Dysfunctional family circus

And I do mean dys. What a horrible scene to come upon, and even worse, what evil chaos to have lived it:

A bed had been pushed up against the door; the officers pushed it open a few inches and saw Marquez choking his bloodied [three year old] granddaughter, who was crying in pain and gasping, Tranter said.

A bloody, naked 19-year-old woman who police later determined to be Marquez’s daughter and the girl’s mother was in the room, chanting “something that was religious in nature,” Tranter said.

The elder Marquez was tasered to stop him from strangling the child, and later died of unknown causes (although tasers are dangerous, and I wouldn’t be surprised if that was the cause of death).

And what, exactly, were these people trying to do to the kid? It was an exorcism. They were trying to purge the poor little girl of nonexistent malign spirits, when what she was probably afflicted with is an insane family.

What’s saddest about this story isn’t that the lunatic grandfather died; it’s that the bloody, naked fanatic who had the privilege to have this child was not arrested, and may still have custody. If she had anything to do with this crazy ritual, I hope someone gets the kid away from her soon.


  1. #1 forsen
    July 30, 2007

    Ironically, it seems perfectly clear to me how people can believe in metaphysical evil when confronted with atrocities like this one. It indeed seems implausible that anything in this world could make someone do that to a three-year old, or any other child.

  2. #2 Graculus
    July 30, 2007

    We’re a cruel species.

    Compared to what?

  3. #3 Tom
    July 30, 2007

    Perhaps even more oddly, the grandfather here actually thought he had the means of performing an exorcism. Maybe the spirit of Caucasian Christ compelled him!

    What I find most interesting about these stories is how quickly religious organizations denounce the actions. Sadist Catholics think they’re eating Caucasian Jesus. Evangelicals believe in these very demonic spirits. But Jesus’ communication is only real if it happens to them.

  4. #4 Mark
    July 30, 2007

    It’s so frustrating to see so many of the reports put the word “exorcism” in quotations. Oh, ok. It wasn’t a real exorcism. Real exorcisms are performed by professionals with extensive training.

  5. #5 Graculus
    July 30, 2007

    Ummm… Danaus plexippus?

    Obviously you aren’t a milkweed…. ;-)

    We often hear about how “violent” we are as a species, but we manage to get through days, weeks, months and years of our lives without getting into physical altercations. How many people do you interact with every day without blows being exchanged?

  6. #6 Ed Darrell
    July 30, 2007

    P.Z.: “scene”

  7. #7 The Pacifier
    July 30, 2007

    Call it an ‘exorcism’ if you must… of course this term invokes feelings of pride in the brighty brights as this story will no doubt validate a sense of self superiority while lending conformation to a held belief that religion or more precisely, a ‘faith’ or ‘belief’ in ‘God’ is at the very root of all the violence and atrocities that humans bestow upon each other… or call it attempted murder via strangulation. Let’s get real, remember the lady who drown her (5) kinds in the bath tub? Oh sure she went off her meds….. but I’m pretty sure she heard ‘voices’ telling her to do it. Same with the woman who drove her car full of children into a lake…. Or what about the father who threw his 4 year old daughter into a t.v. subsequently killing her because…. ‘she wouldn’t stop crying’…. I’m sure if we dig deep enough…. Wade threw all the ‘postpartum blues syndrome’ bullshit what we will find are people killing children because they believe in ‘God’.

    Am I right brighty brights……?

    Of course I’m right…..

  8. #8 Kseniya
    July 30, 2007

    I should add that it might behoove us all to contemplate, in the safety and privacy of our own heads, the extent to which Pacifier’s intended point has any validity.

    Likewise, I should add that it might behoove Pacifier to contemplate, in the safety and privacy of his own head, the extent to which religion feeds the delusions and drives the behaviors of the mentally ill, and whether or not that suggests that embracing religious beliefs and engaging in religous activites are behaviors whose risks are prohibitively high.

  9. #9 Kseniya
    July 30, 2007

    Geez, Pacifier, why didn’t you start with #48 instead of laying out the sarcasm as an opening argument?

    this has little to do about religion and or the belief in ‘God’ and everything to do with an obvious mental disorder, biological in nature and no doubt treatable through medication.

    You don’t know this. You could be right, and if it was you or me choking the demons out of a little girl I’d hope that we’d be restrained and airlifted straight to Bedlam without a moment’s hesitation. Still, I repeat: We don’t know this. Heinous acts beyond number have been committed in the name of God (or Allah – need I say more?) by otherwise clear-headed individuals. This is undeniable.

  10. #10 Chris
    July 30, 2007

    However, there’s no indication (yet) that this guy was mentally ill.

    You mean other than his belief in the reality of demons, the effectiveness of exorcisms, and his willingness to injure a child based on those beliefs?

    Yeah, I have no idea why someone might consider him mentally ill.

  11. #11 Bill Dauphin
    July 30, 2007

    It could be that mental illness is involved here – however, since they didn’t take the woman into custody, they can’t evaluate her.

    I wouldn’t be so sure. Though I couldn’t find it in the story PZ linked to, the version of the story I read (apparently the same wire service story, but edited differently) said that mother and daughter had both been hospitalized. I don’t know what injuries they might have had (neither version of the story said much about where all that blood had come from), but presumably if the mother was hospitalized, some sort of mental status examination would be part of the drill… especially since the cops are still considering charges against her.

  12. #12 David
    July 30, 2007

    –You’ve touched the kernel of the debate… at least, the one that rages here. Religion=Delusion.–

    Just out of curiosity, do you realize that if you are right, and Relgion = Delusion, how many people you have just called deluded?

    You know, I get annoyed when a Christian fundamentalist claims any sort of special knowledge/special mental ability. But fundamentalism is fundamentalism even if its atheistic. “Everyone else is deluded… except for us. We get it. We’re the smart ones”.

    But that’s all right. I know you view me as just another deluded theist. Just as I view you as just another deluded fundie.

  13. #13 LM
    July 30, 2007

    David, I believe that discussion has been had here before. I think you are assuming that the word “deluded” carries with it a negative connotation… I think all that Kseniya is saying is that a person is deluded if s/he believes something for which there is no sound, scientific evidence (and isn’t that the definition of faith?). So in that context, yes, anyone who believes in a god would be, in fact, deluded.

  14. #14 Steve_C
    July 30, 2007


    Beliefs are not all the same. Their origins matter.

  15. #15 David
    July 30, 2007

    It seems that foundational to the idea that belief in God is “delusional” is the idea that belief in God is completely without evidence.

    It is one thing to say that belief in God is completely without scientific evidence. I would actually agree with this. Of course, if one believes that the only evidence which ever matters is scientific evidence then that’s one thing.

    But is that the only type of evidence out there?


    Yes, DEITIES and AFTERLIFE do require FAITH, as Steve posted. But its about the same amount of faith that Steve evidently has about life on other planets. In fact, I would go as far as to say that it takes more faith to buy into Steve’s argument, than it does to believe in a God.

  16. #16 frog
    July 30, 2007

    Pac is obviously delusional. He seems to be unable to differentiate between a well-founded belief and ill-founded or unnecessary beliefs. You have two classes of well-founded beliefs, as per Wittgenstein: 1) normal beliefs based on a preponderance of good, logical evidence, and 2) fundamental beliefs (beliefs necessary for reason to work). The former includes such things as believing that the earth goes around the sun. The second includes such beliefs as I have a body – they are necessary for well-formed statements.

    Now, many (but not all) religious beliefs fall into neither category. It is not logically necessary to believe in a kosmokrater to make meaningful statements, and it has little supporting evidence. Evidence from aesthetics (look at nature!) are only valid within the realm of aesthetics, or to differentiate between two otherwise equally supported beliefs; it is not valid as a basic empirical support.

    But since we will always have a portion of the population who are unable to make those fine judgments (or don’t care to try), what should we do? Maybe the Euro’s have the right idea – stop trying to educate them, and just give it to them. Create some bland state religion under control of random civil servants, but dominated by the country’s business class. Give it a few centuries, and voila – basically dead religion. I bet even Iran will end up looking like Denmark if business goes well for 100-200 years!

  17. #17 frog
    July 30, 2007

    And here we see how the “Pacman” is a dilettante who prefers radical subjectivism rather than hard thinking: “Maybe perception really is reality… as quantum physics would suggest.”

    Quantum physics suggests nothing of the kind. It describes an objective, external reality which depends, to a certain degree, on the observer. That degree can be calculated and formulated. On top of that, it does not depend on the subjective nature of the observer, but on the clear objective nature of the observer.

    It is no different in kind from relativity’s description of observation: it is relative to the observer, but OBJECTIVE. The quantum version adds in uncertainty, and works at different scales.

    I really, really hate it when people try to support fuzzy, subjectivist ideas by giving a half-digested and incorrect interpretation of physics. I won’t mutter about what Jesus meant by Eli Eli Sabacthani, if you stay out of science, OK pacman?

  18. #18 Steve_C
    July 30, 2007

    There’s a big difference in “faith” that the scientists are checking each others work and are basing their theories and evidence on solid data; and the faith required to believe that there’s a great super being that created the universe, knows everything and will judge you after you die.

    What makes sense.

    The other is quite absurd.

  19. #19 Tlazolteotl
    July 30, 2007

    Reading about this made me think immediately of Marcus Wesson.

    The mother would have been only 15 when she was impregnated; by whom? It seems plausible that she is a victim here as well.

  20. #20 frog
    July 30, 2007

    Moses: “would say it’s interesting how you co-mingle unsupported, untestable “belief” (i.e. your favorite god delusion – Christianity, Hinduism, etc.) with beliefs supported by evidence and scientific processes. But it’s not interesting.”

    Ah, I disagree! The Pacman is interesting, in the same way as any simple organism: as part of an ecosystem.

    His sophomoric epistemology (and I mean sophomoric – I believe I was a sophomore the last time I took it seriously, between drinking bouts) is an example of the classes of epistemologies. Radical subjectivism is very popular in the developed world – it’s a great excuse for narcissism and a bland, meaningless tolerance.

    Then there’s the traditional epistemology by tradition: whatever the ancestors believed is true. That one at least has time behind it, and it made sense when we all spent most of our time tending garden – in that case, it’s better to conserve accumulated knowledge than to risk it in refinement.

    But worst of all is the combo – when you have the upper hand, I get to believe whatever I want because it’s all in your head anyway, but when I have the upper hand, I’m going to cram my tradition down your throat! Put the two together, and you start to verge on fascism.

  21. #21 Kseniya
    July 30, 2007


    Just out of curiosity, do you realize that if you are right, and Relgion = Delusion, how many people you have just called deluded?

    I have called anybody anything – I have only cited a prominent theme in the ongoing debate about religion that takes place on this site.

    If I am right? About what I said? Yes, I think I am right. If you follow the discussions here, you will see that “religion=delusion” is a commonly-made claim, and in that sense, I am correct.

    Do I realize….? Why, yes – yes, I do.

    As for what you think of me personally, I can’t honestly claim that I don’t care. However, don’t make the mistake of believing that you know enough about me to form a meaningful or accurate opinion. You’re welcome to your impressions, though, and feel free to adjust them as needed, and the more accurate your comprehension of my comments, the more accurate your impressions are be likely to be.

  22. #22 David
    July 30, 2007

    Ah, I see the atheists have taken to the rather amusing tactic of using my own name. Perhaps you think people will believe that it’s me? Or are you just being childish?

    Anyway, Brownian (as that’s who I think you are), no. I don’t. And if you had the brain power of a rock, and the reading comprehension of a small child, you would realize that that was my point. I don’t, and neither does Steve. So his argument isn’t based on probability. Its based on the fact that he finds it “reasonable”.

  23. #23 frog
    July 30, 2007

    Kseniya: “For Iran to look like Denmark, they’re going to need a lot more than state religion and a good economy. I’m thinking L’Oreal.”

    Plus playboy channel, Captain Crunch cereal and PlayStation.

    I think the business guys can do it, if you give them time: a recent Newsweek was all up on make-up sales for both men and women in the “Islamic Republic”. The theocrats had to even give an edict against men wearing blush! Give ‘em time – international business when given enough rein will turn any country into jabbering idiots glued to Law’N'Order and Skinamax. I have faith!

  24. #24 LM
    July 30, 2007

    Great. Shiva is living in my dryer. Anybody know a good exorcist?

  25. #25 Steve_C
    July 30, 2007

    We could argue about what constitues life… single celled orgnaisms that can replicate?
    Plants or anyting organic? I wasn’t arguing highly advanced space travelling life… just life.

    We’ve seen life living in some very in hospitable places on our own planet. That lends credence to life existing elsewhere. It’s not even a stretch, to think there MIGHT be life.

    Yet here you are telling me that the concept requires faith.

    But there you are believing in the christian god that only exists in a bronze age mythology plagarized from egyptians.

    He’s more real to you than the possibility of mere life existing elsewhere.

    That’s delusion.

  26. #26 bernarda
    July 30, 2007

    one eyed jack, “Well, a ‘real’ Christian wouldn’t harm a child and certainly wouldn’t try to kill… oh wait, forgot about the Old Testament.”

    Read Revelations verse 2 where Jesus says he is going to kill the children of Jezebel.

  27. #27 madjon
    July 30, 2007

    If truly alien life exists elsewhere, would we necessarily recognize it? If their timescales tick in centuries or they have little effect on their planet’s atmosphere we could be oblivious for a long time.

  28. #28 The Pacifier
    July 30, 2007

    Shame shame.

    Posted by: Rey Fox | July 30, 2007 04:43 PM

    You are correct. I did post that paragraph a few weeks ago, but I also credited Mr. Taylor. Nevertheless, the statement fits and supports my argument.

  29. #29 tony
    July 30, 2007

    madjon: we’re not looking at micro-changes in atmposphere – at least not this year! we’re looking at broad overall proportions which won’t change appreciably over short or medium timeframes (e.g. the earth has had ice ages with mean temperatures close to 273K, and semi tropical with mean temps close to 300K… also had oxygen proportions ranging from practically zero to near 30%). The fact that a solar system exhibits the right ‘mix’ of compounds in it’s signature is all the evidence we have right now…

    Everything else is hypothesis and conjecture – but that’s science, isn’t it?

  30. #30 The Pacifier
    July 30, 2007


    You keep equating a ‘creative force’ or ‘intelligent creator’ with “an invisible man who guides my actions” or a belief because “my mommy told me so”.

    As Doug Adams once said: (I’m paraphrasing) “what happens just happens and no further explanation is required” is a deprived way of contemplating and ultimately making a decision to believe or not. It deprives us humans to ask the kind of questions that we can ask. So what…. you take into account the evidence…. which of course the evidence obviously can lead to different conclusions.

  31. #31 tony
    July 30, 2007

    Rich: ditto
    PacMan: new rule: you may not posit a creator god in a thread demanding evidence.

  32. #32 tony
    July 30, 2007

    The first thing to decide is whether someone is really possessed

    So which part of this strikes you as not being delusional? posession? WTF? I thought I lived in the 21st century, not the 15th!

  33. #33 frog
    July 30, 2007

    Stogoe: See #128. Confusing Spinoza and Jeebus is the least of pacifiers sins.

  34. #34 Kseniya
    July 31, 2007
    But that’s all right. I know you view me as just another deluded theist. Just as I view you as just another deluded fundie.

    Think as you will but this just showcases how poor a thinker you actually are.

    JimC, the passage you quoted from Dave’s comment (#64) was a response to the comment that immediately preceded it, which was one of mine. You may not have realized (as Dave apparently has not) that his comment shows he misunderstood mine to a degree that would be difficult to exceed, and has completely ignored me since I posted a reply in which I hinted that that might be the case. (Not that I much care, but it’s notable.)

    Misunderstanding me is not exactly a mortal sin. It happens every day (usually because I am a dimmy-dim instead of a brighty-bright), and it’s an easy mistake, especially for someone of his opinions, to make on a blog like this one – but it’s still a mistake, one that follows from a salient aspect of his posting style.

    You see, he has a penchant for playing a particular kind of victim role that depends heavily on creating strawmen not out of his opponents’ arguments, but out of his opponents themselves. He’s become so adept at this, he sometimes does it without even realizing it himself.

  35. #35 Brownian
    July 31, 2007

    You see, he has a penchant for playing a particular kind of victim role that depends heavily on creating strawmen not out of his opponents’ arguments, but out of his opponents themselves. He’s become so adept at this, he sometimes does it without even realizing it himself.

    Ooh, snap!

  36. #36 David
    July 31, 2007

    Well Steve_C, since you’ve got me all figured out, why not save me all the time of posting?

  37. #37 David
    July 31, 2007

    Brownian, you’ve answered your own question. If you don’t see it, that’s not my problem.

    I do like the accusation that I help hide pedophiles. I once was accused by a fundamentalist Christian of using drugs. When in doubt, fundies will always make such accusations I suppose.

    For people who aren’t “fundamentalists” why do you talk and act exactly like them?

  38. #38 Brownian
    July 31, 2007

    Answer my question, David. At what part of the paragraph I cited, do you begin writing hypothetically?

  39. #39 tony
    July 31, 2007

    David — you are one ignorant fuckwit.

    You’ve stated that you have evidence for your god… You’ve been repeatedly asked if you would care to share that evidence. Instead of doing so you simply engage in sophomoric semantic games with everyone…

    I’d be surprised if your evidence were anything other than ‘personal’. As such, it can be discounted as evidence. Delusions do not count as evidence.

    When I was a kid, I was certain that Superman and Spiderman really existed – in America. They just never got round to visiting my little corner of Scotland. I had books and everything!!

    Since you deign not to share your so compelling evidence with use, I can only conclude that your evidence is actually flimsier than that for those comic book superheroes!

    Ante up, big boy, or hold your tongue.

  40. #40 David
    July 31, 2007

    1. No, I don’t believe the evidence is in holy books. So the fact that you find it obvious, only tells me that I am dealing with someone who has a flawed perception of reality. (Like I didn’t know that already).

    2. I believe the theory of evolution is true, so that’s another thing you’ve gotten wrong.

    As for me being annoying? Well, that I’ll accept.

  41. #41 Brownian
    July 31, 2007

    David, I don’t believe you’re stupid. I don’t want to believe that you’re a liar.

    Could have fooled me.

    I wouldn’t have asked you to clarify yourself if I wanted to believe you are a liar. I wouldn’t spend so much time trying to understand whether you’re lying or not if I thought you were stupid. If you feel persecuted here, then leave.

    I gave you three chances to clear up some confusion about a particular series of claims so that I don’t have to conclude that you’ve lied.

    Each time, I’ve told you that you know the answer, and that you’ve posted the answer.

    I reposted your paragraph and asked you to point out specifically where you begin to write hypothetically. The answer to that question would be, “Here,” followed by a sentence or series of words that demonstrate your claim, or “No, you misunderstood. This is in fact what I mean.” Repeating “You know the answer” is evasive and untrue, since I’ve told you I don’t.

    I’ve already implied that I believe the evidence for intelligent life to be reasonable. I’ve also said that its reasonable to disbelieve the evidence. Put that together with where you think I’ve “lied”.

    If that’s your claim, then fine. The paragraph I cited does not at all state that unequivocably.

    You could have saved us both a lot of trouble if you weren’t so busy trying to be pedantic.

    You certainly don’t have to conclude that I’ve lied. But I’m fairly certain you will anyway.

    Good for you and certainty. For the record, I think you’re disingenous, evasive, and inexplicably smarmy. Now that you’ve explained your position, I see that you weren’t lying about your original position, but that it was poorly stated.

    Why do you tease us if you’re unwilling to demonstrate why you think we’re so wrong?

    Of what are you speaking? If it has to do with the whole “show us the evidence” bit, then I’ve answered that already. If it refers to something else, then I will have a different answer perhaps.

    It took me asking you at least three times before you clarified your point. That’s unwillingness. It’s a habit of yours. It is of what I’m speaking.

  42. #42 Brownian
    July 31, 2007

    I call it not sticking my neck out, but you are entitled to you opinion.

    Well, that certainly accounts for the disingenuity and the evasiveness.

    Anyways, I’m satisfied with the answers you (finally) gave, and if you’re satisfied with what I wrote and why I wrote it, perhaps we can move on to something more mutually interesting.

  43. #43 David
    July 31, 2007

    It’s fun playing the “How many stupid statements can Steve_C” make game. Let’s see…

    My evidence is not “secret”, and in fact I have tried to give it. But as per usual, all I get is insults from people here. Biblically speaking, I should probably just “shake the dust off my sandals” and not bother. I may very well do that.

    I will agree that its not scientific evidence, and its not in a holy book. Now, to Steve_C this disqualifies it as evidence. That’s stupid, but I don’t expect any better.

    And as for his last statement, well that’s the usual atheist screed I expect out of him, so stupid… but sad.

  44. #44 Brownian
    July 31, 2007

    But as per usual, all I get is insults from people here.

    I’ve noticed you’re more than ready to toss ‘em out yourself, often preemptively.

    Try turning the other cheek.

    Or else quit whining.

  45. #45 David
    July 31, 2007

    Brownian, I am not “whining”. I just find it interesting for people who talk about being fair, rational, free-thinkers and whatever else, most of the time what I get is emotional, insult laden responses.

    I find that interesting.

  46. #46 Kseniya
    August 1, 2007


    Surely you are not so obtuse.

    This is how you construct your strawmen:

    You claim to have an opinion, some compelling evidence, or a salient bit of communicable something-or-other that you’ve chosen to withhold from the discussion. You withhold it because you “know” exactly what “everyone” – all those nasty atheists, all of them – will do with your precious and fragile offering: They will mock it and dismiss it, they will mock and dismiss you and call you a liar, deluded, or worse.

    You do this with some frequency.

    ? “Though I’m certain you won’t believe me, I [...]”

    ? “The anecdotal evidence I have is my own life. Of course, you will deny this without knowing a thing about my life. I am curious what fundie tactic you will use to deny it.”

    ? “Carlie, there is no point in talking about the details of my life with you, as you will just deny the details.”

    ? “You of course, will deny all of this. Just as I expect you to.”

    ? “You won’t deny what I have to say about my life, but you will scorn, deride, mock and deny that the decisions I made were ‘rational’.”

    ? But as I’m certain that I will be wasting my time, I see no reason to role the dice with you.

    ? Let me tell you what would happen if I did that. By the time I did that, there would be at least 3 comments saying that I’ve “run away” or something like that.

    ? Should I post anything, the response would be something along the lines of “It’s rubbish. Its not evidence. You’re stupid.”

    With the exception of the first example (which I admit is a bit of a different thing), in not one of these cases did you offer ANY information that could be evaluated in any way, positively or negatively, fairly or unfairly. Each time you do this, you create strawmen. I don’t mean strawman arguments in the conventional sense – what you’ve done is reduce those who’ve engaged you on the blog to strawmen.

    You surround yourself with these strawmen who, according to some unfalsifiable prescience you apparently possess, will inevitably wrong you and dismiss your allegedly persuasive (but invariably withheld) information. You hide behind a wall of imagined future wrongs which will be perpetrated by the very people who you’ve ensured will NOT be able to offer you a meaningful or informed response. As if that weren’t enough, you claim (non-scientific) evidence for God but never get any closer to describing it than suggesting that it is analogous to an estimation of the likelihood of extra-terrestrial life. That sounds to me like a track worth pursuing, but you decline to elucidate (see: “imagined future wrongs”).

    Furthermore, you derail threads by refusing to answer simple questions asked for the sake of clarification. Eventually the other people get frustrated, and to a limited degree your self-fulfilling prophesies begin to come true. It’s pointlessly exasperating for all involved – surely even for you. No?

    Or is that your game? Is that the payoff? You get to be the sole brave soul, one armed only with The Truth and his own intransigence, awash in the turbulent baying of atheist fundies?

    If so, the game is largely of your own devising. It’s all in your head. Many of the wrongs you attribute to your opponents have not actually occurred – you have not allowed them to occur. Yet you can’t even begin to acknowledge that this even might be happening. Either your self-awareness approaches that of a geranium, or you really are (in a sense quite apart from the nature of the accusations that you not only expect, but invite) a lying dog. Oh, I’m sorry. Let me rephrase that: This behavior is either disingenuous or pathological. There are no other possible explanations. Other than demonic possession, of course. (See? I’m staying on-topic.)

    So. Which is it? Disingenuous troll? Or some kind of personality disorder? Is there a third option I’m missing? (Yes, that is an open door. Wide open. Go for it.)

    As for “atheist insults” – putting aside the fact that you completely misunderstood my comment, why do you assume I’m an atheist? Have I ever self-identified as an atheist? Have you combed through the last year of Pharyngulan posts to arrived at this conclusion? No? Why? Oh, I think I know: What possible purpose can I serve you if you discover I’m not, or if you come to realize that I may have been arguing against equating religious belief with delusion? I do realize how inconvenient that would be for you. After all, in your world, my actual beliefs mean nothing, for I’m not a person at all: I exist only in the form assigned to me when you created me, a form against which you effortlessly bounce your solipsistic persecution fantasies.

    What can I conclude but this: You have limited interest in real dialogue or even in honestly presenting and representing your own viewpoints. Am I wrong? If so, it will not be enough for you to simply claim it. You must demonstrate it, for the evidence thus far does seem to favor my conclusion.

  47. #47 Kseniya
    August 1, 2007

    We have a fascinating guest today, Windy. The debate is off to a coruscating start. I guess nothing can be “safely discounted” when David 2 is around!

  48. #48 David
    August 1, 2007

    If you think we’re being ‘fundie’… in what sense? We’re asking you to enlighten us.

    Beyond the fact that you act like one, and you talk like one, you aren’t fundamentalist at all.

    Why do I know that you act like a fundamentalist? I’ve been stating time and time again, times in which some atheist has acted like a fundamentalist Christian. Try looking some of that up.

  49. #49 tony
    August 1, 2007

    David: If asking for evidence when it is continually ‘alluded to’ is being a fundamentalist athiest then I’m happy to wear that moniker with pride.

    You however are simply a dumnfuck who cannot comprehend simple english, defends himself against imaginary attacks, and hides behind delusion while espousing a psuedo-intellectual rationality.

    I’ve been met with some of the worst Biblical interpretation I personally have seen, insults, and magic atheist psychic powers

    worst interpretation? I presume according to your interpretation? i.e. we disagree with your cherished beliefs so we’re incompetent

    insults? The only insults have been due to YOUR behaviour and intransigence. (see my comment above) The insults are secondary/tertiary responses – unlike yours.

    magic athiest psychic powers? I was under the impression we all ridicule you for believing in magic… strange you should think that *we* indulge in such… projection?

  50. #50 David
    August 1, 2007

    He basically came on here to defend religion and did a piss poor job of it.

    This is a PERFECT explanation of why I think people here act like fundies. This is a wonderful fundie tactic. Despite the fact that I’ve already stated why I am here, Steve_C, with his magic powers of atheist reasoning, pierced my veil of deception and concluded that what I said about myself is in fact false. Steve_C, with his powers of atheist thinking ends up (apparently) knowing more about myself than I do.

    Thanks Steve_C. You’ve saved me a lot of time.

  51. #51 David
    August 1, 2007

    So what? You continually evade our questions and keep chanting “you act just like fundamentalists” like it’s the Kyrie eleison.

    As that’s the only point I’ve wanted to make, its not surprising that I’ve repeated it.

  52. #52 Brownian
    August 1, 2007

    Sorry Kagehi, but your post was in vain. David only wanted to make one point, and he did so at least a few weeks back if I remember correctly.

    I don’t know why he keeps repeating himself, though. Some kind of verbal tic?

  53. #53 Steve_C
    August 1, 2007

    If you’re an atheist and you laugh at religion and think religion = delusion you’re a fundamentalist.

    That’s his sole point. He didn’t even show that religious people aren’t deluded.
    In fact he pretty much showed us he himself has been deluded into thinking he has evidence of God’s existence.

    Maybe he doesn’t want that under scrutiny because we would prove him wrong.

    Once people realize they are in fact deluded… they often snap out of it and are no longer religious.

  54. #54 Brownian
    August 1, 2007

    Since you offered your argument in good faith, David, I’m happy to entertain it, but others with a stronger background in philosophy might be better suited to this discussion.

    First of all, we might need to define natural and supernatural before we get into that. For instance, a god who operates outside as well as inside what we hold to be ‘true’ (I’m using a positivist definition of ‘true,’ that being that if we can predict how the electron cloud behaves, that’s good enough, even if we cannot actually observe it) would not be solely supernatural. Thus a god who talks to us, sets bushes alight and so on would not be strictly supernatural. A deist deity who set the universe in motion and then left to attend other business, never to return, would be.

    But we can leave that until later.

    To examine your argument:

    Because to be sure of a naturalistic worldview, one must necessarily undercut reason.

    I don’t understand why you claim this. Could you elaborate?

    Reason can discover what is useful in such a worldview, not what is true.

    I think this goes to an epistemological definition of Truth, which as far as I know, is true.

    As Naturalism (like any worldview) is a product of reason it undercuts itself.

    Again, this depends on your first premise, but you must elaborate some of these terms to tighten your argument.

  55. #55 MESchlum
    August 1, 2007

    A number of problems in this argument. My first difficulty was that I wasn’t sure how the argument was connected to the discussion. But never mind that, and let’s see what there is to it.

    There are only two option in regards to the existence of the supernatural. It exists, or it doesn’t.

    Fallacy of the excluded middle. Some forms of supernatural things could exist, while others did not. A poor beginning.

    If one option cannot be logically held, then we must go with the other option.

    See above. As an example, consider a universe where two potential supernatural forces might exist: ‘magic’, used by underground dwelling elves, and ‘telepathy’, used by advanced humans living in the Himalayas.

    Proving that there are no underground elven cities does not indicate that there are no mountain dwelling gurus. Thus, proving that ‘magic’ does not exist in this universe does not prove that ‘telepathy’ does not exist.

    The moral? Please specify what the supernatural is. And naturalism too, for that matter. Also, be very careful about binary statements – they can work, but then the elves cast intangibility spells and you’re back to square one.

    Naturalism cannot be logically held. Therefore, I believe in the supernatural.

    Not necessarily valid, as shown above. Do you believe in ‘magic’ and ‘telepathy’? Only one? Neither?

    I’ll be generous, and try to restate your claim in a way that is less open to (mis)interpretation. If you disagree with my restatement, feel free to clarify.

    Revised claim: “I have a logical argument showing that naturalism is invalid. Therefore, some form of supernatural (non-naturalist) force exists.”

    As stated, you still need to be clear on what you mean by naturalism, and it helps to have some notion of what supernatural forces are logically supportable. Otherwise the gurus will mentally dominate the elves into creating cities out of rainbows.

    Why can’t Naturalism be logically held?

    Coming to the meat of the actual argument here.

    Because to be sure of a naturalistic worldview, one must necessarily undercut reason.

    Why? Where is this proven? This is, to me, a middling way to start a logical proof. I prefer mine to be better docuemnted, so I know where I’m coming from and where I’m going.

    May I rephrase this?

    “Theorem: A naturalistic worldview must undercut reason.”

    The rephrasing sets down your statement, as I understand it, and claims that you will prove this – which I hope is the intent.

    Also, defining ‘reason’ and ‘undercut’ at some point could be convenient.

    Reason can discover what is useful in such a worldview, not what is true.

    Ah. An indication that definitions are important here.

    To me, reason (and number theory) can show that 1+1=2 is true (in the proper setting). So our definitions do not match.

    From the context, I take it to mean that you are using ‘reason’ to mean ‘the scientific method’, since this is a method that is used to describe the world, and it explicitly acknowledges that absolute truth is beyond its means. If this interpretation is incorrect, please provide a clearer definition of reason.

    Also, I’ll put this down in my terms, trying for the logical argument.

    “Axiom 1: in a naturalistic worldview, the scientific method is the only means of obtaining knowledge about the world.”

    Note that this is not stated in your argument, but seems to me to be necessary, since you suggest that reason works in different ways in different worldviews.

    “Axiom 2: the scientific method works by extrapolating patterns from observed data.”

    Again, not stated, but a bare bones version of the scientific method. This is probably not correct in many ways, but I hope it provides the context.

    “Lemma 1: An event that does not match observed patterns will not be predicted by the scientific method.”

    Not stated, but agreed on by scientists: if something is observed that we didn’t predict… we didn’t predict it.

    “Lemma 2: The scientific method can never be sure that its model of the world is complete and correct for all cases.”

    This is how, by logic, I reach the conclusion you state above, albeit using my terms rather than yours. I have skipped a few steps, but the process is there.

    As Naturalism (like any worldview) is a product of reason it undercuts itself.

    Bwah? I am sorry, I cannot see how this conclusion was reached.

    I suspect there are a number of definitions that have issues here.

    My redefinition of reason as ‘the scientific method’ is an obvious difficulty here, since, to my knowledge, worldviews are not the product of the scientific method, nor is naturalism.

    However, this means that you need to restate your intermediate claim (about reason), since other definitions of reason may not give the same final lemma.

    A possible restatement, which is not supported by the prior claims, is as follows.

    “Lemma 3: A naturalistic worldview relies on the scientific method for knowledge, and can therefore never be certain that the models it uses to describe the world are completely accurate.”

    “Lemma 4: If a worldview in which the models used to describe the world are completely accurate and known to be such exists, this worldview is non-naturalistic.”

    “Claim: such a non-naturalistic worldview exists, denoted W.”

    “Lemma 5: The superior descriptive powers of worldview W make it preferable to the naturalistic worldview, by the premises of the scientific method.”

    The issue I have with the logic above is that the Claim is not proven. Furthermore, even if it were proven, the issue of determining which worldview is W remains a complicated issue, albeit one that does not relate to the argument.

    So why is the claim not proven?

    Well, I’d toss Godel into the ring to come from the existence aspect: worldview W needs to be complete and consistent, which is not possible as soon as the system studied is complex enough.

    And from the logic perspective, the claim also fails. Let’s use teleportation.

    “Lemma 3: We don’t know if there are discontinuities in space, we only know we have never found any.”

    “Lemma 4: In order to teleport, space must be discontinuous.”

    “Claim: Therefore, we can teleport.”

    Seems a bit lacking.

  56. #56 Steve_C
    August 1, 2007

    Wow. That’s some cold hard eviscerating.

  57. #57 tony
    August 2, 2007

    Kseniya, Steve_C

    I wonder if David will respond to the Godel argument… Or if his response will (again) be incomplete

  58. #58 Steve_C
    August 2, 2007


    He breaks them up a bit. They don’t all appear in the same comment.

  59. #59 Graculus
    August 2, 2007

    The basic idea though, is that I cannot be, honestly, rationally, thinking about theism. (Because if I did, I would be an atheist). To some extent, my beliefs must be (to some extent), influenced by non-rational processes.

    Am I wrong on this?

    From mmy PoV (atheist, yues), you are not wrong.

    1) “Non-rational” and “irrational” are not, to me synonyms.

    2) This only becomes a problem if you a) claim that your theism is based on rational processes or b) try to inflict your theism on the rest of us.


  60. #60 tony
    August 2, 2007

    but, Kseniya… I want to be a godless mocking bastard son of a dogmatic communist nazi glagow celtic fan

    And david: I’ll get back to you when I have an opportunity to type on a larger keyboard (my berry is ok for short text but my fingers are too large for typing anything long)

  61. #61 True Bob
    August 2, 2007

    I had to ask my mom if she made me a bastard. I was maybe 30 when, about 13 years post-divorce, she got her marriage annulled. ;-)

    Maybe I’m only a papist bastard?

  62. #62 Kagehi
    August 2, 2007

    Given that you have provided no rational argument, evidence or explanation of the “rational” process you used to get to your conclusion, its hardly an unreasonable implication. And, just to be clear, you still have an additional hurdle to cross, in that simply proving that, “the supernatural exists in some form”, which you have yet to show any evidence for, you still have to explain why it makes more sense for what ever god you follow to make more sense than say… Mercedes Lackey’s version of “heaven”, which would be described with these attributes:

    1. In between all visible dimensions is set of dimensions with no clear space time, but which is *reactive* to thought.

    2. Discontinuities in our space time let some energy (supernatural forces) *leak* through.

    3. Gods, not just one, but all of them, are just beings who either formed in this place, or got there by accident, then, since time doesn’t quite work the same way there, but is a product of thought, discover they are now immortal and start setting up kingdoms.

    4. The reason we don’t see all these “other” gods around is that the ones *still* around where far more competent at this, while the others got attacked and destroyed by rivals, or by other creatures that exist in this place.

    5. Due to the nature of space time in such a place, multiple “realms” could exist, in near infinite variation, without them being aware of each other, or any easy means existing to get from one to the other.

    The consequence of this would of course be that its unlikely that any of these beings created us, or that nearly all of them are lying, with no clear way to determine which one, or even if *that on* still exists. Nor does it do a damn thing to imply that worshiping the right one will get you anything in the real world, though it *might* mean, assuming you could prove that a) spirits are real and b) so is this, as yet, non-tangible energy type, that people who believe in them enough *do* go to them after they die. But it also would mean that you go where you believe, and not to hell, like all the people whining about sin insist, just because you followed the wrong one.

    Frankly, its all quite silly, but it her stories have elves in them, and I am somewhat partial to elves. lol It does however provide a far more consistent, complete and reasoned description of what, how and *why* such places could exist at all. That’s what you need to come up with David. A reasoned explanation for what any of it is, how it actually works and why it make more fracking sense than any alternative. As of yet, all we have gotten from you is whining about how we can’t seem to peel back the veil from your statements and just somehow have a revelation of what your brilliant evidence consists of.

    And frankly, if a fantasy novelist can come up with a more consistent and complete concept of the after life and the supernatural than someone supposedly talking about the supposedly **real** one you are on about, its a bit hard to take seriously the idea that any such thing exists. And to be clear, 90% of the so called *evidence* people have tried to present for the supernatural in modern times is a *direct* product of modern times, starting during the industrial revolution with spiritualism. Prior to that, we have also no evidence of the supernatural, but lots of evidence of very clever engineers using everything from magnetics, to hydrolics, to just plain building *huge* statues, with speaking tubes in them, as evidence that they didn’t have a scrap of real supernatural evidence either. Its quite odd that the only people science can prove to be lying, mistaken or mislead by modern *evidence* for it are the ones that refuse to have their claims tested at all, yet want everyone, including the people that would have tested their “evidence” to respect their belief and acknowledge that they have some great ‘way of knowing’ that surpasses the evidence based world view. Kind of like you.

    The new Vedic Science (I really wish people would stop gluing religious concepts on a word that doesn’t apply to them…) departments in India think that they have one too. One can assume that, if they are right, we should see Edward Elric arrive at the next war zone with his alchemy kit and a magic spear that can cast lighting… I am not holding my breath, since *real* scientists have been finding the remains of *real* weapons for years, and while we can find the ones that did exist, or blueprints of them, or wall carvings that give hints how to build them, etc., there are some that its damned obvious where either made up, or where misinterpreted as something entirely different, which isn’t hard when the people who build them won’t say how they worked, and the people writing about them never got close enough to make accurate drawings.

    Point being.. You are making an extraordinary claim. We have yet to see **any** evidence from you, never mind extraordinary evidence.

  63. #63 tony
    August 2, 2007

    MESchlum: I had a flashback to college when you dived into set theory…. long time gone, indeed (but I still think in sets). I loved Lisp for it’s set-purist approach to problem definition and resolution (but it still took me absolutely forever to work out what the heck a given statement *meant*)

    great post.

    aside: are you sure you’re not related to Mr Spock?

  64. #64 Brownian
    August 3, 2007

    Are you typing hard, little assface David?

    Type, type, type!

    God’s proud of you. He told me so Himself.

  65. #65 David
    August 3, 2007

    In the world of Harry Potter, magic is not seen as “supernatural”. It is simply seen as an aspect of that world. Just as there exists science, (which allows the Muggles to function), there exists magic, which allows witches and wizards to do various things.

    Similarly, psychic powers, elves, griffons and what not, are thought to be part of this world. Perhaps they function on different rules than cars, airplanes, lasers and what not. We exclude these things because we believe that nature excludes them. We’ve never seen any elves, there is no medium that we know of in which psychic powers operate, and so on.

    On the other hand, the idea of the supernatural is the idea that nature does not work in a certain way, yet it has been caused to work in that way by an outside force. Something that must exist “outside of the system”.

    Going on, remember two things:

    1. I am not giving a proof.
    2. I am not attempting to give evidence for theism, merely the existence of the supernatural.

    I would rephase Axiom 5 to state:

    “Axiom 5: a worldview that completely describes the world and is known to be accurate involves supernatural elements”.

    But, by my reading, no overview is provided – you give three sentences, which I have tried to break down into claims and axioms, and do not provide a proof.

    We have different definitions of what constitutes an “overview”.

    So is there any way in which my definition (admittedly incomplete) is incomplete that makes it impossible to use for your logic? If so, please I’d like to see where this happens.

    The difficulty that I have with your statement is that it does not go far enough. Yes, certain there is extrapolation of patterns. But at a point, it people believe that these “patterns” start to describe certain real events. We see (to use a simple example), objects behaving in a “pattern”, and we describe forces that we believe makes them so. Electricity is not just a mathematical abstraction, it is thought to be a real thing, which behaves in certain real ways.

    Moreover, I would not like to talk specifically about the scientific method, but to speak of deductive reasoning in general.

    I’ll also note that both of our definitions fail to explicitly acknowledge that self correction is part of the process in the scientific method, but that important aspect appears to be an aside in your logic.

    As I wish to focus on the deductive reasoning aspect of the scientific method, and not the pattern extrapolation aspect, I do not find this as important. Yes, one can certainly gain “better” patterns. (Better obviously depending on the situation). There still has to be that step from “pattern” to “law”. From the empirical data to the “reality” that is believed to cause that data.

    * You appear to agree that you meant ‘the scientific method’ where you write ‘reason’ initially

    With what I’ve said above, I would have to disagree.

    * You have defined ‘supernatural’ as exactly equivalent to ‘non-naturalistic’.

    I would say that ‘non-naturalistic’ is a necessary quality. I do not know if I would say it is sufficient, but neither do I know why it should not be, so all in all I’ll accept the definition.

    * You have not provided a logical path to go from ‘a model of the world that is known to be true must be non-naturalistic’ to ‘there is a model of the world that is known to be true’.

    That is quite true, and I will not take that step. It is for that reason that I am only providing an argument, and not a proof. (Remember, I am only providing an argument). One can say that we do not know any truth. As I’ve said, we “know” a great many useful things. You can say that though the things we know are useful, that they may or may not be true.

    Are you assuming that theism is equivalent to supernaturalism?


    Does my theism or atheism affect the quality of my logic?

    No. Remember, I am not arguing that atheists are somehow stupid, or logically deficient, due to the fact that they are atheists. Some atheists are undoubtedly stupid, just as some Christians. I’m certain most people here would consider me as being a stupid Christian. What I am saying is that under a purely naturalistic worldview, we have no reason to trust that we know “truth” and that we merely can generate useful illusions.

    Finally, about:

    The basic idea though, is that I cannot be, honestly, rationally, thinking about theism. (Because if I did, I would be an atheist). To some extent, my beliefs must be (to some extent), influenced by non-rational processes.

    This was not meant as a side issue, rather it was meant to illustrate a point. If believe something X, and it turns out that I believe that, not through a rational process of deduction, but rather because this belief was caused by non-rational, even physical processes, it is not correct to continue in believing that this belief is “true”. For instance, if I was an atheist simply because I “fell into” atheism, that is I was an atheist because it was popular, or because I had nothing else better to do, or many other possibilities, then I should not believe in atheism. I should check to see if my atheistic beliefs could be the result of a rational argument. If not, I should chuck them.

    Moreover, if a believe is actually caused by phyiscal processes we go a little farther. (By we here, I am just making a general claim about people in general). If I think that everyone is out to get me, and if it is discovered that I have a chemical imbalance in my brain, no one tries to find out whether or not everyone really is out to get me. Since the belief is explained through a physical cause (namely a certain brain-state), we don’t trust this belief.

    The point is that to the extent that a belief which should be reached through rationality can be explained by non-rational or physical causes, we no longer trust this belief as being true. (I am excluding things that are immediate statements of sensory experience, such as “I have a headache”).

    I am not sure, but I think I covered everything.

  66. #66 David
    August 3, 2007

    I have no desire to have PZ ban all the IP addresses that I work from.

  67. #67 Steve_C
    August 4, 2007

    I think I was trying to point out that David was using very circular tactics and always laying onous on the commenters to prove him wrong, but then never providing answers, past vague stances on the commenters and where they had gotten things wrong.

    I’m not surprised to find out he’s in graduate law school.

  68. #68 tony
    August 4, 2007

    MESchlum: Does the effect hold for kippers, too? That would explain the difficulty I have keeping them down at breakfast after a heavy drinking session ;)