment to start on a smaller and less-well-established illness AND have a longer window in which to be applied. That is why a two-year advance on detection is resulting in gains of 5 or 10 years or more on survival.

    In fact, a friend of mine with a family history rife with cancer just had a tiny breast tumor detected a few weeks ago; she has already had a full mastectomy to deal with the problem and was back at work within three days (so surgical techniques have also been improved), and her prognosis is that she should have NO further complications of it at all (admittedly this is yet to be seen, but it isn’t often that a doctor gives such unqualified news). An ounce of prevention can be worth megatons of cure.

    Another source of confusion is the fact that most very early cancer is cured by the immune system, with no treatment at all. So if a patient is diagnosed with very early cancer, the treatment is credited with the cure, even if it did nothing at all.

    While I have heard this sort of thing for conventional viral infections, applying it to cancer is news to me. Do you have a citable source for this?

    ~David D.G.

  75. #75 realpc
    July 11, 2007

    It’s very well known that the immune system kills cancer cells.

    http://www.cancer-info.com/cancerdeath.htm

  76. #76 LCR
    July 11, 2007

    You know, I was willing to give you some leeway on the idea that immune cells do try to fight off cancer cells. I am not a doctor. How would I know?

    And your claim may indeed be true (and I hope it is), but you did not help your argument by linking to an alternative medicine web-site (complete with shark cartilage treatments and prayer chains) with absolutely no citations backing up any one of their claims. As far as immune systems killing off cancer cells, the pictures were very pretty, but with no sources listed, I’m afraid they are useless in this discussion.

    You’ve been on these discussion boards long enough to know that this is not acceptable as “evidence”.

  77. #77 Kevin
    July 11, 2007

    I stood up to the myth-preachers on the ferry today. I stood up and exposed their shriveled little hearts and made them cry!

    Then I went to stand downstairs.

  78. #78 David D.G.
    July 12, 2007

    realpc,

    LCR’s comment reflects my view perfectly. Your claim is worthless if that is your best “evidence.” And just saying “it is well known” doesn’t make it so.

    ~David D.G.

  79. #79 realpc
    July 12, 2007

    http://www.cancerhelp.org.uk/help/default.asp?page=118

    “Some cells of the immune system can recognise cancer cells as abnormal and kill them.”

    http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Therapy/biological

    “the immune system may recognize the difference between healthy cells and cancer cells in the body and works to eliminate cancerous cells. ”

    I could find thousands more, if I had all day. It’s so well known we shouldn’t be wasting time arguing about it.

  80. #80 realpc
    July 12, 2007

    You know, or you should know, that the immune system recognizes foreign cells, and that’s why organ transplants can be rejected. You know that the immune system recognizes certain viruses and bacteria as dangerous and fights them (well duh). There is nothing far-out or alternative about saying the immune system can sometimes recognize and kill cancer cells.

    Current chemo treatments poison the body and weaken the immune system — exactlly the opposite of what you want. Chemo might work sometimes, in very early stages. But as I said, it’s impossible to know if the immune system would have killed the cancer at such and early stage anyway. And without the chemo, the immune system might have been stronger and recovery might have been faster.

    Even on CNN’s mainstream health news recently they admitted progress has not been made in curing cancer since the “war on cancer” began. The progress has been in early diagnosis.

    It’s true that I believe in holistic health and I question some of the current mainstream treatments. Medical technology is great if you need surgery, but many diseases are not cured by surgery or antibiotics. Medical science often does not look for the underlying causes, does not try to work with the immune system. The treatments often cause as much, or more, harm than good.

    Some aspects of current medical science are good, some are bad. Many holistic treatments are total BS. But some are good, and there is no simple way to figure it all out. The philosophy behind holistic medicine makes more sense to me than non-holistic philosophy but that doesn’t mean I believe every claim of every holistic practitioner. There are frauds and fakes in every field (including mainstream medicine).

    As an example of non-holistic medicine’s limitations: high cholesterol leads to heart disease, so they give patients drugs to loewr cholersterol. Does that make the patient healthier? Is heart disease really caused by high cholesterol, or is high cholesterol a symptom of something else? Do the cholesterol-lowering drugs improve or disrupt the overall balance of the system?

    There are so many questions that should be asked, but most MDs would rather not think that hard. Just prescribe a pill that seems to correct some aspect of the problem.

    There are no simple answers, but we should question a medical approach which has reached some serious dead ends.

  81. #81 Stanton
    July 12, 2007

    In most cases of cancer, either the cancer originates in an area of the body where leukocytes can not reach it, or the cancer is spreading at a rate faster than the rate at which leukocytes can kill it.

  82. #82 realpc
    July 12, 2007

    Stanton,

    You’re talking about the cases where it gets past the immune system. Most cancer cells are killed at a very early stage, and are never detected. As early detection improves, more cases are diagnosed. Many of them might have been resolved by the immune system with no medical treatment.

  83. #83 David D.G.
    July 12, 2007

    I could find thousands more, if I had all day. It’s so well known we shouldn’t be wasting time arguing about it.

    Nothing is “well known” to everyone; heck, there are still people who claim that the Earth is flat. If you had just quoted a reputable source in the first place, you wouldn’t have gotten quite such resistance (at least from me — I freely plead ignorance on most of this topic, but I know better than to trust an “alternative medicine” site).

    Please use more discretion in your judgment when choosing citations. I know that just because something is quoted on an “alternative medicine” site doesn’t necessarily make it wrong, but considering how much IS wrong (and considering how wrong it often gets), that is the presupposition until proved otherwise from a more reputable source.

    Most cancer cells are killed at a very early stage, and are never detected.

    Ridiculous. If they are “never detected,” then how can you know that they were ever there in the first place, let alone “killed at a very early stage”? That’s like claiming that this stone I carry keeps tigers away; I haven’t seen any tigers around here, so that must be what’s doing it.

    However, it’s possible that you are merely misstating the case. If in fact the immune system is killing off cancer cells, and some sort of residual effect later is found to indicate that this was happening, then that counts as detection, even if only retroactively, and your statement that they are destroyed and “never detected” is simply a gross misstatement on your part.

    ~David D.G.

  84. #84 realpc
    July 12, 2007

    Ok, it was a mistake to link to an alternative site. My only excuse is I was in a hurry. But as you can see from the other links I posted, it is well-known and accepted by mainstream medicine.

    And yes, it’s true that we don’t know how often the immune system prevents the body from getting cancer. At least I don’t know. It seems possible and probably that it happens all the time.

  85. #85 LCR
    July 12, 2007

    I took this question of cancer-killing immune systems to Orac over on Respectful Insolence. He directed me to a piece he had written shortly after Elizabeth Edwards announced the reoccurance of her cancer:

    http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2007/04/detecting_cancer_early_part_1_more_compl.php

    To summarize the pertinent sections (and since I am not trained in medicine, I urge everyone not to take my word for it but read the link yourself!), cancerous cells, or perhaps their precursors, occur in a much higher percentage (perhaps 100% in some types of cancers) of individuals than those that do actually progress into the life-threatening “cancer” as we know and generally fear. For a significant number of individuals with these early cancer cells, cancer never develops.

    According to Orac (a practicing surgeon and scientist) however, the reason why some pre-cursors develop into progressive cancer and others don’t is not nearly as cut and dry as realpc would have us believe:

    “…it’s not clear whether the immune system clears some very early stage cancer or the cancer simply fails to progress…”

    In other words, a definitive answer to this question is not yet known in the medical world.

    Realpc, of the two most recent links you provide, the UK link has no citations and very little information. Again useless. The US Goverment site doesn’t offer citations either and lists the topic under alternative methods. It was an interesting discussion, however, on how the immune system MIGHT help to fight off cancer, but there was a note of caution:

    “However, the immune system does not always recognize cancer cells as “foreign.” Also, cancer may develop when the immune system breaks down or does not function adequately.” (Under “Biological Therapies for Cancer: Questions and Answers”, Question #2)

    Just so you know, I really want this to be true. But so far your claim that this is so well known and so well substantiated that “we shouldn’t be wasting time arguing about it” appears to be unsupported.

  86. #86 Science Avenger
    July 12, 2007

    LCR said: so far your claim that this is so well known and so well substantiated that “we shouldn’t be wasting time arguing about it” appears to be unsupported.

    My gods, something the troll said was unsupported?! Knock me over with a feather. Here’s one reason he keeps making that mistake:

    The Troll said: … we don’t know how often the immune system prevents the body from getting cancer. At least I don’t know.

    See, to him “I don’t know” and “all of humanity doesn’t know” are equivalent statements. Of course, in good troll style he’ll deny this directly, and then go on using it as a tacit assumption. But then again, maybe the above was it finally sinking in to him that the two are not the same by a long shot.

  87. #87 realpc
    July 12, 2007

    “cancer may develop when the immune system breaks down or does not function adequately”

    Right, that’s the whole point. Cancer may sometimes be a disorder of the whole system. The important question is why the immune system might break down or not function adequately. And a real cure would involve finding out what caused the immune system to break down and restoring it.

    I am not saying cancer is always a disorder of the whole system, but that might often be the case.

    The current non-holistic approach is not very successful.

  88. #88 LCR
    July 12, 2007

    realpc claims:

    “Right, that’s the whole point.”

    Really? I’ve had trouble keeping track of exactly what your point is so I’ve gone back and re-read some of your earlier posts on this topic. Frankly, I think your last comment is closer to your point:

    “The current non-holistic approach is not very successful.”

    I think you have a beef with the current medical establishment (again, the “authorities”) who you, I believe, are charging with ignoring promising alternative methods of treating cancer in favor of more reliable and proven methods such as radiation therapy or chemotherapy, even if these methods have negative side-effects themselves. THAT is your point.

    First, to make such a bald statement regarding the lack of success of current treaments is to blatantly ignore the fact that survival rates of cancers are drastically improved from just 10 years ago. Forget about 25 years ago when a diagnosis of breast cancer was an automatic death sentence. We are making incredible strides in both treatment and diagnosis of cancers and will continue to do so, even if it is not at a pace that satisfies you.

    And second, even if current medical knowledge is not sure of the role of the immune system in fighting off cancer, do your honestly think that means they are not exploring the question? Research, such as the work cited in Orac’s post (which I linked to in my last post) belies that belief.

    Finally, regarding your obvious irritaton over the medical community’s reluctance to use “alternative therapies”: Most (if not all) of these alternative methods of treating cancer are developed outside of medical science, without a full understanding of how they affect the body in its entirety, making them dangerous. Even more devastating is that patients who use these methods instead of more reliable traditional methods are only giving the cancer more time to progress and spread, making it more unlikely that traditional methods will slow or halt the disease once patients give up on the alternative methods. It is not only unsound medicine to use these unproven methods of treatment, it is inhumane and irresponsible.

    This is not to say that some alternative medicines will not eventually contribute to cancer treatments. Think of all of the new medicines we are learning about from the natural medicines from the rainforest. But the research and trials take time (and money) and unfortunately, it is the hard truth that people will die while us fallible humans get to the bottom of this disease. If God would like to send along a little miracle cure, great! In the meantime, science and research and human ingenuity is the best that we have.

  89. #89 realpc
    July 12, 2007

    I don’t know, LCR, it looks like you didn’t read most of what I wrote.

    “ignoring promising alternative methods of treating cancer in favor of more reliable and proven methods such as radiation therapy or chemotherapy, even if these methods have negative side-effects themselves. THAT is your point.

    ABSOLUTELY NOT. I am not advocating any alternative methods. I said medical research should be more holistic and try to find out why the immune system sometimes fails. I did not claim that anyone has already figured it out.

    And I said that radiation and chemotherapy have NOT been proven effective. That is a myth. I said that even a mainstream source of medical news like CNN admitted that cancer treatments have NOT progressed.

    “survival rates of cancers are drastically improved from just 10 years ago.”

    I carefully explained why that statistic is misleading. It implies that cancer treatments are more effective now. Diagnostic technology has improved. If cancer is diagnosed earlier, the survival time automatically increases — even if the disease progresses just as fast as it would have without treatment!

    I don’t understand why you’re arguing with me without bothering to read what I write.

  90. #90 BigO
    July 12, 2007

    “Medical research in cancer, for example, has not done well at all.”

    People this is a red herring. Realpc readily admits “Diagnostic technology has improved.”

    No beef with Science, right?

    “I have not been talking about god at all, and you know it. I have been talking about universal intelligence, for one thing. And I think it’s very possible that bio-fields and bio-energies exist, which cannot be measured by existing instruments. There is no attempt, in mainstream science, to develop that kind of instrument because these fields and energies are assumed to be imaginary and mythical.”

    There you see, by RealPC’s own words, we simply need better instruments to prove bio-energy fields and gods by some-other-name exist. I’m assuming that bio-energy fields might have something in common with Qi or Chi energy? I have seen some research being done in this direction. As to “universal intelligence,” that falls to SETI, right?

    Now that the argument is so far out in left field perhaps
    we can get back on topic:

    “This is nothing like other civil rights cases. Atheists such as Dawkins despise religion and are waging a verbal war against it. Why should religious believers feel any compassion for a group that despises them?”

    This is utter horseshit. Let’s just assume for a moment that you are correct RealPC and Dawkins does “despise religion.” Just how exactly does that justify the ostracization and harassment faced by atheists, especially school-aged children? And if these “religious believers” of which you speak are Christians (as is most of the nation) do they not have an obligation to feel compassion for EVERYONE! Frankly, it seems to me they have an obligation to not display such contempt towards them as well. Or should I assume that because Dawkins wrote a book that has pissed off so many theists that now my atheist family is fair game? Just what are you trying to say?

  91. #91 LCR
    July 12, 2007

    realpc said:

    “I am not advocating any alternative methods.”

    So… you are not advocating alternative methods (and yet every source you site is predominantly about alternative methods) and yet the current methods are “useless”. That means you are advocating… using no treatment methods at all?

    “I said medical research should be more holistic and try to find out why the immune system sometimes fails.”

    Fine, you are recommending a focus for research, and your basis for assuming that medical researchers are not working on this already is…?

    “And I said that radiation and chemotherapy have NOT been proven effective. That is a myth.”

    That’s false. Calling something a myth does not make it so, no matter how much we wish it. Any evidence to back that up?

    “I said that even a mainstream source of medical news like CNN admitted that cancer treatments have NOT progressed.”

    Ah… CNN… of course. That’s where I go for all of my latest medical information. Unless FOX is showing their medical segment. Why bother with all of those medical journals…

    “I carefully explained why that statistic is misleading. It implies that cancer treatments are more effective now. Diagnostic technology has improved.”

    And if you had read my post carefully, you would have noticed that I agreed with that. HOWVEVER, it can and has been argued that because our ability to diagnose cancer has improved, this also could negatively impact survival rates as we are detecting more cases across the board, both that are receptive to treatment and those that are not… and yet survival rates ARE going up. So it can’t be entirely due to diagnostic improvements.

    “I don’t understand why you’re arguing with me without bothering to read what I write.”

    This discussion is becoming tedious, but I am still carefully reading what you write. Maybe you are not writing what you think you are?

    And BigO is correct. Talk about your drastic tangents. My apologies for helping to drive this thread off the road.

  92. #92 stinger
    July 13, 2007

    If anyone ever asks me for a definition of the word “troll”, I am sending them to this thread.

The site is currently under maintenance and will be back shortly. New comments have been disabled during this time, please check back soon.