Pharyngula

Robert Bakker is one of the good guys, a paleontologist who really does an excellent job of communicating enthusiasm for science. I saw him talk at St John’s University a few years ago, and he clearly inspired the kids in attendance — I greatly enjoyed the talk too, even though one of his hooks was to incessantly emphasize the religious backgrounds of famous dinosaur hunters. It’s a strategy, all right? If he can get more kids to follow through on science, more power to him.

However, he also illustrates another unfortunate phenomenon: religion turns even good scientists’ brains to mush. In a recent interview on Laelaps, he said some awesomely stupid things.

We dino-scientists have a great responsibility: our subject matter attracts kids better than any other, except rocket-science. What’s the greatest enemy of science education in the U.S.?

Militant Creationism?

No way. It’s the loud, strident, elitist anti-creationists. The likes of Richard Dawkins and his colleagues.

Right. And the caste system in India would have simply withered away if only those untouchables weren’t so repulsive and disgusting. Homophobes can’t be blamed for beating up gay men, since the queers insist on being non-heterosexual. It’s not rapists fault, we ought to be punishing women for being sexually attractive.

This is the same dumb move Ken Miller pulled a while back, trying to place the blame for a religious movement that promotes ignorance on the backs of a minority group that opposes religious dogma. I assure you, if every atheist in America vanished tomorrow (raptured, perhaps?), the creationists would not go away. They would be stronger. They’d be moving faster to push their dogma into our schools, and to make it the law of the land.

Look, it’s very simple. Creationism is a problem because people are indoctrinated into biblical literalism, and because in this country the proponents have successfully coupled generic “faith” as a virtue with the specific follies of simple-minded Christianity. If you want to find the roots, look to evangelical, fundamentalist, and charismatic Christianity as it has been exercised in this country — which has not been as a reaction to atheism. People like Bakker would be on less shaky ground if they were to blame it all on a reaction against modernity, but theistic scientists can’t then turn around and damn the modern, because that would make them part of the problem, too.

Bakker continues in a follow-up and makes his position worse. First, he goes on a tirade about the “Brights”. That ham-handed public-relations misstep is not atheism, and it’s ridiculous to dismiss a rationalist view of the world because once upon a time a couple of well-meaning people tried to escape the stigma of the word “atheist” (a stigma that Bakker treats as deserved, symptomatic of the problem) with a new coinage. I do not call myself a Bright, and never did — when I first heard about it, I rejected it — so Bakker’s argument simply sails by me outside the foul line to fall into the bleachers of irrelevance.

The rest of Bakker’s protestation is nothing but a Courtier’s Reply.

Dawkins performs clip-art scholarship with the History of Science and Religion, a field that over the last several decades has matured into a rigorous discipline with fine PhD programs, endowed professorships, well-funded conferences, edited volumes luxuriously printed by Oxford, Harvard, and The Johns Hopkins Press. With footnotes.

Yeah, and Oral Roberts University, Bob Jones University, and Liberty University have huge endowments and churn out degrees — that must make them repositories of Truth.

It’s a smokescreen. Religion is a real, historical, and sociological phenomenon, and of course there is a genuine body of scholarship in those aspects of religion. But those studies have no bearing at all on the reality of the supernatural phenomena creationists endorse. Dawkins’ book, The God Delusion, which has Bakker fuming, is an attempt to cut through the layers of apologetics to get right at the central premise: the existence of a guiding intelligence that has ruled the universe. Quoting St Augustine or Martin Luther changes nothing. The key facts are that the history of the world does not correspond to the accounts of the church fathers; the revealed “truths” of the Abrahamic religions are false; biological reality contradicts any assertion of teleology or purpose. The Christian myth is objectively wrong. Those are the issues that have to be addressed, not how many footnotes a theologian can cram into his fantasies.

Bakker is a smart fellow, and I applaud his public outreach efforts. But he’s also a walking, talking demonstration of the fact that religion poisons everything. It takes the minds of logical, rational scientists and scrambles them into defenders of absurdity.

Comments

  1. #1 scott
    May 19, 2008

    Wow! Well said. A very quotable entry….

  2. #2 mcl
    May 19, 2008

    Very well written and also very right…

  3. #3 Daniel
    May 19, 2008

    I was similarly disappointed to read Shermer’s dismissal of ‘militant atheism’ in “Why Darwin Matters” (which I’ve only just finished). For some reason, if we say that the Christian cosmology is wrong, that’s some kind of ‘warfare’ view. We’re supposed to blend truth and falsehood into some big mushy ball.

    I hate it when people I like get it so egregiously wrong.

  4. #4 Stephanurus
    May 19, 2008

    Be sure to send Bakker a copy of your message and post his reply here for us to see.

  5. #5 Rey Fox
    May 19, 2008

    You can think religion is wrong. You just can’t say it.

  6. #6 Lago
    May 19, 2008

    It was Bakker that first inspired me to study comparative vertebrate anatomy with his book on the Dinosaur Heresies. I knew he was Pentecostal, which never bothered me, as I knew he fought creationists tooth and nail.

    Now I see he has given up totally on logic when it deals with religious mythology. I simply do not grasp how someone that can use logic as well as he can misplace this logic when it comes to popular mythology.

    Finally, blaming atheists for the current state of things is like blaming 60s equal-rights activists for the lynchings in the South.

  7. #7 Carl
    May 19, 2008

    Richard Weikart and Hector Avalos debated on Hitler and evolution today. Avalos is a professor religion and atheist. Weikart is a DI fellow as well as appeared in “Expelled” to tie Nazism and science.

    http://mickelson.libsyn.com/index.php?post_id=341046

    Audio:

    http://media.libsyn.com/media/mickelson/mickelson-2008-05-19.mp3

  8. #8 kid bitzer
    May 19, 2008

    “so Bakker’s argument simply sails by me outside the foul line to fall into the bleachers of irrelevance.”

    oh, man. i’m definitely stealing that one for re-use.

    i mean: thinking it up independently, on the spur of the moment, by dint of my lightning wit.

  9. #9 Dennis N
    May 19, 2008

    A yes, “militant atheism”. People who fight against being forced to fall in line and handle religion with soft gloves like it’s a cracked egg. The most militant atheist you find doesn’t even advocate banning religion. That’s sooooo “militant” of us. The most militant Christian you find is off planning our or deaths or at least fantasizing about us being tortured brutally and eternally.

  10. #10 Etha Williams
    May 19, 2008

    @#6 Lago –

    Now I see he has given up totally on logic when it deals with religious mythology. I simply do not grasp how someone that can use logic as well as he can misplace this logic when it comes to popular mythology.

    Well, what other option is available for a theistic scientist? Either you have to distort reality and logic (creationists) or just compartmentalize and ignore reality and logic when thinking about religion (Bakker, Ken Miller, etc). Or you could just stop wasting mental energy trying to defend indefensible notions….

  11. #11 Etha Williams
    May 19, 2008

    Er…the “you” in #10 was addressed to the imaginary theistic scientist, not Lago.

  12. #12 Ichthyic
    May 19, 2008

    The Christian myth is objectively wrong.

    as Carl above intimated, Avalos would entirely agree:

    http://video.aol.com/video-detail/hector-avalos-how-archaeology-killed-biblical-history-part-1-of-2/265703079

    http://video.aol.com/video-detail/hector-avalos-how-archaeology-killed-biblical-history-part-2-of-2/2504436649

    for those that haven’t seen Avalos’ talk on this issue, it’s worth seeing.

  13. #13 Daniel
    May 19, 2008

    I simply do not grasp how someone that can use logic as well as he can misplace this logic when it comes to popular mythology.

    Was Sam Harris going somewhere with the idea that religious ideas are handled by a different part of the brain than the part that handles cold rational evaluation of ideas? I think he was. It’d explain a lot of things.

    I’ve noticed that religious believers (including my former self) are great at all kinds of critical thinking. They can even go to town on other people’s religious beliefs. But when it comes to subjecting their own beliefs to critical scrutiny… blackout.

  14. #14 Glen Davidson
    May 19, 2008

    I assume it’s mostly a ploy, a PR attempt that he half believes in order to say it in “good faith”. Maybe he really believes it to the core, I really don’t know, but I don’t know how anybody in his position could watch Dover and the rest and see it as unproblematically true. So I think he’s blaming the “bad cop” and seeing himself as “good cop”.

    But it won’t do. It was roughly the “godless” who undermined the “message” of Expelled before a lot of journalists saw it and bought the story simply because they saw it on a screen. It was vitally important that the message would be out there prior to Expelled being seen, and Dawkins’ review was excellent in getting good judgment out there in time.

    And even some religious folk, while blaming Dawkins et al. for their forceful atheism, will admit that the “new atheism” is primarily a reaction against a theocratic drive that arose quite unprovoked. The causation is completely backwards in Bakker’s scenario, most of us would happily ignore religion and theocracy if we felt that we could afford to do so without a threat to the liberties afforded by a secular governement, as atheists assumed (wrongly) in the past.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

  15. #15 J
    May 19, 2008

    PZ still refuses to admit that the term “atheist” isn’t good for public relations and never has been. Equally important, it’s philosophically bankrupt (atheist with respect to which deity?).

    Bright is obviously the superior label, but if you want to put “godlessness” at the centre of your life, PZ’s inane criticism may carry some weight.

  16. #16 hans
    May 19, 2008

    “militant atheism”, this term really gets under my skin attached to people like Dawkins, Harris, PZ. Is anyone converting Christians on the point of a sword here ? We know that’s what it took to christianize all the Heathens like the Saxons, Avars, Slavs,….

  17. #17 Blake Stacey
    May 19, 2008

    If religion is this sophisticated thing which requires endowed professorships and footnotes to understand, then we’ve no business calling children Christian. “Awww, honey, it’s so sweet you love Jesus, but to really talk about faith, you have to understand the Essential Precondition of Being.” It’s either sophisticated or common: pick one!

  18. #18 H.H.
    May 19, 2008

    I wanted to write a reply to Bakker on Laelaps’ blog when I found some time, but now I don’t have to. He really, really doesn’t seem to get it. Well said, PZ.

  19. #19 Dennis N
    May 19, 2008

    Atheist with regard to every god that has no evidence, J. Right now that’s all of them. I am pretty damn happy to have “godlessness”. I just wish more people around had it, it results in much better decision making.

  20. #20 Ichthyic
    May 19, 2008

    PZ still refuses to admit that the term “atheist” isn’t good for public relations and never has been.

    let’s stretch your logic back a bit:

    “Susan B Anthony refuses to admit that the term “woman voter” isn’t good for public relations and never has been.

    Equally important, it’s philosophically bankrupt (atheist with respect to which deity?).

    ALL, dumbass.

    nice projection on the philosophically bankrupt issue though.

    again, I would refer you to Hector Avalos, but I doubt it would do any good.

    Bright is obviously the superior label

    while typically being bright is more common amongst atheists than religious nutters, it’s hardly directly correlated.

    conversely…

    “Conservatives are not necessarily stupid, but most stupid people are conservatives.”
    – John Stuart Mill

    inane criticism

    your projection is duly acknowledged, and fits with the rest of your “contributions” to this blog.

  21. #21 Steve_C
    May 19, 2008

    J.

    Suck an egg.

    Being soundly grounded in reality and refusing to accept faith is a virtue, is wise.

    Atheism is the disbelief in any and all gods, fairies or supernatural anything… there’s nothing wrong or bad about it.

    And pointing at supernatural beliefs and saying what they are isn’t militant, it’s just incredibly obvious.

    It’s silly.

  22. #22 Caveat
    May 19, 2008

    @#15 “Equally important, it’s philosophically bankrupt (atheist with respect to which deity?).”

    All of ‘em.

    a·the·ist (th-st)
    n.
    One who disbelieves or denies the existence of God or gods.

  23. #23 Hank Fox
    May 19, 2008

    AGAIN someone calls Richard Dawkins “loud” and “strident”??

    Bloody hell.

  24. #24 J
    May 19, 2008

    PZ’s position is also strategically weaker, as “atheist” doesn’t encompass the millions of people who consider themselves deists. Why attach such importance to a mere cosmological question (did an intelligence create the Universe)? By doing this we’re missing out on countless people who agree with us on all major issues (e.g. stem-cell research and creationism). It’s much more useful build a group around rejection of religion rather than rejection of a specific academic hypothesis which happens to be irrelevant to everything except theoretical physics.

  25. #25 Dennis N
    May 19, 2008

    There are terms that could be bad for PR. We could call ourselves baby-eaters. I fail to see how “atheist” is bad PR, but I hope J could illuminate us, and maybe suggest a new name, besides atheist or bright.

  26. #26 Ichthyic
    May 19, 2008

    J.
    Suck an egg.

    Steve is a man of few words, but very clear ideas.
    ;)

  27. #27 raven
    May 19, 2008

    Bakker is blind or something.

    The rise of militant atheists is a reaction to the attempt by the fundie Death Cults to take over the USA, set up a theocracy, and head back to the Dark Ages. They’ve already caused a huge amount of havoc and most Americans are getting fed up with them.

    It isn’t atheists who keep trying to sneak creo mythology into kid’s science classes or persecute evolutionary biologists every chance they get.

    Bakker is a minister in a pentocostal church after his day job. He might be one of the few such that thinks the earth is 4.5 billion years old. Maybe the stress is getting to him. LOL

  28. #28 Ichthyic
    May 19, 2008

    “atheist” doesn’t encompass the millions of people who consider themselves deists.

    ROFLMAO

    you don’t say?

  29. #29 Janine ID
    May 19, 2008

    Bright is obviously the superior label, but if you want to put “godlessness” at the centre of your life, PZ’s inane criticism may carry some weight.

    Posted by: J

    I have to point this out to you, J. You are using the same argument that many religious people make against atheists, that atheists base their life around a lack of god.

    I humbly have to say, if there were not so many people around me trying to push god upon me, I would not think of the topic. There are so many other things that takes priority. And I doubt I am alone in this.

    You are free to be Bright but I desire better and more available lighting.

  30. #30 Ichthyic
    May 19, 2008

    Maybe the stress is getting to him. LOL

    I’d get into yet another discussion of the evidences of cognitive dissonance in the likes of Collins and Miller, but I’m off to do something more productive.

    I’ll just add that like Wilson, Bakker might be playing up the religious angle for tactical effect.

  31. #31 JordanB
    May 19, 2008

    Sorry – I’m with PZ on “Brights”. To #15 “Bright is obviously the superior label” – obvious to whom? You? To me it sounds like something from a bad TV sci-fi series. It has not caught on in the public mind, so its dead. I am an atheist. You can be who you want. With your three friends. Enjoy your movement. We’ll be over here with the grownups.

  32. #32 J
    May 19, 2008

    ALL, dumbass.
    nice projection on the philosophically bankrupt issue though.
    In which case it’s curious why Bertrand Russell agrees with me. Maybe he was a dumbass too?

    Everyone is an atheist with respect to innumerably many deities, and full-blown atheism isn’t a worldview any more than full-blown afairyism. Philosophically, use of the term misses the point.

    The cultish reactions I’m eliciting are very curious indeed.

  33. #33 Janine ID
    May 19, 2008

    as “atheist” doesn’t encompass the millions of people who consider themselves deists

    Just like “christian” doesn’t encompass the millions of people who consider themselves muslim. Just what is your point?

  34. #34 unicow
    May 19, 2008

    Ugh.

    With all the talk about “appeasement” on the political front these days, why do so many otherwise sane scientists still want to give half of Czechoslovakia to Hitler (metaphorically speaking, of course)?

  35. #35 Janine ID
    May 19, 2008

    In which case it’s curious why Bertrand Russell agrees with me. Maybe he was a dumbass too?

    Posted by: J

    Please explain this claim.

  36. #36 J
    May 20, 2008

    ROFLMAO

    you don’t say?
    Good argument, fuckface.

    You’re a little savage in a tribe, always eager to go tear into the enemy.

  37. #37 Dennis N
    May 20, 2008

    How are we reacting like a cult? First off, there’s like 7 or 8 people commenting right now out of thousands of people who read this site. And we’re not representative of all atheists. Point out anything cult-ish you see. Asking someone to back up their claims is not cult-like behavior; it is quite the opposite.

  38. #38 Ichthyic
    May 20, 2008

    In which case it’s curious why Bertrand Russell agrees with me. Maybe he was a dumbass too?

    you do like to play the argument from authority, don’t you J?

    are you that intellectually bankrupt yourself?

    Maybe he was a dumbass too?

    why don’t you present the actual argument he made, and find out for yourself?

    The cultish reactions I’m eliciting are very curious indeed.

    the strawmen you keep building are OTOH, hardly curious at all, since I’ve seen them coming from you before.

    I’m thinking Steve is right, the appropriate response is:

    suck an egg.

    you were a waste of time in the other thread, and you will obviously be a waste of time here.

    maybe you would do better discussing “framing” with Nisbet?

    http://scienceblogs.com/framing-science/

    see if you can convince Matt that redefining atheism is worthwhile.

  39. #39 Glen Davidson
    May 20, 2008

    Just for an example of some of the more intellectual religious people admitting that “new atheism” is a reaction, not some bizarre evangelistic fervor among the godless, here:

    While much of the renewed militant atheism comes as a reaction to the strident rhetoric of the religious right, theologian Harvey Cox of the Harvard Divinity School says he thinks Dawkins is behaving just like those he criticizes.

    “I think of Richard Dawkins as the kind of Jerry Falwell of the atheists,” Cox told the PBS program “Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly.” “He takes the most narrow and the most legalistic side of religion and makes that religion — and then he’s against it.”

    pewforum.org/news/rss.php?NewsID=12546

    I included the second paragraph because the first clearly leads beyond itself. I don’t care about the second at this point, though, just the admission on the Pew Forum that “new atheism” didn’t take the initiative, religious mischief-makers did.

    I don’t want to fault Bakker overmuch, since he can persuade people that we never could. But he should not be making starkly untrue statements (like implicitly blaming “loud, strident, elitist anti-creationists” for nonsense like Expelled and the Dover circus) when he speaks for science.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

  40. #40 Ichthyic
    May 20, 2008

    You’re a little savage in a tribe, always eager to go tear into the enemy.

    and you seem to always be happy to play the victim.

    maybe you need thicker armor?

    or better arguments?

  41. #41 Janine ID
    May 20, 2008

    Dennis N, this J person seems to think that people who call themselves atheists base their lives on nothing. Otherwise, why would this person claim the we base our lives on “godlessness”. This is reason enough to accuse us of acting cult like.

    But J is unable or unwilling to back the claims.

  42. #42 Jams
    May 20, 2008

    “It’s much more useful build a group around rejection of religion rather than rejection of a specific academic hypothesis which happens to be irrelevant to everything except theoretical physics.” – J.

    Who’s building a group? I’m not. I’m not an atheist because I’m joining something. I’m an atheist for the same reason I’m tall – I was simply born this way (and no one has been able to convince me otherwise). Changing the meaning of atheist to better facilitate some political agenda is complete idiocy. Worse, it’ll force me to create a new word to communicate the meaning of the old one.

  43. #43 Dennis N
    May 20, 2008

    Janine, I don’t know if we should talk to each other in J’s presence, he might think we’re colluding against him. Since we’re a cult and all.

  44. #44 J
    May 20, 2008

    Please explain this claim.
    Very well, here’s Russell. A choice quotation:

    I never know whether I should say “Agnostic” or whether I should say “Atheist”. It is a very difficult question and I daresay that some of you have been troubled by it. As a philosopher, if I were speaking to a purely philosophic audience I should say that I ought to describe myself as an Agnostic, because I do not think that there is a conclusive argument by which one prove that there is not a God.

    He means “agnostic” in the philosophical sense, not ordinary sense.

  45. #45 Dennis N
    May 20, 2008

    In today’s time, that position is best described as “weak atheism”. Agnostic is used to express doubts of theistic belief. I don’t have doubts. I just acknowledge what can and can’t be proven.

  46. #46 Ichthyic
    May 20, 2008

    As a philosopher, if I were speaking to a purely philosophic audience I should say that I ought to describe myself as an Agnostic, because I do not think that there is a conclusive argument by which one prove that there is not a God.

    and he was wrong.

    why?

    because an atheist does not have to prove there is no god.

    a deist, OTOH, is the one with the burden of proof.

    this is why you shouldn’t rely on authoritarian argument so much, J.

    now go lick your wounds.

  47. #47 J
    May 20, 2008

    In case I’m accused of misrepresenting Russell, he goes on to say:
    On the other hand, if I am to convey the right impression to the ordinary man in the street I think I ought to say that I am an Atheist, because when I say that I cannot prove that there is not a God, I ought to add equally that I cannot prove that there are not the Homeric gods.

    This part isn’t relevant, because I was talking about the correct philosophical use of the term atheist, not “ordinary man in the street” use.

  48. #48 C Barr
    May 20, 2008

    raven #27, you got it exactly. Creationism has become a well organized political advocacy to subvert our constitutional system. Before this started, most people were willing to let things be out of mutual respect and leave each other alone. Outspoken atheism is the reasonable pushback to an agressive and subversive political movement.

  49. #49 Kseniya
    May 20, 2008

    Bright is superior to Atheist?

    Ok.

    Then Rainbow Bright is even better!

    I agree that Atheist, while semantically accurate to an almost absurd degree, is unfortunately very heavily laden down with baggage that has long been imposed upon it by entites which have had their own very obvious agendas. Bright, however, is superior only in that it is not. In my equally valid and equally meaningless opinion, Bright is laden down with a shallow smugness that does itself no favors.

    Equally important, it’s philosophically bankrupt (atheist with respect to which deity?).

    You’re kidding right? You write this in the same paragraph in which you characterize PZ’s criticism as “inane”?

    LOL! Now I can go to bed smiling. Thank you!

    FWIW, it’s true that “atheist” isn’t all-inclusive of those who reject most or all gods and forms of organized religion, but … so? Atheist describes atheists. Surely there are other terms that describe the groups you refer to. Secular humanist? Liberal? What are you proposing? That the term “atheist” no longer be used to describe atheists?

  50. #50 Ichthyic
    May 20, 2008

    This part isn’t relevant, because I was talking building a strawman.

    there, fixed that for you.

  51. #51 Andy James
    May 20, 2008

    I always thought Bakker was one of the good ones.

    Apparently not. He screw that up just like he did the predatory theory of T. Rex

  52. #52 Dennis N
    May 20, 2008

    Agnostic conveys a feeling of indecision. I’ve made my decision: there are no gods. Now, I sit humbly and am open to any evidence to the contrary. I am an atheist.

  53. #53 Mike
    May 20, 2008

    “What’s the greatest enemy of science education in the U.S.?”

    Here he gets it a *bit* wrong. The answer is “consensus”, and forget about any religion while you parse that.

  54. #54 Janine ID
    May 20, 2008

    Fine. I agree with that. Under those terms, I call myself an agnostic and for those same reasons.

    Now just why did Russell come with with his teapot?

    Answer that and perhaps you can understand why an agnostic person will take an atheist position. Just keep in mind that we are not basing our lives and philosophy on being godless. Just that god does not enter into these things.

  55. #55 Etha Williams
    May 20, 2008

    @#24 J –

    PZ’s position is also strategically weaker, as “atheist” doesn’t encompass the millions of people who consider themselves deists. Why attach such importance to a mere cosmological question (did an intelligence create the Universe)? By doing this we’re missing out on countless people who agree with us on all major issues (e.g. stem-cell research and creationism).

    Because it isn’t a mere cosmological question. It’s an important cosmological question that reflects a general way of looking at the world — whether one seeks rational, naturalistic explanations and shows a willingness to say “I don’t know” when this is the case, or whether one sometimes chooses to fill those “I don’t know” gaps with supernatural explanations (eg, the deists in the question of the origin of the universe). The deistic god is utterly superfluous, and what’s more, may well eventually become as utterly scientifically contradictory as the creationist god with the progress of physical cosmology.

  56. #56 Hank Fox
    May 20, 2008

    We’re so immersed in religious culture, Christian culture, that the least little bit of truly independent, objective thinking looks like a poisonous attack, not just on Christianity and religion, but on objectivity itself.

    If you have a big glass of milk, the least little black speck floating in it makes you not want to drink it.

    Except in the case of religiosity in the U.S., it’s more like a big glass of black specks, and a quarter-teaspoon of milk. It takes an immense amount of straining and filtering to get a sip of milk completely free of black specks.

    And it’s obvious Bakker has swallowed more of the black specks than a scientist really should.

  57. #57 J
    May 20, 2008

    and he was wrong.

    why?

    because an atheist does not have to prove there is no god.
    We all know that, moron. Russell was the one to come up with the teapot analogy, which is a classic way of demonstrating this.

    The term “agnostic” in the sense Russell meant implicitly contains all that stuff about burden of proof, and is not the same as today’s popular meaning of the term, which may be more aptly called “50:50 agnostic”.

  58. #58 Ichthyic
    May 20, 2008

    Here, I think is the appropriate authoritarian quote to use in response to J:

    “We appreciate your concern. It is noted and stupid.”

    hopefully most here won’t have already forgotten where that came from.

  59. #59 Dennis N
    May 20, 2008

    I don’t know what you are arguing for, J. Do you want people to refer to themselves as agnostics, or do you just want everyone to know the difference between atheist and agnostic? Cuz we all already know the difference.

  60. #60 Mike Haubrich, FCD
    May 20, 2008

    Well, J, if the millions of deists would come clean and explain why we should believe in a non-specific initial creator of the clockworks who let everything just run on its own with its hands off, then perhaps there would be a reason to accept your position.

    I see no reason why such a deity would give a rat’s ass if we acknowledged it or not. What’s the point of deism if not the cowardice to admit that you are afraid to say that you don’t have a personal god?

    The deist deity isn’t claimed to interact with us or the natural world at all. We don’t need it. So, what do we gain from it? How does it help us to believe in it? What is there in the natural world that even needs it as an explanation?

    Using science we can figure out the processes which have led the universe to its current condition. A deity adds what exactly?

    1. Community? Nope, no Deist churches.
    2. Money? Deists don’t hold up the collection plate under your nose and guilt you into contributing.
    3. Charity? Name me a deist charity.
    4. Morality? Your deity is absent.
    5. Spiritual fulfillment? See (4.)

    J, you are being a smug dumbass. The only thing that deists have on atheists is a special pleading that you, too, are religious and not godless atheists. Nature’s God was fine in Paine’s day, but deists should pick a side in this modern world.

    I, too, dislike the term “Bright.” And I didn’t like what Bakker said to Brian either. The fundamentalists consider anything that isn’t explicitly religious to be equivalent to being atheist, and so the disappearance of public atheism wouldn’t have jack-all effect on the creaionists.

  61. #61 Etha Williams
    May 20, 2008

    @#46 J –

    This part isn’t relevant, because I was talking about the correct philosophical use of the term atheist, not “ordinary man in the street” use.

    And why exactly is “bright” philosophically better? Rationalist, secular humanist, naturalist, even agnostic, I can see…but bright?

  62. #62 J
    May 20, 2008

    There is actually a good technical reason to differentiate between atheist and agnostic, and Russell recognized it. Arguments against the existence of god are very possible. Indeed, Dawkins comes up with one himself in The God Delusion.

    So “atheist” is a good word to describe a person with an even stronger opinion, who actually has an argument against the intelligent creator hypothesis.

  63. #63 Dennis N
    May 20, 2008

    But we already know the what these words mean. And the terms strong atheist and weak atheist already do a good job delineating us. Agnostic is best used to describe a doubter, or someone still deciding.

  64. #64 chancelikely
    May 20, 2008

    Words change over time, particularly their connotations and baggage. The words “nice” and “silly” have more or less traded places in connotation over the history of the English language. Change the connotation, don’t reinvent the wheel.

    Meanwhile, OT but in the spirit of this blog: http://www.partiallyclips.com/pclipslite.php

  65. #65 Etha Williams
    May 20, 2008

    Huh?

    J in #15:

    PZ still refuses to admit that the term “atheist” isn’t good for public relations and never has been. Equally important, it’s philosophically bankrupt (atheist with respect to which deity?).

    J in #61:

    So “atheist” is a good word to describe a person with an even stronger opinion, who actually has an argument against the intelligent creator hypothesis.

    (Emphases mine.)

  66. #66 J
    May 20, 2008

    Well, J, if the millions of deists would come clean and explain why we should believe in a non-specific initial creator of the clockworks who let everything just run on its own with its hands off, then perhaps there would be a reason to accept your position.
    I’m not a deist myself, but deism isn’t an especially crazy position. Nowhere near as obviously absurd as actual religion.

  67. #67 Dennis N
    May 20, 2008

    So what is your position J?

  68. #68 chancelikely
    May 20, 2008

    Crap, the link only goes to the current comic (which is right for the moment). The relevant comic is for 5-13-2008 “Cranes”.

    “Bright” loses handily to “atheist” when it comes to semantic accuracy and name recognition, as it were. That it isn’t laden with quite so much baggage in no way makes up for loss of accuracy and awareness.

    And quoting Russell to support the use of a word coined after his death seems almost perverse.

  69. #69 Patrick Conley
    May 20, 2008

    J, Re. Etha’s post: What, exactly, are you arguing?

  70. #70 Janine ID
    May 20, 2008

    So “atheist” is a good word to describe a person with an even stronger opinion, who actually has an argument against the intelligent creator hypothesis.

    Posted by: J

    So, I did not become an atheist twenty five years ago when I rejected the church I attended and did not attend any other one. Also, my rejection was not based on an argument. I did not feel the connection to god that I, as a believer, was supposed to have.

    Thank you very much. In an earlier thread, I had a true believer inform me that I was never a christian. Now I have you saying that people like me are not really atheists. So, please tell me. I really need to know this. WHAT THE FUCK AM I?

  71. #71 Dennis N
    May 20, 2008

    J, you don’t seem to be advocating anything. I have this sneaking suspicion that you are wanting us atheists to just go away, as if that would help us. I could be wrong, but you haven’t really put forth a position.

  72. #72 J
    May 20, 2008

    Etha,

    Sorry, I wasn’t clear.

    Dawkins defines what he calls the “God Hypothesis”, so we know which “God” his atheism is “respect to”. “Atheist” is a good word for someone who, given his definitions, subscribes to his conclusions (or other arguments against God’s existence).

    Without those clear definitions “atheist” is a bit of a silly word.

  73. #73 Dennis N
    May 20, 2008

    You do not have to be atheist with respect to a certain god. You can be a-theist. Not believing in any god. Strong and weak atheism.

    Strong atheist is a term generally used to describe atheists who accept as true the proposition, “gods do not exist”. Weak atheism refers to any type of non-theism which falls short of this standard.

    Being a weak atheist, you do not need to make any positive claims. And you can still proudly call yourself an atheist as long as you don’t believe in a god.

  74. #74 Patrick Conley
    May 20, 2008

    J, are you arguing, then, that an atheist is someone who disbelieves in one god specifically? I’m not familiar with Dawkins’ God Hypothesis, but I’d bet money that his argument could be used against any and every creator god, and he was merely naming it according to the dominant god of his culture.

  75. #75 Janine ID
    May 20, 2008

    Without those clear definitions “atheist” is a bit of a silly word.

    Posted by: J

    I am grateful that I am not going by your definition. I have not problem calling myself an A-THE-IST. And damn proud of it. And I have no problem being silly in your eyes. But what the fuck, we are all rather cultist here.

  76. #76 Dennis N
    May 20, 2008

    This is Dawkins’ opinion:

    Why do you call yourself an atheist? Why not an agnostic?

    Well, technically, you cannot be any more than an agnostic. But I am as agnostic about God as I am about fairies and the Flying Spaghetti Monster. You cannot actually disprove the existence of God. Therefore, to be a positive atheist is not technically possible. But you can be as atheist about God as you can be atheist about Thor or Apollo. Everybody nowadays is an atheist about Thor and Apollo. Some of us just go one god further.

  77. #77 J
    May 20, 2008

    J, you don’t seem to be advocating anything. I have this sneaking suspicion that you are wanting us atheists to just go away, as if that would help us. I could be wrong, but you haven’t really put forth a position.
    Total bullshit. I’ve stated several views, but I was distracted by that little shit Ichthyic’s ignorant attack on my hero Bertrand Russell.

    I’ll summarize:

    (1) Atheism is bad for public relations, because of the stigma associated with the term.
    (2) Strategically it’s an foolhardy move. We’re missing out on all those people (e.g. deists) who agree with us on all major political issues. By going under the banner of atheism, we automatically marginalize ourselves.
    (3) Philosophically it’s a silly term unless it comes appended with a load of cumbersome definitions. Unless atheist is used to mean “disbeliever in “, it totally misses the point, as everyone is an atheist with respect to innumerable deities.

  78. #78 J
    May 20, 2008

    Bah! I intended to write, “Unless atheist is used to mean “disbeliever in [abstract phrasing of the cosmological God hypothesis]…”.

  79. #79 J
    May 20, 2008

    See, you people have got me stressed out. Maybe third time lucky:

    I intended to write, “Unless atheist is used to mean ‘disbeliever in [abstract phrasing of the cosmological God hypothesis]…’”.

  80. #80 Dennis N
    May 20, 2008

    How many people are deists? That fell out of style in the 1800s. When you say atheist, people know what you mean. When you say Christian, people do not think “atheist in regards to all gods except Jesus”. I still don’t see how the stigma with the word is bad. We’re fighting against that exact stigma. It’s not going to go away by changing the name. The stigma shouldn’t be there, and we will eventually remove that stigma.

  81. #81 Scott Hatfield, OM
    May 20, 2008

    All this thread reveals is that being an expert and accomplished dinosaur hunter does not make you well-qualified to pontificate on a theological position, in this case the quasi-religious version of atheism.

    Here’s the thing, PZ. You and I can rather civilly disagree about the God delusion I still embrace. And you and those who think like you have every right to assert your non-belief, and ask hard, pointed questions of believers. But, as soon as one is assertive, that assertiveness is seen as something akin to the blind enthusiasm of the faithful. Why does Bakker fall for the trope of ‘evangelical atheism’? Not because he’s spent a lot of time parsing the arguments, evidently. He falls for it because people perceive assertiveness in these matters as religious.

    And, many times, that perception is correct. You and I both know that some of your faithful readers are just that. Makes the place interesting!

  82. #82 Janine ID
    May 20, 2008

    J, it seems that you are making a scapegoat of a the word “atheist”. Guess what, most religious people would heap the same scorn on the concept of not believing in any god. It is not the word those people hate, it is other people not sharing their beliefs. Using the word Bright will not change the situation.

  83. #83 Azkyroth
    May 20, 2008

    PZ still refuses to admit that the term “atheist” isn’t good for public relations and never has been. Equally important, it’s philosophically bankrupt (atheist with respect to which deity?).

    Bright is obviously the superior label, but if you want to put “godlessness” at the centre of your life, PZ’s inane criticism may carry some weight.

    However, the advantage of the label “atheist” is that, unlike “bright,” it will not expose anyone adopting it – even J – to a false advertising lawsuit.

  84. #84 me
    May 20, 2008

    J,
    OMFG.
    1. Atheism bad PR? Do you judge a person’s science based on their personal beliefs?
    2. Strategy? To what end? Do you believe that all atheist scientists (and perhaps all atheists in general) have a political agenda?
    3. *facepalm* Atheist = without theism. One who does not believe in supernatural deities or a prime creator.

  85. #85 Dennis N
    May 20, 2008

    J, please just make a clear assertion of some sort. None of us have any idea what you’re advocating here. Sum up your argument, make a thesis, something.

  86. #86 me
    May 20, 2008

    Also could have said: OMFFSM. :) Hehehe :)

  87. #87 Autumn
    May 20, 2008

    J,
    Every term imaginable is philosophically loaded with assloads of definitions and conditional modifiers. Philosophy is about being able to construct definitions and terms such that an argument may be logically consistant. This necessitates very exact definitions which make any term useless to a lay person.
    The word “horse”, as my friend with a degree in philosophy pointed out to me, is a useless term unless one first decides about rather thorny Platonic issues.
    The issue is, why do I have to be an atheist, but I have never had to define myself as a non-numismatist?

  88. #88 Kmeat
    May 20, 2008

    Posted by: Ichthyic |

    The Christian myth is objectively wrong.

    as Carl above intimated, Avalos would entirely agree:

    http://video.aol.com/video-detail/hector-avalos-how-archaeology-killed-biblical-history-part-1-of-2/265703079

    http://video.aol.com/video-detail/hector-avalos-how-archaeology-killed-biblical-history-part-2-of-2/2504436649

    for those that haven’t seen Avalos’ talk on this issue, it’s worth seeing.

    May 19, 2008 11:30 PM

    That was an incredible lecture. Thank you for posting that.

  89. #89 J
    May 20, 2008

    How many people are deists? That fell out of style in the 1800s
    A lot of people are deitsts; they just don’t use the word. They’re just people who are inclined to believe there was some sort of intelligent force behind the Universe. I think they usually identify themselves as agnostics these days.

    Many of you biologists here, who don’t know the first thing about physics, seem to assume that anyone who believes in an intelligent designer must be completely batshit and delusional. If you believe that, you really should learn something about the wonders. Very exciting stuff.

    I’m myself an atheist (yes, it’s a useful label when it comes to cosmological questions), but anyone who utterly pooh-poohs deism is simply ignorant, and has a lot to learn.

  90. #90 J
    May 20, 2008

    The word “horse”, as my friend with a degree in philosophy pointed out to me, is a useless term unless one first decides about rather thorny Platonic issues.
    The issue is, why do I have to be an atheist, but I have never had to define myself as a non-numismatist?

    Yeah, good point, I suppose. I’m not a philosopher, but yes, you’re obviously right.

    OK, I withdraw what I said about atheism being a “philosophically bankrupt” term. Quit hassling me about that one. My other objections still stand firm.

  91. #91 Sioux Laris
    May 20, 2008

    Don’t be so hard on J! He probably bought up a lot of “brights”-related domain names and had a whole slew of “bright” t-shirt and such made up but now mouldering in his garage.

  92. #92 Lindsey
    May 20, 2008

    At first I was a bit sad when I read this. I loved dinosaurs as a child, and have always been interested in science, but it was Dinosaur Heresies that rekindled that interest and made me devour any information I could find about dinosaurs and evolution.

    I had had a vague idea of what evolution entailed, but the ideas and connections presented in this book (and the others it inspired me to find) gave me a newfound sense of wonderment and joy regarding living things. So much so, in fact, that I was able to let go of my desire for any kind of afterlife, and my last bit of agnosticism.

    Reading this quote from him left me feeling betrayed, but then I thought about it some more, and realized:

    This is only a reminder that my views are not the result of evangelizing, manipulation, or appeals to authority. I was inspired by the reality of the natural world, the knowledge of which has been added to by thousands of people besides Bakker. Unpleasant news about one of my “heroes” doesn’t make me doubt everything I know or shatter my world, because the world speaks for itself, and that actually makes me feel pretty good.

  93. #93 RamblinDude
    May 20, 2008

    The fundamentalists consider anything that isn’t explicitly religious to be equivalent to being atheist, and so the disappearance of public atheism wouldn’t have jack-all effect on the creaionists.

    I think you’re on the right track there, Mike.

    I define myself as an atheist mainly to cut through all the crap. When people ask me if I believe in god, they don’t mean some amorphous, ineffable, unnamed, natural force that lies beyond our scope of understanding. Some undefined “intelligence” responsible for cosmological beginnings. They always mean the Christian god, the deity that has a gender and a personality and offspring and commands you to worship him and is going to bring about the rapture any day now…etc.

    Why pussyfoot around pretending that we don’t reject all of that.

    This argument about name changing is bullshit.

  94. #94 J
    May 20, 2008

    Up there I meant to write, “If you believe that, you really should learn something about the wonders of physics.”

  95. #95 Etha Williams
    May 20, 2008

    @#76 J –

    (1) Atheism is bad for public relations, because of the stigma associated with the term.

    I fail to see how “bright” is better in this regard. The negative connotations of atheism (in its “man on the street” sense) is due to the ignorant and prejudiced impressions of some theists (most particularly fundies) regarding non-belief. Changing the label in general won’t make this conception of non-belief go away, and changing it to the better-than-you “brights” just reinforces the notion that atheists(/agnostics/nonbelievers/whatever label you prefer) are, in the words of Bakker, “loud, strident, [and] elitist.”

    (2) Strategically it’s an foolhardy move. We’re missing out on all those people (e.g. deists) who agree with us on all major political issues. By going under the banner of atheism, we automatically marginalize ourselves.

    Deists are an even smaller proportion of the population than atheists, estimated at .02% of the US population. Also, I’ve never seen an atheist reject the help of a deist (or even a theist) in defending against creationism, anti-stem cell research, etc. However, when it comes to supporting a rationalistic philosophy, an atheist would be quite right in rejecting the arguments of deists, since these people believe in a superfluous and undemonstrated god.

    (3) Philosophically it’s a silly term unless it comes appended with a load of cumbersome definitions. Unless atheist is used to mean “disbeliever in [abstract phrasing of the cosmological God hypothesis]…”, it totally misses the point, as everyone is an atheist with respect to innumerable deities.

    Pretty much everything is a philosophically silly term unless appended with a load of cumbersome definitions. Again, I fail to see how “bright” is better in this regard.

  96. #96 Dennis N
    May 20, 2008

    I’ve read a lot about physics in the past. I’ve been in awe and wonder, but I’m still and atheist. What is it in physics that you think makes people believe there’s a divine intelligence?

  97. #97 J
    May 20, 2008

    Deists are an even smaller proportion of the population than atheists, estimated at .02% of the US population
    That’s because they usually identify themselves as agnostics rather than deists.

  98. #98 Dennis N
    May 20, 2008

    I really need to fix my “an” vs. “and” problems.

  99. #99 J
    May 20, 2008

    I’ve read a lot about physics in the past. I’ve been in awe and wonder, but I’m still and atheist. And I said I’m an atheist too, so what’s your point.
    What is it in physics that you think makes people believe there’s a divine intelligence?
    Because physics hasn’t had its Darwin yet. All the laws of physics seem so well-designed, and we don’t know why. That doesn’t even include the universal constants.

    The multiverse hypothesis is the explanation I subscribe to. Intelligent design is one of the few others. Assuming we didn’t have any reason to favour one hypothesis over the other (some people believe that), your Bayesian prior for P(intelligent design) should be 1/n, where n is the number of rival hypotheses. So, in the eyes of such people, intelligent creation of the universe would have something like a 1/5 or 1/4 chance. And that’s for someone who hasn’t deceived himself into believing in ID.

    There are many intelligent theoretical physics, like Freeman Dyson, who allow for the possiblity of some sort of creative intelligence. I think they’re being silly, but they’re obviously neither stupid nor ignorant nor insane.

  100. #100 Steve_C
    May 20, 2008

    You can’t be serious.

    It’s not one or the other.

    Agnostic: There could be a god, I dunno.
    Deist: There’s a god of some sort.

  101. #101 Jams
    May 20, 2008

    I agree with J. on the deists “usually identify themselves as agnostics rather than deists”, or rather, I’ve found that’s most often the case.

  102. #102 Etha Williams
    May 20, 2008

    @#88 J –

    Many of you biologists here, who don’t know the first thing about physics, seem to assume that anyone who believes in an intelligent designer must be completely batshit and delusional. If you believe that, you really should learn something about the wonders. Very exciting stuff.

    Delusional? Yes. Batshit? No…many believers, particularly the deists, are quite good at compartmentalizing the irrational and rational aspects of their worldviews.

    The physical wonders in the universe are very exciting, but in no way indicative of the presence of an intelligent designer. The great diversity of life on earth is also very exciting; also not indicative of the presence of a designer. The deistic god of wonder in nature may be personally satisfying, but is rationally and scientifically unsupported and superfluous.

  103. #103 Steve_C
    May 20, 2008

    But they’re not interchangeable.

  104. #104 J
    May 20, 2008

    Whoa! Glaringly ambiguous comment:

    “The multiverse hypothesis is the explanation I subscribe to. Intelligent design is one of the few others.”

    That’s supposed to mean “Intelligent design is one of the few other proposed hypotheses.” It’s not one that I subscribe to.

    I’d better get some rest…

  105. #105 Dooglass
    May 20, 2008

    I once met a paleontologist whose name I cannot recall (it was something French) who said of Bakker “He has a PHD in LSD.”. At least I think that’s what it was. It was a long time ago. Anyway, should we follow the example of “The lost World” and feed Bakker to a T. rex?

  106. #106 Jams
    May 20, 2008

    @Steve_C

    I think he’s just saying that people often call themselves agnostic without really knowing they mean deist.

  107. #107 Dennis N
    May 20, 2008

    My point was explained in my question. I didn’t see what made people think of a designer. So I asked you. I don’t see this universe as designed for us. It is much too inhospitable.

  108. #108 J
    May 20, 2008

    Delusional? Yes. Batshit? No…many believers, particularly the deists, are quite good at compartmentalizing the irrational and rational aspects of their worldviews.
    Well I’m afraid you simply don’t know enough. You’re ignorant. You don’t understand enough physics. If you did you would see why so many physicists allow for the possibility of a creative intelligence.

    They’re wrong, but calling them delusional is just ignorant. They’re just deceiving themselves a little. That’s all.

  109. #109 Jams
    May 20, 2008

    “If you did you would see why so many physicists allow for the possibility of a creative intelligence.” – J.

    Why do I feel an eminent evocation of the Bohr Interpretation?

  110. #110 J
    May 20, 2008

    My point was explained in my question. I didn’t see what made people think of a designer. So I asked you. I don’t see this universe as designed for us. It is much too inhospitable.
    Yes, obviously “benevolent designer” is easily dismissible. Someone like Freeman Dyson would posit a designer that’s essentially indifferent to human suffering.

  111. #111 Dennis N
    May 20, 2008

    Intelligence is always a possibility. But Occam’s razor all but eliminates it when other theories that have the same lack of evidence are much more simple. It would be delusional to choose the intelligence in face of a simpler explanation.

  112. #112 Etha Williams
    May 20, 2008

    @#107 J –

    Well I’m afraid you simply don’t know enough. You’re ignorant. You don’t understand enough physics. If you did you would see why so many physicists allow for the possibility of a creative intelligence.

    Instead of making vague, unsupported assertions about my ignorance, why don’t you tell me what aspects of physics I need to understand?

    They’re wrong, but calling them delusional is just ignorant. They’re just deceiving themselves a little. That’s all.

    Delusion…self-deception…what exactly is the difference here?

  113. #113 Dennis N
    May 20, 2008

    I dunno, somethin’ about J sets off my alarms.

  114. #114 me
    May 20, 2008

    J, you’re confusing me.
    First you write in support of physicists allowing for the ‘possibility of a creative intelligence’ (interesting wording on your part, may I add). Then you claim that they’re deceiving themselves.
    I’m not angling for you to denounce all non-atheists, I just want you to be clear in your argument.

  115. #115 Etha Williams
    May 20, 2008

    I particularly liked this part of the Bakker article:

    [Bakker]: …Dawkins wins no converts from the majority of U.S. parents who still honor a Biblical tradition. [Edward] Hitchcock is a far better model. He had his battles with skepticism. He did worry that the discovery of Deep Time would upset the good people of his congregation. But Hitchcock could view three thousand years of scriptural tradition and see much of value – and much concordance with Jurassic geology.

    Battles with skepticism…*headdesk* Good thing the reverend managed to stick to his obviously true religious beliefs in the face of all scientific counter-evidence.

  116. #116 miller
    May 20, 2008

    By most measures, I am a middle-of-the-road atheist, but I must say that Bakker’s comments are simply off the mark. To say the strident atheists are worse than the creationists is to sacrifice all sense of perspective in order to make a point. His later response has all the signs of not knowing his audience very well. If he knew his audience, he’d know that the Brights movement has hardly any credibility even among atheists, and that atheists hardly care whether Darwin was an agnostic rather than an atheist.

  117. #117 peter
    May 20, 2008

    If creationism is such a serious threat in the States, and what I see in this blog has certainly looks convincing, it’s sad that Bakker, for all his contributions to science, can’t tell the difference between the fire and the fire-brigade.

    I hadn’t seen the “Courtier’s Reply” before: it’s a fine piece of writing, and a great satire on the argument from authority. It’s not only theists who are prey to such arguments, however – I had “were they all deluded?” thrown in my face in these pages recently in defence of (non-theistic) mumbo-jumbo philosophers. A lot of pseudo-science (Freud, Jung…) benefits from this argument (how can you ignore?..have you read?….)..as if anything is judged on the sheer volume of writing associated with it.

    Peter

  118. #118 Etha Williams
    May 20, 2008

    This bit of Bakker theology is also quite good:

    If anyone insists on a label for me, try “Augustinian Evolution”. Be warned: you’d have to read “De Genesi ad Litteram – Toward a Direct Reading of Genesis” and grapple with Neo-Platonic notions of rationes seminales. It’s worth the effort. Augustine’s reading of the 6-days in Creation is poetic and true to the original Hebrew – amazing, since the Bishop of Hippo knew no Hebrew and worked with a garbled Latin translation of the Greek Torah.

    I’m really not sure how Augustine’s ignorance of the original Hebrew is supposed to work in his favor here, or in Bakker’s defense of theology/scriptural interpretation as a scholarly discipline in general…

  119. #119 me
    May 20, 2008

    J,
    Why do you think that the laws of physics seem designed?

    ‘Because physics hasn’t had its Darwin yet. All the laws of physics seem so well-designed, and we don’t know why.’-J

    I think I’m with Dennis N.

  120. #120 Michael X
    May 20, 2008

    Yes, J
    And someone like Freeman Dyson would also have to admit that an indifferent designer is, in practical terms, no different and no more provable, than no designer at all. Thus, in everyday life, the logical assumption is that there is no designer. That would only change when evidence for a designer, indifferent or not, is given. Otherwise we would be remiss to postulate an entity that we don’t need to explain things. “Occam” is the word of the day apparently…

  121. #121 Etha Williams
    May 20, 2008

    From the OP:

    Religion is a real, historical, and sociological phenomenon, and of course there is a genuine body of scholarship in those aspects of religion.

    And sadly, the growth of that body of scholarship has probably been stinted by theologians’ focus on the supernatural aspects of religion and by the widespread sense that religion should be immune to rational critique and, by extension, non-theologically biased sociological/psychological study.

  122. #122 J
    May 20, 2008

    Instead of making vague, unsupported assertions about my ignorance, why don’t you tell me what aspects of physics I need to understand?
    I’ll give a few specific examples, but if I were to go into adequate length I’d be here all day.

    Have you heard of Maxwell’s equations? Don’t you find it eerie that fundamental laws of physics can be put into such an elegant and succinct form? Do you know that from these equations one can derive the wave equation, which also describes vibrations on a string and has been extensively studied in areas of physics that have nothing to do with electromagnetism?

    Do you know that relativity theory provides a wonderfully compact, frame-invariant way of expressing energy and momentum, or flux and density? Did you know that the now experimentally-confirmed Einstein equations were originally deduced partly on the basis of their aesthetic appeal?

    What do you think of the fact that branches of mathematics like group theory, Lie algebras and Riemannian geometry turned out to be directly applicable in physics many years after their discovery by mathematicians? Kind of spooky, is it not?

    I’m not even going to get started on universal constants.

    In short, physicists often have the feeling that naturalists had before 1859.

    Delusion…self-deception…what exactly is the difference here?
    “Delusional” is too strong a word. Failure to appreciate this can only be a product of your ignorance.

    We all deceive ourselves a little. Deists happen to be deceiving themselves a little when it comes to a cosmological question.

  123. #123 J
    May 20, 2008

    And someone like Freeman Dyson would also have to admit that an indifferent designer is, in practical terms, no different and no more provable, than no designer at all.
    No, don’t be silly. He wouldn’t admit that. He’s not a dumbass.

    Obviously if he thinks there’s no reason to believe in X then he wouldn’t believe in X.

  124. #124 Nemo
    May 20, 2008

    The term “bright”, aside from being arrogant (it says “we’re smarter than you” — statistically true, perhaps, but arrogant), would do no more to improve the public image of atheists than the term “gay” did for homosexuals. (And IIRC the coiners of “bright” were consciously modeling it on “gay”, which just shows how muddled their thinking was.) Rather, if broadly accepted, it would just end up ruining another good word — the way “gay” is now used as a common negative adjective (no longer necessarily even connoting homosexuality) among young people, and has pretty much fallen out of use in its original sense.

    It’s not the word “homosexual” that people hate — it’s the homosexuality. It’s not the word “atheist” that people hate — it’s the atheism. Changing the label achieves nothing.

  125. #125 Etha Williams
    May 20, 2008

    “Delusional” is too strong a word. Failure to appreciate this can only be a product of your ignorance.

    We all deceive ourselves a little. Deists happen to be deceiving themselves a little when it comes to a cosmological question.

    It may be a bit too sweeping to call deists delusional people, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with calling their cosmological self-deceptions delusional. While the examples of mathematical and physical confluence cited above are interesting, none of them constitute empirical/rational evidence of a creator.

  126. #126 me
    May 20, 2008

    I agree with Nemo.
    I’m an atheist. Not a (ugh) bright.

  127. #127 Fifi
    May 20, 2008

    Well, I believe the standard response is :

    Dr Bakker, fuck you very much for your candid statement !

  128. #128 arachnophilia
    May 20, 2008

    i think what he’s trying to say is that when someone like dawkins stops writing books about evolution, and starts writing books about how religion is bad, it really puts off the religious people. you’re more likely to get through to people if you don’t call them “delusional” right out of the gate. ie: scientists putting atheism first as their primary message to the point of ridiculing people for their (ridiculous) beliefs just fosters the spirit of amnimosity overly religious people have for the sciences, and doesn’t invite any of them to learn anything new.

    really, if the goal is to educate people in the sciences, “aren’t dinosaurs awesome?” is a much better hook than “you’re stupid and possibly crazy.” the knee-jerk reaction (especially in parents) causes home-schooling-for-jesus, and lots of creationism in return. the dinosaur route is far more insidious — even a 6 year old can read the book of genesis and go, “wait, where are the dinosaurs?”

  129. #129 Bob
    May 20, 2008

    J,

    Have you ever noticed that your legs are long enough for your feet to touch the ground? Isn’t that amazing? Do you suppose that means something? And have you ever looked at your hand? I mean, really looked at your hand? Spooky.

  130. #130 Barry Pearson
    May 20, 2008

    “Militant Atheist” is no longer a figure of speech!

    The following video was retrieved from the Richard Dawkins foundation after a government raid:

    http://youtube.com/watch?v=TqcNraF3vP8

  131. #131 J
    May 20, 2008

    It may be a bit too sweeping to call deists delusional people, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with calling their cosmological self-deceptions delusional. While the examples of mathematical and physical confluence cited above are interesting, none of them constitute empirical/rational evidence of a creator.
    Nobody knows why physics seems to be so spooky. People have been pondering it since Newton, and still there’s no answer. “Goddidit” has always been the only explanation we’ve had.

    I’m not saying it’s a good explanation (I don’t believe it is), but for many people it’s better than nothing. Surely in light of this it’s not hard to see why they find deism so attractive (theoretically as well as emotionally).

  132. #132 J
    May 20, 2008

    Have you ever noticed that your legs are long enough for your feet to touch the ground? Isn’t that amazing? Do you suppose that means something? And have you ever looked at your hand? I mean, really looked at your hand? Spooky.
    That wisecrack is thoughtless and stupid. We already know why the human body is so well-adopted to the environment. We don’t know why physics is so well-adapted to physicists. Quite simple, really.

  133. #133 J
    May 20, 2008

    Arachnophilia (#127),

    I wasn’t saying that, but yeah, it’s very good point. The best approach is to sort of blend science and godlessness together (but not make godlessness prominent). Calling ourselves Brights achieves this synthesis very well.

    Actually going under the banner of atheism is counter-productive, and plain foolhardy.

  134. #134 Bob
    May 20, 2008

    J,

    What I’d like to know is why biology is so well-adapted to biologists; why literary criticism is so well adapted to literary critics; and why ballet is so well adapted to ballerinas.

  135. #135 Jams
    May 20, 2008

    “Nobody knows why physics seems to be so spooky.” – J.

    I do. Anthropomorphic hubris (aka. order is created by intelligence, intelligence is something humans have, therefore anything ordered is the result of a human-like intelligence).

    “Calling ourselves Brights achieves this synthesis very well.” – J

    You see, the problem is that there is no “us”. I don’t share your beliefs. I’m not an atheist because I “share beliefs” with anyone. I share very few beliefs with the millions of Buddhists and Taoists who are of the atheist variety (I know – not all are atheists). I share very few beliefs with an immensely wide variety of people who are atheists. I’m still not sure if Scientologists are atheists, but I certainly don’t share their beliefs.

    The only thing atheists share, as atheists, is that they don’t share a belief held by theists.

    “Actually going under the banner of atheism is counter-productive, and plain foolhardy.” – J

    Truth is a dangerous business. And besides, brand recognition is everything.

  136. #136 Lee Harrison
    May 20, 2008

    Lindsey, all the way back up at comment #91, has just quietly and with dignity won teh internets.

    Go back and read it.

    And stop feeding the J troll…

  137. #137 Andreas Johansson
    May 20, 2008

    The debate whether the godless ought call themselves atheists, agnostics, sta-puft marshmallowmen or whatever is pretty much entirely useless. Whichever of the terms you use, most people will get approximately the right idea and some will insist you just admitted to eating babies. As someone said above, it’s not the term “atheism” that people object to, it’s the atheism itself.

    Mind, it would be hilarious of “bright” were turned into a generic term of abuse like “gay” has.

  138. #138 gator
    May 20, 2008

    J@#107: I’m a Ph.D physicist, and I studied cosmology. I don’t know anyone in the field who believes the universe is a result of intelligent design. Intelligent design is just a stupid way of giving up and saying “I don’t know.” It doesn’t explain anything and isn’t needed. Current physics can quantitatively explain the evolution of the universe from now, back 12B years to the first 10^-35 second. No need of an intelligent designer for all that time.

  139. #139 Barry Pearson
    May 20, 2008

    Bob #133 asked “What I’d like to know is … why literary criticism is so well adapted to literary critics”.

    The answer may be here:

    Linguistic evolution is an evil lie from SATAN!!!
    http://youtube.com/watch?v=uEcgpiQy7w8

    “At school I heard the most insane sh*t ever….
    All languages had evolved from a common ancestor! and you that that’s just b*llsh*t, don’t you….
    If French came from Latin, why is there still Latin?
    All these languages have been intelligently designed by G … I mean by a creator
    Hitler & Mao & Stalin & Pol Pot believed in lingusitic evolution”

  140. #140 Anthony Campbell
    May 20, 2008

    I’ve tried to like “Bright” and failed. I also don’t like other euphemisms such as “humanist”, “nontheist”, etc. I prefer good old “atheist” or “agnostic”. I agree that these have all kinds of baggage attached to them, but it’s only a matter of time until this stuff attaches itself to “Bright”. At present a lot of people don’t know the term, but once they do the religious will dislike it as much as they do “atheist” now.

  141. #141 Mrs Tilton
    May 20, 2008

    J,

    lookit, the label that best fits me is probably not “atheist” but “deist” (at least for very large values of “deus” — certainly I don’t believe in an anthropomorphic intelligence that set clockworks running back at the time of the big bang). But if deism means anything more than a Thomas Jefferson-style attempt to lightly demythologise traditional Christianity, it has to mean less. It’s merely a philosophical view, not a set of guiding beliefs, let alone a religion. Functionally, it doesn’t differ from atheism at all.

    Etha is right that a deist “deity” is completely superfluous, at least to any consideration of the universe and all the things it contains. She and I might differ on the likelihood that something exists which one could call, in some broad sense, “God”. I suspect she would agree with me, though, that if God does exist, he’s not worth spending any time thinking about.

    Oh, and before I forget:

    Bright is superior to Atheist?

    Ok.

    Then Rainbow Bright is even better!

    Kseniya FTW.

  142. #142 J
    May 20, 2008

    Anyone who thinks the cryptic elegance of physics is a product of “anthropomorphic hubris” has a hell of a lot to learn.

    I’m a Ph.D physicist, and I studied cosmology. I don’t know anyone in the field who believes the universe is a result of intelligent design. Intelligent design is just a stupid way of giving up and saying “I don’t know.”
    I don’t buy it either. My main complaint is that many ignorant individuals here, with absolutely no idea about the subtleties of cosmological questions, have the cheek to dismiss the opinions of people far more intelligent than them (like Freeman Dyson) as “delusional”.

    It’s possible to arrive at the correct opinion by a sort of lucky drunkard’s walk. Or, in many cases, it’s the thrill and novelty of belonging to a cult.

  143. #143 Kenny
    May 20, 2008

    “These shrill uber-Darwinists come across as insultingly dismissive of any and all religious traditions. If you’re not an atheist, then you must be illiterate or stupid and, possibly, a danger to yourself and others.”

    I had to post this again. Just because you have a “degree”, that alone does not make you automatically intelligent. That is the big problem with this world. Oh, and before you get the wrong idea. I am not saying education is not important.

    Pride is what makes this Blog work (it’s certainly not science). Without pride most of you would not even be here. That is what an atheist is all about. Without pride there wouldn’t be any atheists. Have you ever met a person on this forum that was an atheist that didn’t think they were the ultimate gift to humankind? I rest my case.

  144. #144 craig
    May 20, 2008

    What’s this bullshit about banners and politics?

    “Atheist” isn’t a fucking political party, it’s not a protest march that needs a banner over it. It’s a simple descriptive word, like “blonde,” “melon” or whatever.

    Now, if you want to start a GROUP or atheists, if you want an atheist political movement, that’s just fine… but I won’t be joining, anymore than I would a political movement of blondes… because I’m not a joiner, and anyway you can have blondes and atheists whose political are otherwise nothing like mine.

    But you go ahead and start such a movement if you want. If you do, though, think up a new name to describe it – because atheist is already taken. It already means someone who doesn’t believe in any gods, whether they’re a redhead, a liberal, a conservative or a melon-lover. Simple as that.

    As far as it having been given a bad name, well it hasn’t been given a bad name by atheists, it’s been given a bad name by people who hate atheists simply because they exist… so that just doesn’t matter. Fuck those people.

    If you rename “atheist” to something else because of them, then they’ll just hate that new word as soon as they learn it.

  145. #145 craig
    May 20, 2008

    please parse out the spelling and grammar errors with your “poster was up too late” filter.

  146. #146 J
    May 20, 2008

    Etha is right that a deist “deity” is completely superfluous, at least to any consideration of the universe and all the things it contains. She and I might differ on the likelihood that something exists which one could call, in some broad sense, “God”. I suspect she would agree with me, though, that if God does exist, he’s not worth spending any time thinking about.
    Well yes, that’s exactly what I was saying earlier on. Many people believe in an impersonal God — a sort of Prime Mover who’s oblivious to human affairs.

    Some physicists think this is the only available hypothesis that can account for various details. They’re wrong, but for subtle reasons that most people here don’t grasp.

    Now religion is much more easily dismissible, and greatly more relevant to social affairs. I don’t understand why you people don’t simply band around rejection of religion rather than around views on a pointless cosmological question.

  147. #147 Kenny
    May 20, 2008

    >You can think religion is wrong. You just can’t say it.

    Almost everyone here says it. Dawkins says it and so do a lot of atheists. However, they just go a step further and say if you are religious you are stupid.

    If you want to go another step further you can say religion should not be taught anywhere but churches and then another step further by saying that religion should not be taught at all.

    The final step is to start targeting people who are religious and stop them from worshiping and from selling anything religious and then you can finally kill them.

    Now you will say something like this is impossible for something like that to happen. Well, it already has. It’s called the Holocaust.

    Now, before you say no way I don’t go for that. Remember that the more people who think like the above the more possible it is. When you start putting people down, humans have a tendency to start thinking that they are not human anymore because they are Intellectually inferior.

    Here is an example to back up what I am saying:
    http://www.useless-knowledge.com/1234/feb/article156.html

  148. #148 reuben
    May 20, 2008

    hooray, Kenny’s here! Now for some real intellectual discussion!

  149. #149 Logicel
    May 20, 2008

    Yes, Lindsey at #91 was a beaut of a comment. And great post, PZ.

    ______

    I dunno, somethin’ about J sets off my alarms.

    Posted by: Dennis N | May 20, 2008 1:44 AM

    _____

    Damg, I wished Js mental meanderings set off my alarm, because then I would have a fighting chance to stay awake when reading Js comments.

    I suppose I could identify myself as an agnostic atheist (I do not know there is no god, even though the burden of proof is on the believers, but since I do not believe in gods, I must include the term atheist). Or I could just mutter I am an AA, which could be misconstrued that I am at an AA meeting, which would be confusing, so I will stick with what I am–an atheist, short, sweet, and to the point: I do not believe in gods.

  150. #150 craig
    May 20, 2008

    “We don’t know why physics is so well-adapted to physicists. “

    What a stupid thing to say. Physics isn’t well adapted to physicists, physicists are well adapted to physics. Meaning they are the few humans who for whatever reason have brains that can grasp that shit. And even they have to struggle at it.

    What would be spooky would be if *I* could understand physics. And everyone else. THAT would be freaky.

    I compose music. I understand the relationships between musical notes, and the music just comes out of me. I don’t know where it comes from, anymore than I know where these words I’m thinking come from. Or any less.

    But other people I know who play instruments but don’t compose hear me do this and say in astonishment “How do you do that?! I sure wish I could do that!”

    I explain that it’s easy and that they probably could, but when I try to show them how simple it is, they don’t get it and that mystifies me.

    Isn’t it amazing how music is so well adapted to me? Spooky, huh?

  151. #151 Kenny
    May 20, 2008

    >Well, I believe the standard response is :
    >Dr Bakker, fuck you very much for your candid statement !

    A typical response from our so called “intelligent Atheists” here in the forum.

  152. #152 Susan
    May 20, 2008

    A long time ago I saw an interview with Bakker around the time that the asteroid theory to explain the extinction of the dinosaurs was becoming popluar. Bakker didn’t agree with the theory…He REALLY disagreeded with it. In fact, to my young impressionable mind he came across as kind of a jackass. It’s one thing to disagree with a theory, you kind of expect that sort of thing, but idea of the KT mass extinction seemed to really piss him off. The problem was he couldn’t seem to fomulate a very convincing counter arguement. He made comments like the mass extinction of the dinosaurs was caused by inland seas drying up and this allowed diseases to spread to isolated popluations… That more “delicate” creatures such as frogs should have been killed off by this distructive asteroid but they survived etc…They seemed kind of lame to me. I was quite surprised that a scientist that had tried to promote the controversial theory that dinosaurs might have been warm blooded was so put off by another person’s controversial theory about their extinction. I was a fan of his before I saw this interview, I wasn’t afterwards. (I don’t know what he believes in this reguard today, maybe he’s lightened up about it over the years…And yes, I know birds are really tiny dinosaurs, so you don’t have to remind me…Was that one of Bakker’s too?)

  153. #153 craig
    May 20, 2008

    ” If you want to go another step further you can say religion should not be taught anywhere but churches and then another step further by saying that religion should not be taught at all.

    The final step is to start targeting people who are religious and stop them from worshiping and from selling anything religious and then you can finally kill them.

    I see. So, NOT wanting religion forcibly taught in public schools is the same thing as wanting to slaughter the religious.

    Well everyone, might as well come clean. Kenny has figured out the whole freaking plan. :(

  154. #154 DLC
    May 20, 2008

    “It’s the Atheists to blame!”
    sounds much like : “if you lie there and let the bully kick you, eventually he’ll get tired and go away. So if you don’t just lie there and let the bully kick you, it’s your fault if the beating doesn’t stop ”

    Problem with “Brights” is that it has an elitist sound to it.
    As if everyone else is a “Dim”. You don’t need to be highly intelligent or educated in order to not believe in something.

  155. #155 Rightsaid
    May 20, 2008

    >You can think religion is wrong. You just can’t say it.

    Almost everyone here says it. Dawkins says it and so do a lot of atheists. However, they just go a step further and say if you are religious you are stupid.

    Actually, PZ says, “Bakker is a smart fellow”. That said, there is a tendency to conclude that people who say stupid things are in fact stupid. I agree that we atheists should strive to attack ideas not people.

  156. #156 J
    May 20, 2008

    What a stupid thing to say. Physics isn’t well adapted to physicists, physicists are well adapted to physics. Meaning they are the few humans who for whatever reason have brains that can grasp that shit. And even they have to struggle at it.
    Personally, I think the vast majority of humans can understand physics, as it depends on basic common sense that are used in other more mundane parts of life. I think people are prone to deceive themselves into believing otherwise.

    Anyway, what I said was not stupid. All physicists share the same view. There’s no obvious reason why, for instance, equations of central importance in electrodynamics should also be crucial in fluid mechanics. Don’t know about you, but I can’t philosophically explain why Einstein, Dirac and other physicists were able to use “aesthetic appeal” to guide them to correct equations.

    “Goddidit” isn’t a good answer, I know. What I was trying to say is that, if you know enough physics, the “woo-woo” views of people like Roger Penrose, Freeman Dyson, Frank Tipler and Paul Davies, will become more comprehensible. They’re not as stupid/delusional/dishonest as many people here would imagine.

  157. #157 Logicel
    May 20, 2008

    Kenny, Democrats and Republicans call/insinuate that the holder of their opposing political view is stupid, dense, or worse, all the time. Does that mean they are setting into motion a killing machine when they criticize each other? That was a rhetorical question and the answer is NO.

    Your conflating criticism to the start of pogroms is ridiculous. Please chill out in this regard and realize that many posters at this site would fight relentlessly to ensure that you can practice your particular brand of religion (such practice does not include a theocracy, we will fight that relentlessly also).

    Etha already set up a poll that shown that posters here would not ban religion. Perhaps, another poll is in order to see if posters here would kill Christians.

    Criticism is a healthy part of democracy. You need to present arguments for your point of view, not to criticize criticism of religion!!! Geesh.

  158. #158 MartinM
    May 20, 2008

    Assuming we didn’t have any reason to favour one hypothesis over the other (some people believe that), your Bayesian prior for P(intelligent design) should be 1/n, where n is the number of rival hypotheses. So, in the eyes of such people, intelligent creation of the universe would have something like a 1/5 or 1/4 chance.

    That’s rather a glib, misleading statement. There are deep questions regarding how exactly one counts the available options. What if each hypothesis can be sub-divided into multiple rival models? Could those rival models be sub-divided further? At which level should we count? Different choices will lead to different answers, and none of them are obviously correct.

    Of course, flat priors are relevant only when we a) lack data, and b) lack a reason to favour one hypothesis over another, as you correctly state. I would argue that neither is the case here. As evidence of a), I present the Universe. As for b), the important question is – how does a deity produce a human-habitable Universe? Either by producing a multiverse and relying on the anthropic principle, or by producing a relatively small number of Universes selected according to criteria which just happen to mimic those of the anthropic principle. Neither option is exactly Occam-friendly.

  159. #159 MartinM
    May 20, 2008

    Umm…scratch a), actually. I started off making a point about ignorance priors, and decided part-way through to switch to flat priors. Obviously, one can use flat priors even in the presence of data, so long as b) holds.

  160. #160 Ichthyic
    May 20, 2008

    They’re wrong, but for subtle reasons that most people here don’t grasp.

    holy crap, now J thinks he’s the only one who understands the fine tuning arguments?

    sweet plastic Jesus on my dashboard.

    @Dennis:

    I dunno, somethin’ about J sets off my alarms.

    I’ll tell you what it is:

    he really doesn’t have a fucking clue what he’s talking about, but thinks that citing various authors as authorities, combined with acting like he knows more about philosophy, physics, cosmology… etc. than anybody here somehow gives him unearned credibility. The other thing is that he assumes that of course NOBODY has ever discussed anything like the definition of atheist here before, or the entire “framing” issue*.

    He’s playing at being intelligent, basically, with very little to back it up, and when he gets called on it, plays the victim just like a creationist.

    *Hint to J: use the search function; there are MANY discussions on these issues you have obviously missed.

  161. #161 amk
    May 20, 2008

    Kenny,

    I rest my case.

    Really? Oh good.

    If you want to go another step further you can say religion should not be taught anywhere but churches and then another step further by saying that religion should not be taught at all.
    The final step is to start targeting people who are religious and stop them from worshiping and from selling anything religious and then you can finally kill them.

    When you start putting people down, humans have a tendency to start thinking that they are not human anymore because they are Intellectually inferior.

    ROFL
    But seriously, I think you need to answer some questions:
    Do you think atheism should not be taught?
    Do you think atheists should not be allowed to express their opinions or sell Darwin fish?
    You clearly think atheists are less than you, both intellectually and morally.
    Do you think atheists are human?
    Do you think atheists should be killed?

    There is this psychological thing called “projection”. Are you doing it?

    Also, you said you’d rest your case.
    YOU LIED TO ME! :(

  162. #162 amk
    May 20, 2008

    J,

    Personally, I think the vast majority of humans can understand physics, as it depends on basic common sense that are used in other more mundane parts of life.

    I agree that classical Newtonian mechanics can be understood intuitively (excluding circular motion – gyroscopes are freaky). This is because humans are used to seeing its effects.

    Quantum mechanics? General relativity? Not so much.

  163. #163 J
    May 20, 2008

    he really doesn’t have a fucking clue what he’s talking about, but thinks that citing various authors as authorities, combined with acting like he knows more about philosophy, physics, cosmology… etc. than anybody here somehow gives him unearned credibility. The other thing is that he assumes that of course NOBODY has ever discussed anything like the definition of atheist here before, or the entire “framing” issue*.
    First of all, dear little savage, I haven’t made any arguments from authority.

    Second, I’m not acting like it hasn’t been discussed. Of course it has.

    Now piss off and quit misrepresenting me.

  164. #164 negentropyeater
    May 20, 2008

    This is just perfect !

    What’s needed is to focus the attention of the public on a different debate, this is what is happening now.

    From
    Evolution vs Creationism (old debate)
    it is moving towards
    Atheistic evolution vs Theistic evolution (new debate)

    What this guy is saying, is that he’s not afraid of militant creationists but of militant atheism. If that’s not a clear invitation for shifting the debate, I don’t know what is. You should take advantage of this kind of reactions, stimulate more, when this is exactly what is needed. Atheists can only gain from this.

    What, you guys expect to have a national public debate between atheists and atheists ?

    So, let all the Ken Miller, Francis Collins, Robert Bakker of this world debate with the PZ, Dawkins, Dennett of this world.
    Only good can come out of this.
    And I’m looking forward to it.

    At least it’ll change from hearing Ben Stein talking nonsense.

  165. #165 MarkW
    May 20, 2008

    I don’t understand J.

    We’re missing out on all those people (e.g. deists) who agree with us on all major political issues.

    Last I heard, atheism was a lack of belief in gods. I didn’t realise that it entailed all sorts of other political positions too.

    But you’re so good at redefining words for us, why not explain to all us atheists what it is we really believe?

    Oh and…

    They’re wrong, but for subtle reasons that most people here don’t grasp.

    Thanks for the insult to our intelligence, arsehole.

  166. #166 Lago
    May 20, 2008

    Susan said:
    “That more “delicate” creatures such as frogs should have been killed off by this distructive asteroid but they survived etc…They seemed kind of lame to me.”"”
    I agree. I was myself a big fan of Bakker, and I even agree with him that his disease idea has a lot of merit. I do not, however, think that his “delicate frog” idea has much merit. From what I have seen, frogs are amazing when it comes for surviving disasters. I mean really now. Frogs handle freezing temperatures, dry and wet condition, times of extremely low food supplies etc…
    Frogs seem selected for survival in the face of extremes. This is probably one of the reason they have survived so successfully for so long.

    Susan also said:
    “”And yes, I know birds are really tiny dinosaurs, so you don’t have to remind me…Was that one of Bakker’s too?”"

    Well yes and no. The whole idea of birds as dinosaurs goes back to people like Huxley and a few less famous people from that time. After the book “The origin of birds” came out by Heilmann in the 1920s, most ornithologists, and even most paleontologists, gave up on the idea of birds being dinosaurs, due to a misunderstanding of developmental biology, wishbones, and a thing called “Dollo’s Law.”

    Later on few scientists started to think differently about the subject, especially after Ostrum’s serendipitous work on Deinonychus and some misidentified specimens of Archaeopteryx. There was supposed to be a quiet feud between Bakker and Ostrum as to who came up with the new interpretations that reinterpreted theropods as being the origin of birds. Both men obviously did a great deal to set those wheels into motion.

  167. #167 Ichthyic
    May 20, 2008

    I haven’t made any arguments from authority

    when debating the function of mate choice, you cited Dawkins as an authority (other thread).

    when debating the definition of atheist, you first cited Russel as an authority.

    you also proceed to repeatedly think that nobody here has ever read any philosophy, or physics, or cosmology….

    sorry, but the way you present your “arguments” is naive and insulting.

    it only deserves same in response.

    quit misrepresenting me.

    you were the one that claimed: They’re wrong, but for subtle reasons that most people here don’t grasp.

    which is laughable given that the fine tuning arguments are neither subtle, nor hard to grasp.

    Moreover, like everything else you bring up, we have had numerous discussions about it before, so why would you assume most people here wouldn’t grasp them?

    where, exactly, am I misrepresenting you?

    I think instead, you are misrepresenting yourself.

  168. #168 Ichthyic
    May 20, 2008

    …that said, it seems rather pointless to continue browbeating you. I’ll let others judge the way you present arguments themselves. I won’t say another word about it.

    Don’t expect I won’t pipe up when you say something blatantly wrong again, though.

  169. #169 Nibien
    May 20, 2008

    I’m under the belief that J is actually Kenny trying to make atheists look bad.

  170. #170 J
    May 20, 2008

    Of course, flat priors are relevant only when we a) lack data, and b) lack a reason to favour one hypothesis over another, as you correctly state. I would argue that neither is the case here. As evidence of a), I present the Universe. As for b), the important question is – how does a deity produce a human-habitable Universe? Either by producing a multiverse and relying on the anthropic principle, or by producing a relatively small number of Universes selected according to criteria which just happen to mimic those of the anthropic principle. Neither option is exactly Occam-friendly.
    I could contest this, but I don’t want to, as I’m actually a staunch atheist who carries a torch for multiverse theories (not only for universal constants and the laws of physics — I’m a firm believer in the Deutsch-Everett interpretation of QM too).

    However, I think your comments have proven me right, essentially. Do you seriously think most people here who are so confidently pooh-poohing any form of deism have thought about these subtleties for a minute? They certainly have not.

    As I say, it’s possible for people to arrive at the correct opinion through a lucky drunkard’s walk.

  171. #171 Mrs Tilton
    May 20, 2008

    Logicel @155,

    Etha already set up a poll that shown that posters here would not ban religion. Perhaps, another poll is in order to see if posters here would kill Christians.

    That’s a fine idea, but I am afraid that if we want a meaningful sample, Etha is going to have run that poll in cooperation with a Christian website. I’m sure that most people here would not kill Christians. But then, most people here aren’t Christians, and it would seem a safe assumption that the large majority of people who kill Christians are Christians themselves.

  172. #172 Lago
    May 20, 2008

    I have gotten into some arguments in here before, but I usually avoid them if I can. I do not back-down if I feel someone has lied about what I said, or simply misinterpreted what I said in what seemed to be a purposeful way.

    Despite the above, the last argument I got into here was maybe 6 months ago? I cannot remember for sure, but that sounds about right.

    The amazing thing is, it seems that every-time I see people debating like crazy here, the same names are involved. Well, not always the same. It is usually a set of never changing names along-side a set of new names who usually give up and leave after being attacked for several hours…

    I wonder how many of these never changing names have been tested for bipolar disorder?

  173. #173 J
    May 20, 2008

    when debating the function of mate choice, you cited Dawkins as an authority (other thread).
    You cited yourself as an authority, you miserable, pathetic, pathologically dishonest little creature. My citation of Dawkins was in response to your argument from personal authority, to show that authority wasn’t necessarily in your corner at any rate. Naturally, you know this full well.

    when debating the definition of atheist, you first cited Russel as an authority.
    Yeah, and I also explained what I was getting at. It’s no argument from authority if you actually, you know, put forward the argument.

    which is laughable given that the fine tuning arguments are neither subtle, nor hard to grasp.
    The fine tuning arguments as propounded by Dinesh D’Souza. Those of Dyson or Barrow and Tipler are rather more intricate. No doubt way over your head.

  174. #174 Bad
    May 20, 2008

    You know, while I certainly think there is some truth to the Courtier’s Reply, overusing it makes it a very lazy way of dismissing arguments and criticism. It’s essentially a story, not an argument, and (surprise!), in the fictional story you tell about them, the people you are criticizing come off badly!

    We need to put a little more work into than that though.

  175. #175 Ichthyic
    May 20, 2008

    argument from personal authority

    It’s not an argument from authority if I cite myself as the authority, especially having actually published on the issues in question.

    Would Dawkins be making an argument from authority if he cited something from his own book, for example?

    don’t be even more of an idiot than you are already being.

    It’s no argument from authority if you actually, you know, put forward the argument.

    which you didn’t do until I called you on it. Besides the definition of agnostic vs. atheist by Russel being entirely irrelevant to the issue you raised to begin with, of course.

    The fine tuning arguments as propounded by Dinesh D’Souza.

    oh tee hee. You think the level of physics arguments around here are at the level of D’dumbass D’Souza?

    think again, or, like I suggested earlier, try the search function.

    Those of Dyson or Barrow and Tipler are rather more intricate.

    compared to D’Souza, a loaf of bread is more intricate. Though I am thinking of placing him above yourself on the intricacy scale.

    No doubt way over your head.

    there’s that assumption again.

    I suggest you search on the name “Heddle”. You see, Heddle is our local “Cosmological ID” nutbagger, but he knows his physics at least. You might get a better idea of the knowledge to be found around here before you start thinking the arguments are “too subtle” for us poor atheist folk.

  176. #176 Michael
    May 20, 2008

    I was wondering when PZ Meyers was going to address Bakkers comments…

    Here is the rest what he said, “As many commentators have noted, in televised debates, these Darwinists seem devoid of joy or humor, except a haughty delight in looking down their noses. Dawkinsian screeds are sermons to the choir; the message pleases only those already convinced. Dawkins wins no converts from the majority of U.S. parents who still honor a Biblical tradition. Hitchcock is a far better model. He had his battles with skepticism.

    Bakker has a point, “militant atheists” are full of pride, and like their ego to be fed, which is why there are many entries in these blogs of insulting people’s intelligence who do not agree with them and this turns people off except for the fan club (militant atheists). The chain effect. I do not agree with Bakker’s solution, “Hitchcock is a far better model.” Humility which comes from Christianity is far better code of conduct than pride or the model of Hitchcock.

  177. #177 negentropyeater
    May 20, 2008

    J,

    pardon me, but I think here lies your fundamental mistake;

    you start with

    #15

    PZ still refuses to admit that the term “atheist” isn’t good for public relations and never has been.

    and in #168

    I’m actually a staunch atheist

    Now, think of “Atheist” as any other term that caries with it negative prejudices, like in the past (and still today unfortunately), feminist, black, homosexual … etc

    If you are one of them, does the fact that these terms carry negative prejudices for a large part of the population mean that you shouldn’t be proud to carry it ?

    Don’t you think that precisely by rejecting this term, you are helping these people perpetuate those prejudices ?

    I had much trouble accepting my homosexuality and rejected the term for many many years. What good does it serve ?

    I know it’s difficult, but it just doesn’t help.

  178. #178 Ichthyic
    May 20, 2008

    Do you seriously think most people here who are so confidently pooh-poohing any form of deism have thought about these subtleties for a minute? They certainly have not.

    more bullshit.

    do check the threads on “framing” (because, yes, that’s really the issue here) to see that the subtleties have not only been considered, but hashed out for thousands of posts, and several major blog wars besides.

    that you are entirely ignorant of all that doesn’t surprise me, nor does your projection of your ignorance on to the rest of us.

    seriously, is there ANY way you could pause long enough to maybe go back and see that we have indeed covered this issue in much detail?

    here, check these threads for a start:

    http://www.google.com/cse?cx=017254414699180528062%3Auyrcvn__yd0&q=framing+site%3Ahttp%3A%2F%2Fscienceblogs.com%2Fpharyngula%2F&sa=Search

    http://www.google.com/cse?cx=017254414699180528062%3Auyrcvn__yd0&q=atheists+should+shut+up+site%3Ahttp%3A%2F%2Fscienceblogs.com%2Fpharyngula%2F+site%3Ahttp%3A%2F%2Fscienceblogs.com%2Fpharyngula%2F+site%3Ahttp%3A%2F%2Fscienceblogs.com%2Fpharyngula%2F&sa=Search

    because, yeah, we’ve never considered the issues of atheism and tactics in the culture wars before…

    *rolleyes*

    Here, let me put it in a way you can understand…

    you know how you think we aren’t educated enough to understand the subtleties of the fine tuning argument?

    I KNOW you aren’t educated enough to understand the ‘subtleties’ of the various positions within the culture wars, or the subtleties of utilizing different tactics, or why “framing” isn’t always a good thing.

    you COULD learn, or you could just keep making the same mistake of assuming nobody here has ever considered the “amazing” issues you are raising before.

  179. #179 Ichthyic
    May 20, 2008

    Humility which comes from Christianity is far better code of conduct than pride or the model of Hitchcock.

    Yes we see how well humility serves the likes of that great dinosaur Flintstones expert, Kent Hovind.

    takes a ton of humility to be a tax evader and get popped for it, then claim he isn’t even a citizen of the US.

    give me that ol’ time religion, yeah boy.

    to see Bakker, a REAL paleontologist, claim that the likes of Hovind are no threat to the teachings of actual paleontology is just sad.

    obviously, he’s never been barraged with a busload of children asking him:

    “WERE YOU THERE!!!!”

  180. #180 J
    May 20, 2008

    It’s not an argument from authority if I cite myself as the authority, especially having actually published on the issues in question.
    No, you’re lying yet again. My citation of Dawkins was solely in response to your outrageously arrogant claim that I was “way in over [my] head”. Cut out the lies, scumbag.

    which you didn’t do until I called you on it. Besides the definition of agnostic vs. atheist by Russel being entirely irrelevant to the issue you raised to begin with, of course.
    Anyone who knows the first thing about philosophy, or has merely read The God Delusion, should have known full well what I was talking about. Citing a well-known opinion of a philosopher isn’t the same as making an argument from authority. I’m afraid I can’t be held responsible for your child-like ignorance.

    I’ve had enough of Ichthyic’s unprovoked savage attacks on me. Like Dinesh D’Souza, he has a habit of cramming his bundles of lies and misrepresentations so compactly that one can’t possibly throw all of them back when he starts hurling them.

  181. #181 J
    May 20, 2008

    pardon me, but I think here lies your fundamental mistake.
    It’s not a mistake. “Atheism” is a useful term when it comes to cosmological questions. This doesn’t mean I think it’s a banner around which we should flock.

  182. #182 J
    May 20, 2008

    Another advantage of Bright is that it’s helpful for all those people who don’t want their family to learn of their atheist convictions.

    Your Christian mother asks you if you believe in God. “I’m a Bright” is going to work better than “I’m an atheist”.

  183. #183 MarkW
    May 20, 2008

    ‘Atheism’ Isn’t a “useful term when it comes to cosmological questions” though. It’s a word that means “the lack of belief in gods”.

    And my Christian mother knows damn well I don’t believe in gods. If you’re scared to tell your mother the truth, that’s your business.

  184. #184 negentropyeater
    May 20, 2008

    You think that when I tell people I’m Gay, they don’t know I’m a homosexual. People are quick to pick up synonims.

    Your “Bright” to hide “Atheist” won’t serve any purpose at all.

    Again, you didn’t answer my question, I repeat it :

    “If you are one of them, does the fact that these terms carry negative prejudices for a large part of the population mean that you shouldn’t be proud to carry it ?”

  185. #185 craig
    May 20, 2008

    “Bright” is a nice synonym for “conceited ass.”

    Someone describing themselves as “a Bright” seems to me to be more of an invitation to piss on their shoes. Saying “I’m a Bright” seems like saying “annoying, leave off party invite list.”

    And anyway, it’s also inaccurate. It’s entirely possible to be an atheist and still not be very bright. Which would explain people who think calling themselves “Brights” is a good idea.

    And if you ARE bright and want to call yourself a “Bright,” just go to a Mensa meeting with the other annoying conceited asses and keep it to yourselves.

  186. #186 inkadu
    May 20, 2008

    Dawkins IS the greatest threat to science education.

    Be sure to buy his new science book: Baby’s First Dinosaur Pop-Up: Tyrannosaurus! And Jesus is a Pusillanimous Fuckwit , by Richard Dawkins.

  187. #187 Elf Eye
    May 20, 2008

    J, you describe ‘atheism’ as “a silly term unless it comes appended with a load of cumbersome definitions.” That point could be made about any word. (One could say, for example, that Christianity is “a silly term unless it comes appended with a load of cumbersome definitions.” Surely you have noticed the copious amount of ink spilled over the question of what Christianity ‘really’ means.) Yet in spite of the natural indeterminancy of language, we manage to communicate because in most instances we reach a rough consensus as to the meanings of words. This is so in the case of ‘atheism’. People seem to have no difficulty carrying on a conversation using the word, clarifying as necessary, which is simply a normal part of communication. (This achievement may have something to do with the fact that the word means ‘a’ (no) + ‘the[os]‘ (god) + ist /sarcasm .) Now as to the supposed negative connotations that have attached to the word: first, if we made a practice of throwing out words with negative connotations, we would depopulate our dictionaries. Second, the problem is not the word; the problem is that many people are horrified at the notion of ‘godlessness’. If we settled upon a new word, the negative connotations that had been attached to ‘atheism’ would be rapidly transferred to the new word. So what would we end up with? A word even less precise than a + the[os] + ist and a word that has negative connotations. Solution: Don’t tinker with the language; instead, address people’s prejudices. That means being visible and unapologetic. To some, merely being visible and unapologetic is the equivalent of being “loud” and “strident.” That can’t be helped. To crib from a great thinker: The solution to attacks on atheism is more atheism.

  188. #188 craig
    May 20, 2008

    “Humility which comes from Christianity…”

    Let’s see.
    The all-powerful creator of the universe loves you personally. Was born as his own son to die for you. He created you specially, you’re more important to him than the other clumps of molecules in the universe.
    You were created in his image – you literally look kinda god-like. You will live forever in heaven a perfect state.
    And all of this is true despite no evidence for it and much evidence against it, because YOU feel it’s true – and that’s all that matters.

    Yeah.
    You pretty much have no fucking clue what the word “humility” means.

  189. #189 andy o
    May 20, 2008

    I really hate “bright”, I thought there was something I was missing when I first saw it proposed by Dennet, but no. He was serious. It surely is OBVIOUSLY silly as a replacement for “atheist.”

    But also, I don’t like “atheist” either (though it’s far better than “bright”). I get PZ’s point that “they” have put that label on us, and we should just take it and wear it as a badge of honor (if that’s not at least one of his points please correct me). I do get that point, but I still don’t like “atheist” overall.

    I bet most if not all of you have been asked the stupid but ubiquitous comment: “but you can’t prove there is no God, so you are like the religious”, especially from agnostics that seem to think there is a question of god’s existence to be asked in the first place.

    And it’s this presumptuousness of the religious that I’m against. Even the so-called agnostics fall for it. In the 21st freaking century there is no “question” to be asked anymore. “Atheism” just conveys implicitly that there’s something to be denied. Why should I call myself an atheist and not and unastrologist or a-unicornist?

    As I said, I don’t completely dismiss it, I do get that it’s a reactionary movement probably like feminism is not the polar opposite to machismo, just a reaction to bring equality. Like House replied to the “oh, you’re an atheist” comment (yes, I’m quoting that House): “Only on Easter and Christmas, the rest of the year it doesn’t really matter.” The thing is that I’m pretty tired of having to explain to people (especially those pesky wishy-washy agnostics who are so quick to point out my “faith”) what I really mean. I guess it’s just a matter of annoyance.

  190. #190 Moses
    May 20, 2008

    Almost everyone here says it. Dawkins says it and so do a lot of atheists. However, they just go a step further and say if you are religious you are stupid.

    Deluded, yes. Ignorant in the origins of your religion, absolutely. Stupid… Stupid is as stupid does. The average creo-bot, like you, comes to gun-fight not only lacking a gun, but also forgets his knife, spear, sticks and rocks leaving him/her shrieking ineffectually, much like chimpanzee at a leopard that’s eating Uncle Oook-oook.

    Do you see now? Stupid is as stupid does. Coming to a science fight completely and utterly unarmed with fact and reason is stupid. Bandying your ignorance around is stupid. Being absolutely contrary to one of the most established and robust theories in all of science, one that has been tweaked and improved upon since originally proposed by Darwin (if you’re going to be Euro-centric about the whole thing) is, well, stupid. You wouldn’t do that about gravity or energy, even though gravity and energy are, frankly, less well understood.

    If you want to go another step further you can say religion should not be taught anywhere but churches and then another step further by saying that religion should not be taught at all.

    First of all, of course religion should only be taught (as a dogma) in church. I know most of you creo-bots don’t want me teaching your children religion, because I’ll teach them:

    1. Early Israelite Judaism was Polytheistic. God had a wife and children.

    2. 700 BCE the monotheist from Judea re-wrote the religion.

    3. The Jesus story was probably based on the Essence tradition (which included Buddhism) and Jesus may have existed as a man, but was a minor player in theology and his own legend which is primarily-based on the stories of Mithras, Krishna and Dionysus (all known by the Essenes) and some other common relgious myths of the day.

    4. There are approximately 400,000 textual variants of the Bible. Most of them are grouped into families. The large families do not agree. While most of the variants were copy errors, many of them were deliberate textual changes by various Christian sects to promote their variety of Christianity over that of another (John 5:7 to establish the Trinity). The Catholics, essentially, won the doctrinal war, but they did so by re-writing the old texts to match with their teachings.

    5. These errors are still in the bible. The story of the woman to Jesus forgives (John 8:7-11)? Written into the bible much later and we have solid tracing back to the earliest additions when it was written into various Gospels, finally finding a home in John!!! The end of Mark, (16:18, et. al.) written in. Some of Revelations, written in. John 5:4 written in.

    6. Other bad text: Luke 22:20, written in during Medieval times. The male apostles going to the Tomb of Jesus – all written in much later to put them in a good light as early Christianity was becoming more misogynistic. Only the women went to the tomb.

    7. Almost all the passages regarding women were re-written. Women were equals. Jesus had more Apostles than the original twelve, some of them were women. Junia (re-written to a male name in modern bibles) was one of them. Massive additions in 1 Timothy to suppress women. Massive additions in 1 Corinthians to suppress women.

    Now, you sure you want your religion taught outside your dogmatic knowledge-base? Would it frighten you more if you realized that I could be a Mormon and could teach your children Mormonism? Or that I come from a Mennonite background and teach your children the Mennonite Anabaptist ways? Or that, despite being an atheist, I’m a Unitarian-Universalist, and I would teach your children that all religions have some valid positives and our job is to find them while discarding the negatives?

    Comparative religions should be taught (as academic endeavors) in College. But as comparative religions, not “this is true, look at these foolish heathens over-there.”

    But nobody says religion shouldn’t be taught. I teach my child religions all the time. In church, she learns about all sorts of religions as partial sourcing/confirmation of ethical truths. Even though everyone in my immediate family are atheists – me, wife, children. Further, if my child decided to become religious, that’s be her prerogative.

    What we are saying is for you to keep your fucking religion to yourself and stop acting like a bunch of ponces who think you have the answers. You don’t have any answers.

    Further, stop acting morally superior, by and large, the correlation to strong religions is that stronger your religious fundamentalism, the greater your likely hood of acting in immoral ways.

    In my profession, when looking for fraud, one of our primary keys to discovering the perpetrator is religion – the most likely person to have committed financial fraud is a white man who goes to Church twice a week and is involved in the Church hierarchy (Deacons, teachers, volunteers). It’s a primary key because those are the ones who commit the crimes. Further, because of the “upstanding morality” they tend to not get prosecuted as it’s seen as a MISTAKE and not the criminal betrayal of trust that it’d be seen if it were some other population.

    The final step is to start targeting people who are religious and stop them from worshiping and from selling anything religious and then you can finally kill them.

    See, Kenny, this is why we think you’re stupid. Stupid is as stupid does. And you just did stupid. A whole Titanic-sized boatload of stupid.

    Now you will say something like this is impossible for something like that to happen. Well, it already has. It’s called the Holocaust.

    And more stupid. You grab one historical (religiously-motivated xenophobic) incident and mis-cast it to atheism. Some how. Historically speaking, your interpretation of the Holocaust is complete bullshit and only in the worst, most disingenuous racist, lying piece-of-shit dick-wads of the “intellectual” Christian apologetics industry does it get linked with atheism.

    It further illustrates your complete ignorance of all the religious pogroms and genocides committed in history. The Holocaust was brutal, but doesn’t shine a candle to the butchery done under the name of/sanctioned by Christianity:

    The Genocide of the Arawak Indians (Haiti) – 11 Million
    The Tia Ping Rebellion – 20 Million (Lowest estimate)
    The Atlantic (by Christians for Christians) Slave Trade – Up to 60 Million.
    The Democide of Native America – 11 Million KIA, 100 Million by disease.

    More specifically to Hitler’s pogrom against the Jews:

    Massive violent attacks against Jews date back at least to the Crusades such as the Pogrom of 1096 in France and Germany (the first to be officially recorded), as well as the massacres of Jews at London and York in 1189-1190.

    The eleventh century saw Muslim pogroms against Jews in Spain; those occurred in Cordoba in 1011 and in Granada in 1066. In the 1066 Granada massacre, a Muslim mob crucified the Jewish vizier Joseph ibn Naghrela and massacred about 4,000 Jews.

    In 1348, because of the hysteria surrounding the Black Plague, Jews were massacred in Chillon, Basle, Stuttgart, Ulm, Speyer, Dresden, Strasbourg, and Mainz. A large number of the surviving Jews fled to Poland, which was very welcoming to Jews at the time.

    In 1543, Martin Luther wrote On the Jews and Their Lies, a treatise in which he advocated harsh persecution of the Jewish people, up to what is called now pogroms. He argued that their synagogues and schools be set on fire, their prayer books destroyed, rabbis forbidden to preach, homes razed, and property and money confiscated. (And so Hitler did, so suck on it.)

    Jews and Roman Catholics were also massacred during the Khmelnytsky Uprising of Ukrainian Cossacks in 1648-1654, as well as in the following century during the Koliyivshchyna.

    So don’t give me your Holocaust position. Not only is it a lie, but is the natural and logical industrial-applied consequence of the RELIGIOUSLY ESTABLISHED XENOPHOBIA against Jews by Christians. If you’re going to blame science for the Holocaust, it needs to be the Chemists and the Engineers who made the tools possible.

    Not the Biologists whose cornerstone theory says that the ‘races’ are EQUAL, leaving you no scientific basis for necessary step of dehumanizing them prior to killing them. Quite the contrast, of course, to religion which has dehumanization built right into it with all this “favored people” crap.

    Now, before you say no way I don’t go for that. Remember that the more people who think like the above the more possible it is. When you start putting people down, humans have a tendency to start thinking that they are not human anymore because they are Intellectually inferior.

    Here is an example to back up what I am saying:
    http://www.useless-knowledge.com/1234/feb/article156.html

    Posted by: Kenny | May 20, 2008 4:52 AM

    Your article doesn’t support your conclusion. All it does is (1)badly argue stratification by education and how it is correlated with IQ and (2) point out the correlation between religiosity and low IQ.

    Nowhere in there does it say, or imply, anyone is “inferior” and we need to sterilize your or ship you off to the ovens. No matter how much you get your silly panties in a wad.

    So, now do you see why we think you are stupid? And the rest of the creo-bots?

    You. Get. Nothing. Right. Ever.

    It’s got to go beyond ignorance, which is correctable, right to pure stupidity, which isn’t.

  191. #191 MarkW
    May 20, 2008

    If we settled upon a new word, the negative connotations that had been attached to ‘atheism’ would be rapidly transferred to the new word.

    To illustrate Elf Eye’s point with a recent UK example:

    There is a UK charity working with people with cerebral palsy; the charity’s name until recently was “The Spastics’ Society”. Negative connotations have arisen around the word “spastic” (children calling each other “you spastic” in the playground for exapmle), so the charity has changed its name to “Scope”.

    Result: children now call each other “you scoper” in the playground.

  192. #192 MarkW
    May 20, 2008

    Moses@ #188 a minor point:

    I was unaware of Buddhist or Hindu influence on the Essenes, could you point me in the direction of some info on that please? Thanks.

  193. #193 J
    May 20, 2008

    And my Christian mother knows damn well I don’t believe in gods. If you’re scared to tell your mother the truth, that’s your business.
    Of course. Many people have similar business, and they benefit from the word Bright.

    Don’t get me wrong, though: that’s just one advantage of the word. I’ve mentioned several others.

    So far, the principal objections have been essentially along the lines of: “I’m not using Bright, it’s obviously a dumb idea. [Reason unspecified.]“

  194. #194 dkew
    May 20, 2008

    I see an arrogant, conceited, and oblivious troll has hijacked the thread. He/she claims to have published something relevant – did I miss it in the clutter? He/she claims to be an atheist, but doesn’t understand/accept the standard definition, and argues with sophistry and insults. We’re not all brilliant, or even bright, but it is obvious J is not on the side of reason.

  195. #195 prn
    May 20, 2008

    Autumn (#86) wrote:

    The issue is, why do I have to be an atheist, but I have never had to define myself as a non-numismatist?

    A friend of mine once remarked that he didn’t like to call himself an atheist because he didn’t want to define himself in terms of a non-existent entity.

    I disagree with that. I have no philosophical objection to applying the term “atheist” to myself. It does not in any way define me. It’s simply another characteristic. Calling myself a “liberal” does not define me either. Nor does “blue-eyed” or “bearded” or “bald”. (Though I will sometimes say that “I’m not really bald, I’m just too tall for my hair.” :-) )

    I’m happy to call myself a “rationalist”, but even though I consider myself relatively bright, I would not want to term myself “a Bright”. The term “Bright” is just way too smug. Smugness is, IMHO, one of the cardinal sins. It leads one into way too many hazardous situations, like spelling mistakes in the midst of spelling flames. ;-)

    Paul

  196. #196 andyo
    May 20, 2008

    Moses, it’s a good reply but I’m not hopeful it’d get through the skull of any creationist.

    I got one question though, do you really think gravity and energy are less understood that evolution? In what way? I think evolution as a whole is astoundingly well established, but gravity even more. There are still many details of evolution that are being (hate to use this word) debated, but gravity has very much been amazingly detailed since Einstein, no?

  197. #197 J
    May 20, 2008

    I see an arrogant, conceited, and oblivious troll has hijacked the thread. He/she claims to have published something relevant – did I miss it in the clutter? He/she claims to be an atheist, but doesn’t understand/accept the standard definition, and argues with sophistry and insults. We’re not all brilliant, or even bright, but it is obvious J is not on the side of reason.
    What, the mere act of presenting my opinion and defending it is the same as trolling? Or is trolling defined as disagreeing with Pharyngula regulars?

    I don’t know why you accuse me of “sophistry”; I express myself lucidly enough. As for the insults: I think they were for the most part well-deserved. Scroll up and you’ll see that Ichthyic started it with an unprovoked, brutal attack on me. (Exactly what he did in another recent thread.)

  198. #198 Eric Jones
    May 20, 2008

    Posts like these are exactly why I read your blog. Well thought out and well worded. Thanks for the good read.

  199. #199 andy o
    May 20, 2008

    Another advantage of Bright is that it’s helpful for all those people who don’t want their family to learn of their atheist convictions.

    Your Christian mother asks you if you believe in God. “I’m a Bright” is going to work better than “I’m an atheist”.

    Posted by: J | May 20, 2008 7:20 AM

    I think that’s a thoroughly bad reason not to call yourself an “atheist.” The next question after you declare your “brightness” undoubtedly will be “what do you mean by ‘bright’?” “I don’t believe in god.” “Oh, so you’re an atheist!”

    If your family will discriminate against you for not believing in such stuff, you got bigger problems. The “annoyance” I referred to in my previous post is nothing in comparison. I would gladly go through the slight annoyance of having to explain myself to my family what my “atheism” really means and why I do not call myself that, though in their eyes and the eyes of all religious people (and wishy-washy agnostics) I am an actual “atheist.”

  200. #200 Daniel R
    May 20, 2008

    In front of jewchislamics, I generally say that I am an atheist. But in front of buddhists, since they don’t have gods, I could not say that: they could think that I may believe in their phony things.

    Perhaps introducing me as “notbelievinginthosebullshits-er”?

  201. #201 negentropyeater
    May 20, 2008

    If you are an atheist, you should be proud of that term and call yourself that way.

    In some cases, if you want to describe yourself as part of a certain category which also includes agnostics, which is bigger and may be useful for strategic reasons, call yourself a “non believer”.

    I’m afraid using the term “bright” serves absolutely no purpose at all. It just won’t stick.

    The reason the “gay” term worked is because the homosexual community started using the term right away as soon as it started organising itself, and it used it in the very begining as a code word. Atheists are far beyond that point, so it just won’t work, it’s too late for that.

  202. #202 JeffreyD
    May 20, 2008

    I define myself as to what I am. I let other people label me as they want. If I have to pick a term, I use atheist as self description, but in reality, I just do not think there is a question. To me there is no question of god(s) yes or no, and I usually do not trouble myself about it. I did discover something kind of fun, when asked if I believe in a god, I say no and am then labeled an atheist by my interlocutor. If they then ask if I can prove there is no god, I also say no and am then labeled an agnostic. I always just say, ‘OK, whatever label you are comfortable assigning to me”. For some reason, this tends to piss the god botherers off as they want me to make a choice and take a stand with a clearly recognized label. When I reply that I consider the whole question moot and I see no reason to even pretend to think about the existence of any type of deity, they just freak right out. It is a small victory, but does amuse me.

    So, feel free to label me as you wish. Labeling me just shows me you are not willing to think about me as a person, an individual. If the label is important to you, wonderful, enjoy your self limited life. If you insist it matter to me, then I hold you in contempt.

    Enjoying most of the posts. I still skip Kennygasms and J is a candidate for my internal filter. However, J and the replies are still amusing at this stage.

    Oh, full disclosure, I am not here for the science, I am here for the politics and quality posts. I am learning some science though, which is very pleasant, and emboldened to learn more.

    Ciao

  203. #203 dkew
    May 20, 2008

    J, you have continually claimed to understand the issues under discussion better than than everyone else here, without any evidence. In fact, contrary to the evidence. Thus, “arrogant, conceited, oblivious troll.”

  204. #204 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    May 20, 2008

    Your Christian mother asks you if you believe in God. “I’m a Bright” is going to work better than “I’m an atheist”.

    Until she asks you what a “Bright” is.

  205. #205 J
    May 20, 2008

    I think that’s a thoroughly bad reason not to call yourself an “atheist.” The next question after you declare your “brightness” undoubtedly will be “what do you mean by ‘bright’?” “I don’t believe in god.” “Oh, so you’re an atheist!”
    No, that’s a colossal oversimplification. Bright leaves plenty enough “Weasel Room” to escape being pinned down. This is how it usually goes:

    “What do you mean by ‘Bright’?”
    “It refers to confidence in the explanatory power of science as opposed to supernaturalism, and absence of belief in dogma.”
    “What about God, do you believe in God?”
    “Brights don’t concern themselves with that. Their interest is in understanding the Universe as best we can via the scientific method alone.”

    It’s quite easy to essentially dodge the “Do you believe in God?” question if you label yourself a Bright.

  206. #206 J
    May 20, 2008

    J, you have continually claimed to understand the issues under discussion better than than everyone else here, without any evidence. In fact, contrary to the evidence. Thus, “arrogant, conceited, oblivious troll.”
    Wrong, and fuck you too.

  207. #207 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    May 20, 2008

    It’s quite easy to essentially dodge the “Do you believe in God?” question if you label yourself a Bright.

    And be just a little dishonest in doing so.

  208. #208 Lurky
    May 20, 2008

    J,

    So far, the principal objections have been essentially along the lines of: “I’m not using Bright, it’s obviously a dumb idea. [Reason unspecified.]“

    FYI DLC at #152

    Problem with “Brights” is that it has an elitist sound to it.
    As if everyone else is a “Dim”. You don’t need to be highly intelligent or educated in order to not believe in something.

    craig at #143, Nemo at #123 etc…
    Just read all the posts please.

  209. #209 Pat
    May 20, 2008

    Personally, Bakker never held much truck with me mostly because of his ridiculous pandemic disease dinosaur extinction ideas. I groaned anytime he started off on that tack in documentaries about the extinction event. He seemed to irrationally reject the meteorite hypothesis despite mounting evidence.

    As far as “Brights” and whatnot – I’m an iconoclast to the core, and I guess I reject any attempt at assuming a label other than the self-assumed “iconoclast.” Atheism to me means “without religion” – and being a “bright” felt more like yet another outgrouping: marking others as “others” through labels, titles, and other group identifiers. Heck, even being an “atheist” chafes because of the connotations that I am somehow this way or that way.

    I take the lesson from Bob Dobbs that all followers are sheep, and the eventual enlightenment and message from Bob is that you don’t need Bob, but he still has your dollar.

    “You’ll PAY to know what you REALLY think.” — J.R. “Bob” Dobbs, 1961

    I have to reject belonging to any group, even a group defined by not belonging to a group. Anything of this type could be touted as “religion” in that it promotes what I despise most and seek so arduously to escape: “us” versus “them.” Groupings based on this quickly go from bad to ridiculous.

    Think about it: outgrouping occurs because a conflicting idea is extrapolated backward from logic to inferring something about the individual that is responsible for the, to the ingroup, erroneously held belief. Don’t want to go to church? It can’t be because it is boring, but because the now outgroup individual is flawed: lazy or slothful or backsliding or worse. Outgroup individual is a creationist? It must be because he is dumb or inbred or isolated and a bigot.

    Attack the behaviors: go after the attempts to legislate religion, the promulgation of lies and half-truths masquerading as science. Even go after the organizations pushing this agenda. But painting everyone who believes creatonism with an outgroup brush of lower intelligence or poorer education is very much in the vein of religion. It’s bad reasoning.

  210. #210 J
    May 20, 2008

    And be just a little dishonest in doing so.
    If at all, just a little. For many people that’s the only alternative to either having to shut up or cause one’s mother unneeded distress.

  211. #211 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    May 20, 2008

    If at all, just a little. For many people that’s the only alternative to either having to shut up or cause one’s mother unneeded distress.

    Still dishonest, but your point is understood. I fortunately didn’t have to worry about it being that my grandfather on my mother’s side was an atheist (and a big fan of Russell, I have his first edition copy of Why I am Not a Christian in my library along side all of his other books on the subject).

    However, what happens when you tell her Bright and have to explain it. I think the description you give above would provoke plenty of unneeded stress along the same lines that telling any sensitive mother you are an atheist.

    Not a huge point, but a point none the less.

  212. #212 negentropyeater
    May 20, 2008

    J,

    cause one’s mother unneeded distress

    Come on J, isn’t your mother going to ask you what does “Bright” mean ?

    Look, either the term “Bright” sticks (like Gay did) and she’ll know, or it doesn’t and it’s useless.

    So why are you defending this line of reasoning ?

    As I said earlier, you still refuse to answer the more fundamental question, whatever the term is, Bright, Atheist, or Godknowswhatelse,
    “does the fact that these terms carry negative prejudices for a large part of the population mean that you shouldn’t be proud to carry it ?”

  213. #213 Andreas Johansson
    May 20, 2008

    J, you have dodged this question repeatedly: who are this “we” you keep refering to?

  214. #214 windy
    May 20, 2008

    What I was trying to say is that, if you know enough physics, the “woo-woo” views of people like Roger Penrose, Freeman Dyson, Frank Tipler and Paul Davies, will become more comprehensible. They’re not as stupid/delusional/dishonest as many people here would imagine.

    I guess Victor Stenger doesn’t know enough physics to be seduced by the woo-woo.

  215. #215 Ian
    May 20, 2008

    PZ, it seems to me that you and Bakker are talking past each other and the crux of this mis-match is the difference between “appease” and “antagonize”.

    I read Bakker as saying let’s not unnecessarily antagonize the millions of Christians who aren’t flagrant anti-evolutionists (and instead, let’s educate them), but you appear to be reading him as saying “let’s appease the creationists by blaming everything on the atheists”. I don’t see how he’s even close to suggesting that.

  216. #216 J
    May 20, 2008

    I guess Victor Stenger doesn’t know enough physics to be seduced by the woo-woo.
    No, you’re either misrepresenting me or not reading properly.

    I don’t myself believe in said “woo-woo” theories. However, I don’t view them as contemptibly stupid and absurd as many people here do. I can at least see how a sane, intelligent person would believe something like that. All that’s required is a little self-deception.

    But, of course, if you’re on a mission to feel superior, like many people here, then you’d like to write off anyone with opposing views (even if they’re too difficult for you to understand) as a delusional, miserable bungler.

  217. #217 factlike
    May 20, 2008

    PZ still refuses to admit that the term “atheist” isn’t good for public relations and never has been…
    Bright is obviously the superior label…

    The superior label is obviously The People’s Front of Judea.

  218. #218 Moses
    May 20, 2008

    I got one question though, do you really think gravity and energy are less understood that evolution? In what way? I think evolution as a whole is astoundingly well established, but gravity even more. There are still many details of evolution that are being (hate to use this word) debated, but gravity has very much been amazingly detailed since Einstein, no?

    Posted by: andyo | May 20, 2008 8:18 AM

    The way I understand it is that Standard Model and the General Theory of Relativity both seem to work, yet they contradict each other. In General Relativity, as I understand the argument, gravity is background independent. In the Standard Model it is NOT back-ground independent. They are not, as far as I know, reconciled at this point in time.

    I know far, far less about the issues with “energy,” but there are some (apparently) very in-depth, real questions in the area. I don’t have enough physics to get into the issues with Quantum Electrodynamics (QED), or familiarity with the QED issues, to understand and adequately explain them as they pertain to nuclear forces and energy. Only less-than-fond remembrances of my Uncle’s blathering. (I really despise this Uncle, but he did work at Lawrence Livermore as a Physicist. So while he’s a complete toad, much agreed up by all of that side of the family, at least he could explain, though he always made sure to confuse you to prove his superiority.) Further understanding won’t suddenly stop gravity from working or electricity from being generated. Only that we’ll have a much better understanding of how it works.

    I think, and I really can’t explain it as well as I’d like, the difference is that, in evolution, many of the tiny details don’t matter so much. For example, there are many, many, many ways to evolve an eye through RM & NS. While the differences are interesting in order to find out who is related to who, and how different paths make different, yet similar, eyes and how the whole process works, the Theory of Evolution ultimately describes a big process, so it doesn’t matter as much.

    With physics, big approximations were relatively easy to come by. But the devil, as it were, are in the details and we are still struggling with those details at fundamental levels. Do gravitons exist? What exactly is the structure of the Proton? Can we resolve Feynman’s proton of three-quarks with a more recent model which is comprised of quarks & gluons? What about Einstein’s classical physics in his theories? Did he get it right, or is it just a good approximation, ultimately to be superseded by a better, more complete theory that can handle his classic physics and QED, like Newton’s theory (one, BTW, still used in engineering applications to this day) of gravity? With Physicists, it seems more detail they learn, the more questions (rather than fewer) questions they have to the fundamental nature of the universe.

  219. #219 craig
    May 20, 2008

    “Bright leaves plenty enough “Weasel Room” to escape being pinned down.”

    There ya go. Weasel. That’s a much better word for what you’re describing.

  220. #220 Colugo
    May 20, 2008

    Prediction: All of those seemingly deistic-friendly features of physics and the cosmos will turn out to be ultimately explainable by the least action principle.

    It will be a hollow victory on both sides: they are not trivial, but their cause is utterly mundane.

  221. #221 carovee
    May 20, 2008

    If anyone is still reading this thread please read the latest article from Gary Kamiya at Salon. People like PZ and Dawkins are creating a precedent, one that according to Mr. Kamiya is sorely lacking in or media, for holding Christians accountable for their claims. I think all PZ is saying is that doing so makes a person “militant” only because religion has gotten a pass for so long, and continues to get a pass no matter how factually wrong or just plain loony their claims may be.

  222. #222 Dennis N
    May 20, 2008

    It seems that J’s position is:

    “I’m an atheist, but all you atheists are smug and arrogant”

    I think I was right about my alarms.

  223. #223 craig
    May 20, 2008

    “craig at #143, Nemo at #123 etc…
    Just read all the posts please.”

    I read them, what’s your point.

  224. #224 craig
    May 20, 2008

    “I’m an atheist, but all you atheists are smug and arrogant”

    add “and I’m not, so I’m Bright.

  225. #225 BobbyEarle
    May 20, 2008

    I want to be seduced by the woo-woo.

    Hell, I want to seduced by anything.

  226. #226 Janine ID
    May 20, 2008

    Your Christian mother asks you if you believe in God. “I’m a Bright” is going to work better than “I’m an atheist”.

    Alright! Now I get it! The answer is this, duck that issue. Everything gets much easier.

    (Everyone in my family knows of my atheism and has known for decades. Somehow, everyone is fine. But then, there are no fundamentalists in the lot. But it seems that about half of the children attends catholic school.)

  227. #227 Jack
    May 20, 2008

    The science and politics attract me to this blog, but I have to admit I’m a religious person. Even with that perspective, I will agree with you that Bakker’s claim that “loud, strident, elitist anti-creationists” are the biggest threat to science is incorrect. I will certainly agree that militant creationists are much more threatening.

    I do, however, believe Bakker raises a legitimate issue. arachnophilia already explained it well back in post #127

    “aren’t dinosaurs awesome?” is a much better hook than “you’re stupid and possibly crazy.”

    Stepping into the ring as a religious person, I do worry that my opinion will be immediately discounted by this crowd. I guess I’m just hoping that, perhaps, as someone coming into the discussion from a religious perspective, you’ll give my opinion some weight backing up what arachnophilia said about how we’ll react to the most strident and elitist of anti-creationist arguments.

    Kind of a shame that J totally hijacked the thread from that topic to an etymological discussion about Brights. However, I also have to admit that from my outsider perspective, it has been entertaining. BigDumbChimp has it right in #202

    Until she asks you what a “Bright” is.

    That’s exactly what I’d do if my kids told me they were “Brights”. I mean, I know full well what a Bright is, but a Socratic dialogue illustrating what an elitist jerk they sound like adopting the term would be valuable before they begin widespread use of it in public. Because, J, it is only true that

    It’s quite easy to essentially dodge the “Do you believe in God?” question if you label yourself a Bright.

    if your parents are stupid.

  228. #228 andy o
    May 20, 2008

    Moses,

    I am not a physicist either, but my understanding is that the Standard model and quantum mechanics in general doesn’t describe gravity at all. General Relativity describes it astoundingly thoroughly except for those circumstances where gravity is so strong as to matter in the quantum world, which is pretty much only in black holes and the big bang from what I hear.

    I think it’s pretty subjective depending on your criteria, but I consider gravity’s details better established than evolution’s in general.

    About energy, I guess that’s a broader subject with what the pesky accelerated expansion of the universe and whatnot.

  229. #229 Janine ID
    May 20, 2008

    I want to be seduced by the woo-woo.

    Hell, I want to seduced by anything.

    Posted by: BobbyEarle

  230. #230 windy
    May 20, 2008

    I don’t myself believe in said “woo-woo” theories. However, I don’t view them as contemptibly stupid and absurd as many people here do. I can at least see how a sane, intelligent person would believe something like that. All that’s required is a little self-deception.

    Thanks for knocking down that strawman for us. No one here said that all those world class physicists are contemptibly stupid. Many sane, intelligent persons believe all kinds of stupid things.

  231. #231 J
    May 20, 2008

    There ya go. Weasel. That’s a much better word for what you’re describing.
    I used the word humorously. I don’t think there’s anything bad about being a little insincere in order to avoid hurting someone and causing potentially a lot of unnecessary commotion.

    In fact, I’d go further: Anyone who believes otherwise is a complete prick.

  232. #232 craig
    May 20, 2008

    “It’s quite easy to essentially dodge the “Do you believe in God?” question if you label yourself a Bright.”

    Atheists would be better accepted if they kinda hide the fact that they are atheists. If they “dodge the question.”
    Well, no shit. But you don’t need a special word to do that.

    Anyway your mom will probably think you joined a cult.

    Not pointing this at anyone’s Mom in particular, but it seems to me that if a parent can’t handle a simple non-argumentative declaration of beliefs from their adult child that differs from their own, then whatever pain they are caused is their own responsibility, not their child’s.

    And if they are so demanding in that way that they can’t accept their adult children as free-thinking individuals and will not hide their own possible displeasure for the sake of letting their adult children rightfully have their own opinions, then it is in fact their children who are being mistreated – it is the parents who are being selfish.

    At a certain age you have to stop coddling your parents so they can learn to stand on their own two feet.

  233. #233 J
    May 20, 2008

    Thanks for knocking down that strawman for us. No one here said that all those world class physicists are contemptibly stupid. Many sane, intelligent persons believe all kinds of stupid things.
    If you scroll up you’ll see that deists are branded “delusional”. A very strong word, if you ask me. And especially rich coming from someone whose theoretical argument against deism is no deeper than “There’s no empirical evidence for it”.

    No stawman here.

  234. #234 Dennis N
    May 20, 2008

    I don’t think there’s anything bad about being a little insincere in order to avoid hurting someone and causing potentially a lot of unnecessary commotion.

    So you don’t know how to be nice without being misleading? If you can’t be both honest and nice, then you are the prick. I’m not gonna hide who I am. You are rude to suggest we should for anyone’s benefit. This sounds a lot like “if you could just act less black, so you don’t cause a commotion”.

  235. #235 J
    May 20, 2008

    So you don’t know how to be nice without being misleading? If you can’t be both honest and nice, then you are the prick. I’m not gonna hide who I am. You are rude to suggest we should for anyone’s benefit. This sounds a lot like “if you could just act less black, so you don’t cause a commotion”.
    Ah, look, a moron!

    Moron, why do you so glibly exclude the possibility that in some special circumstances honesty causes unnecessary harm?

  236. #236 craig
    May 20, 2008

    “In fact, I’d go further: Anyone who believes otherwise is a complete prick.”

    Well, I’d say anyone who makes a fuss and guilt trips their adult offspring for having their own opinion is a prick.

    If your parent asks you if you believe in god, and you can’t just politely say “no” without hurt feelings and a commotion resulting, then that’s just fucked up. And anyone who would make you feel like a prick for politely answering their question honestly deserves they bad feelings that THEY are giving themselves.

    Its a pretty fucked up perspective to think that politely not giving in to the unreasonable makes you a prick. You might choose to give in just because what the hell, its easier, whatever.

    But telling your staunch republican parents when they ask that you’re a democrat, or your rabidly catholic parents when they ask that your an atheist, or your heterosexual parents when they ask that you’re gay, DOESN’T make you a prick, no matter how it upsets them.

    It may be hard, it may be unpleasant, it may be something you’d rather not do, but it doesn’t make YOU insensitive, and it doesn’t make you responsible for their upset.

  237. #237 Michael X
    May 20, 2008

    This is why I avoid threads nowadays, I simply don’t have time to keep up with the insanity.

    But J, way back at 122, reread the words “in practical terms”. To believe in an indifferent creator is to act like an atheist in the common understanding of the word. Thus there is no practical difference.

    Also, the cosmological evidence for an indifferent deity (not to mention any others) is not strong enough to sway everyone in Dyson’s direction and many would argue that it isn’t strong enough to sway anyone anywhere. That is asserted by people just as smart as Dyson. To then rebut by assuming that Dyson can categorically only believe that which there is evidence for is to argue from authority. But his deism, if unfounded as many believe, would not make him a dumbass. It would simply make him wrong.

  238. #238 Aquaria
    May 20, 2008

    The royal we, apparently

  239. #239 Kagehi
    May 20, 2008

    J.. I am a member of the brights myself. I was one of a *huge* number of early members that expressed the opinion that the term was a dumbass and utterly inappropriate choice. For some incomprehensible reason a larger percentage thought it was genius. Now I know what kind of “genius” fracking thought it was a good idea, and I am not real impressed. As for atheist, as **many** people here have pointed out, there is no damn reason why I can’t say that I don’t believe in “any” gods at all, and not just one of them, nor does it make any damn sense for some nimrod to ask, “What? You mean all of them?” No shit Sherlock, found the Hound of a Baskervilles lately, or did you get confused and start looking for the Mound of the Bakersvale again? Its damn stupid to play idiot games of semantics with atheist that do **nothing** other than confuse the matter and play into the stupidity of the people who are already redefining it for their own purposes. Here is a hint, those people think that “bright” is just a poor attempt to hide the true atheist agenda of the group, and think those of use using it (or forced to by the decision to keep the term) are arrogant morons. Yep, just the message we *wanted* to imply, right?

    Give us all a break J, and go polish your bright. Its looking damn dim at this point.

  240. #240 Dennis N
    May 20, 2008

    Sorry, J, I’m not a moron. I’m honest, and I don’t mislead people, especially people I care about. Why don’t you just lie? You don’t wanna say what people don’t wanna hear, so tell them what they wanna hear. You’ve shown you have no commitment to truth anyway.

  241. #241 frog
    May 20, 2008

    PZ, you’re right that it’s simple: simple historical ignorance. It’s a serious problem for those who preach tolerance, an ignorance of the medium term historical effects of simply ignoring the opposition.

    The radical right in the US has learned this – you have to push the Overton Window to win in the 10 to 50 year range. In other words, hijack the conversation by being obnoxious. In the short term, you drive off some allies, and in the long-term, all our efforts are irrelevant anyway, but in that single lifespan region, the squeaky wheel gets the grease. Most folks simply repeat what they hear ad nauseam, so you have to get their attention somehow, and just repeat your message over, and over, and over.

    Dammit, why are so many rational people so damn slow? I guess it’s over-specialization, and a fantasy that most people are like their little social click of reasonable, fairly rational folks. Those of us who haven’t lived our whole lives in academia have gotten to see the bulk of the population — and most of them are so deeply ignorant, it’s shocking.

  242. #242 windy
    May 20, 2008

    If you scroll up you’ll see that deists are branded “delusional”. A very strong word, if you ask me.

    Um, you are the one who brought “delusional” into this discussion – I know you argued against it, but your tut-tutting is a little disingenuous here. You yourself primed people to discuss it.

    And especially rich coming from someone whose theoretical argument against deism is no deeper than “There’s no empirical evidence for it”.

    Who do you mean? Etha? That was not the whole of her argument and you (should) know it. But here’s another one:

    Did the deist intelligence that’s responsible for the universe require fine-tuning to emerge? (And please don’t answer along the lines of “OMG that’s so shallow”.)

  243. #243 Aquaria
    May 20, 2008

    I’m wishing for the day when the term “militant atheist” is today’s equivalent of “uppity Negro.”

  244. #244 Matt Penfold
    May 20, 2008

    Correct me is I am wrong, but hasn’t Richard Dawkins only started being so vocal about this atheism within the last decade or so ?

    And I may also be wrong on this, but has not the problem of certain religious groups in the US rejecting science in favour of their interpretation of scripture been a problem considerably longer than that ?

    If I am correct in both assumptions, and I think I am, then I have to ask this. How the fuck is Dawkins to blame for the perilous state of the public understanding of science in the US ? Surely if you want to blame scientists, and I am not sure you can very much, you should blame those scientist who are religious for failing to engage their co-religionists. I suspect his may be behind Bakker’s blaming of Dawkins. It avoids his having to accept some of the blame.

  245. #245 J
    May 20, 2008

    Did the deist intelligence that’s responsible for the universe require fine-tuning to emerge? (And please don’t answer along the lines of “OMG that’s so shallow”.
    Playing Devil’s Advocate:

    Maybe the deistic intelligence is, while fined-tuned to some extent, less fined-tuned than the Universe. Postulating this deity wouldn’t explain everything, but would help resolve some pressing mysteries (e.g. physics — and maybe even consciousness, if you like!).

    See, there’s plenty of “Weasel Room”. It’s quite possible to defend such opinions (although, under sustained assault, eventual capitulation is inevitable). You can’t secure victory as quickly as many of you think.

  246. #246 Dennis N
    May 20, 2008

    No, you can. An intelligence is postulated because something is necessary that is eternal and has the ability to create. Those 2 qualities don’t need intelligence, or personality, they don’t need to be a god. All that is needed is something outside the universe that can give rise to universes. Eventually, in eternity, one of those universes is tuned the way ours is. This is much simpler than a god and has the same lack of evidence. Occam’s razor pwns deism.

  247. #247 Matt Penfold
    May 20, 2008

    I think there are people here who do not know the various meanings of word “delusional”.

    One meaning of the word, in common usage, is belief or acceptance of or in something for which there is no evidence. Belief in any type of god would seem to fit that category.

    Richard Dawkins went to great lengths to explain exactly in what sense he was using the word “delusional” in “The God Delusion”. Those who argue that he is wrong, and belief in god is not delusional either must think there is empirical evidence for god, or have not bothered to read his book. “J” is not alone in making this mistake. Bloggers here on scienceblogs have made the same error.

  248. #248 windy
    May 20, 2008

    Maybe the deistic intelligence is, while fined-tuned to some extent, less fined-tuned than the Universe.

    But see, the fine-tuning argument rests on claiming that no other combination of fundamental constants is likely to allow intelligence, complexity or life. Once you postulate other less fine-tuned combinations that nevertheless produce something “interesting”, you dig the earth from under the fine-tuning argument itself.

    Postulating this deity wouldn’t explain everything, but would help resolve some pressing mysteries (e.g. physics — and maybe even consciousness, if you like!)

    It’s not about what I “like”. How exactly would this deity explain consciousness? How would it “resolve” physical mysteries except tacking “GDI” on them?

  249. #249 Kagehi
    May 20, 2008

    Not to mention the simple fact that “consciousness” is almost certainly the same “category error” applied to things like thunder in the past, where, “because we don’t have an explanation, or don’t like the one someone suggested, it must be mysterious, unnatural and therefor caused *by* some sort of other intelligence.” The problem being of course that, if you postulate such an “intelligence”, you are right back to the whole infinite regression issue of why can’t *our* intelligence arise without something else, if its possible for some other intelligence to pop into existence, or to exist at all, and create ours?

  250. #250 Matt Penfold
    May 20, 2008

    “No, you can. An intelligence is postulated because something is necessary that is eternal and has the ability to create. Those 2 qualities don’t need intelligence, or personality, they don’t need to be a god. All that is needed is something outside the universe that can give rise to universes.”

    I think you will find that is what we would call a god. Giving it a different name does not make your argument any better.

  251. #251 J
    May 20, 2008

    No, you can. An intelligence is postulated because something is necessary that is eternal and has the ability to create. Those 2 qualities don’t need intelligence, or personality, they don’t need to be a god. All that is needed is something outside the universe that can give rise to universes. Eventually, in eternity, one of those universes is tuned the way ours is. This is much simpler than a god and has the same lack of evidence. Occam’s razor pwns deism.
    I can easily get out of that.

    I claim “ability to create” is statistically improbable if it’s not part of an Intelligence. (A bit like stumbling on a machine, not designed by any human, that can do nothing other than write poems.)

    The Intelligence, I say, emerged through a gradual process (maybe Darwinian evolution). (This could still have explanatory power — see above.)

    We could keep going like this for ages before you’d finally checkmate me. It’s much easier to simply forget such pointless abstract arguments and view as part of your “gang” simply anyone who rejects religion. This is actually socially important, rather than worthless and over-philosophical.

  252. #252 Matt Penfold
    May 20, 2008

    “No, you can. An intelligence is postulated because something is necessary that is eternal and has the ability to create. Those 2 qualities don’t need intelligence, or personality, they don’t need to be a god. All that is needed is something outside the universe that can give rise to universes.”

    I think you will find that is what we would call a god. Giving it a different name does not make your argument any better.

  253. #253 Dennis N
    May 20, 2008

    Virtual particles are created with no intelligence involved.

  254. #254 Matt Penfold
    May 20, 2008

    Ian,

    I do know how many books you have read by Dawkins, but I defy anyone (who has not already decided he is wrong based on their listening to their pastor about science rather than scientists) to read, say “The Ancestor’s Tale”, and not feel a sense of wonder and awe at the universe. Indeed one argument Dawkins put forwards is how small the young earth creationists’ god is in comparison to the real world.

  255. #255 GDad
    May 20, 2008

    First, if Richard Dawkins is loud and strident, let’s indicate that from now on with all caps. And an echo effect. RICHARD-CHARD-ARD-D DAWKINS-KINS-NS

    Second, I’m just a simple hyperchicken from a backwoods asteroid, but wouldn’t it be spookier if the universe couldn’t be broken down to simple rules? Say, for example, if rain fell down every day but Thursdays, where it fell up and to the north, would that not be more indicative of spooky action at a distance?

  256. #256 Moses
    May 20, 2008

    Moses@ #188 a minor point:

    I was unaware of Buddhist or Hindu influence on the Essenes, could you point me in the direction of some info on that please? Thanks.

    Posted by: MarkW | May 20, 2008 8:07 AM

    Ah, bad day for that detail, almost all my books are in boxes in the attic as we’re getting ready for a major reconfiguration of the house as certain remodeling projects are approaching completion. I’m trying to remember the title of the principle work that goes into detail for this assertion but it’s just not coming with certainty, but this might be it: “Early History of God: ‘subtitle I can’t remember.’” But that might be where I first learned of Asheroth, the wife of God. :)

    I should, however note that there is good circumstantial case for a Buddhist influence. There is a great wealth of contemporary documentation for Buddhists in the Middle East from the time of Alexander. Just as there were Jews in India. And while the rather provincial view of the average European seems to be that these people never left their villages, like the serfs in Europe, that’s far from the truth. Israel was a hub of the spice trade and very cosmopolitan. And while many people didn’t travel far, others routinely traveled back-and-forth between the Middle East and India & China.

    People also seem to not realize that native mythologies liberally borrowed and traded with other mythologies. You can see this in all religions. Christianity has taken on many of the aspects of religions found within that time and place, just as Judaism did prior. As did others of others.

    The ultimate problem in making a proof positive connection is that there isn’t a lot of solid work on which everyone can agree. There is some good work. However, the bulk of the work is, well, slipshod and written from a preexisting POV. Separating the good from the bad becomes difficult.

    Some will claim that Essenes were actually Jewish Buddhists. They’ll get a lot of the Essenic teachings (and sayings that are, at times, almost identical) and compare them to Buddhism, and they will be right. They’ll show you that the Essenes were spread from Egypt to India, and they will be right. They will point out there had been Buddhist monks in the Middle East for CENTURIES prior to the birth of Jesus. And that religions of that period and location frequently borrowed from each other, it is logical to expect adoption of teachings. Further, there is solid evidence of Buddhist teaching, sayings and philosophies through the Essenes (who came to existence at about 200 BCE giving further weight) own writings, teachings and philosophies. But then, like many Christians do, they’ll discount everything that doesn’t fit with their particular religious theory.

    Not only did the Essenes practice some of Judaism, but they adopted viewpoints, including the coming war between “Darkness and Light” of Zoroastrianism.

    So, Buddhist influence, I think it’s pretty good case when you look at the big picture and I think to deny the influence would be mendacious. Ultimately, though, I think the best case is that they were still Jews with many customs and practices that had also adopted many of the principles of Buddhism. Even if, in all areas, they didn’t practice like other Jews. (For example, they didn’t sacrifice animals.)

    Ultimately, I don’t think we’re going to know for sure. I think it’s all a nice story, but with the fevered dreams of the overly-religious who have poisoned the well to death… Well, I don’t think we’re going to know the truth for certain.

    BTW, some say the Gnostics were the spiritual, if not actual, successors of the Essenes and Jesus. But that they, essentially, lost the recruitment war to harsher, more ruler-friendly, brands of Christianity. But I don’t know much about the Gnostics, or their “heresies” beyond they were one of four (or five) branches of early Christianity, of which only one survives in any real numbers (Catholicism and it’s varients). (This, BTW, is my current learning project: Who Changed the Bible and Why? In a year or two I should be able to have some pretty decent answers that question. I know some of it, but in an integrated fashion from that perspective.)

  257. #257 Dennis N
    May 20, 2008

    MarkW, I recommend the podcasts of Dr. Robert Price, the Bible geek.

  258. #258 CJColucci
    May 20, 2008

    Don’t you find it eerie that fundamental laws of physics can be put into such an elegant and succinct form?

    No.

  259. #259 Mrs Tilton
    May 20, 2008

    Dennis N @242,

    Those 2 qualities don’t need intelligence, or personality, they don’t need to be a god. All that is needed is something outside the universe that can give rise to universes. This is much simpler than a god and has the same lack of evidence. Occam’s razor pwns deism.

    ??? What you are describing there pretty much is deism, as I understand it.

  260. #260 Dennis N
    May 20, 2008

    I was under the impression that deism requires an intelligent or super being. I could be wrong. I am thinking of only unthinking, random processes.

  261. #261 J
    May 20, 2008

    But see, the fine-tuning argument rests on claiming that no other combination of fundamental constants is likely to allow intelligence, complexity or life. Once you postulate other less fine-tuned combinations that nevertheless produce something “interesting”, you dig the earth from under the fine-tuning argument itself.
    Not quite. Statistical improbability is what we’re trying to explain (and, some people think, mysteries such as consciousness and the elegance of the laws of physics). A theory in which a less statistically improbable thing gives rise to a more statistically improbable thing arguably represents progress.

    How would invoking a deity help explain consciousness? Well I’m a believer in the non-existence of qualia and Dennett’s Multiple Drafts view of the mind, so I’m somewhat biased. However, some people (wrongly) think consciousness causes problems for the naturalistic worldview. Appealing to deities, or supernatural agents of some sort, is one way for them to “bail themselves out”. It has a peculiar logic to it.

    Look, do you really want to be justifying why you reject the “Cosmological God Hypothesis” the rest of your life? Religion is so much more easily and obviously dismissible. I think it’s better to have a title (like Brights) that represents rejection of religion rather than (like atheism) rejection of the pointless hypothesis.

  262. #262 windy
    May 20, 2008

    I claim “ability to create” is statistically improbable if it’s not part of an Intelligence. (A bit like stumbling on a machine, not designed by any human, that can do nothing other than write poems.)

    How is this any less vacuous than when the ID’ers do it?

    The Intelligence, I say, emerged through a gradual process (maybe Darwinian evolution). (This could still have explanatory power — see above.) We could keep going like this for ages before you’d finally checkmate me.

    Yes, you can keep “going” and multiply entities until the cows come home, but how does it help us understand things any better? You didn’t actually propose a model “above”. You skip back and forth between these claims of actually explaining things and the equivalent of “science can’t disprove the deist God!”

    And note that you are again implicitly assuming that it’s possible for gradual processes to produce intelligence in a universe with different constants from ours – which is completely at odds with the fine tuning argument! Now who hasn’t thought things through?

  263. #263 amk
    May 20, 2008

    Religion is so much more easily and obviously dismissible. I think it’s better to have a title (like Brights) that represents rejection of religion

    What’s wrong with “irreligious”?

  264. #264 J
    May 20, 2008

    ??? What you are describing there pretty much is deism, as I understand it.
    Thanks for that, Mrs Tilton.

    See, deism can be dressed in fairly respectable clothes. Dismissing them as “delusional” and alienating them by calling yourselves atheists is not a wise policy.

  265. #265 Tulse
    May 20, 2008

    some people (wrongly) think consciousness causes problems for the naturalistic worldview. Appealing to deities, or supernatural agents of some sort, is one way for them to “bail themselves out”. It has a peculiar logic to it.

    Not at all, because it suffers the same regress problem as everything else to to with gods, namely, what gave them consciousness? Any time a god is invoked as the source for something in the universe (e.g., existence, design, creativity, consciousness) the issue is always how that entity itself came to have such quality.

    It’s turtles all the way down.

  266. #266 Matt Penfold
    May 20, 2008

    “See, deism can be dressed in fairly respectable clothes. Dismissing them as “delusional” and alienating them by calling yourselves atheists is not a wise policy.”

    But the point is that there is NO evidence for such a deity. Thus it IS delusional to believe one exists.

  267. #267 J
    May 20, 2008

    Yes, you can keep “going” and multiply entities until the cows come home, but how does it help us understand things any better?
    I already said. Reducing things to “less statistical improbability” can be interpreted as progress.

  268. #268 windy
    May 20, 2008

    Not quite. Statistical improbability is what we’re trying to explain (and, some people think, mysteries such as consciousness and the elegance of the laws of physics). A theory in which a less statistically improbable thing gives rise to a more statistically improbable thing arguably represents progress.

    How have you established that a universe-creating intelligence is less improbable than our universe? Let’s see the math.

    How would invoking a deity help explain consciousness? Well I’m a believer in the non-existence of qualia and Dennett’s Multiple Drafts view of the mind, so I’m somewhat biased. However, some people (wrongly) think consciousness causes problems for the naturalistic worldview. Appealing to deities, or supernatural agents of some sort, is one way for them to “bail themselves out”. It has a peculiar logic to it.

    You are right, this is extremely peculiar logic.

    Look, do you really want to be justifying why you reject the “Cosmological God Hypothesis” the rest of your life? Religion is so much more easily and obviously dismissible.

    Why not do both?

  269. #269 Janine ID
    May 20, 2008

    See, deism can be dressed in fairly respectable clothes. Dismissing them as “delusional” and alienating them by calling yourselves atheists is not a wise policy.

    Posted by: J

    Your scapegoating of a word is quite tedious. We all understand what you mean. Yet many still call ourselves atheists. Get over it.

  270. #270 Etha Williams
    May 20, 2008

    @#203 J –

    “Brights don’t concern themselves with that. Their interest is in understanding the Universe as best we can via the scientific method alone.”

    It’s quite easy to essentially dodge the “Do you believe in God?” question if you label yourself a Bright.

    Why not just label yourself a Naturalist?

  271. #271 Matt Penfold
    May 20, 2008

    Etha,

    I suspect there a good many fundies who would confuse a naturalist with a naturist. The same way some brain dead morons confused a paedophile with a paediatrician a few years ago in the UK and attacked the house of a doctor dedicated to healing sick children.

  272. #272 John
    May 20, 2008

    Have you ever seen the Bob Jones University high school AP biology textbook?

    You should order a copy, and check out the evolution chapter.

    I was tutoring a rich kid at a private Protestant school in biology, and this was their text. That kid got hours and hours of impromptu Real Evolution lecture, that month.

    (MONTH they spent teaching creationism.)

  273. #273 Tulse
    May 20, 2008

    See, deism can be dressed in fairly respectable clothes.

    Even if a genuine deist entity actually existed (regardless of the logical and epistemic problems of determining that), then it no longer interacts with the material universe. If that is the case, then belief in such an entity would have no religious entailments, for why would one pray to something that doesn’t actually answer prayers, or affect one’s life in any way at all? The existence of deist god would be essentially nothing more than an odd historical fact, and one would no more pray to or worship such an entity than one would pray to or worship Michelangelo — one might admire the work done, but both beings are no longer directly influencing the world.

  274. #274 J
    May 20, 2008

    Why not do both?
    Because I can keep coming back at you and this would go on for ages. Also, most people, wisely, simply don’t care about the possible existence of an indifferent intelligence with whom we’ll never be able to interact with.

    Questions like “Where did the Universe come from?” are best handled by cosmologists, not the motley bunch of biologists, political science graduates and so on frequenting this blog.

    What actually matters is rejection of religion. That’s the important part. It’s useful to band as a group on that.

  275. #275 Jams
    May 20, 2008

    ‘Anyone who thinks the cryptic elegance of physics is a product of “anthropomorphic hubris” has a hell of a lot to learn.’ – J

    The above is your full response to an argument.

    This is an appeal to expertise, or secret knowledge, or some would say an argumentum ad verecundiam. I’m not even convinced you actually understand what I’ve said. Clearly, you’re incapable of articulating an argument.

    “First of all, dear little savage, I haven’t made any arguments from authority.” – J

    You clearly have no idea what an argument from authority is. “No doubt way over your head.” – J

    “No, you’re lying yet again.” – J

    You’re in no position to call anyone a liar. Sorry.

    “Anyone who knows the first thing about philosophy [...]” – J

    So far, you have demonstrated that you certainly aren’t that person. So one must wonder, how can one know that someone else holds knowledge that they themselves do not hold? And what is knowledge anyway?

    ‘And especially rich coming from someone whose theoretical argument against deism is no deeper than “There’s no empirical evidence for it”.’ – J

    Yeah, cause there’s nothing so shallow as empirical evidence.

  276. #276 windy
    May 20, 2008

    Because I can keep coming back at you and this would go on for ages.

    Apparently so since you refuse to consider the implications of the question:

    Is it possible for gradual processes to produce intelligence in a universe with different constants from ours?

    Your hypothetical deist god with natural origins requires that it is true, the fine tuning argument requires that it is false. You are not offering a consistent argument.

  277. #277 Andreas Johansson
    May 20, 2008

    Look, do you really want to be justifying why you reject the “Cosmological God Hypothesis” the rest of your life?

    Experience tells me this is not a consequence of calling myself an “atheist”, so the question is irrelevant.

  278. #278 frog
    May 20, 2008

    J: Have you heard of Maxwell’s equations? Don’t you find it eerie that fundamental laws of physics can be put into such an elegant and succinct form? Do you know that from these equations one can derive the wave equation, which also describes vibrations on a string and has been extensively studied in areas of physics that have nothing to do with electromagnetism?

    And y’all still believe that J is sincerely arguing? Such absolute nonsense – there are good mathematical questions of the extent and nature of the mapping of mathematics to the universe (lookup Tegmark), but this is either the work of a teenager (and therefore excusable), or a concern troll.

    All the markers are there, he considers mankind “sinful”, he worship western civ. like a reflection of deity, he’s an “atheist” who wants folk to use the obvious nonsense of “brights”, he makes inane arguments for the possibility of the “force”, … He can’t help but keep on slipping up, but the driving ideology is clear.

    But if y’all want to keep on playing his game by his rules, have your fun!

  279. #279 Blake Stacey
    May 20, 2008

    Moses:

    Can we resolve Feynman’s proton of three-quarks with a more recent model which is comprised of quarks & gluons?

    This question, at least, is old hat. Feynman’s model of the proton treated it as made of three “partons”; nowadays, we recognize that the parton model is a valid approximation useful in some special cases, like high-energy collisions.

    Whether “parton” or “quark” is the sillier word is left as an exercise to the interested reader.

  280. #280 J
    May 20, 2008

    This is an appeal to expertise, or secret knowledge, or some would say an argumentum ad verecundiam. I’m not even convinced you actually understand what I’ve said. Clearly, you’re incapable of articulating an argument.
    Your “argument” was so outrageously stupid that I didn’t feel the need to respond to it. How could the laws of physics possibly be in any particular way due to “anthropomorphic hubris”? In any case, it goes a lot deeper than personal opinion, as I really think you would know if you’d properly read a single layman book on physics.

    Your selective quotation of me is especially dastardly. Of course you make no mention of the insults to which I was on the receiving end. You don’t note that I wasn’t the one who started the name-calling.

    Oh, and look — now the mob have been whipped into a frenzy! The witch-hunt is on!

  281. #281 Andreas Johansson
    May 20, 2008

    If J would like to dispel suspicions he’s a troll (which, I admit, I find quite likely), he could always begin by answering the question of who, exactly, the “we” he keeps speaking of are.

  282. #282 craig
    May 20, 2008

    Good god how tedious.

    Some people anthropomorphise the universe to the degree that it even has a beard. Christians.

    Others anthropomorphise it to a lesser degree by positing some vague form of intelligence… intelligence being that thing we find most human, and therefore in our bias we look to see reflected back at us like a face on Mars. Still others anthropomorphise even less, giving it not an intelligence exactly, but a sense of order or whatever they imagine is keyed to our own intelligence or understanding of it.

    None of these imaginary realities are any more plausible than the “what if I’m the universe and I’m just imagining the rest of you” ramblings of a guy in a room full of stoners… but they are treated as more plausible simply because those discussing them are unable to separate their own bias out.

    They then dissect the infinite variations on these implausible imaginary realities and call it philosophy or some such shit.

    But due to their bias they never stop and do one important thing. They never ichthypomorphise* the universe. (*or whatever, I dunno from Latin.)

    There are probably at least as many fish in the universe as there are humans, yet they never take the time to discuss in annoying and tedious detail over the course of hundreds of comments the degree to which the universe might resemble a fish. To say nothing of catarpillars.

  283. #283 Jams
    May 20, 2008

    “How could the laws of physics possibly be in any particular way due to ‘anthropomorphic hubris’?” – J

    The laws of nature aren’t anthropomorphic, the interpretation of spookiness is. Why would I be attributing hubris to the object being interpreted rather than the interpretor of that object? I’m sorry if I took this for granted.

    “Your selective quotation of me is especially dastardly. Of course you make no mention of the insults to which I was on the receiving end. You don’t note that I wasn’t the one who started the name-calling.” – J.

    I wasn’t talking about name-calling. I personally don’t mind name-calling. I think it’s fun. Regardless, it’s a different issue. More importantly (to me anyway), there was nothing “dastardly” about my quote selection.

    “Oh, and look — now the mob have been whipped into a frenzy! The witch-hunt is on!” – J

    I’ll grant you that. You have been piled-on. If it helps at all, I admire your stick-to-it-ness.

    Now stop it!

  284. #284 J
    May 20, 2008

    Anyway, fuck this. I’m finished with this thread.

    Please try to keep the misrepresentation of my claims to a minimum.

  285. #285 tony
    May 20, 2008

    I am astounded!

    J argues like a fucking sophomore. Lots of fine words, and selectively quoting from many authorities. Within a single post he even manages to be somewhat convincing at times.

    His thesis (and I assume a he because of his arrogant mysogyinistic stance) falls apart as more of his posts are read.

    He has been taken to task a number of times and has, each time ‘weaseled’ out of an answer by using more ‘arguments from authority’ and even stupider semantic arguments.

    I’d list them, but I’m afraid we’d be approaching the heat death of the universe before I got through them all :)

    Anyway – my point is this.

    Don’t. Feed. The. Troll.

    It’s gotten really, really boring.

    Tony.

    p.s J. I suggest you spend some time having ‘delusion’ explained to you by someone who doesn’t need to count on their fingers.

  286. #286 negentropyeater
    May 20, 2008

    From http://www.moderndeism.com/html/deism_defined.html

    Belief that the nature of God is abstract and generally incomprehensible which puts it beyond definition for humanity at this time. Furthermore, human language is limited and inadequate to define God; however, man can use Reason to theorize and speculate on what this possible nature is.

  287. #287 Andreas Johansson
    May 20, 2008

    They never ichthypomorphise* the universe. (*or whatever, I dunno from Latin.)

    That’s pure Greek, actually. And it should be “ichthyomorphise” – you seem to’ve left the ‘p’ of anthrop(o)- “human” in.

    The latinate equivalent would be “pisciformate”.

  288. #288 Brownian, OM
    May 20, 2008

    I already went off on this on another thread.

    Bakker is one of the good guys, but it seems he’s been wielding his rock hammer backwards as of late.

  289. #289 Davis
    May 20, 2008

    Nobody knows why physics seems to be so spooky.

    Do you also find it “spooky” that maps so elegantly compactify the world into an easily-manipulated representation?

    Our theories of physics are maps; reality is the territory. Don’t confuse the map with the territory.

  290. #290 PA
    May 20, 2008

    There seem to be (at least) three separate issues raised by this whole brights business:

    1. Would replacing the term “atheist” with another label help achieve desirable political goals of various kinds?

    2. Is engaging in this kind of rebranding sleazy and immoral?

    3. If the answers to (1) and (2) were respectively “yes” and “no” would “bright” the right label with which to rebrand atheism?

    My answers are as follows:

    1. Maybe. Branding (and rebranding) is all the rage. Even the university at which I work is currently undergoing a branding exercise (yuck.) And “they” say it’s effective. Of course, it’s effectiveness might depend upon the type of group or institution being rebranded … and this kind of marketting might just be a crock.

    2. Yes. It involves the attempt to manipulate beliefs in a way which bypasses reason and evidence. Of course, some might argue that the end justifies the means, but for me this is a sleazy (although widespread) technique little better than indoctrination.

    3. No. As have been mentioned again and again it’s just arrogant sounding.

  291. #291 Mrs Tilton
    May 20, 2008

    J @264,

    Thanks for that, Mrs Tilton.

    See, deism can be dressed in fairly respectable clothes. Dismissing them as “delusional” and alienating them by calling yourselves atheists is not a wise policy.

    Umm, you’re welcome, but I hope your gratitude wasn’t premature. I’m not really trying to support your position here.

    Etha is the one, I think, who referred to deism as delusional. I think she is using the term objectively and not pejoratively. And far from being offended at it, I quite see her point. I don’t entirely agree, of course, but I suspect a lot of the problem is terminological; see Dennis N above, who thinks deism necessarily involves a God every bit as anthropomorphic and “personal” as Michaelangelo’s bearded guy, if a bit less mythy.[FN 1] That conception really is delusional, even if it involves fewer strange tales than does the biblical God. What I am talking about is what Dennis thought doesn’t rise to the level of deism: a something outside the universe that causes/enables the universe/various universes to exist. Does that something possess personality or intelligence? Not only can we not answer those questions, I don’t see how they are even meaningful. As Tulse says @273, the deist God (if there is indeed one) is nothing but an “odd historical fact”. Odd; and, if in one sense not strictly speaking unimportant, then at any rate supremely uninteresting.

    And what’s all this about atheists alienating people like me by calling themselves “atheists”? I am not alienated when people like Etha tell me they have a philosophical disgreement with me; all the less so am I alienated when she uses a label that accurately describes her position on that philosophical question. I would feel a little alienated if she started to describe herself as a “Bright”, mostly because that term is so godawfully stupid-sounding. But even if she found some less egregious euphemism, I’d feel alienated because that would imply she thought she needed to sugar-coat her views lest my tender sensibilities be wounded. For somebody so solicitous of the feelings of deists, you certainly seem to think we are weak and fragile things, ready to crumple like a flowerpetal at the slightest bruise. But I’d much rather somebody tell me what they think than say, “Ooh, err, here, have a gumdrop, next subject please.”

    Really, it’s hard to be sure exactly what you are arguing here. Does it boil down to nothing more than a heartfelt plea for politeness? Well, I am all in favour of people being polite. But politeness doesn’t mean refraining from telling somebody (especially in a discussion of the very topic!), “I think you hold an idea that is unsupported/superfluous/wrong/not-even-wrong”.

    [FN 1] I can completely understand why Dennis thought that. After all, this was basically the conception held by many of the “classical” 18th c. deists. And this residual anthropomorphism is the very reason I am far from entirely happy with the term “deist” to describe my own position, which is essentially that which Dennis contrasts with deism, as he understands it. But “deism” will do for the purposes of this discussion, as I don’t think my position is atheism in a strict sense. In any event, whatever term you want to use to describe my position, I am not concerned whether its clothes are respectable.

  292. #292 craig
    May 20, 2008

    “The latinate equivalent would be “pisciformate”.”

    ok, that then.

  293. #293 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    May 20, 2008

    Nobody knows why physics seems to be so spooky.

    It seems that J is arguing something along the lines of The Privileged Planet in purely physics terms.

  294. #294 windy
    May 20, 2008

    What I am talking about is what Dennis thought doesn’t rise to the level of deism: a something outside the universe that causes/enables the universe/various universes to exist. Does that something possess personality or intelligence? Not only can we not answer those questions, I don’t see how they are even meaningful.

    What if the “something” is a natural superuniverse of which our universe budded off through mindless processes? I think that would be outside most reasonable definitions of deism.

  295. #295 craig
    May 20, 2008

    I have to admit that I am totally unfamiliar with this “brights” organization, I’m not a joiner. I don’t even have an “A” t-shirt because it’s got Dawkins’ name and web address on it, and I’m not a follower either.

    But what it seems like to me is that a bunch of people decided that “framing” is important, decided that atheism needed to be reframed, decided that they were the ones to do it, and then demonstrated that they were as bad at it as you could possibly be. And then proceeded to argue with the targets of their ad campaign for being stupid and not getting it.

    I may be way off base, but thats what it looks like to this person who is way outside. Which means that in my case at least the reframing WAS horrible unsuccessful.

  296. #296 craig
    May 20, 2008

    “What if the “something” is a natural superuniverse of which our universe budded off through mindless processes? I think that would be outside most reasonable definitions of deism.”

    If that’s the case then I have completely misunderstood what deism was supposed to mean.
    Also, if that’s the case then it would seem that “deism” is a pretty meaningless and unnecessary word.

  297. #297 Mrs Tilton
    May 20, 2008

    windy @294,

    you’re right; that would be, I suppose, pantheism of a sort; as would be a single universe (our own) that somehow generated its own existence.

  298. #298 windy
    May 20, 2008

    If that’s the case then I have completely misunderstood what deism was supposed to mean.

    Or maybe I have, but if deism can include belief in “something” completely mindless and natural beyond our universe, this raises a similar question to Sastra’s over at Brayton’s place: if definitions of deism are so wide as to include atheists, are they useful at all?

  299. #299 Jesse
    May 20, 2008

    I’ve made my decision: there are no gods. Now, I sit humbly and am open to any evidence to the contrary. I am an atheist.

    Very well put, Dennis.

    It took me a long time to realize that I had come to the same conclusion.

  300. #300 Janine ID
    May 20, 2008

    Anyway, fuck this. I’m finished with this thread.

    Please try to keep the misrepresentation of my claims to a minimum.

    Posted by: J

    Well, fuck you too. No need to worry about misrepresentation here. This cult will ignore this bit of pissing once this thread has been buried by other threads. After a very short while, no one will even refer to this. Good luck in trying to tell atheists that they should muddy up what they think because all theists really dislike the word.

  301. #301 windy
    May 20, 2008

    you’re right; that would be, I suppose, pantheism of a sort; as would be a single universe (our own) that somehow generated its own existence.

    But they are also fully compatible with metaphysical naturalism.

  302. #302 Kseniya
    May 20, 2008

    Kenny’s harping on his ridiculous “atheists want to put me to death” idiocy again?

    Kenny, you gabbling limpet!

  303. #303 noodles
    May 20, 2008

    Can I call myself an a-supernaturalism-ist? I assume an a-theist who rejects gods (usually an angry-daddy in the sky figure) can ascribe to ersatz-religious nonsense such as psychics, ghosts, and voodoo. My rejection of ‘gods’ is really a sub-set of my rejection of supernaturalism.

  304. #304 Janine ID
    May 20, 2008

    Kseniya! Down girl! Kenny has not posted at this threat. Save the ire for when he actually drops his load. But for shits and giggles, read the musings of J.

  305. #305 craig
    May 20, 2008

    “Can I call myself an a-supernaturalism-ist? I assume an a-theist who rejects gods (usually an angry-daddy in the sky figure) can ascribe to ersatz-religious nonsense such as psychics, ghosts, and voodoo. My rejection of ‘gods’ is really a sub-set of my rejection of supernaturalism.”

    I have at times used “I’m not superstitious” instead of “I’m an atheist.”

    The shock and outrage that follows is amusing as they indignantly proclaim that their religion is not a superstition. When asked what makes it not a superstition all they usually say is something like “because its TRUE!”

  306. #306 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    May 20, 2008

    Funny how your impression of an author changes as you read more of him. I recently read The Dinosaur Heresies, and was impressed by Bakker’s methodical use of testing. Except for a minor part, which worried me, on extinctions. I guess Bakker on religion wasn’t much of a revelation after all, for example suggesting a Plan based on non-teleological evolution. (Btw, interestingly fellow paleontologist Jack Horner seems more expressive about his methods in his interview, and seems to score some points on Bakker on account of testing.)

    I don’t think there is such a thing as an ideal label, which is why I’m not going to defend or attack “bright” here. Only note that AFAIU the label “gay” was a natural adoption, as “bright” is not. But instead I want to point out that whether Bakker’s usage is considered appropriate or not, he is fundamentally wrong there.

    First he claims that it is a dim idea because it is arrogant and insulting. Let us use his core argument on gays: ‘The “Un-Gay” don’t deserve to be insulted.’ This is supposed to be an insult? Whether the analogy to gays were a dim idea or not, it isn’t because it is insulting. Arrogant, perhaps, but wasn’t that the point of homosexuals adopting the epithet in the first place?

    Second he claims that Darwin wouldn’t accept the label “Bright” because he considered “Agnostic” more (sic) fitting, and so was no “Bright”. Seems Bakker doesn’t know that Dawkins technically is an agnostic atheist (not a philosophical agnostic, obviously) and has claimed as much, while also adopting the “Bright” label. More importantly there is no conflict here, and while we don’t know what modern labels Darwin would have considered fitting others may use both.

  307. #307 Kenny?
    May 20, 2008

    Typical. First you proud Athiests want to kill me and stop me from selling religious items and now you wipe me from the thred as if I never posted comments 143, 147 and 151 hey I exist!!!!!1!

  308. #308 David Marjanovi?, OM
    May 20, 2008
    I always thought Bakker was one of the good ones.

    Apparently not. He screw that up just like he did the predatory theory of T. Rex

    You must be thinking of John “Jack” Horner, who maintains that T. rex was a scavenger against all evidence. Sure, Bakker has screwed other things up, but he isn’t famous for any of them.

    ———————

    (1) Atheism is bad for public relations, because of the stigma associated with the term.

    This is a strictly US affair (and for what to do about it, see below). And even then, “Bright” is much worse, because it conveys “we’re bright, and you’re dim” — this is the very elitist attitude that Bakker complains about! See comments 225 and 230.

    (2) Strategically it’s an foolhardy move. We’re missing out on all those people (e.g. deists) who agree with us on all major political issues. By going under the banner of atheism, we automatically marginalize ourselves.

    Who is this “we”? What is this talk about “banner”?

    There is no movement.

    Comment 134 has it right.

    If you want a movement, base it on something (like secular humanism or rationalism) rather than on nothing (atheism).

    (Also, I really doubt there is even one million Deists in the whole world at present. There are tens of millions of Christians whose god is almost the deist one, but just almost.)

    (3) Philosophically it’s a silly term unless it comes appended with a load of cumbersome definitions. Unless atheist is used to mean “disbeliever in [abstract phrasing of the cosmological God hypothesis]…”, it totally misses the point, as everyone is an atheist with respect to innumerable deities.

    Why isn’t it obvious that an atheist that isn’t further specified is a disbeliever in all of them? (Dawkins: “Some of us just go one god farther”…)

    ——-

    I still don’t see how the stigma with the word is bad. We’re fighting against that exact stigma. It’s not going to go away by changing the name. The stigma shouldn’t be there, and we will eventually remove that stigma.

    Bingo.

    ————————

    The word “horse”, as my friend with a degree in philosophy pointed out to me, is a useless term unless one first decides about rather thorny Platonic issues.

    Once you go into biology, this soon turns out to be nonsense.

    Or perhaps I should be a bit more sophisticated about it and cite de Queiroz’s 1994 paper in Systematic Biology for it: it is pointless to ask “what is a horse”; instead we should ask “what shall we call the clade composed of [say] all organisms that are more closely related to [insert a museum specimen here] than to [rhino specimen] and [tapir specimen]?”.

    (De Queiroz uses Popper’s example instead, which is that, instead of asking “what is a puppy”, scientists ask “what shall we call a young dog”.)

    ———————-

    Don’t you find it eerie that fundamental laws of physics can be put into such an elegant and succinct form?

    No.

    Why should I? Why should I start from the assumption that the universe must be complicated? Why should I be amazed when I learn it’s relatively simple?

    Comment 218 is probably on to something.

    (Also, don’t exaggerate the simplicity. Relativity requires messing with tensors. Ugh. And just think about how long it took to solve the three-body problem!)

    ————————–

    (And IIRC the coiners of “bright” were consciously modeling it on “gay”, which just shows how muddled their thinking was.) Rather, if broadly accepted, it would just end up ruining another good word — the way “gay” is now used as a common negative adjective (no longer necessarily even connoting homosexuality) among young people, and has pretty much fallen out of use in its original sense.

    Ah, the days when gentlemen were expected to make compliments to old ladies like “you look very gay and sprightly”…

    In the meaning “homosexual”, the word “gay” has got into French. Yes, French, despite the Académie Française.

    I agree that classical Newtonian mechanics can be understood intuitively (excluding circular motion – gyroscopes are freaky). This is because humans are used to seeing its effects.

    Evolutionary epistemology.

    I even agree with him that his disease idea has a lot of merit.

    I don’t. I mean, come on. Did the ammonites get ill, too?

    Ammonites had planktonic larvae. How do you kill all ammonites without sterilizing the whole top layer of all oceans?

    Not even the timing of the sea-level fall is right.

    After the book “The origin of birds” came out by Heilmann in the 1920s, most ornithologists, and even most paleontologists, gave up on the idea of birds being dinosaurs, due to a misunderstanding of developmental biology, wishbones, and a thing called “Dollo’s Law.”

    Development biology and Dollo’s “law” actually don’t have that much to do with it. The wishbone of Oviraptor was already known when Heilmann started writing. It had just been misidentified as the interclavicle (a bone that, as turned out later, no dinosaur has).

    Ostrum

    Ostrom.

    ————–

    The Genocide of the Arawak Indians (Haiti) – 11 Million

    What? Haiti had a population of 11 million?

    The Tia Ping Rebellion

    Tàipíng literally means “very peace”. How fitting. Think “eternal peace”.

    The Democide of Native America – 11 Million KIA, 100 Million by disease.

    Isn’t that a factor 10 too many?

    Nothing of this changes your point, though.

    ———————-

    I read Bakker as saying let’s not unnecessarily antagonize the millions of Christians who aren’t flagrant anti-evolutionists (and instead, let’s educate them), but you appear to be reading him as saying “let’s appease the creationists by blaming everything on the atheists”. I don’t see how he’s even close to suggesting that.

    He isn’t suggesting that. Instead, he’s saying that “the militant atheists” — what a silly term — are a greater danger to science education in the USA than the creationists are! Read again what he said. And then compare it to comment 240.

    —————————-

    “No, you can. An intelligence is postulated because something is necessary that is eternal and has the ability to create. Those 2 qualities don’t need intelligence, or personality, they don’t need to be a god. All that is needed is something outside the universe that can give rise to universes.”
    I think you will find that is what we would call a god. Giving it a different name does not make your argument any better.

    No, think about it. What if it’s an, uh, quantum field, and universes are quantum fluctuations in that field? No Intelligence Allowed Required :-)

  309. #309 Etha Williams
    May 20, 2008

    Etha is the one, I think, who referred to deism as delusional. I think she is using the term objectively and not pejoratively. And far from being offended at it, I quite see her point. I don’t entirely agree, of course, but I suspect a lot of the problem is terminological; see Dennis N above, who thinks deism necessarily involves a God every bit as anthropomorphic and “personal” as Michaelangelo’s bearded guy, if a bit less mythy.[FN 1] That conception really is delusional, even if it involves fewer strange tales than does the biblical God. What I am talking about is what Dennis thought doesn’t rise to the level of deism: a something outside the universe that causes/enables the universe/various universes to exist.

    Yes, I did mean it objectively and not pejoratively. (Hence “delusional but not batshit.”)

    This does bring up an interesting point — what qualifies as a god? Any “first cause”? Anything more intelligent/powerful than humans? For all the various religious and philosophical forms of theism that have sprung up over the course of human history, it’s hard (for me, anyway) to come up one unifying definition of “god.”

  310. #310 Kseniya
    May 20, 2008

    Stunning reply by Moses, by the way.

  311. #311 Janine ID
    May 20, 2008

    Kseniya, I am sorry. I somehow missed Kenny’s droppings. And frankly, I had no desire to skim over everything in order to read the same old bullshit. Feel free to open fire.

    As for you Kenny, you tedious and stupid git; you have ignored the questions I posed to you. Fine. But I have to ask this, where did any of us here express the idea that we wanted to kill you? And no, “Feel free to open fire” does not count.

  312. #312 Kenn E.
    May 20, 2008

    athiests want to kill me that is my OPINION.

  313. #313 Kseniya
    May 20, 2008

    Humility which comes from Christianity

    Is if one were a necessary condition for the other. Pffft.

    It’s rather prideful to claim dominion over the realm of Humility.

    /snark

  314. #314 negentropyeater
    May 20, 2008

    I’ve made my decision: there are no gods.

    I wish I could…I wish I could kill him. But I can’t.
    Each time I try to reason him out, and then finally when I am convinced there are no reasons, I just say to myself, no this is not true !
    And then I search everywhere with the hope to find something, a reason to believe, I try, all sorts of complicated things, and none of them works, none, so then I think, that’s it, I’m finally done.
    And as I say this I think to myself, No, this is not true. I can’t, I still can’t kill him.

    I’m now convinced I have a genetic disease. I just can’t take it out. I’ve got the God delusion in my brain and next to my bed and read random passages all the time and am amazed at how uplifting this book is and how powerful the arguments are. But they seem to only have a temporary effect on me.

    My mother is an atheist, my father a moderate theist, both extremely tolerant. Had a Jesuit education but no imposition at all. I was free to choose what I want.
    Most of my friends are non believers, I don’t even know what I am myself. I am a bit lost from that point of view.

    But it doesn’t matter that much, because what I feel is the most important is that those who have made the decision to be Atheist, be proud of it.
    I wish I could do it myself.
    Maybe one day, the time will come.

  315. #315 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    May 20, 2008

    athiests want to kill me that is my OPINION.

    Yes, atheists want to kill you Kenny, but it’s only because they are human and I think that everyone you come in contact with wants to kill you because of how fucking annoying you are.

  316. #316 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    May 20, 2008

    worst. typist. ever.

    stupid blockquote tag … again.

  317. #317 Kseniya
    May 20, 2008

    Feel free to open fire.

    *blink*

    Now why would I want to do something that?
    :-)

  318. #318 not really Kenny
    May 20, 2008

    tee-hee
    Poed ya

  319. #319 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    May 20, 2008

    Not really (Kenn E.), but it was worth kenny reading it when he inevitably reads this thread.

  320. #320 an A-Kenny-ist
    May 20, 2008

    Kenny-ists are all stupid, and I want to kill them. All.

  321. #321 noodles
    May 20, 2008

    RE: #308 “what qualifies as a god?”

    A god is an imaginary construct of the human mind that generally manifests as an anthropomorphic ‘daddy’ or ‘mommy’ in form. In the more modern fantasy it may not be anthropomorphic in the physical sense but is invariably anthropomorphic in the sense of having a conscious human-like mind. This imaginary supernatural consciousness influences the physical world and at the very least somehow guides or helps people or responds to their needs (e.g., as in prayer or a sense that life is not random as in “it’s meant to be” or “it must be Her will that my boyfriend dumped me” etc.). Without the anthropomorphic characteristic you are left with simple superstition as in voodoo and the Buddhist concept of Karma.

  322. #322 UnKenny
    May 20, 2008

    waaaaait a minute WAIT a MINUTE!
    How do I know you’re the “real” Rev. BigDumbChimp???

  323. #323 Andreas Johansson
    May 20, 2008

    What? Haiti had a population of 11 million?

    The Arawaks populated most of the greater Antilles, not just Haiti.

    That said, I’d take that population figure with a medium-sized salt mine.

  324. #324 David Marjanovi?, OM
    May 20, 2008

    ARGH! The numbers have shifted. Comment 240 is now 244…

  325. #325 Kenny
    May 20, 2008

    >hooray, Kenny’s here! Now for some real intellectual
    >discussion!

    yeah, like the intellectual discussion with atheists here. I am right and you are wrong because Dawkins says so. Real intelligent there.

    Just keeping it real and telling it like it really is.

  326. #326 Dennis N
    May 20, 2008

    Kenny, can you go a day without talking about Richard Dawkins? Man, you’re obsessed.

  327. #327 Etha Williams
    May 20, 2008

    @#324 Kenny –

    yeah, like the intellectual discussion with atheists Kenny here. I am right and you are wrong because Dawkins the Bible says so. Real intelligent there.

    The projection is really astounding.

  328. #328 Kenny
    May 20, 2008

    >Criticism is a healthy part of democracy. You need to
    >present arguments for your point of view, not to criticize
    >criticism of religion!!! Geesh.

    I think criticism is not the same as just bashing. I mean these people don’t criticsize they just bash non relentlessly. I don’t know how long you have been here.

    I do present many different arguments for my point of view and they are dismissed and I am a moron. I am not the only one though.

    I just see many people on here are blind to what is really going on in the world.

    Like I said, it’s not just on here but this kind of militant atheism can lead to violence. I have read about it happening from a young kid that said he was going to burn down a church and he was an atheist and then went out to do it. Now this would be fine if it was just one unstable kid, but churches are burning all over the place because of this kind of hate.

    Go to Dawkins web site and you will see all kinds of hatefull things on there and he is the main person getting all of these people into violence. He says he isn’t into doing that and I believe him but he is being very irresponsible.

    This is a very slippery slope. Once you head down into a direction things can change. People on here are blind to the obvious in so many ways it’s not funny.

    How can someone be so intelligent and then miss common sense and miss the obvious?

    There has to be something seriously wrong with you.

  329. #329 woog
    May 20, 2008

    PZ, you need to do better about calling religion a lie. It’s not just stupid, it’s a lie that is purposely and knowingly put forth as truth by its adherents. They don’t really believe it, except perhaps for the very stupidest among them.

  330. #330 Dennis N
    May 20, 2008

    Kenny, can you go a day without talking about Richard Dawkins? Man, you’re obsessed.

  331. #331 Ryan F Stello
    May 20, 2008

    Kenny said,

    I have read about it happening from a young kid that said he was going to burn down a church and he was an atheist and then went out to do it. Now this would be fine if it was just one unstable kid, but churches are burning all over the place because of this kind of hate.

    This isn’t the first time you mentioned this story, but I’m not sure you realize that this one unstable kid isn’t representative of a whole, as you’ve tried to argue.

    Churches aren’t burning ‘all over the place’ because of the same kind of hatred. Mostly what is seen is other religions are spear-heading the issue.

    Saying that something ‘can’ lead to something does not prove an epidemic.

    He says he isn’t into doing that and I believe him but he is being very irresponsible.

    Damned if he does, damned if he doesn’t, huh?
    I don’t run a blog, and if I did, I imagine it’d be hard to keep out the psychos and police each thread and tell otherwise innocent people that they better behave.

    Your version of ‘responsibility’ doesn’t seem very realistic, but that’s still not the case, because Dawkins doesn’t really run his own site, and doesn’t seem involved in such banal minutiae.

    This is a very slippery slope.

    If it is, it’s only because you’re greasing it.

  332. #332 Mrs Tilton
    May 20, 2008

    Etha @308,

    This does bring up an interesting point — what qualifies as a god? Any “first cause”? Anything more intelligent/powerful than humans?

    Thank you, this is an excellent question. I have been thinking about the subject matter of (much of) this thread as a matter of terminology. But maybe it’s more helpful to think of it in terms of the questions each of us is asking. A lot of the people here seem to me to be asking, “Well, is there a supernatural being of some kind who governs the universe, or not?” Most people round here answer in the negative, of course, but I think they’d say that people who answer in the affirmative and believe that being governs the universe like a puppeteer with a marionette are theists, whilst those who believe he governs it like a guy laying out an elaborate pattern of dominoes and then tipping the first one over are deists.

    But I think the question I want to ask is a little different; it is exactly the (first) question you are suggesting here — what is the first cause of existence? Right now we do not know the answer, and for all I know we cannot know it with certainty even in principle. But whatever that thing is, that is what I mean by “God”. So whilst mine might be a weak deism, it does not quite, I think, qualify as atheism. [But as to your second question -- is that something more intelligent/powerful than humans? -- I don't think this question interesting, am pretty sure it is unanswerable, and indeed, tend to think it doesn't have any meaning. I think it presumes that God, if existent, is basically like the character in Ruben Bolling's comic strip: human, but with superpowers. And I'm as certain as I am of anything that, if there is a God, it's not that.]

    Which brings us back to a problem of terms or definitions, because I can see that the way I have cast the question makes atheism in a sense impossible even for those who reject a traditional, personal, anthropomorphic god or gods. Either one thinks that this first cause lies outside the universe/multiverses, in which case one is deist; or else one thinks the universe is/contains its own first cause, in which case one is pantheist. (I have difficulty with the latter possibility, though I admit this might well be only because it is counterintuitive.)

    Finally, I would note that my conception of God (if it is correct) is important (if at all) only in the framework of one specific philosophical question, and one could be forgiven for thinking that question mere idle speculation. It is of no importance in considering any question that is to be answered through the application of reason to empirical observation; which is to say, pretty much any question worth spending time and effort to answer.

  333. #333 JimC
    May 20, 2008

    but churches are burning all over the place because of this kind of hate.

    Churches are burning all over the place? Where is this mass church burning occurring? They are throwing them up in all their metal building glory around here.

    Kenny is rather special. He honestly thinks atheists want to kill him.

    negentropyeater- I feel kind of sorry for you in a way.

  334. #334 Tulse
    May 20, 2008

    Go to Dawkins web site and you will see all kinds of hatefull things on there and he is the main person getting all of these people into violence.

    So he’s getting all those atheist terrorists to blow up maternity clinics and murder ob-gyns? He’s getting nonbelievers to attack heterosexuals? He’s advocating that Christians should be jailed because they aren’t patriots? He’s suggesting that the US should go to war against Christians and wipe them out?

    Funny, that kind of behaviour seems familiar, but I recall it differently…

  335. #335 noodles
    May 20, 2008

    Tulse, your subtly will be lost on these people trapped in their demon-haunted world of make-believe.

  336. #336 Tulse
    May 20, 2008

    Either one thinks that this first cause lies outside the universe/multiverses, in which case one is deist; or else one thinks the universe is/contains its own first cause, in which case one is pantheist.

    Only if you think a “first cause” has to be supernatural — otherwise either of these options could be a purely a matter of theoretical (astro-)physics.

  337. #337 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    May 20, 2008

    I do present many different arguments for my point of view and they are dismissed and I am a moron.

    The reason is that the arguments you provide are 1 or a combination of 3 things.

    1. Not supported, just spewed from your keyboard
    2. Not arguments, just blathering about how bad atheists are
    3. Moronic arguments.

  338. #338 adobedragon
    May 20, 2008

    Kenny, can you go a day without talking about Richard Dawkins? Man, you’re obsessed.

    Kenny is not obsessed. Nope.
    ..
    ..
    He’s in lurve.
    Awww, our little troll is in love.

  339. #339 David Marjanovi?, OM
    May 20, 2008

    Kenny, what is this talk about burning churches? Can you direct me to one news story about one?

    Awww, our little troll is in love.

    You know, this is not as stupid an idea as it looks like at first glance. It might actually explain quite a lot.

    ———————-

    Negentropyeater, learn here how to stop worrying even in the absence of a bomb.

    ———————-

    Moses, given the Persian empire, I’m not really surprised by Buddhists in the Middle East, but could you give me a link or two?

  340. #340 windy
    May 20, 2008

    I thought churches were burning because of Norwegian black metal. Rææææææh!!!!

  341. #341 aratina
    May 20, 2008

    About the whole bright vs. atheist vs. deist vs. agnostic argument, you might enjoy watching the season 10 South Park episodes “Go God Go” and “Go God Go XII” found here: http://www.southparkstudios.com/episodes/
    :D

    I especially love it when the Wise One suggests deism as a possibility.

  342. #342 Kseniya
    May 20, 2008

    Kenny will never admit to this, because he will never believe or even understand it, but he’s one of the most dishonest commenters we’ve had here in quite a long time. It’s not so much that he tells lies – I have defended him against charges of “bald-faced” lying, and would gladly do so again if the situation called for it – it’s that he ignores truth. Repeatedly. He is blind to it. Perhaps willfully so.

    Sad, ain’t it? Despite all his weird fantasies, he seems like a gentle soul who means well.

  343. #343 Mrs Tilton
    May 20, 2008

    Tulse @335,

    I’m not assuming anything needs to be supernatural; I’m deliberately trying not to use that concept here, as I think it too loaded with preconceptions (most of them with roots in myth). If you want to think in terms of -natural, recast what I wrote as “deism [as I am using the term]: first cause is not super- but extranatural; pantheist [ditto]: first case is infranatural”. If the first cause turns out to be (assuming it would be possible to determine this) the infinite bubbling-up of universes out of some metamultiverse or what have you, well then, that is “God”.

    But it is the extra- vs. infra- distinction that primarily interests me. Infra- is by definition not super-. I suppose that, if the first cause is extra-, then in principle it might be what we’d call super- (to avoid dragging the Abrahamic mythos into this, assume as our placeholder here the blind idiot god Azathoth); but then if it is extra-, I’d have to think that any speculation at all about its nature, “super” or otherwise, is pointless. (But in any case, I’d discount the idea of a “supernatural” being; I think that word really only means “superhuman” — not any sort of first cause at all, but merely something like Zeus or Superman that one may dismiss as fiction before even reaching the question of what a first cause might be and whether it is part of the universe or outside it.)

  344. #344 negentropyeater
    May 20, 2008

    A lot to read David, thx…

  345. #345 negentropyeater
    May 20, 2008

    first cause is not super- but extranatural; pantheist [ditto]: first cause is infranatural

    I can understand what you mean with the first idea, but can you explain what you mean with the second ?

  346. #346 Patricia C.
    May 20, 2008

    Just keep acting like a big hunk of elitist bastard Ichthyic – and I’ll make mooncalf eyes at you… ;)

  347. #347 SC
    May 20, 2008

    OT, but NOVA “Lord of the Ants,” about E. O. Wilson, is on PBS right now (in Boston, at least):

    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/eowilson/

  348. #348 J
    May 20, 2008

    Well, fuck you too. No need to worry about misrepresentation here. This cult will ignore this bit of pissing once this thread has been buried by other threads. After a very short while, no one will even refer to this. Good luck in trying to tell atheists that they should muddy up what they think because all theists really dislike the word.
    Ferocious responses like this are confirmation that a cult mentality has already developed here.

    Many of you are arrant savages, and just as mean-spirited and intellectually dishonest in various ways as any religious fundamentalist.

    Those of you who were able to see that a bit of constructive criticism isn’t an attempt to start a fight, well done.

  349. #349 John Morales
    May 20, 2008

    J, I doubt trolling is a form of constructive criticism.

  350. #350 Wowbagger
    May 20, 2008

    It’s lose/lose for atheists – if we don’t appear united then we’re considered ineffectual and irrelevant; if we do then we’re aggressive and militant.

    I struggle to find the best way to define what my position is – in principle I’m an atheist but dislike using the term to describe myself because of the simplification involved. No, I don’t believe in god(s) of any kind – but nor do I ‘hate’ religion or the religious as such (most of them anyway). I just want them to keep it to themselves, stop making fraudulent claims about the positive impact of religious belief (or the negative aspects of non-belief) and stay away from things like science, politics and freedom (sexual and reproductive).

  351. #351 Pimientita
    May 20, 2008

    @J #77

    I’m late to the game and I haven’t read through the thread, yet, but I
    had to respond to this pronto.

    (1) Atheism is bad for public relations, because of the stigma associated with the term.

    Well, so are the terms “gay,” “homosexual,” “lesbian,” etc, but I’m not going to stop using those words to describe myself either. Part of the point is to help remove the stigma associated with those terms. Or would you rather us just run away from reality and create some new cutesy, non-threatening word like “bright” to make discriminatory assholes feel better?

    (2) Strategically it’s an foolhardy move. We’re missing out on all those people (e.g. deists) who agree with us on all major political issues. By going under the banner of atheism, we automatically marginalize ourselves.

    Bullshit. Atheist is used to describe atheists. Why should we pick another term to encompass anyone else? It has nothing to do with politics. I am also a secular humanist, a liberal social democrat, a queer, a vegetarian and many other things none of which have anything to do with my atheism.

    If you are speaking of the evolution vs ID/creationism debate in particular, there are many organizations out there that are fighting the creationists, only a few of which have “atheist” in their title.

    Yes, I suppose deists or theistic evolutionists wouldn’t tend to be a part of American Atheists, but atheists, deists, pantheists, pagans and theists of all flavors are all part of the NCSE, the ACLU, AU, PFAW and many other anti-creationist/anti-theocratic/pro-science/pro-Constitution organizations.

    (3) Philosophically it’s a silly term unless it comes appended with a load of cumbersome definitions. Unless atheist is used to mean “disbeliever in “, it totally misses the point, as everyone is an atheist with respect to innumerable deities.

    Um…the other “atheists with respect to innumerable deities” except their own already have names. They are Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, Mormon, Hindu, Sikh, etc. No one but you seems to be confused as to what the term atheist means.

    Your little quote from Russell about the philosophers and the man on the street does not support your view like you think it does. Russell was only admitting that philosophers were more prone to question his meaning and then he would have to admit that he was more of an “agnostic” because he can’t know whether or not there are gods, whereas the man on the street would just let it pass and Russell would be free to define himself.

    However, today (and maybe back then, too) most people understand that atheist doesn’t necessarily mean “there is no god.” Of course, some fundies and other dim people wouldn’t know that, but it seems to be otherwise commonly accepted.

    The way I use the term is “I see no evidence for any gods so I choose to live my life as if there were none.” This attitude also guides the rest of my thinking and, unless they tell or show me otherwise, I assume that this is what other people mean when they call themselves an atheist.

  352. #352 windy
    May 20, 2008

    I’m not assuming anything needs to be supernatural; I’m deliberately trying not to use that concept here, as I think it too loaded with preconceptions (most of them with roots in myth). If you want to think in terms of -natural, recast what I wrote as “deism [as I am using the term]: first cause is not super- but extranatural; pantheist [ditto]: first case is infranatural”. If the first cause turns out to be (assuming it would be possible to determine this) the infinite bubbling-up of universes out of some metamultiverse or what have you, well then, that is “God”.

    As you point out, this has the problem of defining atheism more or less out of existence. Overwhelmingly atheism is not defined as excluding any possibility of this universe being caused by anything. (What’s so special about causation, anyway?)

  353. #353 J
    May 20, 2008

    Bullshit. Atheist is used to describe atheists. Why should we pick another term to encompass anyone else? It has nothing to do with politics. I am also a secular humanist, a liberal social democrat, a queer, a vegetarian and many other things none of which have anything to do with my atheism.
    Which is my entire point. Those other things are much more important than your atheism. Atheism is a mere cosmological opinion. I’ll wager that most people here haven’t read a book on cosmology, except perhaps a portion of A Brief History of Time. Why are you all so interested in a pointless cosmologic question that you would band together merely over your opinion on it?

    Rejection of religion and independence of mind are immeasurably more important. That’s something to band together about. But people who reject religion aren’t necessarily atheists. And, at any rate, given that such a group doesn’t necessarily have to be called atheists, why not make the strategically optimal choice? Maybe “Bright” isn’t such a good idea, but clearly there are politically wiser labels than “atheist”.

    Incidentally, it’s curious why I’m called a troll and not any of the people who made vicious, unprovoked attacks on me. Presumably on Pharyngula a troll is defined as someone who disagrees with the consensus view.

  354. #354 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    May 20, 2008

    I don’t pretend to be the most well read in this group or any other for that matter, but I’ve done my share. Frankly J you seem to filled with a lot of unsupported assumptions on those who comment here and are painting most everyone with the same broad brush you accuse people here of using.

    Apparently you’ve missed much of this blog in that rejection of religion is a lot of the discussion here. Being an atheist is inherently about rejection of religion. If you lack any belief in god that pretty much brings you to a rejection of that deity’s religion[s]. It’s deeper than just a “a pointless cosmologic question”, as that it naturally leads to a serious criticism of organized religion. But along side that, those who recognize the dangers of organized religion but may still hold spiritual beliefs are not pariahs here. In fact, those who can recognize that their religion is not always the answer are (usually) celebrated.

    Also you’ll note that being a free thinker is encouraged and celebrated here. You either are choosing to ignore that or haven’t noticed it.

    I’m still trying to figure out what your point is other than that calling yourself an atheist means you are a stubborn asshole. Which my wife may agree, but really it couldn’t be farther from the truth. I’m pretty open to any argument as long as it is well supported. So far I’m left wanting when it comes to arguments in support of the idea of a designer / god.

    So I’ll wait for more arguments, and remain an atheist.

    Yet you seem to be making the argument that merely calling myself an atheist undermines my argument for being one because I am either ignorant or too militant to know better.

    That’s a pretty assumptive reason.

  355. #355 Patricia C.
    May 21, 2008

    HOLBACH!!!!

  356. #356 Pimientita
    May 21, 2008

    Which is my entire point. Those other things are much more important than your atheism. Atheism is a mere cosmological opinion.

    It doesn’t matter where I rank my atheism. I am still an atheist. My point is that it is the most accurate description of my philosophical position (not “cosmological opinion” what’s that about?) and that I don’t need to call myself anything else in order to accomodate other people. You seem to be wanting to use a term that would encompass every sort of free-thinnker or skeptic, but that would not necessarily accurately describe my position with regards to belief in deities. When not discussing deities I am more than happy to use the term skeptic or something else that fits that particular situation. I don’t go around saying “well, as an atheist, I don’t agree that homeopathic medicine has any merit,” because it has nothing to do with my atheism!

    Why are you all so interested in a pointless cosmologic question that you would band together merely over your opinion on it?

    Who’s banding together? Sure, there are atheist organizations, but I am taking the “you all” to mean the people here on this blog. In that case, we are “banding together” here because we (and I speak for myself) enjoy the posts and especially the lively commentary. The only reason our atheism even comes up is because many of the topics have to do with religion. I also frequent message boards that have nothing to do with religion or the EvC debate and guess what…the atheists don’t band together on those boards. It rarely, if ever, comes up. Your question reminds me of someone going onto a board about soccer and asking why they are all banding together over something that is only a minor part of their every day lives. It’s a stupid question.

    Rejection of religion and independence of mind are immeasurably more important. That’s something to band together about. But people who reject religion aren’t necessarily atheists.

    Then we wouldn’t call them atheists, now would we? There are many clubs, organizations, pub meetings etc that provide space for the people you describe to band together and I daresay there would be many atheists in attendance, but those groups aren’t defined by atheism, are they? So what’s your point?

    Maybe “Bright” isn’t such a good idea, but clearly there are politically wiser labels than “atheist”.

    You’ve already been schooled on the uselessness of switching terminology, but I’ll say it again. The people who would reject what we have to say and hate us because we call ourselves atheists would still reject what we have to say and hate us if we called ourselves anything else. It is our position that they disagree with, not our label.

    Incidentally, it’s curious why I’m called a troll and not any of the people who made vicious, unprovoked attacks on me. Presumably on Pharyngula a troll is defined as someone who disagrees with the consensus view.

    I hope you’re not alluding to anything that I said, because if you are I would like for you to point out where I made an attack on you, vicious, unprovoked or otherwise.

  357. #357 Tetsuko
    May 21, 2008

    Hi, J, you’re back in this thread, it would seem.

    I hear the word “Islamic” isn’t playing very well in certain circles, would you like to suggest an alternative?

    Speaking for myself, and only for myself, I am an atheist, and, if I were asked my opinion on matters of the existence of a deity, it would be dishonest for me to call myself anything else. If this is a difficult concept, think about it for a bit.

    Oh, and what is this ‘consensus view’ (ie, a view expressed universally by those making comments in this forum, excepting you) you disagree with?

    One more quick point: you have described some things people have written here as ‘brutal’ and ‘vicious’. Please don’t lessen terms like those to mean ‘someone said something unkind to me on TEH INTERNETZ’.

  358. #358 J
    May 21, 2008

    Good grief. Is it really that hard to understand?

    I’m saying calling yourself an atheist is basically pointless. It’s a needless label. You might as well call yourself an acommunist if you don’t subscribe to communism. Why wear your rejection of mere cosmological hypothesis on your sleeve?

    Now your opinion on religion is much more important. That emphatically does warrant a label. However, the set of atheists is only a subset of the set of people who reject religion. And regardless, “atheist” undeniably carries a political stigma that we might very well be able to do something about.

    Bright is a better label than atheist, because it stands for those who reject religion and promote science. You know: the important stuff. The word doesn’t refer specifically to opinion on a useless academic question.

  359. #359 Patricia C.
    May 21, 2008

    Ichthyic – Thanks for the links to the Hector Avalos lecture! That is pure gold.
    Somewhere up the thread there was an Essenes/Buddhist bump… there’s a splinter in my mind & a note somewhere in a ‘pile’ of my studies regarding that… I’ll sit on it awhile & see what I can hatch. Getting old sucks.

  360. #360 J
    May 21, 2008

    You’ve already been schooled on the uselessness of switching terminology, but I’ll say it again. The people who would reject what we have to say and hate us because we call ourselves atheists would still reject what we have to say and hate us if we called ourselves anything else. It is our position that they disagree with, not our label.
    That’s pure speculation.

  361. #361 J
    May 21, 2008

    I hope you’re not alluding to anything that I said, because if you are I would like for you to point out where I made an attack on you, vicious, unprovoked or otherwise.
    I wasn’t alluding to anything you said, and I don’t know how you got that idea.

  362. #362 Kagehi
    May 21, 2008

    All that’s required is a little self-deception.

    But, of course, if you’re on a mission to feel superior, like many people here, then you’d like to write off anyone with opposing views (even if they’re too difficult for you to understand) as a delusional, miserable bungler.

    Self-deception of the level needed to believe these things **is** delusion. As for the miserable bungler.. I have two answers to that -

    1. The fact that a believer may be happier than a skeptic is no more to the point than the fact that a drunk is happier than a sober man. – George Bernard Shaw

    and 2. Being a bungler is simply a statistically high probability, in as much that both common sense and actual evidence show that the more delusional people get, the more incompetent they tend to act.

    So, you’re whining about us pointing out a high statistical connection being delusion and incompetence… Got it.

    And I for one see your point J, its just not a point you are going to make at all *with* atheists. Atheists call themselves such *precisely* because they consider all the other stuff, including rejection of religion, as periphery to the principle that gods do not exist. You can’t get ghosts without them, or not easily, half the BS from astrology to psychic phenomena is *supported* by arguments that God is somehow involved in making them work, if they *did* work, or at least some “designed” system that had to have a god set it up some how, etc. Sure, you can get brands of “some” of it that isn’t, but that is why we also call ourselves various things like secular humanists, Unitarian-Universalist and other *existing* groups that have clear perspectives and even clearer meaning to their words. Some people thought those where not either “good enough” or “inclusive enough” either and spent weeks arguing about the “right” term, before imho picking the single stupidest one on the damn list. You don’t win points by claiming that calling yourself that is *better* than also calling yourself an atheist. You might as well argue that since straight people are more accepting for lesbians than gays, we need to either make up some new word that’s “inclusive” of both, but not as negative, or start calling things “lesbian marriage amendments”. It won’t stop gay men calling themselves “gay” as a signifier that specifically excludes lesbians, any more than using Bright, or what ever, can/should deny those that *have* the specific cosmological view *using it* to represent what *they* are.

    I feel like I am arguing this in the episode where Penn goes on about how you can have pussy without cat, or nuclear without bomb, and that its the use of “cat” that messes up “pussy” the same way “bomb” does “nuclear”. (Complete of course with a naked woman holding a cat as an illustration of the concept). Well J, I have yet to see the naked women you brought along to illustrate your non-point, so why should I keep listening? ;) lol

  363. #363 J
    May 21, 2008

    Kagehi,

    Don’t try and pretend that the average atheist is philosopher with a special passion for cosmology. Also don’t pretend it’s really dead obvious to prove “intelligent creator” extremely improbable.

    It’s not obvious. Many professional philosophers consider Dawkins’ argument in The God Delusion (the Ultimate Boeing 747 one) exceedingly novel.

    Anyway, I know from experience of so-called atheists that most really don’t care all that much whether there was an “impersonal god” (whatever that means) that created the Universe. They’re (correctly) dead sure that if there is a “god” it won’t be “personal”. That is what they like to label themselves on.

    “Where did the Universe come from?” is a question best left to the cosmologists. People who do have serious opinions on cosmology don’t need form a tribe around them.

    OK, I have to resist temptation to keep throwing myself back in the fray.

  364. #364 Kagehi
    May 21, 2008

    Well, you may be quite correct in what we “label” ourselves on, at least when talking about those that pretty much place the “impersonal god” hypothesis in the dumpster too. I happen to be one of them. Such a god is a) irrelevant if it exists or not, and b) still has to show up some place in the math, if it was there, and it simply doesn’t.

    Questions like, “Where did the universe come from?”, are “not” key to the argument of if a god did or didn’t exist. There are thousands of alternatives to that, other than gods, so simply subtracting one possibility from the list doesn’t say a damn thing about how *we* define ourselves. If we have any opinion on the subject at all, its likely to be all over the board. I know mine is, and you seem to be claiming that I have somehow picked on as “right”, simply by rejecting one I consider flat out undeniably wrong. The *tribe* here would, if you started arguing which of the ideas available has the most merit start acting a lot like clans in old Scotland. We would be getting in verbal fist fights, trying to steal each others sheep, and only really rallying when some creationist came along and tried to storm the borders. Somehow I don’t think that is *quite* what you intended to imply when saying “tribe”. lol

  365. #365 Pimientita
    May 21, 2008

    Good grief. Is it really that hard to understand?

    No. I understand your point. I simply disagree with what you are saying. Contrary to your belief, most of us here are actually quite intelligent.

    I’m saying calling yourself an atheist is basically pointless. It’s a needless label. You might as well call yourself an acommunist if you don’t subscribe to communism. Why wear your rejection of mere cosmological hypothesis on your sleeve?

    Well, for one, those people who are not communists more than likely have their own labels (capitalists, socialists, anarchists, etc). And for another, my sleeves are free of decoration. When asked questions like “do you believe in God” or “what church do you go to” or “what religion are you” I answer that I am an atheist or something which implies as much. Such as “none” in response to the last which often brings the reply “oh, so you’re an atheist.”

    Otherwise it doesn’t often come up and I imagine the same is true for most of the people here. Like I said before, it comes up more often here because of the topics under discussion. Do you see the difference?

    Now your opinion on religion is much more important. That emphatically does warrant a label.

    How so? By the way, not all atheists are anti-religion. Many are of the “whatever floats your boat” mindset or just don’t care.

    However, I am of the opinion that people should not accept things without evidence and that includes, but is not limited to, religion/gods. That makes me a skeptic, a perfectly respectable and easily defined label. I still don’t need to use “bright.”

    However, the set of atheists is only a subset of the set of people who reject religion. And regardless, “atheist” undeniably carries a political stigma that we might very well be able to do something about.

    So do so many other things. Did you not get the analogy of the word “gay” that I and others have put forth? Not only did using the new word not fool anybody once they caught on to what it meant, but it also pissed some people off because now they couldn’t use it in the way it used to be used without causing fits of giggles and/or conjuring up images of leather clad men kissing on rainbow floats (speaking of rainbows…some people are pretty pissed off about us using that one, too. Oh well).

    That’s pure speculation.

    Speculation based on prior evidence (see the gay thing above) and based on the fact that people don’t think we’re dangerous because of what we call ourselves, but because we don’t believe in their imaginary friends. Changing the name will not change that.

    Bright is a better label than atheist, because it stands for those who reject religion and promote science.

    Defining “bright” as anti-religion is not a very “bright” way to avoid political stigma. Like I said above, not all atheists are anti-religion, but you are backing yourself into a corner with that one. Especially if you come out with “well, we don’t concern ourselves with things like the question of God” (from your #205) on top of that making it look like you are “above” such mundane trivialities.

    Bright is sounding more and more like the worst kind of caricature of atheists. Smug, elitist AND out to topple religion and force materialism on the masses all in one! Nope, no political stigma is gonna touch that position :rolleyes:

    See, I can separate my politics and my science from my non-belief in deities. What you are proposing is that we bundle it all up and that is exactly what the fundies are imagining we are doing. Good luck trying not to offend anyone with that mission statement.

    I wasn’t alluding to anything you said, and I don’t know how you got that idea.

    Um…because it was in a post responding to me. Crazy, huh?

  366. #366 J
    May 21, 2008

    Well, for one, those people who are not communists more than likely have their own labels (capitalists, socialists, anarchists, etc). And for another, my sleeves are free of decoration.
    Millions of people don’t profess to the tenets of communism. They don’t feel the need to note their absence of belief at the top of their blog, as PZ as “ejaculations from a godless liberal”.

    If unlike lots of individuals posting here you’re really not one of those militant atheists who goes around saying, “I’m an atheist, I’m an atheist, I’m an atheist!”, then my remarks aren’t applicable to you.

    Speculation based on prior evidence (see the gay thing above) and based on the fact that people don’t think we’re dangerous because of what we call ourselves, but because we don’t believe in their imaginary friends. Changing the name will not change that.
    Actually, many people (including me) would say the “gay thing” is evidence in favour of my position. Many people believe use of the word “gay” was invaluable PR for the homosexual community.

    Bright is sounding more and more like the worst kind of caricature of atheists. Smug, elitist AND out to topple religion and force materialism on the masses all in one!
    And yet that’s manifestly not what Brights do. If they wanted to emphasize the whole silly “God” question, they wouldn’t call themselves Brights in the first place.

  367. #367 me
    May 21, 2008

    Hi J,
    I see you’ve been here for the better part of 24 hours. Do you have a job? Friends? A desire to leave the house?
    You have ignored all reasonable questions to your posts and have only replied when people realised you are an annoying wart only interested in writing mildly inflammatory comments and told you such.
    You are an uninteresting, unachieving waste of skin. Begone you stale streak of spastic piss, you sweat from a boy-touching priest’s balls, you vile smear of snot. You are not worthy of this blog.

  368. #368 Janine ID
    May 21, 2008

    Ferocious responses like this are confirmation that a cult mentality has already developed here.

    Many of you are arrant savages, and just as mean-spirited and intellectually dishonest in various ways as any religious fundamentalist.

    Those of you who were able to see that a bit of constructive criticism isn’t an attempt to start a fight, well done.

    Posted by: J

    You arrogant son of a bitch. It is bad enough that closed minded fundies show up and conflate strong language with violence.

    And also, you sad sack of shit, you were the one who came in with the opening insults. You better expect to get it back in return.

    If you spend any time here, you will see that there are idiots posting all the time. Just check out the glory that is Kenny. Most of us here do not feel the need to allow a shit covered dog to roll all over us without fighting back. And you accuse people standing up for themselves of showing cult like personality.

    Bertrand Russell would be so proud of having an ass like you as a follower.

    I wish that for just one time
    You could stand inside my shoes
    And just for that one moment
    I could be you

    Yes, I wish that for just one time
    You could stand inside my shoes
    You’d know what a drag it is
    To see you

  369. #369 Mrs Tilton
    May 21, 2008

    windy @351,

    this has the problem of defining atheism more or less out of existence

    Yeah, I do see that, and understand how it would be a problem for people who define their position as one of atheism. But I’m discounting any notion of a personal God (not just Odin and Yahweh but even the Watchmaker of classic 18th c. deism), which I think draws the sting a bit. Even Dawkins, after all, said he wouldn’t object if somebody wanted to call Planck’s constant “God”, though added he wouldn’t see a point to worshipping it…)

    I hasten to add that I am not pulling a J here and urging atheists to call themselves something else (“Theists, only without the theisty bits”?). I am just trying to answer Etha’s question about what I think a “God” would be.

    What’s so special about causation, anyway?

    Why, its effects, of course.

  370. #370 J
    May 21, 2008

    And also, you sad sack of shit, you were the one who came in with the opening insults. You better expect to get it back in return.

    No, that’s a lie. I wasn’t responsible for the opening insults at all.

    And calling me a “sad sack of shit” is a totally disproportionate response to anything I’ve said.

    I think the only explanation for feral reaction is a cult mentality.

  371. #371 J
    May 21, 2008

    You are an uninteresting, unachieving waste of skin. Begone you stale streak of spastic piss, you sweat from a boy-touching priest’s balls, you vile smear of snot. You are not worthy of this blog.
    This is just incredible. All I’ve done is suggest that Bright is a better term to use than atheist.

  372. #372 Etha Williams
    May 21, 2008

    Millions of people don’t profess to the tenets of communism. They don’t feel the need to note their absence of belief at the top of their blog, as PZ as “ejaculations from a godless liberal”.

    If they lived in a largely communist society, they might.

  373. #373 Pimientita
    May 21, 2008

    Millions of people don’t profess to the tenets of communism. They don’t feel the need to note their absence of belief at the top of their blog, as PZ as “ejaculations from a godless liberal”.

    Millions, no, but some do. Like this one and this one and many others.

    There are millions of atheists without blogs, too. I don’t see your point.

    Actually, many people (including me) would say the “gay thing” is evidence in favour of my position. Many people believe use of the word “gay” was invaluable PR for the homosexual community.

    You can say that all you want, but you might want to explain that assertion.

    Besides that, you seem to have completely missed (or ignored) the point, which was that using a different term didn’t fool anyone just like using a different term for atheist won’t fool anyone. The people who hate us will still hate us no matter what we call ourselves. More than likely they’ll be even more annoyed because we will answer the question “do you believe in God” with “we don’t concern ourselves with such questions.” Shit, that annoys me. It sounds like a smartass, know-it-all college sophomore who just took his first couple of philosophy classes and answers everything in the most cryptic manner possible. Ugh.

    If you want to use an more encompassing term to describe your particular philosophical/political position, then go right ahead, but don’t pretend that you are not going to alienate just as many people with your euphemism. And you are still an atheist (by your own admission).

    Neither PZ nor the commenters here are using this blog to form a political movement. We are here to discuss a variety of issues, some of which pertain to gods/religion, some of which do not. Proselytizing for your “bright” group has no place here. Start your own blog.

    And yet that’s manifestly not what Brights do. If they wanted to emphasize the whole silly “God” question, they wouldn’t call themselves Brights in the first place.

    Nice deflection, but I didn’t say anything about “emphasizing the God question.” Read it again.

  374. #374 Etha Williams
    May 21, 2008

    @#372 Pimientita –

    Neither PZ nor the commenters here are using this blog to form a political movement.

    That’s what you think. Little did you know, The Atheist Conspiracy has been using a super-sekrit encryption algorithm to include hidden messages in our seemingly innocuous comm….oops, I wasn’t supposed to mention that, was I?

  375. #375 Jams
    May 21, 2008

    Besides, the movement thing is so 20th century solidarity. We’ve really moved past that as a planet. The new thing is multi-interest agents dynamically organized along just-in-time issue-based axes.

  376. #376 Janine ID
    May 21, 2008

    The opening statement by the sad sack of shit.

    PZ still refuses to admit that the term “atheist” isn’t good for public relations and never has been. Equally important, it’s philosophically bankrupt (atheist with respect to which deity?).

    Bright is obviously the superior label, but if you want to put “godlessness” at the centre of your life, PZ’s inane criticism may carry some weight.

    Posted by: J

    Sounds pretty damn insulting to me. Also, you gave no reason why Bright is better term then atheist. Oh, wait. Could it because you seem to think that being an atheist is what most of us base our lives on? You show a low opinion of us.

    Also, it is funny that I display a cult mentality simply because I call you names. It is a wonder that most of the regulars here do not life on some sort of group home. Bride Of Shrek, MAJeff, Glen Davidson, Kseniya, Rey Fox, Patricia C, Etta Williams, brokensoldier, Ichthyic, wazza, Moses, David (I am sorry I cannot remember how to spell your last name), Hank Fox and all the others whose commentary I have much from; I think it is time to head for the compound. Now if only someone will remind me where it is at.

    Now go away before I have to call you more names.

  377. #377 John Phillips, FCD
    May 21, 2008

    Etha, you have done it now. If we hear no more form you we will know that the black cephalopods have come for you. It was nice knowing you, sob.

  378. #378 Janine ID
    May 21, 2008

    That’s what you think. Little did you know, The Atheist Conspiracy has been using a super-sekrit encryption algorithm to include hidden messages in our seemingly innocuous comm….oops, I wasn’t supposed to mention that, was I?

    Posted by: Etha Williams

    Etha, we are trying to trick J into believing that we have not been brainwashed into following our squid overlords.

    ALL GLORY TO PZ MYERS!

  379. #379 J
    May 21, 2008

    Sounds pretty damn insulting to me. Also, you gave no reason why Bright is better term then atheist.
    That post of mine was no stronger than PZ’s critique of “Bright”. Besides, calling a criticism “inane” is hardly a personal insult to anyone.

    However you look at it, some of the attacks on me have been flabbergastingly hate-filled. Even if I am talking nonsense, this is very hard to explain without the “cult mentality” hypothesis.

    Also another factor is that the truth hurts. Like with Islamic fanatics, your deep-down sense of the truth precipitates a barbaric reaction.

  380. #380 Jams
    May 21, 2008

    “Even if I am talking nonsense, this is very hard to explain without the “cult mentality” hypothesis.” – J

    Even? This is my imitation of J. Eh hem…

    “Come and join the brights. YOU’RE ALL CULT MEMBERS! Come and join the brights. YOU’RE ALL SILLY AND PHILOSOPHICALLY BANKRUPT! I just said brights is better. YOU’RE ALL CULT MEMBERS! Come and join the brights. STOP PICKING ON ME YOU ROTTEN BARBARIANS! Come and join the brights.”

    …are you wearing a robe of some sort?

  381. #381 Janine ID
    May 21, 2008

    Also another factor is that the truth hurts. Like with Islamic fanatics, your deep-down sense of the truth precipitates a barbaric reaction.

    Posted by: J

    J, you are acting like the fundies who crash this place. First you conflate swearing with physical violence. Now you are conflating some atheists (Yeah, I know you hate that word.) with Islam. I feel very secure in the rightness of calling you an asshole. If only you knew what a drag it is to see you.

    Jams, you have captured the essence of J. There is no need for J to say an other word.

  382. #382 Pimientita
    May 21, 2008

    That’s what you think. Little did you know, The Atheist Conspiracy has been using a super-sekrit encryption algorithm to include hidden messages in our seemingly innocuous comm….oops, I wasn’t supposed to mention that, was I?

    Aha! So that’s why I wake up chanting cephalopod praises every morning. I’m on to you now! Must.Resist.Tentacles.

  383. #383 Kenny
    May 21, 2008

    >Bright is a better label than atheist, because it stands
    >for those who reject religion and promote science.

    I think it’s rather dull. Because you can’t be religious and love science. Sarcasm alert for the ignorant.

  384. #384 Kenny
    May 21, 2008

    >I’m under the belief that J is actually Kenny trying to
    >make atheists look bad.

    Nope, I am not J. oh and Atheists cause themselves to look bad.

  385. #385 Kenny
    May 21, 2008

    >And more stupid. You grab one historical (religiously-
    >motivated xenophobic) incident and mis-cast it to atheism.

    You called me stupid and then what I said went completely over your head. Must be that atheist in you that can’t quite get anything right.

    It’s not that it has anything to do with Atheism, but that this is what people can do to other people and use anything to justify it. Did Hitler use Atheism to justify his holocaust on the Jews? No, he used his belief in Aryanism. However, you can substitute Aryanism with Atheism to do exactly the same thing in the future. Get it?

    For a bunch of Atheists that think they are smart, some of you people have very poor common sense. I have to admit that I am very disappointed.

  386. #386 John Phillips, FCD
    May 21, 2008

    Kenny: and yet so far, in recent times, the only actual incidents we can think of, of violence resulting to certain sections of society after them being demonised by a particular group, is the documented killings of homosexuals by fundies. Not only that, certain fundie religious leaders even actually attempted to rationalise the killings by trying to blame the victims because they were homosexual.

    I have said it before and no doubt I will say it again, but fundies would be slam dunk gold medal winners if projection was an Olympic event. Kenny, sadly, you really are as stoopid as you appear and your continued ramblings only serve to reinforce the stoopid.

  387. #387 Kenny
    May 21, 2008

    >Kenny, can you go a day without talking about Richard
    >Dawkins? Man, you’re obsessed.

    It’s not so much about obsession, it’s more about a man who is a lunatic and thinks he is spreading the world with reason using science. He is the leader of the pack. I won’t say god because nobody believes in god here. Well, they won’t say thay do anyway. Their god is themselves.

    Atheists are all about themselves. You don’t see an Atheist red cross do you? No you don’t. You see a bunch of materialistic self centered people who think religion is the entire evil of everything and yet most of the wars on this planet are not just about religion.

    We have serious problems on this planet and it’s not all about religion. A lot of it political and energy related problems.

    The atheists like richard dawkins and people on here just don’t get it. We are going to be running out of oil and it’s too late to turn back and we will have wars fought over natural resources and we are dooming our own selves because of global warming which is caused by us.

    Instead of fighting religion, they need to be helping people and they need to be trying to change things on this planet so that we are not doomed. What do they do? Help themselves and then post on a forum that people who are religious are stupid.

    You are fighting the wrong people. You need to fight for what matters most.

  388. #388 craig
    May 21, 2008

    “It’s not that it has anything to do with Atheism, but that this is what people can do to other people and use anything to justify it.”

    Oh, I see what you mean. Like when people kill each other an justify it because of their religion.

    Well, I don’t think you need to worry too much, Kenny. Atheists aren’t likely to band together because we don’t have a common ideology. Some atheists are asshole conservatives. Some are fruitcake new age homeopaths. We’re all different.

    It’s never going to be very successful to group people together based on a common characteristic when that characteristic is not something that they have or that they believe in, but rather something they lack, something they don’t believe in.

    You can have a “society of homeopaths”, but you’ll never have a “society of non-homeopaths”. Best you can hope for is that some blog critical of homeopaths will have commenters cross paths from time to time there…

    So I don’t think you have to worry about atheists banding together and creating the kinds of horrors that the religious have caused. We atheists just don’t have that much in common. We don’t have a shared belief system and a cause to promote, and we’re a lot less likely to be fervent joiners of any group just by our very questioning and contrary nature.

    Religion will have to continue to to do most of the work of oppressing people, I’m afraid.

  389. #389 MAJeff, OM
    May 21, 2008

    Atheists are all about themselves. You don’t see an Atheist red cross do you? No you don’t. You see a bunch of materialistic self centered people who think religion is the entire evil of everything and yet most of the wars on this planet are not just about religion

    So says the motherfucker working to make gay people’s lives worse. Bigoted hypocritical fuckwit.

  390. #390 John Morales
    May 21, 2008

    Kenny #386:

    Instead of fighting religion, they need to be helping people and they need to be trying to change things on this planet so that we are not doomed.

    Arguably, by fighting religion, they are helping people and trying to change things on this planet so that we are not doomed.

  391. #391 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    May 21, 2008

    This is just incredible. All I’ve done is suggest that Bright is a better term to use than atheist.

    That’s patently false. You’ve come here claiming that no one here is as well read as you and that no one here could possibly understand the intricacies of your arguments. Yet you haven’t made a single convincing argument and have ignored every comment that has pointed that out to you. Instead choosing only to respond to comments where you feel you can put someone down.

    The funny thing is you are ignoring the fact that religion is attacked here every day. It’s not just about “some cosmological question”, it is about the religion too. Yet you continually choose to ignore it.

    Calling myself an atheist automatically puts me in a position critical of religion.

    Go ahead and call me a “cultist”. It’s carries little weight beyond a school yard taunt. It means nothing in this discussion other than some lame attempt to dismiss others arguments rather that actually address them.

  392. #392 JeffreyD
    May 21, 2008

    The nice thing about being self employed is having time to read. Having read all the posts, except Kenney’s, on this thread and realizing that J has not a single clue why he has incited a storm on his head is rather sad – they have eyes but do not see. J, as kindly as I can put it, having read all of your posts and all the responses to you – the best argument against using Bright is that you think the term is a good idea. I also cannot understand why you think the posters on the this blog are ignorant. You have consistently stated and assumed we neither read nor have any knowledge. This is no better than the fundies who assume we must not have read the bible because we reject it.

    You, dear J, are arrogant. You started in your first post with an insulting tone, go back and read it replacing PZ’s name with yours and see if it does not sound insulting. “Inane” is hardly a term of endearment and it is not a neutral term.

    I also hold your sophistry and trickery toward you mother in contempt. If you truly don’t want to distress her, then lie to her about your beliefs. Calling yourself a Bright is not going to trick her for long and I am not sure why you want to trick her. Either tell her the truth or lie, do not come up with a nonsense reason to use Bright. Lying is not good in general, but to avoid distressing a parent I can forgive if not condone it. Deceiving, or making the attempt to deceive her by confusing her with a new term is just contemptible.

    And finally, you have committed what I consider the ultimate “sin” in discourse, you are repetitive and boring.

    Ciao

  393. #393 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    May 21, 2008

    Atheists are all about themselves. You don’t see an Atheist red cross do you? No you don’t. You see a bunch of materialistic self centered people who think religion is the entire evil of everything and yet most of the wars on this planet are not just about religion.

    You’re an ignorant troll. Kenny, atheists don’t have some big well established organization. We don’t have atheists meeting spots on every other corner. Here in Charleston I can see a steeple nearly every block. Atheists aren’t a homogeneous organized group with charters and rule books and Sunday morning meetings. We are purely a group identified by a dismissal of the supernatural. It’s ridiculous to expect a non organized group tied together purely by the reasons above to have the same organization that churches that have been in existence for years to have. Especially considering the persecution that non-believers have had thrust on them by you types for years.

    That being said atheist individuals do “good works” every day. You wouldn’t know anything about that though because you probably wouldn’t see it. Why? Because many people who do charity work don’t feel the need to stamp their name on every good thing they do. Unlike churches who make sure everyone knows. My wife for example donates a portion of every house she sells to a different charity every month. During that month she volunteers for that charity the entire month for events they have and other needs where they need a warm body. You wouldn’t know she’s an atheist because she doesn’t feel the need to stamp Mr. BigDumbChimp’s Atheist charity campaign did these good things… LOOK AT ME AND HOW GOOD I AM. There are others of my friends who are atheists who operate the same way. I don’t talk about what I do, because I do it for the good not for the notoriety.

    If it was a church person doing it you’d sure as hell see the name of that church on it.

    So what I’m saying is, as usual, you don’t know what the fuck you are talking about.

  394. #394 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    May 21, 2008

    It’s not that it has anything to do with Atheism, but that this is what people can do to other people and use anything to justify it. Did Hitler use Atheism to justify his holocaust on the Jews? No, he used his belief in Aryanism. However, you can substitute Aryanism with Atheism to do exactly the same thing in the future. Get it?

    Man you are thick. Atheism is purely a dismissal of the supernatural and all that that entails due to a lack of evidence. It is not a dogma saying one race of people is less than another.
    Making that comparison is purely the result of someone who is not thinking clearly.
    Going by your logic I could replace Christianity instead of Aryanism.

    Which is ridiculous except that Christianity does have a book that says non believers will be punished. Atheism not only doesn’t have that dogma, it doesn’t have a book telling it what to do.

    It’s still a ridiculously false analogy.

  395. #395 MarkW
    May 21, 2008

    We are going to be running out of oil and it’s too late to turn back and we will have wars fought over natural resources and we are dooming our own selves because of global warming which is caused by us.

    Instead of fighting religion, they need to be helping people and they need to be trying to change things on this planet so that we are not doomed. What do they do? Help themselves and then post on a forum that people who are religious are stupid.

    You are fighting the wrong people. You need to fight for what matters most.

    What do you care about the planet? Aren’t you all going to be swept up in the rupture* soon?

    I’m opposed to the religious interference with public life because prayer isn’t going to solve these problems; the only chance we have is with a scientific solution.

    I’m pro-science, pro-tolerance, and pro-freedom; and everywhere I look, I see religious people pushing against science, pushing against tolerance, pushing against freedom.

    *Heh. I noticed the typo in preview but let it stand. SubGenius(TM) FTW.

  396. #396 John Phillips, FCD
    May 21, 2008

    MarkW: Well the rapture would likely lead to some rupture at least. Unfortunately, when it comes to the fundies, rupture is the right word, but it needs to be applied to what happened to their brains, if they ever had one in the first place that is. Kenny for instance, meh, I am doubtful if he ever did, have a fully functioning brain that is. But I would be more than happy to see evidence to the contrary proving me wrong. Though admittedly his posts, to date at least, do make the possible appearance of such evidence increasingly unlikely.

  397. #397 Kseniya
    May 21, 2008

    Kennylad,

    You don’t see an Atheist red cross do you? No you don’t.

    The Red Cross is a religious organization? That’s news to me.

    There’s no Atheist world organization, Kenny. No Atheist church. Maybe you’re talking about secular organizations? Tell me you’ve never heard of SHARE or UNICEF.

    Are you aware that the Bush administration has applied pressure to direct funds to faith-based organizations that toe the party line on certain social issues, at the expense of funding for secular organizations like CARE? That the funding cut killed CARE’s fight against AIDS in Africa, and went instead to faith-based organizations and their provenly ineffective “abstinence-only” approach to containing AIDS?

    Tell me again: Who’s self-absorbed? Who puts ideology ahead of humanitarian concerns? Tell me.

    But no, you won’t. Never admit to any of your many mistatements and errors. You won’t even respond to this. You never do.

  398. #398 windy
    May 21, 2008

    Mrs Tilton wrote:

    Yeah, I do see that, and understand how it would be a problem for people who define their position as one of atheism. But I’m discounting any notion of a personal God (not just Odin and Yahweh but even the Watchmaker of classic 18th c. deism), which I think draws the sting a bit.

    You can of course define your worldview as you like, even to include atheism, but atheists can with equal justification include you in their number. At the very least I would separate ‘materialist’ pantheists and ‘spiritual’ pantheists (like believers in ‘the Force’).

    What’s so special about causation, anyway?

    Why, its effects, of course.

    But why glorify it so? Like your distinction of pantheism and deism: either way the universe is the same. But if it somehow caused itself it gets the title of God. If some minuscule quantum blip from another universe happened to cause this universe, the title of God is stripped from this universe and given to that blip.

    Or imagine that there are two universes in a causality loop, universe A causes universe B and vice versa. A is B’s God and B is A’s God.

    Not to mention that the whole central role of causality is a bit iffy. If the present situation is as much due to random quantum events throughout the history of the universe as any causal kick-off in the beginning, is quantum randomness God instead? Or are there two gods?

  399. #399 David Marjanovi?, OM
    May 21, 2008

    Rejection of religion and independence of mind are immeasurably more important. That’s something to band together about.

    <lightbulb position=”above head”>

    I think we’ve been talking past each other for the last 400 comments. Contrary to your own assertions, you do not want to replace the word “atheist” by the word “Bright”. Instead, you are trying to tell us that people should rally around being skeptics/rationalists/secular humanists/whatever, call that “Bright”, and not talk about unrelated and less important issues (like atheism). After all, atheists are not even a subset of skeptics/rationalists. Comment 388 puts it best: “Atheists aren’t likely to band together because we don’t have a common ideology. Some atheists are asshole conservatives. Some are fruitcake new age homeopaths. We’re all different.”

    It doesn’t help that you regularly conflate the issues by saying, for example, all “Brights” should give the same standardized answer to “what religion are you”/”do you believe in God”. There is no reason whatever why there should be party discipline. Give whatever your honest answer is, just make sure people don’t believe all “Brights” agree with you on this (non-)issue.

    (I do maintain that “Bright” is a stupid choice because it implies “Dim”. I also think that “we don’t concern ourselves with such questions” can, depending on who asked the question, come across as incredibly smug: in the mind of many a true believer, you are lightly waving aside the most important question in the multiverse… remember the mind-boggling outrage PZ generated by saying religion should be like knitting.)

    You also seem to be saying that people shouldn’t rally around being atheists. Well, they don’t. We here rally around being Pharyngulites. =8-)

    David (I am sorry I cannot remember how to spell your last name)

    Why remember? This is the Information Age. Copy & paste it :-)

    most of the wars on this planet are not just about religion.

    My emphasis of the Freudian typo.

    No, really, Kenny — have you never encountered the famous saying? “Good people do good things, and evil people do evil things; but for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.”

    To be fair, any ideology will do; thousands of good people have done evil things in the name of, for instance, communism because they had faith in it. But what you don’t seem to get is that atheism alone is not an ideology. It is a lack of one. It creates a God-shaped hole that some people fill with an ideology, others fill with another ideology, and yet others simply let stand.

    You don’t see an Atheist red cross do you?

    You seem to be unaware of the fact that the Red Cross is not a Christian organization — its symbol is simply an inversion of the Swiss flag, and its sister organizations are the Red Star of David and the Red Crescent.

    But the big, interesting question lies elsewhere.

    Why do any explicitly Christian charity organizations exist? Isn’t that a sin?

    Let’s have a look.

    Matthew 6:1-4
    6:1 Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven.
    6:2 Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
    6:3 But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth:
    6:4 That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.

    And here’s a little context:

    Matthew 6:5-8
    6:5 And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
    6:6 But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.
    6:7 But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.
    6:8 Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.

    I report, you decide, Kenny. I report what you believe are Jesus’ own words (KJV).

  400. #400 windy
    May 21, 2008

    Which is my entire point. Those other things are much more important than your atheism. Atheism is a mere cosmological opinion. I’ll wager that most people here haven’t read a book on cosmology, except perhaps a portion of A Brief History of Time.

    Blah, blah, blah… if you are so well read in cosmology, why is it that you ignore every attempt to discuss it (see my #262, 268 and 276 and Kagehi’s posts) or at most, respond with vague hand-waving?

    And the fact remains that most people interpret theism as belief in a personal God, not a cosmological first cause.

  401. #401 negentropyeater
    May 21, 2008

    Windy,

    here’s something that puzzles me :

    here’s a quote from RD from the God Delusion :

    Or maybe the elusive “crane” that cosmologists seek will be a version of Darwin’s idea itself: either Smolin’s model or something similar. Or maybe it will be the Multiverse plus Anthropic principle espoused by Martin Rees and others. It may even be a Superhuman designer – but if so it will most certainly not be a designer who just popped into existence, or who always existed. If (which I don’t believe for a moment) our universe was designed, and a fortiori if the designer reads our thoughts and hands out omniscient advice, forgiveness and redemption, the designer himself must be the end product of some kind of cumulative escalator or crane, perhaps a version of Darwinism in another universe.

    Here’s a quote from Alan Guth (I guess you know who he is) :

    I in fact have worked with several other people for some period of time on the question of whether or not it’s in principle possible to create a new universe in the laboratory. Whether or not it really works we don’t know for sure. It looks like it probably would work. It’s actually safe to create a universe in your basement. It would not displace the universe around it even though it would grow tremendously. It would actually create its own space as it grows and in fact in a very short fraction of a second it would splice itself off completely from our Universe and evolve as an isolated closed universe growing to cosmic proportions without displacing any of the territory that we currently lay claim to.

    Now, my question is why does Richard have to add the comment “(which I don’t believe for a moment)”.

    I agree with everything he says, that the designer must have been the result of darwinian process in a previous universe, etc…, but why, reject the hypothesis ?
    Moreover, it’s interesting scientifically, there are many questions that come to mind : can one observe what happens inside ? For instance, the holographic principle would seem to suggest that it is at least possible to do it by analysing only it’s surface. Isn’t that where science is leading us to ?
    I agree that this takes us very far away from the kind of God that is worshipped by the religious folks, but I am somehow haunted by the words of Alhazen :

    “I constantly sought knowledge and truth, and it became my belief that for gaining access to the effulgence and closeness to God, there is no better way than that of searching for truth and knowledge.”

    Isn’t that the kind of God he is talking about ?

  402. #402 Kagehi
    May 21, 2008

    Maybe he is actually a Biblical scholar Windy. You know, the scholars that love the babble about how **no one** believes in the whole personal interventionist god thing at all, while somehow failing to notice that 100% of **all** polls every taken show that like 98% of believers think that an impersonal non-interventionist god is stupid. He keeps babbling about “first causes” like this isn’t just a big issue, but the **only** issue that relates to disbelief in it.

    Well, guess what J. Even if you where willing to label some random thing “god” and declare it a first cause, it would mean exactly jack. Why? Because belief in photons isn’t the same as believing that fracking photons think and *choose* which things to let you see, of *choose* to guide your car down the road, or anything else. Same with any other thing you might label god for some absurd reason. God implies *two* things for most people – 1. first cause and 2. some old geezer that pokes his nose into everything and much around with it all the time. The first one is insufficient to build vast networks of churches and worshipers, who think they know what said god wants, and are willing to screw up other people’s lives to make it happen. Photons, quantum particles, other universes, etc. don’t **tell people** to act like assholes. That takes some moron thinking that a sort of living, sort of breathing, real, tangible, actively interfering, busy body god **told** them to hate X group, fear Y science, appose Z idea, etc. In other words, it takes type “#2″. So, its pretty damn odd for you to come along and insist that people who reject #1, because it makes even less sense without #2 being true than it does if #2 made sense, that they are a) incapable of actually arguing about the absurd #1 version (instead of just finding it so damn absurd that its not worth bothering with) or b) its the *only* thing defining us, such that we *can’t* talk about the real issue of #2 (never mind that 99.9% of the times that is “precisely” what we talk about).

  403. #403 J
    May 21, 2008

    I also cannot understand why you think the posters on the this blog are ignorant. You have consistently stated and assumed we neither read nor have any knowledge.
    I haven’t done anything like that, so piss off. I stated, judging from my experience of atheists and non-physicists alike, that I don’t think most people here are all that interested in cosmology apart from the silly question of whether there was some sort of designer.

    I’m not arrogant. Arrogant is anyone who gets their underpants in a twist when I accuse a group of primarily non-physicists of lack of excessive interest in a mathematical subject.

  404. #404 J
    May 21, 2008

    Blah, blah, blah… if you are so well read in cosmology, why is it that you ignore every attempt to discuss it (see my #262, 268 and 276 and Kagehi’s posts) or at most, respond with vague hand-waving?
    Because you aren’t discussing cosmology, you’re just repeating stock “Dawkinsite” arguments, which I know only too well.

    Fair enough, they’re good ones, and I agree with them. What I was trying to prove is that you can’t defeat a modest form of deism in one fell swoop. In this thread I defended it from several attacks. Many people who are slightly biased in favour of it will keep believing it (or allowing for the possibility and calling themselves agnostics), even after you deploy the Ultimate Boeing 747 analogy, etc.

    These people (deists, agnostics, etc.) tend to agree with me when it comes to stem-cell research, abortion, the wonders of science, the grotesque absurdity of creationism, and so on. Politically, I’d rather have them on my side.

    Those of you who say “This isn’t about politics” are expressing a personal opinion or being disingenuous. Militant atheists like PZ Myers and Richard Dawkins are activists who want to stomp out religious dogmatism. I think that’s a laudable endeavour; I just disagree with their strategy.

  405. #405 Dennis N
    May 21, 2008

    The way J talks…just doesn’t come off right. It’s word choice and phrasing. “Dawkinsite”. “Militant atheist”. He never sounds like he shares our goals. He may say he does, but then go on and argue against them all. Calling for us to hide from the word atheism, defending deism, etc. Sure, if your point is to show something is defensible for a while, well I could defend the stance that I’m a duck for a few posts, if I wanted to. All that matters in the end is that I’m not a duck. In fact, Kenny defends all his arguments, even though he’s wrong.

  406. #406 negentropyeater
    May 21, 2008

    Kagehi,

    you forgot #3 that thing called soul/spirit, which if one has been a faithful follower gets rewarded rights to eternal undescribable beatitude and in the contrary to eternal undescribable limbo. Or whatever other version.
    I actually think you could do away with #1 and #2 and still get hords of people to do silly things with #3, look at all these pseudo-scientific spiritual-woo things.
    Most religions and spiritual-cults are based on the belief that something happens with us after we die. If you take away that one belief, what do you have left ? Are people going to believe in the rest, behave as it’s indicated, fear the god, worship him ? All gone. Finished. That belief of course, is a post justification of a latent hope. But hope alone, is very strong, it gets people to do all sorts of things, crazy, and less crazy…

  407. #407 Kagehi
    May 21, 2008

    As someone put it in the past, no *progress* was every made where there where not people pushing the extreme edge of an idea. Moderation has been used for centuries to try to garner allies to our side, and all we have gotten is more enemies who think we are a) cowards and b) wrong because if we where right we would be willing to fight for our positions, instead of trying for some wishy washy middle ground. Disagree with the strategy all you want, but remember, yours is the one that *allowed* right wing loonies to gain the level of control they have at the moment, because while we where busy kissing the ass of everyone that might be sort of on our side, *they* where aggressively pushing the idea that we didn’t know anything, didn’t have real theories, couldn’t defend the things we said, and where wrong, based on the fact that we didn’t yell as loudly as they did. And, people right and left fell for that bullshit argument, to the extent that now, you are more likely to get a believer siding with them over some made up *issue* or lie they think is true about us, and siding with us on the larger issues.

    Dawkins, PZ, et al, are a *reaction* to the inability of your methods fundamental failure, over hundreds of years, and its even greater failure in the last 50, to either change the opinions of the people that will blindly choose the side of faith because they have been *told* we are the enemy, and even worse, done nothing to encourage people that share the views we hold on such matters to express them. While it might be argued that the Brights have “kind of” done that, its been at the expense of having at least 50% of “all” of the people I have ever talked to who “would have” expressed their views, opting to not do so, based solely on the unbelievably stupid choice in names and the entirely unintentional implications implied about everyone else by it. And sorry, but you can spend now until the sun goes nova trying to convince people that of opposite of “bright” is “super” and no one is going to give a frack, especially the people trying to decide whether to join, and definitely not the people you are trying to un-intimidate by making up some alternative word.

    Fact is, the Brights are pissing off as many people as they are encouraging, unintentionally, and whining about how “dim” isn’t the opposite of it won’t change that. And that means you have already *lost* 50% of the allies you are looking for. So much for having a “better” solution than calling yourself an atheist, where are least its other people trying to screw you, not your own stubborn refusal to notice that you are shooting *yourself* in the foot via the name you chose, while ironically, refusing to see it. We know people don’t like us because of the name we use. We don’t care. You think yours is better, and that you can just market it into sounding like what you *intended*. Who is the real fool here?

  408. #408 windy
    May 21, 2008

    Because you aren’t discussing cosmology, you’re just repeating stock “Dawkinsite” arguments, which I know only too well.

    They may not be very complicated arguments, but they are at least as ‘cosmological’ as anything you put forth in this thread. And where am I “repeating” the argument from? Afaik, Dawkins discusses the improbability of a complex designer and that it would require gradual processes to emerge, but he does not ask whether the emergence requires fine-tuning.

    What I was trying to prove is that you can’t defeat a modest form of deism in one fell swoop.

    You can’t disprove deism but so what, we can’t disprove last-thursdayism or God creating everything 6000 years ago and making it appear old or us being Boltzmann brains. We can show that deism doesn’t actually explain what it purports to explain, though.

    I don’t think most people here are all that interested in cosmology apart from the silly question of whether there was some sort of designer.

    Well, screw your assumptions.

  409. #409 Tulse
    May 21, 2008

    Most religions and spiritual-cults are based on the belief that something happens with us after we die. If you take away that one belief, what do you have left ?

    Judaism? Seriously, the afterlife plays almost no role in Jewish belief — it is certainly at best peripheral to the religion, and certainly not a primary reason that Jews believe.

  410. #410 Kagehi
    May 21, 2008

    Interesting side note. Apparently some Israeli Jews got annoyed at Christians constantly trying to convert them and had a book burning…

    http://religionclause.blogspot.com/2008/05/residents-of-israeli-town-burn-bibles.html

  411. #411 windy
    May 21, 2008

    Now, my question is why does Richard have to add the comment “(which I don’t believe for a moment)”. I agree with everything he says, that the designer must have been the result of darwinian process in a previous universe, etc…, but why, reject the hypothesis?

    Maybe he interprets “design” to be something a bit more involved than setting off an independent new universe through a scientific experiment?

    I agree that this takes us very far away from the kind of God that is worshipped by the religious folks, but I am somehow haunted by the words of Alhazen : “I constantly sought knowledge and truth, and it became my belief that for gaining access to the effulgence and closeness to God, there is no better way than that of searching for truth and knowledge.” Isn’t that the kind of God he is talking about?

    Let’s say that you are a physics grad student who sets off a new universe in the lab basement in the way Alan Guth described. And that you can somehow intercept messages from within by the holographic principle. If you heard the intelligent beings in the baby universe saying “I seek truth and knowledge in order to access the effulgence and closeness to negentropyeater(=’God’)”, wouldn’t you be embarrassed for them?

  412. #412 cicely
    May 21, 2008

    David Marjanovi? @#399:

    It’s a little nitpicky, but I feel that you’ve missed the point with this:

    But what you don’t seem to get is that atheism alone is not an ideology. It is a lack of one. It creates a God-shaped hole that some people fill with an ideology, others fill with another ideology, and yet others simply let stand.

    Atheism doesn’t create a hole (which, as phrased, seems to imply a space in which God existed, but has been evicted from), so much as say that there is no such address, and no such entity. The fact that some people believe that there is such an entity, whose loss from their worldview leaves a perceived spot to be filled with something (and I think this is the reason for a Christian’s shocked reaction—”No God at all??”), is completely beside the point. What need is there for something to take up the space in which an alleged invisible pink unicorn used to be parked?

    Short form (and hopefully more coherent; it’s been a long day…): No god, no god-socket, no need for anything to plug into the socket.

  413. #413 negentropyeater
    May 21, 2008

    Maybe he interprets “design” to be something a bit more involved than setting off an independent new universe through a scientific experiment?

    It’s playing on words. We both know exactly what he means, wether you call it the result of a design or an experiment, he seems to not want to consider that we live in such a universe as a possibility. Also, don’t tell me that this possibility is so ridiculously small that we should just eliminate it.

    My point about Alhazen was more about remembering this guy, the father of the scientific method, who says 1000 yrs ago, search for truth and knowledge to gain access to God, I thought isn’t that wonderful in this scenario that this is exactly true, ie our search for truth and knowledge (science) enables us to create a new universe where we will observe the past and the future.
    Now I know that one should hesitate to call this God, this is not a supernatural God.

  414. #414 The Holy Three-Pronged Outlet
    May 21, 2008

    God-socket

    Band name!

    (One word, maybe? Godsocket.)

  415. #415 J
    May 21, 2008

    I think we’ve been talking past each other for the last 400 comments. Contrary to your own assertions, you do not want to replace the word “atheist” by the word “Bright”. Instead, you are trying to tell us that people should rally around being skeptics/rationalists/secular humanists/whatever, call that “Bright”, and not talk about unrelated and less important issues (like atheism). After all, atheists are not even a subset of skeptics/rationalists. Comment 388 puts it best: “Atheists aren’t likely to band together because we don’t have a common ideology. Some atheists are asshole conservatives. Some are fruitcake new age homeopaths. We’re all different.”
    Well if “atheism” is nothing more than a mere opinion on a cosmological question (was the Universe created by some sort of intelligence?), why do I even know you’re atheists? People (like me) who subscribe to the multiverse theory don’t brand themselves “multiversists”. Why is it so well-known that someone like PZ Myers is an atheist (to the point where he admits to being the “village atheist” in Morris)?.

    Your opinion on religion perhaps something to wear on your sleeve, as it’s socially important. Your opinion on cosmology is of no social significance whatever, so there appers little reason to go around telling people “I’m an atheist, I’m an atheist, I’m an atheist!”

    (This is no strawman, as militant atheists like Richard Dawkins and PZ Myers do exactly this.)

  416. #416 Dennis N
    May 21, 2008

    What is with your use of “militant atheists”? I noticed the only people who use it in seriousness are Michael and Kenny (known god-botherers), and then of course you, J. A trend?

  417. #417 J
    May 21, 2008

    I also think that “we don’t concern ourselves with such questions” can, depending on who asked the question, come across as incredibly smug: in the mind of many a true believer, you are lightly waving aside the most important question in the multiverse… remember the mind-boggling outrage PZ generated by saying religion should be like knitting.)
    I didn’t say that. I said that if you label yourself a Bright, “We don’t concern ourselves with such questions” is a possible escape to be used whenever socially beneficial.

    I also don’t agree that it’s the most important question about the Universe. All thinking people realize that the only remotely possible God is an impersonal sort of deist’s God. If such a thing does somehow exist, it’s merely of academic interest.

  418. #418 J
    May 21, 2008

    What is with your use of “militant atheists”? I noticed the only people who use it in seriousness are Michael and Kenny (known god-botherers), and then of course you, J. A trend?
    No trend, as I’ve barely read any of their idiotic posts. “Militant atheist” is not pejorative when I’m using it. Richard Dawkins himself admits to being one.

  419. #419 windy
    May 21, 2008

    It’s playing on words. We both know exactly what he means, wether you call it the result of a design or an experiment, he seems to not want to consider that we live in such a universe as a possibility. Also, don’t tell me that this possibility is so ridiculously small that we should just eliminate it.

    He doesn’t claim to eliminate it, he just doesn’t “believe” it. You just seem to have your knickers in a twist since you find the possibility “the universe was started off naturally by an intelligent being” metaphysically significant and Dawkins doesn’t. But why?

    And the passage doesn’t say whether Dawkins considers merely setting off an universe “designing” it. I wouldn’t. And we are a long way off from actually doing so and even farther from observing anything within other universes, if it’s even possible.

    My point about Alhazen was more about remembering this guy, the father of the scientific method, who says 1000 yrs ago, search for truth and knowledge to gain access to God, I thought isn’t that wonderful in this scenario that this is exactly true, ie our search for truth and knowledge (science) enables us to create a new universe where we will observe the past and the future.

    Alhazen didn’t say that searching for truth and knowledge would enable us to be God (if whoever makes universes=God). He was a devout Muslim; he might have crapped his pants at the suggestion that Allah was a natural being and that science will give us the same powers of universe-creating.

    Now I know that one should hesitate to call this God, this is not a supernatural God.

    No, it would be a creator (demiurge), but why call it a god?

  420. #420 Dennis N
    May 21, 2008

    Understood

  421. #421 tony
    May 21, 2008

    J@415: if “atheism” is nothing more than a mere opinion on a cosmological question

    I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt, and assume you are simply ‘hyper-focused’ on cosmology. But, seriously…

    WTF?

    As has been stated many times before – we are challenged by the simple fact that the major opponent to science and rationality in the US today is Xian fundamentalism.

    Such fundies label us “godless athiests”. If that label identifies me as an opponent of theirs, then it is a lebel I am proud to wear!

    To respond to your last taunt – yes “I’m an athiest”, and damn happy to be so.

    tony

    ps. I *was* one of the posters who ‘attacked’ you – and I will happily do so again if you continue to be an obstructionist, near-sighted, delusional prick!

  422. #422 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    May 21, 2008

    Well if “atheism” is nothing more than a mere opinion on a cosmological question (was the Universe created by some sort of intelligence?), why do I even know you’re atheists? People (like me) who subscribe to the multiverse theory don’t brand themselves “multiversists”. Why is it so well-known that someone like PZ Myers is an atheist (to the point where he admits to being the “village atheist” in Morris)?.

    I brand myself an atheist but that doesn’t entail everything I’m about. I also think that pigs are the greatest culinary animal in the world and I don’t brand myself a “pigist”. The term atheist is well established and conveys a certain belief. People know the term It’s not my fault is some starts to ascribe other related but not factual definitions to it.

  423. #423 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    May 21, 2008

    Ugh. Should be

    “People know the term and it is not my fault if someone starts to ascribe other related, but not factual definitions to it.”

    I really need to use the preview.

  424. #424 Tim B.
    May 22, 2008

    Just read a Derbyshire essay on evolution, so maybe it’s somewhat on topic.

    http://www.takimag.com/site/article/whats_so_scarry_about_evolution/

    I thought it was kind of swell, but what was more interesting was the comment thread there. What strange, darkly obsessive minds! All hung up on race and Darwin-bashing as tangents to “independent conservative thought.” I get a pronounced cultish vibe from that thread. And I try to imagine what drives some folks to spend time harrumphing paranoiacally over such tedious themes. That site seems like a Christian, less-intellectual version of Commentary.

  425. #425 J
    May 22, 2008

    As has been stated many times before – we are challenged by the simple fact that the major opponent to science and rationality in the US today is Xian fundamentalism.
    To combat Christian fundamentalism you combat Christian fundamentalism. Non-belief isn’t equivalent to atheism. Confronting faith-based religious dogma doesn’t necessitate saying that you’re an atheist. It’s important for many purposes that people become irreligious; it isn’t important for anything other than cosmology that people become atheist.

    If you’re really serious about dealing with the fundies, and you haven’t just been seduced by the thrill associated with beloging to a cult, then you should be in favour of choosing your strategy wisely. Maybe I’m wrong and Bright is not an improvement, but calling someone an “obstructionist, near-sighted, delusional prick” for merely providing criticism does not suggest a good attitude on your part, I think.

  426. #426 J
    May 22, 2008

    This is my imitation of J. Eh hem…

    “Come and join the brights. YOU’RE ALL CULT MEMBERS! Come and join the brights. YOU’RE ALL SILLY AND PHILOSOPHICALLY BANKRUPT! I just said brights is better. YOU’RE ALL CULT MEMBERS! Come and join the brights. STOP PICKING ON ME YOU ROTTEN BARBARIANS! Come and join the brights.”
    First of all: if I came off as arrogant and insulting, so did PZ in his article evaluating the “Bright Proposal”.

    Second: I’m very willing to listen to alternatives. “Rationalist” captures what I’m after, but I’m concerned that most people will think it sounds too “cold-hearted”. Anyway, I’m certainly not going to act like a wild beast whenever anyone ventures a criticism of my “team”. That’s the distinct asymmetry here, and that’s why (unlike a lot of you) I’m not a cultist.

  427. #427 Janine ID
    May 22, 2008

    That’s the distinct asymmetry here, and that’s why (unlike a lot of you) I’m not a cultist.

    Posted by: J

    Yet again, you are being insulting. Please, keep calling the lot of us “cultists”. No, you are not like the lot of us; you are a tiresome asshole.

  428. #428 scatty
    May 22, 2008

    Militant has become such an overused, tired old word (sort of a twisted application of Godwin’s law). Nowadays it is so easy to all anyone militant who has any strongly held opinion that the commenter doesn’t agree with (either the opinion itself or the intensity of it). I myself have been referred to as a militant atheist, a militant breastfeeder and a militant homeschooler. Makes me think I should start wearing uniforms.

  429. #429 JeffreyD
    May 22, 2008

    Well, I have been chastised and after reading further I will recant and apologize for saying J is arrogant. J you are not arrogant, just mean spirited, intellectually and personally dishonest, full of yourself, far too concerned about the world finding out that you are a (supposed) godless atheist, and apparently blind to reason. Now, per your request, I will piss off. No need to reply directly to me, but feel free to vent if you wish, as I have dropped you in with Kenny behind my internal filters.

    P.S. Full disclosure, I am insulting and arrogant as needed, also a bit of a narcissist. I am an atheist also, but was insulting and arrogant long before I became an atheist. Oh, and as I said elsewhere, atheist is a convenient label for something which I really think is not worth discussing, i.e., gawd(s).

  430. #430 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    May 22, 2008

    I’m very willing to listen to alternatives. “Rationalist” captures what I’m after, but I’m concerned that most people will think it sounds too “cold-hearted”.

    I call myself both, and I can do that because they both fit. They aren’t exclusive of each other. You really are hung up on that one term.

  431. #431 negentropyeater
    May 22, 2008

    Windy,

    simply, because I’d like to know if it’s true or not. Was our universe started by an alien civilization who evolved in a previous universe, are they still observing us ? Will we be capable of doing the same ? Theoretically it seems possible. How likely is it ? We’re only in 2008, how many years do we have left to further our understanding and our capabilities.
    I’m not saying I believe this, as I also believe that it may be completely false, ie that the universe we live in started from an unintelligent cause. It’s simple Jeebus, I just don’t think we can tell today which one it is. If it were the result of an experiment, an intelligent cause, would it be different, than if it were the result of a chaotic event in a bubble universe ?
    If you reread this paragraph, you will notice that RD seems to accept a possibilty of a superhuman designer who has evolved in a previous universe, but he immediately adds the unlikely abilities of reading our thoughts and omniscient advice to make it look as the Theist God that he wants to reject. So, which one doesn’t he believe in for a moment, I interpret as both, and I don’t understand why, because, as we both agree, this naturalistic superhuman designer has nothing to do with the theist God who the religious folks worship.
    Of course Alhazen said this because he lived 1000 years ago, what else would you have expected ?
    About calling it God, I don’t know, I think there was an interesting discussion at Beyondbelief II about reinventing the sacred or something like this, I’ll have to check it back to see what came out of it.

  432. #432 amk
    May 22, 2008

    Concerning “militant atheism”, I made these. It’s my level of humour at this time of day, no doubt many of you could do better.
    http://i185.photobucket.com/albms/x189/mawhrin/poster91175041.jpg
    http://i185.photobucket.com/albums/x189/mawhrin/poster99279187.jpg

  433. #433 amk
    May 22, 2008
  434. #434 MarkW
    May 22, 2008

    As I said up at #183:

    ‘Atheism’ Isn’t a “useful term when it comes to cosmological questions” though. It’s a word that means “the lack of belief in gods”.

    You say:

    Non-belief isn’t equivalent to atheism

    I think you’re flat-out wrong.

    WTF is this obsession you have with cosmology, J? Atheism isn’t just about “what caused the universe?” (To digress, the last I heard, Hawking’s no-boundary-condition idea was still a valid possibility; to me the question “what came before the big bang?” is about as meaningful as “what’s north of the north pole”.)

    Atheism is the lack of belief in gods. Not all gods are (posited to be) creator gods. At least some religious traditions have gods inhabiting an eternal universe, or a time-cyclic one. I (presumably other atheists too) don’t believe in those gods either.

  435. #435 Nick Gotts
    May 22, 2008

    “what’s north of the north pole” – MarkW

    Santa’s house, of course!

  436. #436 tony (not a vegan)
    May 22, 2008

    MarkW: You hit it on the head maybe we should hit J on the head ;) .

    Atheism is NOT about cosmology, except where it intersects with religious belief regarding ‘creator gods’.

    However, and I can only say this so many times before I really vent, I’m happy to be labelled ‘atheist’ at this current time because that immediately identifies me as being in opposition to the fucking insane Xian (and muslim and jewish and…) fundies.

    Like many atheists, I could care less what you believe in private and within your own circle of friends, What I very strongly object to is the incessent and omnipresent proselytizing (here in GA I need to pass three churches just to get to the grocery store, all with their own huge signage about ‘god’ and ‘mission fields’ and ‘jeebus loves you’!)

    But – and this is vitally important – I do not want those chuurches, or their congregations, to disappear! I would rather they weren’t there but I accept them as respresenting their choice. What I do not accept is their (Xian) demand to foist their particular mindset upon everyone else, nor their demand that others are not equally free to pursue their particular lifestyle choices. (Lots of examples, so I won’t pollute)

    So, J: Get the fuck off of the cosmology thing (on this thread). It may be interesting to you, but it’s a dead horse. I don’t object to that being the focus of your life. I do object to your constant whining and belittling of every other commenter here with regards to your particularly and spectacularly narrow mindset.

    JeffreyD said it best @ 429

    you are not arrogant, just mean spirited, intellectually and personally dishonest, full of yourself, far too concerned about the world finding out that you are a (supposed) godless atheist, and apparently blind to reason

    So please do what you continually say you’ll do, and fuck off. If you choose to stay, please find a different topic of conversation.

    Tony

  437. #437 windy
    May 22, 2008

    If you reread this paragraph, you will notice that RD seems to accept a possibilty of a superhuman designer who has evolved in a previous universe, but he immediately adds the unlikely abilities of reading our thoughts and omniscient advice to make it look as the Theist God that he wants to reject.

    Well geez, maybe because that’s what the book was about? I think a scientific experiment creating the universe is not a version of the God hypothesis. Now can we please move on?

    Of course Alhazen said this because he lived 1000 years ago, what else would you have expected?

    I think it’s better not to read some sort of premonitions about modern theories that have yet to be realized outside SF into his statements.

    About calling it God, I don’t know, I think there was an interesting discussion at Beyondbelief II about reinventing the sacred

    See, this is the part that I don’t get. What’s “sacred” about creating universes through experiment?

  438. #438 negentropyeater
    May 22, 2008

    Ok, we agree it’s not part of the God hypothesis as RD defines it (which wasn’t clear to me at first reading it).

    Sacred : dedicated or set apart for the service of the divine, highly valued and important.

    What I’m trying to get at is, if the masses consider the ability to create universes as a sign of the divine, and if this is what science, fundamental research, experimentation is leading us to, why be afraid of using the adjective sacred for science, when, we see so much disenchantment for science in general ?
    What are we afraid of ?
    We need to find ways to get people really interested in science again, that it can answer so many more questions and in a much more real and concrete way, than religion can.
    We need clubs, associations, places, people… Look at religion how they are organised : people go ounce a week to a church for nothing interesting for all their life. And on the other side, all we have to offer is 18.5 hours of biology between the ages of 14 and 16 (I’m talking averages of course)? It’s ridiculous, science and reason has so much more to tell, to explain, it is, so much more sacred.
    All of this, for me, is sacred. I’m not afraid of the word.

  439. #439 Tulse
    May 22, 2008

    if the masses consider the ability to create universes as a sign of the divine, and if this is what science, fundamental research, experimentation is leading us to, why be afraid of using the adjective sacred for science, when, we see so much disenchantment for science in general ?

    Because words have meaning. What you propose is no different from saying:

    if the masses consider the ability to create universes as a sign of magic, and if this is what science, fundamental research, experimentation is leading us to, why be afraid of using the adjective magic for science, when, we see so much disenchantment for science in general ?

  440. #440 windy
    May 22, 2008

    What I’m trying to get at is, if the masses consider the ability to create universes as a sign of the divine, and if this is what science, fundamental research, experimentation is leading us to, why be afraid of using the adjective sacred for science, when, we see so much disenchantment for science in general? What are we afraid of?

    While dazzling the masses worked in Foundation, I don’t think dishonesty is the way to go (trying to sneak in science by putting a ‘sacred’ cloak on it). And it has the ability to backfire hugely. Consider that the “masses” also consider the ability to create life a sign of divinity. If and when scientists do that (probably earlier than we reach the capacity to create universes), do you think anti-science people will say “oh wow, science can do sacred things too! I guess it’s not so bad after all!” or “See, we were right! Science is playing God! Vade retro, Satanas!”

    I’ll give you that your proposal is novel, but I think it’s also very naive and unrealistic.

  441. #441 windy
    May 22, 2008

    We need clubs, associations, places, people… Look at religion how they are organised : people go ounce a week to a church for nothing interesting for all their life. And on the other side, all we have to offer is 18.5 hours of biology between the ages of 14 and 16 (I’m talking averages of course)? It’s ridiculous, science and reason has so much more to tell, to explain, it is, so much more sacred. All of this, for me, is sacred. I’m not afraid of the word.

    Why would mumbo jumbo about creating universes get people more interested in biology?

  442. #442 tony (not a vegan)
    May 22, 2008

    Re: Science as sacred.

    While I think I understand where negentropy is going with this, I get the sense that the word is just too damn loaded with woo that it’s a losing proposition.

    We all have our’sacred cows’ – thoughts that we hold so dear that it’s near impossible to shake them loose and alter them. But that is the essense of science. shaking apart the sacred cows and discarding that which is wrong, keeping that which is right (and lambasting that which is ‘not even wrong’)

    Some thoughts are just to damn cool it’s hard not to feel inspired. When I think about relativity, or evolution, or NP probelms or whatever… I feel inspired by our ability to think these thoughts. Is that sacred? no. It’s just really really cool!

    Religion has haad such a stranglehold on intellectual and emotional language for so long it is really hard to discuss emotion and intellect without using ‘loaded’ words.

    But we need to try.

    So – I hear what you ‘fell’ – but sacred is NOT the right word to use. (IMVHO)

    Tony

  443. #443 windy
    May 22, 2008

    We all have our ‘sacred cows’ – thoughts that we hold so dear that it’s near impossible to shake them loose and alter them. But that is the essense of science. shaking apart the sacred cows and discarding that which is wrong

    Great point – so if we promote science by saying that “it will bring us closer to God by allowing us to create universes!” and some physicist later shows that it’s impossible, then what? “Whoops, scratch that, but here’s some other cool stuff we can tack the sacred label on!”

  444. #444 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    May 22, 2008

    Old, but left hanging:

    @ andyo:

    I am not a physicist either, but my understanding is that the Standard model and quantum mechanics in general doesn’t describe gravity at all.

    Well, Moses was discussing background independence, which is a problem for a more fundamental theory to reconcile. This more fundamental theory could be a quantum theory of gravity, such as string theory.

    On that topic, AFAIU string theory reconcile the problem by using a background as a scaffold. I.e. you assume one background that describes the current system, then change it as necessary. The physics, used in the solution process, is independent of it.

    Btw, gravitation gives an illustration of the issues with energy you discussed. General relativity admits AFAIU generally solutions without a global energy expression, instead they use a number of more or less compatible energy conditions to get the right solutions.

    Another view of such issues is that energy is a charge of a symmetry in time (invariance under time translation). So unless we understand time, which we don’t, we can claim that we don’t understand energy.

  445. #445 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    May 22, 2008

    I think a scientific experiment creating the universe is not a version of the God hypothesis.

    Moreover his argument works on the larger group of “creators” anyway.

    So while I can see that it is fascinating for a religious person to contemplate the difficulties we would have to distinguish between a near omnipotent natural designer and a near omnipotent supernatural designer, I don’t think it interests atheists as such.

    Except on the minor point that it is another reason why the later idea will remain unsupported.

  446. #446 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    May 22, 2008

    What I’m trying to get at is, if the masses consider the ability to create universes as a sign of the divine, and if this is what science, fundamental research, experimentation is leading us to, why be afraid of using the adjective sacred for science, when, we see so much disenchantment for science in general ?

    That is really funny – as I would tend to think that by that token we should ask ourselves, why be afraid of using the adjectives mundane, revisable, and potentially wrong for religious concepts?

    Which, as I understand it, is a far throw from “sacred”.

    Perhaps the Divide isn’t between humanistic and natural sciences, it may be between the religious mind and the skeptic mind. (Insofar either of these views represent one or another – nothing personal intended.)

  447. #447 Kseniya
    May 22, 2008

    The scientific method ought to be revered, but science as sacred? Surely we can find a better, less loaded word. :-)

  448. #448 tony (not a vegan)
    May 22, 2008

    Torbjörn Larsson, OM @ 446: using the adjectives mundane, revisable, and potentially wrong for religious concepts

    I don’t think mundane goes quite far enough in describing the sheer inanity of most religious concepts.

    tony

  449. #449 Brownian, OM
    May 22, 2008

    Some have suggested replacing ‘sacred’ with ‘numenal’, since the latter doesn’t carry have the religious connotations.

  450. #450 Brownian, OM
    May 22, 2008

    I found a post of Blake Stacey’s that referred to this thread that refers to the use of ‘numinous’ for atheists, rather than sacred, or god, to express the ‘awesomeness’ that many of us find in a secular universe.