Pharyngula

The false equation

I’ve rarely seen it so starkly said:

“We are witnessing a social phenomenon that is about fundamentalism,” says Colin Slee, the Dean of Southwark. “Atheists like the Richard Dawkins of this world are just as fundamentalist as the people setting off bombs on the tube, the hardline settlers on the West Bank and the anti-gay bigots of the Church of England. Most of them would regard each other as destined to fry in hell.

“You have a triangle with fundamentalist secularists in one corner, fundamentalist faith people in another, and then the intelligent, thinking liberals of Anglicanism, Roman Catholicism, baptism, methodism, other faiths – and, indeed, thinking atheists – in the other corner. ” says Slee. Why does he think the other two groups are so vociferous? “When there was a cold war, we knew who the enemy was. Now it could be anybody. From this feeling of vulnerability comes hysteria.”

Wow. So Dawkins is setting off bombs, appropriating religious people’s land, and hates gay people? And he thinks Christians and Muslims are going to hell? Talk about not getting it…

I like how he categorizes people of faith as the reasonable ones, with a few “thinking atheists” tossed in so he can sound inclusive.

The article really doesn’t get any better from there. It makes the premise that atheism is identical to fundamentalism, and ties it to violence and attempts to deprive people of their civil rights, all claims completely contrary to the evidence (but who cares? It’s OK to slag mere atheists with lies), and it’s all wrapped up in a hysterical frenzy of anti-Dawkins terror. That guy really hit a sore spot, didn’t he?

As usual, there’s the expected whining about Dawkins’ book by people who, if they even bothered to read it, didn’t understand it. I like this attempt to escape the anti-religion logic:

Gray argues that this fixation misses the point of religions: “The core of most religions is not doctrinal. In non-western traditions and even some strands of western monotheism, the spiritual life is not a matter of subscribing to a set of propositions. Its heart is in practice, in ritual, observance and (sometimes) mystical experience . . . When they dissect arguments for the existence of God, atheists parody the rationalistic theologies of western Christianity.”

Shorter John Gray: “We know religion is stupid, but it makes us feel good.”

If that’s all religion is, I suggest he take up Tai Chi for the ritual, go sit in a forest or by the seashore for a ‘mystical’ experience, and join a book club for the sense of community. I have to despise these arguments that try to pretend religion is not what it is—they are in essence conceding that the atheist’s criticisms are valid and that they have to redefine religion to avoid them, but they are not intellectually honest enough to admit that the existence of gods, souls, an afterlife, and the efficacy of prayer are indefensible propositions.

And then there’s Rabbi Julia Neuberger.

Neuberger is to take on Hitchens, Dawkins and Grayling when she speaks at a debate against the motion We’d Be Better Off Without Religion next month. The debate has been moved to a bigger venue. “What I find really distasteful is not just the tone of their rhetoric, but their lack of doubt,” she says. “No scientific method says that there is no doubt. If you don’t accept there’s doubt in all things, you’re being intellectually dishonest. “

Hasn’t. Read. The. Book.

Atheism, even that firebrand atheism Dawkins is pushing, certainly does admit to doubt, and Dawkins wrote at considerable length about it. All the good Rabbi has to do is expose us to some evidence for her religion, and we’ll consider it. Too bad these religious kooks never have any.

If that’s going to be Neuberger’s tack, though, this debate is going to be entertaining—Dawkins will mop the floor with her. There’s something wonderful about a debate opponent who not only charges in with a silly proposition, but does so by completely mischaracterizing the other side; it should be a real Emily Litella moment.


I don’t think Ophelia liked the article, either.

Comments

  1. #1 Glen Davidson
    February 26, 2007

    Seems some can’t differentiate between “some doubt” in science, and “all doubt”, which is appropriate to religious claims.

    Of course these people don’t really get together and discuss their stance (wouldn’t exactly improve their beliefs if they really went through their claims), since some of them will complain about the “skepticism” of science, some will complain that science doesn’t have any doubt, and many will simply state both at alternate times. Well at least it saves them the trouble of learning what scientific skepticism entails, meaning that they can continue on in their self-congratulatory collective incoherence.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/35s39o

  2. #2 Bachalon
    February 26, 2007

    Sounds like something watch.

  3. #3 Sonja
    February 26, 2007

    Comparing Dawkin’s atheism to religious fundamentalism reminds me of this great James Randi quote:

    “If atheism is a religion, then not collecting stamps is a hobby.”

  4. #4 Uber
    February 26, 2007

    thinking liberals of Anglicanism, Roman Catholicism, baptism, methodism, other faiths – and, indeed, thinking atheists – in the other corner

    Anyone, anyone who equates the doctrine bound RCC with methodism, or American baptists or even Anglicanism has their head in the sand.

    This is a church who exists for rules and dogma. In some ways the RCC is far worse than the fundies despite a luke-warm embrace of some science.

  5. #5 Loren Michael
    February 26, 2007

    I’m always irked by people slinging around terms like “fundamentalist” without a consideration for what it means. Too often these days, people substitute it for “asshole”, which just makes the term utterly meaningless.

    I’ve asked people who have used it before whether they feel that fundamentalism is concerning the beliefs of individuals, or the attitude. They almost invariably say that it’s the attitude, which they regard as a corollary to the fundamentalist’s beliefs. The problem is obviously that they haven’t spent very much time around fundamentalists.

    Coming from an incredibly conservative hometown, I know a great deal of fundamentalists, insofar as they believe the world to be between six and ten thousand years old, feel that abortion is wrong based on the soul content of embryos, and despise homosexuality. Many of these people, while possessing severely backwards and repugnant ideas about the way the universe works, are incredibly nice. You don’t see them on street corners with placards, they’re utterly charming and pleasant, and many times not overbearing in their demeanor. Very civil.

    These people are fundamentalists. One might suggest that they’re hardly a threat to reason, being as they’re so downright pleasant and outwardly humble, but they will almost always vote the same ticket as Pat Robertson or James Dobson. Fundamentalism isn’t, can’t be defined by someone being irate, or shouting on a corner. Too many people who obviously aren’t fundamentalists get sweeped up in the label (anti-war protesters for example), and too many people who obviously are get left out (the pleasant creationist guy who runs the Christian coffee house).

  6. #6 Kent
    February 26, 2007

    My favorite comment:

    “I refer to secular fundamentalism. The problem is that these people believe that they have the absolute truth. That means you have no room to talk to others so you end up having a physical fight.” Azzim Tamimi

    Because atheists like Dawkins always end debates in fisticuffs, or just nodding politely while the religious commentator prattles on and on about the absolute truth of their religion. Oh, and suicide bombers seem to be nonexistent among atheists.

  7. #7 Derek
    February 26, 2007

    I wish debates like this would come through one of the colleges or universities near where I live…

    I’d certainly attend.

  8. #8 VMartin
    February 26, 2007


    As usual, there’s the expected whining about Dawkins’ book by people who, if they even bothered to read it, didn’t understand it.

    Of course. Dawkin’s teaching is secret one, only for neodarwinistic devotees. We others miss dawkinsonian imagination how ancient fish climbing mount improbable became feathered eagle in the end.

  9. #9 Cyde Weys
    February 26, 2007

    PZ, the problem is that, even though you and Dawkins are right, the majority of people are going to side with the other guys, simply because the majority of people are religious and they are incapable of seeing the obvious flaws that you are pointing out.

  10. #10 Phoenix Woman
    February 26, 2007

    Here’s the deal:

    They’re afraid that you’re going to do to them what they did to you and to anyone who didn’t think EXACTLY like them.

    They’re afraid that once the atheists take over, religion will be banned and its practitioners rounded up, jailed and persecuted — and they will point to Russia and China and other allegedly atheistic states to prove that this will happen. Never mind that both Russia and China’s respective traditions of unbelievable violence (much of it religious violence) and lack of a post-feudal history made their experience somewhat different from, say, Sweden’s or Cuba’s.

  11. #11 PZ Myers
    February 26, 2007

    And you’ve read it, VMartin? You might try looking at Chapter 4, “Why there almost certainly is no God”, to find that he rather plainly addressed Neuberger’s false assertion. The point is that there is nothing secret about it at all.

    I see that when you aren’t being Davison’s sycophant, you’re being a vacuous little troll instead.

  12. #12 Blake Stacey
    February 26, 2007

    Even money someone at the debate will drag out the chestnut about Dawkins’ not understanding the refined, subtle formulations of modern theology. Of course, it goes without saying that criticizing Dawkins for lacking experience in theology is tantamount to saying that the vast majority of religious people are ignorant of that which they worship. At the same time, such a claim actually reinforces Dawkins’s argument that it is dubious in the extreme to call a young child “Christian” or “pagan”. Surely, if an interested amateur, an Oxford professor, cannot grasp the material then we have no business attributing religion to children. I find it difficult to resist the conclusion that the theologians are taking themselves to task for not teaching theology to the billions of people who need to understand all the details of their God.

    I suspect that a good percentage of the Dawkins-bashing sound-and-fury actually reflects a fundamental difference in approaches. See if this sounds reasonable:

    A theologian — by which I mean one who makes an academic study of a religion in which he believes — is naturally bound to authority. In the Western tradition, he must place all ideas in relation to divine authority, from which all truth radiates. He must also pay deep homage to human authorities: people like Augustine, Anselm and Aquinas who found their share of grace and wrote basically infallible books about it.

    Theologians may disagree among themselves as to which orthodoxy best channels the Word of God, but they’ll all say that there is a true, inspired orthodoxy. (If you meet one who says otherwise, that catechisms are merely covers for Chaos, look around for mirrors, swords and labyrinths, because you’re probably trapped in a Jorge Luis Borges story.) To a first approximation, theology is a discipline in which the game pieces and rules of play were set out centuries ago, and everything which comes after is just elaboration — fitting the irritating developments of a world which just won’t stay still into a medieval framework.

    But, to steal a quip from Carl Sagan, in science there are no authorities, only experts. There is a world of difference between these two categories! An expert knows her subject matter, but we don’t have to pay special reverence to her Word. Nobody gets distraught by the fact that the math Minkowski used to describe Special Relativity was more elegant than Einstein’s; we just say that Einstein had the right big ideas, and then we go ahead and teach Minkowski spacetime. A freshman course on physics includes topics of which Newton never wrote, vectors for example. Likewise, despite all the creationist braying over “Darwinism”, an introductory biology class leaves The Origin of Species far behind, even in all likelihood discussing findings in genetics which came years after Watson and Crick.

    Without really paying attention to it, science and science education have embraced Alfred North Whitehead’s motto: “Civilization advances by extending the number of important operations which we can perform without thinking about them.”

    Theology refuses to acknowledge this entire idea!

    Thanks to cheap books and the Internet, a well-read teenager can poke holes in all the ontological arguments ever offered to prop up Divinity. We really can demolish Anselm’s arguments in less time than it took Anselm to build them. (“The perfect Wikipedia article must exist, because among its maximal set of most excellent attributes, it must have the attribute of existence. . . .”) This is called progress. But within the bounds of his profession, a theologian must find this attitude to authority not just anathema, but completely incomprehensible.

    In science, “authorities” are questioned, criticized, rephrased, amended, summarized and sometimes even discarded. In theology, they are illuminated with gold leaf.

  13. #13 PZ Myers
    February 26, 2007

    I think you’re right, Cyde Ways, and that’s why we have to continue to open our loud mouths and fight against religion.

    The word you’re missing, Phoenix Woman, is “projection”. They’re afraid that if we took over, we’d do to them what they’d like to do to us.

  14. #14 Peter Lund
    February 26, 2007

    You forgot the Gumbys!

  15. #15 VMartin
    February 26, 2007

    PZ Myers:

    And you’ve read it, VMartin? You might try looking at Chapter 4, “Why there almost certainly is no God”, to find that he rather plainly addressed Neuberger’s false assertion. The point is that there is nothing secret about it at all. I see that when you aren’t being Davison’s sycophant, you’re being a vacuous little troll instead.

    Laws governing evolution of living forms on the Earth have nothing to do with darwinism. And great mystery of evolution has nothing common with Dawkins phatasmagories at all.

    Greatest scientist as Robert Broom (as well as T. Chardin) considered evolution to be spirit-governed process. It is in accordnace with the best tradition with russian as well as british metaphysical thinking. See this article from Vaclav Petr from Prague Charles Uni (I can tell you one of the best nowadays Czech scientist biolog and philosopher profesor Zdenek Neubauer turned to be antidarwinian too).

    British metaphysics as reflected in Robert Broom’s evolutionary theory:

    http://www.mprinstitute.org/vaclav/Broom.htm

    You should better read John Davison’s Manifesto and to reconsider your darwinistic opinion.

  16. #16 writerdd
    February 26, 2007

    Great post. Thanks for writing about this. I saw that aritcle this morning and it pissed me off, too. It is amazing that people still have no clue what FUNDAMENTALISM is. I mean, it’s impossible to be a fundamentalist atheist because we have no holy book telling us what to do!

  17. #17 Sastra
    February 26, 2007

    A lot of so-called moderates seem to have a huge problem making a distinction between saying that a belief is mistaken, and “suppressing” the belief. There’s that ever-popular mantra: “Everyone should be allowed to believe what they want.” What does that mean? Freedom of thought and conscience — or a relativistic indifference to content? In many cases, it seems to mean both.

    I think the reason fundamentalist Christians and atheists are often equated is the perceived attitude of intolerance: they both tell other people that they’re wrong! And telling other people they’re wrong is … wrong. As Daniel Dennett pointed out in his last book, people often have more faith in the value of faith, any faith, than they have in specific religious claims.

    The concept of an honest, respectful debate on issues seems to have slipped away, and been replaced by the namby-pamby idea that it doesn’t matter what you believe, as long as you’re nice about it and don’t try to push it on others. In other words, as long as you don’t do something rude and aggressive like try to persuade someone to change their mind.

    It’s the Mr. Roger’s School of Theology: “I like you just the way you are.”

  18. #18 Jonathan Vos Post
    February 26, 2007

    James Randi quote:

    “If atheism is a religion, then not collecting stamps is a hobby.”

    Deeper than it looks. For example, I’ve never played Chess in a tournament. Does that mean that my not playing Chess is a hobby? Superficially, that’s absurd. But suppose I’m attracted to Chess (I am), read the Chess column of the Los Angeles Times (I do), am friends with a Chess Tournament Director (Benjamin Nethercot), am friends with a former U.S. Women’s Chess Champion (marriued name Sharon Friedman), and attend Chess tournaments as a spectator (including the U.S. Chess Open, as I have).

    Then, to True Believers in Chess (who are Rated Players), what am I? Clearly not one of them. I don’t have a rating. But also clearly not someone indifferent to Chess or attacking their belief system.

    It might be said indeed that, for me, not playing Chess is a hobby. Where by “playing” means in tournaments, where the play is official. Unofficially, I did beat Ben Nethercott (very close to International Master) in a game where I had K 5 pawns to his K R. His father was watching, which may have given me a psychological edge.

    Further, I study the Mathematics of Chess (see the Chess-related sequences in the Online Encyclopedia of Integer Sequences).

    In the same way, I am not a True Believer of any established religion. But Religion fascinates me. I’ve been to services in many different churches and synagogues. I’ve read many books on religion. I’ve performed marriages as the Minister. I’ve published Theological essays and poems. I’ve written about what I call Theophysics and Theomathematics.

    So is not believing in God a hobby for me? The case can be made.

    Agnosticism is a heterogeneous population. I am a Chess Agnostic but still interested. I am a God Agonstic, but still interested. I do happen to believe rather strongly in Evolution by Natural Selection, Stellar Evolution, the Old Earth. I hedge my bets on the Big Bang. I am very skeptical of String Theory.

    There is a stance that can be summarized as: Skeptical of belief X, but also skeptical of the Skeptics of X. That can be done in an open-minded and polite way.

    It would be nice if the X Believers and X-Skeptics tolerated each others’ existence, the way the Chess professionals tolerated and were puzzled by me, in conversation. But, alas, many X-believers seem too fearful and angry to tolerate the way that Jesus instructs one to be — nonjudgmental of, say, whores, and loving ones’ enemies. I guess that Creationists are thus, ultimately, not true Christians, in the way that many Islamist terrorists are not actually behaving in an Islamic manner.

  19. #19 Steve_C
    February 26, 2007

    VMartin is a kook.

    Broom is pictured as an admirer of the work of Richard Owen, as a lifelong and thorough student of the Bible, as an evolutionist who believed in the disembodied existence of spirits as well as in transcendental spiritual force who guided his research activities and discoveries. Broom’s evolutionary theory is based on the existence of some sort of ‘intelligent spiritual agency’ of two types: a) the lower agency, present in animals and plants, of limited vision and limited power, and b) that of a much higher type which has planned and directed evolution (via directing from time to time the former, inferior agencies). Broom pointed to the presence of an uncountable multitude of convergences which cannot be explained satisfactorily by lamarckism or by darwinism.

    Uhg.

  20. #20 Blake Stacey
    February 26, 2007

    VMartin:

    Laws governing evolution of living forms on the Earth have nothing to do with darwinism.

    [Spit take.]

    Wha?

    The killfile grows one entry longer.

  21. #21 MartinC
    February 26, 2007

    Just a word of warning, I clicked on VMartin’s link.
    Thats ten minutes of my life I’ll never get back.
    Grrrrrr….
    Can PZ please install some sort of anti-psychotic filter on this forum ?

  22. #22 G. Tingey
    February 26, 2007

    I have sent the following to the newspaper, I was so annoyed…
    Staurt Jefferies said, in your newspaper:

    “Atheists like the Richard Dawkins of this world are just as fundamentalist as the people setting off bombs on the tube, the hardline settlers on the West Bank and the anti-gay bigots of the Church of England.”

    I call him LIAR, and dare him to sue.

    If he is telling the truth, he should be able to produce an example to justify his case …..

    Really, sirs, does no-one proof-read the nonsense some of your guests write?
    Between this idiot, and Bunty (Madelaine B.) spouting on about how “peaceful” islam is, I’m beginning to wonder how you can call yourself a news paper ….

    G. Tingey.

  23. #23 Jim Harrison
    February 26, 2007

    There are many fundamentalisms in the contemporary world, including Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, and Shinto varieties. These movements all differ in what they claim to believe, but they are strikingly analogous from a sociological point of view. They are all protests against modernity and share many of the same political and cultural characteristics. I’m not aware of any atheistical outfits that are remotely similar in organization or tactics to these movements. Claiming that Dawkins is somehow the counterpart of Falwell may be rhetorically effective, but it’s bad sociology.

  24. #24 Andrew Wade
    February 26, 2007

    “You have a triangle with fundamentalist secularists in one corner, fundamentalist faith people in another, and then the intelligent, thinking liberals of Anglicanism, Roman Catholicism, baptism, methodism, other faiths – and, indeed, thinking atheists – in the other corner. ” – Colin Slee

    Gee, I’m flattered. But I must admit to being a little confused; in which corner are the liberals that don’t do much thinking (or at least much thinking about Epistemology) go? Or the thinking, liberal, bigots? (They do exist). How about the communists? And how is not Dawnkins a thinking atheist? An intelligent, liberal, thinking atheist even. (I’m not exactly a fan of Dawnkins, but he does think.)

  25. #25 Steve LaBonne
    February 26, 2007

    As Daniel Dennett pointed out in his last book, people often have more faith in the value of faith, any faith, than they have in specific religious claims.

    Exactly. It took a long time for me really to get my head around the idea that most people actually view credulity as a positive good. But bizarre though that is, it really is a proposition that’s accepted by the great majority.

    It reminds me a bit of Ambrose Bierce’s definition of “cynic”: “A blackguard whose faulty vision sees things as they are, not as they ought to be. Hence the custom among the Scythians of plucking out a cynic’s eyes to improve his vision.” (Of course his definition of faith is pretty good too: “Belief without evidence in what is told by one who speaks without knowledge, of things without parallel.”)

  26. #26 Jeff Chamberlain
    February 26, 2007

    “Emily Litella moment” is a worthy phrase.

  27. #27 G. Tingey
    February 26, 2007

    VMartin thinks Teilhard de Chardin was a great scientist?

    As opposed to an obscurantist windbag, who was involved in the Piltdown fraud?
    But he WAS a priest!

  28. #28 Steve_C
    February 26, 2007

    I posted the into so noone else would have to click on the link.

  29. #29 Steve_C
    February 26, 2007

    I posted the INTRO. Uhg.

    Apparently the Czech Republic is neck and neck with turkey on creationism. And they don’t even have Noah’s Ark up on one of their mountains.

  30. #30 Kristine
    February 26, 2007

    Well, it seems that the conversation that I have dreaded and hoped for has finally begun.

    Not believing in something that does not exist is not “extremism.” But it appears that Dawkins has finally gotten the so-called tolerant sexularists to reveal their true colors. Yes, it makes me angry to see yet another supposedly learned individual frame disbelief as “fundamentalist” as belief, and advocate some sort of (constantly shifting) middle ground. (How am I supposed to compromise, by believing that Jesus “kind of” rose from the dead? Turned water into wine coolers? I can’t do that, people!)

    I’m not going to take the bait this time about equating atheists with terrorists and I suggest that others don’t, either. I have learned from experience that you are not going to convince someone who thinks you’re a terrorist that you aren’t, and the debate that ensures just plays into their hands.

    Gray argues that this fixation misses the point of religions: “The core of most religions is not doctrinal. In non-western traditions and even some strands of western monotheism, the spiritual life is not a matter of subscribing to a set of propositions. Its heart is in practice, in ritual, observance and (sometimes) mystical experience . . . When they dissect arguments for the existence of God, atheists parody the rationalistic theologies of western Christianity.”

    I see some things to agree with here, however:

    It is also a caricature of non-western religions to portray them as having no doctrine. That is simply not true. Lay Buddhists worship Buddha, and they’re not supposed to. They believe in sin, salvation, and hell. Some Muslims in Yemen and North Africa revere saints, and they’re not supposed to. Look at the Sunni-Shia divide: that’s not based upon doctrine? And it is simply not the case that non-western beliefs as actually practiced do not impose creationism or apocalyptic doctrines upon their followers. John Gray needs to meet actual practicing believers (as I have), not just write about pure, esoteric religious theory.

    Isn’t there something ironic about me knowing so many people of different faiths, more so than these advocates of “tolerance”?

  31. #31 Kristine
    February 26, 2007

    Oooh. I mean “secularists.” Whoops. 🙂

  32. #32 Jonathan Vos Post
    February 26, 2007

    “sexularists” …
    “Oooh. I mean ‘secularists.'”

    Freudian Slip if I’ve ever seen one. Sorry, couldn’t resist. Easily imagine Emily Litella saying that. But I do agree with you, Kristine.

  33. #33 Kristine
    February 26, 2007

    Sorry. One more point:

    “What I find really distasteful is not just the tone of their [Dawkins and Grayling] rhetoric, but their lack of doubt,” she [Neuberger] says. “No scientific method says that there is no doubt. If you don’t accept there’s doubt in all things, you’re being intellectually dishonest.”

    Um. Lack of doubt? That’s pretty twisted.

    I have no lack of doubt that the Greek gods do not exist, either. Neither does Neuberger! Does that mean she’s an extremist, or a confused soul just trembling to reconvert and sacrifice a goat to Athena at the Parthenon?

    No, as the article points out, religion hasn’t disappeared. But the present-day religions will someday disappear, just as the relgions of the ancient Greeks, Romans, Assyrians, and Egyptians did. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam will die off (I hedging on Hinduism and Buddhism, though). 😉 There will be new religions in place of the old. What doesn’t change? What will always be around, though perhaps never in the majority? Atheism.

  34. #34 Steve_C
    February 26, 2007

    We’re all born atheists. To insist that every living person has to accept the possibility of a “god” by default is absurd. We should all doubt our evidence for the absence of a god?

    Why?

  35. #35 mtraven
    February 26, 2007

    I like what John Gray said. I find it ridiculous/amusing/sad how PZ and Dawkins thinks that they get to define what religion is, so they can keep attacking it. If religionists want to “redefine” what they believe in so that it doesn’t conflict with science, this pisses PZ off. Why? Because he’s got fewer occasions for self-rigteous mockery and easy laughs? It’s this sort of behavior that earns you an extremeist label, because your interest is in keeping up the conflict rather than settling it, keeping up a tired conflict rather than engage in productive dialog.

    The fact is that “religion” covers a wide range of phenomena from the profound to the profoundly stupid. It seems equally stupid to focus solely on the worst of religion. That’s why I prefer Dennett’s book to Dawkins. He is no believer either, but at least he’s willing to try to see what the point of religion might be.

  36. #36 RBH
    February 26, 2007

    Stelve LaBonne wrote

    It took a long time for me really to get my head around the idea that most people actually view credulity as a positive good. But bizarre though that is, it really is a proposition that’s accepted by the great majority.

    It’s not merely “accepted”; it’s required and valued. That’s exactly the main problem I have with religion in general: It places its highest value on belief in the absence of evidence, faith in the teeth of contrary evidence. That value is the pernicious core of religion. All the ills of (and attributable to) the religious flow from the notion that it’s not only OK, but creditable to accept and act on propositions for which there is no plausible evidence.

  37. #37 Dustin
    February 26, 2007

    These nutjobs have come completely unhinged. Atheists don’t have doubt? What? And even if they didn’t, how does having doubt justify belief? That is probably the most twisted logic I’ve ever seen.

    And how exactly is Richard Dawkins like a terrorist? I don’t recall him blowing himself up. Oh, I see how this works. Religion is always good, and when it isn’t good, it’s because those entirely rational people who worship invisible bronze age storm gods have come unhinged and started acting more like atheists.

    I wonder if these people would be so quick to trivialize religiously motivated terrorist attacks if they weren’t just watching them “on the tube”. Then we wouldn’t see arguments that amount to “Disbelief = Killing People With Bombs in The Name of Allah”.

  38. #38 Blake Stacey
    February 26, 2007

    I find it ridiculous/amusing/sad how PZ and Dawkins thinks that they get to define what religion is, so they can keep attacking it.

    [second spit take of the day. . . root beer this time!]

    Have I been following an entirely different public debate? PZ, Dawkins, Altemeyer, Sokal and all the rest haven’t been defining what religion is in order to maximize the number of rhetorical targets. Far from it: they took a look at what religious people actually think and do. This becomes their empirical definition of “religion”. Theologians who attempt to justify a Deist or Spinozan God and then pray each Sunday to a Bearded Sky Father are the ones playing with redefinitions.

  39. #39 secularizer
    February 26, 2007

    Wow that’d make for a great nickname…

    Sexularizer. *g*

  40. #40 Ric
    February 26, 2007

    mtraven said: …because your interest is in keeping up the conflict rather than settling it, keeping up a tired conflict rather than engage in productive dialog.

    PZ is right not to settle it, because settling it means that atheists stay quite, like they have more or less been for centuries, while the religious continue to prattle on and, worse, to inflict their religious beliefs on the lives of others. Settling the conflict means staying with the status quo. No, PZ is right to speak up. All rationalists need to do the same.

  41. #41 Steve LaBonne
    February 26, 2007

    mtraven, I call bullshit. What Dawkins attacks- and he’s quite explicit about this- is the kind of religion to which most religious people really adhere. That’s the kind which is actually important in real-world terms. No doubt the world would be a much better place if most religious believers resembled, say, Scott Hatfield. Well, hello- that’s not the world we actually live in.

  42. #42 PZ Myers
    February 26, 2007

    Yep. Dawkins and I aren’t redefining religion — we’re looking at what people actually practice, and criticizing that rather than some attenuated hypothetical version that theologians have invented.

    Also, it’s not because they’re switching to some definition that is free from error — I think the ‘mystical experience’ thing is pretty darned silly.

  43. #43 Dustin
    February 26, 2007

    I take the definition switch as a positive thing. It means that they’re beginning to see the position of divine dogma as indefensible, and have started reaching for something easier to defend instead. And William James is very, very easy to defend.

    I wonder if this means the local pastors are going to start reading Aldous Huxley?

  44. #44 Jonathan Vos Post
    February 26, 2007

    PZ: In that I am a skeptic, and also skeptical of skeptics, I am particularly interested in discussions with scientists who HAVE had a ‘mystical experience’ — because, though accounts of mystical, transcendental, and peak experiences can SOUND silly, they are clearly of subjective validity to the subject, and can lead to fascinating results as the subject attempts to reconcile the subjective experience with an objective scientific paradigm that denies the possibility of a mechanism for that experience.

    I suspect that you’d stay a skeptic of religion and Creationist nonsense even after you had a ‘mystical experience’ — just as Bertran Russell once responded to a question. I paraphrase.

    “Suppose, Dr. Russell, that you died and found yourself in heavern, at the htrone of God. Would you renounce your atheism?”

    “No, sir,” he said (still paraphrasing. “I’d tell God: ‘I still don’t believe in you!'”

  45. #45 Irving Irving
    February 26, 2007

    Jonathan vos Post:

    Why are so many of your comments about you?

  46. #46 Steve LaBonne
    February 26, 2007

    an objective scientific paradigm that denies the possibility of a mechanism for that experience.

    Sez who? The brain can generate all sorts of subjective experiences. The “mystical” variety can be induced with various pharmaceutical agents.

  47. #47 Dustin
    February 26, 2007

    Besides, mystical experience is nothing more than an appropriate combination of dopamine, serotonin, vitamin deficiencies and phenethylamines.

    Since the religious crowd seems to be so big on ‘mystical experience’ now, I’d bet I could score some drugs from the next Jehovah’s Witness who haplessly stumbles onto my front porch.

  48. #48 Dustin
    February 26, 2007

    Uh oh, Steve. We’ve suggested that there’s a scientific explanation of religious experience.

    That means we’re like the terrorists one sees on “the tube”.

  49. #49 Bronze Dog
    February 26, 2007

    Captain Awesome weighs in on the comparison. Very not safe for work. (Assuming I picked out the right one: I’m at work.)

  50. #50 Jason
    February 26, 2007

    mtraven,

    Which religions don’t conflict with science? Give us some examples. A “religion” that is fully reconciled to science and reason wouldn’t be a religion at all, in any useful sense of the word.

  51. #51 Blake Stacey
    February 26, 2007

    Equating the “mystical experience” — i.e., what you can potentially get from the night sky, music and/or LSD — with religious belief is just silly. Analogy:

    I enjoyed the privilege of an alien abduction every few weeks during my junior year of MIT.

    Let me elaborate on that:

    Junior year for us physics majors is deliberately designed to be a brutal experience. To use flamboyantly gender-biased language, the professors want a chance “to separate the boys from the men” (you can substitute “sheep from the wolves” if you prefer). Key ingredient in the witches’ brew is Junior Lab, a class which the course catalog says will require eighteen hours of work per week. Well, if you’re a slacker, perhaps: I never knew anybody who did a decent job doing less than twenty. And you’re expected to be taking three other classes at the same time, including your first real encounter with quantum mechanics — a nice, intuitive subject which gives you time to relax and contemplate — and if you believe that, I’ve got a very attractive deal on a bridge in Brooklyn. . . .

    Put simply, if you survive junior year, you know you can make it as a physicist. You also learn just how productive you can be in a state of sleep deprivation. I was a lightweight, usually tumbling into bed between two and four A.M. when others could go all night long. However, I would wake up around six, when the sun started hitting my bedroom window, and damnably, I would have the hardest time falling asleep again.

    So I would curl up there in bed, not able to be awake, not able to sleep. And then, pretty dependably — when I was truly zonked with exhaustion but somehow unable to doze off — I would feel a wave of numbness, followed by a strange paralysis. With my eyes closed, I would see my room, but with the sizes and proportions all distorted. If the experience lasted long enough, I would sense myself rising into the air and sometimes even flying through abstract tunnels of light.

    “This is so freakin’ cool!” I would exclaim. After a few such experiences, I discovered I could give myself a good shake and break the sleep-paralysis. Sometimes, after I did that, I could relax into my little hypnogogic trance again.

    I expect lots of people have had similar experiences, half-awake and seeing odd things. (I mean, I tripped out in a dentist’s chair at age eight after inhaling too much nitrous while they fixed my sugar-rotted baby teeth. Weird things can happen to the brain, even in daily life!) Junior year at MIT gave me the chance to explore the phenomenon, to test it with a little repeatability.

    Now, experiencing an assortment of psychological and physiological perturbations which I could identify as similar to alien-abduction reports did not convert me to a UFO believer. Quite the opposite: by identifying a down-to-Earth explanation for these purported abductions and verifying that explanation with my own experience, I’ve firmly grounded myself in skepticism.

    Why should a “spiritual” or “mystical” experience be any different?

  52. #52 Dustin
    February 26, 2007

    Math degrees work the same way. Once, after going for three days without sleep, I was sure that there was light coming out of my toes.

    God be praised!

  53. #53 AustinAtheist
    February 26, 2007

    “Very not safe for work. (Assuming I picked out the right one: I’m at work.)”.

    You picked out the right one, BD. I took the day off.

  54. #54 D
    February 26, 2007

    mtraven:

    What positive thing do religions have a monopoly on?

    The common denominator of religion is a belief in hell.

    Belief in the utility of torment or the threat of torment is, um, the definition of terrorism.

    What is this undifferentiated ‘religion’ that religious people appeal to?

  55. #55 mtraven
    February 26, 2007

    Taoism, Buddhism, Deism, any form of mysticism or apophatic theology, really any sort of liberal religion that doesn’t insist on interpreting scripture literally.

    But as Gray said, it’s not so much the doctrines but the practice, and the proof that religous practice doesn’t conflict with science is that thousands of scientists manage to practice their religion without it coming into conflict with their scientific work. Each one of those is an existence proof.

    It’s easy to caricature religion and attack the caricature, but I don’t really see the point. Instead, how about paying some attention to people who actually study religion and might know something about it, like Scott Atran?

  56. #56 Dustin
    February 26, 2007

    To be fair, certain sects of Buddhism and Taoism don’t rely on belief in Hell.

    Of course, that doesn’t mean they’ve monopolized clear thought, peaceful and contemplative natures, or a love of nature.

  57. #57 Blake Stacey
    February 26, 2007

    “Mysticism” compatible with science?

  58. #58 Steve LaBonne
    February 26, 2007

    thousands of scientists manage to practice their religion without it coming into conflict with their scientific work. Each one of those is an existence proof.

    Of the human capacity for tolerating cognitive dissonance, which as we all know is pretty impressive. Proof of anything else? Not so much.

  59. #59 SEF
    February 26, 2007

    It took a long time for me really to get my head around the idea that most people actually view credulity as a positive good. But bizarre though that is, it really is a proposition that’s accepted by the great majority.

    That’s not really an isolated instance though. Another example is the idea that loyalty is a positive good (virtue), ie instead of being seen for the evil (vice) that it really is. Think about it – because some of you may well currently be in the great majority which accepts that one as the former rather than realising it’s the latter.

    The sole point of loyalty is to encourage people to support fellow insiders when they are doing wrong just because of belonging to a shared in-group as against some out-group (ie instead of opposing their wrong-doing as you should). If someone in your in-group was doing right, you wouldn’t (or shouldn’t!) need loyalty in order to support them in that. And if an outsider was the one doing the right thing, you should be supporting them in it and not refraining or even pretending that they are doing wrong just because they are an out-grouper.

    A significant part of religion is about pretending evil is good and vices are virtues (and vice versa). The neutral tends to be de-emphasised or even demonised. That doesn’t exactly make for tolerance among religious followers.

  60. #60 Uber
    February 26, 2007

    I suspect that you’d stay a skeptic of religion and Creationist nonsense even after you had a ‘mystical experience’

    Mr. Von Post please explain what exactly a ‘mystical’ experience is and how one could know one had one without it being a simple construct of the human mind.

    that religous practice doesn’t conflict with science is that thousands of scientists manage to practice their religion without it coming into conflict with their scientific work. Each one of those is an existence proof.

    This doesn’t show a lack of conflict but rather a willingness of the scientists in question to not apply the same thinking to both of their lives. Likewise the huge number of scientists who are atheists is better evidence that when applied it reduces superstious belief.

    certain sects of Buddhism and Taoism don’t rely on belief in Hell.

    Almost all Buddhists don’t.

  61. #61 Tulle
    February 26, 2007

    I guess being skeptical about your own experiences is a hard thing to do. After a particularly bad thunderstorm I saw a glowing ball come through the aluminum frame of my window and float about five feet off the floor and hit the wall on the far side of the living room. Since I know that strong oscillating fields can cause you to perceive things that are not there and these can happen is thunderstorms, and I also know there is some (but not much) evidence of ball lighting, to this day I am not sure if what I perceived was real or not. All I know for sure is that my I really saw it, but I do not know if it was real. It is not a wise thing to believe everything you see, your brain is a big filter on the cosmos.

  62. #62 Blake Stacey
    February 26, 2007

    I once read about a guy who ingested an exotic psychedelic drug nobody has heard of before (2,5-dimethoxy-4-bromoamphetamine) and discovered the true meaning of Fourier transforms.

    At one point, he was looking at a bud of ridiculously high-grade marijuana under a microscope. The weed, and all its bulging resin glands, was a beautiful thing to look at. But what eventually caught his attention was the plastic jar the bud was in. The lip of the jar had a thin layer of residue on it, and when he looked at this area under the microscope, it exploded into a swirling multicolor field of diffraction fringes. The residue was a thin enough film that it acted as a thin-film diffraction element, selectively emphasizing and annulling different wavelengths in different regions. Now, my friend is a smart scientist, so he know why diffraction happens like this. But he only understands it on a theoretical level. Electromagnetic waves and the wave/particle duality of light make sense to him, but they’re constructs to be manipulated mathematically. But when he saw this happening through the microscope, he instantly and completely grasped the entire gamut of electromagnetic wave propagation, interference, reflection, refraction and diffraction. The relations between energy and wavelength, and wavelength and optical resolving power, and wavelength and shadows, were as clear as day.

    He looked around himself and felt his environment saturated with electromagnetism. He could see it radiating from the lights and being absorbed by his skin, and he could feel radio waves penetrating the building and his body. He looked out the window and saw the buildings casting blurry, diffracted shadows of UHF television signals.

    And you thought this sort of thing only happened in Thomas Pynchon novels!

  63. #63 Alex
    February 26, 2007

    Subscribing to the notion that something “exists” beyond the scope of nature, can interact with it but cannot be measured, is asinine. Any scientist who prays to a deity and has convinced themselves of the efficacy of a supernatural (= unnatural = non existent) “realm” beyond the scope of empirical probing needs to grow up.

  64. #64 Steve_C
    February 26, 2007

    I watched the Beyond Belief segment that had Altran.

    His point seemed to be that man is irrational therefore religion must be tolerated and science has no proof that religion is the problem versus the nature of humankind.

    He seems to be saying that people do irrational things despite what religion tells them, even it religion itself is irrational and tells them to believe and do irrational things.

    He also makes statement that science has no evidence that letting go of religion would have beneficial results. And that there’s nothing proposed to replace it. Or how faith can be dismantled. At the same time Altran proposed no tests, ideas or views on religion itself. Just that the scientists had it wrong.

    It’s seemed like alot of tail chasing.

  65. #65 mtraven
    February 26, 2007

    Yes, mysticism can be perfectly compatible with science. Science is about knowing as much as possible about the natural world. Mysticism is about acknowledging what we don’t know and possibly can’t know.

  66. #66 Jason
    February 26, 2007

    mtraven,

    Do please show me the scientific evidence for the Buddhist doctrine of reincarnation or the deities of Taoism.

    As for scientists who “manage to practise their religion without it coming into conflict with their scientific work,” I am sure that many people, not just scientists, go through the motions of religious practise (attending church services, etc.) for social or professional or family reasons without really believing the claims of truth the religion makes. Scientists who truly believe that religion is compatible with science seem to be rather thin on the ground. If the work of religious scientists like John Polkinghorne and Francis Collins is the best they have to offer, I don’t think they need be taken very seriously.

  67. #67 Dan
    February 26, 2007

    mtraven:

    But as Gray said, it’s not so much the doctrines but the practice, and the proof that religous practice doesn’t conflict with science is that thousands of scientists manage to practice their religion without it coming into conflict with their scientific work. Each one of those is an existence proof.

    That’s not a proof that religion and science aren’t in conflict, it’s a proof that such people exist who are psychologically capable of performing the rituals of science at the same time they’re rationalizing away their inherently anti-scientific beliefs.

    You act like none of us have ever heard this line of bullshit apologetics before.

    It’s easy to caricature religion and attack the caricature, but I don’t really see the point. Instead, how about paying some attention to people who actually study religion and might know something about it, like Scott Atran?

    I’m guessing it’s because Atran isn’t saying anything that we haven’t already addressed a million times before. He asserts that the existence of irrationality is a reason to abandon rational behaviour, which is nothing more than a fancy-pants re-telling of every single other apologia for religion that has ever been offered in the history of academia.

    From the skimming I’ve done, Atran needs to stick to anthropology. He’s way out of his depth, here. His entire argument is nothing more than a long string of strawmen, arguments from popularity, equivocation, and outright lies. In fact, they’re the exact same strawmen, arguments from popularity, equivocation and outright lies that religious apologists have been making for centuries. He even trots out the tired old “Hitler and Stalin were atheists” line of crap, then asserts that Fukuyama and Herrnstein/Murray are still taken seriously by the socio-scientific community.

    I can’t imagine being so desperate to justify yourself that you’d take a man like this seriously.

  68. #68 Dustin
    February 26, 2007

    I dunno Steve_C, I’ve met people who became atheists, and then they became Ayn Rand-thumping objectivists. Certain people really are predisposed to stupidity.

    Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to be digging a foxhole to fight back the onslaught I’m about to get for badmouthing Ayn Rand on the interweb.

  69. #69 Colugo
    February 26, 2007

    Watch out Dustin! Randians are a passionate bunch.

    Hey, I liked ‘The Fountainhead’ too, but it was just a movie. Like ‘V For Vendetta.’

  70. #70 Steve_C
    February 26, 2007

    I think mysticism is about pretending to know something about the unknowable or nonexistent. It’s belief based on self-delusion or dreamy confused thinking.

  71. #71 Steve LaBonne
    February 26, 2007

    Don’t worry, Dustin, if PZ can survive the Dilboid hordes then I’m sure you can survive the Randroid hordes. 😉

  72. #72 Steve_C
    February 26, 2007

    I’ve never read Rand. I miss anything good?

  73. #73 mtraven
    February 26, 2007

    Jason, you don’t seem to understand the point Gray was making, which is that “going through the motions of religious practice” is more central to religion than belief. The truth claims religion makes are just not that important to a broad class of religious practitioners. Sure there are fundamentalists who insist on taking the Bible literally, but it is a mistake to try to understand the whole of religion in terms of that subset.

    If you think of religion as just a bad version of science, you won’t understand what’s going on. That’s not what it’s about.

  74. #74 Dan
    February 26, 2007

    mtraven:

    Yes, mysticism can be perfectly compatible with science. Science is about knowing as much as possible about the natural world. Mysticism is about acknowledging what we don’t know and possibly can’t know.

    You’re almost right. Mysticism is about filling the gaps in what you don’t know and don’t care enough to learn, with the added bonus of assuaging your fear of uncertainty by simply making shit up as you go along.

    It has nothing to do with “we” at all.

  75. #75 Dustin
    February 26, 2007

    Oh, I see. What it is about is going through the motions.

    And here I was thinking that people were being sincere when they said that religion added meaning to their lives. Well, I’m glad we settled that.

  76. #76 Uber
    February 26, 2007

    It’s not just irrationality it may be in our genes. We are a group species of primate. In any primate society the group tends to look towards the alpha. To me at least we are a group of primates who population has grown so large that it is literally little different than different chimp tribes living near each other.

    Ones religions helps provide a safe feeling, have a degree of segregation and be ‘known’, and belonging. It’s familial.

    This is why religion will always be around in some form. It’s not a matter of the claims being correct but rather the inherent nature of the primate social structure. The majority of humans, as in other group primates, need this family structure for security. Of course the majority of dogma is silly but these are likely simply byproducts of this structure than it’s starting point.

    That being said adherence to these dogmas while reinforcing to the group itself will/does pit the group against other groups for resources just like other primates. Except in human cases we are looking at money and power instead of better trees and food supply. But I guess they are one and the same.

  77. #77 Blake Stacey
    February 26, 2007

    A couple friends and I once rode the Chinatown bus from Boston to New York. One of my buddies brought along Atlas Shrugged to read; his attitude seemed to be, “To be true to thyself, thou must know thine enemy.” By the time we reached Manhattan, he had concluded that Rand had chosen two words very well — it’s a nice title — and then failed to live up to that promise.

  78. #78 Dustin
    February 26, 2007

    Yeah, I really got into Ayn Rand when I was 16 (that’s the appropriate age for that kind of thing). Then, once my medial prefrontal cortex grew in, I kept it around thinking that I could at least use it to put myself into a position to rebut the nonsense if I ever had to.

    Then I figured out that only self-important sociopaths take her seriously, and gave the books away.

  79. #79 Blake Stacey
    February 26, 2007

    Uber:

    Wouldn’t an inborn preference for social hierarchy mean that social hierarchy will always be with us, not religion? I mean, if we pay homage to the memory of Carl Sagan and treat our professors as alpha males (I don’t see PZ complaining), wouldn’t that satisfy the craving we inherited from our reptilian ancestors?

    Also, it’s worth noting that the tendency to fall behind authoritarian leaders is present to differing degrees in different people. We can say this quantitatively, too: see Altemeyer’s The Authoritarians for details.

  80. #80 Dan
    February 26, 2007

    Dustin:

    Oh, I see. What it is about is going through the motions.

    And here I was thinking that people were being sincere when they said that religion added meaning to their lives. Well, I’m glad we settled that.

    Well, they are sincere, after a fashion, because it’s either convince yourself you’re being sincere or sink into nihilistic despair.

    The real problem is that they never actually define what they mean by “meaning.” And there’s also that whole thing about how if you need to make up an invisible man in the sky (or other such things) just to give your life meaning, then your life has no meaning.

  81. #81 Dustin
    February 26, 2007

    Let’s try that again. I meant to say:

    Then, once my medial prefrontal cortex grew in, I kept Atlas Shrugged around thinking that I could at least use it to put myself into a position to rebut the nonsense if I ever had to.

  82. #82 Kristine
    February 26, 2007

    If religionists want to “redefine” what they believe in so that it doesn’t conflict with science, this pisses PZ off.

    Well, I can tell you what pisses me off, anyway, mtraven, and that’s that there is a pecking order as to who does the “redefining” and who does the worshipping of a supposed absolute truth.

    Religious doctrine is presented as unchangeable. (Well, it certainly doesn’t take much Sunday school to figure out how that’s not true, but no one talks about it.) However, those who profit from religion change the religion to suit themselves. Some religious scholars may be interested in getting their beliefs to agree with science, because they’re gentle academics, but the machine of religion does this only so that its credibility with the passive believers is not damaged. Religion is essentially a sport in American society! I mean, let’s call it for what it is. It’s a sport and a form of entertainment, and a huge moneymaker.

    What I see in today’s megachurches is an exponential increase in this strict hierarchy. Thousands of people can now follow a charismatic leader who calls the shots and who can revise the past of Christianity itself. This is not even the intellectual Christianity I learned, this is what Dawkins has derisively referred to as the “happy, clappy church.” Dawkins himself quoted an Anglican priest on the phenomenon: “They are afraid of thinking.”

    That’s at the root of this. Worshippers today are invited to jump around to shitty pop music instead of thinking (give me Bach any day! Something wrong with Beethoven?). But while all this playpen happiness is happening, you can be sure that someone is doing the thinking! You can be sure that there is a whole lot of thinking going on behind the scenes, a whole lot of quote-mining to convince people that their particularly religious fad is “scientific,” a whole lot of PR to get poor people to cough up money (it’s a scandal in Africa right now), a whole lot of guilt-tripping to turn a credulous audience into perfectionist, obsessive-compulsive self-batterers.

    This is about power. This is not about “fundamentalist believers versus fundamentalist atheists.” (Fundamentalist means adhering to The Fundamentals, as set out by R. A. Torrey, and yes, most fundamentalists are not screaming crazies.) This is about the establishment of new hierarchies, in America and thus the world, that has nothing to do with governments or politics (but is related to corporations), and is not a conspiracy but does include some conspiratorial maneuvers. And the people running the show will do anything to maintain their newly-found power. Even let science in (as it suits them).

    Religion isn’t going away but it is, simultaneously, becoming a more personal experience (on the level of the happy clapper), but in the service of a larger, well-run machine that the happy clapper doesn’t know and doesn’t care is going on behind the scenes. And insofar as the media is a part of the machine, Dawkins is an easy target for what he says.

  83. #83 Uber
    February 26, 2007

    Wouldn’t an inborn preference for social hierarchy mean that social hierarchy will always be with us, not religion?

    I would agree with that statement. It just seems religion works because it is so simple. It appeals to the very base emotions of many people. Simple is hard to beat.

    wouldn’t that satisfy the craving we inherited from our reptilian ancestors?

    Haha, wrong animal group.:-)The reptiles are quite content minus a group. This is more of an avian, mammalian construct I think. But more importantly in a broader sense it is obvious from any primate group there are always a few who prefer to go their own way. These I think are many of the counterparts in science and rationality.

    Also, it’s worth noting that the tendency to fall behind authoritarian leaders is present to differing degrees in different people.

    Yep, thats what I was saying above. I suspect that many human primates simply are not wired to leave essentially being ‘bossed’ by authority. NOW I do think that once the group becomes small enough previously docile followers will move to the forefront and perhaps become authoritarian.

  84. #84 Will Von Wizzlepig
    February 26, 2007

    I think a good portion of the ‘thinking’ religious people who continue to hit the ball back over the net to us know better.

    This is a case of knowing they need to fight the good fight to keep up appearances for their less-than-clever followers.

    If religion loses ground to science, it loses control over the slobbering masses.

    Most people in the world don’t know the difference between a well-planned emotional ploy and a well-supported scientific argument.

    Those same people decide with their feelings. They’re lost to the battle we fight, and ignore that we fight it not for our own satisfaction but for everyone’s rights in the world.

    And with that we run into the big dilemma of the whole situation:

    To simply, ham-fistedly override all laws and legislation such that they agree with science,

    To make laws which block the views and rights of nobody while also preventing those views and rights from impending on anyone else’s,

    To do those without the agreement of the people involved (the voting populace), we do not follow the just and right process by which we believe our country ought to operate.

    But without that ham-fisted step, those changes will never happen. The world where philosopher-kings rule benevolently is as fanciful as the shiny happy society portrayed in STTNG.

  85. #85 mtraven
    February 26, 2007

    Yes, “going through the motions” (ritual) adds meaning to the lives of many. That’s just a sociological fact. Deal with it.

  86. #86 Sonja
    February 26, 2007

    I’m a “Randi”an, but not a “Rand”ian.

    And Dustin, I know exactly what you’re saying. I’ve posted before about my activist friends who reject their traditional Christian upbringings only to end up obsessing over David Lynch and Forteana.

    Oops, that opens the floodgates…

  87. #87 Kagehi
    February 26, 2007

    Yeah. Here in my town there is **exactly** one church that defines “religion” as “mystical experiences”. Oh, wait, no, they don’t. Their catch phrase is explicitly, “Spritual, but not **religious**? Try Unity.” Everyone else very clearly, regardless of *which* faith you talk about, equate religion with, “Believing in some specific things that **did** happen, as a result of some force that **did** cause them, none of which we can prove, but which **are** real.” The whole, “Religion isn’t about silly stuff like Bibles, but just about how you feel when you read one!”, BS is just their attempt to confuse the issue and get the kinds of people that go to one sides, one theology, type places, which in every other way look like Unitarians, to side with the people that think you **must** believe in the literal truth of Jesus and other bits of the Bible.

    In other words, its a proclaimation that, “See, we are nice and tolerant too, please ignore the guy behind the curtain with a cross, a can of gasoline and matches, who isn’t going to burn it on the lawn when you turn out to be too ‘liberal’ the moment we win. We are just like you, but all those unbelievers want to stop you having spiritual experiences. We are here to han… um, help you!”

  88. #88 Steve_C
    February 26, 2007

    Why is “adding meaning” based on faith or mimicing faith beneficial?

    I understand that a sense of community is important. By why one based on faith?

  89. #89 Kagehi
    February 26, 2007

    the proof that religous practice doesn’t conflict with science is that thousands of scientists manage to practice their religion without it coming into conflict with their scientific work.

    Proof? See, the problem I find with this argument is that unless said scientists *explicitly* state that they abandoned a line of enquiry or intentionally refused to enter a different branch of science **based** on it hinting at some discovery that would so drastically contradict their world view that they couldn’t accept it, all we can say for certain is that they made progress in spite of belief in the supernatural. It does not follow that their work in *uneffected* by it. And, point of fact, there are a number of cases where good scientist have gotten tired of the field they where in, jumped to some other field, which they didn’t understand even 10% as well, then proceeded to ruin their carriers by trying to investigate mystical mumbojumbo that they where sure existed, but which was only even a reasonable avenue of persuit *because* they where sufficiently ignorant of that branch of science to know that the phenomena was already explained, and without magic fairies.

    That scientist who believe are “uneffected” is an assumption, not a fact. There is no evidence that this is the case, no research, as far as I know, has been done to tell if it is the case, and all evidence is annecdotal, in the sense of, “Well, scientist X believes Y, but it doesn’t **appear** to have affected their research on Z.” Maybe.. Maybe not. We can’t say with any certainty, because we have no objective evidence to based the assumption on, and that they happen to advance science doesn’t mean a damn thing. People that believed in Zues *advanced* science too. But, it almost certainly limited what they where *willing* to try.

    I for one want to see “real” evidence that it has no effect, not the sort of wishy washy predictions that DI makes about ID, which can’t be backed by facts, just statements about how it “seems” true to the person making the assertions.

  90. #90 Dustin
    February 26, 2007

    I have a well reasoned answer for that Steve_C: It’s important because just deal with it.

  91. #91 PaulC
    February 26, 2007

    Shorter John Gray: “We know religion is stupid, but it makes us feel good.”

    If that’s all religion is, I suggest he take up Tai Chi for the ritual, go sit in a forest or by the seashore for a ‘mystical’ experience, and join a book club for the sense of community.

    All of these are fine suggestions, PZ. The part I disagree with is the implication that there is something obviously wrong with the John Gray proposition in short form. I would phrase it a little differently, though: “Religion doesn’t appear to me to make much sense, but lots of people apparently get satisfaction out of it.” Based on my past experience with other stupid things that people like, it’s pretty clear that there’s nothing I can do about it.

    If somebody wants to believe three impossible things before breakfast, I don’t see that as intrinsically worse than constructing a fantasy baseball team–or placing a major emotional stake in actual sports leagues, for that matter. The rational part of the brain is, as far as I can tell, the one that reaches correct conclusions, but it has to coexist with whole messy human package. I don’t see this as a major problem, and I don’t go around ridiculing people for whatever coping mechanism they’ve come up with.

    There’s a point where rationalism takes on a puritanical streak. The mere fact some belief or behavior is not well-founded is insufficient to prove that it is either feasible or morally justifiable to stamp it out. There is obviously a difference between religion and fantasy baseball in that fans of the latter are likely to admit it’s just a hobby and not call you a bad person for disagreeing. But I think the distinction is often missed. The problem with religion is not that it’s nonsensical, but that it’s coercive. If it stopped being coercive than it would have to be as acceptable as any other non-rational human practice.

  92. #92 Kristine
    February 26, 2007

    Deal with it.

    History shows that it is actually hatred that is the number one thing that gives “meaning” to the lives of people who are credulous, conventional, willing to be led, and squeamish about dissent from the norm. Hatred and the need to punish a scapegoat, and as we’ve seen religious belief is easily twisted into this.

    How do you suggest we deal with that?

  93. #93 infamous
    February 26, 2007

    PZ:

    I don’t understand why you sit in your ivory tower and look down on all those of a different opinion… all while attempting to make your opposition look as narrow minded and ignorant as possible.

    “Wow. So Dawkins is setting off bombs, appropriating religious people’s land, and hates gay people? And he thinks Christians and Muslims are going to hell? Talk about not getting it…”

    …come on now. You know that’s not what was meant,right? (talk about not getting it…)

    “I like how he categorizes people of faith as the reasonable ones, with a few “thinking atheists” tossed in so he can sound inclusive.”

    …see above.

  94. #94 Sonja
    February 26, 2007

    Oh and I have to reply to Jonathan Vos Post regarding his interpretation of the Randi quote (#18).

    As soon as you admitted that you do play chess as a hobby, you lost me.

    But I think I understand what you meant, which is that we atheists are spending time posting to a blog on the subject of religion.

    However, I read Pharyngula, I don’t pray to it.

  95. #95 VMartin
    February 26, 2007


    Just a word of warning, I clicked on VMartin’s link.
    Thats ten minutes of my life I’ll never get back.
    Grrrrrr….
    Can PZ please install some sort of anti-psychotic filter on this forum ?

    In that case all these atheistic-liberal “ejaculations” would disappear in the moment and there will remain just few posts – including mine.

    You know, we had in former Czechoslovakia during socialism departments of “scientific communism” (doesn’t
    it sound like “scientific darwinism”?) at every University. It was also mandatory to pass exams from “scientific atheism”. So all these atheistic vomit you present here on the “Pharyngula” I am acquianted with very well. Trust me. I could even give you examples from New Testament that you somehow missed in your “holy war” against Christianity. Examples that communist considered as “inhuman”. You should learn how to vomit atheistic nonsenses from communists much more.

    Anyway if you really want know what morons liberals and atheists like you are try read something from genius Fyodor M. Dostoevsky.
    I recommend you especially his novel “Possessed”.

  96. #96 Jason
    February 26, 2007

    mtraven,

    You seem to have a very unconventional notion of the meaning of the word “religion.” How do you define that term, as you are using it here?

  97. #97 Alex
    February 26, 2007

    Paul,

    The problem with the nonsensicalness of religious belief is that it leads to the dysfunction that Kristine talks about. It is the nonsense of religion that people invest so heavily in (emotionally and intellectually) that causes them to murder.

  98. #98 mtraven
    February 26, 2007

    It seems to me that hatred of religion is giving meaning to many of the people here. It’s the intolerance, rigidity, certainty, and “puritanical rationalism” of a certain brand of atheism that leads people to identify it with religious fundamentalism.

    I’m against fundamentalism of any sort, and against hatred. If the world gets polarized into warring camps of atheists and religious fundamentalists, the latter camp is going to win — there are more of them. Calling religious people stupid is only going to harden the boundaries. I’m much more interested in finding ways to channel the religious impulses of people, which are not going to go away, into peaceful and non-stupid forms.

  99. #99 Jason
    February 26, 2007

    There is obviously a difference between religion and fantasy baseball in that fans of the latter are likely to admit it’s just a hobby and not call you a bad person for disagreeing.

    Exactly. Which is one reason why your comparison is specious. Religion is not fiction that its adherents recognize as fiction, like a novel or a movie, it’s fiction they confuse with fact. That’s why it’s so dangerous.

    The problem with religion is not that it’s nonsensical, but that it’s coercive.

    No, they’re both problems. Belief in nonsense is not conducive to human welfare.

  100. #100 Colugo
    February 26, 2007

    La Mettrie, Man A Machine, 1748:

    “If atheism … were generally accepted, all the forms of religion would then be destroyed and cut off at the roots. No more theological wars, no more soldiers of religion – such terrible soldiers!”

    La Mettrie was a great philosopher and scientist, but his views on war and virtue were a bit naive. (He puts the words in the mouth of a character, Galileo-style, but he meant them.)

  101. #101 PaulC
    February 26, 2007

    Alex:

    The problem with the nonsensicalness of religious belief is that it leads to the dysfunction that Kristine talks about. It is the nonsense of religion that people invest so heavily in (emotionally and intellectually) that causes them to murder.

    Sorry, I’m not buying it. People murder and wage war for a lot of reasons and justify it all kinds of ways. Whatever the justification, the result is often far more pragmatic: the acquisition of stolen lands and property. Simply removing religion isn’t going to remove bigotry, and even removing bigotry is not going to eliminate competition over resources. People are always going to come up with a reason to kill each other.

  102. #102 CalGeorge
    February 26, 2007

    Uh-oh. The civility meme does not appear to be going away.

    But hey, it’s all they’ve got. Arguing for the legitimacy of their god and their dumb religion is a lost cause, so they fall back on complaining endlessly about how mean we are.

    Doesn’t change the fact that Dean Slee is a fucking clueless idiot who should go back to his hole (where he will continue to brainwash his dumb gullible flock), and leave the rest of us alone.

  103. #103 PaulC
    February 26, 2007

    Jason:

    Exactly. Which is one reason why your comparison is specious. Religion is not fiction that its adherents recognize as fiction, like a novel or a movie, it’s fiction they confuse with fact. That’s why it’s so dangerous.

    Oh, give me a break. I have no idea which of my beliefs are fact and which are fiction. I would claim, for instance, that I like drinking Sumatra coffee because of its low acidity and “earthy” taste and that a dark roast completely ruins it. Is that really true? Maybe I just like saying “Sumatra.” Maybe I have a fond memory of the first time I tried some. It’s probably a combination of these factors and some other things I have no comprehension of.

    If people like doing something, it’s clearly their right to keep doing it if they don’t interfere with the rights of others. That’s all that’s required. There is absolutely no principle that says one’s rights are subject to a test of rational basis. None.

  104. #104 abeja
    February 26, 2007

    “scientific communism” (doesn’t
    it sound like “scientific darwinism”?)

    No.

  105. #105 Dustin
    February 26, 2007

    Let’s summarize the apologist position so far:

    Religion doesn’t cause dysfunction. Never mind, of course, that atheists are underrepresented in the American prison population and that the newer studies into the causes of American social dysfunction peg overt religiosity as the culprit.

    Nope, people are just naturally mean. Religion has nothing to do with it, and atheists are bad people who interfere with vacuous ritual because religion isn’t really about belief and they had ought to be compared to bigots and terrorists, even though that comparison isn’t supposed to be taken literally. So deal with it.

    The apologists are making less sense than usual today, and I didn’t think that was actually possible.

  106. #106 Kristine
    February 26, 2007

    If the world gets polarized into warring camps of atheists and religious fundamentalists, the latter camp is going to win–there are more of them

    But win what? Inherit what? The wind? What kind of fight can they “win” with numbers as opposed to a legitimate methodology?

    Calling religious people stupid is only going to harden the boundaries.

    When did I use the word “stupid”?

    I’m much more interested in finding ways to channel the religious impulses of people, which are not going to go away, into peaceful and non-stupid forms.

    So am I. But I’m not going to shy away from the fact that Americans are embracing a form of totalitarianism that has no redeeming value. I don’t think “dealing with it” means being a pollyanna about what’s happening. More and more Americans think that personal ability is inherited and that democracy “just happens” by the will of God (I’m not kidding, these people don’t vote for that reason). America is becoming less, not more, mobile in terms of class, and almost one-third of us believe that Jesus will return in 2007.

    Does that sound like the America that we used to know? An America that gives up on the future? That is more interested in the past, and in supposed “genetic” determinants of ability and economic status? At some point we have to counter these beliefs (which are enabled by religion), not “channel” them.

    I’m not going to fool myself. America is changing, and we can’t deal with it until we finally see it.

    And apologists of the UK, take note. The last time you were so tolerant of someone’s religious beliefs that God called him to be president, you followed us right into Iraq.

  107. #107 Alex
    February 26, 2007

    Paul,

    The inquisition? Witch hunts? Slavery? I wonder how many less wars there would be and how many less people murdered there would be if crazy religious beliefs were eliminated.

    All I’m saying is that there are plenty of examples of how religion is used not only to justify horrific human behavior, but condone it, and instigate it. Any dogmatic world view that feeds its adherents the idea that they are better than non-adherents (self righteousness) will foster the evil men can do. Humanity certainly does fine on its own and doesn’t need any encouragement from the poisonous ideas espoused in most myth-fantasies.

    Good people will do good things, evil people will do evil things, but it takes religion for a good person to do evil things.

  108. #108 Alex
    February 26, 2007

    Kristine,

    I also think he said god called him to war.

  109. #109 Steve_C
    February 26, 2007

    What is the worse thing that PZ or Dawkins in the name of godlessness?
    What’s the worst thing religious fundamentalists have done in the name of their religion?

    How are they the same again?

    Because the beliefs are strident doesn’t mean the actions taken are on any way equal.

    Thinking religion is based primarily on superstitious nonsense is not hatred.

    I do recall Dawkins wearing a t-shirt that said “Atheists for Jesus”.

  110. #110 Jason
    February 26, 2007

    PaulC,

    Sorry, I’m not buying it. People murder and wage war for a lot of reasons and justify it all kinds of ways. Whatever the justification, the result is often far more pragmatic: the acquisition of stolen lands and property. Simply removing religion isn’t going to remove bigotry, and even removing bigotry is not going to eliminate competition over resources. People are always going to come up with a reason to kill each other.

    Culture is a major influence on behavior. Religion is a major aspect of culture. Religion influences behavior, just like other aspects of culture influence behavior. Religion is especially influential on ethical behavior, because religions specialize in making claims about how people ought to treat one another. That influence is mostly negative. Religions also make lots of claims of truth. Those claims are mostly false, or at least unjustified.

  111. #111 PaulC
    February 26, 2007

    Dustin: I hope you’re not attributing the “people are just naturally mean” comment to me, because I said nothing of the sort. I would say that people are naturally acquisitive–which is a useful trait–and they are pretty creative about coming up with excuses for wronging others. But certainly people are also capable of showing compassion, even beyond in-group, especially when there is relatively little effort involved.

    It seems to me that you’re the one who would need to demonstrate a positive effect. There’s a certain baseline of human behavior that could use some improvement, combined with the fact that most people do have some kind of religion. This is far from showing a causal relationship. Do you have studies showing that atheists are intrinsically less violent than theists? It’s not even obvious how you’d go about showing an effect specifically connected to religious belief that ruled out education, income levels, and cultural background. Atheism tends to be the luxury of those whose life admits time for examination.

    I’m not saying you’re wrong, just that I don’t see the conclusion as self-evident. Anecdotally speaking, I’ve known religious and non-religious people and any possible effect seems to me to be totally swamped by other personality factors.

  112. #112 Ichthyic
    February 26, 2007

    I have no idea which of my beliefs are fact and which are fiction.

    why don’t you?

    Is it that you don’t feel you have the tools to differentiate?

    or is it that you simply don’t want to know?

  113. #113 Ichthyic
    February 26, 2007

    and almost one-third of us believe that Jesus will return in 2007

    hey, didn’t we just have a thread where Jesus’ return was already documented?

    heck, people were already getting their ‘666’ tatoos.

  114. #114 Ichthyic
    February 26, 2007

    At some point we have to counter these beliefs (which are enabled by religion)

    yes!

    I’ve come to the conclusion over years of conversing with creobots that this is exactly what is going on.

    it’s the religion that is enabling the underlying leanings towards a particular pychological profile.

    like cocaine commonly enables the manic/depressive cycle in bipolar individuals.

    It’s not surprising at all that any particular religion would be co-opted to become even more of an enabler; like making a stronger version of a drug.

  115. #115 CalGeorge
    February 26, 2007

    Two thousand frigging years of glorious obedience to a freaking fantasy perpetuated by a bunch of manipulative bastards who called themselves priests, ministers, popes, whatever!

    Times up! Ding, ding, ding ding! God has left the building. Time to go home. Sorry, no curtain calls. You’ve had your fun. Move on! Come on. Get along. Nothing more to see. God is dead. Hurry, hurry, get along! Watch your head going out!

  116. #116 PaulC
    February 26, 2007

    Ichthyic:

    Is it that you don’t feel you have the tools to differentiate?

    The tools I have are inadequate. It’s been established experimentally that people come up with post hoc explanations for why they behave a certain way that are unrelated to the actual cause. (A story on this comes out in the press every few years–e.g. subject claims he picked the white rabbit because of his childhood pet, but actually that was the image flashed in his left eye, that sort of thing–but about 5 minutes of googling hasn’t yielded a reference, so I’ll assume others are aware of this).

    To take my own example (no, not a stellar analogy for religion, but useful as a simplified model): I’m largely, but not entirely, skeptical of my claim of why I like Sumatra coffee. Part of the problem is that I’ve had Sumatra that just wasn’t that good compared to my memories of when I decided I like it. At this point I’m not even that sure I do like it that much. But I can also rule out the bad cups, particularly the ones ruined by over-roasting (which is almost all coffee on the west coast). On the other hand, I can reinforce my initial claim by the fact that external references to Sumatra will say it is low-acidity (which is at least measurable) and earthy (a little harder to pin down) and some will suggest a light roast. So I think there’s probably an objective body of evidence confirming my memory of my first, good experiences with Sumatra coffee.

    Do I have the “tools” to differentiate between why I actually like Sumatra coffee, or whether I even like that that much and the fiction (or insufficiently established claims) that I present when the subject of coffee comes up (sometimes you start discussing coffee or any other shared interest and the value of social bonding exceeds the value of getting everything exactly right–and basically nobody wants to hear me agonizing about it)?

    I suppose with enough effort, I could probably tease out the precise motivations behind whatever claims I might make about Sumatra. But that would be time consuming and would only scratch the surface of my motivations. The best I could do is say that a lot of what I claim to believe is in a sort of gray area that is very possibly fictitious and that I lack the resources to place it on a firm epistemological basis. In fact, that is what I tend to say. The only question that really interests me is how it causes me to act. This is where I at least make a decision between those beliefs that I will treat as fact, and those I will treat as fiction.

    I really have trouble believing in fully or mostly rational people. I am willing to hold out its possibility only because I’m dealing with inherently subjective experience and maybe I’m totally wrong and other people out there are just way ahead of me in empirical justification for all their beliefs. I’ve put enough effort into my own justifications, though, that my tendency is to believe that anyone who really thinks they’ve teased out the fact from fiction in their own mind hasn’t even scratched the surface.

  117. #117 m
    February 26, 2007

    Comment #6 only gave part of the stroy. If you read it again, you see that Tamimi is claiming that the seculars are *causing* people to physically attack them. Check it out:

    “This is a thought taken up by Azzim Tamimi, director of the Institute of Islamic Political Thought. “I refer to secular fundamentalism. The problem is that these people believe that they have the absolute truth. That means you have no room to talk to others so you end up having a physical fight. They want to close the door and ignore religion, but this will provoke a violent religiosity. If someone seeks to deny my existence, I will fight to assert it.””

  118. #118 Jason
    February 26, 2007

    PaulC,

    Does your Sumatran coffee thing have a point that is related to what I said about religion being harmful? If so, could you distill that point into a few clear and concise sentences? I’m having a hard time figuring out what what you’re trying to say.

    The last paragraph of your post #103 is another nonsequitur. You seem to be responding to some imagined individual who has claimed the people don’t have the right to hold religious beliefs or engage in religious behavior. I never said that, or anything remotely like it.

  119. #119 Steve_C
    February 26, 2007

    PaulC,

    Have you ever been to a landmark forum?

    See the Matrix one too many times?

  120. #120 H. Humbert
    February 26, 2007

    PaulC, I don’t think many people would argue that subjective affinities need to be rationally held. Like you said, I’m not even sure that’s possible.

    But religion doesn’t fall into that category. It’s a series of claims about objective reality that only offers subjective experiences as proof.

    Read what Jason said again: “Religion is not fiction that its adherents recognize as fiction, like a novel or a movie, it’s fiction they confuse with fact. That’s why it’s so dangerous.”

    In the context he was speaking, I took him to mean religious adherents confuse fictions containing subjective truths with objective facts–something which can be empirically verified and validated. For the sake of this discussion, let’s leave out “facts” like your favorite ice cream flavor is strawberry, since theists are not claiming that the existence of god is merely a subjective preference which exists only in their heads. It is the conflation of these two which has led to confusion in the first place.

  121. #121 PaulC
    February 26, 2007

    Jason:

    Does your Sumatran coffee thing have a point that is related to what I said about religion being harmful?

    No, it has a point that is related to your statement “Religion is not fiction that its adherents recognize as fiction”, namely that people are often unaware of whether their beliefs have a sound factual basis, and the problem is far from being restricted to religion.

    I didn’t respond to your statement about religion being harmful. Sorry, that just isn’t a topic I have a lot to say about beyond what I stated already. Clearly some violence is motivated by religion and some has other causes.

  122. #122 PaulC
    February 26, 2007

    H. Humbert

    I don’t think many people would argue that subjective affinities need to be rationally held. Like you said, I’m not even sure that’s possible.
    But religion doesn’t fall into that category. It’s a series of claims about objective reality that only offers subjective experiences as proof.

    I gave the first example that came to mind, but it’s not limited to subjective affinities. Take something like fishing (a less plausible topic for me than coffee). Some people will insist on a particular kind of lure. They probably believe it works especially well. The effect is objective–they are catching actual fish. That is a claim about objective reality that offers only the anecdotal as proof. The reality is probably that one lure works about as well as some others, or the one they like might be particularly suited to their style, or their first couple of experiences were statistical outliers that biased their view. They will simply never know, but unless they’re as obsessive as I am, they probably won’t get much farther than “I’ve tried it, and this one works best.” That’s normal human behavior.

    If I had longer, I could probably come up with a natural non-religious example of objective claims based one subjective experience. The best I can think of is that often you may feel you’ve helped somebody when actually you’re misreading them or projecting. (Actually projection is probably a huge subject in which the objective and subjective get mixed up.)

    I would still have to insist that the problem with religious as typically practiced is that it’s coercive, not that it’s irrational, and in fact a huge amount of human experience is irrational.

    Sometimes people go back to their ancestral religion as a matter of tradition. As far as I can tell, it really is more of a cultural thing in this case. I don’t have that inclination myself, but I am not going to write off a whole group of people as bad. They get something out of it, and they’re entitled to it provided they aren’t coercive.

  123. #123 Jason
    February 26, 2007

    PaulC,

    It’s the confusion of religion with fact that makes it so harmful. If Christians recognized that the Bible is just a work of fiction, rather than believing it to be the authentic word of God, they probably wouldn’t have done so many horrible things on biblical authority.

  124. #124 Alex
    February 26, 2007

    How can experience be irrational? Maybe one’s interpretation of experience is irrational, but experience can not be given the characteristic of being irrational (or rational).

    Making sense of experience and approximating truth is the job of rigorous skeptical inquiry. That method is the ONLY tool for investigating reality objectively. This is how knowledge is generated. The more we learn, the more we are able to learn. As it stands, we have learned enough so that it can be shown that the pious arrogance caused by believing the unbelievable (i.e. un-falsifiable) is not healthy. Dare I say that it has kept humanity wallowing in ignorance and fear for thousands of years.

  125. #125 abeja
    February 26, 2007

    What is the worse thing that PZ or Dawkins in the name of godlessness?
    What’s the worst thing religious fundamentalists have done in the name of their religion?
    How are they the same again?

    Steve C, I have asked X-tians a similar question. They’ve responded by saying that atheists want to remove/prevent prayer in schools, approve of gay rights, want to remove the tax exempt status of churches, value science over faith, etc. Some of the things they’ve pointed out are true, some are not. But their accusations of the “harm” caused by atheists is always in the form of some sort of “repression” of religious freedom, or the harm they think would come to society if it became widely acceptable for groups of people they disapprove of to be given more rights. Whether or not it’s true that atheists can be credited (or, in the mind of the x-tians, blamed)for the things they credit/blame us for, the fact is that a great deal of them DO, in fact, think we are responsible for religious repression and progressive changes in society.

    Here’s the kicker: The x-tians I’ve talked to think that things such as fighting prayer in schools and making laws to protect gays are every bit as bad as all the witch hunts, wars, terrorist attacks, and large scale killings inflicted upon the world by religionists.

    Example: Damage done to society by making birth control available=horrors of the crusades. They cancel each other out, making atheists equally as damaging to society as anything xtiandom has ever done.

    I’m not kidding–they really do think this way.

  126. #126 H. Humbert
    February 26, 2007

    PaulC wrote: “They get something out of it, and they’re entitled to it provided they aren’t coercive.”

    Paul, but it’s precisely this sort of confusion, however natural it may be, which leads to conflict. If a fisherman is absolutely convinced that his lure is the best is a FACT, then he will defend that notion as true, often to the point of violence. I’ve seen men fight over less.

    “Coercion” arrises when an individual doesn’t recognize that his opinions are not facts, and finds that the only way to defend them as true is by blunt assertion.

    If you want people to avoid coercion, the FIRST step is getting them to admit their opinions are not the same thing as facts. When you fail to make this distinction, when “belief” becomes a synonym for “truth,” conflict is an inevitability.

  127. #127 Scott Hatfield
    February 26, 2007

    What an incredible thread. There’s so much….MEAT. Way too much for me to respond to, that’s true.

    mtraven: even if I thought I was the greatest thing since sliced bread (which I don’t), I’d have to agree with Steve Le Bonne: we don’t live in a world where most of the ‘believers’ are like me.

    Proof of same: the fact that Jason and I went round and round on a recent thread on the question of whether beliefs taken on faith could be said to be justified. Oddly enough, both of us said ‘no’, which I don’t think was all that satisfying for either of us. Nevertheless, I wouldn’t trade that honest exchange of views for an inkling less of doubt. I think we owe it to Jason and other skeptics to acknowledge that most believers really do prefer certainty to questioning. And, indeed, as the priest quoted by Dawkins says, ‘they are afraid of thinking.’

    Kristine, by way of contrast, typically says some pretty thoughtful things. It really *is* about power at some level: all you have to do is look at the turf wars between rival creationist groups, with AIG being especially keen to draw distinctions between themselves and every other hamlet in the cottage industry which is creationism.

    In turn, those interested in power love to pit ‘in-groups’ vs. ‘out-groups’; as Uber has suggested, this likely exploits aspects of our primate biology. Kristine again nails it by pointing out the conflation of hatred with meaning: that is, when we define ourselves as the opposite of the thing we hate.

    How, then, to respond? Allow me a moment of optimism: there are bonobos, as well as chimps. Our biological heritage is not merely one of competition, but one of cooperation. We have options, and we can choose to break the bonds of hatred and ignorance by championing the things that unite us as human beings, by expanding the circle of those whom we are prepared to love. In other words, to take the question ‘who are my brothers, and my sisters?’ seriously.

    Fraternally….SH

  128. #128 Alex
    February 26, 2007

    Now that’s just crazy Scott.

  129. #129 John Marley
    February 26, 2007

    Hey, while we’re throwing quotes around, here’s a little gem from Robert A Heinlein

    Religion is like dandruff. Most people have it, and seem to derive great pleasure from spending money on it and fiddling with it.

  130. #130 Scott Hatfield
    February 26, 2007

    (amused) Don’t let the rest of the family know!

  131. #131 George Cauldron
    February 26, 2007

    We others miss dawkinsonian imagination how ancient fish climbing mount improbable became feathered eagle in the end.

    You should better read John Davison’s Manifesto and to reconsider your darwinistic opinion.

    VMartin is best understood as a cross between Waylon Smithers and Borat.

  132. #132 David Marjanovi?
    February 26, 2007

    Greatest scientist as Robert Broom (as well as T. Chardin) considered evolution to be spirit-governed process.

    The fact that you say “greatest scientist” and act as if that were an argument shows that you don’t know how science works. Arguments from authority are unscientific.

    Neither Broom nor Teilhard de Chardin had any evidence for their metaphysics. I don’t know about Broom, but I’ll flat-out say that Teilhard de Chardin was not a scientist — he made up fancy terms (“the soul temperature was rising”) without ever explaining them. Today you will not find a single biologist who adheres to Teilhard de Chardin’s bizarre opinions; most importantly, his assumption that evolution is progress (shared by the communists, incidentally) has turned out to be utter nonsense.

    It is in accordnace with the best tradition with russian as well as british metaphysical thinking.

    Whatever “best” means.

    By the way, it is interesting that there seems to be such a thing as “Russian” or “British metaphysical thinking”. If you suggested there were such a thing as “Russian science” or “British science” you would be laughed out of the room!

    (I can tell you one of the best nowadays Czech scientist biolog and philosopher profesor Zdenek Neubauer turned to be antidarwinian too).

    Here you commit both fallacies at once.

    Look, I sympathize with you. I agree that communism was a dogma, not a science, and that having to live under it was horrible. But the fact that communism was bullshit is not evidence that any of its many opposites must be any better.

    Whether something is science or not is easy to find out. If the proponents of an idea can answer the question “if we were wrong, how would we know?”, the idea is science. If they can’t, it is not.

  133. #133 David Marjanovi?
    February 26, 2007

    Greatest scientist as Robert Broom (as well as T. Chardin) considered evolution to be spirit-governed process.

    The fact that you say “greatest scientist” and act as if that were an argument shows that you don’t know how science works. Arguments from authority are unscientific.

    Neither Broom nor Teilhard de Chardin had any evidence for their metaphysics. I don’t know about Broom, but I’ll flat-out say that Teilhard de Chardin was not a scientist — he made up fancy terms (“the soul temperature was rising”) without ever explaining them. Today you will not find a single biologist who adheres to Teilhard de Chardin’s bizarre opinions; most importantly, his assumption that evolution is progress (shared by the communists, incidentally) has turned out to be utter nonsense.

    It is in accordnace with the best tradition with russian as well as british metaphysical thinking.

    Whatever “best” means.

    By the way, it is interesting that there seems to be such a thing as “Russian” or “British metaphysical thinking”. If you suggested there were such a thing as “Russian science” or “British science” you would be laughed out of the room!

    (I can tell you one of the best nowadays Czech scientist biolog and philosopher profesor Zdenek Neubauer turned to be antidarwinian too).

    Here you commit both fallacies at once.

    Look, I sympathize with you. I agree that communism was a dogma, not a science, and that having to live under it was horrible. But the fact that communism was bullshit is not evidence that any of its many opposites must be any better.

    Whether something is science or not is easy to find out. If the proponents of an idea can answer the question “if we were wrong, how would we know?”, the idea is science. If they can’t, it is not.

  134. #134 Glen Davidson
    February 26, 2007

    VMartin is understood to actually be JAD. Here:

    http://www.antievolution.org/cgi-bin/ikonboard/ikonboard.cgi?act=SP;f=14;t=3319;p=43044

    The next post is Steve Story banning VMartin, since he is JAD. Here is the page from which the above post was taken:

    http://www.antievolution.org/cgi-bin/ikonboard/ikonboard.cgi?s=45e38b04b96ddf48;act=ST;f=14;t=3319;st=330

    If you go back to where “VMartin” first appears on that thread you can see a weird affectation of an Eastern European underpar knowledge of English which comes and goes, and really never looks authentic at all. It doesn’t take long for him to write like a native user of English, as he does now on Pharyngula. Furthermore, he looks like some pathetic disciple of JAD, and I’m not sure that any such person exists–even DaveTard gave that up eventually, because JAD is too vacuous and belligerent, and so is DaveTard.

    You can have fun with him, as many AtBCers did for some time. I’m not recommending banning him, or not banning him. I’m simply pointing out that this VMartin almost certainly is JAD and at the least “argues” like he does, without any comprehension (or at least acknowledgement) of his errors, nor in an intellectually honest manner whatsoever. Don’t have illusions that he might be different from JAD, since he is the same person.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/35s39o

  135. #135 David Marjanovi?
    February 26, 2007

    Oh, and… the term “scientific Darwinism” does not exist. You made it up. Unlike Marxism, the theory of evolution is science and doesn’t need to assert that in its name.

  136. #136 David Marjanovi?
    February 26, 2007

    Oh, and… the term “scientific Darwinism” does not exist. You made it up. Unlike Marxism, the theory of evolution is science and doesn’t need to assert that in its name.

  137. #137 David Marjanovi?
    February 26, 2007

    a weird affectation of an Eastern European underpar knowledge of English which comes and goes, and really never looks authentic at all.

    I wondered…

    His telegraph style doesn’t really look like how someone writes who doesn’t know how to use articles. And the Czech keyboard has a ? key for Zden?k.

    But this hypothesis of yours is testable — it’s scientific. VMartin, can you translate your latest post into Czech? (Kseniya and I, at the very least, will notice very fast if you have used translate.google.com or babelfish.altavista.com or the like.)

  138. #138 David Marjanovi?
    February 26, 2007

    a weird affectation of an Eastern European underpar knowledge of English which comes and goes, and really never looks authentic at all.

    I wondered…

    His telegraph style doesn’t really look like how someone writes who doesn’t know how to use articles. And the Czech keyboard has a ? key for Zden?k.

    But this hypothesis of yours is testable — it’s scientific. VMartin, can you translate your latest post into Czech? (Kseniya and I, at the very least, will notice very fast if you have used translate.google.com or babelfish.altavista.com or the like.)

  139. #139 Phoenix Woman
    February 26, 2007

    Guess what? Theodore “Vox Day” Beale, everybody’s favorite misogynist anti-Semite (next to William Donohue of course), and whose tax-dodger dad Robert Beale helps run the wingnut site World Net Daily, was so freaked out at the sight of a– a– WOMAN! posting in this thread that he not only wrote a post on his blog about it, but dumped the post over into one of my comments threads, too!

    He’s in my spam folder now, but I saved the rant and tucked it away as yet more evidence of just how insanely depraved the leaders of the conservative movement are. Check it out — you won’t even have to visit his site (and risk him seeing your IP address)!

  140. #140 PZ Myers
    February 26, 2007

    Cool. My first confirmed sockpuppet here. He’s gone.

  141. #141 Graculus
    February 26, 2007

    though. Another example is the idea that loyalty is a positive good (virtue), ie instead of being seen for the evil (vice) that it really is. …..

    The sole point of loyalty is to encourage people to support fellow insiders when they are doing wrong just because of belonging to a shared in-group as against some out-group (ie instead of opposing their wrong-doing as you should).

    Um, no. Individual loyalty is not a vice, what you are descibing is fascist “loyalty”, the subsumation of the individual to the group. That isn’t so much loyalty as annihilation. Those who give up their status as individuals cannot give “loyalty” (as a virtue or a vice), as they are no longer acting as moral agents.

  142. #142 Steven
    February 26, 2007

    I am starting to get pissed off with the amount of people that haven’t read “The God Delusion” and actually have the nerve to have an opinion on it. READ THE BOOK.

    Are the majority of people complete morons?

    It is starting to feel like it.

  143. #143 mtraven
    February 26, 2007

    I can’t give you a short definition of religion, but my view of it is not that unusual. See Loyal Rue’s Religion is Not About God or Ursula Goodenough’s The Sacred Depths of Nature for roughly similar takes. The problem is that fundamentalists and militant atheists both share a rather debased and simplistic take on what religion is. I’m more or less an atheist myself — but I am more annoyed at stupidity from my side (supposedly the smart ones) than stupidity from religious fundies, where it’s expected.

  144. #144 Jason
    February 26, 2007

    mtraven,

    I don’t know why you can’t describe what you mean by “religion.” If you seriously think that a fully naturalistic definition of religion is “not that unusual” I think you need to spend more time with religious people, the vast majority of whom will tell you that their religion involves beliefs in supernatural entities or powers such as gods, demons, angels and spirits. Here’s the definition of religion provided by sociologist Steve Bruce, which I think encompasses all or almost all systems of belief and behavior generally recognized as religions:

    Beliefs, actions and institutions predicated on the existence of entities with powers of agency (that is, gods) or impersonal powers or processes possessed of moral purpose (the Hindu notion of Karma, for example), which can set the conditions of, or intervene in, human affairs.

  145. #145 Ichthyic
    February 26, 2007

    I suppose with enough effort, I could probably tease out the precise motivations behind whatever claims I might make about Sumatra. But that would be time consuming and would only scratch the surface of my motivations.

    perhaps you could have shortened that entire response to:

    Yeah, I think the tools are there, but it’s too tedious for me to bother using them.

    IOW, your answer fits with my second postulate, you don’t really care to.

    if you’re worried that would set you apart… don’t.

    I think the vast majority feel introspection to be unworthy of the effort.

    OTOH, have you considered that the very lack of effort might be a lot of the reason why creobots continue in their delusions?

    you can readily see standard defense mechanisms kick into gear whenever you challenge a creobot on their interpretations of observations, and how they don’t fit with actual reality. Typically, you get complete denial, followed by a “reset” to previous conditions.

    IOW, point out to a YEC that their perception of a young earth flies in the face of ALL available evidence, and they will deny it, then the next day act as if you never pointed it out to them to begin with.

    hence, they certainly have the tools available to explore WHY they think the world is 6k years old (and biblical literalism is really a red herring – a basic referal to authority). they simply refuse to use them.

    to co-opt an old phrase, and ounce of introspection is worth a pound of actual evidence.

    If a YEC had ever bothered to examine what maintains their own belief structures, likely those beliefs would end up falling by the wayside. Instead, a failure to examine them early on (often due to the fact that there is no peer pressure to do so) ends up reinforcing the false perceptions to the point where even serious therapy would have problems getting them to reexamine their beliefs, let alone actual evidence.

    food for thought.

  146. #146 H. Humbert
    February 26, 2007

    Apparently the refined, nuanced reflections of modern theology (which are supposed to be so much more intellectual than the gross theology of literal fundamentalists), consists primarily obfuscating concepts and terms to the point where they become ineffable, and therefore unassailable. A theology which is so sublimely complex that to even ask for clarification means that you are debasing the entire concept, since it takes its power from its perfect vagueness.

  147. #147 JR
    February 26, 2007

    I really don’t understand this obsession with evidence. I have no evidence that Attila the Hun ever lived, but I believe it. I have no evidence that there are spatial objects orbiting the sun that are thousands of millions of miles away, but I believe that. I have no evidence that there is a city in Australia called Perth, but I believe that, too. Almost everything I believe, I believe on the basis of authority, not of evidence. That is true of you, and PZ Myers, and Dawkins, and all human beings.

  148. #148 Uber
    February 26, 2007

    JR that was perhaps the most clueless and ignorant of all the posts on this thread. Please stick around awhile and learn something or better yet reaquaint yourself with a library because damn, just damn.

  149. #149 Jason
    February 27, 2007

    No, JR, you do believe those things on the basis of evidence. The evidence that persuades you that there is a city in Australia called Perth, for example, consists of hundreds or thousands of references to the existence of that city in books, magazines, TV shows, movies, newspapers, atlases, conversations, geography classes, etc., etc. It is logically possible that you are the victim of a vast conspiracy to make you think Perth exists when it really doesn’t, and that all this evidence has been fabricated for that purpose, but that explanation is so implausible you have rightly rejected it.

  150. #150 Scott Hatfield
    February 27, 2007

    JR, that’s ever so misleading. Is there a city in Australia called Perth? Sure, I think so. How do I know? Why, I’ve seen it in an almanac, for one thing. Aha, you might reply, then you didn’t really see the city, you’re ‘believing’ on the basis of the almanac’s authority.

    Rubbish. Perth may be found on any number of maps, all of which agree to one another to several orders of magnitude. It has a history, a geography, a prevailing climate, etc. all of which is nested into all sorts of sets of data for other places. I don’t have to take anything on faith. I can accept, on the basis of the agreement and general consonance of the claim of Perth’s existence from independent, competent authorities the overwhelming likelihood of Perth’s existence until such time as I actually visit that blessed hamlet.

    In other words, I don’t have to take any particular single authority’s claim on faith, I can accept a proposition on the basis of overwhelming, nigh-universal evidence to that effect. Kind of like evolution, if you get my continental drift!

  151. #151 Kseniya
    February 27, 2007

    Speaking of drift, I understand that Perth was once very much like Calcutta, but having been isolated from the rest of the world since the early Carboniferous gave it an opportunity to evolved interesting animals, a strangely Anglican-sounding tongue, and large alumiminum cans full of brown lager.

  152. #152 Ichthyic
    February 27, 2007

    because damn, just damn

    stop it! you’re reading my mind.

    😉

  153. #153 autumn
    February 27, 2007

    Stay with me for a bit on this, I do have a point.

    I work as a convienience store clerk, and in this exalted position I am forced to sell people lottery tickets, of which the instant “scratch-off” variety are especially popular. At least six million times every day (exaggerated very slightly) I am face to face with a person who states with absoloute certainty that only even/odd numbered scratch-off tickets win (the tickets are numbered sequentially [is there another way to be numbered?] for inventory purposes), or that only tickets from the first/last half of the roll win. Without exception, my first question to these troglodytes is “how large was your sample space?”, which elicits many blank stares. When I go on to explain that a statement of fact implies some research into the subject, I am told that it just works, or their friend said so, or some other crap. Interestingly, when I explain to them that I have actually surveyed the winning tickets (yes, I am a super-dork who has spent time cataloguing the inventory numbers of about two-hundred tickets over three days) and have found nothing other than randomness in the distribution, I am invariably told “well, I just know it works.”. Then they walk out broke. I actually had a man say, after his predicted even number didn’t win, but the next ticket did, “see, it’s either the even ticket, or the one right next to it”.
    The point, if anyone has stuck around, is that people have a huge ability to rationalize demonstrably false beliefs as true when presented with ample evidence to the contrary, even when these beliefs are trivial to the point of total vacuity of meaning. Imagine the engine of rationalization when a belief is tied to one’s identity as strongly as religion is.
    If something as stupid as lotteries can cause such mass misery and deprivation (imagine if these people were saving the $20 American that they spend on average [yes, I also took averages over two weeks to arrive at this figure, and due to the methodology, it is artificially low] every day), then what about a belief that has such important cosequenses as a religion?
    Religions are detrimental, not to the individual in every case, but to the larger society.

  154. #154 Ichthyic
    February 27, 2007

    or their friend said so,

    peers commonly reinforce false conclusions, hence creationism still exists because peers reinforce it long enough for the thinking patterns to be very resistant to change.

    hence the reason PZ and Dawkins and many others (myself included for the most part) think that attempting to curtail the constant reinforcing patterns is a legitimate approach to reducing the spread of this “meme”.

  155. #155 Scott Hatfield
    February 27, 2007

    Jason: How utterly strange and wonderful that you and I would post such similar replies to J.R. at almost exactly the same moment—especially given our last exchange!

    That is just weird. Perhaps our previous conversation was in the back of both our minds, and we both just happened to be on this thread, and we both just hit return at 12:02 Pharyngula time?

    PZ, just out of curiousity, is there any way to tell within how many seconds of each other our two posts registered on the thread?

    Intrigued….SH

  156. #156 gooba
    February 27, 2007

    The chinese communist party’s persecution of anyone who is religous or is in a cult can be seen as one example of athiest fundamentalism.

  157. #157 Ichthyic
    February 27, 2007

    The chinese communist party’s persecution of anyone who is religous or is in a cult can be seen as one example of athiest fundamentalism.

    not really, as with falun gong the issue is one of control and rebellion, not religion.

    they look at religious organization the same as any other organized group, a potential threat to control.

    BTW, that’s nothing new, as most of secular europe battled for control against various religious orders as well.

    heck, it goes farther back than that even; some have put forward a reasonable hypothesis that Akhnaten created the concept of monotheism in order to better maintain the position of pharoh.

    has nothing to do with promoting atheism, at all.

  158. #158 bad Jim
    February 27, 2007

    If someone is athiest, shouldn’t someone else be athier? (Hah! I’m athier than you, you wuss!).

    Unfortunately, it sounds like the usual confusion between athleticism and asceticism, esthetics and synesthesia.

  159. #159 bad Jim
    February 27, 2007

    Well done, autumn.

  160. #160 Tom Rees
    February 27, 2007

    Labour Humanist has a pithy response: http://humanistsforlabour.typepad.com/labour_humanists/

  161. #161 jr
    February 27, 2007

    Well sure, there are lots of books that tell me that there is a city called Perth. Not nearly so many as tell me that there is a God. Many more people have heard of God, talk about God, write about God, pray to God, have spoken to God, believe that they have a personal relationship with God, than write about Perth, have been to Perth, have a relationship with a person from Perth. Many more great philosophers and artists have written and painted about God than about Perth. There is much more evidence of God than there is of Perth. Further, for me to disbelieve in God, I would have to believe that there is either a vast world-wide conspiracy to make me believe, or alternatively, that there is a mass delusion among hundreds of millions of my fellows – people whose powers of perception and reason are in no way inferior to mine, who are obviously not not “kooks,” who raise families, run businesses and farms and governments and universities, and create art and literature, very often much more successfully than I do.

    Now, as it happens, I am an atheist, and I do believe that most people do suffer from this mass delusion. I do reject the evidence of God that is all around me. I reject the evidence of books published by, say, the Abington Press, and I reject the personal eyewitness evidence of the very large number of people I know who claim to have a personal relationship with God. I think they are mistaken. On the other hand, I accept the authority of the National Geographic, even though I have never even met a person who claims to have been to Perth. And I accept the authority of the scientists and science popularizers – like Dawkins – from whom I gain my knowledge of evolution, even though I have no personal knowledge of it and I really don’t understand the mechanisms of natural selection particularly well.

    To a religious person, I suppose I am like a person blind from birth who demands evidence of color. Now, I am still an atheist, but I also recognize that a person blind from birth will never perceive the difference between azure and cerulean.

    So we’re not talking about evidence here. And anyone who says, like PZ Myers, that religious people are kooks because they have no evidence, is really not grappling with the issue.

  162. #162 Moggie
    February 27, 2007

    I don’t have much to add to the discussion, but feel I ought to correct a possible misunderstanding I see in a couple of the responses. When Colin Slee disgustingly says that some atheists are “just as fundamentalist as the people setting off bombs on the tube”, the “tube” he’s referring to is not the TV (that’s a colloquialism which not many Brits would use), but the London Underground. For a London-based Dean to invoke the memory of the 7/7/05 bombings, still a nightmare event for many Londoners, in this way is despicable.

  163. #163 John B
    February 27, 2007

    The concept of an honest, respectful debate on issues seems to have slipped away, and been replaced by the namby-pamby idea that it doesn’t matter what you believe, as long as you’re nice about it and don’t try to push it on others.

    What’s wrong with a society in which ‘it doesn’t matter what you believe’ as long as you follow the law?

    Since when is a secular society ‘namby-pamby’?

  164. #164 Kavanagh
    February 27, 2007

    I’m an agnostic. Theists and Monotheists share a major problem with Atheists which both studiously ignore – “The Elephant in the Room” syndrome. In this case, Cause and Effect.

    Believers in god(s) can escape from rationality through mysticism. Atheists cannot, if they wish to lay claim to intellectual honesty.

    Q: What came before God?
    A: “God has always existed.”
    – Duh.

    Q. What caused the Big Bang (or Steady State, or whatever)?
    A. (Never heard one that was sensible, usually something along the lines of accusing the questioner of being a religious fruitcake.)
    – Double Duh.

  165. #165 reason
    February 27, 2007

    jr

    Your subtle argument requires a subtle response. I don’t think you are taking the existance of Perth WA purely on authority. If told you there is a town called Marble Bar in WA do you believe me just because I told you? No of course you would look it up. And ultimately, your evaluation of the credibility of witnesses depends on the evidence they give you. (If you really want to prove find the telephone number of the pub there and ring it up).

    The story about evidence with the existance of God, is that the people who tell you he exists have no independently verifiable evidence, and will often explicitly tell you have to take it on faith.

    A world in which everything is taken on authority, is a world open to exploitation. Where two authorities disagree – how do you decide? Of course you cannot prove everything from scratch yourself. But that is point of peer review. It is point of referencing the evidence (for the properly skeptical).

  166. #166 reason
    February 27, 2007

    Kavanagh,
    The answer to your question is of course
    “What do you mean by always?”. Could it be that time has a starting point?
    Once you go so far outside our normal reference points (i.e. the world we understand) the meaning of questions is not so clear.

  167. #167 Steve_C
    February 27, 2007

    jr… who’s not grappling with the issue?

    I think the religious fundamentalists argument is much like when Adam jokes on the Mythbusters ” I deny your reality and replace it with my own.”

    Replacing reality with one’s own without any evidence is not the same as excepting reailty based on evidence.

  168. #168 Baratos
    February 27, 2007

    I’m an agnostic. Theists and Monotheists share a major problem with Atheists which both studiously ignore – “The Elephant in the Room” syndrome. In this case, Cause and Effect.

    Believers in god(s) can escape from rationality through mysticism. Atheists cannot, if they wish to lay claim to intellectual honesty.

    Q: What came before God?
    A: “God has always existed.”
    – Duh.

    Q. What caused the Big Bang (or Steady State, or whatever)?
    A. (Never heard one that was sensible, usually something along the lines of accusing the questioner of being a religious fruitcake.)
    – Double Duh.

    Uhm……okay, how do you answer the second question? You fault atheists for not being able to answer it, so what is the answer?

  169. #169 Kavanagh
    February 27, 2007

    Reason,

    If time “started”, it still begs the question of causation, although this entire discussion probably goes to Goedel’s incompleteness theorem.

    Baratos,

    I do not know the answer, nor is it my intent to fault anyone; I directed the question at Atheists, since they at least attempt to explain natural phenomena in a scientific manner . Theists can shrug off anything inconvenient without it affecting their beliefs.

  170. #170 Nerull
    February 27, 2007

    There is much more evidence of God than there is of Perth.

    WHAT?!?

    There are many independent and reliable reports that Perth exists. Its visible in satellite photos, and I can even go there to see for myself if I like.

    There is no such evidence for god.

  171. #171 Jason
    February 27, 2007

    JR,

    There is overwhelming physical evidence that the city of Perth exists. There is no evidence at all that God exists.

    Kavanagh,

    Theists cannot “shrug off” the problem of causation by appealing to “mysticism.” If everything needs a cause, then God needs a cause. If not everything needs a cause, then the universe may not need a cause.

  172. #172 Uber
    February 27, 2007

    There is much more evidence of God than there is of Perth

    I see others have answered this one. I simply can’t believe you actually think this is accurate.

  173. #173 Kavanagh
    February 27, 2007

    Jason,

    It is precisely my point that Theists can (and do) shrug off any and all inconveniences, without said inconveniences affecting their beliefs, with sublime indifference to what non-believers might reasonably see as inconsistence.

  174. #174 jr
    February 27, 2007

    Jason and Nerull – you say “there is evidence” that Perth exists. What you mean is that authorities that you accept report that Perth exists. You accept the reports of these authorities as evidence – the National Geographic, Google maps, documents that NASA tells us are satellite photos – and so does everyone else. There is no reason not to accept these authorities. It would be perverse to fly to Perth just to prove that it is there. But the reports of these authorities are not physical proof of Perth’s existence. None of the three of us have ever perceived, through our own senses, that Perth exists. We believe that it exists based on authority, not on perceptible evidence.

    Now- there are many independent and reliable reports, created over many centuries in many different locations, that God exists. Many very intelligent and productive people continue to report that he does. Many successful, self-perpetuating communities devote substantial resources in ways that would be foolish if he did not. The fact that I personally cannot perceive him is evidence that he does not exist, but it is not proof. And it is countered by the huge amount of evidence of the manifest belief of hundreds of millions of obviously sane and productive people. I believe that they are deluded; but it would extraordinarily arrogant of me to discount the possibility entirely that I am deluded.

    The evidence available to me personally for the existence of God, who I don’t believe in, is certainly as good as the evidence for Perth, which I do believe in. Once I get beyond my own very limited sphere of perception, I am forced into reliance on or rejection of authority. And as a general matter I reject certain authorities – the Pope, for example, and the very successful self-perpetuating establishment of the Catholic church – while at the same time accepting other authorities – scientists who bear credentials validated by other scientists in the self-perpetuating enterprise of the university. But I am not so vain and self-deluding as to think that my beliefs are formed on the basis of evidence.

  175. #175 Jason
    February 27, 2007

    JR,

    Jason and Nerull – you say “there is evidence” that Perth exists. What you mean is that authorities that you accept report that Perth exists.

    No, I don’t mean that, although it is also true. I mean that there exist photographs, videos, audio recordings and other pieces of physical evidence that Perth exists. This evidence is available to you personally. There is no evidence that God exists.

  176. #176 Kavanagh
    February 27, 2007

    Buy an Airline ticket, one can fly to Perth West Australia to check.

  177. #177 Uber
    February 27, 2007

    The evidence available to me personally for the existence of God, who I don’t believe in, is certainly as good as the evidence for Perth, which I do believe in

    Really? Any photos of God? Can you get on a plane and visit God? This is a really silly thing to be asserting.

    while at the same time accepting other authorities – scientists who bear credentials validated by other scientists in the self-perpetuating enterprise of the university

    What you are failing to understand is that these scientists based what they did on evidence. Evidence that is available to you as well. You need not accept what they say as you can do the science yourself if need be. Also the scientist produces results that are generally constant in the world, reproducable by anyone anywhere.

    This is in stark contrast to the babble produced by various religions.

  178. #178 Nerull
    February 27, 2007

    Now- there are many independent and reliable reports, created over many centuries in many different locations, that God exists.

    Name one. And remember he keyword ‘reliable.’

  179. #179 Ksenkiya
    February 27, 2007

    There is much more evidence of God than there is of Perth

    Hmm, I don’t think so. No. There are more instances of evidence that people BELIEF in God(s) as a matter of faith than there are instances of evidence of the existence of Perth. There is no concrete evidence of the existence of God at all, which is what makes faith meaningful in the first place, no? That’s a big difference.

    I get what you’re saying, though. I certainly accept the reality of many things on the basis of “authority” – I accept the veracity of the knowledge and experience of people who have gone before me. But you can’t compare faith in the ephemeral with evidence of the concrete. It’s not a valid comparison, IMO.

  180. #180 Jim Harrison
    February 27, 2007

    It’s bad taxonomy to lump the kind of atheists one encounters in the U.S. with the Communists, despite the fact that both of them deny the existence of God. Birds and dragonflies share the character of having wings, but they aren’t closely related. To determine genuine affinities you have to look at the family tree. Marxism is a form of Christianity in the same sense that pelicans are dinosaurs, while classical atheism is rooted in Greek rationalism and predates Jesus.

  181. #181 JR
    February 27, 2007

    Uber – You say that I fail to understand that scientists base their conclusions on evidence. I don’t fail to understand that at all. I accept that it is true. But I accept it as a result of my faith in the authority of science. I personally am incompetent to judge the validity of that authority. I can’t do the science. I can’t even understand the science. Oh, I can read Dawkins’ work for a popular audience and I have a vague notion of his dispute with Gould, for example, but not in a way that anyone who really understands the material would consider understanding. For me, rejection of creationism and acceptance of the theory of evolution is based primarily on my faith in certain sources of authority and my rejection of other, competing sources. Evidence has nothing to do with it.

  182. #182 Kavanagh
    February 27, 2007

    No offense JR, but your post suggests that Darwinian Evolution is a Religion. For the record, I think Creationism is on a par with Snow White and the Seven Dwarves and Intelligent Design a close runner up.

    “For me, rejection of creationism and acceptance of the theory of evolution is based primarily on my faith in certain sources of authority and my rejection of other, competing sources. Evidence has nothing to do with it.”

  183. #183 H. Humbert
    February 27, 2007

    JR, there is no doubt we do accept a great deal of evidence from secondary sources, mostly from sheer pragmatism.

    However, if you were so inclined, you *could* examine that evidence for yourself. You could take the necessary classes if further education were required to properly understand the subject. You could ask to see samples or collect data on your own. You could perform the necessary experiments or visit the necessary locations.

    NONE of these things are possible with religious assertions. There *is* no evidence to examine aside from personal subjective experiences. It all must be taken on authority, with no other recourse available. And yes, that does make it vastly different than any bit of scientific knowledge you’re too lazy or too busy to verify yourself.

  184. #184 JR
    February 27, 2007

    No, I think that evolution is science. I accept that science produces knowledge while religion does not. I accept that creationism and i.d. are bad faith efforts to disguise religious beliefs as science.

    I accept that Dawkins accepts evolution because he understands it. Perhaps PZ Myers also understands it. But I don’t understand it – not deeply, not in the sense that I understand the things I really do understand. I don’t really understand the theory of relativity or the theory of quantum mechanics, either. I have only a glancing understanding of the germ theory of disease. Yet I believe that all these theories are true. There was a time in my youth when I believed that the theory of psychoanalysis was true and I entertained the possibility that there was a scientific theory of history. I don’t believe those things any more. Yet I can’t honestly claim that either my belief or my disbelief is based on an evaluation of evidence.

    To take evolution as an example, I can read Dawkins’ books, I understand them after a fashion, and I accept that he is writing in good faith and that his conclusions are based on reliable evidence. Yet the best I can do is to evaluate Dawkins’ belief and decide whether to accept his authority or to reject it. As I will never be a scientist, the possibility of making my own informed decision as to the truth of evolution or any other scientific theory is closed to me, as it is closed to great majority of humankind – including, I would guess, to many of the commenters on this blog. For people like us, there is no alternative to belief based on authority. We are fooling ourselves if we claim to have knowledge based on evidence. If one denies that reliance on authority is a legitimate form of knowledge, the necessary consequence is that the overwhelming majority of human beings cannot legitimately believe in evolution.

  185. #185 Kseniya
    February 27, 2007

    Well said, and true up to a point. But I still say your argument fails on the presumption that there is no qualitative difference between an authority whose conclusions are based on evidence and an authority whose conclusions are based on an unfalsifiable supposition.

  186. #186 Steve_C
    February 27, 2007

    HIs mistake was saying the church has produced lots of “evidence” for their faith.

  187. #187 Ichthyic
    February 27, 2007

    JR –

    try google earth;

    there you can utilize a satellite that took a photograph of Perth quite recently.

    unfortunately, the same satellite will never take a photograph of god.

    if you can’t understand the difference between observational vs. inferential evidence, you have a very large problem to deal with that goes beyond a minor discussion on an internet forum.

  188. #188 JR
    February 27, 2007

    Steve_C: the evidence that believers produce is of the same quality and type that Jason and Scott Hatfield urged on me as evidence of the existence of Perth. I accept that sort of material as evidence for Perth. I reject the very same sort of material as evidence for God. Jason wrote:

    “The evidence that persuades you that there is a city in Australia called Perth, for example, consists of hundreds or thousands of references to the existence of that city in books, magazines, TV shows, movies, newspapers, atlases, conversations, geography classes, etc., etc.”

    There are far more references to God in books, magazines, newspapers, movies, on TV, in reference books, conversations and classrooms, than there are references to Perth.

    Scott Hatfield wrote:

    “I can accept, on the basis of the agreement and general consonance of the claim of Perth’s existence from independent, competent authorities the overwhelming likelihood of Perth’s existence until such time as I actually visit that blessed hamlet.”

    In the United States, there is a far more pervasive and widespread agreement among authorities of all sorts – from store-front preachers to archbishops to the candidate you supported for President – concerning the existence of God than of the existence of Perth.

    Note, however, that Scott is willing to accept as evidence only the reports of ‘independent, competent authorities.’ These various authorities are certainly independent of one another. But how does one determine whether they are competent? Does belief in God ipso facto render them incompetent? If so, haven’t we begun to engage in circular reasoning? If not, why is Scott – and I hasten to add that I agree with him – unwilling to entertain even the possibility that God might exist?

  189. #189 stogoe
    February 27, 2007

    JR’s just a solipsist. Forget him.

  190. #190 JR
    February 27, 2007

    Ichthyic – I can look at a picture that, a recognized authority advises me, is a satellite picture of Perth. I have no problem accepting that it is what the authority tells me it is. I don’t really understand how satellite photography works – that is, I have a lay person’s understanding of how light images are captured through powerful lenses and focussed onto hundreds of millions of light-sensitive pixels, which are excited by the light and thereby emit electrity, which is transformed by a computer program into digital strings, which is broadcast by radio waves to a receiver, etc., but I don’t really have a deep understanding of how that google earth image came to be. It certainly isn’t my own personal sense perception. I accept that it is an image of Perth because I accept the authority of the NASA scientists who stand behind the validity of the image. But I personally have no percipient knowledge of Perth and I don’t expect that I ever will.

  191. #191 Jason
    February 27, 2007

    Yes, JR. And you know what else? The moon landings were faked!

  192. #192 Scott Hatfield
    February 27, 2007

    I agree with Icthyic, but I would go further. The fact that Perth exists is of a different logical category than the claim that God exists, because Perth’s existence is subject to objective test and God’s is not. At best, JR, we can say that the existence of Perth is like the existence of those who report belief in God’s existence, but this fails to demonstrate an objective test for God’s existence itself!

    You write: “If one denies that reliance on authority is a legitimate form of knowledge, the necessary consequence is that the overwhelming majority of human beings cannot legitimately believe in evolution.”

    Silly rabbit, belief in evolution is for kids. I don’t *believe* in evolution because of authorities, for crying out loud. In fact, I don’t believe in evolution at all because this implies that I have to take some aspect of it on faith, which is certainly not the case. Rather, along with the scientific community, I accept evolution through natural selection as the best available explanation for the diversity and distribution of living things over time and space.

    So, would you have me (ahem) believe that the scientific community accepts evolution purely on the basis of their own authority? Are scientists saying, in effect, “we said it, therefore it must be true?”

    Well, duh, no, obviously that’s not the case! Instead, the scientific community accepts evolution because of the overwhelming *evidence* in support of the model. Because of that commitment, it is expected that authorities will provide testable evidence for claims when prompted. We don’t routinely subject all claims from authorities to rigid scrutiny as a practical matter, but that possibility is always before us, especially in the case of ‘extraordinary claims requiring extraordinary evidence.’

    So, sorry, I don’t recognize your takes on belief and evidence as representing the practice of the scientific community. I might add that one can hardly accuse me of having a predisposition to doubt said God’s existence!

  193. #193 JR
    February 27, 2007

    A solipsist is a person who believes that there is nothing outside his own mind. I don’t believe that at all. I believe that there is an external reality that is in large part although perhaps not entirely knowable. I believe that neither I nor anyone else will ever know even a small fraction of what is knowable, and that some of what each one of us thinks we know is almost certainly wrong. I believe that my own ability to know is rather limited and imperfect, even in comparison with other people’s. I believe what I believe, but I recognize that others believe differently. Some although of course not all of these others are, on the evidence available to me, better people than I am – smarter, more loving, more productive, better parents, better spouses, better friends – and I don’t find it useful or entertaining to call them kooks or other silly names because their beliefs differ from mine.

    And now I’m done. Thanks for putting up with me. Have a pleasant evening.

  194. #194 Jason
    February 27, 2007

    Scott,

    I for one would not accuse you of anything on the subject your religious beliefs except incoherence. Okay, maybe also vacuity.

  195. #195 Scott Hatfield
    February 27, 2007

    JR: What makes authorities ‘competent’ is no doubt many things, but one thing surely would be their habit of subjecting all claims etc. to evidential tests whenever possible, and preferring claims based upon evidence to those based upon belief!

    Further irony: I’m a theist, and thus perfectly willing to entertain the notion that God exists. You ask if belief in God ipso facto renders authorities incompetent. Not at all, as you well know. But anyone who peddles their beliefs as data and proclaims that their dogma is scientific truth is no longer practicing science as I understand it. Incompetence is too mild an epithet for those who should, and do, know better….SH

  196. #196 Scott Hatfield
    February 27, 2007

    Jason: I tend to agree, especially with the first observation. Where my beliefs are concerned, there is an obvious lack of consilience, and I suspect that’s a general problem for believers. As for the second possibility (vacuity), that seems to me largely a matter of personal taste. Perhaps the apparent fullness of the faith experience, what Wilson calls ‘psychically rich’, is what leads so many to cling to what seems unjustifiable purely on the basis of evidence.

    On a lighter note, did you read post #152?

  197. #197 Jason
    February 27, 2007

    Scott,

    Your phrase “the faith experience” is a good example of what I mean by vacuity. The problem is not just that you believe without evidence, but that you offer no explanation of why you believe what you believe at all. You might just as well believe the moon is made of cheese.

  198. #198 demallien@mac.com
    February 28, 2007

    Well, as for Perth, I was born there, so this message is hard evidence that Perth exists – no Perth => no me => no message…

    Kavanagh, atheists do not ignore the “Elephant in the Room” known as the Big Bang. We acknowledge that we don’t understand it at the moment, but we watch scientific developments in this area with a great deal of interest. But for an atheist, not understanding something does not pose a philosophical problem – it is only the discovery, through hard evidence, of the existence of gods that can cause any problems for us, and well, the Big Bang doesn’t do any such thing.

  199. #199 Ichthyic
    February 28, 2007

    Ichthyic – I can look at a picture that, a recognized authority advises me, is a satellite picture of Perth.

    uh, NO, idiot. you can actually guid a fricking satellite yourself, move the range to the spot where perth is “supposed” to be, and lo and behold, see it with your own damn eyes.

    that’s the frickin’ difference between observational and inferential.

    there is NO OBSERVABLE EVIDENCE for any divine beings, at all.

    You can generate multiple kinds of OBSERVATIONAL evidence for geographic locations.

    gees, I think the poster who called you a solopist was on the money.

    give it up already. your analogy is a logical falsehood.

    …and get out of the house once in a while so you can use your eyes to verify things actually exist from time to time.

  200. #200 Ichthyic
    February 28, 2007

    A solipsist is a person who believes that there is nothing outside his own mind. I don’t believe that at all. I believe that there is an external reality that is in large part although perhaps not entirely knowable.

    I am NOT a solopist, except by definition.

    I thought the philosophical woo of subjective reality died in the 60’s?

    dude, cut down on your drug intake.

  201. #201 Scott Hatfield
    February 28, 2007

    Jason: I grant that I’m not offering the quality of religious experience as evidence that any particular belief is true. My inability to connect the dots between the subjective and the objective is at least part of what I mean by acknowledging the criticism of incoherence.

    But that doesn’t make the experience itself vacuous. It is full of meaning, albeit the subjective sort that has no standing in science. It would be a mistake to think that I was offering it in that spirit.

    Again, did you read post #152?

  202. #202 Colugo
    February 28, 2007

    There is no way to refute the solipsist premise. There is no way to refute the interventionist deity premise, nor the idea that universe was just created a second ago, nor the possibility that we are living inside a virtual reality simulation inside a computer.

    In the practice of science we proceed as if none of these things are the case – or disregard these possibilities – since as a research strategy it has been shown to be useful to do so. “Given these premises, we then …” etc. But none of them have been refuted nor disproved.

    While not practicing science, we can believe whatever we want – including things for which we have no evidence but have not been disproved. (Who knows, perhaps before long its satirical origins will be forgotten and devotees will pray to the Flying Spaghetti Monster in earnest.)

  203. #203 Ichthyic
    February 28, 2007

    we have no evidence but have not been disproved.

    the non-existence of Perth HAS been disproved.

    just sayin.

  204. #204 Ken Cope
    February 28, 2007

    There is no way to refute the solipsist premise.

    While perhaps not a refutation, there is but one suitable response to the advocate of solipsism. That is the time venerated, yet curiously satisfying, swift (yet deft) application of a steel-toed boot to the head.

    Preceding it with the phrase, “I refute your solipsism thusly,” is traditional.

  205. #205 Colugo
    February 28, 2007

    “the non-existence of Perth HAS been disproved.”

    Only operating under the assumption that there is not some cosmic conspiracy to falsely convince you of the existence of Perth.

    I’m not saying that I accept that premise, but God (or the FSM, for that matter) is in the same category. That’s why I personally have no use for theism, thought I cannot disprove it. (However, if a gun were held to my head I would admit that I accept naive metaphysical realism.)

  206. #206 Jason
    February 28, 2007

    Colugo,

    In the practice of science we proceed as if none of these things are the case

    Not at all. Even if they are the case, it wouldn’t make any difference to the practise of science. But we have no reason to believe that any of them are the case, anyway.

    But none of them have been refuted nor disproved.

    You say this as if it’s significant. It isn’t. There are an infinite number of conceivable propositions of truth that have not been refuted or disproved. And an infinite subset of that infinite number of propositions consists of propositions that are mutually contradictory. We have no reason to believe that any of them are true.

    While not practicing science, we can believe whatever we want

    We most certainly cannot. We cannot practise Christianity and believe Islam, for example. At least, not if “practising Christianity” is to be a useful and meaningful concept. Believing what you want to be true, rather than what science and reason show to be true, is likely to lead to beliefs that are false, and usually harmful.

  207. #207 Ichthyic
    February 28, 2007

    Only operating under the assumption that there is not some cosmic conspiracy to falsely convince you of the existence of Perth.

    oh, of course! That would be the same people/things responsible for the scientific conspiracy of that damnable darwinism!

    huzzah!

    *puts finger to side of nose*

    I can’t figure out what’s a bigger waste of time to discuss, solipism, or whether firefox has a good adblocker.

    I’m gonna go with the solipism.

    now to go tweak my browser…

  208. #208 Colugo
    February 28, 2007

    “We cannot practise Christianity and believe Islam, for example.”

    Is science a method – which individuals practice in order to gain a particular category of knowledge – or is it a complete worldview and philosophical system? Are scientists require to embody science – and to be part of the body of science, in the same way that devout Christians and Muslims aspire to embody and be of the body of their particular faiths?

  209. #209 Ken Cope
    February 28, 2007

    But that doesn’t make the experience itself vacuous.

    Where does vacuity reside?

    It is full of meaning, albeit the subjective sort that has no standing in science. It would be a mistake to think that I was offering it in that spirit.

    Meaning does not inhere in the events themselves, but is constellated onto them, in any environment sufficiently rich in pattern, ambiguity, and storytellers. The nature of storytellers is not impervious to the imprecations of scientific investigation.

    I owe my use of constellation as a verb to game designer Brian Moriarty, whose presentation I saw when first presented in 1999 at the Game Developers’ Conference: Clue #6! Paul’s been killed in a bloody car crash…

    Again, did you read post #152?

    Counting the hits and ignoring the misses. Damn it, Sigmund, sometimes an acausal connecting principle is just a Police lyric.

  210. #210 Jason
    February 28, 2007

    Scott,

    But that doesn’t make the experience itself vacuous. It is full of meaning, albeit the subjective sort that has no standing in science.

    I didn’t say the experience itself is vacuous. I said your description of it is. I’m inclined to doubt that the experience you’re referring to is anything more than wishful thinking on your part. You now say that the experience is “full of meaning.” But, characteristically, you neglect to describe even a hint of what that meaning is, despite the alleged abundance of it. What is the meaning? Describe it. And you previously described your faith as a kind of choice, a “leap,” rather than as an “experience.” Perhaps it’s an experience of a leap. Or a leap of experience. Whatever that’s supposed to mean. Then again, you also said at one point that your belief that Jesus is divine comes from reading scripture, which is an argument from evidence rather than faith. The impression one gets from the incoherent and obfuscatory character of your statements is that don’t really know what you believe, or why you believe whatever it is that you do believe. That’s why it’s all so vacuous. You just have some emotional attachment to the word “faith” without having any real idea what you mean by it.

    Again, did you read post #152?

    Yes.

  211. #211 AV
    February 28, 2007

    I mean that there exist photographs, videos, audio recordings and other pieces of physical evidence that Perth exists. This evidence is available to you personally. There is no evidence that God exists.

    Perth exists. (Barely)

    AV

    Perth, WA

  212. #212 Scott Hatfield
    February 28, 2007

    Jason: Sorry if I misread you. I agree my description of my experience is vacuous from your point of view. You have given me much food for thought. In particular, I have to ask myself what is the relationship between my views and my experience, and whether the relationship is valid.

    (sigh) You’ve asked good questions, honest questions, and I’m not really giving you the kind of answer you’re looking for, and I wish I could help you. I just don’t see what would be gained by that sort of exchange. I’m personally reluctant to provide details of my experience, for all of the following reasons:

    1) Much of it is deeply personal
    2) Much of it wouldn’t count as objective ‘evidence’
    3) Some parts are difficult to put into words

    In that respect, my experience is similar to that of Wesley, which may be one reason why I find Methodism so congenial.

    Ken Cope: That was a beaut of a reply, the first part eloquent, the second rather sly. First, the first: I agree that storytelling is not “impervious to the imprecations of scientific investigation.” As for the second: Funny! But I wasn’t trying to suggest otherwise; indeed, it is a perfect example of synchronicity.

    Cordially…SH

  213. #213 Uber
    February 28, 2007

    I’m personally reluctant to provide details of my experience, for all of the following reasons:

    1) Much of it is deeply personal
    2) Much of it wouldn’t count as objective ‘evidence’
    3) Some parts are difficult to put into words

    I’m sorry Scott, I like your posts but this kind of non-answer really is weak. It’s not that I mind but you are making a claim and then basically saying you aren’t willing to say why.

    1- I understand deeply personal. But you also choose to use your faith in virtually all your comments. If it was so personal I don’t think it would be so front and center.

    2- If much of it wouldn’t then just talk about the parts that would.

    3- You are plenty good at words.

    Not trying to cause trouble but this is the same two step all religionists do when the discussion gets this far.

  214. #214 David Marjanovi?
    February 28, 2007

    Q. What caused the Big Bang (or Steady State, or whatever)?
    A. (Never heard one that was sensible, usually something along the lines of accusing the questioner of being a religious fruitcake.)
    – Double Duh.

    Eh, firstly, my fellow agnostic, that’s a question for physicists, not for atheists – those groups overlap but are not congruent.

    Secondly, there are plenty of ideas; that you haven’t read of them doesn’t mean they don’t exist. For example, a Big Bang could be what causally follows a black hole (in another spacetime). One version of this idea – that universes reproduce by black holes, and that the parameters of the Standard Model are inherited and mutate, leading to natural selection for those values of the parameters that lead to the greatest production of black holes – is testable: find one neutron star that is twice as heavy as the Sun, just one, and the idea is trash. If you like, I can send you the link to the latest pdf in an hour or two. Or you google for “cosmological natural selection”.

    ————————

    jr, I’ll just repeat the issue: As long as you stay in front of your computer, you’re right. But you are not right in principle. You can buy a plane ticket to Perth. You can repeat any scientific experiment (by definition). Ignoring Stenger’s book, which I haven’t read, you can’t do any experiment on the existence of anything supernatural (deities, karma, nirvana…). That is a difference.

    If you prefer a more sublime wording, I can supply that: Science is concerned with reality, and reality is the place where argumenta ad lapidem work. The supernatural is outside of that. Perth is inside.

  215. #215 David Marjanovi?
    February 28, 2007

    Q. What caused the Big Bang (or Steady State, or whatever)?
    A. (Never heard one that was sensible, usually something along the lines of accusing the questioner of being a religious fruitcake.)
    – Double Duh.

    Eh, firstly, my fellow agnostic, that’s a question for physicists, not for atheists – those groups overlap but are not congruent.

    Secondly, there are plenty of ideas; that you haven’t read of them doesn’t mean they don’t exist. For example, a Big Bang could be what causally follows a black hole (in another spacetime). One version of this idea – that universes reproduce by black holes, and that the parameters of the Standard Model are inherited and mutate, leading to natural selection for those values of the parameters that lead to the greatest production of black holes – is testable: find one neutron star that is twice as heavy as the Sun, just one, and the idea is trash. If you like, I can send you the link to the latest pdf in an hour or two. Or you google for “cosmological natural selection”.

    ————————

    jr, I’ll just repeat the issue: As long as you stay in front of your computer, you’re right. But you are not right in principle. You can buy a plane ticket to Perth. You can repeat any scientific experiment (by definition). Ignoring Stenger’s book, which I haven’t read, you can’t do any experiment on the existence of anything supernatural (deities, karma, nirvana…). That is a difference.

    If you prefer a more sublime wording, I can supply that: Science is concerned with reality, and reality is the place where argumenta ad lapidem work. The supernatural is outside of that. Perth is inside.

  216. #216 greensmile
    February 28, 2007

    wow, too many comments to read. Others may have noted that the quoted diatribe is merely different words for Anngry Coulter’s “church of liberalism” concept. How can the conservatives keep up the fight? By being unable to imagine any other worldview being more flexible than their own.

    “Let’s see.” really IS a different approach to reality than “I feel that it must be so”.

  217. #217 Ken Cope
    February 28, 2007

    I agree that storytelling is not “impervious to the imprecations of scientific investigation.”

    Good, but do you agree with what I said? “The nature of storytellers is not impervious to the imprecations of scientific investigation.”

  218. #218 Mooser
    February 28, 2007

    All the good Rabbi has to do is expose us to some evidence for her religion, and we’ll consider it.

    I will tolerate a lot but I will not tolerate anti-Semetism and Holacaust denial!!!

    You ought to be ashamed of yourself.

  219. #219 Colugo
    February 28, 2007

    As an atheist, I find Scott Hatfield’s humility about why he believes what he believes to be refreshing.

    “1) Much of it is deeply personal
    2) Much of it wouldn’t count as objective ‘evidence’
    3) Some parts are difficult to put into words”

    Sure, we could razz these reasons for belief as “That, and four bucks, gives you a cup of Starbucks.”

    But why do we atheists – or anyone – believe what WE believe? Why do we believe that it is OK to create human-animal embryo chimeras, but not leave the remains of loved ones to be devoured by animals? Why do we believe that while it should be legal for first cousins to marry it also makes them fair targets for ridicule? Why do we believe that Wilco is a better band than Ratt? And so on – all kinds of beliefs about politics, ethics, and aesthetics.

    There are a lot of things that we believe, but we may not be able to completely justify them, to articulate why we believe them, or even recount the process of how we came to believe them. But we believe these kinds of things almost, or just as much as, strongly as we believe whether or not there is a God.

    Sure, one could argue that these other beliefs can generally be termed prescriptive beliefs – opinions – rather than truth statements about objective reality (God, heliocentricity, relativity, evolution etc.), and these two categories of belief aren’t directly comparable. I think in some respect they are; specifically, they can be held with equal passion and certainty.

  220. #220 Jason
    February 28, 2007

    Colugo,

    I’m an atheist and I would not oppose leaving the remains of loved ones to be devoured by animals if that is what they wish. Nor do I believe that marrying your first cousin would make you a fair target for ridicule.

    I don’t understand why you think it’s significant that an atheist can be as passionate about matters of preference as a theist can be about matters of objective truth. Yes, he can, but so what?

  221. #221 Kseniya
    February 28, 2007

    Mooser: Huh? Oh, you’re being facetious. I hope.

    Colugo: But Wilco IS much better than Ratt.

    Ah… I see your point. 😉

    I find Scott Hatfield’s humility about why he believes what he believes to be refreshing.

    So do I.

  222. #222 Jason
    February 28, 2007

    If you asked me to explain why I don’t believe Jesus is divine, and I responded with evasions, obfuscations, and incoherent mumblings about “leaps” and “experiences,” would that also be “humility?”

  223. #223 Kavanagh
    February 28, 2007

    David,

    I am somewhat familiar with the various theories, including those that you referred to. I don’t even have a problem with mass/energy conservation for “ex nihilo” appearance of matter, it is zero sum, within our best estimates of the physical constants, gravitational energy being negative.

    I am however puzzled by causation.

  224. #224 David Marjanovi?
    February 28, 2007

    I really like comment 177…

    219: Which David? I’m not used to having hundreds of namesakes. :-}

  225. #225 David Marjanovi?
    February 28, 2007

    I really like comment 177…

    219: Which David? I’m not used to having hundreds of namesakes. :-}

  226. #226 Scott Hatfield
    February 28, 2007

    Uber, a little context: this exchange didn’t begin, as many do, as an attempt by a believer to invoke faith as an alternative to evidence. It began with Jason pressing me on why I believe, in asking how faith could be justified. I’ve replied that, AFAIK, it can’t. I don’t know of a reliable, objective way to reason one’s way to faith, especially faith in a particular deity, and I think one of the biggest differences between me and the creationists is that they labor under the delusion they can reason their way to belief.

    Clearly, I don’t think that way, and while I may be a little ham-handed in identifying myself, I’m pretty sure I don’t use my beliefs or the fact that I believe as justification for views expressed in this forum. Rather, I’ve alluded to them when I think it’s pertinent that people know where I’m coming from. In that respect, I don’t think I’m any different from the poster who mentions, now and then, ‘I’m an atheist’.

    Does the mere act of reporting belief, at another’s behest, constitute a claim about what can objectively known to be true? I think not, especially since I was at pains to deny that this was my intent. I don’t feel prepared, much less obligated, to defend a claim I didn’t make, vacuous or otherwise. Sorry if that makes me appear weak!

  227. #227 Caledonian
    February 28, 2007

    If you say that the existence of gods is not open to empirical testing, you’ve already admitted that they don’t exist.

  228. #228 Scott Hatfield
    February 28, 2007

    Jason: Humility is not one of my virtues. I’m a work in progress. But here’s the thing: it’s OK, now and then, for a fella to admit he doesn’t have all the answers. In fact, I think if more of us cultivated that attitude, the world would be a better place.

    After all, the world we live in is one where a completely objective description of reality is likely to prove elusive. As you may have noticed, science isn’t without limits and people actually enjoy their inner narratives, sacred or otherwise. I could be wrong about this, but in my experience most of us privately aren’t as certain about things as we would like, and are troubled by those who behave otherwise.

    At least, that’s my impression….SH

  229. #229 Scott Hatfield
    February 28, 2007

    Ken Cope: Sorry, didn’t see your earlier note.

    I guess. Storytelling, storyteller: delusion, deluded? I suppose. I don’t put anything off-limits; if we can figure out a way to objectively investigate it, then I say let’s do it, let the chips fall where they may.

  230. #230 Scott Hatfield
    February 28, 2007

    Hello, old Scot! The ides of March are upon us soon, and I’ve got a sporting proposition for you:

    I’ll agree for purposes of discussion to abide by your definitions of anything you want to define, and to not attempt to refute any line of reasoning you want to present here or anywhere else, through March 15;

    In return, you agree to expound on your views on topics related to the nature of science, reality, scientific method, etc. and, if necessary, to patiently explain points that aren’t immediately clear, through March 15.

    We should also both agree not to let other commenters derail your presentation of your ideas.

    What’s in it for you? An opportunity to present your thought in a clear, systematic way under circumstances that are not prejudicial to its explication.

    What’s in it for me? A better understanding of your views and, frankly, the fun of it.

    What say you?….SH

  231. #231 Jason
    February 28, 2007

    Scott,

    Humility requires rather more than just admitting you don’t have all the answers (who doesn’t admit that?). It requires one to withhold assent from propositions that one has no reason to believe are true, and good reasons to believe are likely to be false. Propositions such as “Jesus is divine.” You’re right about one thing: Humility is not one of your virtues.

    And by the way, this didn’t begin with me pressing you to explain your religious beliefs. It began, as at least three people have reminded you, with you showing up in thread after thread discussing the merits of science, religion, reason and faith, declaring yourself to be a Christian or a “person of faith,” but evading all requests to elaborate on or justify your statements. This endless pricktease act of yours got a little tiresome, so I decided to press the matter. Apparently, Ken Cope has too.

  232. #232 Scott Hatfield
    February 28, 2007

    I’m sorry to tell you this, Jason, but you’re not entitled to an elaboration (or, if you prefer, a justification) of my privately-held religious views. Here’s my (ahem) justification for that:

    When I participate in public threads on science, religion, reason and faith I participate because I’m interested in those topics. Period. I’m not there to discuss my privately-held religious views,or push same on others. Period. If I refer to them, it’s only to establish a context for the purpose of an honest exchange of views about the topic it hand, not my beliefs. Period. There’s no hidden agenda on my part, and there’s nothing wrong with me referring to my beliefs for the purpose of discussion.

    Ask yourself this: have I ever asked you or any other self-described skeptic/atheist/non-believer/whatever to justify their self-identification? I don’t think I do that, sir! I’d rather meet people where they’re at, listen and learn. Or are we to presume that the mere presence of folk like me constitutes a provocation? (rubs chin ruefully)

    Well, if this habit of mine is rubbing some of you the wrong way, I’ll make an honest effort to quit being a pricktease. I’ll try not to reference my belief unless necessary, and I’ll be sure to establish the context when I do. But you can forget about me ‘putting out’ because (again) you’re not entitled, sorry.

    On a more cordial note, what does “humility” have to do with “withhold assent from propositions that one has no reason to believe are true, and good reasons to believe are likely to be false?” I mean, the latter sounds like a different virtue, and one could have that virtue without being specifically humble, I would think.

  233. #233 Caledonian
    March 1, 2007

    Perhaps if you stopped talking about how humble you are, or talking in ways meant to demonstrate that how humble you are, and show some genuine humility, people might respond favorably.

  234. #234 Colugo
    March 1, 2007

    Jason:

    I find animal rights ideology to be more objectionable than a belief in the existence of God.

    I begin with the moral axiom (That’s right, I’m not going to try to justify it, I’m just going to call it axiomatic) that humans are more important than animals. So much the worse for animals rights ideology.

    The existence of God as a generic proposition – I’m not talking about any specific baggage of policy and ideology – does not harm me, society, or science. The animal rights movement does, however. While God (or God’s nonexistence) is not demonstrable, the harm produced by the animal rights movement is.

    Caledonian:

    Just which paragon of humility on these threads should someone seeking to be more humble model himself after? (By the way, are you a Nozickian?)

  235. #235 Uber
    March 1, 2007

    SH-

    With all due respect, and it is respect as I generally like your posts, your comment #227 was pretty poor. Your entitled to your views but to be fair you do often present your view and your comments framed as a person of faith. That brings examining your base and the claims you make fair game.

    Now that some have asked you to express why you come from that base you are ducking for cover. Like I stated it’s your choice to do so but as a person who likes reading your posts it does leave me thinking a little less of their validity and not for what you believe but the manner you use it.

    have I ever asked you or any other self-described skeptic/atheist/non-believer/whatever to justify their self-identification? I don’t think I do that, sir!

    They aren’t making a claim. You did. You said Jesus was divine. I may agree with you but you brought it into a thread and then refuse to state why. These other folks you reference didn’t do such a thing.

    I’d rather meet people where they’re at, listen and learn. Or are we to presume that the mere presence of folk like me constitutes a provocation

    Provocation- no. But if you say you think Jesus is divine you should be prepared to explain why you do so.

  236. #236 Uber
    March 1, 2007

    Oops missed Colugo:

    I find animal rights ideology to be more objectionable than a belief in the existence of God.

    I agree. But thats not the point as I see it. In this thread Jason isn’t making claims about animal rights but SH has made a claim and been asked about it. A claim which colors his views which I don’t think anyone begrudges but folks do seek to understand the why of it all.

  237. #237 Scott Hatfield
    March 1, 2007

    Caledonian: I never claimed to be humble, sir. If I was, I probably wouldn’t have the temerity to petition you for your views, in which I am genuinely interested. Post #225 on this thread is a genuine offer. For you. Respond if you like.

  238. #238 junk science
    March 1, 2007

    I am starting to get pissed off with the amount of people that haven’t read “The God Delusion” and actually have the nerve to have an opinion on it. READ THE BOOK.

    When I was reading The God Delusion, I wondered why Dawkins spent so much page space repeating points like “natural selection is not the same thing as random chance,” and “you can’t disprove the existence of anything.” How many times did he think those things needed to be said before his readers caught on? But I realize now that no matter how many times he repeated himself, there would be people who wouldn’t hear him.

  239. #239 Scott Hatfield
    March 1, 2007

    Uber: I don’t want to give the impression of picking up my football and going home. It’s just hard for me to feel obligated to participate in my own dissection under the circumstances, a somewhat prolix recap of which follows….

    If you’ll check the original series of posts from the thread “Flowcharts for science and faith”, you’ll see that on post #34 I made two things clear: that I thought that “faith is a type of experience whose interpretation has no necessary relationship to what is objectively true” and (in response to Jason’s request) I said, in passing, that I affirmed the deity of Jesus as an example of something I held “on faith, as a personal matter.” I immediately added that I was reluctant to do so in the Pharyngula forum, and that “any kind of extended theological discussion would be more appropriate off-forum.”

    In other words, from my point of view, I wasn’t attempting on that thread to offer any sort of faith-based justification (Jason’s term) for this or that claim. In fact, as I explained to Jason, I didn’t even think such justification was possible, since I think things are justified by evidence, while faith tends to consisting of believing things in the absence of evidence. In any case, that wasn’t my interest: I was responding to what I thought was something related to the thread topic, which had to do with modeling scientific and religious epistemologies. You can see those interests quite clearly in posts #39, #46 and #52.

    Well, Jason wasn’t buying it. By post #56, he remarked, “You still haven’t addressed the question of why you believe, through faith, that Jesus is divine.” Clearly, like a bulldog, Jason had apparently found what he was looking for, and he was determined (#60, #63) to keep raising the question of how faith could be rationally justified, even though (as I had said several times) I didn’t think such justification possible. It was weird: from where I sat, it seemed as if he didn’t want to acknowledge that I had conceded the point he was trying to make.

    Well, by post #66 I was becoming concerned that unless I gave him a few details, he was going to repeat himself ad infinitum. So, in an effort to get closure, I wrote the following: “When I think about all the little things that seem to coalesce into conviction, I don’t find any of them particularly impressive individually: nature, art, music, prayer, worship, etc. And, when I try to convey how the sum of these is greater than the individual parts, I feel at a loss. Is this the best that I can do, offer vague, formless cliches? And yet, at present, the sum of all these experiences, particularly the reading of the Gospels, leads me to regard Jesus as divine.”

    Now I grant that’s hardly a blow-by-blow breakdown of my history as a believer, but it did provide some items for discussion. Jason could have, if he desired, seized upon any of these and asked for more detail. But he didn’t do that. In fact, his reply on post #69 didn’t mention any of these items, but simply alluded to earlier posts of mine discussing the experience of faith and concluded, “It’s all just so utterly vacuous and worthless.” My impression is that either he didn’t read post #66 closely, or he had lost interest or something.

    So I was ready to let the whole thing go, and did, until it reappeared on this thread. Now, it seems to me that there were some very good things said by all parties in the original discussion, but now the whole thing is being sold as ‘Hatfield is ducking for cover.’ I tried to raise issues that are really important to me about the limits of both faith and reason, and what I got for my effort was to be identified with “evasions, obfuscations, and incoherent mumblings.” You’ll forgive me if I labor under the suspicion that my actual views are no longer relevant.

    Now, Uber, you’ve shown a lot of class in taking me to task, and I respect that, so I’ve tried to provide some context for my posts on this thread, the ones that you found disappointing. As you can tell, I’m more than a little disappointed myself. I’m now wondering if I should rethink my approach, and take the risk of giving more specifics. I feel as if you are encouraging me to do so, and that you differ with me, in that you think, in a sense, I am obligated to respond.

    So, Uber: having read this reply, do you still feel I’m obligated, and to what extent? At what point would I be (ahem) justified in saying, “OK, enough is enough”? I await your reply with some anxiety….Scott

  240. #240 Caledonian
    March 1, 2007

    Just which paragon of humility on these threads should someone seeking to be more humble model himself after? (By the way, are you a Nozickian?)

    First off, there can’t be a ‘paragon of humility’ that’s aware of the fact, and trying to emulate such a person is automatic failure.

    Seeking to be humble? Totally missing the point.

    And not formally, although I believe I have a certain sympathy for his views and style of argumentation.

  241. #241 Uber
    March 1, 2007

    I affirmed the deity of Jesus as an example of something I held “on faith, as a personal matter.” I immediately added that I was reluctant to do so in the Pharyngula forum, and that “any kind of extended theological discussion would be more appropriate off-forum.”

    Thats fine although the Pharyngula forum is exactly the place where this type of discussion frequently goes on so I don’t really see that as a great reason not to do so.

    I don’t think there is a risk in providing more specifics. You believe what you believe. As do I. In my view, and thats all it is, you have included your claim into the discussion. Whether you go forward and try to explain it’s validity is completely up to you. I don’t feel Jason is even remotely wrong to press you for why type answers. If you can’t defend why you believe what you believe in front of a bunch of skeptics then I wouldn’t really use that angle in discussion. I think you and I take the same fideist angle when it comes to such things.

    Like I have stated it is up to you. I may even share your view but if I include it in the discussion I think it’s fair game for analysis.

  242. #242 Jason
    March 1, 2007

    Colugo,

    I’d be happy to defend “animal rights ideology” against your (typically confused) criticism, but this is not the place to do it. You might want to look at my posts in the PETA thread from last week though.

  243. #243 Scott Hatfield
    March 1, 2007

    Uber: Thanks for your reply and your encouragement. I doubt that I can demonstrate the validity of any faith-based claim to any here, but I will in fact provide specifics.

    As mentioned, it’s personal, much of it wouldn’t count as ‘objective’ and difficult to describe. I may need a few days to whip it out. I ask those who have challenged me to provide more specifics for a little patience.

    Scott

  244. #244 Martin.V
    March 1, 2007

    David Marjanovi?

    But this hypothesis of yours is testable — it’s scientific. VMartin, can you translate your latest post into Czech? (Kseniya and I, at the very least, will notice very fast if you have used translate.google.com or babelfish.altavista.com or the like.)

    How long it will take to delete my post? I will se…

    Kto je prosm ?a Kse?a? Ja tak meno nepoznm, mo?no Xnia. Myslm, ?e sa ur?ite tak aj p?e, tak?e predpokladm, ?e sa s ?ou pozn? len letmo, ke? nevie? ako sa p?e jej meno.
    Bol mi zakzan prstup, vraj som Davison osobne. Ak smie?ne, nemysl?? Pozdrav Xniu.

  245. #245 Steve_C
    March 1, 2007

    Hey look it’s a sockpuppet!

  246. #246 David Marjanovi?
    March 2, 2007

    OK. While not a translation of your latest post, this is Czech. I retract the accusation of you being JAD.

    That name is an English transcription of the Russian and/or Ukrainian version. I don’t see anything unusual about that.

  247. #247 David Marjanovi?
    March 2, 2007

    OK. While not a translation of your latest post, this is Czech. I retract the accusation of you being JAD.

    That name is an English transcription of the Russian and/or Ukrainian version. I don’t see anything unusual about that.

  248. #248 Keith Douglas
    March 3, 2007

    MartinC: Unfortunately, I think an anti-psychotic filter would be a computationally unsolvable problem …

    Blake Stacey: Indeed. As soon as someone says they are like Spinoza beliefwise, ask immediately if they pray. If they say yes, they are being dishonest (or suffering frm doublethink) somewhere …

    Steve LaBonne: Not just with pharmaceuticals – spontaneously. I have had (twice) what believers would no doubt have labeled a religious experience that way. Both times I was struck with complete clarity the “point of view” of another. One was of two friends (a couple) and me seeing her the way he does. The certainty was brief but astonishing. Of course, it was (like certainty rightly is regarded) purely psychological, not epistemic.

    Steve_C wrote: “I’ve never read Rand. I miss anything good?” No, not really, unless you happen to like rather egocentric bastards …

    H. Humbert: Why do you think there is a movement in theology to use phenomenology and, amazingly, the Nazi Heidegger, as a source of inspiration/material?

    Colugo: As a philosopher I’ve made it part of what I do to articulate the answers to your questions, to articulate a world view and to help others to do the same … so if you want to get some tentative answers, read my other posts 🙂

  249. #249 Steve_C
    March 4, 2007

    boohoo. Sounds like someone has a trolling problem.

  250. #250 Kseniya
    March 4, 2007

    Yes, David, it’s a direct transliteration from Cyrillic to Latin. MartinV alleges, not incorrectly, that it is more commonly spelled Ksenia or Xenia in languages that utilize the Latin alphabet, but I can’t imagine why it’s worth mentioning. If he has an issue with it, he’s free to take it up with my father.

    As for MartinV, I read the blog entries that supposedly “proved” he was JAD, and was far from convinced that the two were one. Fluctuations in second-language fluency can be attributed to many things, among them haste, fatigue and intoxication. (My grandfather’s English was superb, but some evenings after a few glasses of horilka he’d start dropping articles, and… well, you get the idea.) Some of Martin’s more grammatically-correct posts may have been pastes. Not that it particularly matters any more. If a troll gets banned for the wrong reasons, is he still a troll?

    Martin, if you are reading this, you might consider that your status as JAD mouthpiece (for relentlessly and repetitively restating his beliefs after he’d been banned for doing just that) made you a virtual, if not precisely literal, sock puppet in the eyes of the communities that pulled your plug. Is it fair? Maybe not. If you were banned from Pharyngula for breaking a rule that you didn’t break, then you should be reinstated.

    With that said, I still wonder why I’m part of this discussion at all. 🙂

  251. #251 V.Martin
    March 5, 2007


    Yes, David, it’s a direct transliteration from Cyrillic to Latin.

    I don’t know what you mean by this “transliteration”. We do not use Cyrillic in Slovakia at all. We use only Latin with diacritic. Cyrillic is used in Serbia, Russia and Bulgaria. Their languages are different. It’s the basic everybody know. So it seems to me you are not competent at all to decide wheter I am John or not. Anyway thank you.

  252. #252 ??????
    March 6, 2007

    I don’t know what you mean by this “transliteration”.

    Transliteration is the transcription of a word from one alphabet to another, and should not be confused with translation.

      ???????????? <- transliteration -> zdravstvuyte
      ???????????? <- translation -> hello
      zdravstvuyte <- translation -> hello
      hello <- transliteration -> ?????

    We do not use Cyrillic in Slovakia at all. We use only Latin with diacritic. Cyrillic is used in Serbia, Russia and Bulgaria. Their languages are different.

    Da. Ya ponimaiu. Yes (and don’t forget ???????). ? ????. That’s all true, but if you’re trying to make a point, I am not seeing it. Izvenitye.

    So it seems to me you are not competent at all to decide wheter I am John or not.

    I never claimed to be, and certainly not on the basis of your fluency (or lack of fluency) in Czech or Slovak.

    Anyway thank you.

    You’re welcome.

  253. #253 ??????
    March 6, 2007

    I don’t know what you mean by this “transliteration”.

    Transliteration is the transcription of a word from one alphabet to another, and should not be confused with translation.

      ???????????? <- transliteration -> zdravstvuyte
      ???????????? <- translation -> hello
      zdravstvuyte <- translation -> hello
      hello <- transliteration -> ?????

    We do not use Cyrillic in Slovakia at all. We use only Latin with diacritic. Cyrillic is used in Serbia, Russia and Bulgaria. Their languages are different.

    Da. Ya ponimaiu. Yes (and don’t forget ???????). ? ????. That’s all true, but if you’re trying to make a point, I am not seeing it. Izvenitye.

    So it seems to me you are not competent at all to decide wheter I am John or not.

    I never claimed to be, and certainly not on the basis of your fluency (or lack of fluency) in Czech or Slovak.

    Anyway thank you.

    You’re welcome.

  254. #254 Steve_C
    March 23, 2007

    Wow, he must be really important. So important no one has bothered to translate him.

    Why don’t you try citing something we can all read.

  255. #255 Steve_C
    March 23, 2007

    You don’t seem banned. You do seem unable to make your own arguments. Try paraphrasing. It’s not my probelm you can’t make your own arguments against darwinism.

    Give us one example as to why evolution is not vaild.

  256. #256 Steve_C
    March 23, 2007

    You might want to show us HOW it’s supposedly directed.

    Saying “nuh uh” to the established theory and all its evidence isn’t enough.

    Show me the evidence.

  257. #257 Steve_C
    March 23, 2007

    They’re still there.

    I read your post on the other site. It’s just conjecture. Where’s the evidence?

    Environment is a trigger for a trait already present but not activated???

    Theoretically you should then be able to trigger all sorts of changes easily by just changing the enrionment for an organism.

  258. #258 PZ Myers
    March 23, 2007

    Yes, V.Martin is banned. Please ignore him.

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