Karl Giberson offers up the usual cliches of the genre in in this essay for Salon. Those mean ol’ atheists are trying to make a religion out of science, but savvy clear thinkers like him see the problems with that little project. Blah blah blah.

P.Z. has already spanked Giberson in this post. Nonetheless, there was one paragraph that really caught my eye:

In order for many of us to truly feel at home in the universe so grandly described by science, that science needs to coexist as peacefully as possible with the creation stories of our religious traditions. I share with Myers, Dawkins and Weinberg the conviction that we are the product of cosmic and biological evolution, that Einstein and Darwin got it right. But I want to believe that, through the eyes of my faith, this is how God created the world and that God cares about that world. Does this belief, shared by so many of our species, make me dangerous?

I can just picture some young-Earth creationist reading this with a smirk. “You see!” he will say. “You compromise the faith, cede to science the right to answer the grand questions of human origins, and then act surprised when they still don’t want you. Serves. You. Right.”

Seriously, the desperation here is palpable. Theistic evolutionists have made great concessions to achieve their reconciliation of Christianity with evolution. Perspicuity of scripture? Gone. Natural theology? Pointless. Argument from Design? Fuhgeddabout it. The sort of beliefs that are justified by evidence and defended rationally are granted to science. Religious beliefs are justified by recourse to ill-defined “eyes of faith” and the desire of believers to feel at home in the universe (whatever that means). They’ve conceded about ninety percent of the territory on which science and religion clash. But still a lot of scientists won’t even give them that last ten percent. How frustrating that must be for them.

As for whether these views make him dangerous, that’s hard to say. People holding private religous beliefs that help them make sense of the universe, or that provide emotional sustenance to get through the trials of life? Doesn’t worry me in the slightest. If that’s what religious belief were generally about, no one would be writing scathing denunciations of it. The trouble is that religious belief so rarely manages to remain a private affair. A desire to foist ones beliefs on others seems a central part of the enterprise. And to the extent that even very moderate forms of faith provide cover for the more ambitious type, yes, it is dangerous.

For more on the wit and wisdom of Karl Giberson, see my review of his recent book Saving Darwin.

Comments

  1. #1 Tyler DiPietro
    July 31, 2008

    This is particularly well put:

    “People holding private religous beliefs that help them make sense of the universe, or that provide emotional sustenance to get through the trials of life? Doesn’t worry me in the slightest. If that’s what religious belief were generally about, no one would be writing scathing denunciations of it.”

    I for one would greet it with exasperated eye-rolling, much the same as I do to those who spend $50 on lottery tickets and excitedly celebrate on the odd occasion that they “win” $10 with one of them. It’s irrational, it’s stupid, but in the end, it’s their business.

    If they made the kind of political demands that religious believers are known for, and attempted various ways of bullying others into deference to their habit, that would be a different story.

  2. #2 BaldApe
    July 31, 2008

    If they made the kind of political demands that religious believers are known for, and attempted various ways of bullying others into deference to their habit, that would be a different story.

    I agree. I find them (theistic evolutionists) to be a little gutless, in that it seems they just can’t quite bring themselves to abandon a childhood belief that all their understanding of the evidence says is pointless and untrue.

    But they really don’t hurt anything, so why pester them? If they provide a comfort zone for less well educated people to accept reality, so much the better.

  3. #3 MarcusA
    July 31, 2008

    I think most faithful believers would prefer all non-believers to keep their mouths firmly shut. The fact is that religion doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. Basically, it can only exist in a compliant and gullible atmosphere. The mere existence of an atheist corrodes a believer’s fragile faith.

  4. #4 tresmal
    July 31, 2008

    Personally, I’m willing to cut theistic evolutionists a lot of slack. For one thing for many people (probably a majority) going from creationism to completely naturalistic evolution in one jump is just too much. Theistic evolution on the other hand offers a safe and reassuring way station. If they then don’t take that extra step, well okay whatever. As long as they refrain from trying to get government involved in our spiritual lives or from imposing doctrine on science, my interest in other peoples’ religious views is pretty much zero.

  5. #5 Tyler DiPietro
    August 1, 2008

    Isn’t Larry Fafarman supposed to be banned?

  6. #6 AL
    August 1, 2008

    What thanks did they get from PZ Myers? He drove a rusty nail through a communion wafer, saying that he hoped that Jesus was up-to-date on his tetanus shots or something like that, and then threw the wafer in the trash.

    What in the name of a non-existent god are you blabbing about? PZ doing stuff to a communion wafer is not a response to the Catholic Church’s nebulous lip service to evolution. It’s a response to a young man getting death threats over said wafer. Please stay on topic and try not to connect dots that aren’t connected.

  7. #7 Modusoperandi
    August 1, 2008

    …and what would the right thing to do be, Larry? Sit back, shut up, and watch a kid who did something dumb (and now, the guy who was with him at the time) get threatened for doing the dumb things that kids do? He didn’t kill anyone. He didn’t harm anyone. He tried to take the cracker that was given to him out of the church without eating it first.
    While I have qualms about PZ’s frequently pugnacious delivery, what he did was far closer to the right thing than just going “Tut, tut.” while watching a kid’s life get ruined. Much like the Danish cartoon “incident”, people seem to be forgetting why PZ did it in the first place. The “why” is not PZ wrecking a cracker. The “why” is Webster Cook (and now his compadre, too) getting a grossly disproportionate punishment, up to and including death threats, for what is at most a minor crime.


    On topic: I don’t think that theistic evolutionists think the subject through. Naturalistic evolution on its own is, literally, heartless. Evolution to some degree controlled by a supreme moral agent is bloodthirsty and cruel. If true, this results in a very different god than the biblical one. Even the OT version at His most worst (like killing Egypt’s firstborn) is nothing compared to the horror of any god using evolution over a few billion years just to get to us (assuming, of course, that we are the goal).
    This would make biblical passages like Isaiah 55:8 and 1 Corinthians 13:12 more true than their authors believed.

  8. #8 Valhar2000
    August 1, 2008

    Just because you don’t agree with something doesn’t mean that it is not on-topic.

    Just because we don’t agree with something doesn’t mean that you are not lying. Though, indeed, your lie was on-topic, so I suppose AL’s criticism did not quite hit the spot.

  9. #9 SLC
    August 1, 2008

    Re Larry Fafarman

    Apparently, Prof. Rosenhouse is not aware that Mr. Fafarman is a Holocaust denier. I agree with Mr. DiPietro that Mr. Fafarman should be banned from this blog, if for no other reason, on that basis alone. Below is a description of Mr. Fafarman by Ed Brayton. Mr. Fafarman is indeed a sad case.

    “”The upshot of all this is clear: Larry Fafarman needs serious therapy. His obsessive compulsive nature subverts any chance his mind has of forming even a mildly accurate picture of reality. He creates these bizarre legal theories, none of which have ever won anything in court, and he sits in his house all day long desperate for people to listen to him. So he spams every blog and forum with his lunatic ideas and gets banned, then in his mind he is converted into Don Quixote, bravely tilting at all the dragons windmills that do him such injustice. He doesn’t have delusions of grandeur so much as he has delusions of relevance. And he convinces himself that he’s on the verge of winning against we who torment him so. He’s gonna be added to the legal team that is threatening to sue me and bring me down, or he’s going to convince ScienceBlogs to fire me. It’s alternately amusing and sad, and sad only because there is a real person at the other end of this pathetic behavior and he really is nuts. Not just a little clueless or “kooky” but genuinely mentally ill and in need of psychological help.”

    Mr. Fafarman is indeed a sad case.”

  10. #10 Modusoperandi
    August 1, 2008

    …and what would the right thing to do be, Larry? Sit back, shut up, and watch a kid who did something dumb (and now, the guy who was with him at the time) get threatened for doing the dumb things that kids do? He didn’t kill anyone. He didn’t harm anyone. He tried to take the cracker that was given to him out of the church without eating it first.
    While I have qualms about PZ’s frequently pugnacious delivery, what he did was far closer to the right thing than just going “Tut, tut.” while watching a kid’s life get ruined. Much like the Danish cartoon “incident”, people seem to be forgetting why PZ did it in the first place. The “why” is not PZ wrecking a cracker. The “why” is Webster Cook (and now his compadre, too) getting a grossly disproportionate punishment, up to and including death threats, for what is at most a minor crime.


    On topic: I don’t think that theistic evolutionists think the subject through. Naturalistic evolution on its own is, literally, heartless. Evolution to some degree controlled by a supreme moral agent is bloodthirsty and cruel. If true, this results in a very different god than the biblical one. Even the OT version at His most worst (like killing Egypt’s firstborn) is nothing compared to the horror of any god using evolution over a few billion years just to get to us (assuming, of course, that we are the goal).
    This would make biblical passages like Isaiah 55:8 and 1 Corinthians 13:12 more true than their authors believed.

  11. #11 Philip H.
    August 1, 2008

    So, because I have an Master’s in Fisheries Oceanography, and I attend church and believe in the Christian version of God, I’m some sort of stupid, gutless, intellectually stunted person who is stuck in childhood? Really? WOW!

    There are many times I love my fellow scientists, and how they stand up in this world for things that are right (like saving everyone from the ravages of unchecked global warming). Other times, I’m ashamed that our community, supposedly built on inquisitiveness and openness to new ideas, is so unaccepting and closeminded about certain subjects. And then when the insults start flying, it just makes us, as a community, look like disgruntled egomaniacs, who shout ever louder because we want to drown out everyone else.

    People believe in God because God answers questions that science can’t. I know, it’s hard to accept that science can’t answer something, but it’s true. Look at all the cool sea creatures that come up from the abyssal depths – deep ocean ecologists can tell us now about the physical, chemical and evolutionary forces that propelled these creatures into their unique forms. But none of them can tell me why seeing such a thing tugs at my soul. Likewise, planetary biologists are now in a flurry about the newest water discovered on Mars, but none of them can add to that narrative by telling me why I have such a sense of wonder at it all.

    Those moments are where God comes in. He also shows up when we are trying to make sense of how we should respond to things in the world that defy scientific order and logic – such as how should we respond to genocide in Darfur.

    So lay off those of us who chose, actively, as adults, to find our truth in multiple places. We’re not scary, we’re not irrational. We’re just not you, and scientists should be ok with a little difference and variety.

  12. #12 Richard Eis
    August 1, 2008

    I’m afraid that a “theistic evolution” phase is probably inevitable in the religious general public on the way to full recognition of an atheistic outlook.

    and so we take away their security blankets one snip at a time.

  13. #13 Herb Schaffler
    August 1, 2008

    In a review of “Irreligion: A Mathematician Explains Why the Arguments for God Just Don’t Add Up” by John Alan Paulos in the Volume 14, No. 2, 2008 issue of “Skeptic” magazine, the reviewer Norman Levitt brings up a question by the late physist Eugene Wigner: “Why does the vast corpus of mathematical ideas developed without any applications in mind turn out to be so useful in describing what we can discover of physical reality, to the extent that it is virtually impossible to envision a “physics” detached from these mathmatical formalisms?” Levitt said, “Wigner’s question remains deep and resists an easy answer.”

    As I’m not a mathmatician or physist, the above question is above my head. I’m assuming it is some type of fine tuning argument. Can anybody here explain the question in a simpler form and provide a prosaic explanation for it.

  14. #14 FastLane
    August 1, 2008

    People believe in God because God answers questions that science can’t.

    Really? Name one.

    Of course, in order for it to be useful, it has to actaully answer a question….correctly. There also has to be evidence that it is more than just something that makes you feel good. There also needs to be some kindof evidence that it is your particular god in order to differentate from the followers of Asatru, Hinduism, et. al.

    Oh, and if you get an ‘answer’, you should be able to show your work (aka, it should be repeatable and universal), sorta like when you add 2 + 2.

    Cheers.

  15. #15 Overturf
    August 1, 2008

    “People believe in god because god answers questions that science can’t.”

    I believe that’s called weakness of the mind. Knowing the inner self and the outer world, the nature within and outside.

    It just so happens that us humans really aren’t all that bright, don’t care what degree any one of us has or what papers they have written. As as I see it, we still haven’t found intelligent life either. Not even here on earth. Because as Hitchens wrote in his recent book, Religion Ruins Everything.
    Animal first, human last – Sabrina

  16. #16 Blake Stacey
    August 1, 2008

    Herb Schaffer:

    I don’t think that’s a fine-tuning argument; I’m not even sure its premises are accurate. Mathematics grew out of investigations of the natural world, and even the purest branches, several stages of idealization from gritty reality, are rooted in the physical. Then, too, we tend to forget ideas which have neither practical application nor intrinsic mental beauty, so the parts of mathematics which have no application to science are likelier to grow dusty and gather mold in the journal stacks of the library basement.

    From one perspective, the entire point of peer review is to create a biased sample of all ideas generated by the scholarly community: biased, that is, in favor of interesting and truthful ones.

    Larry Fafarman:

    BTW, for the record, I am a holocaust revisionist, not a holocaust denier.

    “I’m not a demented fuckwit. I’m a demented fuckwit without the courage of my convictions.”

    Troll, meet killfile. Killfile, meet troll.

  17. #17 Blake Stacey
    August 1, 2008

    Sorry, that should be Schaffler — my apologies. Fingers demand more caffeine!

  18. #18 SLC
    August 1, 2008

    Re Larry Fafarman

    “Ed Brayton is a stupid ignoramus. I attack him in 58 posts in my “I’m from Missouri” blog that are listed under three post labels in my blog’s sidebar.”

    Mr. Fafarmans lacks sufficient intelligence to grab his considerable hind quarters with both hands.

    “BTW, for the record, I am a holocaust revisionist, not a holocaust denier.”

    That’s a distinction without any considerable difference.

  19. #19 Tyler DiPietro
    August 1, 2008

    “I’m always kicking their butts — that’s why they don’t like me.” — Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger

    Is Ahnold one of the people who talks to you in your head, Larry?

  20. #20 Gary
    August 1, 2008

    For some strange reason that I can’t quite understand, the comments to this post are very entertaining. Most trolls are quite boring. Fafarman seems to be a bit of an exception.

  21. #21 mk
    August 1, 2008

    “I’m not a demented fuckwit. I’m a demented fuckwit without the courage of my convictions.

    Selah.

  22. #22 Herb Schaffler
    August 1, 2008

    “Mathematics grew out of investigations of the natural world”

    That’s the way I look at it.

  23. #23 James F
    August 1, 2008

    The palpable desperation is from people who think science is a religion, not from theistic evolutionists. Giberson’s fear that science is becoming a religion is extremely rare among theistic evolutionists; in fact, I can’t think of another TE making the same argument, can you? And what else needs to be ceded to evolutionary biology without jumping the boundaries of methodological naturalism?

  24. #24 JimCH
    August 1, 2008

    Phillip H…

    So, because I have an Master’s in Fisheries Oceanography…

    I hate to break it to you Phil but advanced degrees are most definitely not proof of intelligence or rationality. Check the degree dropping at the door, please.

    People believe in God because God answers questions that science can’t.

    Really? Like what, for instance? You merely offered the feeling of wonderment you get at witnessing something new. That’s not evidence for god’s magic hand, that’s evidence for being human. There is no reason to invoke god here, it’s a non sequitur. There is certainly no reason that the numinous necessitates spirituality or the supernatural.
    And, by the way, your personal offense doesn’t not make your beliefs any less irrational.

  25. #25 StuV
    August 1, 2008

    because I have an Master’s in Fisheries Oceanography

    Nobody cares.

    and I attend church and believe in the Christian version of God

    Which Christian version? You know there’s thousands, right?

    I’m some sort of stupid

    …when it comes to your view of reality.

    gutless

    …for your inability to face reality.

    intellectually stunted person

    …for your ability to denounce thousands of gods, but cannot make the simple, logical step of denouncing one more.

    who is stuck in childhood?

    No idea. Do you sleep with the lights on?

    Other times, I’m ashamed that our community, supposedly built on inquisitiveness and openness to new ideas

    Umm, Christianity isn’t “new”. It’s been a sad superstition for many centuries, and the more we find out about the world around us, the sillier it seems to everyone except to its intellectually dishonest followers.

    People believe in God because God answers questions that science can’t.

    Argument from ignorance. A logical fallacy. Just because you don’t understand certain things does not necessitate inserting a magical sky fairy.

    I know, it’s hard to accept that science can’t answer something

    …yet.

    Oh, name me ONE scientist who cannot accept that. Just one.

    But none of them can tell me why seeing such a thing tugs at my soul.

    1. Define “soul”.
    2. Are you joking?

    but none of them can add to that narrative by telling me why I have such a sense of wonder at it all.

    1. Define “wonder”.
    2. No really, are you fucking joking?

    You want scientists to explain your feelings? Your neural network is stimulated by certain things, which can cause certain hormones to be excreted, which lead to a sense of well-being.

    Those moments are where God comes in.

    For certain values of God, such as “serotonin”.

    He also shows up when we are trying to make sense of how we should respond to things in the world that defy scientific order and logic – such as how should we respond to genocide in Darfur.

    People can be primitive, tribal, homicidal maniacs. Defy order and logic my foot. And how we should respond? That’s a humanitarian question. Do you need your sky fairy to answer such simple things for you?

    So lay off those of us who chose, actively, as adults, to find our truth in multiple places.

    You have every right to believe moronic things. We have every right to make fun of these things, and of you for believing in them.

    You have no right not to be offended.

    We’re not scary

    First true statement. Assuming you keep your idiotic belief system to yourself, and out of politics, science and education.

    we’re not irrational

    Yes you are. How fundamentalist you are about your Christianity determines the extent.

    scientists should be ok with a little difference and variety.

    Scientists tend to like their science all sciencey. They’re weird that way. God is an unprovable bit of silliness that has no place in the scientific method.

  26. #26 Bayesian Bouffant, FCD
    August 1, 2008

    People believe in God because God answers questions that science can’t. I know, it’s hard to accept that science can’t answer something, but it’s true.

    Since God doesn’t exist, He doesn’t answer anything. People who believe in God do indeed provide answers, but how do we know if their answers are correct? Once upon a time they told us that the Earth is flat, and that pi = 3, and that the Sun orbits the Earth. Their answers for verifiable questions are getting better, but that’s due to science, not faith. Since their other answers are outside the realm of verification, there is no way to check up on them. And we have assorted god-botherers all providing different and incompatible answers. All but one of them must be wrong. So we’re just arguing about that last one.

  27. #27 Jason Rosenhouse
    August 1, 2008

    I thought I had banned Larry from the blog, but apparently it didn’t take. I have deleted his comments from this thread. If he posts any more I would ask other commenters to ignore him.

  28. #28 BaldApe
    August 1, 2008

    Herb Schaffler said:

    Norman Levitt brings up a question by the late physist Eugene Wigner: “Why does the vast corpus of mathematical ideas developed without any applications in mind turn out to be so useful in describing what we can discover of physical reality, to the extent that it is virtually impossible to envision a “physics” detached from these mathmatical formalisms?” Levitt said, “Wigner’s question remains deep and resists an easy answer.”

    Your question, if I understand it myself, touches on one of my many sources of wonder about the world- that is, that you can take a mathematical description of the world and manipulate it, and find out new things about the real world. Mathematics always seems like such an abstraction, it just seems amazing that the world conforms to its manipulations.

    Of course a lot of people just look at me when I try to talk about this, so it may be that I have misunderstood the point, or that my innate mathematical ability is so rudimentary that I am easily astonished.

  29. #29 fongooly
    August 1, 2008

    Philip H said: “Those moments are where God comes in. He also shows up when we are trying to make sense of how we should respond to things in the world that defy scientific order and logic – such as how should we respond to genocide in Darfur.”

    Assuming God HAS shown up, one wonders why he didn’t show before the genocide instead of after – presuming this is the God that knows everything in advance (and ignoring, as all Christians must, the question of his complicity in their cause).

    And if he is here now, is he only admonishing or advising Christians? Does Philip believe there is a different God for the Darfur perpetrators? Is there a celestial battle going on as we speak between Larry’s God and one or more others?

    So many questions, so few Godlike answers.

    Or will neither God nor science answer these questions?

  30. #30 fongooly
    August 1, 2008

    Sorry, I substituted Larry for Philip there near the end. Why God made that happen, I’m not being told.

  31. #31 Wes
    August 1, 2008

    So someone who refers to himself as a “theistic evolutionist” is accusing others of trying to turn science into a religion?

  32. #32 Larry Fafarman
    August 3, 2008

    I thought I had banned Larry from the blog, but apparently it didn’t take. I have deleted his comments from this thread.

    Jackass Jason, you lousy dunghill, my comments were on-topic, serious, and polite. What kind of credibility do you think you have?

    I referred my blog’s readers to comments that I made on this blog. So I posted the comments on my own blog.

  33. #33 JimCH
    August 3, 2008

    I realize that we are not ordinarily to address Larry Fafarman on this site however a quick entry might help clear up his confusion. Perhaps, Larry, it isn’t your comments on the current thread but your behavior in the past that is keeping you banned. Surely you’ll agree, if you’ll pardon the graphic analogy, that a murderer should not be let out of prison just because they don’t murder while in prison.
    And, by the way, if you think that:

    Jackass Jason, you lousy dunghill, my comments were on-topic, serious, and polite. What kind of credibility do you think you have?

    is an appropriate & reasonable response to this:

    I thought I had banned Larry from the blog, but apparently it didn’t take. I have deleted his comments from this thread.

    then you have not made your case, to say the very least.

  34. #34 Morgan-LynnGriggs Lamberth- skeptic griggsy world over Google either name
    August 3, 2008

    The atelic argument that the weight of evidence shows no cosmic teleology, showing thus no god need apply for work! Causalism contradicts teleology [ See Weisz's "The Science of Biology"]. Theistic evolution is the new Omphalos argument that God deceives us into thinking that natural selection is its own boss. No, selection, acting like a sieve, works withot outside direction or explanation.
    Theistic evolution redounds to God will what He wills or God did it, so unimformative!
    God is no personal explanation,contrary to Richard Swinburne but an empty term, ostensibly to be the Ultimate Explanation but ever so fatuous. Google the ignostic-Ockham.

  35. #35 fongooly
    August 4, 2008

    Well, wasn’t that special!

  36. #36 Dale Husband
    August 4, 2008

    I thought I had banned Larry from the blog, but apparently it didn’t take. I have deleted his comments from this thread. If he posts any more I would ask other commenters to ignore him.
    Will do, but I’d like to note that clever users can post using different e-mail addresses and/or names to get around banning. PZ Myers called this “morphing”.

  37. #37 Dale Husband
    August 4, 2008

    Ah, found the specific reference:
    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/plonk.php

    Larry Fafarman
    AKA Larry Farma, many others

    Stupidity, Morphing

    This fellow is probably mentally ill, but he’s able to maintain a blog that is a bottomless pit of stupidity. Also banned at the Panda’s Thumb.

  38. #38 Bil Rohan Sr
    August 4, 2008

    “But I want to believe that, through the eyes of my faith, this is how God created the world and that God cares about that world.” Giberson

    “I want …”
    Why does a person “want” to believe something about a god or more basically “want to believe” there us a god to believe in?

    Why not “not want to”?

    You don’t need a supernatural being to explain anything. It is an idea which interferes with understanding. It contaminates it. No knowledge is added or reached by saying “this is the way god does things” in regard to evolution (or anything else).

    “I want to believe there is a supernatural being who designed evolution. I see order, complexity, causal relationships, great duration and diversity in nature. I know there is a supernatural being, though I can’t sense that that being I feel “him”. I believe, actually I really know but can’t prove it to others. Right now a supernatural participation in every thing that was, is, or will be. Don’t you see, there has to be! I feel it!”

    Some want that version of life and living. It would be difficult to not want that version once it is an identity that renounces any knowledge that contradicts it.

  39. #39 MartinM
    August 5, 2008

    Will do, but I’d like to note that clever users can post using different e-mail addresses and/or names to get around banning.

    Sadly, so can extremely stupid ones.

  40. #40 Peter Henderson
    August 11, 2008

    Jason:You are really saying what the same as the YECs except from an Atheist perspective i.e. One cannot be an evangelical Christian and accept evolutionary (i.e. mainstream) science. You are correct about one thing. this is excactly what YECs want to hear as it gives them ammunition to attack TE’s.

    Every year churches are urged to hold an “evolution Sunday” by those who are promoting the clergy letter project, which is saying that it’s OK to be an evangelical Christian and accept evolution. You’ve really proved the point that I was trying to make on the Panda’s thumb, that this is a total waste of time. I assume you would pour scorn on both “evolution Sunday” and the clergy letter project ?

    As I have said before, this is not a debate about whether or not God exists. Those are philosophical issues, not scientific ones. One of the contributers to the BCSE forum once summed it up nicely for me. “Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence”

  41. #41 fongooly
    August 11, 2008

    That “absence of evidence” crock only says that theoretically even the most far fetched idiocy cannot be ruled out as impossible.

  42. #42 SteveG
    August 13, 2008

    I like your post. I have only one nitpick – you wrote, “A desire to foist one’s beliefs on others seems a central part of the enterprise.” You previously mentioned “beliefs that are justified by evidence and defended rationally,” which refers to objectifying beliefs (providing real world justification for beliefs) with reference to relevant information about the physical world outside of our minds and to correct conceptualization and analysis of that information. I don’t have any problem with people trying to “foist” their beliefs on me if they are indeed doing it by appealing to such an objective basis. The problem with the desire to foist one’s beliefs on others its precisely when the beliefs are subjective, in which case they should remain private beliefs because they are subjective.

  43. #43 fongooly
    August 13, 2008

    Why should they remain private if a man is explaining the source of his motivation or happiness? Explaining is not foisting.
    How do they really know their understanding of “subjective” is not as sophisticated as yours in any case?
    You meet a new person and ask: “What’s your take on the weather?”
    Must he then bite his tongue while he wonders if he should mention it seems like God is angry today? Or should he just say, “Is that an intelligent question, since you have no objective evidence that I have meteorological talents?”

    Conversations are difficult enough already.

  44. #44 SteveG
    August 14, 2008

    fongooly, I agree with you completely. I did not articulate my understanding of “foisting” in the context of its usage. First of all, there’s clearly nothing wrong with a man telling us about his subjective beliefs. “I’m ordering a chocolate ice cream, I like chocolate, but I’m refraining from getting the strawberry sauce because even though I like strawberries I don’t like it on my chocolate ice cream.” Secondly, there’s the pragmatic problem of judging how well justified (objectively) a belief is that is purported to be justified (objectively).

    Religious beliefs are subjective beliefs, yet are very often promoted (“foisted”) by their adherents as if they’re objective beliefs, and I would say that’s where the problem lies. I would not attempt to “foist” the obvious superiority of chocolate ice cream over mint pistachio on others, precisely because its superiority is a subjective feature about me and not an objective feature of the world. But if I were overzealous, then I would slap the mint pistachio ice cream cone out of your hand and foist upon you the obviously superior selection of chocolate.

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