Respectful Insolence

Remember Vox Day?

Sure, I bet you do, at least if you’ve been a regular reader of this blog more than a year or two. If you’re a really long-timer, you probably remember him even better. Let’s just put it this way. Vox is a guy who has a much higher opinion of his intellectual prowess when it comes to science than is warranted by the bleatings that he calls a blog would warrant. I do have to thank him though. Besides giving me occasional material to apply some well-deserved not-so-Respectful Insolence to from time to time, on rare occasions he even points me in the direction of interesting studies. Of course, Vox being Vox and all, he usually completely misinterprets them, but that allows me the introduction I need to dive into the study itself and have a bit of fun puncturing his pretensions at the same time?

Who could ask for more?

Basically, what happened is that a while back Vox saw a news report about an article in Nature condemning the quality of current preclinical research. From it, Vox, as is his usual wont, drew exactly the wrong conclusions about what this article means for medical science:

Fascinating. That’s an 88.6 percent unreliability rate for landmark, gold-standard science. Imagine how bad it is in the stuff that is only peer-reviewed and isn’t even theoretically replicable, like evolutionary biology. Keep that figure in mind the next time some secularist is claiming that we should structure society around scientific technocracy; they are arguing for the foundation of society upon something that has a reliability rate of 11 percent.

Now, I’ve noted previously that atheists often attempt to compare ideal science with real theology and noted that in a fair comparison, ideal theology trumps ideal science. But as we gather more evidence about the true reliability of science, it is becoming increasingly obvious that real theology also trumps real science. The selling point of science is supposed to be its replicability… so what is the value of science that cannot be repeated?

No, a problem with science as it is done by scientists in the real world doesn’t mean that religion is true or that a crank like Vox is somehow the “real” intellectual defender of science. (I must admit, though, that that line about “real theology” trumping “real science” is a howler.) Later on, Vox doubled down on his misunderstanding by trying to argue that the study he so eagerly gloated over proves that science is not, in fact, “self-correcting.” This is, of course, nonsense in that the very article Vox is touting is an example of science trying to correct itself! However, nothing ever seems to stop Vox from laying down serious nonsense whenever he thinks he’s found “evidence” that atheists are wrong and science is leading us astray. None of this is surprising, of course, given that Vox has demonstrated considerable crank magnetism, being antivaccine, anti-evolution, an anthropogenic global warming denialist, and just in general anti-science. He’s also known for being too much of a crank at times even for WorldNetDaily, as he so aptly demonstrated when he demonstrated incredible ignorance of basic history in his suggestion that Hitler’s method of dealing with an unwanted population shows us that it’s “possible” to deport 12 million illegal aliens. As I put it in taking down his nonsense, hey, it worked for Hitler.

Unfortunately, Vox is not alone. Quackery supporters of all stripes are jumping on the bandwagon to imply that this study somehow “proves” that the scientific basis of medicine is invalid. A minion of Mike Adams’ writing at his wretched hive of scum and quackery, NaturalNews.com, crowed:

Begley says he cannot publish the names of the studies whose findings are false. But since it is now apparent that the vast majority of them are invalid, it only follows that the vast majority of modern approaches to cancer treatment are also invalid.

But does this study show this? Do the findings reported in this article mean that the scientific basis of cancer treatment is so off-base that quackery of the sort championed by Mike Adams is a viable alternative or that science-based medicine is irrevocably broken? Or that, as Vox crowed, even the best science is roughly 90% unreliable?

Not so fast there, O cranks…

A systemic problem with preclinical research? Maybe. Maybe not.

One of the most difficult aspects about science-based medicine (and science in general) to convey to the public is just how messy it is. Scientists know that early reports in the peer-reviewed literature are by their very nature tentative and have a high probability of ultimately being found to be incorrect. Unfortunately, that is not science as it is imbibed by the public. Fed by too-trite tales of simple linear progressions from observation to theory to observation to better theory taught in school, as well as media portrayals of scientists as finding answers fast, most people seem to think that science is staid, predictable, and able to generate results virtually on demand. This sort of impression is fed even by shows that I kind of like for their ability to excite people about science, for instance CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and all of its offspring and many imitators. These shows portray beautiful people wearing beautiful pristine lab coats back lit in beautiful labs using perfectly styled multicolored Eppendorf tubes doing various assays and getting answers in minutes that normally take hours, days, or sometimes weeks. Often these assays are all done over a backing soundtrack consisting of classic rock or newer (but still relatively safe) “alternative” rock. And that’s just for applied science, in which no truly new ground is broken and no new discoveries are made.

Real scientists know that cutting edge (or even not-so-cutting edge) scientific and medical research isn’t like that at all. It’s tentative. It might well be wrong. It might even on occasion be spectacularly wrong. But even results that are later found to be wrong are potentially valuable.

Sometimes moviemakers and TV producers get it close to right in showing how difficult science is. For example I once pointed out how the HBO movie Something The Lord Made showed just how difficult it could be to take a scientifically plausible hypothesis and turn it into a treatment. In most movies, TV shows, and popular writings, the retrospectoscope makes it seem as though what we know now flowed obviously from the observations of scientific giants. Meanwhile, the news media pounces on each new press release describing new studies as though each was a breakthrough, even though the vast majority of new studies, even seemingly interesting ones, fade into obscurity, to be replaced by the next new “breakthrough.”

In the real world of science, however, things are, as I said, messy. What amazes me is how two scientists can fall prey to amazement when they point out just how messy science is. I’m referring to a commentary that appeared in Nature three weeks ago by C. Glenn Begley, a consultant for Amgen, and Lee M. Ellis, a cancer surgeon at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. It is this commentary that got Vox all gloaty and Adams’ minion all excited. The article was entitled, unimaginatively enough, Drug development: Raise standards for preclinical cancer research. This article is simultaneously an indictment of preclinical research for cancer and a proposal for working to correct the problems identified. It is also simultaneously disturbing, reassuring, and, unfortunately, more than a little misguided.

Before I get into the article, let me just expound a bit (or pontificate or bloviate, depending on what you think of my opinionated writing) about preclinical research. Preclinical research is, by definition, preclinical. It’s the groundwork, the preliminary research, that needs to be done to determine the plausibility and feasibility of a new treatment before testing it out in humans. As such, preclinical research encompasses basic research and translational research and can include biochemical, cell culture, and animal experiments. Depending on the nature of the problem and proposed treatment, it could also include chemistry, engineering, and surgical research.

Now here’s the pontification and bloviation. These days, everybody touts “translational” research, meaning research that is designed to have its results translated into human treatments. It’s darned near impossible these days to get a pure basic science project funded by the NIH; there has to be a translational angle. Often this leads basic scientists to find rather–shall we say?–creative ways of selling their research as potentially having a rapid clinical application, even though they know and reviewers know that such an application could be a decade away. Indeed, if we are to believe John Ioannidis, the median time from idea to completion of large scale clinical trials needed to approve a new treatment based on that idea is on the order of one to two decades. Moreover, as I’ve said many times before, translational research will grind to a halt if there isn’t a robust pipeline of basic science research to provide hypotheses and new biological understandings to test in more “practical” trials. A robust pipeline is necessary because the vast majority of discoveries that look promising in terms of resulting in a therapy will not pan out. That is the nature of science, after all. Many leads are identified; few end up being a treatment.

Not surprisingly, this nature of science seems to be what concerns Begley and Ellis. It’s also Begley and Ellis’ spin on it, unfortunately, that gives Vox his opening. They begin by pointing out:

Sadly, clinical trials in oncology have the highest failure rate compared with other therapeutic areas. Given the high unmet need in oncology, it is understandable that barriers to clinical development may be lower than for other disease areas, and a larger number of drugs with suboptimal preclinical validation will enter oncology trials. However, this low success rate is not sustainable or acceptable, and investigators must reassess their approach to translating discovery research into greater clinical success and impact.

Of course, some of the reason that clinical trials in oncology have a high failure rate is no doubt due to the high difficulty of the disease (actually many diseases) being tackled. As I’ve pointed out time and time again, cancer is very, very complicated and very, very hard. Given that challenge, as frustrating as it is, it is probably not surprising that only around 5% of agents found to have anticancer activity in preclinical experiments go on to demonstrate sufficient efficacy in phase III clinical trials to earn licensing for sale and use. That is compared to approximately 20% for cardiovascular disease. Of course, cardiovascular drugs are targeted at cells that are nowhere near as messed up as cancer cells, and another study cited by Begley and Ellis suggests that between 20-25% of important preclinical results can’t be reproduced in pharmaceutical company laboratories with sufficient rigor to go forward. Even so, being scientists, we want to improve the process. To improve the process, however, we need to know where the process fails.

To try to do this, Begley and Ellis looked at 53 “landmark” publications in cancer. Begley used to be head of global cancer research at Amgen and knows what it takes to get a drug from idea to market. What it takes first is replication. Basically, Begley’s team would scour the scientific literature for interesting and promising results and then try to replicate them in such a way that their results could serve as a basis for developing drugs based on them. The idea was to identify new molecular targets for cancer and then figure out ways to make drugs to target them. This is what he reported:

Over the past decade, before pursuing a particular line of research, scientists (including C.G.B.) in the haematology and oncology department at the biotechnology firm Amgen in Thousand Oaks, California, tried to confirm published findings related to that work. Fifty-three papers were deemed ‘landmark’ studies (see ‘Reproducibility of research findings’). It was acknowledged from the outset that some of the data might not hold up, because papers were deliberately selected that described something completely new, such as fresh approaches to targeting cancers or alternative clinical uses for existing therapeutics. Nevertheless, scientific findings were confirmed in only 6 (11%) cases. Even knowing the limitations of preclinical research, this was a shocking result.

Here’s the part that I found to be profoundly misguided. Begley and Ellis basically admit that these are “landmark papers”; i.e., that they were highly novel. Presumably these papers would have been considered at the time of their publication to be “cutting edge” research, very likely published in high impact journals such as Nature, Cell, Science, Cancer Research, and the like. Unfortunately, although I looked, I didn’t see a list of the 53 “landmark papers–not even in an online supplement. Nor was the method of how these papers were analyzed described in much detail–not even in an online supplement. The irony inherent in a paper that rails against the irreproducibility of preclinical cancer research but does not itself provide the data upon which its authors based its conclusions in sufficient detail for the reader to determine for himself whether the conclusions flow from the data is left for SBM readers to assess for themselves. Similarly misguided, as was pointed out in the online comments, were the authors’ stated assumption that “the claims in a preclinical study can be taken at face value — that although there might be some errors in detail, the main message of the paper can be relied on and the data will, for the most part, stand the test of time” and their amazement that “this is not always the case.” If the authors’ assumptions were true, attempts to replicate scientific results would be less important than they are.

Be that as it may, what the authors are studying, however they studied it and whatever the 53 studies they examined were, is essentially frontier science. Given that, it strikes me as rather strange that they are so amazed that much of the science at the very frontiers turns out not to be correct when tested further. I’ve discussed frontier science versus more settled science in my usual inimitable detail and length before. In fact, i did it six years ago, even before I joined the ScienceBlogs collective; so I point you to that early and, as usual, brilliant bit of discussion. Let’s just say that frontier science in high impact journals often turns out to be wrong because, well, it’s frontier science.

In fact, I’m guessing that Begley and his team were interested in such papers because they were looking for a leg up on the competition. Begley was the head of a major research division of a major pharmaceutical company. What does that mean? It means that it was his job to find new molecular targets for cancer and to develop drugs to target them. And it was his job to do all this and beat his competitors to the market with effective new drugs based on these discoveries. No wonder his group scoured high impact journals for cutting edge studies that appeared to have identified promising molecular targets! Then he had a veritable army of scientists, about 100 of them in the Amgen replication team according to this news report, who were ready to pounce on any published study that suggested a molecular target the company deemed promising.

Here’s another aspect of the study that needs to be addressed. As I read the study, a thought kept popping into my fragile eggshell mind. Remember Reynold Spector? He’s the guy whom both Mark Crislip and I jumped on for a particularly bad criticism of science-based medicine and its alleged lack of progress that Spector called Seven Deadly Medical Hypotheses. As both Mark and I pointed out, nearly all of these hypotheses were really not particularly deadly, and, indeed, most of them weren’t even hypotheses. What Dr. Spector shares in common with Dr. Begley is a background in pharma, and the similarities in the way they think are obvious, to me at least. For instance, I castigated Spector for throwing around the term “pseudoscience” to describe studies that in his estimation do not reach the level of evidence necessary for FDA approval of a drug. That is a very specific set of requirements for a very specific problem: developing a drug from first scientific principles and then demonstrating that it is efficacious and safe for the intended indication as well as safe. I got the impression from his articles that Dr. Spector views any study that doesn’t reach FDA-level standards for drug approval to be pseudoscience — or, at the very least, crap. I get the same impression from Begley. For example, here’s a passage from his article:

Of course, the validation attempts may have failed because of technical differences or difficulties, despite efforts to ensure that this was not the case. Additional models were also used in the validation, because to drive a drug-development programme it is essential that findings are sufficiently robust and applicable beyond the one narrow experimental model that may have been enough for publication.

Elsewhere in the article, Begley defines “non-reproduced” as a term he assigned “on the basis of findings not being sufficiently robust to drive a drug-development programme.” This attitude is, of course, understandable in someone running an oncology drug development program for a major pharmaceutical company. He is looking for results that he can turn into FDA-approved drugs that he can bring to market before his competitors do. So what he does is more than just try to reproduce the results as described in the publication. His team of 100 scientists tries to reproduce the results and extend them to multiple model systems relevant to drug design. That is, in essence, applied science. Think of it this way: How many basic science discoveries in physics and chemistry ever get turned into a product? How many of these findings are sufficiently robust and reproducible in multiple model systems to justify a team of engineers to spend millions of dollars developing them into products? Do physicists, materials scientists, chemists, and engineers obsess over how few findings in basic science in their fields can successfully be used to make a product?

I know, I know, apples and oranges. In medicine, those of us doing research do it in order to develop an understanding of a disease process sufficient to develop an efficacious new treatment. It’s a very explicit in what we do. However, sometimes we forget just how important it is to have a large, robust pipeline of preclinical results upon which to base translational research programs. Is the reason for the apparently declining percentage of basic science studies that are successfully translated into drugs more a function of the increasing ability of scientists, through large scale genomic and small molecule screens, to identify more and more potential molecular targets and potential drugs to use against them than of scientists doing something wrong? I also have to wonder if what Begley and Ellis are observing is the decline effect accelerated by 100 scientists prowling the scientific literature looking for experimental results they can turn into drugs. As I pointed out before, the decline effect doesn’t mean science doesn’t work, and, as I will point out here, Begley’s very methods would almost be expected to accelerate the decline effect.

The rest of the story

Don’t get me wrong. Although I find the premise of Begley and Ellis’ article to be misguided, there is important and disturbing information there. Unfortunately, the really important and disturbing information is not in Begley and Ellis’ paper, something I find rather important and disturbing in and of itself, as you should too. The omission of these critical pieces of information strikes me as a curious decision on the part of the authors and Nature editors.

For example, in the paper, we learn this:

In studies for which findings could be reproduced, authors had paid close attention to controls, reagents, investigator bias and describing the complete data set. For results that could not be reproduced, however, data were not routinely analysed by investigators blinded to the experimental versus control groups. Investigators frequently presented the results of one experiment, such as a single Western-blot analysis. They sometimes said they presented specific experiments that supported their underlying hypothesis, but that were not reflective of the entire data set. There are no guidelines that require all data sets to be reported in a paper; often, original data are removed during the peer review and publication process.

This is one reason that when I review papers I always ask if assays were performed in a blinded fashion, particularly when the results involve selecting parts of histological slides for any sort of quantification or any other sort of examination that requires a potentially subjective selection of fields or areas to measure. This is true even for computer-aided image analysis, mainly because the human still has to choose the area of the image to be analyzed.

In an interview, however, we learn a lot more critical information:

When the Amgen replication team of about 100 scientists could not confirm reported results, they contacted the authors. Those who cooperated discussed what might account for the inability of Amgen to confirm the results. Some let Amgen borrow antibodies and other materials used in the original study or even repeat experiments under the original authors’ direction.

Some authors required the Amgen scientists sign a confidentiality agreement barring them from disclosing data at odds with the original findings. “The world will never know” which 47 studies — many of them highly cited — are apparently wrong, Begley said.

I find it very interesting that Begley didn’t mention this rather important tidbit of information in the Nature paper and why he and Ellis didn’t see fit to name names of studies for which non-disclosure agreements weren’t signed. One wonders if he (and the Nature editors) were concerned about litigation. In any case, the non-disclosure agreements obviously must predate the Nature paper. This tells me that Begley was in essence complicit in not revealing that his team couldn’t reproduce results, apparently not thinking such agreements to be too high a price at the time for access to reagents and help in the cause of advancing his company’s efforts. He’s willing to admit this in news interviews, apparently, but not in the Nature paper being used as a broadside against current preclinical drug development efforts.

Here’s another highly irritating passage from Begley and Ellis’ paper:

Some non-reproducible preclinical papers had spawned an entire field, with hundreds of secondary publications that expanded on elements of the original observation, but did not actually seek to confirm or falsify its fundamental basis. More troubling, some of the research has triggered a series of clinical studies — suggesting that many patients had subjected themselves to a trial of a regimen or agent that probably wouldn’t work.

Why do I say this is an “irritating” passage? Simple. It would have been very helpful if Begley and Ellis had actually named a couple of these “entire fields,” don’t you think? I suppose they probably couldn’t do that without indirectly revealing which papers whose results Begley’s team couldn’t reproduce. The lack of this information makes this jeremiad against how preclinical research is done today far less useful for actually fixing the problem than it might have been. Assessing the irony of a paper railing against current preclinical research methods that does not itself reveal its methods in sufficient detail to be evaluated or even its results except in fairly vague ways is again left as an exercise for you, my readers. Feel free to chime in after this post in the comments.

There are also many explanations for the variability in published research, as has been pointed out by other commentators. For instance, Nobel Laureate Phil Sharp homes in on one problem:

The most common response by the challenged scientists was: “you didn’t do it right.” Indeed, cancer biology is fiendishly complex, noted Phil Sharp, a cancer biologist and Nobel laureate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Even in the most rigorous studies, the results might be reproducible only in very specific conditions, Sharp explained: “A cancer cell might respond one way in one set of conditions and another way in different conditions. I think a lot of the variability can come from that.”

It’s true, too. I remember back in the late 1990s, several labs were having difficulty reproducing Judah Folkman’s landmark work on angiogenesis inhibitors, including the lab where I was working at the time. Dr. Folkman provided reagents, protocols, and advice to any who asked, and ultimately we were able to find out what the problem was, part of which was that the peptide we were using was easily denatured. We also learned that he had done the same thing for several labs, even to the point of dispatching one of his postdocs to help other investigators. Now imagine if Folkman had been like one of the scientists who had demanded non-disclosure agreements when Begley’s group had trouble reproducing his studies. Angiogenesis inhibitors might have ended up in one of the areas upon which Begley cast doub.t Oh, wait. They might be; we don’t know because Begley didn’t reveal which papers his team couldn’t reproduce to his satisfaction.

Still, the problems with Begley and Ellis’ article notwithstanding, they do provide useful information and identify what appears to be a serious problem. The problem is not so much that so few basic science discoveries end up as drugs, courtesy of Amgen or one of its big pharma competitors. Rather, it’s the sloppiness that is too common in the scientific literature, coupled with publication bias, investigator biases, and the proliferation of screening experiments done to identify genomic targets and small molecules with biological effects that has turned into the proverbial fire hose of data, often many terrabytes per screen. I also wonder if part of the problem is that all the “easy” molecular targets for therapy have already been identified, leaving the difficult and problematic ones. The result is alluded to but not adequately discussed in the news story I cited above:

As recently as the late 1990s, most potential cancer-drug targets were backed by 100 to 200 publications. Now each may have fewer than half a dozen.

The genomics, proteomics, and metabolomics revolutions that have occurred over the last 10-15 years are largely to blame for this. I would also argue (and perhaps Begley would even agree) that the competitiveness between pharmaceutical companies to be the “firstest with the mostest” for each new target hyped in the medical literature almost certainly contributes to this problem. After having been burned a few times, Begley could, for instance, have decided that his team wouldn’t seize on each of these new papers, that he’d wait until some more papers were published. He didn’t do that. For him, business as usual continued. An admission that he was part of the problem, either in the Nature paper or one of the interviews he gave to the press, would have been nice. Instead, his article stinks to high heaven of blaming the other guy for his failures. After all, it’s not the basic scientists’ fault that Begley and his team at Amgen didn’t wait until there was more replication before trying to make drugs out of newly described molecular targets.

How to improve preclinical research

It’s true that I’ve been critical of Begley and Ellis’ article, but that’s mainly because of frustration. There are many things that need to be improved in terms of how science is applied. Readers might recall that I’ve written about problems with the peer review system, publication bias, the decline effect, and numerous other problems that interfere with the advancement of science and contribute to doubts about its reliability. Such problems are inevitable because science is done by humans, with all their biases, cognitive quirks, and conflicts of interests, but that doesn’t mean every effort shouldn’t be made to minimize them. Science remains the single best system for determining how nature works, and, no matter how much quacks and cranks might try to cast doubt on it because it doesn’t support their pseudoscience, no one has as yet developed a better system. When Vox takes a look at this study and concludes that it means that science is so broken that theology trumps it, all I can do is laugh at the utter idiocy of his antics.

The question, therefore, is how to minimize the effects these problems have on how the scientific method is practiced, particularly given that the scientific method itself is designed to try to minimize the effects of human shortcomings on how evidence is gathered and analyzed. No matter how much cranks like Vox Day and Mike Adams’ minions try to portray Begley and Ellis’ article as an indictment of science itself, as slam dunk evidence that that science is not self-correcting and the scientific basis of cancer therapy is so much in doubt that quackery is a viable alternative or that religion is a more reliable way of seeking knowledge about the world than science, it is in fact nothing of the sort.

It does, however, tell us that we as scientists need to improve, and, indeed, we at SBM have discussed the shortcomings of medical science and ways to improve upon it on many occasions. In fact, I daresay that much of what we say jibes with the suggestions proposed by Begley and Ellis, including:

  • More opportunities to present negative data.
  • An agreement that negative data can be as informative as positive data.
  • Requiring preclinical investigators to present all findings.
  • Links added to articles to other studies that show different or alternate results.
  • Transparent opportunities for trainees, technicians and colleagues to discuss and report troubling or unethical behaviours without fearing adverse consequences.
  • “Greater dialogue should be encouraged between physicians, scientists, patient advocates and patients. Scientists benefit from learning about clinical reality. Physicians need better knowledge of the challenges and limitations of preclinical studies. Both groups benefit from improved understanding of patients’ concerns.”
  • More credit for teaching and mentoring.
  • Less emphasis on publication in top-tier journals.
  • “Funding organizations must recognize and embrace the need for new cancer research tools and assist in their development, and in providing greater community access to those tools. Examples include support for establishing large cancer cell-line collections with easy investigator access (a simple, universal material-transfer agreement); capabilities for genetic characterization of newly derived tumour cell lines and xenografts; identification of patient selection biomarkers; and generation of more robust, predictive tumour models.”

Many of these are good ideas, although I’m not sure how practical it would be to require that investigators present “all” findings in journal articles and how such a requirement would ever be enforced. Defining “all” would be a challenge, and online supplements are already too much of a dumping ground these days. For example, does “all” mean investigators have to present the dozens of attempts it might have required to optimize assay conditions or include every experiment that was screwed up because someone used the wrong conditions or added the wrong reagent or left their tubes sit on the bench too long? Also, one notes how Begley assiduously avoids criticizing pharma for being so eager to leap on the latest cutting edge research before it has percolated through the literature, which, I conclude based on his very own complaint, is surely part of the problem.

So is the very nature of science. Scientists know that what is published the first time is considered tentative. It may or may not be correct. We also know that publication bias can mean that the first publication of a result might well be an anomaly that was published because it was interesting. That is science at the frontier. If other scientists can replicate the results or, even better, replicate the results and use them as a foundation to build upon and make new discoveries, only then does such a result become less frontier science. And if the results are replicated enough times and by enough people and used as a basis for further discoveries, to the point that they are considered settled results, that’s when they become applied science, such as a drug based on the principle originally discovered. It’s a process that is very messy and with lots of dead ends and blind alleys that go nowhere. While performing a valuable service that identifies problems with a lack of reproducibility in all too many preclinical cancer research studies, Begley and Ellis also unfortunately contribute to the mistaken impression that translational research is a linear process that goes from discovery to drug. It’s not, nor can it churn out major new treatments on demand.

More importantly, this self-justifying bit of pharma apologia does not, as Vox Day and Mike Adams claim, invalidate the scientific method. If anything, it demonstrates that science is self-correcting and that scientists are willing to engage in self-criticism and self-analysis in a way that religion is not.

Comments

  1. #1 nastylittlehorse
    April 30, 2012

    Even if all modern medicine was proven baseless and as bad as the worst of woo, it wouldn’t mean woo in any of its forms was suddenly right, it would just mean we’d have to start again.

    People who believe in conspiracies and magical healing don’t seem to understand this, they seem to think that all you have to do is point out a flaw (which they usually fail at anyway) and suddenly everyone has to believe in their particular brand of nonsense.

    It doesn’t work like that.

  2. #2 Jud
    April 30, 2012

    Keep that figure in mind the next time some secularist is claiming that we should structure society around scientific technocracy; they are arguing for the foundation of society upon something that has a reliability rate of 11 percent.

    Seems like the technology most offensive to some folks is the good ol’ irony meter. Someone who types on his computer that we should reject “technocracy” with a “reliability rate of 11 percent….” Would be interesting to see what Day’s message would look like if only 11% of what he typed made it through. (Kinda reminiscent of PZ’s “disemvowelling.”)

    [I]t is becoming increasingly obvious that real theology also trumps real science. The selling point of science is supposed to be its replicability… so what is the value of science that cannot be repeated?

    ‘Cause everyone knows theology is big on replicability. How’s that Second Coming, er, coming?

  3. #3 Jud
    April 30, 2012

    Here’s a thought (probably completely impractical): Don’t publish frontier science in a peer-reviewed journal until another lab has performed the experiment and attained its own provisional conclusions, either pro or contra those of the first lab.

  4. #4 palindrom
    April 30, 2012

    I wonder if the large number of “wrong” results might largely be due to regression to the mean?

    Suppose a lab tries 100 things, and one of the 100 appears to be very promising because of some kind of fluke — it’s nothing, really, but there’s a fluke. Such a result is not improbable, given that there were 100 things that were tried.

    That flukish, promising result is the one that gets published in the high-impact journal. And of course, it won’t be reproducible.

    Results will sometimes be correct, or even useful, but if this thought experiment describes reality, one can expect to see a large number of false positives.

  5. #5 Eric Lund
    April 30, 2012

    As Albert Einstein said: If we knew what we were doing, it wouldn’t be research.

    Experimental particle physics puts a 5σ threshold on declaring an experiment to be significant evidence of a new particle or new physics. There are two reasons for this. One is because they can: these experiments accumulate enough data that they can rule out alternatives at that confidence level. The other is, as palindrom@4 says, mean reversion: there have been many instances of apparent discoveries at the 3σ level which did not hold up as more data were collected.

    Preclinical research must work with human subjects, so they cannot accumulate enough data to insist on the 5σ standard. It is hard enough for such studies to get something at the 2σ level (which is about 5%, whence the emphasis on P < 0.05 as a threshold). And of course some of this literature involves case studies, for which statistics don’t even come into play. Reversion to the mean is still operative, however, so many of these studies will fail to hold up as more experimental data accumulate.

  6. #6 Beamup
    April 30, 2012

    @ palindrom:

    That is exactly what happens, all the time. It’s one form of what’s called “publication bias,” and is well-recognized as ubiquitous.

  7. #7 palindrom
    April 30, 2012

    @beamup — I probably shoulda knowed that, but “IANABMS” (I Am Not A BioMedical Scientist).

    I will remember the term “publication bias”. I suspect it’s operating with a vengeance over in woo-ville, giving ammo (all duds of course) to Dana Ullman over at the Wretched Hive.

  8. #8 Denice Walter
    April 30, 2012

    Never to be outdone in the crankery dept, Gary Null was all over this last week:**

    his comments on the article and on Benson’s, were preceded by a glowing description of *Nature* as being the most respected science journal in the world, its long history, etc: this is often the case, he cites “prestigeous journals” whenever they print any type of criticism.***

    Of course, this is standard *mise en scene*: he is after all, a scientist, researcher and academic- putting his wisdom “into lay language”. He enlightens his audience about the mysterious ways of science, portraying himself as an ‘insider’ who is revealing how truly corrupt and despicably perverted the corporatised process has become: Science, it would seem, is the Bounty and he is chief mutineer.

    Articles like this are glued into his accusatory pastiche: calumny designed to frighten the audience away from SBM, simultaneously maligning governmental regulation and demon-infested media. His programming proceeds:
    basically, all research is tainted;
    pharma funds and orchestrates studies;
    universities are plied with money to produce desired results,
    governments are bought and paid for by ALEC ( in the UK: substitute ‘Murdoch’)

    We can expect several long-winded exposes soon: on cancer ( 185 pages), vaccines ( Chapter CXVII?) and the myth of mental illness- or another cribbed title ( CCRH will approve).

    **( not sure which day or show: he has several other shows all archived @ Progressive Radio Network- I scan most except the overnight monstrosity: I’m thorough, not a masochist)
    *** one day the BMJ is a respectable source, the next its editor is vilified.

  9. #9 Dianne
    April 30, 2012

    If 88% of pre-clinical research is wrong, isn’t there a good chance that Begley’s research is wrong?

  10. #10 Todd W.
    April 30, 2012

    The methods section of papers seem to be one area that gets chopped down when editing for length. A pity, really, since seemingly insignificant information may get dropped when it could have a huge impact on how the experiment goes. For example, a paper might say that X method was used for rinsing the samples, but it may leave out temperature, whether the rinsing was done before or after another minor step, etc. With different people, even in the same lab, doing the rinse process just slightly differently, the results can be dramatically different.

  11. #11 Aaron
    April 30, 2012

    It might be possible to take you seriously if you didn’t spend half your article spitting vitriol instead of stating facts. But hey, if you can’t actually argue facts, throw names instead. Much easier.

  12. #12 Chris
    April 30, 2012

    Concern troll is concerned.

  13. #13 Anonymous
    April 30, 2012

    I haven’t yet read the article but wonder where are Begley’s 53 studies with his (un)reproduced results published? He did the experiments, he can’t have been made by himself to sign a Non-disclosure agreement. If they were ever written up and rejected by journals shouldn’t he be villifying the journals for (as other commentators have said earlier) publication bias?

    If he hasn’t bothered trying to get them published shouldn’t he be flagellating himself too? He could even have put them in an online supplement thus alleviating some of the problems he’s railing against.

  14. #14 Lawrence
    April 30, 2012

    if the troll can’t refute with facts, throw vitriol and names….how ironic.

  15. #15 lilady
    April 30, 2012

    (I am not a research scientists)…but wouldn’t the list of the 53 “landmark studies” that Begley chose for his research team at Amgen, to due further research on, be considered *corporate secrets*?

    I would presume that Amgen does not want other drug manufacturing companies to know which “landmark studies” occupied their 100 researchers for the time it took to thoroughly investigate…then discard them…as not practical to develop a drug.

    Aren’t we talking about the corporate culture here, where no other drug manufacturer should benefit from Amgen’s research…in order to pursue a totally different set of “landmark studies”? Isn’t this the reason why when key staff leave a company, in order to *encourage* them to keep company secrets, they sign a “non-compete” clause that stipulates no employment for ~ 2 years at a *competing company*, before they are awarded their sweetheart termination package?

    I’m basing these comments on what my daughter has told me about CTOs and upper management, leaving brokerage houses and large investments banks.

  16. #16 Roadstergal
    April 30, 2012

    One of the reasons I left academe was seeing careful research, well-reproduced, with a variety of possible alternative explanations investigated, published late in low-tier journals, with exciting, prelimiary, and not so thorough work being published in top-tier journals.

    Basic research is absolutely critical to our advancement as a species, but I think the current way publication is done is a bit… out of hand. And I don’t know how to fix it.

    “Preclinical research must work with human subjects”

    Cell lines and ‘lower’ animals, like mice, hence pre-clinical. You can get the ‘n’s, you just need the will and the money and the time.

  17. #17 herr doktor bimler
    April 30, 2012

    That flukish, promising result is the one that gets published in the high-impact journal. And of course, it won’t be reproducible.

    This is probably why certain high-impact journals have a policy of refusing to publish papers that were unable to replicate earlier papers.

  18. #18 Candy
    April 30, 2012

    Good old Vox Day. Always wrong and never, ever in doubt. We used to kick him around now and then on the Sadly, No! blog. His ignorance is both wide and deep.

  19. #19 Sophia
    April 30, 2012

    I tire of these atheist/science/religion issues that get thrown around in the media. Most of the religious/spiritual crowd I run into are happy that science exists. Science extends the lives of our favorite aunts diagnosed with cancer and brought us high-definition TV. While you can shoot down the existence of God with a logic problem, no one can actually say for certain that God does or does not exist. There are folks who feel certain God does not exist, people who are certain that God exists, people who go back and forth, people who don’t care, etc. A lot of these people have learned to allow beliefs that may contradict each other to coexist peacefully in their heads and enjoy Monday night football on their flat screen. Yeah, yeah, you can argue that following that logic is the same as staying neutral on the existence of unicorns. But unicorns don’t get people out of bed in the morning, deities do, and that’s fine by me as a mental health pro sort so long as those deities aren’t telling people to jump off a bridge or start a suicide cult.

    Discounting preclinical trials because they’re…preclinical…is absurd. Perhaps we should start looking over our compulsory education curricula?

    It’s always the idiots who are the loudest…

  20. #20 spike
    April 30, 2012

    My old rule of thumb for a paper in Nature is: “interesting but wrong”. Nature makes such a big deal about pushing the envelope for “high impact” novel (unique?) ideas but does not having the greatest editors. Their news and views in particular tend to be hack jobs- often sounding an alarm (like this one) with erroneous facts and often destructive consequences.

    (I have published several papers in Nature- but they are only slightly wrong).

  21. #21 Ivan Ilyich
    May 1, 2012

    The Reuters article quotes the Amgen researcher Bageley: “… we became convinced you can’t take anything at face value.”

    I thought that it was normal in scientific research not to take things at face value, and to replicate research.

    Gary (GH)

  22. #22 sophia8
    May 1, 2012

    Sophia @19 is NOT me.

  23. #23 jrkrideau
    May 1, 2012

    @17 Herr Doc

    Which journals require replication? I have heard that some high-impact journals refuse to publish replications. In a field I sometimes follow, the Journal of Personalty and Social Research apparently has this as a policy.

    In any case I am not impressed with the fact that there is no list of the papers. Why would anyone believe the authors. This seems to show a very low editorial standard at Nature.

    BTW totally off topic (or perhaps not?) there is a great posting at Retraction Watch about an interesting paper that was, obviously, retracted Paper with no scientific content

    Is it a reverse-Sokal or a real screw-up in the review process? Given some of the urls, I think I’m voting for the Sokal explanation

  24. #24 Krebiozen
    May 1, 2012

    It seems to me that preclinical studies are a form of screening ideas to see which are worth giving the more diagnostic test of a clinical trial. The 88% quoted is simply the false positive rate, which is not an unusual figure in screening programs.

    When I was involved in prenatal screening for Down Syndrome our false positive rate was much higher than 88% (about 5% of women would screen positive and be offered the diagnostic test of amniocentesis, but only 0.1% of pregnancies were Down pregnancies, about 75% of which would be picked up by the screening test, making the false positive rate 98.5%).

    I wondered if this might be a useful way of thinking about preclinical studies, since we have ways of assessing how to balance false positives (ideas that fail to achieve their promise) against false negatives (ideas that are prematurely and wrongly discarded) in screening programs. Just a thought.

  25. #25 herr doktor bimler
    May 1, 2012

    Which journals require replication? I have heard that some high-impact journals refuse to publish replications.

    I was thinking of the J.Pers.Soc.Pysch. rejecting papers that criticised Bem’s paper on ESP, because they were failures-to-replicate. JPSP has an explicit policy against scientific self-correction.

  26. #26 herr doktor bimler
    May 1, 2012

    a policy of refusing to publish papers that were unable to replicate earlier papers.

    To clear up my sloppy language @17: when I wrote “unable to replicate”, I meant “unable to replicate the results“. The rejected papers I had in mind (possibly also in jrkrideau’s mind) were replications in that they repeated Bem’s experiment, but they did not repeat the positive results.

  27. #27 Stu
    May 1, 2012

    But unicorns don’t get people out of bed in the morning, deities do, and that’s fine by me as a mental health pro sort so long as those deities aren’t telling people to jump off a bridge or start a suicide cult.

    Or shoot abortion doctors.
    Or condone slavery.
    Or justify terrorism.
    Or commit suicide bombings (I wish they’d jump off a bridge).
    Or start wars.
    Or discriminate against women.
    Or discriminate against gay people.
    Or justify sheltering pedophiles.
    Or obstruct science.
    Or obstruct medical research.
    Or…

  28. #28 hmmmm
    May 2, 2012

    Interesting blog, thanks. I wonder what Otis Brawley, M.D., chief medical and scientific officer, American Cancer Society, would add to this conversation, esp. in light of his remarks at starting at 8:45 of http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=3ho_LMBiHVg#!

  29. #29 squirrelelite
    May 2, 2012

    @hmmmm,

    An interesting talk.

    I listened to about 5 minutes starting at the 8 minute point.

    He described our current health care system as “corrupt”, but didn’t say what that really meant. Then he explained we are all of us, doctors, hospitals, insurance companies, lawyers, patients, responsible for that.

    Then he gave the example of a man dying of stage IV metastatic cancer whose family insisted on giving him “everything” to keep him alive 6 weeks longer with the last 4 weeks being comatose on monitored life support until his body just gave up and died anyway.

    I’ll try to listen to the rest of the talk later, but I would guess he would argue for a system that provides at least adequate health care for all citizens, educates the patients and providers about the best choices available while discouraging extravagant expenditures when there is really no hope left. I also think he would strongly support more research to provide better options during all stages of diseases.

    But, I doubt he would argue for cutting off the pipeline of phase I research just because most of it doesn’t pan out.

  30. #30 squirrelelite
    May 2, 2012

    Also, I don’t think he would agree with one commenter who stated:

    its so corrupt that the man who has a cure for cancer Dr Burzynski, has been hounded relentlessly by the FDA and government, they tried to bankrupt him, discredit him, steal his cure and even JAIL him. they have cost him millions defending himself. ENOUGH IS ENOUGH

  31. #31 hmmmm
    May 2, 2012

    “He described our current health care system as
    “corrupt”, but didn’t say what that really meant.”

    Actually, he did. He spoke of how the application of science in medicine is not rigorous. An example was of how prostate cancer screening introduced nationwide in 1990 never had any evidence to support the claim made by doctors that it prevented incidences of prostate cancer. Yet it was advised for all men over 50. A study never appeared until 20 years later… In 2010… That said screening might prevent incidences. It was of questionable quality and also released with another study that concluded that prostate screening does not prevent incidences of prostate cancer.

  32. #32 Ender
    May 3, 2012

    “But unicorns don’t get people out of bed in the morning, deities do, and that’s fine by me as a mental health pro sort so long as those deities aren’t telling people to jump off a bridge or start a suicide cult.
    Or shoot abortion doctors.

    Yep, atheists never kill people they disagree with

    Or condone slavery.

    Or condone slavery… *goes to look at historical atheists*, *ohshit*

    Or justify terrorism.

    Yep, because Muslims are prominent terrorists no one except the religious has ever committed or justified terrorism. Logic FTW!

    Or commit suicide bombings (I wish they’d jump off a bridge).

    Ditto Suicide bombings! You probably think Muslims invented this too?

    Or start wars.

    Yup. There’s no secular reasons for doing this, and religious people *never* avoid violence because of their religious beliefs so this is a good and logical point.

    Or discriminate against women.

    Yup, Muslima, there are no atheists with a problem with women. Now get back in your elevator.

    Or discriminate against gay people.

    All discrimination against gay people has been from the explicitly religious.

    Or justify sheltering pedophiles.

    …don’t know about the paedophile problems in the school system, childcare and sports bodies? Nah, you’re right, atheists don’t play sport.

    Or obstruct science.

    Lysenkoism, atheist antivaccinationists, etc

    Or obstruct medical research.

    Yep, all animal rights activists are religious.

    Or… been a peurile twat on a blog.

    Nope, atheists and theists do all of these things.

  33. #33 LW
    May 3, 2012

    Enders @32: “Or condone slavery… *goes to look at historical atheists*, *ohshit*”

    Now which historical atheists would those be? It hasn’t really been safe to be an atheist historically so I’m curious as to what society had both legal slavery *and* a majority — or even a noticeable minority — of atheists.

  34. #34 Ender
    May 3, 2012

    I said nothing about historical atheist societies. There pretty much were none. Just individual atheists and a human history replete with slave ownership at all levels of societies (including sometimes slaves themselves)

    As far as Atheist societies go, the only ones that I can name were also communist and very much approved of forced labour, re-education and what is essentially slavery. (Being forced to work without wages, without freedom or choice, just without the potential to be sold, just “re-assigned”.)

    There is nothing inherent to Atheism that protects against any kind of abuse. This is not an attack on atheism or atheists.

  35. #35 LW
    May 3, 2012

    Ah, so I suppose you can name some few historical atheists who lived in non-atheist (in other words, religious) societies that practiced slavery, and who “condoned slavery” in some fashion other than simply acting like their religious neighbors?

  36. #36 Ender
    May 3, 2012

    “and who “condoned slavery” in some fashion other than simply acting like their religious neighbors?”

    Why should it make a difference if their neighbours also practised slavery? I’m not sure you know what ‘condoned’ means. If you keep slaves, you condone slavery. There’s no point pointing at religious people nearby and saying “they keep slaves too so therefore I do not condone slavery despite keeping all these slaves”

  37. #37 LW
    May 3, 2012

    I see, so your position is that atheists aren’t any better people on average than religious people on average. Glad we cleared that up.

  38. #38 augustine
    May 3, 2012

    If anything, it demonstrates that science is self-correcting…

    You keep saying this over and over.
    Science is not Skynet from the movie “Terminator”. Science is not self-aware. Therefore, “science” does not correct itself.

    If science could be self aware it wouldn’t let you keep sticking your hand up it’s ass, pursing your lips like a ventriloquist, and speaking your values and opinions through it’s mouth.

  39. #39 Ender
    May 3, 2012

    Yes. I’m surprised you took so long to work that out.

  40. #40 Niche Geek
    May 3, 2012

    Ender,

    I know this is cliche, but the difference between the religious examples and the atheist examples you provided is that the holy texts, religious leaders or the actor themselves explicitly condoned or justified these actions on religious grounds. While I am not an American, I will use 3 US Terrorist examples:

    1. Osama bin Laden explicitly justified the September 11th attack using Islamic scripture.

    2. Scott Roeder justified his terrorist act based upon his evangelical faith.

    3. The Earth Liberation Front used a secular justification for their arson at Vail however that justification was not based upon the premise that there are no gods and therefore cannot be considered atheist.

  41. #41 herr doktor bimler
    May 3, 2012

    Science is not self-aware. Therefore, “science” does not correct itself.

    Strangely, the rest of the WWW remains blissfully unaware that self-awareness is required for a feedback mechanism to function.
    Google reports 6,400,000 hits for the combination “gyroscope self-correcting”, 2,080,000 for “thermostat self-correcting, and 2,750,000 for “feedback mechanism self-correcting”.

  42. #42 hmmmm
    May 4, 2012

    Can you, all, forget the irrelevant atheist/religious argument? Woo is woo is woo regardless of affiliation of any type.

    Squirrel lite said, “I also think [Otis Brawley,
    M.D., chief medical and scientific officer, American
    Cancer Society] would strongly support more research to provide better options during all stages of diseases.”

    Unfortunately squirrel lite misunderstood his point: science in medicine isn’t rigorous. Thus, he didn’t support “more research;” he advocated PROPER, SCIENTIFICALLY VALID research, that is, that the corruption prevalent in medicine due to the many studies, drugs and procedures with altered, unsupported or unreproducible results come to an end. In short, stop the woo in modern medicine that is harming patients and discrediting doctors, hospitals and Pharma.

  43. #43 DLC
    May 4, 2012

    And yet it is through the use of the scientific method that we have these boxes to type into. The lights to read by, the Tylenol for the headache that Vox and Augie give me, and the clean potable water I get by turning a tap in my kitchen so I have something to swallow the Tylenol with. Now compare that to Vox, who would have to try striking a stone with his staff to get water, pray for forgiveness to cure his headache and hope for a miracle to provide him with brains enough to step in out of the rain.

  44. #44 squirrelelite
    May 4, 2012

    I made some guess predictions based on listening to about five minutes of the talk. I have now listened to about 20 minutes. I will have a longer post when I get back to it and finish.

    He has complained about recommendations for prostrate screening 20 years before a study was published on the costs and benefits. He has also recommended more education of health professionals and their patients.

    So, I am comfortable with two of my guesses so far. More later.

  45. #45 Stu
    May 4, 2012

    Yep, atheists never kill people they disagree with

    Did I say that? No, I did not.

    But by all means, show us all the instances of people killing in the name of atheism.

    Or condone slavery… *goes to look at historical atheists*, *ohshit*

    Oh shit what, douchecanoe?

    By all means, show us all the instances of people condoning slavery in the name of atheism.

    Yep, because Muslims are prominent terrorists no one except the religious has ever committed or justified terrorism. Logic FTW!

    Holy canoli, you are new to this, aren’t you.

    Please show us all the instances of people committing terrorism in the name of atheism.

    Ditto Suicide bombings! You probably think Muslims invented this too?

    No they did not. Are you seriously saying the Chera were atheists though?

    I hope not. So after that, all you need to do is list all of the suicide bombings performed in the name of atheism.

    Or start wars.

    Yup. There’s no secular reasons for doing this

    That is not what I said, you lying sack of crap.

    Please list all the wars started in the name of atheism.

    and religious people *never* avoid violence because of their religious beliefs so this is a good and logical point.

    OOOOH. BURN. Yes, you totally have me there. You know, if that was anywhere in the same neighborhood of what I actually said. Which it isn’t. Which you damned well know if you are functionally literate.

    So the only options left are you being functionally illiterate or willing to lie through your teeth in the faint hope that your comment would go unchallenged and serve to make atheists look bad for those who come after and lack basic reading comprehension.

    Yup, Muslima, there are no atheists with a problem with women. Now get back in your elevator.

    Again, cupcake, I did not say that.

    Please list all the atheist justifications for misogyny.

    Also, elevator? What the hell is wrong with you?

    All discrimination against gay people has been from the explicitly religious.

    Please point out the passages in the atheist Bible to justify such persecution.

    …don’t know about the paedophile problems in the school system, childcare and sports bodies?

    Please look up the tu quoque fallacy and get back to me.

    Sweet tapdancing jeebus you are new to this, aren’t you?

    Nah, you’re right, atheists don’t play sport.

    They do, but sports in the US are by now bigoted to the point that they keep that to themselves.

    But you already knew that, and you really, really like it. Don’t you?

    Lysenkoism, atheist antivaccinationists, etc

    Wait, there are antivax people justifying their position from atheism?

    And please, PRATT, PRATT, PRATT, do not bring up communists using Lysenkoism. PRATT, PRATT, PRATT. Use Google to avoid embarrassment.

    Yep, all animal rights activists are religious.

    Yes. Please point out where the ALF, PETA and all their odious ilk use atheism as their driving “ideology”.

    Or… been a peurile twat on a blog. Nope, atheists and theists do all of these things.

    Oh, no doubt. In this instance, however, things are a bit less balanced.

    Kiss kiss, please get back to me when you read up a bit.

    Next.

    hmmmmm:

    that the corruption prevalent in medicine

    [Citation needed]

    due to the many studies, drugs and procedures with altered, unsupported or unreproducible results

    [Citation needed]

    In short, stop the woo in modern medicine

    Are you talking about the encroachment of unproven modalities? In that case, sure. Otherwise,

    [Citation needed]

    that is harming patients and discrediting doctors, hospitals and Pharma.

    Erp? [Citation needed]

  46. #46 squirrelelite
    May 6, 2012

    Here is my summary of Dr Otis Brawley’s talk. I apologize for the length but hope you will find it worth reading.

    Hmmm’s question (28) was

    what Otis Brawley, M.D., chief medical and scientific officer, American Cancer Society, would add to this conversation

    To summarize the conversation (and skip the anti-science gloating part), Begley and Ellis wrote a paper complaining that most preclinical research can’t be replicated and isn’t good enough to lead to marketable drugs. Orac noted that people expect a simple linear progression from observation to theory to generate answers virtually on demand like in the CSI shows. Real science is messy. We need

    a robust pipeline of basic science research to provide hypotheses and new biological understandings to test in more “practical” trials. A robust pipeline is necessary because the vast majority of discoveries that look promising in terms of resulting in a therapy will not pan out.

    Begley and Ellis discussed the inability of Amgen to replicate results but didn’t state which of the 47 studies those were.

    Orac gave a list of recommendations for improving medical science.

    Dr Brawley has recently published a book
    http://www.amazon.com/How-We-Do-Harm-America/dp/0312672977/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1336160373&sr=1-1
    and much of his talk seems to be based on that book.

    Here are a few of my notes from his talk:

    Cancer is caused by tobacco and lack of physical activity/bad diet (too many calories)/obesity
    There is an increasing number of people over 65
    Health care costs will increase to 25-30% of every dollar spent in 10-15 years
    Health care will so dominate our economy that it will cause our economy to collapse
    We have to approach this in a very scientific way
    He has seen people harmed by misapplication of science to medicine
    The U.S. is 50th in life expectancy and 47th in infant mortality
    He was deployed with Navy in surge, saw Marine sign that said “We are Americans, we leave no one behind”. We leave a lot of people behind in the health care system.
    There is a subtle form of corruption in the American health care system. Everyone is at fault.
    Doctors give unnecessary chemotherapy/surgery/treatments.
    Patients consume too much healthcare.
    He discussed a patient dying of Stage IV cancer. Doctors recommended doing everything reasonable to help him. The family insisted that “everything reasonable” was “everything possible”. The man was on life support for six weeks and in a coma the last four with doctors controlling his breathing, heart rate, blood pressure, etc.
    People cannot accept that death is a part of life.

    He discussed prostate screening and complains that we did it for 20 years before a study came out assessing the benefits and costs of large scale screening. He discusses how prostate screening was pushed as a way to generate revenue.

    In 1998, he attended a “dog and pony show” at his cancer center. A presentation by the center’s public relations director explained the benefits of offering free prostate screening. It increased business to other areas of the center. Only men with insurance get the screening. 145 out of 1000 test abnormal. For each one, insurance pays $3000 for follow-up tests to confirm and determine cause. Then there will be the additional income from treatment.
    He asked, “how many lives will you save?” The presenter said he didn’t know.

    Dr Brawley emphasized the need for education and making informed choices.

    Truth in advertising requires education of consumers/patients and doctors.
    You need to figure out what you know, what you don’t know, and what you believe to be true and label accordingly.
    A profession (by definition) puts the welfare of its customers above the welfare of the members of the profession. It polices itself.
    Discussed a recent announcement by one medical group of tests we are overdoing. Thought that was a good thing.

    He emphasized the rise in U.S. healthcare costs without a corresponding improvement in results.

    The U.S. spends $8000 per person for healthcare and is 50th in life expectancy.
    Switzerland spends $4000 per person and is 4th in life expectancy.
    It costs a company $19,000 per employee to provide health care as a family plan. Employees get paid $30,000 per year. If health care cost less, companies could hire more people.
    We need to appreciate and support prevention efforts, give an incentive to the doctor to talk to and coach patients on prevention.
    We won’t have improvements until the population demands them and doctors understand science. We need a skeptical educated consumer population.

    I listened to part of the talk and guessed that (29)

    he would argue for a system that provides at least adequate health care for all citizens, educates the patients and providers about the best choices available while discouraging extravagant expenditures when there is really no hope left. I also think he would strongly support more research to provide better options during all stages of diseases.
    But, I doubt he would argue for cutting off the pipeline of phase I research just because most of it doesn’t pan out.

    Hmmm gave the introduction of prostate cancer screening as an example of corruption (31) and later responded (42)

    Unfortunately squirrel lite misunderstood his point: science in medicine isn’t rigorous. Thus, he didn’t support “more research;” he advocated PROPER, SCIENTIFICALLY VALID research, that is, that the corruption prevalent in medicine due to the many studies, drugs and procedures with altered, unsupported or unreproducible results come to an end. In short, stop the woo in modern medicine that is harming patients and discrediting doctors, hospitals and Pharma.

    Here are my thoughts after listening to the whole talk.

    Dr Brawley complained about corruption in our current medical system. He didn’t define the term but gave examples of treatments introduced without sufficient data on their costs and benefits (prostate screen and bone marrow transplants for chemotherapy patients), patients and their families who want every treatment possible even if it is highly unlikely to save the patient’s life or even improve the quality of life, and laws that mandate such treatment and block the communication of information for all players in the decision to make an informed choice.

    I agree with those complaints with one caveat. You can’t get robust 10-15 year follow up data on the costs and benefits of a procedure that has only been done on a limited number of test subjects. So, making the best science based choices in medicine has to be an iterative and self-correcting process.

    And, while Dr Brawley calls for getting good data on the costs and benefits (including, I think, effectiveness) of a new test, drug or procedure before wide spread implementation, I didn’t notice any references to preclinical research or “altered, unsupported or unreproducible results”. And, I didn’t hear any references to “woo” as it is commonly discussed on this blog, i.e. CAM modalities like homeopathy, acupuncture, reiki, TCM, nutrition as therapy, etc.

    Since he places a lot of emphasis on education and prevention, especially for the obesity and lack of exercise problem, I wish he had discussed the results of HMO’s compared to traditional reimbursement for procedure health insurance.

    And, I think he would support many of orac’s recommendations for improving medical science. I didn’t hear any ideas on how to determine before performing it what research will turn out to be scientifically valid. And, since he complains about procedures being introduced without sufficient data to justify them, I still think he would advocate for more, not less research.

    As for science in medicine not being rigorous, I think orac’s recommendations address that or try to. And, biological and biochemical effects are complicated and not necessarily easy to replicate, so it take more research, not less, to determine with rigor which effects seen in preliminary research are valid and useful and which are not.

    And, since he was talking to medical journalists, I wish he had made some specific suggestions how they could improve the process and help fight or reduce this corruption.

  47. #47 herr doktor bimler
    May 6, 2012

    It costs a company $19,000 per employee to provide health care as a family plan. Employees get paid $30,000 per year. If health care cost less, companies could hire more people.

    Is there some reason why “paying the employees more” is not an option? I was under the impression that health insurance is part of the pay package — effectively taken out of salary — so I am puzzled by the assumption that any savings there should remain with the employer.

  48. #48 Mephistopheles O'Brien
    May 6, 2012

    Herr doctor – I have no such trust in employers anymore. They have found a pay level that people will work for, and a minimum number of people needed to successfully perform the needed work. If the cost of health care were to suddenly reduce, the employer would merely save the money as profit to be invested in the business as the employer saw fit.

  49. #49 Stu
    May 6, 2012

    None of that is going to work if you have for-profit health insurance (without curbs) buying drugs from for-profit drug companies (without bargaining power).

  50. #50 squirrelelite
    May 6, 2012

    The $19,000 was the cost to the employer and was probably based on a family of four. I remember hearing a lower number quoted as the cost for one person. The employee usually has to contribute something as well.

    I’m not as sanguine as Dr Brawley about how many people will get jobs if those costs go down. Other factors certainly enter into that decision. But that was a minor part of his presentation.

  51. #51 Ender
    May 8, 2012

    @Niche Geek – it’s a cliche because it’s stupid. If you have to resort to special pleading (These people killed because they had a worldview that said God condoned it/These other people killed because they had a worldview that said morality condoned it, but they didn’t say “In the name of the No-God, so it’s totally different) then your point is weak.

    @Stu – Your original point was stupid, your reply even more so. There’s not time for all the idiocy in the world, so lets just take a sample:

    “Ender: Yep, all animal rights activists are religious.
    Stu: Yes. Please point out where the ALF, PETA and all their odious ilk use atheism as their driving “ideology”.

    The objection was “Not all ARA are religious” your ‘defence’ was “Please point out which organisation uses atheism as their driving ideology”

    In what world is that not really really stupid and missing the point?

    The point is that all of your silly little list of things you personally blame on religion without a whit of scientific or evidential justification are also practised by atheists. You can make your ‘special pleading’ and excuses that none of these things are done “in the name of atheism” but it does not change the empirical fact that these things are done and promoted by atheists just as they are by religious people.

    You clearly have a chip on your shoulder about the religious, and that’s fine, as long as you can justify your prejudices and evidence your claims. As you cannot, and your ‘claims’ are nothing but a grab bag of half-thought out ideas on what you can blame the religious for, it makes you look like an idiot.

  52. #52 Ender
    May 8, 2012

    And since you don’t appear to know any history Stu, allow me to enlighten you:

    (This by the way, is not, once again, an attack on atheists, or a suggestion that atheism is worse than religion, it’s merely clearing up some gaps in Stu’s world history)

    “Some actions against Orthodox priests and believers along with execution included torture, being sent to prison camps, labour camps or mental hospitals.[21][22][23][24] Many Orthodox (along with peoples of other faiths) were also subjected to psychological punishment or torture and mind control experimentation in order to force them give up their religious convictions (see Punitive psychiatry in the Soviet Union).[22][23][25] During the first five years of Soviet power, the Bolsheviks executed 28 Russian Orthodox bishops and over 1,200 Russian Orthodox priests. Many others were imprisoned or exiled.[1]

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Persecution_of_Christians_in_the_Soviet_Union

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/League_of_Militant_Atheists

    p.s. Stu – I didn’t really read all your reply last time because the toxic stupid was too much for me, but I see now that you got quite angry. It appears you have poor reading comprehension, and amusingly are projecting said inability to understand simple language on to me. LOL. – Your original points blamed all of the things you are angry about onto religious people – which would be a valid point if atheists never did any of those things – unfortunately they do, which is why your point is stupid. It doesn’t matter that you may not have meant to say that no atheists do these things, it just matters that your point has no power unless you can pin these behaviors on the religious, and it just makes you appear even more stupid if you were geniunely offering these as foibles of the religious knowing full well that atheists engage in them too.

    p.s. for more detail:

    wikipedia.org/wiki/USSR_anti-religious_campaign_(1921%E2%80%931928)
    wikipedia.org/wiki/USSR_anti-religious_campaign_(1928%E2%80%931941)
    wikipedia.org/wiki/USSR_anti-religious_campaign_(1958%E2%80%931964)

    wikipedia.org/wiki/Eastern_Catholic_victims_of_Soviet_persecutions
    wikipedia.org/wiki/Persecution_of_Muslims#Persecution_of_Muslims_in_the_former_USSR
    wikipedia.org/wiki/Eastern_Catholic_victims_of_Soviet_persecutions
    wikipedia.org/wiki/Marxist%E2%80%93Leninist_atheism

  53. #53 Ender
    May 8, 2012

    As for Atheist terrorism, what would you call:

    “In the Don region in February 1918 the Reds were killing every priest they could find.[9] An 80-year old monk-priest named Amvrosi was beaten with rifle butts before being killed. A priest named Dimitri was brought to a cemetery and undressed, but when he tried to cross himself before being killed, a soldier chopped off his right arm. An old priest who tried to stop the execution of a peasant was beaten and cut to pieces with swords. In the Holy Saviour Monastery, Red soldiers arrested and killed the 75-year-old abbot by scalping him and beheading him. In the Kherson province a priest was crucified. In a Kuban Cossack village an eighty-year-old priest was forced to wear women’s clothing, brought to the village square and ordered to dance; when he refused, he was hanged.[11]“

    In Voronezh, seven nuns who had prayed for a White victory were boiled in a cauldron of tar.[12]

    A priest in Perm was killed by the Cheka who cut out his cheeks and eyes, and then paraded him through the streets before he was buried alive.

    Between June 1918 and January 1919, in Russia (but not including the Volga, Kama and several other regions) there were killed 1 metropolitan, 18 bishops, 102 priests, 154 deacons, 94 monks and nuns, and there were imprisoned four bishops, and 211 priests. The state sequestered 718 parishes and 15 monasteries, it closed 94 churches and 26 monasteries, it desecrated 14 churches and 9 chapels, it forbade 18 religious processions, it dispersed by force 41 religious processions, and it interrupted church services with insults to religious feelings in 22 cities and 96 villages.[22]

    In Kharkov, a priest named Mokovsky was executed for criticizing the Bolsheviks in his sermons. When his wife came to get his body, the Cheka chopped off her limbs, pierced her breasts and killed her. In the village of Popasnaia in the Donets Coal Basin, the priest Dragozhinsky was executed for a sermon that was interpreted as an attack on the Reds.

    And that’s with 30 seconds googling. Again, this is not an attack on atheists, or atheism. Just a small bit of evidence for the idiots who believe “atheists are paragons of never doing what eeeevil religious people do all the time”.

  54. #54 Antaeus Feldspar
    May 8, 2012

    If you have to resort to special pleading (These people killed because they had a worldview that said God condoned it/These other people killed because they had a worldview that said morality condoned it, but they didn’t say “In the name of the No-God, so it’s totally different) then your point is weak.

    This is a good point. I’ve noticed this rhetorical trick before, asking what wrongs have been done “in the name of” atheism as if that was a synonym for, and not a notional subset of, wrongs condoned by atheism.

    OTOH, neither does “condoned by” insert belief system cover the full range of “because of” insert belief system. Even speaking as a believer, I’m afraid that believers tend to have a lock on the “killing this particular person is an affirmative good, because God wants it so” phenomenon, and the number of people killed throughout history under such rationales is tragically high.

  55. #55 squirrelelite
    May 8, 2012

    Since this topic has arisen again, I’ll offer a quick thought.

    It seems that people who blame religion for wars and other ills have a world view reminiscent of John Lennon’s song “Imagine” which pictures a world without any religion and presumes it would not have ills like war.

    From my amateur historical study of wars, I am more inclined to the view of von Clausewitz, “War is the continuation of Politik by other means” (Politik being variously translated as ‘policy’ or ‘politics,’ terms with very different implications).

    Nations and their leaders can use religion as a reason to justify their choice to start a war, but there are many other reasons and religion is often merely a convenient excuse or another way to rally support.

  56. #56 Ender
    May 8, 2012

    p.p.s @Stu

    “The ideology of the Tamil Tigers emerged from Marxist-Leninist thought, and was secular. Its leadership was atheist.[34][35][36]“

    The Tamil Tigers invented suicide bombings, not the Cheras. Lack of bombs and that.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liberation_Tigers_of_Tamil_Eelam

    @Antaneus: Yes, and yes.

    @squirrelelite: I agree.

  57. #57 Ender
    May 8, 2012

    p.p.p.s No they didn’t. They were merely the modern progenitors of suicide bombings as a method of assymetric warfare. Militaries, including the Japanese used it previously.

  58. #58 JGC
    May 8, 2012

    So the Tamil Tiger leadership was athiest–did you have a point? It’s been agreed already that both athiests and those who embrace religious faith sometimes do bad things. The difference noted is that those who embrace religious belief frequently claim articles of faith condone the bad things they do (such as engaging in human slavery), while athiests do not claim their actions are condoned by any principles of atheism they embrace.

    So, do you have any evidence the athiest prinicples the Tamil Tiger leadership embraced condone the use of suicide bombing?

  59. #59 Stu
    May 8, 2012

    Ender, please look up PRATT. Your little hissy-fit was just pathetic.

  60. #60 Raging Bee
    May 8, 2012

    There is nothing inherent to Atheism that protects against any kind of abuse.

    Actually, the refusal to accept religious doctrine or “revelations” as justification for evil acts is a protective feature of atheism. It doesn’t solve all our problems, of course, but it is something inherent to atheism that offers some protection against abuse.

    (And what’s with the capital-A? Since when was atheism an institution with a name whose first letter was capitalized?)

  61. #61 Ender
    May 8, 2012

    @JGC – Yes I do. If you want to be part of the conversation, do the reading. It will become apparent to you.

    @Stu – Interesting. When you thought the facts were on your side you produce a long, if unevidenced and poorly thought out, screed. Now you want to pretend I’m having a hissy fit. Man up – admit your view is silly and bigoted and move on with your life. Or hold fast to your silly views, makes no difference to me.
    I looked up Pratt. He looks like a prat. What’s that got to do with the price of fish?

  62. #62 augustine
    May 8, 2012

    Atheism is nothing more than idolatry. One cannot serve 2 masters.
    The science blogger worships his own mind(or a fellow skeptic’s mind). He is his own master.

    Not all atheists are Skeptics. But all Skeptics are Atheists. This is an incontrovertible fact.

  63. #63 Raging Bee
    May 8, 2012

    …And that’s with 30 seconds googling. Again, this is not an attack on atheists, or atheism.

    Yeah, actually, it is. If linking the lack of god-belief to vile acts of brutality committed in one country’s civil war (without even mentioning socio-political context) isn’t an “attack,” what is?

    (Oh, and just a friendly reminder: there’s atheists all over the globe, but all of your examples of atheist atrocities come from ONE historical period (less than a century at that) in ONE country (which doesn’t even exist anymore). That alone kinda takes your “atheists are just as bad as theists” hand-waving down a notch, doncha think?)

  64. #64 Ender
    May 8, 2012

    @Raging Bee

    “Actually, the refusal to accept religious doctrine or “revelations” as justification for evil acts is a protective feature of atheism. It doesn’t solve all our problems, of course, but it is something inherent to atheism that offers some protection against abuse.”

    I suppose, to some respect. In the way that religion’s refusal to accept scientific doctrine, materialist doctrine, nihilist doctrine or Communist doctrine as a justification for evil acts is a protective feature of religion. It doesn’t solve all our problems, of course, but it is something that is inherent to every belief system that protects against abuse from other belief systems.

    “And what’s with the capital-A? Since when was atheism an institution with a name whose first letter was capitalized?

    I pretty much capitalize or not recklessly. Never done me any harm. Some Atheists see it as a gesture of respect – others see ‘atheist’ next to ‘Christian’ and ‘Muslim’ as an insult – so I tend to err on the side of capitalising. But if you prefer otherwise I’m happy to oblige.

  65. #65 Ender
    May 8, 2012

    @RagingBee

    No it is not an attack. If the question is: Religion makes people do all this stuff [1...X] and the reply is “If that’s the case, atheists don’t [1...X], but look, they do” – then the reply is not an attack on atheists it’s a reply to the question.

  66. #66 Ender
    May 8, 2012

    “If linking the lack of god-belief to vile acts of brutality committed in one country’s civil war (without even mentioning socio-political context) isn’t an “attack,” what is?”

    Except that’s not what I did.

    What I did was mention in response to the question “Atheists haven’t ever done that have they…?” a few historical events when Atheist terrorists attempted to drive religion out of the population through murder, torture, and terror. These were not acts committed “in the country’s civil war” – unless you count acts of murder and terror to be a “justified part of war”

    I did this very specifically in response to the request for descriptions of Atheist acts of terror, and not to link “atheism” in general with “vile acts”

    Read the damn question again before you start with your pointless whining.

  67. #67 Raging Bee
    May 8, 2012

    In the way that religion’s refusal to accept scientific doctrine, materialist doctrine, nihilist doctrine or Communist doctrine as a justification for evil acts is a protective feature of religion.

    Ummm…guess what: atheists generally don’t accept any of that either. In fact, most atheists don’t even recognize that such “doctrines” exist. Seriously, what the hell is “scientific doctrine?” Also, what “doctrine” do nihilists believe in? And your lame attempt to inject “nihilism” into a tirade against atheism is just standard anti-atheist bigotry.

    No it is not an attack.

    Yes, it is, you lying fool. When we blame religious doctrines and beliefs for evil acts they try to justify or incite, that’s an attack on either religious doctrines or religious thinking in general (which we, at least, consider justifiable). So when you try to tie atheism to another set of atrocities, justifiably or not, how can you pretend it’s not an attack?

  68. #68 Raging Bee
    May 8, 2012

    These were not acts committed “in the country’s civil war”…

    Um…what? There was a civil war, and these acts (justified or not) were committed in the time and place of said civil war, by members of one or another belligerent parties in said civil war. So how can you say they were not committed in the said civil war?

    Seriously, boy, if you’re down to this level of hairsplitting and pointmissing, you might as well just shut up and find another argument.

  69. #69 Ender
    May 8, 2012

    No it isn’t you cretinous fool. And fuck you for saying I’m lying.

    An answer to the question “What terrorism have atheists perpetrated” is not the same as saying “This terrorism is because atheists are bad.”

    If you can’t understand how that’s an answer not an attack and that it is limited evidence of terrorism occurring ever rather than damning evidence that atheists are evil then you are too stupid to converse with.

  70. #70 Ender
    May 8, 2012

    No it isn’t you cretinous fool. And screw you for saying I’m lying.

    An answer to the question “What terrorism have atheists perpetrated” is not the same as saying “This terrorism is because atheists are bad.”

    If you can’t understand how that’s an answer not an attack and that it is limited evidence of terrorism occurring ever rather than damning evidence that atheists are evil then you are too stupid to converse with.

  71. #71 Raging Bee
    May 8, 2012

    Oh, and if you’re trying to pretend atheists either committed or facilitated acts of brutality in the Russian civil war, just remember that the nominally-theist factions in that conflict didn’t behave any better. That’s not an “atheist” thing, it’s a Russian Civil War thing. (Not to mention it’s even further cancelled out by the civil wars fought during (and as a result of) the Reformation, which were about as brutal without any atheist “doctrine” or faction, thankyouverymuch.)

  72. #72 Ender
    May 8, 2012

    “Seriously, boy, if you’re down to this level of hairsplitting and pointmissing, you might as well just shut up and find another argument.”

    Seriously, racist, the colour of my skin shouldn’t bother you so.

    It’s not hair splitting to point out that “terrorism” is not an act of war. “Killing an old man and chopping off his wife’s limbs, piercing her breasts and killing her” and Boiled seven women in a cauldron of tar.[12] are not acts of war, they are acts of terror, and most likely in contravention of the Geneva convention.

    These acts were not committed to defeat an enemy, or defend against attacks. They were premeditated acts of terror, state terror, designed to terrorise the masses and eliminate religion.

    Doesn’t matter even if they were committed during a genuine military action. Doesn’t change what they were.

    You seem awfully keen to excuse the acts of atheists, regardless of if they’re evil or not. What is the chip on your shoulder? Are you trying to suggest that atheists never commit evil? What kind of retarded argument is that?

  73. #73 Ender
    May 8, 2012

    “Oh, and if you’re trying to pretend atheists either committed or facilitated acts of brutality in the Russian civil war, just remember that the nominally-theist factions in that conflict didn’t behave any better”

    YES! That’s the point, you intellectually sub-normal semi-brain. Apart from your disingenuous lying when you say “pretend” even though they actually did do it (like to excuse acts of great evil for people on your “team” do you? idiot) – this is exactly the point: ALL PEOPLE DO EVIL, ATHEISTS ARE NOT AN EXCEPTION.

    Damnit. Your paranoid posting is really harshing the simple factual nature of this conversation.

    Hint for future interactions: Everything is not “My team” “Your team” – the truth is more important and more enlightening than pretending that “ours” never make any mistake and are always in the right. Actually theists and atheists do evil things all the time and all your utopianist fanatic bullshit is just that, bullshit.

    p.s.

    “Ummm…guess what: atheists generally don’t accept any of that either…

    Irrelevant. That was not the question. Please, try turning your tiny intellect to following a simple conversation.
    Atheism does not provide an inherent defence against said ideologies, religion does. Religion does not provide an inherent defence against similar religious ideologies, atheism does.

    So… big whoop?

  74. #74 Raging Bee
    May 8, 2012

    It’s not hair splitting to point out that “terrorism” is not an act of war.

    In the context of this argument, it is.

    You seem awfully keen to excuse the acts of atheists, regardless of if they’re evil or not.

    Which acts did I “excuse?” Disputing your idiotic assertions about “scientific doctrine, materialist doctrine, nihilist doctrine or Communist doctrine” does not constitute “excusing” any action. Your refusal to recognize this is yet another indicator of anti-atheist bigotry.

  75. #75 Raging Bee
    May 8, 2012

    …or, at the very least, someone who’s up way past his bedtime.

  76. #76 Stu
    May 8, 2012

    Ender, you are still having a fit. And will you just look up what PRATT means?

  77. #77 Raging Bee
    May 8, 2012

    Atheism is nothing more than idolatry. One cannot serve 2 masters.

    Thank you, augie, for making Ender look intelligent.

  78. #78 Calli Arcale
    May 8, 2012

    Terrorism and war . . . honestly, the distinction is often semantic. Where does an act of war end and an act of state-sanctioned terrorism begin? The US bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki, becoming the only nation to date to use a nuclear weapon against human targets. The point was to make the Japanese people unwilling to continue to wage war against the United States. The same tactics were used in the firebombing of Tokyo, and also the firebombing of Dresden, over on the other end of Axis. The point wasn’t merely to eliminate a military capability, but to demoralize the public, since the morale of the public is a very important element in an effective military machine.

    The point, in other words, *was* terror. It was also very clearly an act of war. War is hell. It’s not always sensible to try to make distinctions between war and terrorism, since that suggests that war is somehow better. It’s not. Sometimes, it’s unavoidable. But it’s not better, not in and of itself. Some acts are clearly worse than other acts, but context has a lot to do with it (the world was more outraged by 9/11 than by Hiroshima, yet Hiroshima was far more terrifying — interesting, that) and so does who is writing the book.

    Atheism versus religion….

    I’m a religious person, and a person of faith, and also a strong proponent of science and the separation of church and state. I think we need a plurality of religious ideas, tolerated and mutually respected. Atheism should be one of them (or some of them, depending on how one wants to count the religions, an exercise which to me seems a bit silly), so that we make sure there is a balance. Cover the intellectual and philosophical bases. Obviously I think my religion is right or I wouldn’t follow it, but I can’t prove it, and as long as these things can’t be usefully tested, we are much stronger if we have a diverse plurality of belief.

    Which religion/philosophy is noblest? None of them. People of all philosophies have the capacity to commit great evil, and also the capacity to do tremendous good. Religion and philosophy are used to justify whatever people want to do; therefore, you can find a convincing anecdote for any of them being evil, or good.

    By the way, to Raging Bee:
    Actually, the refusal to accept religious doctrine or “revelations” as justification for evil acts is a protective feature of atheism.

    Not really. It just means that atheists won’t point to religious doctrine as justification for evil acts. They will point somewhere else instead. The human brain is amazingly inventive, and so extremely good at finding patterns that it can even find patterns where there aren’t any. Just because an atheist doesn’t point at religious doctrine or things attributed to a deity doesn’t mean the atheist will have that much difficulty finding somewhere else to point. Justification turns out to be very easy; a lot easier than proof, that’s for sure. This is why neither atheism *nor* religion are a protection against evil. Skepticism might be, but humans aren’t very good at it.

  79. #79 Ender
    May 8, 2012

    @RagingBee:

    You can continue on your silly crusade to make this an atheist/theist thing so you can take some imaginary moral high-ground defending atheism from it’s detractors all you like. It makes no grounds to me.

    The actual conversation was about whether those acts can be attributed to people’s religion, and the fact that atheists engage in the same sort of terrorism and other mentioned behaviours disputes that theory.
    You failed to recognise that the first time round, you refused to acknowledge it when I told you earlier, and I’m sure you’ll attempt to deny it again, or simply ignore it, but it’s a fact, and you’ll look stupid for it.

    @Stu:

    Of course you’d like to make this conversation about me, as your idiocy is in black and white for everyone to see. Unfortunately it’s actually about the facts. I guess you’ve learned some history today. Was it good?

    The first relevant google for “PRATT lysenkoism” is http://www.newswithviews.com/Pratt/larry108.htm – I don’t know who this idiot is, or why you like him so much, but you’re welcome to him. You appear to be operating on about the same level.

  80. #80 Ender
    May 8, 2012

    @Cali Arcale:

    You make some good points. Acts of terror are often used during wartime, and have been an integral part of many historical strategies.

    “People of all philosophies have the capacity to commit great evil, and also the capacity to do tremendous good.”

    This is very true. And justify them with certain interpretations of said philosophies.

  81. #81 augustine
    May 8, 2012

    Callie Arcale

    This is why neither atheism *nor* religion are a protection against evil. Skepticism might be, but humans aren’t very good at it.

    Skepticism can fight evil? That’s pretty funny right there.

    I’m a religious person, and a person of faith,

    Oh, cognitive dissonance, how do you manage thee?

    Perhaps you meant critical thinking instead of skepticism.

  82. #82 Antaeus Feldspar
    May 8, 2012

    May I offer the following proposition, for consideration? “Neither religion, per se, nor atheism, leads to atrocity by its nature. What does lead to atrocity by its nature is the totalism of the belief system: the meta-belief that the belief system is The Answer and nothing outside the belief system ever needs to be weighed because it couldn’t possibly matter when compared to the belief system.” This accounts not only for many of the notoriously cruel religious regimes of history both distant and recent, but many non-religious regimes whose acts also wound up with a powerful death and misery toll. Whether it’s a religious cult or a cult of personality, isn’t it often the cultic mindset that’s truly to blame?

  83. #83 Ender
    May 8, 2012

    Hey, sorry RagingBee, I was being a dick before. Long day. I’ve got no reason to believe you were thinking about my race when you called me ‘boy’ and calling you stupid was rude.

    If you joined the conversation believing that I was saying “atheists are evil/worse than religious people” you had my argument wrong, I was replying to Stu’s request for evidence to back up my argument that atheists have ever committed acts of terrorism* and was saying “this is the evidence that atheists have done these things”.

    If you think that I was correctly replying to Stu’s question**, but secretly hoping that the association of atheism with terror acts that atheists did commit would further re-inforce people’s incorrect belief that atheists are evil and more prone to violence, then you have my character wrong.

    *he actually asked for atheist bombings, but I’d misremembered that when I answered him.

    ** i.e. the question I thought he asked

  84. #84 Ender
    May 8, 2012

    @Antaneus

    “”Neither religion, per se, nor atheism, leads to atrocity by its nature. What does lead to atrocity by its nature is the totalism of the belief system: the meta-belief that the belief system is The Answer and nothing outside the belief system ever needs to be weighed because it couldn’t possibly matter when compared to the belief system.”

    I agree. I would also add the twin ideas that the belief system is under existential threat from other beliefs if they are allowed to persist, and that these other beliefs are so evil abominable and dangerous that they must be rooted out entirely, that even milder versions “allow the taint to seep in”.
    And the belief that those who disagree with you do not do so because they disagree with your reasoning, but because they are evil, brainwashed, under false-consciousness, deluded or irredeemably tainted, therefore they must not be engaged but merely opposed. Or that “they” hate “us” for only bad reasons based on lies and jealousy but “we” hate “them” for their perfidious assaults and calumnies that any right thinking person would abhor.

    None of these behaviours discriminates by creed.

  85. #85 Stu
    May 8, 2012

    Ender, did I say Pratt? No, I said PRATT.

    Point Refuted A Thousand Times.

  86. #86 Ender
    May 8, 2012

    You could have cleared up that confusion if you’d said that when I referred to Pratt the guy the first time.

    I’m sure it has been. Care to link or evidence it rather than just sitting their like your unsupported word means something?

    You are focusing on the one point where you may be correct, the overall argument supports the assertion that atheists are not immune to these errors in cognition, and errors against morality regardless of the correctness of individual examples.

  87. #87 Stu
    May 8, 2012

    Yes, Ender, and all of that would mean something if that was anything remotely like anything I said.

    I’ll just note for now that you’re only two squares in on my Bingo card: tu quoque and false equivalence.

    The only instance you’ve pointed out of atheism being a driving force was in a totalitarian state, that does not exist anymore, trying to oppress one ideology with another one. To put it another way, replacing an oppressive, exploitative system with another oppressive, exploitative system. Both systems being ridiculous, irrational and parasitic.

    Hint: atheism is not an ideology. It is the lack of one, actually. Back to the old, trite but still true “atheism is a religion like bald is a hair color”.

  88. #88 JGC
    May 8, 2012

    JGC – Yes I do. If you want to be part of the conversation, do the reading. It will become apparent to you.

    Happily–can you point out in which of your posts above you’ve cited the evidence, so that I can do the reading you recommend?

    Wait–you’re not instead suggesting that I go hunting for evidence to support a claim you’re making, are you?

  89. #89 Ender
    May 9, 2012

    Oh brilliant, you’re back putting the Stu in Stupid.

    Your unthinking and anti-intellectual association of religion with specific anti-social behaviours has been comprehensively refuted by the atheists who also engage in said behaviours. Your only options are to deny that these historical events happened, suggest they were ‘secret theists’ or change the subject entirely.

    You’ve chosen option (3), mention some stupid ‘bingo’ card you’ve made up.

    Enjoy your game of bingo. It seems more your level than making coherent arguments.

  90. #90 Ender
    May 9, 2012

    @JCG

    I’ve changed my mind, don’t go back and do the reading. It’s too dangerous. You’re not trying hard enough.

    You asked did I have a point: the answer was yes.

    You clearly wanted that point to be something about something it wasn’t, and started to argue about Tamils and whether the atheist leadership used any atheist reasoning in their support for suicide bombings.

    The point was actually about whether Muslims were the first suicide bombers. An unrelated point.

    I told you that if you wanted to join the conversation you’d benefit from reading the conversation to find out that you’d missed the point.

    I didn’t call you an idiot right there but you didn’t bother to do the reading, you were sure that you had understood the point of the answer correctly even without reading the question, and you were wrong and look like an idiot now.

    Next time read the damn question before you start assuming things and making an idiot of yourself.

  91. #91 Stu
    May 9, 2012

    Your unthinking and anti-intellectual association of religion with specific anti-social behaviours has been comprehensively refuted by the atheists who also engage in said behaviours.

    Totally! If that was my point, which it wasn’t and isn’t. Association is not the same as justification.

    You’re very young, aren’t you?

  92. #92 Ender
    May 9, 2012

    Not young enough to fall for your transparent attempt to turn this conversation into an attack on my personality rather than your obvious idiocy and inability to argue coherently.

    The question you should ask yourself is “Am I really so old that I am getting my arse handed to me by this youngster? Maybe I should retire from the intermanets. Get off my lawn! Evidence is for fools!”

  93. #93 Ender
    May 9, 2012

    p.s. it was never about justification but causation, without which your ‘association’ is mere bigotry. If you can prove causation then you have a point, if not you’re merely one more in the long line of people associating immoral tendencies to “the blacks”, “the Jews” or “the religious” – i.e. connect their hated groups with immoral acts without evidence that their group has anything to do with it.

  94. #94 Calli Arcale
    May 9, 2012

    Stu:

    Hint: atheism is not an ideology. It is the lack of one, actually. Back to the old, trite but still true “atheism is a religion like bald is a hair color”.

    It is true that atheism isn’t an ideology, but it is not true that it is the lack of an ideology.

    Atheism is a class of philosophies. To consider it monolithic is as foolish as considering theism monolithic. There are certainly atheistic ideologies, so atheism is not the lack of an ideology. One can be atheistic and not adhere to a formal ideology, but it is not required.

    Atheism is the belief that there is no god (or, in some uses, the lack of an opinion on the subject), not the lack of an ideology. One can, for instance, quite easily be a fierce Constitutional ideologue and also an atheist.

  95. #95 Stu
    May 10, 2012

    p.s. it was never about justification but causation

    Oh, I’m sorry, I must have missed the memo where you were made Grand Poobah and get to decide that.

    One can, for instance, quite easily be a fierce Constitutional ideologue and also an atheist.

    Why would you bring in other ideologies? Obviously, it is not “complete lack of ideology”, it is “whatever ideologies a comparable theist would have, minus one”.

    Atheism is the belief that there is no god

    No, that is spectacularly dishonest. I am very disappointed that you would even try to say that. It is null hypothesis, i.e. the lack of a belief in a god. Which is something entirely different.

  96. #96 JGC
    May 10, 2012

    My bad, then–guess I didn’t notice when you moved the goalposts, abandoning your initial argument in post 32 to begin a discussion of the history of suicide bombing.

  97. #97 Calli Arcale
    May 10, 2012

    Stu — I notice you left out the parenthetical statement that immediately followed what you quoted: “(or, in some uses, the lack of an opinion on the subject)”. If you want to call me spectacularly dishonest, perhaps you could consider not quoting out of context and thus appearing spectacularly dishonest yourself. (It might also be smart not to do it within two inches of screen space from the actual post you’re quoting.)

    One might also note that you are quoting two different people without distinguishing them. You don’t make that at all clear, so kindly refrain from accusing me of being “spectacularly dishonest”.

    I prefer the term “agnosticism” to describe the lack of belief in a deity and lack of formal opinion on the subject, and prefer to restrict “atheism” to the more explicit belief that there is no god. But as I noted and you elected not to repeat, this is variable; not everybody uses the words the same way, and many extend “atheist” to include those with no opinion on the matter.

    (By the way, “no belief in God” is not a null hypothesis. The null hypothesis in this case would be “there is no god”. Agnostics understand that for something untestable like divinity, even the null hypothesis doesn’t really have much application. Certainly in science, it doesn’t make a lick of difference; if God’s untestable, then God is also irrelevant to interpretation of the data.)

    I apologize for misunderstanding you when you said “Hint: atheism is not an ideology. It is the lack of one, actually.” Clearly, you meant that it is the lack of one particular ideology, not the lack of even one ideology, which is what I thought you meant. Unfortunately, your phrase can be read both ways. I now understand what you meant, though now I’m less sure of the point of it — it seems silly to try and tally up the number of available ideologies to a person, as if keeping some kind of score. There are so many that not holding a particular one seems rather trivial. I can’t be a polytheist, since I’m a monotheist. So what? Doesn’t make me any better than a polytheist. For that matter, I can’t hold an atheistic ideology (and yes, they do exist). That doesn’t make me any better or even meaningfully different than someone who can.

  98. #98 Politicalguineapig
    May 10, 2012

    Ender: I assume this ‘athiest’ you’re banging on about is Thomas Jefferson. He was a deist, not an athiest. But since neither you nor Anthony Mcarthy (who I assume is you as well) believe in history, you’ll never understand that. Elevatorgate was just a dude being a dude; many straight men are incapable of understanding that women who are out in public aren’t neccessarily interested in sex. Or why small spaces+a man is very nervewracking to a woman. And men will always side with other men.
    Also, before the 1500s, slavery wasn’t inescapable or race-based. (Look up dark Finns sometime). It took Christianity to make slavery intolerable. Just like it takes religion to gin up a territory dispute into a conflict that drags on for a century or more. I personally don’t think that ending religion would end war; humans are territorial animals after all. But I have to think that there’d be a lot fewer wars.

  99. #99 Ender
    May 10, 2012

    “Ender: I assume this ‘athiest’ you’re banging on about is Thomas Jefferson”

    Nope. Nor did I refer to any specific atheist, the point is that atheism provides no protection against supporting slavery. Humanism does, but an atheist is free to choose their moral creed or devise their own, and there is no obligation to be a humanist.

    “But since neither you nor Anthony Mcarthy (who I assume is you as well”

    Haha, no.

    “Elevatorgate was just a dude being a dude”

    Indeed. So unless Stu has any evidence that being an Atheist protects against dudes being dudes in any meaningful way he’s just being unrepentantly bigoted. Would it be more clear if you thought about say, a Buddhist who associates all kinds of immoral things with non-Buddhists, without evidence. If he had evidence that being Buddhist prevented that kind of immorality then he would just be stating facts, but he’s not so he’s a bigot.

    “It took Christianity to make slavery intolerable”

    Haha. Citation needed.

    “Just like it takes religion to gin up a territory dispute into a conflict that drags on for a century or more.”

    Haha. Citation very much needed.
    Also, what a load of bollocks: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hundred_Years%27_War – it’s clearly not me who doesn’t believe in history, I musn’t be Anthony.

    “But I have to think that there’d be a lot fewer wars.”

    Unfortunately “I have to think” doesn’t count as any kind of evidence or argument.

  100. #100 Ender
    May 10, 2012

    “My bad, then–guess I didn’t notice when you moved the goalposts, abandoning your initial argument in post 32 to begin a discussion of the history of suicide bombing.”

    No! JGC! I tried to warn you! But you tried to do the reading anyway!

    I kid, I kid, there was no real need for my bristly tone in my previous reply, sorry.

    XYou have still not followed the conversation closely enoughX – nope that’s wrong, we’re just talking about slightly different things here.
    I brought up the fact that Muslims didn’t invent suicide bombings as part of a criticism of his lazy and bigoted association of religion and immorality. He brought up the Cheras. I pointed out that it was actually the Tamil Tigers, who were atheists not Muslims. (I was wrong as discussed above, they didn’t invent it.)

    The point of the argument in 32 is that lazy associations of imorality with religion are either evidenced or bigoted and that the evidence shows that atheism does not protect against his charges.
    The point of mentioning that the Tamil Tigers popularised suicide bombing was that neither Cheras nor Muslims invented it. This supported the argument in 32, as it showed that that atheism does not protect against using suicide bombers, but that was not the point of mentioning it. The conversation had moved on, through Cheras to the originators of suicide bombings.

    The goalpost of post 32 remains, but you’re going to have to be less specific next time. If you ask me what the point of a certain sentence is, I’m going to tell you what it’s about, not what other arguments it also supports. If you’d asked “what’s that got to do with 32″ I’d have got it too, but text is an inherently imprecise medium so these sorts of misunderstandings will happen.

  101. #101 Niche Geek
    May 10, 2012

    Ender,

    I believe you’ve successfully argued that atheism offers no better “protection” against inhumanity, war and atrocity than does religion. I happen to agree with you. To paraphrase the title of the post atheism “…has a problem, but that doesn’t mean religion is better”.

  102. #102 Stu
    May 10, 2012

    Calli, I’m sorry, but if your characterizing atheism as a “belief there is no god” is not dishonest, it is silly.

    For example, I also hold a “belief there is no Russell’s Teapot”. In fact, I could (and in fact, should) hold an infinite amount of such “beliefs”, which would make the entire term meaningless.

    That aside, apologies for my ambiguity on the other issues you brought up.

  103. #103 Politicalguineapig
    May 10, 2012

    Ender: You continue to prove your ignorance of history. The Tamil Tigers were Hindu extremists.

    http://terrorism.about.com/od/groupsleader1/p/TamilTigers.html

    I found the citation you wanted.
    http://www.religioustolerance.org/chr_slav.html

    And does this ring a bell as an example of a pointless war started only for religious brownie points?
    http://www.middle-ages.org.uk/the-crusades.htm

    I’d really like to take a look at the record of the slave-owning athiest, but I suspect this man exists only in your warped mind. (Deists don’t count.)

    Finally: READ. SOME. HISTORY. Also the Malleus Maleficarium for the lulz. I should go dig up my copy.

  104. #104 Calli Arcale
    May 11, 2012

    Stu,

    It is true one can hold an infinite number of nonbeliefs. Belief or disbelief/nonbelief in a deity is one that tends to provoke particular discussion, though, and consequently merits a special term, “atheism”.

    I don’t believe in Bigfoot, but this is not an issue of widespread contention, so there’s not much value in a special term for it. I do at least appreciate that you have changed your characterization of me from “dishonest” to “silly”. That’s some improvement, though you still have not acknowledged or apologized for the accusation, nor for quoting me out of context as if I had not said atheism can also mean lack of an opinion on the subject of divinity. I do not appreciate being accused of “spectacular dishonesty” by someone who lacks the honesty to acknowledge he’s quote-mining.

  105. #105 herr doktor bimler
    May 12, 2012

    The Tamil Tigers were Hindu extremists.

    Their official ideology was secular, IIRC; the Tamil Nationalist struggle was supposedly open to all, regardless of religion… though in practice they reserved the right to drive out non-hindu minorities from the areas they controlled.
    Obviously “secular” != “atheist”.

  106. #106 Ender
    May 14, 2012

    Politicalguineapig:

    You’re as ignorant as you are retarded.

    “Tamil Tigers were Hindu extremists.”

    This is incorrect. You still don’t know any history, this is embarrassing.

    You must still be smarting from the smackdown you got when you conveniently forgot that the 100 years war existed.

    Normally “*double down* and keep on bullshitting” can be a good strategy – people tend to forget what you just said – unfortunately on forums the evidence of your hysterical ignorance is there in black and white.

    Projection is an interesing phenomena. For example “READ. SOME. HISTORY.” is exactly the kind of thing you should say to the kind of idiot who claims: “Just like it takes religion to gin up a territory dispute into a conflict that drags on for a century or more” even though the Hundred Years War is named for being a territory dispute that lasted a hundred years, like you did.

    I also asked you for some citations. I see you were unable to come up with them. Perhaps you should… learn… some… history :p

  107. #107 Ender
    May 14, 2012

    p.s. your persistant inquiry into “the” atheist who kept slaves is another facet of your facile understanding of the conversation – there was never “a” particular atheist under discussion – as clarified in earlier posts that you were probably too self-righteously stupid to actually read and comprehend – but if it will sate your silly whining, here is one: Seneca

    Amazingly your ignorance of history lets you down again.

  108. #108 Ender
    May 14, 2012

    @NicheGeek – yes absolutely.

  109. #109 Raging Bee
    May 14, 2012

    This is incorrect. You still don’t know any history, this is embarrassing.

    Um…PGP’s assertions were backed up with some citations; and yours aren’t. The only thing that’s “embarrassing” here is your defensive hyperbole and arm-waving. Oh, and the fact that it’s four days late

  110. #110 Politicalguineapig
    May 14, 2012

    Herr Doktor Bimler: Thanks for the correction. I was going by the information I got at this place:

    http://terrorism.about.com/od/groupsleader1/p/TamilTigers.httml

    Which is obviously the five minute version of what they were all about. I think it’d be more accurate to say they were culturally Hindu and wanted secularism so they wouldn’t be bound by Buddhist laws.

    Ender: the 100 Years War was a series of territorial disputes between England and France. However, due to the historical ‘Divine Right of Kings,’ and Joan of Arc, one cannot say with a straight face that religion had nothing to do with it.
    Seneca was a Roman, so he was required to make sacrifices to his gods- hardly an athiest. Also, slavery back then wasn’t as heinous as slavery in the Americas became. You seem to be unaware that in the Roman Empire, it wasn’t a permanent state. It became a permanent state in the Americas, mainly because the religious authorities declared that people with brown or black skin were cursed by God and deserved to be slaves. Curse of Ham, anyone?
    Furthermore, I have a degree in history and I suspect yours had nothing to do with history and came from one of the Christian diploma mills* in the boonies. You sound like a Liberty University graduate.
    RB: Thank you. I really shouldn’t indulge him, but playing ‘poke the godbot’ is fun.

    *Not to be confused with the various institutions who have links with the Lutheran and Catholic churches. I am referring to places like Oral Roberts, Bob Jones and Liberty, where little, if any learning takes place.

  111. #111 Ender
    May 15, 2012

    “Um…PGP’s assertions were backed up with some citations; and yours aren’t. The only thing that’s “embarrassing” here is your defensive hyperbole and arm-waving. Oh, and the fact that it’s four days late…”

    My word man learn to read!

    My assertion was a citation! (A direct quote!)

    Honestly, I don’t know why I bother. You’re certainly not trying very hard.

  112. #112 herr doktor bimler
    May 15, 2012

    Politicalguineapig @103: Also [read] the Malleus Maleficarium for the lulz. I should go dig up my copy.

    Is that the Dover edition of the Montague Summers translation? My dominating memory from reading it was Kramer’s overwhelming mental illness. Practically every page comes back to his obsessions with impotence, magical penis stealing, erotic dreams, and the EVIL MIDWIVES. I mean, the inside of his head was basically a swarming mess of maggots.

    But you can’t really blame religion for Kramer’s personal psychopathology, if that was your reason for mentioning it. If anything, the book is a symptom of a sick strand in European culture of the time — “Europe’s Inner Demons” as Norman Cohn called it.

    It certainly does not reflect credit on the Church of the day (and then the Churches) for accepting the Malleus; but my impression (from reading Cohn and Carlo Ginzburg) was that it never received that much central backing or acceptance, and is not a good guide to the motivations of the witch-finders.

    Now if anyone wants to talk about the Witch Craze in general as an indictment of organised religion, then I shall not cavil.

  113. #113 herr doktor bimler
    May 15, 2012

    I would never have imagined that someone would turn the Malleus into a musical.

  114. #114 Ender
    May 15, 2012

    Seneca: “Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful.

    Yep, sounds like a religious man to me. Where was your degree from again?

    “Furthermore, I have a degree in history and I suspect yours had nothing to do with history and came from one of the Christian diploma mills* in the boonies. You sound like a Liberty University graduate.”

    I didn’t study history, it’s true, I studied medicine and physics at a top UK university, and am currently obtaining degree in Information Systems (IT) in my spare time. If we were comparing degrees you’d have to be feeling a bit inadequate now, luckily for you degrees have shit all to do with whether your arguments are right, to suggest that is a formal fallacy and socially very declasse.

    I don’t actually come from the American Boondocks, you provincial Yank. The internet is international you know? This perhaps however, explains your ‘arguments’. I’m sure that in the Bible Belt your kind of un-evidenced dramatic nonsense can really stump an idiot, unfortunately, as you experience the wider world you will encounter theists with a modicum of education and experience, they like me, will make mincemeat of such simple grandiose statements. Take this as a lesson, you’re here anonymously where your embarrassment should not sting too hard – remember this next time you choose to pick an argument with a theist you do not know well – you will end up humiliating yourself in public if your have not upped your game.

    “RB: Thank you. I really shouldn’t indulge him, but playing ‘poke the godbot’ is fun.”

    I would really be more embarrassed than you are to admit that I didn’t know what was going on in this thread, but you have some balls, I have to admire that.

    If you think you’re poking a Godbot then you’re sadly mistaken. I can find you one if you like, but he won’t be able to keep making you look poorly educated, so what would you have to be annoyed about?

    The real question is whether your ‘degree’ was from a real university, seeing as you are so terrible at history. A student of the harder sciences is out-performing you with citations!

  115. #115 Ender
    May 15, 2012

    Let me just get this straight PoliticalGuineaPig – you have an undergraduate degree in History and yet this following is your argument:

    You cannot have a territorial dispute lasting 100+ years without religion

    and

    The 100 Years War, a territorial non-sectarian (i.e. not about religious differences) dispute, would not have occurred without religion. One or other of the sides would have given up their ancestral/’rightful’ lands and just quit

    And you support this ‘theory’ with… your assertion that it ‘would not have happened’ without the Divine Right of Kings and Joan of Arc?

    Seriously?

    This wouldn’t even fly in the Bible belt. Do you have any evidence to support your frankly naive belief that people won’t fight over land possessions or any kind of material resource without the influence of religion? Any at all?

  116. #116 Ender
    May 15, 2012

    “Now if anyone wants to talk about the Witch Craze in general as an indictment of organised religion, then I shall not cavil.”

    I’m not sure I’d disagree, but why organised religion in particular? Would an atheist civilisation of comparably primitive and superstitious level and mind be any less prey to similar unscientific beliefs?
    Even if they had somehow shed their unscientific beliefs without the benefit of science, in such authoritarian times could a similarly disturbed person not have obtained a similarly powerful position and written about the ‘evil old women cultists’ and their conspiracies and poisonings, and ‘abuse cults’. Unevidenced beliefs and hysterical over-reaction, especially in times of low education, social upheaval/oppression and poverty, are not limited to the religious.

  117. #117 Raging Bee
    May 15, 2012

    I didn’t study history, it’s true…

    And your lack of study shows in your idiotic misinterpretations of historical events.

    Then again, you pretty much flushed your credibility down the toilet with your asinine ravings about “scientific doctrine, materialist doctrine, nihilist doctrine or Communist doctrine;” so your admitted failure to study history isn’t all that surprising.

  118. #118 herr doktor bimler
    May 15, 2012

    why organised religion in particular? Would an atheist civilisation of comparably primitive and superstitious level and mind be any less prey to similar unscientific beliefs?

    It did cross my mind that the witch-sniffing tradition in parts of Africa — about which my knowledge comes mainly from reading “King Solomon’s Mines” — shows that people are equally capable of similar atrocities in the absence of organised religion. Though I have read that witch-sniffing ceremonies in South Africa are coming increasingly under the auspices of revivalist Pentacostal churches.

    Am I alone in thinking that if Heinrich “Malleus” Kramer were alive today, he’d have a successful career in US politics?

  119. #119 Politicalguineapig
    May 16, 2012

    Herrdoktorbimmler: I brought up the Malleus Maleficarium and witch hunting both to show how nonsense often gets codified in organized religion, and because Ender would probably have been a witch hunter. He certainly has the right mindset.

    Ender: Your so-called ‘citation’ is in fact, pulled from your colon. I’d think a big shot computer engineer would be able to put in a simple hyperterminal.
    What in the world made you think I was based out on the east coast? I do however apologize for mistaking you for an American; English fundamentalists are a rare breed indeed. Usually, the biblical craziness is kept to our side of the Atlantic, most English people prefer to think.
    For your information, I’m based in flyover land, and obtained a degree from a small Catholic college that’s been around for nearly 100 years.I won’t say which, because I don’t give out personal details on the internet.
    Do you really think that the kings on both sides of the 100 years war would have been able to whip up the neccessary fanaticism required to prosecute the war without religion? Religion is a handy way to manipulate people; for thousands of years, people didn’t rebel against kings because they believed they’d burn in hell if they harmed the king.
    Again, I believe people would still fight if religion disappeared- there’d just be fewer wars, since people wouldn’t slaughter their neighbors for worshipping the wrong god.

  120. #120 Ender
    May 16, 2012

    “And your lack of study shows in your idiotic misinterpretations of historical events.”

    Of course RagingBee if this were true you could quote me in this thread idiotically misinterpreting historical events. Can you…?

    I find it very hard to be bothered that you think I’ve “flushed my credibility down the toilet” – it’s an accusation that has very little sting coming from someone who also accused my direct quote from a citation of being ‘an argument not backed up by citation’. Who would trust you to judge credibility now?

    Really, you’re going to have to try harder, otherwise you might as well leave. You’re not making any headway, you just keep digging.

  121. #121 Ender
    May 16, 2012

    “Your so-called ‘citation’ is in fact, pulled from your colon. I’d think a big shot computer engineer would be able to put in a simple hyperterminal.”

    “The ideology of the Tamil Tigers emerged from Marxist-Leninist thought, and was secular. Its leadership was atheist.[34][35][36]“

    A sensible face saving device for you now would be to claim that wikipedia ‘is not a good citation’ and ignore the citations in the article itself. Or just change the subject.

    You’ll notice as well that the hyperlink is also in the original post where I mentioned this – I’m a totally great unqualified and inexperienced computer engineer but there’s no coding that can overcome your gross stupidity and inability to read properly. Or do you have a good reason why you missed the link the first time.

    “Do you really think that the kings on both sides of the 100 years war would have been able to whip up the neccessary fanaticism required to prosecute the war without religion? “

    I don’t know, that remains to be proven. Unfortunately you have a faith position and are insisting that you have the answer to this without citing any science or study.
    Which of us is the fanatic here?

    Religion is a handy way to manipulate people; for thousands of years, people didn’t rebel against kings because they believed they’d burn in hell if they harmed the king.

    Yes. This was definitely the over-riding factor. The fact that they did often rebel when they had the power doesn’t need to be examined in the light of this hypothesis. The alternative factors such as the big guys with big fcking swords don’t need to be examined. The fact that Kings and Empires existed for thousands of years before the invention of the ‘Hell’ concept does not badly damage your ‘theory’

    Are you sure you’re not lying about your history degree? You seem awfully happy to make silly grandstanding sweeping arguments and pretty weak on the nuance, careful specific claims, and evidence that actually completing a degree normally instills in someone.

    “Again, I believe people would still fight if religion disappeared- there’d just be fewer wars

    Yes. We understand that you have an unevidenced faith position, but what we don’t understand is why you think that it doesn’t shame your claim to ‘qualifications’ and ‘education’ that you keep parading your completely unevidenced beliefs as science/knowledge.

    There’s no law saying that you can’t hold unscientific beliefs that you’ve developed through your life experience – but scientifically you’re wrong if you pretend that it’s science or proven without evidence.

    “since people wouldn’t slaughter their neighbors for worshipping the wrong god.”

    Unfortunately the subject failed to prove at a confidence level of P=0.05 that P(Slaughtering neighbours)_is increased in Religious subjects vs P(Peacefully converting neighbors) vs P(Variation in neighbors wealth and development)

    Basically you’re making the assertion here that being Religious makes people more likely to attack their neighbours over religious differences, then ignoring all other posssible factors/effects on their behavior then not bothering to do any research/prove anything then declaring that you’re definitely right Religion does that and it’s a valid scientific/historical opinion.

    It’s not.

  122. #122 Ender
    May 16, 2012

    “because Ender would probably have been a witch hunter. He certainly has the right mindset.”

    “English fundamentalists are a rare breed indeed.”

    I tried to warn you PoliticalGuineaPig but you insist on making a fool of yourself.

    Lets break this down shall we?

    You are either under the impression that you are talking to a Fundamentalist ‘Godbot’ who doesn’t know anything, or you are pretending that you are to ‘win’ some sort of imaginary rhetorical victory.

    The latter is just sad, so I’ll concentrate on the former.

    In your mind you are sort of “laying the truth” on a “Fundamentalist” who just doesn’t know anything right? That’s a pretty righteous thing to do right? Badass. You’re fighting the good fight all right!

    Unfortunately I am not a Fundamentalist, they do exist, but I am not one of them. I am educated to a high level and know my science. This “good fight”, this “smackdown” of a scientifically illiterate Godbot Troll, this is not occurring, not outside your own head. And everyone else can see that too.

    Now a sensible thing to do would be to stop here and think to yourself. “Hmm, if I was wrong about the whole fundie thing, what else am I wrong about? Maybe I have got the wrong end of this conversation and the sensible thing to do would be to either man up and apologise for making that mistake or just slink away quietly.”

    I don’t think you’re going to be sensible though. I predict that you drop a whole load more projection on the thread. I’m quite interested to see how you’re going to spin it. What kind of religion will you accuse me of belonging to now? Will you accuse me of being a fundamentalist again despite the fact fundies hate me? Will you call me ‘too Talmudic’? Or is that beyond your cultural vocabulary? It’s all too much to wait for!

  123. #123 Raging Bee
    May 17, 2012

    Basically you’re making the assertion here that being Religious makes people more likely to attack their neighbours over religious differences, then ignoring all other posssible factors/effects on their behavior then not bothering to do any research/prove anything then declaring that you’re definitely right Religion does that and it’s a valid scientific/historical opinion.

    No, dumbass, we’re observing (not merely “asserting”) that people very often use religion or religious differences to justify doing otherwise-unjustifiable things to their neighbors. This leads to the conclusion that religion, at the very least, is useful, and actually used (if not necessary), to induce people to do something they’d be less likely to do otherwise; or to induce them to do it more vindictively and with less possibility of moderation or compromise.

    And no, no one here is “ignoring” the fact that people do bad things for non-religious reasons too. Your hyper-emotional defensiveness, your frantic insults, and your blatant misrepresentation of what others have said, pretty much prove you’ve lost this argument. And no, relentlessly posting more of the same won’t win it back.

  124. #124 Ender
    May 17, 2012

    No, dumbass, we’re observing (not merely “asserting”) that people very often use religion or religious differences to justify doing otherwise-unjustifiable things to their neighbors. This leads to the conclusion that religion, at the very least, is useful, and actually used (if not necessary), to induce people to do something they’d be less likely to do otherwise; or to induce them to do it more vindictively and with less possibility of moderation or compromise.”

    No it doesn’t which would be obvious if you had half a brain, but you clearly don’t so let me lay this out to you in simple terms that even a broken-brain like yourself can understand:

    1) Religious people do use religious reasons to justify their attacks.

    2) This is not the same thing as saying that religious people attack their neighbours more than if they were not religious people.

    3) If you have evidence that a) Religious people really wouldn’t have gone to war over those resources/that land without their religious excuse and b) the increase in violence because of these extra wars is not balanced out by any decrease in violence for other Religious reasons then and only then do you have a point

    4) You don’t. You’re a pompous windbag who spouts silly bigoted claims about “the violence religion causes” with as much evidence as a OWG conspiracy theorist, but without their
    honesty.

    5) You don’t know what a “citation” is. You’ve repeatedly harped on about it throughout this post and now when the evidence is there as clear as day… you fall silent… almost as if you’re ashamed of your earlier claims.

    “And no, no one here is “ignoring” the fact that people do bad things for non-religious reasons too”

    Yes you are.

    You point to the crimes of past religious people as “evidence” for your side but ignore the “evidence” of atheists doing the same thing.

    Your point is super-retarded if you don’t ignore the atheists doing the same stuff so you’re either ignoring it, or deliberately posting a super-retarded argument.

    I know which one I assumed, but it seems that the latter is true.

  125. #125 Raging Bee
    May 17, 2012

    Also, Ender, while we can show examples of the evil done with the help of religion from all over the planet, you seem to be harping forever on two rather lame counterexamples: the USSR, which no longer exists; and the Tamil Tigers, a militant group representing an ethnic minority on one rather small island (and which also seems to be near its end). Not bloody much to go on, is it?

  126. #126 Ender
    May 17, 2012

    @RagingBee:

    First you accused me of “misinterpreting historical events” but when I asked for examples you suddenly went quiet – embarrassed that you had nothing to offer.

    Now you talk about my “blatant misrepresentation of what others have said”

    Can I assume that you’re bullshitting now just like you were before? Or do you feel like slinking off all quiet, like before?

    I’d recommend slinking away, all quiet-like. Your track record so far has been pretty humiliating for you – see your accusation that a direct quote was un-cited for reference* – but really it’s a lot more instructive for people who suspect that a point lies hidden somewhere behind your facile exterior if you choose to keep posting and proving there isn’t.

    *Which is a GIGANTIC screw-up, because it’s so simple and obvious. Literally checking once should have been enough to show you that there was a citation – but you chose not to, and instead chose to look like an idiot.
    An honest interlocutor would admit their mistake, and try and attack my arguments where they are weak.

    You prefer to bluster, demand a citation repeatedly, then drop it quietly when proven wrong. That doesn’t definitely mean you’re a dishonest arguer, more interested in winning than approaching truth, but it sure makes you look bad.

  127. #127 Ender
    May 17, 2012

    “Also, Ender, while we can show examples of the evil done with the help of religion from all over the planet, you seem to be harping forever on two rather lame counterexamples: the USSR, which no longer exists; and the Tamil Tigers, a militant group representing an ethnic minority on one rather small island (and which also seems to be near its end). Not bloody much to go on, is it?”

    If you don’t understand the conversation it’s better to ask then to open your mouth and reveal your ignorance.

    The relative scarcity of the examples is a direct consequence of responding to Stu’s list of things he bigotedly associates with religious people. One example of each was given to show that atheists do it to.

    Only one example of each behaviour is needed to prove that atheists do it too. Nothing else was proven, nor was anything else meant to be proven, despite your ridiculous paranoia that I’m secretly badmouthing Atheists.

    If you want to have a different conversation, you’re welcome. But you’ll have to go have it with someone who doesn’t realise that you’re too dishonest of an arguer to actually read the posts involved in the conversation, ever admit you’ve made a mistake and too stupid to recognise a citation when it smacks you in the face.

    If you want to suggest that one example of Atheists doing something does not suffice to prove that atheists do that thing then you’re an idiot.
    If you want to change the subject to one where a single example of Atheists doing something does not suffice to prove something else entirely, then it’s obvious that you a) did not understand the conversation or b) did understand the conversation and why that’s not needed but intend to ‘win’ by being a lying shitbag.

  128. #128 Raging Bee
    May 17, 2012

    The relative scarcity of the examples is a direct consequence of responding to Stu’s list of things he bigotedly associates with religious people. One example of each was given to show that atheists do it to.

    No, your scarcity of examples is a direct consequence of the fact that, for inspiring or justifying bad behavior, religion is far more culpable than atheism. And no, just a handful of counterexamples does not prove that “atheists do it too” (what a childish-sounding dodge); it only proves that atheists “do it” much less consistently than theists.

  129. #129 Ender
    May 17, 2012

    “your scarcity of examples is a direct consequence of the fact that, for inspiring or justifying bad behavior, religion is far more culpable than atheism”

    Citation needed

    “it only proves that atheists “do it” much less consistently than theists.”

    Citation needed

  130. #130 Raging Bee
    May 17, 2012

    You prefer to bluster…

    …says the guy who threadjacked a post about preclinical research with dozens of bloviating hyperdefensive comments that had nothing to do with preclinical research.

  131. #131 Ender
    May 17, 2012

    p.s. Good choice on slinking away with your tail between your legs on the questions you failed to answer.

    I would have recommended doing that for everything, not just the things you were so wrong about that even bullshitting couldn’t help you, but your choice.

    You have indeed gone for option B: Try and change the subject of the conversation to one where “how many atheists do it” is relevant.

    It’s still not relevant.

    I’m not going to get into a whole other debate when you have failed to show the necessary intellectual dishonesty in this much simpler conversation, but I will note that the relative paucity of atheists in history committing crimes, like the relative paucity of atheists doing good things in history is related to the relative paucity of atheists doing anything

    I do not believe that atheists are more inclined to be evil, nor that they are more inclined to be good. You have a faith position that they are more inclined to be good. It does not bother me, go be free, spread your idiocy far and wide, but don’t come complaining to me when more people call you a moron.

  132. #132 Raging Bee
    May 17, 2012

    Citations already provided — starting, in my case at least, in junior-high-school history classes.

  133. #133 Ender
    May 17, 2012

    RagingBee – I haven’t hijacked this thread. You have failed to notice, but other people have understood what I said, agreed with it, and walked away.

    The only people hijacking this thread are the idiots who are obsessed with the idea that I’m saying something entirely different, and just aren’t intelligent enough to understand that I’m not, so keep coming back for a smackdown. Feel free, I’m here all week, try the shrimp.

  134. #134 Ender
    May 17, 2012

    “Citations already provided — starting, in my case at least, in junior-high-school history classes.”

    Hahahahahaha! Fantastic!

    So you still don’t know what a citation is? Here’s a hint: “I heard it in high school” is not a citation, you moron.

    Secondly: The question of whether religion (or a specific religion) causes more violence than it prevents was definitely not covered in your high school history class – you either misunderstood their point or are just making shit up.

    Heheh.

    What would a lesson like that look like anyway? “Here is our complete theory of human motivation, and here’s the line that proves religion increases violence more than reduces it, and here’s the magic pen we used to eliminate confounding factors”

    ROFLMAO

    You don’t understand how evidence works, your opinion is worthless.

  135. #135 Ender
    May 17, 2012

    *necessary intellectual honesty

  136. #136 Raging Bee
    May 17, 2012

    You have failed to notice, but other people have understood what I said, agreed with it, and walked away.

    Actually, only ONE person voiced any agreement with you. But hey, if ignoring reality and pretending the majority of us agree with you gives you comfort, knock yourself out.

  137. #137 Ender
    May 17, 2012

    Really RagingBee? That’s what you choose to respond to? I suppose there was little else you could dispute.

    I don’t believe that herr doktor and I disagree either, but if you like, yes, you have caught me in a terrible exaggeration, you have my permission to read “another person” instead every time you look at my post.

    Now that’s dealt with, anything you’d like to say about citations and incorrect accusations… ? Or we can skip you admitting you made a mistake (I don’t believe you’re in any mood to do that) and jump right to your substantive reply…

  138. #138 Politicalguineapig
    May 18, 2012

    Ender: First of all, if you use fundamentalist talking points, people are going to assume you are a fundamentalist. There are also a lot of computer engineers who are fundies/libertarians- they can’t stand the idea of a chaotic universe.

    Secondly, it’s a jerkass move to not post a link and then lie about it.

    Finally, I really doubt that you’re Jewish. Any man or woman who has done serious Talmudic studies would have better arguments then ‘blah-blah-blah, athiesm oogie-boogie.” Even teens studying for their mitzvahs could come up with better arguments.

  139. #139 Politicalguineapig
    May 18, 2012

    Ender: I’d like you to know that I didn’t ‘slink off with my tail between my legs.” I have this thing called a life. You might consider getting one as well.

  140. #140 Politicalguineapig
    May 18, 2012

    Ender: First of all, if you use fundamentalist talking points, people are going to assume you are a fundamentalist. There are also a lot of computer engineers who are fundies/libertarians- they can’t stand the idea of a chaotic universe.

    Secondly, it’s a jerkass move to not post a link and then lie about it.

    Finally, I really doubt that you’re Jewish. Any man or woman who has done serious Talmudic studies would have better arguments then ‘blah-blah-blah, athiesm oogie-boogie.” Even teens studying for their mitzvahs could come up with better arguments.

  141. #141 Ender
    May 18, 2012

    I’m not Jewish, but good job googling Talmudic.

    I have not used any “fundamentalist talking points” – but regardless “I thought you sounded like one” is a stupid argument. You will make fewer mistakes if you assume less and listen more.

    “Secondly, it’s a jerkass move to not post a link and then lie about it.”

    Seriously? I’m going to go easy on you here, because I think that no-one would be so stupid as to say this if they were lying because it’s so easily proven a lie. So you’re probably not lying, just completely wrong, and too self-confident to have bothered checking, or so stupid that you checked and got it wrong again:

    In Post 121 I link for the second time to the citation you are accusing me of lying about.

    Post 121 is not a lie, as you will see if you read Post 56 where the original link is, plain as day.

    “‘blah-blah-blah, athiesm oogie-boogie.”

    Is not my argument. If you don’t understand the argument it’s obvious why you’d disagree with the argument you imagine I’m making. However, as that’s not the argument, and it’s in black and white above, just like the link to the citation, you don’t look clever and sarcastic, you look incompetent and thick.

  142. #142 Ender
    May 18, 2012

    “Ender: I’d like you to know that I didn’t ‘slink off with my tail between my legs.” I have this thing called a life. You might consider getting one as well.”

    You failed to answer the questions, and but managed to talk about other things. You’ve failed to provide any quotes to back up you assertions, because there are none – you didn’t need to slink away from all the questions, so you still had something to post, but you clearly aren’t prepared to address all the questions.

  143. #143 Ender
    May 18, 2012

    Sorry PoliticalGuineaPig I had that entirely wrong.

    You did not slink off, and I was not directing that comment at you, and my reply directly above this one was wrong, I was thinking of RagingBee who has not answered some questions.

  144. #144 Anthony McCarthy
    May 18, 2012

    Having done what a number of the commentators don’t seem to have done, read your post past the first few paragraphs, I don’t understand why you junked up a very important post about the huge problems of studying extremely complex problems such as these with the Vox Day stuff. Unless you didn’t think anyone would read it without inserting anti-religious invective, which seems to be the method that motivates a number of Sciencebloggers.

    But since you’ve done it, the huge difference between science as it is hopefully believed to be by sci-rangers and science as it really is turns what should be an intellectual attempt at deriving accurate information into a materialistic religion. Instead of denying that obvious problem in the popular misunderstanding of science exists – the evidence is staring you in the face – you could make some steps at correcting that delusion among your readers.

    The secrecy contract forced on people reviewing scientists’ work is extremely dangerous and troubling, removing one of the major safeguards against invalid or even fraudulent publications from gaining traction. Is it any surprise that it has led to this kind of an attack on the validity of science? Open review isn’t an optional add-on, when it isn’t present the results shouldn’t be lent the status of science. Not even for professional reasons.

    The lesson that things in science are not as advertised is running up against people with a motive to take advantage of that discrepancy. And they often have a financial motive in doing that which makes any alleged religious motive a minor detail, in comparison.

  145. #145 Politicalguineapig
    May 20, 2012

    So, you’ve finally gotten tired of using the sock puppet, Anthony?

    Ender: Ever heard of Kosovo? I guarantee that seething mess had everything to do with religion. Also, I hate to Godwin, but most Germans in the 1930s/1940s were religious and attended church every Sunday. I think of religion as akin to communism: a good idea in abstract, but the results tend to be horrific in practice. Almost every single Communist country spends a significant amount of time as a country-wide personality cult before imploding, and every single theocracy ends up looking like a mass psychosis (as well as being extremely unpleasant for anyone who isn’t a straight male. God only loves straight males; the rest of us can only hope for avoiding His active disapproval.)

  146. #146 Ender
    May 23, 2012

    Pathetic. Throw out accusations of Lying, then walk away without an apology when you’re shown you’re wrong.

    “I guarantee that seething mess had everything to do with religion”

    Unfortunately “I guarantee” is worthless without evidence and proof. It’s no more accurate when you say it than when some KKK member “guarantees” that it’s everthing to do with race. You’ve just chosen a powerful group to be bigoted against so no-one cares.

    ” I think of religion as akin to communism”

    That comparison has some merit. Unfortunately, your opinion is worthless if you don’t base it on evidence.

    p.s. Anthony is still not me. You can ask Orac if you like. Again, an intellectually honest person would question their entire position if they kept being proven wrong. You have proven that you are not of that caliber.

  147. #147 Politicalguineapig
    May 23, 2012

    Ender:

    http://www.rochester.edu/College/REL/faculty/homerin/REL247/Class/serbia/frames/religion.html

    I really shouldn’t have to cite something EVERYONE knows, but here you go.

  148. #148 Ender
    May 24, 2012

    “I really shouldn’t have to cite something EVERYONE knows, but here you go.”

    Your understanding of how to evidence your arguments and what ‘everyone’ knows is as lacking as your understanding of what makes good evidence.

    Here’s a hint, “a web page with a couple of pictures describing a conflict with no main thesis, no evidence, and no citations” does not make good evidence for anything.
    And that website doesn’t even try to argue that religious conflict was the sole cause of the violence, or that equal levels of violence would not have arisen if they had differed on political, moral or cultural philosophy rather than religious philosophy. So I don’t know what you think you’re evidencing anyway. I don’t really think you know what you’re doing at all.

    I notice you haven’t acknowledged that I wasn’t lying. I guess your mother never taught you how to be intellectually honest and admit your mistakes eh? Are you going to keep avoiding admitting that I was not lying when I said I cited my claim?

  149. #149 Ender
    May 24, 2012

    p.s. any acknowledgement that your paranoid accusations of me being Anthony Mc are baseless, silly, and eventually if you request evidence due to be proven wrong? Or is that your MO? Just saying stupid bullshit things then walking away when you can’t prove them?

  150. #150 Raging Bee
    May 25, 2012

    PGP: I’m pretty sure Tailgunner Anthony and Ender are two different bigoted religious apologists.

    The secrecy contract forced on people reviewing scientists’ work is extremely dangerous and troubling, removing one of the major safeguards against invalid or even fraudulent publications from gaining traction.

    Really? Got any examples of such a thing happening?

  151. #151 Ender
    May 27, 2012

    So Raging Bee, any answer to those questions? Or just going to slink away again?

    My position is that there’s no evidence, scientific or otherwise, that atheism has a protective effect and that there is no evidence that either atheists or theists do bad things at a greater rate.

    This makes you think I’m an bigoted religious apologist?

    I think that you’re either a pissy loser, upset that you tried to make my argument something else, and now you’re just bitching about it pathetically, throwing out insults that are unjustified and silly.
    But it’s possible that you’re actually some sort of atheist fanatic, who thinks that anything less than “there is evidence that atheism makes people better people, even if we can’t lay our hands on it right now” is anti-atheist bigotry.

    If it’s the former then there’s nothing more to say, but if it’s the latter then you’re wrong: science isn’t beholden to your atheist beliefs, the evidence show’s what it shows, and it doesn’t show what you want it to.

  152. #152 Ender
    June 13, 2012

    Didn’t think so. I think my point is proven.

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