Pharyngula

We happy hooligans

My brief summary of the position of apologists for religion, The Courtier’s Reply, continues to rankle the believers, and they continue to make responses that only make me laugh at their cluelessness. The standard rebuttal is to claim that I was making an argument in favor of ignorance in the face of theological scholarship, followed by a laundry list of esteemed theologians … but never, and I mean absolutely never, even the slightest attempt to address the core of my criticism — not once have they presented a solid, confirmable reason to believe in a deity.

Here’s the latest example, and it follows the formula perfectly. How dare Myers accuse Tillich and Buber and Bonhoeffer and Gandhi and Bishop Tutu and Piaget and a long set of dropped names of promoting false beliefs? Yet, as usual, he cannot bring himself to actually discuss the substance of the issue: where is the evidence for his god? Listing invisible flounces, transparent ruffles, and phantasmal frills is simply a confirmation of the validity of my parable.

And yes, I do accuse his honor roll of theological luminaries of perpetuating lies, of credulity, and often, of pettifogging rhetoric. When someone advances remarkable claims of remarkable phenomena, like N rays or cold fusion or polywater (or natural selection or chemiosmosis or endosymbiosis), we demand evidence and skeptical evaluation…but not for religion. God always gets a pass from the people who already believe. They claim the existence of the most powerful, all-pervasive force in the universe, yet will provide not a single shred of support. And worse, this bozo calls the demand for evidence “hooliganism”.

If that’s the case, I’m proud to be a hooligan.

Comments

  1. #1 Valhar2000
    May 28, 2008

    So am I.

  2. #2 MissPrism
    May 28, 2008

    point of info: Underverse says in comments that he’s an atheist, so this isn’t an instance of rankling the believers.

  3. #3 Lightnin
    May 28, 2008

    I am reminded of when Prof. Dawkins recently baffled John Humphrys by asking why he didn’t question peoples faith. They just don’t understand why anyone would question such an ingrained assumtion, and we should discuss the merits of said deity, not whether he/she/it actually exists.

    OT: PZ, you’re up at 6 AM? I didn’t realise the universe existed before 8.

  4. #4 Sigmund
    May 28, 2008

    Missprism, if you read the comment properly it could also mean that he is a supernatural being!
    “I would have to be playing pretty poor attention indeed not to realize that atheists don’t believe in supernatural beings, seeing as it’s right there in the name. And seeing how I am one.”
    If its true then its no wonder he’s annoyed!

  5. #5 Wayne Robinson
    May 28, 2008

    The Lout’s Complaint begins with a quote from that notorious review of “the God Delusion” in the “London Review of Books” by Terry Eagleton, which is notable for the fact that it spends 11 pages saying Richard Dawkins is wrong without actually saying why. That isn’t surprising because Terry Eagleton spent the first two paragraphs attacking Chris Hitchens in a review of 3 biographies of Gearge Orwell, none of which were actually written by the subject of his ire, and the relevance is still a mystery. I suspect, Christopher Hitchens might have put the extract from Karl Marx into the Portable Atheist” as a sop to Eggleton. Bluster seems to be the usual tactic of religious apologists.
    http://www.lrb.co.uk/v28/n20/print/eagl01_.html
    http://www.lrb.co.uk/v25/n12/eagl01_.html

  6. #6 Brian Coughlan
    May 28, 2008

    Yet, curiously, this particular blogger claims to be an atheist. In a response to a comment from Larry Moran, he notes that – There is an ambitious leap between not caring what someone else believes, or why, and ridiculing that belief at book length, based on a deeply impoverished understanding of that belief.

    How exactly is Dawkins doing this? I’ve read the book, I’m an ex-fundi, and my take is that Dawkins seems to have it exactly right.

    This seems a wierd version of “not my God”, especially odd given the blogger claims to be an atheist. Maybe we should categorise the objection as “Not their God”? I’d be interested to know which version of God he thinks might be valid, and above all WHY? Bonhoeffers, Tutus, Pat Robinsons? If it isn’t a version of God he is defending, but something else, what is it exactly?

    I have yet to find a God (or something as weak as mere religious behaviour) clearly and cogently defined, I couldn’t give very good reasons for rejecting. In principle the entire business boils down to this, which is why the more intelligent theists have to obfuscate, what is this guys excuse?

  7. #7 Dana Hunter
    May 28, 2008

    Just to be clear: as a writer, and a writer of Speculative Fiction at that, I place a pretty hefty value on imagination. Religious moderates are certainly more welcome in my cantina than frothing fundies, and I enjoy mytical stories. So I have a bit more tolerance and enjoyment of such things than PZ seems to. And I have a squishy spot for the current Dalai Lama I can’t shake: but it’s not because of his religion. It’s because he seems to be a genuinely kind, decent and caring human being.

    All of that said… PZ’s got a lot more courage and integrity than these other folks seem to have. None of them seem capable of confronting the “why” of religion’s free pass. If it’s truly of use, there’ll be proof for it. If there’s not, too bad. Why does it deserve special treatment? Why this exalted place?

    And they seem to be conflating things here. You notice that they’re shading into “PZ hates literature and art, too!” Maybe I’m missing the point, PZ, and you can correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t ever get the sense that you would claim that art or literature have no value. But they’d come under the same fire as religion if someone held up, say, a copy of Danielle Steele’s latest travesty and proclaimed it to be literal truth (or, even if not literal truth, a subjective truth everyone should be required to live by).

    There’s nothing wrong with loving myth. There’s nothing wrong with being inspired by it (with exceptions such as “inspired me to become a racist dickweed”). But claiming it is truth, and that its truth and value can’t be questioned and that it’s not required to present evidence for its claims – that’s very wrong indeed.

  8. #8 sailor
    May 28, 2008

    But PZ you completely do not understand how good it feels to believe in those new clothes. How comforting it is to have a well-dressed leader sartorially elegant enough to blind his opponents. It can make makes you treat your wife better and be more loving with your kids. So when at last you actually manage to see those clothes, and feel the benefits such seeing confers, the new clothes take on a level of undeniable personal reality. They exist on a plane outside of science and in the realm of appreciation, psychology and art. It is hard not to feel sorry for those that are unable to make the leap and see them. It is like they live in one dimension less.

  9. #9 Richard Harris
    May 28, 2008

    Warfare, & the desire for culture, spread the gods of the Mesopotamians, Babylonians, Assyrians, etc, throughout the Middle East in ancient times.

    The Hebrews, wandering through this region & Egypt too, saw many cultures with gods ruling societies as if they (the gods) actually lived amongst the people, or the priests & rulers, anyway.

    So the Hebrews, putting 2 & 2 together, ended up with just the one god, & its been passed on to our society. We’ve inherited a version of the feckin’ nonsense. It’s feckin’ obvious that’s what happened. Why can’t the religious see it? Well, apparently, many humans might be genitically predisposed towards religious belief. There’s not much hope for the feckin’ edjits then, (admittedly, genes are not destiny), but PZ & the other radical antitheists will do their best to help them.

  10. #10 Akheloios
    May 28, 2008

    The fact that most people willingly submit to apparent authority never ceases to amaze me.

    People listen to quacks to be told what to pills to take, listen to faux news to be told what to think, and bow before priests to be told what to believe, all without asking even once to be shown the evidence or to hold a discussion into the expected outcomes and falsifiability of the rubbish they hear.

  11. #11 Tom Morris
    May 28, 2008

    That’s jolly silly. Within philosophy of religion, we don’t have a tremendous amount of time for waffly theologians either, but that doesn’t make it into ignorance – it just makes it a particular, delimited field of knowledge. It’s jolly interesting to read the writings of theologians of ages gone by, but they do not provide any help in finding the truth of the matter, but provide interpretation of sacred texts that are useful in guiding those who already agree.

    Similarly, political philosophy does not spend a lot of time worrying about the minutiae of tax law – it’s more concerned with whether political systems, rights, and so on, can be justified. To criticise it because it does not take account of some particular lawyer is to miss the point.

    In these times, intellectual disciplines have boundaries. I guess denying this fact, and requiring anyone who wants to make any comment to have spent a lifetime reading a bunch of things that are off-topic is a good rhetorical move. It convinces not very bright people, at least, which makes it perfect for newspaper columnists.

  12. #12 infidel.michael
    May 28, 2008

    How can we know that the Emperor is naked? Just ask those who claim to see the clothes to describe them (color, cut, etc)!
    1. If the emperor is wearing something, you’ll get the same answer from independent people.
    2. If the emperor is naked, you’ll get lot of different answers and the same answer will persist in groups of related people, e.g. your parents/friends tell you the color and you believe them, because you see nothing.

    From these answers we can conclude whether people describe the clothes as they see them, or they’re just describe them as they were told and see nothing.

    It’s not hard to see how this applies to religion.

  13. #13 True Bob
    May 28, 2008

    PZ, I never figured you for the soccer maniac, but if it’s a hooligan you’ll be, well that’s your choice.

    BTW, somewhere along the way, I forgot that PZ invented the Courtier’s Reply. Thanks for doing so, it really does take that next step.

  14. #14 Ian
    May 28, 2008

    We few. We happy few. We band of well-clothed barbarians….

  15. #15 Lightnin
    May 28, 2008

    How can we know that the Emperor is naked? Just ask those who claim to see the clothes to describe them (color, cut, etc)!

    No no no, as my creative reading and writing teacher told me, there is no absolute truth. Just because people have different even contradictory experiences reguarding how they see the Emperors clothes, doesn’t mean they’re wrong, it just means they’re seeing the same truth-in different ways.

    Genesis 1 says that God created man and woman on the sixth day.

    Genesis 2 says that God created man, he piddled around for a bit, is unable to get into a worthwhile relationship with his border collie, so God creates woman.

    Now don’t get me wrong, both of these accounts are true, they’re just different kinds of truth.

  16. #16 jfatz
    May 28, 2008

    I always hear Bill Hicks’ voice in the back of my mind when that word is used…

  17. #17 tsig
    May 28, 2008

    Just another courtier who doesn’t know it. Seems like he wants to have a religion without god but with theologians.

  18. #18 TheIntentionalist
    May 28, 2008

    I don’t believe this (rhetorical tricks) to be the intent of many of the criticisms. As I have read the criticisms, they are more concerned about Dawkins not addressing the ‘stronger’ cases for god (supposedly developed in the more sophisticated theological literature), and rather choosing a ‘weaker’ case. Then when Dawkins dismantles the weaker case, applies it across the board.

    If this is the case, then the Courtier’s Reply doesn’t apply.

    Granted, as I understand Dawkins intent, I believe his goal was to address the god of the ‘common people.’ Hence, the objections are mute. In which case, I would suggest a better line of attack for them would be to show the god of the common people isn’t consistent with the god Dawkins is addressing.

  19. #19 mikespeir
    May 28, 2008

    It’s true that many of these great theologians were brilliant. But that doesn’t make them right. It’s all too obvious that they often built mighty architectural wonders to hide the fact that there was no foundation underneath.

  20. #20 SteveWH
    May 28, 2008

    Maybe it’s just me, but that response to the Courtier’s Reply seems to be itself an instance of the Courtier’s Reply.

  21. #21 SC
    May 28, 2008

    Hooliganism with a capital H! That’s really bad!

    This does seem to be a new twist on the Courtier’s Reply, as it appears to celebrate primarily the vestments of the courtier class itself. Points for originality.

    But this is my favorite part:

    *I’m aware I haven’t named a single woman in my lists of philosophers and scientists. That’s partly because I want to give Mary Midgley a holiday from being my go-to philosopher (but you should all still read her), and partly because of a semi-conscious sexist bias I intend to redress in a future revision of this post.

    After presenting a list that includes Derrida and Postman while neglecting Simone Weil. Good luck with that revision, pal.

  22. #22 Dana Hunter
    May 28, 2008

    Good point, SteveWH.

  23. #23 Walton
    May 28, 2008

    Reading both the underverse blog post and Prof Myers’ response, I can see both sides of the argument here.

    On the one hand, I do not blame you (atheists/agnostics) for searching for solid and convincing evidence. This is a human instinct, particularly for those whose education has been in mathematics, logic and the sciences; you look for proof. I don’t condemn that. I also agree that an appeal to authority is not helpful; citing lists of distinguished theologians and great religious figures, and saying “How can you think these people were wrong?”, is not an argument but a logical fallacy.

    On the other hand, what I’ve been arguing on other threads is that searching for solid evidence in favour of God is not the right approach. To an extent, creationists and fundamentalists bring this on themselves; through their endorsement of biblical inerrancy as regards natural history, they try to reduce God to a material scientific agent, whose existence can be determined from scientific testing and empirical evidence. In a sense, they have allowed atheists to define the parameters of the debate. If this is the debate – “can we determine from scientific, empirical proof that there is a God who created the universe?” and “is the Bible an accurate textbook of natural and geological history?” – then you are quite right to be atheists, because such a God quite clearly does not exist. “God theory” is not a scientific theory (nor is “intelligent design”, which amounts to the same thing); its proponents effectively bury their heads in the sand. But I am arguing that you are asking the wrong question.

    Rather, vague and wishy-washy as it may sound, religion and science do deal with different types of “truth”. Science can make clear to us how the universe took on its present physical form; the gaps in our knowledge, which are many, may well be filled in the future by the advancement of science. But it cannot explain why we are here, what our purpose is, and why a universe capable of sustaining life came to be. You cannot apply the scientific method to these questions, because they are intrinsically beyond the scope of empirical evidence.

    There is no overwhelming scientific proof, nor will there ever be, for belief in the Judeo-Christian God or in any other benevolent Creator. Seeking for it is like trying to identify “love” or “beauty” or “happiness” or “the soul” using scientific investigative methods.

    As regards the exhortation to atheists to read up on Christian and Jewish theology: I do realise that theology may, to those who disbelieve in a Creator on basic philosophical grounds, appear to be on a par with “fairy studies”. But it is still beneficial in the avoidance of straw man arguments. Many of the philosophical problems of belief in a deity have been addressed by religious writers and thinkers through the ages. Whether you find their solutions convincing is, of course, up to you – but that’s no reason not to read them. Theology and philosophy are not valueless fields just because they don’t deal with testable, falsifiable scientific facts.

  24. #24 tsig
    May 28, 2008

    You know Walton, if you wave those arms much faster you might just takeoff and fly around the room.

    Maybe you could just show us some small proof of god. Just a crumb from the mighty and venerable table of theology.

    The straw man will show you out, thanks.

  25. #25 Logicel
    May 28, 2008

    Walton writes: But it cannot explain why we are here, what our purpose is, and why a universe capable of sustaining life came to be.
    ______

    But that is the very problem with the God Hypothesis–it does not answer the why questions either!!! So people are mucking around with a non-evidential belief system with all the dangers such an approach implies to not even get an satisfying answer.

    The non-overlapping magisteria has been debunked.

    Who made God? God answers nothing. It has just been the Courtier’s reply that has allowed people to hide that fact. If there is any chance of us ever getting an answer to the why questions, it will be because of science, not because of religion because religion has no answer but one that causes many more problems that it answers.

  26. #26 Marcus Ranum
    May 28, 2008

    The fact that most people willingly submit to apparent authority never ceases to amaze me.

    Why? We see that many animal species have herd behaviors, built-in submission to dominance displays, etc. Why do we overlook the obvious notion that there is a “human nature” and that we have instinctive behaviors like “believing things people say with enough conviction”?

  27. #27 SC
    May 28, 2008

    Walton,

    It’s strange that, in a paragraph ostensibly about avoiding strawmen, you would suggest that people here are arguing that philosophy is a valueless field.

    That said, well, there’s philosophy and there’s philosophy. As Peter Kropotkin explained to Charles Eliot Norton in 1897, “Your metaphysician is a blind man hunting in a dark room for a black hat which does not exist.”

  28. #28 Marcus Ranum
    May 28, 2008

    Walton writes:
    Rather, vague and wishy-washy as it may sound, religion and science do deal with different types of “truth”.

    Yeah, religion deals with the “made up” kind of “truth”

  29. #29 inkadu
    May 28, 2008

    I am also proud to be a hooligan.

    Then again, I would be equally as proud to be “a puzzled dog in a Gary Larson cartoon.”

  30. #30 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    May 28, 2008

    In a sense, they have allowed atheists to define the parameters of the debate. If this is the debate – “can we determine from scientific, empirical proof that there is a God who created the universe?” and “is the Bible an accurate textbook of natural and geological history?” – then you are quite right to be atheists, because such a God quite clearly does not exist.

    You’ve got it backwards, the creationists defined the argument when they started to systematically deny hard evidence collected by scientists for theories such as evolution. As more discoveries were made and research done, the louder the creationists screams about science being anti-god became. Science however continues to provide hard data and explanations for said data where religion hasn’t provide any reasonable examples of either.

  31. #31 True Bob
    May 28, 2008

    Walton,

    I think you are mistaken. You posit that science searches for the “how” and religion searches for “why”. Well, the “how question” arises from the fact that we are here, we do exist, and we are curious, so we look into it – what is this, how did it gert here, etc.. The “why question” comes about because…why? Because someone wants a reason to drive the “how question”, not satisfied with merely existing. A more interesting question to me than “why exist?” would be “why do people desire an external purpose to existence?”.

    Similarly, I don’t see a need to delve into the arguments of the greatest theological writer/analyst/navel-gazer, when the theological arguments have to come after agreement on existence of a god. Then someone needs to flesh out that god. Too bad all the source material is demonstrably false.

  32. #32 MartinDH
    May 28, 2008

    Walton (#23):
    Re: “Why” questions

    You cannot apply the scientific method to these questions, because they are intrinsically beyond the scope of empirical evidence.

    Neither can you apply any other method. Oh, theologians and other religionists might claim to have “why” answers…but they usually differ and are probably wrong (but there exists no tests to distinguish between “answers”).

    For the answer to these “why” questions I think the answers “42”, “mu”, and “shit happens” are sufficient (but unsatisfying…but that’s not the universe’s problem)

    Martin

  33. #33 Scott D.
    May 28, 2008

    @ #23
    “Seeking for it is like trying to identify “love” or “beauty” or “happiness” or “the soul” using scientific investigative methods.”

    Scientists do try to identify all those things, and have been successful, to an extent, with everything but the soul. The problem with discovering the soul is a lack of a clear definition of soul, and that all the studies that seek to discover a soul have failed. Which leads to the conclusion that the soul does not exist.

    I don’t know the studies off hand, but take a look through some neurology literature and you’ll stumble upon it.

  34. #34 Pat
    May 28, 2008

    Well, can you blame them for calling atheist hooligans? I mean, murder and such probably falls under hooliganism, and as we know, lack of religiosity predicts all sorts of behaviors.

  35. #35 Salt
    May 28, 2008

    the core of my criticism — not once have they presented a solid, confirmable reason to believe in a deity. – PZ

    Just because someone is paranoid doesn’t mean that no one is out to get them.

  36. #36 MAJeff, OM
    May 28, 2008

    There is no larger “why.” We produce the question “why?” because we have these oversized brains that have allowed us to develop language and consciousness and questions. I really think the best line about this comes from Angels in America. This is Prior Walter, a gay man with AIDS, the central character, and a “modern prophet.”:

    I want more life. I can’t help myself. I do

    I’ve lived through such terrible times, and there are people who live through much worse, but…You see them living anyway.

    When they’re more spirit than body, more sores than skin, when they’re burned and in agony, when flies lay eggs in the corners of the eyes of their children, they live. Death usually has to take life away. I don’t know if that’s just the animal. I don’t know if it’s not braver to die. But I recognize the habit. The addiction to being alive. We live past hope. If I can find hope anywhere, that’s it, that’s the best I can do. It’s so much not enough, so inadequate but….Bless me anyway. I want more life.

    Living itself is the why. It may not always be enough, but in the amazing conversation with a friend, in the meal that makes you pause because your entire mouth is alive, in the song that comes on and brings you to tears, in the pain of losing a loved one, in the ecstasy of a great orgasm, in the playing with a pet….That’s all you get. Live it.

  37. #37 Nick Gotts
    May 28, 2008

    Walton@23: But it cannot explain why we are here, what our purpose is, and why a universe capable of sustaining life came to be. You cannot apply the scientific method to these questions, because they are intrinsically beyond the scope of empirical evidence.

    Let’s take your questions one at a time:
    1) “Why we are here.” The question is underspecified. It could mean either “What chain of events caused us to be here?” (clearly a scientific question) or “What purpose were we put here to serve?”, to which the atheist’s answer is “None”. The question’s supposed profundity comes, I think, from this ambiguity.
    2) “What our purpose is”. Again, apparent profundity from ambiguity. If we take it to mean, for each of us individually, what our purpose is, then everyone must answer for themselves, and there is no reason to expect agreement. I would certainly refuse to specify a single purpose – I have lots of different purposes, among them to stay alive, to enjoy myself, to learn, to look after my family, to work toward a fair and sustainable human civilisation. If it does not mean that, the question is really much the same as (1), and again the atheist’s answer would be “none”. Even if it should be the case that we were in some sense caused to be by some powerful being(s), natural or supernatural, why should we adopt their purposes as our own?
    (3) “Why a universe capable of sustaining life came to be?” Why should there be any such reason? It may simply be a fact that such a universe exists (incidentally, I think “came to be” contains an implied assumption that time pre-existed the physical universe, which may not be so). In any case, if you answer “Because a benevolent creator chose the universal constants carefully”, we can simply ask “Why does such a creator exist?” Unless you are going to argue that the ontological argument is sound (i.e. that God must logically exist), assuming a creator gains you nothing in terms of explanation, at the cost of adding an additional entity to your theory of the universe. If you are going to argue this, the cosmological argument is unnecessary anyway.

    There is no overwhelming scientific proof, nor will there ever be, for belief in the Judeo-Christian God or in any other benevolent Creator.
    Why not? How about a benevolent creator which really wanted us to know about it? Why not just stamp the Canadian Shield “JHWH & Son & Holy Spirit, Heaven: Universe-makers to the gentry since 4004 BC” – in Hebrew, presumably. Or encode the message in the patterns the stars make, or in the “junk” DNA of Drosophila melanogaster? Believers are forced to resort to a God who is not only omnipotent, but extremely shy, carefully avoiding giving us any real evidence if its existence.

    Many of the philosophical problems of belief in a deity have been addressed by religious writers and thinkers through the ages.
    An undergrad philosophy of religion course was quite enough to show me that the “Problem of Evil” has never been satisfactorily addressed. Until it has been, I see no reason to use my limited time reading theology rather than science, maths, philosophy, literature and history.

  38. #38 MikeD
    May 28, 2008

    Rather, vague and wishy-washy as it may sound, religion and science do deal with different types of “truth”. Science can make clear to us how the universe took on its present physical form; the gaps in our knowledge, which are many, may well be filled in the future by the advancement of science. But it cannot explain why we are here, what our purpose is, and why a universe capable of sustaining life came to be. You cannot apply the scientific method to these questions, because they are intrinsically beyond the scope of empirical evidence.

    Walton, that’s an interesting assertion. Clearly, the scientific method is capable of answer “why” questions. Ask a physicist “Why is the sky blue?”

    Sometimes the answer which science provides to the “why” questions is a bit more brusque, of course. It frequently goes along the lines of:

    Q: Why can unicorns only be ridden by virgins?
    A: It is meaningless to ask about the properties of unicorns when there is no evidence that they exist.

  39. #39 Blake Stacey
    May 28, 2008

    Mary Midgley is his “go-to philosopher”? Hrraf.

  40. #40 Dana Hunter
    May 28, 2008

    @32 – I don’t know, Martin. I’ve found “mu” to be a deeply satisfying answer, myself. Far more satisfying that all of the desperate theology of sophisticated people trying frantically to justify their belief in a fairy tale.

    @23: Walton, I’m sorry, but I just can’t buy it. You give me no reason to accept your assertation that searching for evidence in favor of God is the wrong approach. Why is that? Isn’t it because that evidence is nowhere to be found? It’s a cheap way of evading the question. It’s just another attempt to shut critical inquiry down.

    I used to believe that there was a truth science could touch and a truth science couldn’t touch, but I don’t believe that anymore. I’ve seen too many things previously “unknowable” to science become thoroughly known by it. I no longer believe there’s any realm – including love, beauty, and all that rot – that science won’t someday be able to investigate as thoroughly as it does stars and planets and the physiology of you and me. Neuroscience is moving into territory that was previously considered completely beyond science’s ability to comprehend.

    What I don’t believe is that science will ever be able to prove the independent existence of an omniscient, omnipotent God. But we agree there for different reasons. You would argue that this is because such a god is beyond science. I would argue it’s because such a god is no more objectively real than my Unicorns. I wouldn’t go round telling people they must believe in my Unicorns or be condemned. And it wouldn’t matter how many people wrote learned treatises on their reality and truth – they remain fiction, and thus science will never prove them.

    Heh. Unless, of course, quantum physics gives me a shock and discovers the buggers were hiding out in a parallel universe all this time, laughing their bloody arses off at us all. ;-) But they remain fictional until proven otherwise, and so does God.

  41. #41 Ric
    May 28, 2008

    Yes indeed, the “Lout’s reply” is simply another iteration of the Courtier’s Reply. It is not at all convincing.

  42. #42 SC
    May 28, 2008

    A cosmos supposedly created for our emergence sure took a while to get around to us:

    http://youtube.com/watch?v=g2qezQzfgIY

  43. #43 doubtingfoo
    May 28, 2008

    Dude…dangling genitalia…if I were drinking milk it would be up my nose right now.

  44. #44 Colugo
    May 28, 2008

    Hooligans, eh – how about the undead? Check out this cover of a fundamentalist Christian humor magazine, featuring famous atheists as ghouls.
    http://www.wittenburgdoor.com/current-issue

  45. #45 Pete M.
    May 28, 2008

    Walton @ 23: please don’t conflate theology with philosophy. I see this all too often, and they are not the same.

  46. #46 Iain Walker
    May 28, 2008

    Walton (Comment #23):

    But it [science] cannot explain why we are here, what our purpose is, and why a universe capable of sustaining life came to be.

    Well, why we are here is easily answered at an individual level in terms of biological reproduction and the intentions and actions of our parents, and at a species level by evolutionary biology. Determining why a universe capable of sustaining life came to be is a question for the science of cosmology. These aren’t questions outside the preview of empirical investigation.

    Distinguishing between scientific “how” questions and non-scientific “why” questions is artificial and for the most part irrelevant, since in most cases the distinction is really between two ways of grammatically framing the same question. Most “how” questions can also be rephrased as “why” questions, and vice-versa. A more meaningful distinction would be between questions which ask for explanation in terms of causes, and those that ask for explanation in terms of the intentions and reasoning of one or more agents. But the second type of question presupposes that we already have answers to certain questions of the first type, since there’s no point is asking for an intentional explanation of something unless you have already have grounds to suppose that an agent of some sort is actually involved.

    What our purpose is, is (I agree) not a scientific question. However, without a fair amount of explanation and elaboration, it’s not clear what the question actually is. Quite apart from anything else, purpose needs to be distinguished from mere function. The former is something that has to be assigned by an agent, while the latter is not. Purpose is a matter of the attitudes that agents adopt in framing goals and adapting means to ends. Function is a empirical matter of how parts interact with the rest of a system, or how entities interact with their environment.

    Human beings themselves are agents who can assign purpose to things, including their own lives. Purpose, in short, is not something we have to look for outside ourselves. If, regardless, you still want to ask for purposes outside ourselves, then this presupposes an external agency that either brought us into existence or has tried to shape or influence us in the pursuit of goals of its own. In which case, it’s up to you to provide reasons for supposing this to be true.

    Consequently, the question “What is our purpose?” is either a poorly-framed attempt to ask “What should our purpose be?” (a question that religion has no exclusive claim to answer), or it presupposes theism or something similar. If the latter, then the validity of the question depends on whether theism is true. However, even if we were to determine that a God or something similar created or shaped us for a purpose of its own, this does not answer the question “What should our purpose be?” It’s still up to us to decide whether we want to go along with the goals of our hypothetical creator, or to seek fulfillment on our own terms.

    Gould’s concept of science and religion as non-overlapping magisteria is usually criticised on the grounds that it is an ideal, rather than an accurate description of how science and religion are (for the most part) actually practiced. But it’s also far from clear that religion constitutes a magisterium at all, i.e., that it constitutes a well-defined domain to which it is appropriate to refer questions of a particular type. Seems to me that what religion does is give inadequate answers to poorly-framed questions, questions which when better framed do not require religion to answer them at all.

  47. #47 Janine ID
    May 28, 2008

    What does one have to do to be labeled as a scallywag?

  48. #48 Carpworld
    May 28, 2008

    “There is no overwhelming scientific proof, nor will there ever be, for belief in the teapot or in any other benevolent crockery. Seeking for it is like trying to identify “love” or “beauty” or “happiness” or “the soul” using scientific investigative methods.”

    Which is why i don’t bother studying the orbital dynamics of pottery in order to understand the universe.

  49. #49 Walton
    May 28, 2008

    I’ve had a flood of responses, not all of which I can even try to answer now. I will briefly respond to Nick Gotts at #37.

    Why not just stamp the Canadian Shield “JHWH & Son & Holy Spirit, Heaven: Universe-makers to the gentry since 4004 BC” – in Hebrew, presumably. Or encode the message in the patterns the stars make, or in the “junk” DNA of Drosophila melanogaster? Believers are forced to resort to a God who is not only omnipotent, but extremely shy, carefully avoiding giving us any real evidence if its existence. – The traditional Judeo-Christian answer is that if God were to do that, there would be no point in faith; the existence of God would be obvious, and human beings would not be faced with the choice of whether or not to believe. Indeed, this argument also seeks to address many of the other arguments brought up above; if God were to provide us with any empirical, scientific proof of his existence, the need for faith would be removed. Faith consists in believing in something without any solid evidence for it. If there is solid evidence, it ceases to be a leap of faith and becomes mere rational conjecture based on observable evidence.

    At the same time, though, an intelligent and intellectually honest person cannot be expected to ignore evidence in favour of blind faith. Thus, while I am not trying to prove the existence of God through evidence, logic or science, because it can’t be done, I am trying to demonstrate that as I understand it, evidence, logic and science do not contradict the notion of God or render it an impossibility.

  50. #50 MAJeff, OM
    May 28, 2008

    an intelligent and intellectually honest person cannot be expected to ignore evidence in favour of blind faith.

    Wow. Just wow.

  51. #51 SC
    May 28, 2008

    Faith consists in believing in something without any solid evidence for it.

    faith = superstition

  52. #52 Walton
    May 28, 2008

    Sorry, that was a grammatical ambiguity. I meant “an intelligent and intellectually honest person cannot be expected to ignore evidence and choose blind faith instead”. I didn’t mean that there is “evidence in favour of blind faith”; that would be oxymoronic.

  53. #53 Walton
    May 28, 2008

    (My post #52 above was a reply to MAJeff at #50. It was only when he highlighted the sentence that I realised it could be read in a way I didn’t intend. Sorry for any misunderstanding.)

  54. #54 uncle noel
    May 28, 2008

    “But they remain fictional until proven otherwise, and so does God.”

    Unicorns are fictional because they are from fiction. If they existed and we didn’t know about them, they most certainly would not be fictional! Were atoms fictional before they were discovered? Before Dalton, most scientists believed so. To claim that it is a fact that a thing does not exist because you do not see evidence for it is simply arrogant; what if someone else sees evidence that you do not or cannot see? I’m not arguing in favor of God or religion, just clear thinking: you cannot prove a negative. You can invoke Occam’s razor, but that doesn’t prove your position to someone who sees the evidence differently. Some people see their own experiences as evidence for the existence of God. We science types know how unreliable this kind of evidence is, but that doesn’t actually prove anything. Walton (#23), is at least mostly right on every point he makes, but many of you have misinterpreted his words. As far as organized religion goes, PZ is right on: it is corrupt and teaches people to be as thoughtless as sheep.

  55. #55 MAJeff, OM
    May 28, 2008

    I appreciate the clarification. However, what you’re doing is this.

    1. Claim there is a diety.
    2. Exempt that deity from any evidential standard for existence. Claim it is out of bounds of absolutely everything while simultaneously being in everything.
    3. Say that since it’s outside of everything, you can’t prove its nonexistence.
    4. Claim the failure to prove non-existence is equivalent to existence–or at least that it should be treated that way.
    5. Exempt yourself from any usual standards that say, “you’re the one positing the existence of something, so the onus is on you to demonstrate that existence,” by returning to step two.
    6. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

    What a useless exercise.

  56. #56 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    May 28, 2008

    At the same time, though, an intelligent and intellectually honest person cannot be expected to ignore evidence in favour of blind faith.

    /spit take

    HUwahhhh?

    Big brother representative: Now, Mr. Simpson, may I ask why you’re here?

    Homer’s brain: Don’t say revenge. Don’t say revenge.

    Homer: Ummm… revenge?

    Homer’s brain: Okay, that’s it. I’m outta here. (step step step step step…slam)

  57. #57 Beowulff
    May 28, 2008

    I like Larry Morgan’s response that was just released from moderation. “Thingyness” is now my word for the day :)

  58. #58 True Bob
    May 28, 2008

    Walton

    Thus, while I am not trying to prove the existence of God through evidence, logic or science, because it can’t be done, I am trying to demonstrate that as I understand it, evidence, logic and science do not contradict the notion of God or render it an impossibility.

    Then what point is there in having a god? Can’t touch, feel, taste, smell, hear, see your god, but you want us to believe in it.

    And what point is served? How do you know if your god is happy, sad, irritated, a hooligan, uncaring, malevolent, living in bliss on Omicron Persei 8, etc? You don’t, you are guessing (sans evidence) or (more likely) following someone else’s instructions, without knowing why you do these things.

    Science doesn’t have to render any gods impossible, because there is nothing that indicates a need for any god or prime mover or whatever the Hel you want to call it. Where’s your god now? Everywhere and nowhere, silently loud, circularly square, telling nobody what it wants. There’s your purpose – guess at a master purpose and act goofy for it, with zero feedback as to the correctness of your actions and assumptions.

  59. #59 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    May 28, 2008

    Sorry, that was a grammatical ambiguity. I meant “an intelligent and intellectually honest person cannot be expected to ignore evidence and choose blind faith instead”. I didn’t mean that there is “evidence in favour of blind faith”; that would be oxymoronic.

    Whew!

  60. #60 Ouchimoo
    May 28, 2008

    “To Myers, non-rational is synonymous with irrational”
    (HOW DARE YOU THINK THAT WAY!??!)

    ROLF! I have to figure out how to use this phrase in everyday life.

  61. #61 Tulse
    May 28, 2008

    The traditional Judeo-Christian answer is that if God were to do that, there would be no point in faith; the existence of God would be obvious, and human beings would not be faced with the choice of whether or not to believe.

    …which is a lousy response. The whole “free will” and “choice” argument is ludicrous given the stakes, which is the possibility of torture for all eternity. Would you teach your child about not putting their hand on the stove by leaving cryptic references to heat in their school library, and hope that their “free will” would come across them and understand them correctly? Would you tell your child “the street is a dangerous place to play, but hey, it’s your choice whether you do or not, as I wouldn’t want to interfere with your free will”? Would you say “you know, getting vaccinated against potentially fatal childhood diseases is a good idea, but I’ll let you work out for yourself whether you go to the doctor”? What kind of horrible parent wouldn’t ensure that their children don’t harm themselves in these ways?

    And before you argue that we aren’t children, that we are rational and can make appropriate decisions, we surely don’t have the understanding and capacities attributed to our “parent”, god, whose ways we are constantly told are “mysterious” and “beyond human kenning”.

    Now, admittedly, this argument doesn’t rule out the existence of a god, it just argues that any such god must be a right bastard.

  62. #62 Colugo
    May 28, 2008

    MAJeff: “4. Claim the failure to prove non-existence is equivalent to existence–or at least that it should be treated that way.”

    Indeed, that is the key fallacy that Walton is making. If lack of absolute certainty about nonexistence is equivalent to existence, then by implication we must accept Polytheistic Solipsism. But PS is absurd.

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

  63. #63 Notkieran
    May 28, 2008

    Tulse @ #61:

    >Now, admittedly, this argument doesn’t rule out the existence of a god, it just argues that any such god must be a right bastard.

    Given that a lot of people try to argue that we are obligated to worship god because he loves us, I am tempted to suggest that the ways he screws us over more implies that he lusts after us.

  64. #64 Walton
    May 28, 2008

    To MAJeff at #55. You would be right if I were trying to prove the existence of God. But you misunderstand the point of the exercise.

    The claim I am making, from a logical and philosophical point of view, is not the strong claim that there is a deity, but the much weaker claim that there may be a deity – i.e. that it is not impossible or implausible that a deity exists.

    Claim the failure to prove non-existence is equivalent to existence–or at least that it should be treated that way. – No, I’m not claiming that at all. It would be a logical fallacy. But the failure to prove non-existence is equivalent to showing that there is a possibility of existence, which is all I am trying to show through reason and evidence.

    That is where the first part of this argument ends – by establishing that it is possible that there is a God. This is all that can be proved by logic, reason and evidence.

    The second part is this: it is traditional Judeo-Christian teaching that God does not provide empirical evidence of his existence because this would eliminate the need for faith. Therefore, this is the point where reason ends and faith begins.

    In short, therefore, we can use reason and logic to reach the conclusion that God may exist. The further leap from “God may exist” to “God does exist” is based entirely on faith, not reason or logic. Whether or not to have that faith is a personal choice, and cannot be analysed according to objective, rational criteria.

    Basically, we are all presented with the same set of facts and the same principles of logical reasoning. We can all conclude the same thing from those: that they are inconclusive. God may exist, or he may not. Anything in the material world attributed to God can be explained away through natural factors, but whether to prefer the natural or the supernatural explanation is a personal choice. This situation is exactly in accord with religious teaching; because the basis of religion is that each human being has a choice, to believe or not believe.

  65. #65 Iain Walker
    May 28, 2008

    Walton (Comment #49):

    The traditional Judeo-Christian answer is that if God were to do that, there would be no point in faith; the existence of God would be obvious, and human beings would not be faced with the choice of whether or not to believe. Indeed, this argument also seeks to address many of the other arguments brought up above; if God were to provide us with any empirical, scientific proof of his existence, the need for faith would be removed.

    This raises the question – what’s so great about faith? Specifically, why should the question of whether or not God actually exists have to depend on faith? If it’s got something to do with free will, then even if we have incontrovertible evidence of God’s existence, there’s still ample room for freedom of choice in how we decide to respond to this fact, and whether or not we choose to live our lives the way God wants us to. In other words, there’s still plenty of room for the exercise of voluntary faith even if the existence of God is certain.

    It looks rather as if there’s some confusion going on between believing (or not) that God exists, and believing in God (in the sense of trusting or committing to God). Believing in the first sense does not entail the latter.

    To illustrate: I accept as a fact that Queen Elizabeth II exists and is the head of state of the country in which I live. That does not make me a monarchist.

  66. #66 David Utidjian
    May 28, 2008

    I don’t have time right now to read through all the posts before mine (budget crunch time) so I apologize if this has already been brought up.

    It appears to me, as an atheist, that there is certainly a very large set of piles of clothing for the emperor. The problem is that I don’t believe there is an emperor to clothe. To put it simply… the “clothes don’t make the man” if there is no man (or deity) to clothe in the first place. All we have are these piles of clothes and philosophical mumbo-jumbo about something that doesn’t even exist. No matter how nicely arranged and styled all this clothing is… we still don’t even have a mannequin to dress up with it.

    -DU-

  67. #67 MAJeff, OM
    May 28, 2008

    Posted by: Walton | May 28, 2008 10:11 AM

    There’s no there there.

  68. #68 Janine ID
    May 28, 2008

    The second part is this: it is traditional Judeo-Christian teaching that God does not provide empirical evidence of his existence because this would eliminate the need for faith. Therefore, this is the point where reason ends and faith begins.

    Walton

    That is the sticking point. ‘Believe it because I say so but I will not reveal myself’ is just is not a satisfactory reason to accept a deity.

  69. #69 Bob
    May 28, 2008

    …how are we to take seriously anyone who would subsume Dorothy Day, Sojourner Truth, Bonhoeffer, Frederick Douglas, Gandhi, Martin Buber, Alan Watts, the Dalai Lama, Bishop Tutu, Thomas Merton, Karen Armstrong, among countless others, as “lying leeches”?

    Wow, that was painful to read first thing in the morning…

    Look, enough with the fucking name-dropping already. Can’t we just get straight to the goddam arguments?

    It drive me nuts when I see people (and other colleagues in my discipline, and others) simply drop names, and then act as though you’re supposed to know everything about that person.

    I actually called out a professor on that when he tried that with my paper at a conference. He said, after I was finished, “I think that Heidegger would undermine your claims here.” “Really? Where and how, specifically?” Silence.

    Then, of course, I got annoyed, and said, in front of everyone: “Okay, so you brought it up, and yet you can’t tell me the first thing about where and how? I don’t think that qualifies as an objection. Any other questions?”

    He came up to me later and apologized (as he should have).

  70. #70 MartinM
    May 28, 2008

    The claim I am making, from a logical and philosophical point of view, is not the strong claim that there is a deity, but the much weaker claim that there may be a deity – i.e. that it is not impossible or implausible that a deity exists.

    But the failure to prove non-existence is equivalent to showing that there is a possibility of existence, which is all I am trying to show through reason and evidence.

    Well, which is it? Not impossible, or not impossible and not implausible? Possibility is trivial, plausibility is not. You have an annoying tendency to drift from one to the other.

  71. #71 Walton
    May 28, 2008

    To Tulse #61.

    Now, admittedly, this argument doesn’t rule out the existence of a god, it just argues that any such god must be a right bastard.

    This is, indeed, one of the major problems with Christian thinking, and I can’t honestly answer it. If God is both omnipotent and benevolent, why does he allow the persistence of evil (both natural and man-made)? And why does he place human beings on Earth, give them the choice to believe or not to believe – based on evidence which could equally guide them in either direction – and allow them to be punished for eternity if they make the wrong choice? Logically, either he is not benevolent (which would lead to your conclusion that he is a “right bastard”), or he is not omnipotent, and is matched by an equal and opposing source of evil (an idea which is not new, and has echoes of Manichaean and Zoroastrian beliefs). The truth is that I have no idea, and I can’t provide a convincing argument.

    These arguments of theodicy, and the question of evil, are much older than scientific atheism – medieval philosophers grappled with them – and in a sense much more profound and more difficult to answer.

    I will point out, though, as regards “eternal torture”, that traditional Christian demonology, and the popular-culture conception of Hell, have very little scriptural basis. (So much of what the average person “knows” about Christian belief actually comes from Milton, not the Bible.) The closest thing to a “description” of Hell is that those who choose not to believe will be “cast into the outer darkness, where there will be much weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth”. I would certainly prefer to read this as a metaphor, and indeed many modern Christians do. “Hell” is not necessarily an actual place, nor a state of eternal torture; it may be viewed as a state of separation from God, rather than union with God.

    But I realise that isn’t a satisfactory answer. I’ll work on it.

  72. #72 Josh
    May 28, 2008

    ‘Believe it because I say so but I will not reveal myself’ is just is not a satisfactory reason to accept a deity.

    But really it’s even worse than that. It’s believe it because this person over here tells you that this weird and contradictory text represents “believe it because I say so but I will not reveal myself.” All we really have is the text and this person’s insistence that the text means what they say it means.

  73. #73 Pablo
    May 28, 2008

    This raises the question – what’s so great about faith? Specifically, why should the question of whether or not God actually exists have to depend on faith? If it’s got something to do with free will, then even if we have incontrovertible evidence of God’s existence, there’s still ample room for freedom of choice in how we decide to respond to this fact, and whether or not we choose to live our lives the way God wants us to.

    This is funny, considering Walton was the one who brought up the whole “Judeo-Christian Tradition” response. In particular, the JC tradition says that the devil was an angel who rebelled against God. That is a fairly devistating blow to the claim that “absolute proof of God would take away our free will.” Consider, not only did Lucifer have direct knowledge of God’s existence, but also presumably knew that God was all-powerful. Yet, Lucifer still _chose_ to rebel! Apparently, he still had the ability to chose to do what he wanted.

    So it comes down to the fact that, the “Judeo-Christian tradition” of Lucifer as the fallen angel contradicts the “Judeo-Christian tradition” that direct knowledge would eliminate free will.

    But hey, who ever expects consistency from Judeo-Christian tradition?

  74. #74 kcrady
    May 28, 2008

    Either a theist’s proposed god has effects within our Universe, or it does not. If it does, then the theist is making a truth-claim about the workings of Universe. Such a claim is a scientific question, and can be verified or falsified by comparing it against reality by using the scientific method.

    If the theist’s proposed god has no effect on our Universe, then there is no concievable distinction between what we would find if their god exists, vs. if their god does not exist. If its existence is indistinguishable, in principle, from its non-existence, then Occam’s Razor delivers the coup de grace.

    The “sophisticated” theological arguments then become mental masturbation, on a par with arguments over whether the Federation of Star Trek could defeat the Galactic Empire of Star Wars, or treatises on the digestive tracts of two-dimensional Flatlanders that explain how a two-dimensional mathematical abstraction can have a channel going all the way through it without falling into two pieces.

    To harrumph loudly that someone who has not scrutinized the calculations for the power output of turbolasers, or the arguments about whether or not Alderaan had a planetary shield that held back the Death Star’s weapon for a fraction of a second (and the next layer of argument, over whether the original release of “A New Hope,” or the “enhanced” edition is the true Canon) is a “lout” does nothing whatsoever to establish that the Force is real.

    Why don’t they just admit that their religion is a fun game of pretend-for-grownups, like a Rennaissance Fair without the costumes? If they’d be that honest, we could leave them to their philosophical knitting circle.

    It’s when they insist that they really are Jedi Knights and that society ought to be governed according to the teachings of Qui-Gon Jinn, that we start asking for proof, and ridiculing them when they try to say that the Force powers of the Jedi are “really” just metaphors for…something.

  75. #75 Monado
    May 28, 2008

    Richard Harris [9], I believe you’ve hit a nail on the head. It might not have been the nail you were aiming for, but… when you mentioned tribes being ruled “as if the gods were living among them,” a little light went on in my head. Why was there a “holy of holies,” an inner room that no one could enter but the priests? That was where The God Lived. In the Bible we perceive it as a spiritual thing, “the presence of God.” But what a con! What a foolproof con! “There’s a big, powerful, dangerous god in my tent and he will smite you unless you make offerings. Bring me oil, and bread, and the choicest, unblemished animals. The blood is sprinkled on the altar for God, the meat is cooked, and the offering must be eaten only by the priest and his family.” Oh, and your prosperity offering will be returned to you a hundredfold as God brings you good luck and defeats your enemies.

    Riight.

  76. #76 Josh
    May 28, 2008

    “Hell” is not necessarily an actual place, nor a state of eternal torture; it may be viewed as a state of separation from God, rather than union with God.

    Is it god with a small or capital G? Is Hell also the state of separation from Zeus, rather than union with Zeus?

    If no, then what is the state of separation from Zeus called?

  77. #77 Walton
    May 28, 2008

    To Pablo.

    In particular, the JC tradition says that the devil was an angel who rebelled against God. – No, it doesn’t. Like most of Christian demonology, this is a medieval myth which was popularised by Milton. It isn’t in the Bible. There’s very little in the Bible itself about Satan, demons or hell.

    Indeed, even the use of “Lucifer” as an alternative name for Satan is non-scriptural. It means “light-bearer” and is a Latin translation of a Hebrew name used in Isaiah, but modern scholars believe the relevant phrase to be a pseudonym used for one of the Babylonian kings.

    Most of what the average person thinks they know about Judeo-Christian demonology, as I said earlier, is entirely non-scriptural and mostly comes from Milton and various folk stories invented by the medieval Church. This is why I do think that a study of theology would be beneficial to many atheists – not to try and convert anyone, but simply so that you can understand what you’re arguing against and try not to make straw man arguments.

  78. #78 Akheloios
    May 28, 2008

    Why? We see that many animal species have herd behaviors, built-in submission to dominance displays, etc. Why do we overlook the obvious notion that there is a “human nature” and that we have instinctive behaviors like “believing things people say with enough conviction”?

    It’s not the social hierarchy that bothers me, it’s the fact that someone can interject from outside your immediate social structure and not be questioned. I find it amazing that such a gamble can be taken on face value without severe criticism.

    ‘Human nature’ as you say can explain how we behave, but what truly amazes me is the fact that in this day of scientific method with strict hypothesis testing, such unexamined frauds can continue to take place.

    Maybe in the next few hundred years we’ll see selection against this type of anti-evidential cognition.

  79. #79 Ric
    May 28, 2008

    Walton @64:

    The flaw in your logic is you move from not being able to disprove a negative to concluding that something is therefore possible (so far, so good), to suggesting that somehow it is therefore a valid choice to chose to believe that the possible thing is a good explanation for events we see in the world. But no decision can be made based on possibility. Decisions must be made based on probability. You see, your logic can just as easily lead one to believing in Sauron, unicorns, aliens, or an infinite number of other ludicrous crap that cannot be disproved.

    Therefore, when you say:

    Anything in the material world attributed to God can be explained away through natural factors, but whether to prefer the natural or the supernatural explanation is a personal choice. This situation is exactly in accord with religious teaching; because the basis of religion is that each human being has a choice, to believe or not believe.

    We must conclude that, based on your logic, any event in the material world should, with equal likelihood, be ascribed to fairies, unicorns, sauron, aliens, or god, and the thing one chooses to ascribe it to is based solely on personal, arbitrary and irrational choice (which you call faith). Are you sure that’s where you want your logic to lead, to the conclusion that god is on par with fairies, leprauchans, and characters from fantasy books? Because if you do, that’s fine with me.

  80. #80 David Marjanovi?, OM
    May 28, 2008

    On the one hand, I do not blame you (atheists/agnostics) for searching for solid and convincing evidence. This is a human instinct, particularly for those whose education has been in mathematics, logic and the sciences; you look for proof.

    No.

    Proof is only possible in math and logic. In science, only disproof is possible. Therefore the two pillars of science are falsifiability and parsimony.

    The god of any halfway sophisticated theologian is not falsifiable even in principle. Therefore science is forced to ignore it as a completely worthless idea — because if it were wrong, we could never find that out. However, atheists apply the principle of parsimony anyway… and guess what the result of that is…

    Science can make clear to us how the universe took on its present physical form; the gaps in our knowledge, which are many, may well be filled in the future by the advancement of science. But it cannot explain why we are here, what our purpose is, and why a universe capable of sustaining life came to be. You cannot apply the scientific method to these questions, because they are intrinsically beyond the scope of empirical evidence.

    Wait a little. Every “why” question can be converted into a “how” question because “everything is the way it is because it got that way”.

    Besides, some of your questions could be wrong (like “why did Napoleon cross the Mississippi”). You ask what our purpose is. What makes you think we have a purpose in the first place? That’s something I just don’t get.

    Seeking for it is like trying to identify “love” or “beauty” or “happiness” or “the soul” using scientific investigative methods.

    The first three are entirely within the realm of sciences like ethology and neurology. The last… what makes you think souls exist in the first place?

    testable, falsifiable scientific facts

    “Testable/falsifiable” doesn’t even apply to “fact”. Learn here what the technical term “fact” means.

    ——————–

    Just because someone is paranoid doesn’t mean that no one is out to get them.

    But, in the absence of evidence that anyone is out to get them, they are — at best — right for completely wrong reasons. A method that is no better than random guessing is completely worthless.

    ———————-

    http://www.wittenburgdoor.com

    Berg, not Burg. Mountain, not medieval castle. And, no, that’s not pronounced the same way.

    Why do people laugh at creationists?

    Only creationists don’t understand why!

  81. #81 J
    May 28, 2008

    The important question isn’t whether some sort of “god” exists; it’s whether the claims of religion have any truth to them. Any reasonable, scientifically educated person knows they don’t.

    But the watered-down, mere cosmological hypothesis — why are you people so restlessly obsessed with it? I’m quite sure it’s not out of passion for cosmology (a subject which is seldom discussed on atheist blogs and message boards). The only reason I can think of is the simple thrill you get out of calling yourselves atheists.

  82. #82 Kadath
    May 28, 2008

    #77:

    In particular, the JC tradition says that the devil was an angel who rebelled against God. – No, it doesn’t. Like most of Christian demonology, this is a medieval myth which was popularised by Milton. It isn’t in the Bible. There’s very little in the Bible itself about Satan, demons or hell.

    How is medieval mythology not Christian theology? How are you determining what’s privileged to be “real” Christian theology, and what’s “just” mythology?

  83. #83 mds
    May 28, 2008

    All this is reminding me of the bit from the first Hitchhiker’s book:

    “I refuse to prove that I exist,” says God, “for proof denies faith, and without faith I am nothing.”
    “But,” says Man, “the Babel fish is a dead giveaway isn’t it? It could not have evolved by chance. It proves you exist, and so therefore, by your own arguments, you don’t. Q.E.D.”
    “Oh dear,” says God, “I hadn’t thought of that,” and promptly vanishes in a puff of logic.
    “Well, that was easy,” says man, who goes on to prove that black = white, and is promptly run over at the next zebra crossing.”

  84. #84 David Marjanovi?, OM
    May 28, 2008

    Oops. I forgot to close the blockquote tag after the URL.

  85. #85 Roel
    May 28, 2008

    The misunderstanding is that Dr. Dawkins is writing about theology. If he was, their criticism would be right.

    However, he is not. Dr. Dawkins is not writing about the nature of God, the Holy Trinity, the commencement of Evil or anything else theologicans like to write about.

    He is barely questioning their basic assumption that there is a God in the first place, something they dare not question themselves.

  86. #86 J
    May 28, 2008

    Why not just say you reject religion and leave it at that? Why push the envelope, persistently telling everyone that you’re an atheist, saying things like “I’m proud to be an atheist”? What’s the bloody point?

  87. #87 Matt Penfold
    May 28, 2008

    Said Walton:

    “At the same time, though, an intelligent and intellectually honest person cannot be expected to ignore evidence in favour of blind faith. Thus, while I am not trying to prove the existence of God through evidence, logic or science, because it can’t be done, I am trying to demonstrate that as I understand it, evidence, logic and science do not contradict the notion of God or render it an impossibility.”

    It is true science cannot rule the possibility of god existing. It does however place considerable restrictions on what a god could do. It seems to rule out the possibility of any form of intervention in the universe, which makes prayer somewhat redundant. There may be a role for a god in the creation of the universe but even that is not at all clear. Some cosmological models do not have a beginning of time. We simply do not know enough to say with any degree of certainty what, if anything, preceded the big bang. It would therefore be premature for the religious to claim there is role their for their god. Science does not say there is no god, but it does mean that any god does not have much to do.

    And as for the why questions, such as “Why are we here ?”, you first need to show that such a question even makes sense before allowing god in as an explanation. You assume there is a reason for the existence of the universe when I can see no justification for assuming there has to be a reason. Until you have done that your argument is pointless.

  88. #88 MAJeff, OM
    May 28, 2008

    Why not just say you reject religion and leave it at that? Why push the envelope, persistently telling everyone that you’re an atheist, saying things like “I’m proud to be an atheist”? What’s the bloody point?

    Go re-read Mitt Romney’s “Religion Speech” from this spring and see if it gives you a clue.

  89. #89 Janine ID
    May 28, 2008

    But the watered-down, mere cosmological hypothesis — why are you people so restlessly obsessed with it? I’m quite sure it’s not out of passion for cosmology (a subject which is seldom discussed on atheist blogs and message boards). The only reason I can think of is the simple thrill you get out of calling yourselves atheists.

    Posted by: J

    Damn, J has moved on to other threads. And once more, he has a firm grasp on our motives. I am an atheist because I am out to SHOCK some people. I cannot think of a bigger thrill.

    Schmuck.

  90. #90 alex
    May 28, 2008

    Walton:
    But it cannot explain why we are here, what our purpose is, and why a universe capable of sustaining life came to be. You cannot apply the scientific method to these questions, because they are intrinsically beyond the scope of empirical evidence.

    can you, with your religious insight explain this? can the Pope? can the Dalai Lama? can they do so with more aplomb than i could muster myself? do these questions of “WHY-ness” even make sense?

    There is no overwhelming scientific proof, nor will there ever be, for belief in the Judeo-Christian God or in any other benevolent Creator. Seeking for it is like trying to identify “love” or “beauty” or “happiness” or “the soul” using scientific investigative methods.

    which scientists are doing, with relative success. seek and ye shall find. or don’t seek and just speculate instead.

    if God were to do that, there would be no point in faith

    is Faith a necessary quality in a world where the Christian God existed? or just a quality necessary to justify his apparent no-show? think – if you were to work from the bottom up, if there was a Deity that went to create the entire universe – would It have the qualities ascribed to It by modern Christianity? would faith be a necessary part of Its plan/Its existence? is it just more likely that faith is part of the trimmings on Its imaginary hat?

    Anything in the material world attributed to God can be explained away through natural factors, but whether to prefer the natural or the supernatural explanation is a personal choice.

    there lies schizophrenia. in daily life, Occam’s Razor does away with the little man that turns the light on when you open the fridge – whether you’re a coldly ultra-rational Uber-Scientist or not.

    These arguments of theodicy, and the question of evil, are much older than scientific atheism – medieval philosophers grappled with them – and in a sense much more profound and more difficult to answer.

    maybe this is one of those Instances Where Logic Fails and we must Turn to Faith.

  91. #91 Josh
    May 28, 2008

    David, total agreement with everything you wrote except:

    “Testable/falsifiable” doesn’t even apply to “fact”.

    This statement isn’t totally accurate. Facts are in fact falsifiable. NOTHING in science is off the table with respect to being overturned, even if just in theory. This includes observations.

  92. #92 J
    May 28, 2008

    Go re-read Mitt Romney’s “Religion Speech” from this spring and see if it gives you a clue.
    Go re-read my two previous posts, and you’ll see that this is orthogonal to everything I said. I’m advocating telling people you reject religion. Telling people your cosmological opinions (if unasked for) is wholly unnecessary.

  93. #93 MAJeff, OM
    May 28, 2008

    Go re-read my two previous posts, and you’ll see that this is orthogonal to everything I said. I’m advocating telling people you reject religion. Telling people your cosmological opinions (if unasked for) is wholly unnecessary.

    Translation: public discourse is bad.

  94. #94 Walton
    May 28, 2008

    …your logic can just as easily lead one to believing in Sauron, unicorns, aliens, or an infinite number of other ludicrous crap that cannot be disproved.

    It’s true, in a sense, that this could be concluded from the argument I made. But the difference is, in the case of Christianity, that the Gospels – purported historical accounts which, as discussed earlier, seem to have at least some historical credibility when stacked up against extra-biblical evidence, despite a few apparent errors and inconsistencies – claim that Christ performed miracles, was executed and rose again from the dead. There is, of course, no positive proof for these claims, nor will there ever be. The supernatural aspects of the Gospel accounts could be entirely invented, the result of hysteria, or corrupted over time. But it’s still better evidence than any which exists in favour of Sauron, a fictional character from a book whose author (a devout Catholic, incidentally) never purported to be giving an eyewitness account of real events.

    I realise this seems like hairsplitting. But if I were to make up some crap right now and declare it religious truth, while it doubtless couldn’t be disproven, I would have no reason to believe in it other than my own imagination. The Gospels, on the other hand, have a little more credibility. Of course, I’m not denying that there is no proof, and no logical or rational reason to have faith in one particular deity over another. But there is a point, as we’ve discussed, where reason ends and faith begins, and one must make a personal choice whether to believe in a supernatural being and, if so, which one – and many people opt for the teachings of Jesus Christ.

  95. #95 Nick Gotts
    May 28, 2008

    Walton,
    No-one here, and very few atheists, argue that the existence of an omnipotent and benevolent being is logically impossible; nor that the existence of a creator of some kind is either logically impossible, or contrary to empirical evidence – since any sufficiently powerful creator could, clearly, conceal its existence. So if you’re arguing against any of these claims, you’re wasting your time, because we all (so far as I know) agree with you. What I would argue is that the existence of an omnipotent and benevolent being is clearly contrary to empirical evidence: if that were the case, we would not expect to encounter suffering. This is, as I’m sure you’re aware, the so-called “Problem of Evil”. (There is of course an analogous “Problem of Good” for any theist arguing for the existence of an omnipotent and malevolent deity.) If you believe you know a satisfactory answer to this problem, or a way of avoiding it, let us know.

  96. #96 Janine ID
    May 28, 2008

    Why not just say you reject religion and leave it at that? Why push the envelope, persistently telling everyone that you’re an atheist, saying things like “I’m proud to be an atheist”? What’s the bloody point?

    Posted by: J

    Schmuck, the bloody point is this, plenty of theists like to paint atheism as being the worst, most corrosive thing that a person can be. And guess what, those same theists will say the same thing about anyone who rejects religion. And they will say the same thing about Brights when they get past your bleating bullshit.

    Face it, for some one like Hagee, you and I are the same type of monster.

  97. #97 Colugo
    May 28, 2008

    J: “Why push the envelope, persistently telling everyone that you’re an atheist, saying things like “I’m proud to be an atheist”? What’s the bloody point?”

    What would you prefer instead of “atheist,” J? “Godomizer”? “Luciferian”? (Hey, it’s kind of like Brite, as in bearers of light.)

    ———————–

    MAJeff: Did you read about Romney’s follow-up speech on May 8? Excerpt:

    “I had missed an opportunity … an opportunity to clearly assert that non-believers have just as great a stake as believers in defending religious liberty.

    If a society takes it upon itself to prescribe and proscribe certain streams of belief — to prohibit certain less-favored strains of conscience — it may be the non-believer who is among the first to be condemned. A coercive monopoly of belief threatens everyone, whether we are talking about those who search the philosophies of men or follow the words of God.”

  98. #98 Pete Moulton
    May 28, 2008

    If that’s the case, I’m proud to be a hooligan.

    Me too! Sign me up, Doc!

  99. #99 MAJeff, OM
    May 28, 2008

    “I had missed an opportunity … an opportunity to clearly assert that non-believers have just as great a stake as believers in defending religious liberty.
    If a society takes it upon itself to prescribe and proscribe certain streams of belief — to prohibit certain less-favored strains of conscience — it may be the non-believer who is among the first to be condemned. A coercive monopoly of belief threatens everyone, whether we are talking about those who search the philosophies of men or follow the words of God.”

    Something tells me it was more CYA because of the shit he took, and that his original speech is closer to the truth. Then again, with Romney, there usually is not truth because he will say whatever is expedient for advancing his own career.

  100. #100 MartinM
    May 28, 2008

    I’m quite sure it’s not out of passion for cosmology

    Speak for yourself.

  101. #101 Matt Penfold
    May 28, 2008

    “Go re-read my two previous posts, and you’ll see that this is orthogonal to everything I said. I’m advocating telling people you reject religion. Telling people your cosmological opinions (if unasked for) is wholly unnecessary.”

    Translation: Atheists should shut the fuck up and leave the field clear for the religious.

    Have you written to the Pope and asked him to shut up about Catholicism ?

  102. #102 Walton
    May 28, 2008

    To Nick Gotts at #95.

    No, I have no really convincing answer to the question of theodicy and the existence of evil. The best I can do is to direct you towards the Book of Job, the only place where the Bible seems to tackle this issue.

    I’ll bow out of this discussion for the time being, because I don’t think there’s much more I can say; we’re starting to go round in circles. I hope I haven’t irritated the participants in this thread, and I hope I haven’t come over as ignorant, delusional or lacking in intelligence (which is what many of you seem to believe of the average theist). I must say that this is one of the few places on the Internet where I’ve ever encountered a genuinely intellectual, rational discussion about the great question of religion vs. atheism (elsewhere it tends to be mud-slinging and insults on both sides).

  103. #103 Janine ID
    May 28, 2008

    But the difference is, in the case of Christianity, that the Gospels – purported historical accounts which, as discussed earlier, seem to have at least some historical credibility when stacked up against extra-biblical evidence, despite a few apparent errors and inconsistencies – claim that Christ performed miracles, was executed and rose again from the dead. There is, of course, no positive proof for these claims, nor will there ever be. The supernatural aspects of the Gospel accounts could be entirely invented, the result of hysteria, or corrupted over time. But it’s still better evidence than any which exists in favour of Sauron, a fictional character from a book whose author (a devout Catholic, incidentally) never purported to be giving an eyewitness account of real events.

    Walton

    That is very thin gruel you are serving there. But I suppose that faith can make that a feast.

  104. #104 True Bob
    May 28, 2008

    Walton, your babble is not so well supported as you describe. Please name some of the contemporary accounts for the Gospels (you realize that the gospels aren’t even contempoprary accounts of Joe Messiah’s life, right?). And Josephus doesn’t count, as the references are to followers, not Joe, and are quite likely forged.

    What about other performers of miracles? The babble mentions other miracle healers, in competition with Joe.

    And now what do you do with your apocrypha? Why are some books in the babble and others not? Are all these other accounts fictional? When did your god choose which apply and which don’t?(I know, I know, Council of Nicea, but that’s not the point).

  105. #105 Janine ID
    May 28, 2008

    Then again, with Romney, there usually is not truth because he will say whatever is expedient for advancing his own career.

    Posted by: MAJeff, OM

    I am sure you remember when he was your bestest friend in the world!

  106. #106 J
    May 28, 2008

    Schmuck, the bloody point is this, plenty of theists like to paint atheism as being the worst, most corrosive thing that a person can be. And guess what, those same theists will say the same thing about anyone who rejects religion. And they will say the same thing about Brights when they get past your bleating bullshit.
    Ah, so already the insults begin, do they? Very telling, very telling indeed.

    I don’t accept as an axiom that they lump all nonbelievers in the same category. (How many times have we heard: “Not believing in God I can understand, but an ATHEIST!”) By the way, I’m far from dogmatic about using the word “Bright”, and I’ve always been prepared to hear alternatives.

    Translation: public discourse is bad.
    No, Jeff, that’s not what I said at all. Cut it out with these petty strawmen.

  107. #107 MAJeff, OM
    May 28, 2008

    I am sure you remember when he was your bestest friend in the world!

    he’s been my friend, my fuck buddy, my worst enemy, my joke punch-line. Willard rawks! I just hope McCain chooses him so he can finish spending Tag’s inheritance.

  108. #108 Janine ID
    May 28, 2008

    The best I can do is to direct you towards the Book of Job, the only place where the Bible seems to tackle this issue.

    Walton

    A barroom bet between supernatural beings?

  109. #109 Ric
    May 28, 2008

    Walton @ 94 said:

    I realise this seems like hairsplitting. But if I were to make up some crap right now and declare it religious truth, while it doubtless couldn’t be disproven, I would have no reason to believe in it other than my own imagination. The Gospels, on the other hand, have a little more credibility. Of course, I’m not denying that there is no proof, and no logical or rational reason to have faith in one particular deity over another. But there is a point, as we’ve discussed, where reason ends and faith begins, and one must make a personal choice whether to believe in a supernatural being and, if so, which one – and many people opt for the teachings of Jesus Christ.

    And we come again to the question of probability, which was my point entirely. We’ve agreed that simply possibility, which seemed to be the thrust of your earlier post, gets us nowhere, since literally anything is possible. So now you want to argue that Christians have some sort of evidence for their belief; they have reason to base their decisions on probability. That brings us into new territory– one where you are on much, much weaker ground. In fact, this brings us roundabout to Dawkins, Harris, the new atheists, and indeed, all of the historical atheists who have so clearly shown that the events of the gospel are extremely improbable. So that wipes out your argument that the gospel is somehow a reason to choose god over Sauron, leaving god once again on a par with fictional characters, leprauchans, and fairies.

  110. #110 Blondin
    May 28, 2008

    I fail to understand how anyone can talk about not addressing the existence of God while discussing the big ‘why’ question.

    “Does the universe have a purpose” and “is there an intelligent designer” are the same question worded different ways.

    When I state that I don’t believe there is a god you may assume that I also don’t believe the universe has a purpose. It logically follows that if someone were to provide evidence of a creator there might then be a purpose to speculate about.

  111. #111 MAJeff, OM
    May 28, 2008

    No, Jeff, that’s not what I said at all. Cut it out with these petty strawmen.

    You come into a particular public sphere in which such issues are being discussed and say, “this conversation should not take place. Shut up.” You are saying that this form of public discourse shouldn’t be happening. Yeah, public discourse is bad, at least if it’s an atheist public.

  112. #112 Janine ID
    May 28, 2008

    Ah, so already the insults begin, do they?

    j

    No, schmuck. The insults never ended. And as a number of people pointed out, YOU started the insults. Please do not be “INANE”.

  113. #113 BT Murtagh
    May 28, 2008

    The courtiers in Andersen’s tale may uncritically accept that the emperor is clothed, but you cannot make this claim about religious adherents except on a case-by-case basis, and even then, not without some evidence.

    The equivalent claim to the courtiers’ claim “the emperor is clothed” is “there is a god or gods” for religious adherents. I can’t see the problem with making that claim about all religious adherents, since it pretty much defines what a religious adherent is; there’s no need to go case by case at all.

  114. #114 J
    May 28, 2008

    No, schmuck. The insults never ended. And as a number of people pointed out, YOU started the insults. Please do not be “INANE”.
    OK, so let’s summarize a little for people who didn’t read that unfortunate thread. Basically, I in my first post there said that PZ Myers’ criticism of the Brights is “inane”. You took this as a declaration of war, and have since then waged a neverending campaign of vicious persecution against me, which has been resumed in this thread.

    I think the cult mentality I referred to has been amply demonstrated by now.

  115. #115 David Marjanovi?, OM
    May 28, 2008

    The closest thing to a “description” of Hell is that those who choose not to believe will be “cast into the outer darkness, where there will be much weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth”.

    What about all the occurrences of “lake of fire” and “everlasting fire” in the Gospels?

    Facts are in fact falsifiable. NOTHING in science is off the table with respect to being overturned, even if just in theory. This includes observations.

    I wouldn’t necessarily equate “fact” and “observation”…

    No, I have no really convincing answer to the question of theodicy and the existence of evil. The best I can do is to direct you towards the Book of Job, the only place where the Bible seems to tackle this issue.

    That book, however, is older than monotheism. It talks about the gods (‘elohim, plural of ‘eloha) and their sons (also plural). The angry creator in that book explains how he hammered out the metal kettle that is the sky (rather than, say, just speaking it into existence like in Genesis 1). I don’t quite see why it’s relevant.

  116. #116 Nick Gotts
    May 28, 2008

    No, I have no really convincing answer to the question of theodicy and the existence of evil. – Walton

    This is a response I’ve had before from honest and articulate theists, but it leaves me completely puzzled. In effect, they admit the overwhelming evidence against the existence of a being worthy of worship – then shrug their shoulders and go on worshipping!

    the basis of religion is that each human being has a choice, to believe or not believe.

    Well, if the empirical evidence is (as you appear to admit) clearly against the existence of an omnipotent and benevolent being, then assuming for a moment that one can choose whether or not to believe something, the only sensible choice would clearly be not to believe in the existence of such a being.

  117. #117 Iain Walker
    May 28, 2008

    Walton (Comment #102):

    I’ll bow out of this discussion for the time being, because I don’t think there’s much more I can say; we’re starting to go round in circles.

    Well, I’d still like to know what the supposed merits of faith are, since you don’t seem to have addressed this. I can see the merits of accepting something as a provisional, working assumption in a purely instrumental fashion, to see if it actually leads you to discover something. I can even understand the idea (as promoted by quasi-atheist existentialist theologians like Don Cupitt) of the leap of faith as an act of commitment to an ideal represented symbolically by the concept of God (I may not sympathise, but I can kind of see the point).

    But what I don’t get is why there should be any merit in making a leap of faith to accept a propositional claim. If you don’t have any grounds for supposing it to be true, then surely it is the height of epistemic irresponsibility to embrace it with any degree of conviction.

    If you rejoin the thread later, I’d appreciate your thoughts on this point.

  118. #118 Greg Peterson
    May 28, 2008

    Theologians are like the brother-in-law in the joke that Woody Allen uses: A man goes to a psychiatrist and says, “Doctor, you have to help us…my brother-in-law thinks he’s a chicken.” And the shrink asks, “How long has this been going on?” The man replies, “About a year now.” And the doctor looks surprised and says, “Why didn’t you bring in sooner?” And the man says, “Well, we wanted to, but we needed the eggs.” I suspect that most non-pathological people recognize that at its base, what the apologists and theologians are telling them is just fancy rhetorical nonsense. But they have been coerced, through psychological terrorism and brainwashing (“Without God, you cannot know right from wrong, and you will miss out on life’s purpose, and then you will burn forever….”), that they think they “need the eggs.” One of our main jobs as atheists interested in spreading the good news about rational living is to demonstrate consistently that no one NEEDS THE FUCKING IMAGINARY EGGS.

  119. #119 Janine ID
    May 28, 2008

    I think the cult mentality I referred to has been amply demonstrated by now.

    Posted by: J

    Oh dear, all of the stock phrases and responses. Etta, I think it is time for a J drinking game.

  120. #120 J
    May 28, 2008

    You come into a particular public sphere in which such issues are being discussed and say, “this conversation should not take place. Shut up.” You are saying that this form of public discourse shouldn’t be happening. Yeah, public discourse is bad, at least if it’s an atheist public.
    That’s true, but only trivially true. You hopefully think people shouldn’t make racist remarks. Therefore, according to you, “public discourse” — in which racists express racist opinions — oughtn’t be happening.

    Not that I’m comparing atheist to racism. I’m showing that being against some forms of public discourse isn’t the same as being flat-out against public discourse.

  121. #121 Josh
    May 28, 2008

    I wouldn’t necessarily equate “fact” and “observation”…

    Really? huh… Okay, well then what else is a fact if it isn’t an observation with an error attached to it (realizing of course that the error can be frightfully small, such that the observation is “effectively true”)? Even in the link you provided, which I mostly agreed with, Jeff discussed facts as observations.

  122. #122 Janine ID
    May 28, 2008

    Etha, I am sorry about the typo.

  123. #123 Matt Penfold
    May 28, 2008

    “That’s true, but only trivially true. You hopefully think people shouldn’t make racist remarks. Therefore, according to you, “public discourse” — in which racists express racist opinions — oughtn’t be happening.

    Not that I’m comparing atheist to racism. I’m showing that being against some forms of public discourse isn’t the same as being flat-out against public discourse”

    J, your point would have more validity if you were also telling theists to shut up. If you wanted to see no discussion of the existence, or non-existence of gods, that would be one thing. However you seem to want to muzzle only one side. Which does kind of give us a clue as the type of person you are, and where you are coming from.

  124. #124 David Marjanovi?, OM
    May 28, 2008

    How many times have we heard: “Not believing in God I can understand, but an ATHEIST!”

    Have we?

    Who is “we” here? I’ve never encountered anyone making such a self-contradictory statement.

    neverending campaign of vicious persecution

    Stop being so touchy. “Help! Help! I said it’s inane, and they don’t agree! I’m persecuted! Persecuted, I tells ya!”

    (And I don’t even call myself an atheist. But I realize this depends on the definition.)

  125. #125 Pablo
    May 28, 2008

    No, it doesn’t. Like most of Christian demonology, this is a medieval myth which was popularised by Milton. It isn’t in the Bible. There’s very little in the Bible itself about Satan, demons or hell.

    LOL!

    As opposed to “free will”? Show me THAT in the bible!

    Once again, Walton, you are doubletalking. There is a lot of “Judeo-Christian tradition” that is extrabiblical.

    Then again, the idea that Satan rebelled against God is NOT extrabiblical. It is right there in Revelations (Rev 12:7-9)

    “Then there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon and his angels. 8 And the dragon lost the battle, and he and his angels were forced out of heaven. 9 This great dragon–the ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, the one deceiving the whole world–was thrown down to the earth with all his angels.”

    So to summarize: Satan was in heaven and fought against Michael and the angels. My point stands: Satan was in heaven, and therefore had firsthand experience of God. Yet he was still able to chose to rebel. That’s what it says in the bible.

    And as I said, it contradicts claims that “absolute knowledge” of God prevents free will.

    Walton, your claims are toast.

  126. #126 Notkieran
    May 28, 2008

    J @ #81.

    Actually, I would like to point out that I deliberately took cosmology and astrophysics courses as my options (as opposed to the core requirements) in my degree. The other options that I spent time on were the philosophy of science and environmental physics.

    So you might be surprised to find out that yes, I have a great fondness for the grandeur of cosmology, and little patience for those who would substitute all of that for the one word “goddidit”.

  127. #127 Richard Harris
    May 28, 2008

    Monado @ # 75, “I believe you’ve hit a nail on the head. It might not have been the nail you were aiming for, but… when you mentioned tribes being ruled “as if the gods were living among them,” a little light went on in my head. Why was there a “holy of holies,” an inner room that no one could enter but the priests? That was where The God Lived.”

    From books that I’ve read – Ancient Iraq & Before Philosopy – it appears that the peoples of the ancient middle East had many gods. There were gods of the farming implements & cooking utensils, city gods, & El, Enlil, Marduk, & entourage. Some of these were around for thousands of years!

    I’ve not come across an explanation for why the peasants apparently believed in these people-like (but super-human) deities, despite never seeing them. The role of the King & his wife as representiatives of the gods on Earth is also not clear. I suspect it varied from Empire to City State, & over time. The history was written on clay tablets, thousands of which have survived, & been interpreted.

    Interpretation of ancient languages written in cuneiform must be problematic. However, there did seem to be a sanctum sanctorum in temples & maybe palaces too.

    But apparently, if you kept your nose clean & carried out the necessary religious observances, you & your family prospered. That would help spread the genes for religiosity.

  128. #128 J
    May 28, 2008

    Who is “we” here? I’ve never encountered anyone making such a self-contradictory statement.
    Richard Dawkins quotes it all the time.

    Stop being so touchy. “Help! Help! I said it’s inane, and they don’t agree! I’m persecuted! Persecuted, I tells ya!”
    I’m not being the least bit touchy. In the other thread I was called, among other many things, a “stale streak of piss” and a “vile smear of snot”.

    J, your point would have more validity if you were also telling theists to shut up.
    I am telling them to shut up, as I’ve indicated twice already. I’m fully in favour of speaking out against religious supersititon. This does not entail telling people our cosmological opinions unless we’re asked.

  129. #129 Akheloios
    May 28, 2008

    He is barely questioning their basic assumption that there is a God in the first place, something they dare not question themselves.

    I think Bishop Spong does, but only tenuously, and he’s pretty much been sidelined from any serious debate, but there is hope.

    I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure he questions the historicity of Jesus and whether it wouldn’t be better just to do good things to each other because they’re good rather than because god says so.

    I’m one of those ex-catholic militant Atheist types though, so I’m not up to date on Anglican debate.

  130. #130 David Marjanovi?, OM
    May 28, 2008

    This is a response I’ve had before from honest and articulate theists, but it leaves me completely puzzled. In effect, they admit the overwhelming evidence against the existence of a being worthy of worship – then shrug their shoulders and go on worshipping!

    Not quite. They simply retreat to “ineffable”: “Although I’m incapable of understanding it, God knows what he’s doing. God knows best.”

    Unfalsifiable.

    Okay, well then what else is a fact if it isn’t an observation with an error attached to it (realizing of course that the error can be frightfully small, such that the observation is “effectively true”)? Even in the link you provided, which I mostly agreed with, Jeff discussed facts as observations.

    I’d say that facts are parts of reality, and our observations are, lastly, hypotheses about facts. That’s why they have errors attached to them (other than quantum uncertainty), and why repeated observations trump single observations.

    To be honest, I haven’t read the definition I’ve linked to in months. It’s my standard response to “just a theory” and other confusions of “fact” and “theory”.

  131. #131 J
    May 28, 2008

    Actually, I would like to point out that I deliberately took cosmology and astrophysics courses as my options (as opposed to the core requirements) in my degree. The other options that I spent time on were the philosophy of science and environmental physics.
    What do you mean, “Actually”? Why would you assume I’m addressing you? How are you representative of the majority of people here?

    I doubt that most militant atheists have done cosmology courses etc., so your point is entirely irrelevant.

  132. #132 Janine ID
    May 28, 2008

    I’m fully in favour of speaking out against religious supersititon. This does not entail telling people our cosmological opinions unless we’re asked.

    Posted by: J

    Because this darkness that must be hidden away might frighten the horses and the womenfolk.

  133. #133 Peter Ashby
    May 28, 2008

    Walton:

    The claim I am making, from a logical and philosophical point of view, is not the strong claim that there is a deity, but the much weaker claim that there may be a deity – i.e. that it is not impossible or implausible that a deity exists.

    Ah but the progress of science such that as Dawkins points out, the deity of the Judeo-Christian Bible and the Koran etc certainly does not and cannot have existed. So if any deity does exist then that entity will be both so remote and innefectual that simply acknowledging their existence (even if such would be worthwhile) would be more than is required. We are then a very, very long way away from worship. We were not created, this earth and cosmos in general were not created. So what exactly would we owe to this implausible god of the ever decreasing gaps?

    That is why most religious people will reject your formulation and why the rareified gods of the theologians and Anglican Archbishops have no traction with ordinary believers. They see no point in them.

    Which is another reason Dawkins did not bother with the deities of the theologians et al, they are so insubstantial that as Phillip Pullman showed in His Dark Materials, expose them to the air and they will blow away with a sigh.

    Be honest, would you want to worship your implausible gods? What would you pray to them about knowing as we do that they cannot affect any aspect of your life?

  134. #134 Janine ID
    May 28, 2008

    Notkieran, you have to understand, if anything deviates from J’s ground rules, it is irrelevant. J sets the terms, and by golly, you better accept it.

  135. #135 F. Jardim
    May 28, 2008

    Walton is using very flimsy methods for claiming religion is valid. I mean, as soon as something has a non-zero chance of existing, it merits its own dogma, respect from others, and faith?

    I’m yet to see people abstaining from pork, sex or marriage to people of different groups; donating money and hating others because “there’s an infinitesimal chance that there’s a deity out there that cares about this”.

    There’s a non-zero chance that a giant Pokemon god exists and actively hides his existence from everyone while he plans to destroy the multiverse with the tidal emissions of his quantum masturbation. But no one lives their lives under that assumption, nor should they.

  136. #136 Paul W.
    May 28, 2008

    No, I have no really convincing answer to the question of theodicy and the existence of evil. The best I can do is to direct you towards the Book of Job, the only place where the Bible seems to tackle this issue.

    Job? Wow.

    That’s the book in which it’s made crystal clear that the Problem of Evil isn’t a problem at all—because the presupposition is wrong. God is not good. He’s a sick fuck.

    And the quote above is what shows that your little leap of faith is not a harmless option. You’ve swallowed the wrong pill.

    In Job, god is clearly an evil shit who will torture Job just to show Satan that he can. He tortures and kills to win a bet. The only virtue is submission to God, no matter what a sick, murderous, torturing fucker God proves himself to be.

    If you saw a human who treated anyone or anything the way God treats Job and his family and servants, you would not worship them. Just the opposite. You’d call the cops, or shoot them like a mad dog if you had to.

    Go back and read Job again. If you take it seriously and worship the psychopathic God presented there, you are a sick fuck.

    Seriously. There’s a reason why the Problem of Evil is important. People actually worship fictitious beings and impose their evil bullshit on society, calling it good.

    Until that stops, sane people should oppose religion.

  137. #137 Glen Davidson
    May 28, 2008

    To be fair, there’s a difference between saying that there’s something to theology and saying that Bonhoeffer is not a leech.

    I quite agree that for the most part one need not take the apologies of a Bonhoeffer or Tillich very seriously. Someone has to, of course, because there are deep questions behind empiricism that have to be addressed vis-a-vis the god claim. It’s long been done, though, and science basically is the upshot of good philosophy.

    But of course one may make a case that theologians and the godly are not so bad as PZ makes them out to be. The article sort of does this, if not particularly well, and is not objectionable on those grounds.

    The trouble is that the author did not differentiate at all well between the fact that one might (arguably) be legitimate in defending theologians, and the supposition that theology is thereby something more than invisible “clothing.” If he had, he might have written something reasonable.

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

  138. #138 David Marjanovi?, OM
    May 28, 2008

    I’m not being the least bit touchy. In the other thread I was called, among other many things, a “stale streak of piss” and a “vile smear of snot”.

    While I agree that such creative* insults are over the top, you don’t seem to have got my point. Nobody is persecuting you. Persecution is something that happens in real life, if at all. Away from keyboard.

    This here is a discussion in teh intartoobz.

    * Really, people. What logical sense does it make to call a smear of snot “vile”?

  139. #139 krb
    May 28, 2008

    I’m an amatuer screenwriter so I like imagination. Right now I’m imagining Jehovah dabbling with agnosticism.
    INT: College dorm room – Night
    Jehovah lies on his bed while Jesus plays on-line poker lethargically. He’s winning every hand.
    Jehovah
    What if I don’t know everything?
    Jesus
    See Hov, that’s what I’m talkin about. You’re such a pussy. It’s why you don’t get laid.
    (exiting the computer program)
    This is soooo boring. Let’s go to Mulligan’s.
    Jehovah
    (getting up)
    It’s a little early.
    As they head through the door-
    Jehovah
    I did ace the SAT.
    Jesus
    You missed two.
    Jehovah
    They were fucking trick questions and you know it.
    Jesus
    I am that I am.
    Jehovah slams the door on his way out.

  140. #140 Notkieran
    May 28, 2008

    >There’s a non-zero chance that a giant Pokemon god exists and actively hides his existence from everyone while he plans to destroy the multiverse with the tidal emissions of his quantum masturbation. But no one lives their lives under that assumption, nor should they

    I’m sorry, Mr Jardim, I am now forced to use the red shiny flashy thing to erase your memory of this incident…

  141. #141 Peter Ashby
    May 28, 2008

    If no, then what is the state of separation from Zeus called?

    Virginity if I do not mistake my ancient Greek myths.

  142. #142 David Marjanovi?, OM
    May 28, 2008

    Virginity

    ROTFL!

    Though… that only holds for womenfolk. He’s not supposed to have been bisexual.

  143. #143 Alex
    May 28, 2008

    There are no compelling reasons, not even slightly compelling reasons. to think that deities exist. There are many compelling reasons that clearly show that there is no need for deities to exist. The Universe, Nature, seems to do just fine without them. As far as the “why?”, or “what for?” questions go, it’s up to humans to deal with. Nothing is accomplished by attempting to answer the mystery of existence by introducing the greater mystery of deities. A mystery cannot be solved by introducing another mystery. That’s just stupid. And for anyone to even entertain the idea that an ancient collection of manipulated writings by the hands of unsophisticated goat-herders have any basis in reality is bat-shit crazy.

  144. #144 Matt Penfold
    May 28, 2008

    “I am telling them to shut up, as I’ve indicated twice already. I’m fully in favour of speaking out against religious supersititon. This does not entail telling people our cosmological opinions unless we’re asked.”

    J,

    Do you tell religious people to shut up as well ?

  145. #145 Josh
    May 28, 2008

    I’d say that facts are parts of reality, and our observations are, lastly, hypotheses about facts. That’s why they have errors attached to them (other than quantum uncertainty), and why repeated observations trump single observations.

    I was always taught that the fact is the observation of the objective “truth” of “reality.” I’m gonna do some digging on your version…it’s an interesting take. I think in practice though, by necessity people tend to equate the hypothesis of the fact (observation) and the fact…which means that my point is valid for the practical doing of science.

  146. #146 Glen Davidson
    May 28, 2008

    That is where the first part of this argument ends – by establishing that it is possible that there is a God. This is all that can be proved by logic, reason and evidence.

    And “proving” that fairies could exist is just as meaningful.

    Science rests on the fact that just about anything “could exist”. That’s how we make progress, we admit that generally anything conjured up “could exist”, and then we see if it actually does exist.

    Hence spectral forces, unknown energies (dark energy is just a possibility that has to be seriously considered due to empirical matters alone), unseen entities, anything pagan, Judeo-Xian, Muslim, or mythic could all exist. Without evidence that they exist (and no, Gospel accounts mean no more to me with respect to “evidence” than do the accounts of the oracle at Delphi), these are all essentially moot, however.

    Epistemology is clear on this–very little can be ruled out, but anything that is claimed to “exist” had better have stronger evidence than unverifiable miracle claims made by apologists for a religion.

    Not if you simply want your religion, of course, which is entirely up to you. Rather, if you wish to claim that your religion should be meaningful to others, you must have meaningful evidence.

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

  147. #147 Ryan F Stello
    May 28, 2008

    J,

    How, exactly, does one speak out against religious superstition without telling people his/her cosmological opinion?

    Seems to me that the latter provides a necessary foundational explanation towards the former…

  148. #148 windy
    May 28, 2008

    Though… that only holds for womenfolk. [Zeus] is not supposed to have been bisexual.

    What about Ganymede?

  149. #149 alex
    May 28, 2008

    Walton:
    The Gospels, on the other hand, have a little more credibility.

    o dear, another instance of someone mistaking the historical Jesus for a Divine Jesus. if the very shallow evidence does, indeed, show that Jesus existed as a very real person, there is literally nothing to even suggest he was anything more than the centre of a successful cult (apart from the writings of the cult itself).
    IMAGINE if the only literature on L. Ron Hubbard was literature produced and made available by Scientologists.

  150. #150 BMcP
    May 28, 2008

    Of course if someone personally believes in a deity and quietly lives their life are they required in any way to prove their belief to you or I?

  151. #151 chancelikely
    May 28, 2008

    David Marjanovich #142: try telling that to Ganymede.

  152. #152 Logicel
    May 28, 2008

    According to Walton, rationality allows us to flirt with the possibility of a god, which then brings us to a footbridge leading over an abyss of the supernatural. Once you have started to walk on those faith cards comprising the footbridge, you notice how tattered and smeared with faith-feces they are, so you remind yourself that reason has gotten you to this point, so all is well, you stop noticing the tattered faith cards, but they still give way from time to time, your foot gets lodged into one of the chinks of the faith footbridge, and you peer down into the abyss of unproven beliefs. But upon looking at the footbridge still hanging by a shred of reason to the cliff edge, the faith-head still whimpers that all is well, that reason has not left him, or not he has not compartmentalized it so his vicious faith can pretend that it has some rational, reasonable underpinning. This is rationalization, whether it dribbles out of a theologian’s faith-flecked mouth or from an ‘oridinary’ Christian, nothing more.

    I am fed up with Christians who insist that their faith is more that what it is–a ridiculous rationalization in unproven beliefs that have some appeal to them. C’est tout. When it is presented to them, they twist and turn on their tiny footbridge of faith, and insist loudly that it is attached to reason, therefore that slight connection protects them against what they perceive as slurs of being irrational and unreasonable being hurled at them. I wonder if they would endorse condoms riddled with holes as protection against AIDS also?

    And a quick perusal of Satan in Wikipedia shown that Satan is mentioned in several books of the bible.

  153. #153 Matt Penfold
    May 28, 2008

    “o dear, another instance of someone mistaking the historical Jesus for a Divine Jesus. if the very shallow evidence does, indeed, show that Jesus existed as a very real person, there is literally nothing to even suggest he was anything more than the centre of a successful cult (apart from the writings of the cult itself). IMAGINE if the only literature on L. Ron Hubbard was literature produced and made available by Scientologists.”

    Not to mention there are religions other than Christianity that can also lay claim having evidence supporting the existence of their main religious figures. Which does make me wonder how and why Walton settled on Christianity.

  154. #154 Josh
    May 28, 2008

    Virginity

    Brilliant…

  155. #155 windy
    May 28, 2008

    J wrote:

    I doubt that most militant atheists have done cosmology courses etc., so your point is entirely
    irrelevant.

    Jesus H. fucking Christ [sic]. Do you think most believers have studied cosmology? No? THEN WHY IS IT OK FOR THEM TO HAVE AN OPINION ON COSMOLOGY AND TO SHOUT IT FROM THE ROOFTOPS?

  156. #156 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    May 28, 2008

    J again with the same strange problem with the moniker atheist.

    Should we call ourselves anti-religionists? That basically what you are saying. Tell everyone you are against religion but be ooooohhhhh so careful not to tell them you find not evidence to support the existence of god[s].

    Again, (at least in my understanding of how I view the subject) since I do not believe in god[s] I automatically have a problem with religion. Pussy footing around with what I call myself seems dishonest and frankly a little on the childish side. I find it very interesting that this freaks you out so much.

  157. #157 Glen Davidson
    May 28, 2008

    The traditional Judeo-Christian answer is that if God were to do that, there would be no point in faith; the existence of God would be obvious, and human beings would not be faced with the choice of whether or not to believe. Indeed, this argument also seeks to address many of the other arguments brought up above; if God were to provide us with any empirical, scientific proof of his existence, the need for faith would be removed. Faith consists in believing in something without any solid evidence for it.

    What this confuses is the difference between, say, your wife telling you to have faith in her, and you simply having faith that you have a wife named Sue for whom there is no evidence.

    It’s reasonable for a leader, a god, say, to ask for faith in him, if he has shown himself worthy of such faith. It is utterly ridiculous (psychotic in more mundane situations) to require faith in an entity’s very existence, sans evidence, and then ask for one to have complete faith in this unevidenced entity on top of that.

    In real life, evidence that an entity exists is not enough to ask someone to trust that entity. We require evidence even to have faith in each other. But instead of, perhaps, giving God the benefit of the doubt that he is well-meaning, in the face of evidence to the contrary, we’re supposed to have faith even that he exists, against the lack of evidence.

    There are few propositions that are more blatantly unreasonable than that one.

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

  158. #158 Patricia C.
    May 28, 2008

    Oh, come on PZ, you’re just being a hooligan for spite. You don’t want to give up your squid to teach Unicorn science as you know you rightly should. Gawd sent them Unicorns and you should be lernin’ them children up on it.
    (Job 39:9,10)

  159. #159 Ryan F Stello
    May 28, 2008

    BMcP (#150) argued,

    Of course if someone personally believes in a deity and quietly lives their life are they required in any way to prove their belief to you or I?

    I think you’re missing the necessary condition of interaction.

    There is no such thing as a ‘thought crime’, and the little old spinster widow who thinks that pixies visit her at night or that black people are inferior to whites is living in what we would call a delusional reality, but it is hers to live.

    However, once this innocent entity starts expressing her views to her grandkids or tells strangers that they must believe them to be true….well, then they’ve crossed a line where proof is necessary.

    That’s the real issue, since active religionists are obviously not keeping it to themselves.

  160. #160 Matt Penfold
    May 28, 2008

    BigDumbChimp,

    Well J seems to have problems with the meaning of words. An atheist just means someone who does not believe in god(s). Some atheists may, as a result, be anti-religion, others may not. He has indicated he prefers the term “brite”. Leaving aside the issues with word itself, it also implied more than just a lack of belief in god(s), and indicates a rejection of irrational thinking of all types. It does not describe all those who just do not believe in god(s). As such use of the term as a synonym for atheist is not a tenable position.

  161. #161 Blake Stacey
    May 28, 2008

    Like most of Christian demonology, this is a medieval myth which was popularised by Milton. It isn’t in the Bible. There’s very little in the Bible itself about Satan, demons or hell.

    For that matter, there ain’t much about the Trinity, either.

  162. #162 Peter Ashby
    May 28, 2008

    Spake Walton:

    It’s true, in a sense, that this could be concluded from the argument I made. But the difference is, in the case of Christianity, that the Gospels – purported historical accounts which, as discussed earlier, seem to have at least some historical credibility when stacked up against extra-biblical evidence, despite a few apparent errors and inconsistencies – claim that Christ performed miracles, was executed and rose again from the dead

    Oh dear not the ‘its old so it must be true’ argument. So that means either that in another 1950 years the book of Mormon will true (ditto the Q’ran in 600) or that the early Xians were mistaken for several hundred years. Especially since they had much older theologies and not just Judaism. There are the miracles of the Ancient Greeks, the Egyptians, the Bhagavad Ghita is possibly the oldest continuous theology, if you exclude the theology in the Epic of Gilgamesh (and all the archaelogical support for cities like Ur). You cannot have it both ways with that argument.

  163. #163 Tulse
    May 28, 2008

    But of course one may make a case that theologians and the godly are not so bad as PZ makes them out to be.

    To be fair, I don’t think the problem is with theologians or the godly, but with theology and godliness. The individual theologians and godly may personally be very fine people who love kids and puppies and pay their taxes on time — it is their beliefs as implemented in society that are the problem.

  164. #164 frog
    May 28, 2008

    Intentionalist: Granted, as I understand Dawkins intent, I believe his goal was to address the god of the ‘common people.’ Hence, the objections are mute. In which case, I would suggest a better line of attack for them would be to show the god of the common people isn’t consistent with the god Dawkins is addressing.

    How is the god of the “common people” any different, in substance, from that of the high-falutin’ theologians? The language is more sophisticated in the latter, but the underlying reality is the same. The only significant difference I see is that the “common people” are a damn sight more honest about their beliefs than the theologians.

    Dawkins critique is that for any god that is actually meaningful in a pragmatic sense, the same errors apply. The academics just try to mush the line between a significant god and mental masturbation, using which ever fits their current needs (sometimes for good, sometimes for evil).

  165. #165 chancelikely
    May 28, 2008

    What I can’t quite understand is why fewer people haven’t solved the problem of evil the Job way – by saying that God, while omnipotent and omniscient, is not exclusively benevolent.

    Actually, I guess that is the solution provided by the “believe or you’re going to hell” variety of Christians.

  166. #166 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    May 28, 2008

    Well J seems to have problems with the meaning of words. An atheist just means someone who does not believe in god(s). Some atheists may, as a result, be anti-religion, others may not. He has indicated he prefers the term “brite”. Leaving aside the issues with word itself, it also implied more than just a lack of belief in god(s), and indicates a rejection of irrational thinking of all types. It does not describe all those who just do not believe in god(s). As such use of the term as a synonym for atheist is not a tenable position.

    Right. ONe point I made on the other thread and I’m not sure it was addresed is that I can call myself and atheist and also a rationalist and also anti-religion and etc…

    They are not mutually exclusive. What I’m getting from J is that he prefers to use one term to describe everything where I like to be a little more descriptive. IF someone asks me what I think about religion, I’ll tell them about religion. Will it come out that I am an atheist? Probably. If someone asks me about God I’ll tell them I am an atheist. Will I also include the fact that I find religion as a whole a giant scam and inherently non conducive to progressive thought and advancement of society? Probably.

    I think J is limiting the avenues of discussion and description available.

  167. #167 Barklikeadog
    May 28, 2008

    To Josh # 76…..

    Zell???? Dell???? Windows Vista????

  168. #168 octopod
    May 28, 2008

    #142, I was under the impression that pretty much EVERYONE in ancient Greece was bisexual, generally with a hefty dose of appreciation for both male and female beauty (note the existence of korai & kouroi). Their gods would certainly be no exception.
    And Ganymede has already been mentioned.

  169. #169 Josh
    May 28, 2008

    Vista. Definitely Vista…

  170. #170 clinteas
    May 28, 2008

    Walton comes across a lil as the Behe of theology,clueless but with plenty pretty words,although he is not so sure of the role of philosophy in it all,which as I think is hugely underestimated not only by this guy,but by the whole of Xianity,since it has actually answered most of the questions of morality without god and the role of man in a godless world etc,but I have a feeling he is in the end just a Kenny who knows how to spell words and that it might get you to be taken seriously for a while around here if you refrain from using captions in your posts….

  171. #171 Blake Stacey
    May 28, 2008

    Let’s try a thought experiment. Suppose that in the near future, our global civilization collapses: maybe we try to cancel out global warming with nuclear winter. Centuries later, cities are being built again, and archaeologists come across books. One series in particular must have been exceedingly important, as copies are found in different languages — French, German, English, Latin — all around the world. Each copy is only a fragment, but by comparing the overlapping portions a complete canon is tentatively identified. Some portions, attested only in surviving electronic records and printed material of lesser quality, seem to be later additions by a community of hands, but then again, portions of the canon itself are judged on literary grounds to be as low-quality as the least inspired of the apocrypha. Scholars know that Latin is the oldest of the languages in which translations exist, but it appears that most of the documents were first recorded in English.

    Much of the material in these chronicles is of a fantastic nature, with epic battles between good and evil waged in a realm beyond the sight of most citizens, which the chronicles describe as blissfully ignorant. Believers in magic point out that prophecies made in one book are fulfilled in another, a claim which scholars dismiss as valueless. Upon further investigation, however, some places in these fantastic tales can be matched with known cities of the era, attested by archaeology — places like London.

    Should we then have faith in Harrius Potter?

  172. #172 Stephen Wells
    May 28, 2008

    I was thinking about the comparison to scientific knowledge here. Take, say, the theory of the electron. We have very advanced theories (quantum electrodynamics) which accurately describe the behaviour of the electron in all sorts of situations, we have advanced technologies which depend on our ability to manipulate the electron in complex and subtle ways, and the technical details are far beyond most people’s reach. However, when we introduce the concept of the electron to, say, schoolchildren, we don’t kick off with QED, we kick off with things like: lightning, static electricity, sticking bits of metal in potatoes, and the like.

    For theology to have any basis, there needs to be some equivalent of the “rub this balloon against a cat” level for electricity.

  173. #173 clinteas
    May 28, 2008

    Blake,

    I read a post about the origins of the Genesis flood story today,cant for the life of me remember where,some commenter in another thread might have put a link up,and I just thought of that reading your post above,how folklore and hearsay and fiction can be transformed into “facts” and handed down throught the generations,its a very important point,and your scenario was an excellent example !

  174. #174 Alex
    May 28, 2008

    Whether or not deities exist is not a 50/50 proposition. There are volumes of evidence spanning centuries that support the argument that the need for deities is superfluous. There is no evidence that supports the veracity of deities. This does not mean that deities do not exist. It means that showing that they do exist, or that there is even a need for their existence, has not happened.

    Denying that the notions of magical deities and superstitions are completely human concoctions left over from the infancy of our conscious birth is denying reality and entertaining dangerous self-delusion.

  175. #175 ChrisC
    May 28, 2008

    Eye witness accounts written in the bible, and people who have near death experiences have all reported that the emperor is well dressed. How can you neglect the evidence from NDEs?

    You close minded “nakedists” refuse to see the evidence when it is presented to you.

    My opinion.

  176. #176 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    May 28, 2008

    Tell us more about these Nakedists. But talk slower.

  177. #177 True Bob
    May 28, 2008

    ChrisC, your opinion is worth exactly the cost I pay for it.

  178. #178 clinteas
    May 28, 2008

    Found it,the article with citations is here :

    a

  179. #179 Alex
    May 28, 2008

    Chris @ #175

    What you described is anecdote, not evidence. Evidence is independently verifiable. You are conflating the two. Besides, do you really think the mind is not capable of creating all sorts of experiences that are strictly internal? I mean, that seems like a very narrow view of what our imagination is capable of.

  180. #180 Dustin
    May 28, 2008

    Seeking for it is like trying to identify “love” or “beauty” or “happiness” or “the soul” using scientific investigative methods.”

    You don’t say?

  181. #181 clinteas
    May 28, 2008

    Geez,

    attack of the “i know how to use a spellchecker” Kennys tonite…..

  182. #182 skyotter
    May 28, 2008

    “How can you neglect the evidence from NDEs?”

    because they can re-create the experience in a controlled setting =)

  183. #183 Matt Penfold
    May 28, 2008

    “Eye witness accounts written in the bible, and people who have near death experiences have all reported that the emperor is well dressed. How can you neglect the evidence from NDEs?”

    By understanding that weird brain chemistry is happening in such circumstances, that is how.

    I would also add that eyewitness testimony is notoriously unreliable compared with forensic science.

  184. #184 Dustin
    May 28, 2008

    How can you neglect the evidence from NDEs?

    For that matter, how can these militant atheists ignore the mountains of evidence for God that comes from stories of LSD trips?

  185. #185 Alex
    May 28, 2008

    Here’s undeniable evidence:

    Hey everyone, GOD IS REAL!!

    There. That proves it.

  186. #186 dogmeatib
    May 28, 2008

    Well the proof in God is obvious, it says so in the Bible. The Bible proves that there is a God, and God proves that the Bible is true. Simple logic.

    /end sarcasm…

  187. #187 Glen Davidson
    May 28, 2008

    Eye witness accounts written in the bible, and people who have near death experiences have all reported that the emperor is well dressed. How can you neglect the evidence from NDEs?

    [ud mode]Yeah, and clothes exist. Dawkins admitted that clothes exist, so how can Myers go around blabbing that the emperor has no clothes?

    Besides, if the emperor has no clothes, how come birds have feathers? Huh? Can’t answer that one, can you nakedists[/ud mode]

    Oh, and Chris, make the talk of nakedists not just slower, but a lot more female. Thanks.

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

  188. #188 Chet
    May 28, 2008

    The traditional Judeo-Christian answer is that if God were to do that, there would be no point in faith

    Jesus performs miracles in the Bible, though, with the expressed purpose of proving to the assembled crowds that he is, in fact, the Son of God.

    Did God just not care about their faith? How does that make any sense? If you accept the Bible – and, if you’re going to call God “God”, and use Christian imagery and language, why wouldn’t you – then it’s obvious that God wants to provide evidence; he’s just been too shy, apparently, to do it lately.

  189. #189 JustAnotherApe
    May 28, 2008

    I am a card carrying member of the hooligans!!!

  190. #190 Alex
    May 28, 2008

    I mean yeah, what’s the point of life if there is no god?! Because of my cognitive dissonance, lack of complete understanding of everything, and my need to feel special, there must be a god. I mean, come on now!

  191. #191 True Bob
    May 28, 2008

    Chet, Joe Messiah wasn’t the only one making miracles in the babble. Others did, not just his disciples. Miracle work was not then considered a uniqe abililty of only god.

  192. #192 Chris Schoen
    May 28, 2008

    I haven’t made it through all the comments yet, but let me address this snickering about my Mary Midgley reference. You’re free to disagree with her work (if you are familiar with it), but the business about her not having read TSG before having read it is just propaganda. And worse, Dawkins knows full well that he is perpetrating falsehoods when he repeats it.

    This is amply documented here, among other places. Those of you who enjoy “evidence” will I’m sure be diligent to follow all the links.

    Dr. Dawkins has never apologized for this slander, nor issued a correction.

  193. #193 Ryan F Stello
    May 28, 2008

    Am I the only one that read ChrisC’s comment as just a Kenny parody?

    Or was that really meant to be informative?

  194. #194 bybelknap, FCD
    May 28, 2008

    Originally posted by Janine ID:

    What does one have to do to be labeled as a scallywag?

    I like the sound of ‘scallywag’ but I’d much rather be a scoundrel – or even a bounder.

  195. #195 ChrisC
    May 28, 2008

    Must remeber to use my [\begin kenny mode] and [\end kenny mode] tags next time. Damn interwebs and its sarcasm concealment!

    And Glen, in a strike against dominant masculinity/hetronormativity (sp?), I think that any talk of nakedist should encompass both genders.

  196. #196 clinteas
    May 28, 2008

    No 192,Chris Schoen:

    What exactly is your point here?
    //but the business about her not having read TSG before having read it is just propaganda//

    The link you put up is not a documentation of anything factual but just a subjective account,so we’re back to the bible argument,its written down somewhere,so its gotta be true?

  197. #197 Chet
    May 28, 2008

    Eye witness accounts written in the bible

    None of the Bible was written by eyewitnesses; thus, the Bible contains no such accounts.

    The Bible has accounts of unspecified people, who are claimed to have been eyewitnesses, but it’s not even known that those people even existed; they certainly weren’t alive at the time the New Testament was being written, some seven or more decades after the events it details.

  198. #198 clinteas
    May 28, 2008

    ChrisC can I have the number of your drug dealer,that man just rocks….

  199. #199 Ryan F Stello
    May 28, 2008

    Chris Schoen (#192) said,

    Dr. Dawkins has never apologized for this slander, nor issued a correction.

    Would you rather he give the full description of the meaning in his apology, which you are covering up?
    A reminder, from your linky:

    I am therefore happy to comply with Brown’s request and accept that Mrs Midgley read the book as a professional philosopher and managed the remarkable feat (which somehow eluded millions of non-philosophers) of crassly missing the entire point

  200. #200 True Bob
    May 28, 2008

    Dang, Poe’d agin!

  201. #201 ChrisC
    May 28, 2008

    Just ease up on the trigger finger there True Bob…although I supposed as a frequent lurker but infrequent poster here, I haven’t yet gained my “people know when you are being sarcastic stripes”.

  202. #202 Matt Penfold
    May 28, 2008

    “I haven’t made it through all the comments yet, but let me address this snickering about my Mary Midgley reference. You’re free to disagree with her work (if you are familiar with it), but the business about her not having read TSG before having read it is just propaganda. And worse, Dawkins knows full well that he is perpetrating falsehoods when he repeats it.”

    She may have read it, she clearly failed to understand a word of it. She has never apologised for her stupidity in failing to do so. Her failure to understand in clearly not one of intellect, she is not a stupid person. However it seems that she would be better off not talking about science, were she would seem to have an intellectual deficit. She wrote about something she was clueless about, and has failed to admit it.

    Do you really want to carry on making Dawkins look the bad guy in this argument or will you admit Midgley fucked up and lacked the courage to admit it ?

  203. #203 Screechy Monkey
    May 28, 2008

    “This does not entail telling people our cosmological opinions unless we’re asked.”

    So it’s “Don’t ask, don’t tell”? We wouldn’t want to make other people uncomfortable with our icky unconventional cosmological opinions.

    Incidentally, if someone visits a blog written by a self-described “godless liberal” where atheistic topics are frequently discussed, haven’t they kind of asked us already?

  204. #204 Jim Harrison
    May 28, 2008

    If dolphins could talk, I expect they’d be pretty boring conversationalists. “Got any fish? Boy I sure like fish. Fish are so tasty. Did I ask you if you had any fish? etc.” In the same way, people who identify themselves with science often obsess about science as if it were the dolphin’s fish. They demonstrate very little awareness that science is relevant to a rather small proportion of human activity and concern; and it is this sometimes charming cluelessness that defines so many of them as nerds, or, as one would have written in the 19th Century, philistines.

    To be fair to you guys, lots of believers conceptualize their activities as a sort of science of the divine even though reducing religiosity to a system of propositions really does turn it into a grotesquely stupid type of science fiction that is a fitting target for the usual village atheist arguments. The point is that traditional atheism doesn’t really engage the kinds of thinking one encounters in the serious theologians whose names, we are warned, we must not drop. Vast swaths of ethical, political, aesthetic, anthropological, and psychological reflection are thereby waved away and replaced with shallow, rationalistic cant.

  205. #205 Ryan F Stello
    May 28, 2008

    ChrisC (#201) said,

    I haven’t yet gained my “people know when you are being sarcastic stripes”

    I think you did alright for a first (or relatively first) go. Just remember to add more nonsensical SHOUTING and refer to a dangerous ‘slippery slope’ without ever defining what real dangers exist, and you’ll have him pegged.

    Oh, and add a complaint that noone takes you seriously…

  206. #206 Etha Williams
    May 28, 2008

    @#77 Walton —

    Like most of Christian demonology, this is a medieval myth which was popularised by Milton. It isn’t in the Bible. There’s very little in the Bible itself about Satan, demons or hell.

    Indeed, even the use of “Lucifer” as an alternative name for Satan is non-scriptural. It means “light-bearer” and is a Latin translation of a Hebrew name used in Isaiah, but modern scholars believe the relevant phrase to be a pseudonym used for one of the Babylonian kings.

    In addition to the rebel-Satan Revelations passage cited by Pablo in #125, there’s also this passage from Luke:

    The seventy-two returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.”

    He replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. (Luke 10:17-18).

    The similarity between “fall like lighting from heaven” and the description of Lucifer as “How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn!” (Isaiah 14:12) is probably the origin of the popular conflation of Lucifer & Satan.

    The Book of Enoch (written well before Milton) also describes Satan in great length as being a fallen angel (sometimes also using satans plural as being a general name for fallen angels).

  207. #207 Ken
    May 28, 2008

    Give the guy a break – he actually thinks that Andrew Rilstone has “handed Dawkins his ass”. This is cute rather than offensive.

  208. #208 Dennis N
    May 28, 2008

    I see J popped in and filled his checklist with these words dripping from his lips:

    -“Militant athiest”
    -“Dawkins”
    -“Cosmological question”
    -“Why tell people youre atheist?”
    -“Cult”
    -Claims to be an atheist himself

    The concern trolling/Christian-like behavior never fails.

  209. #209 clinteas
    May 28, 2008

    Etha I wish I had your bible education,I walked out laughing too early in my life to remember much,and I miss that sometimes,especially in here….

  210. #210 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    May 28, 2008

    They demonstrate very little awareness that science is relevant to a rather small proportion of human activity and concern

    Yes, all that medicine, technology, transportation, communication, food safety, computers and their networks, textiles and petroleum products are only relevant to a small amount of human activity..

  211. #211 Matt Penfold
    May 28, 2008

    “Give the guy a break – he actually thinks that Andrew Rilstone has “handed Dawkins his ass”. This is cute rather than offensive.”

    Does Dawkins actually own a donkey ? Only he has never once mentioned the fact, and it is the kind of thing that one might drop into a conversation at some point.

  212. #212 Alex
    May 28, 2008

    “They demonstrate very little awareness that science is relevant to a rather small proportion of human activity…”

    Wow. Really?! What an apparently asinine assertion. Just about every interaction you physically engage in utilizes the scientific method. Everything. From walking to talking to picking up something and eating it. If I read and understood your statement correctly, you really have no clue what the scientific method is about. This doesn’t even speak of the clean water, sterile food, medicines and vaccinations that you take for granted each day. Staggering.

  213. #213 Josh
    May 28, 2008

    They demonstrate very little awareness that science is relevant to a rather small proportion of human activity and concern; and it is this sometimes charming cluelessness that defines so many of them as nerds, or, as one would have written in the 19th Century, philistines.

    You’re fucking kidding, right? Seriously.

    Have you drank any water today? Wanna take a guess at how many of the rest of the world’s population have drank some today?

  214. #214 Peter Ashby
    May 28, 2008

    Clinteas an earlier version of the Noah myth is in the Epic of Gilgamesh, iirc he was called Hammurabi and instead of ending up on Mt Ararat he landed on an Island in the Gulf off what is now Kuwait. As you would expect from a large Tigris/Euphrates flood.

  215. #215 frog
    May 28, 2008

    Jim Harrison: The point is that traditional atheism doesn’t really engage the kinds of thinking one encounters in the serious theologians whose names, we are warned, we must not drop. Vast swaths of ethical, political, aesthetic, anthropological, and psychological reflection are thereby waved away and replaced with shallow, rationalistic cant.

    You know where I go to get my deep psychological reflections? Psychologists and artists. How about anthropology? Anthropologists! Aesthetics? Let’s go back to the artists. Ethics? How about philosophy?

    Why would I prefer a theologian who is a dilettante in psychology, when I could go with a pro? You’re argument is weak and pathetic Jim — why would I prefer the thoughts of a fairly screwed up, self-hating masochist like Augustine to the poetry of Lucretius? You’re the one who is preferring the shallow inanity of Paul and his hangers on to the actually verifiable, self-consistent thought of Russell.

  216. #216 JimC
    May 28, 2008

    Eye witness accounts written in the bible, and people who have near death experiences have all reported that the emperor is well dressed. How can you neglect the evidence from NDEs?

    Then you, being all into evidence and such, have knowledge that NDE’s typically mirror the beliefs of the individual. Jews have jewish NDE’s, Muslim’s muslim NDE’s, and so on.

    It is evidence just not the kind you want it to be.

  217. #217 Etha Williams
    May 28, 2008

    @#23 Walton —

    Science can make clear to us how the universe took on its present physical form; the gaps in our knowledge, which are many, may well be filled in the future by the advancement of science. But it cannot explain why we are here, what our purpose is, and why a universe capable of sustaining life came to be. You cannot apply the scientific method to these questions, because they are intrinsically beyond the scope of empirical evidence.

    1) Why should there be a why? The only reason our universe’s ability to support life is special to us is because we see ourselves as special. It’s a very anthropocentric way of looking at things, which is a bit silly given our relative smallness and insignificance wrt the scope of the universe.

    2) It’s entirely possible that life could have arisen in a universe not capable of sustaining this sort of life; it would simply be a different sort of life. Evolution by natural selection selects for life that is suited to the environment, so it stands to reason that if units capable of self-replication with random variation arose in a different universe, those variants best suited for that universe would be selected for. (Something like the energy beings in Star Trek? ;>) This is the main issue I have with astrobiologists who limit their conception of planets capable of supporting life to Earth-like (“M class,” to continue the Star Trek references…) planets; there’s no reason to think that radically different life shouldn’t have arisen on other, radically different planets.

  218. #218 tony (not a vegan)
    May 28, 2008

    Jim@204:

    The point is that traditional atheism doesn’t really engage the kinds of thinking one encounters in the serious theologians whose names, we are warned, we must not drop. Vast swaths of ethical, political, aesthetic, anthropological, and psychological reflection are thereby waved away and replaced with shallow, rationalistic cant.

    Are you serious?

    The responses here are just that – responses to people like Kenny and Walton. You’re blaming us for not creating massive mentally masturbatory missives in response to their overwhelmingly common and childish whining.

    Walton, at least, attempted to wrap his posts with some philosophy, but ultimately was reduced to ‘I believe, so you should too’ circular reasoning. Not very convincing, and ultimately not worthy of ‘superior exposition’.

    If you want commentary on politics, or economics, or whatever, as most of your unnamed historical theologians provided, then go look at a thread on economics, or politics, or whatever else. This blog is mostly bio-evo-devo with a healthy smattering of atheism.

    I go elsewhere for physics, and technology, and math, and politics, and history.

    So should you.

  219. #219 ChrisC
    May 28, 2008

    Dear Jebus Jim C…did you miss the part where it was pointed out that was a parody?

    If so…see comments #193; #195 and #205

  220. #220 WRMartin
    May 28, 2008

    Comments are at #215 and climbing quickly – talk about late to the party…

    Walton @23 etc. – Maybe the word ‘futility’ is new to you. Here’s an exercise which all theists (and the deity-curious) should concentrate on while the world keeps on keeping on:
    Calculate the number of angels that will fit on the head of a pin. Please show your work. Don’t turn in your answer until it has been peer reviewed.

    Walton @64

    Basically, we are all presented with the same set of facts and the same principles of logical reasoning. We can all conclude the same thing from those: that they are inconclusive. God may exist, or he may not.

    Why assume the existence of God? Why not a unicorn or a Flying Spaghetti Monster? Or how about none of the above? Why is “I don’t know” not a valid answer? Remember, your ignorance and my ignorance is not proof of God. But then maybe you need to step back a moment and decide if there is even a need for a God. Is there any real need for a god or gods? Why?
    Do you need a god so you can also have a devil? Do you need a heaven so you can also have a hell? I don’t. I don’t have a god or a devil. I don’t have a heaven or a hell. My life is not dominated by imaginary critters or locations; reality is wonderful (and irritating) all by itself. No Lucky Rabbit’s Feet, no salt over the shoulder, no magical incantations before meals. I aced a physics final on a Friday the 13th – does that make Friday the 13th my ‘lucky’ day? You bet it does (just to irritate those who consider it unlucky)! Ha, I counter your superstition with double-reverse superstition.

    David @66 – That’s what the pope is for (wearing all those fancy-schmancy clothes).

    Kcrady @74 – Mental Masturbation == Theology.
    You win the Innertoobs today!

    Blake Stacey @171 – Praise be unto Him. All hail Harrius. He is risen. He did rise, didn’t he? ;)

    ChrisC @175 (& @195) – Whew! Good thing I’m so slow to compose a comment (apologies for length) or we’d be getting drunk already with our Kenny Drinking Game ®. All clear – it’s safe to put your drinking glasses down.

    Jim @204 –

    science is relevant to a rather small proportion of human activity and concern

    And what else, pray tell, occupies the other proportions?

    To be fair to you guys, lots of believers conceptualize their activities as a sort of science of the divine even though reducing religiosity to a system of propositions really does turn it into a grotesquely stupid type of science fiction that is a fitting target for the usual village atheist arguments.

    For part 1, I thank you. For part 2 (the “village atheist” snark) – nice one; I’ll give you a touché. My pores ooze ignorance constantly. For example, I’m ignorant of the “usual atheist arguments” so please enlighten me. I contend that there is no God, there was no God, there will be no God. Now, where’s my argument?

    Vast swaths of ethical, political, aesthetic, anthropological, and psychological reflection are thereby waved away and replaced with shallow, rationalistic cant.

    It may be shallow but I’ll take rationality any day.

  221. #221 frog
    May 28, 2008

    Richard Harris: I’ve not come across an explanation for why the peasants apparently believed in these people-like (but super-human) deities, despite never seeing them. The role of the King & his wife as representiatives of the gods on Earth is also not clear. I suspect it varied from Empire to City State, & over time. The history was written on clay tablets, thousands of which have survived, & been interpreted.

    Why do you assume that they didn’t see gods? The non-sophist kinds of Christians hear God speaking all the time. They “see” him in everything surrounding him — and many also see demons and angels.

    Hallucinations are a normal part of human experience and the human perception mechanisms. I doubt that many haven’t had the experience of an optical illusion, or feeling, seeing or hearing things that weren’t really there. A large portion of the population don’t take that second look to actually confirm that what they saw wasn’t just hallucinatory.

  222. #222 Screechy Monkey
    May 28, 2008

    “The point is that traditional atheism doesn’t really engage the kinds of thinking one encounters in the serious theologians whose names, we are warned, we must not drop.”

    Ah, but I’ve been repeatedly assured that we now have a crop of New Atheists!

  223. #223 JimC
    May 28, 2008

    Yepper I did ChrisC, my comment was sitting in dry dock for awhile before I hit the button.

    The point is that traditional atheism doesn’t really engage the kinds of thinking one encounters in the serious theologians whose names, we are warned, we must not drop. Vast swaths of ethical, political, aesthetic, anthropological, and psychological reflection are thereby waved away and replaced with shallow, rationalistic cant.

    This is really just BS. There is allot of reflection to be sure but nothing approaching a viable evidence laced argument. And the average ‘village’ atheist doesn’t have to much problem with these arguments either.

  224. #224 tony (not a vegan)
    May 28, 2008

    Q: What’s the difference between a serious theologian, and an athiest?

    A: The theologian doesn’t need his hands to masturbate!

    ba-boom!

  225. #225 Moses
    May 28, 2008

    Rather, vague and wishy-washy as it may sound, religion and science do deal with different types of “truth”. Science can make clear to us how the universe took on its present physical form; the gaps in our knowledge, which are many, may well be filled in the future by the advancement of science. But it cannot explain why we are here, what our purpose is, and why a universe capable of sustaining life came to be. You cannot apply the scientific method to these questions, because they are intrinsically beyond the scope of empirical evidence.

    Actually, you’re wrong. We understand many of things through science. And are getting better at understanding them as science progresses.

    There is no overwhelming scientific proof, nor will there ever be, for belief in the Judeo-Christian God or in any other benevolent Creator. Seeking for it is like trying to identify “love” or “beauty” or “happiness” or “the soul” using scientific investigative methods.

    You’re co-mingling something that doesn’t exists with emotional states that do exist. That actually leave patterns that can be measured and tested and explored.

    Once again, you’re not up to speed.

    As regards the exhortation to atheists to read up on Christian and Jewish theology: I do realise that theology may, to those who disbelieve in a Creator on basic philosophical grounds, appear to be on a par with “fairy studies”. But it is still beneficial in the avoidance of straw man arguments. Many of the philosophical problems of belief in a deity have been addressed by religious writers and thinkers through the ages. Whether you find their solutions convincing is, of course, up to you – but that’s no reason not to read them. Theology and philosophy are not valueless fields just because they don’t deal with testable, falsifiable scientific facts.

    Posted by: Walton | May 28, 2008 8:09 AM

    Every “great religious philosopher” used by the God bothers always starts with “God Exists,” let me try to hide my shortcomings in my incredibly dense arguments so I can hide at least one critical fallacy.

    You know what kills the whole God-thing most of all? Biblical Archeology. The more they dig, they more the understand. The more they understand, the more obvious where the early Jews came from and how their beliefs evolved over-time.

    Most of you don’t even know that at one time they were child-sacrificing polytheists. It took them a THOUSAND YEARS of change to become “officially” monotheist and, even then, there were still polytheistic beliefs and sub-sects in the population until (around) 1400AD.

    Any argument for God needs to deal with the truth of these facts. God’s wife. God’s children. God being the combination of two separate gods (El & Yahweh (Yahweh is how we got to monotheism and, essentially, absorbed El).

    Come on. Give me a break. You’re coming into the major leagues with a little-league bat. Just like those “great philosophers” who were wholly ignorant of their religion’s complete history.

    Now were just partially ignorant. But what we’ve learned is amazing. And completely refutes modern Judeo-Christian understandings of “god.”

  226. #226 JimC
    May 28, 2008

    But it cannot explain why we are here, what our purpose is, and why a universe capable of sustaining life came to be. You cannot apply the scientific method to these questions, because they are intrinsically beyond the scope of empirical evidence

    This is what gets ya each and every time. Religion answers NONE of these questions- NONE. It is simply made up pretend ‘answers’. It cannot explain a purpose in any real sense, or a ‘why’. This is the silly notion pumped into heads of people. There are thousands of religions.

  227. #227 Etha Williams
    May 28, 2008

    @#81 J —

    The important question isn’t whether some sort of “god” exists; it’s whether the claims of religion have any truth to them. Any reasonable, scientifically educated person knows they don’t.

    But the watered-down, mere cosmological hypothesis — why are you people so restlessly obsessed with it? I’m quite sure it’s not out of passion for cosmology (a subject which is seldom discussed on atheist blogs and message boards). The only reason I can think of is the simple thrill you get out of calling yourselves atheists.

    Atheism, for me at any rate, isn’t a cosmological hypothesis; I admit quite freely that I don’t know how the universe began, and am not sufficiently educated in the various hypotheses to give an informed opinion. But if it were shown that the universe was created by an intelligent agent, I still see no reason why this agent should be called “god.”

    But why are you so restlessly obsessed with berating us for not being obsessed with cosmology? The only reason I can think of is the smug satisfaction you get out of thinking yourself better than atheists.

  228. #228 Alex
    May 28, 2008

    Well said JimC.

  229. #229 frog
    May 28, 2008

    Moses: Most of you don’t even know that at one time they were child-sacrificing polytheists

    What I find particularly peculiar is that the child-sacrifice part is obvious from read the Bible. The thing is chock-full of places where you’re told that you’re not allowed to sacrifice your first born, where God asks for or sends his angels down to sacrifice the first born, where the Levites are identified as taking the place of sacrifice of the first born, and on and on…

    If they read their own books seriously, and not solely as a source for propaganda, they would have recognized immediately that their cult is rooted in child-sacrifice. Why do they think that the idea of God sacrificing his first born made any headway if the idea of child-sacrifice wasn’t fresh in their mind? The lamb replaces the child, which replaces the lamb.

  230. #230 Patricia C.
    May 28, 2008

    Inquiring minds want to know about Dawkins ass. Does it speak? Then it would be a biblical ass (Balaam), or if it’s spotted then it would be a Spanish ass (Sancho). Someone do tell! ;)

  231. #231 True Bob
    May 28, 2008

    Moses, from whence come ye? You write very interesting posts, and include lots of intertesting information. History/evolution of religion I find especially interesting.

    Regards, TB

  232. #232 Blake Stacey
    May 28, 2008

    Today, we are faced with questions revealed by modern science; many of them could not even have been formulated a century ago. Whether or not we answer those questions during the next century, it is an act of astonishing arrogance to assume that those answers must be written in a particular thread of our tribal history two thousand years or more in our past.

    That’s all.

  233. #233 Alex
    May 28, 2008

    I think the Book of Hiram talks about the history of the “Jewish” religion, among other things. Sun and Venus worship started it all. It actually makes sense if you put yourself in the mind-set of a primitive culture. Predicting the seasons and formally recognizing the “giver of life” would be a pretty basic and important idea to grasp.

  234. #234 Moses
    May 28, 2008

    I’m not arguing in favor of God or religion, just clear thinking: you cannot prove a negative.

    Posted by: uncle noel | May 28, 2008 9:52 AM

    What you stated is commonly called the “negative proof fallacy.”

    For example, I can prove my daughter is not a man. I can prove my is not (and never has been) a man. I can prove my cat isn’t a dog. I can prove I didn’t shoot Lincoln. I can prove I didn’t shoot JFK. I can prove my cat is not in a box.

    I can’t prove I’m not a millionaire because there is the possibility I’m not fully disclosing information and you do not have the ability to get the information. OTOH, if I were a millionaire, it’d be easy to prove.

    Anyway, it’s not like you were a complete idiot, this is a common fallacy that is pervasive taught and reinforced in our culture. I used to use this one myself. Until someone, much meaner than I, massive embarrassed me on FidoNet.

  235. #235 J
    May 28, 2008

    But why are you so restlessly obsessed with berating us for not being obsessed with cosmology? The only reason I can think of is the smug satisfaction you get out of thinking yourself better than atheists.
    I’ve commented in two threads. That’s hardly a sign of obsession. On the other hand, people like PZ Myers feel the need to announce they’re atheists almost every day on their blogs. Now that is obsession.

    It’s ludicrous to say that I think I’m “better than atheists”, seeing as I admit to being an atheist myself. The difference between us is that I consider atheism a cosmological viewpoint, which I don’t feel I have to tell people about unless they ask.

    I also believe in the Everett interpretation of quantum mechanics, which I think is of far greater cosmological significance than the question of whether there is some intelligent design underlying certain aspects of Nature. Normally I only tell people about that in appropriate conversations. I do not shove my “multiversism” into people’s faces.

  236. #236 Alex
    May 28, 2008

    Atheism makes no positive cosmological claims. Theists however, do – and do so without backing them up. Being Atheist is no more a cosmological position than being Atoothfairyist.

  237. #237 J
    May 28, 2008

    Jesus H. fucking Christ [sic]. Do you think most believers have studied cosmology? No? THEN WHY IS IT OK FOR THEM TO HAVE AN OPINION ON COSMOLOGY AND TO SHOUT IT FROM THE ROOFTOPS.
    I’ve really had enough of these tedious, predictable strawmen. I did not say that it is “OK” for believers “TO HAVE AN OPINION ON COSMOLOGY”. Their opinion is worthless. Religion has no bearing whatever on cosmological questions.

    Now quit misrepresenting me. It’s really getting pathetic.

  238. #238 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    May 28, 2008

    I’ve commented in two threads. That’s hardly a sign of obsession. On the other hand, people like PZ Myers feel the need to announce they’re atheists almost every day on their blogs. Now that is obsession.

    You do understand that blogs are a place where many people, including myself, vent? Right? I don’t go around telling everyone I meet in person that I am an atheist, unless they ask or course.

  239. #239 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    May 28, 2008

    that’s “of course” of course.

  240. #240 Dan Jensen
    May 28, 2008

    As for violating the sanctity of that list of holy names, here’s my favorite critique of such appeals to authority:

    “Fear not to touch the best
    The truth shall be thy warrant”

    From “The Lie”, Sir Walter Raleigh

  241. #241 Ryan F Stello
    May 28, 2008

    The difference between us is that I consider atheism a cosmological viewpoint, which I don’t feel I have to tell people about unless they ask.

    What’s good for the goose isn’t necessarily good for the gander.
    Or in other words, you’re wrong if you think other atheists must follow your self-imposed rules.

    Especially that one that treats atheism as a cosmological viewpoint. That one is just plain naive.

  242. #242 Chris Schoen
    May 28, 2008

    Ryan,

    If you clicked the links as I asked, rather than just reading enough to score cheap points, you’d see I didn’t cover up Dawkins’ response; rather I quoted it, with the observation that (1) the “apology” didn’t apply to his own fabrication of events, and (2) he went again and accused her of it again on his own site.

    Accusing a fellow academic of intellectual dishonesty is a serious thing. Academics trade on their reputation for honesty.

    Clinteas, please read more closely. I carefully document the impossibility of Dawkins being correct that he was “told” that Midgley never read his book.

    Matt Penfold,

    There is a critical difference in making an error within an academic or journalistic work–which you may argue that Midgely did when she construed TSG as she did–and perpetrating outright dishonesty, as Dawkins has claimed in saying he was told she had never read it.

    Let’s be clear: the person who Dawkins says told him Midgely never read TSG before reviewing it (Segerstrale) denies ever having said anything of the kind. About 10 years ago Dawkins and Segerstrale met over dinner and supposedly straightened out any misunderstandings on that score. So why 10 years later, is he still making the false and indefensible claim that Segestrale told him MM never read it?

    Perhaps there’s a charitable explanation but I’ll I’ve heard has been obfuscation and silence.

  243. #243 Glen Davidson
    May 28, 2008

    Rather, vague and wishy-washy as it may sound, religion and science do deal with different types of “truth”. Science can make clear to us how the universe took on its present physical form; the gaps in our knowledge, which are many, may well be filled in the future by the advancement of science. But it cannot explain why we are here, what our purpose is, and why a universe capable of sustaining life came to be. You cannot apply the scientific method to these questions, because they are intrinsically beyond the scope of empirical evidence.

    Actually, they aren’t in the least beyond the scope of empirical science.

    People long asked “Why does it rain?”, looking for an anthropomorphic answer. That’s understandable, for the very fact that one has to begin asking while using the measures one has at one’s disposal. They had to ask “why does it rain” assuming that rain must exist in order for rivers to exist, and for humans to drink, because they had no other context (other than fragments of causal phenomena).

    So, does it rain because the clouds themselves seek to give water to the earth, or is there a more comprehensive mind behind it all, such that it rains so that humans can drink, rivers flow to replenish the ocean, and oceans exist so that clouds can draw water from the ocean?

    No, it rains because of a combination of thermodynamic matters involved with water, saturation points, and the topography of the land. The “why” was answered without resorting to a telos or a purpose, while it was never satisfactorily answered via teleology.

    The same appears to be for all non-animal processes. Teleology only seems to work for explaining why animals do certain things. We might have thought that plants could be explained teleologically, except that there appear to be no minds directing plants, so that’s useless. Ultimately, it appears that even animal tele will be explained through evolution and physiology, yet the fact that we do have goals will always leave room for teleological proximal explanations–but only where minds are known or can be properly inferred.

    It is wrong to suppose that there have to be teleological answers to the “whys” that science explains. Serious believers in Abrahamic religions rarely explain the “why” of rain in teleological terms (except in special cases, like when prayers are made to end droughts), so why should anyone assume that human existence has a purpose or telos in the absence of any observable mind behind human existence?

    The truth is that science gives us answers for most of our “why” questions, without resorting to teleology–aside from the doings of animate entities. Many do not like these answers, since humans tend to look for purpose behind every action (it’s safer to assume intent than non-intent in the state of nature), but they are the only justifiable answers we have for a vast array of phenomena.

    If one wishes to tack onto science a benevolent purpose behind all of the apparently purposeless phenomena of inanimate nature in order to satisfy their own psychological needs, they are completely free to do so. Just don’t call this addition of a superfluous “cause” a “different kind of truth.” It is not that in any ordinary meaning of “truth”, it is simply a sop to cover for the fact that we are only able to find inanimate causes existing in our universe, except for the limited and understood causation of animals.

    One has no right to demand animate causes for physical phenomena just because one wishes for these to exist. Science is fully adequate to deal with observable animate causation where this exists (and within its own proper parameters, of course), and we know that the “why” sensibly reduces down to inanimate physics wherever a mind behind the phenomenon is not evident.

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

  244. #244 windy
    May 28, 2008

    J wrote:

    I did not say that it is “OK” for believers “TO HAVE AN OPINION ON COSMOLOGY”. Their opinion is worthless. Religion has no bearing whatever on cosmological questions.

    So why aren’t you out there touring churches and telling them this? Once everyone agrees to define atheism your way, we can consider not talking about it so much. Deal?

    Now quit misrepresenting me. It’s really getting pathetic.

    I wasn’t misrepresenting you, I was asking you. And you have a lot of nerve to complain. When someone does try to discuss the implications of a designer to cosmology, you say that they are only ‘repeating standard Dawkinsite arguments’ (although you “agree with them”??) But it doesn’t take an advanced cosmology course nor a reading of Dawkins to see that the fine-tuning argument for a designer is self-defeating!

  245. #245 Moses
    May 28, 2008

    No-one here, and very few atheists, argue that the existence of an omnipotent and benevolent being is logically impossible…

    Posted by: Nick Gotts | May 28, 2008 10:56 AM

    Really. Logically impossible.

    Beyond the straw-man, why wouldn’t it be logically impossible?

    Because you don’t like the harsh reality that the entire concept of God which you’re addressing is absurd and prejudiced to your Abrahamic cultural-theological roots?

    Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. There is ZERO credible evidence that the Judeo-Christian god, or any other human-created pantheon, exists. There is no evidence, or logical reason to believe, that the universe in which we exist could harbor an omnipotent being or said being could have existed prior to the creation of the universe in any of the creation tales we’ve invented.

    The entire God concept is simply absurd. As absurd as alien abductions, gremlins, fairies, Santa Clause, the Easter Bunny and every other fantasy we’ve constructed over the past 100 Milena to explain prosaic events that were once, but no longer, beyond our ken.

  246. #246 Ryan F Stello
    May 28, 2008

    If you clicked the links as I asked, rather than just reading enough to score cheap points, you’d see I didn’t cover up Dawkins’ response

    I did, with your promise of evidence of falsehood.
    No such evidence existed, other than your own distortions and rambling.

    In point of fact, you declared a confession to an anecdotal statement that was, itself, an anecdotal statement.

    Your own acceptance of Segerstrale’s denial as being truthworthy is particularly telling.

    I must admit, I can’t say I particularly care about the issue as much you do, but I do find your standards for ‘falsehood’ to be lacking.

  247. #247 Alex
    May 28, 2008

    Even the Easter Bunny!!?? NOOOOO!!! Please, just please….say it ain’t so! Please?!

  248. #248 frog
    May 28, 2008

    But GlenD, at some point the questions must end. At some point, there will be just laws of physics without further laws of physics explaining why those laws of physics “must” be that way. Even if you go into some meta-mode like Tegmark, where mathematical consistency demands some set of laws of physics, at some point you must simply stop.

    That’s the deeper problem — some people just don’t know when to shut up, when to stop. They need to have some kind of magical answer (which of course, strictly speaking, is a non-answer mystified). There’s a sum with no preceding ergo, and that just drives some folks nuts.

  249. #249 J
    May 28, 2008

    So why aren’t you out there touring churches and telling them this? Once everyone agrees to define atheism your way, we can consider not talking about it so much. Deal?
    What a ludicrous suggestion. I’m posting here because I like PZ Myers’ writing and I read his blog every day. Obviously, I’m not “out there touring churches” because it would be inconvenient to do that.

    Last I looked, atheism wasn’t merely equivalent to “rejection of religion”. But even if it were — what’s the sense in using such a stigmatized word? As Sam Harris remarked, it’s as if you’re lying down into the chalk outline they have drawn out for you. We’re free to use whatever name we want. Why not choose the one that’s most strategically expedient? (Maybe this isn’t “Bright”, though I find it hard to believe that “atheist” is undoubtedly the best we can have.)

  250. #250 Dennis N
    May 28, 2008

    J, how about we all choose a name for ourselves? You choose bright, we’ll all choose atheist. Topic over?

  251. #251 BlueIndependent
    May 28, 2008

    “…One has no right to demand animate causes for physical phenomena just because one wishes for these to exist. Science is fully adequate to deal with observable animate causation where this exists (and within its own proper parameters, of course), and we know that the “why” sensibly reduces down to inanimate physics wherever a mind behind the phenomenon is not evident.”

    I nominate that for best paragraph in thie thread.

  252. #252 frog
    May 28, 2008

    Nick: No-one here, and very few atheists, argue that the existence of an omnipotent and benevolent being is logically impossible; nor that the existence of a creator of some kind is either logically impossible, or contrary to empirical evidence – since any sufficiently powerful creator could, clearly, conceal its existence.

    An omnipotent, omniscient and omnibenevolent being is logically impossible; it is inconsistent with the existence of suffering. All arguments to the contrary hide one of those three attributes – they all go along the lines of “God blinds himself” or “God refrains from action” or “God’s goodness is different from the normal meaning of goodness”. Of course, all three lines of argument are simply sophistry to cover up mutually inconsistent claims.

    If we were arguing with non-Abrahmic folks, you might have a point. There could logically be a blind god that is good, or a Cassandra-like god, impotent but well intentioned. But that hasn’t been a significant point of view since the 3rd century. Walton’s god is a logical impossibility.

    Of course, there’s always the “best” counter-argument, that god isn’t logically consistent, so logical consistency is irrelevant; but that’s just muttering meaningless noises that sound like language. I think your “self-hiding” god would fall under that category, of desperate attempts to make the question go away.

  253. #253 Matt Penfold
    May 28, 2008

    “Last I looked, atheism wasn’t merely equivalent to “rejection of religion”. But even if it were — what’s the sense in using such a stigmatized word?”

    You clearly did not look very hard, or have a problem with understanding what words mean.

    If you cannot understand what atheism means, and clearly you cannot, then shut up. You have suggested the use of the word “Bright”. However that term means more than just lack of a belief in god. It also means a rejection of irrationality of all kinds. An atheist, someone who simply does not believe in god(s) could believe that the Earth is being visited by aliens, or that astrology gives an good insight into a person’s future. That person is an atheist, as they do not believe in god(s). None of the other terms you have suggested covers them.

    Please, before crapping on anymore, learn what words mean.

  254. #254 True Bob
    May 28, 2008

    J, it seems like it depends on what you want to communicate with your words. I use “atheist” preferably as an adjective (I am atheist), and use it only to mean I have no gods. What more should I want to communicate with that word?

    If it’s about god-belief or lack thereof, “atheist” does just fine for me, and “Bright” sounds too smug for my personality – I would feel uncomfortable for the implied elevation of my status wrt non-Brights.

    And if you want to get into cosmological conjecture, why bring in either of those 2 words? It seems to me you are looking for a more encompassing word, and I think you are going to have to invent it.

  255. #255 J
    May 28, 2008

    When someone does try to discuss the implications of a designer to cosmology, you say that they are only ‘repeating standard Dawkinsite arguments’ (although you “agree with them”??) But it doesn’t take an advanced cosmology course nor a reading of Dawkins to see that the fine-tuning argument for a designer is self-defeating!
    I have little idea what you’re going on about here. Time and time again I’ve said that I’m an atheist.

    The point is that thrusting your cosmological opinion on people is totally unnecessary. It’s even worse than necessary, it’s inconvenient. Even if you’re right and very simple, knowledge-free arguments are all that’s required to demolish the deist position — so what? Why do you feel so compelled to keep telling everyone else?

  256. #256 Moses
    May 28, 2008

    In this post Chet does a great job in pointing out one of the largest flaws in current Christian rhetoric:

    The traditional Judeo-Christian answer is that if God were to do that, there would be no point in faith

    Jesus performs miracles in the Bible, though, with the expressed purpose of proving to the assembled crowds that he is, in fact, the Son of God.

    Did God just not care about their faith? How does that make any sense? If you accept the Bible – and, if you’re going to call God “God”, and use Christian imagery and language, why wouldn’t you – then it’s obvious that God wants to provide evidence; he’s just been too shy, apparently, to do it lately.

    Posted by: Chet | May 28, 2008 1:25 PM

    The “stock” answer is that after Jesus’ sacrifice God withdrew himself from the affairs of man. It is, of course, a bullshit “stock” answer.

    And, with that, I’m pretty much spent for the day. A week of the flu has left me in a state that tires easily.

    Oh, and “J,” you really amuse me in a “what the hell is wrong with this guy” sort of way. Keep up the work. Note that I didn’t say “good.”

  257. #257 Dennis N
    May 28, 2008

    Uhhh, maybe cuz this is an atheist blog?

  258. #258 J
    May 28, 2008

    “…even worse than unnecessary”, that’s supposed to be.

  259. #259 Dustin
    May 28, 2008

    At some point, there will be just laws of physics without further laws of physics explaining why those laws of physics “must” be that way.

    I think it’s a mistake to think that the justification for a particular physical theory is to be found in a more general theory. The justification for a particular physical theory is its novelty, economy, and amenability to experiment, the justification for a more general theory is the discovery by experiment of a regime in which the particular theory fails. The correspondence demanded of the more general theory with the pre-existing particular theory is not a justification of the particular theory, it is a necessary condition placed on the more general theory.

    Thinking otherwise is making the mistake of thinking that the “laws of physics” govern the physical world, rather than thinking that they are products of description by a physical model. And once someone has given in to that kind of metaphysical assumption, of course they’ll keep grasping for something ever more fundamental or ontological even when experiment neither warrants nor supports doing so. That’s where string theorists and many-worlders come from.

  260. #260 Ryan F Stello
    May 28, 2008

    Why do you feel so compelled to keep telling everyone else?

    Why do you feel compelled to criticize atheists who don’t share your two primary views (that atheism is a cosmological argument and that you must not say anything cosmological until asked)?

  261. #261 Tulse
    May 28, 2008

    traditional atheism doesn’t really engage the kinds of thinking one encounters in the serious theologians

    Wow — and in a post that explicitly references The Courtier’s Reply right in the first sentence. Amazing.

  262. #262 Glen Davidson
    May 28, 2008

    They need to have some kind of magical answer (which of course, strictly speaking, is a non-answer mystified).

    They want “Daddy did it because he loves you,” though.

    Well hey, I wouldn’t mind that either, at least if I could believe the cosmic Daddy really was loving. Only I know that Daddy didn’t make it rain, and it’s mighty peculiar that Cosmic Daddy won’t lift a finger to save me from malaria or the proverbial bus bearing down on me, yet made an entire universe of meaningless interaction just for all of us mortals slated for death.

    What seems really bizarre about all of these arguments is that loving actions from God are not demanded, just the loving God itself is demanded. I know, it’s to make suffering meaningful, among other psychological twists and turns. Nietzsche said it: What really raises one’s indignation against suffering is not suffering intrinsically, but the senselessness of suffering.

    OK then, it makes sense from a primate’s psyche. It’s when we look at it from the standpoint of sense and reason that both are absent from the insistence that apparently pointless suffering is indeed meaningful. “But it must be meaningful,” says the theist (not all of them). The mere fact that no evidence indicates any meaning is thin gruel to any mind that demands that suffering has a purpose, even though empirically that “conclusion” is neither valid nor sound.

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

  263. #263 Matt Penfold
    May 28, 2008

    I have a question.

    Did anyone ask J for his opinion on whether atheists should give their opinion ? Only looking through this thread I cannot see anyone asking him. Only given what he is saying about waiting to be asked I would have expected him to wait, and if he has not, it would indicate that he is rather full of shit.

  264. #264 J
    May 28, 2008

    Uhhh, maybe cuz this is an atheist blog?
    Thoughtless little wisecracks like that only serve to prove me right, I’m afraid.

    Think about it: Why would so many people, many of whom aren’t cosmologists or even scientists, have a blog devoted to a purely cosmological viewpoint? “Thrill of cult affiliation” is the only possible explanation.

    Opposing religion (the real use of this blog)) is a noble endeavour. This is emphatically not the same as atheism. Atheism is a position on a purely abstract question.

  265. #265 J
    May 28, 2008

    Did anyone ask J for his opinion on whether atheists should give their opinion ? Only looking through this thread I cannot see anyone asking him. Only given what he is saying about waiting to be asked I would have expected him to wait, and if he has not, it would indicate that he is rather full of shit.
    Opinion on what?

  266. #266 Matt Penfold
    May 28, 2008

    J,

    I do not recall anyone asking for your opinion. You just seemed to turn up and give it. Do you intend to follow your own advice and shut up ? Or do you intend sticking around longer and giving us even more evidence of how intellectually challenged you are ?

  267. #267 Matt Penfold
    May 28, 2008

    “Opinion on what?”

    Opinion on everything you have been subjecting us to your opinion on. You seem to have failed to heed your own advice. Why not go sit in the corner and wait to be asked before telling us what you think.

  268. #268 MAJeff, OM
    May 28, 2008

    Why do you feel so compelled to keep telling everyone else?

    Because public discourse is about the discussion of topics people are interested in and people are interested in these topics. Jesus fucking christ.

    This is a public space–in some ways, though, because of the position of atheists in American society, the people engaged in discourse here comprise a counterpublic. One of the central ideas behind counterpublics is that they provide spaces in which people can form common identity, critique the broader society, and test out their own arguments for use in that broader critique. How should we respond to question about “what do you believe” if we’ve never talked about it before. For crying out loud, J’s entire approach is nothing more than, “Shut up about this, just shut up. I’m not interested so no one else will be and we need to just shut down this entire line of conversation. Just shut up!”

  269. #269 Dennis N
    May 28, 2008

    Thoughtless little wisecracks like that only serve to prove me right, I’m afraid.

    Yes, clearly that proves atheism is a purely cosmological opinion and we should all shut up. Clearly.

    Why would so many people, many of whom aren’t cosmologists or even scientists, have a blog devoted to a purely cosmological viewpoint?

    Maybe cuz you’re the only one who thinks atheism is a “purely cosmological viewpoint”?

  270. #270 frog
    May 28, 2008

    Dustin: I think it’s a mistake to think that the justification for a particular physical theory is to be found in a more general theory. The justification for a particular physical theory is its novelty, economy, and amenability to experiment, the justification for a more general theory is the discovery by experiment of a regime in which the particular theory fails. … And once someone has given in to that kind of metaphysical assumption, of course they’ll keep grasping for something ever more fundamental or ontological even when experiment neither warrants nor supports doing so.

    Very well said. The psychological need for a TOE is completely distinct from its scientific justification (or lack thereof).

  271. #271 J
    May 28, 2008

    I do not recall anyone asking for your opinion. You just seemed to turn up and give it. Do you intend to follow your own advice and shut up ? Or do you intend sticking around longer and giving us even more evidence of how intellectually challenged you are ?
    There’s no inconsistency there. You’re the intellectually challenged one if you think otherwise.

    I believe this over-eager flaunting the badge of atheism is irresponsible and injurious to the secular cause. No small wonder, then, why I feel the need to “speak up”. Cosmological opinions, in contract, aren’t of any social significance, and therefore there can hardly be any reason to impart them on uninterested parties.

  272. #272 Rey Fox
    May 28, 2008

    “I didn’t realise the universe existed before 8.”

    As a part-time inventory counter, I can attest that the universe does, in fact, exist before 8 AM, but that it is a cold, gray, loveless, and horrible place, and is best avoided.

  273. #273 Dustin
    May 28, 2008

    Atheism is a rejection of a particular cosmology as baseless and improbable, and if that means that atheism is itself a cosmology, then health is a disease.

  274. #274 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    May 28, 2008

    Think about it: Why would so many people, many of whom aren’t cosmologists or even scientists, have a blog devoted to a purely cosmological viewpoint? “Thrill of cult affiliation” is the only possible explanation.

    This is one person’s blog.

    Not only “devoted” to your catch phrase.

    Criticism of religion as a whole is part of it, not just pronouncements of one opinion on the existence of god[s].

    If coming to a place to discuss things with people who may share similar beliefs or interests is belonging to a cult, I’ll be sure to tell my wife that her housing committee for the poor is a cult when I get home.

  275. #275 J
    May 28, 2008

    Maybe cuz you’re the only one who thinks atheism is a “purely cosmological viewpoint”?
    But it demonstrably is a purely cosmological viewpoint. This is quite plain.

    It’s the belief, to a high degree of confidence, that there was no intelligent designer of the Universe. This goes a lot further than simple disbelief in religion.

  276. #276 Dennis N
    May 28, 2008

    Anyone here agree with J? No? My point still stands. My point being that no one agrees.

  277. #277 frog
    May 28, 2008

    GlenD: They want “Daddy did it because he loves you,” though.

    I’ve always found interesting the link between monotheism and the rise of the nuclear family, in both directions. The patriarchal, polygamous societies were not in a modern sense monotheistic — they usually had one Daddy-god dominating his lesser gods. The matrilineal cultures were very different, with animisms and multi-level god structures. Even Islam with it’s technical allowance of polygamy, in practice rarely has polygamy; and as the polygamous Mormons abandoned polygamy, they also became more monotheistic.

    It’s got to be about the intense frustration that occurs in a small family, with one man frustrated in his will-to-power over his little clan, and the little clan frustrated by no other options in satisfying their social and economic needs other than from that one little man. Daddy did it because he loves you, indeed. Cosmology as Freudian rationalization? How sad.

  278. #278 tony (not a vegan)
    May 28, 2008

    J: You are the only person ranting on about “cosmological viewpoints”.

    If that gives you little frisson of brightness then go right ahead.

    Atheism == cosmology is YOUR definition.
    Atheism == zero belief in gods appears to be the majority definition around here

    The simple fact the the religious have run out of ideas, and so are continually reduced to a ‘god of the gaps’ argument (see Walton in this thread & others) is not our argument – it’s theirs. We’re not pounding on cosmology, you & the religious are.

    There is no god. There are no gods.

    nec plus ultra.

  279. #279 Dustin
    May 28, 2008

    It’s the belief, to a high degree of confidence, that there was no intelligent designer of the Universe. This goes a lot further than simple disbelief in religion.

    Teapot. Orbit. Neptune.

  280. #280 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    May 28, 2008

    Cosmological opinions, in contract, aren’t of any social significance, and therefore there can hardly be any reason to impart them on uninterested parties.

    And which uninterested parties are you referring to that visit this blog? Are you suggesting that people who have blogs with part of their content being about religion, and also sometimes about atheism and religion’s reaction to atheism, should stop writing about it so as not to offend, put off, or anger those who don’t hold the exact same opinions because they are uninterested?

    If so why should any said owner of a blog give a fuck about someone who is uninterested in what they the blog owner wants to write about?

  281. #281 Brownian, OM
    May 28, 2008

    Until children stop being indoctrinated into cults that tell them to hate themselves for their sexual orientation, until girls stop being murdered by their fathers for talking to men, until the assault on reason and science by lackwits is stopped, I’ll continue to shout my ‘cosmological position’ from the rooftops, regardless of J’s lack of social significance.

    So boring.

    So, so, boring.

  282. #282 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    May 28, 2008

    It’s the belief, to a high degree of confidence, that there was no intelligent designer of the Universe. This goes a lot further than simple disbelief in religion.

    Yet you wail about the most important point being the critcism of religion. Starting point one for me is my lack of belief in any deity. That’s where I being to be critical of religion. The rest falls in line.

  283. #283 Matt Penfold
    May 28, 2008

    J,

    Plenty of inconstancy on your part, not to mention utter dishonesty. You are telling those us here who are atheists to shut up and not give our opinions unless asked, and yet you were happy to offer that an opinion without being asked. You have this thing about atheism being a claim about cosmology. I have no idea what has given you that idea but in case you have missed what we have all been telling you, it is nothing of the sort. Atheism is merely the lack of belief in god(s). That is it, nothing more. It does not say anything about the origins of the universe, other than not allowing a role for god(s). I will repeat, atheism is nothing other than the lack of belief in god(s). It offers no claims as to how people should behave, it does not mean an atheist automatically rejects all forms of irrationality. One can be an atheist and be totally irrational.

    There is only one thing atheists have in common and that is a lack of belief in god. Many atheists may also embrace humanism, but that cannot be ascertained simply by knowing they are an atheist. I know of an astrologer who is an atheist. About the only thing I have in common with them is a lack of belief in god(s). I do not share their view on the validity of astrology, and I reject their claims it has scientific backing.

    If you do not want to hear the opinions from a variety of atheists, of which there a fair few here and we do not all agree with each other about things, then do not come to a blog where atheism is a frequent subject of discussion and tell us to shut up. For a start it is not your place to do so. It is not your blog, it is PZ’s, and only PZ (and SciBlogs) get a say in wha is allowed to be said here. That you think yourself to be an equal of PZ in that regard speaks volumes about your sense of your own importance. That you think others should keep quiet about their opinions becuase you think they should, whilst you are happy to offer your tells us that your ego is dangerously inflated.

  284. #284 Dustin is a humanitarian.
    May 28, 2008

    Plenty of inconstancy on your part, not to mention utter dishonesty.

    Concern trolls are powered by an endless supply of self-satisfaction and disingenuity. If we could get J into a lab for vivisection, I’m sure we could harness his/her/its endless supply of misplaced sanctimony and solve the world’s energy problems.

  285. #285 J
    May 28, 2008

    Atheism == zero belief in gods appears to be the majority definition around here
    Yes, that would be perfectly reasonable. The problem is, many eminent “atheists” use different definitions of the word, or express reluctance to use it at all. Richard Dawkins defines atheism as confident belief that there are no intelligent creators of the Universe (and he gives his Ultimate Boeing 747 argument to back this up). Bertrand Russell similarly defines atheism as the positive belief that there are no such beings (and not having the Dawkins argument at his fingertips, he wouldn’t fully commit himself to this strong position). Daniel Dennett has a deliberately slapdash attitude towards it, admitting that there’s ambiguity, and he calls himself an atheist only sparingly. Sam Harris doesn’t like to call himself an atheist at all.

    I think it’s best to circumvent all this confusion by commandeering a new word.

  286. #286 J
    May 28, 2008

    Plenty of inconstancy on your part, not to mention utter dishonesty.
    There’s none of that to be found. I already explained why my position isn’t inconsistent, and you skipped over what I said without comment.

  287. #287 Brian English
    May 28, 2008

    you cannot prove a negative

    This is so dumb.

    Let’s try: I cannot prove 1 is not greater than 2.
    Uhmmmmm. 1 + 1 = 2.

  288. #288 J
    May 28, 2008

    Until children stop being indoctrinated into cults that tell them to hate themselves for their sexual orientation, until girls stop being murdered by their fathers for talking to men, until the assault on reason and science by lackwits is stopped, I’ll continue to shout my ‘cosmological position’ from the rooftops, regardless of J’s lack of social significance.
    Sounds good, doesn’t it, but it completely misses most of the points I made. For the last time: You can oppose religion all you want without calling yourself an atheist.

  289. #289 CalGeorge
    May 28, 2008

    Dietrich Bonhoffer was an idiot:

    O God, early in the morning I cry to you.
    Help me to pray and gather my thoughts to you, I cannot do it alone.
    In me it is dark, but with you there is light;
    I am lonely, but you do not desert me;
    My courage fails me, but with you there is help;
    I am restless, but with you there is peace;
    in me there is bitterness, but with you there is patience;
    I do not understand your ways, but you know the way for me.
    Father in Heaven praise and thanks be to you for the night’s rest,
    Praise and thanks be to you for the new day.
    Praise and thanks be to you for all your loving-kindness and faithfulness in my past life.
    You have shown me so much goodness; let me also accept what is hard to bear from your hand.
    You will not lay a heavier burden on me than I can carry.
    You make all things serve for the best for your children.
    Lord, whatever this day brings, your name be praised.

    He sounds just like Kent Hovind!

  290. #290 dkew
    May 28, 2008

    J is one of the obsessives we’ve seen before, with their own mental dictionaries, insisting that his/her definitions are the only correct ones. Reminds me of the banned Caledonian.

  291. #291 Steven Carr
    May 28, 2008

    ‘Imagine someone holding forth on biology whose only knowledge of the subject is the Book of British Birds, and you have a rough idea of what it feels like to read Richard Dawkins on theology.’

    Oh dear!

    I was told that the Book of British Birds was inspired by the Creator and Designer of all British Birds and that it contained personal messages from him about biology.

    Now I am told that the British Book of Birds is no more inspired than the Bible, and I am no more qualified to talk about biology than somebody is qualified to talk about Christianity after reading the Bible.

    Now that the British Book of Birds can be put on the same discard table as the Bible, what inspired books are there on biology?

  292. #292 Matt Penfold
    May 28, 2008

    J,

    If a person does not believe in god(s) then they are not going to believe that god(s) created the universe. And let us be clear here, when people talk of an intelligent designer, they mean god most of the time.

    In other words the view that god(s) did not create the universe follow from not believing in gods at all. It is not the case that atheists reject the idea of god(s) creating the universe and thus reject the existence of god(s). The lack of belief is the starting the point, and rejection of a creator of the universe is the conclusion. There are a number of hypotheses on the origins of the universe that do not invoke god(s) or designers, and most atheists are not in a position to decide between them. Thus to claim atheism is a cosmological position is nonsense of the kind only someone who does not value the meaning of words could come up with.

  293. #293 Tulse
    May 28, 2008

    I think it’s best to circumvent all this confusion by commandeering a new word.

    And other reasonable people disagree with you. Can’t we dispense with all this meta-discussion and leave it at that? It seems silly and profoundly counterproductive to argue about labels with people who generally share your ultimate goals, if not immediate tactics.

  294. #294 alex
    May 28, 2008

    J:
    You can oppose religion all you want without calling yourself an atheist.

    that’s your point? i don’t think anybody’s arguing against that.

  295. #295 tony (not a vegan)
    May 28, 2008

    J: for the last time

    ‘opposing religion’ is a side effect of ‘disbelieving in god(s)’, not the primary motivator.

    We oppose religions only where those religions impose upon us or on our rights (proselytize).

    I personally could care less whther religions exist or not. However I DO care that they get a free ride on taxes, they get a free ride on (lack of) morals, they get a free ride on ‘ethics’ and they get a free ride on ‘truth’.

    Give me a level playing field and I’ll shut up about religion – but I’ll still be an atheist.

    Until then I’ll keep on with my opposition, and I’ll still be an atheist.

  296. #296 FastLane
    May 28, 2008

    J the idjit said:

    You can oppose religion all you want without calling yourself an atheist.

    Yeah, and you can also oppose religion while calling yourself an atheist, so fucking what?

    Richard Dawkins defines atheism as confident belief that there are no intelligent creators of the Universe[.]

    I thought he only specifically defined that as a 7 on his atheism scale, but he himself only considers his beliefs a 6.9. Although the fact that Dawkins (and most self described atheists I know) define a continuum of atheism demonstrates that he has a much less dogmatic view than you.

    I already explained why my position isn’t inconsistent, and you skipped over what I said without comment.

    Actually, you asserted that you aren’t inconsitent. Evidence here demonstrates otherwise. Why are you such a tool?

    Mattpenfold:

    Plenty of inconstancy on your part, not to mention utter dishonesty. You are telling those us here who are atheists to shut up and not give our opinions unless asked, and yet you were happy to offer that an opinion without being asked.

    Until you address this rather clear demonstration of hypocrisy on your part, don’t be surprised of no one here takes anything you have to say seriously. (Which is not to say that what you say can’t continue to be shown wrong…just like most other dogmatic followers of stupid belief systems.)

    Cheers.

  297. #297 Barklikeadog
    May 28, 2008

    Screechy Monkey says #203: “”This does not entail telling people our cosmological opinions unless we’re asked.”

    So it’s “Don’t ask, don’t tell”? We wouldn’t want to make other people uncomfortable with our icky unconventional cosmological opinions.””

    No, we will only tell if we are nekkid……….and not asked. To get nekkid that is.

  298. #298 Matt Penfold
    May 28, 2008

    “There is a critical difference in making an error within an academic or journalistic work–which you may argue that Midgely did when she construed TSG as she did–and perpetrating outright dishonesty, as Dawkins has claimed in saying he was told she had never read it.”

    What do you mean by read ?

    Do you mean just look at the words on the page ? In which case Midgely probably has read “The Selish Gene”. If you mean read as in comprehend, then clearly she has not. She showed no sign of comprehension when she first reviewed the book, and has shown no sign since she has grasped the concepts it contains. Of course she is not a scientist, let alone a biologist. There were biologist who disagreed with the concepts Dawkins put forward in the book, or rather the importance he ascribed to them. However it they did understand what Dawkins was arguing. Midgely did not, and still does not. And her continued refusal to apologise for that is the kind of dishonesty you accuse Dawkins of.

    So if you wish to claim that Midegly read the book, as in comprehended it, you need offer evidence of that. Only the evidence we do have suggests she did not.

    It also seems you were not being honest when you claim Dawkins says she had not read the book. Of course having read your blog I can see dishonesty is not a novel concept for you.

  299. #299 Dennis N
    May 28, 2008

    Can’t we dispense with all this meta-discussion and leave it at that?

    No, because J wants attention for his nitpicking inanity.

  300. #300 Dustin
    May 28, 2008

    In any case, if reputation for honesty is the currency of academic life, it’s little wonder that few, if any, scientists take Midgley seriously.

  301. #301 Matt Penfold
    May 28, 2008

    “Sounds good, doesn’t it, but it completely misses most of the points I made. For the last time: You can oppose religion all you want without calling yourself an atheist.”

    Yes you can. Deists can do just that. Opposing religion is not only down to atheists, deist can, and do, oppose religion. Opposing religion is not what defines an atheist. What defines an atheist, and please get this as you seem to be having problems with it, is a lack of belief in god(s). It is not the opposition to religion that makes a person an atheist, it is being an atheist that may (but does not have to) make someone oppose religion. Again you have the cause and effect totally arse about tit.

  302. #302 Kagehi
    May 28, 2008

    Went to the Asylum forum (seemed appropriate) on the Brights and asked if they would please come and take J back, since we didn’t want him anymore. lol Seriously though, maybe someone over there knows him and can at least restrain him a bit, if not convince him we are not some horrible army of barbarians sitting in the middle of the “rational” movement, who are going to stampede over all the pretty tents the rest of the secularists have put up, on the way to do bloody battle with irrational people over whether or not their so called god can hide in a thimble. This is getting old, and if we can’t get him to realize he is being an ass, maybe someone over there can.

  303. #303 mezzobuff
    May 28, 2008

    OK, since there seems to be a lot of discourse here on definitions and, earlier, a discussion of “faith”, thought I would wade in with a question: anyone have a good antonym for the word “faith?” Most of the antonyms seem to be on the negative side (negating defined synonyms of ‘faith’ such as belief to disbelief, loyalty to disloyalty, etc…). Any positive or stand alone antonyms? ‘Skepticism’ is OK (although easily misinterpreted as a negative term). A friend and I sort of liked the idea/alliterative element of a “you need facts, not faith” statement… still, not quite right. After looking into a few blogs it seems that there is no defining opposite to “faith”… any ideas? SC’s post #51 and Iain Walker’s post #117 sort of got me rollin’ on this one… thanks guys!

  304. #304 Matt Penfold
    May 28, 2008

    “In any case, if reputation for honesty is the currency of academic life, it’s little wonder that few, if any, scientists take Midgley seriously.”

    I do not know enough of her work to speak on her ability as a philosopher. However I do know enough biology, and have read “The Selfish Gene” enough times to know that she could not have claimed what she did about what Dawkins was saying without dishonesty. No reasonably educated person could have read the book and come to the conclusions she did. So we are left with a choice, either she wilfully misinterrupted it, or she lacks the intellect to understand what he was saying. When I first read the book I did not know much about evolutionary theory (and nor did many of ther other readers), so just being ignorant of that is no excuse. If it is the former the she is seriously dishonest, if it is the latter she is should have refused to review the book, or having done so, should have apologised for getting so out of her depth. What she cannot do, or other do on her behalf, is claim it is a simple academic disagreement. It is not. Academic disagreements as those like Dawkins had with Gould. Of course Gould understood Dawkins’ position, he just did not agree with it.

  305. #305 CJO
    May 28, 2008

    I think it’s been passed over that Dawkins considered the possibility that she (Midgely) hadn’t read the book to be a charitable interpretation of the review.

    The whole thing is rather a tempest in a teapot. I often wonder why it is that Dawkins in particular seems to routinely inspire such flights of impotent outrage. Remember Berlinski’s screed against the “scientific fraud” Dawkins had perpetrated? (Link upon request: I’m busy)

    It came down to whether the Nilson and Pelger paper on eye evolution described a mathematical model or a computer simulation, as Dawkins had written.

    These guys know how to hit where it hurts, don’t they?

  306. #306 Matt Penfold
    May 28, 2008

    mezzobuff,

    I just checked my dictionary, or least the one I have to hand, and it gives only agnosticism as an antonym for faith in the religious sense. It is not a very good antonym though, as agnosticism is the idea that it is not possible to know if god exists or not. It would be possible, if unlikely, for a theist to be agnostic.

  307. #307 Richard Harris
    May 28, 2008

    frog @ # 221, “Hallucinations are a normal part of human experience and the human perception mechanisms. I doubt that many haven’t had the experience of an optical illusion, or feeling, seeing or hearing things that weren’t really there.”

    Can you substantiate the latter? I know that I don’t necessarily ‘see’, at a conscious level, what is in my field of vision. But I’ve never believed that I’ve seen, heard, felt, tasted, or smelt anything that wasn’t there, as far as I know.

  308. #308 Matt Penfold
    May 28, 2008

    “It came down to whether the Nilson and Pelger paper on eye evolution described a mathematical model or a computer simulation, as Dawkins had written.

    These guys know how to hit where it hurts, don’t they?”

    Was that it ? Of course if it was a computer simulation it was also a mathematical model. And to turn a mathematical model into a computer simulation is not really that hard. Indeed, if we look to Turing then we can argue there is no logical difference at all.

  309. #309 mezzobuff
    May 28, 2008

    Thanks Matt… maybe I will be making up a new word? *wink* and a *sigh*

  310. #310 tony (not a vegan)
    May 28, 2008

    IMHO the antonym to faith (at least as Xians portay Faith) is simply observation.

    They believe based on zero obseravion.

    I tentatively accept based on confirming observation.

    :)

  311. #311 Dustin
    May 28, 2008

    She willfully misinterpreted it. If you read anything she’s written, especially Science as Salvation and Evolution as Religion, you’ll be struck by her perpetual, deliberate and malicious misinterpretation of everything. She engages in wholesale sophistry, and is nothing but snide as a cover for the utter insipidity and vacuity of her half-baked arguments. She delights in erecting and demolishing straw men and ignoring everything that everyone else says to the contrary. All she does is ascribe anthropic features to words where she knows it was not intended. She reacts against the presentation of evolutionary theory on the grounds that it, and the theory itself, are “morally pernicious”.

    She’s the Don Quixote of moral philosophy.

  312. #312 Matt Penfold
    May 28, 2008

    “Can you substantiate the latter? I know that I don’t necessarily ‘see’, at a conscious level, what is in my field of vision. But I’ve never believed that I’ve seen, heard, felt, tasted, or smelt anything that wasn’t there, as far as I know.”

    Really ? You have never thought someone spoke to you when the hadn’t ? OF thought something brushed against you when nothing had ? If so I think that would make you very unusual.

  313. #313 tony (not a vegan)
    May 28, 2008

    sorry tfor teh spalign misteaks

  314. #314 WRMartin
    May 28, 2008

    DennisN @276 – Not only do I not agree with J but I wasn’t asked earlier so that makes the total in disagreement “no one” plus 1.
    (this is really getting silly but then at post > #300 what’s the point now?)

    I think ‘J’ simply needs a new task. Proposing a new name for non-belief in theism is getting too complicated and consuming too many of those much-needed energy producing calories.

    What’s Latin for “Doesn’t believe in gods, doesn’t believe gods created the Universe (or Boeing 747s), doesn’t believe gods exist, doesn’t believe J quite understands, and “… aw CUT!
    Look, it really isn’t about the classification of the non-entity. It is a Null. There is no There there. It isn’t a big nothing or a very infinitesimal nothing – it is very simply NOTHING. I have no idea what you’re talking about when you want to classify my atheism as a cosmological position. (If that’s anything like position 69 then I’m all for it.)

    And what’s with the term, “traditional atheism”? Is that like Eastern Orthodox Atheism?
    Great! Now we’ll have our own scripture and myths and dogma – all to classify the Null entity. South Park did it. And it was much funnier.

  315. #315 Matt Penfold
    May 28, 2008

    Dustin,

    If she thinks Dawkins was using selfish in the anthropic sense then she must be being wilful. If I recall he actually makes it clear in the book how he is using the word. Of course people are happy to do the same with his use of delusion.

  316. #316 CJO
    May 28, 2008

    Was that it ?
    Once you get past Berlinski’s posturing and ofuscatory “erudition,” that was it. The fraud of the century.
    to turn a mathematical model into a computer simulation is not really that hard. Indeed, if we look to Turing then we can argue there is no logical difference at all.
    Yep. Once again, Berlinski looked stupid.

  317. #317 mezzobuff
    May 28, 2008

    Tony, I ignored the spelling and went straight to the meat! Spell check is SO overrated and the little red underlines add character hee hee hee

  318. #318 Etha Williams
    May 28, 2008

    I’ve commented in two threads. That’s hardly a sign of obsession.

    In and of itself, it wouldn’t seem so, but the fact that, while on those two threads, you sing a one-note tune for hours on end suggests otherwise.

    It’s ludicrous to say that I think I’m “better than atheists”, seeing as I admit to being an atheist myself. The difference between us is that I consider atheism a cosmological viewpoint, which I don’t feel I have to tell people about unless they ask.

    Fine. You’re brighter than most other atheists. Happy now?

    As for the atheism as a “cosmological viewpoint,” I addressed this in the first paragraph of my #227, which I notice you chose not to respond to.

  319. #319 tony (not a vegan)
    May 28, 2008

    mezzobuff – I like the little squiggles – makes me think of a steak on the grill… mmmmm. meat!

  320. #320 frog
    May 28, 2008

    RH: Can you substantiate the latter? I know that I don’t necessarily ‘see’, at a conscious level, what is in my field of vision. But I’ve never believed that I’ve seen, heard, felt, tasted, or smelt anything that wasn’t there, as far as I know.

    To start simple, do you know the corner illusion? If you look at a double-headed arrow, the perceived length of the body is dependent on the whether the heads are inward pointing or outward; if I recall correctly, this only applies to people who live in rectangularly shaped houses. Where’s the line between optical illusion and hallucination, when it depends on cultural background?

    For the more general case of hallucinations, I don’t have my references handy — I recall reading that 40% of the population reports seeing ghosts, angles, etc, and that’s properly a lower limit, since so many folks would be either embarrassed to report it, or it is idiosyncratic enough not to be recognized.

    A quick google brought me this: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=ArticleURL&_udi=B6V9F-41T18HR-9&_user=687815&_rdoc=1&_fmt=&_orig=search&_sort=d&view=c&_acct=C000038378&_version=1&_urlVersion=0&_userid=687815&md5=4141552943be742ec516f3d3c7959295 which showed a 25% of female undergrads with some hallucinatory tendency. This paper reports from 2% to 10% by ethnic group: http://bjp.rcpsych.org/cgi/content/full/180/2/174. In this paper, they report 40% of the population showing some sign of hallucination: http://cat.inist.fr/?aModele=afficheN&cpsidt=1063086
    That last one is European population, not US, so it’s less distorted by positive beliefs in fairies.

    As I said, I would guess that it’s all low-balls, since many hallucinations are just at the threshold of awareness. Did I just smell something funny, or was it hallucinatory? I thought someone was there, but I guess I was mistaken… Did someone call my name? But when you believe that gods are walking the world — “I must have seen Marduk coming to rape my daughter!!”

    From personal experience, I’d guess it’s about 70% or more of the population, who’ve seen “something” that they’ll only talk about when they’re drunk or high.

  321. #321 Etha Williams
    May 28, 2008

    @#315 CJO —

    Once you get past Berlinski’s posturing and ofuscatory “erudition,” that was it.

    This Slate article is probably my favorite treatment of Berlinski.

    Though his interview with himself is a close runner up….

  322. #322 J
    May 28, 2008

    All this aggression only suggests that you people are frightened of something. Certainly there’s no need to behave like this. If I’m wrong, it suffices to just say why. The insults are uncalled for.

    The many of you who are drawn here by a constant striving to feel superior, and a sinister need to at every opportunity unleash the brunt of your inner savagery out onto “the Enemy”, may find this point somewhat hard to grasp.

  323. #323 Dennis N
    May 28, 2008

    You’re confusing frightened with annoyed.

  324. #324 Emmet Caulfield
    May 28, 2008

    If I understand Walton correctly, his position is indistinguishable from my own: it’s extraordinarily unlikely that the Desert God exists and, even if he does, he is highly likely to be complete prick.

    Such a reasonable and articulate person, how odd that he’s not an atheist :o)

  325. #325 Matt Penfold
    May 28, 2008

    “All this aggression only suggests that you people are frightened of something. Certainly there’s no need to behave like this. If I’m wrong, it suffices to just say why. The insults are uncalled for.”

    Other than you being an insufferable prick you mean ? You have made the same assertion over and over again, that atheism is a cosmological position. No matter how many times people have corrected you, you have carried on making that assertion. There comes a time when you can no longer be considered just a little slow on the uptake and instead are being wilfully obtuse. When that happens I do not see why we need be that polite or civil to you.

  326. #326 Dennis N
    May 28, 2008

    I think Yahweh is a dick whether he exists or not.

  327. #327 Dahan
    May 28, 2008

    Rey

    “As a part-time inventory counter, I can attest that the universe does, in fact, exist before 8 AM, but that it is a cold, gray, loveless, and horrible place, and is best avoided.”

    You’re not waking up with the right person.

  328. #328 Richard Harris
    May 28, 2008

    Matt, “Really ? You have never thought someone spoke to you when the hadn’t ? OF thought something brushed against you when nothing had ? If so I think that would make you very unusual.”

    Possibly I have experienced something anomalous, but I’ve no recognition of it, so I’d presume that there was an alternative rational explanation. Any such possible events would’ve been of no consequence.

  329. #329 Richard Harris
    May 28, 2008

    frog, maybe there’s a continuum with full blow schizophrenics at one end, & rationalists at the other? There’s recently been published a correlation between schzophrenia & religiosity.

  330. #330 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    May 28, 2008

    All this aggression only suggests that you people are frightened of something. Certainly there’s no need to behave like this. If I’m wrong, it suffices to just say why. The insults are uncalled for.

    The many of you who are drawn here by a constant striving to feel superior, and a sinister need to at every opportunity unleash the brunt of your inner savagery out onto “the Enemy”, may find this point somewhat hard to grasp.

    Frankly J you come off as someone who has too much time on their hands. You have been engaged on every point you’ve tried to make. Yes some have been rude, but many have not. I still fail to see the giant problem you are trying to convey to us. Do some people immediately have a negative connotation to the term atheist? Yes. Will some of those people deal differently with that person because of that moniker. Sure. But going by extending your logic we shouldn’t apply a term of description to us under any circumstance for fear of turning someone off to our opinion. That is really an odd way to go through life and honestly you would be hard pressed to find anyone on any side of an issue that doesn’t use a term to identify themselves with other like minded people. I guarantee that calling myself a rationalist, or secularist or “god forbid” a Bright will immediately cause any number of groups of people to look at me like a an Orc that was just produced out of the slime.

    Your “atheism is only a cosmological argument” if taken as a truth, which I don’t, still has little bearing on the above.

    i don’t find any convincing evidence that allows me to accept any notion of any higher beings. Being that religion (most of them anyway) deals directly with the existence of a higher power(s) I obviously have at least some problem with religion. I also consider myself a rational person and a person who believes in the benefit of a secular society over a religious one. I call myself and atheist, a secularist, a rationalist, an ex-Episcopalian, a graduate of North Carolina State university, a fucking fantastic chef, a loving husband and a cynical bastard. All of which shape my view on the world including my view on religion. I don’t need relay all that information to anyone I’m having a conversation with about any point, including religion and the question on the existence of a deity. I will however bring any and all of them up separately or together if I think it better conveys my point or bolsters my argument.

    being hung up on your point you have monotonously tried to drive home seems to me to be only heading towards limiting our ability to accurately describe our personal place on the map of ideas.

    /please ignore typos.

  331. #331 tony (not a vegan)
    May 28, 2008

    Off topic:

    I’m often in two minds whether or not I’m schizophrenic. Luckily, if I don’t like where my thoughts are going, I just tell myself to be quiet.

    :)

  332. #332 BoxerShorts
    May 28, 2008

    All this aggression only suggests that you people are frightened of something.

    Yeah, I am afraid of something. I’m afraid of dumbass religious nutjobs seizing power and establishing a theocracy in my beautiful secular republic, holding me accountable to the ridiculous and often arbitrary laws of primitive, superstitious Bronze Age goat-herders even though I don’t share their delusions of an invisible man in the sky who watches us masturbate.

    It’s a pretty terrifying thought, really.

  333. #333 Etha Williams
    May 28, 2008

    @#328 Richard Harris —

    There’s recently been published a correlation between schzophrenia & religiosity.

    Source please?

  334. #334 frog
    May 28, 2008

    RH: maybe there’s a continuum with full blow schizophrenics at one end, & rationalists at the other?

    I believe that that’s the dogma in psychology — you have folks with disordered thinking, you have folks with ordered thinking who are highly prone to dreaming while awake, you have prosaic folk and everything in between. There’s a correlation between hallucination and psychosis, but you can have one or the other independently.

    I recall reading a paper 20 years ago about schizophrenia across ethnicities. It had a universal rate of about 1% (I recall vaguely), but it’s temporal expression varied hugely. Upper class third-worlders and middle-class first-worlders showed chronic schizophrenia — once they were diagnosed, they never became fully re-intergrated into society. On the other hand, rich first-worlders and poor third-worlders had acute cases: once they had an episode, they’d have long periods of integration and function. For the rich 1sters, the explanation was the best medical care available, but for the 3rd worlders it seemed that their religious beliefs helped out. They thought that a schizophrenic had some kind of “possession event”, and crazy old aunty would be just fine after a few weeks in the hut. And she was, since everyone including herself thought of it that way. They were used to people claiming hallucinatory experiences, and considered it normal, on a continuum, just like modern psychology.

  335. #335 J
    May 28, 2008

    Other than you being an insufferable prick you mean ? You have made the same assertion over and over again, that atheism is a cosmological position. No matter how many times people have corrected you, you have carried on making that assertion.
    That’s because they haven’t fucking “corrected” me. If they’re using “atheist” to mean nothing more than “someone who doesn’t believe in gods”, rather than “someone who’s confident that there are no gods”, then they are in conflict with the definitions recognized by eminent atheists such as Dawkins and Bertrand Russell. At the very least, there’s ambiguity. I’m asking, why not take advantage of the ambiguity and dispense with the stigmatized word “atheist”? This is not an outrageous proposal. Don’t pretend it is.

    You’re a boorish, malicious, thoroughly unpleasant creature, and it’s apparent that you’re reacting so hysterically more out of fear (of the perceived threat to your sole Cause) than anything else.

  336. #336 cl
    May 28, 2008

    Now PZ I’m not here to meet your challenge, which is to provide evidence of God. But I’ve been lurking around here for some time now, and paying particular attention to this phenomenon you’ve called the Courtier’s Reply.

    As I understand it, the Courtier’s Reply is meant to insult claims from believers of poor scholarmanship from unbelievers. It is at times appropriate. There are other times where such appeals to scholarmanship are most certainly justified, for example when syndicated newspapers like the New York Times run op-eds charging the Bible with claiming the Earth was flat. Now the Bible doesn’t claim that the Earth is flat, (Isaiah 40:22) but someone who didn’t know the Bible might not know this, in which case an appeal to their scholarmanship would be fully justified.

    But in all the cases where I’ve actually heard you issue the Courtier’s Reply, it’s been justified in my view.

  337. #337 J
    May 28, 2008

    Frankly J you come off as someone who has too much time on their hands. You have been engaged on every point you’ve tried to make. Yes some have been rude, but many have not. I still fail to see the giant problem you are trying to convey to us.
    How much time I have on my hands is my business alone, and is of no relevance here anyway. I think more people have been rude than have not. The “giant problem” I’ve explained quite clearly several times already in this thread.

  338. #338 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    May 28, 2008

    Now the Bible doesn’t claim that the Earth is flat, (Isaiah 40:22) but someone who didn’t know the Bible might not know this, in which case an appeal to their scholarmanship would be fully justified.

    It doesn’t call it a spheroid either.

    He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth,
    and its people are like grasshoppers.
    He stretches out the heavens like a canopy,
    and spreads them out like a tent to live in.

    It does call it a circle. A circle is not a sphere. A circle (assuming it is a filled circle) is in fact “flat”. Interpret that as you may.

  339. #339 Alex
    May 28, 2008

    We have a Giant problem? I haven’t seen any out here on the west coast. How big are they? Are there pygmies too?

  340. #340 Peter Ashby
    May 28, 2008

    J I define my atheism as a lack of belief in god(s). That is my definition. It is supported by the etymology of the word though I allow others to use their own.

    Do you criticise xians because they have differing theologies? if not, why not? The differences between atheists are absolutely, utterly and completely trivial compared to the differences between xians, yet apparently you have no problems with christian as a term.

    And you wonder why people say you are inconsistent. It seems to leak from your pores like RNAse, clear for all with more than half a functioning brain to see. Unless and until I see you decry christians, psychiatrists, golfers, sikhs (who will admit they are not members of an organised religion), cabinet makers and pretty much every group in society who see themselves slightly differently then you have no business criticising atheists. Of whom I am far from convinced you are one, but each his own. Live and let live huh?

  341. #341 Alex
    May 28, 2008

    That would be an Oblate Spheroid Reverend.

  342. #342 Nibien
    May 28, 2008

    It’s quite obvious J is a troll and/or idiot, I’m not quite sure why you guys feed him.

  343. #343 Rev. bigDumbChimp
    May 28, 2008

    How much time I have on my hands is my business alone, and is of no relevance here anyway. I think more people have been rude than have not. The “giant problem” I’ve explained quite clearly several times already in this thread.

    Ok, you are right, your time is your own. The rest I standby. You consider the problem a problem. You’ve failed to provide any convincing reason that it really is a problem when looked at from a high altitude. I see you’ve ignored the rest of my post.

  344. #344 BoxerShorts
    May 28, 2008

    It does call it a circle. A circle is not a sphere. A circle (assuming it is a filled circle) is in fact “flat”. Interpret that as you may.

    I would go so far as to say the use of the word “above” in the referenced Bible verse implies a two-dimensional surface. The word “above” in reference to a sphere is arbitrary to the point of being useless.

  345. #345 cl
    May 28, 2008

    To Rev. bigDumbChimp I extend the Courtier’s Reply…

  346. #346 True Bob
    May 28, 2008

    J, your “big problem” is your dissatisfaction with established definitions. “Atheist” is a simple word in construct and meaning. Any scales you apply (i.e 7 out of 10, etc) don’t fit with the definition, and would require new or alternate definitions, not that there’s anything wrong with that. Likewise any expansion to the definition.

    However, you really are barking up the wrong tree. For example, if “atheism” is a cosmological perspective (of whatever level of secrecy), what is that perspective? Well gosh, I can’t believe that we all have the same cosmological viewpoints (e.g. the astrologer mentioned above believes that the motion of astronomical bodies coupled with the time and place of your birth, affect your life. My cosmological viewpoint has no such fanciful features.).

    So why lump in cosmology with ‘no god belief’? You merely create a certain subset of people, who may or may not have any desire to be associated with one another. It seems like you are searching for a word version of the Theory of Everything. Good luck with that, when our common language here doesn’t even have a word for Schadenfreude.

    Otherwise, as pointed out, you exhort us to keep our opinions quiet – by blasting your opinion repeatedly to us all. I assume you see no irony there.

  347. #347 ndt
    May 28, 2008

    Walton wrote:

    You cannot apply the scientific method to these questions, because they are intrinsically beyond the scope of empirical evidence.

    And as such, those questions can never be answered.

  348. #348 JeffreyD
    May 28, 2008

    Only made it to #264 before cracking – J, fuck off. Yes, I say that knowing I have no control over you and that this is not my blog, but it pleases me to say it, and to repeat it, fuck off. Go annoy the goldfish by making faces at them while repeating the word cosmological over and over and over.

    I am fair by the way, feel free to tell me fuck off. No, I am not a kid or any other insult you wish to make, just stick to the basic insults that assume nothing about me as I did with you above. Fuck off is both gender neutral and implies nothing about your age, race, interest or intelligence. It merely references that you are annoying almost beyond belief.

    Ciao (in both a cosmological and cosmopolitan sense) y’all,

  349. #349 SC
    May 28, 2008

    J:

    We’re free to use whatever name we want. Why not choose the one that’s most strategically expedient? (Maybe this isn’t “Bright”, though I find it hard to believe that “atheist” is undoubtedly the best we can have.)

    See, here you’re making a social-scientific argument. What evidence do you have, from studies of past movements, that another term would be strategically effective in the short- or long-term? You haven’t offered any. You harped about “Brights” for a long time on the earlier thread, and only after literally (I believe) hundreds of comments did you acknowledge that it might not be a good idea after all. Now you return, replacing that tired idea with…nothing.

    Even if you had a clever new term, you would have to provide some evidence that it would prove strategically superior. And even if you did so, and even if I were fully convinced that you shared my broader goals, I would still likely not be convinced to make a switch at this point. I am an atheist. I’m stickin’ with it. (I’m also an anarchist. Despite that word’s negative connotations for many, I prefer to try to change that and enlighten them rather than seek for some weasel word to replace it.)

    You arguments about atheism’s problems are also unsupported. I linked here recently to an interview with Alan Sokal. Asked if he is an atheist, he states plainly that he is. Are you suggesting that he has now irrevocably alienated himself from the thousands of cosmological deists that are his physicist and cosmologist colleagues? This horde of cosmological deists running screaming from the mere suggestion of atheism exists only in your imagination.

    You’ve also made a number of assumptions about people here based on no evidence whatsoever. You have no idea whether people here are interested in or have studied cosmology. Stop saying you’re “quite certain” about things that you can’t possibly substantiate. And stop using words like “savages” and “savagery.” Your imperialism is showing.

    In short: Your concern is noted. And tedious.

    mezzobuff: Hmmmm… Something like evidentiarism, but less unwieldy (or more wieldy, as the case may be :)).

  350. #350 Etha Williams
    May 28, 2008

    @#334 J —

    That’s because they haven’t fucking “corrected” me. If they’re using “atheist” to mean nothing more than “someone who doesn’t believe in gods”, rather than “someone who’s confident that there are no gods”, then they are in conflict with the definitions recognized by eminent atheists such as Dawkins and Bertrand Russell.

    I’m not very familiar with the works of Dawkins (I know, I’m a bad atheist cultist…), but you’re being disingenuous wrt Russel. He wrote:

    Here there comes a practical question which has often troubled me. Whenever I go into a foreign country or a prison or any similar place they always ask me what is my religion.

    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.

    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.

    Therefore, in regard to the Olympic gods, speaking to a purely philosophical audience, I would say that I am an Agnostic. But speaking popularly, I think that all of us would say in regard to those gods that we were Atheists. In regard to the Christian God, I should, I think, take exactly the same line (Bertrand Russel, Am I An Atheist or An Agnostic)

    (Emphasis mine.)

    This blog is directed at the general public — the man in the information superhighway, if you will. So by Russel’s reckoning, it seems perfectly reasonable that PZ and the commenters here would use the popular rather than the philosophical version of “atheism” (which can be further qualified as “strong” or “weak”).

  351. #351 Etha Williams
    May 28, 2008

    In my #349, “Russel” should be “Russell.”

  352. #352 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    May 28, 2008

    To Rev. bigDumbChimp I extend the Courtier’s Reply…

    Not sure how that applies to me taking the words of the bible at face value.

  353. #353 True Bob
    May 28, 2008

    mezzobuff, I almost forgot – how about “reality” as an antonym of faith?

  354. #354 foldedpath
    May 28, 2008

    J @334: That’s because they haven’t fucking “corrected” me. If they’re using “atheist” to mean nothing more than “someone who doesn’t believe in gods”, rather than “someone who’s confident that there are no gods”, then they are in conflict with the definitions recognized by eminent atheists such as Dawkins and Bertrand Russell. At the very least, there’s ambiguity. I’m asking, why not take advantage of the ambiguity and dispense with the stigmatized word “atheist”? This is not an outrageous proposal. Don’t pretend it is.

    It becomes outrageous at the point where “Bright” is the only alternative you’re proposing.

    I think this has been brought up before, but you’re still missing the point. Any alternative, freshly-coined word that could reasonably substitute for the term Atheist will be equally reviled by the god-botherers, just as soon as as they see what it means. So what’s the point of seeking an alternative? Is the idea to just bamboozle people in the short interval before they catch on?

    At least when I refer to myself as an Atheist, most people have a clear idea of what that means, in the most general sense of the word. Whether they like what it means or not, isn’t my problem. Most people I’d ever discuss this with in my own social life, aren’t going to care about subtle differences in academic flavors of Atheism. It’s the central point of “no evidence = no gods” that’s always the sticking point.

    And why continue to drag in cosmology? Does your personal preference (referenced in other posts here) for a multiverse cosmology, mean that you want to leave some wiggle room for a Designer of some type? Even if it isn’t “God like”? Just curious…

  355. #355 Saint Gasoline
    May 28, 2008

    Yes, and let’s ignore the fact that all of those dropped names probably conceive of God in mutually exclusive, contradictory ways.

  356. #356 Walton
    May 28, 2008

    A final message before I withdraw from this thread, since it’s become far too complicated (with several different conversations going on at once) and doesn’t seem to be going anywhere.

    To some degree, I’ve perhaps been playing devil’s advocate. As I’ve stated elsewhere, I’m no longer a practising Christian and have been essentially inactive for a couple of years. I would at one stage have regarded myself as an agnostic. I do, desperately, want and need to believe in a God, but that’s a long, long way from being a persuasive, rational argument. I was just throwing in all the arguments I know for the existence of God – from a rational, open-minded theistic perspective, not a fundamentalist one – in order to engage in rational debate.

    I do think we’re all essentially in agreement as far as reason, logic and fact can take us. Most people on this thread are very clearly of a high intellectual calibre, and I think we all agree both that it is possible that God may exist, and that there is no positive evidence that God exists. What we disagree on is the degree of likelihood, and whether there’s any actual reason to believe in a deity in the absence of any outright evidence for doing so. I would be the first to acknowledge that there are apparent holes, inconsistencies and bizarre passages in the Biblical account (not to mention incredible cruelty; see Numbers 31 or the entire book of Joshua for an example), and that atheist and agnostic viewpoints are certainly rationally sustainable, even compelling.

    I’m going to leave this thread now – though I’ll probably continue commenting on those other threads which concern conservative politics, my personal area of passionate interest. I hope I haven’t annoyed or offended anyone, or given the impression that I’m idiotic or deluded. I am a layman as regards the sciences, philosophy, cosmology and archaeology, and my understanding of these fields is therefore necessarily limited; but I do try to engage with scholarship and to think rationally, and I do try to others’ arguments and consider new ideas. Thanks to everyone who has engaged with my arguments constructively and given me something to think about.

  357. #357 ndt
    May 28, 2008

    kcrady wrote:

    Either a theist’s proposed god has effects within our Universe, or it does not. If it does, then the theist is making a truth-claim about the workings of Universe. Such a claim is a scientific question, and can be verified or falsified by comparing it against reality by using the scientific method.

    If the theist’s proposed god has no effect on our Universe, then there is no concievable distinction between what we would find if their god exists, vs. if their god does not exist. If its existence is indistinguishable, in principle, from its non-existence, then Occam’s Razor delivers the coup de grace.

    The “sophisticated” theological arguments then become mental masturbation, on a par with arguments over whether the Federation of Star Trek could defeat the Galactic Empire of Star Wars, or treatises on the digestive tracts of two-dimensional Flatlanders that explain how a two-dimensional mathematical abstraction can have a channel going all the way through it without falling into two pieces.

    You pretty much nailed it, kcrady.

  358. #358 ndt
    May 28, 2008

    First off: I mangled my quote tags in my last comment. Kcrady wrote all those paragraphs, not just the first one.

    Saint Gasoline wrote:

    Yes, and let’s ignore the fact that all of those dropped names probably conceive of God in mutually exclusive, contradictory ways.

    One of the people he name-drops, Karen Armstrong, isn’t a theologian at all. She’s an atheist who writes about religion. She does think that religion is important to humanity, but she doesn’t actually believe that a god exists.

  359. #359 frog
    May 28, 2008

    Walton: . Most people on this thread are very clearly of a high intellectual calibre, and I think we all agree both that it is possible that God may exist, and that there is no positive evidence that God exists

    That a god may exist, or that Yahweh exists? Because if the point is that a god may exist, that is saying very little to nothing — a god is so underdefined that it can mean anything. Here’s the underlying problem of sophisticated belief – it verges on sophistry, a moving goal-post that can be satisfied by anything.

    Is this god good? Is this god powerful? Is this god sentient? Is this god all-knowing? Is this god the creator, or another creation? Is this god intelligent? Without specific answers to those questions and more, there is no agreement other than that the word exists, and out of the multiplicity of meanings there may be one meaning which is not incompatible with the universe in some context. That’s not even weak theism – that is nothing at all.

  360. #360 tony (not a vegan)
    May 28, 2008

    Walton: Thanks for a constructive dialog. It’s seldom that issues are open to discussion on both sides of the table (pro- & con-god).

    I hope that the discussions here have helped you along the path to personal enlightenment.

    Come back and join in again.

  361. #361 cl
    May 28, 2008

    @ Rev. bigDumbChimp
    re: Comment #351

    My comment #344 doesn’t refer to you “taking Isaiah 40:22 at face value.” Ironically, my original comment #335 was about instances when the Courtier’s Reply might be appropriate, and my comment #344 to you referred to the apparent lack of scholarmanship in your comment #337 to me, in which case the Courtier’s is in fact appropriate..

  362. #362 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    May 28, 2008

    My comment #344 doesn’t refer to you “taking Isaiah 40:22 at face value.” Ironically, my original comment #335 was about instances when the Courtier’s Reply might be appropriate, and my comment #344 to you referred to the apparent lack of scholarmanship in your comment #337 to me, in which case the Courtier’s is in fact appropriate..

    Ok. My misunderstanding.

  363. #363 Brownian, OM
    May 28, 2008

    Oh dear!

    I was told that the Book of British Birds was inspired by the Creator and Designer of all British Birds and that it contained personal messages from him about biology.

    Now I am told that the British Book of Birds is no more inspired than the Bible, and I am no more qualified to talk about biology than somebody is qualified to talk about Christianity after reading the Bible.

    Now that the British Book of Birds can be put on the same discard table as the Bible, what inspired books are there on biology?

    Posted by: Steven Carr | May 28, 2008 4:20 PM

    Oh, well done!

  364. #364 ZorkFox
    May 28, 2008

    Bonus points for use of the word pettifogging.

  365. #365 cl
    May 28, 2008

    @ Rev. BigDumbChimp
    re: comment #361

    No worries friend. Skeptics are on to something when they take issue with the Bible’s translations, and I guess I could leave the basis for my extending of the Courtier’s to you.

    The original Hebrew word, confirmed by the copy of Isaiah found at Qumran, is khug and denotes sphericity. People who claim flat Earth ideas are supported in the Bible are wrong, and those who argue the “circle = flat” approach show a lack of scholarmanship that instantly pegs their arguments as immature in the eyes of a real theologian.

    On a side note, I agree with your concern about the winning teams in baseball and that fact’s implication’s for the end of ages.

  366. #366 cl
    May 28, 2008

    Besides, who am I to comment on scholarship when I refer to it repeatedly as ‘scholarmanship’ which is not a word?

  367. #367 ZorkFox
    May 28, 2008

    Bonus points for use of the word pettifogging.

  368. #368 tony (not a vegan)
    May 28, 2008

    CL: re ‘scholarmanship’

    I though you were using some arcane hip hop reference that I was too stupid to parse! Thanks for clearing that up!

  369. #369 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    May 28, 2008

    The original Hebrew word, confirmed by the copy of Isaiah found at Qumran, is khug and denotes sphericity. People who claim flat Earth ideas are supported in the Bible are wrong, and those who argue the “circle = flat” approach show a lack of scholarmanship that instantly pegs their arguments as immature in the eyes of a real theologian.

    Thanks for the clarification. I was actually just trying to find something that held up that point you just made above assuming that I was missing something.

    And I was. I’m often wrong (ask Mrs. BigDumbChimp), but typical try to verify before I spout off. I had read a number of different takes on this passage but all them ignored the original language and any translation issues.

  370. #370 JeffreyD
    May 28, 2008

    Having made it up to the current finish, #362, I would like to make one other comment about something the nameless one mentioned. NO one speaks for me about my beliefs, my atheism, not Dawkins, not PZ, no one. Do not reference an authority and say anything about “mainstream atheism”, it is a null concept to me. I speak for me, no leader, no god, no scientist, no cosmologist, no apologist. I bend knee to no person, no king, no gawd. I face the world without needing intercession from any authority.

    Ciao, y’all

  371. #371 DingoDave
    May 28, 2008

    Ref. Comment #75: “Why was there a “holy of holies,” an inner room that no one could enter but the priests? That was where The God Lived. In the Bible we perceive it as a spiritual thing, “the presence of God.” But what a con! What a foolproof con!”

    A con that was backed up with brute force. These guys didn’t feel the need to justify their existance with arcane or obsurantist arguments like modern theologians do. The choice in ancient Israel was simple. Worship Yahweh and obey the priests, or die. I can’t help thinking that ‘theology’ was so much easier in those good old days.

    Deuteronomy 17:12- “The man who acts presumptuously, by not obeying the priest who stands to minister there before the LORD your God, or the judge, that man shall die; so you shall purge the evil from Israel.

  372. #372 Rev. BigDumbChimpq
    May 28, 2008

    On a side note, I agree with your concern about the winning teams in baseball and that fact’s implication’s for the end of ages.

    Indeed. We are doomed.

  373. #373 DingoDave
    May 28, 2008

    Sorry, Comment #370 should have read: ‘Obscurantist’ arguments.

  374. #374 CJO
    May 28, 2008

    Regarding “the circle of the earth in Isaiah,
    This source disagrees:

    The Hebrew word used in scripture for “circle” in the verse above is chuwg. If the Bible writer had meant for us to believe that “circle of the earth” meant that the earth was round, the writer would have used the Hebrew word for “ball,” which is duwr. The fact that Isaiah didn’t use duwr shows that he wasn’t trying to tell us the earth was like a ball.

  375. #375 cl
    May 28, 2008

    @ Rev.BigDumbChimp
    re: comment #368

    Thank you. I’m being totally serious. I’ve been on blogs for a while now, and this might actually be the first instance of genuine humility I’ve come across. In you, friend, I see not the typical ego that interferes with learning, and I’m not tryin’ to be no pompous ass, either.

    In my mind, that coolness alone lends more validity to any belief of yours than any sophisticated argument ever could, and may myself and anyone else ever so persuaded of their being right in any controversy learn such lessons of moderation.

    Then again, you said you’ve seen the Dead over 100 times and stayed up 4 sleepless nights in N.O. too, so I should’ve known you were real.

  376. #376 cl
    May 28, 2008

    @ tony (not a vegan)
    re: comment #367

    LOL LOL LOL I never even heard of dood… :) Good call..

  377. #377 DingoDave
    May 28, 2008

    The dualistic notion of a cosmic battle between a ‘good god’ (Yahweh) and an ‘anti-god’ (Satan) was borrowed from Persian theology (Ahura Mazda vs Ahriman) and elaborated upon in the inter-testamental Hebrew literature such as the ‘Book of Enoch’, and ‘The Testaments of the Twelve Patriachs’
    Most Christians have never even heard of these writings, because they are simply not told about them from the pulpit, and because they are mostly too lazy, or apathetic to research the origins and history of their own religion.

  378. #378 black wolf
    May 28, 2008

    cl, Rev. BigDumbChimp,
    I’m not sure about khug, as I found this, which states the opposite of what cl wrote:
    The Hebrew word used here is khug. That it means circle and not sphere is indisputable. Strong’s Concordance (no. 2328 & 2329), Holladay’s A Concise Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (p97) and Brown Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (p295) gives the verbal form of the word as “to draw a circle”….Furthermore there is a word in Hebrew that means sphere: dur. If the author of Isaiah 40 had had this in mind he would surely had used this word instead of khug. Earlier on in Isaiah we see this word being used to describe a ball.
    http://www.geocities.com/paulntobin/astronomy.html

  379. #379 CJO
    May 28, 2008

    …too lazy, or apathetic to research the origins and history of their own religion.

    I’m not sure “apathetic” covers it, as that would imply a passivity to the matter. Most Christians, and I imagine most theists, actively discourage such inquiry. All it does is make painfully clear that supposedly holy texts are fully human documents with knowable histories, full of what is called in polite circles ‘made up shit.’

    A funny bit of anecdotal information I just read: Christian missionaries spearheaded the teaching of English in India, actually against the wishes of Imperial and East Indies administrators, because they were sure literacy and exposure to Western “rationality” would inevitably lead to mass conversions to their (perforce rational) religion.

    Didn’t really work out so well, though a lot of people took up English. Showing once again that what kind of nonsense you’re willing to accept is all a matter of cultural baggage.

  380. #380 Emmet Caulfield
    May 28, 2008

    Etha@#349

    I’m not very familiar with the works of Dawkins

    Either J is pretending to be familiar with Dawkins and Russell when s/he is not, or s/he is deliberately misrepresenting Dawkins and Russell.

    I am familiar with Dawkins’s writings and interviews, and his position is the same as Russell’s. Dawkins goes to great lengths to clarify that he is “technically agnostic” but an atheist for all intents and purposes. Dawkins goes so far, on occasion, as to define a 7-point scale with “1” as “certain knowledge that God exists” and “7” as “certain knowledge that God does not exist”, placing himself as a “6”. When pushed in an interview, he has on occasion gone to “6.9” with a wry smile :)

    For a clear exposition of Richard’s position “straight from the horse’s mouth”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D9fazrHSpHQ (from ~3:10 to ~6:05)

  381. #381 cl
    May 28, 2008

    @ CJO re: comment #373
    @ black wolf re: comment #377

    Great observations, and my mistake of sloppy writing. You could very reasonably charge me with making the same mistake I just raised against Rev.BigDumbChimp!

    As you note, even my argument that khug (chuwg) denotes sphericity is poorly founded. Before I saw black wolf’s comment I checked Strong’s and 2329 simply states ‘circle.’ Concerning its use in Isaiah 40:22, I think the implication that chuwg definitely implies a round Earth is just as unfounded as the implication that chuwg definitely implies a flat Earth. Further complicating is that whether we are looking at a two-dimensional circle or a 3-dimensional sphere, both take on the literal appearance of a circle, right?

    All this making any definitive claim based on Isaiah 40:22 speculative at best, which in a roundabout way was my original point. I think we can agree that all approximations concerning Earth’s shape in scripture are conveniently packaged in dreams, visions and arguably metaphorical language, which only complicates things. Anyone?

    I’m familiar with Alward’s claims, and I’m glad you mention them because they’re among the stronger counter arguments to the argument that the Bible does not claim the Earth is flat. Arguing as I did above that the Bible does not definitively claim Earth is flat is not the same thing as arguing the Bible definitively claims Earth is round, a claim I did not mean to imply if I did. Like most things in the Bible purported to prove this or that, these seem ever-so-cleverly-worded that our pre-conceived notions form our opinions for us.

    Just for fun…

    1) The edge of a sphere or circle is its crust; 2) The clay Alward shows sure looks like a continental land mass to me; 3) Alward forces a literal interpretation of Matthew 4:1-12 when the context is clearly of a vision; 4) As for the vision in Daniel, maybe the time frame of the vision corresponded to pangea in which one tall tree could theoretically be viewed from all the ends of the Earth? (Daniel wrote during the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, when pangea had already long dispersed; his vision itself could have occurred at any point in space-time)

    I don’t know for sure, myself, and all of this just goes to show the lesson of moderation to those ever so persuaded of their being right in any controversy.

    In the vein of Rev.BigDumbChimp, I apologize if I misled anybody. Hopefully this post clears things up.

    Incidentally, all this banter about sphere-vs-circle obscures the original mysteriousness of the verse anyway: How is it that, during a time before science, Eratosthenes and the Wright Brothers, the Bible writers got the correct impression that Earth was circular and possibly spherical? From looking at the sun and moon?

  382. #382 Ryan F Stello
    May 28, 2008

    cl (#380) inquired,

    How is it that, during a time before science, Eratosthenes and the Wright Brothers, the Bible writers got the correct impression that Earth was circular and possibly spherical?

    Except that the impression was wrong, and they never referenced it as spherical, even possibly.

    This whole exercise to squeeze what little juice of legitimacy you can out of the Bible is starting to become desperate.

  383. #383 frog
    May 28, 2008

    cl:

    It’s poetry, dammit! It doesn’t make a lick of sense otherwise. You sound like you’re trying to argue the shape of Satan’s goatee from Milton. Whether the Hebrews used chug or dug for the shape of the earth was solely determined by how it fit into the sentence, passage, and book by poetic constraints — sound, meter, rhythm, repetition and imagery.

    That’s why so much of the “scholarly” material is nonsense. The whole of the Bible (old testament and new) is poetry (even the boring legalistic parts). That’s how goat-herders and wandering cleric talked and thought. All argument about what they “really meant” is anachronistic. If it sounded good, it went in. End of Story.

  384. #384 Patricia C.
    May 28, 2008

    Gawds ballocks! How long is he going to go on? If you wear your cosmology as a crupper it will chafe in the proper place.

  385. #385 tony (not a vegan)
    May 28, 2008

    Frog: it’s poetry, dammit!

    For a moment there I thought you were channelling my old english teacher! LOL

    But I have to agree — much of the bible makes less sense than Shakespeare – and it’s fairly clear that both were written with memorability in mind: Shakespeare so his actors could recite the lines, and ancient priests and shamen because the verses were, indeed, recited (for comparison, listen to the poetic lyricism of navaho myth, or norse eddas, or the vedas…)

  386. #386 Charlie Foxtrot
    May 28, 2008

    There once was a God from Nantuket….

  387. #387 buckyball
    May 28, 2008

    @ PZ:

    “God always gets a pass from the people who already believe.”

    On the contrary, the Bible is filled with people who doubted and demanded evidence. Moses, David, Thomas, Gideon and numerous others struggled in this area. Some of the Psalms address this also.

    @ Walton, #49:

    “Indeed, this argument also seeks to address many of the other arguments brought up above; if God were to provide us with any empirical, scientific proof of his existence, the need for faith would be removed.”

    I think, to some extent, there is a good reason why faith is so central. Consider Moses for example, who apparently struggled often with the need for “evidence”. In Exodus 33:19-20, for instance, he was not allowed to see God “face to face”…but there was a very good reason for it. That said, there are numerous examples throughout the Bible and even today of where God readily provides “evidence” in support of one’s faith, especially if the request is in sincerity.

    “Faith consists in believing in something without any solid evidence for it. If there is solid evidence, it ceases to be a leap of faith and becomes mere rational conjecture based on observable evidence.”

    Transformed lives do not suffice as evidence?

  388. #388 tony (not a vegan)
    May 28, 2008

    buckyball: Transformed lives do not suffice as evidence?

    No. Unless that evidence is ‘visible’ and obvious to a third party.

    Being ‘saved’ or ‘born again’ is essentially indistinguishable from other forms of self delusion (I’m sure Raven could point up a number of case studies).

    Unless you have incontrovertible (i.e. not fakable, not stage magic) evidence of god’s intervention, then all you have is hearsay – and we don’t even allow that in a court of law!

  389. #389 Charlie Foxtrot
    May 28, 2008

    On the contrary, the Bible is filled with people who doubted and demanded evidence. Moses, David, Thomas, Gideon and numerous others struggled in this area.

    ..and what answer does The Bible say they found? Oh! There is a God!
    Who saw that plot twist coming?

  390. #390 Ryan F Stello
    May 28, 2008

    Transformed lives do not suffice as evidence?

    Sure, evidence that their lives were transformed.
    Behavioral psychology helps explain anything after that.

    Or were you trying to suggest something else?

  391. #391 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    May 28, 2008

    On the contrary, the Bible is filled with people who doubted and demanded evidence. Moses, David, Thomas, Gideon and numerous others struggled in this area. Some of the Psalms address this also.

    Which is only evidence of using the bible to prove the bible accurate.

  392. #392 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    May 28, 2008

    That said, there are numerous examples throughout the Bible and even today of where God readily provides “evidence” in support of one’s faith, especially if the request is in sincerity.

    Do tell, please!

  393. #393 tony (not a vegan)
    May 28, 2008

    even today of where God readily provides “evidence” in support of one’s faith, especially if the request is in sincerity

    I think he’s talking about Hagee’s claim that Katrina was sent to punish the ungodly…

    Not exactly evidence of a loving, forgiving god, though.

  394. #394 cl
    May 28, 2008

    @ Ryan
    re: comment #381

    In saying the impression of the Bible writers was wrong, are you claiming the Earth is not circular? Or that the most basic definition of chuwg in Hebrew does not denote a circle? Because by every line of reasoning I can see, someone who uses the phrase ‘circle of the Earth’ as the writer of Isaiah did is speaking something scientifically acceptable.

  395. #395 cl
    May 28, 2008

    @ frog
    re: comment #382

    That’s exactly the point I’m arguing, and if you’re debating me, it’s strawman argumentation. To repeat the thesis of comment #380, “All this making any definitive claim based on Isaiah 40:22 speculative at best, which in a roundabout way was my original point. I think we can agree that all approximations concerning Earth’s shape in scripture are conveniently packaged in dreams, visions and arguably metaphorical language, which only complicates things.” (emph. mine)

    Make sense?

  396. #396 Emmet Caulfield
    May 28, 2008

    There once was a God from Nantucket….

    Who peed in a big plastic bucket…

  397. #397 Epikt
    May 28, 2008

    Nibien:

    It’s quite obvious J is a troll and/or idiot, I’m not quite sure why you guys feed him.

    We’re fattening him up for the sacrifice this weekend.

  398. #398 cl
    May 28, 2008

    @ BigDumbChimp
    re: comment #390

    Your concern over people “using the bible to prove the bible accurate” is shared.

  399. #399 Stephen D Moore
    May 28, 2008

    Underverse writes

    “Ironically, the Andersen fable is largely meant to caution on vanity, but Myers and Dawkins (who endorses the Courtier’s Reply) seem to have missed that.”

    I think the irony is that underverse has missed the irony in what he or she writes. Surely it is vanity that the theist possesses in asserting the privilege of not being held to the same standard of argument as the empirical rationalist? Such vanity is part of the point of The Courtier’s Reply.

  400. #400 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    May 28, 2008

    Your concern over people “using the bible to prove the bible accurate” is shared.

    I never understand people using this obviously circular argument. Yet we see it again and again.

  401. #401 Etha Williams
    May 28, 2008

    @#399 Rev. BigDumbChimp —

    Your concern over people “using the bible to prove the bible accurate” is shared.

    I never understand people using this obviously circular argument. Yet we see it again and again.

    What I think is perhaps funniest about this circular argument is that even if you look at the Bible completely detached from empirical evidence, it really doesn’t do a very good job “proving” itself, considering how very self-contradictory and cobbled together it is.

  402. #402 BlueIndependent
    May 28, 2008

    “…Transformed lives do not suffice as evidence?”

    No, please see Hitchens for the answer to this.

    We now know that Mother Teresa went to her grave feeling that nothing was there (speaking in terms of her faith in a god). Transformed lives are not an immediate or consistent form of validation, nor do they serve as hard proof. Why? Because people come and go out of faith all the time. Ever heard of born-again Christians? Converts? Just because religions have a few nice things, like imploring people to eat healthy, to not drink alcohol, whatever, this does not mean that its entirety is then validated because the practitioner followed the rules. And on this point, these rules such as refraining from alcohol, not drinking tea or coffee in the case of Mormons, not eating pork…it’s all for mostly meaningless, unprovable, nonsensical reasons. How is eating pork REALLY going to hurt you? Terrorists follow these little rules really well, and in fact punish or kill according to the level of adherence to them. Are we to think their lives were changed for the better?

    Religion has ruined lives too; you cannot take the good without the bad. A great many people (myself and my siblings being but four examples) are indoctrinated into religion without consent. We are put in private schools and must pass religious tests. We must attend church against our will or without consent. How can this be considered as transforming lives, if one was never given the chance to live without the religion first? How would they ever know what their life would’ve been like otherwise?

    And this doesn’t take into account the fact that some people convert to one or the other’s religion when they marry. Or that some people are frankly brainwashed into one religion or another when someone walks up to their door one day.

    The “transformed lives” argument is a non-starter.

  403. #403 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    May 28, 2008

    What I think is perhaps funniest about this circular argument is that even if you look at the Bible completely detached from empirical evidence, it really doesn’t do a very good job “proving” itself, considering how very self-contradictory and cobbled together it is

    Now now Etha, don’t let observation and reason get in your way of a good logical fallacy.

  404. #404 Ryan F Stello
    May 28, 2008

    Because by every line of reasoning I can see, someone who uses the phrase ‘circle of the Earth’ as the writer of Isaiah did is speaking something scientifically acceptable.

    You have a strange definition of scientific acceptability, because to me, the ‘scientific’ part of what you’re addressing requires well-defined terms (one side-product of good research).

    The limits of language were not so great for the writers of Isaiah to say what they meant, and not require tortured apologetic interpretations.

    Jus’ sayin’

  405. #405 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    May 28, 2008

    Ever heard of born-again Christians? Converts? Just because religions have a few nice things, like imploring people to eat healthy, to not drink alcohol, whatever, this does not mean that its entirety is then validated because the practitioner followed the rules.

    Not to mention that believing in something that sounds nice may have some positive effect. That however has exactly zero bearing on the truth of said belief.

    Placebo effect.

  406. #406 MAJeff, OM
    May 28, 2008

    There once was a God from Nantucket….
    Who peed in a big plastic bucket…

    Does the walrus still want it back after that?

  407. #407 Pimientita
    May 28, 2008

    @cl #380

    How is it that, during a time before science, Eratosthenes and the Wright Brothers, the Bible writers got the correct impression that Earth was circular and possibly spherical? From looking at the sun and moon?

    I always thought that (if one was to take it literally) whoever wrote the passage had once stood on at the tallest point in his area and saw that the earth around him appeared as a circle as far as he could see (if he turned in a circle that is). That would explain the imagery of the heavens spreading as a tent over the circle of the earth. It is possible and even probable that people back then looked at the spherical shape of the sun and moon and extended that shape to the earth, but I don’t think that would fit in with this particular passage, since the sun and moon are a part of the heaven “tent.”

    That said, I think that this passage was intended to be read poetically and not as the equivalent of a science text and that those who point to it as such are reaching as well as misinterpreting the original Hebrew.

  408. #408 Ichthyic
    May 28, 2008

    are you claiming the Earth is not circular?

    well, if they aren’t I am.

    last I checked, it was essentially spherical, not a circle.

    again:

    It is possible and even probable that people back then looked at the spherical shape of the sun and moon

    I disagree that to the naked eye, those bodies would have looked spherical.

    circular, like flat discs, yes.

    spherical?

    no.

  409. #409 Ichthyic
    May 28, 2008

    not as the equivalent of a science text and that those who point to it as such are reaching as well as misinterpreting the original Hebrew.

    most vehemently agree. In fact, I have Jewish friends who themselves would not interpret it in such a fashion.

    for whatever that’s worth.

  410. #410 buckyball
    May 28, 2008

    @ Tony (not a vegan) #387:

    “Unless you have incontrovertible (i.e. not fakable, not stage magic) evidence of god’s intervention, then all you have is hearsay – and we don’t even allow that in a court of law!”

    http://www.unshackled.org?

  411. #411 tony (not a vegan)
    May 28, 2008

    buckyball @409, re: unshackled.

    I said ‘proof’ not ‘hearsay’

    Personal revelation is not proof. it. is. self-delusion.

    It may manifest sufficiently to influence other god-botherers in a positive manner – but it is not proof of god.

  412. #412 Ichthyic
    May 28, 2008

    http://www.unshackled.org?

    LOL

    yeah, but I prefer stories of dragons to brighten my day.

    surely you’re joking.

  413. #413 tony (not a vegan)
    May 28, 2008

    ps. per my moniker…. I need meaty proof, not this lame-ass stuff you’re peddlin’

  414. #414 buckyball
    May 28, 2008

    @ tony (not a vegan) #392:

    “I think he’s talking about Hagee’s claim that Katrina was sent to punish the ungodly…

    Not exactly evidence of a loving, forgiving god, though.”

    That’s Hagee’s claim, not mine. Although it’s technically possible, per Amos 4:7. Of course in Luke 13:4, a tower collapses…but it isn’t due to anyone’s “sin”. Basically, it’s faulty theology to equate every national disaster with ungodliness.

    @ Blue Independent, #401:

    “How is eating pork REALLY going to hurt you?”

    There was a reason for it in the Old Testament; but per the New Testament, this isn’t an issue anymore.

    “We must attend church against our will or without consent.”

    That’s not what I was referring to. I was referring to people who willingly are pursuing God as described in the Bible…not being indoctrinated against their will.

  415. #415 Ichthyic
    May 28, 2008

    I need meaty proof, not this lame-ass stuff you’re peddlin’

    On the face of it, asking for evidence is a ridiculous request, because if it ever existed to the slightest extent, none of us would be here.

    the best the apologists will ever come up with are circular arguments, or arguments in the form of ad populum.

    which is why most experienced theologians consider theology itself to be a dead-end endeavor.

    Most apologists have simply intentionally blinded themselves to this.

  416. #416 Etha Williams
    May 28, 2008

    @#409 buckyball —

    http://www.unshackled.org?

    No.

    Xianity has great appeal to many going through difficult times, depression, etc, but that’s no evidence of divine intervention.

    Focusing on the depression aspect (because I have experience with that), here is how it may work, sans divine intervention.

    1) Person is depressed and demoralized; he views himself as a failure and unlovable (both to himself and to others).

    2) Enter Xianity. Through sin doctrine, it confirms, in this person’s mind, the first of these beliefs giving it subjective credibility; it then tells him that he is still lovable — but only through the grace of God. This begins to foster a dependence on the religion’s claim:

    Without Jesus Christ, we are all shackled by sin — by our wrong choices, disobedience and selfish motives. But God is at work, and the power of Christ sets us free of our bondage. We are… “UNSHACKLED!”

    3) Everything is now viewed through Christ-goggles. When the person begins to feel better (most depression is episodic), it is because of the love and grace of God; indeed, sometimes this imagined love may play some role, but it is the role of a placebo. And when the depression, feelings of worthlessness, etc return, the person is struggling with his sinful nature.

    4) Far from getting at the root cause of the person’s difficulties — their irrational feelings of self-loathing — Xianity continually reinforces them with its own irrational claims, and promotes itself as the only cure. This allows this system of thought to continue indefinitely, or until some outside intervention is somehow chanced upon.

    I seriously think that, short of a loaded gun, Xianity may be the worst thing to offer someone struggling with depression or similar issues.

  417. #417 Rey Fox
    May 28, 2008

    “You’re not waking up with the right person.”

    Feh.

  418. #418 Ichthyic
    May 29, 2008

    I was referring to people who willingly are pursuing God as described in the Bible…not being indoctrinated against their will.

    that appears to be arguing from exceptionalism, considering how commonly religion travels within family and local peer groups.

    I think I just linked to a relevant paper just a little while ago on a different thread.

    ah yes:

    http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/316/5827/996

    you could, of course, look at it from a different angle.

    Instead of “adult resistance to science” you could just as well substitute:

    adult adherence to religious beliefs.

    and lose little meaning when applied to this country.

  419. #419 Ichthyic
    May 29, 2008

    Xianity has great appeal to many going through difficult times, depression, etc, but that’s no evidence of divine intervention.

    heh, it might be more related to “12 step” intervention.

  420. #420 tony (not a vegan)
    May 29, 2008

    buckyball: Although it’s technically possible

    sorry, but WTF?

    As Ichthyic said above to my snark… there is no proof, and your reasoning is only ever circular.

    Can we get some ‘real’ Xians in here — some with at least half a brain?


    Oh? Those *were* the ones with brains?

    That explains a lot! never mind.

  421. #421 Malcolm
    May 29, 2008

    Walton,
    When you reach the point in a logical discussion where you get stuck and can only go in circles, it’s because one or more of your assumptions is wrong.

  422. #422 tony (not a vegan)
    May 29, 2008

    REy Fox: “You’re not waking up with the right person.”

    This should, of course, have said You’re not waking up with the right PEOPLE given that we’re all godless sexually adventurous and licentious libertines

  423. #423 Ichthyic
    May 29, 2008

    You’re not waking up with the right PEOPLE

    what’s with all this “waking up in the morning” stuff, anyway?

    wait, you mean you guys don’t sleep until noon?

    wow.

    you must have “real” jobs.

    ;)

  424. #424 Brandon P.
    May 29, 2008

    How exactly do theologians spend their time? What kind of research do they perform, how do they perform said research, and what are its implications? It challenges the imagination to speculate how one can devote an entire science to something with at most scarcely any evidence for its very existence.

  425. #425 cl
    May 29, 2008

    @ Ryan
    re: comment #403

    “The limits of language were not so great for the writers of Isaiah to say what they meant, and not require tortured apologetic interpretations.”

    I agree.

    And I stick to my claim that someone who uses the phrase ‘circle of the Earth’ as the writer of Isaiah did is speaking something scientifically acceptable. There was no empirical evidence of their time indicating any circular aspect to Earth’s existence, other than by inference from the moon or sun, which I already mentioned.

  426. #426 Ichthyic
    May 29, 2008

    What kind of research do they perform, how do they perform said research, and what are its implications?

    based on my experience, there are essentially two types of theologians:

    those that endlessly argue about the meanings of scripture, and those that spend time actually looking into the history and archeology that supposedly support the veracity of scripture.

    If you want to see a great example of the latter, suggest you check out Hector Avalos:

    http://www.philrs.iastate.edu/avalos.shtml

    for a quick study, try checking out his talks on biblical archeology:

    part 1: http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=2569440864215926514

    part 2:
    http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-2260956154287964220&q=&hl=en

    the former (theologians that debate meaning) are entirely worthless in modern times, so I won’t bother giving links.

  427. #427 cl
    May 29, 2008

    @ Pimientita
    re: comment #406

    I agree with your comment. To repeat the thesis of comment #380, “All this making any definitive claim based on Isaiah 40:22 speculative at best, which in a roundabout way was my original point. I think we can agree that all approximations concerning Earth’s shape in scripture are conveniently packaged in dreams, visions and arguably metaphorical language, which only complicates things.

    Make sense?

  428. #428 RamblinDude
    May 29, 2008

    Etha Williams,

    I seriously think that, short of a loaded gun, Xianity may be the worst thing to offer someone struggling with depression or similar issues.

    I seriously agree with you. When you take all your cares and “give them to Jesus”, you take all that within you that should have been examined closely in the first place (instead of running away from it), and ensure that it never gets examined!

    The end result is a virtual brain death–for at least part of the brain. One’s intelligence can’t function correctly if there is anything distorting perception. And refusal to allow the truth to exist, (the truth of ugliness, fear, depression, anxiety, greed, etc.) prevents one’s perception from operating correctly and, therefore, one’s intelligence from working on the problem.

    We see it all the time in the believers who come in here to argue. Their critical thinking skills have been damaged, cut off at the knees. You can’t be fully functional if you won’t let reality exist as it is. They can’t even let the truth of “not knowing” exist. And this is the goal of religion! (You also see this bias of perception in Christian art e.g. Christian music. The incessant focus on “JOY” becomes cloying in the extreme. It’s not natural. It’s not real. It’s not honest)

    People who attach themselves to religion don’t realize that “the truth” is not a goal to be achieved. It’s not a product of thought. It’s whatever reality happens to be–and that includes one’s own confusion. All of reality needs to be perceived with “choice-less” awareness. Only then does the intelligence function fully.

  429. #429 Hematite
    May 29, 2008

    There once was a god from Nantucket,
    When faced with a rule he would buck it,
    He cut up his dad,
    His wife got quite mad,
    Whatever he saw he would say “Hi, I’m Zeus. Want to see my lightning bolt?”

  430. #430 cl
    May 29, 2008

    @ RamblinDude
    re: comment #428

    You say, “The incessant focus on “JOY” becomes cloying in the extreme. It’s not natural. It’s not real. It’s not honest.”

    SPOT-ON

  431. #431 Wowbagger
    May 29, 2008

    Bloody hell. The points I was making in my head when I first started reading through this monster list of posts have almost been forgotten – though it’s made for some good reading.

    Anyway, what I was going to say was that I agree that the courtier’s reply is just a lot of smoke and mirrors from the apologists. I remember hearing a friend relate to me that a religiously minded person she knew had dismissed TGD for just that reason – and at the time I didn’t know how to respond.

    Now I do.

    I don’t pretend to understand apologists – though, to an extent, I do admire the amount of effort they put into twisting things to make them acceptable. But it doesn’t change the fact that the god of the bible is startlingly inconsistent. I’m no bible scholar, but from what I do know of it indicates he’s changed a lot – which makes me wonder how anyone can accept that it’s the same god the whole way through. My few cobbled-together examples:

    One minute he’s creating the universe and then he’s worried about ‘his’ people whoring themselves off to other gods. What other gods? Where did they come from? He created the universe; surely if there are other gods he had to have created them. After this minor lapse in consistency he goes back to being the one and only.

    He’s supposed to be omniscient and omnicognisant – which seems to mean he knows everything, including what’s yet to happen. But if that’s the case, how is it that he gets surprised or disappointed by what people do? He knows what’s going to happen. Later on he knows stuff – or, at least, Jesus does; he’s fully aware that Judas is going to betray him.

    Back in the good ol’ days he did all sorts of things to prove he exists, but nowadays he’s against the idea of any sort of proof (well, apart from NDEs – though they’ve only managed to convince one person, an admittedly lackluster individual whose name begins with ‘K’) of his existence.

    Once, he was all about war and ethnic cleansing; now he’s all about love and peace and integration?

    Seems to me that god has changed a great deal. But how is that possible? He’s meant to be perfect. To my understanding a perfect being cannot change. He can’t get perfecter, can he?

    To me Xianity’s greatest mistake was that they didn’t put together a decent enough team of editors when they compiled the bible. A good meta analysis would have come back with a report full of criticisms like ‘gross inconsistency’ and ‘problematic contradictions’ – and probably recommended they start again from the beginning. Literally. ‘Please,’ says the editor, ‘just read over Genesis and make up your mind – because it can’t be both.’

    It’d certainly make an apologist’s job a lot easier.

  432. #432 DingoDave
    May 29, 2008

    Comment #431: “To me Xianity’s greatest mistake was that they didn’t put together a decent enough team of editors when they compiled the bible…It’d certainly make an apologist’s job a lot easier.”

    But then what would all the theologians do?

  433. #433 spencer
    May 29, 2008

    ‘(This is exactly the role of the “higher power” in 12 steps groups–and it works).’

    AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAhahahahahhaa….oh,my.

  434. #434 Ichthyic
    May 29, 2008

    ‘(This is exactly the role of the “higher power” in 12 steps groups–and it works).’

    after you posted that bit, I decided to go through underverse’s responses in the comments.

    …and quickly realized he didn’t have an argument at all, other than to say:

    “I think these guys have a more complex argument than PZ gives them credit for.”

    …without even bothering to distill why.

    Moreover, when called on his mistakes (like the one you are laughing at), he simply puts them off as “alliterative examples”. what a bunch of chickenshit. What he really meant to say was: “well, all of my specific examples might be functionally incorrect, but they still prove my point”.

    You were right to laugh.

    frankly, I can’t envision ever bothering to read his comments ever again.

  435. #435 Wowbagger
    May 29, 2008

    #432 wrote:

    But then what would all the theologians do?

    Maybe they’d all have become sociologists or HR managers instead – they all do pretty much the same thing as far as I can tell: non-stop semantic and/or contextual redefining – which is fine; I’m all for that sort of thing if it works for you. It’s only when it affects me that I get irritated.

    If all religious types were the sort of people capable of the courtier’s reply – by which i mean they spend hours in contemplation of their beliefs in an attempt to actually understand them, rather than just blindly follow – then Dawkins et al wouldn’t need to write books in the first place. But most of them aren’t; unfortunately, the vast majority are the believers in the ‘unsophisticated’ version of their religion – and they’re the idiots trying to make their personal beliefs public policy.

  436. #436 bPer
    May 29, 2008

    cl @#425:

    There was no empirical evidence of their time indicating any circular aspect to Earth’s existence

    At the risk of furthering your — ahem — dubious claim, this part is bullshit. The shape of the Earth can be seen in the shadow it casts on the Moon during a lunar eclipse. We know that Aristotle had figured it out, and it is reasonable to speculate that others could have done so earlier without leaving records. Even if nobody had, though, the empirical evidence was still available at Isaiah’s time.

    Now, since I’ve done you a favour, I expect one in return. Please stop referring to the Earth as circular or round. A circle is a two-dimensional figure, and ’round’ is too vague to know if you’re referring to a 2-D or a 3-D object. The Earth is spherical (or more accurately an oblate spheroid). The shadow of the Earth is circular, but as the link explains, Aristotle realized that that meant the Earth was spherical. “The circle of the Earth” cannot reasonably be argued to imply that the speaker thinks the Earth is spherical without him/her explicitly referring to the shadow it casts.

  437. #437 Gilmore
    May 29, 2008

    I just wanted to say thank you to everyone who posted on this thread. This is one of the most thought provoking, deep, intelligent blog threads I have ever seen and I am genuinely sad to have reached the end of it.

  438. #438 mezzobuff
    May 29, 2008

    Gee, ya dash off to work for a few hours and look what happens!
    True Bob: “reality” is the first thing my Dad came up with!
    Sc, I like ‘evidentiarism’… then again, that sounds an awful lot like… science!
    Thanks for the input… I have a feeling that my antonym search will continue over a few nights of drinking out here by the bay…

  439. #439 H.H.
    May 29, 2008

    J said: “That’s because they haven’t fucking “corrected” me. If they’re using “atheist” to mean nothing more than “someone who doesn’t believe in gods”, rather than “someone who’s confident that there are no gods”, then they are in conflict with the definitions recognized by eminent atheists such as Dawkins and Bertrand Russell.”

    That still doesn’t make atheism a “cosmological question,” you insufferable prick. Yes, if one believes that no supernatural god exists, even “confidently so,” that means one doesn’t believe the cosmos has a supernatural creator. However, if one believes that no supernatural god exists, that also means that life has no supernatural creator. Does that also make atheism a “biological question?” No, you dessicated turd.

    Atheism is about a metaphysical question, and any further attempts by you to call it a cosmological question, after being corrected, will be considered a sign of mental illness.

    You have been corrected. Now act like it.

  440. #440 John Phillips, FCD
    May 29, 2008

    Jeffrey D said

    I would like to make one other comment about something the nameless one mentioned. NO one speaks for me about my beliefs, my atheism, not Dawkins, not PZ, no one. Do not reference an authority and say anything about “mainstream atheism”, it is a null concept to me. I speak for me, no leader, no god, no scientist, no cosmologist, no apologist. I bend knee to no person, no king, no gawd. I face the world without needing intercession from any authority.

    At the risk of sounding like a member of the cult of JeffreyD :-D your post articulates my position exactly, well said sir.

  441. #441 cl
    May 29, 2008

    @ bPer
    re: comment #436

    You didn’t do me a favor. I noted observations of the moon and sun in my original statement, and I know the difference between a circle and a sphere. My argument was that from the vantage point of an observer in space, that Earth appears circular is a legitimate observation, even though Earth is in fact spherical.

    All spheres are by default three-dimensional circles. Agree or disagree?

  442. #442 DingoDave
    May 29, 2008

    Coment #406: “There once was a God from Nantucket…. Who peed in a big plastic bucket…
    Does the walrus still want it back after that?”

    Looks more like a female elephant seal to me.
    http://ihasabucket.com/

  443. #443 JustAsItSounds
    May 29, 2008

    Re: Does the bible state the earth is flat?

    Luke 4:5 KJV
    And the devil, taking him up into an high mountain, shewed unto him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time.

    Mathew 4:8 KJV
    Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them;

    Suggests to me that the the entire earth is visible from a single (exceeding high) location – a neat trick unless the earth is transparent.

  444. #444 DingoDave
    May 29, 2008

    Ref. Comment #442:

    On second thoughts, it looks more like an adolescent male elephant seal.
    http://ihasabucket.com/

  445. #445 DingoDave
    May 29, 2008

    Re: Does the bible state the earth is flat?

    It appears that the Hebrews adopted the popular Babylonian cosmology of the day, which pictured a 3 story universe with the Earth as a flat disk, surrounded by the waters of chaos. They absolutely did not view the Earth as being a globe. (sorry, an oblate spheroid)
    For a good discussion of the subject, take a look here: http://www.aarweb.org/syllabus/syllabi/g/gier/306/commoncosmos.htm

    Apologists and theologians have a merry old time trying to retro-fit what we now know about how the cosmos really works, with these obviously mistaken ancient texts. They have done so with less than ‘stellar success’ in my opinion. (sorry about the pun)

    Behold the wisdom of the ancients.

    Ps.104 [2] who coverest thyself with light as with a garment, who hast stretched out the heavens like a tent,

    Psalm 19:[4] In them he has set a tent for the sun,
    [5] which comes forth like a bridegroom leaving his chamber,
    and like a strong man runs its course with joy.

    Isa.40
    [22] It is he who sits above the circle of the earth,
    and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers;
    who stretches out the heavens like a curtain,
    and spreads them like a tent to dwell in;

    The Hebrew the word translated as ‘firmament’ means something which has been ‘beaten out’, like a metal bowl, or a shield.

    Of course, as demonstrated above, they were also fond of using the tent analogy.

  446. #446 MartinM
    May 29, 2008

    A circle is a two-dimensional figure

    One-dimensional. A disk is two-dimensional.

    All spheres are by default three-dimensional circles

    No, they’re two-dimensional.

    </pedant>

  447. #447 Daniel R
    May 29, 2008

    MartinM:

    A circle is a two-dimensional figure

    One-dimensional. A disk is two-dimensional.

    No: both circles and disks are two-dimensional. Straight lines are one dimensional.

  448. #448 J
    May 29, 2008

    Yes, if one believes that no supernatural god exists, even “confidently so,” that means one doesn’t believe the cosmos has a supernatural creator. However, if one believes that no supernatural god exists, that also means that life has no supernatural creator. Does that also make atheism a “biological question?” No, you dessicated turd.
    That’s a strawman position. No person with a modicum of scientific knowledge thinks life has a supernatural creator. Obviously atheism isn’t equivalent to accepting evolution as fact. Atheism is commonly regarded the confident belief that there was no creator of the Universe.

    Agnostics don’t believe in gods either, and yet few people think they’re the same as atheists. If you want to redefine atheim so that it encompasses agnosticism, be my guest. If you do that, though, you’re definitely going to confuse a lot of people, and also you’re adopting an unnecessarily “extreme” (in most people’s eyes) label.

  449. #449 J
    May 29, 2008

    No: both circles and disks are two-dimensional. Straight lines are one dimensional.
    No, he’s right. For a circle you need only one base (e.g. angle from a point on the circle) to specify position along it, so it’s one-dimensional. Disks require two bases.

  450. #450 JeffreyD
    May 29, 2008

    Further to Etha Williams in #416 and RamblinDude in #428, another issue I have noted among extended family and acquaintances is that many xtians, usually of the fundamentalist strip, actively discourage either therapy or medication to help deal with depression. The sufferer is encouraged to pray about his sin and embrace jesus and god’s, non-existent, love. If and when that fails, the fall is hard indeed. Full disclosure, suffer from depression myself and lost the love of my life to depression inspired suicide – and have been gleefully informed by many, many xtians that she is now in hell. I say gleefully because it seems to fit their expressions and words.

    Re John Phillips, FCD in #440 – thank you for the kind words, sir. I do get a bit tired of being dumped in a one size fits all atheist bucket and assumed to be like all others. It amazes me that so many assume that atheists somehow have a unifying “theology”. Of course, many xtians object to being lumped in with fundie nut bags and I can understand their reason. (smile) My reply is always simple, speak out against them! All that aside, can I interest you in a cult tee shirt, John????? Only requires a free will love offering of $19.99 (laughing).

    Coffee time – Ciao, y’all

  451. #451 J
    May 29, 2008

    You arguments about atheism’s problems are also unsupported. I linked here recently to an interview with Alan Sokal. Asked if he is an atheist, he states plainly that he is. Are you suggesting that he has now irrevocably alienated himself from the thousands of cosmological deists that are his physicist and cosmologist colleagues? This horde of cosmological deists running screaming from the mere suggestion of atheism exists only in your imagination.
    No. I too would say I’m an atheist if asked (unless e.g. religious family members asked and there’s good reason to dodge the question). What I’ve been saying all along is that there’s no need to keep telling people you’re an atheist, which is what many people here are frequently doing.

    Either read my posts properly, or cut it out with this shameless strawmandering.

  452. #452 Carlie
    May 29, 2008

    What I’ve been saying all along is that there’s no need to keep telling people you’re an atheist,

    When the majority of people in this country have such low opinions of atheists that they would never vote for one for public office, when every politician sees that it is not only ok, but in their best interests to bash atheists in public speeches, when many fundamentalists will claim that they’ve never even met an atheist, when pastors state that atheists are evil and immoral scum of the earth without being corrected, what on earth reason could there be not to tell people you’re an atheist if you’re able to? The only way to redeem the idea of atheism to the general public is to give them hard, direct examples of the fact that most atheists are decent, nice people, in fact (gasp!) their neighbors, friends, and relatives. There are still atheists in the good old USA who simply can’t say that they’re atheists because the social/work/family repercussions are so high, so if the ones who can speak out do so very loudly to help cover those who can’t, so much the better. The only way atheism has a chance of being accepted is if people see that atheists are an integral part of society, not the cause of destruction thereof, and that can only happen if people know that atheists exist, who they are, and how many of them there are. I really don’t understand your distaste for people sharing their views, cosmological or not.

  453. #453 Stephen Wells
    May 29, 2008

    In the epic of Gilgamesh, he travels to the land of the dead by running through the tunnel in the mountains which the sun passes through when it sets. Undoubtedly and explicitly a flat-earth cosmology, and consistent in its own terms.

    There’s an epic hilarity in someone trying to claim that Isaiah says the earth is spherical, in a passage which talks about spreading the heavens as a tent over the earth. Yeah, sure, people who thought the sky was solid were really well clued up about cosmology.

  454. #454 Fernando Magyar
    May 29, 2008

    People who attach themselves to religion don’t realize that “the truth” is not a goal to be achieved. It’s not a product of thought.

    Or is it the meme of religion that infects the person’s mind creating in it an alternate reality?

    Viruses of the Mind
    Richard Dawkins
    1991

    The haven all memes depend on reaching is the human mind, but a human mind is itself an artifact created when memes restructure a human brain in order to make it a better habitat for memes. The avenues for entry and departure are modified to suit local conditions, and strengthened by various artificial devices that enhance fidelity and prolixity of replication: native Chinese minds differ dramatically from native French minds, and literate minds differ from illiterate minds. What memes provide in return to the organisms in which they reside is an incalculable store of advantages — with some Trojan horses thrown in for good measure. . .

    Daniel Dennett, Consciousness Explained

  455. #455 Nick Gotts
    May 29, 2008

    An omnipotent, omniscient and omnibenevolent being is logically impossible; it is inconsistent with the existence of suffering. – frog

    I agree with you entirely (this was my main point) that the existence of suffering shows that Walton’s God does not exist, and all the attempts to get round this that I am aware of clearly fail. By “logically impossible” I mean “cannot exist because its description is internally inconsistent”; like a “three-sided pentagon” or “even prime greater than 2″. It’s useful to distinguish that kind of impossibility from the kind you rightly attribute to Walton’s God, where nonexistence cannot be deduced from the meaning of terms, but which we know cannot exist given the nature of the real world.

  456. #456 Daniel R
    May 29, 2008

    J:

    No, he’s right. For a circle you need only one base (e.g. angle from a point on the circle) to specify position along it, so it’s one-dimensional. Disks require two bases.

    I regret, he is wrong and you too. For a circle, you need two dimensions to specify a point: either (x, y) or (angle, radius).

    – One dimension: a line.
    – Two dimensions: a plan.
    – Three dimensions: the space.

    You cannot put a circle in a line. You need a plan.

  457. #457 Daniel R
    May 29, 2008

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Circle
    A circle consists of those points in a plane which are at a constant distance, called the radius, from a fixed point, called the center.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plane_%28mathematics%29
    In mathematics, a plane is a two-dimensional manifold or surface that is perfectly flat.

  458. #458 Malcolm
    May 29, 2008

    J blathered,

    No: both circles and disks are two-dimensional. Straight lines are one dimensional.
    No, he’s right. For a circle you need only one base (e.g. angle from a point on the circle) to specify position along it, so it’s one-dimensional. Disks require two bases.

    I would suggest you take;
    a) a basic mathematics class (As a clue, the first three dimensions are x,y and z)
    and, given your issues with the word atheist,
    b)your meds.

  459. #459 Louis
    May 29, 2008

    Ye Gods, this discussion over terminology is asinine in the extreme. Pay attention and lets try to settle this:

    J: Please stop pulling a Humpty Dumpty, i.e.: ‘”When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean–neither more nor less.”‘.

    The word “atheist” (or “atheism” for that matter”) has, like many technical words that have trickled down into common use, at least two perfectly correct uses. The more technical, philosophical sense has always denoted lack of theistic belief. Russell used this way, as does Dawkins, as does any philosopher. It is as uncontroversial as anything can be. No one is denying there are other senses this word can be, and is, used in. BUT (and this is quite important) as your oft cited chaps Russell and Dawkins do, as long as one CLEARLY states in what specific sense of the word it is being used, then there is simply no problem. The etymology of the word is even totally unambiguous, from the ancient Greek “a” denoting a lack and “theos” denoting either a theistic deity or theistic belief (dependant on context). Atheist is in fact the perfect word to describe someone who lacks a theistic faith.

    There are even “modifiers” to describe what subcategory of atheist a person might be. There are atheists who occupy what is essentially a faith position that no deity of any kind exists anywhere. These are known as “strong” or “explicit” atheists, or more properly “antitheists”, or even more properly “anterotheists” (Don’t mix Greek and Latin dammit!). Epistemologically this position relies on some tiny morsel of faith (however justtfied it might be), simply because of the nature of the claim being made i.e. “The universe 100% definitely contains no deities”. Left unqualified by some measure of odds, or a caveat denoting that that 100% is really “100% to the limits of what we can know”, it is essentially a faith claim since we don;t have 100% perfect data, but I digress. In my experience, despite a lot of sound and noise signifying nothing, very few of people occupy this position. (There is a similar position of post-theist which I might mention later. Most people who claim to be “strong” atheists turn out to be post theists, again in my experience).

    Another modifier is “weak” or “implicit” atheism. This really needs no modifier in my opinion because, based on techincal use and etymology this is what atheism is, i.e. a lack of belief. This is a lack of belief in a deity. This is VERY different from believing in a lack of deity. As different as 0 is from +1 or -1! It is in many ways the only reasoned position that can be taken, all others rely on some faith claim no matter how small or reasonable (in the colloquial sense). This is the position that Dawkins (and Russell) and the vast majority of atheists I have encountered (myself amongst them) occupy. The position that the claims of theists (and deists, pantheists, panentheists etc) have insufficient evidence to support them. It is the position of the rational (technical sense) sceptic. It is open to change on the basis of the evidence. Provide deity evidence, the position changes.

    Confusing this with agnosticism is a classic rookie mistake. Agnosticism is the position that the question of the existence of X (in this case a deity) is unknowable. Again from the ancient Greek “a” denoting a lack and “gnosos” denoting knowledge. The word “agnostic” doesn’t even HAVE to refer to an issue of religious nature. One can be agnostic about extraterrestrial life for example. Agnosticism address a different question than does theism or atheism, it addresses the question of knowability, not existence. It is not on the same continuum as those positions. One can be, for example, an agnostic atheist or an agnostic theist, i.e. someone who either lacks or has a belief in a deity but believes the question of whether or not said deity’s existence can be determined by rational means to be unknowable.

    There are two key take home message here:

    1) Lack of belief =/= belief of lack.

    2) Agnosticism =/= (“weak”/”implicit”) atheism, it’s not even addressing the same issue.

    Now the problem you seem to be having is twofold: first it is a tactical issue, one which I shall leave until later, second, you seem to be confusing the technical and colloquial definitions of “atheism” (and a whole slew of other words). The colloquial use of the word atheist is often taken to be “someone who believes there is no god”, i.e. a “strong” atheist. This is not always the case, and it does vary from place to place. Again, in my experience I have found that most Europeans and UKians of my acquaintance think of the word “atheist” as meaning “”weak” atheist” and many of my USAian chums take it to mean “”strong” atheist”. So please bear in mind how one uses a word is very audience dependant, a point made to you before you should note. Again, I reiterate, if one is clear about what sense one is using a word, then there should be no problem with any intelligent and honest discussion participant.

    I commonly and colloquially use the word “atheist” to describe myself because it describes my position on the issue of the existence of a deity perfectly. I lack a belief in any deity. If needs be, i.e. I am talking to a non-technical-use aware audience, I clarify what I mean briefly (far briefer than this!). I often use Steven Roberts’ comment “I contend that we are both atheists, I just believe in one fewer gods than you do. When you understand why you don’t believe in all those other gods, you’ll understand why I don’t believe in yours.”. 99% of audiences/particpants in discussion/conversation are smart enough to see the distinction in my experience.

    I also use other words to describe my position on various issues “democrat” for example or “liberal”, although I am not a USAian, living in the USA and am not using those terms in a way that might be commonly understood in the USA. You might guess that the words “liberal” and “democrat” are controversial words that deonote different things to different people. Here comes the key point: THAT IS NOT AN EXCUSE TO ABANDON PERFECTLY ADEQUATE WORDS!!! It is an excuse to clarify in what sense one is using them.

    Of course there are people who think in falsely dichotomous terms, rather a lot of them actually. One is either an “atheist” or a “theist”, a “liberal” or a “conservative”. Not only are these falsely dichotmous, pandering to them is a grave mistake. I use the word “atheist” in public, colloquial settings (just as I would in a technical one) precisely because I wish to counter the shoddy thinking and mistakes that people have made which lead people like you to bowdlerise perfectly adequate language. “Atheist” is no more a controversial word than “evolution” is a controversial science. If one is clear about what one means, the problem disappears.

    The cartoonish linguistic retreat you are advocating (cross this line I kill you….ok cross THIS line I kill you etc) is an abandonment of the principles that underpin WHY someone might be an atheist, i.e. of clearly expressed rational thought based on reason.
    “Bright” is a perfectly adequate term, it has its own connotations to be sure, and I use it freely, just as I use “rationalist” “sceptic” “advocate of reason” “secular humanist” to describe my position on many related issues. On the issue of the existence of a deity, or deities, I am an atheist. Period. I might ALSO be a bright, a rationalist, a sceptic etc, but they don’t specifically speak to the issue of theistic deities existing ot not. One might inder my atheism from them, but one cannot do so without making a leap of faith, the cetagories do not overlap 100%.

    Two final things since I have gone on too long already:

    1) Tactics: If what bothers you is that by using the word “atheist” one might put people off, tough. Not only can one not make omlettes without breaking eggs, but that is a simple fact of life. Even if one is entirely reasonable and polite and uncontroversial (those three things are not the same) one can still find people unreceptive to one’s message. More than that, tactics that might put off some, draw in others. I was attracted to the comments of many people BECAUSE they described themselves as atheists in the sense described above. There are a lot of people out there who think the way I do and yet don’t know I exist, they are perhaps just waiting to find a comrade in arms!

    2) Atheism is a cosmological issue. Given I have read your posts thus far, and people’s replies, polite or otherwise, and concluded that you are supremely confused about the issues at stake, this has to be the capo di tutti capi of your confusion. In an INCREDIBLY limited sense the existence or otherwise of a deity might be an issue decided by cosmology, but for a set of proposed beings that can count the fall of every sparrow and create life from clay/eggs/blood etc I think we can safely say that these proposed abilities are not restricted to affecting cosmology! The claims theists make for their various deities are not restricted to cosmology, so to say that “atheism is merely a position on a cosmological question, why ram it down people’s throats” is to a) miss the point, b) ignore (and give free ride to) the multifarious claims of theists, and c) make one huge cock up!

    Perhaps if you understood the relevant issues a little better, and perhaps if you worked out your own rather obvious confusions you might not feel it necessary to exude quite so much concern over those who DO understand these things and are not confused.

    Cheers

    Louis

  460. #460 MartinM
    May 29, 2008

    I regret, he is wrong and you too. For a circle, you need two dimensions to specify a point: either (x, y) or (angle, radius).

    But the radius is not a variable, and knowing x fixes y (up to its sign, but that’s down to the choice of coordinate system). You only need one parameter to pick out any point on a given circle. You’re getting hung up on the dimensionality of the embedding space, not the circle itself. The tricky part is in realizing that the embedding space isn’t necessary; one can define the circle purely in terms of intrinsic characteristics.

  461. #461 Louis
    May 29, 2008

    Apologies All for the length and turgidity of the foregoing post!

    The whole J “don’t use atheist” schitck was beginning to annoy me. If we measure annoyance in post length then I think we can see how frutrated I was with the repetition of an utter non-issue.

    Louis

  462. #462 Daniel R
    May 29, 2008

    MartinM:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Two-dimensional

    In the image on the right, replace “square” by “circle” and “cube” by “sphere”, and you have the correct answer.

    A “square” has two dimensions, even if you need only one number to define a point on the square, for a given square, having a given side length.

  463. #463 jeremy
    May 29, 2008

    Maybe a little off topic, but there’s new consumer laws coming on line here in the UK. Broadly, around misrepresenting products’ effectiveness and the like…the great result is the astrologers, tarot card readers etc. now have to openly state that their “service” is for entertainment purposes only. Got me thinking, it’s a very short leap to apply that to religion. Perhaps our working slogan should be:

    “Religion, for entertainment purposes only”

  464. #464 Stephen Wells
    May 29, 2008

    The whole dimensions argument above arises from an ambiguity in the meaning of the term “circle”. For strictness, we should specify that geometrically a circle is a line made up of all the points at the same distance (the radius) from a centre. A circle is one-dimensional, a line, as position along the circle is defined by a single variable. A disc is a part of a plane whose edge is a circle. A disc is a two-dimensional figure. Colloquially people tend to use circle to mean disc, hence the confusion above. In the context of the Isaiah quotation, we’re talking about a shape with a circular outline, a disc.

  465. #465 J
    May 29, 2008

    I would suggest you take;
    a) a basic mathematics class (As a clue, the first three dimensions are x,y and z)
    and, given your issues with the word atheist,
    b)your meds.

    Oh look, another stupid, frothing savage. No, savage, you’re thinking of dimensionality of embedding space, as MartinM correctly pointed out. Only two parameters are required to specify a position on a sphere, and one variable for position on a circle.

  466. #466 CortxVortx
    May 29, 2008

    But the religiously-indoctrinated do see the emperor’s clothes. They have been told since childhood about those clothes, and told that they are mad if they don’t see his clothes.

    Atheists have the courage to shout, “THERE. ARE. FOUR. LIGHTS!”

  467. #467 Pablo
    May 29, 2008

    Only two parameters are required to specify a position on a sphere, and one variable for position on a circle.

    Assuming you have specified the radius.

  468. #468 MartinM
    May 29, 2008

    In the image on the right, replace “square” by “circle” and “cube” by “sphere”, and you have the correct answer.

    A “square” has two dimensions, even if you need only one number to define a point on the square, for a given square, having a given side length.

    But squares are analogous to disks, not circles. The boundary of a square is topologically equivalent to a circle, and is therefore one-dimensional. The boundary + interior is two-dimensional, and requires two numbers to identify a point within.

  469. #469 MartinM
    May 29, 2008

    The whole dimensions argument above arises from an ambiguity in the meaning of the term “circle”.

    Quite right, hence the ‘pedant’ tag in my original post. I almost regret mentioning it now; it’s almost as bad as…well, that other mathematical topic that tends to produce endless arguments over trivialities, which shall go unmentioned for obvious reasons.

  470. #470 BT Murtagh
    May 29, 2008

    bPer #436:

    A circle is a two-dimensional figure, and ’round’ is too vague to know if you’re referring to a 2-D or a 3-D object. The Earth is spherical (or more accurately an oblate spheroid). The shadow of the Earth is circular

    NO, the shadow of the Earth (or another sphere) is a cone. If you had a giant, perfect laser that bathed the whole thing in parallel beams it would be a cylinder…

    Daniel R #456: Did you mean plane? Although plan kind of works too.

    I need to get back to work, I can’t believe I read the whole thing.

  471. #471 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    May 29, 2008

    Calling Mark C.C., Calling Mark C.C.

  472. #472 Stephen Wells
    May 29, 2008

    The ancient Greeks were able to observe that the shadow of the earth on the moon, during eclipses, is always circular, and thus infer that the earth is spherical. I think the key insight here is to grasp that the eclipse is due to the shadow of the earth passing over the moon. Cultures not operating at that level of physical insight weren’t able to make that inference; if you believe eclipses are due to, say, evil shadow gods trying to smother the light, you’re unlikely to take note of detailed geometry.

  473. #473 J
    May 29, 2008

    Perhaps if you understood the relevant issues a little better, and perhaps if you worked out your own rather obvious confusions you might not feel it necessary to exude quite so much concern over those who DO understand these things and are not confused.
    No, sorry, you’re the one out of us who’s confused. Here’s the definition of atheism from dictionary.com:

    1. the doctrine or belief that there is no God.
    2. disbelief in the existence of a supreme being or beings.

    So there’s ambiguity in the dictionary definition. Moreover, we immediately note that agnostics also disbelieve in “supreme beings”; surely, one would think, “atheists” are somehow distinguished from them.

    In the face of this confusion, why not look to famous atheists for their definition of the word? Do this and you’ll find that the world’s most renowned atheist, Richard Dawkins, explicitly identifies it as a cosmological philosophy (i.e. the belief that there are very probably no gods). Bertrand Russell, possibly the most well-known intellectual “atheist” ever, defines atheism in a similar way.

    In fact, this thread alone underscores the inherent confusion surrounding the word. Some use it to mean essentially the same as “agnostic”, and some think it refers to someone who vigorously rejects religion. Others accept that it’s a philosophical/cosmological stance.

    No-one is under any obligation to use such an awkward word, and I can’t understand why people would so openly wear it given the negative connotations that come attached.

  474. #474 black wolf
    May 29, 2008

    dis thred iz so awsum.
    lulz math.

    Sorry for the inanity, had to get that out of my grey stuff.
    What I really want to say is (is that MacGrath wnking at me?), firstly thanks for the replies cl, we cleared that up well. And secondly thanks for the post on agnosticism ‘vs.’ atheism, I’ve been writing similar comments all over the web. This needs to be stated again and again, as I frequently see agnostics shield themselves from an atheist label and vice versa. What’s really annoying about that is that theists then try to use that as an argument to ‘prove’ that their conversational opponents are somehow split or undecided, as in many theists’ worldview only certainty is a Good(tm) thing.

  475. #475 Heathcliff
    May 29, 2008

    For anyone who wants to see the Courtier’s Reply in action…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=48-QPVMyiSo

  476. #476 Jams
    May 29, 2008

    “What I’ve been saying all along is that there’s no need to keep telling people you’re an atheist, which is what many people here are frequently doing.” – J

    Are you really still beating this horse? You’re wrong. You’ve been given countless reasons why there IS a need to use the word “atheist” and why your arguments against its use are completely and utterly without merit. You’ve failed to provide a single objection to any of those reasons – much less a compelling objection. So far, the bulk of your accomplishment has been to demonstrate little understanding of philosophy, marketing, politics, basic reasoning and a number of other fields. You’re an embarrassment to the tradition of sentence making, and a blight on the process of reasoning. Get it together man.

  477. #477 black wolf
    May 29, 2008

    J,
    I don’t care at all if there’s a negative connotation to the word. What I care about is discussion to relieve us of such connotations. I’m not accusing or thinking of theists as generally batshit crazy fundies, and when a theist thinks atheists are a socially corrosive, god-hating bunch of people, I seek to clear that up as well. That’s what communication is for.

  478. #478 tony (not a vegan)
    May 29, 2008

    whoo hoo – last post!!!!!

    Yaayyyy@!@!#!

  479. #479 black wolf
    May 29, 2008

    ouch. correction to post 474: ‘McGrath winking’
    clarification on post 477: I do care about the connotation when it’s relevant to a discussion. What I mean is that I refuse to avoid a word that is the best one we’ve got just to appear as something different from what I am. I’m not a ‘idon’tknowifgodsexistbutthinktheideaislogicallyinconsistentorinsufficient’, I’m an atheist. period.

  480. #480 SteveM
    May 29, 2008

    But squares are analogous to disks, not circles. The boundary of a square is topologically equivalent to a circle, and is therefore one-dimensional. The boundary + interior is two-dimensional, and requires two numbers to identify a point within.

    I know I am coming late to the party about whether a circle is 1D or 2D. What I see is two different points being argued. Given a particular circle, you only need 1 number to define a point on that circle. But to define the set of points that comprise the circle, you need two numbers; radius and angle. Reducing the circle to a single dimension eliminates any knowledge of the shape. It is like saying that a highway is a one dimensional object; all you need is your distance along it to specify where you are. Which is true, but does not define the shape of the highway.
    The problem I have with saying a circle is 1D is that it requires a “given” circle. To me, that is essentially the 2nd number. That is, once you have specified a particular circle, you have a specific radius so all you “need” to place yourself on that particular circle is the angle. But to define the points of a circle requires two dimensions.

  481. #481 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    May 29, 2008

    No-one is under any obligation to use such an awkward word, and I can’t understand why people would so openly wear it given the negative connotations that come attached.

    Negative to whom? You seem to be continually making the assumption that people (at least the ones you are addressing here) who say they are atheists only say they are atheists. I’ve said it before there are many terms I used to describe myself; atheist, rationalist, secularist, married, bald, liberal, etc.. There are some people that will find something wrong with each and every one of those descriptive terms, but they can all be used to accurately describe myself. I don’t need to use them all or some combination of them every time I talk about certain issues.

    I suspect that there are many terms people choose to use not giving a shit what others think about them because they accurately describe their person.

    Homosexual comes to mind. And if you want to get frisky and snarky, Queer.

    We all know that homosexual is a term that can accurately describe someone. We also know that it elicits negative reactions from some ignorant people. Should male homosexuals use the term sexually-free? Or vagina independent? Or some other equally lame moniker when Homosexual accurately describes them? They can also then bring in any other descriptive term that they chose when they feel it is applicable to the conversation.

  482. #482 MartinM
    May 29, 2008

    But to define the set of points that comprise the circle, you need two numbers; radius and angle. Reducing the circle to a single dimension eliminates any knowledge of the shape. It is like saying that a highway is a one dimensional object; all you need is your distance along it to specify where you are. Which is true, but does not define the shape of the highway.

    Sure, you need more than one number to define any given circle, but that has nothing to do with dimensionality. You need two numbers to decribe the height and width of a rectangle, but that doesn’t make it four-dimensional. Dimension describes the number of independent parameters we need to specify a point within the manifold. How many parameters are required to describe the manifold itself is another question entirely.

    This isn’t even getting into the fact that there are different measures of dimensionality, of course…I wonder if there are any for which a circle is 2D?

  483. #483 J
    May 29, 2008

    Given a particular circle, you only need 1 number to define a point on that circle. But to define the set of points that comprise the circle, you need two numbers; radius and angle.
    OK, but for a finite line you need to have, in addition to a parameter, the position of at least one endpoint (to obtain proper knowledge of position along the line).

  484. #484 MartinM
    May 29, 2008

    No-one is under any obligation to use such an awkward word, and I can’t understand why people would so openly wear it given the negative connotations that come attached.

    This is an international forum. Those negative connotations don’t exist everywhere.

  485. #485 SC
    May 29, 2008

    No. I too would say I’m an atheist if asked (unless e.g. religious family members asked and there’s good reason to dodge the question). What I’ve been saying all along is that there’s no need to keep telling people you’re an atheist, which is what many people here are frequently doing.

    Either read my posts properly, or cut it out with this shameless strawmandering.

    J, you really are a case study in bad-faith argumentation. You’ve ignored all of the evidentiary challenges I made in my post, choosing to focus – as I anticipated you would – on the absurd non-question of spontaneous vs. prodded use of “atheist.” You keep making claims here about “people,” “we,” “most people,” “many people,” “atheists,” “mainstream atheists,” etc., with nothing to back them up. You’re also making tactical arguments for which you’ve provided no substantive basis.

    You are hardly one to lecture anyone here about alienating potential allies. Even if you had originally had something meaningful to contribute to a discussion of tactics and stategy (which you did not), you have proceeded to alienate numerous people by revealing yourself to be impervious to reason as well as utterly insufferable. I don’t know if you’re a troll (your hook-shaped moniker long ago aroused my suspicions), a lame Nisbet sockpuppet, or just a pompous windbag who insists on arguing in bad faith. In any of these cases, your monotonous three-chord riffs are unworthy of anyone’s attention.

  486. #486 J
    May 29, 2008

    Are you really still beating this horse? You’re wrong. You’ve been given countless reasons why there IS a need to use the word “atheist”.
    It’s far from obvious that “atheist” is the strategically best word to use. Quit trying to pretend otherwise. Your hysteria quite simply betrays the weakness of your argument.

    This is an international forum. Those negative connotations don’t exist everywhere.
    Well I’m British, and I think “atheism” definitely has negative connotations in my country as well as America.

  487. #487 J
    May 29, 2008

    J, you really are a case study in bad-faith argumentation. You’ve ignored all of the evidentiary challenges I made in my post, choosing to focus – as I anticipated you would – on the absurd non-question of spontaneous vs. prodded use of “atheist.” You keep making claims here about “people,” “we,” “most people,” “many people,” “atheists,” “mainstream atheists,” etc., with nothing to back them up. You’re also making tactical arguments for which you’ve provided no substantive basis.
    Bullshit. A lot of posts have been addressed to me (usually slander or misrepresentations), and I can’t respond to everything thoroughly. Missing out a section of your post doesn’t constitute dishonesty on my part. This really should go without saying.

    You don’t give examples of unsupported claims I made, so I’ll simply deny that there are any.

  488. #488 Stephen Wells
    May 29, 2008

    Next we’ll have someone arguing that because you need to know a starting point and an angle, and the starting point is a point in 3-D space, therefore circles are four-dimensional. Please either do it mathematically or metaphorically but not both at the same time. Makes head hurty.

    Can we at least reach consensus that (1) Babylonian mythology visualises a flat, disc-like earth, and (2) later attempts at apologetics notwithstanding, the Old Testament references to the shape of the earth are consistent with this? Thank you.

  489. #489 J
    May 29, 2008

    You are hardly one to lecture anyone here about alienating potential allies. Even if you had originally had something meaningful to contribute to a discussion of tactics and stategy (which you did not), you have proceeded to alienate numerous people by revealing yourself to be impervious to reason as well as utterly insufferable.
    Bullshit again. The insults started after my very first post in this thread, which was actually rather mild. The witch-hunt against me has absolutely nothing to do with my alleged obstinance or anything of the sort.

  490. #490 mds
    May 29, 2008

    A circle is one dimensional, as is the boundary of a square, as in both cases, you can identify each point on that particular shape using a single variable. The space of all points on circles of all radiuses is two dimensional (angle and radius) and could be viewed as a cone embedded in 3 dimensional space, or simply the 2D plane itself.

    Keeping with just the circle itself, in some geometries, a straight line is just a circle that contains the point at infinity.

  491. #491 MartinM
    May 29, 2008

    Can we at least reach consensus that (1) Babylonian mythology visualises a flat, disc-like earth, and (2) later attempts at apologetics notwithstanding, the Old Testament references to the shape of the earth are consistent with this? Thank you.

    Yes, absolutely. Looking down from above upon a circular Earth certainly seems more consistent with this than with a round Earth. But the conclusion that the Bible describes ancient Hebrew cosmology, and is not physically accurate, doesn’t follow from a single word in a single passage. It follows from context, both literary and historical.

    My point is simply that words like circle and sphere have specific technical definitions which don’t map very well onto a) our colloquial usage of those terms, or b) ancient Hebrew. It’s as wrong for us to insist that the original Hebrew must refer to a flat disk as it is for literalists to insist that it refers to a ball. The mangling of the technical definitions just adds irony, really.

  492. #492 SC
    May 29, 2008

    Well I’m British, and I think “atheism” definitely has negative connotations in my country as well as America.

    (Aside from the fact that these two countries hardly encompass humanity, or even the countries represented on this blog,) what makes you think that? What is the basis for that claim? To the extent that that might be the case, what makes you so sure the situation isn’t changing for the better? And, if so, what makes you think some of that isn’t due to the willingness of scientists and other well-known and respected people to publicly and unabashedly refer to themselves as atheists? To other atheists speaking out and dispelling the negative stereotypes? If the negative connotations could be established as an insurmountably broad problem for atheists in all contexts, what can you offer to show that another, less accurate, term – even if you could convince people to adopt it – would respond to or avoid those problems and prove strategically superior?

    Not one of your claims about the social costs and benefits of using “atheist” vs. “Bright” or some other unspecified term has been substantiated with sociological, anthropological, or historical evidence.

    Witchhunt? Hysteria? You really are a self-important, delusional [troll, sockpuppet, windbag – take your pick]. You have continued here the same obnoxious behavior you exhibited on the earlier thread. Even if you had been perfectly pleasant here, though, that wouldn’t erase the previous thread from anyone’s memory.

  493. #493 JeffreyD
    May 29, 2008

    Re #489, “witch-hunt”? Let the persecution Olympics begin. See my posts at #348 and #370, rinse and repeat.

    Ciao, y’all

  494. #494 Louis
    May 29, 2008

    J in post 473:

    Witch hunts and persecution and dictionary.com! Oh my! Is it possible people disagree with you because you are, well, simply in error? Is it possible that even lexicographers admit the shortcomings of “dictionary definitions” I think you are simply unaware of these things to be honest.

    The point has been made by me and many others that even simple words can have more than one definition. The issue is one of context, right? (by which I mean right as in “correct” not right as in opposite to left. Get the point). Clarifcation of context and specific definitional use renders the shell game with terminology you seem to desire, irrelevant.

    Please go back and a) read the post I made, and b) deal with the arguments there in. You’ve yet to do so. I tried, very nicely to pint by point go through why your case is a) wrong and b) not even dealing with the actual issues at stake and c) old hat (confused btw is not an insult, pointless mammering arsehole is an insult, be sure to note the difference). You could do me the same courtesy.

    Thanks

    Louis

    P.S. Play a little game, substitute the word “black” for the word “atheist” in your argument. See what happens.

  495. #495 Beowulff
    May 29, 2008

    At J #451:

    What you seem to miss, is that it is the religious people that are going out of their way to come to an atheist’s blog and challenge atheism, forcing the atheists here to state and restate their positions, not the other way around. It is that simple.

  496. #496 Rev. Bigdumbchimp
    May 29, 2008

    I tried, very nicely to pint by point go through why your case

    Is J driving you to drink?

    I understand.

  497. #497 Louis
    May 29, 2008

    Another little game for you to try J: Everyone in the world does what you say and stops using that nasty word “atheist”.

    What then?

    Let’s say we use the word “Bright” to describe someone who lacks theistic belief. What happens when people realise that Brights = Atheists?

    Also, as I forgot to mention it, not only have I read the entire output of Dawkins and Russell but a few other “prominent atheists” and philosophers, and they don’t use the word as simplistically as you think they do. You are repeatedly conflating technical definitions and colloquial (mis)usage and asserting (humpty-like) that a word means what you says it does when you say it does even when the person using it says it doesn’t. Like I said, go back, read what I wrote (not again because you clearly haven’t read it) and do everyone a favour. Ta.

    Louis

  498. #498 Notkieran
    May 29, 2008

    In summary:

    J believes that atheism is a cosmological position because of this explicit premise:

    Atheism is talking about gods and the lack thereof.

    This is true and atheism is a cosmological position IF and ONLY IF the IMPLICIT premise is also true: that the discussion of gods is a cosmological position.

    Given that of all cosmologies, the only one that actually matches empirical evidence is that of physics, then we can see that the ONLY cosmological premise is not atheism, but physics.

    Of course, being a physicist specialising in that area means that he gets me either way.

  499. #499 Louis
    May 29, 2008

    RevBigDumbChimp,

    J is not in any way responsible for my already being well driven to drink! What did that was the simple fact that drink = good. ;-)

    CHEERS!

    Louis

  500. #500 Notkieran
    May 29, 2008

    Re: Circle.

    You can’t argue that a circle only requires one specification because the radius is not a variable.

    It is true that for any _given_ circle, the radius is constant. However, that is not relevant.

    What _is_ relevant is that _different_ circles have different radii; ie. between circles, radii vary.

    If you believe that radii cannot vary, then perhaps you do not believe that the graph A = kr^2 is valid, since it very clearly shows r to be an independent variable.

    Which would be a shame, given that the graph A = kr^2 is the graph of the equation of a circle’s area.

  501. #501 Grammar RWA
    May 29, 2008

    No-one is under any obligation to use such an awkward word, and I can’t understand why people would so openly wear it given the negative connotations that come attached.

    You can’t understand? Or you refuse to listen?

    It was explained to you already, very clearly, by Carlie, among others.

    If you want historical precedent, look to gay people. We didn’t start achieving anything close to equal treatment under the law until we went “out and proud.” If atheists fail to regularly, openly, proudly identify as “atheists”, then we will only reinforce the notion that atheism is something bad, something to hide and be ashamed of.

    Now, you obtuse ass, I don’t have any illusion that you’ll honestly consider my words, and you’re such a relentless bore that you’re impeding my enjoyment of the rest of this thread. So I’m turning off your comments; I inform you out of politeness, that you needn’t waste your time writing a reply I can’t read.

    Thank the Disco Ball for firefox/greasemonkey/killfile.

  502. #502 MartinM
    May 29, 2008

    What _is_ relevant is that _different_ circles have different radii; ie. between circles, radii vary.

    In much the same way as different the different FRW metrics have different curvature constants, and consequently different spatial cross-sections. They’re still all four-dimensional, though, and specifying any point within a given FRW manifold still only takes four parameters.

  503. #503 Stephen Wells
    May 29, 2008

    Notkeiran, you don’t get to redefine the meaning of dimensionality to suit your purposes.

  504. #504 BlueIndependent
    May 29, 2008

    “…That’s not what I was referring to. I was referring to people who willingly are pursuing God as described in the Bible…not being indoctrinated against their will.”

    Perhaps, but your reasoning unfortunately falls within a significant minority of cases worldwide. Indoctrination of children is the hallmark of Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and many others. The religions would be far less likely to survive if they all waited until the age of consent to start prostelytizing. Also, there wouldn’t be 2 billion Christians of 1.5 billion Muslims without children being indoctrinated from day one. And since children tend to be more numerous than parents (especially if you’re Catholic or Mormon), it’s likely that if you removed all children below age 18 from the rolls, those huge numbers for Christianity and Islam would be significantly lower. The fact is children are converted early because they have no power, they cannot consent, they have no knowledge, and they have no experiences. They are ripe for the picking.

    Your argument assumes far too much about its target population.

  505. #505 Dennis N
    May 29, 2008

    Jesus, J, why are you still here? You’re just annoying. This tired discussion ended days ago, it’s time to move on. Don’t you have any other interests? Why can’t you try contributing to the newer threads, on topic? There’s a fun one about an Atheist vs. Christian game. Play it and tell us what you think? (Without being insufferably annoying)

  506. #506 Etha Williams
    May 29, 2008

    @#473 J —

    Bertrand Russell, possibly the most well-known intellectual “atheist” ever, defines atheism in a similar way.

    Please see , which you evidently missed or, more likely, ignored in bad faith.

  507. #507 Etha Williams
    May 29, 2008

    Oops…I screwed up the html in #506…the link still goes to the right place, though (comment #350).

  508. #508 Benjamin Franklin
    May 29, 2008

    I like Walton.

    I have read his comments since he started posting a week ago, but I have never gone head to head with him, pro or con. I think it’s OK for us to realize that man’s/women’s understanding is finite, and there may be things that are infinite.

    At least he argues with intelligence, admits his fallibilities, doesn’t berate anyone who disagrees, and keeps the door open for discussion and debate.

    I don’t consider myself an atheist, but more of an anti-religionist (like Einstein?) & I think I would enjoy sharing a few beers with Walton – anybody else care to join us?

  509. #509 SEF
    May 29, 2008

    #329

    There’s recently been published a correlation between schzophrenia & religiosity.

    #333

    Source please?

    Unless I missed it in the enormous thread of posts, this call for a source went unanswered. I don’t know what Richard Harris actually had in mind but this link might be of interest (especially the bit about “schizotypal” people). See also this one (especially reference to mystical experiences and believing oneself to be Jesus).

  510. #510 SEF
    May 29, 2008

    A quick look round with Google Scholar threw up some potentially relevant research:

    http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0191-8869(95)00129-8
    can be summarised as religiosity in men being linked to them having crazy thoughts, whereas there’s less of a link in women. I’d provisionally put that down to women’s religiosity being the result of male domination and abuse (ie much the same as the religiosity of slaves).

    Also:
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9403156
    http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/content~content=a713685656

  511. #511 frog
    May 29, 2008

    NickGotts: I agree with you entirely (this was my main point) that the existence of suffering shows that Walton’s God does not exist, and all the attempts to get round this that I am aware of clearly fail. By “logically impossible” I mean “cannot exist because its description is internally inconsistent”; like a “three-sided pentagon” or “even prime greater than 2″. It’s useful to distinguish that kind of impossibility from the kind you rightly attribute to Walton’s God, where nonexistence cannot be deduced from the meaning of terms, but which we know cannot exist given the nature of the real world.

    I disagree that this is a case distinct from “even prime greater than 2″. Given that we all assume that there is a problem with theodicy, the existence of God is not logically consistent with that assumption. QED and so forth. You assume that suffering is simply an empirical fact; I say that suffering goes beyond that to the very nature of consciousness, and so is embedded a priori in the problem of God, or whatever have you.

    Of course, I’ve just realized one hole in my argument. God could be omnipotent, omniscient and and omnibenevolent and still co-exist with sufferring if he was an insufferable moron. It’s an out on the omniscient clause – he “knows” all, like in a database, but is too stupid to connect them together in any meaningful sense. In other words, he has ultimate knowledge, but lacks wisdom. I don’t think that would be terribly satisfying to the faithful, though.

  512. #512 DiscoveredJoys
    May 29, 2008

    mezzobuff, #303

    I struggled for a while to think of a positive antonym for ‘faith’ and then realized that it is one of those words which carries different meanings, depending on context.

    Taking one of the religious meanings – A strong belief in a supernatural power or powers that control human destiny – might I suggest that a useful antonym for ‘faith’ is ‘science’?

    Although seeming strange at first, this works on many levels. Materialistic/spiritual, factual/fact free, falsifiable/unfalsifiable etc.

    Of course it does not cover all uses of ‘faith’ – “he was a member of the Science” and “she had ultimate science in his ability”, for instance.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    There once was a God from Nantucket
    Who peed in a big plastic bucket
    He said “Please feel free,
    To make use of this wee,
    Or freeze it well down and suck it?”

  513. #513 frog
    May 29, 2008

    cl #395: That’s exactly the point I’m arguing, and if you’re debating me, it’s strawman argumentation. To repeat the thesis of comment #380, “All this making any definitive claim based on Isaiah 40:22 speculative at best, which in a roundabout way was my original point. I think we can agree that all approximations concerning Earth’s shape in scripture are conveniently packaged in dreams, visions and arguably metaphorical language, which only complicates things.” (emph. mine)
    Make sense?

    Maybe my “poetic license” made my point unclear. I’m going beyond “it complicates things”. I’m saying that much of the bible has no prosaic meaning, any more than Milton was describing a real underworld geography. The ancient Hebrews may not have really cared what the shape of the world was — it’s was simply a trope, like “God has the whole world in his hands” has no implications about the physical location of God, or the world, or beliefs about gravity embedded in it.

    It’s not just poetry, but it’s just poetry. Of course, they didn’t take to aesthetic criticism very well, but that’s a separate question. Physical interpretations may just be completely anachronistic.

  514. #514 SC
    May 29, 2008

    This is from Medscape re mania in bipolar disorder (not the same disorder, I know, but hyperreligiosity associated with mania, I’ve seen in action)

    http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/412807_2

    Studies of the behavioral manifestations of mania found that the most common symptoms were pressured speech (98%), logorrhea (89%), psychomotor agitation (87%), decrease need for sleep (81%), hypersexuality (57%), and extravagant behavior (55%).[23]

    Less prevalent symptoms included violence (49%), religiosity (39%), pronounced regression (28%), and catatonia (22%).

  515. #515 Basil Fawlty
    May 29, 2008

    “The witch-hunt against me has absolutely nothing to do with my alleged obstinance or anything of the sort.”

    Whined by: J | May 29, 2008 10:02 AM

    Oh dear, another burning martyr…somebody get some nice beef and venison roasts so we can enjoy the self-immolation.

  516. #516 SEF
    May 29, 2008

    Here’s one looking at children (but apparently stupidly restricting the religion to Christianity):

    http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/content~content=a713685616

    The same link is revealed between religiosity and crazy thoughts in males. It also looks to be confirming my guess that religiosity in females is about subservience. However, they seem to be making excuses for religion being a good thing – the details of which unfortunately can’t be seen from the abstract to check for errors.

    More:
    http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/content~content=a785040814
    http://www.springerlink.com/content/6yjy21te22j1a6ee/

  517. #517 Walton
    May 29, 2008

    Looking at this thread, I have to say that the problem is that people are trying to carry on five or six different conversations at once.

    As regards J, I don’t even understand what people are arguing about. Is it simply whether it’s appropriate to use the term “atheist”? I don’t think “atheist” carries any particular negative connotations; it’s a fairly neutral statement of position. It may be viewed negatively as a term in heavily religious societies such as the US “red states”, but in that sense it’s no more a negative term than “conservative” or “liberal”; while it can be used as an insult, it’s only an insult in the view of its enemies.

    I do realise that some non-religious people dislike the term “atheist” because they don’t want to label themselves in relation to a concept (God) that has no meaning for them (I believe Sam Harris made this argument, if I understand correctly); in this sense, to an atheist, the term “atheist” is no more meaningful than “non-astrologer” or “non-believer in fairies”. But in practice, this argument is nonsensical; since belief in a God or gods is extremely widespread and informs the majority of people’s worldview, it is perfectly legitimate for those who don’t believe in a God or gods to define their position in relation to that question.

    So I really don’t see what J and others are actually debating about, in terms of substantive points. Sadly, this tangential line of argument has swallowed up the thread and made it impossible to continue the original discussion.

  518. #518 SC
    May 29, 2008

    Sadly, this tangential line of argument has swallowed up the thread and made it impossible to continue the original discussion.

    I’m always perplexed by comments like this. How so? How does the fact that people are also debating other topics prevent you from commenting on or renewing (it’s my recollection that you explicitly bowed out) the earlier discussion?

  519. #519 CJO
    May 29, 2008

    Sadly, this tangential line of argument has swallowed up the thread and made it impossible to continue the original discussion.
    Carrying on a conversation in the comments of any well-traveled blog is an excercise in discerning a signal amidst the noise. There are often several discussions going on in any given thread of any length here, but that’s part of the charm. Imagine you’re talking over the chatter in a noisy pub. Difficult perhaps, annoying possibly, but certainly not impossible.

  520. #520 Evan Erwin
    May 29, 2008

    I know this is ‘just another comment’, but I wanted to say thank you for your diligence PZ regarding atheist issues, it is inspiring.

  521. #521 ndt
    May 29, 2008

    Well I’m British, and I think “atheism” definitely has negative connotations in my country as well as America.

    I live in the US, and “atheist” doesn’t have any negative connotations among my family or social group, nor is it an awkward term.

    I call myself an atheist because the word accurately describes my views regarding religion.

  522. #522 David Marjanovi?, OM
    May 29, 2008

    (comments 148 and 151)

    Oh. Yeah. Ganymede.

    Well, I suppose a statistical argument could still be made… :-|

    What I can’t quite understand is why fewer people haven’t solved the problem of evil the Job way – by saying that God, while omnipotent and omniscient, is not exclusively benevolent.

    Behe is such a dystheist.

    Should we then have faith in Harrius Potter?

    Should we start recycling Mollies?

    I also believe in the Everett interpretation of quantum mechanics

    Science — ur doin it rong, J. (Emphasis mine.)

    An omnipotent, omniscient and omnibenevolent being is logically impossible; it is inconsistent with the existence of suffering.

    Not if you add a fourth quality: “ineffable”.

    It’s the belief, to a high degree of confidence, that there was no intelligent designer of the Universe. This goes a lot further than simple disbelief in religion.

    So atheists can, without the need for doublethink, believe in all those other deities that are not supposed to have created the universe? Atheists can be polytheists?

    Your definition of “god”, and thus of “atheism”, is too narrow.

    I think it’s been passed over that Dawkins considered the possibility that she (Midgely) hadn’t read the book to be a charitable interpretation of the review.

    In any case that’s what it is!

    Really ? You have never thought someone spoke to you when the hadn’t ? OF thought something brushed against you when nothing had ?

    For the record, I haven’t, unless you count itching that may be a misinterpretation of the touch of clothing or of wind moving a hair. (Think of head lice… just think…) Of course I also don’t count dreams (definition of “dream”: when asleep).

    It does often happen that I mistakenly believe someone has called me, but in every single case so far it turns out someone said something with [a] and [i] and I didn’t pay attention to the consonants.

    That said, I’ve never been drunk, and I’ve never even pretended to inhale… :-)

    Where’s the line between optical illusion and hallucination, when it depends on cultural background?

    If you’ve never seen a horizontal straight line before, you won’t have expectations tied to horizontal straight lines, and that means you won’t misinterpret them.

    It [the Bible[ does call it [the Earth] a circle.

    And talks about its four corners several times. Teach the controversy! Teach both sides of this argument!!! :-D

    It seems to leak from your pores like RNAse

    Cool. I must remember that phrase. :-)

    Good luck with that, when our common language here doesn’t even have a word for Schadenfreude.

    Gloat? Glee?

    I think we can agree that all approximations concerning Earth’s shape in scripture are conveniently packaged in dreams, visions and arguably metaphorical language, which only complicates things. Anyone?

    Not if you’re Ethiopian Orthodox, in which case the First Book of Enoch is scripture to you.

    pangea in which one tall tree could theoretically be viewed from all the ends of the Earth

    Wrong. Pangea was too big for that. Start at http://www.scotese.com.

    Transformed lives do not suffice as evidence?

    If they would, ¡¡¡hasta la victoria siempre!!! Have you never considered how many lives communism has transformed (and I don’t mean “ended”, I mean “transformed” in exactly the sense you are using)?

    All spheres are by default three-dimensional circles. Agree or disagree?

    You are getting desperate.

    In the epic of Gilgamesh, he travels to the land of the dead by running through the tunnel in the mountains which the sun passes through when it sets. Undoubtedly and explicitly a flat-earth cosmology, and consistent in its own terms.

    Those tunnels also occur in 1 Enoch.

    and I can’t understand why people would so openly wear it given the negative connotations that come attached.

    The problems here are the connotations, not the word — several people have explained in this thread that they wear the label in order to change its connotations, but you apparently managed not to read any of them.

  523. #523 SC
    May 29, 2008

    mezzobuff and DiscoveredJoys,

    The only possible problem I have with “science” as an antonym is that it does have a generally-accepted narrower definition – describing not only the scientific method but also “the sciences” and the people and institutions involved in them. “The scientific worldview” works, but it isn’t a single word, and isn’t quite verby enough for my taste. I’d like something a bit more active, implying not just a way of seeing things but a way of doing things…

  524. #524 Josh
    May 29, 2008

    pangea in which one tall tree could theoretically be viewed from all the ends of the Earth

    Oh shit. I missed this one. Who the hell wrote this piece of drivel?

  525. #525 David Marjanovi?, OM
    May 29, 2008

    Of course, I’ve just realized one hole in my argument. God could be omnipotent, omniscient and and omnibenevolent and still co-exist with sufferring if he was an insufferable moron. It’s an out on the omniscient clause – he “knows” all, like in a database, but is too stupid to connect them together in any meaningful sense. In other words, he has ultimate knowledge, but lacks wisdom.

    :-o

    Man. You have just explained Stupid Design.

    Consider this a Molly nomination.

    All hail the Flying Spaghetti Moron!!!

  526. #526 frog
    May 29, 2008

    DM: Not if you add a fourth quality: “ineffable”.

    I handled that case – inneffable means non-rational “logic”, which is just a desperate out. Anything is possible if the universe is irrational, consistency and therefore logic is impossible if you can claim “non-rationality” in substance, so in short, saying God is ineffable is simply making nonsense sounds. It is saying that god is not logically consistent, which was the point to be proved, QED.

    I like my out better – God is like an idiot savant, all-knowing yet at the same time a blithering idiot. That’s the only out that I see which is consistent with the three monotheistic qualities, and self-consistent. Maybe another out is that God is stochastic? He’s good, powerful, and knowing, but his actions aren’t ineffable in the sense that they have an unknowable logic, but are simply random? But that may just be a special case of God is a moron.

  527. #527 CJO
    May 29, 2008

    I have yet to see an English sentence containing the word “ineffible” where “imaginary” wouldn’t fit as well, or better.

    Consider gods imaginary, and the problem of evil just goes away. Funny how that solves so many seemingly intractible questions.

  528. #528 Jams
    May 29, 2008

    The end of J’s cosmological argument.

    J claims that atheism is primarily a cosmological question. Atheism is simply a cosmological question to the degree that Theism is simply a cosmological question. Which is to say, it isn’t. If J would like to explain why Theism is simply a cosmological question, I’m sure we’d all be ears.

  529. #529 cicely
    May 29, 2008

    frog @511:

    Of course, I’ve just realized one hole in my argument. God could be omnipotent, omniscient and and omnibenevolent and still co-exist with sufferring if he was an insufferable moron. It’s an out on the omniscient clause – he “knows” all, like in a database, but is too stupid to connect them together in any meaningful sense. In other words, he has ultimate knowledge, but lacks wisdom. I don’t think that would be terribly satisfying to the faithful, though.

    Unfortunately, that loophole is already spackeled shut, since much is also made of god’s “infinite wisdom”. So…he knows all, is everywhere present, is all-powerful, and is infinitely wise, BUT…is he always all of these things at the same time? I see room for another explanation, one backed up by common Christian belief (at least, in those denomiations that go with the Trinity); God has Dissociative Identity Disorder. Verily, He knows not what He doeth.

  530. #530 cicely
    May 29, 2008

    Oops; I forgot to add in the all-benevolence. Kinda shoe-horn it into my previous post, among the other divine attributes.

  531. #531 Etha Williams
    May 29, 2008

    SEF (@509, 510, 516) and SC (@514) — thanks for the refs!

    IMO religion is very dangerous for individuals with mental illnesses because it provides false explanations for real problems. Depression is a struggle with one’s sinful nature, mania is religious ecstasy, hallucinations are messages from God (or the devil), etc. A lot of things that might be seen as clearly problematic in a psychiatric context (eg, hyperreligiosity in bipolar mania) are considered normal or even positive in the religious context. Combined with the stigma already attached to psychiatric care in a lot of Western culture, this is a very real problem.

    But since our culture — popular and academic — treats religion so uncritically, it’s a problem that is only rarely and insufficiently addressed…

  532. #532 frog
    May 29, 2008

    DM: All hail the Flying Spaghetti Moron!!!

    Do I get to be the Avatar of the Moron?

    Cicely: Well, you’re just heading down the road to polytheism there — a god with DID is indistinguishable from many gods as incarnations of some underlying Jedi Force. Aka, Hinduism doesn’t have a problem with theodicy, in general.

  533. #533 J
    May 29, 2008

    I live in the US, and “atheist” doesn’t have any negative connotations among my family or social group, nor is it an awkward term.
    I don’t know about your “social group”, but if you don’t think the word “atheist” carries negative connotations in the United States as a whole, you must be delusional.

  534. #534 Dennis N
    May 29, 2008

    Black used to have negative connotations in the USA before too. So what?

  535. #535 windy
    May 29, 2008

    God could also be omnipotent, omniscient and omnibenevolent if this is the best of all possible worlds ;)

  536. #536 Dennis N
    May 29, 2008

    Which it isn’t

  537. #537 frog
    May 29, 2008

    Windy: God could also be omnipotent, omniscient and omnibenevolent if this is the best of all possible worlds ;)

    Well, now isn’t that a depressing thought – it does imply a not-so-omnipotent god, now doesn’t it? Maybe god just has a very limited imagination.

    I guess we’ll have to ask the physicists whether it is the case that this is the best of all possible worlds.

  538. #538 ndt
    May 29, 2008

    I don’t know about your “social group”, but if you don’t think the word “atheist” carries negative connotations in the United States as a whole, you must be delusional.

    That sentence doesn’t make sense. There is no single word that has negative connotations for “the USA as a whole”.

  539. #539 Ichthyic
    May 29, 2008

    The witch-hunt against me has absolutely nothing to do with my alleged obstinance or anything of the sort.

    of course not, that’s why you’re the only one being attacked, right J?

    dude, you have serious issues.

  540. #540 Hematite
    May 29, 2008

    Re circles and dimensions, particularly MartinM

    MartinM, you seem to be effectively describing a ‘circle’ as the perimiter of a disk. This is indeed a 1-dimensional figure – a line curved (and closed, I think the term is) in two dimensions. I agree with everything you said in this context, but it’s a definition of ‘circle’ I’ve never heard before. Particularly, because it makes the question “what is the area of this circle” meaningless, since circles in this definition to not have area.

    In which field would anyone use this definition? Spatial topography?
    I’m genuinely interested, because I can’t think of how this definition of a circle would be at all useful.

  541. #541 buckyball
    May 29, 2008

    @504, BlueIndependent:

    “Indoctrination of children is the hallmark of Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and many others.”

    Well, in Proverbs 22:6, it does state “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it” and then there’s Matthew 18:5-6. But neither imply “indoctrination”.

    “The fact is children are converted early because they have no power, they cannot consent, they have no knowledge, and they have no experiences. They are ripe for the picking.”

    Ever met a strong-willed child? Especially one that likes to bury themselves in encyclopedias? And read books on dinosaurs, study astronomy, and tear apart electronics before the age of ten?

    @ #522, David Marjanovi?, OM:

    “If they would, ¡¡¡hasta la victoria siempre!!! Have you never considered how many lives communism has transformed (and I don’t mean “ended”, I mean “transformed” in exactly the sense you are using)?”

    I meant “transformed” in a positive way; not in a “let’s-stand-in-line-for-five-hours-for-a-loaf-of-bread-wow-all-hail-the-party” kind of way.

  542. #542 Friendo
    May 29, 2008

    @Hematite #540:

    In which field would anyone use this definition?

    Erm…how about all of mathematics? A quick jaunt over to wikipedia might enlighten you. I think it’s pretty standard high school math that a circle is the set of points in the plane equidistant to a point, ie (x-a)^2+(y-b)^2=r^2.

    Similarly, a sphere is a 2D surface in R^3, also the set of points equidistant to a point. The interiors of the circle and sphere are called disk and ball.

    Also, saying the “area of a circle” is technically incorrect, it’s the “area inside a circle”, but usually people aren’t pedantic enough to point that out.

  543. #543 Hematite
    May 29, 2008

    Wow, I stand thoroughly corrected! I swear, I managed to get through my entire entire schooling and bachelor’s degree on the understanding that a circle was a disc not a line.

    Now I wonder if I was specifically taught that a circle was a disc, or if I misunderstood it once and never corrected.

  544. #544 tony (Not a vegan)
    May 29, 2008

    buckyball: You are still a lurking ass…

    DM provides you an example of transformation – many of which those transformed would have considered positive — ever hear of the delighted (communist) volunteers against Franco in the 30’s? And I met many a delighted trotskyist at college in the 70’s. None of those were ‘communist from birth’ and (the vast majority) chose communism as adults.

    But like all Xian apoologists – you now seek to shift the goalposts and suggest that THOSE are not REAL transformations. You only wanted to see positive transformations to Christianity? Good luck with that one.

    Either debate honestly – or just fuck off.

  545. #545 Hematite
    May 29, 2008

    CJO (#527):

    I have yet to see an English sentence containing the word “ineffible” where “imaginary” wouldn’t fit as well, or better.

    Theologists say God it ineffable, but I tell ‘im to get effed all the time.

  546. #546 Friendo
    May 29, 2008

    @Hematite #543

    Well, don’t be too embarrassed – in everyday language, circle and sphere can be used to mean the interiors (as the dictionary will tell you). A lot of thoughtful, well-educated people get confused when you suggest a sphere is two-dimensional.

    As to the original question of parsing Isaiah, I think it’s pretty futile. You might as well argue about which slit an electron goes through.

    And way back: @buckyball #387

    Transformed lives do not suffice as evidence?

    Is a child’s excitement at Christmas evidence of Santa Claus? Are J’s hysterics evidence of a witchhunt?

  547. #547 SC
    May 29, 2008

    Odd question: Is it possible to define a circle or sphere without reference to a center point? In other words, solely in terms of the relationship of the points on the circle or sphere to one another?

  548. #548 Friendo
    May 29, 2008

    @SC #547

    You can define circles and spheres as the only curves/surfaces (with no boundary) of constant positive curvature. (“curvature ” is not unambiguous here…it’s defined differently for the circle than for the sphere. For curves in 2D, it’s defined in terms of tangent and normal vectors, while in 3D, curvature can be defined intrinsically using Riemannian geometry). The condition of positivity is only needed for the sphere as curvature in R^2 is by definition nonnegative.

  549. #549 DingoDave
    May 29, 2008

    Ref. #511 -“God could be omnipotent, omniscient and and omnibenevolent and still co-exist with sufferring if he was an insufferable moron.”

    If he was an insufferable moron, or if he was originally nothing but a spoiled child!
    The god Yahweh originally started out as the upstart son of the Caananite high god El. He was just one of El’s 70 sons. The ancient Hebrew priests gradually ascribed more and more of his father’s attributes to him, until he eventually supplanted his father entirely. This is why the attributes ascribed to Yahweh in the Bible are so confusing.

    Many scholars argue that the plural form of “Elohim”
    reflects this early Judaic polytheism. They argue it originally meant ‘the gods’, or the ‘sons of El,’ the supreme being. They claim the word may have been singularized by later monotheist priests who sought to replace the worship of the many gods of the Judean pantheon with their own singular patron god YHWH alone.

    The following Bible passage absolutely gives the game away as to Yahweh’s original status in the Caananite pantheon.

    Deuteronomy 32: 7-9
    Remember the days of old, consider the years of many generations; ask your father, and he will show you; your elders, and they will tell you.
    When the Most High (Elyon) gave to the nations their inheritance, when he separated the sons of men, he fixed the bounds of the peoples according to the number of the sons of God (El).
    For the LORD’s (Yahweh’s) portion is his people, Jacob his allotted heritage.

    For an interesting discussion of Yahweh’s rise to power, and the origins of Biblical monotheism, take a look at this article which discusses Mark Smith’s book, ‘The Origins of Biblical Monotheism: Israel’s Polytheistic Background and the Ugaritic Texts’ (Oxford/New York: Oxford University Press, 2001)
    http://www.bibleinterp.com/articles/MSmith_BiblicalMonotheism.htm

    For those of you who might be curious as to why Yahweh seems to make such a hash of everything in the book of Genesis, then take a look at this article.
    ‘Is Yahweh a Boy?: The Concept of the J Text Deity in Genesis.’
    http://www.georgeleonard.com/yahweh.html

  550. #550 SC
    May 29, 2008

    Thanks, Friendo!

  551. #551 buckyball
    May 29, 2008

    @544, Tony (not a vegan):

    “But like all Xian apoologists – you now seek to shift the goalposts and suggest that THOSE are not REAL transformations. You only wanted to see positive transformations to Christianity?”

    Nobody is “shifting the goalposts”. I misinterpreted his comment. I would agree there are such transformations…just as I would agree that there are atheists and agnostics who certainly have a sense of morals.

    Also, by the same token, there are peaceful Buddhist monks. Just as there are peaceful Hindus, Taoists, etc.

    But in any of those cases, is it a “peace that passes all understanding?”

  552. #552 Hematite
    May 29, 2008

    SC, three points on a circle will uniquely define it, but the method I know uses them to find the centre so I’m not sure that’s the answer you want.

    As an aside, when I wrote my #540 above I thought MartinM was using some highly technical definition of a circle, perhaps one which allowed for arbitrary curvature in the plane the circle was embedded in. I’m still thinking about that, and it’s hurting my head (in a good way). Could a circle* be defined as any line which appears straight in the plane it is embedded in, and which meets itself? The Earth’s equator would be such a line, and I suppose other curved planes than the surface of a sphere would host different circles* by this definition. Then you could define a circle* with a point, a direction, and a description of the curvature of the plane it is embedded in.

    (I know using ‘circle’ is wrong above, I suppose there is a correct technical term for such a line, but in my confusion I thought MartinM was referring to some idea such as this. It was the talk of manifolds that really got me)

  553. #553 Etha Williams
    May 29, 2008

    @#551 Buckyball —

    But in any of those cases, is it a “peace that passes all understanding?”

    If you think you feel a “peace that passes all understanding,” chances are that it’s because you’re limiting your understanding.

  554. #554 Hematite
    May 29, 2008

    Bah, I put <strike> tags around the “the surface of” (a sphere) in my previous post, looks like they didn’t come through. Sorry, I’m sensitive to the distinction between a sphere and a ball now.

  555. #555 MAJeff, OM
    May 29, 2008

    But in any of those cases, is it a “peace that passes all understanding?”

    blah blah blah blah blah

  556. #556 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    May 29, 2008

    I meant “transformed” in a positive way; not in a “let’s-stand-in-line-for-five-hours-for-a-loaf-of-bread-wow-all-hail-the-party” kind of way.

    I repeat, placebo effect.

  557. #557 Kseniya
    May 30, 2008

    When I think “circle projected into a third dimension” I think “cylinder” not “sphere” … but I’m rather simple-minded about these things. :-) Rotating a circle through a third dimension around some axis could yield a sphere, a torus, or some other shape, depending on the circle’s position and orientation relative to the axis of rotation…

    Should we then have faith in Harrius Potter?

    Sigh. That was brilliant. You’re speaking my language, dude. That’s even better than the “Santa and Satan are the same person” argument.

    I am reminded of an old story I read when I was a kid. Probably Clarke or Asimov:

    The story opens during a severe ice age going on. Our unnamed hero, clad in bearskins, struggles up the mountainside. He holds in his hands a precious item, a container of some sort. He reaches the top of the mountain and places this item on the highest point.

    Some years pass.

    Millenia, perhaps.

    An alien race discovers Earth. The surface is devoid of any intelligent life-forms. However, one day an amazing discover is made – a disk-shaped, metal container, clearly manufactured, is found on a mountaintop. Inside, all that is found is a metal spool, around which is wound a long, continuous strip of some kind of transparent synthetic material, upon which a series of small but uniformly-sized, transluscent pictures have been imposed. One of the aliens realizes that if the pictures are viewed in rapid succession, the effect is that of watching a moving image.

    A projector is developed, and then The Big Day comes when the film is viewed by the top minds of the alien race, in hopes of learning something about the long-dead race that left this artifact on the mountaintop.

    What they see is apparently a group of unlikely creatures engaged in a series of bizarre and rather violent adventures. The creatures somehow survive all manner of physical trauma in pursuit of their unknowable goals. The aliens watch in amazement as the incomprehensible story unfolds. As the film comes to a close five or ten minutes later, some strange shapes, perhaps writing, appear on the screen, relaying a message the aliens will never decode, and would not understand even if they could:

    “A Walt Disney Production”

  558. #558 BlueIndependent
    May 30, 2008

    “…I meant “transformed” in a positive way; not in a ‘let’s-stand-in-line-for-five-hours-for-a-loaf-of-bread-wow-all-hail-the-party’ kind of way.”

    On what basis must the positive be accepted over the negative? And, how could you separate them? The transformed individual, be they a born-again Christian or a Branch Davidian, will of course think they are just dandy for the effort. I could use more extreme examples, but I doubtless need to. The problem is that the verification of a positive or negative transformation lies in the hands of a subjective, biased source, namely the very subject of the analysis. That cannot be verified concretely or uniformly, and then be applied to a larger group with a reasonable prediction for lasting success.

  559. #559 Friendo
    May 30, 2008

    @Hematite #552

    A “curved plane” is a contradiction in terms – a plane by definition is a surface with no curvature. What you mean, I think, is just any curved surface. A “manifold” is just the fancy name for a smooth surface (of arbitrary, but uniform, dimension).

    First of all, you should know that, once you start doing geometry on curved surfaces (what is called Riemannian geometry or differential geometry), things get more complicated, and you can’t rely on intuition all the time, ie the concepts of distance and straightness are not obvious.

    You have to define, a priori, what is called a Riemannian metric that measures (infinitesimal) distances. In flat space, this is just the distance/Pythagoras formula, but on curved surfaces, you need integrals to calculate distances. It’s only when you have a metric that can you define “geodesics”, which is the name given to “straight” lines. Basically, a geodesic is the curve that minimizes the distance between two points.

    On a sphere (ie the earth), straight lines happen to close up on each other. But this is just a fluke – on a less symmetric surface (an ellipsoid, say), geodesics would not close up, they’d wind around a (possibly infinite) number of times. So you definitely can’t specify a point, a direction, and arbitrary curvature, and expect it to resemble anything like a circle.

    Also, you’re conflating two different things: in the 3D embedding space, the equator is a “circle”, but on the 2D surface, the equator is a straight line, and you can’t just go back and forth between the two as you please.

    All of this may hurt your head more, but this is graduate level math, so don’t worry. I’m not sure what reading to recommend to a layman on the subject – the wikipedia article on Riemannian geometry doesn’t start with concrete examples, so I don’t know how illuminating that would be. I know I learned a lot of this when I learned general relativity.

  560. #560 RamblinDude
    May 30, 2008

    “A Walt Disney Production”

    I remember that story! I read it many years ago (in an anthology, I think), and I don’t remember who wrote it, either. There was something very compelling about it, though. It really sparked the imagination.

  561. #561 Ichthyic
    May 30, 2008

    It was Clarke, and the short story was titled “History Lesson”:

    http://web.math.hr/~veky/T/T1/historylesson.txt

  562. #562 RamblinDude
    May 30, 2008

    It was Clarke,

    Yeah, that’s it, thanks!

  563. #563 Leigh
    May 30, 2008

    @JeffreyD — I can’t imagine how fucked up someone has to be to tell a grieving lover that his late beloved is in hell. I’m so sorry that some worthless piece of shit said that to you. And I’m sorry for your loss.

    Depression can indeed be a fatal illness. In my experience, that kind of deep depression is usually biochemical and must be treated pharmaceutically; talk therapy is not so helpful. And yes, I speak from personal experience.

    I have also witnessed the ignorance and callousness of some Christians who criticize victims of depression for inadequate faith. It’s cruel and hateful.

  564. #564 Leigh
    May 30, 2008

    Mezzobuff, the opposite of faith is reason.

  565. #565 Notkieran
    May 30, 2008

    Stephen @#503:

    >Notkeiran, you don’t get to redefine the meaning of dimensionality to suit your purposes.

    Now _that’s_ just an absurd accusation. Firstly, I never spoke about defining dimensionality. I spoke about the definition of “variable”, and it should be very clear that when you define circles– _plural_– radius _is_ a variable. In fact, when defining a circle in a plane, its radius is one of the _key_ variables that you need (the other being the location of its centre.

    Secondly, I am not the one defining a circle or disk in the wrong dimensionality.

    Let us recap what we know about dimensions that is not in dispute:

    i. a dot is zero-dimensional.
    ii.A straight line is one-dimensional, because you may define a point on it with just a number that determines its displacement from a reference point.

    Now, convention and the large proportion of the world that is not you would agree that any polygon defined on a plane is two-dimensional. You disagree, giving a seemingly reasonable argument that a circle is one-dimensional because the circle is defined by its line. I say that your argument is flawed.

    Let us see what can be said:

    IF your argument is correct, we should be able to define any point on the perimeter line of the circle with a single referent. Can you?

    No, you cannot, because no matter which axis you choose as a straight line, the moment you move along that axis in any direction, you depart from the circle; hence, you require a second referent. If you wish to argue with me about this, please refer to your secondary school maths textbooks in the index under “tangent” and “secant”, find an argument that refutes those definitions, and then bring it to my attention. Thank you.

    Another way of looking at it.
    We agree that a STRAIGHT line is one-dimensional. What is your view of two lines that join at an angle? Is that one-dimensional? Can it be? The only way to describe the second line in reference to the first is via an angle, whether explicitly or implicitly.

    Can you have an angle in one dimension? Yes? If yes, please show me. If no, then how do you propose to go from one straight line to the other?

    Ah, you might argue that this is just for two straight lines, but you are talking about a circle.

    A circle may be defined as an infinite number of infinite straight lines; at every connection between two of those lines, the locus that describes a circular perimeter ceases to be one-dimensional and becomes two dimensional.

    In a sense, I like the second counterargument; it suggests that not only have you made an error, but you have made it infinite times.

  566. #566 Notkieran
    May 30, 2008

    >A circle may be defined as an infinite number of infinite straight lines; at every connection between two of those lines, the locus that describes a circular perimeter ceases to be one-dimensional and becomes two dimensional.

    Typo: Should be “infinite number of infintely straight lines”.

  567. #567 Notkieran
    May 30, 2008

    Argh. “infinitely short”, not “straight”.

    *examines closely*

    This looks fine.

    Yep. Everything’s perfectly accurite.

  568. #568 Beowulff
    May 30, 2008

    At Buckyball, #541:

    Ever met a strong-willed child? Especially one that likes to bury themselves in encyclopedias? And read books on dinosaurs, study astronomy, and tear apart electronics before the age of ten?

    That’s why the most fundamentalist believers tend to strictly control any and all access to outside information. What if the only books about dinosaurs that the child gets to see say they were contemporary with humans? If they spend several orders of magnitude more time discussing the Fall than discussing the science? And then imagine that the child gets taught that any information that contradicts with these views is inherently evil, and comes from evil people? I admire the children who are able to overcome this sort of abuse.

  569. #569 Beowulff
    May 30, 2008

    Notkierian: read #482 again and again until you understand what he’s saying: The parameters needed to describe the circle do not determine the dimensionality of the circle itself.

    Another argument: there are continuous transformations that transform a line into a circle and the other way around. Clearly they are equivalent. On the other hand, a disc can be mapped onto a line, but because this is a non-unique mapping, the reverse is not possible: information about the second dimension is lost in the mapping.

  570. #570 MartinM
    May 30, 2008

    Now, convention and the large proportion of the world that is not you would agree that any polygon defined on a plane is two-dimensional.

    Circles are not polygons.</pedant>

    IF your argument is correct, we should be able to define any point on the perimeter line of the circle with a single referent. Can you?

    No, you cannot, because no matter which axis you choose as a straight line, the moment you move along that axis in any direction, you depart from the circle; hence, you require a second referent.

    Well, if you insist on using Cartesian coordinates, sure. But that’s an artifact of your sucky choice of coordinate system, not of the underlying geometry, which is coordinate-free. Make a better choice – say, planar polar coordinates – and one free parameter is all you need, the other being fixed in the definition of the circle.

    We agree that a STRAIGHT line is one-dimensional. What is your view of two lines that join at an angle? Is that one-dimensional?

    Yes. It’s an awkward example because it’s not a smooth manifold, but it’s still 1D.

    Can you have an angle in one dimension? Yes? If yes, please show me.

    It would simply appear as a point of discontinuity in the line’s curvature.

  571. #571 JeffreyD
    May 30, 2008

    Leigh, re your #563, thank you for your kind words, dear lady. I will respond a little further to you off line. I do regularly speak out to people on depression and the need to explore the ways to deal with it. I am also starting to work on being able to speak to the real victims of suicide, the survivors. However, a little early for that, only been six months and just now getting past the serious anger. I do not want to bore anyone here with this issue, but I push for treatment because you are right, depression can be fatal.

    Ciao, y’all

  572. #572 Notkieran
    May 30, 2008

    Point 1:

    It is a very simple concept. Regarding whether or not a circle is one-dimensional, I am merely using his argument that a radius is not a variable. But it is. Please address that before continuing. Since he argues that a circle is one dimensional BECAUSE the radius is a non-variable, he has to address my argument that it IS variable first.

    Point 2:

    Your argument in 482 claims that the dimension of a circle is one. If you want to be pedantic, any line segment within a circle has one dimension. However, I wish you to explain to me how you go from one line segment to the next while maintaining that the neighbourhood of that point “looks like a line” rather than “looks like two lines that are joined together”.

    Next point:

    You state and assert that a circle is not a polygon. I say that it is an n-sided polygon, where “n” = infinity. Please point out to me how this is not so, with suitable proofs. If, however, you require proof from my side, I suggest that what you do is construct an n-sided regular polygon of perimeter x, divide it into n triangles with the apex at the centre of the polygon and the base being one of the sides. You will note that the area of the triangle is can now be cast in terms of x and n. As n approaches infinity the angle subtended at the apex becomes small enough that sine (angle) = (angle), AND the ratio of area enclosed, A, to the perimeter, x, approaches the ratio of a circle’s area to its perimeter.

    In short, a polygon of infinite sides of infinitely short length is geometrically indistinguishable from a circle.

    Point 3:

    You claim that all that is needed to map out a circle in one dimensions is to stop using cartesian coordinates and go to polar. However, in polar coordinates, you would STILL need two referents to find any point.

    More importantly, polar coordinates immediate requires an angle, which brings us to point 5:

    Point 5:

    How do you define an angle in terms of just one dimension, please? Please explain in simple, non-jargon terms how an angle, which is formed by two lines that are most likely non-parallel (the odds of two lines forming an angle while parallel are 2/ infinity), can be defined in just one dimension?

    Actually, let me put it more bluntly:

    Can an angle exist in just one dimension? Please show all working and explanation.

  573. #573 Notkieran
    May 30, 2008

    My bad: point one should be addressed to beowulff.

    But all that is detail. The real issue is this:

    If a circle IS one-dimensional, then it should be possible to inscribe a circle in a one-dimensional space. Can you do that?

    In order for this to be so, it must be possible to define non-straight lines as one-dimensional; the argument then hinges on whether using a two-dimensional transformation on a one-dimensional object leaves it one-dimensional.

    If the argument is yes, then I would argue that the same logic makes a plane two-dimensional:

    Take a line running in the x-direction. Translate it by an infinitesimal amount in the y-direction. Repeat an infinite number of times. Voila. You now have a rectangular plane.

    Since I only used a one-dimensional element (a line) and a one-dimensional continuous transformation to transform it into a plane, by your argument, beowulff, a plane is two dimensional.

    In fact, then, isn’t a cube one-dimensional too? Just translate the one-dimensional plane through z….

    This is my argument. It is an absurd argument. The way in which you should disprove it, therefore, is to explain to me why the transformations that transform a line into a circle are different from the infinite translations that I have mentioned here, and thus prove that my argument does not apply.

    Am I right?

  574. #574 MartinM
    May 30, 2008

    Regarding whether or not a circle is one-dimensional, I am merely using his argument that a radius is not a variable. But it is. Please address that before continuing. Since he argues that a circle is one dimensional BECAUSE the radius is a non-variable, he has to address my argument that it IS variable first.

    Post #482, which Beowulff pointed you to, was intented to address precisely that. Consider the set of all possible circles centered on a given point. Radius picks out a member of that set, angle picks out a specific point within that member. It is the latter which determines dimensionality; the former is part of the definition of the one-dimensional space in which we’re working.

    You state and assert that a circle is not a polygon. I say that it is an n-sided polygon, where “n” = infinity. Please point out to me how this is not so, with suitable proofs.

    Actually, my main objection was simply that, IIRC, the definition of polygon includes the interior region. That would make an infinite-order polygon a disk.

    …maybe. n = infinity is meaningless; infinity is not an integer. You can get a disk as the limit of a regular polygon as n -> infinity, but that doesn’t make it a polygon, any more than the fact that real numbers can be constructed as the limits of Cauchy sequences of rationals makes reals rational. So I’m not convinced disks could be considered polygons either, though admittedly this is getting rather pedantic, even for me.

    Please explain in simple, non-jargon terms

    No. Sorry, I’m not a math teacher, and I don’t have time to come up with a decent plain-English description right now. Maybe later, if we can’t sort this out any other way.

    If a circle IS one-dimensional, then it should be possible to inscribe a circle in a one-dimensional space.

    A circle *is* a one-dimensional space.

    Take a line running in the x-direction. Translate it by an infinitesimal amount in the y-direction. Repeat an infinite number of times. Voila. You now have a rectangular plane.

    Yes, but you constructed it using a mapping that is non-invertible. Each point on your original line is mapped to an infinite set of points in the plane. That introduces the need for a second parameter to uniquely identify any given point.

    You mentioned up-thread that you took courses in cosmology. Are you familiar with the FRW metric? If so:

    How many dimensions do the FRW manifolds have?
    In the case of a closed Universe, what do spatial cross-sections look like?

  575. #575 SC
    May 30, 2008

    Notkieran,

    Much of what you say makes (intuitive?) sense to me. So thank you for arguing the point, even if it turns out that you’re wrong (or just technically wrong, according to the conventional definition of dimensionality). I’m enjoying the responses.

  576. #576 Nick Gotts
    May 30, 2008

    I disagree that this is a case distinct from “even prime greater than 2″. Given that we all assume that there is a problem with theodicy, the existence of God is not logically consistent with that assumption… You assume that suffering is simply an empirical fact; I say that suffering goes beyond that to the very nature of consciousness, and so is embedded a priori in the problem of God, or whatever have you. – frog

    You assert, if I understand rightly, that consciousness entails suffering. However, you don’t argue for this entailment, and I don’t accept it. For the “even prime greater than 2″ case, the internal inconsistency of the definition is straightforward: “Even” means divisible by 2, a prime must not be divisible by any positive integer other than 1 and itself, so there can in fact be no even primes other than 2. Can you produce a similar argument for your claim?

    Second, suppose I concede the claim for the sake of argument. Then it becomes unclear whether the existence of an omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenevolent god (an “OOO-god”) is incompatible with the existence of suffering. If you’re right, all possible worlds including conscious beings also include suffering, so even an OOO-god has only the choices of creating nothing (and indeed, uncreating itself) in order to minimise suffering, or of creating a world including suffering. you would then need to argue that an OOO-god would necessarily take the first option, but that’s not obvious.

  577. #577 CosmicTeapot
    May 30, 2008

    Dustin @ 279

    “Teapot. Orbit. Neptune.”

    Ohh, must I?

    Too many comments to read, too much work to do, too little coffee!

  578. #578 Friendo
    May 30, 2008

    @NotKieran

    Please learn the difference between parameter and coordinate. A parameter specifies the space, and a coordinate specifies the point on the space. You only need one coordinate for the circle: the distance along the curve from some given point. The circle’s radius is a parameter: it is NOT relevant to dimensionality. But if you wanted to use parameters, why not use the circle’s center as well? That would make the circle, um, 4-dimensional!

    If a circle IS one-dimensional, then it should be possible to inscribe a circle in a one-dimensional space. Can you do that?

    Trivial! It already is a one-dimensional space. It can’t be inscribed in R^1 (is that what you mean by “one-dimensional space”?), because R^1 and S^1 (the circle, or 1-sphere) are topologically distinct.

    In order for this to be so, it must be possible to define non-straight lines as one-dimensional

    Yes!

    the argument then hinges on whether using a two-dimensional transformation on a one-dimensional object leaves it one-dimensional.

    No transformation is needed. If you’re worried about the transformation from S^1 to R^1, you can’t do a smooth transformation because they’re topologically distinct.

    If the argument is yes, then I would argue that the same logic makes a plane two-dimensional:

    !!!! um, a plane IS two-dimensional. What in the world is your definition of dimension?

    Listen, the mathematician’s definition of dimension of an arbitrary manifold is the dimension of its tangent space. The tangent space of a circle is a tangent LINE, therefore its one-dimensional. A sphere has tangent PLANES, therefore its two-dimensional. This is all very very standard mathematics.

  579. #579 Ed Darrell
    May 30, 2008

    But PZ you completely do not understand how good it feels to believe in those new clothes.

    Other things being equal, PZ lives in Minnesota. New clothes of that cut of that cloth do not work well in Minnesota, say October 1 through June 15. And if you insist on trying to sell a suit of those clothes, please don’t take the shotgun as anything more than a hint that it’s time to carry one’s peddling elsewhere.

  580. #580 J
    May 30, 2008

    Is a child’s excitement at Christmas evidence of Santa Claus? Are J’s hysterics evidence of a witchhunt?
    No, I’m not the one who was being hysterical. Read the bloody thread before passing such baseless judgement. I was insulted viciously after my very first post.

  581. #581 J
    May 30, 2008

    I was also told (by Malcolm, #458) to “take a basic mathematics class”, as well as my “meds”, in response to my saying a circle is one-dimensional. I’m sure if you mathematicians didn’t clear things up , more of those frothing animals would have jumped on Malcolm’s fallacious bangwagon.

  582. #582 Notkieran
    May 30, 2008

    Martin M:

    FRW metric? Being an exact solution of the field equations, it has one term for time, and three for a spherical polar coordinate. Since a spherical polar coordinate system implies three dimensions, I would place my answer as “four”. By the way, please note that I can say this because each orthogonal angle specified implies an extra dimension. Of course, if you’re going to tell me that it’s “three”, then that immediately tells me why we can’t stop arguing.

    Now, the terms above have become clear– when you say “circle”, you mean “the infinitely thin line that is the perimeter”. But see below re “infinite-sided polygon”.

    Friendo:

    Very well, we agree that R^1 and S^1 are topologically distinct.

    My argument is that while the equations describing the LOCAL behaviour of points ON a circle’s perimeter are identical to that of a straight line, this is solely due to the fact that a circle is mathematically identical to an infinite-sided polygon. I could be wrong, but the equations certainly point that way.

    If you tell me, here and now, that the mathematician’s definition of a manifold as as you describe, then I will take your word for it. But here’s the question:

    Does the fact that the equations describing LOCAL behaviour of points ON a line describe the GLOBAL behaviour of the line? If that is so, then the equations of a circle MUST be different from the equations of a line.

    By the way, this statement is interesting from the point of view of showing why we’re arguing.:

    >Trivial! It already is a one-dimensional space. It can’t be inscribed in R^1 (is that what you mean by “one-dimensional space”?), because R^1 and S^1 (the circle, or 1-sphere) are topologically distinct.

    My question is: how can a circle be inscribed in one-dimensional space, because it cannot be placed in a straight line, and your answer is “it doesn’t have to be, because it is already one-dimensional”.

    Therefore, you are telling me that ANY line is automatically one-dimensional? Is this your argument?

    Let me rephrase my question, given that you have stated that it is possible to define non-straight lines as one-dimensional:

    Are you saying that a circle is one-dimensional solely because it IS a line? Is that the point(no pun intended)? Is it your point that the dimensionality of an object is determined SOLELY by whether the points on the line have immediate neighbours in one, two, three or n-dimensions, and nothing else?

    In that case, what is your stance on fractals and fractional dimensions? Because the next question will clarify my argument.

    Assume I have, not a circle, but a spiral. I have only one line, you see.

    Of course, you do recognise that this is a plane, which IS two-dimensional, but by your previous argument that all lines are one-dimensional, this is one-dimensional.

    Let us now “tighten” the spiral until every coil is adjacent to the previous one. Is this now one-dimensional or two-dimensional?

    I’m not a mathematician; I’m just a physicist. Try, please, to keep the technical terms to a minimum level that I can grasp.

  583. #583 Dennis N
    May 30, 2008

    No, J, you were treated kindly after your first post on Pharyngula. I was there. Then you continued ranting and concern trolling and telling everyone they don’t know cosmology and are a cult and arguing in bad faith until everyone dislikes you. You will be treated like this on every thread until you shape up.

  584. #584 Notkieran
    May 30, 2008

    MartinM:

    Actually, after rereading your comment, it becomes clear what your point is; from my point of view, I simply assume that all iterative functions allowed to run an arbtitrarily large number of times are identical in all sense to any value of infinity you care to choose. It’s partly due to measurement issues and partly due to being a Magic player.

    So can we assume, therefore, that a disk BEHAVES like an infinite-sided polygon? In fact, is that not the reason why you can use the equations of lines on it, because over the infinitely short distance between two points, it behaves exactly like a straight line?

  585. #585 J
    May 30, 2008

    No, J, you were treated kindly after your first post on Pharyngula. I was there. Then you continued ranting and concern trolling and telling everyone they don’t know cosmology and are a cult and arguing in bad faith until everyone dislikes you. You will be treated like this on every thread until you shape up.
    Either your memory is playing tricks on you, or that’s a barefaced lie. I’ve been treated like scum on almost every single thread I posted on. And usually after my very first post, too.

    As for this stock bullshit about “concern trolling” — you have no evidence whatever that I’m deceitfully adopting a position I actually don’t believe in. You can only accuse me of being a concern troll in the trivial sense that I disagree with a consensus opinion on Pharyngula.

    I have to admit, it’s an impressively clever strategy for suppressing contrary views: Brand deviants “concern trolls”, thus giving you license to treat them as maliciously as you please!

  586. #586 SC
    May 30, 2008

    For anyone seeking to understand the hostile reaction to J on this thread, please see this earlier one:

    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2008/05/robert_bakker_plays_blametheat.php

    I was also told (by Malcolm, #458) to “take a basic mathematics class”, as well as my “meds”, in response to my saying a circle is one-dimensional. I’m sure if you mathematicians didn’t clear things up , more of those frothing animals would have jumped on Malcolm’s fallacious bangwagon.

    This should be a lesson to you, and you alone, J. You’re like the boy who cried “I’m a total ass!” When you lose people’s respect and credibility generally, no one is apt to give credence to anything you have to say, even if you happen to be right.

    “Frothing animals”? You are insane.

  587. #587 mds
    May 30, 2008

    Notkieran @ 582

    Let me try to explain why your spiral example doesn’t work how you intuitively expect it to. Hopefully I won’t make any mistakes.

    Your argument seems to be that at each step in the sequence, if we, say, halve the distance between coils of the spiral, as the sequence approaches infinity, each point in R^2 will be arbitrarily close to some point on the spiral. This is correct. The problem is that given any point on the spiral, as the tightness increases, it’s going to get pulled closer and closer to the center of the spiral (say, (0,0)). Thus the limit of the pointwise transformation functions is actually f(t) = (0,0) — every point on the spiral maps to the center.

    Another way of looking at it is asking yourself, for each point on R^2, which point on the length of the spiral does it map to?

  588. #588 Dennis N
    May 30, 2008

    The concern troll posts in web forums devoted to its declared point of view and attempts to sway the group’s actions or opinions while claiming to share their goals, but with professed “concerns”. Like your concern that we “mention our cosmological viewpoint without being asked”. Which by the way is a BS “concern”, and does nothing but seek to get us to say less. There are people around here who disagree with us. We even disagree with each other. But since we mostly argue in good faith, we often come to a consensus. You do none of this.

  589. #589 mds
    May 30, 2008

    To add to my previous post, I previously was using length along the spiral as the variable. If we instead use Euclidean distance from the center in R^2, we get a different problem: while we don’t get all points mapping to the origin, we instead have f(t) = { (x,y) \in R^2 | x^2 + y^2 = t^2 }, which is clearly not a the function from R -> R^2 that we’re looking for. I suspect that any other continuous function from the spiral to R^2 would lead to similar problems when taken to the limit.

  590. #590 J
    May 30, 2008

    For anyone seeking to understand the hostile reaction to J on this thread, please see this earlier one:
    You speak as if that thread isn’t in my favour. I believe it is. If anything, the response in that thread was even more unreasonable.

    This should be a lesson to you, and you alone, J. You’re like the boy who cried “I’m a total ass!” When you lose people’s respect and credibility generally, no one is apt to give credence to anything you have to say, even if you happen to be right.
    OK, let’s adumbrate somewhat:

    I think it’s imprudent for atheists to go around telling people they’re atheists. You act as if this is a completely outrageous opinion.

    If you were honest to yourself, I fail to see how you could buy that. It’s not outrageous and obviously wrong; you’re just pretending it is. You’re the one being dishonest. You’re the one people ought to lose respect for.

  591. #591 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    May 30, 2008

    My argument was that from the vantage point of an observer in space, that Earth appears circular is a legitimate observation, even though Earth is in fact spherical.

    First, that would be sloppy language combined with a non-sensical description, in the sense that your magically space floating visionary most definitely would observe (sense) a sphere. Or haven’t you ever seen a view of Earth from space? You very definitively see more than a circular edge, you can see the curvature of the area below you.

    Second, the empirical observations at that time predicts a spheroid (not spherical) Earth, as phases of the moon will have different parts of the Earth shadowing it.

    Third, the easiest explanation for your visionary’s claims is that it wasn’t a vision, merely an observation of how the surface of Earth looks for a ground observer – flat with a circular horizon.

    All spheres are by default three-dimensional circles.

    There isn’t such a thing. It depends on the area under discussion and the embedding used.

    In math Earth is approximately a three-dimensional ball, a 3-ball, or its surface is a two-dimensional sphere,a 2-sphere. In physics Earth is approximately a three-dimensional sphere. (Or 4-dimensional, if you use relativity.)

    You can express an n-sphere as a construction of circles, 1-spheres, or an n-ball as a construction of disks, 1-balls. I wouldn’t call either constitutive equation “three-dimensional circles”.

    Moreover, a circle is either a 1-dimensional path (topology, no embedding space) or a 2-dimensional curve (geometry, embedding in a plane), in analogy of above.

    To argue which dimensionality should be used, intrinsic or extrinsic, which embeddings or parameterizations (coordinates) in the later case, et cetera, is meaningless as the definitions and use depends on context, see the links.

    However, I think this makes the original claim weaker. The context is that of an illiterate sheep herder, see above.

  592. #592 J
    May 30, 2008

    But since we mostly argue in good faith, we often come to a consensus. You do none of this.
    Well I think that’s nonsense, and I think you’re not “arguing in good faith”. Don’t try to pull an ad populum on me. Majorities are often mistaken.

  593. #593 Nick Gotts
    May 30, 2008

    Are you saying that a circle is one-dimensional solely because it IS a line?

    Yes; any point on it has an open neighbourhood homeomorphic with an open line segment.

    There are different mathematical ways to define dimensionality, by some of which fractals can have non-integral dimensionality, but by any that I’m aware of, a circle (S^1) is one-dimensional.

  594. #594 Dennis N
    May 30, 2008

    If I was trying to prove the consensus was a fact I would be committing a fallacy. I’m only proving that the majority doesn’t like you. I’d say ad populum is the only way to show that.

  595. #595 Dennis N
    May 30, 2008

    I think it’s imprudent for atheists to go around telling people they’re atheists. You act as if this is a completely outrageous opinion.

    We don’t act like it is outrageous. We disagreed at first; now we’re on to the stage where what’s outrageous is you continually bringing it up after we’ve moved on.

  596. #596 Beowulff
    May 30, 2008

    At Notkierian #573: Indeed, a plane is two-dimensional. A regular polygon is as well. The border of such a polygon is one-dimensional.

    As for transformations, I was referring to mappings of this sort: Take a 2D Cartesian coordinate system (x,y). Now, take the continuous mapping T:(x’, y’) = (y*cos(2*pi*x), y*sin(2*pi*x)). T is a mapping that takes point in our x,y space to another point x’,y’. T can also transform a collection of points, such as a horizontal line segment with y = R and x in [0, 1], with R an arbitrary constant > 0. I imagine we can all agree this is a one-dimensional space. When we apply T to this line segment, the line segment is transformed into (x’,y’) = (R*cos(2*pi*x), R*sin(2*pi*x)) with x in [0,1]. This clearly is a parameterization of a circle of radius R (with R>0). Every point on this circle corresponds to exactly one point in the line segment, and vice versa. Therefore, the line segment and the circle have the same dimensionality. Therefore, circles have dimension one.

    As to your confusion about R being a parameter too, consider this: Each horizontal line with different y=R’ is a one-dimensional line segment. Each of these lines maps to a different circle. Each of the circles it maps to is one-dimensional.

    The space of all possible horizontal line segments with x in [0,1] and y in [0,R] is a two-dimensional space (a rectangle). T maps this to the disk with radius R, also a two-dimensional shape. Note that this is not a one-to-one mapping everywhere anymore, as the line segment with y=0 maps to the point (0,0).

  597. #597 Kseniya
    May 30, 2008

    How about if we dump this controversial “atheist” tag and use “pariah” instead?

  598. #598 SC
    May 30, 2008

    You speak as if that thread isn’t in my favour. I believe it is. If anything, the response in that thread was even more unreasonable.

    Well, that’s why I’m glad this blog preserves a record of earlier threads. Reasonable people can read it and come to their own conclusions about your behavior and that of others.

    I think it’s imprudent for atheists to go around telling people they’re atheists. You act as if this is a completely outrageous opinion.

    You’re confusing disagreeing with you with considering your viewpoint “completely outrageous.” Several people here and on the previous thread have disagreed with you and offered their reasons for doing so. Gernally, you have ignored their substantive points, in favor of trumpeting your claims of persecution. I have asked you, more than once, to provide evidence in support of your position. You have not done so. Also, several people have said basically “We disagree on this. The discussion has become tiresome. Let’s return to more interesting and productive subjects.” But you seem incapable of moving beyond your pet issue. Why is that, if you’re not simply trolling?

  599. #599 Nick Gotts
    May 30, 2008

    I was insulted viciously after my very first post. – J

    No you weren’t. That was #81. Nobody responded until after your second post (#86). After that, Janine ID @89 admittedly called you a “Schmuck”, for suggesting that people who call themselves atheists do so in order to shock. I can quite see how that vicious insult could have caused severe PTSD; but the only advice I can give is not to post comments to Pharyngula any more, in order to avoid responses that might exacerbate your condition.

  600. #600 Rev. Big DumbChimp
    May 30, 2008

    J, you are not being totally honest. You did more than just suggest that people not use the tag atheist. You’ve berated the group as a whole with very few or no exceptions that we are all ignorant to a definition you chose to place on the word. Yet most of us disagree with the razor thin definition you choose you use. You’ve ignored many peoples challenges to the definition and to usage of that moniker as well as tried to label everyone a savage and a cult member when they call you on it. You then hold yourself on some pedestal above all of the participants in the various posts by claiming knowledge(cosmology for example) that the rest of us don’t have yet not being able to prove such. Following that you try and remove yourself from criticism by playing the Parent card like you are just trying to set us all straight and good boys and girls would be better to follow your sage advice because you, being the parent, are much better versed in the implications of language.

    Stop acting like you are above the fray when you are in fact the cause of it.

  601. #601 MartinM
    May 30, 2008

    FRW metric? Being an exact solution of the field equations, it has one term for time, and three for a spherical polar coordinate.

    Careful; the three spatial coordinates may look like spherical polars, but they’re interpreted rather differently.

    Since a spherical polar coordinate system implies three dimensions, I would place my answer as “four”.

    Right. But what do spatial slices of that manifold look like, in the case of a closed Universe? They’re not Cartesian 3-spaces – R^3 – but rather the surface of a 4-ball – S^3. If you can accept that as a three-dimensional space, without requiring it to be embedded in R^4, then you should be able to apply the same reasoning to S^1.

    My argument is that while the equations describing the LOCAL behaviour of points ON a circle’s perimeter are identical to that of a straight line, this is solely due to the fact that a circle is mathematically identical to an infinite-sided polygon.

    But the local behaviour is precisely what defines dimensionality. A manifold is n-dimensional if it is locally homeomorphic to R^n.

    Let us now “tighten” the spiral until every coil is adjacent to the previous one. Is this now one-dimensional or two-dimensional?

    An excellent question – there do exist plane-filling functions, which map R^1 -> R^2, though I don’t think your spiral is one of them. Problem is, they’re not invertible – they self-intersect, such that one can’t construct a mapping back from R^2 to R^1. That means there’s no homeomorphism.

    I’m not a mathematician; I’m just a physicist.

    That’s my background too, actually; you might enjoy Modern Differential Geometry for Physicists, by Chris Isham.

  602. #602 Notkieran
    May 30, 2008

    I’ll keep the book in mind.

    Basically the statement is that as long as a line is a line, it is one dimensional, regardless of the space it is in?

    That is, when we say “dimensionality”, we are concerned with local behaviour and only local behaviour?

    I suppose that makes sense.

  603. #603 Kseniya
    May 30, 2008

    As my mom-the-therapist used to say, “If you have a problem with someone, well, ok. If you have the same problem with everyone, well – it’s probably you.”

  604. #604 Notkieran
    May 30, 2008

    In which case, by the way, my apologies.

  605. #605 J
    May 30, 2008

    No you weren’t. That was #81. Nobody responded until after your second post (#86). After that, Janine ID @89 admittedly called you a “Schmuck”, for suggesting that people who call themselves atheists do so in order to shock. I can quite see how that vicious insult could have caused severe PTSD; but the only advice I can give is not to post comments to Pharyngula any more, in order to avoid responses that might exacerbate your condition.
    Talk about “arguing in bad faith”. You’re probably saying this on the assumption that people will read what you wrote and get the impression that I’m a liar, without scrolling up and finding out the truth of the situation for themselves.

    I was called “schmuck” several times immediately following my first post. The fact that the real nasty insults started only after my second post rather than my first is of no relevance to anything. The second was very brief, and even milder than the first.

    Your attempt to portray me as thin-skinned is either ill-informed or dishonest. The name-calling against me here has contained some of the most unpleasant insults I’ve ever witnessed in an online discussion group. Take this, for instance:

    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.

    Now I wouldn’t keep going on about this if it weren’t for this insane contesting of every single claim I make, even when I quite obviously have a non-dismissible point.

  606. #606 SteveM
    May 30, 2008

    Maybe we could define terms a little more clearly. Like I tried to argue earlier, I think a lot of this argument about the circle is simply using different definitions of the same words and so confusion. I would like to propose that a circle is a 1 dimensional object but a 2 dimensional shape. It is 1 dimensional in that at any point on a circle your only possibility of “movement” is 1 dimensional: forward or backward. Whereas a 2 dimensional object allows you to move in any direction in a (local) plane. The “shape” however is lost in this description, what distinguishes a spiral from a circle is the arrangement of its points in a 2 dimensional surface. Maybe the analogy to the Earth may be easier. The surface of the Earth is essentially 2 dimensional as any point on it can be described as a pair of coordinates: longitude and latitude, but obviously the shape of the surface is 3 dimensional, the surface is curved through a 3rd dimension to form a sphere. Just as the surface of the Earth is a 2 dimensional object, a sphere is a 2 dimensional surface of the 3 dimensional ball. The circle is the 1 dimensional “surface” (edge) of the 2 dimensional disk. So the shape of circle is a disk and the shape of a sphere is a ball.

    Does that make sense?

  607. #607 BlueIndependent
    May 30, 2008

    “…Majorities are often mistaken.”

    Is this an admission that perhaps religion and those who follow it are, in fact, mistaken?

  608. #608 cicely
    May 30, 2008

    J:

    Parden my denseness (well, and the fact that, if an argument goes on too long, I tend to nod off), but is your argument about framing atheism for mass consumption/acceptance? Is this a PR thing?

  609. #609 foldedpath
    May 30, 2008

    J, at #590:
    OK, let’s adumbrate somewhat:

    I think it’s imprudent for atheists to go around telling people they’re atheists. You act as if this is a completely outrageous opinion.

    And yet you yourself, more than once in these threads, have told us you’re an atheist. Curious, eh?

  610. #610 MAJeff, OM
    May 30, 2008

    Re: I think it’s imprudent for atheists to go around telling people they’re atheists

    I’m not going back in another fucking closet.

  611. #611 Nick Gotts
    May 30, 2008

    Re #605. J, you are apparently unable to read. You made a comment at #81 and another at #86. None of the intervening posts mentioned you or responded to you in any way.

  612. #612 SC
    May 30, 2008

    More and more, J’s style of argumentation resembles that of the Expelled crowd. Especially now, with the attempts to shift the discussion to the topic of the alleged treatment of him and away from the lack of strong arguments and evidence in support of his contentions. Sad, really.

  613. #613 J
    May 30, 2008

    Re #605. J, you are apparently unable to read. You made a comment at #81 and another at #86. None of the intervening posts mentioned you or responded to you in any way.
    OK, I’m wrong. The name-calling against me started after my first two moderate, intemperate posts.

    Nitpicking on totally inconsequential details to give the illusion that I’m being disingenuous. Good tactics.

  614. #614 J
    May 30, 2008

    I’m not going back in another fucking closet.
    You don’t have to. Coming out of the closet is equivalent to declaring you reject religion (and I urge you to do that). Rejecting religion is not equivalent to atheism, which is a philosophical/cosmological position of no social significance.

    How is this hard to understand?

  615. #615 bPer
    May 30, 2008

    Torbjörn Larsson @#591:

    phases of the moon will have different parts of the Earth shadowing it

    Uh…uh…wha?

    Please tell me you meant “phases of the lunar eclipse”. Otherwise, it’s back to Grade 2 science for you, young man!

    An afterthought: just in case my reaction, Torbjörn, is puzzling, “phases of the moon” generally refers to the appearance of the moon as it orbits the Earth (new, waxing, full, waning, new again). Your English is always so good, I did not initially consider that if English is not your native language, you may have learned the concept of the phases using another name for it. I hope that explains my surprise.

  616. #616 Steve_C
    May 30, 2008

    Well, you seem to use them alot.

    Lots of claims, little evidence. Moving goalposts. Changing the subject.

  617. #617 J
    May 30, 2008

    I’m not going back in another fucking closet.
    You don’t have to. Coming out of the closet is equivalent to declaring you reject religion (and I urge you to do that). Rejecting religion is not equivalent to atheism, which is a philosophical/cosmological position of no social significance.

    How is this hard to understand?

  618. #618 Brad
    May 30, 2008

    Shall we then argue that a circle is a zero-dimensional object because it represented by an infinite number of points?

    The problem is that you are removing the object (a one-dimensional line) from its spacial context (a greater than one dimensional space). If you collapse the circumference of a circle to a one-dimensional line rather than a line scribed in at least two-dimensions, the line ceases to be a circle.

  619. #619 SC
    May 30, 2008

    The name-calling against me started after my first two moderate, intemperate posts.

    And after another whole thread, to which I linked above. I don’t even think you’re being disingenuous. I think you have a fundamentally warped perception of these exchanges.

    And for the record, this

    But the watered-down, mere cosmological hypothesis — why are you people so restlessly obsessed with it? I’m quite sure it’s not out of passion for cosmology (a subject which is seldom discussed on atheist blogs and message boards). The only reason I can think of is the simple thrill you get out of calling yourselves atheists.

    is extremely snotty and presumptuous, and had little or nothing to do with the ongoing discussions, despite your attempt to shoehorn it in. This is why it was ignored at first.

  620. #620 True Bob
    May 30, 2008

    Oh cheeses titty fucking christ, this BS argument about language is still going on?

    Please, let this thread die the death it deserves.

  621. #621 MAJeff, OM
    May 30, 2008

    Rejecting religion is not equivalent to atheism, which is a philosophical/cosmological position of no social significance.

    flap your arms harder. You might eventually take flight.

  622. #622 Friendo
    May 30, 2008

    @Notkieran #582

    I think others have addressed your questions adequately, but just to emphasize something:

    Basically the statement is that as long as a line is a line, it is one dimensional, regardless of the space it is in?

    A smooth line is always 1D. With fractals, this condition is lost, and you have to define dimension differently. Also, the spiral example you gave is no good: it is not possible to make consecutive arms of a spiral “adjacent”, any more than it’s possible to find two real numbers that are adjacent. A better example would be a trajectory of the Lorentz attractor, whose dimension is 2.06. The trajectory starts as a curve, but because it comes arbitrarily close to itself at every point in its trajectory, its dimension is not one.

    @SteveM

    So the shape of circle is a disk and the shape of a sphere is a ball.

    The word you’re looking for is interior

  623. #623 Nick Gotts
    May 30, 2008

    Moses @245. I am compelled to conclude that you don’t know what “logically impossible” means. Look it up.

  624. #624 MAJeff, OM
    May 30, 2008

    Statements of belief or disbelief in a creator-deity is an extremely significant thing in this society. The current President’s father said, while running for President, those without belief in a deity are not citizens. The former governor of my state, while running for President, claimed that belief in a deity is absolutely necessary for governing a free and democratic society (he backtracked after getting criticized, but he meant it at the time–otherwise he would have said something different.) Public opinion polls show that a lack of belief in a deity is associated with untrustworthiness, a lack of moral and ethical standards, and a general desire to not have us as a part of the nation. Several state constitutions–admittedly in violation of the federal constitution–have clauses barring non-believers from holding office. If you think that’s not significant, you’re beyond ridiculous.

    As we queer folks demonstrated by coming out of the closet and making positive affirmations of identity, you break down those things not through argumentation but through example. You come out of the closet as one without belief in a deity in order to: 1) confront the god-bothering nonsense that’s out there; 2) break down stereotypical associations of non-belief with social maladies. You don’t break down those associations with silence.

    Now, go sit in your corner and practice the silence you’re so fond of.

  625. #625 windy
    May 30, 2008

    J wrote:

    I think it’s imprudent for atheists to go around telling people they’re atheists. You act as if this is a completely outrageous opinion.

    It may or may not be “outrageous” but what you don’t seem to get is that it’s insulting to say that our self-identification should be kept hidden when possible. Now, claims which initially insult should be considered if someone makes a good enough case for them, but you don’t.

    For example, this:

    Rejecting religion is not equivalent to atheism, which is a philosophical/cosmological position of no social significance.

    is not consistent with this:

    Well I’m British, and I think “atheism” definitely has negative connotations in my country as well as America.

    It might be better to say that you think society shouldn’t attach social significance to it. Have you considered that having as many people as possible to publicly identify as atheists may be a way towards achieving that goal?

  626. #626 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    May 30, 2008

    As we queer folks demonstrated by coming out of the closet and making positive affirmations of identity, you break down those things not through argumentation but through example.

    I couldn’t help it. It just popped into my head ala the stay puff marshmallow man.

    I tried to think of something rhyming with atheists and meaning somewhere along the lines of “here”.

  627. #627 Nick Gotts
    May 30, 2008

    Re J@613. The first post I can find in this thread, in which anything worse than “schmuck” was aimed at you, is from Matt Penfold@263, where he says you’re “rather full of shit”. This was after you had several times repeated your point, which no-one else appears to agree with or be interested in, that it’s unwise for atheists to call themselves atheists. If you keep repeating such a point, particularly in the somewhat truculent tone you use, people are eventually going to get annoyed with you, and on a blog as lightly moderated as this, start calling you names. You are not convincing anyone, and you don’t like the name-calling, so why don’t you drop the point, and either discuss something else, or go away?

  628. #628 Davis
    May 30, 2008

    That is, when we say “dimensionality”, we are concerned with local behaviour and only local behaviour?

    I’m late to this party, but yes, that’s precisely it. “Dimension” is defined to capture the intrinsic geometry of an object — choosing an embedding (such as saying a circle is the set of all points equidistant from a given point) weds us to additional baggage (the geometry of R2) that has nothing to do with the geometry of the object in question.

    The local definition of dimensionality is completely intrinsic; we can think of it as how the object looks to someone living on a (very large) copy of the object. If I were a creature living on a very large circle, it would appear to me as though I lived on a line (similar to how the earth appears flat to us). However, I could still figure out I really lived on a circle by traveling far enough and ending up back where I started.

  629. #629 SteveM
    May 30, 2008

    @SteveM

    So the shape of circle is a disk and the shape of a sphere is a ball.

    The word you’re looking for is interior

    No, what I am looking for is a definition of “shape”, I am arguing that an object’s shape (at least for closed objects) is defined by its interior.

  630. #630 SC
    May 30, 2008

    Davis,

    You may be late, but you brought the good stuff. That explanation, to me, is the equivalent of a nice big bottle of Gosling’s Black Seal. Thanks for showing up!

  631. #631 Brad
    May 30, 2008

    One could say that Notkieran commited the fallacy of composition: because a circle is a line, and a line is a one-dimensional object, a circle is a one-dimensional object. This ignores the fact that a circle can only be scribed in a space of at least two dimensions.

  632. #632 Friendo
    May 30, 2008

    @SteveM

    No, what I am looking for is a definition of “shape”, I am arguing that an object’s shape (at least for closed objects) is defined by its interior.

    “Shape” is not a well-travelled mathematical term. There is a “shape operator” which is a linear operator on tangent spaces, but that has nothing to do with the interior (for a sphere, it would be an operator from a plane to a plane).

    @Brad

    One could say that Notkieran commited the fallacy of composition: because a circle is a line, and a line is a one-dimensional object, a circle is a one-dimensional object.

    What? That’s not what Notkieran was arguing – he was arguing the opposite. The “fallacy of composition” isn’t a fallacy here – as has been stated, dimension is a LOCAL concept.

    This ignores the fact that a circle can only be scribed in a space of at least two dimensions.

    So what? This indicates the topology of a circle is different than that of R^1 – it says nothing of the dimension.

  633. #633 WRMartin
    May 30, 2008

    @Dennis N #505
    J would start harping on and on about how the game’s title should be “Cosmological Positionists vs Christians” and we’d be back where we started.

    Kseniya #597 suggests using “pariah”. I’m thinking “heathen”.

    Let’s have a vote (a poll maybe?) –
    All in favor of dropping the ‘atheist’ term and replacing it with whatever J is proposing?
    [crickets] Ah, we have 1 vote. Thank you J.
    All opposed?
    627, 628, …, 632. Thank you everyone.
    Atheist it is.

  634. #634 Jams
    May 30, 2008

    “Rejecting religion is not equivalent to atheism, which is a philosophical/cosmological position of no social significance.” – J

    Again. Atheism is only a cosmological question to the same extent that theism is a cosmological question. Until you can demonstrate that theism is only a cosmological question you should refrain from embarrassing yourself with such silly declarations as “atheism, which is a philosophical/cosmological position of no social significance”.

    P.S. Atheism’s social significance is exactly equal to the social significance of theism as well.

  635. #635 J
    May 30, 2008

    This was after you had several times repeated your point, which no-one else appears to agree with or be interested in, that it’s unwise for atheists to call themselves atheists. If you keep repeating such a point, particularly in the somewhat truculent tone you use, people are eventually going to get annoyed with you, and on a blog as lightly moderated as this, start calling you names. You are not convincing anyone, and you don’t like the name-calling, so why don’t you drop the point, and either discuss something else, or go away?
    Oh, fuck off. You’re willfully disingenuous. I had no choice but to repeat the point, as my posts were being persistently distorted. Even now some people don’t seem to understand that I’m no apologist for religion.

    I would have let the matter drop long ago if the response to me weren’t so intellectually dishonest and downright uncivilized.

  636. #636 J
    May 30, 2008

    #625:

    No, Windy, there’s no inconsistency in what I said. You’re only pretending that there’s inconsistency. Pretending.

    Atheism does carry negative connotations — for no good reason. But that’s life, I’m afraid. I think the best way to do something about it is to combat prejudice indirectly, rather than confronting it head-on by publicly announcing ourselves atheists. Now of course you may disagree with this strategy. We could have discussed it like reasonable people, but instead the thread has once again degenerated into mud-slinging.

  637. #637 GTMoogle
    May 30, 2008

    So a disk contains a circle, a circle can contain both lines and circles, but not all lines can contain a circle? Davis brought good stuff indeed, and like so many issues it seems to be a contest of common and precise usage, and what people mean when they refer to a thing’s dimension. When someone turned on the pedantic flag, we left common territory. Entertaining anyway. :)

    Walton, there’s no need for modesty or tentativity. Even if that thread of conversation got a little bogged down, it still felt like it was getting somewhere. Many interesting things to learn along the way for me. And I always appreciate a devil’s advocate as long as they’re being more than just contrary.

    J… Just wow.
    There’s no group waving Atheist flags shouting about atheism. A couple people have written books or have blogs, which the public can choose to ignore. Hell, there’s so much cross-talk here (a forum owned by one person) there are often bad assumptions made either way when someone DOESN’T declare their ‘cosmological’ viewpoint, as you insist it is.

    No one here is trying to tie various causes to the Atheist label. The NCSE is carrying the banner of good science education being simply secular and nothing more. If the deists are failing to support good causes, the fault of that lies only at those individuals feet. And they’re assuredly no more a homogeneous group than anyone else, I’m sure plenty are active and plenty aren’t.

    Your continued assault seems to to stem from your unwavering devotion to a definition of Atheism that NO ONE HOLDS. Not the authors you cite, the people here, nor the general public. I’m sure we don’t have to go into a conversation about the meaning of words, but please get a grip!

    We know a lot of people who haven’t considered it think atheism == strong atheism. Are you failing to consider that it’s also tied into ANY concept of lack of belief for those people? That defining a new word to mean weak atheism will be just as hard as re-defining atheism itself, if not harder? If you tell people you’re a ‘bright’ (which is still horrible on its own merits), you’re going to have to not only explain it, you’ll then have to explain how it isn’t atheism anyway.

    Hell, there’s no reason to get everyone on the same message in the first place anyway. How about we try to get understanding of atheism over here, and you can go over there and get people behind your idea over there, and we meet in the middle with the deists, agnostics, scientists, rationalists, and everyone else that has the goal of making society tolerate things on the other end of the scale from fundamentalism?

    (Why do I get the feeling this is a lost cause? Well, it’s been a good thread with lots to learn anyway :D )

  638. #638 J
    May 30, 2008

    The worst you people can legitimately accuse me of is the crime of initially coming off as to some extent snobby. Even so, I can’t help but laugh at your double standards. Look at PZ Myers’ commentary on the term “Bright”, or his indignant attack on Sam Harris’ strategic proposal, and you’ll see that what I said is no more ill-mannered or condescending. I don’t believe he received the same treatment. Quite the opposite — you cheered him on.

  639. #639 Brad
    May 30, 2008

    Notkieran, sorry about the mix-up. A quick search would have quickly corrected me had I taken the time.

    Friendo
    I understand your position perfectly now.

    Unfortunately, geometers and topologists adopt incompatible conventions for the meaning of “-sphere,” with geometers referring to the number of coordinates in the underlying space and topologists referring to the dimension of the surface itself (Coxeter 1973, p. 125). As a result, geometers call the circumference of the usual circle the 2-sphere, while topologists refer to it as the 1-sphere… – http://mathworld.wolfram.com/Circle.html

    I hadn’t appreciated this distinction until now.

  640. #640 GTMoogle
    May 30, 2008

    We can certainly accuse you of arguing poorly for an unpopular viewpoint, and your attitude the entire time of being a lot worse than snobby. Can you really not see how you’ve been derogatory, condescending, uncommunicative, and unfair? If not than you’re REALLY missing something J.

    Maybe it’s just a matter of the memes around this place being fairly well hashed out and you’re using ideas in contrary ways, but even in that case you’ve made NO visible effort to understand the problem and explain your terminology in ways people will understand. I think that’s being too charitable anyway, and you can hardly expect us to expend the effort of moving the group when you’re not apparently interested in honest debate.

  641. #641 Emmet Caulfield
    May 30, 2008

    J,

    I give people the benefit of the doubt when they’re being attacked, since I’ve seen a couple of people being savaged very unfairly (by one person in particular), and I’m conscious of my own weakness in following herd mentality.

    But here’s the thing: you started off with two comments which continued a contentious and disagreeable line of argument from an earlier post regarding the use/definition of “atheist”. By posting twice in rapid succession, you pushed this argument under the noses of the people who disagreed with you earlier. This is at least tiresome and, I think, provocative.

    From the point of view of this bystander, the tone of the first two comments is censorious and condescending, and the tone of many of your posts is arrogant: you have a tendency to assert things by fiat when they are arguable, even when you are, em, “underinformed”. Now “tone” is a pretty hard thing to put one’s finger on, and you probably disagree with my characterisation of yours, but I think it’s pretty obvious that I’m not alone given that several people have reacted so negatively.

    It also seems to me that you are droning on about a single issue, dragging it from thread-to-thread, pursuing your position with dogged tenacity, insisting that everyone adopt your definition of terminology, misrepresenting the way prominent people use that terminology, failing to conduct the most basic fact-checking of even your own comments.

    I think the comments in each post start anew until people start to formulate an opinion about you based on your history. Some people already think you’re a concern-troll; how long before others follow suit?

    It seems that people are reacting to you, not responding to what you’re saying. That should tell you something.

  642. #642 windy
    May 30, 2008

    No, Windy, there’s no inconsistency in what I said. You’re only pretending that there’s inconsistency. Pretending.

    You’re a schmuck, J. A schmuck.

  643. #643 David Marjanovi?, OM
    May 30, 2008

    “If they would, ¡¡¡hasta la victoria siempre!!! Have you never considered how many lives communism has transformed (and I don’t mean “ended”, I mean “transformed” in exactly the sense you are using)?”

    I meant “transformed” in a positive way; not in a “let’s-stand-in-line-for-five-hours-for-a-loaf-of-bread-wow-all-hail-the-party” kind of way.

    That’s what I mean. I mean people who Saw The Light? and were inspired to, like, devote their lives to the tireless fight for freedom & equality all over the world.

    Sure, the effects of such transformations on other people, of which standing in line for 5 h is by far the least horrible one, are a different matter. But you can get that from Christianity, too. Remember the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995? There are Christian terrorists out there. Just how like the PKK (the Workers’ Party of Kurdistan) used to have Stalinist suicide bombers.

    Bah, I put <strike> tags around the “the surface of” (a sphere) in my previous post, looks like they didn’t come through.

    That’s because ScienceBlogs uses its own HTML. (As if it were Microsoft.) You must use <s> alone!

  644. #644 Priya Lynn
    May 30, 2008

    This thread’s been very interesting to read, except the stuff about circles being one or two dimentional, I stopped reading those after 20 or 30 of those comments. That discussion took away from the much more interesting discussion of whether or not the bible says the earth is flat (I’d say the ones who said it does say the earth is flat clearly won the day).

    Walton was a reasonable dissenter, but in one of my pet peeves he lied about what the bible says claiming the stereotypical view of hell isn’t supported by scripture, that the bible merely refers to it as a place of darkness where there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. That’s totally wrong, the bible refers to hell as a place of fire in at least a dozen places. Its oh so typical of Christians to lie about their bible when it says things they find hard to defend, like the idea that people should be eternally tortured for the thought crime of being of the wrong religion or none at all. Shame on you Walton.

    J is something else. He insults people regularly, tells them to fuck off and then wails about how people are on a witch hunt and attacking him. After some 600 or so comments I still don’t get what he means by saying atheism is merely a cosmological position, he’s never made it clear how he considers this to be the case and has been repeatedly corrected and told that atheism is the disbelief in god(s).

    Given J’s fondness for the “Brights” label it seems odd that he is unfamiliar with the thinking that led to its choice. The brights noticed how gays had achieved increasing acceptance and sought to duplicate this for atheists. The lessen J seems painfully ignorant of is that one of the major things gays did to increase their acceptance was to come out of the closet and tell people of their existence. Study after study has shown that those people who know a gay person are more accepting of gays then those people who do not. Thus J’s insistence that atheists shouldn’t tell people they are atheists is exactly the wrong thing to do. In order to increase the acceptance of atheists, atheists need to come out of the closet, make our existence known and show religious people that someone they know and care about is an atheist and from their own experience a good person.

  645. #645 SC
    May 30, 2008

    David Marjanovi?,

    How do you create accents?

  646. #646 Emmet Caulfield
    May 30, 2008

    This thread’s been very interesting to read, except the stuff about circles being one or two dimensional…

    Funny, I thought that particular sub-thread was very interesting indeed: the vast majority of contributions were constructive, and it came to a satisfying and definitive conclusion. I must admit that if I’d been asked beforehand whether a circle was one or two dimensional, I would’ve immediately said “two” without thinking about it, but now I know that I would’ve been wrong: the discussion has clarified my thinking about what “circle” and “dimension” mean and I learned something new. It’s hard to fault that.

  647. #647 Brad
    May 30, 2008

    I’m not sure I understand the importance of the local definition of dimensionality. Going back to Davis’ example of how a circle looks like a line from a very limited perspective, I’d say that if he looks at his feet, the circle resembles a point. Does that mean a circle has zero dimensionality? No, but I’m very curious why Davis draws the distinction.

  648. #648 mds
    May 30, 2008

    As I understand it, J’s ‘cosmological position’ argument seems to be that the only difference between deism and atheism is that one believes the universe was created by an absentee deity, and the other believes that, since deities don’t exist, it wasn’t.

    Since the only difference between these two positions is the whether the universe was created or not, the only defining characteristic of atheism is this particular cosmological position (i.e. not created), and that we should limit ourselves to identifying ourselves as the GCD of atheism and deism. He feels that the Brights embody this ideal.

  649. #649 Friendo
    May 30, 2008

    @Brad

    Going back to Davis’ example of how a circle looks like a line from a very limited perspective, I’d say that if he looks at his feet, the circle resembles a point. Does that mean a circle has zero dimensionality? No, but I’m very curious why Davis draws the distinction.

    I don’t understand what you mean by “looking at his feet”…the point is that a being living on a circle can move back and forth in one, and only one, direction.

    But thanks for the MathWorld reference upthread…I haven’t come across these geometers who call a circle a 2-sphere. I didn’t know there was any ambiguity among mathematicians. I suspect, however, that that convention is much less prevalent now than in 1973. I mean, I took a diff. geometry class last year, and there was no question as to what n-sphere meant.

  650. #650 Priya Lynn
    May 30, 2008

    Mds said “and that we should limit ourselves to identifying ourselves as the GCD of atheism and deism.”.

    What’s “GCD” mean?

  651. #651 SC
    May 30, 2008

    Greatest Common Denominator?

  652. #652 Kseniya
    May 30, 2008

    Warning: Lay-person’s Point of View Ahead! Please correct me as needed.

    Of course we intuitively think of circles as two-dimensional, because we always encounter them inscribed upon (or embedded in) what we see as two-dimensional surfaces – pieces of paper, schoolyard blacktops, hockey rinks, whatever. As Davis points out, we’re always saddled with the baggage of the embedding – so we think of the circle as a border around a section of the surface. We can compute the area of this section knowing only the radius of the circle, and because area is a quantitative property of two-dimensional objects, we think the circle must be two-dimensional.

    But there is no inside to a circle, and a circle has no location outside the context of an embedding space, so area and coordinates have no bearing on the inherent dimensionality of the object, regardless of the dimensionality of the space into which it may be embedded.

    As Davis says, the local geometry applies.

    The lines on a tennis court are straight lines. As are the lines on a football field. As are the lines down the middle of an airport runway.

    As is the line that separates Colorado from Utah.

    As are the Meridians that stretch from pole to pole.

    As is the Equator.

    As is the line traveled by a photon between its star of origin and the photoreceptor in my retina – even if it appears to have curved around a large body such as Jupiter. The local geometry of the path of the photon is that of a straight line, but when viewed from outside that context, we see that the line has taken on some of the topological characteristics of the space in which the line has been embedded.

    Geometries that work locally have a way of breaking when applied over long distances. I could start at the North Pole (true, not magnetic) and draw a straight line from there to the Equator, go back up to the pole and draw another line, one that goes off at a 90 degree angle to the first line, from there to another point on the Equator. Then I’d complete the triangle by drawing a third line, straight across the Equator of course, to connect the other two.

    Voila! A right triangle with not one, but three 90 degree angles! Impossible! Either Euclid was wrong, or…. space is curved!

  653. :-)
  • #653 Kseniya
    May 30, 2008

    As I understand it, J’s ‘cosmological position’ argument seems to be […]

    FWIW, I agree completely with this analysis of J’s position.

    I’m not sure I understand the importance of the local definition of dimensionality. Going back to Davis’ example of how a circle looks like a line from a very limited perspective, I’d say that if he looks at his feet, the circle resembles a point. Does that mean a circle has zero dimensionality? No, but I’m very curious why Davis draws the distinction.

    No, if he looks at his feet, the circle looks like a line, for the same reason the equator looks like a line. When he speaks of “living on” a circle, he means on the outside rim – like an ant on the tread of a bicycle tire, not like a train on a circular train-track.

    Imagine yourself walking the Equator. That’s what he means. The line you’d be on, though it is in fact a circle, would appear to be a straight line from your limited perspective. Make the rest of the universe to *poof* and you’d be on the outside of a very large ring – so large that you’d have trouble figuring out that it was a ring and not an endless straight line.

  • #654 SC
    May 30, 2008

    I don’t understand what you mean by “looking at his feet”…

    I may be wrong, but I think he’s trying to take Davis’ illustration to what he regards as its logical conclusion. If the creature only sees what’s beneath him, the circle looks like a point, which is 0-dimensional; therefore, why don’t we say that a circle is 0-dimensional?

    But I think he’s using this illustration, meant to help explain sometihng else, out of context and extending it too far. Because the fact remains that a circle is not just a point. It’s like if you’re standing on a circular highway. If you look out ahead, it may look like the highway is straight, when in fact it’s circular. But it’s still a highway. If it’s foggy and you can only see a few feet in either direction, it doesn’t mean you’re on a six-foot stretch of pavement. The circular highway is still there, whether you can see it or not.

    But I may be misunderstanding Brad’s question. If so – sorry!

  • #655 SC
    May 30, 2008

    Or, maybe another way of coming at it – If we didn’t stop there, it would lose its “lineness” and cease to be an object, since it’s composed not just of an infinite number of points, but points in a particular relationship to one another.

    I hope I’m making some sense.

  • #656 mds
    May 30, 2008

    Priya LynnJ

    What’s “GCD” mean?

    SC got it: Greatest Common Denominator. Perhaps intersection might have been a more appropriate term. Obviously all of this math talk is affecting my brain ;)

    This is the impression that I’ve gotten by reading both this thread and the one linked to earlier in the thread by SC (Robert Bakker plays Blame the Atheist). The atheism vs. deism debate was much more apparent there.

  • #657 windy
    May 30, 2008

    As I understand it, J’s ‘cosmological position’ argument seems to be that the only difference between deism and atheism is that one believes the universe was created by an absentee deity, and the other believes that, since deities don’t exist, it wasn’t. Since the only difference between these two positions is the whether the universe was created or not, the only defining characteristic of atheism is this particular cosmological position (i.e. not created), and that we should limit ourselves to identifying ourselves as the GCD of atheism and deism. He feels that the Brights embody this ideal.

    According to the Brights website “the term bright refers to a person whose worldview is naturalistic–free of supernatural and mystical elements.” I wonder if they would agree with J’s definition.

  • #658 Ichthyic
    May 30, 2008

    I wonder if they would agree with J’s definition.

    did you mean that rhetorically?

  • #659 Nick Gotts
    May 30, 2008

    Either Euclid was wrong, or…. space is curved! – Kseniya@652

    Hence, Non-Euclidean geometries. Replace Euclid’s 5th postulate – that through a given point you can draw exactly one line parallel to a given line (that does not run through the given point) – by a postulate that you cannot draw a line parallel to a given line through a point not on the line, and you have spherical geometry. If you replace it instead by a postulate that you can draw at least two lines parallel to a given line through a given point off the line, you get hyperbolic geometry, which also has applications in physics IIRC.

  • #660 J
    May 30, 2008

    As should be obvious, I don’t give a flying shit about the particular word “Bright”. I’m very happy to hear alternatives. Maybe even “atheist” is best, after all — but you can’t just assume it by default, as a kind of null hypothesis. (You people here like to play these shenanigans with “burden of proof”, I’ve noticed. I was once even asked for “sociological, anthropological, or historical evidence”, as if anyone who ever suggests a potential course of action needs to have a peer-reviewed study backing him up.)

  • #661 windy
    May 30, 2008

    did you mean that rhetorically?

    or sarcastically…

  • #662 buckyball
    May 30, 2008

    Interesting concurrent discussions here.

    @ BlueIndependent, #558:

    “On what basis must the positive be accepted over the negative? And, how could you separate them? The transformed individual, be they a born-again Christian or a Branch Davidian, will of course think they are just dandy for the effort. I could use more extreme examples, but I doubtless need to. The problem is that the verification of a positive or negative transformation lies in the hands of a subjective, biased source, namely the very subject of the analysis. That cannot be verified concretely or uniformly, and then be applied to a larger group with a reasonable prediction for lasting success.”

    Not really. A character “change” should be evident to multiple people. I’m curious what the success rate of programs like “Teen Challenge” are.

    http://www.mntc.org/outcome-studies

    @ Leigh, #563:

    “I have also witnessed the ignorance and callousness of some Christians who criticize victims of depression for inadequate faith. It’s cruel and hateful.”

    Part of this may be the abundance of unbiblical and just plain wrong teaching out there (and possibly laziness on the part of a believer for not making the effort to look things up). There were depressed people in the Bible (Jeremiah, for instance). To start blaming all a person’s problems (financial, emotional, etc.) on a lack of faith is wrong. Some of this has come from the “Word of Faith” movement most notably. Some of these preachers also get tv airtime. Why? Because on the surface, the concept of “say it and claim it” sells well. At least initially.

    @ Beowulff, #568:

    “That’s why the most fundamentalist believers tend to strictly control any and all access to outside information. What if the only books about dinosaurs that the child gets to see say they were contemporary with humans? If they spend several orders of magnitude more time discussing the Fall than discussing the science? And then imagine that the child gets taught that any information that contradicts with these views is inherently evil, and comes from evil people? I admire the children who are able to overcome this sort of abuse.”

    There’s a fine line sometimes between guiding someone and controlling them. Maybe some of the insecurity on the part of the parents comes from a lack of knowledge (Biblical and otherwise)?

  • #663 Ichthyic
    May 30, 2008

    as if anyone who ever suggests a potential course of action needs to have a peer-reviewed study backing him up

    based on your repeated re-statement of the issue, to the point of being beyond tiresome, one would almost expect you had, in fact, many peer reviewed studies to support your contentions.

    are you fucking DONE yet?

  • #664 J
    May 30, 2008

    You’re confusing disagreeing with you with considering your viewpoint “completely outrageous.” Several people here and on the previous thread have disagreed with you and offered their reasons for doing so. Gernally, you have ignored their substantive points, in favor of trumpeting your claims of persecution. I have asked you, more than once, to provide evidence in support of your position. You have not done so.
    Lies and shenanigans. It’s not hard to see I could just as well ask you for the “evidence” that atheist is the strategically better word, etc. You have no right to assume it as a null hypothesis.

    I give people the benefit of the doubt when they’re being attacked, since I’ve seen a couple of people being savaged very unfairly (by one person in particular), and I’m conscious of my own weakness in following herd mentality.
    Corresponding to prefacing your biased observations with a cred-seeking a cred-seeking remark, analogous to the ubiquitous “I used to be an atheist.”

    But here’s the thing: you started off with two comments which continued a contentious and disagreeable line of argument from an earlier post regarding the use/definition of “atheist”. By posting twice in rapid succession, you pushed this argument under the noses of the people who disagreed with you earlier. This is at least tiresome and, I think, provocative.
    Corresponding to condoning behaviour that would put a wild animal to shame, on the grounds that the victim wrote a slightly condescending post. And on the blog of the frequently bad-behaved PZ Myers , no less. You know, the guy whom (I bet) you nearly always cheer on. (He’s not just aggressive and insulting toward the fundies. Try Googling for his astonishingly caustic swipes at even reasonable people like the Brights, Sam Harris and Dan Dennett.)

    How is my initially posting twice of the slightest relevance to anything? It’s quite simple: My first post I deemed somewhat ambiguous, so I posted again to add clarification. That’s all. (Don’t be taken in by Nick Gotts. His habit is to focus on a pointless detail and draw from it damning conclusions that he’s not entitled to.)

  • #665 SC
    May 30, 2008

    Look, you smug little putz: You have made numerous claims about the social world and social dynamics with nothing in the way of evidence to back them up. I would have been happy to discuss evidence that fell short of peer-reviewed research, but you didn’t provide that either.

    You came to an atheist’s blog proclaiming that atheists should refer to themselves as something else. You are the one making the contention: that “atheism” is socially problematic and that a replacement term would be possible and preferable. The burden of proof is on you.

    In the Q&A subsequent to his 1985 Gifford lectures (now in The Varieties of Scientific Experience, Carl Sagan participated in the following exchange:

    “Questioner: …Talking about proofs for the existence of God, I’d like to put it in perspective that there’s no completely satisfactory proof that everyone in this room exists. I don’t know if you know of one. I think it comes down in the end to belief of one sort or another that people in this room exist, and putting the proofs about God’s existence in that context, we’re demanding a lot more in proving God’s existence than we are in proving our own existence.
    CS: But the burden…the burden of proof is on those who claim that God exists. Or do you think not?

    Questioner: I think you say that. I don’t think that, in fact.
    CS: You think the burden of proof is on those who say that God does not exist?

    Questioner: An equal burden of proof, I would say. I don’t see why it should be put to those who say He exists.
    CS: But would you say that, no matter what contention is made, that the burden of proving or disproving it falls equally on those who agree and those who disagree?

    Questioner: I would say that.
    CS: Have you thought of the political implications of this?

    Questioner: Well, it’s not a political issue, I don’t think.
    CS: No, but I thought it was a general proposition you were proposing.

    Questioner: If you take a physical proposition, would you say you know that in every case the burden of proof rests to prove one type of case or the other type of case?
    CS: The burden of proof always falls on those on those who make the contention.

    Questioner: Well, all right. Yes. But only in the sense that it’s disproving the other contention.
    CS: No, no. It can be in an area where no one has any other contentions.

    Questioner: Yes, well…
    CS: It is – and it seems to me quite proper. Because otherwise opinions would be launched very casually if those who proposed them did not have the burden of demonstrating their truth. Here is a set of thirty-one proposals that I make, and good-bye. I mean, you would be left with a chaotic circumstance.

    Questioner: Yes, all right. Yes, I see. I see your point. Yes.” (240-2)

  • #666 J
    May 30, 2008

    based on your repeated re-statement of the issue, to the point of being beyond tiresome, one would almost expect you had, in fact, many peer reviewed studies to support your contentions.
    It would have died down ages ago if (1) the rabble addressing me weren’t so fanatical, and (2) they ceased trying to “correct” me, as if I’m manifestly wrong, whenever I voice my opinion that the name-calling was nasty and thoroughly uncalled for.

  • #667 Nick Gotts
    May 30, 2008

    Don’t be taken in by Nick Gotts. His habit is to focus on a pointless detail and draw from it damning conclusions that he’s not entitled to. – J.

    Curses! Unmasked! (Twirls ends of waxed moustache. Exit, pursued by a bore.)

  • #668 J
    May 30, 2008

    You came to an atheist’s blog proclaiming that atheists should refer to themselves as something else. You are the one making the contention: that “atheism” is socially problematic and that a replacement term would be possible and preferable. The burden of proof is on you.
    It is socially problematic, dipshit. Why the fuck do you think people like PZ Myers write hundreds of posts on how atheists are discriminated against? They’re not making it up.

    If you’re one of those automatons who rejects reasoned discussion and accepts only hard stats and figures, try Googling for the polls which indicate atheists are the group Americans are least likely to vote into public office.

  • #669 J
    May 30, 2008

    …and that a replacement term would be possible and preferable.
    I’m not claiming that, I’m claiming it’s a possibility that needs to be considered. You have absolutely no justification to take “atheist is the better word” as the null hypothesis.

    (Yes, I repeat a point — by necessity. It’s not my fault many people here are too stupid and intellectually dishonest to understand me the first time.)

  • #670 SC
    May 30, 2008

    Well, I think it’s been firmly established on this thread that J is one-dimensional.

  • #671 Ichthyic
    May 30, 2008

    It would have died down ages ago if…

    that’s funny, that’s remarkably similar to the arguments Kenny makes as to why he too sticks around.

    you too have a lot in common, though you probably don’t want to think to hard about why.

    tell us, you don’t have a thing for NDE’s, do you?

  • #672 Ichthyic
    May 30, 2008

    (Yes, I repeat a point — by necessity. It’s not my fault many people here are too stupid and intellectually dishonest to understand me the first time.)

    project away, Galileo!

  • #673 Friendo
    May 30, 2008

    I think it’s obvious what’s happening here.

    1. J wants to convince us that, by being belligerent and insistent, atheists are ostracizing themselves.
    2. He comes onto this thread and acts in a belligerent and insistent manner.
    3. We ostracize him.
    4. QED!

    Pure unadulterated genius.

  • #674 Ichthyic
    May 30, 2008

    LOL

    you might be on to something there

  • #675 JeffreyD
    May 30, 2008

    J, may I call you dufus? As a member of the the stupid and intellectually dishonest rabble whose only mission is to make your life miserable while hiding your brilliance from the world, I do courteously and humbly beseech you to take a moment to perform a simple duty, i.e., fuck yourself, using whatever large and square cornered object you can find. You poor persecuted piece of human debris. Please note, this is a pure insult, no attempt to engage you in a battle of wits as you are clearly unarmed.

    Ciao

  • #676 BlueIndependent
    May 30, 2008

    @ buckyball:

    “Well, in Proverbs 22:6, it does state “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it” and then there’s Matthew 18:5-6. But neither imply ‘indoctrination’.”

    Can you possibly be any more disingenuous? And the Bible rarely uses clear language to describe anything beyond doling out severe punishment. That the word “train” is used can be and has been taken with different meanings over the ages. Expecting a 2000 year old book to speak in today’s vernacular is dishonest. Are you not capable of seeing this?

    “…Ever met a strong-willed child? Especially one that likes to bury themselves in encyclopedias? And read books on dinosaurs, study astronomy, and tear apart electronics before the age of ten?”

    And your point is…? I’ll explain it for you, since you seem to be persisting in the same disingenuous activities others like J are: Children are typically indoctrinated – yes, that IS the appropriate word – as early as age 3 or 4, as I was. Curiosity builds stronger after age 5 or 6, but to equate the capabilities of a 3-4 year-old child with those of a child well into grade school is really, really dishonest. Please take off the rosy glasses.

    Luckily enough, humankind is at least aware enough to be inquisitive at a young age, and fights on some level the urge to just acept indoctrination. But the fact remains that society indoctrinates very early, starting with birth, and pursues that agenda as strongly as it can in many cases throughout the child’s life, and into adulthood.

  • #677 Spacesocks
    May 30, 2008

    I used to be in complete agreement with PZ on this point, until I took Philosophy of Religion (don’t worry, I’m still an atheist…I just realize now that religion is more complicated than emperors and their invisible clothes).

    There’s a huge difference between apologetics and high-quality theology. The former is a bunch of circular rationalizations. It refuses to seriously engage any critiques of the concept of God, continuing to maintain that the emperor IS SO wearing clothes, and what’s more, they’re the loveliest clothes ever, and the only reason you can’t see them is because you’re too ignorant and blind to see with the eye of faith, etc. This is the bulk of what passes for theology in actual practice (i.e., most churches, the Internets). It is entirely proper to dismiss it, and not loutish; nor does dismissing it necessarily constitute killing a strawman version of theology, because apologetics is how most people justify belief in God anyway.

    But there is theology that actually takes atheistic critiques seriously. A lot of these theologians are technically atheists as we understand the term; some aren’t, but they reject the absurd “perfect being” theology (omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent, etc.) in favor of concepts that are at least internally coherent. Paul Tillich, in “Dynamics of Faith,” said, “If ‘existence’ refers to something which can be found within the whole of reality, no divine being exists.” David Blumenthal, in “Facing the Abusing God,” provides one of the most interesting theistic answers to the problem of evil, in light of the holocaust: “God is abusive, but not always.” He even says it is perfectly all right for believers not to love God, or to rage against him, for the horrors he has allowed innocent people to suffer. This God is neither omnipotent nor omnibenevolent, so Epicurus would say, “why call him God?” You might say God is “only human.” But if you think about it, most theists don’t really believe in a truly ethereal God anyway; their Gods are just as abusive and ineffectual as Blumenthal’s, they just pretend he isn’t. So you have to give Blumenthal props for honesty, even if he continues to believe in a personal God.

    The problem with these more reasonable theologians, as far as I can see, is that it is easy for apologists to cherry-pick their work without really understanding it, then throw it at atheists and go, “See? Problem solved!”…while still continuing to believe that God exists in external reality, is perfect, and wrote the Bible.

    And the problem with academic theologians who DO understand these works is that so many of them are angry at Dawkins and the rest for “mischaracterizing” theism. They accuse the “new atheists” of making a strawman argument. And then the millions of people who worship that very same strawman go, “those atheists meanies are arguing against a strawman! We don’t worship a strawman!”

    Rather than write off all theologians as apologist wafflers, we should try to get them on our side. We should say, “If you think we’re arguing against a strawman, go tell the people over there to stop worshipping a strawman!” We should say, “you think apologetics is bad theology? Then please, please tell that to the apologists!”

    And we should stop saying, “well, if you’re not talking about this strawman, you’re not talking about God.” It’s perfectly OK to say that the strawman is “God as most people understand the word,” but since the word “God” is basically content-free anyway, I think people have the right to attach whatever content they like to it, as long as they acknowledge that they’re going with a nontraditional definition.

  • #678 reuben
    May 30, 2008

    Well, I think it’s been firmly established on this thread that J is one-dimensional.

    People, we have a winner!

  • #679 MAJeff, OM
    May 30, 2008

    ou people here like to play these shenanigans with “burden of proof”, I’ve noticed. I was once even asked for “sociological, anthropological, or historical evidence”, as if anyone who ever suggests a potential course of action needs to have a peer-reviewed study backing him up.

    And to think, someone here actually studies social movement activity, discourse, and strategy. And it’s not J.

  • #680 Ichthyic
    May 30, 2008

    spacesocks, thankyou for a perfect example of the courtier’s reply.

    But if you think about it, most theists don’t really believe in a truly ethereal God anyway

    30 million plus members of the National Association of Evangelicals (in the US alone), would entirely disagree with you.

    You really can’t argue the majority belief from the position of graduate level theology.

    not that it would matter anyway, since either way, it’s merely an argumentum ad populum and hardly relates to the value of the arguments given themselves.

  • #681 Ichthyic
    May 30, 2008

    we should try to get them on our side

    they already are.

    see for example, Hector Avalos.

  • #682 SC
    May 30, 2008

    And to think, someone here actually studies social movement activity, discourse, and strategy. And it’s not J.

    More than one person. But what do I know about it, either? Not like I wrote a dissertation on social movements or anything. Oh, wait, I did that.

    — Dr. SC

  • #683 MAJeff, OM
    May 30, 2008

    More than one person. But what do I know about it, either? Not like I wrote a dissertation on social movements or anything. Oh, wait, I did that

    And I’m only in the middle of one about identity, strategy, and the construction of social types. Nothing to notice here.

  • #684 MAJeff, OM
    May 30, 2008

    Posted by: SC | May 30, 2008 10:26 PM?

    Are you still in Boston? Interested in working with/in a seminar/study group/activist working group that focuses on media/movement interaction? I got connections to a really good group (probably going to start attending again in the fall, myself.)

  • #685 SC
    May 30, 2008

    And I’m only in the middle of one about identity, strategy, and the construction of social types.

    Which I’d still love to read…:)

    Hope it’s going well.

  • #686 Notkieran
    May 30, 2008

    To SC @ #670:

    >Well, I think it’s been firmly established on this thread that J is one-dimensional

    Yes, and with our new knowledge of dimensionality, we can now see how someone can be one-dimensional AND use circular logic!

  • #687 SC
    May 30, 2008

    Still in Boston, and that sounds interesting. For my part, I’m working with a group of local academics and activists organizing a summer conference. You might be interested in that, if you’re around.

  • #688 Ichthyic
    May 30, 2008

    Yes, and with our new knowledge of dimensionality, we can now see how someone can be one-dimensional AND use circular logic

    I’d also add that circular logic only defines a perimeter around a set of empty points.

    It ain’t no disk.

    ;)

  • #689 buckyball
    May 30, 2008

    @ BlueIndependent, #676:

    “Expecting a 2000 year old book to speak in today’s vernacular is dishonest.”

    There are many “modern” translations currently in existence. Or were you implying that that the concepts are outdated?

    “I’ll explain it for you, since you seem to be persisting in the same disingenuous activities others like J are: Children are typically indoctrinated – yes, that IS the appropriate word – as early as age 3 or 4, as I was.”

    So, how would you approach the issue instead? What is your solution?

  • #690 Brad
    May 30, 2008

    Thanks Friendo, that definitely explains why a circle can be considered one dimensional.

    I guess I’ll have to look up the history of dimensionality to figure out why mathematicians settled on the topologist definition.

    Because the fact remains that a circle is not just a point. – SC at @654

    It can be when the radius equals zero. But that’s not relevant at the moment.

  • #691 SC
    May 30, 2008

    It can be when the radius equals zero.

    But then how would you know it’s a circle?

  • #692 SC
    May 30, 2008

    I just googled it and found this:

    “Circle With Radius of Zero
    Date: 12/28/2004 at 15:22:59
    From: Jack
    Subject: A circle with a radius = 0?

    Is it possible for a circle to have a radius that equals zero? Is it possible for a set of points (e.g., multiple points) to occupy the same location?

    One textook defines a circle as the set of points that is equidistant from a center point and that the radius is greater than or equal to zero. I dispute this. Am I wrong?”

    “Date: 12/28/2004 at 22:48:10
    From: Doctor Peterson
    Subject: Re: A circle with a radius = 0?

    Hi, Jack.

    If the radius is zero, then it isn’t really a circle, but might be called a degenerate circle–that is, what you get if you slightly stretch the definition of a circle by using the same equation but taking it to extremes by making the radius zero. The point is (no pun intended!) that many things you can say about a circle will still be true if the radius is zero (making a single point), and they have for some reason chosen to allow that. I wouldn’t do so, because there are too many other things that would no longer work in that case. I hope, for example, that in theorems about tangents to a circle they specify that the radius has to be greater than zero. If not, then they are inconsistent in their use of the definition, which is not uncommon in textbooks.

    By the way, there is nothing wrong in talking about a set of points that consists only of one point; nothing in that wording should be taken to imply that there are multiple points. The problem with this definition lies in the difficulty of writing theorems based on it, not on how many points there are.

    If you have any further questions, feel free to write back.

    – Doctor Peterson, The Math Forum
    http://mathforum.org/dr.math/

    So it is possible (I had actually thought of it when writing that lame comment), but causes practical problems. Interesting.

  • #693 Brad
    May 30, 2008

    I suppose that if you were so inclined, you could say that all points are circles, but not all circles are points.

  • #694 Emmet Caulfield
    May 30, 2008

    J@#664,

    Re: “cred-seeking”

    That’s one way of looking at it. Perhaps I was trying to ingratiate myself in some way. My intention was to express a few unflattering observations in a charitable way, when I perceived a risk that they could have been interpreted as hostile if expressed too stridently. I obviously failed.

    Re: posting twice

    From what you’re saying, it was obviously not your intention to be provocative, but I wasn’t talking about your intention, only the effect I think it had. IMHO, seeing two of your posts on a topic that was contentious in another thread, within a half-dozen posts of each other at the top of a new thread, is likely to have provoked some people into challenging you in a way that they wouldn’t have bothered doing if they’d only seen it once, further apart, or further down.

    I’m bemused by the contradiction between the opinion that seems to be your hobby-horse (essentially a “good marketing” message), and the way that you express it (with pretty poor “marketing”). To put it bluntly, someone who wants to tell others “How to Win Friends and Influence People” ought to be better at it.

    If you haven’t already done so, step back for a minute, try to read what you’re writing as if you hadn’t written it, and see if you can see why a lot of other people are reacting negatively. There is a reason.

    I can’t know what you think you’re saying, but it seems to me that people, including me, are hearing something else. Whose problem is that?

  • #695 Ichthyic
    May 31, 2008

    I’m bemused by the contradiction between the opinion that seems to be your hobby-horse (essentially a “good marketing” message), and the way that you express it (with pretty poor “marketing”).

    coincidentally, this is the exact same problem Mathew Nisbet has, if you are aware of who that is.

    if not, just do a search on this blog, and you’ll find it.

    his blog is “framing science”

  • #696 SC
    May 31, 2008

    I suppose that if you were so inclined, you could say that all points are circles, but not all circles are points.

    Huh? I would think it would be somewhat the reverse.

  • #697 Brad
    May 31, 2008

    If a circle with a radius equal to zero is a point, then it follows that any point can be expressed as a circle with a radius equal to zero. However, because there are circles with radii greater than zero, the reverse is not true.

  • #698 SC
    May 31, 2008

    coincidentally,

    …or not…?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a1Y73sPHKxw&NR=1

    :)

  • #699 SC
    May 31, 2008

    If a circle with a radius equal to zero is a point, then it follows that any point can be expressed as a circle with a radius equal to zero. However, because there are circles with radii greater than zero, the reverse is not true.

    But then it follows that any point can be expressed as anything (a square with H and W equal to zero, a line whose length is zero, etc.). On the other hand, all circles consist of points (with “degenerate” circles consisting of only a single point).

  • #700 Ichthyic
    May 31, 2008

    …or not…

    did you catch this one?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hkqqMPPg2VI

  • #701 SC
    May 31, 2008
  • #702 Emmet Caulfield
    May 31, 2008

    Ichthyic@#695

    Coincidentally, this is the exact same problem Mathew Nisbet has, if you are aware of who that is.

    Yep, I’m familiar with Matthew Nisbet. I admit that I don’t read whole lot of what he writes — I find the recapitulation of every cat-fart in terms of “framing” tedious. It seems to me that the kernel of Nisbet’s problem is his lack of any qualification in science; it puts him in the position of being “outside” telling people “inside” what’s wrong with them. That’s always popular :o)

    It seems that Nisbet either doesn’t get the whole “in-group/out-group and who can say what about whom” thing, which makes him foolish, or he actually thinks he’s part of an in-group that he’s not part of, which makes him pathetic. It’s very hard to take someone’s message seriously when you see him as a foolish and/or pathetic personification of irony.

    SC, you win Best Use of Dramatic Gopher :)

  • #703 Ichthyic
    May 31, 2008

    It seems to me that the kernel of Nisbet’s problem is his lack of any qualification in science; it puts him in the position of being “outside” telling people “inside” what’s wrong with them. That’s always popular :o)

    I’d say you nailed a big part of it, which is why it always puzzles me so that AAAS has apparently glommed on to much of what he has to say.

    I’d guess just random curiosity, and if I’m right, it will die down in a few more months.

  • #704 Carlie
    May 31, 2008

    I don’t think that’s really it with Nisbet, though. Carl Zimmer is another example of an outsider who is very well received, as was Chris Mooney before he got tangled up with Nisbet. People were very interested in Nisbet when he started out. There is some of the “outsider telling us what to do” feeling around Nisbet, but that came after he started pissing people off, not as a reason not to like him in the first place. Nisbet’s biggest problems are that he A) doesn’t back up what he says with any convincing evidence, B) ignores substantive questions and criticisms about his ideas by saying that people are just too stupid to understand, otherwise they’d agree with him, and C) responds to actual instances in which he is shown to be dead wrong by re-interpreting them in such a way that he is the only right one, and everyone else in the world is wrong. Hm, sounds more and more like someone we’ve seen on this thread, doesn’t it?

  • #705 Ichthyic
    May 31, 2008

    People were very interested in Nisbet when he started out.

    he was a curiosity: someone who published on science communication and essentially got their PhD thesis published in Science (that ain’t common in ANY field).

    that tends to attract attention.

    A) doesn’t back up what he says with any convincing evidence

    he thinks his paper says it all, but won’t actually respond to criticisms of the paper itself.

    It was at that point that I started to wonder who the hell was on his advisory committee.

    for a new postdoc to be as reluctant to defend his work as Nisbet was, it was a bit of a warning sign for me.

    all of what you say is true, but I still think that Emmet also has a part of the “puzzle of Nisbet”.

    bottom line, I say the same thing as I did when he first popped on the scene:

    he’s playing the false confidence card and riding his early success in order to try and establish a career for himself.

    I suspect, after a few years in the real trenches, he will indeed have more interesting and useful input.

    I just hope that there aren’t too many drawn in by the novelty of his approach, simply because the reverse is also true:

    while Nisbet might not know too much about how science works, most scientists know even less about communication.

    that could lead to some really stupid decisions being made.

    I hope not, but was very put off by the way the last AAAS meeting on the issue was put together and run.

  • #706 J
    May 31, 2008

    If you haven’t already done so, step back for a minute, try to read what you’re writing as if you hadn’t written it, and see if you can see why a lot of other people are reacting negatively. There is a reason.
    Of course there’s a reason: Any disagreement whatever with a consensus opinion on Pharyngula gets you labelled a “concern troll”, whereupon the dozens of wild dogs present madly lunge for the neck.

    My original point about “marketing” was only worth a few posts. There were only more because I was consistently misrepresented. But for me, this exchange is now an examplar of the cult mentality of (many) posters on this blog, their habitual mean-spiritedness, and their constant need to put people down in order that they can feel superior.

  • #707 Matt Penfold
    May 31, 2008

    “I hope not, but was very put off by the way the last AAAS meeting on the issue was put together and run.”

    Have you seen the AAAS video on how science and religion are compatible ? Nisbett has it posted on his blog. I suspect he is rather delighted with it, as it manages to totally ignore those scientists and philosophers who think the two are not compatible. I fear we have seen the future of science communication as Nisbett would have it, and it is not pretty. Larry Moran has a good take on it: He argues that the AAAS should preferably not comment on the issue, or if they do make it clear that it is a controversial subject with scientists disagreeing.

  • #708 MAJeff, OM
    May 31, 2008

    SC,

    Contact me. langstra@gmaildotcom

  • #709 Beowulff
    May 31, 2008

    At Buckyball, #662:

    There’s a fine line sometimes between guiding someone and controlling them.

    Here in the Netherlands there are still religious communities that don’t allow their members to own a TV, lest they might be corrupted by the outside world. Priests may even stop by to check. This is not ‘guidance’, this is ‘control’. I’d be surprised if the US doesn’t have similar communities. And there are plenty of other examples, both modern and ancient.

    Maybe some of the insecurity on the part of the parents comes from a lack of knowledge (Biblical and otherwise)?

    Possible. But ask yourself this: Who controls that knowledge?

  • #710 Carlie
    May 31, 2008

    Of course there’s a reason: Any disagreement whatever with a consensus opinion on Pharyngula gets you labelled a “concern troll”, whereupon the dozens of wild dogs present madly lunge for the neck.

    And THAT is why you’re a total lost cause, worthy of nothing but mocking and derision. No, there could be absolutely nothing of substance to anyone’s criticisms of my statements, because I am entirely correct and right and perfect, and the only reason people disagree with me is that I’m bucking consensus, and they are all wild dogs lunging for my neck.

    Narcissistic idiot.

  • #711 SC
    May 31, 2008

    MAJeff,

    Will do!

    *An aside to Friendo: My sincere apologies for abusing your discipline’s terminology. I’m sure “lineness,” etc., are not proper mathematical terms. I don’t mind if mathematicians laugh at me, but I would hate for them to be offended. And thanks again for taking the time to explain.

  • #712 David Marjanovi?, OM
    May 31, 2008

    How about if we dump this controversial “atheist” tag and use “pariah” instead?

    Or “Dim”?

    Rejecting religion is not equivalent to atheism, which is a philosophical/cosmological position of no social significance.

    How is this hard to understand?

    Once again: It isn’t hard to understand. It’s wrong. That’s because atheists by definition disbelieve in all gods, not only in creator gods. In Hera, Aphrodite, Artemis, Ares, Hermes and the whole shebang, not only in Zeus, Epimetheus and Prometheus.

    David Marjanovi?,

    How do you create accents?

    Exactly like you: by copying & pasting, in this case from the Windows Character Table. Or by insertion from the Mac character table.

    However, whether this works depends on the website and the browser. ScienceBlogs takes all input from IE for Windows*, including Chinese characters, but only Pharyngula takes special characters from Safari or Firefox for Mac; when I’m in the university and want to comment on any ScienceBlog other than Pharyngula, I must spell myself with & # 2 6 3 ; at the end (without the spaces). Bad Astronomy doesn’t take anything and even gives an error message telling me only letters and numbers are accepted; there, too, I must use the HTML entity (and still get an error message, but the comment gets through anyway).

    Functioning Linux distributions also have a character table. I said “functioning”.

    * IE for Mac fulfills every single MS stereotype. IE for Windows (6 upwards), however, is for most applications the best browser of all I know, Firefox included. (If only because it can read MSHTML.)

  • #713 SC
    May 31, 2008

    Thanks! I feared my question had been lost in the comment thicket. OK, I’m going to try with a word from last night’s spelling bee, with the accented letters first created with the Ctrl key and then taken from the Word Character Table:

    écrasé
    écrasé

  • #714 David Marjanovi?, OM
    May 31, 2008

    Works nicely.

  • #715 SC
    May 31, 2008

    Ah – works both ways. Guay. Thanks again.

  • #716 Spacesocks
    May 31, 2008

    Icthyic (#680),

    I just knew somebody was going to accuse me of the courtier’s reply, despite my best efforts to reinforce to point that the emperor really does have no clothes.

    What I meant was that most believers THINK they’re worshipping some ethereal, ineffable God that no one can truly understand, when in fact they actually think they do understand this God and “his” doings better than the followers of other religions, and as he’s actually conceived of, he’s really just this guy, you know?

    I’m well aware that most religious people DO believe in absurd Gods, and I tried to make this clear in my original comment. What I meant was that we shouldn’t dismiss all graduate-level theology as nothing more than learnèd waffling around the same ridiculous God that’s worshipped by the National Association of Evangelicals. I mean, some of it IS like that (Richard Swinburne, Alvin Plantinga, etc?: professional bullshitters, in my opinion). I’m just saying we should take more care in how we target theology.

  • #717 BlueIndependent
    May 31, 2008

    buckyball:

    “Not really. A character “change” should be evident to multiple people. I’m curious what the success rate of programs like “Teen Challenge” are.”

    You are again making a circular assumption, that being that faith or belief in god in and of itself produces better people. This is demonstrably false in a number of ways. It’s not that no good people can come from a belief in a god, or that no good people have ever come from belief. It’s that belief is not required, and ultimately muddies things up needlessly. It also, even in the nicest people, instills certain ignorances that could well be considered pretty bad upon examination. We know that Billy Graham led a peaceful life that changed the lives of many. We also know that he said some unfortunate things about Jews that were based on his particular faith. How is disciplining people to stay away from bad physical influences good if the rest of the deal includes having views of other human groups that are quite questionable, and ultimately counterproductive to the supposedly peaceful outcomes expected of belief?

    I am an atheist. I was raised Catholic by Catholic parents and a wider Catholic family and community. I used to believe. Just because I am upstanding citizen now does not automatically follow that it must be because I used to have faith, or that faith was the creator of all things good in my life. I can honestly say that is in fact not the case. Faith was a practice, and in hindsight, it wasn’t necessarily bad, but it also, with that hindsight, does not seem necessarily overwhelmingly positive. I was taught that Jews will go to hell for not accepting Jesus. How is this in any way good? Who cares if religion gets people off of drugs, off of alcohol, gets them to eat healthy, etc.? All of that stuff would be 100% true without a god or faith. I do not need a god to be good. Your argument assumes that is the case. That is where you go wrong. If I needed a god to be good, than are we not automatons? And please don’t lecture me on free will vis a vis god.

  • #718 BlueIndependent
    May 31, 2008

    buckyball:

    “There are many “modern” translations currently in existence. Or were you implying that that the concepts are outdated?…”

    Yes, modern “translations”. That is the operative word. Who is to say the translation(s) is/are correct? Muslims believe in 72 virgins awaiting them for performing as martyrs for Allah. How unfortunate would they be to encounter the 72 “white raisins” that might actually be the true translation of that part of the Quran. Ever watch Dr. Scot on TBN (or whichever religious channel it is) late at night? Ever watch her go through how one Hebrew symbol means one thing, and it relates to something 20 chapters later in the Bible, but then relates back to something 50 chapters earlier? Ever see her go over the many meanings that are possible? Granted her intent is the opposite of my own, but the point is this stuff all has to be translated, and it has been done so many hundreds of times, without a clear trail back to the beginning. Parts of books have been left out, certain events are suspiciously like those in other religions, there is rampant internal inconsistency, etc. “Modern translations” means little, because it has all been translated before, without documentation or verification as to the level of accuracy.

    Suffice it to say, the words “train” and “indoctrination” do not mean the same thing in our society. A quick check of a couple thesauri around the internet also shows that the words are not directly interchangeable. The words also hold entirely different connotations. I do not go to college to be “indoctrinated”. One does not go to church to be “trained”. Sexual harassment programs in the workplace do not “indoctrinate” people. Is it possible one word meant the other 2000 years ago? Sure. That we have verifiable proof of this is the question.

    What is my solution? It’s beautifully simple: Forego the religious indoctrination and stick with education in philosophy, science, the arts, etc. There is plenty of beauty left to be tapped there, and none of it needs a god to come about.

  • #719 mds
    May 31, 2008

    On adding accents: Some accented characters (but not ?) can be typed by holding down Alt and typing the appropriate character code on the num pad. For instance, Alt-0233 yields é. The upper case accented letters range from 0192 to 0221. Lower case is 0224 to 0255. Supposedly there’s a way to enter any unicode value, but I was unable to get it to work.

    On other systems (like Linux) you can set up a compose key, so to type ?, you’d press Compose-‘-c. Much easier. From what I can tell, there’s no way to set up a Compose key in Windows.

    What you can set up are dead keys. To type ? you’d press ‘ then c. If you actually want to type a ‘, you’d press it twice. In my experience, unless you’re typing a lot of accents, this is more hassle than it’s worth.

  • #720 bPer
    May 31, 2008

    Regarding accented characters, I use AllChars on my Windows machines. Simple to use and free. To produce é I type Ctrl ‘ e. A ç is produced with Ctrl , c. A ? is produced with Ctrl T M. That kind of thing. It doesn’t do Unicode, unfortunately. It also doesn’t by default do the accented-c in David’s last name, but since it is configurable, he might be able to make it work for him on his university machines.

  • #721 J
    May 31, 2008

    Once again: It isn’t hard to understand. It’s wrong. That’s because atheists by definition disbelieve in all gods, not only in creator gods. In Hera, Aphrodite, Artemis, Ares, Hermes and the whole shebang, not only in Zeus, Epimetheus and Prometheus.
    So atheism is only cosmologically different from rejection of religion. Which is my whole point.

    It’s a dastardly tactic you used there. Disagreeing about an exceedingly trivial point and in doing so giving the impression you’re refuting me.

  • #722 Priya Lynn
    May 31, 2008

    You were refuted J, you’re just willfully blind. Atheism isn’t just cosmologically different from the rejection of religion, its the rejection of all gods whereas deism might reject religion but it doesn’t reject god(s). That atheism rejects a creater god is secondary to the idea of rejecting god(s). You’re wrong, you’ve always been wrong and you’ve been refuted repeatedly.

  • #723 J
    May 31, 2008

    You were refuted J, you’re just willfully blind. Atheism isn’t just cosmologically different from the rejection of religion, its the rejection of all gods whereas deism might reject religion but it doesn’t reject god(s). That atheism rejects a creater god is secondary to the idea of rejecting god(s).
    Hilarious. If you truly think this refutes me, and you’re not just taking the piss, then I’m afraid you’re as pathetically self-deceiving as religious types.

    The extremely watered-down, deist’s version of God does not intervene in human affairs, and basically doesn’t have any role apart from…being designer of the Universe. I think it’s perfectly legitimate to say that going from this stance to full-blown atheism isn’t of any social relevance, and only constitutes a transition in a cosmological opinion. (By the way, many individuals who flirt with deism commonly call themselves agnostics, so don’t pretend to “trounce” me by citing statistics on the number of declared deists.)

    Now kindly cease deluding yourself and referring to non-existent refutations.

  • #724 JeffreyD
    May 31, 2008

    I thought I heard a noise. Priya Lynn posted in #722, but then there was something with too high of a noise to signal ratio to be considered a message. Hmmmm, interesting, apparently a flaw in the comments section. Ah well, maybe it will clear up.

    Ciao

  • #725 Priya Lynn
    May 31, 2008

    J, you’ve been refuted dozens and dozens of times, go back and re-read the thread. Simply re-asserting the same falsehood won’t make it correct. Atheism is the rejection of gods, cosmological implications are secondary to that.

  • #726 Priya Lynn
    May 31, 2008

    And J, anyone who “flirts” with Deism and calls themselves an agnostic isn’t a Deist. I’m not familiar with any polls on the numbers of announced Deists but like you I can assume they’re pretty rare and your point in aliging atheists with them rather pointless

  • #727 J
    May 31, 2008

    J, you’ve been refuted dozens and dozens of times, go back and re-read the thread. Simply re-asserting the same falsehood won’t make it correct.
    No, you’re making the assertion, offal brain. I have explained why it’s invalid, as I did in #723. You sidestep the argument by referring to (non-existent) putative refutations.

    And J, anyone who “flirts” with Deism and calls themselves an agnostic isn’t a Deist. I’m not familiar with any polls on the numbers of announced Deists but like you I can assume they’re pretty rare and your point in aliging atheists with them rather pointless
    There are tonnes and tonnes of people who’ve outgrown religion and yet call themselves agnostics rather than atheists because they allow the possibility of deistic sort of “designer God”.

    Obviously they tend not to call themselves “deists”. Most people have no idea what the word even means.

  • #728 Priya Lynn
    May 31, 2008

    Offal brain? This from you who’ve repeatedly insisted you’ve been polite and wailed about being unfairly attacked and insulted. Again we see the truth, I never insulted you, it was you who first choose to dive into the toilet to insult rather than debate.

    The reality is that you were refuted by David Marjanovi? in 712, I further refuted you in 722, dozens and dozens of atheists have refuted you througout this thread as well as in the other and the dictionary definition you quoted earlier also refuted you – atheism is the rejection of god(s), you’re alone in asserting that its a “cosmological position of no social significance”.

    The experience of gays has shown you to be completely wrong-headed in this. Study after study has shown that people who know gays are more accepting than those who do not. Acceptance of atheists will come from coming out of the closet, not from hiding and passively reinforcing the idea that there is something wrong with being an atheist.

  • #729 Priya Lynn
    May 31, 2008

    Oh, and I should add agnostics don’t just allow for the existence of a “deistic sort of “designer” god”, different agnostics consider all manner of gods a possibility from the Christian god to Allah, to Vishnu and Gonesh. Your attempt to portray all agnostics as only allowing for a deistic god is patently false – again you’ve been refuted.

  • #730 Kagato
    May 31, 2008

    I am loathe to bring up the circle/line/dimension thing again, given that A) it’s been discussed to death, and B) I am not a geometer so I’ll probably screw something up. But it’s been nagging at me since yesterday, so I have to post it just to get it out of my head. :)

    I wonder if the whole discussion has come at it from the wrong end entirely.

    A line, in anything but purely abtract terms, is not a 1-dimensional figure; it occupies as many dimensions as the space in which it is represented. (ie, a line on a plane is a 2D figure, and a line in a volume is a 3D figure.)

    However, 1 dimensional space is represented by an infinite line.

    Of course, this assumes you’re representing an infinite, boundless 1D space. You might want to represent a finite, boundless 1D space