Pharyngula

Effectively non-existent

For Darwin Day, Roger Ebert wrote an article on Darwin and evolution. Most of it is pretty darned good; he’s writing as “an intelligent, curious person who years ago became fascinated by the Theory of Evolution because of its magnificence, its beauty, and its self-evident truth”, not as a biologist, and I think that is an important perspective. You don’t have to have a Ph.D. in Abstract Biological Esoterica to appreciate evidence and reason and the elegance of evolution! This is one of the reasons I oppose religion so vehemently: I am optimistic that most people are entirely capable of grasping the principles of good science, but that what we have in our culture right now is an explicit ideological barrier that hampers understanding. I’ve said it over and over that most creationists are not stupid people, they simply have this unfortunate indoctrination in a weird belief that their beloved children will be imperiled for all eternity if someone shows them a shell that is more than 6000 years old.

So read Ebert’s article, it’s good, it expresses considerable common sense. However, you know me — there are bits that provoke me to draw out the razor-edged claymore of angry scientist and start slashing indiscriminately. Stand back, I have a blade and I don’t care how wildly I use it!

Ebert has to have a section in which he tries to gently chide atheists, and I will not be chidden. In particular, he has a list of points he makes in these kinds of arguments, and one is a special bête noir for me.

Science has no opinion on religion. It cannot. Science deals with that which can be studied or inferred by observation, measurement, and experiment. Religious belief is outside its purview, except in such social sciences as sociology, anthropology, and psychology, where even then not the validity of the beliefs but their effects are studied.

Sigh.

All right, I’ll sheathe the sword for a bit. I hear this argument so often that I mainly feel disappointed when someone drags it out anymore — especially when I can agree that that person is “intelligent and curious”. The premise that science can’t have a stance on the validity of a religion is like the tranquilizer dart of the debates with religion; someone is thinking and questioning, and suddenly, swooosh, thock, ouch…they hear this argument that you can’t question the premises of religion, they get all sleepy and soporified, nod a few times, and piously agree. Gould succumbed to this, too, and here’s Roger Ebert, hit by the same dart.

WAKE UP.

Think about it. Why can’t science address the existence of gods? Why should we simply sit back and accept the claim of apologists that what they believe in is not subject to “observation, measurement, and experiment”?

In the United States today, we have tens of thousands of priests, rabbis, mullahs, pastors, and preachers who are paid professionals, who claim to be active and functioning mediators between people and omnipotent invisible masters of the universe. They make specific claims about their god’s nature, what he’s made of and what he isn’t, how he thinks and acts, what you should do to propitiate it…they somehow seem to have amazingly detailed information about this being. Yet, when a scientist approaches with a critical eye, suddenly it is a creature that not only has never been observed, but cannot observed, and its actions invisible, impalpible, and immaterial.

So where did these confident promoters of god-business get their information? Shouldn’t they be admitting that their knowledge of this elusive cosmic beast is nonexistent? It seems to me that if you’re going to declare scientists helpless before the absence and irrelevance of the gods, you ought to declare likewise for all of god’s translators and interpreters. Be consistent when you announce who has purview over all religious belief, because making god unobservable and immeasurable makes everyone incapable of saying anything at all about it.

And what of those many millions of ordinary people who claim to have daily conversations with this entity? That is an impressive conduit for all kinds of testable information: a high bandwidth channel between the majority of people on Earth and a friendly, omniscient source of knowledge, and it isn’t named Google. All these queries, and all these answers, and yet, somehow, none of these answers have enough meaning or significance to represent a testable body of counsel. Amazing! You would think that in all that volume of communication, some tiny percentage of useful information would emerge that we could assess against reality, but no…the theologians, lay and professional alike, will all claim that no usable data can be produced that would satisfy a scientist looking for sense. It sounds like empty noise to me.

We have the supposed histories of these believers, and they are full of material actions. Gods throw lightning bolts to smite unbelievers, annihilate whole cities and nations, raise the dead, slay whole worlds of people, suspend the laws of physics to halt the sun in the sky, create the whole Earth in less than a week, help footballers score goals, and even manifest themselves in physical bodies and walk about, doing amazing magic tricks. Wow, O Lord, please do vaporize a city with a column of holy fire before my eyes — I can observe that, I can measure that, I can even do experiments with the rubble. I will be really impressed.

Oh, but wait: it can only be an unobservable, undetectable exercise in mass destruction? And he’s not doing that sort of thing anymore? How about pulling a rabbit out of this hat? No, sorry, all done. God can’t do anything anymore where people might actually notice, or worse, record the act and figure out how the tricks are done. This is awfully convenient.

This is where the “Science has no opinion on religion” argument leads us: to an atheist’s world, where there are no activities by a god that matter, where at best people can claim that their god is aloof and unknowable, admitting in their own premises that they have no knowledge at all of him.

I can accept that, as long as these people are aware of the import of what they are actually saying.

Comments

  1. #1 Ryano
    February 17, 2009

    It’s like watching actors performing and their performance is this:

    “Our play is real. It is written by a divine god. Believe us.”

    Some of the audience is enamored and some laugh. I try not to visit that particular venue.

  2. #2 Steve Jeffers
    February 17, 2009

    ‘My god hears my prayers’ is the absolute baseline of most religions. Even if that god doesn’t answer them, even if that god does nothing, even if they believe other stuff, theists believe that.

    It’s a scientific claim. No two ways about it.

    There’s a very simple reason religionists don’t want scientists in their magisterium – it’s because every time scientists play an away game, they kick the theologians’ asses. Science is true and right, all religion is demonstrably false and wrong.

    Now … that said, I think that if theists believe in evolution, teach their kids that evolution is right, basically think of their religion as a nice story – I think we should let them. It’s a win. It’s 99% there. We won, we left them some dignity.

  3. #3 TritoneSub
    February 17, 2009

    Wowser! I’ve read Gould’s book with his NOAM idea and I’ve never read such a succinct repudiation of it as you’ve just given. That’s why my son and I love this blog. Oh, and the squidlies.

  4. #4 tony
    February 17, 2009

    Clearly, the most miraculous thing for god to do is to make miracles that appear, through all possible empirical inquiry, to be wholly the product of natural causes and processes – AND YET STILL BE MIRACLES! (Of course, only those who believe in god can tell that they’re really miracles.)

  5. #5 cervantes
    February 17, 2009

    It is meaningless to assert the existence of an entity that cannot, in principle, be observed. End of story. Syntax, yes. Semantics, none.

  6. #6 TritoneSub
    February 17, 2009

    I meant NOMA. NOAM would be Chalmsky, as in to Noam, Noam, Noam, is to love, love, love him.

  7. #7 cervantes
    February 17, 2009

    Noam is Chomsky. Call me anything you like, but at least spell my name right.

  8. #8 Mister Griswold
    February 17, 2009

    Science does indeed have an opinion. Just Google “Victor Stenger”.

  9. #9 www.10ch.org
    February 17, 2009

    Science may not have an opinion on the metaphysical things like “what is God” or “does God exist or not” – these are metaphysical, not physical. As for the real physical questions, like whether the Bible is inspired by God, or whether miracles happen, the efficacy of prayers, and so on – of course, in these things science does indeed have a say.

  10. #10 TritoneSub
    February 17, 2009

    Chalmsky is my mumpsimus. Not really. I can be taught.

  11. #11 Sastra
    February 17, 2009

    If you look at the God hypothesis, there are testable implications. That is, if God is a disembodied mind, then the existence of disembodied minds would support the coherence and possibility of God. But mind-body substance dualism — which was once held by early scientists — is discarded for better theories.

    If God moves things through psychokensis (mind power), then the existence of PK would be a good demonstration of the mechanism which God uses. People prophesy and receive messages from God through Extra-Sensory Perception. If we lived in a world where ESP not only exists, but can be clearly demonstrated to exist, then the plausibility of God goes up. But parapsychology — on which religious scientists rested (and still rest) so much hope, has failed.

    The God hypothesis is not empty of any implications. If the universe rests on the existence of a disembodied mind which does all things through will power, then, knowing nothing else, one would expect evidence that minds “made in his image” would be similar. If souls survive death, then, knowing nothing else, one would expect to see evidence for ghosts. Such evidence would count FOR the theory.

    If the world really was only 10,000 years old, then evolution would not have had enough time to work. If DNA showed no common patterns of descent, then Special Creation would have been the best, most viable science theory.

    If God was really, truly “outside of science,” then none of the above possibilities would make any difference — not one way, not the other. Ghosts abound, ESP exists, minds are disembodied entities which move things through willpower, magic abounds, and the universe is only 10,000 years old? Oh heck, that wouldn’t make God’s existence any more likely. Reasonable people surely wouldn’t be swayed by things such as that.

    Sure they would. And should. If that’s the way the universe looked.

    As Richard Dawkins points out, any halfway imaginative person can come up with some hypothetical miracles which would pretty much leave God as the only viable option. And if that happened, you would not hear the theologians going “pooh-pooh, what has that to say about anything? God is outside of our ability to investigate.” No, they would be jumping up and down, crying that science finally found God!

    People who insist that science “cannot say anything about the existence of God” are like dowsers who explain that “dowsing can’t be empirically tested” — right after they failed the test they were so confidence they’d pass.

  12. #12 Steve_C
    February 17, 2009

    If Ghost Hunters® can run around using “gear” to “detect” paranormal I think we can butt in and call THAT bullshit.

    But yes I agree there’s literally “nothing” for science to address. Science doesn’t need to address the existence of unicorns, dragons and leprechauns either.

  13. #13 DaveG
    February 17, 2009

    PZ, I mean Dr. Myers,

    Excellent point, which I’ll save for the next time I run into Fundies at Starbucks. Like Ebert and Gould, I wither under the need to be “nice” to believers. I wonder, though, if perhaps Gods exist because people perceive (beauty, truth, etc.) in Nature and are compelled to assign agency to it because they can’t stand the thought that we alone are responsible for assigning meaning to our lives.

  14. #14 www.10ch.org
    February 17, 2009

    “any halfway imaginative person can come up with some hypothetical miracles which would pretty much leave God as the only viable option”
    That is impossible. If we define God as an omnipotent entity, then no miracle or anything observable can ever prove that such an omnipotent (short of logical contradiction) entity exists. A miracle or anything observable can only prove that there is something that can realize that certain miracle, but it does not prove that this thing can do anything more than this miracle, and certainly not everything (short of logical contradiction).

  15. #15 Glen Davidson
    February 17, 2009

    One can always shield god from science. But that’s the same as saying that I can believe in Middle Earth, hobbits, and elves, if I just remove them far enough from investigation.

    The real problem with “science takes no position” is not that lame attempt, however, but the fact that science has to address the origin and maintenance of religion in human society. Thus far it has come a long way toward explaining religion.

    The truth is that most religionists are more than happy to use scientific, or quasi-scientific explanations for others’ religions. Not generally so happy when it is their own being explained.

    So yeah, god could be hiding out, completely unconcerned about our “belief” in him. Which doesn’t change the fact that no one actually believes in god because such a god exists, and we have tolerably good (if not conclusive) scientific reasons for saying so.

    Either way, thanks for the generally excellent article, Ebert.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/6mb592

  16. #16 thingsbreak
    February 17, 2009

    I made much the same point over at Dr. Isis’ blog:

    Any time a deity claims (or has claims made to the effect on its behalf by its worshipers) to impact the real world, this can (or can in theory) be tested. Prayer does not heal beyond the placebo effect. All creation myths have been illustrated to be false. There is no paleontological evidence of any of the supernatural creatures described by religions that cannot be more plausibly explained by natural phenomena, be they angels, yaksha, or frost giants.

    One cannot disprove the existence of an entity that makes no observable impact on the universe, but then why call such an impotent entity a deity?

  17. #17 heddle
    February 17, 2009

    cervantes,

    It is meaningless to assert the existence of an entity that cannot, in principle, be observed.

    Exactly. Like another universe– another local minimum of the cosmic landscape. Can’t be observed, not even in principle. Meaningless.

  18. #18 alchemist
    February 17, 2009

    So yes, you might be able to prove that a specific belief (like creationism) is silly, or that prayer doesn’t channel a higher being, etc etc etc, but it’s still plausible that some kind of God could exist (or be responsible for the creation of the universe). It could be a caring God, an evil God ( Cthulhu) or a totally ambivalent God. There’s not really a way to test IF a god exists (or is responsible for our universe), nor is there any scientific merit in that question (It wouldn’t change the physical rules of the universe, for example).

    Still, it doesn’t mean that it’s not possible (along with ghosts, aliens etc etc). At some point you have to say “Based on the facts in front of me, I believe there to be no God”.(or no ghosts etc). Is that more scientific than the bible? Sure, but honestly you don’t have facts that prove (or disprove) this, you’re just really, really confident…. right?

  19. #19 TechSkeptic
    February 17, 2009

    Methinks you have confused God with Religion. Science has plenty to say about the (non)existence of god. Science has little to say about the communities of people who pretend to know the unknowable, see the unseeable, and hear the unhearable, except, as mentioned, with respect to social sciences anthropology and so forth.

    There can be religion without god(s).

  20. #20 Alyson Miers
    February 17, 2009

    I think that science and religion would get along a lot better–or at least they’d talk to each other more cordially–if religion could just make some testable claims. (And stuff that supposedly happened 2000 years ago doesn’t count. This is a matter of, “What have you done for me lately?”) Like, if theologians hypothesized that heaven was to be found in the 5th dimension, and hell on the 6th, science might eventually be able to test those claims. Until we come up with the ability to investigate further dimensions, it would just be a theory, but it would give theists something to look forward to. If we did eventually find stuff in the 5th and 6th dimensions that resemble theistic ideas of salvation and damnation, then religion would be empirically supported. If we found no such thing, then we’re back to the drawing board. But even if there was nothing, it would at least show that theologians were serious about participating in the debate.

  21. #21 SteveM
    February 17, 2009

    I always thought that Gould’s “Non-overlapping Magisteria” hypothesis was more about letting religion address issues of morality and ethics, irrespective of the question of God’s existence, while science addresses the “mechanics” of the universe. What is often abbreviated to “the ‘how’ versus the ‘why’”. Meaning that god is almost an optional characteristic of “religion”, at least in this paradigm of needing a label for the “magisteria” that deals with how people should behave towards each other and the “proper” use of the knowledge gained through science.

    I guess my point is that religion is more than just the question of the existence of a god. And it is the “atheistic” part of religion that Gould (and Ebert) is referring to.

  22. #22 IST
    February 17, 2009

    Great timing for me… I’ll be borrowing some of those points (especially the slash at NOMA). A theist friend of mine just emailed the 2+ yr old debate between Dawkins and Francis Collins… I smell a batch of apologetics being cooked over there. That just added something to my arsenal other than Occam’s Razor, which is going to go dull with use by the time this one’s over. Thanks for the insight.

  23. #23 Stu
    February 17, 2009

    If God moves things through psychokinesis

    If you believe in God, raise my hand?

  24. #24 CJO
    February 17, 2009

    Sure, but honestly you don’t have facts that prove (or disprove) this, you’re just really, really confident…. right?

    Yes, but “really, really confident” is about the same level of confidence that an engineer has in the statics equations she uses to build a bridge, and, tacitly and by extension, that we all demonstrate every time we drive over it.

    “Proof” and the real world don’t really talk to each other. But if everyone on the planet trusts their life implicitly with science’s facts, every day, and can’t find even a hint in the direction of consensus on religious matters, with tens of thousands of Christian denominations alone, well, who do you believe?

  25. #25 Brownian
    February 17, 2009

    The most accurate–and damning, for the atheist–argument for the existence of God that any theologian can make is that the universe He created looks and behaves exactly like a universe that no god created.

    Ha-ha! Science can’t touch the invisible, undetectable God who is credited with both responses (“God exists because he answered my prayers by making my fantasy football team lead the league in QB sacks!”) and non-responses (“God exists because he works in mysterious ways, as evinced by the fact that this sadistic serial murderer has sawn off my limbs and is now feeding me alive to a woodchipper despite my desparate prayers to God–at least now I no longer have to worry about my childhood leukemia’s lack of response to the chemo.”)

    Try to deny God’s Love™ now, atheists!

  26. #26 Kassul
    February 17, 2009

    I’m really not sure that religion contributes a great deal to the development of a robust and modern concept of morals and ethics though SteveM, no more than science and regular philosophy.

    Religion tends to boil down to “Because God says so, and you know God said it because *I* say God said it and you can trust me because God chose me for being so trusthworthy and nice!”
    At least philosophy has a long history of providing reasons why we should expect certain types of moral systems to exist, their benefits and drawbacks. And science can get down to what the observable effects are of societies that share those moral systems, testing which ones produce fewer murders, more altruism, etc.

    Theology doesn’t really add anything substantive to the discussion.

  27. #27 Kassul
    February 17, 2009

    I’m really not sure that religion contributes a great deal to the development of a robust and modern concept of morals and ethics though SteveM, no more than science and regular philosophy.

    Religion tends to boil down to “Because God says so, and you know God said it because *I* say God said it and you can trust me because God chose me for being so trusthworthy and nice!”
    At least philosophy has a long history of providing reasons why we should expect certain types of moral systems to exist, their benefits and drawbacks. And science can get down to what the observable effects are of societies that share those moral systems, testing which ones produce fewer murders, more altruism, etc.

    Theology doesn’t really add anything substantive to the discussion. Euthyphro‘s still alive and kicking.

  28. #28 abeja
    February 17, 2009

    Somebody will probably beat me to this but…

    alchemist, the untestable god is a god that has no observable effect on the universe. You’re right in that no one can claim to know whether such a god exists. However, such a god is irrelevant.

    You ended your comment with a question, so I’ll answer it (for me, as I don’t claim to speak for others). I’m confident that there is no scientific evidence for the existence of a relevant god. Very confident.

  29. #29 Don
    February 17, 2009

    One can’t disprove the existence of god, as long as that god is not claimed to have specific attributes and/or interact with the observable universe.

    I think Jainism comes pretty close to that, but I’m probably ludicrously wrong. Every other religion I can think of makes definite claims about their god’s attributes and intentions – so those gods areopen to examination and disproof.

  30. #30 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    February 17, 2009

    So yes, you might be able to prove that a specific belief (like creationism) is silly, or that prayer doesn’t channel a higher being, etc etc etc, but it’s still plausible that some kind of God could exist (or be responsible for the creation of the universe). It could be a caring God, an evil God ( Cthulhu) or a totally ambivalent God. There’s not really a way to test IF a god exists (or is responsible for our universe), nor is there any scientific merit in that question (It wouldn’t change the physical rules of the universe, for example).

    Still, it doesn’t mean that it’s not possible (along with ghosts, aliens etc etc). At some point you have to say “Based on the facts in front of me, I believe there to be no God”.(or no ghosts etc). Is that more scientific than the bible? Sure, but honestly you don’t have facts that prove (or disprove) this, you’re just really, really confident…. right?

    If a god(s) interact with the physical natural world then they that interaction would be testable / discoverable.

    If they don’t interact with the natural world then what good are they and speculation on their existence is merely that.

  31. #31 Ryk
    February 17, 2009

    Thank you so much. I have spent most of my life in annoyance at the idea that god is unprovable, ineffable, unknowable or whatever. Whenever someone comes swinging at me with “can you prove god doesn’t exist?” I calmly say no “I can’t can you prove he does?” Then they, usually in a very un-calm manner, inform me that god is beyond proof.
    I then begin to hate them very much. I have always felt that anything that exists as something other than an idea can be proven or disproven and am glad to hear someone else express it.
    I have just discovered this blog and have to say I am enjoying it very much. I found it via a link from “The Atheist Blogger” which I found on a google search for “Ray Comfort+Idiot”
    I am fairly new to reading atheist writing in general. I am a lifelong atheist having never believed in religion or been raised to any belief. I have never really considered atheism as something to identify with any more than I would identify myself as “right handed” or “warm blooded” it is just natural. Lately it seems I have been getting more and more annoyed by the blatant and aggressive stupidity of religious advocates and reading Dawkins and atheist web articles have been a great relief to me. So once again thank you for putting this out here for people like me it is a valuable service.

  32. #32 Steve R
    February 17, 2009

    Quoth P-Zed:
    “who claim to be active and functioning mediators between people and omnipotent invisible masters of the universe.”

    Masters of the Universe? Wait, so He-Man and Man-at-Arms are invisible?

    Sweet!

  33. #33 Tom Morris
    February 17, 2009

    Even if we grant the premise that “science has nothing to say about religion”, plenty of religion can still be decimated with nothing more than a small trickle of philosophical learning. The Euthyphro rips the God-as-source-of-morality argument to shreds. Hume knocks the block off teleological arguments and ID. And, well, Michael Ruse, Barbara Forrest and Robert Pennock all played their part in ensuring that creationist and IDiotic bullshit is not being taught as science in American public school classrooms.

    You don’t need to use any empirical observation for plenty of religious beliefs. You just take their premises and keep on poking them with logic until the seams give way. And, well, nobody can seriously deny that philosophy and philosophers have nothing valid to say about religions and their claims. And if you grant that premise, then scientists, basically practically-oriented empirical philosophers with very specialised knowledge (not to mention much better employment prospects) can do the same.

  34. #34 Saddlebred
    February 17, 2009

    Excellent post! Succinct, enjoyable, and ruthless. Loved It!

    Definately a “Taste of Pharyngula” indeed.

  35. #35 Shygetz
    February 17, 2009

    I have to disagree with PZ here. If we allow the hypothesis of an omnipotent being that can and will muck with things for inexplicable reasons, then any result that is explainable by science can ALSO be explained by any number of just-so stories invoking god(s). There is no evolution, there is just God dinking with the evidence to make it look that way. Once you are at this point, you are required to invoke some version of Occam’s Razor to differentiate, which is a nice shortcut for finding hypotheses to prefer but in no sense is a wholly reliable principle for a scientific conclusion. Only when a religious person can be goaded into saying “such-and-so COULD NOT have happened without god(s)” can science weigh in. Otherwise, you are dealing with a non-falsifiable hypothesis, which is by definition out of the realm of science (as well as out of the realm of all reliable human inquiry).

  36. #36 Alex
    February 17, 2009

    Great write-up PZ.

    What I find interesting and important is the use of the word “god”. I find the question “do you believe in god” misleading and confusing if one realizes that god is a job description, not a being. The real question should be phrased “do you think deities to be real?” – or “do you believe in yahweh?” My answer is always that I wouldn’t know which one to believe in, followed by, once you appreciate why you reject all other religions, you’ll appreciate why I reject yours.

    All of this word play is the crux of this article IMO. Because their ideas are unable to compete fairly, they need to manufacture ways of finding safe harbor from scrutiny. So they invent mysterious language (god, heaven, soul, sin, etc.) and clever (i.e. dishonest) techniques like PZ pointed out so as to keep meaningful probing to a minimum from skeptical inquiry. They’re good at it too. It’s a testament to their efforts that the overwhelming perception in America is that moral people go to church. What a crock. It’s really sad when a group of people can make such outrageous claims about the very nature of existence and yet not be held accountable to any meaningful measure, and yet by fiat they proclaim their moral superiority and knowledge about life. It’s especially sad when thousands of years of history shows how feeble their claims are and how effective and valuable the scientific method is.

    Any belief worth having must survive doubt.

  37. #37 E.V.
    February 17, 2009

    Shygtez: Prepare for the onslaught.

  38. #38 MZ
    February 17, 2009

    One of your best posts. I hope Ebert reads this.

  39. #39 Sastra
    February 17, 2009

    http://www.10chorg #14 wrote:

    That is impossible. If we define God as an omnipotent entity, then no miracle or anything observable can ever prove that such an omnipotent (short of logical contradiction) entity exists.

    Technically, yes. It would be impossible for finite beings such as ourselves to be able to tell the difference between a Being that was “omnipotent,” and one that was “so powerful it absolutely floors us — we are all really impressed down here.”

    But, as a practical matter, if you can demonstrate the latter type of entity — and give it a few more observable and comprehensible ‘divine-type’ characteristics – then I think most people will give it a pass and call it “God.” There would eventually come a point where calling it something else is quibbling.

  40. #40 www.10ch.org
    February 17, 2009

    @#35 Shygetz
    The idea that some omnipotent force used some psychokinetic force to move atoms into a configuration so that they are living organisms is no different than the idea that the atoms magically moved themselves into a living organism. “God” is just a semantic part of this argument, and thus makes no difference.

    What you are dealing with, here, is not religion, but rather the question of epistemology, whether something can be true only by a single testimony only once.

  41. #41 Fred Mounts
    February 17, 2009

    Ah, Ebert. Much like his reviews, he’ll get most of the details right, but fumble on something that shows a lack of complete concentration. He’s a good Catholic, yeah?

    God built that mountain. Oh? Let’s test it. Nope. Science has nothing to say about the acts of god.

    Hallelujah!

  42. #42 littlejohn
    February 17, 2009

    PZ, I think you should give Ebert a break. He’s not a scientist; I assume his education (like mine) is primarily in the liberal arts. However, he is one of us. Why drive him away over piddling matters.
    He correctly labeled Expelled as a great steaming turd, and he had nice things to say about Bill Mahar’s documentary.
    Gould was another matter. NOMA is horseshit, and he had every reason to know it. Of COURSE they overlap. I always admired Gould for his writing style; not so much for his thinking, which seemed to be driven primarily by political correctness.
    Ebert, as a film critic, influences infinitely more people than Gould could ever hope to reach. Let’s welcome him with open arms and be gentle with our corrections.

  43. #43 Andyo
    February 17, 2009

    I think that if religious apologists can evade, say, the fact that prayer experiments don’t work by saying “god knows when he’s being tested”, then they have to accept that we can CONTROL god. If we just want him not to answer any specific prayers, we’ll just build a scientific statistical test around them! We can MAKE GOD not answer prayers!

    Ah, Ebert. Much like his reviews, he’ll get most of the details right, but fumble on something that shows a lack of complete concentration.

    That’s a great assessment, haha. I always look to Ebert’s review for the facts about movies, not his conclusions.

  44. #44 Shygetz
    February 17, 2009

    @40–Actually, since you invoke magic, you may be treading more into semantics with your version rather than epistemology. If atoms can do magic, does that make them god(s)? Regardless, most people agree that metaphysics is not constrained by epistemology, so there would be a large metaphysical difference between the tinkering of god(s) of inexplicable motivation and the magical self-arrangement of atoms. We would just be unable to tell the difference in any reliable way.

  45. #45 SteveM
    February 17, 2009

    I’m really not sure that religion contributes a great deal to the development of a robust and modern concept of morals and ethics though SteveM, no more than science and regular philosophy.

    I don’t necessarily disagree. What I am trying to articulate (poorly it seems) is that “religion” as Gould uses it (or as I understood Gould to be using it) is not Catholicism, or Christianity, or Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, etc. That it is everything but science. That it is the collection of philosophy, ethics, morality, hopes and dreams and such. It is how we codify questions like “why do we love” in terms other than “what are the chemical processes in the brain associated with the emotion of love”, for example.

  46. #46 Nangleator
    February 17, 2009

    Steve__C @12 “If Ghost Hunters® can run around using “gear” to “detect” paranormal I think we can butt in and call THAT bullshit.”

    To be fair to the plumbers, it really is gear, and not “gear.” And they seek to really detect things that aren’t paranormal and call bullshit before you ever do.

  47. #47 Screechy Monkey
    February 17, 2009

    Shygetz, I don’t think you’re really disagreeing with PZ at all. His post doesn’t claim that it’s impossible to come up with a religion or definition of god that is unfalsifiable and therefore untestable; it’s that those are not the religions and definitions of god that we encounter, except in these abstract NOMA discussions.

    As PZ wrote in his post:

    It seems to me that if you’re going to declare scientists helpless before the absence and irrelevance of the gods, you ought to declare likewise for all of god’s translators and interpreters. Be consistent when you announce who has purview over all religious belief, because making god unobservable and immeasurable makes everyone incapable of saying anything at all about it.

    So yes, you can claim to have an inscrutable, unknowable, unobservable god, but you can’t then claim to know and observe him, or follow those who do.

  48. #48 Sastra
    February 17, 2009

    Shygetz #35 wrote:

    I have to disagree with PZ here. If we allow the hypothesis of an omnipotent being that can and will muck with things for inexplicable reasons, then any result that is explainable by science can ALSO be explained by any number of just-so stories invoking god(s).

    I think that PZ’s point was that resorting to those sorts of strained, contorted, “unfalsifiable” excuses is unacceptable in every other area of life, and should be unacceptable to believers, as well. You can define absolutely anything around any sort of disconfirming evidence, if you’re desperate enough. But mark it as a strategy of desperation.

    Theists can often readily see the problem when dealing with paranormal claims. The dowser who fails the test and then insists that dowsing “is beyond any ability to test” is kidding himself. He means it’s beyond science’s ability to confirm. Because it doesn’t work. He just doesn’t like the negative result, is all.

    If God is simply taken on seriously, as a normal hypothesis, then it fails by the normal criteria. People don’t really believe in God “on faith.” They believe in it because they think there is a lot of evidence that points that way, and no natural hypotheses which explain the same things any better. If you ask people why they believe in God, they don’t just shrug, and say it’s a whim. They have what they think is powerful evidence, and a viable explanation for it.

  49. #49 E.V.
    February 17, 2009

    littlejohn: Did you actually read PZ’s post or did you skim? He championed Ebert, and liberal arts majors like him, throughout.

  50. #50 Don
    February 17, 2009

    Can you prove god does not exist?

    No.

    Aha!

    But I can prove your god doesn’t. Just tell me about him.

  51. #51 Margaret
    February 17, 2009

    That’s so nineteenth century of you, PZ.

  52. #52 J.D.
    February 17, 2009

    An interventionist god is testable with no supporting evidence to date. A god that cannot be tested do to no interactions with the universe is irrelevant and might as well not exist since, well it has no interactions with the universe. WWOD (What Would Occam Do?)

  53. #53 E.V.
    February 17, 2009

    Hmmmmm, could Nangleator possibly be a Ghost Hunters fanboi?

  54. #54 MZ
    February 17, 2009

    Also, most people claim to get their information about God from holy books, and those books clearly make scientifically observable or testable claims. The Bible describes the creation of the earth and animals. Does that square with our scientific understanding of how the earth was formed and life evolved?

    In Exodus, the Bible describes a large migration of Semitic people through the Sinai. Wherever people live, they leave behind archeological evidence like fire places, skeletons of animals that they ate, tools, etc. We have found evidence of neolithic camp sites and Roman outposts, where fewer than 100 people stayed. Exodus describes a migration of about 2 million people. They would have left overwhelming evidence, but none has been found. The exodus probably never happened, and Moses probably never existed.

    That doesn’t bode well for the Bible as a source of unerring truth.

  55. #55 Carlie
    February 17, 2009

    hypothesis was more about letting religion address issues of morality and ethics, irrespective of the question of God’s existence, while science addresses the “mechanics” of the universe. What is often abbreviated to “the ‘how’ versus the ‘why’”.

    Which is also a load of hooey. Religion does a shit job on morality. Killing is bad, unless God tells you to, then you’re a paragon of virtue for doing the killing. Shunning people and excommunicating people is bad, unless God tells you to, then you have to because otherwise God will smite you too. Do exactly what the Bible tells you to do here, but not there, and if you guess which part is which wrong you’ll be tortured for eternity. And have a nice day!

  56. #56 Shygetz
    February 17, 2009

    @47, 48–PZ would have had a valid point IF Ebert said “Science has no opinion on religion, but priests have reliable opinions on religion.” If Ebert said that, PZ should really highlight it better in his post.

    But he didn’t say that, did he? Did he even imply that priests have reliable knowledge of god(s)? Not that I saw. So PZ is lambasting Ebert for something Ebert neither said nor implied.

    God is not to be taken seriously as a normal scientific hypothesis because it is unfalsifiable (probably by design). Unfalsifiable hypotheses are not necessarily false; they are merely unapproachable by our sole reliable means of knowing. Therefore, to extend from Ebert, science holds no opinion on religion (or any other non-falsifiable hypothesis). Doesn’t make revealed knowledge on such matters reliable, just points out a feature of science.

  57. #57 Sastra
    February 17, 2009

    littlejohn #42 wrote:

    PZ, I think you should give Ebert a break…Let’s welcome him with open arms and be gentle with our corrections.

    I think that’s pretty much what PZ did. He praised Ebert first, and then selected a part where he disagrees, and explained why he disagrees.

    Many times, the arguments you need to pay the most attention to are the ones coming from the people who are closest to you in viewpoint — because those are going to be better arguments, and thus deserve to be addressed. If you are a cosmologist, you’re more likely to get into a dispute with a colleague who disagrees with some point in your area of expertise, and less likely to waste time taking on Velikovsky (except as an exercise.)

    Atheists tend to get damned either way. If we go after Fundamentalists, we’re guilty of taking on easy targets. Go after reasonable theists, and hey — we should be glad these guys are otherwise reasonable, and lay off.

  58. #58 Screechy Monkey
    February 17, 2009

    “Why drive [Ebert] away over piddling matters.”

    I highly doubt that PZ’s restrained critique is going to “drive away” a man who issues criticism for a living, and who just directed some criticism “our” way.

    Allies who think they should be able to bitch about atheists and not receive any critical response aren’t really allies at all.

  59. #59 Nangleator
    February 17, 2009

    Fanboi is a strong word…

  60. #60 Shygetz
    February 17, 2009

    @52–

    An interventionist god is testable with no supporting evidence to date.

    Not if said god chose not to be found. How would you test for something that was constrained by no physical laws? It could alter the world and simultaneously alter perception of the world to prevent knowledge of the intervention…how do you test for that? You can’t.

  61. #61 jeff
    February 17, 2009

    Science can easily dismantle a great number of specific religious beliefs. But if you equate science with the sort of thought police that forbids you to entertain deep metaphysical questions like “what’s all this, then?”, then I fear you may be traveling down the road to creationist-strength delusion. Those questions are part and parcel of existing and being human, and attempting to suppress them is akin to asking teens to abstain from sex. If you do ask them however, please make sure you’re wearing some kind of mental protection.

  62. #62 Rick R
    February 17, 2009

    Just delurking to say I absolutely love Sastra’s posts.
    She’s a terrifically clear and lucid writer.

    I’m developing a cybercrush.

    (But I read and enjoy everyone’s posts.)

  63. #63 smijer
    February 17, 2009

    There’s no need to be too hypothetical here. We have a certain set of religious claims made by real religious people. Why not analyze them and see how we can use science to evaluate them?

    This one, for instance: God answers prayers by speaking to me through my conscience.

    What is the test for that?

  64. #64 Sastra
    February 17, 2009

    Steve M #45 wrote:

    What I am trying to articulate (poorly it seems) is that “religion” as Gould uses it (or as I understood Gould to be using it) is not Catholicism, or Christianity, or Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, etc. That it is everything but science. That it is the collection of philosophy, ethics, morality, hopes and dreams and such.

    But that’s exactly the problem. Gould took the fields of philosophy and ethics — areas which deal with human questions — and handed them over to the religionists. That belongs to them. Morals and meaning.

    Atheists are left with — well, we would have been able to use philosophy and ethics, but now we can’t.

    If Gould meant Philosophy and Ethics, he should not label them “Religion.” Religion is a subset of Philosophy. Religious ethics are a subset of Ethics. What he did amounts to saying that atheists can’t have morals and meaning without God.

    As an atheist, he should know better. If you can redefine “real religion” as being equivalent to “secular humanism,” you haven’t brought everyone together in happy harmony. You fucked with a bunch of words in order to confuse the issue.

  65. #65 MZ
    February 17, 2009

    Indeed. Sastra needs a blog.

  66. #66 Liberal Atheist
    February 17, 2009

    Indeed, this is what I try to tell everyone who say that the question of god is beyond science. Nonsense of course. A claim that god exist is a claim about the real, actual world.

  67. #67 JackH
    February 17, 2009

    quite right too. if you can’t prove it – it doesn’t exist. i might belive you have killed my wife but unless i can prove it, it never happened. regardless of the depth of my belief, how much i ‘feel’ it to be true, etc.

  68. #68 Alex
    February 17, 2009

    You fucked with a bunch of words in order to confuse the issue.

    And a great technique it is to shield unsupportable ideas from scrutiny! A great tool of the faithful.

  69. #69 Holbach
    February 17, 2009

    Science should sit back and not make comments on religious nonsense and pretend that it is a different set of ideas of which science has no right to intrude? Science deals with the real and rational; religion deals with neither and tries to belittle science when it has the gall to remind religion that its precepts are lunacy. To my mind and demeanor, science is not forceful enough to get religion to prove all its wacky ideas and thereby trumping science in other than its avowed discipline. Too many scientists are reluctant to tread on loony religion’s territory in a manner that suggests uneasiness of some unknown entity, or of unduly riling the moderate faithful who have no gripe with the world of science. Too many scientists also want to be part of both worlds, and yet the science part is akin to being held hostage by the religious mind that is unwilling to unfetter irrational trappings from the very discipline that bolsters his dishonest duality. As mentioned, Gould also was taken in by his overlapping magasterial crap, and a close reading of his books will reveal this attitude. Several articles in the New York Review Of Books took him to task over this disingenuous leaning.
    Will it ever dawn on the minds that hold religious beliefs that it is those very minds in which the very idea of gods were formed and not by some outside force come down to instill it physically and give insane rise to the whole miasmic muck? What is the overwhelming barrier to comprehending this blatant reality? Why is it that many of us have sensibly realized this simple truth, and yet cannot entice others to open their minds and see the obvious? We all reap the benefits of science and rational progress, and yet the religionists understand and relegate all of it to an unknown and imaginary god in spite of the facts to the contrary? It would be wrong for science to assume a hands off attitude on the question of religion, just as it would to let religion intrude into lives and minds unchallenged and unchecked.

  70. #70 Somnolent Aphid
    February 17, 2009

    there’s no point in believing in irrelevant gds, but what other kinds are there to believe in? (since we are in a movie mood) as woody allen said, we need the eggs.

  71. #71 Screechy Monkey
    February 17, 2009

    PZ would have had a valid point IF Ebert said “Science has no opinion on religion, but priests have reliable opinions on religion.” If Ebert said that, PZ should really highlight it better in his post.

    But he didn’t say that, did he? Did he even imply that priests have reliable knowledge of god(s)? Not that I saw. So PZ is lambasting Ebert for something Ebert neither said nor implied.

    Are you being delibertately dense? Religion’s very purpose is to purport to have reliable knowledge of gods. It doesn’t matter whether Ebert claimed that priests are RIGHT about anything — the point is that if it’s “wrong” to opine about things that are unknowable, untestable, and unfalsifiable, then pretty much all religion is useless. Scientists who point that out aren’t the ones making untestable claims; they’re just doing exactly what Ebert purports to be doing.

  72. #72 JackH
    February 17, 2009

    So where did these confident promoters of god-business get their information?
    answer: the bible!

    which is why many monotheists have such a problem with evolution. if evolution is right then the bible must be…

    if the bible isn’t god’s word then what is he really thinking? does he even exist? such questions do not comfortably sit within a faith-based position!

  73. #73 Crudely Wrott
    February 17, 2009

    It’s always music to my ears when someone asks a question like PZ asks above:

    So where did these confident promoters of god-business get their information?

    I just chuckle softly and with a conspiratory wink answer, “They make it up as they go.”

  74. #74 Sastra
    February 17, 2009

    jeff #61 wrote:

    But if you equate science with the sort of thought police that forbids you to entertain deep metaphysical questions like “what’s all this, then?”, then I fear you may be traveling down the road to creationist-strength delusion.

    It seems to me that every “deep metaphysical question” like “what’s all this, then?” really just translates to “what important, significant, central role do {{{{ I }}}} play in this drama of reality?” Go ahead and ask the questions. But science apparently answers that the universe doesn’t seem to be a place where man is cosmically special and center stage. It appears to be indifferent, and morals are not infused into its very nature.

    If the people who ask the deep, metaphysical questions are incapable of accepting this as the most likely reply — and instead search around for a new answer using faith and hope and wishes — then that doesn’t necessarily make them “deep.” Nor does it make their question meaningful.

    I don’t know. It seems to me that theists who exempt God from science for such reasons are like those folks who say that astronomy is all very good in its place — it will tell you about stars and planets and The Big Bang and everything. But so what? It just isn’t capable of telling us what the stars and planets are trying to tell us about our lives, our personalities, our choices, and who we should marry. You know. Meaningful answers for the reason the stars are moving around. The “why” behind it all. Us.

    For that, we need the deep, metaphysical science of astrology, which is so much more meaningful than astronomy, because it’s not so cold.

  75. #75 Tom Woolf
    February 17, 2009

    I don’t think science cares, or even should care, about god. If a particular scientist chooses to believe that a “higher being” (Jehova? Allah? The Easter Bunny? Frosty the Snowman?) made the rules that science is trying to figure out, so be it.

    But I just don’t think that scientists are going about proving the existence or non-existence of a particular god (or snowman). I know this falls dangerously close to the “scientists care about the How, theologians care about the Why”, but it is not intended to. Scientists DO care about the How, AND the Why. “Why” just happens to be that next step past the current How, which is unknown (at least unknown now).

  76. #76 Crudely Wrott
    February 17, 2009

    Nice timing, JackH!

  77. #77 Whateverman
    February 17, 2009

    PZ Meyers wrote:

    Why can’t science address the existence of gods? Why should we simply sit back and accept the claim of apologists that what they believe in is not subject to “observation, measurement, and experiment”?

    Cosmology pays no attention to what came before the Big Bang, and that’s because all of our ideas and theories break down *at* the event in question. That’s not to say that physicists shouldn’t try to find an answer, nor is it a claim that Nothing happened before it. It’s simply a concession that we (science) have no way of knowing right now – so we’ll discount it.

    As far as testable claims made by theists, science should most certainly debunk where it’s possible. But as for the untestable existence of a deity, I agree with R.Ebert on this: science should take no position other than to say “That’s not something science is concerned with”.

    From my reading of your opinion on this, Mr. Meyers, it seems like you’re walking a fine line between Occam’s Razor and a-religious activism. That’s your call, obviously, but as long as testable predictions aren’t being made, science really has no role to play in the debate (IMHO).

    As an aside, I do agree entirely that there’s a theological assault on knowledge and reason. Other than to continue to educate and make sure that science is recognized for the overwhelming good it has done for humanity, I don’t know what else can be done.

  78. #78 BdN
    February 17, 2009
  79. #79 SteveM
    February 17, 2009

    If Gould meant Philosophy and Ethics, he should not label them “Religion.” Religion is a subset of Philosophy. Religious ethics are a subset of Ethics. What he did amounts to saying that atheists can’t have morals and meaning without God.

    I do agree, but what of ostensibly atheist religions like Unitarians and Buddhists?

  80. #80 Sastra
    February 17, 2009

    MZ #65 wrote:

    Indeed. Sastra needs a blog.

    Sastra is too lazy.

    (But thanks all ;)

  81. #81 Quiet_Desperation
    February 17, 2009

    I always seem to be the oddball. I’m an evolutionist who does not see it as very magnificent. I don’t even capitalize it. For me it falls under the heading of “shit happens.” ;-) And it wasn’t really self evident until I had learned about genetics and related things as a kid.

  82. #82 Chad Brown
    February 17, 2009

    *claps*

    Bravo sir, bravo.. You just made my day.. I rarely am able to read something that actually makes me go “yeah!” with concurrence in my head.. :)

  83. #83 Desert Son
    February 17, 2009

    Sastra’s post at #74 (about humanity’s occasional narcissistic exceptionalism) wins the Internets, as far as I’m concerned. Awesome, succinct, cogent, and razor sharp. That November 2007 accolade is well deserved.

    No kings,

    Robert

  84. #84 Crudely Wrott
    February 17, 2009

    Whateverman, cosmology doesn’t address what came before the Big Bang because cosmologists know that there is no way for any information from that era to get here. It’s one of the central tenants, even. Falls out of the numbers.

    This is much like the dilemma that believers face. Since, by definition and by confession, an apologist will ultimately claim their god to be beyond human inspection. Its purpose and motivation are hidden from us. Combined with a total failure of the search for authentic evidence of such supernatural influence in our observation of the cosmos we find ourselves in, this certainly says that no information flows from a god to this universe.

    That “edifies” me, as we used to say at Revival Tabernacle, so many punctured assumptions ago.

  85. #85 Swimmy
    February 17, 2009

    This is absolutely my favorite blog post on the topic of seperate magisteria–a post which lended significant weight to my deconvserion. It got me out of nonsense presuppositionalist thinking with a forceful argument: the Bible is evidentialist through and through. It never claims such a thing as to be non-disprovable. It shouts over and over that its truth is evident.

  86. #86 Matt
    February 17, 2009

    I would simply argue that saying an entity has no observable impact on the universe at all is basically the best definition we have of nonexistence. By creating NOMA, these idiots defined their god out of existence, but still don’t realize it. I don’t think the idea of a god that started everything but is now unobservable holds any weight either, because if there is not explicit evidence, then there is no reason to assume the existence of the god. The deist type of God has been placed out of the reach of existence, and hence, does not exist. Please stick to movie reviews, Ebert.

  87. #87 Alex
    February 17, 2009

    but as long as testable predictions aren’t being made

    Religion currently, and historically, makes plenty of positive claims about reality. Using magical thinking in their positive claims is simply their way of protecting their emotional false beliefs from scrutiny. It’s an old trick we learn from childhood. As adults, it’s bullshit, especially when it interferes with real knowledge the world needs. I think perhaps, that was part of PZ’s point.

  88. #88 AmericanGodless
    February 17, 2009

    Sastra (post 11) gives a lot of good examples of things that we should be able to observe if the god hypothesis were correct. http://www.10ch.org (post 14) argues that nothing observable could ever prove the existence of the omnipotent. Right, both of you.

    Now can we see what is going on here? ALL knowledge is approximate. We don’t “know” the world is round (and precisely round, it isn’t). That’s not a quibble, it’s the very human and fallible truth of the matter. It is probably round, and it appears to be approximately round to any precision we find it useful to persue. But absolute knowledge will always escape us, if we play by the rules of science: observe, reason, and tell the truth to the best of our ability.

    Richard Dawkins has said it: there almost certainly is no god. Not absolutely, but almost certainly. Why? Because every time someone looks at something that is supposed to show the hand of god in action, the invisible hand proves to be invisible. In case after case, the evidence turns up negative. Fine. Except that then the godly tell us that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence — And that is unadulterated BS. Negative evidence, when there is enough of it, adds up.

    Look up something called Bayesian reasoning, or Bayesian statistics. It shows how, if a hypothesis makes predictions that never turn out to be confirmed, then the probability that we live in a world where the hypothesis holds at all, becomes ever smaller with every failure to confirm.

    There is, of course, still a loophole for the religionists: You have to take your hypothesis as a hypothesis. Note the title of Stenger’s book: God, the Failed Hypothesis. Sorry, Victor, but to the believers, God (capital C) is not and never will be an hypothesis. Try applying the Bayesian formula to that. As long as the probability P(God) = 1, it will forever remain P(God) = 1, no matter how many times it fails to deliver. God is not to be taken as the same as any other claim — it gets to be true in spite of epic failure. This is called “Special Pleading,” and was invented for the sake of religion.

    Come on, atheists, recognize what you are up against. You want to reason with the god-besotted. No chance, because they don’t play by the rules. When you have the absolute truth, there are no rules. The only chance we have is to convince those who can be convinced that fair is fair, and all ideas should be allowed to compete on a level ground. And then try telling that to the Reverends, the Rabbis, the Ayatollahs; and now, to the UN.

    Your work is cut out for you.

  89. #89 Heliprogenus
    February 17, 2009

    Well said PZ.

    This old Gould argument that science and religion are based on some “non-overlapping magestria” is utterly senseless dribble. How can one speak of the rigors of science, and yet allow that there’s this unknowing thing that science cannot explain. Well, how unknowing is this explanation? The problems here are with many people clinging to the possibility that there’s something out there. It has less to do with using analytical skills towards religion, and more to do with the fear of death. Some people are so mortified by the implications that there’s absolutely nothing, that their inner subconscious hopes for something that may be meta-scientific so their deepest fears can be satiated. Well sorry, but that doesn’t justify subverting the very tools of science that have explained our universe so well.

  90. #90 tomh
    February 17, 2009

    Crudely Wrott wrote: cosmology doesn’t address what came before the Big Bang because cosmologists know that there is no way for any information from that era to get here.

    Not all cosmologists would agree with that. There are already tantalizing hints of a time before the big bang. It’s just a matter of time before more is known than we can now imagine.

  91. #91 Kobra
    February 17, 2009

    So read Ebert’s article, it’s good, it expresses considerable common sense. However, you know me ? there are bits that provoke me to draw out the razor-edged claymore of angry scientist and start slashing indiscriminately.

    So PZ is wielding Occam’s Razor-Edge?

  92. #92 ctenotrish
    February 17, 2009

    A razor-edged claymore AND a cyberpistol? You are either ambidextrous or you really are a cephalopod, probably using another set of arms to madly type blog posts, lectures, and – dare we hope – books! Either way, I am suitably impressed. :) ctenotrish

  93. #93 Brownian
    February 17, 2009

    As an aside, I do agree entirely that there’s a theological assault on knowledge and reason. Other than to continue to educate and make sure that science is recognized for the overwhelming good it has done for humanity, I don’t know what else can be done.

    I’ve been pushing for the community to get on board with my “Just eat ‘em” strategy for dealing with creationists, but so far I’ve met with limited success. Scientifically, I’d take this as evidence that I’m out to–heh-heh–lunch, but instead I’ll redefine it in theological terms and interpret it as proof that I’m a living messiah of socio-political cannibalism and such persecution merely reinforces the conviction that this issue is what the gods want me to dedicate my life to.

  94. #94 littlejohn
    February 17, 2009

    You’re right, #49. I just skimmed. Then I strangled a baby. Being gentle is such a bad idea.
    It could lead to support from people who agree with us only 99% of the time. Those apostates must die.
    I’m feeling a sudden desire to grow a beard and and wear a turban.
    Thanks for setting me straight.

  95. #95 frog
    February 17, 2009

    PZ: This is where the “Science has no opinion on religion” argument leads us: to an atheist’s world, where there are no activities by a god that matter, where at best people can claim that their god is aloof and unknowable, admitting in their own premises that they have no knowledge at all of him.

    Yes — NOMA leads us either to a world where science is just a technical feat (the Catholic view, where this world is essentially just an engineering problem, and the world of symbols is what matters) or one where religion is reduced to simply an aesthetic choice, one of beauty but not of Truth.

    I’m cool with the latter. I’m fine with that NOMA. But those who pretend that NOMA means equivalency — well, they lack intellectual depth, anthropological knowledge, philosophical value, and in short, should shut the fuck up.

  96. #96 Al
    February 17, 2009

    I think you might have confused categories in your blog entry. It is obvious that creationism as a position necessarily entails religious people/religion (if we assume it invokes a god/God). However, that does not imply that all religions are creationist. Thus, your statement that there is “an explicit ideological barrier that hampers understanding,” might be a confusion of that categorical exclusion. I’m not sure if you were addressing this toward religion or just creationism, but I thought that distinction ought to be made.
    As to God, most major religions that believe in a monotheistic deity, either theist or deist, tend to believe it can be known through use of reason without faith. That, of course, is in dispute by some US Protestants (fideism being the position that no such knowledge is possible outside faith), but it has been and still is a rather widely held position. If we assumed the position that God’s existence could be known without faith, it would probably be in a philosophical rather than purely scientific setting that the question of God would be decided (not because no evidence exists, but because the evidence would be something cross- or supra-experimental, like claims about God’s existence being necessary for anything else to exist; these would apply to all possible experiments and hence has to do more with interpreting the data).

  97. #97 jeff
    February 17, 2009

    It seems to me that every “deep metaphysical question” like “what’s all this, then?” really just translates to “what important, significant, central role do {{{{ I }}}} play in this drama of reality?”

    Hmmm, I fail to see how “what’s all this, then?” necessarily translates to “what important role do {{I}} play”. Sounds like a forced conflation or strawman. Most metaphysical questions deal with nature of reality, origins, times, etc – kinda like science questions, but difficult or impossible to answer through science, at least yet. Some questions are poorly formed, some aren’t. Even consciousness and morality questions can be viewed in the third person. To pooh-pooh them is like banning curiosity. The people who ask these kinds of questions ask them honestly and openly, because they wonder about the nature of reality just like you do. In some cases they may be less educated in the sciences than you, but some cases more.

  98. #98 Stephen Wells
    February 17, 2009

    On consideration, I think the right comeback to questions about God is to ask: what is a god? What properties does such a thing have, that I might know it? It’s missing a trick to allow people to use the term “God” as if we all agree on what that is. Ask for specifics.

  99. #99 heliobates
    February 17, 2009

    @Whateverman

    …but as long as testable predictions aren’t being made, science really has no role to play in the debate (IMHO).

    You’re missing this point (from TFA):

    They make specific claims about their god’s nature, what he’s made of and what he isn’t, how he thinks and acts, what you should do to propitiate it?they somehow seem to have amazingly detailed information about this being. Yet, when a scientist approaches with a critical eye, suddenly it is a creature that not only has never been observed, but cannot observed, and its actions invisible, impalpible, and immaterial.

    When are we ever dealing with weak Spinozan/Einsteinian deists? Any religious claim that relies on revealed truth–and what religious claim doesn’t–makes “testable predictions” of one sort or another (how was it “revealed”?) These tests may lie within the purview of history, archaeology or anthropology, rather than biology or physics, but there are scientific approaches available to investigate whether these claims are probable.

    It’s entirely appropriate to hold these claims up to scrutiny and if the religious don’t have anything else to support their beliefs, whose problem is that?

  100. #100 Glen Davidson
    February 17, 2009

    A bit, not all that much, OT:

    The Senate Education Committee on Monday narrowly defeated legislation to allow classroom discussion of alternative theories to evolution, along with other topics where science conflicts with religious or moral viewpoints.

    The vote was 7-6 against Sen. Randy Brogdon’s Scientific Education and Academic Freedom Act.

    Brogdon, R-Owasso, said science teachers in his district fear retribution for bringing up alternative theories on a wide range of subjects, such as evolution and stem cell research.

    Sen. Richard Lerblance, D-McAlester, called the measure a subterfuge that would lead to teaching of theories based on religious viewpoints and not science.

    “Senate Bill 320 is a wolf dressed in sheep’s skin,” Lerblance said, predicting it was a first step toward teaching intelligent design in Oklahoma schools.

    “This is the biggest case of window dressing that I’ve seen” and “a direct slap at education,” Lerblance added.

    The theory of an intelligent design to the universe and life has been advanced to counter court rulings prohibiting the teaching of creationism as science.

    Brogdon said he did not mandate anything in his legislation, other than to allow teachers and students to have “an open dialogue on many types of issues.”

    Sen. Susan Paddack, D-Ada, noted that Brogdon’s bill was endorsed by a preacher who spoke to the Senate last week and issued a warning about spreading atheism.

    Brogdon said the minister spoke from the heart and his sentiments would probably be supported by “80 percent, probably 90 percent of Oklahomans.”

    Sen. Jim Halligan, R-Stillwater, was among those voting against the measure.

    Halligan objected to a provision he said would allow students to refuse to answer test questions on a subject because they did not believe what was being taught in textbooks.

    http://www.newsok.com/oklahoma-bill-to-promote-intelligent-design-talk-fails/article/3346291

    Although a narrow committee defeat, it’s great to see people on legislative committees understanding exactly what the problem is, and opposing creationism because it’s non-scientific and religious.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/6mb592

  101. #101 Brownian
    February 17, 2009

    Hmmm, I fail to see how “what’s all this, then?” necessarily translates to “what important role do {{I}} play”. Sounds like a forced conflation or strawman. Most metaphysical questions deal with nature of reality, origins, times, etc – kinda like science questions, but difficult or impossible to answer through science, at least yet. Some questions are poorly formed, some aren’t. Even consciousness and morality questions can be viewed in the third person. To pooh-pooh them is like banning curiosity. The people who ask these kinds of questions ask them honestly and openly, because they wonder about the nature of reality just like you do. In some cases they may be less educated in the sciences than you, but some cases more.

    That was one of the most vacuous paragraphs I’ve ever read. What questions about the ‘nature of reality’ are kinda like science but not? What’S a well-formed question in metaphysics as opposed to a poorly-formed one. How the hell is anyone to argue this unless you give some specifics to support your vague claims?

    Or was that the point–a subtle indictment of the weighty questions religions purports to answer while science sits back helpless via parody?

  102. #102 Sastra
    February 17, 2009

    Steve M #79 wrote:

    I do agree, but what of ostensibly atheist religions like Unitarians and Buddhists?

    I think they’re hard to classify, because there’s a lot of variation in both of them. On one end of the spectrum, these “religions” deal only with how we ought to live and treat each other in the natural world, which technically makes them “life philosophies,” similar in a lot of ways to secular humanism.

    But in both the Unitarian Universalist Church, and in some varieties of Buddhism, you can also find a lot of supernaturalism and magical belief (sometimes with theism, sometimes without.) I think you can have an atheistic religion as long as there’s still some sort of belief in something like Cosmic Consciousness, Karma, vitalism, magic, prana, substance dualism, the souls of ancestors watching over one, a universe infused with values, or some other supernatural aspect to reality.

    But imo if it’s natural all the way down, then it’s not a religion — it’s turned into a life philosophy. (UU is particularly hard to classify, because there is no Creed on what to believe about God or anything, and so you get hard-nosed secular humanist atheist skeptics AND Wiccans AND liberal Christians, in a sort of social club where people light candles to honor human rights.) Calling it “religion” anyway isn’t ecumenical, it’s confusing.

  103. #103 Sam C
    February 17, 2009

    Science has no opinion…

    True enough. Science doesn’t have an opinion. Scientists have opinions.

    I suspect many science-side folk who say “religion, no guv, can’t tell you anything about that” are doing so out of politeness, to avoid ultimately unproductive arguments and disagreement. It might not go down well here, but I think it can be a good idea to keep one’s mouth shut in the cause of living together harmoniously.

    And when that the harmonious state of affairs disappears? Yeah, gloves off.

    Of course, if science’s outlook is “methodological naturalism”, that pre-supposes that naturalism is all one needs. That can be presented as saying that the supernatural is out of bounds for discussion in science, but that’s not really honest – the underlying assumption is that supernatural entities/forces are unimportant in the natural world. And the natural world is our world. So that does amount to an assumption that the supernatural does not exist.

  104. #104 Andyo
    February 17, 2009

    Speaking of entertainment and Darwin, I just caught this on Conan the other day. It’s a group called They Might be Giants. They might be popular, actually. I have no idea with new bands.

  105. #105 MLE
    February 17, 2009

    it’s good, it expresses considerable common sense

    Over reliance on so-called “common sense” is misplaced, and I hate seeing PZ Myers fall for it. Common sense is nothing but an individuals learned heuristics for skating by usually with as little actual thought as possible. It is often wrong (Quantum mechanics as an extreme example) and definitely inconsistent. If the article is good, it should be because it is easy to comprehend, accurate, precise, eloquent, or any number of other attributes. I’ll read it, but only because I have learned PZ’s recommendations have a high probability of being good for these other attributes. Based on the description, however, I’m expecting an article that, while maybe reaching conclusions I agree with, does not express much originality of thought. I also would have expected PZ to have as much of a distaste for common sense as I do, as falsely held common sense views often impair acceptance of facts and science. (Done ranting)

  106. #106 dahduh
    February 17, 2009

    God’s fat as a helephant
    or completely irrelephant.

  107. #107 Smidgy
    February 17, 2009

    Science deals with that which can be studied or inferred by observation, measurement, and experiment.

    And all studying, measurement and experimentation to date has utterly failed to come up with any definite evidence of the existence of God. Therefore, if you want to be totally scientific about it, you have to operate on the assumption that God does not exist, unless that changes.

  108. #108 Sastra
    February 17, 2009

    jeff #97 wrote:

    Hmmm, I fail to see how “what’s all this, then?” necessarily translates to “what important role do {{I}} play”. Sounds like a forced conflation or strawman.

    I suppose I was specifically translating your question into “what is the meaning of life?” — which I think does tend to lead into personalizing the universe. If you’re using it in the broader sense — what is the nature of reality, what is time, what is consciousness, how ought we to live — then you’re right. Some questions can be addressed by science, and some of them can’t. I didn’t mean to completely dismiss metaphysics as a category.

    But I think there are a lot of things placed in that category which don’t necessarily belong there. A pervasive disembodied Mind made out of Goodness and acting through the Power of Intentional Will to Create Matter and Energy may be one of them.

  109. #109 heliobates
    February 17, 2009

    I have no idea with new bands.

    They started as a duo in 1982.

    They won a grammy for “Boss of me” (Malcolm in the Middle theme) in 2002.

    Kids these days, with their new-fangled music…

  110. #110 Alethios
    February 17, 2009

    Apologies if this has already been mentioned, I didn’t have time to read through all the comments.

    By my understanding, Gould’s NOMA was a tool of his to try and keep creationism out of the classroom. People often forget NOMA was intended to go both ways, and that part of it’s message was to keep creationism in it’s own magisteria to be taught only the church.

  111. #111 plum grenville
    February 17, 2009

    NOMA was a lapse on Gould’s part. Obviously he wanted to leave religious believers with something.

    NOMA isn’t just out to lunch in suggesting that religions don’t make claims about the real world. It’s also out to lunch in assigning ethics to religion. Religions have screwed almost as badly there as they have in the “how” realm.

    (Secular) ethics, as studied in philosophy departments, may never reach the level of certainty and overwhelming agreement that science provides us with, but it is like science, and unlike religion, in important respects.

    Ethics adheres to logic, it demands that principles be applied consistently, it accepts nothing on authority, it invites debate as an essential means of getting closer to the truth. Ethical understanding has progressed over time.

    Ethics belongs in the camp of clear thinking – a magisterium which I grant hardly overlaps with religion.

  112. #112 Brownian
    February 17, 2009

    When are we ever dealing with weak Spinozan/Einsteinian deists?

    Yeah, it’s funny how every theist becomes one when calling out an atheist on the existence of (a) god(s); not so much when petitioning Mary to intercede on behalf of little ol’ Mrs. O’Leary and her multiple sclerosis.

  113. #113 plun grenville
    February 17, 2009

    it’s message was to keep creationism in it’s own magisteria to

    Ouch, Alethios. Please, please learn the difference between “it’s” and “its.” Do you feel a compulsion to put an apostrophe in “his”?

    And it’s (note the apostrophe here) “magisterium” when singular. Gould was a bit of pedant, so he used the Latin form for the plural. “Magisteriums” would be acceptable English, imo.

  114. #114 Tucker
    February 17, 2009

    The humorous and coincidental thing is I just ran across a paper published in the “Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion” regarding belief and genetics. I wonder what their opinion on the topic is.

  115. #115 Andyo
    February 17, 2009

    Posted by: heliobates | February 17, 2009 4:01 PM

    I have no idea with new bands.

    They started as a duo in 1982.

    They won a grammy for “Boss of me” (Malcolm in the Middle theme) in 2002.

    Kids these days, with their new-fangled music…

    Well, then they were too old for me, I guess. Seems they like their Darwin. I don’t know anything about new bands after ’95, ’96. I like some Argentinian rock from the 70′s though.

  116. #116 plum grenville
    February 17, 2009

    When are we ever dealing with weak Spinozan/Einsteinian deists

    Has deism ever been an institutionalized religion? Hasn’t it always been a minority view held by individuals who are considered heretics?

  117. #117 Andyo
    February 17, 2009

    By the way, trying to remember the Malcolm in the Middle theme, but all I got is that cheesy Friends theme in my head. Thanks a lot.

  118. #118 AmericanGodless
    February 17, 2009

    Sam C:

    Of course, if science’s outlook is “methodological naturalism”, that pre-supposes that naturalism is all one needs. That can be presented as saying that the supernatural is out of bounds for discussion in science, but that’s not really honest – the underlying assumption is that supernatural entities/forces are unimportant in the natural world. And the natural world is our world. So that does amount to an assumption that the supernatural does not exist.

    I have never understood this notion of “methodological naturalism”. Do you keep your naturalism in the laboratory, and hang it up alongside your lab coat? Can we also talk about “methodological evolutionism?” How is it that something that, like evolution, relativity, quantum mechanics, chemical bond theory, etc, figures in the design of many if not just about every experiment or investigation we undertake, and which could be falsified in so many ways (confirmed prophecy, rabbits in the Precambrian, almost anything from a creationist museum diorama, or the equivalent in DNA analysis..) is called a “methodology” and not a “unifying theory?”

    I once suggested to Eugenie Scott, at the end of one of her public talks, that what she was calling “methodological naturalism” seemed to me to be something that was tested all the time, has been repeatedly confirmed as probably true, and is one of the most firmly supported theories binding all of science together. She agreed, privately. But she won’t say so publicly.

    Why? PR. Ugh. As the story goes, a grandmother commenting on her grandson’s new career in PR: “I know what public is, and I know what relations is, but relations? …In public?”

  119. #119 Kel
    February 17, 2009

    The only ones who make God unobservable are the deists who put god beyond all measure. Theists are just apologists for the absence of evidence.

  120. #120 DiscoveredJoys
    February 17, 2009

    As per Stephen Wells, #98

    I think you are right to say that if you are going to debate the possible existence of a God or Gods and His/Its/Their detectability through the scientific method, then first you have to define the type of god you are talking about. There are so many different gods available, but three types seem the most common.

    1) The in-your-face God of last Thursday. The god you are talking about is intimately involved in everything that happens, and manipulates what we perceive to maintain some sort of god narrative (e.g. the Universe was created last Thursday, but god has planted scientific evidence to suggest that the Universe is 14 billion years old). In this case, methodological naturalism cannot be relied upon, nor can religious texts or beliefs. All bets are off; no-one could claim certainty of anything. Why worry?

    2) The personal god. This god carries particular auxillary assumptions, for example that he intervenes in the natural world, humans are ‘made in his image’, and therefore his motivations are understandable to us. Although such a god might choose to leave no scientifically measurable evidence of his intervention, I think the authority of priests/pastors/imams etc requires that some intervention should be detectable – after all they claim to speak for their particular god(s). On the balance of probabilities and in the absence of such evidence, no such god exists (or is worth worrying about).

    3) The impersonal or distant god. If there is or was some sort of supreme being at the ‘beginning of time’, or not concerned at all about humans, then there may be no detectable evidence of intervention in our natural world – because none exists. You could speculate that this type of god was only concerned about the birth of stars, or the evolution of dinosaurs, or the growth of crystals on a planet far, far, away. We could be just the byproduct of the gods actions aimed elsewhere. Essentially this type of god would be ‘unknowable’ to us and unconcerned about us. Once again, no such god would be worth worrying about.

    Of course new evidence could change a rational person’s mind. Even that nice Prof. Dawkins says he would change his mind in such circumstances…

  121. #121 CalGeorge
    February 17, 2009

    Science demands evidence. Religion has none to offer. Zip. Zero. Zilch. And yet religious types go on endlessly about lack of proof and missing evidence in the areas of science they disagree with.

    What a joke.

  122. #122 Ichthyic
    February 17, 2009

    Science demands evidence. Religion has none to offer. Zip. Zero. Zilch. And yet religious types go on endlessly about lack of proof and missing evidence in the areas of science they disagree with.

    I still think BrokenSoldier said it best:

    “Science disagrees with religion for not being empirical or scientific, while religion attacks science for being a religion.”

    It’s all just a bunch of projection on the part of the religious.

  123. #123 Denis Loubet
    February 17, 2009

    How can anyone even IDENTIFY a god? Are they somehow comparing the god in question to a KNOWN god, or does the god have some sort of official identification card?

    The theists that claim they are in contact with god are claiming that they are infallible in their ability to identify supernatural beings. They even do this if their particular pantheon includes a Father of Lies character. Apparently, they consider themselves utterly immune to the lies of the Prince of Darkness — a supernatural being with unknown powers of persuasion — yet can be hornswoggled by a common used car salesman. Where do they get this infallible skill of supernatural identification?

    I think they’re lying. I don’t think they have that skill at all.

  124. #124 Brownian
    February 17, 2009

    The only ones who make God unobservable are the deists who put god beyond all measure.

    Pantheism’s god is similarly unmeasurable for the opposite reason: nothing is not-god.

    I had a brief stint as a pantheist whilst under the influence of a few mouthfuls of dried Psilocybe sp. The whole scene was eerily recreated about 0:35 seconds into George Lucas in Love.

  125. #125 Greta Christina
    February 17, 2009

    “religion” as Gould uses it (or as I understood Gould to be using it) is not Catholicism, or Christianity, or Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, etc. That it is everything but science. That it is the collection of philosophy, ethics, morality, hopes and dreams and such. It is how we codify questions like “why do we love” in terms other than “what are the chemical processes in the brain associated with the emotion of love”, for example. (#45)

    The problem with that is that the worlds of philosophy, ethics, morality, hopes and dreams and such, are still, as far as we can tell, the human world. In other words, the physical world.

    And adding in the supernatural to the worlds of philosophy, morality, etc. merely gunks up the works. It’s hard enough figuring that stuff out, without trying to calculate what an invisible spirit with no discernible effect on the world might or might not have to say about it.

    It makes no sense to concede these realms to religion. Doing so either redefines “religion” out of existence, as “anything having to do with irrational human emotion and experience”… or it once again tries to explain the physical world with a supernatural hypothesis that’s untestable at best and flatly contradicted by the evidence at worst.

    I agree with plum grenville (#111). NOMA was Gould’s misplaced attempt at diplomacy. I appreciate Gould’s desire to be conciliatory and throw believers a bone — it’s a noble impulse, and in other situations it’s an appropriate one — but in this case, it’s grossly misguided.

  126. #126 Craig
    February 17, 2009

    Is there some attention you can shine on this stupidity, PZ. The Nodaks need your help!

    LATEST NEWS: ND House OKs bill to challenge Roe v. Wade

    http://www.inforum.com/event/article/id/231343/

  127. #127 Paco
    February 17, 2009

    I’m tired of the “science has no opinion on religion” schtick as well. Here’s how I see it:

    Science has relatively little to say about how you experience your life, religion included. You like what you like, feel what you feel, and more power to you so long as you don’t mess with somebody else.

    But once you start preaching your religion at others, as the Revealed Truth — then science, reason, common sense and atheism have as much right to chime in as any other point of view.

    More right, because a point of view that can evaluate new data and integrate new conclusions has a lot more going for it than a Revealed Truth.

  128. #128 Greg Peterson
    February 17, 2009

    At their most sophisticated and nuanced, theology and apologetics might lead us to admit, with intellectual humility, that it is not impossible for a god of some kind to exist. Reeds this anemic cannot even support themselves, much less the dragonfly of a next thought on the issue.

  129. #129 Ichthyic
    February 17, 2009

    don’t know if anybody bothered to smack down Heddle this morning, but I’ll give it a go:

    Heddle sez:

    Exactly. Like another universe– another local minimum of the cosmic landscape. Can’t be observed, not even in principle. Meaningless.

    you’re deliberately being dishonest, as usual. Here’s why:

    WHERE did the postulation of a parallel universe come from, Heddle?

    It didn’t NEED to come from direct observation now, did it.

    It came straight out of the math. Will you move on to string theory next, just for kicks?

    When you can pull god’s ass from a math equation, do let us know, eh?

  130. #130 heddle
    February 17, 2009

    Ichthyic ,

    don’t know if anybody bothered to smack down Heddle this morning, but I’ll give it a go:

    Nobody bothered until you, and you failed miserably. To wit, the claim was: if it is unobservable, even in principle, it is meaningless. The claim was not, if it is unobservable, even in principle it is meaningless unless we have an equation for it, it which case it is chock-full O’ meaning. But feel free to move those goalposts.

    And please try to use a charge of “projection” in your next post. I try to depend on the little things.

    And when you can detect another local minimum in the cosmic landscape, do let us know, eh?

  131. #131 Tulse
    February 17, 2009

    How would you test for something that was constrained by no physical laws? It could alter the world and simultaneously alter perception of the world to prevent knowledge of the intervention…how do you test for that? You can’t.

    Right, and we could be all living in The Matrix, or you could actually be the only person in existence and an evil demon is making you see the world, or we could all be replicants with undetectable fake memories. Somehow I doubt that the religious would be comfortable accepting these as alternatives.

  132. #132 Wowbagger
    February 17, 2009

    Greg Peterson wrote:

    At their most sophisticated and nuanced, theology and apologetics might lead us to admit, with intellectual humility, that it is not impossible for a god of some kind to exist. Reeds this anemic cannot even support themselves, much less the dragonfly of a next thought on the issue.

    Well put. Recently there’ve been a lot of people come here and push the ‘god of the logical/philosophical gaps’ argument, and it was pointed out to them that any argument they could use for their god can be applied to any god – so even if we accept their argument they’ve still got the job of showing that it could only be their god suoported by that particular argument and not anyone else’s.

    It’s at that point all the sophistication and nuance fall away and real reasons for their religious belief – the result of an emotional episode, personal incredulity, coincidentally being born into the one true religion etc. – are revealed.

  133. #133 John Morales
    February 17, 2009

    Heddle,

    Nobody bothered until you, and you failed miserably. To wit, the claim was: if it is unobservable, even in principle, it is meaningless. The claim was not, if it is unobservable, even in principle it is meaningless unless we have an equation for it, it which case it is chock-full O’ meaning. But feel free to move those goalposts.

    Actually, your comparison was hardly apposite, since it’s not something that is asserted, but (as Ichthyic wrote) postulated because it comes from the math and has explanatory power, as opposed to claims that purportedly come from revelation and don’t. Also, your claim would suggest that consideration of anything outside our light-cone is meaningless since it can’t be observed even in principle.

  134. #134 co
    February 17, 2009

    What does “cosmic landscape” even mean? And what does a “local minimum” thereof mean? I am a physicist, so feel free to cast this into some mathy-speak if it makes the communication easier. Are we talkin’ some phase-space point characterized by a local energy density?

  135. #135 E.V.
    February 17, 2009

    The hell with a blog, Sastra needs to publish a book!

  136. #136 Brownian
    February 17, 2009

    The hell with a blog, Sastra needs to publish a book!

    Sastra, will you publish my book?

  137. #137 E.V.
    February 17, 2009

    Brownian: I’ll publish your book… Perhaps, in the mean time, Sastra will write something and have it published.

  138. #138 John Morales
    February 17, 2009

    co,

    What does “cosmic landscape” even mean? And what does a “local minimum” thereof mean?

    Well, I don’t really know! :)
    I only have an inchoate adumbration of the concept, but it’s clearly speculative.
    What it’s not is supernatural revelation.

  139. #139 H.H.
    February 17, 2009

    E.V. said:

    The hell with a blog, Sastra needs to publish a book!

    I’m telling you, if Sastra just collected all of her posts and organized them into a coherent narrative, she’d be more than halfway there. Fame and riches await her! But she seems content to limited herself to blog posts, so I’ve contented myself to enjoying what she offers. But if of all the intelligent, articulate, and thoughtful posters who contribute here, Sastra is by far the one I find myself quoting most often in subsequent discussions.

  140. #140 heddle
    February 17, 2009

    John Morales,

    Actually, your comparison was hardly apposite, since it’s not something that is asserted, but (as Ichthyic wrote) postulated because it comes from the math and has explanatory power,

    Because it comes from an equation it might be interesting mathematics, but physics has always demanded that it must be observable. And again, cervantes commented that not observable implied meaningless. I merely pointed out that that would include other universes.

    co,

    It is a reference to the version of multiverse of 101000 local minima (universes) that arises from string theory. The starting-point wiki entry is here.

  141. #141 Brownian
    February 17, 2009

    Well put. Recently there’ve been a lot of people come here and push the ‘god of the logical/philosophical gaps’ argument, and it was pointed out to them that any argument they could use for their god can be applied to any god – so even if we accept their argument they’ve still got the job of showing that it could only be their god suoported by that particular argument and not anyone else’s.

    It’s at that point all the sophistication and nuance fall away and real reasons for their religious belief – the result of an emotional episode, personal incredulity, coincidentally being born into the one true religion etc. – are revealed.

    Speaking of gaps, there’s none so large as the one between “you can’t prove there’s no god” and [insert sect-appropriate doctrinal certainty here].

    It’s like a new take on an old joke:

    A. Did you know you only have to know two things to be a Christian* apologist?
    B. No, what are they?
    A. It’s really likely that the universe had a creator and the Muslims, Agnostics and Atheists, Hindus, Buddhists, indigenous-traditionalists, Sikhs, Juche-ists, Spiritists, Jews, Baha’is, Jains, Shintoists, Cao Dai-ists, Zoroastrians, Tenrikyo-ists, Pagans (including neo-Pagans), Unitarian-Universalists, Rastafarianists, and Scientologists are wrong.

    *Simply replace ‘Christian’ with the next religion in the list and repeat for endless fun at parties!

  142. #142 John Morales
    February 17, 2009

    Heddle, you’re 500 orders of magnitude above the figure given in your link!

  143. #143 heddle
    February 17, 2009

    John Morales,

    Heddle, you’re 500 orders of magnitude above the figure given in your link!

    The canonical number has gone up over the years. Hey, it only differs by 10500. What’s the big deal?

  144. #144 frog
    February 17, 2009

    Heddle: Because it comes from an equation it might be interesting mathematics, but physics has always demanded that it must be observable.

    What is this “it” that you speak of? Electrons have never been directly observed — they are, speaking strictly, theoretical constructs that are consistent with data collected by spinning magnets and such.

    Learn your physics, instead of giving us kindergarten philosophy. A multiverse comes “out of the math” in the same way that an electron comes “out of the math” — not as strongly, as of yet.

    Or are you gonna tell us how we’ve “seen” black holes?? Feh, apologists are sad.

  145. #145 Thoughtful Guy
    February 17, 2009

    For people who don’t believe in the existence of a deity, atheists spend a lot of time debating it.

    I’m fairly confident that no amount of science can either prove or disprove the existence of God. So why bother?

  146. #146 John Morales
    February 17, 2009

    Hey Brownian, you’ve listed several maxima in the fitness landscape of religion that are observable, and therefore, science could thereby potentially determine which is the religion most congruent with reality.

    If so, I doubt it would be Christianity. :)

  147. #147 John Morales
    February 17, 2009

    Thoughtful Guy,

    For people who don’t believe in the existence of a deity, atheists spend a lot of time debating it.

    Because the subject keeps coming up, and some of us are argumentative when unsupportable claims are put forth.
    It’s a reaction, not an action.

    I personally know several atheists who just don’t care about religion at all, not even enough to discuss it.

  148. #149 Kel
    February 17, 2009

    Or are you gonna tell us how we’ve “seen” black holes?? Feh, apologists are sad.

    You doubt that we’ve observed black holes?

  149. #150 Ian
    February 17, 2009

    @Thoughtful Guy: perhaps if you were more thoughtful you would realize that you don’t hear much from all the athiests who don’t debate god for obvious reasons. :)

  150. #151 John Morales
    February 17, 2009

    Heddle:

    What’s the big deal?

    No big deal, you regularly cite something then misrepresent what’s cited. I guess the big deal, if any, is you don’t see a problem with that.

  151. #152 Lowell
    February 17, 2009

    I’m fairly confident that no amount of science can either prove or disprove the existence of God. So why bother?

    Easy. Because religious people don’t keep their beliefs to themselves. They almost always end up trying to impose them on others.

    If they just wanted to have a little make-believe hobby like Dungeons & Dragons or something, I would think they were a little silly, but I wouldn’t make a big deal about it.

    But they don’t leave it there. They tell us with great confidence and arrogance the equivalent of “the god of the Orcs told me that you shouldn’t be allowed to [insert prohibited activity here].” Then they codify their make-believe in the law.

  152. #153 co
    February 17, 2009

    It is a reference to the version of multiverse of 10^1000 local minima (universes) that arises from string theory.

    Ahh. String theory. So we are, indeed, talking about some sort of energy minimization problem. The actual minimization comes about, presumably (I’m postulating here) from some sort of vacuum-energy tunneling, which means that there must be a possibility of communication with other metastable states (though perhaps though some dimensions we have little contact with at our present energy capabilities). It also tends to imply that our universe as a whole would be impacted simultaneously everywhere by whatever tunneling went on, which has bad consequences to causality.
    People really love to insist on ergodicity, even in situations which provide no testable numbers (so far as I know).

  153. #154 Brownian
    February 17, 2009

    @ Thoughtful Guy:

    For people who don’t believe in the existence of a deity, atheists spend a lot of time debating it.

    I’m fairly confident that no amount of science can either prove or disprove the existence of God. So why bother?

    I wouldn’t care a whit except for the fact that most theists can’t seem to keep their weakly-supported theologies to themselves. We’ve got creos fucking with others’ education, popes and bishops fucking with others’ public health campaigns, fundies fucking with others’ ability to determine whether they give birth or not, etc. etc.

    If theists’ conviction with regard to what their god(s) want the rest of us to do were as weak as their arguments for the existence of god, I’d be more than happy to not give the question another thought.

    @ John Morales:

    Hey Brownian, you’ve listed several maxima in the fitness landscape of religion that are observable, and therefore, science could thereby potentially determine which is the religion most congruent with reality.

    If so, I doubt it would be Christianity. :)

    Clearly, the One True Religion is a mix of Taoism and Pythagoreanism (with special attention given to the avoidance of beans).

  154. #155 John Phillips, FCD
    February 17, 2009

    @Brownian, re your ‘eat them’, unless you mean feeding them to the lions, again :), I am fussy what I put in my mouth. Plus I would worry that teh stoopid is transferable, like CJD.

  155. #156 Gerald
    February 17, 2009

    So read PZ’s post, it’s good, it expresses considerable common grammatical sense. However, you know me ? there are bits that provoke me to draw out the razor-edged claymore of angry French and start slashing indiscriminately. Stand back, I have a blade and I don’t care how wildly I use it!

    It’s “bęte noire”!
    :-P

  156. #157 heddle
    February 17, 2009

    Frog,

    What is this “it” that you speak of?

    In this case the landscape of String theory solutions, each representing a universe with different physical constants.

    Learn your physics, instead of giving us kindergarten philosophy.

    I am fairly confident, especially based on the unforgivable stupidity of your statement, that I know a whole lot more physics than you do.

    Electrons have never been directly observed — they are, speaking strictly, theoretical constructs that are consistent with data collected by spinning magnets and such. Or are you gonna tell us how we’ve “seen” black holes?? Feh, apologists are sad.

    (Spinning magnets?) I see electrons all the time. The lab I work at is the premier nuclear physics electron accelerator in the country, and one of the best in the world. Yes we see electrons, and astronomers see black holes (To a lesser extent, for sure, but pretty darn convincingly.) We see these things in the sense the ?seeing them? has always meant to physicists. That their existence produces direct observable effects that can be measured. Go tell the astronomers they haven?t seen black holes in galactic centers.

    We don?t see other universes this way at all. We see no observable effects. They have no causal contact with us. Indeed, they cannot.

    Of course you can call it apologetics, but that?s because you don?t know jack shit. A little investigation and you would discover that a lot of scientists have the same criticism about the various multiverse theories and about String Theory in general?that it makes no contact with experiment.

    John Morales,

    No big deal, you regularly cite something then misrepresent what’s cited. I guess the big deal, if any, is you don’t see a problem with that.

    Sorry I thought you were joking, but you actually think I made a serious error. I didn’t. The actual number of solutions is not known, but the estimate has gone up to the number I quoted, the last time I checked. I didn’t even look at the wiki number, because 101000 is what you hear these days. I can’t help it if they don’t update the wiki. And in truth it doesn’t matter–at all–not one bit—either number represents an effectively infinite number of universes.

  157. #158 PZ Myers
    February 17, 2009

    Heddle, I have no idea what you’re babbling about, but you can stop trying to derail yet another thread. Piss off.

  158. #159 SC, OM
    February 17, 2009

    Oh, hey, heddle! Seeing you commenting on this thread reminded me that you still haven’t responded to Owlmirror here:

    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2009/02/the_stupid_it_burns_2.php#comment-1380469

    (This, of course, is merely in addition to the approximately 30 other questions and arguments you lamely ducked, both there and on the Coyne thread, but I just thought I’d point you to it in case you missed it. No need to thank me.)

  159. #160 Brownian
    February 17, 2009

    @Brownian, re your ‘eat them’, unless you mean feeding them to the lions, again :), I am fussy what I put in my mouth. Plus I would worry that teh stoopid is transferable, like CJD.

    No, I was thinking more along the lines of eating their hearts to gain their courage.

    Their rich, tasty courage.

  160. #161 SC, OM
    February 17, 2009

    Or you can just piss off. (My comment crossed with PZ’s.)

  161. #162 frog
    February 17, 2009

    Heddle: B(Spinning magnets?) I see electrons all the time. The lab I work at is the premier nuclear physics electron accelerator in the country, and one of the best in the world. Yes we see electrons, and astronomers see black holes (To a lesser extent, for sure, but pretty darn convincingly.) We see these things in the sense the ?seeing them? has always meant to physicists. That their existence produces direct observable effects that can be measured. Go tell the astronomers they haven?t seen black holes in galactic centers.

    Wow, someone actually pays you? I was quoting Feynmann on the observational status of electrons — you have heard of him, with your “premier nuclear physics lab”, haven’t you? What, do you clean toilets there? After a prayer session, did an electron come up and introduce herself?

    What we directly observe are patterns on retinas, and ion fluxes across cell membranes. No, you do not see electrons or black holes, you imbecile. You see twitches on dials, or tracks on photographic plates. You can loosely say you see stars or other astrophysical objects that emit light in the visible spectrum; but you’d have to be a buffoon to believe that you see black holes in anything but the most colloquial sense (and yes, they do emit some radiation, but our primary observations are not by seeing them, but by not seeing them, via secondary effects). If anything, we can see black holes more than electron.

    You see most objects of physics in equations that fit the few sources of data that we can actually, strictly see. We can be very convinced of theoretical constructs; as a matter of fact, they are much more convincing than what we can actually see since they are the products of a large number of data points.

    And so we see how we get nursery school philosophy from the apologists; full of citations of authorities but free of the strictures of actual intellectual vigor.

  162. #163 Ian
    February 17, 2009

    Well the main point is that people do deride string theory all the time, and they don’t have people like Ebert telling them that they don’t have the right or that they should be more respectful. String theory and god are both not beyond the ability of science to criticize.

    Huzzah, back on-topic. :)

  163. #164 Sastra
    February 17, 2009

    heddle #157 wrote:

    Of course you can call it apologetics, but that?s because you don?t know jack shit. A little investigation and you would discover that a lot of scientists have the same criticism about the various multiverse theories and about String Theory in general?that it makes no contact with experiment.

    Yes — and my understanding is that String Theory proponents agree that this is a serious problem, and if they want to get their theory accepted they’re going to have to figure out a way to test it through experiment, and not just through elegant math.

    What String Theory proponents do not do:

    1.) Describe the dimensions as interactions of Love and Harmony, knit together through balanced vibrations of Consciousness.

    2.) Claim that String Theory is not simply a matter of science and reason, but of a mature wisdom which seeks beyond the self, in wonder and mystery, recognizing that there are things we cannot understand. The universe is stranger than we can imagine.

    3.) Scorn critics as guilty of “scientism,” and ask if they have any way to measure things like their mother’s love through their telescopes? Not all things that are real, need to be empirically demonstrated to others.

    4.) Explain that String Theory is untestable by necessity, not simply due to its physical limitations, but by its requirement that one approach it with humility. If String Theory could be demonstrated through experiment, scientists would be forced to accept it, and put it in their models of reality, and then think they understood it all. But love cannot be forced, nor can the appreciation of beauty. It has to come from an act of acceptance, as one pulls on the Strings, and comes home.

    Okay, I admit it. I’m talking out of my area here, so I guess I don’t really know for sure that String Theorists don’t claim this stuff.

    But I don ‘t think they do. If they did, I think you’d see a lot more hostility towards String Theory, and String Theorists. They would probably be considered overzealous in protecting — and advancing — their theory.

  164. #165 Wowbagger
    February 17, 2009

    Heddle’s version of Christianity, as far as I can recall, doesn’t allow you to believe that you can choose to believe.

    His god either makes you worshipper or he doesn’t. How his people can tell the difference between someone who their god has made into a believer and someone who is just saying so, of course, is another question.

  165. #166 CJO
    February 17, 2009

    What we directly observe are patterns on retinas, and ion fluxes across cell membranes.

    How is this not an argument against my ability to see the monitor right in front of my face? Nobody “directly observes” these things; they are the necessary mechanical substrate of all visual perception.

    The toilet cleaning bit is out of line. I certainly don’t care for heddle’s Calvinist apologetics or his general attitude when he’s here witnessing to the godless, but I see no call to impugn his scientific acumen in his field.

  166. #167 SC, OM
    February 17, 2009

    Yes — and my understanding is that String Theory proponents agree that this is a serious problem, and if they want to get their theory accepted they’re going to have to figure out a way to test it through experiment, and not just through elegant math.

    Indeed, I’ve posted a link to a talk by James Gates here several times in which he says precisely this (well, maybe not that it’s a serious problem – just that it hasn’t yet been subjected to empirical examination and that they want to do so).

  167. #168 Kel
    February 17, 2009

    Why is seeing so contingent on direct observation? Surely a lot of what we know is accumulated from indirect observation – from checking for abberations in patterns and thus making hypothesises that can explain those abberations. It may be that no-one has “seen” an electron, but the application of the electron hypothesis has passed all rigours and serves as an underpinning to all modern technology. In that, surely we have observed an electron indirectly through it’s affect on the natural world. Just as we’ve observed black holes through the observations of the centres of galaxies.

  168. #169 co
    February 17, 2009

    1But I don ‘t think they do. If they did, I think you’d see a lot more hostility towards String Theory, and String Theorists. They would probably be considered overzealous in protecting — and advancing — their theory.

    Actually, string theorists are often accused of just that sort of thing. Some argue that this is because there are just *way too many* of them, after it became all the rage to do one’s graduate work in that area in the 80′s and 90′s. The bubble burst, and now they feel a need to differentiate themselves from the rest of the pack. That is, of course the cynical view from someone at a lab where other fields of study are showing some of the same signs of wear :)

  169. #170 Sastra
    February 17, 2009

    PZ #158 wrote:

    Heddle, I have no idea what you’re babbling about, but you can stop trying to derail yet another thread.

    I don’t think he was trying to derail the thread: he was discussing what is, and is not, testable and observable — and so he’s on topic. A political discussion — or even some other form of apologetics like Bible prophesy — would be off topic.

  170. #171 Brownian
    February 17, 2009

    Heddle, I have no idea what you’re babbling about, but you can stop trying to derail yet another thread. Piss off.

    Heddle’s a bit like a shitty metal band with a heavy pyrotechnics budget. Blow something up either end of the stage (in his case, one end is generally the anthropic principle, the other excruciatingly tedious biblical exegesis), and hope that in the excitement nobody notices your lead singer is off key, your guitarist broke a string, your bass player is strung out, and your drummer can’t keep time.

    “What’s that? How do I go from the existence of a creator god is instantiated by the existence of the universe to this creator god is the Jehovah of the Bible (but not the non-Calvinist versions)? Uh…did you know that St. Paul blah, blah, blah? And did you know that string theory fails to predict blah, blah, blah? Boom, bang! Look at that shit blow! Uh, Johnny get the metronome: Skullsy is face down in the snare again.”

    It’s all bluster and bafflegab, because he knows he can’t get from one end to the other without having to leap Grand Canyons of his ignorance (most things not physics and not Calvinist theology), and he’s genuinely embarrassed to have these gaps highlighted. So he blabs on about electrons and Paul of Tarsus, hoping nobody notices he’s trying to play Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon by mumbling random names through his hand and proclaiming he’s won at the end.

  171. #172 John Phillips, FCD
    February 17, 2009

    Brownian. What courage? The courage to steadfastly twist or ignore any evidence against their delusions?

  172. #173 co
    February 17, 2009

    Wow. I really must keep an easily-consulted list of common trolls here. I thought Heddle was making a quite coherent (old, but then most of what we rehash on this blog is old) point. Once the vituperation started, I looked for some posts justifying that in this thread but couldn’t find any. I’ll go off to search for Calvinist bullshit now. P.Z. needs a link—to the side of every page—which points to his troll list.

  173. #174 John Morales
    February 17, 2009

    I second Sastra @170 – as per my #133, I think the comparison was bad, but don’t think it was made trollishly. I consider it topical.

  174. #175 Brownian
    February 17, 2009

    There’s no courage in creationist hearts? Then what the hell do I keep eating them for?

  175. #176 Sastra
    February 17, 2009

    co #169 wrote:

    “They would probably be considered overzealous in protecting — and advancing — their theory.”
    Actually, string theorists are often accused of just that sort of thing.

    Yes, but I suspect that String Theorists putting forth the idea that String Theory doesn’t need to be empirically tested because it all comes down to Love and Humble Acceptance would take things to a new and alarming level.

    I wrote:

    A political discussion — or even some other form of apologetics like Bible prophesy — would be off topic.

    No, when I think about it, Bible Prophesy would probably feed into the topic too, since it would be an empirical test for religious claims.

    The issue is whether or not science can rule on whether religious beliefs are true or not – or at least likely or not — and whether science is relevant to religion. It’s going to be hard to justify kicking out any theist making an argument for the legitimacy of accepting both religious belief and science for being “off topic.” Or derailing a thread.

  176. #177 Moses
    February 17, 2009

    Extraordinarily well written, PZ.

  177. #178 Ichthyic
    February 17, 2009

    But feel free to move those goalposts.

    you DID want me to utilize the word projection, right?

    In fact, the expression “moving the goalposts” is entirely misapplied wrt to my original challenge of your post, but far more descriptive of your response.

    well, there ya go, your projecting again.

    self-fulfilling prophecy on your part.

    I wonder if before we could actually get micrographs of atoms, you would have used the same argument for the model of the atom, too?

    what astounds me is that you don’t see that as a literal “god of the gaps” argument, or at least as a case of false equivalency.

  178. #179 Ancient Brit
    February 17, 2009

    I think you may be mistaken about deities helping footballers score goals (assuming, of course that you mean soccer players).

    It has long been claimed in the UK that the opposite is true – that footballers are prevented from scoring goals by deities (actually, by their offspring).

    It’s not unusual in the UK to see signs consisting of just these two lines:

    JESUS SAVES!!!
    But Beckham scores on the rebound…

  179. #180 SEF
    February 17, 2009

    “Science disagrees with religion for not being empirical or scientific, while religion attacks science for being a religion.”

    It’s all just a bunch of projection on the part of the religious.

    It’s slightly more than just projection from the religious. It’s also the amusing implicit admission from them that science is good/right/effective and religion is bad/wrong/defective. They secretly already know themselves to be rubbish.

  180. #181 Pierce R. Butler
    February 17, 2009

    “Morris, Minnesota, vaporized with column of holy fire – tune in to Eyewitless McAction News at 11!”

  181. #182 Sastra
    February 17, 2009

    co #173 wrote:

    Wow. I really must keep an easily-consulted list of common trolls here.

    A lot of people dislike heddle’s argument(s), but imnsho he’s not a troll.

    He’s the Loyal Opposition ;)

  182. #183 frog
    February 17, 2009

    Kel: Why is seeing so contingent on direct observation? Surely a lot of what we know is accumulated from indirect observation – from checking for abberations in patterns and thus making hypothesises that can explain those abberations.

    Of course. We just have to be honest that we are not directly observing (“seeing”) most scientific objects, but deriving them from equations that are consistent with the observed, prosaic objects of everyday reality. You don’t strictly “see” evolution; it’s a theoretical construct. You see dogs screwing producing puppies, and grasses going to seed.

    If you don’t distinguish the two and their relationship, then suddenly you give the religious imbeciles a wedge — “see, evolutions is like angels, or God is like string theory”. No, they’re not at all. Not all theoretical objects are created equal. Scientific ones are testable; scientifically supported ones have been tested. God is not like phlogiston – phlogiston is a failed scientific object. God is not like a black hole — a black hole is a currently supported scientific object. God is not like the multiverse — some versions of the manifold of universes is are testable, but currently untested, scientific objects.

    That’s the nub of NOMA! Either theoretical objects tied to physical phenomena are the primary Truth, or theoretical objects tied to aesthetics are primary. You can’t have both; we have to clearly distinguish them, then we can decide whether to accept a universe of two “substances”, or a universe where aesthetics is simply the subjective experience of an external reality. The former makes science mere engineering; the latter makes religion a peculiar variety of dance. What do we “see”, and what are we allowed to infer from that?

    CJO: The toilet cleaning bit is out of line. I certainly don’t care for heddle’s Calvinist apologetics or his general attitude when he’s here witnessing to the godless, but I see no call to impugn his scientific acumen in his field.

    Why? How do I know that his claim is true? All I know is that he doesn’t know Feynmann, and claims to work in nuclear physics. All I’ve observed is sophistry and the defense of indefensible positions. I therefore posit that the “heddle” object is not of impressive acumen, but simply a jargon spouter. More than likely “heddle” is simply a figment of an unbalanced imagination.

  183. #184 John Phillips, FCD
    February 17, 2009

    Brownian, well, there’s no accounting for taste and, after all, it does reduce their numbers :), so good on you.

  184. #185 co
    February 17, 2009

    Yes, but I suspect that String Theorists putting forth the idea that String Theory doesn’t need to be empirically tested because it all comes down to Love and Humble Acceptance would take things to a new and alarming level.

    With sufficiently loose definitions of “Love” and “Humble Acceptance”, that almost matches the oft-quoted “It must be beautiful” attributed to Dirac and Einstein.
    I like to think that I’m an unflinching critic of woo, but I’ve either been indoctrinated too much in the physicists’ view that “beautiful” often indicates “correct”, or have seen enough examples of it to start believing it. It’s perhaps a slightly gussied-up version of Ockham’s Razor, with a poorly defined metric for “beautiful” (but you know it when you see it!).
    My own feeling is that Kähler manifolds might be beautiful, but they’re too damned complicated, and I don’t *want* them to describe reality.

  185. #186 George D Turner
    February 17, 2009

    What can be said about god that is falsifiable?

  186. #187 Ichthyic
    February 17, 2009

    They secretly already know themselves to be rubbish.

    that’s the second part of the creationist defense mechanism, though:

    denial.
    :)

  187. #188 co
    February 17, 2009

    What can be said about god that is falsifiable?

    Either everything or nothing. If the former, then He doesn’t exist. If the latter, then He’s of no use, and might as well not exist. There, the thread in a nutshell. We can move on to other things now, right? :-)

  188. #189 who is your creator
    February 17, 2009

    Using your own standards for assessment, please provide empirical evidence of just ONE “self-evident truth” that might prove evolution to be true.

    For scientific assessments, go to the top of:
    http://www.whoisyourcreator.com/common_descent.html

  189. #190 Ichthyic
    February 17, 2009

    God is not like phlogiston

    …and another great idea for a tshirt design is born.

  190. #191 Insightful Ape
    February 17, 2009

    Sastra: great post! You made my day!
    The existence of a “god” cannot be excluded. After all, people who want to, can always made up something that fits the data(e.g., a kind of god that normally answers prayers, but not if he knows that is in the context of a trial).
    However, God with upper case “G”-the monster in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam has very specific attribute. That makes his existence a testable hypothesis.
    I recommend “God: the Failed Hypothesis” by Victor Stenger, 2007.

  191. #192 co
    February 17, 2009

    Using your own standards for assessment, please provide empirical evidence of just ONE “self-evident truth” that might prove evolution to be true.

    There’s not enough vomit in the world.

  192. #193 SC, OM
    February 17, 2009

    All I’ve observed is sophistry and the defense of indefensible positions.

    And that’s pretty much all anyone will observe from him. And I’ve thoroughly had it with heddle and his shtick. But he is a tenured physics professor. Click on his name.

  193. #194 Ichthyic
    February 17, 2009

    All I’ve observed is sophistry

    go check out his website for confirmation of that observation.

    the kicker is that he really is a “physicist”, even though just about everything you ever see him publicly espouse is indeed nothing but sophistry.

    He has a LONG history of such here and on Panda’s Thumb.

    Or will someone now criticize me for using an ad-hominem?

    hmm.

  194. #195 Sastra
    February 17, 2009

    frog #183 wrote:

    Not all theoretical objects are created equal. Scientific ones are testable; scientifically supported ones have been tested. God is not like phlogiston – phlogiston is a failed scientific object. God is not like a black hole — a black hole is a currently supported scientific object. God is not like the multiverse — some versions of the manifold of universes is are testable, but currently untested, scientific objects.

    I think God is quite a bit like phlogiston. After all, if our bests tests and evidence had converged on a 10,000 year old earth, species which had no signs of common descent, and minds which were capable of leaving the body, sensing other people’s thoughts without any direct input, and bending — or creating — keys through nothing more than willpower, then God would be a successfully supported scientific object — or at least a plausible scientific theoretical construct. The fact that those criteria weren’t met makes God like phlogiston the failed scientific object. It’s unnecessary to the explanation.

    God is also a bit like multiverse, in that some proponents are claiming it’s currently untestable, but may be “revealed to all” at some vague and future point.

  195. #196 Greta Christina
    February 17, 2009

    Science has relatively little to say about how you experience your life, religion included. You like what you like, feel what you feel, and more power to you so long as you don’t mess with somebody else. (Paco, #127)

    Actually, I’m not sure I’d agree with that. I think science has more to say about how we experience our lives than we typically give it credit for. And I’m not just talking about medicine or technology. The sciences of astronomy, and evolutionary biology, neuropsychology have gone a long way to changing how many of us see ourselves and our place in the world, and have contributed greatly to many journeys towards atheism. The latter certainly did for me.

    And I could go on. The sciences have changed how many of us experience gender. Sexuality. Sexual orientation. Mental illness. And I would argue that the development of the scientific method has changed — for many people, anyway — the whole notion of how we perceive reality and what we should and should not accept as fact.

    Oh, and sic (#148): Thanks for the shout-out. Much appreciated.

  196. #197 Kel
    February 17, 2009

    Of course. We just have to be honest that we are not directly observing (“seeing”) most scientific objects, but deriving them from equations that are consistent with the observed, prosaic objects of everyday reality. You don’t strictly “see” evolution; it’s a theoretical construct. You see dogs screwing producing puppies, and grasses going to seed.

    I guess you can say the same of gravity, you don’t see gravity you see objects attracting to one another. Though it feels dishonest to try and make such a gross distinction between what we directly observe, what we indirectly observe and what we are able to infer based on current hypothesises and theories. For all intents and purposes, we have seen evolution. We’ve observed mutation, selection, adaptation, and speciation both in the lab and in the wild. There’s been controlled experiments that have shown evolution in action. Yet you are right, it’s an indirect observation whereby it’s inferred through the current theoretical framework.

    And in that is where I feel there’s some disingenuity in making such distinction, because for all intents and purposes we have seen evolution in action just as we have seen an electron or a black hole.

    If you don’t distinguish the two and their relationship, then suddenly you give the religious imbeciles a wedge — “see, evolutions is like angels, or God is like string theory”. No, they’re not at all. Not all theoretical objects are created equal. Scientific ones are testable; scientifically supported ones have been tested. God is not like phlogiston – phlogiston is a failed scientific object. God is not like a black hole — a black hole is a currently supported scientific object. God is not like the multiverse — some versions of the manifold of universes is are testable, but currently untested, scientific objects.

    Interesting take of things, and I have indeed seen that position put forward by different people. It’s incredibly frustrating to try and explain the difference. Though honestly I don’t think your semantic distinguishing would help with reconciling that gap, only would serve to confuse things further. I very much doubt that we need such semantic distinction, and it would in the long run cause more problems than it will claim to solve. In a society where “evolution is only a theory” and “no-one has ever seen evolution in action” are acceptable positions to validate Goddidit, trying to impose a semantic distinction between observations feels unhelpful.

  197. #198 frog
    February 17, 2009

    Using your own standards for assessment, please provide empirical evidence of just ONE “self-evident truth” that might prove evolution to be true.

    And to prove my point about the importance of distinguishing what is directly observable (“seen”, “self-evident”), what is indirectly observable (“theoretical”, “truth”), and what is just poetry (“creator”, “theology”), another fool shows up in the thread.

  198. #199 Pierce R. Butler
    February 17, 2009

    Sastra @ # 11: … parapsychology — on which religious scientists rested (and still rest) so much hope, has failed.

    CLAIRVOYANCE – A SPIRITUAL GIFT?

    A new survey shows that evangelical Christians have a variety of views on the subject of spiritual gifts.Not all of those views, however, reflect knowledge of the Bible.
    http://www.onenewsnow.com/Church/Default.aspx?id=419892

    [from cited story:] The survey conducted by The Barna Group asked professing Christians who claimed to have heard of spiritual gifts to identify which gifts God had given them. The most commonly claimed gifts were teaching, service, and faith, followed by encouragement, healing, knowledge, and tongues (see 1 Corinthians 12).

  199. #200 Nerd of Redhead, OM
    February 17, 2009

    I think Heddle has alienated all his colleagues, so to get some intellectual stimulation he comes here and jerks our chains. But I also think he is sincere in beliefs, since he simply cannot recognize the amount of mental tap dancing he does to attempt to justify those beliefs. It makes it very amusing to those of us watching his mental gyrations.

  200. #201 Sastra
    February 17, 2009

    who is your creator #189 wrote:

    Using your own standards for assessment, please provide empirical evidence of just ONE “self-evident truth” that might prove evolution to be true.

    Um, we don’t consider the theory of evolution to be a “self-evident truth.” It’s a science theory. You have to work at it. Self-evident truths are clear and obvious to anyone who encounters them, and don’t get disputed.

    Do you think that, if evolution were true, then that would be strong evidence against the existence of God?

  201. #202 Kel
    February 17, 2009

    And to prove my point about the importance of distinguishing what is directly observable (“seen”, “self-evident”), what is indirectly observable (“theoretical”, “truth”), and what is just poetry (“creator”, “theology”), another fool shows up in the thread.

    I’m sceptical that your distinguishing of direct and indirect would stop people like “who is your creator” from attacking a science they don’t understand.

  202. #203 Greta Christina
    February 17, 2009

    What can be said about god that is falsifiable? (#186)

    Well, let’s see. He created the world in 6 days about 6,000 years ago. He shortly thereafter flooded the entire earth for 40 days and 40 nights, leaving only a few people and two of each species to survive. He has instilled people with souls, and our selves and personalities are affected by those souls separate from our brains and bodies.

    Shall I go on?

  203. #204 Roger Ebert
    February 17, 2009

    Hi PZ,

    I can see I should have written “science has no opinion on supernatural matters, but it can have opinions on religions.”

    I believe that the supernatural cannot in principle be studied by science, although belief in the supernatural certainly can.

    RE

  204. #205 frog
    February 17, 2009

    Kel: Interesting take of things, and I have indeed seen that position put forward by different people. It’s incredibly frustrating to try and explain the difference. Though honestly I don’t think your semantic distinguishing would help with reconciling that gap, only would serve to confuse things further. I very much doubt that we need such semantic distinction, and it would in the long run cause more problems than it will claim to solve. In a society where “evolution is only a theory” and “no-one has ever seen evolution in action” are acceptable positions to validate Goddidit, trying to impose a semantic distinction between observations feels unhelpful.

    Kel, but that’s the point. Why is “only a theory” an acceptable position for Goddidit? Because no one realizes that almost everything of interest is theoretical! Our direct observations are there to distinguish what theoretical objects exists, and which ones are incorrect.

    Then we can distinguish between what is sufficient evidence for theoretical objects, and what structures they must have in order to even be worth talking about.

    There’s nothing even mildly dishonest about this. In my view, it is dishonest to claim that “seeing” a banana in front of me is similar to “seeing” the evolution of the banana. They’re two completely different categories of objects — and I much more trust the latter than the former. Direct observation is very often wrong, since it is the direct perception of a single event, while “theoretical perception” depends on many observations by many individuals that have been reconciled by that bitch, mathematics.

    I’m sure of the existence of electrons because they are theoretical (of a certain kind); but I’m always careful on the road, because that car that I though I saw in my rear-view mirror often is a perceptual error, and may “really” be in my blind spot.

    Just note that those who have the most disdain for “theoretical objects”, who say that “seeing is believing”, have the tendency to simply believe in nonesense “theoretical” objects that are only supported by their own prejudice or fantastic projections. They don’t know that their phantasms are just very poorly designed “theories”. Isn’t that Dawkins point? God is not only a failed theory, on it’s face it was a terrible theory to propose in the first place.

  205. #206 frog
    February 17, 2009

    Kel: I’m sceptical that your distinguishing of direct and indirect would stop people like “who is your creator” from attacking a science they don’t understand.

    If he was able to understand, it would; what I expect is that he is either too far gone, or started out with too little intellectual potential to ever understand it.

    But then, for the intellectually incompetent, no intellectual attack would work. My point is irrelevant for those cases; only painting, dance and sculpture can change their minds — it’s how they got to believe in the first place, the pretty pictures that got put in their heads, the singing and genuflecting and the light streaming from the stained glass windows.

  206. #207 Sastra
    February 17, 2009

    Rogewr Ebert #204 wrote:

    I believe that the supernatural cannot in principle be studied by science, although belief in the supernatural certainly can.

    What is your definition of “supernatural?”

    If phenomena like ghosts, ESP, vitalism, reiki, Out of Body Experiences, and psychic spoon-bending were classified as “supernatural,” would you still think that the supernatural cannot, in principle, be studied by science?

  207. #208 frog
    February 17, 2009

    Sastra: I think God is quite a bit like phlogiston

    If that were so, God would be in the dustbin of history, just like phlogiston. But what you are calling “God” is just a subset of the apologetics for God — a dishonest attempt by some to use the material world for evidence when they want it (miracles of miracles!), but which isn’t actually the source of their belief. God isn’t that object at all, one that can be disproved like phlogiston; believers believe in a kind of object that exists in a non-material dual of the universe, that precedes all empiricism and rationality.

    They don’t say it here, usually. But just read the neo-Platonists who invented the Christian, Jewish and Muslim God — he’s not the God of the ancient Levantines (who was more like what you suggest) — but Platos “Good” which is beyond any observation whatsoever.

    In short, it’s bullshit. Don’t let the bastards distract you (and Dawkins) with “scientific” claims — you could disprove every last one of their material claims, and it would be irrelevant to them, because it’s not the substance of their belief. Disproving them is only useful in showing that the claim of an empirical rationale was a lie in the first place.

  208. #209 PeteK
    February 17, 2009

    Great post…Science, by definition, deals with natural phenonena, and tries to explain as much as possible about everything within the physical universe. It doesn’t explain why any universe exists to be studied, or why its own methodology works so well. If it is claimed that an agency – whether desitic, pantheistic, theistic, Einsteinian – “underlies”, “governs”, etc the universe, “explains why it exists, and exists in the form it does”, etc, and is “outside science’s province”, then how can he/she/it also be “knowable”, to a preist, or anyone? Something can be beyond science, but it would also, as people like Dawkins remind us, also be outside of religion’s aegis.

    What sense does it make for them even to discuss an infinitely unfathomable being, not to mention questions such as “why not MANY gods, where did God come from?” etc

  209. #210 Sastra
    February 17, 2009

    frog #208 wrote:

    But what you are calling “God” is just a subset of the apologetics for God — a dishonest attempt by some to use the material world for evidence when they want it (miracles of miracles!), but which isn’t actually the source of their belief. God isn’t that object at all, one that can be disproved like phlogiston; believers believe in a kind of object that exists in a non-material dual of the universe, that precedes all empiricism and rationality.

    I think believers tend to play both sides of the fence, believing in opposites. God is an infinite ground of Being and non-material essence of mystery outside of all space and time and God is a person Who loves us very much and is pleased when we do as He tells us. The question is: which one is the default?

    I very much suspect it is the latter God, the one they relate to as a person, the one that gives them meaning and purpose and tasks to perform. This is the one they feel is real. The highbrow God of the Philosophers is wheeled out for the critics, both internal and external. It’s what they claim is what they really believe in, when the other God starts to feel a bit too anthropomorphic for them.

    But the anthropomorphic God which can demonstrate itself in a miracle and show them its Love is the substance of the belief. The God made out of words is for show, and distraction.

  210. #211 AmericanGodless
    February 17, 2009

    frog — I very much like your point about aesthetic choice as a basis for choosing faith.
    “..only painting, dance and sculpture can change their minds — it’s how they got to believe in the first place, the pretty pictures that got put in their heads..”
    It explains a lot about Francis Collins and his triune waterfall.

  211. #212 Sastra
    February 17, 2009

    frog #208 wrote:

    If that were so, God would be in the dustbin of history, just like phlogiston.

    Thinking about it, God is not so much like phlogiston, as it is like vitalism, or the Life Force. That’s a discredited theory which is in the dustbin of history — for scientists.

    For the general public, however, it still makes intuitive sense, and thus you get reiki and chiropractry and other popular forms of energy medicine. And vitalism is making the kind of inroads into legitimate academic medicine (or, at skeptics call it, “quackademic medicine”) that Creationists can only dream of.

  212. #213 Greta Christina
    February 17, 2009

    #204: Nice to see you here, Mr. Ebert. Big fan. Especially of “I Hated, Hated, Hated This Movie” and “Your Movie Sucks.” But with all due respect, I must disagree with this statement:

    science has no opinion on supernatural matters,

    Actually, it does. Many supernatural matters — such as psychic ability, faith healing, astrology, talking with the dead — can be tested by science. Have been tested by science. And have been found to be entirely unsupported by the evidence.

    Check out the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, and their Skeptical Inquirer magazine. That’s their mission. That’s what they do: test claims about the supernatural, using the scientific method, to see if they hold water.

    That’s sort of the whole point of much of this discussion. Religion often does make claims about the physical world, and the effect that God or angels or spirits or whatever have on that world. And the claims that are testable, and that have been tested, have fallen flat.

    Religion is not monolithic. Religious beliefs differ. But they either make falsifiable claims about cause and effect in the natural world — claims which have been falsified — or they don’t make falsifiable claims about cause and effect in the natural world… in which case, they’re useless.

  213. #214 David Marjanovi?, OM
    February 17, 2009

    Best post I’ve read in a long time!

    ———————————–

    bęte noir

    As mentioned, a beast is a she, so it’s bęte noire, even though this doesn’t change the pronunciation. Written and spoken French don’t have the same grammar.

    psychokensis (mind power)

    Psychokinesis. Related to cinema.

    which I found on a google search for “Ray Comfort+Idiot”

    :-D :-D :-D :-D :-D :-D :-D :-D :-D :-D :-D :-D :-D :-D :-D :-D

    Otherwise, you are dealing with a non-falsifiable hypothesis, which is by definition out of the realm of science (as well as out of the realm of all reliable human inquiry).

    Emphasis of PZ’s very point added.

    Ebert, as a film critic, influences infinitely more people than Gould could ever hope to reach.

    In the USA perhaps, LOL. Film reviews never spread internationally. I only know Ebert from Pharyngula, for example…

    I think that if religious apologists can evade, say, the fact that prayer experiments don’t work by saying “god knows when he’s being tested”, then they have to accept that we can CONTROL god. If we just want him not to answer any specific prayers, we’ll just build a scientific statistical test around them! We can MAKE GOD not answer prayers!

    Very good point.

    It is how we codify questions like “why do we love” in terms other than “what are the chemical processes in the brain associated with the emotion of love”, for example.

    Nah. Let me demonstrate otherwise. Here goes: We love because those who didn’t love have all already died out. Natural selection. Next question!

    No religion in here, just deduction and parsimony.

    That’s so nineteenth century of you, PZ.

    Irrelevant. Is it wrong of him?

    WWOD (What Would Occam Do?)

    Remember that scene in Conan the Barbarian where Conan wields that ridiculously large axe the blade of which is fixed to the handle at two points? That’s Occam’s Razor.

    Unfalsifiable hypotheses are not necessarily false; they are merely unapproachable by our sole reliable means of knowing.

    They are also worthless, because you can’t do anything with an unfalsifiable hypothesis — you can’t deduct predictions from it, for example.

    Scientists DO care about the How, AND the Why. “Why” just happens to be that next step past the current How, which is unknown (at least unknown now).

    No. All “why” questions have already been answered: “everything is the way it is because it got that way”. This turns all “why” questions into “how” or even “what” questions: How did it become the way it is? What rules did it follow? What are the causes?

    The hell with a blog, Sastra needs to publish a book!

    Sastra, will you publish my book?

    Is this as cute as I think at a quarter to 3 at night? :-}

  214. #215 raven
    February 17, 2009

    wherearemymeds:

    Using your own standards for assessment, please provide empirical evidence of just ONE “self-evident truth” that might prove evolution to be true.

    WE could and have provided dozens. Drug resistance in pathogens and pests. Very serious problems that costs the lives of millions of people worldwide and makes food production more expensive.

    The kook is back. Off his meds again.

  215. #216 frog
    February 17, 2009

    SC: But he is a tenured physics professor. Click on his name.

    Well, I checked his publishing history — I could be wrong, but it seems he’s just written a couple of software programs that got used in two spurts, early 90′s and early 2000′s. Nothing published, it appears, for periods of five years or more, and what was published was folks using his software. That may put him in a physics department — but I’m not sure that makes him a physicist in a strong sense.

    I never doubted his coherence — just whether he was any good. He does appear to be a glorified tech, but depth?? You’ve got to do more than just measure an extra decimal point for that.

    To be clear — this is only relevant because heddle chose to bring up his “nuclear physics lab”.

  216. #217 gypsytag
    February 17, 2009

    #145
    For people who don’t believe in the existence of a deity, atheists spend a lot of time debating it.

    I’m fairly confident that no amount of science can either prove or disprove the existence of God. So why bother?

    Because religion negatively affects our lives and we want it to stop. Unfortunately we don’t have a god that demands we kill the theists, so rather we debate them. yeah not as fancy schmancy as blowing up buses, cutting off heads or burning people at the stake, but hey i guess were just lazy that way.

  217. #218 frog
    February 17, 2009

    Sastra: I think believers tend to play both sides of the fence, believing in opposites. God is an infinite ground of Being and non-material essence of mystery outside of all space and time and God is a person Who loves us very much and is pleased when we do as He tells us. The question is: which one is the default?

    I think they’re both different from the primitive God, the God who crushes nations, and when his city loses, he’s demoted from the pantheon. That’s the “scientifically” testable God — Marduk and Yahweh, not Logos or Allah.

    Is there any physical evidence that can convince a believer to abandon his faith? Most believers will tell you that it only is a test of their faith — that they believe no matter what the empirical reality is. The personal and theological Gods are just two sides of the same coin; an entity which precedes physical reality and reason, a creature of substance and not accident.

    Believers see miracles because they believe in a “loving God” — they don’t believe in a “loving God” because they see miracles! A cracker can be a cracker and God simultaneously on two different planes, because the reality of magic emotionally precedes a bit of gluten and yeast — the baby-jeebus-in-a-cookie is more real than an insipid snack to the believer.

    The theology is only a post-hoc rationalization of the knowledge of the personal deity, who is essentially unlike the Iron Age tetragrammaton who fed on first-born sons and could be physically wrestled with, who crushed the lesser cities of Judeah in order to cement his place in the galactic pantheon.

  218. #219 Mr Twiddle
    February 17, 2009

    I, like Roger Ebert, consider myself a curious person who is interested in learning how our universe works. I agree with Professor Myers that a supernatural god is well within the purview of scientific enquiry but the burden of proof lies with the claimants.

    Otis: ?God exists?.
    Twiddle:?Show me?.
    Otis: ?I can?t. God?s invisible?.
    Twiddle:?That?s OK; I can spread flour on the floor to capture your god?s footprints?.
    Otis: ?That?s a good idea but God floats in the air?
    Twiddle:?Well, I can use an infrared sensor to detect your god?s heat?.
    Otis: ?Good idea but God doesn?t generate heat?.
    Twiddle:?Alright, I?ll spray-paint your god and make him visible?.
    Otis: ?That?s a very good idea, except God is incorporeal and the paint won?t stick?.

    Every physical test that I propose is countered with a special explanation of why it won?t work. So what?s the difference between an invisible, incorporeal god and no god at all? If there?s no way to disprove the claim what does it mean to say that god exists? My inability to invalidate Otis? claim is not the same thing as proving it true. Claims that cannot be tested are worthless.

    (Carl Sagan??The Dragon in My Garage???Demon Haunted World?)

  219. #220 MartinH
    February 17, 2009

    frog @ #216

    My search gives three D.*Heddle physicists; D. Heddle without middle initials has numerous and recent publications (~50) as part of a high energy physics collaboration and is affiliated with the Thomas Jefferson Accelerator Lab in Newport News, close to heddle’s college. In papers from large collaborations, it is not practical to evaluate individual contributions.

  220. #221 Kel
    February 17, 2009

    If he was able to understand, it would; what I expect is that he is either too far gone, or started out with too little intellectual potential to ever understand it.

    But to those who could understand in the first place, they can see the difference already. To make it explicitly distinct won’t really change how anyone views the world.

  221. #222 Mark
    February 17, 2009

    Reading the following was delightful:
    “You don’t have to have a Ph.D. in Abstract Biological Esoterica to appreciate evidence and reason and the elegance of evolution!”

    Quite.

    Mark

  222. #223 heddle
    February 17, 2009

    frog,

    Well, I checked his publishing history — I could be wrong, but it seems he’s just written a couple of software programs that got used in two spurts, early 90′s and early 2000′s. Nothing published, it appears, for periods of five years or more, and what was published was folks using his software. That may put him in a physics department — but I’m not sure that makes him a physicist in a strong sense.

    Wrong. I am co-author on ~50 publications in the peer reviewed literature. (You can browse here, although you are incapable of understanding any of them.) And that is in spite of the fact that I was out of academia from 2001 to 2008. True, many of them are as part of a large nuclear physics collaboration–so the best you can do is impugn the good name of most of the members of the collaboration by arguing that long author lists don’t count.

    Do you want to keep making an ass of yourself? You know nothing about science, obviously, and little about anything else, it would seem. Have you told the astromomers they haven’t seen any black holes? Let me know how that goes for you.

    By the way: on this blog do you really think it is a strategic move to challenge a scientist’s standing by the length of his publication list? Doesn’t seem like a good idea to me. Just asking.

  223. #224 plum grenville
    February 17, 2009

    I can see I should have written “science has no opinion on supernatural matters, but it can have opinions on religions.”

    I believe that the supernatural cannot in principle be studied by science, although belief in the supernatural certainly can.

    Roger Ebert

    I think Roger (I’m firstnaming you on the basis of having watched you on Sneak Previews) still doesn’t get it.

    The only reason that the “supernatural” can’t be studied by science is that it is carefully defined so that it is not studiable by the methods of naturalism. That’s kinda the point of the term “super” natural.

    And if the supernatural is undetectable in principle, how do we even know it’s there and what use is it? If a god can intervene in our lives or in the universe we can observe in any meaningful way, he/she/it is studiable by science. Conversely, if he/she/it is (defined as) not studiable by science, that must mean that he/she/it doesn’t intervene in any meaningful way. You can’t have it both ways.

  224. #225 Ben
    February 17, 2009

    Meh.

    Science has got nothing to say about the existence or non-existence of god/s, FSMs, teapots in orbit or invisible pink unicorns i.e. Popper, unfalsifiability etc. etc.

    But what science most definitely CAN do is test the CLAIMS made by various religions, which is something completely different.

  225. #226 frog
    February 17, 2009

    MartinH:

    Yeah, it’s really too bad that he doesn’t seem to put up his research interests and publishing history on his personal university page; it is standard practice. I was looking for D. Heddle’s on papers with 5 or fewer authors, since you can find the link that threads them together in work and in interest. Generally folks who publish predominantly in large collaborations are either managers or are just engineering.

    The sole authors are all related to display software; the few authors seem to be applications of that self-same display software to add a few decimal points to meson measurements and such. Essential work, but not really something that makes you a great scientist. Someone has to count the hairs on a leg of a beetle…

    But I may have just missed his important contributions — which would be much easier to find if he had bothered to value it over Christian apologetics (which are very, very easy to find — first ten google hits!)

  226. #227 Kevin Schreck
    February 17, 2009

    Ebert’s article was very nice, but yours, PZ, was superb.

    I may have to email that to some friends.

  227. #228 plum grenville
    February 17, 2009

    Meh.

    Science has got nothing to say about the existence or non-existence of god/s, FSMs, teapots in orbit or invisible pink unicorns i.e. Popper, unfalsifiability etc. etc.

    Ben

    No! No! No! Science is not neutral or silent on the question of god, the celestial teapot, the invisible pink unicorn, ghosts, etc. What it says (or should say) is: since these objects have been defined as undetectable by science, we have no reason to believe in them and considerable reason to disbelieve.

    But what science most definitely CAN do is test the CLAIMS made by various religions, which is something completely different.

    Erm, the existence of god is definitely one of “the claims made by various religions. Why are you putting it in a different category? God isn’t the only supernatural claim that religions make: how about the soul, an afterlife, heaven, Satan?

  228. #229 frog
    February 17, 2009

    heddle: By the way: on this blog do you really think it is a strategic move to challenge a scientist’s standing by the length of his publication list? Doesn’t seem like a good idea to me. Just asking.

    On this blog it’s a stupid idea to argue either from your scientific standing, or against it. Which is why I’ve never argued the point before, on anyone, ever. In general, I think it is distorting for folks who have a professional standing to pontificate here and identify that professional standing; since it’s not their professional area of expertise, it is irrelevant, strictly speaking, whether you are employed as a physicist, unless we were specifically discussing spin networks.

    But then again, I’ve never seen anyone else argue that either. At all, except for some foolhardy Biblical studies professors. Before you. (You may note that I’ve never said anything of the kind).

    So, since you brought it up your “highly respected nuclear physics lab”, what do you do? What is your expertise? How does it credit you in this discussion? Are you the manager, a theoretical mastermind, the experimental genius, or the software developer? Then I can judge whether it is relevant to the issue at hand — understanding the difference between indirect and direct observation (which was the original point). I could care less about your colloquial usage of the word, since colloquial usage is irrelevant to a strict usage in a scientific discipline; if we’re waving genitals around, you had better be better than Feynmann to take your meaning over his.

  229. #230 Facilis
    February 17, 2009

    I think the question of God’s existence is fundamentally one of a more metaphysical nature than a scientific one.

    A lot of people would deny scientific evidence when presented with it too. I remember a debate between philosopher William Lane Craig and biologist Lewis Wolpert. Craig presented cosmological evidence for the Big Bang and the begining of the universe and showed how it pointed to a transcendent personal cause. Wolpert was unable to refute any of his points and called cosmology wild speculation because it did not agree with his worldview. Science doesn’t persuade people to give up their worldviews. And we have to remember science isn’t the be all end-all of everything. there are necessary preconditions for science. Science relies on our ability to reason , deductively and inductively which can only come from God. We know God exists every time we use logic and reason or make knowledge claims or do science or appeal to morals.God has already demonstrated his existence.We need no miracles or material.

  230. #231 Brian English
    February 17, 2009

    Science relies on our ability to reason , deductively and inductively which can only come from God.care to back up this assertion?

  231. #232 Nerd of Redhead, OM
    February 17, 2009

    Facilis, you have shown us nothing about gods existence, but just made some claims you couldn’t explain properly, and which were later shown to be false anyway. Your god doesn’t exist. Your bible is a work of fiction. Until you can demonstrate physical evidence for your imaginary deity you have nothing. Good physical evidence that can be verified by scientists, magicians, and professional debunkers. Until you are there, go away and leave us alone. All you present are your delusions.

  232. #233 Brian English
    February 17, 2009

    Facilis:
    I think the question of God’s existence is fundamentally one of a more metaphysical nature than a scientific one. OK, so there’d be no Cosmological evidence then?

    Craig presented cosmological evidence for the Big Bang and the begining of the universe and showed how it pointed to a transcendent personal cause. According to you, Craig’s a silly boy then. But did it show what Craig thought it showed, or does Craig not understand what he’s talking about?

    Still, care to back up your assertion that logic and the ability to reason can only come from God?

  233. #234 Holbach
    February 17, 2009

    Facilis @ 230

    No, the Universe has always demonstrated the non-existence of your imaginary god.

  234. #235 Facilis
    February 17, 2009

    OK, so there’d be no Cosmological evidence then?

    Cosmology is a division of metaphysics.

  235. #236 heddle
    February 17, 2009

    frog,

    You are full of shit when it comes to Feynman. Nothing I said conflicts with Feynman–not that you would be able to tell. If you think my statement “we have seen electrons” is at odds with Feynman then –well– you don’t know what the hell you are talking about. Every physicist in the world would agree that we have seen electrons in the sense that I stated it in #157. It is pathetic that you would even want to argue the point.

    As for the quality of my physics–I am just an average Joe. Yes, my contribution to the collaboration is in software both on-line (as part of data acquisition) and offline (reconstruction and analysis.) In fact there are quite a few physicists in the collaboration from around the world involved in software–it is always a major part of any big physics experiment. But you wouldn’t know that.

    And the only reason I brought up being a physicist is because you did, in #144, saying “Learn your physics.”

  236. #237 frog
    February 17, 2009

    Um, Facilis, you should peruse the thread before posting. Kinda weakens your point when I predict your appearance.

    But thank you. I assume that this being of which you speak is closer than your own heart? He’s both loving and personal, touching you in the miracle of birth, but at the same time transcendant and beyond human reason? He’s a “transcendant personal cause”, completely unlike Marduk or Ishtar, who could get their asses kicked?

  237. #238 Wowbagger
    February 17, 2009

    I’ll apologise for facilis. He seems to have forgotten losing the argument on more than one occasion. So what he meant to write is this:

    Science relies on our ability to reason, deductively and inductively which can only come from God Sideshow Bob. We know God Sideshow Bob exists every time we use logic and reason or make knowledge claims or do science or appeal to morals. God Sideshow Bob has already demonstrated his existence. We need no miracles or material.

    He has to have meant this because, as yet, he can’t prove that it could only have been his god which is responsible – if, that is, we accept that there is a being responsible for those things. But I, personally, like reminding him of his argument’s failure on this level more.

  238. #239 Nerd of Redhead, OM
    February 17, 2009

    Facilis, go away. You show us illogic and unreasoning. That will never change until you get a real education. Your god doesn’t exist. Your bible is a work of fiction. You need to show real physical evidence, which you apparently don’t understand, to change those facts. You are wasting you time and our time. And you are BORING.

  239. #240 Facilis
    February 17, 2009

    Still, care to back up your assertion that logic and the ability to reason can only come from God?

    I defended it in other threads and I don’t really want to derail this one. But I showed it quite simply by the impossibility of the contrary and refuting ever contrary account of logic and reason the was presented.
    So how do you account for the universal ,objective ,absolute ,immaterial , laws of logic and reason?
    I suggest you check out the “I’m in good company” thread to see if you will say something I’ve already refuted.

  240. #241 Andyo
    February 17, 2009

    Facilis, #230:

    Science relies on our ability to reason , deductively and inductively which can only come from God.

    !!!???

    We know God exists every time we use logic and reason or make knowledge claims or do science or appeal to morals.

    !?!?!?!

    God has already demonstrated his existence.

    Quoting Ted Stevens: “NO!

    We need no miracles or material.

    I certainly don’t need miracles.

  241. #242 Marcus J. Ranum
    February 17, 2009

    Hang on hang on hang on — science has been testing religion for a very long time. Specifically, regarding creation myths. The reason the faithful are upset is because science has shown, without a shadow of a doubt, that “eve” didn’t come from “adam”s rib, that the universe was not created in seven days, etc., etc. The faithful have simply adjusted those parts of their faith out of the “actively believe” into “quaint metaphor” category, for the most part, except for the complete nutters. Science is utterly corrosive to religion and, when abiogenesis is finally and conclusively cracked, we can expect the “rational”(i.e.: less fuckwitted) creos to adjust their faith to be that god is some generalized woo-woo.

    The history of religion is a massive, stinking, wad of fail.

  242. #243 Desert Son
    February 17, 2009

    Facilis at #230 posted:

    We know God exists every time we use logic and reason

    How does the one (use of logic) demonstrate proof of the other (God exists)?

    God has already demonstrated his existence.We need no miracles or material.

    “Think it’ll work?”
    “It’d take a miracle.”
    -Miracle Max and his wife, The Princess Bride

    Also, spaces after periods: they’re not just for breakfast anymore.

    No kings,

    Robert

  243. #244 Andyo
    February 17, 2009

    Damn you people are quick. Took me 10 posts.

  244. #245 Facilis
    February 17, 2009

    @Wowbagger
    I have asked you many times to produce some kind of objective revelation from Sideshow Bob that I can read and examine for myself, but you have produced none(none that were not typed by you). I have to disregard you.

  245. #246 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    February 17, 2009

    I defended it in other threads and I don’t really want to derail this one. But I showed it quite simply by the impossibility of the contrary and refuting ever contrary account of logic and reason the was presented.

    no. you. did. not.

    You asserted this as fact but failed miserably to support it.

  246. #247 Brian English
    February 17, 2009

    But I showed it quite simply by the impossibility of the contrary and refuting ever contrary account of logic and reason the was presented. So how do you account for the universal ,objective ,absolute ,immaterial , laws of logic and reason? Bullshit, you’re trying to sell worn out presuppositional rubbish. I don’t need to account for anything, I’m not making the claim. Let’s consider your claim. First, you state there is some thing called the impossibility of the contrary. I bet you can’t even explain what that is and why anybody would accept it. Then you’ll say we know the bible is right because God justifies it, that we know God exists because the bible justifies it, and around we go…..

  247. #248 Peter B
    February 17, 2009

    @#212

    Thinking about it, God is not so much like phlogiston, as it is like vitalism, or the Life Force.

    Western god-beliefs are very much like weightless phlogiston – a fantasy reshaped by the selectional pressures of critical thought to elude falsification.

  248. #249 Holbach
    February 17, 2009

    I’m willing to bet that Facilis mugs with his religious lunatic friends and describes how he is baiting those atheists on Pharyngula and is wiping the floor with us.
    Ha, and he does this in a complete body cask.

  249. #250 frog
    February 17, 2009

    Facilis: objective revelation

    That’s the funniest phrase I ever dun seen.

  250. #251 Quiet_Desperation
    February 17, 2009

    Whateverman, cosmology doesn’t address what came before the Big Bang because cosmologists know that there is no way for any information from that era to get here.

    Actually, there is a field of study about just that, as well as a couple cyclic models that describe quite exactly what was before the Big Bang. Google on the term ekpyrotic.

  251. #252 Nerd of Redhead, OM
    February 17, 2009

    Facilis, fail at disproving Side Show Bob. Fail at showing god is reason and logic. Fail at disproving each and every refutation of your logic and reasoning. Total fail. You need to go away. You are now our little monkey, who farts every now and then and thinks it is cute. But you are BORING.

  252. #253 Wowbagger
    February 17, 2009

    I have asked you many times to produce some kind of objective revelation from Sideshow Bob that I can read and examine for myself, but you have produced none(none that were not typed by you). I have to disregard you.

    Indeed you have. But what you haven’t done is any of the following, which I have asked you many times:

    - justified your reasons for making this claim regarding revelation
    - provided your qualifications for judging it,
    - listed the standards by which you would judge it,
    - detailed where those standards originate,

    When you can answer these I’ll stop bringing it up. Until then you’re stuck with him.

  253. #254 Ichthyic
    February 17, 2009

    That’s the funniest phrase I ever dun seen.

    I heard a rubber band.

    I seen a needle wink its eye.

    but i dun seen about everything…

  254. #255 Kel
    February 17, 2009

    We know God exists every time we use logic and reason or make knowledge claims or do science or appeal to morals

    Not this shit again, please fuck off already facilis. Your position is circular and thus answers nothing. I already demonstrate that one can derive the laws of logic as 2+2 will always equal 4.

    I suggest you check out the “I’m in good company” thread to see if you will say something I’ve already refuted.

    Are you serious?!? All you did when anyone challenged you was say “But how can you say that without accounting for the laws of logic?” and completely avoid any refutation of your unsupported assertions of a circular position. I agree, people should go read that thread, if for nothing but to see how poor you are at arguing your position.

  255. #256 Ichthyic
    February 17, 2009

    the circular logic reminds me of silver fox.

    are facilis and SF related?

  256. #257 Ichthyic
    February 17, 2009

    Objective Revelations from SideShow Bob:

    “Because you need me, Springfield. Your guilty conscience may force you to vote Democratic, but deep down inside you secretly long for a cold-hearted Republican to lower taxes, brutalize criminals, and rule you like a king. That’s why I did this: to protect you from yourselves. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a city to run.”

    Teh book of Bob, 5.21-5.42

    “You want the truth! You can’t handle the truth! No truth handler you! Bah! I deride your truth handling abilities!”

    Teh book of Bob, 8.56

  257. #258 Raymond Moon
    February 17, 2009

    You said it yourself. Science has to do with observable facts. Since EVOLUTION cannot be observed, or even inferred, then it is not SCIENCE, but THEORY only, thank you very much. I prefer to BELIEVE in Intelligent Design by way of Special Creation.

  258. #259 Wowbagger
    February 17, 2009

    I could perhaps accepts facilis’ argument as support for deism, since it would fit in more with the idea of ‘God came, made shit (including logic etc.) and fucked off never to be seen again’ – but for him to want us to accept the whole of Christianity* based on this presuppositionalist twaddle shows is another thing entirely.

    His profound ignorance doesn’t help. He didn’t seem to know Mormonism is a kind of Christianity, or that Deists don’t claim to have received any revelations. Scary.

    Let’s not even get into sectarianism. The number of hurdles facilis has to jump over in order to show that only his particular flavour of ooga-booga can explain what he claims it can explain is very, very high – but watching him trip over them all will be great fun for us.

  259. #260 Kel
    February 17, 2009

    Don’t forget his claim to the throne of logic giver –
    “Attempted murder, now honestly, what is that? Do they give a Nobel Prize for attempted chemistry?”
    Teh book of Bob, 3.16

  260. #261 Kel
    February 17, 2009

    And lets not forget the memorable line where he reveals himself to be the eternal judge of the universe –
    “Very well, Bart. I shall send you to heaven before I send you to Hell”
    Teh book of Bob, 24.21

    There, irrefutable proof that Sideshow Bob is master of the afterlife and thus qualifies as a god.

  261. #262 Wowbagger
    February 17, 2009

    Hilariously enough, one of my limited number of ‘party tricks’ is being able to do quite a good vocal impression of Sideshow Bob – perhaps it’s a gift from Bob himself…

  262. #263 heliobates
    February 17, 2009

    @ Facilis

    I have asked you many times to produce some kind of objective revelation from Sideshow Bob that I can read and examine for myself, but you have produced none(none that were not typed by you). I have to disregard you.

    I’ve asked you many times to produce the full, formal explication of the universal, invariant, absolute laws of logic. I have asked for your full, formal theory of truth and an explanation of how VanTillian or Plantingan knowledge theories account for the Gettier problem. Shit, I’ll even take that modal proof you hinted at.

    But you produce nothing except the same canned arguments, ad nauseum.

    When you can respond to any of these modest requests (since they completely underpin your rhetorical position) I’ll stop bringing them up. Until then, you’re stuck with me and Sideshow Bob.

  263. #264 Nerd of Redhead, OM
    February 17, 2009

    Moon, you don’t understand science. Most of us here do, so we see through your lies. If you want to convince us of anything, the first step is to stop lying. The second is to quote the peer reviewed primary scientific literature to back up your assertions. Failure to do that mean you are fool, and we will have fun at your expense.

  264. #265 frog
    February 17, 2009

    heddle: You are full of shit when it comes to Feynman. Nothing I said conflicts with Feynman–not that you would be able to tell. If you think my statement “we have seen electrons” is at odds with Feynman then –well– you don’t know what the hell you are talking about. Every physicist in the world would agree that we have seen electrons in the sense that I stated it in #157. It is pathetic that you would even want to argue the point.

    My, my. Quite unchristian of you!

    Yes, it does conflict with Feynmann’s meaning in “Surely you must be joking”. You want to use “seen” simultaneously in the normal, everyday sense that excludes theoretical objects such as manifolds of universes, yet at the same time use it in a sense that includes theoretical objects outside close-to-direct sense perception, to objects that are “seen” via a complex of theoretical understanding. Recall, that the discussion of was of theoretical constructs “coming out of the math” — they too are “seen” or “not seen” in the way of an electron, and not in the way of a banana or a brick to the face (maybe now you know the statement I’m talking about?).

    You can’t have it both ways. That’s cheating. Either we mean “see” as in “I see a banana”, or we mean “see” in the sense “I see evolution in the rate of change of DNA sequences”.

    If you don’t understand that, you’re missing out on an essential aspect of the nature of science (and of thought). You ~may~ be technically prolific, but you are blind to the nose in front of your face, and I shall continue tweaking it (it appears to be necessary to be explicit with you — may I assume some form of autism? If so, then I apologize for taking advantage).

    But the point remains — if you’re incapable of understanding the difference between “real” events and theoretical events, why should we take anything you have to say philosophically seriously? Yes, if I need to know about ratios in spin-networks, I’ll ask you — but if I want to know what the implications of anything are, I’m better off asking the drunk homeless guy at the street-corner, who knows that the unseen theoretical curb is more important than the seen and non-theoretical pink-elephant chasing him.

  265. #266 Strider
    February 17, 2009

    It seems to me that heddle should be WAY too busy to be commenting on anyone’s blog because according to a 15 Feb comment in Ed Brayton’s blog (“FFRF strikes a blow for…not much”) he has a “…a plum job–college professor.” but then in this thread he writes “The lab I work at is the premier nuclear physics electron accelerator in the country, and one of the best in the world.” So is it both? Neither? Wait, I know, he’s a cowboy, astronaut, millionaire!

  266. #267 frog
    February 17, 2009

    Moon: . Since EVOLUTION cannot be observed, or even inferred, then it is not SCIENCE, but THEORY only, thank you very much.

    If it can’t be inferred, then it’s not a theory. So which is it? Evolution can’t be inferred, or is it “just a theory”? And why do you capitalize EVOLUTION, or SCIENCE, or THEORY? Are you using these words in some special sense? Shouldn’t you bother to suggest what that special sense is? Do you know what these words mean?

    And why should I give a flying fuck what you “prefer to believe”? Why would it possibly be of interest to anyone but your mother? I prefer to believe that you don’t exist and soup will rain from the sky.

  267. #268 Scott Hatfield, OM
    February 17, 2009

    I can accept that, as long as these people are aware of the import of what they are actually saying.

    Actually, I don’t think you can accept that. You beat your breast daily against a mob of believers, whether their views are nuanced and private, or vulgar and intrusively public. It’s a pretty good gig most times, I imagine. Where is the harm, though, in temporizing with a reasonable ally like Ebert? That level of persnicketiness, I don’t get.

    I do agree that there are things that neither religion or science can speak to in an objective way. Some, perhaps most, such subjects are illusory. Some may not be, but even these are facilitated to some degree by fantasy. But, as long as the latter are held tentatively—which is to say with a dagger not to the other fellow’s throat—then, again, where is the harm?

    I don’t see how you can respond here without sounding as if you are reaching for your own metaphorical dagger, and I’m not sure that I would want you to try. It would be a bit of disappointment to your loyal readership, including yours truly. But again, even if you wanted to make peace with such, could you?

  268. #269 Kel
    February 17, 2009

    Since EVOLUTION cannot be observed, or even inferred, then it is not SCIENCE

    Evolution, for all intents and purposes, has been observed – multiple times. It can even be inferred from all the historical and circumstancial evidence. We’ve seen mutation, we’ve seen adaptation, we’ve seen natural selection in action, we’ve seen speciation, all of these both in the lab and in the wild. Observed! As for inferrence from other evidences – morphology, anatomy, geographical distribution of life, the fossil record, transitional fossils, genetic similarities, vestigial organs, inactive genes, ERV markers, fused chromosomes, the eye, etc. All it points to one solution – life evolved on this planet.

    It is science and each stage of potential falsification evolutionary theory has passed the test. It’s science, it’s as true as a theory can get, just what else do you need to be shown that evolution happened?

  269. #270 Ichthyic
    February 17, 2009

    Hilariously enough, one of my limited number of ‘party tricks’ is being able to do quite a good vocal impression of Sideshow Bob – perhaps it’s a gift from Bob himself…

    A MIRACLE! A MIRACLE!

    all hail Bob, from whom all blessings flow!

  270. #271 Ichthyic
    February 17, 2009

    I’m not sure that I would want you to try

    The hell you say, Scott.

    a little birdie told me you’d welcome the effort.
    ;)

  271. #272 VegeBrain
    February 17, 2009

    Very well put; I’ve never bought any of this non-overlapping magesterium idea at all. Religios people make statements about how the universe is and claim these statements are true. Since truth, according to the dictionary definition, is a statement that agrees with reality, then there is nothing wrong at all in trying to determine whether or not religious truth does indeed agree with reality.

  272. #273 Kel
    February 17, 2009

    If God made logic, then it would follow that God could make 2 + 2 = 5. But if God can’t make 2+2=5 then God isn’t the source of logic as logic cannot be changed… even by an omnipotent omniscient being. Same thing goes for morality, God can either be moral or a maker of morals. Facilis’ position is to make god a logically impossible entity and declare that god embodies logic.

  273. #274 Ichthyic
    February 17, 2009

    a good vocal impression of Sideshow Bob

    btw, would that qualify as “speaking in tongues”?

  274. #275 Ichthyic
    February 17, 2009

    “Oh i’ll stay away alright STAY AWAY FOR EVER!! MUAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA … wait thats not right.”

    teh book of Bob, 10.6

    from this verse we conclude that as the creator of all things, SideShow Bob deliberately and maliciously aforethought chose to abandon his creation, even knowing at the time it “wasn’t right”.

    thus was born original sin, and knowledge of right and wrong.

  275. #276 windy
    February 17, 2009

    You beat your breast daily against a mob of believers, whether their views are nuanced and private, or vulgar and intrusively public. It’s a pretty good gig most times, I imagine. Where is the harm, though, in temporizing with a reasonable ally like Ebert? That level of persnicketiness, I don’t get.

    What is the harm of PZ disagreeing with Ebert publicly, why should we treat reasonable allies like some sort of shrinking violets that can’t take debate? Or what sort of ‘temporizing‘ did you have in mind? I hope it wasn’t ‘act evasively in order to gain time or avoid argument’!

  276. #277 PZ Myers
    February 17, 2009

    Actually, I would be quite happy if people realized the import of what they are saying. The import being, as explained above, that gods are irrelevant.

  277. #278 Dark Matter
    February 18, 2009

    Hey, hey, hey, Ebert, leave the social sciences alone; we aren’t all crazy apologists. I, for one, am perfectly capable of both observing religion and of subjecting it to the same rigorous logical scrutiny that I would apply to any other aspect of my work or life.

  278. #279 Ben
    February 18, 2009

    Sorry Plumm @228 – there is a difference.

    I am 99 percent sure that no “god/s” exist, but I will allow that there is a faint possibility. No one can design an experiment that would falsify the existence of that kind of god. It is just more parsimonious to assume that it exist.

    Religious claims are far more specific, i.e. homosexuals are “unnatural”, you cannot be moral without being religious, the Earth was created in 6 days 10,000 years ago or out of giant ant crap or by rainbow serpents etc. All these things can be falsified.

    I suppose I should been more specific in my original post.

  279. #280 John Scanlon FCD
    February 18, 2009

    I liked this short response to a student asking whether evolution was consistent with Christian belief:

    Sir,?I am very busy, and am an old man in delicate health, and have not time to answer your, questions fully, even assuming that they are capable of being answered at all. Science and Christ have nothing to do with each other, except in as far as the habit of scientific investigation makes a man cautious about accepting any proofs. As far as I am concerned, I do not believe that any revelation has ever been made. With regard to a future life, every one must draw his own conclusions from vague and contradictory probabilities. Wishing you well, I remain, your obedient servant,
    CHARLES DARWIN

    (quoted from here the other day by Afarensis, emphasis added by me).

    And Gould’s basis for NOMA can probably, without excessive cynicism, be adequately explained by this quote:

    Truth is a weapon in debate – not the best one, by any means.
    - Steven Jay Gould, ‘debate’ with Richard Dawkins, Oxford 1987

    (Transcript and podcast here)

  280. #281 Spiny Norman
    February 18, 2009

    That is not an atheist’s world, PZ. It is an agnostic’s world.

    Best bumper sticker: “Militant agnostic. I don’t know, and neither do you.”

  281. #282 John Phillips, FCD
    February 18, 2009

    Ichthyic, I am convinced, well it makes more sense than Facile’s logic anyway. So, where can I sign up for the Church of Sideshow Bob?

  282. #283 Ben
    February 18, 2009

    Oops – that should be “It is just more parsimonious to assume that it DOESN’T exist.”

    LOL Don’t know how that one got past me :-)

  283. #284 Rilke's Granddaughter
    February 18, 2009

    Wrong. I am co-author on ~50 publications in the peer reviewed literature. (You can browse here, although you are incapable of understanding any of them.) And that is in spite of the fact that I was out of academia from 2001 to 2008. True, many of them are as part of a large nuclear physics collaboration–so the best you can do is impugn the good name of most of the members of the collaboration by arguing that long author lists don’t count.
    Do you want to keep making an ass of yourself? You know nothing about science, obviously, and little about anything else, it would seem. Have you told the astromomers they haven’t seen any black holes? Let me know how that goes for you.
    By the way: on this blog do you really think it is a strategic move to challenge a scientist’s standing by the length of his publication list? Doesn’t seem like a good idea to me. Just asking.

    In other words, Heddle isn’t a professor or a scientist.

    He’s just a coder.

    Big whoop.

  284. #285 Rilke's Granddaughter
    February 18, 2009

    I also note there is no “Heddle” listed as part of the CLAS Collaboration. So what is the point of that list of papers, Heddle?

  285. #286 Scott Hatfield, OM
    February 18, 2009

    #271:

    The hell you say, Scott.

    a little birdie told me you’d welcome the effort.

    A fishy remark! My ‘birdie’ friends in academia are no doubt tattling on me. But, I hate to admit it, if beer is involved, I wouldn’t even consider it an effort.

    #277:

    What is the harm of PZ disagreeing with Ebert publicly, why should we treat reasonable allies like some sort of shrinking violets that can’t take debate?

    Mmphf. It’s not Ebert that can’t take it, and it certainly isn’t me. And I probably don’t give two hoots for the ones who can’t take it, so I don’t suppose it does that much harm either way. I just think this is one hair not worth splitting. It’s a matter of taste, and as I tried to suggest, PZ probably wouldn’t be PZ if he didn’t go after this hair as well, as this remark seems to typify:

    Actually, I would be quite happy if people realized the import of what they are saying. The import being, as explained above, that gods are irrelevant.

    If only the belief in God was similarly irrelevant!

    That is not an atheist’s world, PZ. It is an agnostic’s world.

    Or perhaps Soren Kirkegaard’s world? In any case, it’s the only world we have to work with. It’s the world where we get to have this conversation.

  286. #287 gabriel
    February 18, 2009

    Seems like PZ really has had it in for the TEs lately (SCM, RE) and even TE-friendly scientists like Gould. The comparison between SCM and Hovind was especially interesting – how can anyone think these individuals are remotely comparable? There’s lumpers and there’s splitters, but then there’s just plain silly. Calling down a scientist of SCM’s standing to Hovind’s level doesn’t make SCM look bad, sorry.

    Perhaps the fear is an end of conflict? Imagine the USA, where the majority support evolutionary theory, because they see it as just another natural mechanism ordained and sustained by their deity of choice. Would that really be so bad?

  287. #288 John Phillips, FCD
    February 18, 2009

    Gabriel, at one level, we don’t particularly care whether they accept evolution or not. All we really care about is that they don’t force their beliefs on others or use their beliefs to justify and try to enact discriminatory laws and especially not try to teach creationism/IDiocy as science. If they do all that, they can believe any IDiocy they like with nary a word from us, except perhaps the odd giggle at the preposterousness of their beliefs.

    Until then we will man the barricades, so to speak, and that includes pointing out how accommodating the faith based moderate validates their enabling of the very same faith based fundamentalist. I.e. when faith in a position with no evidence is valued above actual evidence then the moderate is in a difficult position when it comes to criticizing the same faith based position of the fundamentalist. When even the fundies become moderates, then we will relax and let them practise their knittingreligion without much criticism.

  288. #289 dp
    February 18, 2009

    My view as a Christian is that science cannot, and never asserts that it can, address matters that are not “testable” or “observable” (whatever that term may mean at various times in our history). I do believe, however, that there are other disciplines that address matters that are not “testable” or “observable” or “replicable”. That does not mean that those matters/objects/gods/whatever don’t exist. It means only that our current technology does not allow us to “observe” them in the scientific sense.

    And remember, you don’t have to observe the object, just the evidence for the object (as interpreted by the person viewing the evidence). If I am standing in front of a black curtain and PZ is behind it and calls me a “punk ass Christianist” from behind the curtain, I am 100% sure he is behind the curtain, based upon what I know about vocal sounds, my understanding of his use of English (of course, I’m from Texas, so I may have a hard time understanding someone from Minnesota), etc. This is true even though I haven’t “observed” him, merely the evidence for him (his voice). Upon receiving further evidence (that it was a tape recorder behind the curtain because PZ cannot stand to be in the same room as a punk ass Christianist), I can now be sure that PZ is NOT behind the curtain.

    Anyway, it’s late and this is too long already. My point is that just because you cannot see/observe it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, just that our technology is not advanced enough.

  289. #290 John Phillips, FCD
    February 18, 2009

    dp, evidence please, and not of the bible says so type, i.e. hearsay. Until then, at best, belief in god/s is nothing but speculation, at worst, delusion. By the way, you could easily prove that it was PZ or not by looking. Which curtain do we look behind for your god.

  290. #291 Matt
    February 18, 2009

    Imagine the USA, where the majority support evolutionary theory, because they see it as just another natural mechanism ordained and sustained by their deity of choice.Would that really be so bad?

    Nope. Just wrong. And while I’m sure that everyone here can live with people being incorrect, they don’t need to keep quiet about it just because things are ‘good enough’. If everyone just nodded and said that the magical thinking, the anthropocentric idea of guided evolution, and the half-baked philosophy cobbled in its defense made sense, they would be lying.

    No matter how harmless they are, stupid ideas should be challenged. And if you don’t think the ideas are stupid, then defend them. But please don’t come onto a site where everyone loves debate and suggest that maybe we should just pretend the Emperor has clothes. Worst case scenario: PZ constantly mocks and rips these people for sloppy thinking, and they’re forced to examine their philosophy a bit more (His cyberpistol doesn’t leave real wounds, in case you were wondering). Would that really be so bad?

    Yours in concern,

    Matt

  291. #292 dp
    February 18, 2009

    John,

    That is my point: there may not be any “scientific evidence” at this point because of technological limitations. That is something that no one can deny. In fact, when gaps are recognized in our knowledge, many well meaning scientists argue strenuously that the information gap doesn’t impact the theory, but that if we just keep looking, we will find evidence to fill that gap (or evidence that totally demolishes the theory and leads to the establishment of another theory).

  292. #293 Kevembuangga
    February 18, 2009

    It is always the same endless haggling, there must be something crooked in the mind of the religionists.
    My current bet about this is some form of aberrant salience stemming from an experience of phantom sensed presence.

  293. #294 Kel
    February 18, 2009

    evidence doesn’t have to be of the scientific nature. Science has well defined limits, but that doesn’t mean the moment one steps beyond the limitations of science that evidence is thrown to the lions and life becomes a game of cultural relativism. Jerry Coyne made this point well, the real battle is between faith and secular reasoning – whereby we need a good reason to back up what we believe.

    Surely in some way you must think you have some validation for your beliefs, otherwise you are just speculating on the unknown and to hold such firm convictions in mere speculation is quite absurd even to a cultural relativist.

  294. #295 John Phillips, FCD
    February 18, 2009

    dp: But every ‘gap’ or explanation the theist proposes ever since the inception of the Abrahamic religions have been filled by science. In the meantime the theist tries to hide their god in the remaining gaps. Therefore, when everything that has been attributed to your god is in fact shown to have perfectly rational and naturalistic explanation it doesn’t leave much room for a god that supposedly periodically interferes in this world but never leaves any real evidence. Thus, while absence of evidence is not necessarily evidence of absence, there comes a time when the overwhelming lack of any evidence whatsoever makes the possibility of a god/s so infinitesimally small that it can be ignored. The same argument you use in defence of your god, i.e. we haven’t the technology yet, is used in defence of the paranormal and it has as much validity there as here, i.e. none. The rest is just apologetics and rationalisation in support of the need to believe.

  295. #296 dp
    February 18, 2009

    My point exactly. Science has its limits and how do we say what is valid (and the accepted or correct way to prove it) in that vast area outside of the competence of the scientific method?

  296. #297 Wowbagger
    February 18, 2009

    That is my point: there may not be any “scientific evidence” at this point because of technological limitations.

    But over the centuries many things attributed to the gods – or considered to be gods, like the sun and the moon – have turned out to be 100% non-god natural phenomena: rain, thunder, lightning, rainbows and so forth.

    Why should we draw a line now? If our ancestors had insisted on drawing lines we’d still be in the dark ages.

  297. #298 windy
    February 18, 2009

    There’s lumpers and there’s splitters, but then there’s just plain silly. Calling down a scientist of SCM’s standing to Hovind’s level doesn’t make SCM look bad, sorry.

    Sorry, scientific standing does not give anyone a free pass to make silly creationist arguments and not have them criticized.

    And maybe you should reconsider lumping Conway Morris and Ebert together: Ebert’s post was lucid and sensible.

  298. #299 Kel
    February 18, 2009

    My point exactly. Science has its limits and how do we say what is valid (and the accepted or correct way to prove it) in that vast area outside of the competence of the scientific method?

    Quite easily, by using that same scepticism from science. The scientific method is limited by in part procedure. An idea needs to be falsifiable for it to count as science, and evidence needs to be empirical. But we can take the same approach on unscientific ideas to see whether there is any validity to the process, just like we do in everyday life. I don’t need to use the scientific method when choosing whether certain foods have gone bad before cooking, but I still use judgement. Otherwise I’d be throwing good food out at some times and eating poisonous food at others.

    Surely you have reasons for believing what you do, and surely you have some rationalisations for those reasons. Otherwise you get to a point of pure speculation where one cannot differentiate a good idea from bad. Just quickly, why Christian and not Muslim?

  299. #300 Miguel
    February 18, 2009

    @Steve_C (#12):

    Typical crass remark from a bigoted ‘chaunophobe. Science doesn’t need to address the existence of Leprechauns, because Their existence is self-evident. Without Them we wouldn’t have RAINBOWS or FOUR-LEAF CLOVERS!!!

  300. #301 heddle
    February 18, 2009

    Strider #266,

    So is it both?

    Both. Which should be obvious to anyone who knows even a tiny bit about how science is done. Like more than 95% of the collaboration, I am not a staff member at the lab but rather I have a home institution and contribute to experiments done at the lab. And my job is really plum because my university is only 5 minutes away. I can get there daily rather than having to fly in periodically.

    Rilke’s Granddaughter,

    I also note there is no “Heddle” listed as part of the CLAS

    Then you note incorrectly. For your info I was a member from 90 to 01, left academia, was still a member, finally dropped off ~2007, then returned to academia in 2008. Reapplied for membership, which requires a MOU and a vote. I became a full member again in 2008. I have no idea what list you are looking at, but it is not a current list. The list of papers was only to counter frog’s misstatement of my publication record.

    In other words, Heddle isn’t a professor or a scientist.

    He’s just a coder.

    Big whoop.

    If you understood anything about how physics works you would know that on large experimental collaborations people roughy split into one of two groups: hardware and software. Some groups build detectors and targets, others write the daq, visualization, simulation (Monte Carlo) and analysis software. The roughly 30 or so physicists in our collaboration who write software (including physics grad students who will get their physics PhDs by contributing software and postdocs who are banking their future academic careers on the value that the community places in software) would not, of course, give a rat’s ass that some pinhead who comments on a blog thinks they are just coders.

  301. #302 Stephen Wells
    February 18, 2009

    One day Facilis will need to explain how, for example, a deity is relevant to a rule such as “Given A, and given (if A then B), then B”. That’s a law of logic, and it’s not based on the will of Zeus; it’s true because it cannot not be true.

    In fact, it’s even worse for Facilis than it seems. He proposes that a god is a necessary ground for the laws of logic. In order for this to be true, it would have to be the case that (Given (not God), and given (if not God then not Logic), then not Logic) is true in the absence of God; which means that in order for logic to depend on a God, logic must be true even absent any God, and we have a contradiction. Logic cannot depend on God by the impossibility of the contrary! Put that in your facile pipe and smoke it.

    You’ll note, though facilis won’t, that the above is actually a logical argument, not facilis’ handwaving.

  302. #303 echidna
    February 18, 2009

    dp,
    Sure, it is possible that things that we cannot observe might exist. But if we can’t observe them, or even indirectly measure any hints of any effects relating to their existence, then what?

    The burden of proof is not to prove the non-existence of an imaginary entity. If you want others to believe in your god, it is up to you to provide some sort of evidence for an entities existence beyond speculation. If you want to say there is room for a Christian God, then I say there is also room for Loki, Ameratasu and Aphrodite.

    Regarding the existence of any god at all: there is no evidence of any type and no reason to suspect existence; no way to distinguish existence from non-existence. Why believe then? Fear? Indoctrination? No thanks. I wish you freedom from the mind-contorting shackles that religion imposes.

  303. #304 Andyo
    February 18, 2009

    dp,

    It’s not just that current technology can’t let us see the “supernatural”. It’s that the supernatural, including religions, as it is asserted by supernaturalists, conflicts and even contradicts, what we do know.

    An example of something that agrees with what we know, but we are technologically impaired to discover for sure, is string theory. And no string theorist is calling that beyond the scrutiny of science fundamentally.

  304. #305 Louis
    February 18, 2009

    This whole “coder/physicist” thing with Heddle reminds me of the tracer bit in “Chasing Amy”:

    “You’re just a tracer”
    “Your mother’s a tracer” etc

    Whatever Heddle’s background/professional standing (and in my experience of him I have no real reason to doubt his claims of either, in fact I have a lot of good reasons to think he’s telling the truth), it’s his arguments that are atrocious. Whether he himself is atrocious in some aspect of his personal of professional life is blissfully irrelevant. No matter how much he may or may not bring it up, nor how much some people may or may not question it.

    Good gravy I think I just defended Heddle! {looks around for aerial bacon}

    Anyway, the claim that Heddle is trying to make is that there is some equivalence between various hypothetical/theoretical models* of the multiverse and god. Since We have no observations of multiverses and since we have no observations of god they must both be on the same footing, right?

    Wrong! Heddle is making a false equivalence.

    The hypothetical/theoretical models of the multiverse (and even I, a non-physicist yet still a scientist, am sufficiently aware of modern physics to note that there is more than one model of the multiverse and that they each have different probablities and testabilities) are the rarefied ends of a whole body of consilient work. Take the worst case scenario: the string theory (more properly M-theory IIRC) multiverse. This isn’t some article of physicist faith, this is a segment of the cutting edge of mathematical and theoretical physics research. It may well be wrong (it may well also not be so), but it is an outgrowth of a huge body of work that is, to all intents and purposes, as right as anything we’ve ever come up with as a species.

    Take a better example: the multiverse interpretation of quantum mechanics. It’s on less shaky ground that it’s close cousin in string theory because it is an interpretation of actual experimental data that is not on consistent with it intellectually and theoretically, but more importantly mathematically. IIRC, and please do correct me if I’m wrong physicists, it has testable implications that the LHC could in principle discover (as does M-theory and other dimensions IIRC, again please correct me if I’m wrong).

    Granted, all of these (and many more) things are hugely difficult to test, and it’s hugely unlikely that we’ll see them, but as someone above noted they are a very different class of hypothesis (object) from “god”. These are the rarefied outgrowths, as I have said but it bears repeating, of a huge body of consilient work in science. Rational, relaible, well researched, evidence based, experimentally tested work. They are the cutting edge of where we currently are. They are absolutely not in the same class of “unobserved” as “god”.

    Louis

  305. #306 Louis
    February 18, 2009

    Addendum:

    As has been mentioned Heddle is playing a “God of the Gaps” game. He just thinks he’s found a really big and clever gap. I think, IIRC, that Heddle once said that if the multiverse were demonstrated experimentally he’d abandon his faith in god (is that correct Heddle?). If so I think Heddle’s false equivalence takes on a new and more significant meaning. Perhaps even an intellectually dishonest one, because in this case Heddle would be make his faith in god “abandonable” on the basis of something that isn’t (in his falsely equivalent view) “provable”. He would have the “perfect” tachyonic goalposts! This is a clear problem for Heddle if he would make this sort of claim.

    That is to say nothing of the epistemological quandary this, if true, puts Heddle in.

    Louis

  306. #307 SEF
    February 18, 2009

    I suggest you check out the “I’m in good company” thread to see if you will say something I’ve already refuted.

    In case anyone does want to see the full extent of Facilis’ epic (fractal) fail, his delusions of him having made valid refutations notwithstanding, here’s the link to that thread. NB It’s rather a long thread though, because Facilis was too stupid to take on board how badly he was losing and kept digging the same hole very repetitively once he got started.

  307. #308 heddle
    February 18, 2009

    Louis,

    No I am not saying they are on equal footing. The entirety of my comment was pointing out a consequence of cervantes #5:

    It is meaningless to assert the existence of an entity that cannot, in principle, be observed. End of story.

    I made a comment, completely to the point of Cervantes comment, that such a definition of meaningless would include postulating other universes.

    The problem that then followed was this: a few people (including Sastra, always Sastra) took the comment for what it was and argued its merits or lack thereof. But the bulk of the chuckleheads, after properly ignoring me for a long time (you?ll note I wasn?t, like SC OM does, shouting hey, look at me, I made a comment and it is your obligation to address it or I win!) jumped aboard when Ichthyic, in #122 ?slapped me down? (in his own mind.) I didn?t derail the thread, Ichthyic derailed the thread.

    The hypothetical/theoretical models of the multiverse (and even I, a non-physicist yet still a scientist, am sufficiently aware of modern physics to note that there is more than one model of the multiverse and that they each have different probablities and testabilities)

    I don?t know what you mean by their probabilities, but they do not have different testabilities when it comes to testing for another universe. It is zero in all cases. There is no actual experiment proposed for detecting another universe in any of the multiverse models. None. If you know of any then I will happily stand corrected.

    It doesn?t matter, as far as this question is concerned, that what they claim as predictions for this universe are correct. Of course they wouldn?t make it out of the box, apart from a honeymoon period (which for String Theory has been about thirty years) if they didn?t make contact with experiments in this universe. But no matter how testable any of these theories is here, their prediction of (or in some cases consistency with) other universes remains untestable, and does not get a free pass. Not unless we want to change what we mean by science.

    So I understand that since they are part and parcel of cosmological theories they are not the same as the God hypothesis. However, in terms of failing the testability requirement of science, they both fail the same way.

  308. #309 Stephen Wells
    February 18, 2009

    Er, if a theory successfully describes this universe by a means which includes the prediction of other universes, and it works better than any theory which doesn’t predict other universes, then the theory is testable, by exactly the same means which lets us infer the existence of, say, electrons. So there’s no reason such a theory should be untestable, and hence no reason the existence of other universes should be untestable; not being able to go there and do an experiment is irrelevant. I can’t travel into the past and perform experiments there either.

    _Current_ multiversal cosmological theories aren’t testable _yet_ which is why they’re speculative and under active research rather than being considered settled science. I don’t see why people shouldn’t work on such models, as you never know what useful and interesting stuff might turn up.

  309. #310 heddle
    February 18, 2009

    Stephen Wells

    Er, if a theory successfully describes this universe by a means which includes the prediction of other universes, and it works better than any theory which doesn’t predict other universes, then the theory is testable, by exactly the same means which lets us infer the existence of, say, electrons.

    No, theories about electrons are tested by performing experiments on electrons. If they also make predictions about neutrinos, then those predictions have to be tested independently. We never say: ?you know, it did so well with electrons, let?s just assume it is correct everywhere else.?

    So there’s no reason such a theory should be untestable, and hence no reason the existence of other universes should be untestable;

    Yes there is. The restrictions on testing for other universes, even in principle, come from constraints placed by General Relativity.

    I can’t travel into the past and perform experiments there either.

    Pedantry: Actually you can. In some sense Astronomy is in large measure all about doing experiments in the past.

    I don’t see why people shouldn’t work on such models, as you never know what useful and interesting stuff might turn up.

    I couldn?t agree more.

  310. #311 Stephen Wells
    February 18, 2009

    Actually theories about electrons have mostly been tested using bits of metal, glass tubes, phosphors and stuff like that. Think about it. We infer the existence of electrons from the fact that electrons are so handy for explaining the results of those experiments. I’m sure that inference is correct; after all I infer the existence of tables from the way that tables are so handy for explaining why my dinner isn’t in my lap at the moment. But it does leave the door open to the possibility that the only successful theory to describe what we see might involve other universes, in which case we’d have to infer their existence in exactly the same way. Nor have you grasped my point about the past; astronomy (or paleontology) does not do “experiments in the past”, we make observations _now_ and infer things about the past, a region as inaccessible to us as another universe.

    I have no dog in this fight, I don’t have any emotional investment in whether other universes do or do not exist, but as a matter of history and philosophy of science, I have to warn you that you are writing off the concept a little too readily.

  311. #312 Geoff Rogers
    February 18, 2009

    [quote]God can’t do anything anymore where people might actually notice, or worse, record the act and figure out how the tricks are done. This is awfully convenient.[/quote]

    PZ, you bastard, you stole my bit!

    (From http://www.richarddawkins.net/forum/viewtopic.php?f=46&t=69637&p=1679189&hilit=miracles#p1679189):

    [I]“If there’s the God that so many people claim there is, I know why he doesn’t perform miracles any more. He’s scared. He knows that if He performs a miracle in public, we’ll study it and work out how He did it. Then we become gods, he’s fucked, no-one worships Him, …”[/I]

    (apparenlty I’ve forgotten how to do HTML tags. Sigh)

  312. #313 heddle
    February 18, 2009

    Stephen Wells,

    But it does leave the door open to the possibility that the only successful theory to describe what we see might involve other universes, in which case we’d have to infer their existence in exactly the same way.

    No we wouldn’t, not without redefining science. When classical E&M was the only successful theory in its domain, it wasn’t taken for granted that the ultraviolet catastrophe it predicts was correct.

    We “infer” electrons because we say: if there are electrons, and if I can make a beam of them, and if direct that beam at a liquid hydrogen target, and if I arrange my detectors as such, then the postulated response of those detectors will so and so. The electrons are not a sideshow–they are the direct cause of signals being measured in detectors. With cosmology it is not like that–the cosmologies do make direct and wonderfully detailed predictions about this universe–concerning, say, the microwave background. And also predict (are consistent with) other universes, but those other universes have no direct impact on any experiment. None. The difference couldn’t be starker.

    Everything has to be tested.

    If the best theory for this universe predicts other universes that only inspires us to, if we can, test the prediction. Without testing it, it doesn’t win by default. We can easily imagine that perhaps the theory could be reformulated to be a theory of a universe only, or that waiting in the wings is a better theory that may or may not predict other universes. The untested predictions of a theory, no matter how successful the theory is, are not granted some sort of “provisionally demonstrated” status.

    You know, even the proponents of multiverse theories would readily admit that the predictions of other universes is not at all like “seeing” electrons.

    Nor have you grasped my point about the past; astronomy (or paleontology) does not do “experiments in the past”, we make observations _now_ and infer things about the past, a region as inaccessible to us as another universe.

    You are wrong about astronomy. It is different from paleontology. Paleontology looks at old stuff and in part infers what it looked like when it was young. When you are looking at distant galaxies, you are looking at something old but actually seeing it when it was young. You are working in the past. Telescopes are time machines.

    The microwave background is a picture of the universe when it was 400kya. It is not a picture that was taken 14 billion years ago and we dug it up.

  313. #314 SC, OM
    February 18, 2009

    heddle:

    It is meaningless to assert the existence of an entity that cannot, in principle, be observed.

    Exactly. Like another universe– another local minimum of the cosmic landscape. Can’t be observed, not even in principle. Meaningless.

    Even if this is/were true, what point were you making? How does it meaningfully relate or respond to PZ’s post? What is your response to Sastra’s points?

  314. #315 heddle
    February 18, 2009

    SC, OM

    Even if this is/were true, what point were you making? How does it meaningfully relate or respond to PZ’s post? What is your response to Sastra’s points?

    The point is fairly obvious: not only God suffers from the lack of scientific testability. At least one concept near and dear to science, other universes, is subject to the same criticism. This is on topic with PZ’s post, in my opinion, and a direct response to cervantes comment #5. And even if it were only the latter it would still be within protocol as usually practiced. Surely you make comments on comments.

    As for Sastra he (she?) AFAIK asked me no direct questions, and I agree with what (s)he wrote in #195.

  315. #316 SteveM
    February 18, 2009

    The microwave background is a picture of the universe when it was 400kya. It is not a picture that was taken 14 billion years ago and we dug it up.

    I do not understand the difference. Both are a picture of the universe 14 billion years ago.

  316. #317 SC, OM
    February 18, 2009

    The point is fairly obvious: not only God suffers from the lack of scientific testability. At least one concept near and dear to science,

    “Near and dear to science”? What the hell? How is that “near and dear” to “science”?

    other universes, is subject to the same criticism.

    Possibly. So?

    This is on topic with PZ’s post, in my opinion, and a direct response to cervantes comment #5. And even if it were only the latter it would still be within protocol as usually practiced. Surely you make comments on comments.

    When did I accuse you of not following “protocol”? I’m trying to understand what you’re getting at, if it’s anything other than insinuating something about your anthropic principle, which is phenomenally stupid given the evidence we have about our own universe and its history – we don’t need multiple universes to see how dumb it is, especially as appropriated for your own specific mythology.

    As for Sastra he (she?) AFAIK asked me no direct questions, and I agree with what (s)he wrote in #195.

    First, she corrected her #195 @ #212. Second, what about her posts @ #11, #48, #210, and #164, which was a direct response to you? I know she asked you no direct questions* – that’s why I said “points.”

    *Why would she, when you regularly weasel out of answering them?

  317. #318 PZ Myers
    February 18, 2009

    Shorter heddle: I can’t answer your question. Quick, look, over there — something someone else can’t answer!

    And yet again he leads everyone away from the questions he finds uncomfortable, into an endless looping circle of blather.

  318. #319 SC, OM
    February 18, 2009

    (you?ll note I wasn?t, like SC OM does, shouting hey, look at me, I made a comment and it is your obligation to address it or I win!)

    Screw you, heddle. We were having a dicussion on the Coyne thread when you evaded and ran from everything that shot down your arguments. You are staggeringly intellectually dishonest.

    No I am not saying they are on equal footing. The entirety of my comment was pointing out a consequence of cervantes #5:

    It is meaningless to assert the existence of an entity that cannot, in principle, be observed. End of story.

    I made a comment, completely to the point of Cervantes comment, that such a definition of meaningless would include postulating other universes.

    And you haven’t shown that scientists are “postulating” any such thing, in the sense of asserting or assuming their existence without evidence. If anyone is doing so, then of course this is improper and antiscientific.

  319. #320 Jason
    February 18, 2009

    I know this is an argument a lot of people love to hate, but I don’t think PZ made his point here. There is no scientific way to disprove most religious beliefs. You may say that they make scientific claims, but then all you can show is that they haven’t been scientifically verified. That’s not a good reason to actually believe in something, of course, and scientists are more than welcome to have their own thoughts on the subject, but the scientific method will never be able to prove that an invisible, immaterial & entirely undetectable creature doesn’t exist due to the utterly unscientific nature of the claim. Neither can science show that the purpose of life is not to worship Jesus/serve Allah/achieve nirvana/etc. for the same reason – claims that can’t be validated scientifically can’t be disproven scientifically.

    It’s true that some claims of religion, such as the age of the earth, can be fought with science (although you can find youself saddled with a creationist that believes things were created “looking old” from the start). Unfortunately the theists’ most absurd claims are simply beyond science’s reach. Absurdity is the key – since the claims themselves spit in the face of science from the onset, using science against them is a futile endeavor.

  320. #321 Nerd of Redhead, OM
    February 18, 2009

    Jason, you are missing the point.

    If god is simply spiritual, and doesn’t interact with anything, what is the use of such a weak god? Any why must everybody share your delusions/belief.

    If god interacts with the world, we should be able to detect it. Science has a say in whether the god of the bible, who did interact with the world, exists. So far the evidence says no god of the bible exists.

  321. #322 Matt Penfold
    February 18, 2009

    I know this is an argument a lot of people love to hate, but I don’t think PZ made his point here. There is no scientific way to disprove most religious beliefs. You may say that they make scientific claims, but then all you can show is that they haven’t been scientifically verified. That’s not a good reason to actually believe in something, of course, and scientists are more than welcome to have their own thoughts on the subject, but the scientific method will never be able to prove that an invisible, immaterial & entirely undetectable creature doesn’t exist due to the utterly unscientific nature of the claim. Neither can science show that the purpose of life is not to worship Jesus/serve Allah/achieve nirvana/etc. for the same reason – claims that can’t be validated scientifically can’t be disproven scientifically.

    My understanding of PZ’s position is that if the religious make claims that their god intervenes in the universe then that is a claim that is, in principle, one that science can investigate.

    You are correct that a god who does not intervene in such a manner is not something science can investigate, not least because such god can do nothing. Something that exists, but cannot do anything and cannot be detected does not exist in any proper meaning of the word.

  322. #323 Bobber
    February 18, 2009

    Heddle equates the concept of multiple universes with the concept of God:

    The point is fairly obvious: not only God suffers from the lack of scientific testability. At least one concept near and dear to science, other universes, is subject to the same criticism.

    There is an important difference, of course: no one is claiming that the theoretical multiple universes are the source of human morality, nor that these multiple universes will judge human beings for their suitability to join them in a – what? Final Univerese Of Extreme, Eternal Happiness? – as God claims to do.

    The question over the existence of multiple universes is limited in its scope of interest to a tiny percentage of the human species, and any effects of the discussion concerning that question are limited to that tiny percentage. Whereas the question over whether or not God exists is of far more importance to the wider world, because of the vastly greater number of people who believe in God/gods/something beyond, and because of what they believe that God tells them to do.

    So, while multiple universes/existence of God may be open to the same criticism, they are not due the same effort to scrutinize them.

    Unless, that is, people have fought wars and committed terrorist acts because Universe Number 4096123 told them to.

    Apparently, not only magicians use misdirection.

  323. #324 Josh
    February 18, 2009

    I don’t have a sauropod in this particular fight, but Heddle’s a bit off on the paleontology/astronomy contrast here:

    You are wrong about astronomy. It is different from paleontology. Paleontology looks at old stuff and in part infers what it looked like when it was young. When you are looking at distant galaxies, you are looking at something old but actually seeing it when it was young. You are working in the past. Telescopes are time machines…The microwave background is a picture of the universe when it was 400kya. It is not a picture that was taken 14 billion years ago and we dug it up.

    When you’re looking at a fossil, you’re looking at something old (as old as the absolute age of the fossil) and seeing it when it was young (how old the organism was when it died). The organism stopped living when it died. The fossil is a snapshot of what the organism looked like at 800Ma or whatever. The inferring part comes from the fact that we have to view fossils through a taphonomic lens; a bunch of crap has happened to our datapoint since it died. But if you can strip away the layers of taphonomic gunk, then what you are looking at is a snapshot of the organism when it was alive. If a telescope is a time machine, then so too is a fossil.

  324. #325 Thomas
    February 18, 2009

    If religion is exempt from scientific observation, that’s fine, but then it has no business interfering with science. You don’t see art disputing a scientific theory because it’s not aesthetically pleasing, right?

  325. #326 heddle
    February 18, 2009

    SC, OM,

    “Near and dear to science”? What the hell? How is that “near and dear” to “science”?

    Because it is very popular. The expression ?near and dear? is a figure of speech meaning ?very popular.?

    I’m trying to understand what you’re getting at, if it’s anything other than insinuating something about your anthropic principle, which is phenomenally stupid given the evidence we have about our own universe and its history – we don’t need multiple universes to see how dumb it is, especially as appropriated for your own specific mythology.

    I am not insinuating about the anthropic principle, which I agree has almost no place in science except when it is used to guide an experiment, as in the Hoyle?s famous Carbon resonance prediction. Using the anthropic principle this way: we are here, therefore object X must have property Y is not as satisfying as finding property Y without reference to ?us,? but it is far better than not finding property Y at all.

    So no, I am not insinuating anything at all?I am pointing out that other universes, like God, cannot be detected scientifically. That?s it?that?s all?nothing more.

    First, she (Sastra) corrected her #195 @ #212. Second, what about her posts @ #11, #48, #210, and #164, which was a direct response to you? I know she asked you no direct questions* – that’s why I said “points.”

    I have nothing to say about #11 or #48 or #210. I purposely do not want to discuss religion or metaphysics. I was trying to limit my discussion to the untestable implies meaningless meme. As for #164 I would agree with what she says about String Theory and agree that String Theory, though not as of yet making contact with experiment, is not the same as religion. As I alluded to in my response to Louis. I might have only added that you actually do see increasing hostility towards String Theory.

    *Why would she, when you regularly weasel out of answering them?

    Let?s put that to the test.

    My post #130 was a direct response to #129
    My post #140 was a direct response to #133 and #134.
    My post #143 was a direct response to #142
    My post #157 was a direct response to #144
    My post #223 was a direct response to #216
    My post #236 was a direct response to #229
    My post #301 was a direct response to #266, #284 and #285
    My post #308 was a direct response to #305 and #306
    My post #310 was a direct response to #309
    My post #313 was a direct response to #311
    My post #315 was a direct response to your #314
    This post is a direct response to #317 and #318.

    Now it?s true that people like Wowbanger in #165 commented on my religion, but I purposely ignored all such comments. Similary for Brownian?s bizarre rant in #171 though for some unidentifiable reason I like Browinian?I think at least his intelligence shows through. Unlike Nerd who as always, is plain dumb, as in #200. Yes these and others I ignored–no doubt you consider these proof cases of where I ?ran away.?

    And you haven’t shown that scientists are “postulating” any such thing, in the sense of asserting or assuming their existence without evidence. If anyone is doing so, then of course this is improper and antiscientific.

    Of course they are?it is friggin? commonplace. You can go almost everywhere and find scientists postulating multiverses (even some biologists.) And there is no experimental evidence, at all, none, zero, zilch for the existence of another universe.

    And you have people like Stanford physicist Susskind, one of the champions of the String Landscape, discounting falsifiability as a criterion for science. He is sort of sick and tired of people pointing out that other universes are not falsifiable. (And even argues that multiversese are not falsifiable like evolution is not falsifiable.) You can read about it here, http://www.math.columbia.edu/~woit/wordpress/?p=307 in a blog by Peter Woit, one that even mentions PZ.

    PZ,

    Shorter heddle: I can’t answer your question. Quick, look, over there — something someone else can’t answer!

    No, that?s longer heddle. Shorter heddle is just what I wrote: other universes can?t be tested either.

  326. #327 Matt Penfold
    February 18, 2009

    If religion is exempt from scientific observation, that’s fine, but then it has no business interfering with science

    It would also have to give up claims of divine intervention. As soon as theists start claiming divine intervention they give up the right to claim their god is exempt from scientific inquiry.

  327. #328 phantomreader42
    February 18, 2009

    Shygetz @ #60:

    How would you test for something that was constrained by no physical laws? It could alter the world and simultaneously alter perception of the world to prevent knowledge of the intervention…how do you test for that? You can’t.

    What difference is there between a being that completely rewrites reality to erase all evidence of its presence and make itself look nonexistent, and a being tht actually IS nonexistent? There’s no way to distinguish between a perfect illusion of nothing and actual nothing. And if the illusion ISN’T perfect, that fact can be identified. So a god who hides so well it can’t ever be detected even in principle might as well not exist. And a god who doesn’t hide quite so well as to be effectively nonexistent can be detected.

    The only way to keep god safe from all possible test or scrutiny is to make sure god never, ever does anything, says anything, or has any effect on the world. And what’s the difference between a god that does nothing, says nothing, and has no effect on the world, and no god at all? There IS no difference. Such a pathetic and impotent being is utterly irrelevant. It’s nothing.

  328. #329 Steve_C
    February 18, 2009

    Heddle, is your god worthy of prayer?

  329. #330 JimC
    February 18, 2009

    So here we have heddle offering little in the way of actual argument and listing a list of collaborations that prove nothing other than apparently he conributed something while also attacking PZ’s work in an effort to raise his own ‘status’. All the while he does enjoy touting his ‘intellect’ whatever that may be given his usual limited contributions.

    No, that?s longer heddle. Shorter heddle is just what I wrote: other universes can?t be tested either

    Sure took you a long time to type that very simple sentence. But along the way you insulted many and made more than a few of your usual specious arguments.

  330. #331 Stephen Wells
    February 18, 2009

    Heddle, “near and dear” does not mean “very popular”. You’re falsely trying to give the “multiple universes” possibility in importance it doesn’t actually have, and you’re misrepresenting it as if it were a random flight of fantasy rather than an aspect of a theoretical model. This is verging on the dishonest.

    And the whole thrust of your argument was to say that other universes, _like God_, can’t be detected scientifically, when we know that you belong to a theological strand involving a deity which has actually done stuff in the universe and promised to continue to do so, per your holy book of choice, which makes you absolutely dishonest; your god isn’t supposed to be hiding from scrutiny, he supposed to think nothing of torching hundreds of people or drowning the world by way of public demonstration of his existence and emotional state.

  331. #332 Tulse
    February 18, 2009

    Heddle, is your god worthy of prayer?

    Heddle is a Calvinist, so presumably it literally doesn’t matter whether he prays or not — the outcome would be the same.

  332. #333 Matt Penfold
    February 18, 2009

    Heddle is on record as saying he believes miracles have occurred. In that he is no different from the creationists he claims to oppose. Where they do differ is in the number of miracles they allow their god to perform. Heddle thinks they are rare, but can offer no evidence to support that claim.

    He therefore does not subscribe to the view that his god does not intervene in the universe. His attempts to claim he does are simply dishonest.

  333. #334 Steve_C
    February 18, 2009

    Meaning praying will alter nothing? What about whether god “hears” the prayers and requires the acknowledgment.

  334. #335 SteveM
    February 18, 2009

    So a god who hides so well it can’t ever be detected even in principle might as well not exist. And a god who doesn’t hide quite so well as to be effectively nonexistent can be detected.

    The problem is when you cosider an omnipotent god that can choose whether to be detectable or not, who can choose whether to interact with the universe or not. Who can choose to interact in ways that are indistinguishable from “chance”, but may result in particular outcomes it wants.

    How do you disprove such a being? You can’t. You can only settle back on parsimony, that such a being is needlesly complicating the science of the universe which can be adequately explained without such a being. It does not disprove it, just allows that it is unnecessary and until it becomes necessary, we’ll assume it does not exist.

  335. #336 SC, OM
    February 18, 2009

    Because it is very popular. The expression ?near and dear? is a figure of speech meaning ?very popular.?

    You’ve shown no evidence that it is “very popular,” even in certain branches of science, but even if you had that would be nothing like “near and dear,” which implies some sort of essential quality or strong investment among the scientific community as a whole. And you definitely haven’t shown that anyone on this blog holds that (the discussions I’ve seen have been quite critical and measured), so why would you word your comment like it was a devastating critique of some argument being made or position held by people here?

    I am not insinuating about the anthropic principle,

    Fine. (Well, no, really I don’t entirely believe you.)

    which I agree has almost no place in science

    It does to the extent that the evidence does not support (and in my view is against – a point I made on the earlier thread, quoting from Coyne, which you ignored) any “strong” anthropic claims.

    except when it is used to guide an experiment, as in the Hoyle?s famous Carbon resonance prediction. Using the anthropic principle this way: we are here, therefore object X must have property Y is not as satisfying as finding property Y without reference to ?us,? but it is far better than not finding property Y at all.

    I’m not following you.

    So no, I am not insinuating anything at all?I am pointing out that other universes, like God, cannot be detected scientifically. That?s it?that?s all?nothing more.

    And again, if true, what is the relevance of this to the post or the discussion in which you intervened?

    I have nothing to say about #11 or #48 or #210. I purposely do not want to discuss religion or metaphysics.

    That’s a joke, right?

    I was trying to limit my discussion to the untestable implies meaningless meme.

    One comment does not a meme make, and that was not the assertion in that post (which was presumably about religious claims, the subject of PZ’s post, so in responding to it you were making an intervention in the religious discussion; you can claim you were really just expressing your annoyance with certain multiverse theorists in this odd context, but I doubt anyone’s going to buy it). The assertion was that it is meaningless to assert the existence of entities that can’t be detected scientifically, even in principle. You haven’t demonstrated that some of what is posited by the scientists you speak of can’t ever be detected even in principle. But in any event it’s dishonest to respond to one short comment by one person as though the entire context doesn’t exist. PZ’s and Sastra’s posts bore directly on the issue of detectability and specifically spoke of religious claims. Your insistence that you were “only” making a simple, unrelated observation is disingenuous.

    As for #164 I would agree with what she says about String Theory and agree that String Theory, though not as of yet making contact with experiment, is not the same as religion. As I alluded to in my response to Louis.

    Then your raising it in this context is a red herring.

    Let?s put that to the test.

    You could have saved yourself some time. As usual, you don’t know what it means to put something to the test. My assertion was that you regularly evade direct questions, and I’ve specified in the past specifically the questions for which you have no good answers but which are central to your larger arguments. Of course you respond to some posts, but these are most of the time the ones that don’t touch upon this core and when you respond to those that do you do so in an evasive manner.

    Case in point:

    This post is a direct response to #317 and #318.

    You said, “I have nothing to say about #11 or #48 or #210. I purposely do not want to discuss religion or metaphysics.” You’ve posted about empirical observations of claims on a thread about empirical observations of religious claims, after posting for months about religion and running out on those discussions, and you have nothing to say to comments on the subject. Yes, that’s quite a direct response.

    Now it?s true that people like Wowbanger Wowbagger in #165 commented on my religion, but I purposely ignored all such comments.

    Indeed.

    Similary for Brownian?s bizarre rant in #171

    There was nothing bizarre about his colorful comment. It was as accurate as it was entertaining.

    Yes these and others I ignored–no doubt you consider these proof cases of where I ?ran away.?

    Actually, I was referring primarly to your running away from my comments, and I’ve provided evidence of it on the Coyne and the “The Stupid, It Burns” threads; but I linked specifically above to a discussion with Owlmirror from which you earlier ran out. Did you go back and respond?

    Of course they are?it is friggin? commonplace. You can go almost everywhere and find scientists postulating multiverses (even some biologists.)

    And you have people like Stanford physicist Susskind, one of the champions of the String Landscape, discounting falsifiability as a criterion for science.

    Assuming/asserting their existence, or seriously speculating about and studying it is commonplace? I’m sure there are some (that’s one guy*, although as I noted above in response to Sastra, what I’ve seen and heard from James Gates has given me a very different impression), but I already said clearly above that to “postulate” them in the sense we’re talking about is unacceptable, and I doubt anyone here would disagree with that. So what is its relevance to a post and discussion about religious claims that can be empirically investigated?

    *Going by that post, which I’ve only skimmed.

  336. #337 Kevembuangga
    February 18, 2009

    Jason
    There is no scientific way to disprove most religious beliefs.

    But there are scientific ways to prove that religious stances are strangely akin to delusional thinking and that inner feelings are NO PROOF of actual facts.
    For something to count as evidence is has to be intersubjectively verifiable.
    (Sorry to repeat the links under different headings but there is this “bizarre” tendency to overlook inconvenient facts…)

  337. #338 SC, OM
    February 18, 2009

    heddle:

    It is meaningless to assert the existence of an entity that cannot, in principle, be observed.

    Exactly.

    So, to be clear: By “exactly” and agreeing with cervantes, are you acknowledging that this is true of your god – that it is in fact meaningless to assert its existence? Quite an admission, but where does that leave your religious faith?

  338. #339 Iain Walker
    February 18, 2009

    Facilis (#230):

    I remember a debate between philosopher William Lane Craig and biologist Lewis Wolpert. Craig presented cosmological evidence for the Big Bang and the begining of the universe and showed how it pointed to a transcendent personal cause.

    If this was Craig’s usual version of the Kalam Cosmological Argument, then he would have shown no such thing, since the argument depends:

    (a) on a breathtakingly blatant use of the fallacy of equivocation (Craig spells out two possible senses of the term “begins to exist” and then assumes without justification that what appears to be true in one sense is also true in the other), and:

    (b) on the self-contradictory notion of timeless agency.

    Wolpert was unable to refute any of his points and called cosmology wild speculation because it did not agree with his worldview.

    Whether that is an accurate summation of Wolpert’s response I don’t know, but it is true that Craig knows enough cosmology to be able to bullshit plausibly about it, and sometimes his opponents in debates make the mistake of attacking the cosmology, when it’s usually Craig’s reasoning that is at fault. Opponents more knowledgeable about cosmology, such as Victor Stenger, usually hand Craig his head in his lap.

    Science relies on our ability to reason , deductively and inductively which can only come from God. We know God exists every time we use logic and reason or make knowledge claims or do science or appeal to morals.

    You keep asserting this, yet never produce an argument to back it up. It’s getting very repetitive, and very, very boring.

  339. #340 Louis
    February 18, 2009

    Heddle,

    I neither know nor care, nor made any claim about, who “derailed” this thread. That part of your comment is irrelevant to anything I said. IMO it?s not really much of a derail anyway.

    Right off the bat, I?ll mention one important thing: I don’t “believe” in many world interpretation/multiverses any more than I “believe” in the Copehagen interpretation or various decoherence formulations of QM, like someone else said I have no dog in the hunt. It ain’t even my hunt. String theories are, as far as I can tell, mathematical constructs for developing models of the universe as opposed to full fledged physical theories, and the MW/Copenhagen interpretations are different ways of dealing with essentially the same phenomena. However, I will say that I find the MWI more parsimonious axiomically (if not parsimonious in other ways). As I?m sure you?ll agree, no experiments have yet demonstrated the validity of various string theories. Nor has any experiment yet distinguished between the MWI and the Copenhagen interpretation. I?m happy to remain as yet unconvinced.

    However, this isn?t the same as making the false equivalence you are making. Interestingly in a post protesting that you are not making a false equivalence you conclude your comment with:

    So I understand that since they are part and parcel of cosmological theories they are not the same as the God hypothesis. However, in terms of failing the testability requirement of science, they both fail the same way.”

    This is the EXACT same false equivalence I mentioned in my previous post!

    Granted, it is possible to make some spurious claim that the reason for everything is a ?multiverse? in exactly the same manner that theists/deists use god, pushing the unknown merely one step back, but that explicitly is NOT what is being done by (for example) string theorists. I think it?s important to be specific about which hypothesis, and sort of hypothesis, we are talking about.

    Scientific (rather than spurious types as mentioned above) multiverse hypotheses demonstrably don’t fail the testability criterion (if at all) in the same way that god hypotheses do. God hypotheses fail in a number of ways, not least by being poorly described or basically incoherent. Usually, when cornered and pressed on the matter, any theist will retreat to their last, best bet: deism. Even taking this best case scenario god hypothesis, deism, it is still not failing any testability criterion in science in anything like the same way any scientific multiverse hypothesis does. Deism fails by being in principle consistent with any possible universe. It?s simply not science. The same type of deistic argument can be made for the FSM etc.

    Various multiverse hypotheses have detectable consequences for this universe which, if not detected, rule them out. Take string theory as the classic example. String theory has consequences detectable on the Planck scale. Now both you and I know how ridiculous it is to present an experiment that aims to get things to roughly about the Planck energy, but the theory HAS those in principle detectable consequences. This is perhaps the weakest of the tests since it is staggeringly unlikely to be achievable (I once read something about linearly scaling from current accelerator technology we?d need a 7 light year long accelerator!). So granted these specific tests are incredibly unlikely to be achieved but they are not mere assertions, they are derived from the mathematics of the theories themselves, i.e. they are not merely ad hoc get out clauses.

    Furthermore, the cosmological consequences are not trivial. The cosmic microwave background cold spot detected using the WMAP has been claimed by Laura Mersini-Houghton et al. to be due to the imprint of a parallel universe, quantum mechanically entangled with our own before cosmic inflation. N.B. inflationary big bang cosmology itself is a multiverse hypothesis, and its explanation of the comparative uniformity of the CMB constitutes a test of a multiverse hypothesis, i.e. the matching of a predicted consequence of a theory against experimental data.

    One simple observation isn?t enough as I?m sure you?ll agree. Mersini-Houghton et al. made other predictions too, not least of which being that a similar cold spot should appear opposite to the one already detected in the opposite hemisphere. Also, their model predicts that the squeezing of our universe by neighbouring ones leads to repulsive gravity and suppresses the quantum fluctuations that seeded matter. This in turn depresses the temperature variations at the quadrupole scale, exactly as WMAP has seen. They also make other predictions about the distribution of matter with relation to the temperature of the WMB. Even their critics say that looking for long wavelength effects of string theory is a good idea in principle.

    Again, I cheerfully grant this is controversial and far from conclusive at this time, and I certainly don?t use it to demonstrate that multiverses exist. The point is that the long wavelength effects of string theory, and hence the existence of multiverses, are in principle detectable cosmologically for some multiverse hypotheses. This is the exact same sort of ?detectability? that more well established cosmological features like black holes have. We can?t ?see? a black hole but we can see what a black hole does to things around it. Effects that can best be explained by a theoretical construct we call a ?black hole? or something very much like it. Correct me if I?m wrong but aren?t there multiverse implications to the existence of black holes as well? I?ll have to check my little stack of Kip Thorne?s work to be sure.

    I am also under the impression that, for example, the existence of extra “curled up” dimensions was a testable prediction of string theory. It’s possible the LHC will be able to detect these dimensions. This would be, whilst obviously not a direct detection of another universe per se, a boost to string theory (or something very much like it). Also, not detecting supersymmetric partners of currently known particles could be a sort of boost (albeit a vastly more tenuous one).

    So to reiterate: I am absolutely not claiming that multiverse hypotheses have been demonstrated or that they occupy some “provisionally demonstrated” position in science. What I am claiming is that multiverse hypotheses fail the testability criterion of science, if they indeed do fail it at all in some cases, in a very different way from even the best god hypothesis. The effects on this universe of multiverses are, in principle, detectable, thus they are in principle testable even if some specific test is unlikely to be achieved.

    Anyway, part of your false equivalence is the very standard theist shifting of the burden of proof. Since you?ve already conceded that various multiverse hypotheses arise from QM and cosmology I could ask which equations and body of consilient work in science does god arise from. I could equally ask you to provide a test for the deist god that theists so love to retreat to when under pressure.

    This is a very serious question because it strikes to the heart of your false equivalence. Whilst not elevating multiverse hypotheses at all, it?s plain to see that their derivation, their genesis if you will, is of an entirely different epistemological kind to that of god hypotheses. Multiverse hypotheses might well be wrong, and it is demonstrably possible to formulate testable multiverse hypotheses (as shown above), but the automatic default does not then become a god hypothesis.

    Also, you make an invidious comparison between the UV catastrophe and multiverse hypotheses. The UV catastrophe was a known PROBLEM of classical EM, a known deviation from the data, not simply a consequence of theory that might explain other phenomena. The UV catastrophe violated a swathe of physical principles (as you well know) which multiverse hypotheses (whilst unproven) do not. I understand the reason you used that example (to, quite rightly, demonstrate that not all consequences of theory should be taken seriously), but it?s not a good choice because in the case of multiverses it is vastly different. AFAIK the UV catastrophe was never proposed as a solution to other problems in physics, it WAS a problem in physics. It may be that current obsession with string theory dies off unfulfilled, or is demonstrated ?wrong? as the LHC produces oodles of supersymmetric partners to known particles. So there are hypotheses that have multiverse components that are perfectly testable on other grounds as well.

    Writing all this off as simply being testing things ?here? in this universe doesn?t work. Science is provisional, it also works with theoretical constructs. Various multiverse hypotheses have multiverses as a theoretical construct. If it turns out that these best explain the data then your objection becomes unreasonable.

    Louis

  340. #341 Bodach
    February 18, 2009

    This was a great article; thanks, PZ. I also read the entire thread (skipping Heddle parts) and therefore deserve a prize. Please have Sideshow Bob or God deliver a pony for sacrifice. Thankew.

  341. #342 Louis
    February 18, 2009

    Fuck it!

    That post was huge, I am really sorry, I just got annoyed and started typing. Bad idea. My apologies.

    Louis

  342. #343 Escuerd
    February 18, 2009

    Heddle @ 157:

    “I can’t help it if they don’t update the wiki.”

    I thought the whole idea of a wiki was that you can help it.

  343. #344 Tulse
    February 18, 2009

    Meaning praying will alter nothing? What about whether god “hears” the prayers and requires the acknowledgment.

    You’d have to wait for heddle’s answer regarding his specific beliefs, but my understanding of Calvinism is that a central tenet is predestination — God alone determines who will be saved and who won’t, and no action on the part of a person can change that (aka “unconditional election”).

    Given this, I’ve never understood why a Calvinist would bother with church, or worship, or regulation of their behaviour according to religious tenets, since presumably it doesn’t matter in the end. If nothing you can do will change your fate, why not party now?

  344. #345 windy
    February 18, 2009

    JimC:

    So here we have heddle offering little in the way of actual argument and listing a list of collaborations that prove nothing other than apparently he conributed something while also attacking PZ’s work in an effort to raise his own ‘status’

    Now you’re being unfair, some people were stupidly nitpicking heddle’s scientist status, is he not supposed to answer that or what? And the information that these tinfoil hat theorists were demanding from heddle would have been very easy to find online (see #220). Nice job guys, now the thread is all about heddle.

  345. #346 SC, OM
    February 18, 2009

    That post was huge, I am really sorry, I just got annoyed and started typing. Bad idea. My apologies.

    Apologies?! That was an awesome comment. Thank you for the elegant post (much of which was far over my physics head).

    Multiverse hypotheses might well be wrong, and it is demonstrably possible to formulate testable multiverse hypotheses (as shown above), but the automatic default does not then become a god hypothesis.

    I’ve suspected this subtext since heddle’s first post. He’s not getting away with it here.

  346. #347 Lee Picton
    February 18, 2009

    Raymond Moon said:

    Science has to do with observable facts.

    Well, you got that part right.

    Since EVOLUTION cannot be observed,

    Wrong. We can see evolution all the time. Do you get flu shots?

    or even inferred,

    Do you know nothing of circumstantial evidence?

    then it is not SCIENCE,

    You don’t even seem to know the definition of science

    but THEORY only,

    You don’t seem to know the meaning of the word theory as scientists use it.

    thank you very much. I prefer to BELIEVE in Intelligent Design by way of Special Creation.

    By all means, believe what you like. Just keep it to yourself because you couldn’t be more wrong. We respecters of science know that. You are either ignorant, stupid, or delusional. Ignorance can be corrected. Stupid is forever.
    Delusions cannot be shed by the stupid.

  347. #348 heddle
    February 18, 2009

    Louis,

    (Aside: I strongly favor the Copenhagen interpretation.)

    The ?derailed comment? was something I let slide in to my reply to you. I know it had nothing to do with your post?I just parasited in on to my reply.

    However, this isn?t the same as making the false equivalence you are making. Interestingly in a post protesting that you are not making a false equivalence

    I am not sure why you say I am protesting that way. In the post you refer to, #308, I start by saying: ?No I am not saying they are on equal footing.? I can agree and have agreed that they are not the same. I readily admit that multiverse theories deserve funding, are scientifically fascinating, are worthy of research, etc., while creation theories are none of the above?but ultimately they (multiverse theories) suffer from a lack of falsifiability.

    It is indeed possible to test multiverse theories?it is just not possible to test the ?there is another universe? aspect of multverse theories.

    I?m sure you know they must propose an experiment that does this: if there is another universe we will get result A, if not we?ll get result B. To date there has been no such experiment, and it is not clear there ever will be such an experiment. It is not clear that there can be such an experiment.

    That is quite different than saying we can interpret results of experiments on our universe as if another universe is impeding. You need falsifiability, not compatibility. We do these kind of ?as if? explanations all the time in physics without demanding reality?sometimes just as an aid in computability: ?it is as if (and indeed is consistent with the equations) it were a particle running backwards in time? it is as if bubbles are particles with negative mass?etc.) These are useful and illuminating and even predictive and consistent with formulae but ultimately wrong. Antiparticles are as real as particles, etc.

    Maybe Susskind is correct. Maybe we will just have to say: the hell with it, we can?t falsify this important prediction of this theory, but in our universe it works fine so we?ll grant it the honorific ?scientific theory.? That would be kind of sad, and would change the philosophy of science?but maybe there is no choice.

    As for the ultraviolet catastrophe, that was merely an example of how a theory can be highly successful on 100 problems, and then fail miserably on the 101st. That is, no prediction of a theory gets a free pass. There are many such examples. Newton predicted the precession of Mercury’s perihelion–but his prediction was wrong, in spite of the amazing successes of his theory.

    Windy,

    I?ll take some of the blame. In hindsight I wish I didn?t get pissed off at #216, but I did. Sorry. I should have just let it die on the vine.

  348. #349 Escuerd
    February 18, 2009

    Thought I’d read the rest of the thread before I said anything substantive.

    I also disagree with Cervantes’ claim that untestable implies meaningless. I think that things exist or don’t independently of whether we’re capable of observing them.

    Of course, the claim that there is an afterlife in which a god reveals itself and doles out punishments and rewards based on one’s prior belief isn’t a god that’s unobservable in principle. It’s just one set up so that the only time it’s observable occurs after it’s too late to take any action.

    Also, people who claim to have revelations from the god could claim that it has had observable effects. Unfortunately, this really only helps them, since the weight of their testimony would not be good evidence of such strong claims (though it might still convince others).

  349. #350 Sastra
    February 18, 2009

    heddle #315 wrote:

    As for Sastra he (she?) AFAIK asked me no direct questions, and I agree with what (s)he wrote in #195.

    I’m coming back late to this thread, and may not have caught up with everything, but AFAIK I didn’t ask heddle any direct questions, partly because I wasn’t disagreeing with what he was saying. I could be wrong, but it seems to me like heddle has basically been agreeing with the thrust of PZ’s post: contrary to popular opinion, science can address the existence of God. It is not something science can’t weigh in on, one way or the other, in principle.

    When cervantes said

    It is meaningless to assert the existence of an entity that cannot, in principle, be observed.

    heddle argued that no, that not all things that “cannot, in principle, be observed” are outside of science’s ability to address, using the example of String Theory and multiverses. If so, then the God hypothesis could still be considered part of science (successful or failed) — thereby further supporting PZ’s point.

    Or, perhaps, that science is rather sloppy on what its methods are on the borderlines, so that whether God is one of those things which it can deal with isn’t all that clear, to either side.

    The discussion then went off on other tracks, such as whether String Theory is testable after all. That’s out of my league, I’ve no idea who’s right. But the point is that heddle didn’t seem to me to be making any arguments for or against the existence of God (such as ‘belief in God is like belief in String Theory, and therefore reasonable.’) As far as I can see, what he wrote could have been written by an atheist.

    My post at #164 — where I gave an example of what it would really look like if String Theory went beyond being “untestable” and was also treated by its proponents like a supernatural or religious idea — was a bit of a tweak at him, but didn’t challenge anything he’d said. It was more of a rebuttal to those commenters who were arguing that we should give moderate religion and its ‘God of the Philosophers’ a pass from criticism, because it’s similar to a belief like String Theory, harmless and without any real life consequences.

  350. #351 Margaret
    February 18, 2009

    David Marjanovi?, OM:

    That’s so nineteenth century of you, PZ.

    Irrelevant. Is it wrong of him?

    I think it is very right of him. I loved that story in The God Delusion. Sorry for the irrelevance.

  351. #352 frog
    February 18, 2009

    Feynmann, “Surely you’re joking, Mr. Feynmann”, p70:
    The electron is a theory that we use; it is so useful in understanding the way nature works that we can almost call it real. (Original italics inverted)

    So Heddle can use all the sophistry he wants to claim that God is the same sort of proposition as a multiverse, and yet distinct from the electron — but the electron is just as theoretical as another universe or a soliton; it is distinguished from the middle solely in terms of how well the data supports the proposition. That is completely unlike entities that precede logic and evidence.

    So for all his credential, Mr. Heddle lacks understanding of the very bases of physics — the distinction between direct reality and theory, which explains a lot!

  352. #353 SC, OM
    February 18, 2009

    I could be wrong, but it seems to me like heddle has basically been agreeing with the thrust of PZ’s post: contrary to popular opinion, science can address the existence of God. It is not something science can’t weigh in on, one way or the other, in principle.

    But PZ wasn’t talking about in principle but in practice. Do you agree with the thrust of PZ’s post, heddle?

    It is meaningless to assert the existence of an entity that cannot, in principle, be observed.

    heddle argued that no, that not all things that “cannot, in principle, be observed” are outside of science’s ability to address, using the example of String Theory and multiverses.

    Even if he had argued that, it wouldn’t have been a proper response to cervantes’ assertion (whether I agree with it or not), which was about asserting the existence of things and not simply addressing them. This is why I thought your comment about what string theorists are and are not saying/doing was relevant, even if you don’t.

    As far as I can see, what he wrote could have been written by an atheist.

    Perhaps, but it wasn’t, and we know that. I’ve read his comments here and elsewhere for months. This gives me reason to suspect ulterior motives and look for subtexts (and the specific significance of multiverse ideas to theists – not to “science” – is strong reason to suspect that his example wasn’t simply chosen at random, even if the anthropic principle hadn’t been referred to in the blog post he linked to about string theory). I know his MO. You can keep defending him as some kind of “loyal opposition,” but I’ve seen his intellectual dishonesty in action too much – up to and including his most recent dodgy response to Louis – to believe that his posts like the first one here don’t have an implicit message. That’s why I keep asking about that post’s relevance. Not because I care about thread derailment or following protocol, but because I want him to be open and honest about what he’s getting at.

    But if what he’s getting at is agreement with PZ then I’ll be happy to let my my suspicions in this case drop (which won’t excuse him for earlier evasions, of course). So how about it, heddle? Are you agreeing with PZ when he says:

    Why should we simply sit back and accept the claim of apologists that what they believe in is not subject to “observation, measurement, and experiment”?

    …It seems to me that if you’re going to declare scientists helpless before the absence and irrelevance of the gods, you ought to declare likewise for all of god’s translators and interpreters. Be consistent when you announce who has purview over all religious belief, because making god unobservable and immeasurable makes everyone incapable of saying anything at all about it.

    …God can’t do anything anymore where people might actually notice, or worse, record the act and figure out how the tricks are done.

    This is where the “Science has no opinion on religion” argument leads us: to an atheist’s world, where there are no activities by a god that matter, where at best people can claim that their god is aloof and unknowable, admitting in their own premises that they have no knowledge at all of him.

    I can accept that, as long as these people are aware of the import of what they are actually saying.

    Are you agreeing, heddle the Biblical inerrantist? Are you admitting you have and can have no knowledge of your god?

  353. #354 Louis
    February 18, 2009

    Heddle,

    You may have started the post as you said, but you certainly didn’t end it that way. I’ll quote you again:

    So I understand that since they are part and parcel of cosmological theories they are not the same as the God hypothesis. However, in terms of failing the testability requirement of science, they both fail the same way.

    Bolding mine.

    I’m concerned that my point has been missed. You have claimed that multiverse hypotheses fail to meet the testability criteria of science in exactly the same way as god hypotheses.

    I’m saying they do not fail in anything like the same way, if indeed they all fail at all.

    I?m sure you know they must propose an experiment that does this: if there is another universe we will get result A, if not we?ll get result B. To date there has been no such experiment, and it is not clear there ever will be such an experiment. It is not clear that there can be such an experiment.

    First I’ll return to black holes. Do singularities exist? Have they been demonstrated to exist scientifically? Do singularities pass the falsifiability test?

    I’d argue that in each case the answer is the standard, provisional, scientific “yes”. We have observed phenomena that are consistent with the predictions of our theoretical models, which are themselves consistent with other observations etc. I.e. our best current model of the universe is one in which the theoretical construct known as a “singularity” “exists” (as far as we can use that word for anything). More than that, we have derived no competing theory that coherently explains all the relevant phenomena whilst at the same time is consistent with all the consilient data from multiple fields.

    There have been several (successful) tests determining the existence of stellar objects that behave EXACTLY as our theoretical construct a “black hole”. Our theoretical construct, a “black hole”, contains a singularity. You can’t get a black hole without a singularity (AFAIK). We don’t expect to see naked singularities due to their very nature. It’s the singularity that makes the black hole. The black hole is the impingement onto our universe of the singularity.

    The same applies to the work I mentioned above by Mersini-Houghton et al.. Their theory makes very specific predictions about cosmology that are detectable. In fact IIRC the results of attempts to detect a large cold spot in the opposing hemisphere to the one already discovered in the CMB are due sometime this year. This is a VERY specific test of other universes impinging on our own (or impinging in the past to be more precise). It has demonstrably different consequences from the standard model, and it makes predictions quite different to it. It is also absolutely not like the LHC experiments which could confirm certain predictions of string theory by discovering other dimensions. It is a direct test of a direct effect of another universe on our universe.

    This isn’t just an “as if” experimental compatibility (something I’m very familiar with btw, ahhhh memories! Sorry you just got me going down memory lane with semiconductor chemistry and crystals etc), it’s a fundamental consequence of one formulation of string theory. It will disconfirm that specific formulation of string theory if this data is not found. A or B is EXACTLY what it is. Especially since it requires not merely A or B, but actually A and B and C and D to be correct, and if any one of them is wrong, then into the trash can it goes.*

    This again reinforces my point which is that multiverse hypotheses, if they do fail the testability criterion/Popperian falsifiability at all (and it’s clear that they don’t all fail it), they fail it in a very different way from how the god hypotheses fail it. And I am in no way advocating Susskind’s moving the scientific goalposts btw.

    Louis

    *Incidentally, my personal views on whether or not the WMAP data will confirm or disconfirm the predictions of Mersini-Houghton et al. are irrelevant (I’m certainly not qualified to comment on their likelihood). Neither is my like/dislike of multiverse hypotheses. The point is atrociously simple: these people have proposed a multiverse hypothesis that has detectable, falsifiable consequences that we CAN detect (and possibly HAVE detected). Those consequences flow directly from the multiverse hypothesis in question, i.e. they are central to the question of the testability of multiverse hypotheses versus god hypotheses.

  354. #355 Sastra
    February 18, 2009

    SC, OM #353 wrote:

    Are you agreeing, heddle the Biblical inerrantist? Are you admitting you have and can have no knowledge of your god?

    Heddle still has knowledge through the Bible, revelation, the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and faith in past miracles.

    If you approach the existence of God as a scientific hypothesis — which is a legitimate way to approach it — it’s cut out through the razor. But one need not approach it only as a scientific hypothesis. It is not inconsistent to both be a scientist, and yet choose to approach it another way.

    My prediction on what he’ll say. But I could have gotten him wrong, or mixed him up with someone else.

  355. #356 Sastra
    February 18, 2009

    Oh — heddle would also say that, although it’s reasonable to examine the hypothesis of God in light of modern science, you cannot perform any tests or experiments to settle the matter one way or the other. This partly justifies the use of other methods.

    (more guessing)

  356. #357 Prometheus
    February 18, 2009

    I think by picking off the brightly colored fundies we are creating a huge niche for critical thought mimics.

    It is a simple proposition that the supernatural described with sufficient specificity to be falsifiable, is readily falsified. The supernatural that is described in a way not falsifiable can not be described in any meaningful way and can be disregarded….

    When unctuous presbyterian ministers and smarmy ?philosophers of religion? start talking about ?science truth? versus ?religious truth? I start to wonder. Rats that, when cornered, screech, bite or fling themselves at the exterminator are easy. What do you do with the ones that ingratiate themselves with cute little anthropomorphic actions so that you are tricked into empathizing with them, taking them home and giving them cheese?

  357. #358 Ichthyic
    February 18, 2009

    I didn’t derail the thread, Ichthyic derailed the thread.

    projecting again.

    @Sastra:

    whether or not one can analyze the existence of god, the point was that Heddle’s initial contention was one of pure false equivalency.

    I disagree with how you have moved the goalposts for him.

  358. #359 Louis
    February 18, 2009

    Further P.S.

    Incidentally, just for completeness, not all possible god hypotheses fail the testability criterion of science. For example the existence of an honest, non-mischievous, interventionist deity. I.e. a deity that would leave his or her thumb prints all over everything and ‘fess up when caught. This is a perfectly testable deity.

    However, out theist chums, wily buggers that they are, are not content with THAT kind of interventionist deity. The standard goalpost shift they make is the appeal to mystery. In that case, when the deity’s thumbprints magically disappear, the deity in question is not a testable one. Worse the existence of said deities is, like with deism, maintained by assertion alone.

    Lest anyone get their knickers in a knot, if someone then wants to claim that a deity is an ontological necessity, I think I can refer them to the myriad logical refutations of that claim that have been developed over the centuries. If someone wants to take the fideist route and claim faith/revelation as a mechanism of acquiring knowledge of the universe, I think I can refer them to a few other works to disabuse them of this epistemologically erroneous claim. Teleologists will suffer similar fates.

    The problem is that there really are no good intellectually valid reasons to believe in a deity or deities. There are lots of very popular bad ones, and hey, live and let live say I. Don’t bother me, I won’t bother you.

    However there are lots of very good intellectual reasons to not believe in a god (not the same thing as believing that there isn’t a god. Big difference in fact) not least of which being that there isn’t a shred of evidence for one, and all the really appealing (bad) arguments can be used for any damn thing we like.

    Meh, I forget what all the fuss is about! ;-)

    Louis

  359. #360 SC, OM
    February 18, 2009

    Louis:

    I’m concerned that my point has been missed.

    More likely it’s being evaded.

    Sastra as heddle’s advocate:

    Heddle still has knowledge through the Bible, revelation, the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and faith in past miracles.

    All subject to empirical investigation.

    If you approach the existence of God as a scientific hypothesis — which is a legitimate way to approach it — it’s cut out through the razor. But one need not approach it only as a scientific hypothesis.

    But science can approach any and all empirical claims about (knowledge of) that god, its traits, and its interactions with the material world, and demand supporting evidence. This was central to PZ’s post, I think. If you’re going to exclude your god from scientific investigation on the basis of its being “invisible, impalpible, and immaterial,” then you must acknowledge that you yourself can have no knowledge of it. Can’t have it both ways. Either it’s undefined and indefinable, immaterial, featureless, unknowable, and has no effects – and thus science can’t say anything about it, but then neither can anyone – or it’s not, and therefore claims about it or its actions are subject to empirical investigation. [Yes, I know that you, Sastra, know all this, and wrote as much and more complex versions above; this is a strange exercise.]

    It is not inconsistent to both be a scientist, and yet choose to approach it another way.

    Grr :). We all know that it is. This argument has been had.

    He may say something like this, but then he would not be agreeing with PZ’s post. And his views are dodgy and contradictory on the subject, as we saw on the Coyne thread with regard to science and the Bible.

  360. #361 SC, OM
    February 18, 2009

    Oh — heddle would also say that, although it’s reasonable to examine the hypothesis of God in light of modern science, you cannot perform any tests or experiments to settle the matter one way or the other.

    The rubber hits the road once any specific claims are made.

    Sastra, I’m not sure I understand what your purpose is in putting words in heddle’s mouth or speaking for him here, especially when he’s already expressed himself (lamely) on several of these subjects. I am justifiably fed up with his dishonesty and evasions. He’s not being attacked by a pitiless mob, and I’m sure he’s capable of speaking for himself.

  361. #362 Knockgoats
    February 18, 2009

    The actual number of solutions is not known, but the estimate has gone up to the number I quoted, the last time I checked. I didn’t even look at the wiki number, because 101000 is what you hear these days. I can’t help it if they don’t update the wiki. And in truth it doesn’t matter–at all–not one bit—either number represents an effectively infinite number of universes. – heddle

    Nope. 101000 is no closer to being infinite than 3, and “effectively infinite” is drivel.

  362. #363 Knockgoats
    February 18, 2009

    The “101000″ in the quote from heddle @362 should of course be “101000“, as he wrote. I forgot that if you cut and paste, any HTML tags get abolished.

  363. #364 Kel
    February 18, 2009

    Obviously a multiverse cannot be verified or falsified given our limited point of observation, so of course the idea that an eternal all-powerful consciousness that created the world then sent his son to earth only to die for the sins of mankind is an idea on equal merit with it.

  364. #365 frog
    February 18, 2009

    Kel: Obviously a multiverse cannot be verified or falsified given our limited point of observation

    Why? In principle, why can it not be potentially verified or falsified? We haven’t, as of now, settled on a specific set of hypothesis that clearly delineate a set of observations that would either negate or necessitate one of the many multiverse schemes — but they all should imply something observational in the end. If they don’t, they are purely mathematical masturbation.

    It’s not just that the Jesus hypothesis is silly — it’s also intentionally ill-defined so that no amount of observation will either verify or negate it. Any counter-observation can be hand-waved away; any supportive observation is pre-defined as ambiguous (Shroud of Turin? Josephus?) so that it can always be interpreted in their favor. Ask Douglas Adams!

    It’s not the silliness of the details — it’s the silliness of the logical structure. Omnipotence is nonsense — but once you accept that the position that 2+2=5 is admissible, everything becomes possible.

  365. #366 Wowbagger
    February 18, 2009

    It seems that, when it comes down to it, every argument for the existence of gods comes down to ‘well, you can’t explain [insert one or more of aspect of science/morality/laws of logic and reason here]; therefore, my god (and only my god and not anyone else’s) exists.’

    Pretty piss-poor when it comes down to it.

  366. #367 heddle
    February 18, 2009

    SC, OM

    I agree with PZ?s statement you quoted ~95%. I absolutely agree that scientists, if they are interested, should not accept the claim that a religion?s beliefs are not subject to observation, measurement, and experiment.

    The problem is, like in the case of another universe, I don?t know what experiment to do. Either to detect another universe or to detect God. But if we can come up with one, in either case, I would support it with labor and finances.

    The 5% disagreement involves a religious discussion?which I don?t want to get into.

    I am not sure why you are hung up concerning the anthropic principle?something I do not like very much. I think you are confusing it with a religious argument?maybe cosmological ID. In its weak form it is merely a statement that our universe is compatible with us. As I stated earlier?its predictions can be powerful and yet in some sense quite unsatisfying??perhaps unfairly so. But what it isn?t is a religious argument. Hoyle used it, for crying out loud, and so did Weinberg.

    Louis,

    No you can only falsify multiverse theories in the same sense that you can confirm them?in what they say about our universe. They explain cold spots as another universe colliding with ours. Fine. There are other potential explanations for the holes. They can stand or fall together?but in either case it will be about what they say about our universe.

    Black holes?very different. In principle we could visit a black hole. We could drive up and confirm that what happens near where we think the horizon is is what is supposed to happen near the horizon. Nobody is saying that if we travel to the giant hole in space that we will see another universe in that same sense.

    Perhaps, perhaps after years of failing to explain cosmology without theories that predict other universes you would to wear down the opposition. But such a proof of another universe, unlike a direct observation (which is impossible) will always have the sword of Damocles hanging over its head?that another theory is developed that explains the data without having a side prediction of other universes.

    Knockgoats.

    Nope. 101000 is no closer to being infinite than 3, and “effectively infinite” is drivel.

    That is stupid beyond belief, but not surprising coming from you. The number of solutions is not known precisely ? but the estimate has gone up. They both really are effectively infinity?which is quite a useful concept in science in spite of what you say?and it is used all the time. In some cases in physics when talking about body problems, 3 might be said to be ?effectively infinity.? You see that phrase in textbooks and literature and hear it in discussions and seminars all the friggin? time. In this case it is effectively infinite, because either 10500 or 101000 is more than adequate (an understatement of biblical proportions) to explain the smallness of our cosmological constant?which probably requires only ~10100 universes. You may think it is smart to say ?effectively infinity is drivel.? But in reality it just shows you don?t know jack shit.

  367. #368 Kel
    February 18, 2009

    Why?

    Because I was being sarcastic, ridiculing heddle’s point that God and the multiverse are equivalent.

    In principle, why can it not be potentially verified or falsified?

    I’d go out on a limb here and say that some multiverse ideas could have the potential to be verified and some not. It really depends on the observational point of our universe and the relationship between universes. In principle, some ideas may be falsifiable or verifiable. Though I’d contend that none now would have significance beyond mathematical or logical underpinnings, and until such time as there is some empirical validation the ideas would remain speculation.

  368. #369 Knockgoats
    February 18, 2009

    You see that phrase in textbooks and literature and hear it in discussions and seminars all the friggin? time. – heddle

    That doesn’t mean it’s not drivel. It’s both sloppy and pretentious, and doesn’t mean any more than “an awful lot” – it just sounds more important.

    In this case it is effectively infinite, because either 10500 or 101000 is more than adequate… to explain the smallness of our cosmological constant

    So say that – that’s sufficiently specific to be useful.

  369. #370 frog
    February 18, 2009

    Kel: Because I was being sarcastic, ridiculing heddle’s point that God and the multiverse are equivalent.

    You don’t say!

    Kel: Though I’d contend that none now would have significance beyond mathematical or logical underpinnings, and until such time as there is some empirical validation the ideas would remain speculation.

    If that were true, heddle would be right — such a hypothesis would be no better than a God hypothesis. A difference must make a difference to be a “powerful” scientific theory. If it’s only stuck in there for elegance — it’s BS.

    But I doubt that. I’ve seen papers putting forward plausible (if not currently practical) tests. I’d give cosmology a bit more time — in intent, they’re looking to find real scientific answers, even if it just depends on the 10th decimal point of the mass of an electron.

  370. #371 Sastra
    February 18, 2009

    SC, OM #361 wrote:

    Sastra, I’m not sure I understand what your purpose is in putting words in heddle’s mouth or speaking for him here, especially when he’s already expressed himself (lamely) on several of these subjects.

    I wasn’t trying to put words in his mouth; I was trying to see if I understood his position correctly. It was a prediction of sorts.

    If he tells me I’m way off — or off by a bit — then I’m wrong.

  371. #372 Wowbagger
    February 18, 2009

    heddle wrote, in #326:

    Now it?s true that people like Wowbanger in #165 commented on my religion, but I purposely ignored all such comments.

    My comment at #165 was intended to remind the posters of what I believed was an aspect of your religion pertinent to the discussion – it was more about you than to you.

    I didn’t expect you to respond to it. If you had, great; that you didn’t, not a problem for me.

  372. #373 TheFridgenometer
    February 18, 2009

    Roger Ebert also gave a thumbs-down to Full Metal Jacket. Nobody’s perfect, I suppose. Thanks for the link to Ebert’s article.

    TheFridgenometer

  373. #374 frog
    February 18, 2009

    Windy: And the information that these tinfoil hat theorists were demanding from heddle would have been very easy to find online (see #220). Nice job guys, now the thread is all about heddle.

    By the way, heddle his-self confirmed (after much bitching and moaning) my suggestion about the nature of his work. But I guess it’s easier to throw around accusations of “tin-foilism” than just to read the substance of the thread.

  374. #375 John Morales
    February 18, 2009

    To recapitulate: @17 (my bolds)

    cervantes,
    It is meaningless to assert the existence of an entity that cannot, in principle, be observed.

    [Heddle] Exactly. Like another universe– another local minimum of the cosmic landscape. Can’t be observed, not even in principle. Meaningless.

    This is what I took issue with, at first – that the cosmic landscape is not asserted, but that God is; this entirely aside from the respective bases for each claim, and this alone makes it a false comparison.

  375. #376 Sven DiMilo
    February 18, 2009

    I note that this thread, under an OP titled “Effectively non-existent,” has just drifted to an argument about the phrase “effectively infinite.” I find that pleasing, in a yin-yang sort of way.

  376. #377 SC, OM
    February 18, 2009

    OK. A full response is forthcoming, but I have to ask first in order to clarify something, and I apologize for another question:

    Black holes?very different. In principle we could visit a black hole. We could drive up and confirm that what happens near where we think the horizon is is what is supposed to happen near the horizon.

    In principle, we could, but we haven’t. Do you believe black holes exist? If so, based on what?

  377. #378 SC, OM
    February 18, 2009

    Er, rephrase that – I should have just re-asked Louis’ first two questions of that series:

    Do singularities exist? Have they been demonstrated to exist scientifically?

  378. #379 heddle
    February 18, 2009

    Frog,

    By the way, heddle his-self confirmed (after much bitching and moaning) my suggestion about the nature of his work.

    No I didn?t. You wrote in #226,

    Generally folks who publish predominantly in large collaborations are either managers or are just engineering.

    Which is total bullshit. The collaborators on our author?s list all are physicists. To be sure we do have engineers and managers who work on the project?but they don?t appear on the author?s list?except in the sense that there are a few high level physicists who manage the whole collaboration (and do physics.) In our case a brilliant German physicist leads the collaboration.

    Plus, if you had looked at the publication list you would have seen papers that are not as you described ?counting the hairs on a leg of a beetle.? I have published small-author-count papers on hadronic atoms, quark models of hypernuclei, hyperon scattering, tuning (magnetic optics) of polarized electron beams, and even science education. What I agreed with was that my current contribution to the collaboration is in software and that I am just an average physicist, nothing great for sure.

    SC, OM

    Yes I believe black holes exist. More so as time goes on. Maybe not with the same confidence that believe electrons exist, but with fair amount of confidence. The reason is that they explain a great deal of the dynamics of galaxies. I don?t think they have been demonstrated beyond refute?but they are at least in principle falsifiable.

  379. #380 frog
    February 18, 2009

    heddle: . What I agreed with was that my current contribution to the collaboration is in software and that I am just an average physicist

    That’s “engineering”. Writing software, which is exactly what I wrote when I initially looked up your papers — that you’re a software developer for physics projects, with a physics degree. That’s an honorable profession — but you’re still a software engineer applying it to physics.

    That’s of course what you have in big collaborations — like in any big group, you have a group of managers, technical folks doing the engineer”ing”, and a small group of folks who are the idea guys. You must be autistic to not recognize that.

    I initially looked at your small-author count papers — and as I said, I couldn’t tell your role because you hadn’t bothered to put up on your university page your interests and roles — as is standard. I didn’t really pay attention to the high-author counts — since it’s impossible to ascertain whether your engineering, management or idea-person from them. They are of little interest from a social analysis point of view.

    So my hypothesis from your single author and less papers was that you were software engineer”ing”. I specifically stated that there could be more, which I couldn’t be aware of because, as I said, you spend more time spiffying up your Christian hobby pages than your work-page. As you just said, I was largely correct — but that you also have interests in science education and so forth.

    But instead of spending your evenings fixing your home page so that interested students and other researchers can see, from your point of view, what you do — instead of being forced to guess it via web-searches — you continue to come here and moan about how unfairly you’re treated.

    Whiny little child. And you haven’t yet said the simplest thing of all to end this — that you misspoke about electrons being theoretical objects. That you agree with Feynmann, and you were just confused by colloquial usage, that you understand that the field of real theoretical objects are indistinguishable from their networks of relationships.

    Someone with Christian humility should have no problem with that. Someone who’s not an uptight ideologist would have cut it right in the nub. Someone who wasn’t self-deluded would recognize it right away, instead of beating a dead horse about their credentials on a random blog that has no conceivable bearing to their reputation in their field.

    No one gives a damn what an anonymous poster on pharyngula says — except for you. Which should give you a bit of pause to reflect that maybe, just maybe, your entire ideological orientation is more about your petty self-importance, than about any deep attachment to meaning.

  380. #381 heddle
    February 18, 2009

    Frog,

    you’re a software developer for physics projects, with a physics degree.

    Once again you display ignorance. The 30 or so physicist who do software in our collaboration would be amused, and perhaps some annoyed, that you consider them software developers for physics projects, rather than physicists who put their professional knowledge of physics into highly specialized software. Big difference. Do you think the 100 or so physicists building hardware are just ?grease techies? with physics degrees? Both the software we develop and the hardware we build requires extensive physics knowledge to get it right. I don’t know what you do. Let’s assume you are the best software guy on the planet. You couldn’t write our software, because it requires advanced domain expterise that you don’t posess. Jackass.

    you continue to come here and moan about how unfairly you’re treated.

    I don?t moan about how I am treated. I pointed out (as did others who aren?t even on my side) what a supreme shithead you were for attacking my credentials.

    And you haven’t yet said the simplest thing of all to end this — that you misspoke about electrons being theoretical objects.

    That?s because I haven?t misspoke. The more you try to ride this horse, you more you look like an idiot, though that hardly seems possible. If you survey physicists they would agree unanimously or close to it that we ?see? electrons in the sense that I wrote in #157. The vast majority, if not all, would say electrons are real and not theoretical constructs. Every single one at my lab would say we are accelerating, focusing, colliding and detecting objects (electrons) that are as real as anything else. None, not one would say they are but ?theoretical constructs.? Not one. None. And they certainly wouldn?t give a rats? ass that a twit like you says they are wrong.

    That you agree with Feynmann, and you were just confused by colloquial usage, that you understand that the field of real theoretical objects are indistinguishable from their networks of relationships.

    Truly I don?t even know what the hell ?networks of relationships means.? But I have to tell you something. I don?t spell very well, and generally don?t correct other people?s spelling. But some spelling errors are worse than others. In particular, if you are repeatedly going to make an argument from authority, you probably should spell the authority?s name correctly. It?s Feynman. Just one ?n? at the end. That?s about the tenth time you spelled it wrong.

  381. #382 Kel
    February 18, 2009

    Sorry to break up this attack, but while there are some physicists about can I ask a physics question?

    Recently I read A Brief History Of Time, and one thing that stood out to me was the concept of a singularity. I’d heard of it before, but most of my experience with physics has been along the lines of kinematics so astrophysics and the consequences are largely a foreign concept to me. Anyway each time the word came up I tried to conceptualise what a singularity actually was. And everytime I thought I was approaching an understanding of it, my mind chucked a blue screen and I was forced to metaphorically reboot.

    So my question is, is there any good way of understanding the singularity concept? What areas of physics would best be investigated in order to have a better understanding of the proposed phenomenon?

  382. #383 MartinH
    February 18, 2009

    frog at #380

    Getting in the weeds here, but your first post concerning heddle’s publications was misleading, since it didn’t mention his large-author-count papers, of which you were apparently aware. I think he could reasonably object to the resultant mischaracterization of his publication record. Nevertheless, I think your characterization of his impact is accurate.

    When I was in a collaboration many years ago, everybody did grunt work, software or hardware, but everybody also got access to the data and could mine it as fast as the analysis code would let them. The rules for listing authors made it impossible to tell who was directly responsible for a paper. A closer look than I gave before shows that that doesn’t seem to be the case with heddle’s collaboration – the first few authors seem to be those mainly responsible, because they depart from the bulk pattern of an alphabetic listing. “D. Heddle” is always in the alphabetic listing, I think. I would conclude from this that he is not generating the specific ideas or doing the specific analyses that lead to a paper.

  383. #384 dp
    February 18, 2009

    Kel:

    It’s God.

    Darryl

  384. #385 Louis
    February 19, 2009

    Heddle,

    You have utterly missed or evaded the point. I asked you some questions about singularities, you goalpost shifted shifted that to black holes and evaded the issue. Do singularities exist?

    You’ve done the same thing with the cosmological data I mention and shifted the goalposts again. The specific multiverse hypothesis under test has specific predictions for this universe. It has measurable consequences for this universe that are more than simply “finding another CMB cold spot”. All those consequences have to be found simultaneously for the hypothesis to receive any confirmation at all, it’s a way to directly test some of the multiverse dependant predictions of a specific string theory by measuring the long wavelength effects on our universe. Again I repeat: this is something that even OPPONENTS of string theory think is a good idea because it is a direct test of the multiverse components of that formulation of string theory. It is precisely the A or B type experiment you asked for (or rather [A1+A2+A3+A4 or B] type, which is even better!).

    To reiterate: I am not claiming that multiverses exist, just that specific multiverse hypotheses do not fail the testability criteria of science in the same way that god hypotheses do (which was your claim).

    Not only that, I would like to take issue with this “multiverses are unobservable” schtick. If the work I’ve mentioned is correct then the effects of another universe acting on our early universe by quantum entanglement are detectable.* That is an observation of the effects of another universe in EXACTLY the same way that the effects of a singularity acting on our universe is. It is in principle something we can observe. The claim doesn’t rest on “being able to drive up to it and look at it” in the nonsensical manner you describe for a black hole. It is the measurable effect of a theoretical construct called “another universe” on our universe in exactly the same way that a black hole is the measurable effect of a theoretical construct called a “singularity” on our universe. Same damned thing.

    As for the “sword of Damocles” comment: so what? That’s the fate of all theories! Science is provisional, didn’t you get the memo? Singularities could, as far as I understand it, “disappear” from the centres of black holes and the big bang if we had a really good theory of quantum gravity. I.e. we might be able to “see passed” the singularity (read: all our equations don’t break down at that point). You’re quite right that in the future there might be a non-multiverse version of a current multiverse hypothesis containing theory that explains the observed phenomena better. So. Fucking. What. You seem to forget that I’m not wedded to the idea of multiverses. I couldn’t give a shit one way or the other. The claim of yours I am disagreeing with is the general claim you made that multiverse hypotheses fail the testability criterion of science in the same way that god hypotheses do. My points were, are and will be that they a) do not and b) really, really do not in specific cases (it matters WHICH multiverse hypothesis and WHICH god hypothesis you are talking about).

    As I mentioned above, in my first monster post, if one is going to pull a spurious “multiverse hypothesis” out of one’s arse and reinforce it by mere assertion, like theists/deists occasionally do with their deity of choice, then of course it fails the same way as the worst kind of equally generated god hypothesis. So what? The same is true of pixies, the FSM, the IPU and Batman. This takes nothing away from my central point (to date evaded by you) that SPECIFIC scientific theories which contain SPECIFIC scientific multiverse hypotheses either a) do not fail the testability criterion (see above) or b) fail it in a very different way from any god hypothesis (see string theory and Planck energy comments).

    Try to deal with the claim you have actually made and the specific refutation of it, rather than a continual retreat to generalities please.

    Louis

    *Physics consult: If some part of our universe is/was quantum mechanically entangled with some part of another universe doesn’t that mean that we have seen/are seeing into a state of that other universe? Isn’t that one of those nice bits of quantum weirdness we keep hearing about? I need a proper physicist (which I am assuredly not!).

  385. #386 heddle
    February 19, 2009

    MartinH,

    That is fairly close–the lead authors are either the spokespersons for the experiment (who had the original idea and fought a herculean battle to compete for beam time) or the people who took the data and analyzed to the point they got a new result. I think the term “grunt work” for what everyone else contributed is misleading–but in truth among the rest of the authors the contributions vary greatly from almost nothing to indispensible. Sometimes, of course, the contributions become papers in their own right in experiment-related journals such as Nuclear Instruments and Methods or Computers in Physics etc.

  386. #387 SC, OM
    February 19, 2009

    Argh! I fell asleep and now I have to leave for work shortly. I hope to return later today.

    In the meantime, heddle, I’ll say that you keep harping on falsifiability in principle, but you haven’t shown that your god is even “hypothesizable,” in general or specific terms. What is the science, what is the evidence on which this hypothesis is based? How is the object defined scientifically? Louis has made the contrast with scientific hypothesis very clear. Your “hypothesis” is unfalsifiable not in the same sense as these scientific propositions (if they are unfalsifiable, that is, and I’m not convinced), but in the same sense as the FSM. It doesn’t rise to the hypothesizable level in the first place.

    You are also still fixated on this idea of a single, decisive falsifiability experiment, but that isn’t consistent with how science is done (which you earlier admitted to some extent). First, you acknowledged that your beliefs/conclusions wrt black holes are due to an accumulation of physical evidence, congruity with what is known, and explanatory power. How does that apply to your religious beliefs? You’re trying to put the single-experiment falsifiability cart before the evidentiary horse. Second, you’re surely aware that falsifying (or potentially falsifying) evidence – for evolutionary theory, say – does not necessarily have to come from a single experiment, but can simply be evidence that does not square with a well-formed and clearly-defined object and hypothesis. It’s not that biblical accounts, for example, aren’t subject to scientific testing that would lead to their rejection, but that you refuse to acknowledge that they are.

  387. #388 heddle
    February 19, 2009

    Louis,

    Of course it is not the same damned thing. I am amazed that you can?t see the difference, which is broad and wide. The two are not even close. We have, at least in principle and in fact also in practice access to black holes. The ?driving up to them? is not at all a trivial point. We have the potential for an entire experimental program on black holes. We can, in a manner, observe them directly. We find potential black holes in many different situations and see that in all those different conditions they still behave as we expect black holes to behave. We can even do scattering experiments and ask ourselves: what would it look like if we collided a black hole with another black hole or galaxy of a certain type, and then we can search the universe for where the experiment is taking place. We can interact with black holes; we can hit them with a hammer and measure the results. We might even be able to make black holes. We can?t do any of these things with other universes.

    Very similar to quarks. We cannot see them in isolation, but we probe them in a gazillion ways of our own devise and in that sense we see them.

    Black holes are actually a very bad example to try to make your case. The darkies: matter and energy, are probably better. The remain in the eyes of some (many) as theoterical constructs that have not been demonstrated. Yet at least in principle we will someday make direct measurements on them. We will “touch” dark enegy and matter in the lab.

    Even in the best case scenario where a set of cosmological observations in our universe is only explained by a multiverse theory it would lend plausibility to that theory and yet never be direct evidence for the actual existence of another universe. Never in the same sense of “let?s scatter this galaxy off that black hole candidate and see what happens.”

    Science is provisional, didn’t you get the memo?

    Bleh. The sword of Damocles as I used it is not the “fate of all theories.” I did not use it as a synonym for falsifiable. Newtonian gravitation was arguably falsified, but it wasn’t shown to be nonsense. Multiple universe theories where you are not detecting the other universe have the potential to be falsified not like Newton’s gravitation but like Ptolemy?s epicycles. That is, another cosmology of the universe that explains the same data will completely blow them out of the water and render their defining characteristic an unnecessary complexity. They won’t remain as good stout models that stood the test of time but eventually went the way of all theories. They will, if that happens, like Ptolemy?s epicycles, be viewed as weird contrivances. The lack of directly probing the other universes will always put multiverse theories in this position.

    I thought I might have to elaborate on that comment but I was hoping it was clear.

    By the way, I don’t know if singularities exist. You keep asking the question, but you have to be more precise. People use that to mean physical objects with actual mathematical infinities or objects with event horizons like black holes. If you are asking whether I think black holes have event horizons, I do. If you are asking something else, be specific.

    SC, OM

    It’s not that biblical accounts, for example, aren’t subject to scientific testing that would lead to their rejection, but that you refuse to acknowledge that they are.

    I do no such thing. Test away, by all means. But of course if the goal is to show Jesus can’t walk on water therefore the bible is false, don’t waste your time. I agree that people cannot walk on water. It’s impossible.

  388. #389 SEF
    February 19, 2009

    I tried to conceptualise what a singularity actually was. And everytime I thought I was approaching an understanding of it, my mind chucked a blue screen

    I’d say start with the maths for singularities (of various types) and not with the physics. Although I know you didn’t really mean the blue-screen-of-death to be an analogy/metaphor, a better match for what’s going on is a divide-by-zero error 1/0. If you can get a general appreciation for limits as things tend towards zero or infinity, then you’ll be better equipped to consider the black hole or big bang types of singularity.

  389. #390 Stephen Wells
    February 19, 2009

    Heddle, you sure seem to know a lot about the exact nature of multiverse theories, and your ability to predict the future is impressive. You’re certain that there can’t ever be any testable interaction between one universe and another in any such theory- why not?- and that multiple universes are just like epicycles and will be blown away by some other theory- why? Whence comes this remarkable certainty? Gift of prophecy, maybe?

  390. #391 SC, OM
    February 19, 2009

    I do no such thing. Test away, by all means. But of course if the goal is to show Jesus can’t walk on water therefore the bible is false, don’t waste your time. I agree that people cannot walk on water. It’s impossible.

    (And again you respond to one short part of my post.)

    This is exactly what you do. Test what? What beliefs do you have from or about the bible, specifically? What is their basis? What evidence could be found that would lead you to reject them? On the Coyne thread, you stated a total of one – that a steady-state universe would have been fatal to your faith. It was a tremendous cop-out since it was claimed after the fact, but is everything else about the Bible not amenable to being stated in terms of scientific hypotheses? “I believe ____ for ____ scientific reasons, and if ____ is found it will confirm/disconfirm this”? Are you even open to examining your beliefs in these terms with regard to the evidence we already have?* (I’ll also note again that to the extent that you’re proposing a broad interpretational approach you’re completely contradicting the word and the spirit of the Chicago Statement, but that’s beside the point, so please don’t make this aside the sole focus of any response.) You’ve noted that there are different interpretations of different parts of the Bible, but are you willing to state unequivocally where you come down on them – what you believe concretely and why – in a way that evidence can lead you to confirm or reject and not simply reinterpret?

    *Given your ridiculous interpretation of what the bible is saying about science and, I’d have to say no.

    You stated, bizarrely, on the Coyne thread:

    But there are many things I believe without evidence. I have a definite belief as to whether Obama?s trillion dollar stimulus will help or hurt…I don?t approach ?God exists? like a scientific hypothesis, if for no other reason than I don?t know how to do that experiment or, for that matter, an experiment for any of the examples listed above.

    (I’ve dealt with this “experiment” issue several times.) But of course if you held a “definite” belief about something with no evidence you would be incredibly foolish. If someone asked you why and how you arrived at that belief, you would, I expect, have some basis for it (effects of past such efforts, knowledge of current conditions, beliefs about the functioning of national economies, etc.). And if someone else were making this claim, you would expect her to provide definitions for help or harm and a description of what evidence would confirm or disconfirm the belief in such a way that the belief could be confirmed or disconfirmed, and not simply switch to another meaning of help or harm or redefine the stimulus package or the relevant evidence or pull other factors out of the air if her belief were disconfirmed, right?

    OK, now I really do have to go to work.

  391. #392 Kel
    February 19, 2009

    If you can get a general appreciation for limits as things tend towards zero or infinity, then you’ll be better equipped to consider the black hole or big bang types of singularity.

    I have the mathematical underpinnings for it, I’ve done limits quite extensively. I just don’t get how it works in the physical world. So I can accept that they are there and they are a necessity of physics – I just don’t have any idea what it means away from mathematical necessity. A singularity is a 0-dimensional object, correct?

  392. #393 Louis
    February 19, 2009

    Heddle,

    You’ve missed my point AGAIN. Go back and re-read.

    For one example: I am not comparing “multiverses/other universes” to “black holes”, but “multiverses/other universes” to “singularities”. Big difference (I think you might have confused me with someone else who was talking about black holes btw).

    Please deal with what I HAVE said, not with what you think I have said. Please also deal with the fact that your claim that scientific multiverse hypotheses fail the testability claim in the same way that god hypotheses do is false.

    Louis

  393. #394 Louis
    February 19, 2009

    Incidentally, although it is waaaaaay off topic from my original points, I’d love to know how the anti-de-Sitter space/conformal field theory correspondence is not a potential test of a specific string theory.

    This is why I think, and have said, it’s very important to ask “what SPECIFIC multiverse hypothesis?” and “what SPECIFIC god hypothesis?”. Also note that absolutely no one merely ASSERTS the existence of other universes in anything like the same way that people ASSERT the existence of a deity. Even more than that they are not in any way based on the same epistemological underpinnings at all.

    All of which goes to show that Heddle’s claim that scientific multiverse hypotheses fail the testability claim of science in exactly the same way that god hypotheses do is false. Which is the only claim I have taken issue with.

    I’d also like to repeat my request to any physicists about regarding how a particle in this universe quantum mechanically entangled with a particle in another universe is not a direct observation of a state in that other universe. There are physicists who seem to think that this is possible (see many posts above) so, not being an expert, I’d like to hear from someone who is.

    Louis

  394. #395 hedde
    February 19, 2009

    Stephen Wells,

    You’re certain that there can’t ever be any testable interaction between one universe and another in any such theory- why not?

    I answered that. Because the way in which we “touch” something is impossible with another universe. They are causally disconnected because of relativity. Unlike electrons or black holes or dark matter. It is this fundamental problem that is the issue here, and it is this fundamental problem that may render them undetectable (like God) and in exactly the same way, in spite of Louis’s proclamations. It has nothing to do with prophecy, although I am sure you felt clever saying so. It has to do with physics.

    Louis,

    Please deal with what I HAVE said, not with what you think I have said. Please also deal with the fact that your claim that scientific multiverse hypotheses fail the testability claim in the same way that god hypotheses do is false.

    I did and I did, and I stand by it. Or should I use capitals like you: I DID.

    SC, OM

    This is exactly what you do. Test what? What beliefs do you have from or about the bible, specifically? What is their basis? What evidence could be found that would lead you to reject them? On the Coyne thread, you stated a total of one – that a steady-state universe would have been fatal to your faith. It was a tremendous cop-out since it was claimed after the fact, but is everything else about the Bible not amenable to being stated in terms of scientific hypotheses?

    Test anything you like. I believe all the bible, so you don’t need specifics. Open it to any page. I believe that. How is the test I provided a cop-out? What do you mean it was after the fact? There are bounce cosmologies. There is a possibility that they will be confirmed.

  395. #396 Louis
    February 19, 2009

    Heddle,

    Without wishing to descend to unpleasantness: no you absolutely haven’t dealt with what I’ve actually said. I have not compared “another universe/multiverse hypotheses” with “black holes” but with “singularities”. You’ve skirted around that issue several times now.

    You’ve also ignored comments re: entanglement, possible cosmological evidence (handwaving it away) and other distinctions. You’ve absolutely refused to deal with any of the specifics of the points I’ve been making.

    Sorry Heddle, but no matter how right or wrong my comments might be the fact remains that you are attacking a straw man version of them. Please stop that.

    Louis

  396. #397 Tulse
    February 19, 2009

    I believe all the bible, so you don’t need specifics. Open it to any page. I believe that.

    You believe that birds arose on earth before land animals? You believe that animals that mate in front of vertical rods will have striped-coated offspring (Genesis 30:39)? You believe that rabbits chew cud like ruminants? You believe that all the extant species on the planet could fit into a boat and survive for 40 days?

  397. #398 heddle
    February 19, 2009

    Louis,

    No, I asked you to clarify what you meant by singularities. Are you talking about String Theory? The Big Bang? Black Holes? Clarify your effin’ question instead of just claiming I am not answering it!

    Or never mind–here is my answer: yes.

    I did ignore your comments about entanglement because I took them as tweaks. You were talking to me, and then asked “are there any physicists here who can answer this question?” You’re a chemist, right? If I am talking to you and then look about asking “are there any chemists in the room who can answer this question?” I am pretty sure you’d take it as a tweak. You’d probably say “F-U heddle.”

    I am am not attacking a strawman. You are arguing the the String multiverse is testable because it postulates long-range correlations and I agree. That was precisely your point and precisely the point I addressed with the multiple comments that while it is testable it will never be tested in a way that can distinguish the other universes from a mathematical construct. You argue “oh, it is the same way.” I argued “no it isn’t.” I addressed your point directly. You may not like the answer but I gave an answer. And to summarize it is very simple: You said the tests are like anything else we test, and I said they are like nothing else we test. You gave your reasons, I gave mine. But to claim I didn’t address your points is false.

  398. #399 heddle
    February 19, 2009

    Tulse,

    Oh yes! I believe all those things and so much more! I also believe that pi = 3 and bats are birds!

  399. #400 Tulse
    February 19, 2009

    Heddle, you’re the one who stated you believe the Bible. Do you care to provide the appropriate nuance to that claim? Or did I simply misread the sarcasm in the original post? (If so, my apologies.)

  400. #401 heddle
    February 19, 2009

    Tulse,

    What I don’t care to do is once again go down the same list of biblical “errors” and discuss them. That was fun the first six hundred times but no more. You may, if you like, assume that I have no answers for any such questions. If I were to start that thread I wouldn’t even wait for PZ to put me in the dungeon, I’d open the door and leap in myself. If I get tossed out of here it won’t be, at least not legitimately, for Godbotting.

  401. #402 Kevembuangga
    February 19, 2009

    @heddle
    Oh yes! I believe all those things and so much more!

    And you managed to have them let you out?
    No wonder you outsmart everyone here.
    KUDOS!!!

  402. #403 Stephen Wells
    February 19, 2009

    Heddle: if your objection to other universes is that they lie in our Elsewhere, relativistically, then so does most of the universe we’re currently in, so your objection is pointless; unless you think other portions of the universe magically spring into existence as they enter our past light cone, you already think things exist which you’re causally separated from.

    Your claim to believe the entire Bible is laughable. For one thing you now have multiple incompatible beliefs regarding the creation of the world, the progress of the Flood and indeed its occurence, and of course the actions and last words of Jesus. Do you imagine you get some kind of points for claiming to believe?

  403. #404 Louis
    February 19, 2009

    Crikey Heddle!

    I don’t know how much more specific about which singularities I meant. The ones inside black holes will do for starters. Of course this would be obvious if you’d read and dealt with what I’d actually written instead of a straw man, but hey, in all the years I’ve encountered you you’ve done very little else by squirm and evade issues that expose your drivel for what it is, why should I expect different from you now? (THAT was a tweak, no wait, that was abuse, why waste time on tweaks?)

    If you want to talk about naked singularities and loop quantum gravity go right ahead. Talk about mathematical singularities both soluble by renormalisation and not for all I care. I’ve been very clearly talking about the ones inside black holes. The ones that could be “visible” to a quantum theory of gravity.

    Incidentally I was not tweaking you with questions re: entanglement. I was asking a genuine question. Since I’ve already come out in support of you as a physicist, despite the scepticism of some other posters (in fact because of it, but that’s a side issue), I was hoping you’d answer me, or that someone else would. My undergrad QM isn’t all powerful, far from it, and I am wondering whether or not a particle in this universe entangled with a particle in another universe constitutes observation of that other universe. I’d say it did, but I could be wrong.

    I can also tell that you haven’t read what I’ve written because I’ve mentioned very clearly that multiverses etc might well be just a mathematical construct (deep breath) JUST LIKE THE SINGULARITIES IN BLACK HOLES ARE.

    I’ve even peppered those parts of my posts with AFAICT/AFAIK/IIRC etc, myriad opportunities for anyone expert to tell me that singularities are not merely mathematical constructs that are the consequence of our current understanding of relativity that could well be removed by a valid theory of quantum gravity. I simply haven’t been making the claim you think I have, which as I’ve said a few times now is because you don’t bother to read what people actually say and instead plough ahead with your own straw man, relentlessly focussing on trivia.

    Get on with it

    Louis

  404. #405 Louis
    February 19, 2009

    URGH English fail in my first sentence. Just add “…I can be.” to the end of it please.

    Louis

  405. #406 Tulse
    February 19, 2009

    What I don’t care to do is once again go down the same list of biblical “errors” and discuss them.

    Fair enough — that would indeed move things rather far afield.

    I hope you do recognize, however, that the question wasn’t a mere attempt at a “gotcha”, but was genuine. You’re clearly a smart person who, to my mind and the mind of many other folks, nonetheless believes what appears to be some very dumb things, and discussing how you reconcile that apparent contradiction might be interesting and useful to both sides.

  406. #407 Jason
    February 19, 2009

    “Jason, you are missing the point.”

    Nerd, you have missed my point. Gods are said to be undetectable & unobservable; that alone shows that they don’t fit the scientific definition of what it is to exist. But theists reject that definition, and say that existence can include vaccuous & unverifiable qualities like undetectablility. Since they deny the scientific standard for determining if something exists or not, demonstrating that gods don’t meet that standard is meaningless to them.

    “If god is simply spiritual, and doesn’t interact with anything, what is the use of such a weak god? Any why must everybody share your delusions/belief.”

    Please read more carefully before replying – I don’t believe any of that garbage. However, your statement raises an important point – too many atheists seem to think that establishing the weakness or uselessness of god is the same as establishing its nonexistence. That simply cannot be done because the claim is too anti-science for science to be effective against it. All you did was give your opinion of said god, and most theists would probably take your statement as an admission that you believe god exists, but you just don’t like him (Christopher Hitchens walks right into that one all the time).

  407. #408 abb3w
    February 19, 2009

    cervantes It is meaningless to assert the existence of an entity that cannot, in principle, be observed.

    “Inferred” rather than “observed” might be a more precise word choice. We do not directly observe the anti-neutrino; rather, we observe its effects on the other particles resulting from neutron decay (less spin and energy than expected) and in the light emitted by the rare collision.

    hedde: I believe all the bible, so you don’t need specifics.

    Well enough. So, on what basis have you decided that the Bible exists?

  408. #409 SEF
    February 19, 2009

    A singularity is a 0-dimensional object, correct?

    No, not correct. That would be a point. A singularity is a place where the properties being measured blow up (so to speak) as you approach it. So, for a famous physical example, density might become infinite.

    For a different analogy closer to real world experience, consider weather storms. On good quality weather maps, not the modern TV trash, you’d be shown the isobars for pressure being closer together round the storm (and the wind speed being faster). Try to imagine a storm where, instead of levelling out and peaking, the pressure becomes infinite towards its centre. Also recognise that no-one could actually go and check the conditions at that centre because the winds pushing them back out from (and around) the storm are also becoming infinite.

  409. #410 SC, OM
    February 19, 2009

    Test anything you like. I believe all the bible, so you don’t need specifics. Open it to any page. I believe that.

    heddle, you’re saying “go ahead and test” (the fact that you’re uninterested in investigating the evidence for or against these beliefs yourself is odd, but expected). Of course I need specifics. How else could anything be tested? How would people know if they were investigating your actual beliefs or some other interpretation you don’t hold to? How would we know we were looking at the relevant evidence? How would we know you wouldn’t simply revise your stated interpretation or belief to suit what was found, if you haven’t made it clear and explicit beforehand? We all know “I believe all the bible” offers nothing meaningful as a testable proposition.

    And again, you’re also avoiding the point I made above: that your falsifiability criterion is meaningless without the evidentiary criterion. If you’ve confirmed nothing and have no good scientific reason to think that something’s true, then you have no reason to talk about its possible falsification.

    How is the test I provided a cop-out? What do you mean it was after the fact?

    Excuse me, but you said (comment # 457 on the Coyne thread) in response to me

    Does the evidentiary standard of science not apply to scriptural truth claims? If not, why not?

    It does. For example, regardless of one?s interpretation of Genesis scripture states that the universe began. If it didn?t begin there is a serious problem. Verification of a steady state universe would have been a death blow to those who hold a high view of scripture.

    When Sastra said

    I think you grant that God’s a hypothesis, when you agree that a steady-state universe would and should falsify it. Or would it only falsify one version? Another version could always be invented by defining it around the new evidence.

    you replied

    It would, for me, falsify scripture in way for which there could be no hope of reconciliation?which then meant that the promises in scripture are also suspect. And it would destroy, for me, the notion of a creator God. It would destroy my faith. As for others, I obviously cannot say.

    So present tense there, but the past tense in your response to me kind of gives you away. It does seem to me as well that you are therefore, as Sastra said, acknowledging your god as a potentially-falsifiable scientific hypothesis for which you’ve specified potentially-falsifying findings. I don’t see why you can’t do this with other scriptural claims.

    There are bounce cosmologies. There is a possibility that they will be confirmed.

    From my extremely cursory reading online,it doesn’t seem a very strong possibility (and now I have to wonder how you compare these ideas to string theory…). But then I’m led to ask explicitly*: Would confirming multiple universes also destroy your faith?

    *I was alluding to this before, but your response was to focus on semantics concerning “anthropic principle” and suggest that I was confused rather than to understand that I was talking about the strong (as I said) version associated with religious fine-tuning arguments. It’s true, though, that I hadn’t been aware of the variety of competing and contrasting versions of the anthropic principle, so I apologize for my lack of clarity.

  410. #411 heddle
    February 19, 2009

    SC, OM,

    Why is it my duty to provide a test? You can read the bible as easily as I can–perform any test you can establish. I’ll support you in any way that I can. I think scientific tests are hard because in the final analysis the bible says very little about science. But there may be some. It says a lot more about history–so history and archeological tests are far easier to imagine.

    How would people know if they were investigating your actual beliefs or some other interpretation you don’t hold to?

    That’s a very good question. Roughly speaking I believe in miracles, believe in the Framework interpretation of Genesis, believe in and old earth, and believe in postmillennial eschatology. I think knowing that you would know, for example, that a test of the age of the earth would not be considered by me as a test of the bible. (Actually it would, and it was, but the right answer was found.)

    On the other hand, why would anyone be interested in testing my view of the bible?

    Multiple universes per se would not affect my faith. (It would however utterly destroy the use of fine tuning as an apologetic argument.) A universe without a beginning would. The Steady State models are in the past. The bounce models are current. So the Steady State models could have, but didn’t, and the bounce models could yet.

    By the way, even the Strong Anthropic Principle doesn’t have to have religious connotations. I actually think it is nonsense and quite anti-religious. It says, at least in some forms, that the universe must be such so as at some point it would support life such as ours. Seems anti-religious to me. In fact, one of the SAP compatible theories is we created the universe via quantum feedback. No God required–man is God–and man had to arise because man created the universe in the first place, from the future.

  411. #412 Sastra
    February 19, 2009

    Jason #407 wrote:

    Gods are said to be undetectable & unobservable; that alone shows that they don’t fit the scientific definition of what it is to exist.

    I don’t think any theist ever says that “God is undetectable and unobservable in every way.” That would indeed make the concept not only scientifically inert, but just plain empty.

    What they mean is that God’s existence can be inferred indirectly, through a direct study of His works. This is similar to inferring subatomic particles through their effects — though an easier and more basic analogy would be figuring out that there is wind outside, because you see the trees blowing around.

    And, in some cases, God can be sensed directly, through a mystical experience or sensus divinus where some sort of supernatural-to-natural mind-meld or extra-sensory perception event allows you immediate contact with a portion of the divine Being.

    Is God a science hypothesis? Maybe.

    I think the God hypothesis is similar to the Vitalism hypothesis, or the ESP hypothesis. In our past, certain forces were assumed to exist because they explained some common observations. A body died because the “life force” left it. People could ‘just know’ what other people were thinking because “psychic forces” somehow leapt from mind to mind.

    However, subsequent investigations showed that neither one of these hypotheses was needed to explain anything. Vitalism was an unnecessary addition to basic chemistry and physics. It was cut out with Occam’s Razor. The ‘phenomena’ that ESP was invoked to explain turned out to be nonexistent — people can’t really ‘just know’ what other people are thinking, we simply think we can because we make common errors in reasoning.

    Both Vitalism and ESP, then, were open to scientific investigation and analysis. They were something science could say something about. If tests and studies had had different results, then the proponents would have been jubilant and victorious, and Chi Energy and ESP would be included in the scientific model of how the world works. They’re not “outside of science” in the sense that scientists can have no opinion on them, one way or the other. Scientists today can confidently dismiss them. So can the ordinary person.

    But many proponents were and are unwilling to accept the results of scientific investigation. No, they just knew those things were real, because they made intuitive sense — and because they had experienced them for themselves. What about that time the Energy Healer cured my headache by manipulating my chakras? What about that time the phone rang and I knew it was my mom before I even picked it up? You can’t go against personal experience. You know what you know, because it happened to you.

    So then maybe Vitalism and ESP are the kind of things science can confirm — but not disconfirm. Maybe they’re in a category of subjective personal knowledge — like when you know that you love your mom, or you know that you spoke to her yesterday — but couldn’t prove either one of them objectively to scientists if you were challenged. If the proof was there — then fine. But if it’s not there, it’s not needed.

    The hypotheses of Vitalism and ESP are technically falsifiable — in that they can be cut out as unnecessary and supplanted by better theories — but in practice they’re UNfalsifiable. People who believe in them are trying to protect them in a way nobody should try to protect a science theory. They reason that we use different criteria for subjective personal knowledge than we do for scientific knowledge. You can trust your own experience — or the story of someone else’s experience — and not demand that it meet objective criteria.

    So why not “save” these hypotheses that way? Loosen the criteria from the rigorous testing you need for a scientific theory, to what you actually use in daily living, when dealing with your own experiences, preferences, feelings, relationships, etc?

    If you do that, then even if what you believe goes against the known laws of physics and nature, that won’t matter. If it’s personal knowledge, then its in a category which doesn’t need objective verification — and thus, in some magical way, you’re not in conflict with science. You accept them both.

    I think this is what theists are doing with the God hypothesis. They’re treating it the way they treat Vitalism and ESP. Those were once serious theories which were being tested and studied. They failed. But people didn’t want to give them up, couldn’t accept that they had been effectively falsified, and therefore removed them into an invented area for dead hypotheses called “things that science can’t say anything about — unless it’s positive.” You can call it “scientific,” but it’s the kind of science that rests on tests that look for confirming evidence, and accepts testimonials, personal experience, and common sense as ‘good enough’ peer review.

    So “God exists” both is — and isn’t — a science hypothesis. When I think about it, it’s more like a pseudoscience hypothesis.

  412. #413 SC, OM
    February 19, 2009

    Why is it my duty to provide a test?

    It isn’t. It’s your “duty,” since you’ve claimed to be amenable, to state your beliefs in a way that would make them hypothesizable/testable, and not necessarily to provide a test but to explicitly state which evidence you think confirms said beliefs and which evidence would disconfirm them. I even gave you a little template @ #391.

    You can read the bible as easily as I can–perform any test you can establish.

    And everyone has exactly the same interpretation of every passage, right? Really, heddle. In the discussion of biblical statements about science, and particularly Paul’s supposed exhortatations to do science, your interpretation itself can be investigated (and doesn’t hold up to scrutiny). Whatever test I can establish could easily be dismissed later if what’s being tested and the suitability of the evidence has not been established beforehand. And you know it.

    I’ll support you in any way that I can.

    *rolls eyes*

    I think scientific tests are hard because in the final analysis the bible says very little about science.

    That’s…well, that’s just incredibly stupid. It makes truth claims.

    But there may be some. It says a lot more about history–so history and archeological tests are far easier to imagine.

    And as I’ve said numerous times, I’m including these in my definition of science: systematic empirical observation, measurement, experiment, and analysis. This is done across many diciplines.

    That’s a very good question. Roughly speaking…

    Don’t speak roughly. Would you use vague, imprecise, slippery language like that in your physics research? In your funding proposals? No.

    I think knowing that you would know,

    Now why would you be coy like this?

    for example, that a test of the age of the earth would not be considered by me as a test of the bible(Actually it would,

    So it wouldn’t, but it would?

    and it was, but the right answer was found.)

    Oh, good grief. I know I’ll regret this, and I can’t believe I’m asking, but how so? Was a certain age hypothesized clearly in advance? By whom (certainly not your Chicago pals)?

    On the other hand, why would anyone be interested in testing my view of the bible?

    We’re talking about testing religious beliefs. In order to do so these have to be specified. I’m having an exchange with you.

    Multiple universes per se would not affect my faith.

    Interesting.

    (It would however utterly destroy the use of fine tuning as an apologetic argument.)

    Yes.

    A universe without a beginning would. The Steady State models are in the past. The bounce models are current. So the Steady State models could have, but didn’t, and the bounce models could yet.

    But you hadn’t mentioned the bounce models prior to my “cop-out” comment, which referred to your reference to the steady-state models as an example – the only one you’d offered – of a finding that would falsify your belief. So that was a cop-out.

    By the way, even the Strong Anthropic Principle doesn’t have to have religious connotations.

    Perhaps my wording in my last comment was ambiguous, but I never said it did. But there isn’t only one SAP, evidently.

    I actually think it is nonsense and quite anti-religious. It says, at least in some forms, that the universe must be such so as at some point it would support life such as ours. Seems anti-religious to me.

    Not the the interpretation associated with the fine-tuning argument.

  413. #414 SAWells
    February 19, 2009

    How can it possibly be consistent to say that a steady-state would have disproved Genesis (even though you could simply have claimed that the Genesis creation is just our solar system, after all it doesn’t say “Universe” in the stories) but the discovery that _dead people don’t come back to life_ doesn’t disprove the resurrection? One is exactly as miraculous as the other. Heddle, I think your position is intellectually dishonest; you’re putting on a veneer of scientific respectability with your post-hoc claim that steady-state would have shaken your faith, but I don’t think we have any reason to believe you; the impossibility of the various Biblical miracles is even better established than the impossibility of a steady-state universe, yet you won’t abandon them.

  414. #415 Watchman
    February 19, 2009

    Science has no opinion on religion. It cannot.

    Oh? Science does not have, and cannot have, opinions on the existence of Thor or Poseidon?

    Every god is a god-of-the-gaps. Every scientific discovery narrows one or more gaps. Gaps disappear, and the gods that once occupied them get squirted, like watermelon seeds, out of the pantheon of credible gods. How many people honestly believe that Genesis is a literal account of the creation of the earth, the heavens, the oceans, and of all life on earth? Not many. Yahweh’s supporters are being forced to nebulize him into utter ineffability. The squeeze is on.

  415. #416 robert
    February 19, 2009

    Sorry, just testing your authentication and moderation process.

  416. #417 Circe of the Godless
    February 19, 2009

    Raymond Moon said “You said it yourself. Science has to do with observable facts. Since EVOLUTION cannot be observed, or even inferred, then it is not SCIENCE, but THEORY only”

    You stupid tosser creotard ! Can you not even realise that evolution does not have to be ‘seen within a person’s lifetime’ to exist as a fact? Did you ‘see’ Napoleon? Does that mean he didn’t exist? Have you ‘seen’ the earth looking round from space? Does that mean that it isn’t?

    And by the way………fossils.

    Fucking creotard scum like you get right up my ass because you still want use of all the things science has created when really you should be back in your cave, flogging your slaves, as you stupid goat-herder’s text instructs you to do.

  417. #418 Tulse
    February 19, 2009

    I think scientific tests are hard because in the final analysis the bible says very little about science.

    OK, but that just gets us back to “birds before land animals” and “striped environment producing striped animals” — those aren’t assertions about the way the natural world works and its history?

  418. #419 Eric Saveau
    February 19, 2009

    Damn. Louis and SC are making one hell of a dynamic duo in this thread!

  419. #420 Facilis
    February 19, 2009

    I’d also like to point out that just because something cannot be studied by science doesn’t mean we shoould not debate it or be critical of it. People who work in theology and study God have lots of debates about God and his nature from Christians to muslims and Jews and hindu theologians. Theologians are critical of God every day and study him for a living.

  420. #421 Sastra
    February 19, 2009

    Facilis #420 wrote:

    I’d also like to point out that just because something cannot be studied by science doesn’t mean we shoould not debate it or be critical of it. People who work in theology and study God have lots of debates about God and his nature from Christians to muslims and Jews and hindu theologians. Theologians are critical of God every day and study him for a living.

    Good point, but I think the fact that the theologians are not studying God through applying scientific method undercuts the claim that they’re studying God. What they appear to be doing is textual and literary analysis: approaching God as if it was a fictional character, and trying to figure out what themes can be derived from its actions.

    What they study need only be as real and objective as Hamlet.

  421. #422 Wowbagger
    February 19, 2009

    I’d also like to point out that just because something cannot be studied by science doesn’t mean we shoould not debate it or be critical of it. People who work in theology and study God have lots of debates about God and his nature from Christians to muslims and Jews and hindu theologians. Theologians are critical of God every day and study him for a living.

    The problem with that, facilis, is that it’s 100% speculation, and it should have no more bearing on how people live their lives than the study of Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter – beyond what any text can provide in the way of insight into the human condtion, of course; I’m aware of the value of literary analysis.

    It’s that those who study theology make unsupported claims about what their findings mean and how they should be applied.

    Put it this way – how do you work out who has it right?

  422. #423 God
    February 19, 2009

    I am totally not fictional! I mean, here I am, saying clearly that I’m not fictional!

    What more do you mortals want from Me, a miracle?

    Oh.

    Well, too bad. You can’t have one!

    Because I say so, that’s why!

  423. #424 Kel
    February 19, 2009

    I’d also like to point out that just because something cannot be studied by science doesn’t mean we shoould not debate it or be critical of it.

    That’s possibly the first thing you’ve said on here that actually has some validity. I think facilis deserves an honourary medal for breaking free from stupidity…

    People who work in theology and study God have lots of debates about God and his nature from Christians to muslims and Jews and hindu theologians. Theologians are critical of God every day and study him for a living.

    Nevermind, take the medal back.

  424. #425 Sastra
    February 19, 2009

    Actually, just because something has been studied and rejected by science doesn’t mean it can’t be debated or criticized, either. I also spend time with skeptic groups and organizations, which deal with pseudoscientific, paranormal, and fringe beliefs like alien abductions, ESP, and the Loch Ness monster.

    Pick any silly New Age claim, and you can find books and books written by True Believers exploring and debating it. Not just old books, but shelves of them in your local book store. Astrology, psychic powers, reincarnation, levitation, casting spells, alchemy, energy medicine — name it, and there are people who are “experts” and different “schools” of interpretation and enough words written to convince a casual and completely naive observer that hey, there must be something real there.

    Tarot cards must work, or how could they write a manual — let alone dozens?!

  425. #426 SC, OM
    February 19, 2009

    I’d also like to point out that just because something cannot be studied by science

    But the point of the post was that claims about it can be studied by science if it’s anything other than invisible, impalpible, immaterial, unobservable and immeasurable, in which case no one can know anything about it and it’s pointless to discuss it. But a god of whom theologians are “critical” sounds very much like one who is thought to have specific characteristics and to intervene in the material world – thus it and claims about it can be studied by science.

  426. #427 Owlmirror
    February 19, 2009

    heddle @#411:

    I think scientific tests are hard because in the final analysis the bible says very little about science.

    I was a bit late in responding to your last post on the other thread, but I would just like to clarify, here: Are you agreeing with me now that no part of the bible includes a call to systematically investigate the natural universe? Or at the very least, not the part you originally thought said to do so? ¹

    If not; if you think I’m wrong, do you have a response to my argument?

    _______________________________________________
    1: Some of the Psalms and other passages are paeans of the marvels of the world as being God’s creation — but I don’t see how they could be interpreted as suggesting careful rational investigation. Hipparchus’ astronomical works were not entered into the biblical canon as being part of the proper way to appreciate God’s work, for example.

  427. #428 Wowbagger
    February 19, 2009

    Where science can and can’t be applied to gods seems very abritrary, and heavily weighted in religion’s favour – if findings support religion it’s acceptable; if findings dismiss religion then it’s ‘something that can’t be tested’.

    I can’t remember exactly what the example Dawkins used in TGD, but it points out just how much religious types would embrace science if it could be used to show something which supports their claims – it might have been using Jesus’ blood to confirm the ‘virgin birth’ by showing that he was conceived without a male donor.

  428. #429 SC, OM
    February 19, 2009

    Owlmirror,

    I asked him about it @ #159 and reminded him again later. If he still hasn’t responded, it’s through no fault of mine.
    :)

  429. #430 Sastra
    February 19, 2009

    Dawkins has also written a satirical send up of what it would look like if scientists really did treat scientific claims “like religion.” He gives the example of biologists discovering that DNA was not, after all, a double helix.

    Yet, instead of saying Crick and Watson were wrong, DNA isn’t a double helix, and looking for a new model and theory, they go “Well, it IS a double helix, but of course we never meant for the ‘double helix’ to be taken literally. It was always meant to be a metaphor, but one based in eternal truth. The shape of the double helix speaks to us of profound depths in biology, of our twisted nature as ancestor and descendant, and transcends our lower understanding to reveal to us that blah blah blah and so forth and so on…”

    Or something like that.

  430. #431 abb3w
    February 19, 2009

    heddle: Roughly speaking I believe in miracles, believe in the Framework interpretation of Genesis, believe in and old earth, and believe in postmillennial eschatology.

    Presumably because…

    hedd[l]e: I believe all the bible, so you don’t need specifics.

    I say again, Well enough. However, I have a more fundamental question about that belief. Before you can believe the Bible is true, you have to believe it exists. I believe it exists for reasons of my own… but on what basis have you decided that the Bible exists?

  431. #432 Kevembuangga
    February 20, 2009

    @heddle
    Why is it my duty to provide a test?

    Because your “opinion” is worthless if you cannot provide convincing arguments for it.
    What’s the point flooding the blogs all over the place with gratuitous assertions?
    You seem no have NO IDEA of what scientific inquiry is truly about as opposed to wishful thinking.
    Did you ever read (say) E. T. JAYNES Probability Theory As Logic?
    Here are the first paragraphs of the introduction:

    ?Man is surely mad. He cannot make a worm; yet he makes Gods by the dozen.? ? Montaigne.

    It seems that mankind has always been occupied with the problem of how to deal with ignorance.
    Primitive man, aware of his helplessness against the forces of Nature but totally ignorant of their causes, would try to compensate for his ignorance by inventing hypotheses about them. For educated people today, the idea of directing intelligences willfully and consciously controlling every detail of events seems vastly more complicated than the idea of a machine running; but to primitive man (and even to the uneducated today) the opposite is true. For one who has no comprehension of physical law, but is aware of his own consciousness and volition, the natural question to ask is not: ?What is causing it??, but rather: ?Who is causing it??
    The answer was to invent Gods with the same consciousness and volition as ourselves, but with the additional power of psychokinesis; one in control of the weather, one in control of the seas, and so on. This personification of Nature must have been going on for thousands of years before it started producing permanent written records, in ancient Egypt and Greece. It appears that the adult citizens of those times really believed very literally in all their local Gods.

    This oldest of all devices for dealing with one?s ignorance, is the first form of what we have called the ?Mind Projection Fallacy?. One asserts that the creations of his own imagination are real properties of Nature, and thus in effect projects his own thoughts out onto Nature. It is still
    rampant today, not only in fundamentalist religion, but in every field where probability theory is used.

    My emphasis.

  432. #433 SAWells
    February 20, 2009

    Still waiting for Heddle to justify why a scientific finding of a steady-state universe would invalidate Genesis, but the scientific finding that dead people are dead doesn’t invalidate the resurrection.

  433. #434 heddle
    February 20, 2009

    OwlMirror,

    Are you agreeing with me now that no part of the bible includes a call to systematically investigate the natural universe? Or at the very least, not the part you originally thought said to do so?

    No I am not–reasons below.

    From before

    Paul was complete in his condemnation of the “wisdom of the world”;

    Simply not true. That is, it far more consistent with the rest of scripture that what Paul is condemning is not scholarly activity (he himself being a scholar) but a ?wisdom? that says God is meaningless and unnecessary. That is, he would have mocked the wisdom on Pharyngula not because, ahem, it is scholarly, but because for its contempt for God to the extent of The Courtier’s Reply. He never would have and never did command Christians to shun knowledge or philosophy or science or scholarship.

    You argue from silence?true, he did not sing the praises of the Greek Philosophers. I can argue from silence as well: he did not explicitly condemn them. That gets us back to the meaning of ?wisdom of the world.? Since it is not an explicit condemnation of scholarship or philosophy per se, you are forced to shoe horn it into a general condemnation of philosophy. It?s not.

    At the Areopagus, Paul was in a golden position to argue like a rube street preacher, and to attempt to mock his listeners for being overly wise in their love of philosophy. He did not. He didn?t say, like the soap box guys sometimes do, that all your learnin? ain?t worth crap. He spoke to them as if he were one of them, even quoting a pagan poet.

    We also have Luke, writing under Paul’s sanction, praising the scholarship of the Bereans and their practice using their intellects to put what was told them to the test.

    So no, I do not back down. Romans 1:20 is a call for men to study creation (do science.) (And in the Psalms as you noted but summarily dismissed in your footnote.) It in fact serves as a gospel?for if it leaves men without excuse in then follows implies that it (study of creation) can put you into a position where you don?t need an excuse.

    ——————
    Kevembuangga,

    Primitive man, aware of his helplessness against the forces of Nature but totally ignorant of their causes, would try to compensate for his ignorance by inventing hypotheses about them.

    My goodness isn’t that insightful and original? That certainly is food for thought.

    ——————
    SAWells,

    You’ll have to wait that question is just too hard. I am praying for an answer.

    ——————
    abb3w,

    I believe it exists for reasons of my own… but on what basis have you decided that the Bible exists?

    I am looking at six or seven of them in my bookcase, but I admit that I cannot come up with any reason why I think the bible exists.

  434. #435 heddle
    February 20, 2009

    Sorry, the last paragraph in my response to owlmirror missed the editing process. It sould read:

    for if it leaves men without excuse it then implies that it (the study of creation) can put you into a position where you don?t need an excuse.

  435. #436 Louis
    February 20, 2009

    That’s right Heddle, ignore the physics, ignore your straw men, ignore your erroneous claims and give us a dose of that good old fashioned scripture.

    Bravo!

    Louis

  436. #437 heddle
    February 20, 2009

    Louis,

    Don’t be an ass. (Too late.) I was answering a direct question from owlmirror carried over from a previous thread.

    Keep whining about “strawman.” You are very good at whining, both here and elsewhere. Your argument was in fact not very clever at all–you simply asserted, with no support, that the tests we make of cosmology test for other universes in the same manner that we test for other phenomena. I gave reasons why they were not–which you never addressed. You just kept whining like a school girl.

    Piss off.

  437. #438 SAWells
    February 20, 2009

    So, heddle, you don’t have an answer to the question. Which means you are, bluntly, lying when you say that a steady-state universe would have invalidated your faith. Either you would have said that the Genesis story was about the creation of the Earth, not the universe, or you would have told people that the question was just too hard and you were praying for an answer.

    I’m deeply unimpressed by your hypocrisy.

  438. #439 Facilis
    February 20, 2009

    but the scientific finding that dead people are dead doesn’t invalidate the resurrection.

    I perfectly agree that dead people are dead. jesus was dead, Moses was dead. What I do say is that God can raise people from the dead if he pleases. If there is a scientific finding that says God cannot raise people from the dead I would like to see who published it and what journal it was in..etc

  439. #440 heddle
    February 20, 2009

    SAWells,

    So, heddle, you don’t have an answer to the question. Which means you are, bluntly, lying when you say that a steady-state universe would have invalidated your faith. Either you would have said that the Genesis story was about the creation of the Earth, not the universe, or you would have told people that the question was just too hard and you were praying for an answer.

    I’m deeply unimpressed by your hypocrisy.

    Oh for crying out loud the answer is so friggin’ obvious you should be embarrassed to ask. The bible says with no wiggle room that the universe had a beginning. It says a few people have been, by a supernatural act, raised from the dead. An infinitely old universe proves the bible wrong. Dead people staying dead proves that the bible was correct in characterizing those incidents as miracles requiring the intervention of God.

  440. #441 SAWells
    February 20, 2009

    Yes, facilis, the burden of proof is totally on me to show that God can’t raise people from the dead. Sheesh. While we’re at it let’s prove that grey aliens can’t kidnap and anally probe people.

  441. #442 Louis
    February 20, 2009

    Heddle,

    Ahhh abuse, it’s all you have when you’ve been exposed isn’t it? Ooooh you so scawy when you throw a tantrum Davey!

    No Heddle you DIDN’T address my comments as explained several times (quite politely until a couple of posts ago). Your persecution complex =/= evidence, sweetie, Mmkay? I also addressed everything you said, which of course you’d know if you;d bothered to read it. The mix up you’ve made re: black holes and singularities is a case in point. I absolutely, positively have not been comparing other universes to black holes, but to the singularities INSIDE black holes. A fact you have yet to acknowledge.

    Not only that I made no such assertion re: cosmology, that, again, is YOUR misunderstanding of what I wrote, a misunderstanding I tried to correct several times, again, quite politely.

    You have claimed that god hypotheses fail the testability criterion of science IN THE SAME WAY as multiverse hypotheses do. I disagree. What I’m trying to get from you is WHICH multiverse hypotheses and WHICH way do the fail, the specifics are important here.

    You can keep your evasions and bluster, you fool no one. Keep protecting your precious fine tuning apologetic, everyone can see its (and your) vacuity but you. Puddles anyone?

    I suppose you could climb down off your high horse and actually deal with what I’ve actually said, but then that might be too difficult for you.

    Louis

  442. #443 PZ Myers
    February 20, 2009

    Heddle, in case you hadn’t noticed, this is my blog. You don’t get to arrogate to yourself the privilege of regulating comments here and telling people to piss off. I do.

    Louis, you can stay.

    Heddle, PISS OFF.

  443. #444 heddle
    February 20, 2009

    I did acknowledge. You don’t read my posts. In spite of the fact that you refused to clarify the question, I answered yes on singularities.

    And I stand by by statement that they fail in the same way–which I meant, quite simply and quite clearly from my first post: in neither case can you make a direct confirmation.

    You are arguing it a different sense–that String Theory has all this grand effort behind it–I think you might have even described it as as possibly one of our species’ great accomplishments, and therefore, even though its prediction cannot be directly observed (other universes) it is different.

    I understand what you are saying. I even agreed several times that they are not the same thing in all regards. (More posts of mine that your simply ignored.) But in the sense that I was making the argument: they are the same. You can’t devise a test to detect another universe. I can’t devise one to detect God. Same. Exact. Thing.

    I’m prepared to agree to disagree. All you are prepared to is to pound your fists because I won’t move the argument into your backyard.

  444. #445 SAWells
    February 20, 2009

    Hmmmm. If science said that universe had no beginning, but the bible said it did, that would be a problem for a the bible. But if science says that dead people stay dead, but the bible says they come back to life, that’s fine because it’s evidence of a miracle. Very obvious.

    Ah well. Looks like we lost heddle.

  445. #446 SC, OM
    February 20, 2009

    Well, shit. Every time I go to ask heddle a question, he’s being asked to piss off. Feel free to piss off, heddle, but if you choose not to and wouldn’t mind, could you just tell me when (how long ago) you converted to Christianity?

    Thanks.

  446. #447 abb3w
    February 20, 2009

    heddle: I am looking at six or seven of them in my bookcase, but I admit that I cannot come up with any reason why I think the bible exists.

    Ah, good! So, I don’t need to point out how the evidence of the senses cannot be taken as certain, and thus cannot be sufficient to constitute “confirmation”.

    So, without you giving a reason to believe the Bible exists (or more precisely, your line of reasoning within a prior framework to determine whether or not to believe in the existence of an object such as the Bible, so that the framework may be evaluated, and which framework thus cannot be dependent on particular contents of the Bible being in the Bible)… why should anyone believe the contents of the Bible are in any way valid?

  447. #448 Louis
    February 20, 2009

    Heddle,

    I said that string theory is one of our species great accomplishments? Nope, never said it (‘cos I really, REALLY don’t think it). I definitely said many moons ago that the LHC is. Another clear case in point of you not reading what someone ACTUALLY writes.

    Whining about how I failed to clarify the question about singularities when I’ve done that at least 2 times now (this will be 3), and when one of the original mistakes you made was to confuse the comparison I was making between other universes and the singularities in black holes is just daft based on the written words on this thread. (You acted as if I was comparing black holes to other universes when I have CLEARLY, STATEDLY, REPEATEDLY been comparing other singularities at the centre of black holes to other universes, big fucking difference). I even gave you an out (you’ve confused me with someone else) and several opportunities to correct yourself.

    What more could I do to make things clear to you? Tattoo in on your ball bag with a piece of 2 by 4 and a blunt scalpel?

    I’m also explicitly NOT arguing that string theory has all this effort behind it so therefore it’s different from god, another misconception on YOUR part easily cleared up by reading what I have written. Luckily I’ve got a nice (17 page long!!) Word file with all our correspondence on this thread in it so I can easily check as I type. Doesn’t prevent me from fucking up occasionally, but it reduces the odds a little!

    Now the cosmological tests I referred to: The work by Mersini-Houghton et al. is a SPECIFIC string theory (one of many as I understand it) that makes a SPECIFIC prediction about the long wavelength consequences for THIS universe of another universe acting on it. That is a falsifiable multiverse hypothesis. It’s not all multiverse hypotheses, it’s one of them. if Mersini-Houghton doesn’t find the several bits of data required her hypothesis is falsified. End of story.

    The analogy you used re: experiment was an A or B answer from an experiment. If multiverses exist in the manner she describes we’ll see A, if not we’ll see B. That is precisely what Mersini-Houghton’s work does. She’s not looking for simply another CMB cold spot (which would be open to many other interpretations) she’s looking for another CMB cold spot PLUS certain features of the quadrupole temperature variation PLUS certain correlations between mass distribution and temperature distribution. These prediction are not compatible with the standard model, and are in this specific case (and ONLY in this specific case) direct consequences of our universe being quantum mechanically entangled with another universe prior to inflation. If one part of the observations she needs are missing, it blows her hypothesis out of the water. It’s a clear A or B test between two competing hypotheses.

    It is absolutely NOT the same thing as observing a black hole or refracting a galaxy’s light through a black hole or any of the other examples you use re: particle detection etc. I never claimed it was and never will do so. I wouldn’t even claim that this would conclusively demonstrate the existence of another universe.

    What I would claim is that this is a SPECIFIC example of A testable multiverse hypothesis. One single test. The Higgs boson, if found at the LHC will not be found on the basis of one single test. It will be found on the basis of months/years of painstakingly accurate repeat tests, differing tests etc. Confirming the existence of the Higgs will be a work of consilient science. My point with this is you are applying an intellectually dishonest standard to the experiments in question. No one, and certainly not I, is saying that this one single piece of observational data is sufficient to establish beyond all reasonable doubt the existence of other universes. All I AM saying is this is a test of A SINGLE HYPOTHESIS that involves consequences for this universe of another universe acting on it.

    This is manifestly different from the “mysterious” god hypothesis you wish to invoke which is utterly untestable by any means. It’s also a manifestly different type of phenomenon from your god, as you acknowledge. You’re trying to have your cake, eat it and hand wave distractions so that your vacuous theology isn’t exposed as the bunkum it is. Anyone familiar with you Heddle already knows this about you.

    I fully and freely concede that as of right this second other universes are simply mathematical constructs that pop out of the equations in our physical theories. You’ll never find me say different, even if Mersini-Houghton’s predictions are confirmed and more. I fully and freely concede that in the future other universes may well be thought of as an embarrassing fudge or error of our current theories, one erased by better theories.(DEEP BREATH)

    EXACTLY LIKE THE SINGULARITIES AT THE HEARTS OF BLACK HOLES WILL BE WHEN WE HAVE QUANTUM GRAVITY SORTED.

    Hence why I used that comparison.

    Now that comparison might well be wrong, as I have said I’m not a physicist. The little I’ve read on the subject leads me to think that a valid theory of quantum gravity will penetrate what happens beyond the event horizon of a black hole (i.e. the physical manifestation of a singularity in this universe) and possibly even what happens at and beyond the singularity itself (daughter universes etc). I’m happy to acknowledge that my understanding of this is little better than popularist, and be corrected on that, but Heddle you simply haven’t addressed that specific comparison, as I have been banging on about for pages now.

    Again, even if this comparison isn’t valid, I’ve STILL got that one (well there are others too, but let’s limit it to this one) question dangling regarding entanglement. The Mersini-Houghton work is predicated on the fact that at some point prior to inflation one part of what became our universe was entangled with one part of what became of another universe. As far as my admittedly imperfect undergrad QM of over a decade ago illumines the subject, I think that observing that (entangled) part of our universe post inflation, allows us to detect some aspect of the physical state of the other universe. In other words a direct observation of another universe. So unless my understanding of Mersini-Houghton’s physics on this is wrong (and well it might be) that alone constitutes a potential test of another universe. (Again, note the point about repeatability and consilience)

    The point I have been making is simple. No one asserts other universes by fiat, they are mathematical consequences of our science. They have material, measurable consequences in this universe which open specific versions of them up to falsification. No one, but no one, is proposing the kind of “deist equivalent” multiverse that would equate to your lcaims re: god. The false equivalence you make starts there and ends with your misuse of falsification.

    Anyway, enough. Part of what you’ve tried to do is shift the burden of proof. A standard theist piece of dishonesty. If you claim that there is no test that can confirm/disconfirm the existence of god then you are, as PZ noted, effectively ruling god out of existence. No amount of apologetics can save you. As a favourite comedian of mine (Mark Thomas) once said “If god was going to exist, he would, but he doesn’t!”. Fideist nonsense won’t save you either.

    Please for the love of…well everything…deal with what people DO write Heddle. It’s a tragically bad habit you have.

    Louis

  448. #449 Kevembuangga
    February 20, 2009

    Gotcha!
    I found out where heddle learnt how to argue.
    (in french, sorry, no translation available)
    Or is it here?

  449. #450 Louis
    February 20, 2009

    Heddle, in case you hadn’t noticed, this is my blog. You don’t get to arrogate to yourself the privilege of regulating comments here and telling people to piss off. I do.

    Louis, you can stay.

    Heddle, PISS OFF.

    Most kind PZ, but if I might make a request, please don’t ban Heddle (if you were going to in the first place).

    Regardless of the fact that he is an intellectually dishonest arse, I for one don’t think he’s done anything bannable (I checked the list in the Dungeon!). He annoys the living fuck out of me I’ll be honest, but….well I’m trying to think of a but, gimme a few weeks I’ll get back to you. ;-)

    Louis

  450. #451 Louis
    February 20, 2009

    I can has mismatched block quote tags? Like a fiend I can!

    What I meant was:

    Heddle, in case you hadn’t noticed, this is my blog. You don’t get to arrogate to yourself the privilege of regulating comments here and telling people to piss off. I do.

    Louis, you can stay.

    Heddle, PISS OFF.

    Most kind PZ, but if I might make a request, please don’t ban Heddle (if you were going to in the first place).

    Regardless of the fact that he is an intellectually dishonest arse, I for one don’t think he’s done anything bannable (I checked the list in the Dungeon!). He annoys the living fuck out of me I’ll be honest, but….well I’m trying to think of a but, gimme a few weeks I’ll get back to you. ;-)

    Louis

  451. #452 SAWells
    February 20, 2009

    @449: what a fantastic link! I hadn’t read any Schopenhauer and I’ve bookmarked the art of controversy for more peisurely perusal. I just met this:

    “Stratagem XIV

    This, which is an impudent trick, is played as follows: When your opponent has answered several of your questions without the answers turning out favourable to the conclusion at which you are aiming, advance the desired conclusion, – although it does not in the least follow, – as though it had been proved, and proclaim it in a tone of triumph. If your opponent is shy or stupid, and you yourself possess a great deal of impudence and a good voice, the trick may easily succeed. It is akin to the fallacy non causae ut causae.”

  452. #453 Sastra
    February 20, 2009

    I’ll second Louis’ request not to ban heddle. I’m a bit bothered that he was told to ‘piss off’ from an old thread which had narrowed itself down to only those few people who wanted to debate with heddle — in part because I just read something he wrote, and I’m trying to figure out what he meant.

    heddle #434 (#435) wrote:

    So no, I do not back down. Romans 1:20 is a call for men to study creation (do science.) (And in the Psalms as you noted but summarily dismissed in your footnote.) It in fact serves as a gospel? for if it leaves men without excuse it then implies that it (the study of creation) can put you into a position where you don?t need an excuse.

    Here is Romans 1:20:
    20For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities?his eternal power and divine nature?have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

    Heddle interprets this as a call to do science. Ok, fine. But I’m trying to get the rest of his interpretation.

    If you do science, and can then “clearly see” God’s invisible qualities, then you are in a position where you don’t need an excuse for being an atheist. It makes sense that you’re an atheist.

    Huh? The original passage seems to be about why atheists are to be blamed for not believing in God: God’s existence is plainly revealed by God’s creation (creation needs a creator, duh), so atheists have no excuse when they say “I saw no reason to believe in God.” That’s no excuse, because they saw God’s divine nature in what He made — the world and everything in it.

    Heddle seems to be flipping that. I’ve read what he wrote about 6 times now. The earlier passage is

    18The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them.

    “The study of creation (doing science) can put you (Wowbagger and other atheists?) into a position where you don’t need an excuse (for denying the existence of God, and not praising or glorifying Him?)”

    God forgives atheists as long as they’re scientific atheists? I don’t see it.

    Or is that heddle’s way of saying that God was suggesting that the study and pursuit of science will bring people to believe in God? As in “God is a verified science hypothesis” ? –or as in “wow! isn’t everything amazing, must have been God!”?

    I’m confused. Probably a moot point, anyway. But it niggled me.

  453. #454 SAWells
    February 20, 2009

    See, God is a verified science hypothesis because the Bible says the universe had a beginning and so does the Big Bang theory, and the Bible also says that dead people can come back to life again and science disagrees which means that’s a miracle. Apparently. You have to be heddle or facilis for that to make any sense.

  454. #455 Sastra
    February 20, 2009

    SAWells #454:

    Maybe. I re-read heddle’s quote yet again (after stepping away), and now think it means that, if the pursuit of science will lead men to be “without excuse” — or the NEED for an excuse — then that implies that the pursuit of science will or can eventually lead people to believe in God, and not be atheists. Therefore science CAN address the existence of God. God’s existence is not something science could never rule on one way or the other (contra Ebert and NOMA.)

    But I’m not going to speculate on this anymore, because it would be very unfair to poor heddle, since if he comes back to respond PZ might notice that he’s here again — after being told to “Piss Off” — and then he’s in trouble, and my fault.

  455. #456 heddle
    February 20, 2009

    PZ,

    You are such a dork at times. I wasn?t telling Louis to piss off your blog. I was telling him to piss off of his mantra of accusing me of arguing a strawman. And he obviously can take it even if you are too sensitive of a soul?we?ve exchange far worse several times before at AtBC (especially regarding identity politics) and are then cordial with one another the next time. I consider Louis an e-friend?somewhat reminiscent of my younger days when I would get in a fistfight in the schoolyard at 1:00 and be playing baseball with the same kid as a good bud at 2:00.

    But you need to be clear?maybe it is clear to you but based on some of the comments I don?t think it is just me who is uncertain. Your Piss Off is nebulous. I want to answer some questions people posed to me, but I want to respect that this is your blog. Does your Piss Off mean do not comment here anymore or is it something less than that? I don?t care one way or the other, but I don?t want to comment if you think that you have told me not to comment. For crying out loud, have some backbone one way or the other.

  456. #457 SAWells
    February 20, 2009

    Oh good, he’s back. Now he can explain why it’s fine to invoke a miracle when science says dead people are dead and the bible says they come back to life, but it wouldn’t be fine to invoke a miracle if science said the universe didn’t have a beginning and the bible said it did. “It’s obvious” is not the answer; you and facilis both tried that and it’s not convincing. Is there a reason why God couldn’t create a universe and make it appear steady-state? Setting limits on divine power, are we?

    Heddle, you really shouldn’t have made that faux-concession about the steady state theory. It’ll haunt you indefinitely now.

  457. #458 Louis
    February 20, 2009

    I consider Louis an e-friend?somewhat reminiscent of my younger days when I would get in a fistfight in the schoolyard at 1:00 and be playing baseball with the same kid as a good bud at 2:00.

    Sniff, that’s beautiful man. Do we hug now?

    Lucky we aren’t on AtBC or we’d be getting LOLCats from Arden captioned with “Brokeback Kitteh can’t qwit u”.

    Anyway, stop fucking about with straw men, whether you recognise it or not, trust the fact that if I bother to mention straw men at all it;s because I consider them to have been employed and treat THAT as a wake up. I know I do if someone accuses me of such things. Now until PZ cuts you off at the knees, be a good physicist and address the fucking issues at hand. :)

    Louis

  458. #459 SC, OM
    February 20, 2009

    Now until PZ cuts you off at the knees, be a good physicist and address the fucking issues at hand. :)

    And please answer my question @ #446. It’ll only take a moment.

  459. #460 SC, OM
    February 20, 2009

    Heddle interprets this as a call to do science. Ok, fine [NOT]. But I’m trying to get the rest of his interpretation.

    Oh, it’s far worse than that:

    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2009/02/the_stupid_it_burns_2.php#comment-1377465

    This was all in response to my request that heddle provide evidence for his claim that the Bible doesn’t say much about science (in the absurd prism of his word games, “science” means the field of science) other than telling people to “go and do it.” When asked about this, in light of “Blessed are those who believe without having seen,” etc. (to which he has not responded; I’m still interested in the exclusion of the Bel-dragon/Daniel-as-challenging-empiricist stories, but it’s not central) and the general thrust of the Bible re faith, this was heddle’s evidence.

  460. #461 Kel
    February 20, 2009

    Heddle, would you be able to have a go at explaining a singularity for me please? If not, can you at the very least reference somewhere that could be a good starting point?

  461. #462 Wowbagger
    February 20, 2009

    Sastra, post #453:

    “The study of creation (doing science) can put you (Wowbagger and other atheists?) into a position where you don’t need an excuse (for denying the existence of God, and not praising or glorifying Him?)”,

    Not that I don’t appreciate a good shout-out, but I’m a bit confused about how I ended up in the middle of this :)

  462. #463 Owlmirror
    February 20, 2009

    Not that I don’t appreciate a good shout-out, but I’m a bit confused about how I ended up in the middle of this :)

    There’s an “ow” in your handle?

  463. #464 Owlmirror
    February 20, 2009

    heddle @#434:

    That is, it far more consistent with the rest of scripture that what Paul is condemning is not scholarly activity (he himself being a scholar) but a ?wisdom? that says God is meaningless and unnecessary.

    Wait a minute.

    I already addressed this, although possibly you didn’t notice it. Paul was not writing about atheists, or even necessarily deists. While there may have been some in the Hellenic Mediterranean (and you might note Epicureans as a specific example), most of the population believed in some sort of active God or Gods.

    Again, I insist on pointing out that he went out of his way to condemn the Jews, who were devout believers in an active God (and condemned Epicureans themselves).

    So no, I do not back down. Romans 1:20 is a call for men to study creation (do science.) (And in the Psalms as you noted but summarily dismissed in your footnote.)

    I explained in my footnote that a paean to beauty is not a call to systematically study it.

    Is the Song of Songs a call to study human anatomy? Is it anything like a formal physical description? It’s a love poem, FFS!

    It in fact serves as a gospel?for if it leaves men without excuse it then implies that it (the study of creation) can put you into a position where you don?t need an excuse.

    I am going to repeat Sastra’s request @#453 that you clarify what the hell you are trying to say with that last sentence — because even with your appended emendation, I still can’t make sense of it. Especially since you have been adamant that you have no idea how to test for or demonstrate the existence of God.

  464. #465 Wowbagger
    February 20, 2009

    Owlmirror wrote:

    There’s an “ow” in your handle?

    So…it should have been your handle in there? That would make more sense.

  465. #466 Sastra
    February 20, 2009

    Wowbagger #462 wrote:

    Not that I don’t appreciate a good shout-out, but I’m a bit confused about how I ended up in the middle of this :)

    Oops, mistake, yes. That should have been Owlmirror’s handle, because that was who heddle’s original post was addressed to. I got confused somehow. Maybe the “ow.” Or a mistake in scrolling back and forth…

  466. #467 windy
    February 20, 2009

    heddle:

    Oh for crying out loud the answer is so friggin’ obvious you should be embarrassed to ask. The bible says with no wiggle room that the universe had a beginning.

    It says that “heavens and the earth” had a beginning. You have to wiggle at least a little bit to say that this means “the universe as we currently know it”. The Bible also says with no wiggle room that the human species had an abrupt beginning in two individuals, separately from other species of animals.

  467. #468 Wowbagger
    February 20, 2009

    Sastra wrote:

    I got confused somehow.

    <apologist>Ha! An atheist got something wrong. Therefore, my god exists!</apologist>

  468. #469 Nerd of Redhead, OM
    February 20, 2009

    *headdesk*

  469. #470 Kel
    February 20, 2009

    The bible says with no wiggleroom that the universe exists, but somehow saying that on day one the earth was created and on day for the sun and stars (both absurdities in the cosmological timeline) isn’t? Seems heddle is picking and choosing…

  470. #471 Owlmirror
    February 20, 2009

    The bible says with no wiggleroom that the universe exists, but somehow saying that on day one the earth was created and on day for the sun and stars (both absurdities in the cosmological timeline) isn’t? Seems heddle is picking and choosing…

    Oh, heddle already explained that he follows the Framework Interpretation. Therefore, Genesis doesn’t literally describe how everything was created, it just inerrently describes that everything was created in the beginning.

    Yeah, that makes sense.

    And what exactly that means (besides meaning what is says, because of course it means what it says and says what it means, just like God’s invisible powers have been clearly seen), well, your guess is as good as mine.

  471. #472 Kel
    February 20, 2009

    Yeah, that makes sense.

    My mind just imploded.

  472. #473 Owlmirror
    February 20, 2009

    My mind just imploded.

    Clearly, you really shouldn’t have been sober when reading that.

    If God isn’t going to turn your water into vodka, you’ll just have to pour yourself some.

    Skĺl!

  473. #474 SAWells
    February 21, 2009

    The bible says with no wiggle room that the earth existed before the sun. Science says otherwise, so Heddle can now admit the bible is falsified. Waiting…

  474. #475 Kel
    February 21, 2009

    If God isn’t going to turn your water into vodka, you’ll just have to pour yourself some.

    I used the last of my vodka last night… fuck!

  475. #476 windy
    February 21, 2009

    What I would claim is that this is a SPECIFIC example of A testable multiverse hypothesis. One single test. The Higgs boson, if found at the LHC will not be found on the basis of one single test.

    And what about dark energy? Doesn’t it have the “sword of Damocles” hanging over it too…

  476. #477 Olorin
    February 22, 2009

    Re: “chidden”

    Wow. I’m impressed. Someone still knows the proper past participle of “chide.”

  477. #478 Elizabeth Burke
    March 1, 2009

    It is very hard for those who believe in a tangible God to understand science or to see that their religious writings were meant to be taken metaphorically, as it is for dogmatic scientists to see that most religious writings are metaphoric. I find what I call Love is not measurable or qualifyable, yet we grant it exists. Truth and beauty are also unmeasurable. If you don’t confuse “fact” with “truth”, because it is quite correct to say that laughter is a sign of happiness, but you’d never cite that as a “fact”, then you’d have to concede that, again, we admit that truth and beauty exist. Many more sophisticated thinkers equate Love, Truth and Beauty w/ God, or some higher principle than themselves, and they devote their lives to trying to live according to generally agreed upon principles of love and truth.

    There are many atheists out there who might give pause to issues of “religion” if they were asked to talk about love, truth and beauty … if that was how God might be considered. Putting aside dogmatics of various religions, what are the foundations of a religion? To believe in God … who presents as Love, Truth and Beauty.

    It is very hard to have intelligent discussions about important things when the young still think like teenagers, or when adults think like children … too concretely.

  478. #479 SC, OM
    March 1, 2009

    Paging Sastra to the thread. Sastra to the thread, please.