Chris over at Mixing Memory argues, both in this post and in the subsequent comments, that he is. I think that claim is deeply silly and trivializes the term fundamentalist. I’ve been mixing it up with Chris and some of his readers in the comments to his post. Having spilled so many words on the issue, I figured I might as well get a blog post of my own out of it. So go have a look and let me know what you think!

Comments

  1. #1 wes
    March 14, 2008

    People throw around the word “fundamentalist” much too loosely. This is true of atheists attacking religion, too. I get tired of both the “fundie” label used by some atheists for any religious person that holds an extreme position, and also the “fundamentalist atheist” label used by religious apologists who think you can refute someone’s arguments by pasting a derogatory label on them.

    Part of the problem is that if someone says that they feel that they can be reasonably certain that such-and-such religious belief is false, they only get the “fundamentalist atheist” label slapped on them if the religious belief they’re calling false is a belief of one of the wealthy, powerful, popular religion. Minor religions or extinct religions receive no such privilege. Nobody has ever called me a “fundamentalist atheist” when I claim that I am reasonably certain that L. Ron Hubbard died of natural causes, rather than voluntarily releasing his spirit and traveling to another galaxy as the Scientologists claim. However, when I claim that I am reasonably certain that Jesus was not born of a virgin and did not rise from the dead, I’m a “fundamentalist atheist” who “dogmatically” rejects religion.

    I’m quite certain (but not absolutely certain) that Dionysus did not resurrect from Zeus’s thigh, that Baldur was not killed by Loki, and that Joseph Smith did not find any golden plates. For this, no one has ever called me a militant or any other such label. Not once. I’m equally certain (again, not 100% certain, but reasonably certain) that Moses did not receive any laws from any gods on Mt Sinai, that Krishna did not appear to Arjuna on a battlefield, and that Muhammad did not receive any messages from Gabriel. Yet I have been called “fundamentalist atheist” for expressing these views.

    This is why I think labels like “fundamentalist atheist” have no concrete meaning. L. Ron Hubbard traveling to a far away galaxy isn’t any less believable than God turning himself into a person and dying then resurrecting, yet publicly denying one and publicly denying the other get very different reactions. It all depends on how popular the religious belief being denied is. That’s the only distinction I can find between a “fundamentalist atheist” and a person merely stating that a certain belief is wildly implausible. Scientologists and Raelians are unpopular, so criticizing their beliefs is acceptable. Christians and Muslims are popular, so criticizing their beliefs is “fundamentalist”.

  2. #2 6EQUJ5
    March 14, 2008

    If we take ‘fundamentalism’ as “the interpretation of every word in the sacred texts as literal truth” (www.onelook.com), then, absent any sacred text — or pamphlet, circular, or poster — this notion cannot be applied to Dawkins. It is not 180-out, but rather 90-out, as in orthogonal.

  3. #3 SLC
    March 14, 2008

    Re Richard Dawkins

    Having read most of Prof. Dawkins books and having downloaded and listened to a number of videos and podcasts featuring him I think I have a fair idea of where he is coming from.

    1. Prof. Dawkins considers the existance of god to be a scientific proposition.

    2. From item 1, it then follows that it is required that scientific evidence be produced to support that proposition.

    3. Thus far, Prof. Dawkins has seen no such evidence. Further, he considers that there are instances in the bible where claims are made that are in conflict with science (e.g. Joshua making the sun stand still) which he considers to constitute falsification. Thus, in the absence of such evidence and in lieu of what he considers to be falsification, he has tentatively concluded that god does not exist. However, should such evidence be forthcoming, like any good scientist, he would be willing to reconsider his position.

    The problem really is in item 1 above and the notion that claims made in the bible which are in conflict with scientific findings constitute falsification. For instance, he disagrees with Stephen Jay Gould who did not consider the existence of god to be a scientific proposition (non-overlapping magisteria).

  4. #4 Sven DiMIlo
    March 14, 2008

    I’m with you. Deeply, deeply silly; and now I’m going over there to see how one would possibly try to defend such an idea.

  5. #5 Tyler DiPietro
    March 14, 2008

    I have to thank you for your heroic efforts Jason. Personally, I have a pretty strict threshold on the amount of blatant intellectual dishonesty I can encounter before I stop taking people seriously.

  6. #6 Tyler DiPietro
    March 14, 2008

    “This is why I think labels like “fundamentalist atheist” have no concrete meaning.”

    It has precisely zero merit when applied to Dawkins, but it makes a nice inflammatory accusation. It’s the same strategy employed by Jonah Goldberg when associating liberals with fascism.

  7. #7 J. J. Ramsey
    March 14, 2008

    “This is why I think labels like ‘fundamentalist atheist’ have no concrete meaning.”

    I think that is half-true. Certainly there is a lot of variance in how the phrase is used, but the common denominator in all of the variant usage is that (1) certain atheists mirror the faults of fundamentalists, and (2) that they are hypocritical for doing so. It’s probably not much use in asking whether Dawkins or other “New Atheists” is a fundamentalist. Asking whether some of Dawkins’ behavior, or for that matter that of Hitchens or Harris, has been reminiscent of that of fundamentalists is another story.

  8. #8 Pierce R. Butler
    March 14, 2008

    I have no doubt that Dawkins believes that there is such a thing as a fundament: therefore …

  9. #9 decrepitoldfool
    March 14, 2008

    Doh! I posted my comment on this question in the other thread. Which is to say, the wrong tab.

    But short version; for historical reasons, Dawkins (and Myers in our shore) are not “fundamentalists” even though they sound a little bit like them. The resemblance is superficial, not foundational.

  10. #10 Jeff Chamberlain
    March 14, 2008

    What Tyler DiPietro said.

  11. #11 Alexandra
    March 15, 2008

    As you pointed out, Chris was quite offended at the whole “Neville Chamberlain atheists” expression. Now he’s getting his own licks in by slinging New Atheists and Atheist Fundamentalists around. It’s disappointing.

    And, because it has to be said, I think he’s got his head rather up his own fundament on this one.

  12. #12 Science Avenger
    March 15, 2008

    Personally, I have a pretty strict threshold on the amount of blatant intellectual dishonesty I can encounter before I stop taking people seriously.

    Indeed, and that threshold is easily reached when someone uses the term “fundamentalist atheist”. I’ve found little to better indicate the speaker is incapable of being rational on the subject than that phrase.

    It is also one of the greatest examples of projection you’ll ever see, for their manner of argumentation on this subject mirrors the fundamentalists precisely: the constant attacks on straw men, the complete lack of any solid evidence for their claims, and the seeming imperviousness to counter evidence. Refuting their claims yields little but the fundamentalist “Oh yeah, well what about THAT?” dodgy retort.

    It’s as if they only pretend to be atheists (while secretly believing) out of some twisted rebellious nature, and then when they come into contact with real atheists, it offends them, and they react well, like they are acting. Offense is the only emotion I know that produces that sort of irrational behavior, and personally, is the only force I know that can make people seem like they are from another planet. I could sooner have a meaningful conversation about God with a Kalahari bushman and a Tibetan monk than I could with these people. They are, quite simply, the most closed-minded people on the planet.

    I say ignore them: they are a tiny minority of a tiny minority. They are impotent.

  13. #13 Pseudonym
    March 15, 2008

    I have to agree with what both Tyler DiPietro and J.J. Ramsey said.

    I also should point out that as far as “fundamentalist-like tactics” go, that accusation doesn’t apply to Richard Dawkins anywhere as near as much as it applies to Christopher Hitchens.

    I found this article on Salon interesting, and the book looks like it might be worth reading. (Naturally, this expression of interest should not be interpreted as an endorsement.)

  14. #14 Tyler DiPietro
    March 15, 2008

    The problem with talking about “fundamentalist tactics” is that it becomes a buffet where you can pick out the perceived failings of your target and mix them with whatever you personally see as an especially annoying trait among fundamentalists. For instance, one of the behaviors Dawkins is accused of mirroring in fundamentalists is lumping all religious people under one simplistic umbrella. Even if we concede that such is true, and indeed that hasty generalizations are usually unwarranted, there is no reason to consider it a “fundamentalist tactic”. It’s rather a commonplace rhetorical maneuver, incidentally also found in the various posts Chris has done on the subject.

  15. #15 Duae Quartunciae
    March 15, 2008

    The term “fundamentalism” comes from “The Fundamentals: A Testimony To The Truth”, which was produced as a multivolumne set of essays in the early twentieth century, as various conservative Christians tried to set out what they considered “fundamentals” for their faith. Much of it was a reaction against “higher criticism”, in which the text of the bible was analyzed much like any other text to look for authors, redaction history, and so on. The fundamentals include such things as biblical inerrancy, virgin birth, the doctrine of atonement, Jesus’ bodily resurrection, and so on. Curiously, young earth creationism was not part of these “fundamentals”; the one essay in the collection which addressed the idea took an old earth creationist perspective.

    For me, “fundamentalism” is essentially this attempt to set up a set of basic fundamental principles to distinguish right from wrong belief.

    I find it rather self-serving to insist that atheist fundamentalism is a contradiction. Some atheists do, in fact, seem to have a kind of “fundamentalist” approach, in which they attempt to set up some basic fundamentals which distinguish real atheists from not-quite-really atheists, and in ways which have nothing much to do with actual disbelief in God, but go to how you express that, or respond to believers.

    Very few atheists have done this as drastically and deliberately as the Christian fundamentalists, but there is a whiff of fundamentalism that does appear from time to time.

    Dawkins does not generally show this kind of approach, from what I have read. He’s certainly got strong views of what appropriate tactics in speaking up for atheism; but that’s fine. He seems pretty good at avoiding setting up his strong ideas on tactics and the worth of religion as being some kind of test for real atheism, so I do not think Dawkins is a “fundamentalist” in this sense.

    Some months ago, there were rather foolish ideas floating around the web, in which some atheists were trying to run down other atheists for failing to behave or speak as they felt atheists ought to speak. This approaches my understanding of fundamentalism.

    It’s self serving to insist by definition that only a religion can be fundamentalist. In fact, atheism, politics, social activism, and so on can all be blighted by a “fundamentalist” approach. I don’t think atheists have anything like the problem with this style of fundamentalism as do religious groups. But there are a couple of “fundamentalist” style atheists around, as I understand the term, and a few others who may stray in that direction from time to time.

  16. #16 Pseudonym
    March 15, 2008

    Duae Quartunciae:

    I don’t think atheists have anything like the problem with this style of fundamentalism as do religious groups.

    I have to wonder, though, if it’s a problem of raw numbers. There are far, far fewer “organised atheists” (for lack of a better term) than organised theists. Are “fundamentalists” in the same proportion independent of beliefs or lack thereof?

  17. #17 David
    March 15, 2008

    Fairly simple answer, if you define fundamentalist as someone who absolutely believes in something with unwavering confidence, Dawkins is a fundamentalist. He absolutely believes that when there is evidence for something, especially properly researched evidence and which follows a scientific model of repeatability and testability, that it is true. What makes differs between that and religious fundamentalists, is that they believe what they know is absolute despite all contrary evidence.

  18. #18 J. J. Ramsey
    March 15, 2008

    Tyler DiPietro: “The problem with talking about ‘fundamentalist tactics’ is that it becomes a buffet where you can pick out the perceived failings of your target and mix them with whatever you personally see as an especially annoying trait among fundamentalists.”

    Thing is, if the target in question doesn’t behave in ways that resemble those of the fundies, that buffet isn’t going to have much to it, or at most, the contents will be all ersatz. If there are some real dishes on that buffet table, we ought to be concerned.

  19. #19 decrepitoldfool
    March 15, 2008

    What makes differs between that and religious fundamentalists, is that they believe what they know is absolute despite all contrary evidence.

    With a heavy dose of skewing the definition fo the word “evidence”. The feeling that a fundamentalist has inside him or her is evidence, in their book.

  20. #20 Abbie
    March 15, 2008

    The only thing I can imagine they mean by fundamentalist atheist is- fundamental materialist or empiricist. Taking the scientific method as the end-all and be-all of knowledge.

    To which I can only reply: show me another way of gathering knowledge that works, and we’ll take a look-see. Until then, we can only use what works, and supernatural bullshit is off the table.

  21. #21 chancelikely
    March 15, 2008

    ‘Fundamentalist atheist’ appears to be little more than a slur, and a ‘tu quoque’ one.

  22. #22 Sigmund
    March 15, 2008

    David, that is an excellent point about Dawkins. I wasn’t aware that he had changed his views so radically and has now given up on the scientific method in favor of proclaiming his own opinions as beyond reproach. Perhaps it might be better if you could provide a link to an article that quotes him stating this astounding change of direction – just in case people assume you are simply an idiot making up stuff off the top of your head to try to win an argument.

  23. #23 J. J. Ramsey
    March 15, 2008

    Abbie: “The only thing I can imagine they mean by fundamentalist atheist is- fundamental materialist or empiricist. Taking the scientific method as the end-all and be-all of knowledge.”

    I don’t think that’s quite true. For example, when R.J. Eskow used the phrase, he wrote, “For people who advocate reason and the primacy of hard data, they’re surprisingly dismissive of both when it comes to religion.” You can see a similar complaint from Chris himself on Mixing Memory, in the post “Respecting the Religious (or the A-Religious)”: “One of the reasons I have so little respect for most “New Atheists” is because it’s quite clear that they haven’t thought a whole hell of a lot about religion, but they still spend much of their time attacking it.” As I said, the phrase “fundamentalist atheist” pretty consistently is used to deride certain atheists as hypocritical, and in this case, the purported (and to some extent, actual) hypocrisy is the tendency of the “New Atheists” to be cheerleaders for reason while being lousy at actually using it.

  24. #24 snafu
    March 15, 2008

    Grief. These ‘New Atheists are just Fundamentalists’ arguments are really starting to tick me off. And (to second some others), Jason is being a real hero here.

    Regarding ‘scientism’: (defined early in the other thread as the belief that science is the one route to the Truth). It’s just not helpful to start with a science/non-science distinction when that distinction is horribly blurred by the demarcation problem. I might be putting words in Dawkins’ mouth, but I rely on evidence and reason to work out things that might be true.

    Granted, there are rational arguments for God’s existence, but none of them are viewed as particularly watertight by many academics. And don’t get me started about evidential claims…someone else put it far better than me when he speculated on what caused a history chock full of miraculous events to cease during the enlightenment never to return again.

    Yes, there is a place for a discipline called philosophy that (amongst other things) covers reasoned argument over non-empirical claims. That doesn’t mean Dawkins’ outspokenness is fundamentalism in any way. His comment about restaurant critics is spot on.

    Jason – I’d just love you to take on this steaming pile. I don’t have the time or words to do so, but read it and you’ll know where I’m coming from.

    http://www.salon.com/books/int/2008/03/13/chris_hedges/

    snafu.

  25. #25 Wes
    March 15, 2008

    That Eskow article is pretty ridiculous. Just one example:

    They chose this name even though one of the leading figures of the atheist ‘skeptic’ movement wrote a piece called “Why Smart People Believe Weird Things.” The author, Michael Schermer, cites a study which demonstrates that people of faith are just as smart on average as atheists.

    (It’s only Schermer’s opinion that what these smart people believe is “weird,” of course, but he writes an interesting and provocative piece. His central thesis is that smart people can hold illogical ideas because they’re effective at defending ideas they arrived at non-intellectually. That’s a valid point, and it certainly helps explain fundamentalist atheism.)

    Only Shermer’s “opinion”? I’ve read Shermer, and he does more than merely give his opinions. Creationism, holocaust denial, new age, etc are “weird” because they grossly conflict with the facts. This is not just Shermer’s opinion. These things are just plain wrong.

    Eskow makes a lot of false generalizations about “new” atheists in there. Then he drops this doozy:

    They lack a sense of the mysterious and beautiful. Today’s fundamentalist atheists lack the poetry or vision of a Carl Sagan, a John Lennon, or other great atheists of the past. They use scientific thought in much the same was as religious fundamentalists use sacred texts – as the source for unquestionable and rigid truths that can’t be challenged.

    Both types of fundamentalist hold an accountant’s-eye view of the universe, one which neglects its mystery and wonder.

    11 years ago RC Lewontin was accusing Carl Sagan of doing many of the things that Eskow is now accusing Dawkins et al of doing:

    Most of the chapters of The Demon-Haunted World are taken up with exhortations to the reader to cease whoring after false gods and to accept the scientific method as the unique pathway to a correct understanding of the natural world. To Sagan, as to all but a few other scientists, it is self-evident that the practices of science provide the surest method of putting us in contact with physical reality, and that, in contrast, the demon-haunted world rests on a set of beliefs and behaviors that fail every reasonable test. So why do so many people believe in demons? Sagan seems baffled, and nowhere does he offer a coherent explanation of the popularity at the supermarket checkout counter of the Weekly World News, with its faked photographs of Martians. Indeed, he believes that “a proclivity for science is embedded deeply within us in all times, places and cultures.” The only explanation that he offers for the dogged resistance of the masses to the obvious virtues of the scientific way of knowing is that “through indifference, inattention, incompetence, or fear of skepticism, we discourage children from science.” He does not tell us how he used the scientific method to discover the “embedded” human proclivity for science, or the cause of its frustration. Perhaps we ought to add to the menu of Saganic demonology, just after spoon-bending, ten-second seat-of-the-pants explanations of social realities.

    http://www.drjbloom.com/Public%20files/Lewontin_Review.htm

    But now Sagan’s dead, and he’s a “poetic” atheist, one of “the great atheists of the past”–a classic example of how we tend to turn our heroes into mythic figures once they’re dead. Whatever. Sagan wasn’t nearly so different from Dawkins as Eskow would like to think. Read through Lewontin’s criticisms of Sagan and then through Eskow’s criticisms of the “New Atheists” and tell me if you don’t see similarities–accusations of “elitism”, accusations of “authoritarianism”, accusations that they aren’t following the “scientific method” enough, accusations of “dogmatically” held beliefs, etc etc etc. Same shit being thrown at a different target.

    The charge that Dawkins doesn’t pay enough attention to the scientific study of religion is correct–and David Sloan Wilson makes that point much more forcefully and convincingly. Dawkins’ meme theory is almost certainly wrong and conflicts with a lot of the evidence from the scientific study of religion as an evolutionary phenomenon. But there is no “evidence” at all that Jesus is anyone’s savior or that Zeus birthed Athena from his head–and usually when people call Dawkins a “fundamentalist” they do so by charging he didn’t consider the “evidence” for that type of nonsense. His atheism–ie his rejection of religious belief–is no more fundamentalist than David Sloan Wilson’s atheism, who rejects religious belief just as strongly as Dawkins while criticizing Dawkins for the sloppiness of his meme theory. (Of course, Wilson called Dawkins a “fundamentalist” because of how Dawkins rejected group selection theory, and he doesn’t use the word any more carefully than the others who bandy it around…)

    As I said, this assignment of the label “fundamentalist atheist” is almost always arbitrary. Dawkins denies Raelism just as much as Christianity–but it is only for denying the latter that the label “fundamentalist” is whipped out. He rejects religion just as much as Carl Sagan did, yet Sagan, being dead and well-respected, has avoided the label.

    No religion has provided any substantial evidence of any sort to prove their gods or spirits are real. Sneering at the notion that the ruler of the universe turned himself into a person and died and resurrected isn’t any different than sneering at the notion that Sun Myung Moon is God’s Messiah sent to save the world, or that a UFO is hiding behind Haley’s comet. These beliefs are ridiculously implausible, and it’s not “fundamentalist” to say so.

    I’m not saying anyone has to agree with Dawkins–I disagree with him myself on many issues. But labeling him or the other “New Atheists” as “fundamentalists” is nonsense.

  26. #26 Chris
    March 15, 2008

    It should be noted that I use “fundamentalist” as an analogy, the justifications for which I’ve specifically enumerated. Granted, Jason disagrees with those justifications, but it’s unfair, and quite frankly, exactly what I’m talking about, to call it silly when there are reasons and arguments behind it. Argue against it, don’t dismiss it as “silly.”

    Oh, and Jason, if you’d like to see some more of what I call “naive scientism” (often, it seems, a position that people aren’t even aware they’re taking), read some more of the comments over at my posts. There you’ll see people wondering what sort of truths there could possibly be that science can’t discover.

  27. #27 randy
    March 15, 2008

    for me “fundamentalism” is about “othering”. In this sense, there are times I think Dawkins (and many sciencebloggers) are guilty. They spend considerable effort othering religious folks. I would say there are many far more guilty than Dawkins…the folks attacking the “appeasers” several months ago for instance. Appeasers were not pure enough for them.

  28. #28 royniles
    March 15, 2008

    What in the hell does arguing about the correctness of a label accomplish? Labels have definitions but are not in and of themselves the determiners of their own definitions.

    If Dawkins is wrong about something (and of course by some standard somewhere, he is), then it would be more informative to discuss what and why one thinks that is.

    Also, is a fundamentalist per se a bad thing, and if not, what’s the point of noting that bad and good sometimes have a similar dynamic?

  29. #29 J. J. Ramsey
    March 15, 2008

    Wes: “Eskow makes a lot of false generalizations about ‘new’ atheists in there.”

    True, but that doesn’t mean that his article isn’t useful as an example of how the term “fundamentalist atheist” has been used.

    BTW, Wes, it’s been a while since I read my library’s copy of Shermer’s Why People Believe Weird Things, but IIRC, he acknowledges that “weird” is a fuzzy term.

  30. #30 Jason Rosenhouse
    March 15, 2008

    Chris-

    I did argue, in some detail, against your analogizing of Richard Dawkins’ behavior with that of the fundamentalists. As I explained over at your blog, I think you are caricaturing what Dawkins believes, and that even taking your characterizations at face value they still do not justify calling him a fundamentalist.

    And I’m afraid that the fact that your assertions have reasons and justifications behind them does not insulate you from the charge of being silly. Creationists make all kinds of arguments and have all sorts of reasons for what they believe, but I don’t think you regard it as unfair to call their arguments silly.

    If you think that calling an argument you strongly disagree with “silly” is an example of acting like a fundamentalist, then I can only conclude that you have some very naive ideas about what fundamentalism is really all about.

  31. #31 royniles
    March 15, 2008

    I’m getting the message that it’s clearly not enough to simply identify yourself as an atheist. You must in addition demonstrate that you are a politically correct atheist, because there is undoubtedly out there some platonic standard of atheism that is not otherwise immoral and a sign of the hopelessly ignorant. And anything that smacks of the fundamental just won’t do, as fundamentalism implies a certain intolerable stance of certainty, and the arrogance that certainly goes with it.

  32. #32 decrepitoldfool
    March 15, 2008

    I think the main difference between Dawkins and Sagan is that one is British and one American. I feel a stronger connection toward the latter so he seems more sympathetic.

    After I’ve read God Delusion and compared it to Demon Haunted World I can try to make a fuller comparison.

  33. #33 windy
    March 15, 2008

    Oh, and Jason, if you’d like to see some more of what I call “naive scientism” (often, it seems, a position that people aren’t even aware they’re taking), read some more of the comments over at my posts. There you’ll see people wondering what sort of truths there could possibly be that science can’t discover.

    And these people are not getting very good answers. If someone does not believe in moral or aesthetic absolutes, they are guilty of naive scientism? People might simply disagree that “truth” is a good word for describing moral or aesthetic experiences.

    (for disclosure, I disagree that science delivers “Truth”, but I assume (although can’t be completely sure) that it delivers at least an approximation of truth more often than not, but “facts” or “reality” might be better or less loaded words for it)

  34. #34 windy
    March 15, 2008

    After I’ve read God Delusion and compared it to Demon Haunted World I can try to make a fuller comparison.

    d.o.f, I’ve read both but I don’t think they are very comparable, since the God Delusion has a very specific focus and the Demon-Haunted World doesn’t. The Demon-Haunted World reminds more of some of Dawkins’ other writings where he talks about the awe and wonder that can be derived from the findings of science.

  35. #35 Jim
    March 15, 2008

    windy…

    (for disclosure, I disagree that science delivers “Truth”, but I assume (although can’t be completely sure) that it delivers at least an approximation of truth more often than not, but “facts” or “reality” might be better or less loaded words for it).

    This seems right to me; the second part especially, that “facts” & “reality” might be better terms. It seems to me that “delivering an approximation of truth” is essentially the same as saying that “science can never prove anything it can only disprove” which is the oft used expression.

  36. #36 decrepitoldfool
    March 15, 2008

    d.o.f, I’ve read both but I don’t think they are very comparable, since the God Delusion has a very specific focus and the Demon-Haunted World doesn’t. The Demon-Haunted World reminds more of some of Dawkins’ other writings where he talks about the awe and wonder that can be derived from the findings of science.

    Thanks for that review Windy. I am looking forward to reading it – about 3 books from the top of the stack now.
    (Is your handle in reference to the song “Everyone Knows It’s Windy” by The Association?)

  37. #37 royniles
    March 15, 2008

    Someone mentioned false generalizations. Are not all generalizations to some extent false by definition? Just wondering if that’s a new phrase in the ever-growing list of newly minted logical fallacies and politically correct terminologies?

    Somebody also asked me how many atheists can dance on a pinhead? I was a bit offended at the false assumption that I was qualified to answer that, or to think there was an answer to that.

  38. #38 Jim
    March 15, 2008

    royniles…

    Someone mentioned false generalizations. Are not all generalizations to some extent false by definition?

    I think that you are obfuscating the meaning of “generalization”. “Dolphins swim” is a generalization about dolphins that is true but is a simplistic description for how they propel themselves through the water. “Poor people are stupid” is a false generalization because of the implication that being stupid is necessary for being poor. I can’t help you with the “atheists on a pinhead” riddle.

  39. #39 Mark
    March 15, 2008

    Hi Jason :)

    I’m an 18 year old A-Level Biology student and have only a very rudimentary understanding of the modern evolutionary synthesis. I’m a very open-minded Atheist and agree that the title fundamental is used far too easily by people on both sides, resorting to mud slinging and ‘name-calling’, instead of engaging in rational debate.

    A so-called ‘creationist’ has recently posted on my blog, coming forward with the usual ‘proof’ against evolution. I was wandering if you, or anyone else for that matter, had any advice on dealing with creationists, and perhaps even explaining evolution to mild mannered ones, without resorting to verbal aggression or condescending arrogance? ;)

    Thanks :)
    Mark

  40. #40 windy
    March 15, 2008

    Is your handle in reference to the song…

    No, it’s a nickname derived from my real name, any resemblance to song names or somewhat unflattering English adjectives is purely coincidental :)

  41. #41 royniles
    March 15, 2008

    Jim: Ah, but if some generalizations need to be called false, does that not leave others in then category of true? And was it not Mark Twain who said: “All generalizations are false, including this one.” But it could be a false assumption that Twain was all that much of an authority.

  42. #42 windy
    March 15, 2008

    A so-called ‘creationist’ has recently posted on my blog, coming forward with the usual ‘proof’ against evolution. I was wandering if you, or anyone else for that matter, had any advice on dealing with creationists, and perhaps even explaining evolution to mild mannered ones, without resorting to verbal aggression or condescending arrogance? ;)

    Looks like you are already off to a great start with your latest post. But any efforts are likely wasted on your particular specimen, as you probably have already guessed.

  43. #43 Jim
    March 15, 2008

    Mark…
    Wendy is right. That guy goes on at some length essentially over his confusion of evolution & the origin of life. He also somehow misconstrues book passages that he has just quoted:

    …The text adds “About 3.8 billion years ago, Earth’s surface cooled enough for water to remain a liquid” (p 424).
    In summary, evolutionists state that the earth was so hot that everything was molten. Toxic gases were prevalent, there was no water until 3.8 billion years of cooling and life without life was impossible…

    Although that is a seemingly inconsequential arithmetic error he makes MANY of that sort of first order error in that one entry. I don’t know what you do with people like that. Good luck.

  44. #44 t
    March 16, 2008

    royniles:

    Atheists can’t dance. Never learned the fundamentals.

  45. #45 Mark
    March 16, 2008

    Thank you both, Wendy and Royniles, for your replies :)

    It appears that ‘righteous Ronald’ has earned himself a bit of a bad rep around here :P I’ve given up even trying to ‘deconvert’ him from creationism, I’m just considering it a welcome opportunity to consolidate, and expand, my understanding of evolution :)

    I chose not to moderate any of his comments, as I think any Atheist’s blog would be incomplete without a few ranting lunatics, plus I’ve nothing to fear from creationists anyway ;)

  46. #46 MH
    March 16, 2008

    Chris: “Oh, and Jason, if you’d like to see some more of what I call “naive scientism” (often, it seems, a position that people aren’t even aware they’re taking), read some more of the comments over at my posts. There you’ll see people wondering what sort of truths there could possibly be that science can’t discover.”

    I see people asking you to provide examples of “truths… that science can’t discover”. Is a request to back up your assertion all it takes for you to call someone a fundamentalist? And you’re a scientist? At ScienceBlogs?? I can see why you prefer to remain anonymous.

  47. #47 decrepitoldfool
    March 16, 2008

    I’ve had a couple 9/11 conspiracy nuts stop by my blog, and they remind me of creationists. If you want to believe something badly enough, I suppose…

    A little more on Sagan vs. Dawkins. Sagan really understood why people believe in god; I am not certain that Dawkins does. Of course their critics said similar things about them based on the fact that neither would give an inch on the question of god’s existence.

    A specific example on Dawkins is his interview with Ted Haggard. It is interesting to see how believers view that interview. They see Dawkins as on the attack, but it seems to me he was just asking questions. The question of “fundamentalism” has to have a definition wrapped around it and if you see it as only “othering” then sure, he’s a fundamentalist and so is an electrical engineer who insists that Ohm’s law is correct, against postmodern engineers who feel that resistance, voltage, and current will find their own frame of reference based on the culture that surrounds them and what movies they’ve seen.

    There’s a certain, superficial resemblance in attitude between someone who is certain because he has checked the evidence, and someone who is certain because he read the bible (or more likely was told by his pastor what the bible says). But they’re – pardon the pun – fundamentally different kinds of certainty.

    Fundamentalism was a specific, historical movement that still exists today and has Muslim and Christian counterparts.

    Real fundamentalists, who have a set of non-negotiable Truths derived from scripture, would love to pull science down to their level. But unlike religion science insists on being vulnerable to being proved wrong and they aren’t up to that challenge. Going all the way back to the second comment by 6EQUJ5, “fundamentalism” is orthogonal to science.

  48. #48 J. J. Ramsey
    March 16, 2008

    “There’s a certain, superficial resemblance in attitude between someone who is certain because he has checked the evidence, and someone who is certain because he read the bible”

    The catch with Dawkins is sometimes he hasn’t checked the facts himself.

  49. #49 SLC
    March 16, 2008

    Re Mark

    If Mr. Mark goes back into the archives of this blog, he will find a lengthy thread in which a young earth creationist argued with many of us about various topics. I made the mistake of trying to engage this numbnuts and can testify that it is a waste of time. Their minds are made up and the facts are irrelevant. In addition, they will find some nutcase “expert” to support their views. When it is pointed out to them that their “expert” is full of prunes, their response is that we have our experts and they have their “experts,” mostly found on Answers in Genesis. All in all a total waste of time and energy.

  50. #50 J. J. Ramsey
    March 16, 2008

    On the other hand, SLC, there are people like Glenn Morton who were YECs but eventually changed their minds. Curiously enough, he half-jokingly described being afflicted by “Morton’s demon”:

    Thus was born the realization that there is a dangerous demon on the loose. When I was a YEC, I had a demon that did similar things for me that Maxwell’s demon did for thermodynamics. Morton’s demon was a demon who sat at the gate of my sensory input apparatus and if and when he saw supportive evidence coming in, he opened the gate. But if he saw contradictory data coming in, he closed the gate. In this way, the demon allowed me to believe that I was right and to avoid any nasty contradictory data. Fortunately, I eventually realized that the demon was there and began to open the gate when he wasn’t looking.

    Given Morton’s current beliefs, however, Morton’s demon is obviously not unstoppable.

  51. #51 SLC
    March 16, 2008

    Re J. J. Ramsey

    On the thread in which several of us made the mistake of engaging a clown going under the moniker JonS, I don’t recall seeing any comments from Mr. Ramsey. Perhaps my memory is faulty. If Mr. Ramsey were to go back in the archives and retrieve that particular thread, he would get some inkling of why I think it is a waste of time to engage YECs. Just as an aside, My PhD thesis adviser was an old earth creationist, it being rather difficult for an elementary particle physicist to be a YEC. I have the feeling that Mr. Morton is one of those rare exceptions. Certainly, there was no hope for Mr. JonS.

  52. #52 blasphermour
    March 16, 2008

    This fundamentalist make me agreed with you..

    wellington wallet

  53. #53 conradg
    March 16, 2008

    After participating in a long thread here recently with mixed results, I went over to the Dawkins site and perused their threads, and even participated in a few of them, and I have to say, on first impression, that I don’t think Dawkins is a fundamentalist, at least not in the sense that the term is commonly used. I noticed that all the people over there seem to be quite polite and respectful of religious people, and don’t seem to play the usual fundamentalist-type gotcha games that make threads degenerate into name-calling and overt hostility. In my experience with internet forums, the character of a site tends to reflect quite well the character of the people who are in charge. My sense is that Dawkins has quite effectively created a rather benign and benevolent site, and that the people there respect his attitude and attempt to emulate it. So in the sense of rabid scientism-as-religion, no, I don’t think Dawkins is a fundamentalist.

    That doesn’t mean that there aren’t some aspects of Dawkins arguments that we can’t say are ?fundamentalist? in the philosophical or rhetorical sense. Science, after all, seeks to uncover the fundamental laws of the universe, and in that sense it isn’t a bad thing to be a ?fundamentalist?. The same is true of religion, in that religious people are trying to understand the fundamental nature of God, and how the universe works. The problem comes when people think that having found an answer they have satisfied themselves to be true entitles them to act out various obnoxious patterns of neurotic and even sociopathic behavior. This pattern is obvious in many religious people, and I think it’s also obvious in a number of non-religious or atheistic people. One can be a fundamentalist about literally anything, even things that are actually true, and it doesn’t change the negative character of the fundamentalism that its basis has some truth to it. However, I don’t think Dawkins falls into this category.

    I’m not sure that Dawkins himself has put it in these exact words, but an early poster on this thread summarized his argument in these three propositions

    1. Prof. Dawkins considers the existence of god to be a scientific proposition.

    2. From item 1, it then follows that it is required that scientific evidence be produced to support that proposition.

    3.Thus far, Prof. Dawkins has seen no such evidence.

    These notions are not, in themselves, fundamentalist. But I sense an underlying attitude that is, in that Dawkins seems to think that all truth propositions are really scientific in nature, and that all truth propositions can be broken down into a set of true/false dichotomies. The problem is, when one reduces the subject of truth to scientific propositions, and when one reduces science to a set of true/false dichotomies, one is setting the stage for fundamentalism.

    First of all, it should be noted that the religious idea of God is not a scientific proposition. It was not created with science in mind, nor is its truth intended to be discovered by scientific means. It preceded science by many thousands of years. That said, it’s certainly true that there are many religious propositions about God that can, indeed, be subject to scientific testing, such as the notion put forward in the Old Testament that the earth is only a few thousand years old, and was created in six days. Science can tell us with a great deal of confidence that this is not true. This suggests that at the very least, religious people attribute various things to God that are not true. It doesn’t at all mean that there is no such thing as God, or that the existence of God is dependent on the kinds of propositions that are scientifically testable. Only a subset of the religious ideas of God are scientifically testable, and not all of them are outlandish. For example, in Hindu and Buddhist cosmologies, the age of the universe is said to be in the billions of years, and they further suggest that there is a cyclic nature to the creation and destruction of the universe which is not unlike modern scientific theories. One can’t pretend that these cosmologies pretend to produce scientific calculations, but their general time-frame is at least in the ballpark, unlike Old Testament notions. That doesn’t make them ?true?, but it doesn’t make it as easy to scientifically refute them either.

    In the last thread I pointed to something that Heisenberg once said, which is that ?The opposite of a true statement is a false statement, but the opposite of a great truth is another great truth.? The problem I see with Dawkins is that he doesn’t recognize the categorical distinction between true facts and great truths. He is trying to reduce all religious statements to factual statements that can and must either be true or false. He’s not recognizing the existence of ?great truths? which are not falsifiable by merely demonstrating that their opposite is true. Falsifiability is of course a great scientific principle regarding factual claims, but it is not a great principle about non-factual claims. In other words, the opposite of falsifiability is also a great truth that should be recognized. As I pointed out in that thread, our own claims of self-awareness are not scientifically falsifiable, and yet they remain a great truth nonetheless.

    The reason I bring this categorical distinction up is that the history of religion does not itself adhere to the either/or dichotomies that either science or Dawkins himself tries to abide by. Most of the history of religion is polytheistic in nature. In other words, most of religion is perfectly able to acknowledge the existence of many Gods, many truths and Truths, all quite valid and even ?true?, and yet not genuinely in conflict with one another. Hinduism, for example, has hundreds, thousands, even millions of Gods, and yet they are not presumed to be in deathly conflict with one another, and their society has shown remarkable tolerance for all kinds of Gods, notions about God, practices in relation to God, even atheistic notions of God. This in stark contrast to the monotheistic cults of the Middle East which have grown to have such great influence in the world.

    When we talk of religious fundamentalism of the dangerous, negative variety, we have to keep in mind that we are mostly talking about monotheism. Yes, there’s bad religious customs and superstitions all over, but it’s primarily in monotheism that we get the truly dangerous phenomenon of ?fundamentalism?. Why is this? Well, because in monotheism there is only one God that is acknowledged to be true, and all others are considered false Gods. This sets the table for deep conflicts with all other religious systems and philosophies and practices. It also sets the table for the kinds of religious cultures that go to war with other religious cultures, and seek to dominate and even destroy them. This same kind of thinking thus came to dominate politics and the relationship between nations in monotheistic cultures. Thus, while India was able to tolerate tremendous religious diversity for thousands of years, when the Muslims invaded they killed almost everyone in their path who would not convert to Islam. Buddhism, which had dominated Northern India since the time of the Buddha, was almost completely destroyed and eliminated from the subcontinent, and survived only in enclaves outside of India. Conflicts between Hindus and Muslims persisted for centuries, into the present day, primarily because of the aggressively monotheistic nature of Islam, which has a difficult time tolerating the claims of other religions.

    This is of course also true of Christianity, and to a lesser degree Judaism. Christians are famous for their self-righteous fundamentalism, based on the notion that only the Christian God is true, and that the only salvation comes through belief in and obedience to these Christian Gods. Other Gods are considered false, heretical, and dangerous, and to be eliminated if possible from society. So Christianity has tended to not only be intolerant of others, but fundamentally opposed to the very idea of tolerance. ?Why should one tolerate falsehood?? is their way of looking at it.

    Why do I bring this up? Because I suggest that it’s no accident that science has arisen primarily within monotheistic cultures. Why? Because the scientific method is itself a set of true/false dichotomies aimed at discerning what is true from what is false, in the same mode as monotheistic religion itself. Science presumes from the outset that all truths can in fact be dealt with in this manner, and I’m suggesting this way of thinking would only develop in a predominantly monotheistic culture, which already tends to see the world that way to begin with. A more tolerant, polytheistic culture not inclined to declare other Gods as false is not so inclined to see the whole world as a set of opposing truth-claims, only one of which can be the actual truth. So there’s a stronger relationship between science and religious fundamentalism than most scientists would like to admit, in that they are so strongly opposed to religious fundamentalism itself. But in a very real sense this is itself an outcome of their both being conflicting forms of monotheistic truth-claiming, sharing a similar mentality in relation to the very character of truth being a set of true/false dichotomies.

    I’m not saying that only monotheistic cultures can do science, or that discrimination doesn’t exist in polytheistic cultures, only that it develops very differently there. Indians, for example, have a strong tradition of discrimination in their religion, but they don’t use their discrimination to set up a chain of true/false statements that determine which is the true God among their many Gods. One use of discrimination in their eyes is to see that this approach is itself not a true approach, but an artificial one that leads to many illusions. Their approach to the ?science of the soul? is not an exclusionary one, but an inclusive one. The disadvantage is that it didn’t produce science itself in the modern, western sense, but the advantage is that it produced a generally peaceful, tolerant society.

    Western science is, I think, wedded to a great degree to its origins in monotheistic thought, and this too has great advantages and disadvantages. The advantage, of course, is that it allows the scientific method to proceed without metaphysical concerns for inclusiveness. The disadvantage is that once it has found a result by that method, it isn’t sure how to reincorporate those truths with other, competing systems of truth, and achieve any kind of metaphysical inclusiveness, because the way it proceeds from the outset is to separate all things from one another. The word ?science? itself means ?to separate?, and thus inclusiveness is not a part of either its intent or its modus operandi. This tends to lead science to conclusions that are incapable of being incorporated within a larger, more inclusive context, but instead lead toward the same kind of exclusive claims upon truth that plague monotheistic religion. Because science conceives of truth in the exclusive manner of monotheism, it tends to produce results that reinforce that conception of truth ? just as monotheism itself does.

    Science begins by reducing the world to a set of true/false dichotomies, and thus it can only produce answers to those dichotomies which are mutually exclusive. Likewise, it reduces our experience of the world to material processes, because these alone can be further reduced to a set of true/false dichotomies. It often ends up concluding that the world itself is merely a materialistic affair, digitally reducible to dichotomies of pure factual information. And then, naturally, it creates a monotheistic true/false dichotomy between this view and all other views, such that only this view is true, and all others are false.

    I’m suggesting that this way of thinking, even in the most rationalistic, scientific manner, is actually a form of monotheistic fundamentalism, regardless of whether it rejects all religion as false or not – in fact, precisely because it rejects all of religion as false. That is precisely what monotheistic fundamentalism is all about. Of course, like all fundamentalists, such people will claim at some point, ?yes, I know all about fundamentalism, and that’s not what this is, this really is the one great truth.? To which wiser minds will say, no, there are no exclusive truths, only exclusive facts within a reduced viewpoint.

    I’m not suggesting that scientists are incapable of tolerance. Even ?monotheistic? scientists can at least recognize the intelligence of not being overly conflicted with other viewpoints. I think Dawkins is of that variety. He’s more of a Church of England scientist, one who is firmly certain that his view is the one true view, but perfectly willing to have tea and crumpets and civilized discourse with those less able to discern this truth, confident that most will come around over time to what seems perfectly obvious. And this is of course not fundamentalism as it is commonly decried. But it is fundamentalism in the philosophical sense.

    In other words, Dawkins can’t bring himself to say, ?Science is just one way of approaching truth. There are many such ways, each with their own advantages and disadvantages, I just find the scientific path to be the best for me, or for certain purposes I hold dear.? He’s a monotheist, not a polytheist, in other words. He truly does believe that science is the only true path, I don’t have much doubt of that. (Correct me if I’ve gotten the wrong impression). He’s just not trying to cram it down people’s throats. He’s merely advocating it as best he can, and criticizing other paths as best he can. Nothing terribly wrong with that.

  54. #54 J. J. Ramsey
    March 16, 2008

    conradg: “The problem is, when one reduces the subject of truth to scientific propositions, and when one reduces science to a set of true/false dichotomies, one is setting the stage for fundamentalism.”

    I think that you are confusing the true-false dichotomy and the us-versus-them dichotomy. It is the latter that is inherently part of fundamentalism, which is essentially about preserving a way of thinking against perceived outside threat. The former dichotomy is simply the law of non-contradiction, which is really impossible to avoid.

  55. #55 royniles
    March 16, 2008

    Science is also about the probable versus the improbable, and contrary to the lengthy thesis above, may have developed in the monotheistic world precisely because it was a reactive attempt to deal with their true/false dichotomies. That lengthy piece seems to be in “fact” an attempt to counter the criticisms against Hinduism and its multifariousness, and perhaps to justify the paucity of scientific discoveries that have come from that part of the world.

  56. #56 Jon S
    March 16, 2008

    SLC: It’s good to know I haven’t been forgotten. Wish I would have noticed this thread earlier so I could have contributed more to the ‘fundamentalist atheist’ argument more. This has been an interesting post to say the least. I guess it’s apparent that my previous posts haven’t opened your eyes to the Truth, huh? :-) Your description of YEC reminds me of my own view of atheists and evolutionists: “Their minds are made up and facts are irrelevant. In addition, they will find some nutcase “expert” to support their views…”. I think the word ‘fundamentalist’ applies in a very real sense.

  57. #57 Jim
    March 16, 2008

    Jon S…

    It’s good to know I haven’t been forgotten.

    One doesn’t forget “functional” delusionals.

    Wish I would have noticed this thread earlier so I could have contributed more to the ‘fundamentalist atheist’ argument more.

    That would be the first contribution from you that I’ve seen.

    Your description of YEC reminds me of my own view of atheists and evolutionists: “Their minds are made up and facts are irrelevant.

    This is demonstratively false. Evolution, whether you accept it or not, is nothing without facts about the natural world. You could argue about the interpretation of the facts (which is, of course, the history of evolution’s peer-reviewed literature) but not the facts themselves. As far as atheists are concerned, I for one have never heard of a fact that supports God as it’s only rational (or best) conclusion. So, by all means, show me this fact (please, one will do).

    I think the word ‘fundamentalist’ applies in a very real sense.

    OK…but, why?

  58. #58 conradg
    March 16, 2008

    J.J. Ramsey,

    I think that you are confusing the true-false dichotomy and the us-versus-them dichotomy. It is the latter that is inherently part of fundamentalism, which is essentially about preserving a way of thinking against perceived outside threat. The former dichotomy is simply the law of non-contradiction, which is really impossible to avoid.

    I agree that the true-false and us-them dichotomies are different, in that they appear in very different areas – the one in philosophical relationships, the other in political relationships – but I am suggesting that when one adopts this way of thinking, it tend to bleed over into everything one thinks about, and even how one relates to the world. So monotheistic true-false religion tend to produce us-them politics. Likewise, monological true-false science (when made a dominant world view) tends to produce us-them politics. It doesn’t have to end up that way, but the tendency is very strong and seems logical to those who adopt such views.

  59. #59 conradg
    March 16, 2008

    Science is also about the probable versus the improbable, and contrary to the lengthy thesis above, may have developed in the monotheistic world precisely because it was a reactive attempt to deal with their true/false dichotomies. That lengthy piece seems to be in “fact” an attempt to counter the criticisms against Hinduism and its multifariousness, and perhaps to justify the paucity of scientific discoveries that have come from that part of the world.

    I would agree that science has to a significant degree evolved in opposition to monotheism, at least once it got underway (Newton, Galileo, and Kepler were hardly at odds with monotheism, even if they had some clashes with the Church). But so have all the other forms of monotheism. Christianity and Islam all evolved from, or in opposition to, rival forms of monotheism – each other. They did not question the basic idea of monotheism, or the mode of thinking in terms of exclusive true-false dichotomies. Nor has science. So I think that science evolved a reaction to true-false dichotomies that were at odds with its own, but it did not question the very notion of seeing the world as a set of true-false dichotomies, it just saw the specific ways that religion saw the world as lying on the “false” side of the divide. And I have to think this was because their whole culture was immersed over thousands of years in this way of thinking, so it simply seemed natural to them.

    I’m not aware that this forum has ever launched any criticism of Hinduism, so no, I’m not trying to defend Hinduism. I’m just offering it up as an historical example of a highly developed polytheistic culture. As for the paucity of scientific discoveries from India, they need no more “excuse” than any other non-European culture on that ground. However, I will point out that they did come up with the most important invention/discovery in the history of mathematics, without which there would be no modern science at all – the zero. In fact the whole “Arabic” decimal numeric system was actually invented in India, and came to the west via Arabs, who did not actually invent it at all, despite the name.

  60. #60 Jon S
    March 16, 2008

    Jim: Evolutionists and Creationists have the same facts, and, as you point out, it’s the interpretation of the facts that draws one to take a stand for or against evolution. I don’t claim to be able to provide the evidence you’re looking for to demonstrate that God is the only rational conclusion. That’s between you and God. I’ve provided scientific evidence in the past, which you’re welcome to review, but I know it doesn’t do much good when people already have their belief system in place. The only thing I know of that changes one from an atheist to a Christian is God. In my experiences any evidence I present (scientific or supernatural) can be explained away by different interpretations of the evidence or naturalistic means, which is further support of the ‘fundamentalist’ term. Many people seem to think there are no more miracles in today’s world, but this certainly isn’t true. A visit to your local Christian bookstore will produce many books with supernatural events (I was just reading a book “Miracle of Miracles” about a family of radical Muslims that converted to Christianity based on a supernatural event). But of course the atheist will ‘refute’ every incident in their own minds based on their own belief system.

  61. #61 royniles
    March 16, 2008

    Mathematics is an extremely important system of measurement, but is not a scientific discovery in any empirical sense. It is not a subject of controversy (other than perhaps within its own discipline) and is not a disputable truth, nor is it even a tautological one.
    It’s not even what some would call the only certainty – it only represents an attempt to determine a certainty by measurement. It’s an extremely valuable scientific tool, but so are language, reason and philosophy – none of which are exclusive to India or to the west.

  62. #62 Jim
    March 16, 2008

    JonS…

    I don’t claim to be able to provide the evidence you’re looking for to demonstrate that God is the only rational conclusion. That’s between you and God.

    This a truth claim about something (God) that you couldn’t possibly, by definition, know. You REALLY believe it, but you don’t know it.

    I’ve provided scientific evidence in the past, which you’re welcome to review, but I know it doesn’t do much good when people already have their belief system in place.

    I’m very familiar with your body of work & scientific evidence has never been a part of it. Perhaps you should review what scientific evidence would entail. My belief system is based on the evidence at hand. If you could show why God is the best explanation for … well, anything … then you would have something. It’s just that that evidence isn’t forthcoming.

    In my experiences any evidence I present (scientific or supernatural) can be explained away by different interpretations of the evidence or naturalistic means, which is further support of the ‘fundamentalist’ term.

    You have never presented evidence of any sort that could pass scrutiny. Um, if something can be explained by “naturalistic means” (which would be the most likely explanation) then that “naturalistic” explanation would be the most reasonable. Fundamentalism is nothing if not unreasonable so your fundamentalist application is not only wrong, it doesn’t even make sense.

  63. #63 Jim
    March 16, 2008

    JonS…

    Many people seem to think there are no more miracles in today’s world, but this certainly isn’t true. A visit to your local Christian bookstore will produce many books with supernatural events (I was just reading a book “Miracle of Miracles” about a family of radical Muslims that converted to Christianity based on a supernatural event).

    Anecdotal recitations does not constitute certainty about anything, especially supernatural events. It is far more likely that the supernatural event which they think they witnessed was a natural event that they didn’t understand. It’s not my belief system that keeps me from accepting the least likely explanation, it’s your belief system which allows you to accept the least likely explanation in the face of better explanations.

  64. #64 royniles
    March 16, 2008

    conradg (AKA:The Broken Yogi Samyama?) “They did not question the basic idea of monotheism, or the mode of thinking in terms of exclusive true-false dichotomies. Nor has science. So I think that science evolved a reaction to true-false dichotomies that were at odds with its own -”

    That is just a statement made all the more ridiculous by its placement on a site devoted to evolutionary science, which has been developed through a system of thought as far removed from true-false dichotomies as anything could be.

  65. #65 386sx
    March 17, 2008

    It is far more likely that the supernatural event which they think they witnessed was a natural event that they didn’t understand.

    Let’s see:

    “In Mina’s book she tells of the Lord Jesus’ miraculous radiant appearance to an elderly Muslim theologian in Iran., and about Jesus telling this man he is not Allah! Jesus then tells this man that He is “the Bread of Life”, and words similar to His (Jesus’) blood washes sins away. Realizing whom he is dealing with, the man asks Jesus to accept him.”

    Nope, doesn’t sound like a misunderstand natural event to me. Sorry!

  66. #66 Conradg
    March 17, 2008
    “They did not question the basic idea of monotheism, or the mode of thinking in terms of exclusive true-false dichotomies. Nor has science. So I think that science evolved a reaction to true-false dichotomies that were at odds with its own -”

    That is just a statement made all the more ridiculous by its placement on a site devoted to evolutionary science, which has been developed through a system of thought as far removed from true-false dichotomies as anything could be.

    I’m not sure what you mean. You abreviated my sentence, and I’m not sure if you grasped its meaning.

    In any case, I think it’s very clear that evolutionary science does, indeed, proceed by true-false dichotomies, as does all science. I’m not suggesting this is even wrong, within the discipline of science. For example, evolutionary science looks at data, determines whether the data is true or not, and proceeds on the basis of what it has determined is true. It suggests that either evolution is driven by natural means, primarily natural selection, or it is not. Looking at the data, it concludes that natural selection is the primary means. It also concludes that there is no evidence for “intelligent design” or some kind of theistic driving force behind evolution. Is that in any sense controversial? Yes, that’s a true-false dichotomy, and I have no comprehension of why you would object to my characterization of it that way.

  67. #67 royniles
    March 17, 2008

    The theory of evolution operates from a process of both inductive and abductive reasoning.
    Your surmise that it looks at data and determines whether data is true of not is such a simplistic view of that or any other scientific method of inquiry that to then say this proves only a true-false dichotomy is involved is ludicrous. Everything must then be a true-false dichotomy in one way or another by your reasoning. And in fact if you break all reasoning down to its smallest increments, everything is, including every bit of Vedanta or Hindu philosophy. So your contentions in this regard merely prove to those whose philosophy allows them to think for themselves that you don’t have the vaguest conception of what science is really about, or what evolutionary science is about in particular.

  68. #68 tomh
    March 17, 2008

    I think it’s very clear that evolutionary science does, indeed, proceed by true-false dichotomies, as does all science.

    That seems a backward way of looking at it. Science proceeds by observing evidence and coming up with the most probable conclusions to explain that evidence. When new evidence is observed conclusions are subject to change. There are no proclamations of truth and falsity. I think you have science confused with religion.

  69. #69 royniles
    March 17, 2008

    What the man said. Science in fact holds that we can expect nothing to be known to a certainty. Religion says that you can believe nothing unless you accept the certainty of that belief.

  70. #70 MartinM
    March 17, 2008

    It appears that ‘righteous Ronald’ has earned himself a bit of a bad rep around here :P I’ve given up even trying to ‘deconvert’ him from creationism, I’m just considering it a welcome opportunity to consolidate, and expand, my understanding of evolution :)

    Ronald’s been here before, too. That rep is well-deserved.

  71. #71 John
    March 17, 2008


    Let’s see:

    “In Mina’s book she tells of the Lord Jesus’ miraculous radiant appearance to an elderly Muslim theologian in Iran., and about Jesus telling this man he is not Allah! Jesus then tells this man that He is “the Bread of Life”, and words similar to His (Jesus’) blood washes sins away. Realizing whom he is dealing with, the man asks Jesus to accept him.”

    Nope, doesn’t sound like a misunderstand natural event to me. Sorry!

    Actually it does: a nightmare possibly. Perhaps a hallucination.

    Here’s another possibility as a misunderstood natural event: it could be a lie, a made-up story, a story changed in the retelling, etc.

  72. #72 Jon S
    March 17, 2008

    Jim says “This a truth claim about something (God) that you couldn’t possibly, by definition, know. You REALLY believe it, but you don’t know it.”

    I know it with a ‘reasonable degree of confidence’. It’s not a blind faith. I’ve questioned God in the past and have scrutinized the Bible, but every time I’ve come back satisfied that he’s real and has revealed himself in scripture. Of course the experiences I’ve had most certainly won’t impress an atheist, which is why I say any conversion is a personal experience between you and God. Any amount of scientific evidence (with some rare exceptions) won’t convince an atheist that the universe is very young, and that ‘evolution’ has not occurred, or that Jesus is the Christ.

    “My belief system is based on the evidence at hand. If you could show why God is the best explanation for … well, anything … then you would have something. It’s just that that evidence isn’t forthcoming.”

    Is observational evidence sufficient? Since evolution is unobservable (bacterial resistance is not evolution), I’d think that no one who understands science or biology would believe in it. In the Bible God commanded seed-bearing plants, trees, sea creatures, birds, and wild animals to produce according to their various kinds. This is exactly what we observe in the real world. But to believe in evolution you have to assume that at some point in the past one kind of creature ‘evolved’ into another kind, which goes against observational evidence. Now if you’re able to produce a ‘real’ example of evolution (new genetic information not found in previous populations), then evolution would pass scrutiny. I’ve been waiting a long time for someone to produce this type of evidence that could change a dinosaur, for example, into a bird, but so far no one has been able to come through.

    “Um, if something can be explained by “naturalistic means” (which would be the most likely explanation) then that “naturalistic” explanation would be the most reasonable. Fundamentalism is nothing if not unreasonable so your fundamentalist application is not only wrong, it doesn’t even make sense.”

    Who makes the decision as to what’s most reasonable? Should that realm only belong to atheists? If God is real, and his account of our origins is accurate, then ‘naturalistic’ explanations will obviously fail when applied to the origins of the universe. It’s only a matter of time before the Big Bang theory is abandoned.

    “Anecdotal recitations does not constitute certainty about anything, especially supernatural events. It is far more likely that the supernatural event which they think they witnessed was a natural event that they didn’t understand.”

    That sounds like a statement of faith to me, and further defends the term fundamentalist. If a supernatural event is provided, then by faith you will deny it and accept only the naturalistic explanation.

    John says “Here’s another possibility as a misunderstood natural event: it could be a lie, a made-up story, a story changed in the retelling, etc.”…”a nightmare possibly. Perhaps a hallucination.”

    This is a prime example of how atheists think. Any supernatural event can be explained away. So if the event is real, and the atheist denies it, then what evidence could possibly convince them otherwise?

  73. #73 MartinM
    March 17, 2008

    Evolutionists and Creationists have the same facts

    The problem with this statement is that it isn’t actually true. I have never discussed evolution or modern cosmology with a creationist in any kind of detail and found them to be even vaguely familiar with the relevant facts.

    To take a few examples entirely at random, any creationist who wishes to claim that evolution cannot produce new genetic information should, at the very least, be able to provide a mathematically rigorous definition of ‘information,’ and describe how this definition applies to genetics. If they wish to claim that this is a problem for evolution, they should also be able to demonstrate that evolution requires this type of ‘information’ to increase.

    Similarly, any creationist wishing to discard the Big Bang models of cosmology should, at a minimum, be able to give a coherent and accurate description of the basic theory. In particular, they should be able to summarise the main pillars of evidence for the Big Bang – the CMB and its angular power spectra, the observed patterns of redshift, etc. etc. – and explain why these observations do not support current theory after all.

    But they can’t do it, of course. That’s because the typical creationist lacks even a rudimentary grasp of basic scientific facts and methodology. The ‘duelling interpretations’ line is simply a convenient cover for the fact that they regularly lose scientific debates on grounds of rank incompetence.

  74. #74 SLC
    March 17, 2008

    Re Jim

    I certainly have to admire Mr. Jim, showing great patience in arguing with a putz like Mr. JonS. However, Mr. JonS raises an interesting point. He says that evolution is unobservable and therefore doesn’t exist. Well, black holes are unobservable so I guess they don’t exist. So far, dark matter is unobservable so I guess that doesn’t exist. Dark energy is thus far unobservable so I guess that doesn’t exist either. Since none of these things exist, it’s obviously a waste of time trying to observe them or figure out what relevance they may have to our understanding of the universe.

  75. #75 MartinM
    March 17, 2008

    He says that evolution is unobservable and therefore doesn’t exist. Well, black holes are unobservable so I guess they don’t exist. So far, dark matter is unobservable so I guess that doesn’t exist. Dark energy is thus far unobservable so I guess that doesn’t exist either.

    I know you know this, but it’s worth pointing out that all of these things are observable, just not ‘directly.’

  76. #76 SLC
    March 17, 2008

    Re MartinM

    The point is that Mr. JonS doesn’t consider something that can only be observed indirectly as scientifically valid. Thus consider the following indirect observations

    1. Common descent is indirectly observed by noting the curious finding that ape chromosmomes 12 and 13 are found fused together in humans as human chromosome 2.

    2. Black holes are indirectly observed thru phenomena such as Hawking radiation.

    3. Dark matter is indirectly observed thru the observation that the observed matter in the galaxies is insufficient to supply the gravitational force required to explain observed effects such as gravitational lensing.

    4. Dark energy is indirectly observed thru the observation that the rate of expansion of the universe is increasing.

  77. #77 Jim
    March 17, 2008

    Mark…
    If you’re still around, do you see now how it works with these people (JonS, 386sx)? You can carefully explain to them that God (or anything supernatural) is always the least likely explanation for an mysterious event and it doesn’t matter. They read their magic book (Bible, Koran, etc) & they get a really good feeling from it so it must be a true, realistic, prescriptive accounting for our lives. You can explain to them that someone writing that a multitude witnessing a miraculous event does not mean that a multitude witnessed a miraculous event, it just means one person said so, & again it doesn’t matter to them (they’ve still got that good feeling). You can explain to them that in order for their magic book to be what they say it is as a moral guide it would have to stand the test of time. But we all know that it doesn’t; it gets questions about morality wrong constantly (i.e. slavery, child discipline, spousal treatment). In other words, it could have been written by anyone living in the 5th century B.C.(O.T.). Mark, it just doesn’t matter what you explain to them, until it feels good they are not going to behave rationally, apparently. So, if it gets your blood up, don’t waste your time with them. However, if you are not bothered too much by it then by all means give it a go. Like someone above suggested, every once in a while one of them manages to break the spell.

  78. #78 conradg
    March 17, 2008

    Royniles,

    The theory of evolution operates from a process of both inductive and abductive reasoning.
    Your surmise that it looks at data and determines whether data is true of not is such a simplistic view of that or any other scientific method of inquiry that to then say this proves only a true-false dichotomy is involved is ludicrous. Everything must then be a true-false dichotomy in one way or another by your reasoning. And in fact if you break all reasoning down to its smallest increments, everything is, including every bit of Vedanta or Hindu philosophy. So your contentions in this regard merely prove to those whose philosophy allows them to think for themselves that you don’t have the vaguest conception of what science is really about, or what evolutionary science is about in particular.

    Yes, I’m aware of the complexity of scientific reasoning. But I think you have to agree that science does, indeed, try to break ?truth? down into a series of systematic true-false statements that can be used to build other true-false statements. Yes, it uses both inductive and abduction reasoning, and even inductive reasoning. More importantly, it attempts to empirically verify the truthfulness or falseness of each of the statements it makes. But both the method and the goal is to create a body of true-false statements we can call ?things we know?. The approach to evolution is to build on a whole series of true-false statements created in a whole host of scientific fields to figure out best what theories fit those facts. Demonstrating that evolution exists at all is built upon a huge body of true-false statements, to the point that we can call it a ?scientific fact.? Demonstrating the truth of ?evolution by natural selection? also relies on a huge body of true-false statement, some of which may be under more dispute than evolution itself, but which still builds a strong case for it.

    Again, I see nothing wrong with this. I think the scientific method is grand, and the theory of evolution by natural selection one of the greatest and most powerful ideas of all time. But I also recognize that the kind of thinking process engaged by scientists, composed as it is of a complex system of true-false dichotomies, also lends itself to the errors of fundamentalism, dominance, and excessinve dualistic conflict. And I note that this is similar to the fundamentalist errors of monotheistic religion, which is where, I think, science got the this way of thinking to begin with. The difference is that science used empiricism to investigate these true-false dichotomies, whereas monotheism seems to be allergic to empiricism, and instead relies upon scripture and ?revelation? to determine what statements are tre, and what statements are false. Hence, the conflict between the two.

    This is not a conflict found in polytheistic or other religious approaches. The Dalai Lama for example was recently asked what he would do if his religious beliefs were found to incompatible with scientific findings, and he answered without hesitation, ?Then I would change my religious beliefs to make them compatible with scientific findings.? He didn’t say he would abandon them entirely, merely change them so they did not conflict with science. This is the mark of a non-fundamentalist. Another example would be the major sect of Judaism which recently announced that it considered the Old Testament denunciations of homosexuality to be in error, a product of an ancient culture that did not understand homosexuality, and that there was no reason for Jews to feel they must honor those teachings, but should instead embrace social, cultural, and legal acceptance of homosexuality as a personal matter of innate sexual orientation. The point is that even monotheism has much flexibility and can adapt itself to changing truths. It just tends towards a highly polarized true-false us-them mentality. And unfortunately, some people can take the same fundamentalist approach to science itself, because the very approach of breaking things down into true-false dichotomies can easily come to dominate all thinking, not just the actual scientific method. The temptation is to see everything, even religion itself as a series of true-false dichotomies, but in the scientific mode, and then to declare religion itself ?false? on that basis.

    Monotheism does the same thing when it treats the subject of God as a series of true-false dichotomies, in which one can systematically say ?This God is true, all these Gods are false?, or ?heterosexuality is the true, Godly way, and all other sexual relationship are false and unGodly.? This creates a fairly well-organized homogenous religious culture, as opposed to the heterodox confusion of polytheistic cultures. The advantage for monotheism is the franchising principle. It’s much easier to build a large, systematic empire from a monotheistic culture than from a polytheistic culture. Centralizing authority and knowledge around a single system of ?truth? simply works better at spreading a doctrine and culture than decentralized and multi-truth systems. And I’m not saying that’s all bad, only that it has some severe limitations to go along with its powerful advantages. It’s one of the reasons that scientific culture spreads so well, but it’s also the reason scientific culture tends to try to dominate, and even eliminate, any other truth-system. The simply fact is that a great many scientists do believe that the scientific system of determining the truth or falseness of a statement is the only true way to do the job, regardless of the complexity of the statement. Thus, Dawkins sees the statement ?God exists? as a scientific proposition, not a metaphysical proposition, and sees it as something that science can determine the truth of, and if it can’t, we simply can’t call it a true statement.

  79. #79 conradg
    March 17, 2008

    JonS,

    Who makes the decision as to what’s most reasonable? Should that realm only belong to atheists? If God is real, and his account of our origins is accurate, then ‘naturalistic’ explanations will obviously fail when applied to the origins of the universe. It’s only a matter of time before the Big Bang theory is abandoned.

    As a religious person, I must take exception to this. Reason is itself the very means for determining what is reasonable. It’s not dependent on the person’s own religious orientation, or lack thereof. So if you make claims about the age or origin of the world, you have to come up with reasonable arguments that support it.

    Now, if you have read the Bible, and looked into your own heart, and come to the conclusion that in spite of all scientific evidence to the contrary, that the world is actually only 6,000 years old, rather than about 5 billion, you should be able to justify this with reason. The same would go with the notion that God created all creatures exactly as they are today. You must make a reasonable case for this. I have yet to see any religious person make a reasonable case for these statements, however. The reasonable conclusion is that they simply aren’t true statements, and that the biblical account of creation is not literally true.

    I think it’s reasonable to say that there are metaphorical and allegorical and even spiritual truths in the biblical accounts, but not literal truths. And there may well be metaphorical and allegorical and spiritual falsehoods also. But it’s not reasonable to say that everything in the bible is literally true, and the only real measure of what is true. That’s not a reasonable statement. It’s a statement of pure faith, with no reasonable basis. At least I don’t know of a reasonable argument which supports it.

    Now, you are right that science is also based on faith. But it is based on faith in reason itself. In fact, traditionally Christianity always tried to align itself with reason as well, considering reason to be God’s gift to mankind that separated him from the beasts, and enabled him even to understand the nature of God. So the idea within Christianity is that one should be able to use reason and a standard of reasonableness to determine what is true, and not merely to take the statements of the scriptures at face value. This is why Christianity aligned itself with Aristotle, Plato, and other Greek classicists.

    Modern fundamentalist Christians such as yourself seem to have turned your back on reason, however, and insist on using faith alone to justify your statements of fact. This is in my view an aberration and leads to great and small errors of all kinds.

    Now, I happen to agree with you that the creation of the universe comes from “God” and not some form of inert, lifeless, unconscious “naturalism”. But that doesn’t mean that I toss our naturalism and reason in the process of investigating how this creation came about, and what it’s meanings are. Science has a tremendous contribution to make to that investigation, such as helping us see that many traditional religous ideas about the creation of the universe aren’t literally true, such as the ideas you’ve put forward here. That doesn’t mean they have to be rejected in their entirety, but they do have to be understood in metaphorical, symbolic terms, which have deeper meanings that the literal ones. Letting go of these literalist errors in religious tradition shouldn’t be that hard.

    I don’t think you understand that there’s a cost to clinging to these false, literalist claims. Not only does it turn you into a fabulist, it also turns religion itself into a series of literalist claims and arguments, which it most decidedly is not. The deeper spiritual truths and process of Christianity is not dependent on the literalist claims of the Bible, but making it so actually diminishes its spiritual truth and power. And, of course, it turns people into foolish mannequins wearing colorful costumes behind a glass museum display case.

  80. #80 royniles
    March 17, 2008

    conradg: You persist in this true-false dichotomy blather as if it doesn’t apply to anything else but science and monotheism, when it applies as much to the multiple true-false claims of multifarious if not nefarious polytheistic schemes as to any other attempts to make sense out of nature absent the ability to think with any independent degree of rationality. You completely ignore repeated statements from the more sensible among us that science is about probability, NOT certainty, which is what true-false dichotomies are ultimately about and what your multiple theistic attempts to find some eternal truths are ultimately all about.
    You have received a divine revelation from one or more of these sources and it tells you that you need not prove it, as it has already been proven, but you are allowed to use any means to justify the revelation that don’t in the process offer a contradiction. This virtually impossible task leaves you no alternative except to “rationalize” or misrepresent the rational (which we in the West resort to all the time to deceive others as well as ourselves ) in the absence of any ability to use a system that starts with a question rather than with its ready made answer. Your desperation here is pathetic.

  81. #81 royniles
    March 17, 2008

    Yes I noted that in the meantime you have pretended to ally yourself with science against Christianity, etc., which is an even more pathetic attempt to justify your positions as at least less fatuous than the more clearly ridiculous theisms.
    But fess up now – we know you’re not really just an atheist in the closet.

  82. #82 conradg
    March 17, 2008

    Royniles,

    Really?

    I mean, really?

  83. #83 royniles
    March 17, 2008

    Well, that would be the only position that’s consistent with actually being right about something while pretending exactly the opposite for effect.

  84. #84 Tyler DiPietro
    March 17, 2008

    “That sounds like a statement of faith to me, and further defends the term fundamentalist.”

    Nonsense. It isn’t “faith” to say that the multiple anecdotal claims pertaining to Elvis Presley or Tupac Shakur still being alive are unreliable as evidence that such claims are true. Anyone who thinks such is simply ignorant.

    “This is a prime example of how atheists think. Any supernatural event can be explained away. So if the event is real, and the atheist denies it, then what evidence could possibly convince them otherwise?”

    Just curious: you are aware that more religions than Christianity claim supernatural events as validation. Presumably, you deny these. On what basis do you do so?

  85. #85 Leni
    March 17, 2008

    conradg wrote:

    For example, evolutionary science looks at data, determines whether the data is true or not, and proceeds on the basis of what it has determined is true.

    Several people have addressed this already, but I don’t think they have stressed enough that data is not determined to be true or false in that way I understand you to mean. Actually, I think you are mixing up the terms “data” and “hypothesis”.

    Here’s why: data are basically just collections of recorded observations. Temperature readings, for example. Observations can be good, bad, or something in between, but calling them true or false is, I think, a mischaracterization. Terms like “good” and “bad” work better for describing data, as it is the quality that we must assess before we use it to support, disprove or develop a hypothesis.

    Further, false data would imply forged data, which would not in fact be data at all, but something made up. True data would simply be that data we think is reliable, insofar as it was collected using well-calibrated instruments with the best available methods. Still, it’s very misleading and (in the case of “true”) overstates the confidence level, partly because data typically have fairly well-defined error associated with them.

    Here is a better description of one way the process can work:

    1) scientists look at data, assess the quality of it, and then decide to use it if it passes muster (unless they are frauds.)

    2) If they use it, they can compare it to what their theory predicts to test the veracity of the theory. If it doesn’t, and there is nothing wrong with the data, then the the hypothesis needs to be revised.

    It suggests that either evolution is driven by natural means, primarily natural selection, or it is not. Looking at the data, it concludes that natural selection is the primary means.

    Aside from the fact that there is no (and can be no) data suggesting evolution isn’t natural, I think this is where your mix up becomes clear. You are describing something more like testing a hypothesis. This is nothing more than a check to see if your explanation fits the facts. If you were going to determine where you left your wallet you’d use a similar process of elimination.

    It also concludes that there is no evidence for “intelligent design” or some kind of theistic driving force behind evolution.

    Well, not really. The ID proposition isn’t a scientific one, but even if it were no one has of yet provided evidence for it. Others can only address specific, tangential claims as they arise, such as Behe’s mousetrap or flagellum.

    It’s a little like a yes or no process in that, I suppose you could probably map it out in a flow chart. Flow charts, as you probably know, ask series of yes or no questions, the answers to which determine which step in the process is taken next.

  86. #86 conradg
    March 18, 2008

    Leni,

    First, let’s not play gotcha games with one another. I do hope your confusion on this issue is sincere, and not part of a ploy to try to distract from the real issues here.

    data are basically just collections of recorded observations. Temperature readings, for example. Observations can be good, bad, or something in between, but calling them true or false is, I think, a mischaracterization. Terms like “good” and “bad” work better for describing data, as it is the quality that we must assess before we use it to support, disprove or develop a hypothesis.

    Okay, let’s look at temperature readings. A good scientist who wanted to know the temperature would use several methods. He would use a regular mercury thermometer, maybe an infrared detector, and maybe some other device. He would take multiple readings, and compare them. Now, if the data he collected didn’t all agree, he would not assume that there was possibly more than one true temperature. He would assume that there was one and only one “true” temperature, and he would try to determine which of his temperature measuring devices was most accurate, and which were not. Maybe he would determine that his infrared device was inaccurate. He would try to recalibrate it by comparing it to the “true” temperature. Once he had it recalibrated, he would have faith that it’s readings were true, rather than false.

    So, do you see what I mean that scientific data represents a true-false dichotomy? In science, most basic questions have only one true answer, and that is how data is evaluated. Now, if you are using data to test a hypothesis, it gets more complex. Say you want to measure the age of some fossils to study their evolutionary history, and you use carbon dating. Just gathering that data is hard, because the procedure is very complex and delicate, and prone to error. So the data has to be evaluated very carefully to see how “true” it is. We may end up with multiple and conflicting estimate. So we end up with a data range answer, not a fixed age, maybe something like 10,000+/-200 years. Even if we can’t measure the age of the fossil exactly, there is no scientist in the world who actually thinks the age of the fossil is anything but a single, fixed time span. Can fossils actually have multiple ages? Of course not.

    And so it goes for almost all scientific data (I can’t think of any exceptions offhand, but some might exist). There is the correct answer, and everything else is wrong. As for hypotheses, these are built on mountains of verified data. The amount of data it took to create carbon dating devices alone is huge. It took all kinds of testing in fields completely outside of paleontology to build an accurate device. Testing a hypothesis like “evolution” therefore contains millions and billions of data, tested and retested in order to find the truth of the hypothesis. But even with a complex hypothesis like evolution, scientists assume that there is only one correct answer. Either it’s true, or it’s false. Or, one can break the hypothesis down into pieces and parts and figure out which pieces are true, and which are false. Break it down far enough, and one is looking at mountains of raw data. But at each step of the way, there’s a true-false dichotomy to evaluate.

    My point about monotheism is that it, too, looks at religious truth as a set of a true-false dichotomies. Jesus is the Son of God, or he isn’t. The Jews were the Chosen People, or they were not. Or, Christianity is the only true religion, and no other religions are true. Or, only the Jews were the Chosen People, and no one else was. Or, Allah is God and Mohammed is his Prophet. These are all stark true false statements. But in a polytheistic society, which is the true God, is it Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva, Saraswati, Ganesha, who? Well, they don’t have a single answer to this question. There are multiple “true” Gods. Likewise, there are multiple true paths to God. A Hindu believes that he can find God by following any number of completely different paths and Gods and practices. A Catholic, on the other hand, believes there is only one true way, one true morality, and one true path.

    So, the point is, monotheism helped pave the way for science by promoting the notion that there is only one true answer to any serious question of faith. By creating a world of rational argument which was aimed at discovering what the “true” way was in all kinds of matters, the Church and its philosophical traditions made it possible for people like Roger Bacon or Descartes to think that all questions could be broken down into true-false dichotomies, if one could be detailed enough. And this was the path that science took when it began looking at empirical data.

    Aside from the fact that there is no (and can be no) data suggesting evolution isn’t natural, I think this is where your mix up becomes clear.

    Of course that’s not true. We could very easily find, say, a flying saucer buried in the ground with genetic engineering machinery on board with cloned human DNA in it. That kind of data would very readily suggest that our evolution was not natural. We could even explore our own DNA and find unmistakable signs of genetic splicing. Or we might even find that our DNA is perfectly put together without any errors as though it were designed by an engineer, instead of the mishmash of genes and various crap all thrown together that it actually is, which suggests a lack of design. So evolution by natural selection is of course a falsifiable hypothesis.

    Conradg:It also concludes that there is no evidence for “intelligent design” or some kind of theistic driving force behind evolution.

    Leni: Well, not really. The ID proposition isn’t a scientific one, but even if it were no one has of yet provided evidence for it.

    I have to wonder why you feel the need to try to contradict me at every possible step. Please, re-read your “well, not really”, and tell me what you are disagreeing with. You seem to actually agree with me in the very next sentence, saying that no evidence for “intelligent design” has been provided. Is there any real meaning or substance to your disagreement, or are you just disagreeing with for the pure knee-jerk pleasure if it all?

    It’s a little like a yes or no process in that, I suppose you could probably map it out in a flow chart. Flow charts, as you probably know, ask series of yes or no questions, the answers to which determine which step in the process is taken next.

    Yes, science is like a flow chart, or a digital computer. It’s a way of thinking that leads to flow charts and digital computers. And for good reason, because it’s a process which comes up with true answers to certain kinds of questions. But it’s limited to answering those kinds of questions.

  87. #87 Jon S
    March 18, 2008

    MartinM says “To take a few examples entirely at random, any creationist who wishes to claim that evolution cannot produce new genetic information should, at the very least, be able to provide a mathematically rigorous definition of ‘information,’ and describe how this definition applies to genetics.”

    Simply put, I’m looking for new genetic information that produces new novel functions; for example, scales turning into feathers. If a pig were to develop feathers, sonar, or gills, I would consider this an example of new genetic information, and an example of evolution. A pig doesn’t have such information in its genes, so it can’t produce offspring with those traits. Gene duplication, gene transfer, or a loss of genetic information doesn’t produce new novel functions in an organism. Gene transfer only copies and moves existing genetic information and doesn’t explain where the information came from in the first place. Molecules-to-man evolution requires the production of large amounts of new genetic information, which has never been observed, and must be taken by faith by evolutionists.

    “Similarly, any creationist wishing to discard the Big Bang models of cosmology should, at a minimum, be able to give a coherent and accurate description of the basic theory. In particular, they should be able to summarise the main pillars of evidence for the Big Bang – the CMB and its angular power spectra, the observed patterns of redshift, etc. etc. – and explain why these observations do not support current theory after all.”

    This has already been done. Just visit the websites of AIG, CMI or ICR. Dr. Jason Lisle has produced plenty of information on the failures of the Big Bang.

    SLC says “Mr. JonS raises an interesting point. He says that evolution is unobservable and therefore doesn’t exist. Well, black holes are unobservable so I guess they don’t exist. So far, dark matter is unobservable so I guess that doesn’t exist. Dark energy is thus far unobservable so I guess that doesn’t exist either. Since none of these things exist, it’s obviously a waste of time trying to observe them or figure out what relevance they may have to our understanding of the universe.”

    I don’t know if dark matter exists. According to Creze et al in Astronomy and Astrophysics, he has concluded that there is no dark matter in the disk of the Milky Way Galaxy. “The big bang today relies on a growing number of hypothetical entities, things that we have never observed- inflation, dark matter and dark energy. Without them, there would be a fatal contradiction between the observations made by astronomers and the predictions of the big bang theory.” Lerner, E. et al., ‘An Open Letter to the Scientific Community,’ New Scientist 182 no. 2448 (2004). Dark energy hasn’t been observed, but is necessary to make the Big Bang work. Besides the supernova data, there is no hard evidence for dark energy.

    SLC says “1. Common descent is indirectly observed by noting the curious finding that ape chromosmomes 12 and 13 are found fused together in humans as human chromosome 2.

    This certainly doesn’t prove common descent. You aren’t taking into consideration the vast differences between man and apes. The chasm is too wide a bridge for evolution to cross, so, again, it’s just an unprovable assumption. It’s far more believable that we were created in God’s image than believing by faith that we evolved from ape-like ancestors. There are many protein coding genes in humans that are distinctly human and are not found in chimps. There are also differences in genes that don’t code for proteins. A study of miRNAs expressed in the brain found 51 of 447 new miRNAs were distinctly human and 25 were only found in the chimp.

  88. #88 Tyler DiPietro
    March 18, 2008

    “The chasm is too wide a bridge for evolution to cross, so, again, it’s just an unprovable assumption.”

    The irony in this sentence is just so delicious.

  89. #89 royniles
    March 18, 2008

    conradg desperately holds on to the true-false dichotomy theme as the only “truth” that makes anything else he believes and preaches even plausible. He can’t let it go no matter how much evidence is shown him that science doesn’t work that way, at bottom or at top.
    He cannot let himself see that he’s the ultimate believer in a true or false proposition that holds up everything he believes. To him, there are either a number of true gods or none. No room there for the probable versus probable – no room for uncertainty.
    He is hoist by his own petard forever. And it’s turtles all the way down.

  90. #90 royniles
    March 18, 2008

    Or probable versus improbable or versus possible or virtually impossible — it’s uncertainty all the way down.

  91. #91 conradg
    March 18, 2008

    Royniles,

    What evidence have you, or anyone here, shown, that science doesn’t work with true-false dichotomies?

  92. #92 conradg
    March 18, 2008

    Royniles,

    BTW, the question of the probability of something being true or false is still a true-false dichotomy – or didn’t you notice?

  93. #93 royniles
    March 18, 2008

    Didn’t you notice that the question of probability is of something being or not being reliable. Reliability is a probability assessment, not a true false assessment. You don’t seem able to grasp that because it’s foreign to the absolutism of your faith. Reliability is what every organism needs to determine in order to survive. Truth is a concept known only to humans, and yet understood by few of those.
    You yourself can’t seem to get away from using that same true-false limited option in everything you say.

    What evidence do YOU have that your belief system is not an either true or false proposition – that’s the real question here.

    You are essentially trying to use a Western logical system to prove that its logic is wrong while at the same time arguing this proves that a faith dependent upon an assumption of absolute truth is also demonstrably true by that same logic.

    Probability leaves room for doubt in all things. Your beliefs cannot abide any smidgen of that doubt. You are stuck with an unresolvable paradox precisely because of reliance on your own true false dichotomy.

  94. #94 royniles
    March 18, 2008

    I forgot to remind you of what you said you believe:
    ‘Now, I happen to agree with you that the creation of the universe comes from “God” and not some form of inert, lifeless, unconscious “naturalism”.’

    So it’s a this and not that dichotomy, true or false? if you say probably, you lose.

  95. #95 SLC
    March 18, 2008

    Re JonS

    1. Mr. JonS once again shows his total ignorance of science by his statements about proof. In science, there is no such thing as proof. There is only confirmation and falsification. I never said that the fusion of ape chromosomes 12 and 13 to form human chromosome 2 is proof of common descent; it is confirmation. Had the fusion not been observed, it would have constituted falsification. Thus another prediction of common descent is confirmed.

    2. So Mr. JonS also rejects the big bang theory of cosmology. That’s rather fine since many religious folks consider the big bang a confirmation of the existence of god (e.g. Pope Pius XII).

    3. Mr. JonS’ claim that dark energy is required to “make the big bang work” is total crap. Dark energy is a consequence of the observation that the rate of expansion of the universe is increasing. The big bang was working just fine before the expansion rate increase was discovered.

    4. Dark matter has nothing to do with the big bang, yet another evidence of Mr. JonS’ total ignorance of science. Dark matter is hypothesized because the observations of gravitational lensing indicate that the observed mass in the galaxies is insufficient to account for it.

    5. Mr. JonS’ invocation of creationist web sites like Answers in Genesis is really quite amusing. How about citing peer reviewed articles in the technical literature. And a letter to a journal, such as Lerners’ does not constitute a peer reviewed article.

    Re J. J. Ramsay

    If Mr. Ramsay is still around, he should have concluded by now that schmucks like Mr. JonS are totally hopeless. They wallow in their ignorance, preferring the fables of the sacred scriptures to the advancement of knowledge. They are a pimple on the posterior of society.

  96. #96 Jon S
    March 18, 2008

    conradg says “As a religious person, I must take exception to this. Reason is itself the very means for determining what is reasonable. It’s not dependent on the person’s own religious orientation, or lack thereof. So if you make claims about the age or origin of the world, you have to come up with reasonable arguments that support it.

    How do you define religious, and what religion are you referring to? There are many religions and beliefs. Do you believe in God, Allah, the flying spaghetti monster? Being religious could mean anything, or nothing. Perhaps you haven’t taken a close look at what Creationists believe. If you had, you’d know we do have reasonable arguments to support a young universe. There are many reliable websites to visit, such as AIG, CMI and ICR.

    “Now, if you have read the Bible, and looked into your own heart, and come to the conclusion that in spite of all scientific evidence to the contrary, that the world is actually only 6,000 years old, rather than about 5 billion, you should be able to justify this with reason. The same would go with the notion that God created all creatures exactly as they are today. You must make a reasonable case for this. I have yet to see any religious person make a reasonable case for these statements, however. The reasonable conclusion is that they simply aren’t true statements, and that the biblical account of creation is not literally true.”

    Again, your statement makes it clear you don’t understand the Creationist arguments. No one believes that God created all creatures exactly as they are today. That’s a strawman argument that evolutionists like to throw at Creationists. Of course we believe in change. That’s been around since before biblical times. For example, we believe all dogs are descendants of an original wolf kind, but dogs only give birth to dogs. Nothing else has ever been observed. No dog has ever grown wings, or developed gills, an avian lung, or flippers. The Bible says creatures will reproduce according to their kind, and that’s what we observe. If you’ve ever observed otherwise please let me know. I’ve been begging for such examples. I’ve presented evidence of a young universe before, so I won’t go into that again. Feel free to see my previous posts, or visit a good Creationist website for examples.

    “I think it’s reasonable to say that there are metaphorical and allegorical and even spiritual truths in the biblical accounts, but not literal truths. And there may well be metaphorical and allegorical and spiritual falsehoods also. But it’s not reasonable to say that everything in the bible is literally true, and the only real measure of what is true. That’s not a reasonable statement. It’s a statement of pure faith, with no reasonable basis. At least I don’t know of a reasonable argument which supports it.”

    Once again your statement indicates you don’t know what we really believe. A lot of what you say is mumbo-jumbo. Your claims sound like a statement of pure faith, with no reasonable basis. ‘Metaphorical truths’, ‘Allegorical truths’, ‘Spiritual truths’? What does all this mean? It sounds like you don’t want to believe what the Bible says, yet you call yourself religious. According to 2 Timothy 3:16, “all scripture is God-breathed, and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness.” Therefore, while everything in the Bible is not meant to be taken literally, everything in scripture is authoritative and can be relied upon for truth. Now I suppose you think the Bible was merely written by man and not inspired by God? If so, then we can really never know anything about God, and, as you say, there would be no literal truths. However, if the Bible is the Word of God, then scripture is a reliable truth in all areas. Scripture claims to be God’s word, or inspired by God. Jesus even accepted scripture as God’s word and authoritative. So what basis do you have for rejecting this? Does your faith in man and ‘naturalistic’ science overrule the Bible being inerrant? You claim there are no literal truths in the Bible. Can you tell me if your statement is literally true, or if you were speaking metaphorically, allegorically, or symbolically?

    “Now, you are right that science is also based on faith. But it is based on faith in reason itself.”

    You mean faith in fallible man’s reason and intellect? You do know that man’s reason has been proved wrong time and time again (which is why textbooks must be corrected year to year)? Now this certainly doesn’t mean that we reject science altogether, or deny progress. My point is that God’s word never changes. So which do you put your trust in… man’s reason, or God? I choose to trust God’s wisdom and what He’s revealed in scripture. (I Corinthians 1:20-25).

    “Modern fundamentalist Christians such as yourself seem to have turned your back on reason, however, and insist on using faith alone to justify your statements of fact. This is in my view an aberration and leads to great and small errors of all kinds.”

    This is a false statement. I know of no fundamentalist Christians who’ve turned their back on reason. From my point of view I’m quite reasonable, and I would presume you feel the same, although I myself would doubt anyone’s reasonableness who believes in the fairy tale of evolution.

    “Now, I happen to agree with you that the creation of the universe comes from “God” and not some form of inert, lifeless, unconscious “naturalism”. But that doesn’t mean that I toss our naturalism and reason in the process of investigating how this creation came about, and what it’s meanings are. Science has a tremendous contribution to make to that investigation, such as helping us see that many traditional religous ideas about the creation of the universe aren’t literally true, such as the ideas you’ve put forward here. That doesn’t mean they have to be rejected in their entirety, but they do have to be understood in metaphorical, symbolic terms, which have deeper meanings that the literal ones. Letting go of these literalist errors in religious tradition shouldn’t be that hard.”

    More mumbo jumbo. If you don’t accept the Bible’s teachings as truth, then why bother with religion at all. I don’t see the consistency. If the Bible claims to be the Word of God, and the Bible is clearly wrong about the origin of the universe and the origin of man, about miracles, angels, and Jesus rising from the dead, then believing in its ‘spiritual meaning’ is pointless. Sure, we can believe in doing and being good, but why would we need a ‘holy’ book when we can rely on our own personal morality? If the Bible is wrong, then reject it in its entirety and stop playing mental gymnastics to make the Bible conform to some mystical spirituality that has nothing to do with reality. Either the Bible is the Word of God and can be trusted, or it’s nothing. So who do you think God is? Is he who he claims to be in the Bible, or is he just some happy feeling you have inside of you? If he’s real, then don’t you think he knows what happened at the beginning of the universe and can tell us without it being considered an allegory, symbolic, or a metaphor? How do you think the Bible should have been written to make it more clear? Do you put your trust in God or man?

    “I don’t think you understand that there’s a cost to clinging to these false, literalist claims. Not only does it turn you into a fabulist, it also turns religion itself into a series of literalist claims and arguments, which it most decidedly is not. The deeper spiritual truths and process of Christianity is not dependent on the literalist claims of the Bible, but making it so actually diminishes its spiritual truth and power.”

    If these claims were false then I’d agree with you. However I believe the Bible should be interpreted literally when it’s meant to be literal, metaphoricaly when it’s considered a metaphor, and symbolically when that’s its intent. Understanding the Bible this way gives me confidence and assurance in God and the world around me. Remember that there’s a cost to believing false beliefs such as evolution and naturalistic views to the origin of the universe. Truth becomes relative and unimportant, and man begins to lean on his own understanding. That’s why we have so many problems in America today. Everyone wants to be there own god and make their own rules as to what is true.

  97. #97 Jon S
    March 18, 2008

    SLC says “Mr. JonS once again shows his total ignorance of science by his statements about proof. In science, there is no such thing as proof. There is only confirmation and falsification.”

    Mr. SLC, You can’t seem to see past your own arrogance and are blinded by your own intellect. You claim that in science there is no such thing as proof. However I’m sure you fail to admonish teachers and professors who state that flies on certain islands who no longer interbreed are ‘proof’ of evolution. Or when the New York Times, Time, or National Geographic or another media outlet announces that the peppered moth is ‘proof’ of evolution? Or if another blogger uses the word proof or proves. If you want to play the semantics game be consistent. Are you trying to suggest that I’ll never be able to find a secular scientist who uses the words proof, prove, proved, etc.? If you think it will make me sound better educated or enlightened, then I’ll try to use ‘confirmation’ or ‘falsification’. Will that satisfy you?

    “Mr. JonS’ claim that dark energy is required to “make the big bang work” is total crap. Dark energy is a consequence of the observation that the rate of expansion of the universe is increasing. The big bang was working just fine before the expansion rate increase was discovered. Dark matter has nothing to do with the big bang, yet another evidence of Mr. JonS’ total ignorance of science. Dark matter is hypothesized because the observations of gravitational lensing indicate that the observed mass in the galaxies is insufficient to account for it.”

    Again, you should admonish the secular scientists who signed the cosmology statement published in New Scientist. According to ‘real’ scientists, “The big bang today relies on a growing number of hypothetical entities, things that we have never observed… inflation, dark matter and dark energy are the most prominent examples. Without them, there would be a fatal contradiction between the observations made by astronomers and the predictions of the big bang theory.” So, Mr. SLC, are all these scientists pimply, ignorant putz’s like me, or have I called your bluff?

    SLC says “The point is that Mr. JonS doesn’t consider something that can only be observed indirectly as scientifically valid. Thus consider the following indirect observations”

    This is a false assumption of my beliefs, as usual. Of course I consider things that can be observed indirectly. But you fail to recognize that these observations can be interpreted differently depending on what your beliefs are. If you believe the universe is 13.7 billion years old, your interpretations will reflect that bias.

  98. #98 SLC
    March 18, 2008

    Re JonS

    1. Any science teacher or scientist who claims that there is such a thing as proof in science is totally wrong and I would admonish them as such. As I said, there is only confirmation and falsification. Would Mr. JonS like to present evidence of a science teacher or scientist making such a claim.

    2. A letter to the editor of a science journal does not constitute a peer reviewed scientific article. Anybody can write a letter to the editor, including Mr. JonS. Cite a peer reviewed article in a reputable science journal.

    3. A list of signers to such a letter is unimpressive. The number of scientists who accept the evidence for the big bang outnumber the signers of that letter by a factor of 100 or more. By the way, since the individual who showed that the solution to the Einstein equation of general relativity leads to a prediction of a big bang was a Roman Catholic priest, Georges LeMaitre, it would appear that charges of atheism relative to the theory are poorly supported. Or does Mr. Jon S consider that Dr. LeMaitre was an atheist?

    4. I wonder how many of the signers of that letter agree with the young earth philosophy of Mr. JonS? Not many I suspect.

    5. I was rather intrigued by one name on the list, namely Prof. Thomas Gold of Cornell, Un. Prof. Gold has had a number of, shall we say, strange ideas in the past. Among these are the notion that the deposits of natural gas, oil, and coal are primordial and not the result of decay of plant material. Needless to say, oil geologists have not found this notion to be very productive in the search for new gas, oil, and coal fields.

  99. #99 J. J. Ramsey
    March 18, 2008

    SLC: “If Mr. Ramsay [sic] is still around, he should have concluded by now that schmucks like Mr. JonS are totally hopeless.”

    Maybe, but given that (a) YECs have disabused themselves of their false beliefs and (b) that it is unlikely that someone on a blog or forum thread is likely to publicly back down within the thread, I have no way of knowing if this is the case.

    Jon S: “But you fail to recognize that these observations can be interpreted differently depending on what your beliefs are.”

    But some ways of interpreting the evidence require either convoluted kludgy reasoning or just flat out misapprehension of the facts, while others are simpler and more straightforward. The link with my name on it points to a story about “Levine the Genius Tailor,” which illustrates what happens when a model or paradigm is a clumsy fit to a situation. While “Morton’s demon” may keep you from understanding the following link, I offer it anyway:

    Radiometric Dating: A Christian Perspective

    Take it or leave it as you must.

  100. #100 Science Avenger
    March 18, 2008

    Jon S: But you fail to recognize that these observations can be interpreted differently depending on what your beliefs are

    But you fail to realize (as so many who make such inane arguments) that scientists do their interpreting BEFORE the observations are made in a falsifiable way. This is what distinguishes the two viewpoints. Anti-science cranks never do falsifiable testing, if they do any testing at all. They, and apparently you, think scientists just sit around all day idly musing as to what is what.

  101. #101 Jon S
    March 19, 2008

    SLC says “Any science teacher or scientist who claims that there is such a thing as proof in science is totally wrong and I would admonish them as such… Would Mr. JonS like to present evidence of a science teacher or scientist making such a claim.”

    A quick search brought up an article on the website for Atheist News, and it has the headline “How Endogenous Retroviruses Prove Evolution”, and claims “A lot of evidence out there proves evolution beyond all reasonable doubt.” The Independent offers an article by Professor Michael Majerus from Cambridge (Professor of Genetics) who claims “If the rise and fall of the peppered moth is one of the most visually impacting and easily understood examples of Darwinian evolution in action, it should be taught. It provides after all the proof of evolution.” So please, please dear Mr SLC, please admonish these naughty, ignorant, pimply fools for their use of the word proof. I’ll be watching for your letter to the editor.

    Mr SLC says “A letter to the editor of a science journal does not constitute a peer reviewed scientific article. Anybody can write a letter to the editor, including Mr. JonS. Cite a peer reviewed article in a reputable science journal.”

    Firstly I never claimed that a letter to the editor of a science constitutes a peer reviewed scientific article. Second, I’m not sure how you define a ‘reputable science journal’. Thirdly, I’m sure you’re quite capable of doing your own research if you really want an answer to your own question. Fourthly, I found an article on EurekAlert titled ‘The Big Bang Theory Challenged’. I’m sure you’ll have some mocking comments, but that was one of the first ones that popped up on my search, so I’m sure there are more out there where that came from, and I’ll let you search if you’re serious enough.

    “A list of signers to such a letter is unimpressive. The number of scientists who accept the evidence for the big bang outnumber the signers of that letter by a factor of 100 or more. By the way, since the individual who showed that the solution to the Einstein equation of general relativity leads to a prediction of a big bang was a Roman Catholic priest, Georges LeMaitre, it would appear that charges of atheism relative to the theory are poorly supported. Or does Mr. Jon S consider that Dr. LeMaitre was an atheist?”

    Of course it’s unimpressive… because it doesn’t fit your belief system. I suppose I should be scared and accept your dogma since I’m outnumbered by a factor of 100 or more, oh no!!! I suppose if I were to examine every belief that you hold, and I find one where you’re outnumbered by a factor of 100 or more you would quickly change your views and opinions? Now I don’t know what LeMaitre believes, but I would say that the Big Bang is not consistent with what scripture teaches. There are many Christians who hold to mainstream scientific beliefs, but I would gladly challenge any of them if those beliefs clearly contradicted scripture.

    “I wonder how many of the signers of that letter agree with the young earth philosophy of Mr. JonS? Not many I suspect.”

    There you go again… the ‘Might Makes Right’ philosophy. Very scientific of you.

    “I was rather intrigued by one name on the list, namely Prof. Thomas Gold of Cornell, Un. Prof. Gold has had a number of, shall we say, strange ideas in the past.”

    Another common ploy used by evolutionists is to deride and mock anyone they disagree with and use that as some kind of support for their argument. I don’t know anything about Thomas Gold and his strange ideas. But can you tell me if there are any scientists who believe in the Big Bang that have strange ideas, like perhaps believing in faeries and goblins? If so, would that automatically disqualify the Big Bang?

  102. #102 Jon S
    March 19, 2008

    Science Avenger says “But you fail to realize (as so many who make such inane arguments) that scientists do their interpreting BEFORE the observations are made in a falsifiable way. This is what distinguishes the two viewpoints. Anti-science cranks never do falsifiable testing, if they do any testing at all. They, and apparently you, think scientists just sit around all day idly musing as to what is what.”

    Okay, so if you believe in evolution you are immune from interpreting the evidence AFTER the observations in a way that is not falsifiable? I actually see evolutionists doing exactly what you claim Creationists do, and what ‘real’ scientists should not do. So how do you REALLY distinguish between the two? Let’s look at red blood cells from dinosaurs for example. If dinosaurs have been extinct for 65 million years, then we shouldn’t find actual red blood cells in fossil bones from dinosaurs. But we have found such evidence. Scientists from Montana State University found that “some parts deep inside the long bone of the leg had not completely fossilized”, and Mary Schweitzer said “‘The lab filled with murmurs of amazement, for I had focused on something inside the vessels that none of us had ever noticed before: tiny round objects, translucent red with a dark center. Then a colleague took one look at them and shouted, “You’ve got red blood cells. You’ve got red blood cells!” They tried to prove that they weren’t red blood cells, and they weren’t able to do that. Further reviews found ‘soft, fibrous tissue, and complete blood vessels.’ In fact there have been other documented finds of ‘fresh’, unfossilized dinosaur bones since 1992, such as reported in Geological Society of America Proceedings abstract. But how is this interpreted by evolutionists? Either to deny that they’re red blood cells, or suggest that such cells and tissue really can survive millions of years by some unknown process. Mary Schweitzer now says “scientists are beginning to rethink a long-standing model of how the fossilization process works.” And “we propose now that soft-tissue components of bone might persist in a lot more different animals, in a lot more ages and environments, than we once thought.” So once evidence was presented to falsify the idea that the bones are millions of years old, rather than changing their belief system, they try to fit the evidence into their world view, kind of like ‘Levine the Genius Taylor’. In fact, as philosopher of science Thomas Kuhn pointed out, what generally happens when a discovery contradicts a paradigm is that the paradigm is not discarded but modified, usually by making secondary assumptions, to accommodate the new evidence. This has also happened regarding the Big Bang model, which I’ve already pointed out. Evidence that contradicts the Big Bang gets modified with such things as dark matter and dark energy to accommodate the Big Bang paradigm. So much for your theory that scientists do their interpreting BEFORE the observations are made in a falsifiable way. I guess this makes people who believe this nonsense anti-science cranks.

  103. #103 SLC
    March 19, 2008

    Re Jon S

    1. Mr. Jon S really is a tiresome fellow. Dark matter has nothing to do with the big bang as it resides entirely within galaxies. Mr. Jon S obviously doesn’t know the difference between dark matter and dark energy, not surprising. Thkey are two different entities and have nothing to do with each other. By the way, its Dr. SLC.

    2. Does Dr. Thomas Gold believe in a 6000 year old earth Can Mr. Jon S point to any other signers of the anti-big bang letter who believe in a 6000 year old earth?

  104. #104 SLC
    March 19, 2008

    Re Jon S

    Mr. Jon S raises the issue of alleged red blood cells being found in a Tyrannosaur fossil in Montana. this is based on a lie and misrepresentation of a paper by Schweitzer et al by Carl Weiland, the CEO of Answers in Genesis. This is an example of a big lie that would make Josef Goebbels proud. The link refuting Mr. Weilands’ lies is attached and the conclusion is copied.

    http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/dinosaur/blood.html

    “Answers in Genesis Ministry generally, and Carl Wieland CEO-Australia specifically, are the principal sources of the creationists’ repeated falsehood that dinosaurs are modern because blood cells and hemoglobin have been found in fresh bone. There are in fact five gross errors in just those few words that originated with Wieland and Answers in Genesis. These falsehoods are found commonly repeated throughout the creationist literature. We have demonstrated above that Carl Wieland, writing for Answers in Genesis, falsely represented this research to his readers. Minimally any objective reader should be satisfied that within the scientific literature, a) “red blood cells” have not been found in dinosaur bone, b) Schweitzer did not say that there were “red blood cells” in her specimens, c) hemoglobin was not found in dinosaur bone, d) Schweitzer did not say that hemoglobin was found in dinosaur bone, e) Wieland has grossly falsified his account of this research, if he ever read the scientific presentations at all. As Wieland never cited the scientific literature, it is presumed that he never bothered to become informed about the issues that he wrote about. If, however, he has read the actual science, he is guilty of more than “willful ignorance”, and has actively lied to a trusting public. Schweitzer did make some early remarks to news reporters that were easily exploited by creationists such as Wieland. Even the popularized version of Schweitzer’s work was distorted through selective quoting and direct misrepresentation. This is a common problem when trying to communicate science – anything that can be misinterpreted by creationists probably will be. But the test of science is in the scientific literature, and at no point did her speculative remarks enter the scientific dialog.”

  105. #105 SLC
    March 19, 2008

    Re Jon S

    1. The late Dr. LeMaitre was a Roman Catholic priest who believed in the teachings of his church. Since the Roman Catholic Church rejects the notion that the scriptures are to be taken literally (I believe the current Pope Benedict XVI has specifically addressed himself to this issue), I guess that Dr. LeMaitre was an atheist according to Mr. Jon S. Apparently, the Pope at the time, Pius XII, not only agreed with Dr. LeMaitre but issued a statement claiming that the big bang theory supported the existence of god. But I guess that Mr. Jon S thinks that Pius XII was an atheist also. Apparently, the definition of an atheist in the Jon S lexicon is anyone who has a non-Jon S thought in his head.

    2. Since Mr. Jon S raised the issue of scientists having strange ideas, I can name a number of prestigious scientists who have had or who have strange, and in fact nutty ideas. Nobel Prize winning chemist Linus Pauling was convinced that vitamin C could cure cancer. Nobel Prize winning physicist Brian Josephson is convinced that PK, ESP, and cold fusion are real phenomena. Profs. Peter Duesberg and Lynn Margulis are convinced that HIV doesn’t cause AIDS. Nobel Prize winning physicist William Shockley was convinced that black Americans were genetically inferior to Caucasian Americans. Prof J. Allen Hynek was convinced that the earth had been visited by extra-terrestrials. Prof Fred Singer is convinced that global warming is not occurring, that cigarette smoking doesn’t cause cancer, and the CFCs were not attenuating the ozone layer.

    So yes, even distinguished scientists can be whackjobs (by the way, Prof. Golds’ hypothesis of primordial hydrocarbons is a far sounder hypothesis then any of the others I mentioned above, and in the case of natural gas may actually be partially correct).

  106. #106 J. J. Ramsey
    March 19, 2008

    Here’s another article on a similar topic: http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/dinosaur/flesh.html

    The great advantage that science journals have today is the ability to put all supplemental details on-line. In this case, the three page “main” article sports a supporting text over four times as long. For example, the main article has left many people with the false impression that the recovered tissues were in a soft pliable state when first exposed. This is not true. All of the fossil material was rehydrated during the same process that removed the mineral components of the bone. They were then buffered, and also some were fixed. The related press reports have created the impression that there are large features with the characteristics of fresh tissue. This is not true. The structures examined are a few millimeters across at most.

    One thing I have noticed is that the organic material that is found in the fossils that JonS claims aren’t millions of years old is that the material does not look like what we’d see in organic finds that we know are only thousands of years old. Rather, the amount of material in these allegedly* older finds is much smaller (e.g. a few millimeters across) and the quality of the material is degraded (e.g. dehydrated or broken down). This is not something that is obvious from the creationist literature.

    *The word “allegedly” is added to avoid the accusation of begging the question.

  107. #107 Jim
    March 19, 2008

    Jon S…
    You quoted, “A lot of evidence out there proves evolution beyond all reasonable doubt.” I really must question your reading comprehension. I feel like I need to parse this statement further for you to understand what is meant by “beyond all reasonable doubt” but I really don’t see how I can.

    Mr SLC says “A letter to the editor of a science journal does not constitute a peer reviewed scientific article. Anybody can write a letter to the editor, including Mr. JonS. Cite a peer reviewed article in a reputable science journal.”
    Firstly I never claimed that a letter to the editor of a science constitutes a peer reviewed scientific article.

    Yet you offered up one as having similar weight.

    Second, I’m not sure how you define a ‘reputable science journal’.

    A peer reviewed journal is not some arbitrary term. It is what science advancement is based on & what the D.I. can’t do (even when they offer money prizes). Peer review is at the crux of scientific knowledge & therefore our collective knowledge as a human society. Peer review is a process that articles in scholarly journals go through before they are published. Once an article is submitted for publication, it is sent to an editorial board comprised of experts in the field to be evaluated. The submitted article must receive the approval of the editorial board before it is published. The editorial board is usually identified at the beginning of each issue of a journal. Although the general description of peer review is fairly straight-forward, getting an article based on your research past peer review is tough (which is good), especially if it’s for a so-called 1st tiered journal like Nature (there’s an example for you, Jon S).

    Of course it’s unimpressive… because it doesn’t fit your belief system.

    No, it’s unimpressive for the reasons already stated. (1) The letter’s only requirement for print in a publication was that the people behind it had to front the money. That’s it!, … a paid advertisement, esentially. (2) (Not specifically stated but implied) Most, if not all, of the names behind it share a young Earth belief. This is a belief that has nothing to do with their professional life as a practicing scientist; yet a position as a scientist is used to attempt to give weight to the belief. This is dishonest.

    I suppose I should be scared and accept your dogma since I’m outnumbered by a factor of 100 or more, oh no!!!

    No, it’s probably a better ratio for you, unless you’re a scientist.

    There you go again… the ‘Might Makes Right’ philosophy. Very scientific of you.

    No, this isn’t a playground argument about who the best shortstop is. You are making a categorical mistake. What’s being discussed here is scientific consensus — normally achieved through communication at conferences, & the process of publication (peer review).

    Another common ploy used by evolutionists is to deride and mock anyone they disagree with and use that as some kind of support for their argument.

    Really, the only thing to do with such an outlandish statement is to underline it.

  108. #108 Jon S
    March 19, 2008

    Ah, Dr. SLC. If you think dark matter and dark energy having nothing to do with the Big Bang, then you need to do some more research. Wikipedia (Not that it’s the best source) makes a clear relationship between dark matter, dark energy and the Big Bang. So does the website for NASA (Universe 101, What is the Universe Made of), and The Teaching Company has an article titled “Dark Matter, Dark Energy: The Dark Side of the Universe. Are you claiming these are all Creationist organizations conspiring against you, or have I called your bluff yet again? Or should I grab some more articles that demonstrate a relationship? I found many more articles out there.

    You also claim that I think dark matter and dark energy are the same thing, but I’m not sure what you read that would cause you to come to such a conclusion. I’ve distinguished between the two, so please stop making false claims. You ask if I can point to any other signers of the anti-big bang letter who believe in a 6000 year old earth? Yes, Dr. John Hartnett is a Physicist and Cosmologist at the University of Western Australia (So now I suppose you will resort to your usual tactic of badmouthing), although I’m not sure what the relevance is as to whether or not they’re creationists. Does a certain percentage of creationists invalidate the science behind the cosmology statement?

    You claim that Dr. Carl Weiland lied, but it’s you who are lying. Dr. Weiland has already refuted those claims. There’s an article titled “Many Dino Fossils Could Have Soft Tissue Inside” by National Geographic News (February, 2006) that supports Dr. Weiland’s claims, and another article titled “T. Rex Soft Tissue Found Preserved” (March, 2005), and Mary Schweitzer’s own words make it clear that evolutionists are ‘changing the way they think’ because of their persistent belief in millions and billions of years.

    You also have a habit of putting words in my mouth and stating I’ve claimed something I haven’t claimed. I never claimed Dr. LeMaitre or Pius XII were atheists. You’re very good at making false assumptions. I specifically said “I don’t know what LeMaitre believes, but I would say that the Big Bang is not consistent with what scripture teaches.” Although I don’t know them personally and don’t know specifically what they believe, if they claim to be Christians then I’ll accept their claims unless I hear evidence otherwise. I also said their beliefs are not consistent with scripture. That doesn’t mean they’re not Christians, just that they’re wrong in their theology and beliefs. Please, Dr. SLC, try not to jump to conclusions as you so easily do.

  109. #109 J. J. Ramsey
    March 19, 2008

    JonS: “You claim that Dr. Carl Weiland lied, but it’s you who are lying. Dr. Weiland has already refuted those claims. There’s an article titled “Many Dino Fossils Could Have Soft Tissue Inside” by National Geographic News (February, 2006) that supports Dr. Weiland’s claims, and another article titled “T. Rex Soft Tissue Found Preserved” (March, 2005)”

    And if you had paid attention, especially to my last post, you’d notice that “soft tissue” ain’t that soft and aren’t quite what you’d expect from remains only a few thousand years old. “Morton’s demon” strikes again.

    JonS: “and Mary Schweitzer’s own words make it clear that evolutionists are ‘changing the way they think’ because of their persistent belief in millions and billions of years.”

    That “persistent belief” is due to a convergence of evidence, quite a bit of which is discussed in the article Radiometric Dating: A Christian Perspective. For the soft tissue finds to seriously knock that convergence, their characteristics would have to be radically inconsistent with the apparent* old age of the fossil, and for the reasons I mentioned above, it doesn’t.

    *Again, the word “apparent” is added to avoid the accusation of begging the question.

  110. #110 SLC
    March 19, 2008

    Re Jon S

    1. As the article from the talkorigins web site clearly stated, Ms. Schweitzer never made the statement that she found red blood cells in the papers she published. There is no such statement in any of the articles in the peer reviewed literature which she and the team she was working wrote and published. National Geographic is not a peer reviewed journal, any more then Scientific American or the Washington Post is. It merely published a report by a third party. Dr. Weiland is the liar and Mr. Jon S is the liar. There were no red blood cells found in the Tyrannosaur fossil. Period, end of story.

    2. I stand corrected relative to my statement that dark matter is independent of the big bang theory. However, the effects of gravitational lensing clearly indicate the presence of dark matter and that observation is independent of the big bang. Further, dark matter is an attractive force while dark energy is a repulsive force which causes the acceleration in the expansion rate of the universe.

    3. I really get a kick out of assholes like Mr. Jon S who so blithely claim that eminent scientists like the late Dr. LeMaitre, who the former has apparently never heard of, are wrong. What hutzpa.

    4. Gee, Mr. Jon S found a physicist who accepts a young earth in Prof. Hartnett. However, in looking at his homepage, the notion that he is a young earth creationist is not at all obvious. Perhaps Mr. Jon S would like to give a link to a web site in which he makes such a statement. Based on his publications, he appears to be an old earth creationist, like my thesis adviser and Robert Kieta of the Princeton Plasma Physics Lab.

    Re J. J. Ramsey

    Hopefully, Mr. Ramsey has perused the crap submitted by Mr. Jon S and has concluded that here is at least one YEC who will never reform.

  111. #111 J. J. Ramsey
    March 19, 2008

    SLC: “Hopefully, Mr. Ramsey has perused the crap submitted by Mr. Jon S and has concluded that here is at least one YEC who will never reform.”

    Now, now, don’t you start displaying JonS’s selective ignorance. I already posted my reasons as to why neither of us are likely to know if he is a lost case. I wouldn’t be too quick to call him a liar, either. Unknowingly propagating falsehood isn’t lying. (Note, BTW, that if it were, Dawkins would be a liar, himself.)

    BTW, persistently calling JonS an asshole does tend to lend credence to his claim, “Another common ploy used by evolutionists is to deride and mock anyone they disagree with and use that as some kind of support for their argument.”

  112. #112 royniles
    March 19, 2008

    The parables of Jesus, found in the synoptic gospels, have been the best thing to come out of Christianity. Creationists, such as this fool Jon S, seem to have been drawn instead to the vengeful messages from the Old Testament, or Hebrew Bible, which has nothing at all to do with Christ, except to represent the quality of “soul” in those who supposedly killed him.
    If you gauge a person’s intent from the predicable results of his actions, the Jon S’s mean to kill off any part of their religion that smacks of Jesus by clearly placing all of their bible’s teachings on the throne of ridicule.

  113. #113 conradg
    March 19, 2008

    JonS,

    It’s pure poetic justice that I’m being attacked by fundamentalists of both the theistic and atheistic persuasion here. All fair enough, but it just goes to show how pervasive this dichotomous, true-false mind-set is in fundamentalists, whatever the stripe.

    How do you define religious, and what religion are you referring to?

    It’s not my business to define religion, and it would be presumptuous for me to do so. I might as well try to define art. Religion is essentially whatever people call religion, and history if full of thousands and even millions of them. My own religious views aren’t terribly sectarian, but are most closely associated with Vedanta, Buddhism, and esoteric forms of Christianity, such as Meister Eckhardt. I’m most personally involved with the teachings of the Indian Advaitic teacher Ramana Maharshi (who died in 1950), and his path of self-enquiry. But there is no ?religion? to belong to there, and I certainly couldn’t call myself a Hindu, or even a Vedantist. If I were to summarize my religion in a single phrase, it would be the Buddha’s exhortation in his final sermon: ?Be a lamp unto yourself?.

    As for what I believe in, I believe in all kinds of things, at least provisionally. I believe in some Christian things, some Buddhist things, some Vedantist things, some New Age things ? essentially, whatever seems to have some kind of legitimacy to me, regardless of how oddball it might be, or even how mainstream it might be. I most definitely believe in God, but I don’t think the God I believe in is the same as the God you believe in. But what I believe in above all is that I shouldn’t be attached to any beliefs I might have about God, or any conceptual formulation I might develop about God. One of my favorite modern Advaitic teachers, Poonja Swami, often pointed out that it’s a great danger to develop too strong of a conceptual notion of what enlightenment is, because if one does, the mind will simply create that state as a mental condition, and fool you into thinking you are enlightened, and that this is what happens to many people who become obsessed with Advaitic or Buddhist notions of enlightenment. I think the same is true of people who develop overpowering conceptual notions of what and who God is, and what God’s plans are, and what religion is, and what we are all supposed to believe if we are to be ?saved?. The concepts themselves begin to take over the mind, and instead of the heart being moved by God, the mind becomes obsessed with its own ideas of God, and crowds out the heart. This is what seems to happen to fundamentalists ? they become obsessed with ideas of God, rather than able to approach the simple heart-opened reality of God, and their hearts are emptied of genuine emotion, and replaced instead with cloying sentimentality and craven displays of theatrical emotion. These notions even close the mind off to any rational and humane consideration of God, and instead constantly try to impose a set of beliefs upon us, a set of heartless ?truths? that we are to accept as if given by God, when in fact they are merely given by the believer’s mind.

    Of course we believe in change. That’s been around since before biblical times. For example, we believe all dogs are descendants of an original wolf kind, but dogs only give birth to dogs.

    What do you mean by ?before biblical times?? Are you saying the Bible doesn’t cover all of history? I thought it began with the creation in six days, Adam and Eve, and all their descendants listed in generational order, up to the time of Jesus. So I’m not sure what you could mean by ?before biblical times? unless you concede that the biblical account of creation is at best metaphorical, and not literal. How could dogs have existed before then, if there was no earth for them to live on?

    Well, you see, I think even you realize how ridiculous it is to say these things with a straight face. You know there were dogs before ?biblical times?. Dogs are wolves still, adapted and even bred by humans into all kinds of odd shapes and sizes, but still the same species, and still able to interbreed. But even dogs show the principle of evolution at work, in that until less than two hundred years ago, most people didn’t even know that dogs could actually be bred. Most of the dog breeds up until that time had occurred naturally, without anyone trying to create a ?sheepdog? or a ?wolfhound?, simply by humans selecting and feeding the pups and dogs that worked best, and letting the others die or run off. Over time, they naturally took on particularly useful sizes, shapes, temperaments, and abilities. The same principle explains how dogs became domesticated: the friendliest wolves who were not afraid of humans were able to assimilate with human societies, get food, and help with hunting. Selecting generation after generation of wolf pups for their affinity with humans naturally created a domesticated breed of wolf we call the ?dog?. None of that required a God to create wolves and dogs as separate creations.

    No dog has ever grown wings, or developed gills, an avian lung, or flippers.

    Why would it? Wolves are extremely successful animals able to hunt and feed themselves perfectly well, precisely because they have adapted just the right body for the job of hunting in forests. If dolphins returned to the land, they would change in their flippers for paws and claws soon enough as well. In fact, they used to have paws, and their skeletons show this inside their flippers as ?fingers? which have no purpose anymore, but are left over as vestigal reminders that they once walked on the land. But if dogs found it useful to live more and more in the water, and become amphibious, you can bet that they would begin to develop flippers, and perhaps not gills, but blowholes on the top of their heads. So in essence, creatures that were once very much like dogs did in fact develop flippers, because it helped them to survive better. And that’s where dolphins and whales come from.

    The Bible says creatures will reproduce according to their kind, and that’s what we observe. If you’ve ever observed otherwise please let me know.

    I think others have observed this as well. It’s not as if this occurs because the Bible decrees it. And it even depends on what you call ?kind?. As noted, dogs and wolves can interbreed, as can lions and tigers. One could hardly call lions and tigers of the same ?kind?, since in the wild they will kill each other if they meet, not interbreed. It’s only in captivity that they can interbreed. And science can breed animals that have the DNA of extremely diverse creatures. Somehow, they still live.

    I’ve presented evidence of a young universe before, so I won’t go into that again. Feel free to see my previous posts, or visit a good Creationist website for examples.

    The Christian websites you referred me to are ludicrous. They have no credibility whatsoever. I know there are all kinds of controversies as to the age of the universe, but none that credibly puts it’s age at 6,000 years, or anything even remotely comparable. This isn’t science, it isn’t reason, it’s nothing but a desperately dishonest attempt to justify the assumed authority of the Bible.

    ‘Metaphorical truths’, ‘Allegorical truths’, ‘Spiritual truths’? What does all this mean?

    It means that the Biblical account of creation simply isn’t factually accurate in any sense whatsoever. That doesn’t mean one can only read the creation story as a meaningless jumble of crazy ideas (though some do), but it does mean that one has to see it as, at best, a poetic, mythical description of a metaphysical process, not a literal description of a physical process. So the heavens and the earth weren’t created in a single day, and all the animals weren’t created as distinct creations. You might say, as William Jennings Bryan did, that you’re ?more interested in the Rock of Ages than in the age of rocks, but the age of rocks are pretty easy to determine, and their ages makes the earth a very old place indeed.

    It sounds like you don’t want to believe what the Bible says, yet you call yourself religious.

    Are you saying that only Christians are religious? That every other religion is somehow false and not a real religion? First, I’d only be considered a Christian in the broadest possible terms. Jesus might consider me a kindred spirit, but I’m not sure he’d feel the same way about you. But even he wasn’t a Christian. The doctrines of ?Christianity? were invented after he died, for the most part. Some of those doctrines I find interesting, some might even be true, but I certainly don’t believe in what the Bible says. I evaluate what the Bible says according to my own understanding, and the whole context of the time, the place, the people, the religious traditions involved, and what I understand from all kinds of other sources, religious, spiritual, personal, and yes, scientific. I don’t consider that belief of any kind is essential to religion. God is not about belief, God is about love, as Jesus himself clearly stated. If you love, then you understand something about God. If not, then it doesn’t matter what books you believe in, you are just deluding yourself with pious beliefs, and calling that ?religion?.

    According to 2 Timothy 3:16, “all scripture is God-breathed, and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness.” Therefore, while everything in the Bible is not meant to be taken literally, everything in scripture is authoritative and can be relied upon for truth.

    Do you mean all scripture, or only formally approved Christian scripture? I’m guessing the latter. In my case, I don’t consider any scripture to be authoritative. The kinds of spiritual traditions I’m aligned with consider scripture to be merely a good guidepost for beginners, but that each of us has to actually investigate and find out the truth for ourselves, and in that process the scriptures just aren’t of much help, except to the degree that they inspire or stimulate insight. In particular, I don’t find the Bible to be very authoritative at all. Much of it is highly distorted and even bigoted. I’m not impressed with a God who orders the massacre of innocent people, or who damns unbelievers, or those who offend him, or who puts a blood curse on the Jews, or who has adulterers, prostitutes, and homosexuals stoned to death. There are some great insights in the Bible, and some great spiritual teachings, but it’s far from authoritative in any of these respects ? unless you simply decide for reasons of your own to cede your personal responsibility to it.

    Now I suppose you think the Bible was merely written by man and not inspired by God?If so, then we can really never know anything about God, and, as you say, there would be no literal truths.

    This is the very kind of dualistic, true-false dichotomy that I find so ill-suited to questions of religion (and most other important issues in life). Have you ever thought that it could be both? That the Bible was inspired by God, but written by fallible human beings who barely understand what they are saying about God, and who make all kinds of personal errors along the way? I don’t think God speaks human languages, so no, I don’t think God literally dictated the scriptures word for word. I’m not even positive the inspiration these people received was from ?God?. In some cases, like Jesus, I’d say yes, in all probability. In other cases, such as Paul, I’m a lot less confident. And Abraham and Moses? These weren’t even historical people, they were simply mythic characters created to personify certain religious ideas.

    As for knowing anything about God, I’d say that if you rely on scripture, you will never actually know anything about God at all. You will just know a few words and ideas. If you want to know God, you have to look within yourself, as Jesus said. You won’t find God in the books or in the ideas you have about God. You have to know God directly to know anything about him. He is not separate from your own self, so that is the place to start looking. All this obsession with scripture is just a distraction from doing that.

    However, if the Bible is the Word of God, then scripture is a reliable truth in all areas. Scripture claims to be God’s word, or inspired by God. Jesus even accepted scripture as God’s word and authoritative. So what basis do you have for rejecting this?

    Clearly he didn’t, or he wouldn’t have added to the scriptures. He clearly felt the Old Testament was not the full and complete message of God, and so he added his own teachings to it, and considered them to supercede the OT. Even so, I don’t take even Jesus’ words in the NT to be authoritative. They are simply good advice, that may prove useful to some people. The value is not in the words, but in what you do with them, and what you learn in the process. If all you learn is to believe in the Bible as the ?word? of God, then you haven’t learned anything at all. Clearly the scriptures are only reliable to the degree that they lead men to find truth, to practice love, to feel God in all their being. If that is not the result of your reading the Bible, then it’s not working very well.

    Does your faith in man and ‘naturalistic’ science overrule the Bible being inerrant? You claim there are no literal truths in the Bible. Can you tell me if your statement is literally true, or if you were speaking metaphorically, allegorically, or symbolically?

    In the first place, I have just as much faith in man as I do in God, and vice-versa. God is not separate from man, he is our very being and nature. I have faith that every man in his heart is the same God as we might worship at an altar in any church or temple, or even in the highest heaven. So I have great faith in man, and in God. I think both God and man are fallible, however, as we can clearly see from all the evidence. We are capable of being ignorant of our own nature, and we need to bring light to ourselves to see who we really are. When God seems to speak through other men or scripture, it is a mistake to see this as a message from outside us, when in fact, if it is real, it is merely our own self-nature making itself known to us through the intermediary of the vast world around us.

    So no, there are few literal truths in the Bible. There are some facts that check out historically, and many that don’t.

    You mean faith in fallible man’s reason and intellect? You do know that man’s reason has been proved wrong time and time again (which is why textbooks must be corrected year to year)? Now this certainly doesn’t mean that we reject science altogether, or deny progress. My point is that God’s word never changes. So which do you put your trust in… man’s reason, or God? I choose to trust God’s wisdom and what He’s revealed in scripture. (I Corinthians 1:20-25).

    We are human, what else can we place faith in than our ability to discern the true from the false? You seem to dismiss human reason, but you yourself have come to what you consider a reasoned decision to have faith in the Bible, in Jesus, in the Christianity. You feel, for whatever reason, that you are able to know that the Bible is truly infallible and authoritative. What gives you this ability, when clearly so many people have believed so many false things. A billion muslims believe in Allah and the Koran, which Christians consider false. Hindus believe in their scriptures and their Gods. Thousands of religions are believed in by their own adherents? What makes you think you are so special that you are able to pick out from all these thousands the one true religion, and the one true, authoritative scripture?

    Personally, I believe in both trusting oneself, and being skeptical of oneself. The key, I think, is to never give up questioning, and yet also never give up faith in one’s own ability to know the truth. My own view is that God is simply beyond all words, all names, and all forms. God is That out of which all names and forms are created. Christians worship a Christian God using Christian names and Christian forms, and that’s fine in that people often need names and forms as a way of making God tangible and approachable. But God is not a Christian, and has no Christian name or form. Nor does he have a Hindu name or form. All names and forms are merely signposts to God, they are not God himself. Gold can be shaped into all kinds of jewelry, from rings to necklaces to pendants, but it is all still gold. The gold itself has not changed any, and it can be reshaped into a new form at any time. The same goes with all of creation, including the creation of religions themselves. All names and forms are God, and yet God is not defined by them.

    I know of no fundamentalist Christians who’ve turned their back on reason. From my point of view I’m quite reasonable, and I would presume you feel the same, although I myself would doubt anyone’s reasonableness who believes in the fairy tale of evolution.

    Reason is not some personal, subjective viewpoint that we can just make up as we go along. There are rules and logic to reason that have nothing to do with what we’d like to think is ?reasonable? in our personal subjectivity. Reason is certainly flexible, and can take into account that there are different rules of reason for, say, mathematics as opposed to emotional relationships. Likewise, one can certainly decide to throw reason overboard and choose to believe in unreasonable things. That can even be an admirable option in some cases. But one cannot just redefine ?reason? to suit one’s desires and wishes, and expect anyone else to respect that attitude. I’ve looked at some of the websites you recommended, and these are the creation of Christians who have long since decided to leave reason behind, but simply can’t come out and say so. They put on a masquerade of seeming reasonable so as to compete, somehow, with science. This is simply nutty and cowardly in my view. Why not just come out and say, fuck it, I’m just not going to follow reason, I’m just going to insist on believing what I choose to believe about evolution, the Big Bang, etc.? I could at least respect that approach. But this petty squabbling tar-baby approach of maintaining a pretense of ?reasonableness? while saying utterly batshit crazy nonsense, just doesn’t appeal to me.

    If you don’t accept the Bible’s teachings as truth, then why bother with religion at all.

    Because truth is much bigger, and also more intimate, than the Bible. Religion is not confined to Christianity or the Bible. There are thousands of religions, thousands of scriptures, and in my experience, the Bible is nowhere near the top of the heap. The reason I bother with religion is because I’m interested in truth ? the kind of truth that liberates us from ignorance. The ultimate goal of religion, whether they even put it this way or not, is to find out who we are, to be liberated from the illusions we have about ourselves. I think most religions have something important to contribute to this goal. I think science has something important to contribute to this goal. I think it’s important to use as much as one can from any of these sources to help realize this goal. But merely accepting some book as ?truth? is a the lazy man’s way out. How do you really know it’s true unless you find out for yourself? And if you find out for yourself, why do you need the book anymore?

    I don’t see the consistency. If the Bible claims to be the Word of God, and the Bible is clearly wrong about the origin of the universe and the origin of man, about miracles, angels, and Jesus rising from the dead, then believing in its ‘spiritual meaning’ is pointless.

    I disagree strongly. The Bible can be wrong in its literal claims about the creation of the universe, and still be right, in essence, that the universe ?comes from God?, or is rooted in God. It can be wrong about homosexuality, say, and right that we should love our neighbors. It can be wrong when it says ?those who are not with me are against me?, and yet be right when it says ?God is love?. It can even be right and wrong in the same sentence, depending on the context and the application of the words. Your problem is that you have been trained to think of truth only in terms of these true-false dichotomies. As I’ve been arguing, this is one of the great liabilities of monotheism. Polytheism is far more reasonable and rational when it comes to thinking about religion. This whole either/or approach needs to be replaced by a discriminating both/and approach. In that respect, fallible scriptures are not pointless, they are just what the world of religion is composed of, and we need to make the best of what is best in them, and disregard the rest. Separate the wheat from the chaff, in other words.

    Sure, we can believe in doing and being good, but why would we need a ‘holy’ book when we can rely on our own personal morality?

    But we do rely on our own personal morality, even when we use a ?holy? book as a guide. Our personal morality has simply chosen to follow an outside source in that case. But even that choice was our own moral choice. And likewise, any moral decision we make by relying on that outside guide is our own choice. We can’t actually lay our responsibility on the book, it is always our own moral choice.

    The purpose of such books is simply to help us develop our own personal sense of morality. Unless we do, we are just doing morality as a rote technique, something we have no real understanding of, but are just following a recipe. Morality doesn’t mean much until it comes alive in us as our own understanding, and that is more likely to happen if we start off learning morality through our own understanding, rather than relying merely on books to tell us what to do.

    If the Bible is wrong, then reject it in its entirety and stop playing mental gymnastics to make the Bible conform to some mystical spirituality that has nothing to do with reality. Either the Bible is the Word of God and can be trusted, or it’s nothing.

    This is the way you think, and it seems to reasonable to you. You don’t seem to question why this is reasonable though, when it clearly isn’t. Why on earth should I reject something just because it’s not perfect? My wife isn’t perfect, but I don’t reject her on that basis. I love her instead, even because of her imperfections. Why is it that you are unable to love the Bible unless it’s perfect? Didn’t Jesus himself teach to love one another unconditionally, as he loved us? If one loves the Bible unconditionally, it shouldn’t matter that it’s full of errors. One doesn’t have to embrace those errors, but one can still love the book. I love all kinds of scriptures that I don’t find perfect or free from error. If I couldn’t do that, then I guess I couldn’t be religious at all. Which is part of the problem with your way of thinking. You think you either have to be a full blown fundamentalist who believes everything in the Bible is true, or you have to be an atheist. The reality is that there are trillions of other positions to take, in varying degrees of acceptance and reasonableness. But boiling it all down to an either/or seems important to you for some reason. Why?

    So who do you think God is? Is he who he claims to be in the Bible, or is he just some happy feeling you have inside of you? If he’s real, then don’t you think he knows what happened at the beginning of the universe and can tell us without it being considered an allegory, symbolic, or a metaphor? How do you think the Bible should have been written to make it more clear? Do you put your trust in God or man?

    I think I’ve already answered most of these questions. I think God is the very Self of all of us. Does he know how the universe started? Yes, but to understand the answer, you’d have to be in God’s position, so the only way to get the answer is to find out your true nature as God. I think when we understand who we are in full, then the creation or no-creation of the universe is also easy to understand as well. From the position of being identified with a material body, however, the explanations we can understand are much more limited. And no, I don’t think we’d be able to comprehend them very well, even if were told them, so long as we think of ourselves as these limited beings with funky physiologies. That’s one of the reasons many spiritual teachings about the creation are put forward in allegorical and mythical ways. We aren’t supposed to take them literally, we are supposed to understand them as pointers to a greater understanding that transcends literalism.

    If these claims were false then I’d agree with you. However I believe the Bible should be interpreted literally when it’s meant to be literal, metaphoricaly when it’s considered a metaphor, and symbolically when that’s its intent.

    I don’t doubt your sincerity. I just think you are a fallible human being using fallible reasoning methods to arrive at a false conclusion about many things, including evolution and the age of the physical cosmos. I don’t think you’re unintelligent either, incapable of grasping these matters rationally and reasonably. I just think you are so deeply committed to certain authoritative voices, and certain monological thought processes, that you can’t reason properly about these issues, but instead use reason as a purely defensive mechanism for fighting off anything that threatens your emotional attachment to various Christian ideals you have. One finds this same process at work in people who belong to religious cults. The kind of Christianity you are putting forward here, for example, is simply a very large and popular form of cultism that creates such a tension in its followers that they are driven to extremes in its defense. It’s called cognitive dissonance. It interferes with one’s ability to properly think things through. And the more one has invested in the cult, the more tenaciously one clings to the cult view of the world, and the more one’s cognitive abilities are compromised.

    Understanding the Bible this way gives me confidence and assurance in God and the world around me.

    I’m sure it does. And that’s the problem here. You are so dependent on the Bible to give you this confidence and assurance, that you are afraid your would have none if the Bible were taken away. So you are willing to sacrifice anything, even your own cognitive abilities to think and reason, to preserve your understanding of the Bible. What you haven’t yet understood is that this confidence and assurance doesn’t actually come from the Bible, it comes from yourself. You are not actually getting any confidence and assurance from the Bible, you are giving your own confidence and assurance to the Bible, and thinking it belongs there, instead of within yourself. The truth is, you can give your confidence and assurance to anything, but it is always your own. You can have the same confidence and assurance without the Bible, or without anything for that matter, because this confidence and assurance are innate to you, as they are to everyone.

    Remember that there’s a cost to believing false beliefs such as evolution and naturalistic views to the origin of the universe. Truth becomes relative and unimportant, and man begins to lean on his own understanding. That’s why we have so many problems in America today. Everyone wants to be there own god and make their own rules as to what is true.

    There’s a greater cost to surrendering your own faith in yourself to someone or something outside of you. We believe in false things all day long, in that we never get everything perfectly right. It’s not that big a deal. We do our best, is all we can say. But what is a big deal is when we give away our faith in ourselves, our confidence and self-assurance, and instead give these to something outside ourselves, that we then think we are dependent upon. Religious scriptures are not supposed to be crutches that we depend on, that we falsely assume has the power to grant us faith in ourselves, confidence and self-assurance. They are supposed to be pointers to the God within ourselves, who is the innate source of our own faith, confidence, and self-assurance.

    Sorry for going on so long. I didn’t want to break my argument up into smaller posts. Will try to address one point at a time in the future.

  114. #114 Jon S
    March 19, 2008

    J.J. Ramsey says “That “persistent belief” is due to a convergence of evidence,”

    No, I’d say the ‘persistent belief’ is due to a false belief system and an unshakable worldview; wouldn’t you agree the term fundamentalist applies?

    SLC says “As the article from the talkorigins web site clearly stated, Ms. Schweitzer never made the statement that she found red blood cells in the papers she published.

    I agree that my initial statement regarding the red blood cells wasn’t as accurate as I had hoped, but the quotes were accurate. I also indicated that further reviews found ‘soft, fibrous tissue, and complete blood vessels,’ which is true. In addition, I did a search and found many non-creationist websites that made similar mistakes. Being wrong or partly wrong doesn’t constitute a lie; if it did, then you’d have to admit to lies yourself. I’m all for accuracy, so if I’m wrong I’m willing to admit it, as I have just done.

    SLC says “I really get a kick out of assholes like Mr. Jon S who so blithely claim that eminent scientists like the late Dr. LeMaitre, who the former has apparently never heard of, are wrong. What hutzpa.”

    I’m sorry to be the one to inform you, but a lot of scientists are wrong. If they were correct, there would never be a need for revisions. And of course, by you claiming that Dr. LeMaitre is right, then you’re committing the same crime you accuse me; in order for Dr. LeMaitre to be right, other eminent scientists must be wrong… what hutzpa!!!

    SLC says “Gee, Mr. Jon S found a physicist who accepts a young earth in Prof. Hartnett. However, in looking at his homepage, the notion that he is a young earth creationist is not at all obvious. Perhaps Mr. Jon S would like to give a link to a web site in which he makes such a statement.”

    Dr. Hartnett is a regular contributor to AIG.

    “Hopefully, Mr. Ramsey has perused the crap submitted by Mr. Jon S and has concluded that here is at least one YEC who will never reform.”

    I have no plans to reform… how about you? I guess that makes us both lost causes, huh? I’ll tell you what, if you can prove, er, I mean confirm that Jesus was never raised from the dead, then I’d join the dark side, but until then, I’d suggest you start considering your own hypocrisy and examine your own belief system.

  115. #115 Jon S
    March 19, 2008

    royniles says “Creationists, such as this fool Jon S, seem to have been drawn instead to the vengeful messages from the Old Testament, or Hebrew Bible, which has nothing at all to do with Christ, except to represent the quality of “soul” in those who supposedly killed him. If you gauge a person’s intent from the predicable results of his actions, the Jon S’s mean to kill off any part of their religion that smacks of Jesus by clearly placing all of their bible’s teachings on the throne of ridicule.”

    Whoa, no need to rant and rave like a madman. You obviously don’t have a clue what I really believe. What vengeful message do you presume I’ve been drawn to? I believe the entire Bible is the Word of God (new and old testaments). You may define the old testament as ‘vengeful’, but then you’ve missed the point of the gospel message. The message isn’t about vengeance, but about Jesus and the salvation he offers. If you want to know what I believe and what my intent is, just ask. Don’t jump to crazy conclusions like the one above.

  116. #116 royniles
    March 19, 2008

    conradg: Why is it that you never gave an answer to this question, which does not require a true false answer or a yes or no answer, just a statement of what it is you are relying on other than your own fixation with the simplicity of dichotomies as explanations.

    I’ll post it again: What evidence do YOU have that your belief system is not an “either true or false” proposition – that’s the real question here.

  117. #117 royniles
    March 19, 2008

    Jon S: If you believe the whole bible is about Christ’s message and that the word of your God is the same in each testament, why does it also tell us the Jews who are represented by the Old Testament had this heretic Jesus set up to be killed?

    You have clearly never read anything written by any of the more notable Christian theologians. Even conradg understands more than you about the Christian religion, it’s history, its conflicting sects and philosophies, and its inner turmoil. You however seem to have the simple minded outlook reminiscent of the backwoods snake handlers and holy rollers. Rant and rave – that’s your specialty, not mine.

  118. #118 conradg
    March 20, 2008

    Royniles,

    If you’re wondering why I haven’t responded to you, it might have something to do with the ridiculous personal accusations you made about me. People who talk that way simply turn me off.

    Now, since you’ve at least cleaned up your act a little, I’ll respond to this question:

    What evidence do YOU have that your belief system is not an “either true or false” proposition – that’s the real question here.

    First, my views aren’t the subject of this thread, so whether my views are of the dichotomous true-false variety is definitely not the real question here. But it’s a fair question. The simplest answer is that my views are inclusive, not exclusive. I think I’ve made it clear that I accept science within the boundaries of what science investigates ? the material world. Likewise, I accept the reality that God transcends the material world, and that our nature transcends the material world, while also including it. I see God and science as a ?both/and? proposition, not an ?either/or? one. In fact, I can even include the ?either/or? approach of science as being valid within the limits of the discipline, but not valid universally.

    I’m not really sure, however, what kind of ?evidence? you are looking for. What did you have in mind?

  119. #119 J. J. Ramsey
    March 20, 2008

    JonS:

    I agree that my initial statement regarding the red blood cells wasn’t as accurate as I had hoped, but the quotes were accurate.

    The quotes were accurate only in the sense that it is “accurate” to quote John Adams as saying “This would be the best of all possible worlds, if there were no religion in it.” Sure, the words were penned by Adams, and they are “accurate” in that sense, but the removal of context from the quote makes it misleading. Similarly, Wieland gives the impression that they really did find red blood cells, but the actual find is more ambiguous.

    I also indicated that further reviews found ‘soft, fibrous tissue, and complete blood vessels,’ which is true.

    But again misleading. It isn’t as if you could crack open the bone and find what would look like familiar fleshy material, as I pointed out above. Basically, Wieland’s line of argument requires implying that these tissue finds look like normal soft tissue, so that your intuition about what normally happens to soft tissue–namely that it degrades quickly–kicks in. The catch is that this is not normal soft tissue.

  120. #120 SteveF
    March 20, 2008

    With regards to Dr Hartnett, he recently published this paper, as part of research that argues against the need to assume dark matter along with explorations of a cosmology developed by a chap called Carmeli:

    Oliveira, F.J. and Hartnett, J.G. (2006) Carmeli’s cosmology fits data for an accelerating and decelerating universe without dark matter or dark energy. Foundations of Physics Letters, 19, 519-535.

    A new relation for the density parameter Q is derived as a function of expansion velocity v based on Carmeli’s cosmology. This density function is used in the luminosity distance relation D-L. A heretofore neglected source luminosity correction factor (1 – (v/c)(2))(-1/2) is now included in DL. These relations are used to fit type la supernovae (SNe Ia) data, giving consistent, well-behaved fits over a broad range of redshift 0.1 < z < 2. The best fit to the data for the local density parameter is Omega(m) = 0.0401 +/- 0.0199. Because Omega(m) is within the baryonic budget there is no need for any dark matter to account for the SNe la redshift luminosity data. From this local density it is determined that the redshift where the universe expansion transitions from deceleration to acceleration is z(t) = 1.095(-0.155)(+0.264). Because the fitted data covers the range of the predicted transition redshift z(t), there is no need for any dark energy to account for the expansion rate transition. We conclude that the expansion is now accelerating and that the transition from a closed to an open universe occurred about 8.54 Gyr ago.

    Note the final sentence.

    It’s also worth pointing out that most people seem to find his work in this context unimpressive, judging by his almost non-existent citation record.

  121. #121 Josh Grdeenberger
    March 20, 2008

    The Crumbling Facade Of The Theory Of Evolution

    A deeper analysis of the underlying mechanism behind evolution and the fossil record, leaves little doubt that mutations of a random nature could not possible have been the driving force behind the development of life on earth.

    There has been opposition to the theory of evolution on the basis of whether a random process can produce organization. An analogy often given is, can a monkey on a typewriter, given enough time, produce the works of Shakespeare purely by random keystrokes? Let’s assume for the purpose of this discussion that this is possible — and that random mutations, given enough time, can also eventually produce the most complex life forms.

    Let’s begin by rolling a die (one “dice”). To get a “3,” for example, you’d have to roll the die an average of six times (there are six numbers, so to get any one of them would take an average of six rolls). Of course, you could get lucky and roll a 3 the first time. But as you keep rolling the die, you’ll find that the 3 will come up on average once every six rolls.

    The same holds true for any random process. You’ll get a “Royal Flush” (the five highest cards, in the same suit) in a 5-card poker game on average roughly once every 650,000 hands. In other words, for every 650,00 hands of mostly meaningless arrangements of cards (and perhaps a few other poker hands), you’ll get only one Royal Flush.

    Multi-million dollar lotteries are also based on this concept. If the odds against winning a big jackpot are millions to one, what will usually happen is that for every game where one person wins the big jackpot with the right combination of numbers, millions of people will not win the big jackpot because they picked millions of combinations of meaningless numbers. To my knowledge, there hasn’t been a multi-million dollar lottery yet where millions of people won the top prize and only a few won little or nothing. It’s always the other way around. And sometimes there isn’t even one big winner.

    How does this relate to evolution?

    Let’s take this well-understood concept about randomness and apply it the old story of a monkey on a typewriter. As mentioned earlier, for the purpose of this discussion, we’ll assume that if you allow a monkey to randomly hit keys on a typewriter long enough he could eventually turn out the works of Shakespeare. Of course, it would take a very long time, and he’d produce mountains and mountains of pages of meaningless garbage in the process, but eventually (we’ll assume) he could turn out the works of Shakespeare.

    Now, let’s say, after putting a monkey in front of a typewriter to type out Shakespeare, you decide you also want a copy of the Encyclopedia of Britannica. So you put another monkey in front of another typewriter. Then, you put a third monkey in front of third typewriter, because you also want a copy of “War And Peace.” Now you shout, “Monkeys, type,” and they all start banging away on their typewriters.

    You leave the room and have yourself cryogenically frozen so you can come back in a few million years to see the results. (The monkeys don’t have to be frozen. Let’s say they’re an advanced species; all they need to survive millions of years is fresh ink cartridges.)

    You come back in a few million years and are shocked at what you see. What shocks you is not what you find, but what you don’t find. First, you do find that the monkeys have produced the works of Shakespeare, the Encyclopedia of Britannica and “War and Peace.” But all this you expected.

    What shocks you is that you don’t see the mountains of papers of meaningless arrangement of letters that each monkey should have produced for each literary work. You do find a few mistyped pages here and there, but they do not nearly account for the millions of pages of “mistakes” you should have found.

    And even if the monkeys happened to get them all right the first time, which is a pretty big stretch of the imagination, they still should’ve type out millions of meaningless pages in those millions of years. (Who told them to stop typing?) Either way, each random work of art should have produced millions upon millions of meaningless typed pages.

    This is precisely what the problem is with the Darwinian theory of evolution.

    A random process, as depicted by Darwinian evolution and accepted by many scientists, even if one claims it can produce the most complex forms of life, should have produced at least millions of dysfunctional organisms for every functional one. And with more complex organisms (like a “Royal Flush” as opposed to a number 3 on a die), an even greater number of dysfunctional “mistakes” should have been produced (as there are so many more possibilities of “mistakes” in a 52-card deck than a 6-sided die).

    The fossil record should have been bursting with billions upon billions of completely dysfunctional-looking organisms at various stages of development for the evolution of every life form. And for each higher life form — human, monkey, chimpanzee, etc. — there should have been millions of even more “mistakes.”

    Instead, what the fossil record shows is an overwhelming number of well-formed, functional-looking organisms, with an occasional aberration. Let alone we haven’t found the plethora of “gradually improved” or intermediate species (sometimes referred to as “missing links”) that we should have, we haven’t even found the vast number of “mistakes” known beyond a shadow of a doubt to be produced by every random process.

    We don’t need billions of years to duplicate a random process in a lab to show that it will produce chaos every time, regardless of whether or not it might eventually produce some “meaningful complexity.” To say that randomness can produce organization is one thing, but to say that it won’t even produce the chaos that randomness invariably produces is inconsistent with established fact.

    A process that will produce organization without the chaos normally associated with randomness is the greatest proof that the process is not random.

    The notion that the fossil record supports the Darwinian theory of evolution is as ludicrous as saying that a decomposed carcass proves an animal is still alive. It proves the precise opposite. The relative scarcity of deformed-looking creatures in the fossil record proves beyond a doubt that if one species spawned another (which in itself is far from proven) it could not possibly have been by a random process.

    To answer why we don’t see many of the “mistakes” in the fossil record, some scientists point out that the genetic code has a repair mechanism which is able to recognize diseased and dysfunctional genetic code and eliminate it before it has a chance to perpetuate abnormal organisms.

    Aside from this not being the issue, this isn’t even entirely true. Although genetic code has the ability to repair or eliminate malfunctioning genes, many diseased genes fall through the cracks, despite this. There are a host of genetic diseases — hemophilia, various cancers, congenital cataract, spontaneous abortions, cystic fibrosis, color-blindness, and muscular dystrophy, to name just a few — that ravage organisms and get passed on to later generations, unhampered by the genetic repair mechanism. During earth’s history of robust speciation (species spawning new ones) through, allegedly, random mutation, far more genes should have fallen through the cracks.

    And, as an aside, how did the genetic repair mechanism evolve before there was a genetic repair mechanism? And where are all those millions of deformed and diseased organisms that should’ve been produced before the genetic repair mechanism was fully functional?

    But all this is besides the point. A more serious problem is the presumption that natural selection weeded out the vast majority, or all, of the “misfits.”

    A genetic mutation that would have resulted in, let’s say, the first cow to be born with two legs instead of four, would not necessarily be recognized as dysfunctional by the genetic repair mechanism. (I’ll be using “cow” as an example throughout; but it applies to almost any organism.) From the genetic standpoint, as long as a gene is sound in its own right, there’s really no difference between a cow with four legs, two legs, or six tails and an ingrown milk container. It’s only after the cow is born that natural selection, on the macro level, eliminates it if it’s not fit to survive.

    It’s these types of mutations, organisms unfit to survive on the macro level, yet genetically sound, that should have littered the planet by the billions.

    Sure these deformed cows would have gotten wiped out quickly by natural selection, since they had no chance of surviving. But how many millions of dysfunctional cows alone, before you even get to the billions of other species in earth’s history, should have littered the planet and fossil record before the first stable, functioning cow made its debut? If you extrapolate the random combinations from a simple deck of cards to the far greater complexity of a cow, we’re probably talking about tens of millions of “mistakes” that should have cluttered planet earth for just the first functioning cow.

    Where are all these relics of an evolutionary past?

    Did nature miraculously get billions of species right the first time? Of the fossils well-preserved enough to study, most appear to be well-designed and functional-looking. With the low aberration ratio of fossils being no more significant, as far as speciation is concerned, than common birth deformities, there seems to have been nothing of a random nature in the development of life.

    One absurd response I’ve gotten from a scientist as to why a plethora of deformed species never existed is: There is no such thing as speciation driven by deleterious mutation.

    This is like asking, “How come everybody leaves the lecture hall through exit 5, but never through exit 4?” and getting a response, “Because people don’t leave the lecture hall through exit 4.” Wasn’t this the question?

    What scientists have apparently done is look into the fossil record and found that new species tend to make their first appearance as well-formed, healthy-looking organisms. So instead of asking themselves how can a random series of accidents seldom, if ever, produce “accidents,” they’ve simply formulated a new rule in evolutionary biology: There is no such thing as speciation driven by deleterious mutation. This answer is about as scientific, logical and insightful as, “Because I said so.”

    It’s one thing for the genetic code to spawn relatively flawless cows today, after years of stability. But before cows took root, a cow that might have struck us as deformed would have been no more or less “deleterious,” from the genetic standpoint, than a cow that we see as normal. The genetic repair mechanism may recognize “healthy” or “diseased” genetic code, but it can’t know how many legs or horns a completely new species should have, if we’re talking about a trial-and-error crapshoot. If the genetic repair mechanism could predict what a functioning species should eventually look like, years before natural selection on the macro level had a chance to weed out the unfit, we’d be talking about some pretty weird, prophetic science.

    In a paper published in the February 21, 2002, issue of Nature, Biologists Matthew Ronshaugen, Nadine McGinnis, and William McGinnis described how they were able to suppress some limb development in fruit flies simply by activating certain genes and suppress all limb development in some cases with additional mutations during embryonic development.

    In another widely publicized experiment, mutations induced by radiation caused fruit flies to grow legs on their heads.

    These experiments showed how easy it is to make drastic changes to an organism through genetic mutations. Ironically, although the former experiment was touted as supporting evolution, they both actually do the opposite. The apparent ease with which organisms can change so dramatically and take on bizarre properties, drives home the point that bizarre creatures, and bizarre versions of known species, should have been mass produced by nature, had earth’s history consisted of billions of years of the development of life through random changes.

    To claim that the random development of billions of life forms occurred, yet the massive aberrations didn’t, is an absurd contradiction to everything known about randomness.

    Evolutionists tend to point out that the fossil record represents only a small fraction of biological history, and this is why we don’t find all the biological aberrations we should. But the issue here is not one of numbers but one of proportion.

    For every fossil of a well-formed, viable-looking organism, we should have found an abundance of “strange” or deformed ones, regardless of the total number. What we’re finding, however, is the proportional opposite.

    Evolution may have made some sense in Darwin’s days. But in the 21st century, evolution appears to be little more than the figment of a brilliant imagination. Although this imaginative concept has, in the years since Darwin, amassed a fanatical cult-like following, science, it is not. Science still needs to be proven; you can’t just vote ideas into “fact.” And especially not when they contradict facts.

    One sign of the desperation of evolutionists to get their fallacious message across is their labelling of all disproofs of evolution as “Creationism,” even when no mention of Creation or a deity is made. Ironically, it’s evolutionists’ dogmatic adherence to concepts that are more imagination than fact that smacks of a belief in mystical, supernatural powers. What evolutionists have done, in effect, is invented a new god-less religion and re-invented their own version of creation-by-supernatural-means. However, the mere elimination of God from the picture doesn’t exactly make it science.

    So if the development of life was not an accident, how did life come about?

    Well, pointing out a problem is not necessarily contingent upon whether or not a solution is presented. In this case, presenting an alternative may actually be counterproductive. Evolutionists often get so bogged down with trying to discredit an proposed alternative, frequently with nothing more than invectives, that they tend to walk away believing evolution must still work.

    The objective here, therefore, is to point out that Darwinian evolution does not fall apart because a solution being presented says it happened differently. The objective here is to show that the mechanics of evolution are incompatible with empirical evidence, verifiable science and common sense, regardless of whatever else may or may not take its place.

    For a true study of science, we need to put the theory of evolution to rest, as we’ve done with so many other primitive concepts born of ignorance. Science today is far beyond such notions as metals that turn into gold, brooms that fly, earth is flat, and mystical powers that accidentally create life. What all these foolish beliefs have in common is that they were popular in their own time, were never duplicated in a lab, and were never proven by any other means.

    We’d be doing society a great service if we filled our science textbooks with verifiable facts that demonstrate how science works, instead of scintillating fabrications that demonstrate how imaginative and irrational some scientists can get.

  122. #122 SteveF
    March 20, 2008

    Actually, don’t note the final sentence! Te final sentence isn’t there. For some reason, the abstract got chopped. Here it is in full:

    A new relation for the density parameter Q is derived as a function of expansion velocity v based on Carmeli’s cosmology. This density function is used in the luminosity distance relation D-L. A heretofore neglected source luminosity correction factor (1 – (v/c)(2))(-1/2) is now included in DL. These relations are used to fit type la supernovae (SNe Ia) data, giving consistent, well-behaved fits over a broad range of redshift 0.1 < z < 2. The best fit to the data for the local density parameter is Omega(m) = 0.0401 +/- 0.0199. Because Omega(m) is within the baryonic budget there is no need for any dark matter to account for the SNe la redshift luminosity data. From this local density it is determined that the redshift where the universe expansion transitions from deceleration to acceleration is z(t) = 1.095(-0.155)(+0.264). Because the fitted data covers the range of the predicted transition redshift z(t), there is no need for any dark energy to account for the expansion rate transition. We conclude that the expansion is now accelerating and that the transition from a closed to an open universe occurred about 8.54 Gyr ago.

    Now note the final sentence!

  123. #123 SteveF
    March 20, 2008

    Woah, it did it again. How strange and many apologies. No idea why this is happening. It seems to do it no matter which source I copy the abstract from. Well, the paper can be found here:

    http://www.springerlink.com/content/65x4123758q466kk/

    The final sentence is:

    “We conclude that the expansion is now accelerating and that the transition from a closed to an open universe occurred about 8.54 Gyr ago.”

    Which is a rather strange thing for a YEC to be saying.

  124. #124 royniles
    March 20, 2008

    Conradg: I was wondering if you saw at least one of your Gods as true, or if you don’t see things as either true or false, do you see at least one of your gods as probable?

    And if so, do you have a guess as to which out of that bunch is the most probable?

    And why is it that you can’t see that science is also all about probability?

    And that your main problem with empiricism is that it sees none of your gods as either true or false, but all of them as improbable?

  125. #125 Kevin
    March 20, 2008

    “And for good reason, because it’s a process which comes up with true answers to certain kinds of questions. But it’s limited to answering those kinds of questions. ”

    YES! and I was very angry at science because I asked it “what should I have for lunch today” and it gave me a lot of reasons for eating spinach and tofu and NO reasons for eating that Roast Beef Hero with chips and beer.

    Stupid Science!

  126. #126 Kevin
    March 20, 2008

    4. Dark matter has nothing to do with the big bang, yet another evidence of Mr. JonS’ total ignorance of science

    actually, I think that I read some stuff about how the Inflation Field may have decayed into particles with “dark matter” properties… That once gravity decoupled from the other forces, the Inflation Field caused the very rapid (faster than the speed of light) expansion of the universe, and so froze in place the little density differences. When the field had reached its maximum size, it decayed into heavy, non-interacting particles.

    or so some say

  127. #127 conradg
    March 20, 2008

    Royniles,

    I was wondering if you saw at least one of your Gods as true, or if you don’t see things as either true or false, do you see at least one of your gods as probable?

    And if so, do you have a guess as to which out of that bunch is the most probable?

    And why is it that you can’t see that science is also all about probability?

    And that your main problem with empiricism is that it sees none of your gods as either true or false, but all of them as improbable?

    First, I don’t ever, and I mean ever, think of any of the Gods in terms of probability. Now that you bring it up, I can only confess that it simply seems absurd to even think this way ? not because I have any aversion to probability theory, but simply because the way I look upon God has nothing to do with probable outcomes. You might as well ask what the probability is that Picasso’s art is truer than Matisse’s art? Obviously both painted ?real? paintings. But which paintings represented ?truth?. Hard to say. But were painting truths that were real to them, and many people responded to them as if those truths had universal impact on others.

    You see, my view of God and Gods is metaphysical and transcendental, and that doesn’t lend itself very well to calculations of probability. So you might first ask the question, ?what is the probability that the universe is metaphysical?? I would say it’s a virtual certainty, in that my own self-awareness is not physical in nature, but aware of physicality. Now, what kind of metaphysics is true is another matter, but it’s not a purely probablistic question, in that there are many metaphysical realities that can be simultaneously true. Likewise, it can also be argued that all metaphysical realities, including physical realities, are dream-like illusions, virtual realities, no more ?real? than a painting.

    I hope you understand that I’m not deliberately trying to confuse the question or make it vague. I’m suggesting that there is no simple answer, and no sensible way to fit ?probability? to the issue. In my view, the meta-universe is composed of an infinite number of universes, and there are universes in an infinite number of planes and dimensions of reality. To make it even more confusing, each of us, and thus each universe, has a ?body? that spans all dimensions and planes as well, even if not all universes within each dimension and plane. It’s way, way, way more confusing and complex and ?big? than even the modern universal theory of the Big Bang, even way bigger than the metaverse theory. In some sense, it’s so big that it’s a virtual certainty that everything imaginable may indeed exist, somehow, somewhere. I for one wouldn’t rule anything out. If you narrow things down to our little slice of the pie, however, it’s certainly true than within the range of human metaphysical experience, some things simply don’t come up, and other things do. So you could reasonably ask whether it’s probable that ?Shiva? exists within the human sphere of experience, and I’d say its a virtual certainty. If you ask what the odds are that the God XghiehGFooef of the Andromeda galaxy planet Grefeislshis exists within the human sphere of earth, I’d say pretty slim.

    The question really revolves around the question, what does it mean to say a God exists? If you mean, is there a physical existent body in our physical world of that name, with God-like powers, etc., I’d say no. I’d say that the Gods exist in a different dimension that ours, even a different ?physical? dimension than ours, and that many of them exists only in the same way that, say, gravity exists, or electromagnetism exists ? in other words, as forces and fields without strict boundaries or ?thingness?. When Shiva is described as the ?force of dissolution?, that can be personified, and it can also be de-personalized as a universal metaphysical force in creation. It can also stand for That which is beyond all form, even the personalized form of Shiva. People can and do have visions of Shiva, but naturally enough, it’s mostly Hindus who do. I don’t think the explanation is that Shiva only appears to Hindus, it’s more likely that the force that Shiva represents merely triggers certain images and associations in the minds of Hindus that create ?Shiva?, whereas the same force in a Buddhist would create a different kind of metaphysical vision, such as ?Mahakala?, and a Christian might see ?the Devil?, while a physicist might see ?entropy?.

    If this makes the Gods seem rather vague, I can nod my head, and also say, well, but what about us? Are we really so concrete and ?real?? Try finding out directly who you are, and you might find out that the probability that we exist as some discrete and identifiable ?person? becomes vanishingly low.

  128. #128 Jon S
    March 20, 2008

    royniles asks “If you believe the whole bible is about Christ’s message and that the word of your God is the same in each testament, why does it also tell us the Jews who are represented by the Old Testament had this heretic Jesus set up to be killed?”

    Whole books are written on this subject, so I’ll try to be brief. The Jews were expecting a Prophet, Priest, and King who’d come and rule on earth (Micah 5:2, Zechariah 9:9, Isaiah 32:1, Deuteronomy 18:15-19, Psalms 110:4) . The old testament Jews knew about the prophesies of the coming Messiah or Christ, but they weren’t expecting Jesus, who didn’t come to rule on earth, but to save sinners. Also, there were others who had come along and claimed to be the Messiah, and they were put to death, so when Jesus came, many thought he was just another man claiming to be the Messiah. So Jesus was crucified partly because he wasn’t the king they were expecting. Lastly, the chief priests and elders persuaded the crowd to have Jesus executed instead of Barabas. In summary I believe it was a combination of politics and a lack of understanding that caused the Jews to have Jesus put to death.

    royniles says “You have clearly never read anything written by any of the more notable Christian theologians. Even conradg understands more than you about the Christian religion, it’s history, its conflicting sects and philosophies, and its inner turmoil. You however seem to have the simple minded outlook reminiscent of the backwoods snake handlers and holy rollers. Rant and rave – that’s your specialty, not mine.”

    What notable Christian theologians do you have in mind? It doesn’t sound like you’ve read anything written by the more notable Christian theologians, such as Yancey, Piper, C.S. Lewis, John Calvin, etc. Are you suggesting that the theologians you have in mind somehow have a better understanding of scripture than the theologians I’ve read? One thing you and conrad don’t seem to understand is that an understanding of Christian religion, it’s history, its conflicting sects and philosophies, and its inner turmoil doesn’t lead to salvation. Salvation comes from Christ alone (Acts 4:12).

  129. #129 royniles
    March 20, 2008

    Conradg: Of course our knowledge of all things is vague, but we usually hear that from scientists rather than from those who proclaim the certainties of their faith – which you at least have not done. I would interpret what you are saying is that the existence of these gods is believed to be probable to one degree or another, even though you’d rather use other words to describe the degree of certainty involved. I see no reason to quarrel with that as a reasonable way to describe what the rest of us cannot say with any certainty is unreasonable.
    And many of us in the West would say that what you are really describing is an extremely complex mythological system, which are to us more valuable than systems proclaiming to be the one and only revealed truth.
    And which seems all the more odd to me that you would insist that science doesn’t make determinations based as well on their degree of probability – albeit science has more specific ways to determine the reliability of its assessments, to which I think you will also agree.
    This insistence that a true-false dichotomy prevails with all things scientific is just not supportable and I’m still at a loss as to why you support it. That contention doesn’t make you any more or any less right about turning to your religion to complete your view of the world. It simply makes you wrong about your assessment of the value of information obtained through the similarly complex methodology of science.

  130. #130 royniles
    March 20, 2008

    Jon S: I was thinking more of 20th century theologians of note such as Helmut Richard Niebuhr and Paul Tillich, although it doesn’t surprise me that you’d pick a John Calvin from the 16th century, or an odd ball novelist such as Lewis.

    Anyway, I rest my case and will let others decide if it has any value. I think it’s fine that you see Jesus as an inspirational figure, even if it takes a leap of faith to do so. It concerns me that to be insisting on a goofy view of science that really has nothing to do with a belief in Jesus, and that comes from a part of the bible that is at cross purposes with the message from that prophet, is to be ultimately making a mockery of that message and doing a great disservice to the Christian faith.
    I am an agnostic, not that different from being an atheist, but was raised as a Christian, so I understand that religion much netter than you might think. I owe a lot to those teachings and I recoil at the stupidity of the creationists who I fear will ultimately undo all the good that those teachings have added to our culture.

  131. #131 conradg
    March 20, 2008

    Royniles,

    I’m glad you at least are getting some sense of the complexities I’m trying to describe, and that I don’t view these things as a matter of blind faith, but of a form of metaphysical empiricism. One of the reasons I respect science is that it is a form of empirical knowledge, and I think it’s a very different kind of empiricism than metaphysical mysticism, but it has to be taken into account even when trying to understand what is true in metaphysics. In other words, if a metaphysical system suggests that the physical world must be only 6,000 years old, empirical science must be able to at least roughly agree. If it doesn’t, I think one has to consider that aspect of the metaphysical system to be in error. So in that sense, science needs to be taken into account. But most of metaphysics isn’t about making specific predictions about the physical world, so science isn’t terribly useful in much of it. Science can refute a concept of God who made the earth 6,000 years ago, but it can’t refute a concept of God that works on times scales in the billions of years, or that is quite compatible with natural evolution of the species. It doesn’t mean that such Gods exist, but it at least suggests that traditions with such concepts of God are more likely to have an accurate understanding of God.

    The real problem with the question of ?God? is that even religious people are essentially struggling with concepts about God, and the issue of the existence of God is tied not merely to whether God actually exists, but what concept of God is closest to the reality of God. It’s not much different in kind from the various GUTs. The reality of the mechanism that governs the laws of the physical universe is not a concept, yet all GUTs are concepts, so none of them can be expected to actually tell us what that mechanism is, they can at best describe its results, and some do that better than others. Concepts of God also do not actually tell us what God is, but only describe the effects of God, and generally the metaphysical effects, not the physical ones ? although of course there is a subset of God-concepts that are linked to physical effects as well.

    I’m not at all averse to describing these metaphysical systems as mythological, except that not all of them are. Myth represents a particular phase of religious cultural development, but there are quite a few others as well. Myth is just a way of communicating certain kinds of information in a way that some people find easy to understand. The same information can be communicated in more conceptually abstract ways as well. There’s a notion in science, however, that mythic means ?unreal?, when in fact that’s not the basis of mythic religion. The idea there is that the universe is a ?story?, and that even the ?Big Bang? theory is a story, told in scientific language, about the universe, which has an element of truth to it, but not the whole truth. Metaphysics in some ways more easily communicates itself through mythic language, while scientific physics communicates itself through mathematical language. Each language has its value and its purpose within certain contexts, and it loses value and purpose outside those contexts. So myth has value, and science has value, and while there may be some intersections here and there, much of their value is not in the same ballpark.

    I do fervently agree with you that the issue of ?certainty? is important, and that it’s important to recognize that none of us can be certain of anything, ultimately. In the language of science, uncertainty is usually quantified as a probable outcome, and this can even be calculated fairly well. In metaphysics, however, it’s just not meaningful to talk about the issue of certainty in terms of scientific probability. There are so many possible meanings within a single myth, a single metaphysical question, so many layers and levels of reality involved, that ?truth? probability isn’t the issue, right relationship and context is generally the issue. Doubt isn’t a matter of whether such and such a God is true or not, but understanding where this God fits in with the whole metaphysical system. So there is always uncertainty as to whether one has properly understood something, how it all fits together, etc. But the issue of whether some God exists or not isn’t really the issue. At the very least, the concept exists in someone’s mind, and where that concept comes from, what it represents, is the real issue to determine. It could well be merely a psychological matter. But even then, there is no true boundary between the personal psyche and the universal, there are merely layers upon layers of consciousness, so even an ?imaginary? God does not exist in isolation.

    Now, as to your contention that science isn’t about true-false dichotomies, I honestly don’t understand your problem with that whole issue. To me it seems so widely true of science it hardly needs to be argued. What kind of scientific knowledge or investigation isn’t, both at the basic level and all the way up the line, a matter of true-false dichotomies? Please, give me examples from common science. I guess if we got into the subtleties of quantum mechanics we could find exceptions, but even there, those are just mathematical concepts that end up giving specific true-false answers once the wave function collapses through observation. Evidently, we are both at a loss as to why the other doesn’t see things our way. So maybe you could give me some specific counterexamples that contradict my thesis.

  132. #132 royniles
    March 20, 2008

    Conradg: Numerous people have pointed out that science is about probability, and never about certainty. It always leaves room for correction, as a cornerstone of the method is the acknowledgment that we may never have enough facts to arrive at more than a tentative answer to any question.
    The true-false system of reason was essentially that of the deductive or syllogistic systems developed in main by the Greeks. People such as Locke and Hume (names you conspicuously failed to drop) were largely responsible for developing the modern scientific methodology that works more from inductive and abductive reasoning where the greatest reliability rather than any absolute truth is the goal.
    Examples? To put it as plainly as I can, virtually every scientific discovery since that time is an example of a necessarily tentative conclusion reached through a probability assessment from an even more tentative hypotheses. (These are my words so I’m sure someone can find fault with the way I’ve said it)
    Perhaps you are confused by the use of the term “falsifiable” when applied to this process. It does not mean anything like a determination of true versus false. It is a way of saying that if an assertion of probability does not allow for a way to even demonstrate proof of its possibility, it can’t be tested to any degree of certainty. it does not mean it has to be testable as true or false to a certainty (again my words, not from Wikipedia, et al).
    But I repeat, virtually everyone here who claims some familiarity with science has said that you have the whole thing backwards. You will say it’s thus unfair to leave it to those same people to judge, but hey, perhaps the only certainty is that life just isn’t fair.
    And you are virtually certain to have your thesis found wrong, as it is falsifiable by philosophical standards if by nothing else.

  133. #133 Jim
    March 20, 2008

    conradg…
    Some religious traditions consider concision a virtue; evidently not the good Ramana Maharshi. The rest of us secular atheists, hopelessly devoid of moral foundation, would just consider it good manners.

  134. #134 conradg
    March 21, 2008

    Royniles,

    I think you are confused about what a ?true-false dichotomy? means. As I explained numerous times, it’s the notion that statements about the world are either true or false. It has nothing to do, in itself, with whether we can know for certain whether some statement is true or false, only that if we had perfect knowledge, we would know if it were true or false. Your whole counter-argument is based on the notion that acknowledging uncertainty negates the focus of that uncertainty ? a true false dichotomy. But the focus remains on trying, as hard as we can, to overcome that uncertainty, and to become as certain as possible that a statement is either true or false. It is this focus of attention that I am talking about, not whether the focus results in total certainty.

    Acknowledging uncertainty is indeed important, and it’s part of what makes science reasonable, rather than unreasonable, but it doesn’t change the basic character of science as a project that looks at the world as a series of true/false dichotomies to resolve. You still don’t give any counterexamples, and I have to wonder at this point why you don’t. You merely keep claiming that all science acknowledges uncertainty, but that isn’t the issue. I’ve given the basic example of determining the temperature in a room. Science assumes there is only one correct answer to this question, and that all other answers are false. So measurements are taken, and evaluated, for the purpose of finding the temperature of the room. The answer will come with some acknowledgment of the uncertainty, but never in the whole process is it thought that there could be two different, valid answers to the question. So the whole enterprise is framed in terms of a true-false dichotomy.

    Nor does the issue of falsifiability matter help your argument. To the contrary, it is exactly the point. Science is about falsifying false statements, and verifying true ones. It isn’t about much of anything else, bottom line. The probability that a statement is false is simply an acknowledgment that total certainty is not possible, not that evaluating whether a statement is true or false is a foolish endeavor.

    Also, you keep claiming that everyone here disagrees with me on this issue, when I haven’t seen anyone but you contest the notion. J.J. Ramsey made one mild criticism, which I answered. You’re claiming some kind of scientific consensus on this issue, yet you can’t come up with a single counter-example. That tells me you are in some kind of powerful denial that I can’t really comprehend. So please, explain yourself in concrete terms, not vague claims about uncertainty.

  135. #135 Conradg
    March 21, 2008

    Jim,

    I thought maybe I’d answer you in a five-thousand word essay, but you’re right, I’m way too wordy. A personal fault of mine. It’s even more embarrassing because Ramana Maharshi was famously spare in his use of words, and is best known for “teaching by silence”. Consider me a morally depraved sinner if you will. An unmannered, uncivilized, unwashed beast. But you already knew that about believers, didn’t you?

  136. #136 Jim
    March 21, 2008

    Conradg…

    An unmannered, uncivilized, unwashed beast. But you already knew that about believers, didn’t you?

    Now, you’re putting words into my mouth. I have no reason to question the good hygiene habits of believers.
    The problem with blogs is that intent is often difficult to get across. So, please allow me to amend my previous post addressed to you. Apply the following to the end… : )

  137. #137 royniles
    March 21, 2008

    conradg: Like all new agers, you are at bottom intellectually dishonest. I say new-ager because I doubt you are a Hindu by birth, or grew up in that culture. You were likely drawn to that mythology as a short cut to the acquisition of what you could pretend to yourself was wisdom. Scientists on the other hand have a code, which is their strength, and that code involves an intellectual honesty that is intolerable to religion and mythology and to all new age pretense of belief. if you sense a true-false dichotomy there, it is more accurately a truth versus lie dichotomy. The falsifiability that you pretend to understand is NOT ultimately about whether something is true or false but whether someone, knowingly or otherwise, has either falsified or used falsified data.

    Religion is replete with falsified data. Your Hindu mythology is a cultural construct of false data that has become culturally acceptable. It is a human construct of acceptable deception, and of mass self-deception. It is in that sense and perhaps every sense intellectually dishonest. The data is not false from an objective perspective of real or unreal, but from the perspective of the honest versus the dishonest. Your new-age minds and mindsets lack the subtlety to grasp that distinction.
    I say this not to reach any agreement with you as you persist in that dishonesty. You cannot be persuaded of something you have a desperate need to disbelieve. You consider statements like this personal attacks. But every argument that involves personal disagreement is a personal attack. To pretend that I am getting personal while you remain impersonal while at the same time pretending my “misunderstanding” is somehow a personal failing is one of those intellectually dishonest ploys. Not that these tactics are confined to new agers – they aren’t. But they are essential to all new age blather and propaganda.
    You speak of metaphysical empiricism as your creed. Metaphysical empiricism is an oxymoron – to mention it is a sure sign there is a raft of oxenshit to follow. it’s a nebulous and intellectually dishonest construct.
    Your pretense that no-one has posted anything attempting to correct your misconception of science as the slave of a true-false mindset is patently dishonest. The last one to do so was leni, and did so very effectively. Yet you answered leni directly with the usual string of obfuscating crap, and now pretend it never happened.
    It happened. And there’s little point of taking this any further. You don’t even represent any body of “knowledge” that one can have an honest dispute about. You have adopted another culture’s belief system which you personally profess not to actually believe, while the “true” Hindu believes this mythology in a visceral and all consuming way. There’s an excuse for believing something that you were born to believe and gives you an emotional satisfaction almost crucial to your survival. There’s really no excuse for adopting this belief system as a short-cut to wisdom. The pretense of wisdom is the province of the fool, nothing more, nothing less.

  138. #138 Jim
    March 21, 2008

    Conradg…
    Just in case you misconstrue the intent of royniles, allow me to clear the fog… : (

  139. #139 Jon S
    March 21, 2008

    conradg: I’ll attempt to respond to your long post from March 19th as briefly as possible. You define religion as “essentially whatever people call religion”. Such a definition seems meaningless. My quick definition would be a set of beliefs about the world and ourselves. One dictionary definition is ‘a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith.’ Any of these definitions certainly applies to a belief in evolution or atheism, so the term ‘fundamentalist’ aptly applies. You go on to summarize your own religion as “Be a lamp unto yourself”. To me this summarizes the single most problem mankind faces… the worship of self (or idols) rather than God. This is the problem Adam and Eve faced at the beginning. Satan promised them that if they ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil they would ‘be like God’. Ever since then man has the desire to be like God, and ‘be a lamp unto themselves.’ This goes directly against God’s commands, specifically the first commandment, ‘You shall have no other gods before me’. Man is finite, fallible, mortal, and incapable of controlling his own destiny (in the sense that we can’t stop a heart attacks, strokes, cancer, accidents, etc.) The control we have is very limited, and part of Christianity is recognizing our lack of control, and giving our lives to Christ, who can do all things. God wants us to humble ourselves and submit to him, and this is a very difficult thing for humans to do, mostly because of our stubbornness and pride. You say you believe in essentially ‘whatever seems to have some kind of legitimacy.’ So the question is, how do you determine what is legitimate? If everyone were to go by this philosophy, then how could you ever condemn anyone if they did something ‘terrible’, criminal, or ‘awful’. If they thought murder was legitimate, then you really can’t condemn their behavior unless you were to alter your philosophy and allow a larger society to legislate behavior. But then what about communist societies, terrorist countries, or tyrant countries? You see, believing a relative philosophy doesn’t hold any water. After a while you’d need to use force to get others to comply with your views and beliefs, otherwise you might not like the consequences. But if God is real and is who he claims to be, then we ‘simply’ need to conform to his commands and give up self. You say you ‘definitely believe in God’, but it’s obviously not the God described in the Bible who created the heavens and the earth. Once you disregard the God if the Bible, then you have to invent your own god or gods, which, obviously, will have no reality. The only hope we have to understand God (if he’s real), is to listen his claims, which is the purpose of the Bile. Again, if you reject those claims, then you really can’t know anything for sure. But if God is real, and his claims are real, then we can have confidence in our beliefs and the world around us.

    You questioned my use of the phrase “before biblical times”. It would have been more accurate if I had stated “from the beginning”, because man was domesticating animals from the beginning. You then claim that even dogs show the principle of evolution at work, but this is not correct, unless you broadly define evolution as any change at all. The kind of change we observe in dogs is not the kind of change that would change a dinosaur into a bird, an amphibian into a mammal, or an ape-like creature into a man. I think those who believe in evolution don’t grasp the difference. If you can’t breed dogs to become 25 feet high or 88 feet long, how do you suppose dinosaurs came about? Do you suppose an amoeba could evolve into one of those after millions of years when we can’t breed dogs larger than what they are now? There are limitations that can’t be crossed, and the kind of change we actually observe has nothing to do with the kind of change necessary for what evolution requires.

    You claim that if dolphins returned to the land they would change in their flippers for paws and claws soon enough, and that they used to have paws. This is all evolutionary assumption and faith. Dolphins ancestors were never land animals, so they wouldn’t ‘return to the land’. Believing flippers could ‘evolve’ into paws, or vice versa, is absolutely absurd, and requires an enormous amount of faith. If you really believe this could happen, then please provide an experiment by placing dogs in a watery environment, and watch them and their descendants over a long period of time to see if they develop flippers, gills, blow holes, baleen, etc. If they do, then please report it to National Geographic because I’m sure that would be sensational news and would be embraced by evolutionists. In fact that would actually get me to believe evolution, believe it or not.

    You admit animals give birth to their own kind, but not because the Bible decrees it. Actually, God did decree it throughout the first chapter of Genesis, and that is precisely why it happens, and why it’s silly to believe in evolution. We don’t know exactly what the original created kinds of animals were at the beginning of creation since no living person was there to witness it, but that would be the ultimate criteria. For example the tigers and lions are ancestors of the original ‘cat’ kind, but we can only speculate what the original cat was.

    You claim the Christian websites I referred you to are ludicrous. You’re certainly entitled to your opinion, but the reason you believe it’s ludicrous is simply because you’ve been indoctrinated into believing evolution and millions of years. But tell me, if God were to appear to you and assure you the universe was around 6,000 years old, would you persist in your evolutionary beliefs, or would you conclude that God would have a better understanding of the origins of the universe (since he created it) than scientists who weren’t around to witness the beginning of the universe? Since I trust that scripture is the Word of God, I have great confidence that evolution is a fraud, and that the world is probably less than 10,000 years old based on what God has revealed in scripture.

    You claim that the Biblical account of creation simply isn’t factually accurate in any sense whatsoever. However reading scripture doesn’t leave that option. It claims to be literal history. It gives detailed geneologies, as well as many details concerning historical events that are already recognized to be real events based on archaeology. Your determination that the Bible is, at best, poetic, is simply a skeptical claim based upon no evidence.

    You asked if I think only Christians are religious, or that every other religion is somehow false and not a real religion? I think anyone can be religious, but to get to heaven you need to have a relationship with Jesus Christ. Anyone can be religious, but being religious doesn’t get one to heaven. And yes, I believe all other religions are false. In fact every major religions claims exclusivity. Therefore they can’t all be right, and only one can be true. Jesus made it clear that that there is no other way to salvation except through him (John 14:6-7). This is the foundation of Christianity.

    You admit you certainly don’t believe in what the Bible says and that you evaluate what the Bible says according to your own understanding. This is apparent. For if you believed the Bible you’d accept Jesus into your heart as Lord and Savior. But since you rely on your own understanding you are lost. In fact the Bible commands us not to rely on our own understanding, but to trust in the Lord with all your heart (Proverbs 3:5-8).

    You say you don’t consider belief of any kind essential to religion. But that contradicts scripture (Matthew 1:15, John 3:18). Making yourself and your own understanding authoritative will leave you lost and won’t bring you salvation.

    You claim God is not about belief and that God is about love. You present half-truths. Yes, God is about love, but he’s about so much more, including justice and faith. Most people don’t have a real understanding of God’s justice, or the value of belief. Believing that Jesus died on the cross for our sins and confessing our sins is the key to salvation and Christianity(1 John 1:9). By thinking you can come to ‘enlightenment’ or salvation based on your own understanding is the same lie Satan promised Adam and Eve. God makes the rules, so if you reject what he says, how can you possibly find truth when your truth contradicts what God has said? If you think God is real, it would be wise to listen to what he says and not rely on your own understanding.

    You claim scripture is highly distorted and even bigoted. Of course you do; that’s what happens when you rely on your own understanding. You refuse to accept God and his commands. If you submitted to him you’d understand he is not bigoted at all. He created everything and sets the rules. To reject this and suggest that God ought to conform to your beliefs and ideas is the height of arrogance.

    You say you’re not impressed with a God who orders the massacre of innocent people, damns unbelievers, or who has adulterers, prostitutes, and homosexuals stoned to death. Firstly, God isn’t in a popularity contest. Second, no one is innocent. He made it clear that all have sinned, and that there shall be no other gods before him. When nations worshiped other Gods he demonstrated his justice by putting those nations to death. It’s important to understand that disobedience against God is a sin, and all sin is punished by death. This is why we need a savior, otherwise everyone would be condemned to death. That’s why Jesus came and died on the cross, to redeem us from our sins because he was a perfect sacrifice, and was able to save the entire world for those who put their faith and trust in him. Without Christ and the forgiveness of sins, we’d all experience eternal death. This is the ultimate act of love that God demonstrated.

    You say you don’t think God speaks human languages. If you believed scripture you’d know that God does speak human languages. It’s only because you rely on your own understanding that you don’t think God speaks human languages. Do you see how important it is not to rely on yourself? Once you rely on yourself and reject the truth, then you can never know truth.

    You say that if you rely on scripture, you will never actually know anything about God at all and if you want to know God, you have to look within yourself. This is a crazy idea you’ve convinced yourself of. If you reject what God says about himself, you obviously won’t know more about him by looking within yourself. And if you and everyone else who ever existed did the same, and we were to compile a list of truths based on looking within ourselves, do you doubt that there would be many contradictions? And if there were contradictions, that would be a good indicator that looking within yourself tells you nothing.

    You say you have just as much faith in man as in God, and vice-versa, and that God is not separate from man and is our very being and nature. This goes against scripture. Did you receive this truth from looking within you? What if someone else were to look within themselves and claim that God is separate from man? Would they be wrong since it contradicts what you see when you look within yourself, or would they be right too? As you can see faith in man and yourself cannot lead to truth and cannot save. God is holy and righteous, and is not fallible like man. Scripture makes this clear.

    You said “We are human, what else can we place faith in than our ability to discern the true from the false?” God tells us to put our faith in Jesus. Listening to what God says is the only possible way to know the truth. For example, if you ask your best friend what he did last Christmas, and he told you what he did, and then you claim that your friend’s account couldn’t be relied upon and that you could have a better understanding of what he did by looking within yourself, then you’ve made a serious mistake. No one would agree with your conclusions. They would suggest that if you really wanted to know what your friend did on Christmas then simply listen to what he says. God has told us who he is and what he expects from us, so to think that you can figure out the truth without listening to him is ridiculous.

    You asked what gives me the ability to know that the Bible is truly infallible and authoritative. Firstly the Bible claims to be authoritative and God’s word. Secondly Jesus accepts scripture, and even claims to be the Word (John 1:1-5). Finally, Jesus did many wonders, miracles and signs to support his claims to be God, including raising himself and others from the dead. Therefore it seems reasonable to conclude that the Bible really is the Word of God. If you were to demonstrate that Jesus in fact did not rise from the dead, then I would accept your reasoning, but if Jesus did in fact rise from the dead, then I think that should be reason enough.

    You ask “What makes you think you are so special that you are able to pick out from all these thousands the one true religion, and the one true, authoritative scripture?”

    Again, Jesus’s ministry is surrounded by his claims to be God, and he performed many miracles and wonders and signs to back up his claims, and he fulfilled all the prophesies from the old testament. I think if you were to honestly examine all this you would have to conclude that Jesus is the Christ.

  140. #140 tomh
    March 21, 2008

    Jon S wrote: I’ll attempt to respond … as briefly as possible.

    Isn’t the Internet wonderful? A wingnut like this used to have to stand on a street corner and get cold and wet to blather nonsense endlessly like this. Now he can sit in warmth and comfort and just go on and on and on …

  141. #141 Jim
    March 21, 2008

    Jon S wrote…

    You [Conradg] define religion as “essentially whatever people call religion”. Such a definition seems meaningless. My quick definition would be a set of beliefs about the world and ourselves.

    Breathtaking. Jon S, rather than offer a counter as you’d hoped, you underlined Conradg’s point.

  142. #142 J. J. Ramsey
    March 21, 2008

    JonS: “If you can’t breed dogs to become 25 feet high or 88 feet long, how do you suppose dinosaurs came about?”

    In other words, if we can’t cause grand morphological changes over a relatively short period of time to one set of species, how can grand morphological changes happen over eons to a completely different set of species? Apples and oranges, apples and oranges.

    JonS: “God tells us to put our faith in Jesus. Listening to what God says is the only possible way to know the truth. For example, if you ask your best friend what he did last Christmas, and he told you what he did, and then you claim that your friend’s account couldn’t be relied upon and that you could have a better understanding of what he did by looking within yourself, then you’ve made a serious mistake.”

    There is a huge difference between asking one’s friend about a mundane thing, and consulting chronicles written by people we’ve never known who are not only talking about extraordinary things, but introduce historical inconsistencies when doing so. (And before you fire back with the bog-standard apologetics, check the article to which I linked. I dealt with at least some of them.)

    JonS: “You asked what gives me the ability to know that the Bible is truly infallible and authoritative. Firstly the Bible claims to be authoritative and God’s word.”

    If a book that Dawkins wrote were to claim to be infallible, would you believe it? Come on, you have to know better than that kind of circular reasoning.

    JonS: “Secondly Jesus accepts scripture, and even claims to be the Word (John 1:1-5).”

    Anyone can claim to be the Word.

    JonS: “Finally, Jesus did many wonders, miracles and signs to support his claims to be God, including raising himself and others from the dead.”

    No, it was claimed that Jesus did many wonders, miracles and signs, and this claim comes from those of credibility that is hardly rock-solid, for reasons to which I alluded to above.

  143. #143 conradg
    March 21, 2008

    Royniles,

    You’re right, Leni did say something along the same lines as you did. She made the same mistake you did as well, in conflating the issue of true-false dichotomy with certainty. They are simply not the same issue, any way you want to slice it. I have no problem with your getting personal with me, as long as you stick to the issues and argue honestly about it. The problem is, you simply don’t do that. You accuse me of dishonesty, but it is you who seem incapable of honestly addressing the issue at hand. Over and over again you attempt conflate true-false dichotomies with issues of certainty, when they are in no way the same issue at all. I’ve asked you over and over again to give concrete examples of scientific inquiries that are not conceived of in terms of true-false dichotomies, and over and over again you refuse to do so. This is the height of intellectual dishonesty. You aren’t actually arguing the issue at hand, you aren’t even giving supporting examples for your argument or counterexamples to mine, you are simply stonewalling and pretending the problem is on my side of the fence. This is exactly how fundamentalist argue, which is to say they don’t argue at all, the simply assert their own ?truth? and call anyone who points out flaws in their argument immoral monsters of deception. After trying to engage you in this matter for some time, I can only conclude that you, sir, are a fundamentalist. You suffer from the same kind of cognitive dissonance that all fundamentalists suffer from, which disables their own discriminative faculties and prevents them from seeing the nose on their face.

    Having refused to argue the actual issues, you again bring up the red herring of ?falsified data?, which I never considered a significant problem in science. Although there have been serious instances of scientists falsifying data, it’s a problem with a few scientists, not with science itself. When I talk about the true-false dichotomy in regards to data, it’s purely at the level of honestly trying to determine the accuracy of data, given the difficulty of taking proper measurements, and not the issue of trying to determine whether one scientist is just making up his date or not. Determining the age of rocks requires all kinds of difficult data-collection procedures and theories having been verified, etc. Different methods will achieve varying results. The point I’m making is that all scientists conceive of the age of a rock as a single, fixed answer. Whether they can actually get close to that true answer is where the difficulties come in. But they do not imagine that the rock could have been created both 4 billion years ago and 6,000 years ago. That is considered a scientific impossibility. A rock can only have one age. Our knowledge of that age can vary in its certainty, but we don’t think there is more than one true answer to the question.

    Now, I’ve said that maybe a dozen times on this thread, and yet you seem incapable of understanding it. Are you dishonest, or simply stupid? This has gone well past the point where I can imagine that a reasonably smart person could continue to misunderstand what I am talking about. Either you simply aren’t a reasonably smart person, or you are simply dishonest. Or both, which is the direction my assessment of you is leaning towards.

    For what it’s worth, I don’t mind the label ?new age?, since it doesn’t actually mean anything. As I’ve said myself, I’m not a Hindu, I’m not a Vedantist, I don’t belong to any particular sect of religion, and I lack dogmatic beliefs about religion. My views have shifted considerably on a lot of topics throughout my lifetime. I’m sure you hate that about me as much as JonS does. The funny thing is, the two of you have more in common than either of you have with me. You are both fundamentalists who lack good cognitive skills. Maybe you both possessed good cognitive skills at one time, but squandered them away in defending your fundamentalist attitudes. A pity, but not my problem.

    Now, I’d agree that scientists have a code of intellectual honesty, and I admire that about them. But this only tells me that you are not a scientist, because you lack that code of honesty. But scientists are not the only people who have a code of honesty. Many religious people do also. In fact, the whole notion of having a code of honesty was originally a religious notion, not a scientific notion. However, I will concede that many religious people are not honest. And it’s also true that many scientists are not honest as well, outside the lab at least (and some inside the lab, but that’s not a significant issue at the level of data, only at the level of theory). But religious people do have a base of experience that they go on to determine their understanding of God. There is the ordinary experience of being alive and conscious in a bewildering world, there is mystical experience itself, and there is our own deep-seated intuitions of reality. Honest religious people have been grappling with the matter of God for a very long time. Far better people than you or I have been engaged in this process, and their honesty is not in question. One can always question their methods or their results, but their basic honesty is no more an issue than is the honesty of scientists. That you seem incapable of acknowledging the human honesty of so many religious people is natural enough, however, since you are yourself incapable of intellectual or moral honesty, at least from what I’ve seen of you here.

    conradg: Like all new agers, you are at bottom intellectually dishonest. I say new-ager because I doubt you are a Hindu by birth, or grew up in that culture. You were likely drawn to that mythology as a short cut to the acquisition of what you could pretend to yourself was wisdom. Scientists on the other hand have a code, which is their strength, and that code involves an intellectual honesty that is intolerable to religion and mythology and to all new age pretense of belief. if you sense a true-false dichotomy there, it is more accurately a truth versus lie dichotomy. The falsifiability that you pretend to understand is NOT ultimately about whether something is true or false but whether someone, knowingly or otherwise, has either falsified or used falsified data.

    You have adopted another culture’s belief system which you personally profess not to actually believe, while the “true” Hindu believes this mythology in a visceral and all consuming way. There’s an excuse for believing something that you were born to believe and gives you an emotional satisfaction almost crucial to your survival. There’s really no excuse for adopting this belief system as a short-cut to wisdom. The pretense of wisdom is the province of the fool, nothing more, nothing less.

    I agree, your pretense to wisdom is astounding. What exactly is a ?true? Hindu supposed to believe? Do you even have a clue? Evidently not, because even suggesting there is such a thing as a ?true? Hindu belief system is a confession of total ignorance of ?Hinduism?. The very idea of ?Hinduism? didn’t exist until the British came along. They even invented the word. Why? Because they coudln’t conceive of a religion that didn’t have a name, that didn’t have a central dogma, a set of beliefs one is supposed to adhere to, a priesthood in charge, and an organized system that one must adhere to. India, however, simply doesn’t abide by that view. It’s a polytheistic culture without a central organizing dogma. Hindus will believe entirely different things, and as long as they are in the vaguest possible way connected to the ancient Vedic traditions, they are considered Hindu. The only real definition of ?Hindu? is someone who was born into a culture that traces some aspect of its history to the Vedas. And even that isn’t hard and fast, in that the Shaivite culture, which is not mentioned in the Vedas at all, is also considered ?Hindu?. But I’m sure you know nothing about it, nor do you need to, because fundamentalists love to spout off about topics they know nothing about, certain that their ignorance of the subject is actually an advantage, because knowledge of the subject doesn’t have a chance to interfere with their inherent certainty that they hold the truth in their hands.

    As I’ve said, I don’t adopt the Hindu ?system?. There are some aspects and arguments and views in Hinduism that I find worthwhile, but I don’t believe in them so much as simply find them to be reasonably convincing. I also find some arguments and views of Buddhism or Taoism or Jainism or Christianity reasonably convincing, and many others not so much. If that makes me a ?new ager?, then I find nothing wrong with the term, even if you mean it as a term of derision. I don’t approach these views as a short-cut to wisdom, just a good map of the territory. Where I chose to travel is up to me.

  144. #144 royniles
    March 21, 2008

    conradg: My family history goes back to one of physical presence and deep involvement with the India of the early 19th century. As to wisdom, I pretend to none except an ability to spot a charlatan a continent away and intellectual dishonesty from here to wherever you are. And yes, I view all new-agers as pretty much dupes or frauds, or in most cases a bit of both.
    As to the degree to which I may be stupid, I was smart enough to smoke you out and burst that balloon of pomposity and intellectual pretense. I’ll leave it to the rest to judge how well that was done. As to who actually understands what you are talking about, I’d say the last person to understand it is you, assuming that understanding a thing involves a proper assessment of its value.
    Look at how you now argue about who is the truer Hindu, as if it might possibly be you in that dream world you have chosen to live in. As to whether or not you are stupid, your delusional mindset makes it hard to distinguish the degree of your ignorance from what may be the degree of stupidity that has contributed to that ignorance. Up to now I had been giving you the benefit of the doubt that one always has to give to new agers, as there is more to a refusal to admit error than stupidity. But since you have attributed this failing to the stupidity of others, the odds that you are projecting your own deficiencies here have been greatly increased.
    By the way, intellectual dishonesty is not the same as deliberate dishonesty, although they are clearly not mutually exclusive. One tends to be more of a subconscious process, but it would be dishonest of me to pretend that any further explanation of this would do any good, all things considered.
    Hopefully, your earlier assertion that this kind of thing just turns you off will be true in the very near future. (And there were many more people than leni who tried to set you straight – why not be completely honest about that instead of this pretense of forgetfulness.)

  145. #145 Jim
    March 21, 2008

    conradg…

    Now, I’d agree that scientists have a code of intellectual honesty, and I admire that about them. But this only tells me that you are not a scientist, because you lack that code of honesty. But scientists are not the only people who have a code of honesty. Many religious people do also.

    The mistake here is that it doesn’t really matter if an individual scientist is dishonest or not with her work, in the long term. Science, through the peer review process, is insured of harm by such actions (again, in the long term). This is part of the beauty of the scientific process; self-policing is built into the system. You can actually score “points” in science for proving yourself wrong. There is nothing like this in religion; in fact, with religion the antithesis is true.

    But religious people do have a base of experience that they go on to determine their understanding of God. There is the ordinary experience of being alive and conscious in a bewildering world, there is mystical experience itself, and there is our own deep-seated intuitions of reality.

    I think you are here confusing numinous with supernatural. Of course, everyone has had moments where they are hyper-aware of something more then themselves that is inexplicable. But invoking god into the equation does nothing for the experience; in fact, it cheapens it.

    Far better people than you or I have been engaged in this process, and their honesty is not in question.

    I presume the “you or I” here refers to any of us, so speak for yourself. The only way to treat someone with something to sell is with incredulity. Why would you presume someone honest simply because they are earnest?

    One can always question their methods or their results, but their basic honesty is no more an issue than is the honesty of scientists.

    What methods & what results? & again, yes I can question their honesty; & again, for reasons already stated, honesty in science is insured through the process.

    I don’t approach these views [various religions] as a short-cut to wisdom, just a good map of the territory. Where I chose to travel is up to me.

    Religious people insist that their faith is the single most important quality in their life but how am I to take someone’s faith seriously when they’re constantly mixing & matching & trying on new versions based on the whims of their brain chemistry at a particular moment?

  146. #146 Conradg
    March 21, 2008

    Jim,

    I appreciate your sense of humor, and hope the feeling is mutual.

  147. #147 Leni
    March 21, 2008

    conradg wrote:

    First, let’s not play gotcha games with one another. I do hope your confusion on this issue is sincere, and not part of a ploy to try to distract from the real issues here.

    Of for gods’ sake. Are you seriously accusing me of plotting against you? I hope you’re joking, but if you aren’t: try keeping your posts to a few short paragraphs or less and then we’ll talk about who’s distracting.

    I wrote: data are basically just collections of recorded observations. Temperature readings, for example. Observations can be good, bad, or something in between, but calling them true or false is, I think, a mischaracterization. Terms like “good” and “bad” work better for describing data, as it is the quality that we must assess before we use it to support, disprove or develop a hypothesis.

    conradg wrote:

    …A good scientist who wanted to know the temperature would use several methods…. He would assume that there was one and only one “true” temperature, and he would try to determine which of his temperature measuring devices was most accurate, and which were not. Maybe he would determine that his infrared device was inaccurate. He would try to recalibrate it by comparing it to the “true” temperature.

    1) You don’t know what the “true” temp is, therefore you can’t calibrate your instruments to it. Let me repeat that: you can’t calibrate your device to an unknown. That would be beyond stupid and would completely nullify your experiment and make your device scientifically worthless, except possibly to ghost hunters.

    2) Device calibration happens before the experiment. You don’t use your experimental results to determine how well your device works. That makes no sense.

    3) Another reason to not use the word true is that it leads to confusion. You’re using it in two ways: first to mean “exact” and second to mean “not false”.

    Conrad, your descriptions of the scientific process here aren’t just confused, they’re bordering on weird.

    Once he had it recalibrated, he would have faith that it’s readings were true, rather than false.

    If he “recalibrated” his instruments against an unknown “true” temperature he wouldn’t just have faith, he’d need faith. Calibrating equipment is serious business. It can make or break your results. If it’s not done correctly and before you take data, your data will not be trustworthy. (Note that I did not say false.)

    So, do you see what I mean that scientific data represents a true-false dichotomy? In science, most basic questions have only one true answer, and that is how data is evaluated.

    In this sentence, you at least appear to understand that data is evaluated, and that the outcome of data evaluation may be a true or false, rather than the data itself. That’s an improvement. Nevertheless, I don’t think your description is a very good one, even for informal purposes.

    Although it occurs to me now that this might be your way of trying to describe falsifiability. Is that what you’re trying to say?

    Say you want to measure the age of some fossils … and you use carbon dating. Just gathering that data is hard, because the procedure is very complex and delicate, and prone to error. So the data has to be evaluated very carefully to see how “true” it is. We may end up with multiple and conflicting estimate. So we end up with a data range answer, not a fixed age, maybe something like 10,000+/-200 years. Even if we can’t measure the age of the fossil exactly, there is no scientist in the world who actually thinks the age of the fossil is anything but a single, fixed time span. Can fossils actually have multiple ages? Of course not.

    Again, if we knew what the “true age” was (exact might have been a better word choice), we wouldn’t need to use approximations. Still, that there is a confidence interval is yet another indication that the forcing results into true /false categories is not just contrived, it’s problematic and sometimes misleading and wrong (see below). All you can say is “it is true that the age probably lies within 10200 yo and 9800 yo.”

    In my own experience there was very little “yes or no” or “true/false” evaluations. I spent a lot of hours pouring over galactic spectra trying toward the end of getting best approximations to their rotational velocities. We got some spotty results and the answer was “we don’t know”. I was specifically trying to get results that backed up previous results gotten by other means. I couldn’t. It didn’t mean the data was wrong or false, it just meant it wasn’t enough. These were very small, medium redshift galaxies and their spectra were messy.

    We did the best we could and the results were inconclusive. That, I imagine, happens a lot more than “yes or no”. Further, this wans’t necessarily a yea or no question. We were looking at galactic evolutionary processes. We didn’t know what was going, so there was no yes or no. We simply wanted to get some basic information about the dynamics of this particular type of galaxy. That’s note really a yes or no question.

    But even with a complex hypothesis like evolution, scientists assume that there is only one correct answer. Either it’s true, or it’s false.

    Or that it’s partially true and partially false, which would explain all the debates within the biology community. And which would also indicate why your true/false scenario is simplistic. Evolution is a theory that encompasses several different mechanisms, which are in turn driven by myriads of processes. Even some of the mechanisms of evolution were proven false, Evolution (capital E) itself might not be. That’s happened in the past and will probably happen in the future. So no, it may not be an all or nothing proposition. In fact, it probably isn’t.

    Or, one can break the hypothesis down into pieces and parts and figure out which pieces are true, and which are false. Break it down far enough, and one is looking at mountains of raw data. But at each step of the way, there’s a true-false dichotomy to evaluate.

    Which is exactly why the theory itself isn’t a simple yes or no question unless you are deliberately oversimplifying to make a point.

    My point about monotheism is that it, too, looks at religious truth as a set of a true-false dichotomies…

    So, the point is, monotheism helped pave the way for science by promoting the notion that there is only one true answer to any serious question of faith. By creating a world of rational argument which was aimed at discovering what the “true” way was in all kinds of matters, the Church and its philosophical traditions made it possible for people like Roger Bacon or Descartes to think that all questions could be broken down into true-false dichotomies, if one could be detailed enough. And this was the path that science took when it began looking at empirical data.

    I’m not sure why you think this matters. Your big point is that science has something in common with monotheism? Even if this were true (which I don’t think it is, except superficially), so what?

    Personally, I don’t think it matters where it came from when we are discussing its efficacy. It works. Really, really well. It would continue to work that well even if you knew nothing about it’s roots in Western Philosophy. Aside from that, I think breaking the whole thing down to a true/false dichotomy does a disservice to both.

    Religion isn’t really a true/false thing. Not for the practitioner, anyway. I think it’s a true/true thing. That may be both it’s greatest strength and failing.

    I wrote:
    Aside from the fact that there is no (and can be no) data suggesting evolution isn’t natural, I think this is where your mix up becomes clear.

    conradg wrote:

    Of course that’s not true. We could very easily find, say, a flying saucer buried in the ground with genetic engineering machinery on board with cloned human DNA in it. That kind of data would very readily suggest that our evolution was not natural.

    LOL. No, conradg- I mean natural as in “not supernatural”, not as in “granola bars and hemp rope”.

    Still, alien machines would be evidence, and it would still show that natural processes, insofar as they are not magical, were the explanation.

    We could even explore our own DNA and find unmistakable signs of genetic splicing. Or we might even find that our DNA is perfectly put together without any errors as though it were designed by an engineer, instead of the mishmash of genes and various crap all thrown together that it actually is, which suggests a lack of design.

    Except that we already know that isn’t the case. Are you going to argue next that we might discover the moon really is made of cheese? I don’t mean to be rude, but conrad- you walked right into that one.

    So evolution by natural selection is of course a falsifiable hypothesis.

    I didn’t say it wasn’t falsifiable. I said that there can be no data showing it isn’t natural. Maybe it wasn’t clear, but that’s because supernatural natural things don’t leave evidential trails. There is no data to gather.

    I have to wonder why you feel the need to try to contradict me at every possible step. Please, re-read your “well, not really”, and tell me what you are disagreeing with.

    I was disagreeing with the notion that science concluded there was no evidence for ID. It’s a bit of a subtle point, but “science” can’t come to conclusions about ID because ID can’t be scientifically evaluated. Kind of a catch-22, but ID literally defines itself outside of science. There’s nothing to be done about it to except point that out in the inevitable lawsuits resulting from attempts to get it taught in science classes. Further, it doesn’t take a scientific evaluation to determine there’s no evidence. There simply isn’t any to evaluate, period.

  148. #148 conradg
    March 22, 2008

    Jim,

    Science, through the peer review process, is insured of harm by such actions (again, in the long term). This is part of the beauty of the scientific process; self-policing is built into the system.

    This is one of the many things I love and appreciate about science. Do you understand that I am not anti-science? I am merely against using science outside of its own disciplined approach to draw conclusions about life that it is simply not capable of verifying. For example, I simply don’t think science supports atheistic arguments, and those who make scientific arguments in favor of atheism are actually abusing science. If a peer-reviewed paper ever comes out scientifically refuting religion and God, I’d love to read it, but none ever has. By its own boundaries and methods, it’s simply not a legitimate scientific question. Those who treat it as one are abusing science just as much as they are abusing religion.

    You can actually score “points” in science for proving yourself wrong. There is nothing like this in religion; in fact, with religion the antithesis is true.

    This simply isn’t true. My very first introduction to eastern religion, at the age of thirteen, was through the writings of J. Krishnamurti, recommended by a relative who had traveled through India for many years. J. Krishnamurti’s life is a great example of the very opposite of the principle you are proclaiming. While still a boy, he was “recognized” on the streets of India by C.W. Leadbeater, a renowned psychic and one of the leaders of the Theosophical Society. Krishnamurti and his brother were eventually adopted by Leadbeater and Annie Besant, then head of the TS. They considered him to be some kind of “avatar”, and raised him in all kinds of spiritual teachings and disciplines with the intention of declaring him the new Messiah of our age. The Theosophical Society became more and more dedicated to this purpose, and a huge organization called The Order of the Star in the East was created to fulfill this purpose. JK himself was a highly mystical boy, and was having mystical visions at a very early age, and this accelerated all through his adolescence. He regularly “visited” with the “Ascended Masters” of the TS, and later began having visions of the Buddha and other spiritual luminaries. As he came into manhood he assumed the mantle of leader of the Order of the Star in the East, and was poised to become one of the most famous spiritual figures of the time. However, as he matured he also began to have serious doubts about the teachings and organizations he was the supposed embodiment of. He began to see the whole enterprise as a misguided illusion, and on the eve of being crowned “The World Teacher”, he gave a famous speech in which, as head of the organization, he formally dissolved the entire enterprise, and renounced any and all claims made in his name by others. He preached instead that people should find out the truth for themselves, and not be misled by traditions, gurus, organizations, or whatever forum people created for being disabused of their own responsibility. Instead of being punished for this, however, he was lauded as a hero. He embarked on a career of spiritual teaching that led him all over the world, preaching a message not of obediance to a set of beliefs and doctrines, but to finding out the truth for oneself, and not accepting the words of others at face value, even his own. He become one of the most prominent spiritual figures in the world of esoteric religion because of this, rather than just another dismal religious showman. So in religion, rejecting the status quo can also be very highly rewarded. The life of the Buddha, who rejected the Vedic traditions he grew up in and practiced, proving to himself under the Bodhi tree that he had been entirely wrong, and went on to establish his own religion, is likewise an example of going against the grain. Even Jesus taught in stark contrast to the traditions of his time.

    But I will acknowledge that there is no parallel to the religious concept of heresy and apostasy in science. However, I should also say that these religious concepts are confined, for the most part, to monotheistic religion. Hinduism and Buddhism don’t have a concept of heresy per se. They allow virtually any religious view, even atheism, to have its say. The Carvakas, for example, had a long tradition within Hinduism, including their own scriptures and teachers, in spite of being pretty much hard core atheistic skeptics. They might have had better luck, in fact, if they had been more strongly opposed, rather than treated as just one of many possible viewpoints to consider.

    I think you are here confusing numinous with supernatural. Of course, everyone has had moments where they are hyper-aware of something more then themselves that is inexplicable. But invoking god into the equation does nothing for the experience; in fact, it cheapens it.

    In your view, not in mine. Although I guess it depends on how God is invoked. The real issue is what people do with these experiences. Do they investigate them further, or do they just say that it was God speaking to them, and form a doctrine about it, and try to get lots of other people to sign up. It depends on how deeply one’s investigation goes, what one finds, how self-critical one is in the process, and what kind of insight it gives the person. There are certainly ways of cheapening it. There’s an old story Krishnamurti used to tell, probably not original to him, that one day God and the Devil were walking along when they saw a man having a Divine Vision. God said, “That’s wonderful for me, but it’s got to be a bit depressing for your side that men can still have Divine Visions in this day and age.” To which the Devil replied, “On the contrary, I’m not depressed at all. I’m going to help him organize it.”

    What methods & what results? & again, yes I can question their honesty; & again, for reasons already stated, honesty in science is insured through the process.

    Within the confines of science, I think scientists can be counted on to be honest. That isn’t always the case when the step outside those boundaries. Many do remain honest and respectful, but some do not.

    Likewise, many religious people are quite honest about their religious feelings, concepts, experience, and understanding, and can have a serious, honest discussion about it all. However, some of these people do become dishonest when they begin discussing science, politics, and other endeavors. Some are dishonest in all respects. Human beings can be utter shits, and given that most people throughout history have been religious, and very few have been scientists, the weight of shitheads is strongly leaning on the religious side of the equation. But there are plenty of scientific shitheads these days to help balance things out, though I still think it’s far from even. Don’t confuse me with some universal friend and defender of religion.

    Religious people insist that their faith is the single most important quality in their life but how am I to take someone’s faith seriously when they’re constantly mixing & matching & trying on new versions based on the whims of their brain chemistry at a particular moment?

    I’m not sure why I’m supposed to care about whether you take my religion seriously when you refuse to take any religion seriously. Is there really some “serious” way for me to be religious that you would respect? I doubt it. In any case, my aim has nothing to do with being perceived by other people as serious. I’d rather be true to myself, if you know what I mean.

  149. #149 conradg
    March 22, 2008

    Leni,

    Again, you are making another long post that says nothing meaningful about the issues we have raised.

    I know you want to play gotcha games with me about scientific data, but this is just ridiculous. You simply don’t acknowledge the fundamental orientiation of science, even when it is you doing the science. For example:

    In my own experience there was very little “yes or no” or “true/false” evaluations. I spent a lot of hours pouring over galactic spectra trying toward the end of getting best approximations to their rotational velocities. We got some spotty results and the answer was “we don’t know”. I was specifically trying to get results that backed up previous results gotten by other means. I couldn’t. It didn’t mean the data was wrong or false, it just meant it wasn’t enough. These were very small, medium redshift galaxies and their spectra were messy.

    Again, you simply ignore the concept behind what you were doing. Did you ever, while trying to measure redshifts and spectra and rotational velocities, imagine that there was more than one true answer to the question you were trying to answer. For example, take the simple question ?What is the recessional velocity of M51?? Yes, that’s a difficult question to answer I’m sure, requiring a lot of effort, and the results I’m sure were far from certain, but did you ever imagine that there is more than one answer to the question? Or, any basic question that can’t be broken down into smaller parts? That the answer isn’t exact is quite different from the notion that there is, somewhere, an exact answer, or at least an answer that is so close to exact we can round off any difference. The fact that you never actually got down to a ?yes/no? or ?true/false? answer doesn’t mean that wasn’t the purpose of the whole enterprise. And that is the point I’ve been trying to make.

    Sure, if you look at any complex theory, or even a complex data question, you can say that parts of it are true and parts false, but that is exactly what I mean about science. It is about breaking things down into a series of true/false statements, each of which has been verified to some serious degree of certainty, so that we can build more complex true/false statements from them. That this requires incredible effort from thousands and thousands of scientists over many, many years, each of them struggling with just a piece of the total puzzle, and not coming to a certain conclusion for a very long time, if ever, doesn’t mean that it isn’t a gigantic true/false dichotomy project. I don’t see how you can describe it any other way, and the fact is, you haven’t. It astonishes me that you think you have, because clearly you have done nothing of the kind. Instead, you merely think that because you never got a clear, certain answer in your small part of the project you were working on, that you somehow weren’t even trying to get a clear, certain answer, which seems nuts to me. Are you really saying that you weren’t trying to get the best possible answer to the question of what the recessional velocity of your galaxies were (or whatever the measurement you were trying to make or calculate was at any given point)? I don’t think so. You were looking for the true answer to the question, and struggling as best you could to come up with a measurement and a series of calculations that would yield the true answer, rather than a false answer. That such measurements always only come up with ?less false? answers, and never actually attain the final and exact true answer, is irrelevant to the purpose of the data collection experiment, which is to get as close to the conceived ?true answer? as possible.

    And your endless lecturing me about scientific methods is just silly. Of course I know one calibrates an instrument before collecting data. I was merely positing a situation where several divergent readings would require one to recalibrate an instrument, the logic being of course that there can’t be two different answers to this question, so one’s instruments must be off and need to be checked. I’m sure in practice its much more complicated than that, but we are simplifying non-essential aspects of this for purposes of argument.

    In this sentence, you at least appear to understand that data is evaluated, and that the outcome of data evaluation may be a true or false, rather than the data itself. That’s an improvement. Nevertheless, I don’t think your description is a very good one, even for informal purposes.

    Although it occurs to me now that this might be your way of trying to describe falsifiability. Is that what you’re trying to say?

    I have always understood that data is ?evaluated?. Would you please let the condescension go, and stop wasting your time once more trying to prove that I don’t understand the basic scientific process? This is simply tedious. I am not describing falsifiability, I am describing the conceptual process behind both data collection, verification, and falsifiability. I am pointing out that the concept behind these scientific activities is to come to a series of true/false statements that we can rely upon to build what can best be called ?knowledge?. In other words, the earth is round, not flat. And then, after further study, the earth is an oblong sphereoid, not round. The second statement is a refinement of the first. The purpose of the refinement is to come closer and closer to the exact description of the object under study. One is constantly collecting data and evaluating it to get closer and closer to the ?true? statements one can make about the shape of the earth. Each statement is progressively truer, or progressively less false, meaning it is evaluated on a scale with ?false? at one end, and ?true? on the other. This is the way science thinks. But in that process, it is presumed that there is only one true answer to each fundamental question. Is that really in question?

    Again, if we knew what the “true age” was (exact might have been a better word choice), we wouldn’t need to use approximations. Still, that there is a confidence interval is yet another indication that the forcing results into true /false categories is not just contrived, it’s problematic and sometimes misleading and wrong (see below). All you can say is “it is true that the age probably lies within 10200 yo and 9800 yo.”

    I am not forcing the results into true/false categories. The scientific process is based on those categories. The whole idea of measuring the age of rocks is based on the notion that there is a single true answer to the question. Otherwise why would we even bother trying to measure it? So all the results are given in relation to the unknown ?truth? we are trying to uncover. The probability that the age of the rock is between 12000 and 9800 years only means something if there is an actual age to the rock, and we are trying to find out what it is as best we can. It would mean nothing unless we conceived of the ages of rocks as having one true answer, and all other answers being in degrees of falsehood.

    I think your problem with this issue is that you have this whole thing so deeply ingrained in your thinking, that you no longer notice it’s there. It’s so ingrained in to the conventions of modern, western scientific and monotheistic society you simply assume this is the very ground all human enterprises walk on, and you don’t even notice it anymore, because you are more concerned with the refinements. What you don’t understand is that modern science is a very recent and rare phenomena. It didn’t arise in any other culture than ours, and I’m putting out the thesis that the reason for this is that monotheism paved the way for this kind of thinking. I’m suggesting that there’s a reason why modern science didn’t develop in ancient Greece, even though so many of the basics were already in place there. Nor did it arise in China, or India, despite the advanced civilizations that developed in those cultures. The only places it arose were in the monotheistic culture of the Judeo-Christian tradition. It was within these monotheistic cultures that the very notion of ?one right answer, all other answers false? that gave rise to the notion of scientific rigor, or endlessly trying to find the right answer to a question, because that was what mattered. A polytheistic culture simply doesn’t feel the need to develop such rigorous either/or solutions to problems, because they don’t feel the insecurity that comes from getting the ?wrong? answer. They don’t even have a severe concept of their being a ?wrong? answer. They are used to there being many Gods, all of which are right and true, not a single true answer. As I’ve said, this has many advantages, in that it creates a tolerant and more humane life, not endlessly striving for ideological purity and exactitude in religious matters, but it also has it’s disadvantages, the primary one being that rigorous science never took hold in these cultures, at least until modern times.

    Notice that I do not consider developing rigorous science a disadvantage. I consider it a great advantage. I’m not arguing against science, I’m merely noting what science is as a very basic approach, and what that approach requires. Also, I’m not arguing that science is merely another form of monotheism. I’m simply arguing that science is, indeed, subject to some of the same problems that monotheism evidences, in that there are consequences to a mentality that is always conceiving of their existing, even just existentially, a right and a wrong answer to every question. It can lead to fundamentalism, as we can see all around us. Science is not immune to this, and even has a particular liability towards this disposition in that it tends to conceive of itself as the one true way to gain knowledge, and all other ways as false ? just as monotheism does. This is ingrained to some degree throughout the scientific method, because of the way it approaches questions. It also has some built in features, such as falsifiability and empiricism, which help to lessen this liability, but it exists nonetheless, and it is clearly evident in many people who are either scientists, or like to think that way.

  150. #150 royniles
    March 22, 2008

    Still with the monotheism schtick, I see. I should have dropped this little bit earlier, but I was curious to see how far this false dichotomy thesis would be pushed. Especially the essential keystone of his contention that the polytheism of his chosen religion allows for the clarity of his new age mind in ways that the methods born of monotheism could not.
    Conradg of course says I know nothing of India and the visceral feelings of those born to that culture, and he especially holds there is nothing as compelling about their religion as there is with those of the more fundamentalist faiths – including my agnosticism as just another form of fundamentalism.
    But one of my Hindu in-laws drew my attention to the following:

    “Hinduism is NOT a polytheistic religion. For all Hindus, there is only one Supreme God.
    Explanation:
The ancient seers of India recognized that all of God�s creation does not just center around man, but that man shares the universe with numerous life forms. Some life forms have less powers and abilities than humans while others have more. God grants some of these various higher beings cosmic powers and assigns them the responsibilities of running the �machinery of the universe.� These higher beings are also known as devt�s, dev�s or gods. While Hindus respect these gods to be higher than humans, and even propitiate them in times of need, Hindus also readily acknowledge that these gods are clearly subservient to and have their origin and sustenance in one Supreme God. Hindus are thus monotheists, worshippers of one Supreme God, in every sense of the word.
    Historically, many groups have been unwilling or unable to understand the true position and function of the various gods within Hinduism. Consequently, out of misunderstanding or prejudice, they have incorrectly labeled Hinduism as polytheistic in the sense of the ancient Roman or Greek pantheon. However, this is incorrect. Just as other religions consider themselves monotheistic while still accepting the existence of �angels� and other superhuman divinities, Hinduism should be considered monotheistic in the same sense.”

    There’s much more that puts the lie to most of what old conradg (or as he calls himself, The Broken Yogi Samyama) has said about his adopted faith, but this should give him 30 or 40 pages of explanation to conjure up which would keep him out of other mischief for the time.
    Here is where my in-law found the above reference: http://www.swaminarayan.org/index.htm

  151. #151 conradg
    March 22, 2008

    Royniles,

    Dude, you continue to be the living embodiment of true/false dichotomies, doing all my legwork for me. I love this little gem you dug up. I love that you think you’ve caught me in some lie if you found something written by some Hindu dude on the internet that sounds different to you. It must be the truth, right, because of course Hinduism only has one truth? And if what he says isn’t the same as what I’ve said, I must be wrong, because of course, there can’t be more than one truth here, right? Oh, the tangled web of narrow-minded fundamentalists is so amusing to observe in action. I’d pay good money to see you and JonS in a cagematch.

    Now, obviously you do know nothing about India if you have to ask a relative about these things, and take the first internet link you find at face value. The fact is, there’s only about a million different ideas about Hinduism and the ultimate reality to argue about. I could show you quite a few different websites with their own take on the matter. Hindus themselves have been arguing about this long before anyone ever thought such a thing as Hinduism existed. But let’s look at your find:

    Hinduism is NOT a polytheistic religion.

    Well, I’m sorry to contradict the great and holy BAPS Swaminarayana Sanstha, but Hinduism is a polytheistic religion, to the degree that it is a religion at all. No, it’s not precisely the same kind of polytheistic religion as the Greek or Roman traditions, and guess why? Because polytheistic religions are not all the same! Who’d have guessed? Even within polytheism, there is no “true” polytheism. By any definition of the word, Hinduism fits the bill, since it has a great many Gods. Yes, there is a hierarchy among the Gods, but there’s a hierarchy among the Gods in Greek religion as well, with Zeus at the top. And yes, the Hindus have a concept of a Supreme Godhead – or should I say, that have many, many concepts of a Supreme Godhead, called by many names, and with many variants.

    In the loose sense one generally could call many forms of Hinduism monistic, but of course not all of them. A great many forms of Hinduism are not monistic at all, but dualistic. For example, one branch of Hinduism is called Advaita Vedanta, meaning “non-dual Vedanta”, another branch, called “Dvaita Vedanta” is dualistic. And yet, even some dualistic forms of Hinduism have a monistic slant to them, and vice-versa. Talk about confusing. One thing is certain, however. None of these forms of monism or dualism are in the least bit monotheistic. In other words, there is no single “true” God. There is, as I already said in previous posts, a concept of an Absolute Self that has many faces, including the faces of all the Gods, and all beings everywhere, including you and me. This Self, or Atman, is the same as Brahman, the Absolute Beingness of God. At least to some Hindus. As I’ve said, it’s virtually impossible to begin a sentence with “Hindus believe…” without being contradicted before the sentence even finishes. The Hindus have thousands of different schools that have argued about these things for milennia, and that’s pretty much the definition of “polytheism”.

    For all Hindus, there is only one Supreme God.
    Explanation:�€�The ancient seers of India recognized that all of God�s creation does not just center around man, but that man shares the universe with numerous life forms. Some life forms have less powers and abilities than humans while others have more. God grants some of these various higher beings cosmic powers and assigns them the responsibilities of running the �machinery of the universe.� These higher beings are also known as devt�s, dev�s or gods. While Hindus respect these gods to be higher than humans, and even propitiate them in times of need, Hindus also readily acknowledge that these gods are clearly subservient to and have their origin and sustenance in one Supreme God. Hindus are thus monotheists, worshippers of one Supreme God, in every sense of the word.

    The problem here is that the author, a Hindu, knows nothing about monotheism. Why? Because he’s a polytheistic heathen, fer chrissakes! He thinks monotheism means believing in an absolute reality above all the various Gods and Goddesses, devas and demons, angels and devils, etc. Try telling a Jew that monotheism means believing that all the Gods of the ancient Middle East, from Baal to Yahweh, are really just aspects of the one true Godhead beyond all names and forms. Try telling a Christian that Jesus is just one of many thousands and millions of God-realizing avataric incarnations. Try telling a Muslim that Allah is not the one true God, but just a subservient God to the Supreme Godhead. The simple fact is that historical monotheism has nothing with this kind of thinking. It picks one God out of the many as the true God, and considers all other Gods as false. Ask JonS. He at least knows what monotheism means, which is that his religion and his God is the only true one, and all others are false. That isn’t at all what Hindus believe. Hell, they even believe that Christianity and Islam, which are completely outside of Hinduism, have true God, just Gods that are subservient to the Absolute God, who isn’t even a Hindu God at all, but a universal God encompassing all religions and all truths. In other words, it’s not monotheism, it’s an all-encompassing view of all God and all religions being aspects of a single Absolute Being.

    Historically, many groups have been unwilling or unable to understand the true position and function of the various gods within Hinduism. Consequently, out of misunderstanding or prejudice, they have incorrectly labeled Hinduism as polytheistic in the sense of the ancient Roman or Greek pantheon. However, this is incorrect. Just as other religions consider themselves monotheistic while still accepting the existence of �angels� and other superhuman divinities, Hinduism should be considered monotheistic in the same sense.”

    Well, this is just wishful PC thinking. These are examples of Hindus who are trying to be accepted by westerners, which they think means being monotheistic, because polytheism has a barbaric and primitive reputation. There’s a long tradition of it since the inception of British rule. As I’ve pointed out above, it’s simply not the same as monotheists believing in angels. Vishnu and Krishna are not regarded by Hindus as mere angels, nor are Rama and Shiva. He’s simply deluding himself.

    There’s much more that puts the lie to most of what old conradg (or as he calls himself, The Broken Yogi Samyama) has said about his adopted faith, but this should give him 30 or 40 pages of explanation to conjure up which would keep him out of other mischief for the time.
    Here is where my in-law found the above reference: http://www.swaminarayan.org/index.htm

    Yes, that’s my blog. I hope you enjoyed it. But where’s the lie? Isn’t it funny that you have to think of anything contradictory in Hinduism as a lie, that somehow there can only be one “truth” to it? It’s such a wonderful true/false dichotomy you are tying to make of Hinduism, as if there’s only one true doctrine to it, one way of seeing things, one way of looking at Gods and Absolutes. It’s easy to say that when you know nothing of it.

  152. #152 royniles
    March 22, 2008

    I think I’ll take the real Hindus’ word for what they believe than the blather from the fake Hindu. Everything contrary in Hinduism is not a lie, but the “fakir” who claims that his take on it is the only truth is a liar.

    And my in-laws are still laughing their jackasses off.

  153. #153 Jim
    March 22, 2008

    conradg…
    You stated:

    I am merely against using science outside of its own disciplined approach to draw conclusions about life that it is simply not capable of verifying.

    Exactly what questions about life is science as a tool categorically incapable of verifying (if not now, ever)? &, whatever your answer to that question, what else would we use in its place? Some form of “spirituality”, I suppose, entailing something about internal reflection. At best, this is a form of, or attempt at, science turned internally on oneself; at worst, it’s the beginning of myth creation –you have questions that you can’t imagine how you could possibly get from investigating the natural world so you come up with the best that you can to fill in the gaps. Well, the history of religion is riddled with questions that it once had dominion over but has lost it’s authority to science for which now there is an answer. To say that there are questions of which scientific inquiry has no business trespassing is as old as science itself. Bluntly put, science has a winnowing effect on questions of religious authority. The history of this encounter between science & religion is a record of constant retreat from authority by religious moderates, & of mental bankruptcy for religious fundamentalists.

    You stated:

    For example, I simply don’t think science supports atheistic arguments…

    Jason Rosenhouse has argued that science is, in fact, an attack on religion which seems to constitute the same as saying that science supports atheistic arguments. I am not entirely convinced. However, what science certainly has done (& can’t help but continue to do) is diminish the need to invoke god(s) into questions of former mystery. So, at least in that sense, science certainly does support atheistic arguments no matter what you think. It is easily demonstrated.

    You stated:

    …and those who make scientific arguments in favor of atheism are actually abusing science.

    In addition to the arguments that I’ve already given against science being forbidden from certain questions, I’ll just further state that conflict between science & religion is inevitable (a statement which admittedly supports Jason’s position … which may suggest that I’m slowly being converted) given religion’s insistence on making pronouncements about how the material world operates (i.e. formation genesis of physiographic features, age of the Earth, etc.).

    I stated & you replied:

    You can actually score “points” in science for proving yourself wrong. There is nothing like this in religion; in fact, with religion the antithesis is true.

    This simply isn’t true. My very first introduction to eastern religion, at the age of thirteen, was through the writings of J. Krishnamurti, recommended by a relative who had traveled through India for many years…(here you go on at length with this anecdote)

    This did not demonstrate what you seem to think it did. The hero in your tale didn’t do anything outside the framework of religion. In order for there to be an analogy here with science his approach (I can’t bring myself to call it a method) to religion would have had to answer something that the traditional form hadn’t been able to tackle. As far as I can tell your hero simply showed a little (very little) honesty. He didn’t proclaim anything that someone outside that tradition didn’t already know about him.

    You stated:

    …He embarked on a career of spiritual teaching that led him all over the world, preaching a message not of obediance to a set of beliefs and doctrines, but to finding out the truth for oneself, and not accepting the words of others at face value, even his own…

    Except for the curious & needless use of the phrase spiritual teaching, it sounds very much like an endorsement for science (except that I think that I know what you are implying by “finding out the truth for oneself” … which I’ve addressed above).

    I stated & you replied:

    I think you are here confusing numinous with supernatural. Of course, everyone has had moments where they are hyper-aware of something more then themselves that is inexplicable. But invoking god into the equation does nothing for the experience; in fact, it cheapens it.

    In your view, not in mine.

    I’m afraid that this isn’t simply a matter of opinion. This is a point of parsimony. The questions aroused by the experience are not illuminated by invoking god(s), so adding god(s) just gives it excess baggage.

    I stated & you replied:

    What methods & what results? & again, yes I can question their honesty; & again, for reasons already stated, honesty in science is insured through the process.

    Within the confines of science, I think scientists can be counted on to be honest. That isn’t always the case when the [sic] step outside those boundaries. Many do remain honest and respectful, but some do not.

    All I can say here is that you somehow didn’t understand what I was stating. So, I’ll reiterate; it doesn’t matter in the long term if a scientist is honest or not, eventually the process can’t help but to correct itself by exposing the dishonesty. I really don’t know how to parse that any more without being patronizing.

    You stated:

    I’m not sure why I’m supposed to care about whether you take my religion seriously when you refuse to take any religion seriously.

    I take this to be a form of playing the hurt feelings card that religious people like to play. When even the simplest inquiries of your claims pertaining to things you couldn’t possibly know offend you to your deepest feelings I don’t know what you would have me do. If this causes consternation, it really is just too bad. You accused Leni of playing games; well, buddy, glass houses & stones.

    You stated:

    Is there really some “serious” way for me to be religious that you would respect? I doubt it.

    I take this to be a rhetorical question by which, I concede, you doubt correctly.

    You stated:

    In any case, my aim has nothing to do with being perceived by other people as serious. I’d rather be true to myself, if you know what I mean.

    Jibber-jabber. If a christian, a buddist, a muslim, & yourself all have transcendental experiences then what each of you think this claims about your respective faiths can’t all be true. The common denominator here is what we all experience whether we invoke god or not. There is no “being true to yourself” that somehow exists outside of other truth.

  154. #154 conradg
    March 22, 2008

    royniles,

    Your determination to remain utterly ignorant is genuinely admirable. My Indian friends say your relatives are ignorant peasants. They know the type well. And your type also.

  155. #155 royniles
    March 22, 2008

    How’s that class system working for you? I’ll bet your so-called friends regard you with the same amusement as it appears does everyone else on this forum.

  156. #156 Leni
    March 22, 2008

    conradg,

    That the answer isn’t exact is quite different from the notion that there is, somewhere, an exact answer, or at least an answer that is so close to exact we can round off any difference. The fact that you never actually got down to a “yes/no” or “true/false” answer doesn’t mean that wasn’t the purpose of the whole enterprise. And that is the point I’ve been trying to make.

    I told you what the purpose was: it was to find rotational velocities. That isn’t a yes or no/true or false question. So if you listen very carefully, perhaps you will notice that I am telling you that sometimes scientific endeavor is not a yes or no proposition. It’s descriptive. It often is. Sometimes we just want to see how shit works.

    That’s just the first point I made. The other, that it’s just a series of yes or no questions and therefore faulty like monotheism, is just silly. A) You’re wrong, and B) your conclusion is a total leap.

    I’m simply arguing that science is, indeed, subject to some of the same problems that monotheism evidences, in that there are consequences to a mentality that is always conceiving of their existing, even just existentially, a right and a wrong answer to every question.

    I’m telling you it isn’t. But even it were, we could certainly stuff polytheism into the box too. Are there many gods? Why yes. Yes there are. Is there only one god? No, there isn’t. Oh look, polytheism is just a series of yes or no questions for which there is only one right answer.

    Aside from all this, you are disregarding the obvious fact that you can have more than one right answer in scientific endeavors. And sometimes both are right. You’ve heard of relativity? As many “right” answers as you have observers. It happens all the time in more mundane ways. Is the cause of cancer genetic? Yes and no. Is the photon a wave or particle? Yes and no. On and on. I’m not even going to bring up QM.

  157. #157 conradg
    March 22, 2008

    Jim,

    Exactly what questions about life is science as a tool categorically incapable of verifying (if not now, ever)?

    How about, like, everything in life not of a purely technical nature? What’s the purpose of my life? What do I want to do when I grow up? Who do I trust as friends, as business partners, as lovers, as a wife, as a mentor? Who should I vote for? Where should I live? What makes me happy? What’s my favorite TV show? What career is best for me? How did I get here? Where am I going? What is my mind? What is anything at all? Why do I suffer? How can I stop my suffering? How do I become happy? What is reality? Why don’t people like me? Why do people like me? What is love? How do I love others? What is consciousness? Where is consciousness? Why am I aware of myself at all times? Who am I?

    I could go on and on, from big questions to everyday mundane questions. As I think I said to you before (maybe it was someone else) hardly anyone actually uses science as a guide to their daily life of personal decisions and answering the questions that matter most to us. We may use scientific knowledge as an adjunct, and it can certainly inform us of various matters, but generally speaking, only incredibly nerdy and rather hopeless people actually use science to answer most of the questions they have about their lives.

    Why? Well, one reason is that the method of science studiously eliminates the personal, subjective dimension from the fields of knowledge it studies. This is necessary to create an objective store of knowledge. The problem is, human beings are subjective creatures living in a subjective world of their own minds and feelings and experience, and objective knowledge doesn’t really get down to answering the subjective questions that dominate our lives. Which is why most people, other than scientists, just don’t see science as being all that helpful to them except in the most mundane matters of material existence. They certainly value what science can on that level – it’s fucking magic to most people – but it doesn’t really answer most of the questions and doubts and uncertainties they have. Which is one reason things like astrology are still so immensely popular. It’s not even that people “believe” in astrology, it’s that astrology at least attempts to give answers to the kinds of questions people actually care about, which science simply doesn’t. And similarly with religion. It tries to address the subjective dimension of life, which frankly is where we all live. Scientists are viewed by most people as rather nerdy, screwed up people who have great knowledge of mathematics and engineering and so forth, but who are generally clueless about what really matters in life, even on an ordinary social level. They practice a kind of self-enforced autism in relation to the subjective, feeling, sensual dimension of life, which is what most of life is. Unless, of course, they are able to leave science at the lab, and rejoin the flow of life and consciousness that is dominated by subjectivity, not objectivity.

    What’s astonishing to me is that you would even pose the question, “what questions can’t science answer?” as if there couldn’t possibly be a legitimate answer to the question. This suggests someone who is, let’s face it, pretty far gone. Maybe you’re just too “into” the debate here to think straight. Maybe when you think about science, it just blots everything else out. But honestly, in your own life, do you really go around making scientific calculations about everything? Do you actually use science to answer the day to day subjective questions that dominate our lives? I certainly hope not. That would be a very bad movie to watch.

    &, whatever your answer to that question, what else would we use in its place? Some form of “spirituality”, I suppose, entailing something about internal reflection.

    We are subjective beings, dude. Face it. We don’t live in an objective world. We live in a subjective world, and we observe objects from a position of subjectivity. Learning about objects doesn’t change the nature of our existence as subjective beings. As Teilhard de Chardin said of mysticism, we are not human beings having spiritual experiences, we are spiritual beings having human experiences. The real mysticism of life and religion is happening every day, in every little detail of our lives. We can certainly reduce our experience, as a discipline, to the purely objective, and gather objective data, and get objective results, and come up with objective answers to objective question – do science, in other words – but we remain subjective, spiritual beings all the while, and at the end of the day, that’s how we live and choose and interact with one another. All that objective data can be very useful, no doubt, but only in a reduced form. In ourselves, it’s not terribly useful. Stuff doesn’t change us, in other words, we remain who we are regardless of what kind of stuff is going on around us.

    The essence of subjectivity is choice. We are creatures who choose. Why we choose one thing over another is never a purely objective matter. At core, it isn’t objective at all. We have to realize that we have chosen our lives, in every detail. This is a spiritual truth that is hard for an atheist to accept. He thinks the world just happened by chance and circumstance. If we look deeper into ourselves we can recognize that this is bullshit. We have chosen our lives. That is what “karma” means. Our lives are the result of all the subjective choices we have made throughout all time. And our future is determined by the choices we make as well, regardless of what happens in any objective sense. Smart people figure this out, whether they are religious or not. Sartre figured it out, even though he wasn’t religious. But many scientists haven’t gotten this message. They actually think our lives are an objective event determined by objective causes. Well, in the lab they do. Outside the lab they act as everyone else does, but they just don’t like to admit it.

    Well, the history of religion is riddled with questions that it once had dominion over but has lost it’s authority to science for which now there is an answer.

    I agree to a significant degree. Religion tried, to some degree at least, to make subjectivity dominant even in areas where objectivity rules. This is an error in need of correction, and science has done an admirable job of correcting it. But there’s such a thing as taking a good thing too far, and swinging to an opposite extreme, which is what is going in in arguments such as yours, and in the modern world altogether. Science is trying to propagate the illusion of objectivity to the point of declaring subjectivity a dangerous illusion that must be stamped out at all costs. This is a pathological imbalance that is far more dangerous than the problem it is trying to solve. Take a look at what science is doing to the objective world and tell me if it’s healthy, even in the domain it is supposed to be making a positive difference in? The gravest threats to our world are not from Islamic fundamentalists, but from well-meaning scientists who are trying to “improve” our world, and “defend” us from threats.

    To say that there are questions of which scientific inquiry has no business trespassing is as old as science itself.

    I’ve never suggested that scientific inquiry has no business “tresspassing” on other territory. I’m just saying it’s not very useful, and is even dangerously reductive, when it exceeds the boundaries it sets for itself. Science is a discipline first and foremost, which means that it sets limits to what kind of evidence it can look at, and what kind of conclusions it can reasonably come to. I’m merely suggesting that science stick to its own discipline and boundaries – not that we impose limits on science from outside.

    The problem is that scientists are subjectively dominated human beings like everyone else, and they naturally want to use science to solve their own, personal, subjective questions, like “Is there a God?”, even though it is not designed for that purpose, and even excludes such things from the very process of doing science. And so you end up with atheists using science to answer these subjective questions, which in my view is simply an abuse of science itself, taking it beyond the boundaries of its own making. It’s just human nature to do this, of course, so I can fully understand it.

    The other problem with using science to support atheism is that it is simply a form of circular logic. Science begins by eliminating subjectivity from its view of the world, leaving only hard, objectively observable data. Then, it manipulates this data to form theories about the objective world. Based on this, it confirms somehow that the objective world, viewed through the prism of objective data, doesn’t need any subjectivity to explain itself. Well, duh. All that is doing is proving the very assumptions it began with. It’s like eliminating all but the green M&Ms from a bowl of candy, studying “candy”, and then concluding that only green M&Ms exist, and all other M&M’s are unnecessary to our understanding of candy.

    Now, most people intuitively “get” this about science. They understand that it’s really good at building DVD players, but it can’t tell them what movie to watch.

    Bluntly put, science has a winnowing effect on questions of religious authority.

    To the degree that it has, I say great. But let’s face it, authority is not exactly on the wane around the world. Even religious authority is not on the wane everywhere, but on the rise in many places. But even where it is on the wane, authoritarianism is very much on the rise, even in our so-called “free” democracies. Science is the force enabling the rise of authoritarianism these days. We are living in a world that has taken away a great deal of our freedom and privacy, and it looks like we are on the road to some kind of dystopian nightmare, all for our own good of course. Science is enabling the most comprehensive forms of authoritarian control the world has ever seen, and rather gleefully I might add. Just wait another 50 years and see how free from authority science is making us.

    The history of this encounter between science & religion is a record of constant retreat from authority by religious moderates, & of mental bankruptcy for religious fundamentalists.

    To some degree, yes. To a much larger degree, no. But the bigger issue is that authoritarianism itself is not on the retreat. Science is simply complicit in the creation of even more dangerous and controlling forms of authoritarianism than religion has done. Too much of science is composed, unfortunately, of the kind of spiritually failed people who crave authority as compensation for their failure as living, feeling, sensual human beings. They are trying to create a dead world of machines and computers and completely controlled environments which sucks the lifeblood out of humanity. Hopefully, they can be stopped.

    In addition to the arguments that I’ve already given against science being forbidden from certain questions, I’ll just further state that conflict between science & religion is inevitable (a statement which admittedly supports Jason’s position … which may suggest that I’m slowly being converted) given religion’s insistence on making pronouncements about how the material world operates (i.e. formation genesis of physiographic features, age of the Earth, etc.).

    Personally, I don’t think there’s any inevitable conflict between science and religion, any more than there is an inevitable conflict between objectivity and subjectivity. They are simply both a natural part of our existence. The problem comes when one tries to dominate and eliminate the other. The result when subjectivity tries to dominate is authoritarian religious fundamentalism. The result when objectivity tries to dominate is authoritarian scientific materialism. The truth is, neither can completely succeed because reality simply isn’t a one-sided affair. It is composed of both subjective and objective dimensions, utterly intertwined at all levels. The illusion that one is real, and the other unreal, is simple nonsense. The challenge of our time is, I think, to find a way to integrate the two, rather than to find a way for one to dominate over the other. An atheism that took that approach would be fine with me, but that is not what atheism seems intent on supporting, and is in fact very hostile to that goal. And I feel the same way about religion. Those religious views and people who are intent on integrating these dimensions are fine with me, whether I agree with them in other areas or not. Those that are trying to dominate science or objectivity with their subjective religious views are not fine with me.

    I won’t distract from these points by answering all the points you made, but I hope this cuts to the chase.

  158. #158 royniles
    March 22, 2008

    “As Teilhard de Chardin said of mysticism, we are not human beings having spiritual experiences, we are spiritual beings having human experiences.”

    Now we can begin to see where all these sacred oxen droppings are coming from, including the obfuscatory language and style.

    Here is part of what Sir Peter Medawar (British immunologist who won the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1960) had to say about Teilhard de Chardin:
    “I have read and studied The Phenomenon of Man with real distress, even with despair. Instead of wringing our hands over the Human Predicament, we should attend to those parts of it which are wholly remediable, above all to the gullibility which makes it possible for people to be taken in by such a bag of tricks as this. If it were an innocent, passive gullibility it would be excusable; but all too clearly, alas, it is an active willingness to be deceived.”
    He goes on to say: “Teilhard practised an intellectually unexacting kind of science in which he achieved a moderate proficiency. He has no grasp of what makes a logical argument or of what makes for proof. He does not even preserve the common decencies of scientific writing, though his book is professedly a scientific treatise.
    It is written in an all but totally unintelligible style, and this is construed as prima-facie evidence of profundity. It is because Teilhard has such wonderful deep thoughts that he’s so difficult to follow — really it’s beyond my poor brain but doesn’t that just show how profound and important it must be?”

    Smell familiar?

  159. #159 Jim
    March 22, 2008

    conradg…

    You stated:

    I won’t distract from these points by answering all the points you made, but I hope this cuts to the chase.

    Thanks for the laugh. I am now certain of at least one thing; there is no way that you know what “cuts to the chase” means.
    I’m afraid that the rest of your comment is mostly just white-noise. But hey, good luck with that vision-quest thingy.

  160. #160 mk
    March 22, 2008

    Whew! Sure are some wordy folks in this thread!

  161. #161 royniles
    March 22, 2008

    Wordiness seems to beget wordiness. But one cause was mentioned earlier, the expectation that the gullible will construe lengthy blather as prima-facie evidence of profundity.
    Something else was pointed out was said in various ways before to account for the conradgs of the world. It’s that we must not underestimate the size of the market for philosophy-fiction. And further noted: “Just as compulsory primary education created a market catered for by cheap dailies and weeklies (blogs of old perhaps), so the spread of secondary and latterly tertiary education has created a large population of people, often with well-developed literary and scholarly tastes, who have been educated far beyond their capacity to undertake analytical thought.” Eureka!
    Some of these nevertheless struggle to come up with a hypothesis that will separate them from the herd, but this lack of analytical acumen dooms these efforts to failure. Conradg for example has had the two legs of his main thesis cut off at the knees, but since the whole thing was an effort fueled mostly by deceit, he crawls ever onward lest any acceptance of error would reveal that deception was the only thing behind the mask.

  162. #162 Eric Thomson
    March 22, 2008

    For those picking their way through this thread: the length of each comment is inversely proportional to its worth.

  163. #163 tomh
    March 23, 2008

    conradg wrote:
    … generally speaking, only incredibly nerdy and rather hopeless people actually use science to answer most of the questions they have about their lives.

    Generally speaking, only incredibly stupid and rather hopeless people actually use religion to answer most of the questions they have about their lives.

  164. #164 conradg
    March 23, 2008

    tomh,

    Feeling a little defensive, are we?

  165. #165 conradg
    March 23, 2008

    Jim,

    Thanks for your time. I appreciate your sense of humor, and rest assured I don’t take anything you’ve said personally. Maybe some day you will be a little more open to seeing these matters I’ve brought up as more than merely “white noise”, but if not, have a great life. I assume that we are done here, but if there’s anything you want to add, go right ahead.

  166. #166 conradg
    March 23, 2008

    Eric,

    For those picking their way through this thread: the length of each comment is inversely proportional to its worth.

    A little self-serving, don’t you think?

    (ha ha, my comment is shorter than yours!)

  167. #167 conradg
    March 23, 2008

    Leni,

    I told you what the purpose was: it was to find rotational velocities. That isn’t a yes or no/true or false question. So if you listen very carefully, perhaps you will notice that I am telling you that sometimes scientific endeavor is not a yes or no proposition. It’s descriptive. It often is. Sometimes we just want to see how shit works.

    Honestly, Leni, how am I to take you for anything more than an idiot at this point? Did you even read my post? Was the purpose of your research to find true rotational velocities, or false rotational velocities? My guess is that your purpose was to find true rotational velocities, and eliminate all false possibilities. If not, it sounds like a colossal waste of time. Did you assume that a galaxy could have more than one true rotational velocity? No, I don’t think so (except to the degree that parts of a galaxy might rotate at different speeds). So regardless of how fixed the notion is in your mind that science isn’t about true-false dichotomies, it is.

    Your problem seems to be that you think of these questions as if they are an SAT test or something, that it means only questions that are specifically framed as ?true/ false? answers, can’t be part of a true/false dichotomy. So since the question ?What is the rotational velocity of Galazy X?? isn’t answered by ?true? or ?false?, it can’t be a true/false dichotomy. Well, please pay attention dear. There is only one true answer to the question, and many false answers. The goal of your research was to get as close to the true answer as possible, and eliminate as many false answers as possible. No? Well, that’s because the whole issue is a true/false dichotomy. It’s not a multi-choice question in which several answers can all be simultaneously true. The galaxy can’t have a rotational velocity (I’m not sure how you measure this, in rads or what) of 100 units/sec and 500 units/sec at the same time.

    That’s just the first point I made. The other, that it’s just a series of yes or no questions and therefore faulty like monotheism, is just silly.

    What’s silly is that you’ve read all my posts up to this point and actually think that’s what I said. Obviously you’re not an English major. I’ve never said that science is faulty, I’ve never said it’s got the same faults as monotheism, I’ve never even said that it is a form of monotheism. I’ve merely pointed out that science evolved in a heavily dogmatic monotheistic culture in which only one God, and one rule of conduct, was considered true, and all others were considered false, and that this undoubtedly influenced the originators of modern science to think in an exclusionary way, looking for one and only one answer to empirical questions, and rigorously trying to eliminate all false possibilities in the course of trying to ascertain the closest approximation to truth that they can. I’ve pointed out that science differs from monotheism in many respects, especially its emphasis on empiricism as a method for finding the true answer to a question, rather than merely assuming the truth on faith. But I do point out that the assumption that only one true answer exists for every basic question is shared by both approaches, and that this is not as universal as we like to think, that other cultures are much more comfortable with contradictions and multiple answers.

    I’m telling you it isn’t.

    Yes, I’m aware of that. But your arguments are simply stupid and based on a complete misconception of the question at hand.

    But even it were, we could certainly stuff polytheism into the box too. Are there many gods? Why yes. Yes there are. Is there only one god? No, there isn’t. Oh look, polytheism is just a series of yes or no questions for which there is only one right answer.

    Yes, indeed, that’s just how a scientist would frame an investigation into polytheism. He would come up with a series of true/false dichotomies and try to figure out the answers to them. But a polytheist would not, which is exactly my point. A polytheist doesn’t ask the question in that manner. He doesn’t ask himself if there is only one God or many. He isn’t looking at the world through that particular lens.

    Of course, it’s not that a polytheist couldn’t frame things that way. There certainly are some question they would answer in a true/false way. But they are just as comfortable with multiple answers and interrelated views. As I’ve noted, this can produce a very tolerant and intellectually engaged culture, as in Hinduism, but not one that is so inclined to develop scientifically. Not because Hindus are stupid or incapable. As modern trends show, Hindus are very good at science now. But their culture didn’t develop science on its own because, I think, they are just not culturally inclined towards the whole true/false dichotomy underlying the scientific method as their monotheistic brethren. Why this is so controversial a suggestion rather amazes me.

    Aside from all this, you are disregarding the obvious fact that you can have more than one right answer in scientific endeavors. And sometimes both are right. You’ve heard of relativity? As many “right” answers as you have observers. It happens all the time in more mundane ways. Is the cause of cancer genetic? Yes and no. Is the photon a wave or particle? Yes and no. On and on. I’m not even going to bring up QM.

    Relativity theory is a rather radical departure from the standard model of science as it developed out of the monotheistic culture of Christianity, and apart from its scientific merits, I think both it and quantum mechanics shows that science is, indeed, capable of expanding its views of reality. Unfortunatley, most scientists, such as yourself, are way behind the curve, and simply don’t understand the philosophic implications of that kind of thinking. Your example of looking at rotational velocties, for example, has nothing to do with the relativistic view, since you are only looking at the rotational velocity of the galaxy in question from one position, earth, and not from a relativistic perspective. Relativity theory is used to calculate the velocity, true enough, but even then it gives only one true answer for any one position in time and space. So it’s not really out of the true/false dichotomy, even if it is pointing towards the idea that truth looks very different from different perspectives.

  168. #168 David Marjanovi?
    March 23, 2008

    Fairly simple answer, if you define fundamentalist as someone who absolutely believes in something with unwavering confidence, Dawkins is a fundamentalist. He absolutely believes that when there is evidence for something, especially properly researched evidence and which follows a scientific model of repeatability and testability, that it is true.

    Erm…

    I haven’t read The God Delusion, only Unweaving the Rainbow (which, incidentally, disproves the hypothesis that Dawkins has no sense of poetry or wonder — I highly recommend that book). But, assuming Dawkins is a scientist (which looks like a good guess), he absolutely believes that when there is evidence for something, especially properly researched evidence and which follows a scientific model of repeatability and testability, that it is not yet falsified — that we can, for the time being, consider it likely true until either contradictory evidence or a more parsimonious hypothesis that explains the same observations turns up.

    Science can probably find the truth, but if it finds the truth, how could anyone find out that what it has found is the truth? By comparing it to the truth that we don’t have?

    It is not even possible to disprove solipsism, and I don’t think Dawkins would argue with that, even though I bet he isn’t a solipsist.

    You didn’t notice it, but you have built a strawman. It’s giving a nice, bright fire — no surprise there!

    The Hindus have thousands of different schools that have argued about these things for milennia, and that’s pretty much the definition of “polytheism”.

    Not at all, no. It simply means there are lots of Hindu denominations that never found it worth killing each other to find out which one was the true one. The Carthaginians killed unbelievers all the time “in spite of” having a polytheistic religion.

    And then there are Hindu extremists in India who kill Muslims and set mosques on fire every few years…

    Buddhism, BTW, disappeared from India long before Islam came in; the Hindus simply made a counterreformation much like the Catholics did 1000 years later.

    The word science itself means to separate

    Where on the planet did you get that from!?! Latin scientia means “knowledge”, from sciens “knowing”, from scire “to know”. Scio me nihil scire is “I know that I know nothing” (or more literally “I know myself to know nothing”, or even more literally “I know me to know nothing”).

    In other words, Dawkins can’t bring himself to say, Science is just one way of approaching truth. There are many such ways, each with their own advantages and disadvantages, I just find the scientific path to be the best for me, or for certain purposes I hold dear.

    Of course not. That’s because science is the only way of approaching reality in a way that produces falsifiable results. As long as you can answer the question “if I were wrong, how would I know?”, you are doing science. As soon as you can’t, you aren’t.

    Falsifiability is the great big advantage science has over religion and to some degree even philosophy in finding out what reality is, how it works, and why it has become what it is.

    So monotheistic true-false religion tend to produce us-them politics. Likewise, monological true-false science (when made a dominant world view) tends to produce us-them politics.

    “True-false” science doesn’t exist because “true” doesn’t apply to science. I do think the scientific method can and should be applied to politics — take the hypothesis that trickle-down economics works: Raygun did the experiment, and Fearless Flightsuit insisted on repeating it; both times it failed, so we should stop it already –, but I don’t see that as us-vs-them politics. I see that as bad-vs-probably-less-bad politics, the “probably” part requiring testing.

    It is far more likely that the supernatural event which they think they witnessed was a natural event that they didn’t understand.

    Let’s see:

    “In Mina’s book she tells of the Lord Jesus’ miraculous radiant appearance to an elderly Muslim theologian in Iran., and about Jesus telling this man he is not Allah! Jesus then tells this man that He is “the Bread of Life”, and words similar to His (Jesus’) blood washes sins away. Realizing whom he is dealing with, the man asks Jesus to accept him.”

    Nope, doesn’t sound like a misunderstand natural event to me. Sorry!

    Indeed not. But let’s for a minute assume that this account is true. When Jesus says he is not God, that contradicts Christianity — but is entirely compatible with Islam, according to which the prophet Isa (although born from the virgin Maryam!) is human and only human, peace be upon him, and the Trinity is a sorry misunderstanding.

    No Muslim would convert to Christianity based on such an experience. To the contrary, they’d take it as proof that Islam is true and Christianity false.

    The simplest explanation I can see is that this story was made up by a Christian who doesn’t even know that Allah is the word of the Arabic language that means “God”. It is not a proper name. Arabic-speaking Christians and Jews use it all the time, and so did Arabia’s pre-Islamic polytheistic religion. But this doesn’t matter. Again: if the story were indeed true, then Christianity would be disproven, and I can’t imagine a Muslim imagining the opposite. It would be to them what Lourdes — Mary herself appearing and saying “I am the immaculate conception” — is to Catholics (for whom Mary was conceived without original sin; conveniently, Lourdes happened just after the dogma was proclaimed in 1870).

    For example, evolutionary science looks at data, determines whether the data is true or not, and proceeds on the basis of what it has determined is true.

    This is complete nonsense.

    Science looks at the data — at the observed facts. Then people come up with hypotheses to explain those facts. Science takes these hypotheses and tests them against the data, and then it tests the surviving hypotheses against Occam’s Razor. All that survive this (often only one, but not always) are tested and not falsified and therefore kept in consideration. Never does or can science declare anything true.

    Facts — unlike laws, speculations, hypotheses, and theories — are uncontroversial parts of reality. They are by definition real. They can only be wrong is something is false about reality itself (i. e. if something like solipsism or the Hindu notion of maya is true).

    “Anecdotal recitations does not constitute certainty about anything, especially supernatural events. It is far more likely that the supernatural event which they think they witnessed was a natural event that they didn’t understand.”

    That sounds like a statement of faith to me, and further defends the term fundamentalist. If a supernatural event is provided, then by faith you will deny it and accept only the naturalistic explanation.

    No, it sounds like Occam’s Razor. For the record, William of Occam/Ockham was a monk.

    John says “Here’s another possibility as a misunderstood natural event: it could be a lie, a made-up story, a story changed in the retelling, etc.”…”a nightmare possibly. Perhaps a hallucination.”

    This is a prime example of how atheists think. Any supernatural event can be explained away. So if the event is real, and the atheist denies it, then what evidence could possibly convince them otherwise?

    Evidence.

    Just saying so does not count as evidence. Evidence does.

    Demonstrating that evolution exists at all is built upon a huge body of true-false statements, to the point that we can call it a scientific fact.

    Evidently you are neither aware of the simplicity of scientific reasoning, nor of the definition of “fact” — theories cannot become facts, no matter how well supported. You also seem to be unaware of the definition of evolution: descent with heritable modification.

    Demonstrating the truth of

    Impossible.

    Sure, it can be and IMHO has been demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt, but there is no way to define “reasonable”.

    , Dawkins sees the statement God exists as a scientific proposition, not a metaphysical proposition, and sees it as something that science can determine the truth of, and if it can’t, we simply can’t call it a true statement.

    I agree with you that it isn’t a scientific hypothesis. But it seems I need to explain why it isn’t a scientific hypothesis: because it’s not testable*. What is not testable may still be true or false, but if it’s false, we can never find that out — and therefore it isn’t science.

    * This requires that, according to the religion in question, God is sufficiently ineffable to really be untestable. Plenty of claims that religions make are testable, and are therefore scientific hypotheses, whether anyone likes that or not.

    Once he had it recalibrated, he would have faith that it’s readings were true, rather than false.

    Er… no. He would be fairly confident that he had reduced the systematic and/or the stochastic error — but he’d consider any claims that he had reduced both to zero to be delusional. In short, he would have trust that the readings were less wrong than before — but not absolute trust, only trust within one or two or perhaps three standard deviations!

    And, after calibration of course, he would repeat the measurement often enough to get a grip on the size of the stochastic error and would publish that along with the average of the measurements.

    These are all stark true[-]false statements. But in a polytheistic society, which is the true God, is it Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva, Saraswati, Ganesha, who? Well, they don’t have a single answer to this question.

    Some of them do have a single answer: all you mentioned and millions more are true, and Thor and Odin are false, and the Muslim approach is false too. Polytheism is in no way a priori incompatible with a dichotomous true-false worldview.

    Remember that there’s a cost to believing false beliefs such as evolution and naturalistic views to the origin of the universe. Truth becomes relative and unimportant, and man begins to lean on his own understanding. That’s why we have so many problems in America today. Everyone wants to be there own god and make their own rules as to what is true.

    If that were so, Jon S, Europe would be drowning in chaos. But no, it’s Somalia that’s drowning in chaos, and that’s a place where everyone is religious as far as I can tell.

    Besides, the argument from consequences is a logical fallacy:

    Premise 1: If X were true, that would mean horrible things.
    Premise 2: I don’t want horrible things to be true.
    Conclusion 1: I don’t want X to be true.

    Premise 3 = conclusion 1: I don’t want X to be true.
    Premise 4: Anything I don’t want to be true isn’t true.
    Conclusion 2: X isn’t true.

    Spot the mistake.

    Woah, it did it again. How strange and many apologies. No idea why this is happening. It seems to do it no matter which source I copy the abstract from.

    Easy: at the point where it’s cut off, it includes a “less than” sign, which ScienceBlogs interprets as the beginning of a faulty HTML tag which it removes in its entirety. You should have replaced it by & l t ; without the spaces.

    So you might first ask the question, what is the probability that the universe is metaphysical? I would say it’s a virtual certainty,

    That’s as close to a true-false statement as science ever gets!

    in that my own self-awareness is not physical in nature

    This, however, is an extraordinary claim and requires extraordinary evidence. The claim that this is not a scientific hypothesis, too, would be extraordinary and would require extraordinary evidence.

    You go on to summarize your own religion as “Be a lamp unto yourself”. To me this summarizes the single most problem mankind faces… the worship of self (or idols) rather than God. This is the problem Adam and Eve faced at the beginning. Satan promised them that if they ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil they would ‘be like God’. Ever since then man has the desire to be like God, and ‘be a lamp unto themselves.’ This goes directly against God’s commands, specifically the first commandment, ‘You shall have no other gods before me’. [...]

    But, Jon S, this is a presuppositional argument, in other words, a logical fallacy. One of your premises is that God exists, yet you don’t even try to find out if that premise is wrong.

    You then claim that even dogs show the principle of evolution at work, but this is not correct, unless you broadly define evolution as any change at all. The kind of change we observe in dogs is not the kind of change that would change a dinosaur into a bird, an amphibian into a mammal, or an ape-like creature into a man. I think those who believe in evolution don’t grasp the difference. If you can’t breed dogs to become 25 feet high or 88 feet long, how do you suppose dinosaurs came about? Do you suppose an amoeba could evolve into one of those after millions of years when we can’t breed dogs larger than what they are now? There are limitations that can’t be crossed, and the kind of change we actually observe has nothing to do with the kind of change necessary for what evolution requires.

    Evolution is descent with heritable modification. You can of course breed dogs to be 25 ft high or 88 ft long — it would just take tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of years, unless you allow for genetic engineering so the necessary mutations appear faster than they otherwise would. It isn’t scientists that don’t grasp the difference between the creationist concepts of “microevolution” and “macroevolution”, it’s you who doesn’t grasp that there is no difference. Do you think God does a miracle and stops microevolution after “too many” changes have happened, no matter where the environment drives selection to?

    If you really believe this could happen, then please provide an experiment by placing dogs in a watery environment, and watch them and their descendants over a long period of time to see if they develop flippers, gills, blow holes, baleen, etc.

    As you say: “a long period of time”. We’re talking millions of years. Run that experiment for 5 million years and tell us what you get afterwards!

    You admit animals give birth to their own kind, but not because the Bible decrees it. Actually, God did decree it throughout the first chapter of Genesis, and that is precisely why it happens, and why it’s silly to believe in evolution.

    So you simply deny the existence of mutations? You believe the copying mechanisms are perfect, radioactive decay never happens, and the sun doesn’t shine, for crying out loud?

    But tell me, if God were to appear to you and assure you the universe was around 6,000 years old, would you persist in your evolutionary beliefs, or would you conclude that God would have a better understanding of the origins of the universe (since he created it) than scientists who weren’t around to witness the beginning of the universe?

    Certainly.

    Since I trust that scripture is the Word of God, I have great confidence that evolution is a fraud, and that the world is probably less than 10,000 years old based on what God has revealed in scripture.

    But what makes you think that the Bible is indeed the Word of God? Just the fact that the Bible itself says so?

    I smell circular reasoning.

    You claim that the Biblical account of creation simply isn’t factually accurate in any sense whatsoever. However reading scripture doesn’t leave that option.

    Never mind all the contradictions in the Bible… nothing to see here, go along…

    If you think God is real, it would be wise to listen to what he says and not rely on your own understanding.

    Again you simply assume that the Bible is indeed what God says. Man, do you have any idea of what logics is?

    You say that if you rely on scripture, you will never actually know anything about God at all and if you want to know God, you have to look within yourself. This is a crazy idea you’ve convinced yourself of. If you reject what God says about himself

    Again you simply assume that the Bible is what God says about himself. You don’t even try to show that this is in fact the case — you just present this statement and expect us to believe it.

    You say you have just as much faith in man as in God, and vice-versa, and that God is not separate from man and is our very being and nature. This goes against scripture.

    Same assumption again.

    Look, dude, you have fallen among the scientists. Put up or shut up.

    Again, Jesus’s ministry is surrounded by his claims to be God, and he performed many miracles and wonders and signs to back up his claims, and he fulfilled all the prophesies from the old testament.

    So it is written. Does that alone make it true?

    (Well, actually, as you could have noticed from the fact that there are still Jews, it is entirely debatable whether, according to the letter of the NT, Jesus really fulfilled all of the prophesies from the OT the NT claims he fulfilled. But I digress.)

    If a peer-reviewed paper ever comes out scientifically refuting religion and God, I’d love to read it, but none ever has. By its own boundaries and methods, it’s simply not a legitimate scientific question. Those who treat it as one are abusing science just as much as they are abusing religion.

    That’s not what Dawkins does. I’m told a chapter in The God Delusion is called “Why God almost certainly doesn’t exist”.

    The Carvakas, for example, had a long tradition within Hinduism, including their own scriptures and teachers, in spite of being pretty much hard core atheistic skeptics. They might have had better luck, in fact, if they had been more strongly opposed, rather than treated as just one of many possible viewpoints to consider.

    Well, how much sense it makes to call C?rv?ka “Hinduism” seems to be under debate. Nobody calls Epicureanism or Stoicism Greek or Roman religion. — But I think they might have had much better luck if they had been able to explain where the observed world comes from. They had to pretty much ignore the question as being outside the realm of perception, from what I remember reading.

    More importantly, however, they were strongly opposed for centuries, so much so that their writings only survive as quotations in the works of their critics!

    The purpose of the refinement is to come closer and closer to the exact description of the object under study. One is constantly collecting data and evaluating it to get closer and closer to the true statements one can make about the shape of the earth. Each statement is progressively truer, or progressively less false, meaning it is evaluated on a scale with false at one end, and true on the other. This is the way science thinks.

    Almost. There is “false” on one end of the scale… but the scale is open-ended on the other side, because if science finds the truth, it cannot tell whether what it has found is the truth. Science is not a quest for truth, it’s a quest for falsehood, the attempt to prove everything wrong that is wrong and can in principle be proven wrong in the first place.

    What’s the purpose of my life?

    Does your life have a purpose in the first place? :-)

    Who do I trust as friends, as business partners, as lovers, as a wife, as a mentor?

    Who you should trust is outside of science. Who you do trust, and why, is inside.

    What makes me happy? What’s my favorite TV show? [...] How did I get here? Where am I going? What is my mind? What is anything at all? Why do I suffer? How can I stop my suffering? How do I become happy? [...] Why don’t people like me? Why do people like me? What is love? How do I love others? What is consciousness? Where is consciousness? Why am I aware of myself at all times? Who am I?

    All I didn’t edit out are within science. And one of these is “what career is best for me”… I’m not quite sure that this is outside science; remember that psychology is (or at least can be done, harhar) as a science.

    Our lives are the result of all the subjective choices we have made throughout all time. And our future is determined by the choices we make as well, regardless of what happens in any objective sense. Smart people figure this out, whether they are religious or not. Sartre figured it out, even though he wasn’t religious. But many scientists haven’t gotten this message. They actually think our lives are an objective event determined by objective causes.

    You forgot random.

    Hey, just about everyone forgot about it before Heisenberg, but in the last 100 years you should have noticed anyway…

    The gravest threats to our world are not from Islamic fundamentalists, but from well-meaning scientists who are trying to “improve” our world, and “defend” us from threats.

    This is just silly. The gravest threats come from people like the Busheviki (who, incidentally, promise to defend us from threats).

    Too much of science is composed, unfortunately, of the kind of spiritually failed people who crave authority as compensation for their failure as living, feeling, sensual human beings. They are trying to create a dead world of machines and computers and completely controlled environments which sucks the lifeblood out of humanity.

    This, too, is silly — and it, too, is a scientific hypothesis. So I expect you to put some evidence for it on the table.

  169. #169 royniles
    March 23, 2008

    By the way folks, this man David Marjanovic was one of the many noted scientists who have contributed to the Tree Of Life web project.

  170. #170 David Marjanovi?
    March 23, 2008

    Your example of looking at rotational velocties, for example, has nothing to do with the relativistic view, since you are only looking at the rotational velocity of the galaxy in question from one position, earth, and not from a relativistic perspective.

    Er… no. Rotation is a form of acceleration, and acceleration is not relative. Velocity is relative, acceleration is not.

    By the way folks, this man David Marjanovic was one of the many noted scientists who have contributed to the Tree Of Life web project.

    Er… what? It’s true that I’m supposed to write a lichen page on Lissamphibia, but I haven’t done anything yet… :-) I’m 25 years old and have only published one paper so far (together with my thesis supervisor). A summary of this and a paper that’s currently in press is what’s supposed to become the lichen page.

  171. #171 tomh
    March 23, 2008

    David Marjanovic wrote: “True-false” science doesn’t exist because “true” doesn’t apply to science.

    No matter how many times this is explained to this poster it doesn’t sink in. Ignorance can be cured, stupidity, not so much.

  172. #172 royniles
    March 23, 2008

    David: Sorry, I must have jumped the gun. This was what I found on that site:

    David Marjanovic
    Contributor Type: Scientific Core Contributor
    Institution: Universit� Paris 6, France

    If you are you objecting to be called a noted scientist, that’s your right, but I would hypothesize you weren’t chosen as a contributor based on expectations alone.

    25 years old? That’s scary as all hell. Life is indeed unfair.

  173. #173 conradg
    March 23, 2008

    David Marjanovic wrote: “True-false” science doesn’t exist because “true” doesn’t apply to science.

    No matter how many times this is explained to this poster it doesn’t sink in. Ignorance can be cured, stupidity, not so much.

    Yes, clearly I’m an idiot.

    One last question. Can science tell me whether the earth is flat or not? I’m curious about the truth of this statement.

  174. #174 conradg
    March 23, 2008

    Etymology of “Science”, from The Online Etymology Dictionary:

    http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=science

    science
    c.1300, “knowledge (of something) acquired by study,” also “a particular branch of knowledge,” from O.Fr. science, from L. scientia “knowledge,” from sciens (gen. scientis), prp. of scire “to know,” probably originally “to separate one thing from another, to distinguish,” related to scindere “to cut, divide,” from PIE base *skei- (cf. Gk. skhizein “to split, rend, cleave,” Goth. skaidan, O.E. sceadan “to divide, separate;” see shed (v.)). Modern sense of “non-arts studies” is attested from 1678. The distinction is commonly understood as between theoretical truth (Gk. episteme) and methods for effecting practical results (tekhne), but science sometimes is used for practical applications and art for applications of skill. Main modern (restricted) sense of “body of regular or methodical observations or propositions … concerning any subject or speculation” is attested from 1725; in 17c.-18c. this concept commonly was called philosophy. To blind (someone) with science “confuse by the use of big words or complex explanations” is attested from 1937, originally noted as a phrase from Australia and New Zealand.

    Are people here so stupid they can’t even do a google search before they make fools of themselves?

  175. #175 Leni
    March 23, 2008

    conradg wrote:

    Was the purpose of your research to find true rotational velocities, or false rotational velocities?

    I’ve told you at least 3 times that there is no such thing as true or false data.

    There is only good data and bad data, and the range in between. Even usable and unusable would be better descriptions than true and false. Thus, the answers I got were estimates, which are false by definition. Good false, but still false.

    Yes, indeed, that’s just how a scientist would frame an investigation into polytheism. He would come up with a series of true/false dichotomies and try to figure out the answers to them.

    Why not? That’s what you did. “Is Jesus the son of god” etc. Why shouldn’t we use your methodology?

    But a polytheist would not, which is exactly my point. A polytheist doesn’t ask the question in that manner. He doesn’t ask himself if there is only one God or many. He isn’t looking at the world through that particular lens.

    So what if he isn’t? And even if he wasn’t how would you know?

    Hindus are very good at science now.

    Really? Just now? Did you hear that Hindus?
    *Woo hoo!*

    *high five*

    Way to go Hindus.

    … their culture didn’t develop science on its own because, I think, they are just not culturally inclined towards the whole true/false dichotomy underlying the scientific method as their monotheistic brethren.

    Huh. Wow. Neato theory Conrad.

    Why this is so controversial a suggestion rather amazes me.

    Me too. Can’t imagine why everyone thinks you’re grade A asshole.

  176. #176 conradg
    March 23, 2008

    Leni,

    I’ve told you at least 3 times that there is no such thing as true or false data.

    I didn’t ask you whether the data you gathered was true or false. I asked whether the purpose of gathering your data was to find true rotational velocities, or false rotational velocities? Or some other purpose? In other words, why gather this data? What was the purpose of this scientific exercise? Was it to find out the true rotational velocity – or something else? If it was something else, please explain.

    the answers I got were estimates, which are false by definition. Good false, but still false.

    This is exactly how I framed this true/false dichotomy exercise: an attempt to find the true rotational velocity by eliminating more and more false possibilities, and thereby getting closer and closer to the true rotational velocity. This only makes sense, of course, if there is a single, true rotational velocity out there to get closer to.

    Monotheists, likewise, imagine there is only one true God out there, and they too are trying to get closer and closer to Him, by eliminating more and more “sin” from their mind and bodies, and making themselves more and more “holy” in the process. Like scientists, they never actually get there, they never quite find the holy grail, but they comfort themselves in getting closer and closer to the one true Answer.

    (And considering your attitude, you seem to feel certain that you are one of the true protectors of the holy grail of science, who has been greatly purified of falsehood by adherence to the one true doctrine, which of course involves the beating down of heretical sinners such as myself who seek to stain science with my impurities. Isn’t it funny that in trying to contradict me in this thread, you are doing the very thing that I have described: you are trying to eliminate the false, and thereby uphold the true path of science. This is a montheistic religious debate, my friend, in every sense of the word).

    A polytheist, on the other hand, may get closer to one God, but in the process he may also get further from another God, or Gods. He may think some Gods are stronger, better, even best, but he acknowledges they existence, and may even see his favorite God as being in competition with other Gods. Or, he doesn’t think it really matters which God he chooses, as long as he chooses one God to focus on, it will all come to the same thing. And about a million other variants of polytheism, which as I said, is polytheistic even in its definitions of polytheism.

    Yes, indeed, that’s just how a scientist would frame an investigation into polytheism. He would come up with a series of true/false dichotomies and try to figure out the answers to them.

    Why not? That’s what you did. “Is Jesus the son of god” etc. Why shouldn’t we use your methodology?

    I used that question to describe how a monotheist would look at the issue, not how a polytheist would. A monotheistic Christian would assume there is only one son of God, and once he identified Jesus as that Son, he’d stop looking. A polytheist can easily imagine thousands of sons of God, or of many Gods. He may be happy with the one he’s got, or he may move to a different, better God, depending on his personal or cultural needs. He would consider them all sons of God, and the question of whether they were true or false sons of God wouldn’t even arise. What would arise is merely which God is most needed at any particular time. The idea of actually testing all these so-called sons of God to see if their claims could be falsified, leaving the one true son of God, would never occur to a polytheist. Why would they do such a thing? Whereas in monotheism, the idea of testing to confirm the veracity of the claim that Jesus is the one true Son of God, as in Jesus’ ordeal in the desert, is fairly natural. Likewise, this monotheistic Judaic God was always testing his followers to see which of them were true, which were false, and then re-testing them, again and again, purifying the “answer” they gave until they were considered “fit” to be called his people. Does this notion of “testing” sound familiar to you? Any parallel to science there? Or should we just ignore the obvious, and move on, pretending there’s nothing to see?

    Hindus are very good at science now.

    Really? Just now? Did you hear that Hindus?

    Yes, they had to catch up, I hope you realize. If you don’t, they certainly do. They didn’t start doing science in any modern sense until the British introduced it to them, and even then it took a while to catch on. Or do you consider the historical facts of the development of science in India to be racist propaganda?

    *Woo hoo!*

    *high five*

    Way to go Hindus.

    I guess you do! Next, I’m sure you’ll be claiming the Vaishnuvedantins invented Quantum Mechanics. Well, you get extra brownie points for sheer arrogant folly. Most people are not so proud of being race-baiting ignoramuses. Add that to your resume.

    Can’t imagine why everyone thinks you’re grade A asshole.

    You have a curious definition of “everyone”. It only seems to be a very small number of pious fundamentalists (religious and scientific) on this forum who have that assessment of me. Everyone else in the world I have contact with, in my general experience, has quite a different opinion of me. But that only speaks to your incredible narcissism. You seem to think that “everyone” means you and people who think exactly like you. Wow. Neato to be that universal a being. You must be a God, right? Or just another cheesy fundamentalist creep unable to get over that horrible nerdy adolescent phase.

  177. #177 conradg
    March 24, 2008

    One additional note for all you dudes who think “true” doesn’t apply to science:

    You cannot have a concept of “false” without also having a concept of “true”. Let that sink in a moment.

    The two go hand in hand. Those who claim science has nothing to say about truth are in deep denial. There can be no concept of falsification without also having a concept of verification. One cannot declare anything untrue without having a definition of truth. If science has no conceptual definition of truth, it cannot have a definition of what is untrue, or false. So if science has nothing to do with the “true”, it can’t have anything to do with “false” either.

    Science cannot exist merely as a conceptual discipline that falsifies statements unless it has a concept and a discipline for verifying statements. The two must go hand in hand. In fact, the mere assertion by those here on this forum that science is all about finding falsehood after falsehood means that it must have a truth behind these falsehoods, or they could not be false, and we could not possibly determine that they are false. We can only tell if something is false if we have a definition of what is true. And then, of course, we have a true/false dichotomy.

    QED, dudes and dudettes.

  178. #178 conradg
    March 24, 2008
    Your example of looking at rotational velocties, for example, has nothing to do with the relativistic view, since you are only looking at the rotational velocity of the galaxy in question from one position, earth, and not from a relativistic perspective.

    Er… no. Rotation is a form of acceleration, and acceleration is not relative. Velocity is relative, acceleration is not.

    Er, you’re spanking the wrong person, dude. It’s the so-called legitimate scientist Leni who gave this example of measuring the rotational velocity of galaxies. I just using her language to maintaint conssitency. This is what she originally wrote:

    In my own experience there was very little “yes or no” or “true/false” evaluations. I spent a lot of hours pouring over galactic spectra trying toward the end of getting best approximations to their rotational velocities. We got some spotty results and the answer was “we don’t know”. I was specifically trying to get results that backed up previous results gotten by other means. I couldn’t. It didn’t mean the data was wrong or false, it just meant it wasn’t enough. These were very small, medium redshift galaxies and their spectra were messy.

    Now, one of you is obviously full of crap here, and I could really care less. From what I’ve heard so far from the two of you, it could easily be both of you. You both seemed incredibly quick to make snotty claims of superior knowledge without actually knowing what you are talking about. I mean, a so-called scientist not even knowing that the root fo the word “science” is “to separate or divide”. And then, not even bothering to check his claims when the simplest internet search would prove him wrong. This is the pathetic state of affairs these days, arrogant little twits parading around as poseurs of authority when they don’t even know the basics. You and Leni seem to be peas in a pod. I’d love to see you battle over the issue of rotational velocity vs. rotational acceleration. After all, it’s so incredibly relevant to the topic under discussion.

  179. #179 Jon S
    March 24, 2008

    David Marjanović- You say “But, assuming Dawkins is a scientist (which looks like a good guess), he absolutely believes that when there is evidence for something, especially properly researched evidence and which follows a scientific model of repeatability and testability, that it is not yet falsified — that we can, for the time being, consider it likely true until either contradictory evidence or a more parsimonious hypothesis that explains the same observations turns up.”

    Dawkins may believe he follows such a path from evidence, but I don’t think he realizes that evolution doesn’t follow the scientific model. Evolution is not observable or testable. You go on to say “As long as you can answer the question ‘if I were wrong, how would I know?’, you are doing science. As soon as you can’t, you aren’t.” and “Falsifiability is the great big advantage science has over religion…” You also state “Science looks at the data — at the observed facts. Then people come up with hypotheses to explain those facts. Science takes these hypotheses and tests them against the data.”

    Okay, let’s examine this. Evolutionists claim, for example, that Australopithecus is an ancestor of man. So, if evolutionists are wrong, how would they know? And can that be falsified? Fossils can be studied, but fossil evidence is limited because we can’t observe the living organism in its natural environment, we can’t go back in time and watch the organism evolve, and often the fossils are incomplete. Since we have these limitations, how can scientists confirm if their conclusions (interpretation of the evidence) are correct? Well, we could compare the fossil evidence of man and his alleged ancestors and see if there’s sufficient correlation. We can compare skulls and cranium sizes, teeth, etc. Some evidence fits the evolutionary scenario, such as cranium sizes, but do the conclusions confirm ancestry? Of course not, at least not in the sense that we can observe the living organism or watch it evolve. There’s also fossil evidence that counters human evolution, but I’ve found that doesn’t impress evolutionists, so for sake of brevity I won’t go there unless you request it. There are plenty of Creationist websites that detail counter arguments for man’s supposed ancestors, such the fossil Selam (Australopithecus afarensis) and its hyoid bone, scapula, and inner ear canals. In the end I’ve found that it comes down to whether or not you believe in evolution. Of course evolutionists conclude that our ancestry has been confirmed when in fact it can’t be confirmed due to the limitations previously indicated. We can go back and forth on this, but no one has presented sufficient evidence for me to accept that such ancestry has been confirmed. Do you have enough faith in evolution to say otherwise? I’m sure you do. But whether you like it or not, your conclusion can’t be confirmed by the scientific methods you described at the beginning; it can only be assumed based upon your assumption that evolution is true. This is why evolution is not real science. It’s historical science and is not open to repeatable testing or observational evidence.

    You say “Evolution is descent with heritable modification. You can of course breed dogs to be 25 ft high or 88 ft long — it would just take tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of years, unless you allow for genetic engineering so the necessary mutations appear faster than they otherwise would.”

    Can you prove this without assuming evolution? This is an extraordinary claim that can’t be backed up by observational evidence… only faith. You make a claim assuming evolution is true and expect me to accept that as proof of evolution? Is there a testable experiment you can point to indicating that dogs can become gigantic, say the size of an elephant? I think your assumption has been falsified by observational evidence, which indicates there’s a limit to the size a dog can grow. When organisms are bread, we’re reducing the amount of genetic material they have, which is why wolfs can be bread down to chiouaouas, but no one has ever bread a chiouaoua to a wolf. There’s a dramatic loss of genetic information, and is the opposite of what we’d expect if evolution were true. And genetic engineering only helps support that it takes intelligence (not random chance) to cause such a change.

    You claim that in 5 million years we could see a dog evolve flippers, gills, blow holes, baleen, etc. Nice claim, but show me evidence, not words, hand waving, and hocus-pocus.

    You claim that I simply “deny the existence of mutations” and ask if I believe the copying mechanisms are perfect, radioactive decay never happens, and the sun doesn’t shine.

    These are straw men you’ve built up in your mind to knock down. I believe in mutations, but they’re never the kind that confirms evolution. For example, if a beetle on a small, windy island loses its wings so that it can no longer fly, it will flourish while those that retain wings will be blown out to sea and become extinct on the island. This is a mutation that is beneficial, but the observation is exactly the opposite of what we’d expect if evolution were true. It doesn’t confirm that an organism that never had wings can evolve wings in the first place.

    Referring to the book Miracle of Miracles, You claim that “No Muslim would convert to Christianity based on such an experience.”

    The book, however, makes a direct claim that a Muslim did in fact convert to Christianity based on such an experience. You are making an assumption that contradicts a written account. Instead of accepting this as an account of one who heard the actual account of a conversion, you invent your own conclusion. Therefore any supernatural event, including an authentic one, will always be false in your mind, regardless of evidence. The author of the book was Muslim, so I’m not sure how you could be sure that no Muslim would convert based on such an account. Have you polled any Muslims? I’d be interested to know the results.

    You say “One of your premises is that God exists, yet you don’t even try to find out if that premise is wrong.”

    I have considered evidence against the existence of God, but I have yet to find any credible evidence. If you could convince me that Jesus did not rise from the dead I would consider atheism.

    You say “Never mind all the contradictions in the Bible… nothing to see here, go along…”

    Present some contradictions and we can examine those claims.

    You ask what makes me think the Bible is indeed the Word of God? Just the fact that the Bible itself says so? Well you seem to think that assuming evolution confirms evolution. Anyway, I went on to answer this question stating that miracles were performed and prophesies were fulfilled. I accept this while skeptics deny it. But why do you deny it, just the fact that you don’t believe in God? I’ve studied enough apologetic material that I personally consider to be honest work, and therefore I accept the Bibles claims. I believe that those who wrote the Bible wrote factual accounts, inspired by God, and I believe the entire Bible is consistent with the theme that Jesus is the Christ. I’m also aware of a number of supernatural healings based on second hand reports that I consider to be credible from my perspective. Of course none of this will convince an unbeliever. That’s between you and God. Have you ever seriously asked God to reveal himself to you? If you were to do that with an honest desire to know if God is real, I’d be interested to here back.

  180. #180 royniles
    March 24, 2008

    Hey, dude, did you forget to take your meds? You show all the earmarks of paranoia.
    One of my ignorant peasant Hindu in-laws (not that you meant that as racist) who happens to be a tenured professor of religion (specializing in comparative religions and religions of the East, and in their historical, anthropological, and philosophical aspects), tells me you sound like many who adopt the religion of another culture entirely, in hopes of filling a void left by feeling a fish out water in their own.
    Many if not most of these have some form of delusional disorder, based on feelings of inadequacy and an inability to inspire trust – especially because they haven’t been able to learn the strategies that allow for successful integration in the home culture.
    Sometimes this is due to a form of autism, sometimes not. Whatever the cause, these people can’t help but feel that there’s something everyone else knows that is being kept a secret – they tend to find some malevolent force at work in their own culture.

    I was told that we trust ourselves by the degree to which others seem to trust us. If the others that surround us cannot be made to trust us, and we have come to see some karmic purpose in all this, we may then seek out the help of some god or gods that can best deal with these purposes. A Western person will of course most often find these more congenial gods in the East.

    They then have something whose authoritative word they can pit against the punier word of those who have heretofore not trusted them, as if that proves these others are themselves at bottom unworthy of granting or defining trust.

    But they may also may discover that the god or gods they have picked will only offer trust to those whose culture in turn will have given any of its gods their status. Absence the born and bred obescience to all the rules and rituals of that culture, the trust of those gods will not in the end be granted. It’s a form of self-delusion to believe that one is worthy of the trust from a god that one can only offer lip-service in return.

    My in-law said that there are other aspects of this paranoia that can manifest themselves, which might explain the desperate need some have for holding on to their new cultural persona and their unique and ultimately superficial take on its philosophy.

    As in many cases of paranoia, the seemingly coherent and systematic appearance of otherwise odd ideas is a symptom which allows the “subject” to function in an apparently normal way. The internal necessity that forces paranoiacs to persuade others as to the reality of their system of belief comes partly from the delusional expectation that converts will be recruited to their cause.

    It’s the paranoids fervent hope that any such disciples seduced by the paranoiac’s ideas, in so far as these deny reality and mobilize Illusion, will back these attempts to turn these illusions into reality by joining in these efforts – hopes that are a form of manic rationalization – rationalization run amok as it were.

    Whether that’s the case here, it seems to fit with your insistence that others you inevitably call idiots, and who in turn inevitably call you an asshole, still peruse reams of shifting rationalizations in some delusional hope that somehow your simplistic view of truth as qualia rather than a very sophisticated aspect of measurement and evaluation will magically hit home.
    And then maybe you won’t need those meds after all.

  181. #181 royniles
    March 24, 2008

    JonS, that last post was directed to the conradg dude. I doubt if you are paranoid. Just a simple true believer, beyond hope of ever being reached by logical persuasion, or by any known form of medication.

  182. #182 conradg
    March 24, 2008

    Royniles,

    It wasn’t I who said your relatives were peasants, but Indian friends of mine who read your description. Of course, they were simply responding to your post, not your relative’s ideas, so it’s probably the idiocy is purely your own, but I have no way of knowing. If your relative is actually a professor of religion, and you are not just making shit up, which is highly likely, then you simply have no comprehension of what he’s saying. If you will send me his email, I will gladly write to him personally to clarify these matters, and verify that he is indeed who you claim he is. But we both know you won’t rise to that challenge, don’t we?

    Now, you are simply nuts if you think I’ve adopted religion of another culture. I live entirely in modern western society. I do indeed love some of Indian religion, but I do not have any great affinity for Indian culture itself. I was born here, and live here, and love it here, and I have no interest in ?going native?. The sum total of my attraction to things ?Indian? is some religious traditions, particularly Advaita, and some music, particularly devotional music. I live a very healthy, happy western life, I have been married to the same woman for 25 years, I have raised two wonderful children who attend high-powered scientific programs at major universities, I have a multi-six figure yearly income, I have a beautiful home in the redwood forests of Northern California, and I while I might like to visit India, I have no signs of ?Indianness? in my life. So your theory, and the theory of your foolish relatives (yes, educated people can also be foolish) is simply not backed up by any evidence.

    All these ad hominem attacks by you and your Indian relatives to somehow ?prove? that I must be wrong in calling Hinduism polytheistic are simply pathetic. Well, please just start cruising the internet, and you will find all kinds of opinions on the matter, and almost none of them seem to agree. There’s monistic polytheism, soft-polytheism, hard-polytheism, modified polytheism, pantheistic polytheism, and all of them are represented within ?Hinduism?. The degree of genuine monotheism within the Hindu umbrella of religions is scarcely noticeable. Maybe some forms of Vaishnuvedanta, some forms of modified non-dualism, in which people worship Vishnu or Krishna as the ?one true God?, could in some stretch be called ?monotheistic? – except that even these still insist that worshiping other Gods is fine, because at root they are all really Krishna, and all worship of other Gods is actually worship of Krishna in some other forms. If you want to call that ?monotheism?, be my guest, but it simply changes the definition of monotheism to something that is not, at base, monotheistic. You might as well ask a Christian if it’s okay to worship Allah and follow the dictates of Islam because since Jesus is the one true God, their worship of Allah is really worship of Jesus.

    As I’ve said, there’s such immense variety within Hinduism simply because it isn’t a single religion at all. It’s a large collection of religions linked together by no universally common dogma. Almost every linkage one might hope is universal turns out not to be. In the end, it’s really just a matter of geography. If it’s Indian, it’s Hinduism. Unless of course it isn’t. There’s exceptions even to that rule, because there are no universal rules. If I seem to really enjoy Hinduism’s lack of structure and organization, I do. I find it both maddening and wonderful. But I am not a Hindu myself, and I am not enamoured of Hindu ?culture?, if you could ever define such a thing.

    Now, you do have a point about trust, at least insofar as I learned not to trust the Judeo-Christian traditions of monotheism in our culture. But you obviously share that mistrust, so I don’t think you can throw stones my way. Likewise, I could easily accuse you of being attracted to atheism out of a lack of trust and a feeling of inadequacy about your native culture of western religion. And I bet to some degree that would be right. You certainly don’t seem like you have a very happily successful life. Tell us about it, your great and wonderful life. I’m dying to here how well you’ve adapted to life here.

    As for being a fish out of water, no, dude, I’m very much in my element here in the west. I have no desire to become ?Hindu? or Indian. I’m just a lot more sophisticated than you. I’ve actually read quite a lot about religions all over the world, not just Hinduism. I spent years studying Christian mysticism and Buddhism. I just happen to think that the most advanced systems of religious wisdom comes out of India, including parts of both Hinduism and Buddhism. But that’s like saying that the best of science has come out of the European tradition ? it’s not a sign of parochialism, but of being able to recognize the simple facts. I find it odd that your Hindu professor relative somehow thinks anyone from the west who recognizes this must be emotionally and mentally imbalanced. That shows a pretty poor sense of cultural and religious self-worth, if true. Or, you are just making shit up as usual.

    As for feeling that malevolent forces are at work in our culture, doesn’t that describe the viewpoint of yourself and other atheists in relation to western religion? It sure seems that way. And it’s true to a degree ? western religion has some fairly malevolent forces at work in it. Unfortunately, science also has some rather malevolent forces at work in it. As I think I mentioned before, I have had the misfortune to work with some of them. One was a Ph.D in nuclear physics, former military, former head of security at Los Alamos Nuclear Labs, where they build the big ones. One scary fricking malevolent guy that piece of work was. One would have to be a nave idiotic not to recognize that there are some pretty malevolent forces at work here in the west. My view of the west is not one-sided, however. I much appreciate the best of the west, and the best of the west has been very good to me as well.

    And autism, yes, now you are describing yourself quite well. And paranoia ? wow, that fits you to a ?T?. In fact, your whole fantasy of ?who I am? is just the most amusing form of projection I’ve come across on the internet in a long time. You really have too much time on your hands.

    My in-law said that there are other aspects of this paranoia that can manifest themselves, which might explain the desperate need some have for holding on to their new cultural persona and their unique and ultimately superficial take on its philosophy.

    Wow, now you and your hack relatives fancy yourself psychiatrists with the psychic ability to diagnose people over the internet. Where did he learn these skills, from a matchbook cover school? What amazing siddhis he’s developed. And you even fantasize that I am trying to convert you! This is positively delicious. What astonishing paranoid fantasies you have! I know a Jungian who would pay you ten dollars to hear your dreams for a research project he’s conducting. Maybe even twenty!

    It’s the paranoids fervent hope that any such disciples seduced by the paranoiac’s ideas, in so far as these deny reality and mobilize Illusion, will back these attempts to turn these illusions into reality by joining in these efforts – hopes that are a form of manic rationalization – rationalization run amok as it were.

    You’re so right! Hey, I’ve got an idea. Let’s form a cult. We can take turns playing Guru. Really, it will be fun. Your Indian relative can wear robes and funny hats even. I know he’s just dying for a chance to come to the west and diagnose people here with his magic psychic powers. I bet there’s big money to be had. Maybe you can even move out of the half-way house you’re living in. Whaddya say?

  183. #183 royniles
    March 24, 2008

    Well, Conrad, I guess my relative turned out to be as full of shit as your Indian friends and that psychic you made reference to somewhere in that mountain of oxen crap you have laid down. But he did say you would be in denial, and that an alternative diagnosis would have to be you were just plain analytically challenged (actually he said incurably stupid), But no, he’s not a psychiatrist – anthropologist would be more like it – but he did mumbai something about the shadow that had to be in your brain – and he predicted you would know at least one Jungian.
    To him the clincher was why your style of argument – it went predictably from the deceptive stance of the pretend knowledge seeker to the rabid attacker of those who offered the knowledge that they had been duped into thinking you might require. And you committed every fallacy in the book in your massive efforts at denial and in countering what you clearly believed were pre-planned attacks on some fragile facade of dogmatic idiocy.
    Most of the saner types on these forums simply agree to disagree. You have the most serious case of the fantasy preemptive attack syndrome my gurus have ever seen.
    Apparently you already know everyone will soon see you are the asshole that you apparently need them to see, so that you can then lash out at them for having the temerity to look openly at your exposed anatomy.
    You are perhaps the pseudo-intellectual flasher, taking intellectual dishonesty to a new level.
    Ad hominem attacks? Everything said was relevant to your own attacks on all and sundry who in your view refused to see your carefully fashioned structure as anything but a house of cards. Nobody cares that you live in the backwoods of California, home of the new-agers, especially of the Eureka variety, where bigfoot still lives and breathes. Nobody really wanted to hear anything about that. Nothing you have said explains why you should not have been regarded as some sort of nutcase.
    Everybody began by assuming otherwise. You began with exactly the opposite assumption. The pattern is clear.
    Sorry about the meds reference – there’s no reason to assume they would help your brand of psychic paranoia – could be some genetic anomaly – maybe an ignorant peasant somewhere in the woodpile. But I did need to offer evidence that there were in fact more than a few people that thought you were a grade A asshole.

  184. #184 conradg
    March 24, 2008

    Royniles,

    Listen, dude, I could really care less about the silly content of your ad hominem attacks, and the silly arrogant personal attacks of your Indian anthropoligist friend (who you previously claimed was a professor of religion). The problem with ad hominem attacks is that they substitue an attack on the person for an attack on the arguments themselves. It is the worst logical fallacy of all. You are trying to attack me as some kind of crazed big-foot beleiver in order to somehow dismiss my views on Hinduism as being false. And this because I live in a certain geographical location? Really, this is pathetic.

    Look, I’m glad you admit your friend is full of shit. Personally, I don’t much care if people are full of shit in a debate. I care if their arguments are full of shit. The problem with your way of arguing is that you don’t have an argument. You don’t actually have anything to say about Hinduism to counter the views I’ve put forward. You don’t have any rational refutation of my argument that Hinduism is polytheistic and just about poly-everything. Instead, you find out maybe that you’re way off, and instead of just admitting you were wrong, you start attacking me personally in the most idiotic and fantasy-projection way, all to distract attention from your inability to argue the points we are discussing. If you would simply try to make some kind of sensible argument about Hinduism, it would instantly elevate this discussion back to a plane of rational discourse, rather than ad hominem nonsense.

    Likewise, I still want to email your Indian friend and confront him personally regarding these accusations and characterizations he’s made. Now he calls me stupid. Well, I’d like to see his basis for that. I’d like to see how he defends Hinduism against the characterization of polytheism, and how he can pretend that it is monotheistic. I’m sure there are ways of doing that, it’s not an utterly ridiculous idea, but I’d like to see him actually put forward an argument rather than a personal attack on those of a different view. Personally, I think the line of argument you referred to him making earlier leads even more plausibly to the characterization of Hinduism as being atheistic than monotheistic, but I’d at least like to see him make it. In any case, I don’t much like arguing with someone through a filter, especially an uninformed and distorted filter such as yourself. So either invite him to debate me here, or send me his email address, or have him email me directly at *****conradg@gmail.com****.

    Anyway, if you can actually debate, please, go ahead. Stop complaining about my supposed “style” of debate, and get back to the issues. You are obsessed with my style because you are simply wrong on the arguments themselves, and don’t know how to either admit it or defend your own arguments. Deal with it.

  185. #185 royniles
    March 24, 2008

    Con dude: None of us want to deal with the style of argument that has these premises:
    I’m always right.
    If that’s not true, I’m stupid.
    I can’t be stupid.
    Nobody can be both right and stupid
    Therefor anyone who says I’m wrong has to be either right or stupid.
    Since we can’t both be right, they are a priori stupid.
    It is always to my benefit to point that out.
    Therefor I must always do so.

    A corollary to that is: All debates can be won by calling the opponent stupid. This will be self-evident to any disinterested judge who will know intuitively that I am always right.

    Another corollary: No one must ever admit to being wrong or everything they have ever said will be open to question. That question being, are you stupid or what?

    A related question that resonates endlessly in your jungian psyche: Why do these voices keep saying, stupidity is evil, evil, evil?

    Another voice says, You must hide that evil by never revealing that you are in fact limited to only a true-false categorical system. You must pretend an understanding of probability that you don’t possess, and pretend that all who have that understanding are just as dumb as they’d find you to be if they knew you couldn’t really use that concept.

    But admittedly I digress. No-one could have known you were dumb if you hadn’t tried to prove otherwise. And the real evil comes more from deliberate ignorance than relative stupidity (yes, even stupidity is relative).

    But I’ll now give you the dubious (at least in your case) benefit of having the last word.

  186. #186 conradg
    March 24, 2008

    Royniles,

    Isn’t your entire argument against me simply an accusation that I’m stupid? You don’t have any other argument. You don’t even offer evidence that I argue as you have described. You simply make assertions, and if I argue against them, you say I’m stupid or off my meds or something. You haven’t offered a single argument that Hinduism is monotheistic and not polytheistic. You have only offered the hack opinion of some friend of yours that I must be crazy or in denial. Not a single argument on the subject matter.

    But yes, with Leni I did finally break down and say that she was stupid. Not because she disagreed with me, but because after a dozen tries, she could not even comprehend what I was saying. She insisted on addressing herself to an argument that I was not making, and would never address herself to the argument I did make.

    Neither of you have addressed yourself to that argument. None of you have addressed the fact that for science to falsify something, it must be able to define what truth is. You both (and David) insist that science isn’t about finding the true, it’s about proving things false. You don’t see the most obvious thing any elementary school child could see – you can’t have one without the other. Science does try to find truth. It sees their task as a quest to know the truth, just as monotheists see the purpose of life as a quest to know God. In both cases, the quest turns out to be never-ending. In both cases the quest is pursued through a series of purifying tests that weed out all false truths, all false Gods. In both cases there can be only one true and final truth, and their path is the only way that can possibly get there, or even approach it. You have absolutely nothing intelligent to say about that, you just say “is not”, like some petulent bully in the schoolyard. Yes, I’m rather fed up with that, and rather contemptuous of your sad failure to actually engage the issues in a responsible way. Likewise with Leni and others.

    One thing I’ll mention is that I went over to the Dawkins site to see what it’s like, and the people there are immensely more humane and decent than you and some of the people on this site. I assume it’s just a natural reflection of Dawkins himself as a decent and humane character, something clearly lacking in your approach, Leni’s approach, and a few others here. I’m not sure if that’s a reflection on Jason or not, or just his failure to establish a clear tone for this site. I don’t get any of the crap from the Dawkins people you are giving me, and it’s quite refreshing. Not that they agree with me, of course. Nor do I expect them to. They just don’t make stupidly ignorant arguments over petty issues for the sheer malignant fun of poking sticks at the crazy religious people.

    Anyway, I still want to talk to your friend, if he actually exists. If I hear nothing, I will simply assume you have been lying to me. Why would that surprise anyone?

    Best wishes for getting a real life some day.

  187. #187 by-stander
    March 24, 2008

    None of you have addressed the fact that for science to falsify something, it must be able to define what truth is.

    The above statement just isn’t true & everyone who’s addressed this maniac has pointed it out in one way or another. It should be evident that he’s incapable/unwilling to think this one through, so why keep picking that scab?

  188. #188 conradg
    March 25, 2008

    by-stander,

    Claiming something isn’t true isn’t the same as refuting it. Where’s the evidence? Where’s the sensible argument against it? If asking these kinds of questions makes me a maniac, then so be it. In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man…

  189. #189 conradg
    March 25, 2008

    Btw, though a maniac, I’m interested in any books on the philosophy of science, information theory, etc., which address this issue. If anyone has any recommendations, please post them.

  190. #190 Jim
    March 25, 2008

    Ok conradg,
    You’ve drawn me back in. Congratulations. I should have said this earlier but you said (I think) that you were familiar with Kuhn so I assumed…
    If we follow Kuhn (not always a simple task, admittedly) in taking the solved problem (research puzzle) rather than the established truth (e.g., an established-true lawlike claim) as the unit of achievement then the central problem of methodology is surely the underdetermination of theory, a philosophical conundrum on which philosophers spin their wheels. Yet working scientists manage to deal with this difficulty — why would this be? Glad you asked — Primarily by refusing to divorce scientific problems from the richly textured constraint contexts in which they arise. The research process continues without having to settle questions of ultimate truth. Scientists work at a moving front, where this ‘motion’ is relative to previously ‘established’ results. ‘Established results’ are reliable results, but they need not be true results, much less results known to be true. But isn’t truth important to research?, you ask. Glad you did. Of course, in a trivial sort of way. Researchers must not falsify data, conceal theoretical weakness, etc. My point is different. Adopting the solved problem & the reliable result, rather than the certifibly true result, as the immediate goal of inquiry is not to throw away something that we ever had. Since epistemological foundationism fails, we have no ‘direct access’ to the truth about the world. All access to the truth is mediated by inquiry procedures available to all suitable trained investigators. Requiring that they be true introduces no additional, practical constraint on problem solutions (theories, models, explanations) beyond the usual requirements of empirical support & consonance with previously established results. Since this is so, I think that we can see that a process methodology is a problem-solving rather than a directly-truth-seeking account of scientific research.
    Since you seem to like Kuhn, I suggest that you go back & read him. That should keep you busy for a while.

  191. #191 conradg
    March 25, 2008

    Jim,

    Thanks. Yes, I like Kuhn, and it’s been a while since I read him, so I think I’ll take another crack at him. I’ve been more influenced by Von Neuman and information theory, and looking at scientific knowledge as an attempt to process information by breaking it down into discrete packets of yes/no statements. Perhaps people are reacting to the charged words “true” and “false”. I’m off to Tahoe with the kids for the week, but may be able to drop a line here and there.

  192. #192 royniles
    March 25, 2008

    Not to worry then, Jim. True and false are merely “charged words” that describe yes or no as well as right or wrong – rather than yes or no and right or wrong being more neutral words that can add up to a determination of true or false. Which is of course a fine distinction when that’s always considered to be the user’s purpose.

    To note that the phrase “charged words” can describe those that elicit an emotional reaction to the patently bogus would perhaps also be putting too fine a point on it.

  193. #194 Jim
    March 26, 2008

    royniles…
    Good find! However, that link cut the story short. It actually continued latter on that night for a few hours:
    http://www.rationalistinternational.net/article/2008/20080310/en_1.html

  194. #195 recep
    June 9, 2008

    For those picking their way through this thread: the length of each comment is inversely proportional to its worth.

    thankyou

  195. #196 mehmet
    June 9, 2008

    thank you great post.

  196. #197 pier
    June 9, 2008

    Whew! Sure are some wordy folks in this thread!

    http://www.sevkat.com
    great..

  197. #198 adiyamanlilar.com
    June 9, 2008

    What in the hell does arguing about the correctness of a label accomplish? Labels have definitions but are not in and of themselves the determiners of their own definitions.

    If Dawkins is wrong about something (and of course by some standard somewhere, he is), then it would be more informative to discuss what and why one thinks that is.

    Also, is a fundamentalist per se a bad thing, and if not, what’s the point of noting that bad and good sometimes have a similar dynamic?