Pharyngula

Once upon a time, in vague exasperation at a persistent creationist, I opened up two of his questions to the Pharynguloid horde in a contest to see who could answer them most clearly and succinctly. I shouldn’t have done this; I’m lazy, and this was too much like grading term papers. Still, there were a lot of good answers, so it was a worthwhile effort.

The winner, judged for clarity, brevity, and accuracy, was Calilasseia, an infrequent commenter here who clearly needs to increase his or her frequency. I’ve sent off an email in hopes of a reply with a mail address, or if Calilasseia notices this, maybe I’ll be sent one soon. Or not. The Prize in this contest is an appropriate and ironic one: a copy of Slaughter of the Dissidents, by the incredible Jerry Bergman. Only the first volume, though; he hasn’t finished writing the other dozen or so he says are in the offing.

I feel a little guilty. That’s like going on a game show, picking door #2, and discovering that your prize is a goat. In this case, it’s a GOAT ON FIRE, which helps a little bit, but still…I’ll also slip in a surprise book of a more worthy nature if Calilasseia gets back to me.

Here are the two questions and the winning answers. I repeat, these aren’t the only good answers—go back to that thread and browse and there are plenty of well written short replies.

Was evolution a significant and essential factor in guiding Nazi thought?

No. First of all, as has already been established courtesy of searching through Mein Kampf in detail, Hitler’s assorted eructations on nature reproduce well-known creationist canards, including the static species fallacy, and Hitler also asserted that fertile, viable hybrids were inpossible, which is manifestly refuted by this scientific paper (among many others):

Speciation By Hybridisation In Heliconius Butterflies, by Jesús Mavárez, Camilo A. Salazar, Eldredge Bermingham, Christian Salcedo, Chris D. Jiggins and Mauricio Linares, Nature, 441: 868-871 (15th June 2006)

Also, even an elementary search of Mein Kampf reveals the following statistics. The number of instances of key words are as follows:

“Darwin” : ZERO

“Almighty” : 6

“God” : 37

“Creator” : 8

Hitler was inspired by the anti-Semitic ravings of one Lanz von Liebenfels, who was a defrocked monk, and whose magnum opus bore the Pythonesque title of
Theozoology, Or The Account Of The Sodomite Apelings And The Divine Electron
. This was in effect a warped Biblical exegesis, which rewrites the Crucifixion story, and also contains a mediaeval bestiary replete with instances of Liebenfels’ florid imagination.

Additionally, the Nazis placed textbooks on evolutionary biology on their list of seditious books to be burned, as illustrated nicely here, where we learn that in 1935, Nazi guidelines with respect to seditious books included:

6. Schriften weltanschaulichen und lebenskundlichen Charakters, deren Inhalt die falsche naturwissenschaftliche Aufklärung eines primitiven Darwinismus und Monismus ist (Häckel).

Translated into English, this reads:

Writings of a philosophical and social nature whose content deals with the false scientific enlightenment of primitive Darwinism and Monism (Häckel)

The evidence is therefore conclusive. Nazism was not inspired by evolution, and indeed, much of Hitler’s own writings are creationist in tone. The Nazis destroyed evolutionary textbooks as seditious (much as modern day creationists would love to), and the Nazi view of the biosphere is wholly at variance with genuine evolutionary theory, involving fatuous views of race “purification” by the establishment of monocultures that are the very antithesis of genuine evolutionary thought, which relies upon genetic diversity.

Can natural processes produce an increase in complexity?

The overwhelming evidence from the scientific literature is yes. Appropriate papers include:

Evolution Of Biological Complexity by Christoph Adami, Charles Ofria and Travis C. Collier, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA, 97(9): 4463-4468 (25th April 2000)

Evolution of Biological Information by Thomas D. Schneider, Nucleic Acids Research, 28: 2794-2799 (2000)

Indeed, in the latter paper, Schneider establishes that selection processes cause the amount of information in the genome to increase to a maximum.

Likewise, instances of this taking place in real world organisms are well documented in the scientific literature. Such as Lenski’s landmark paper on historical contingency in Escherichia coli, the literature centred upon nylonase, and the evolution of antifreeze glycoproteins in Antarctic Notothenioid fishes. From the world of aquarium fishes, there is also a well documented mutation known as the double tail mutation, which results in indivduals of Betta splendens inheriting the mutation developing two complete tail fins, a mutation that moreover, obeys single-factor Mendelian inheritance. This constitutes an example of increase in organismal complexity, that comes about as close to realising creationist canards with respect thereto, as any observed instance in Nature is ever likely to.

More to the point, there exist numerous papers covering de novo origination of genes, of which:

De Novo Origination Of A New Protein-Coding Gene In Saccharomyces cerevisiae by Jing Cai, Ruoping Zhao, Hifeng Jiang and Wen Wang, Genetics, 179: 487-496 (May 2008)

is merely one of the more spectacular instances. Surely the emergence of a gene where previously there was none, constitutes an increase in complexity by any reasonable measure? Particularly as the instance in the above paper arose from a previously noncoding DNA sequence?

Comments

  1. #1 Feynmaniac
    December 17, 2009

    Congrats Calilasseia! I agree with PZ. You should comment here more.

  2. #2 grandtheftigloo
    December 17, 2009

    Cali (he) is a regular over at Richard Dawkin’s site, and has been kickin creationist ass for quite a while….

  3. #3 linux7master
    December 17, 2009

    Bravo! *Clap Clap Clap Clap*. Perhaps I would have explained this a little more:

    “…evolutionary thought, which relies upon genetic diversity.”

    Too few people, and certainly no Creationists, comprehend that evolution dictates that the best population is one that is genetically diverse, and thus is fastest to adapt to selective pressures. Thus, the only evolutionary “master race” is a population filled with radically different cultures, races, genes, hair types, and other traits. This is the evolutionarily healthy population. This is why Eugenics is dead.

  4. #4 SmartLX
    December 17, 2009

    Not just a regular, he’s a moderator on the RD.net forums and possibly the hander-outer of the most consistently epic smackdowns to creationists.

    It’s nice to see him write something which doesn’t have to fit into the context of a long thread.

  5. #5 Janine, She Wolf Of Pharyngula, OM
    December 17, 2009

    So you are going to give Calilasseia a copy of Jerry Bergman’s book. Why not also a shaving cream pie in the face and some seltzer down his pants?

  6. #6 Cowcakes
    December 17, 2009

    Elegantly and eloquently put Calilasseia. I doff my cap to you.

  7. #7 Cuttlefish, OM
    December 17, 2009

    Wait–it didn’t have to rhyme?

    Damn.

    Congratulations, Calilasseia!

  8. #8 Goldenmane
    December 17, 2009

    Cali’s been informed, or will be as soon as he notices the thread on RD.net.

    I knew he’d win it.

  9. #9 AJ Milne
    December 17, 2009

    Why not also a shaving cream pie in the face and some seltzer down his pants?

    Hey! Wait!

    I mean, if I’d known that was gonna be the prize, I’d have entered…

    (/Diff’rent strokes…)

  10. #10 howdini
    December 17, 2009

    Not just a regular, he’s a moderator on the RD.net forums and possibly the hander-outer of the most consistently epic smackdowns to creationists

    Oooo! Can you please link, SmartLX? I loves me sum smackdown!

  11. #11 steve
    December 17, 2009

    Both responses were made of win and awesome. :)

  12. #12 Kel, OM
    December 17, 2009

    These don’t count PeeZee, because you didn’t write them yourself. That nutbag creationist challenge still stands ;)

  13. #14 Joel
    December 17, 2009

    Congratulations to two very well-written responses! When you are thinking of ways to divy up the prize money, please remember the little people… :)

  14. #15 CA Kennett
    December 17, 2009

    We should add the caveat that complexity may occur as organisms evolve, but there also is no teleological drive towards perfection that oxymoronic theological evolutionists might presuppose. Since evolutionary trends may reverse themselves as in the case of parasites or mutualistic symbionts, we expect no thoughtful direction to our increase in complexity.

  15. #16 Rawnaeris
    December 17, 2009

    *clap* *clap*

    Congratulations Calilasseia!

    And thanks yet again for two well-referenced and well-written responses to two common fallacies.

  16. #17 SmartLX
    December 17, 2009

    Whoa, I just noticed the reviews of Bergman’s book on Amazon. 33 fives, 1 four and that’s it.

    It didn’t take me long to find one by a guy who clearly hadn’t read it. The recent Signature in the Cell strategy appears to have had its audition with this book.

  17. #18 Joel
    December 17, 2009

    You know, now that I have browsed the booby prize for this win….I would like to up the ante. Really, Dr. Myers, when someone is this good, you don’t give a huge lump of coal at yuletide. That’s just cruel.

    So, if Calilasseia would be so kind as to post — in this thread — the charity of his/her choice, I will make a monetary donation on behalf of reason and implore other like-minded rational persons to do the same.

  18. #19 Peter McKellar
    December 17, 2009

    Congrats Calilasseia – a well deserved win :)

  19. #20 JerryM
    December 17, 2009

    Succinctly, I’ll grant that.
    But clearly, there’s too much jargon there.

    If it were a wikipedia article, it’d have blue lines aplenty.

  20. #21 SmartLX
    December 17, 2009

    Nice idea, Joel. I highly suspect that his choice would be the RDFRS 2009 fundraiser.

  21. #22 alancfa2001
    December 18, 2009

    Speaking of creationists, scientific illiterate Kent Hovind’s long sought after dissertation, a document that greatly advanced the knowledge of western civilization and for which he was awarded a PhD from that stellar example of higher education, Patriot University, was recently leaked.

    Go to wikileaks and read the howler of the 20th Century!

    http://wikileaks.org/wiki/Young-earth_creationist_Kent_Hovind%27s_doctoral_dissertation

  22. #23 Silent One
    December 18, 2009

    One again the cool breeze of reason dissipates the feculent flatulence if the creationist. So elegant, clear and refreshing ? beautifully done.

  23. #24 raven
    December 18, 2009

    The evidence is overwhelming that Hitler was a xian and a creationist. The brilliant points made by Calilasseia prove that.

    The most prominent antisemite before Hitler was Martin Luther who drew up a final solution for eliminating the Jews 4 centuries before it was carried out and detailed in his book. Needless to say, Luther hadn’t read Darwin.

    The creos really have nothing but lies to counter the truth. They are very predictable.

    1. Quote Table Talk by Bormann. The anti-xian quotes are known to be forged by xians as part of damage control after the war. Quoting known forgeries is OK with them.

    2. Claim that Hitler wasn’t a Real Xian(TM) and was just pretending. This requires the ability to read the mind of a man dead for 64 years. Of course, they are just lying.

  24. #25 adderall.apocalypse
    December 18, 2009

    hey! David Mabus just trolled my blog today! I was surprised. Is that some kind of “accomplishment”? haha.

    http://adderall-apocalypse.blogspot.com/2009/12/im-speechless-new-infomercial.html#comments

  25. #26 John Morales
    December 18, 2009

    A tour de force!

  26. #27 Squawk
    December 18, 2009

    You know what. I could have guessed the winner without ever reading any comments, that guy is the most articulate and thorough advocate of science and rational thinking on the internet, bar none. Just go and read 30 posts at RD.net to see how thorough.

  27. #28 Richard Eis
    December 18, 2009

    Wow, a fiery goat. That is so much better than just a car. More environmentally friendly too.

    (Someone disagreeing with environment statement in 3…2…1)

  28. #29 Dean Jones
    December 18, 2009

    Cali rocks.

  29. #30 Rorschach
    December 18, 2009

    I suggest that henceforth any links to Hovind’s dissertation are just as punishable as guy-on-a-roof-in-a-flood jokes.

  30. #31 ginckgo
    December 18, 2009

    Cali is the thermonuclear butterfly over at RD.net whenever a creationist pops its head up. It boggles the mind how much he knows about evolution. I’ve probably learned more about evolution from his posts than from anywhere else.

  31. #32 stealthdonkey
    December 18, 2009

    Congrats Calilasseia, you are truly the greatest of the mud wrestlers on this occasion! PZ should have got you a championship belt

  32. #33 MadScientist
    December 18, 2009

    Wow – I’m too lazy and too busy to come up with anything like that – congratulations. :)

  33. #34 Chris
    December 18, 2009

    Reality check…

    If Hitler actually WAS an atheist, the “Reichskonkordat” would have never been signed in 1933.

    It granted exclusive rights and protection to the Roman Catholic church in general and all its members specifically.

  34. #35 ConcernedJoe
    December 18, 2009

    Yes well done thanks Cali

    Now if anyone believes these answers – so clear, factual, sufficient – will sway one iota the mind of any true god-fearing babble thumping Creationist I have a bridge to sell you!

    We learn a lot though – and thanks. And we hope others who are just confused by the Creationists obfuscations and spurious lies have a clearer view of what is real (via sites like PZ’s) and can avoid getting sucked into the anti-science campaign.

  35. #36 Rorschach
    December 18, 2009

    Chris @ 34,

    If Hitler actually WAS an atheist, the “Reichskonkordat” would have never been signed in 1933.

    I don’t think the RK serves as proof in either direction, it was just a thing Hitler needed to do to cement his power at the time, nothing else. If there would have been 30 million pastafarians in Germany at the time, he would have made a deal with them too.

  36. #37 ConcernedJoe
    December 18, 2009

    One caution though – said with much respect Raven.

    “The evidence is overwhelming that Hitler was a xian and a creationist. ” I would avoid saying. That is still a matter of interpretation in arguments because there is always the “its matter of degree and type” aspect to nailing any absolute.

    As Cali shows for all practical purposes – and that includes his formulation of his strategies and propaganda – Hitler was neither a Darwinist nor an atheist. That is the salient point.

    When it comes to what people are down deep – what they really do believe down deep – well we can never nail that for certain. We can and should only evaluate actions and the “for all practical purposes” of them.

    Nothing pejorative intended but as an example: many homosexuals have gone to their graves with that secret solely in their minds as their wives and children wept at the site.

    What we are often is somewhat unknown even to the person. We cannot presume to know the essence and real thoughts of others and mostly (but not always e.g., as in clinical evaluations) it is unimportant to know.

  37. #38 Chris
    December 18, 2009

    Rorschach @ 36
    You really think so? If you read the articles you will notice that the RK had much more to gain from the signing, than Hitler.

  38. #39 mmelliott01
    December 18, 2009

    Screw Zarquon! I’m worshipping Calilasseia!

  39. #40 MetzO'Magic
    December 18, 2009

    Well done, Calilasseia. But alas, there are two chances of getting a creationist to read any of the literature that Cali references in his excellent, succinct dissertations: slim, and none.

    (yeah, I know, ‘succinct dissertations’ is something of an oxymoron. More coffee needed)

  40. #41 mintguy
    December 18, 2009

    I’ve read Calilasseia’s posts at RD.net and he is always brilliant, but I have just have one question which I have to ask.

    Does http://www.library.arizona.edu/exhibits/burnedbooks/documents.htm tell us what Calilasseia says it tells us?

    The German text says “Schriften weltanschaulichen und lebenskundlichen Charakters, deren Inhalt die falsche naturwissenschaftliche Aufklärung eines primitiven Darwinismus und Monismus ist (Häckel)”.

    Translated into English, this reads: “Writings of a philosophical and social nature whose content deals with the false scientific enlightenment of primitive Darwinism and Monism (Häckel)”

    The reference to Darwinism, is qualified as “primitive Darwinism” in the context of writings of a “philosophical and social nature”. This is suggestive of “Social Darwinism” to me. Ernst Haeckel seems to be the target here (as per the parentheses) especially as the directive also refers to Monism. Haeckel was the founder of the Monist League. I would draw attention to this article which gives more information about Haeckel, Nazism ans Monism and Social Darwinism. http://www.spunk.org/texts/places/germany/sp001630/peter.html

    If this is the only evidence of the Nazis banning literature supporting the theory of evolution I think it is very weak.

  41. #42 Aaron Baker
    December 18, 2009

    Raven wrote: “The evidence is overwhelming that Hitler was a xian and a creationist.”

    Well, no. See my previous offerings here on the subject. (To recapitulate REALLY briefly: to impute anti-Christian sentiments to Hitler isn’t mind-reading; two of his closest associates, Albert Speer and Joseph Goebbels, report those sentiments; for this reason, even if the Table Talk were proved, in its entirety, to be a forgery, it wouldn’t matter.)

    I’d say it’s fair play to throw back at creationists the undoubted fact that Hitler wasn’t an atheist. And if his notions of heredity come closer to those espoused by some fundamentalists, then that’s fair game, too. But this “Hitler was a Christian and Nazism was a Christian movement” stuff really needs to be given a rest.

  42. #43 Jack
    December 18, 2009

    Heh. As others have noted, Cali is a legend over at the RD.net forums. He’s renowned for dismembering… I mean dissecting any and every creationist loon that shows up there. His most brutal eviscerations usually start with the words “Let’s take a look at this, shall we?” You can almost hear him cracking his knuckles when he does that. The rest of us just grab popcorn and don goggles. To keep the blood out of our eyes, you know.

  43. #44 Draken
    December 18, 2009

    @Chris, #38: and did Hitler follow up on the agreement? Ever heard of Titus Brandsma?

    Hitler signed more than one treaty to smash it under his boots just months or years later.

  44. #45 raven
    December 18, 2009

    Well, no. See my previous offerings here on the subject.

    Why would I bother? You are a crackpot and often out in the ozone.

    Hitler had a long public life and said a lot of things. If you really want to quote mine, you can prove anything.

    Towards the end of the war he turned on the Aryan German people and had some uncomplimentary things to say about them. They let him down by not conquering the world. It cost him his life, a reason to be upset if there ever was one.

    No one goes around claiming Hitler was an anti-Aryan or calling him an anti-German bigot. It is the preponderance of the evidence that matters.

    PS Watch Baker ramble on for 8 hours now. Crackpots are very predictable too. Fortunately, I’m very busy today and off the nets.

  45. #46 Lynna, OM
    December 18, 2009

    A lovely read. Thanks for posting the entire contest entry. There’s so much perfection on display that I’m sure the smallest error begs for correction. Near the end of the text, “indivduals ” should be “individuals” — or is there is a British version of individual with one less “i”?

  46. #47 Citizen Z
    December 18, 2009

    If this is the only evidence of the Nazis banning literature supporting the theory of evolution I think it is very weak.

    Unfortunately I don’t have direct evidence, but there is other evidence that the Nazis were antagonistic to Darwin’s writings. The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a notorious forgery widely read and believed in Nazi Germany, described “Darwinism” as a false “Jewish plot”. Hitler personally endorsed the Protocals in Mein Kampf, saying “they disclose, with an almost terrifying precision, the mentality and methods of action characteristic of the Jewish people and these writings expound in all their various directions the final aims towards which the Jews are striving.”

  47. #48 beders
    December 18, 2009

    “Was evolution a significant and essential factor in guiding Nazi thought?”

    Who cares, really?

    This says absolutely nothing about the truth value of a scientific theory!

    If Hitler invented the theory of general relativity, would we reject it?

  48. #49 bloodredsun.myopenid.com
    December 18, 2009

    Beautifully written Calilasseia.

    If you haven’t read the link provided by Goldenmane (#13) then you are missing a work of genius (in two parts with a small intermission to let your brain recover).

  49. #50 David Marjanovi?
    December 18, 2009

    and Hitler also asserted that fertile, viable hybrids were inpossible, which is manifestly refuted by this scientific paper (among many others)

    Hang on a second. Under Ernst Mayr’s “Biological Species Concept”, fertile hybrids between species are by definition impossible.

    The cited paper uses a different (and probably more useful) species concept, but it can’t simply be stated as an unqualified fact that fertile, viable hybrids between species are possible.

    Hitlers creationist error lies elsewhere: he claimed that some miracle (“an iron law of Nature”) prevents microevolution from adding up to speciation, no matter how the latter is defined. That’s baraminology.

  50. #51 bcoppola
    December 18, 2009

    Goldenmane #13

    Great link. I had never been to RD.net.

    Just interrupted reading it to say that, in addition to demolishing creationist canards, it also makes a pretty good primer (or refresher) for laypeople like me on what science is about, and how to distinguish a scientific argument from a rhetorical argument or apologetic.

    Also, one could easily substitute “AGW denialist” for “creationist” and hardly change a thing except for the biology-specific bits.

  51. #52 aratina cage
    December 18, 2009

    Good work Calilasseia. Your answers were very educational. And good job PZ for following through with the challenge despite the large assortment of answers.

  52. #53 David Marjanovi?
    December 18, 2009

    Turns out Calilasseia is aware of the issue, and uses the Biological Species Concept here:

    A species is a population entity, and as a corollary thereof, a dynamic entity. A species is defined in rigorous biological work, as a population of living organisms, whose members can produce viable offspring with each other, but whose members can not produce viable offspring with a separate, distinct population. Actually, this is only one extant definition, but it is the one that matters with respect to evolution, because once again, it points to the central role of inheritance.

    Hmbf.

    But I just love the link to Linnaeus’ letter in the first part?

    Sed quaero a Te et Toto orbe differentiam genericam inter hominem et Simiam, quae ex principiis Historiae naturalis. Ego certissime nullam novi. Utinam aliquis mihi unicam diceret!

    “But I ask you and the whole world to tell me a genus-level difference between man and Simia [the genus into which he lumped all primates except us and the misunderstood chimps] that [follows?] from the principles of natural history [that Linnaeus, of course, erected himself]. I most certainly don’t know any. If only someone would tell me a single one!”

    So priceless. So priceless? :-)

  53. #54 Aaron Baker
    December 18, 2009

    “Why would I bother? You are a crackpot and often out in the ozone.”

    Ho-hum, sticks and stones. I didn’t know “quote-mining” meant citing evidence that conflicts with the other guy’s thesis.

    I’ve documented at some length the frequent antagonism between the Nazis and the Christian churches. I’ve also pointed to some serious flaws in one of Carrier’s articles. If you’d rather toss your feces at me than deal with my arguments (and evidence), be my guest; but it does nothing to make what I’ve cited go away.

    The whole “Nazism was a Christian movement” thing is the most cracked of crockpottery, and it does nobody any credit to keep spewing it.

  54. #55 aratina cage
    December 18, 2009

    The whole “Nazism was a Christian movement” thing is the most cracked of crockpottery, and it does nobody any credit to keep spewing it.

    Explain the belt buckles, then. Explain why Hitler courted so many religious people. Explain why the rank and file Nazis were religious.

  55. #56 amphiox
    December 18, 2009

    . . .but whose members can not produce viable offspring with a separate, distinct population.

    Well, I suppose, like any other definition, its an artificial construct created by humans to help us conceptualize and sort our perceptions of reality, and blurs at the edges.

    I suppose we can be pedantic and redefine all the known populations that interbreed to form hybrids as single species instead of two, if we wish.

    And what about domestic species that can reproduce only with human intervention, or wild species that hybridize with human assistance but not in the wild, or those separated by a geographic barrier that do hybridize if brought together by environmental disruption or in an artificial setting like a zoo? How much artificial intervention do we allow? If we allow it all, then any time in the future if new hybridization technology appears and is used, then two species, by definition, automatically collapse into one. If we allow none, then Great Danes and Poodles should be classified as separate species.

    Personally, I prefer thinking of the definition not as “can not produce”, but rather as “do not produce”.

  56. #57 JBlilie
    December 18, 2009

    Bravo!

    … I’m writin’ this shit down …

  57. #58 Aaron Baker
    December 18, 2009

    “Gott mit uns” was a motto of the Wehrmacht long before Hitler. BTW, the SS motto was quite different: “Meine Ehre heißt Treue” (My honour is loyalty).

    Hitler was a consummate politician in a country that was overwhelmingly Christian (also a country where the Army was of key political importance). He would never have been in a position to seize power if he’d gone out of his way to antagonize either the Churches or the Army. Once he was in power, however, his policies led to a good deal of friction with the Catholic and Confessing Churches. Please see Richard J. Evans & Ian Kershaw on this. (This is crucial, by the way:
    I haven’t cooked any this of up in my (apparently) cracked cranium; I’m stating a scholarly consensus.)

    Lots of rank and file Nazis were Christians; a large number were not (profession of Christian faith was never a requirement for membership).

  58. #59 aratina cage
    December 18, 2009

    So Aaron, you deny that “Gott” is the Christian god, is that right?

  59. #60 Qwerty
    December 18, 2009

    I’ve never understood the Hitler/Darwin connection argument as it seems to be a moot point on whether evolutionary theory is a viable scientific theory. When I first heard it on a Christian radio, I was rather dumbfounded.

    Since then, I’ve come to the conclusion that they use it simply to say Hitler-Nazism=bad; therefore; Darwin=bad even though their comparison is faulty as many have pointed out.

    The answers picked as the winner are excellent. Now, if only creationists would read the answers and attempt to understand that their creationist thinking is wrong….

  60. #61 Daniel de Rauglaudre
    December 18, 2009
  61. #62 JBlilie
    December 18, 2009

    The whole “Nazism was a Christian movement” thing is the most cracked of crockpottery, and it does nobody any credit to keep spewing it.

    I haven’t heard anyone claiming it was an explicitly Christian movement. Maybe you can point me to such a comment. I don’t claim to read these comments exhaustively.

    However, the evidence is clear that it had huge participation and encouragement from German (and Austian, Balkan, Baltic, and other) Christians.

    German anti-semitism had (has) deep roots in the Lutheran and Catholic churches. The huge majority of Nazis were in fact practicing Christians (just like the overall German population.) Aside from the general anti-semitism engendered in Germany by the Christian churches, I don’t see anyone claiming Christianity was a driving force behind Nazism. It coopted an existing state of antisemetism.

    Just as with Stalin’s atheism, the two exist in the same person(s) (Nazism and Christianity) but it does not prove causality or even correlation. (Though it’s rather hard to imagine a Jewish or Muslim Nazi.)

    Every German knew about the camps. The Lager system had over 10,000 camps in Germany (of various sizes). Every decent sized town had one nearby. It was a huge logistical system, employing many thousands. Any (old enough) German of the time claiming to not-know is lying. (I strongly recommend Goldhagen’s Hitler’s Willing Executioners to you.)

    Hitler seems to have been some sort of neo-Valhallan pagan with a personality cult. But he never hesitated to don the cloak of Catholicism when it suited his political goals and because it worked. This is very telling. The few examples such as Deitrich Bonhoffer are the exceptions that prove the rule. Hitler was never excommunicated.

    As in Rwanda and the Balkans, Christianity was no bar to barbarism; but was in fact a willing participant (and an encouragement in the case of the Balkans where the fight was explicitly between Orthodox Serbs and Catholic Croats (who share language and culture) and Muslim Bosnians and Albanians). If German Christians had opposed Nazism, it never could have “worked.”

    It is abundantly clear that Hitler and Nazism were in no way driven by atheism or Darwinism [sic]. To claim otherwise is, as you put it, the most cracked sort of crack-pottery.

    (And don’t claim that they weren’t “real Christians.”)

  62. #63 rossolson
    December 18, 2009

    Sorry I missed the deadline for the writing contest. An all expense paid trip down the rabbit hole would have been fun.

    TCCSA has posted a discussion of the Hitler/Darwin topic on http://www.tccsa.tc including an annotated bibliography http://tccsa.tc/articles/eugenics_bibliography.pdf

    Ross Olson

  63. #64 Aaron Baker
    December 18, 2009

    “So Aaron, you deny that “Gott” is the Christian god, is that right?”

    Nope; but I am saying that Nazism was a secular movement with a complex, frequently tense, sometimes quite hostile relationship to the German Churches.

    I agree that getting at Hitler’s attitudes towards Christianity is greatly complicated by the fact that he said widely different things at different times. I suggested before, and I still think this is correct, that Speer, Goebbels, and the Hossbach Memorandum give us good reason to think that Hitler was privately contemptuous of Christianity. Maybe this evidence isn’t conclusive; but it needs to be acknowledged at least.

    That’s about what I think.

  64. #65 JBlilie
    December 18, 2009

    “The fundamental difference between the liberal and the illiberal outlook is that the former regards all questions as open to discussion and all opinions open to greater or less measure of doubt, while the latter holds in advance that certain opinions are absolutely unquestionable, and that no argument against them must be allowed to be heard.”

    — Bertrand Russell, Freedom and the Colleges, 1940

  65. #66 aratina cage
    December 18, 2009

    Thanks for answering that, Aaron Baker. We shouldn’t sweep under the rug how the Nazis as a political party and governing body openly embraced the Christian god.

    Speer, Goebbels, and the Hossbach Memorandum give us good reason to think that Hitler was privately contemptuous of Christianity.

    As I understood it, Hitler may have been openly contemptuous of Christendom and not Christianity per se. Having hostile relationships with multiple churches does not imply a lack of belief in the Christian god. Are you sure it is the belief in God/Jesus that Hitler was contemptuous of or was he contemptuous of the people running the show?

  66. #67 David Marjanovi?
    December 18, 2009

    Personally, I prefer thinking of the definition not as “can not produce”, but rather as “do not produce [fertile hybrids outside of laboratory conditions]”.

    That’s a different species concept which leads to very different decisions in classification ? namely to a much larger number of species.

  67. #68 Topsy
    December 18, 2009

    I’m thrilled that Calilasseia has won the award because he really deserves it. He dissects creationist fantasies with such surgical precision and linguistic finesse, that reading his posts is like savouring a delicious buffet of performance art, master class, spectator sport and stand-up comedy. Bravo Cali!

  68. #69 alex.asolis.net
    December 18, 2009

    Why didn’t he include the number of times the word “evolution” (and, perhaps, “science”) was used in Mein Kampf?

  69. #70 echidna
    December 18, 2009

    The whole “Nazism was a Christian movement” thing is the most cracked of crockpottery, and it does nobody any credit to keep spewing it.

    Nazism was a political movement, rather than a religious movement, and no-one has said otherwise. But the actions we despise most of this political movement originated with and were driven by Christian anti-semitism.

  70. #71 efrique
    December 18, 2009

    Perfect. Comprehensive, clear, devastating to the creationist canards.

    Calilasseia should be writing a book.

  71. #72 Aaron Baker
    December 18, 2009

    #62:

    J.Blilie:

    When I mention the claim that Nazism was a “Christian movement,” I have in mind people like Richard Carrier, who wrote this in an on-line article: “So there can be no doubt that the Nazis were thoroughly and devotedly Christian, eager to inculcate Christian theism for future generations.”

    I grant that “Christian movement” isn’t the clearest descriptor in the world. I’d say I mean by it that Christianity is an important part of the movement’s ideological program (as, say, anti-semitism and Lebensraum were for the Nazis).

    I should add that the next to last time this issue came up, I took great pains NOT to absolve Christians from the long list of specifically Christian atrocities, and NOT to absolve German Christians from the complicity of many of them in the Nazi regime.

    #66:

    Aratina, I’m not sure of anything. I think the quotations I’ve referred to show an antipathy to Christianity as well as to individual Christians–but I’ve been wrong before. Read them and come to your own conclusions.

    Here are two previous discussions in which a lot of this stuff (including the quotations i’ve mentioned) was thoroughly thrashed out:

    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2009/11/hitlers_library.php

    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2009/10/i_wish_i_could_have_seen_that.php

    I really don’t have much to add to what I said there. A bunch of people made pretty substantive comments; they’re worth having a look at, even by people desiring no further blather from me.

  72. #73 rjmx.pip.verisignlabs.com
    December 18, 2009

    The thought came to me the other day that the whole Hitler/Darwin/atheist thing is really a red herring. Even if dear old Adolf was an atheist, and even if he was inspired by Darwin’s theories (and I sincerely doubt both suggestions), it doesn’t refute evolution. It might be an argument against applying Darwin’s theories outside biology, but that’s an entirely different thing.
    I’d argue, in fact, that more people have been killed by individuals claiming to be inspired by the Bible than by Hitler and his minions.
    Have I missed something?

  73. #74 John Morales
    December 18, 2009

    rjmx,

    Have I missed something?

    No, but SIWOTI syndrome is common here.

  74. #75 Goldenmane
    December 19, 2009

    Cali’s been suffering from a rather nasty cold, but he tells us he’s emailed PZ.

    I might just have to bring to his attention the offer made upthread re: charitable donations, though.

  75. #76 https://www.google.com/accounts/o8/id?id=AItOawmFNYLxWloJ03STzmE-W5JxDunnIUSeQzo
    December 19, 2009

    Huzzah for the blue butterfly!!

  76. #77 calilasseia
    December 19, 2009

    I’ve just been sent over here specifically to answer #18. Charity nominations … hmm, actually, I’ve got a choice. Pick any of the following:

    [1] Any charity offering assistance to those with an autistic spectrum condition;

    [2] Any charity funding medical research into genetic diseases;

    or, if you prefer your charities a bit more personal, try:

    [3] the Kirsty Howard appeal.

    Kirsty Howard is a girl who was born with major developmental abnormailities, centred upon the 180° rotation of her heart about the vertical axis compared to normal cardiac development, which means that her entire cardiovascular system is, in effect, plumbed in the wrong way round. She was given 2 weeks to live after birth, but, thanks to dogged persistence on the part of Kirsty herself, her parents, and the doctors providing treatment for her condition, she’s made it to her 14th birthday. She needs constant oxygen supplies, but despite this, she raised £5 million for the hospice where she receives care, with a little help from some friends. If you happen to be a sucker for a damsel in distress, they don’t come much cuter, or in more need. :)

  77. #78 Goldenmane
    December 19, 2009

    Cali’s having trouble with the bloody sign-in over here, so he asked me to post this for him:

    “I’ve just been sent over here specifically to answer #18. Charity nominations … hmm, actually, I’ve got a choice. Pick any of the following:

    [1] Any charity offering assistance to those with an autistic spectrum condition;

    [2] Any charity funding medical research into genetic diseases;

    or, if you prefer your charities a bit more personal, try:

    [3] the Kirsty Howard appeal.

    Kirsty Howard is a girl who was born with major developmental abnormailities, centred upon the 180° rotation of her heart about the vertical axis compared to normal cardiac development, which means that her entire cardiovascular system is, in effect, plumbed in the wrong way round. She was given 2 weeks to live after birth, but, thanks to dogged persistence on the part of Kirsty herself, her parents, and the doctors providing treatment for her condition, she’s made it to her 14th birthday. She needs constant oxygen supplies, but despite this, she raised £5 million for the hospice where she receives care, with a little help from some friends. If you happen to be a sucker for a damsel in distress, they don’t come much cuter, or in more need. :)”

  78. #79 calilasseia
    December 19, 2009

    Quick question … has PZ had to beef up security of late? Only I had to piddle about signing in to Movable Type via a somewhat tortuous route before the blog would let me post, which has never happened before. So, if my post appears twice, once being quoted by someone else, then it’s because I asked for the kind person in question to do the honours if I couldn’t post. Seems like our wires got crossed after I found the workaround.

    Oh, and Internet Exploder doesn’t like the blog page. It keeps throwing up “Object not found” errors, but renders the page anyway.

  79. #80 'Tis Himself, OM
    December 19, 2009

    Quick question … has PZ had to beef up security of late?

    The insane (and yes, I mean that literally) David Mabus has been spamming here. Plus PZ was complaining about getting some 2000 spambot hits per day.

  80. #81 Goldenmane
    December 19, 2009

    Heh… seems he managed to beat me to it after all.

  81. #82 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    December 19, 2009

    Sorry I missed the deadline for the writing contest. An all expense paid trip down the rabbit hole would have been fun.

    Ross, trying to be witty isn’t your strong suit. Especially coming from someone who believes the children’s fairy tale things you do.

  82. #83 'Tis Himself, OM
    December 19, 2009

    I looked at Ross Olson’s annotated biography linked in #63. It appears Jerry Bergman PhD either doesn’t know the difference between evolution and social darwinism or pretends there is no difference.

  83. #84 rossolson
    December 19, 2009

    I wondered if anyone would notice. Not being torn to shreds is bad for my self esteem.

    The retorts confirm my impression not only that the blogosphere’s primary strength is character assassination but that abstract reasoning is weak.

    What is missing is an understanding of how a world view affects, first ideas, and then actions. Darwinism means that we are all individual manifestations of a cosmic chain of accidents. Please strain your brains and try to figure out an escape from that. Then consider that your brain is an organ designed my chance and selected for survival, not truth-seeking.

    In fact, please try to come up with genuine free will in a glorified billiard table where no molecule can decide to go the other way. B. F. said it in “Beyond Freedom and Dignity” but did not see the irony that, if he is right, he could not help but write that book.

    If survival of the fittest is the law of the jungle then to apply it to all areas of life is only natural. Individual value must be subordinated to the collective good and self esteem is an illusion. But who decides? Each self is the center of an egocentric universe.

    As to the scientific evidence, stripped of the flowery language, both PZ Myers’ and Richard Dawkins’ ideas for the generation of information are rhetorical dodges and classical bait and switch. The kind of information they are talking about does not help evolution. See http://tccsa.tc/articles/index.html#hitler and scroll down to the paragraph on why we look at the results of evolution. The lack of a mechanism for evolution is either not comprehended or has been repeatedly ignored.

    A random scramble of letters takes more memory to describe and thus is “more information” than a thousand repetitions of the alphabet, but it will not get you published in either The New Yorker or Science. It is nonsense. The Encyclopedia Britannica needs intelligence to exist.

  84. #85 Nerd of Redhead, OM
    December 19, 2009

    Ross Olson, you still have not presented any evidence that ID is a scientific, and not a religious, idea. Your failure to do so is a tacit admission that ID is a religious idea, and in no way can refute evolution, which requires hard science to be refuted. You have not published that evidence in the only place it counts, the peer reviewed scientific literature. You can continue with your mental masturbations that you are doing something constructive, but you are not. The only for that to occur, is the one place you avoid.

    What a waste of effort Ross Olson. You were soundly refuted, and you have presented no scientific evidence to back up your inane theories. Nothing but loser written all over your arguments.

  85. #86 Rey Fox
    December 19, 2009

    “What is missing is an understanding of how a world view affects, first ideas, and then actions.”

    Evolution is not a worldview. It is a scientific theory that very well describes how biology works. Please stop projecting your shallow moral misconceptions on it or the Almighty Darwin will smite you.

    “If survival of the fittest is the law of the jungle then to apply it to all areas of life is only natural.”

    See, you’re doing it again. Learn the difference between descriptive and proscriptive.

  86. #87 The Crocoduck Hunter
    December 19, 2009

    Awww, Ross, did ya even read the responses? If you actually did, it’s pretty obvious that you only heard what you wanted to hear.

    See, that’s exactly the difference between your position and ours. If you would present evidence that ID is a legitimate idea, we would all jump off our evolution high-horses and consider it seriously. But you are so blatantly close-minded that when someone like Calilasseia comes and offers you a thorough refutation of your claims, you still cling to them like a drowning rat. Relax, Ross! It’s okay to be wrong. The water is only in your mind.

  87. #88 raven
    December 19, 2009

    ross olson the evil xian death cultist:

    The retorts confirm my impression not only that the blogosphere’s primary strength is character assassination but that abstract reasoning is weak.

    Standard passive aggressive Xian behavior.

    1. Lie a lot. Insult people.

    2. When they tell the truth, call it retaliation.

    3. Claim this is xians being persecuted.

    Hey Ross!!! Want to explain how the founder of your cults came up with a Final Solution to eradicate the Jews, 300 years before Darwin was eveen born. Martin Luther was one of the key architects of the Holocaust. He even published a How To genocide book.

    *******************************
    All the fundie Death Cultists have are lies and more lies.

    The roots of German anti-semitism lie deep in xianity and the Europeans were massacring the Jews long before Darwin was even born.

    The founder of FL and the fundies branch of Xianity, Martin Luther was a key and vicious anti-semite. He advocated a Final Solution for the Jews in a book 300 years before Darwin.

    At Niremburg, many Nazis defended themselves by pointing out that they were just implementing Luther?s plan.

    wikipedia, On The Jews and Their Lies, written by Martin Luther:

    Luther advocated an eight-point plan to get rid of the Jews either by religious conversion or by expulsion:

    ?First to set fire to their synagogues or schools and to bury and cover with dirt whatever will not burn, so that no man will ever again see a stone or cinder of them. ??

    ?Second, I advise that their houses also be razed and destroyed. ??

    ?Third, I advise that all their prayer books and Talmudic writings, in which such idolatry, lies, cursing and blasphemy are taught, be taken from them. ??

    ?Fourth, I advise that their rabbis be forbidden to teach henceforth on pain of loss of life and limb. ??

    ?Fifth, I advise that safe-conduct on the highways be abolished completely for the Jews. ?? ?Sixth, I advise that usury be prohibited to them, and that all cash and treasure of silver and gold be taken from them. ? Such money should now be used in ? the following [way]? Whenever a Jew is sincerely converted, he should be handed [a certain amount]??

    ?Seventh, I commend putting a flail, an ax, a hoe, a spade, a distaff, or a spindle into the hands of young, strong Jews and Jewesses and letting them earn their bread in the sweat of their brow? For it is not fitting that they should let us accursed Goyim toil in the sweat of our faces while they, the holy people, idle away their time behind the stove, feasting and farting, and on top of all, boasting blasphemously of their lordship over the Christians by means of our sweat. No, one should toss out these lazy rogues by the seat of their pants.?

    ?If we wish to wash our hands of the Jews? blasphemy and not share in their guilt, we have to part company with them. They must be driven from our country? and ?we must drive them out like mad dogs.? [34]

    Hitler himself never killed anyone. It was all his millions of followers. Who were all Catholics and Protestant Xians.

    Xianity has so much blood on their hands after 2,000 years that all they can do is lie and try to blame someone else.

  88. #89 edinblack
    December 19, 2009

    To see Richard Carrier’s research on the Hitler-as-rabid-anti-Christian idea, specifically those questionable quotations from the Table Talk (see comment #24):
    ?Hitler’s Table Talk: Troubling Finds.? German Studies Review 26.3 (Oct 2003): 561-76.
    http://www.jstor.org/pss/1432747

    The piece opens with a lengthy quotation from Jonathan Glover’s Humanity: Moral History of the Twentieth Century: “Hitler was passionately hostile to Christianity: ‘I shall never come to terms with the Christian lie…'” to which Carrier remarks that “This is a claim often made, employing the same or similar quotations. But the quotations are largely false.”

  89. #90 raven
    December 19, 2009

    Another fact for Ross the evil xian kook. Not that facts and him have any sort of interest in each other.

    The Jews themselves don’t buy the Darwin killed the Jews lie. There are a lot of universities in Israel, staffed by Jewish scientists.

    They do a lot of research into and using evolution in their life sciences departments. I suppose the Ross Olsons think they must be crypto Nazis planning the next Holocaust from Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and Beer Sheva.

    Just in case, I checked. All I found was something about developing salt tolerant crops that will grow in arid climates. Maybe Ross O. should check out the Israel Journal of Ecology and Evolution and see what the Jews think of Darwin’s theory.

    The Israel Journal of Ecology & Evolution is dedicated to publishing high quality original research and review papers that advance our knowledge and understanding of the function, diversity, abundance, distribution, and evolution of organisms at all levels of biological organization as they interact with their biotic and abiotic environments. (Click to read our mission statement.)

  90. #91 raven
    December 19, 2009

    Ross Olson the malevolent xian kook:

    What is missing is an understanding of how a world view affects, first ideas, and then actions.

    No, this is wrong. We know what happens when people claim to be following an invisible sky spook.

    They usually end up killing lots and lots of people.

    Today, xian terrorism is a serious problem in the USA. Rabid religious fanatics occasionally assassinate MDs and frequently threaten to kill biologists and other scientists. We all get death threats on a routine basis.

    Some xians in the USA still practice human child sacrifice by withholding medical treatment. The numbers range from 10-100/year.

    Xians still hunt down alleged witches and kill them. The numbers aren’t well known but it is believed to be 100-1,000/year worldwide. Many of these are children in Africa, presumably because adults have access to firearms and are therefore harder targets.

    For 2,000 years xians have been killing tens of millions in crusades, heretic hunts, witch hunts, sectarian wars, wars against other religions, pogroms of the Jews and on and on.

    Science flies people to the moon. Religion flies planes into skyscrapers.

  91. #92 raven
    December 19, 2009

    rossolson being very stupid:

    Darwinism means that we are all individual manifestations of a cosmic chain of accidents. Please strain your brains and try to figure out an escape from that.

    What a moron. God invented evolution.

    BTW Ross, you don’t speak for most xians; most xians worldwide don’t have a problem with evolution and science.

    Just your twisted xian death cult.

    Roughly half of all scientists in the USA claim to be xians including many evolutionary biologists. Evolution is taught in most major xian colleges and universities.

  92. #93 Aaron Baker
    December 19, 2009

    #89:

    edinblack,

    Here are some of the problems I encountered in another article by Carrier: “On the Trail of Bogus Quotes.” (http://ffrf.org/fttoday/2002/nov02/carrier.php;
    what follows is largely from repeated from my earlier posting)

    For one thing, Carrier reaches his conclusions about Hitler (e.g. “Hitler was no more anti-Christian than your run-of-the-mill Protestant bigot”) without referring once to the comments by Hitler quoted or paraphrased in Speer and Goebbels. For one example, see Speer, INSIDE THE THIRD REICH (English version, 1970), p. 96: [Hitler saying:] “You see, it’s been our misfortune to have the wrong religion. Why didn’t we have the religion of the Japanese, who regard sacrifice for the Fatherland as the highest good? The Mohammedan religion too would have been much more compatible to us than Christianity. Why did it have to be Christianiy with its meekness and flabbiness?” In 1939, Goebbels wrote in his diary that “[t]he Führer is deeply religious, but deeply anti-Christian. He regards Christianity as a symptom of decay.”

    Carrier also ignores the 1937 Hossbach memorandum, a summary of a speech given by Hitler to his generals, outlining his foreign policy aims. He said in passing: “It was only the disintegrating effect of Christianity, and the symptoms of age which appear in every country, which caused ancient Rome to succumb to the onslaught of the Germans.”

    Carrier also quotes the 1933 Nazi Concordat with the Catholic Church, Article 21:

    “Catholic religious instruction in elementary, senior, secondary and vocational schools constitutes a regular portion of the curriculum, and is to be taught in accordance with the principles of the Catholic Church. In religious instruction, special care will be taken to inculcate patriotic, civic and social consciousness and sense of duty in the spirit of the Christian Faith and the moral code, precisely as in the case of other subjects.”

    and concludes: “So there can be no doubt that the Nazis were thoroughly and devotedly Christian, eager to inculcate Christian theism for future generations.”

    But this is to ignore completely the repeated violations by the Nazis of this Concordat (among them the shutting down of the very parochial schools mentioned in this section). There’s a lengthy chapter about the exceedingly tense relationship between the Nazi regime and the Catholic Church, embittered to a large degree by Nazi disregard for the Concordat, in R.J. Evans, THE THIRD REICH IN POWER (I don’t have a copy handy, so I can’t give page numbers). Consequently, I think it’s very dangerous to see the Concordat as much other than a tactical move (it was, among other things, Nazi agreement to sign he Concordat that convinced the German Catholic Zentrum Party (one of more important German political parties) not to resist its own dissolution).

    Two important points: first, even if the Table Talk were disregarded completely, the testimony of Speer, Goebbels, & Hossbach remains. Second, Carrier’s ignoring of (or ignorance of) the subsequent history of the Concordat strongly suggests he either doesn’t know what he’s talking about or he’s making stuff up.

  93. #94 Sastra
    December 19, 2009

    rossolsen #84 wrote:

    If survival of the fittest is the law of the jungle then to apply it to all areas of life is only natural.

    No; applying a natural process to moral choices is the naturalistic fallacy. It would be like deciding to marry someone you don’t like because the opposite poles of a magnet attract each other. Don’t mix up categories.

    Individual value must be subordinated to the collective good and self esteem is an illusion.

    This could be a description of the morality derived from theism.

  94. #95 raven
    December 19, 2009

    If survival of the fittest is the law of the jungle then to apply it to all areas of life is only natural.

    It’s as natural as letting the Law of Gravity dictate our actions.

    Gravity makes things fall. Using Rossolson’s nonlogic, Gravolutionists should be running around pushing people down stairs and out of windows.

    They aren’t.

  95. #96 rossolson
    December 19, 2009

    Nobody has dealt with the simple logic — information comes from intelligence. Genuine free will is not possible in a mechanistic universe. These statements do not have to be printed in a refereed journal to be true. You people are so tied to authority and revelation (your secular deities, the “experts”) to whom you trust decisions on the most important question in the universe!!

    ID is analysis of scientific data which LEADS TO the conclusion that there must be a Creator. For those of you who will only accept as science, analysis that leads to the conclusion that there IS NOT a Creator, how could you ever find out if you were wrong? Evidence against a natural explanation (evolution) IS evidence for an outside of nature explanation (creation). I think many of you actually suspect as much and bristle at the thought.

    By the way, the strained view that Christians are the most violent people are really strained. Look at the tens of millions killed by atheists Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot.

  96. #97 Nerd of Redhead, OM
    December 19, 2009

    Genuine free will is not possible in a mechanistic universe

    Sorry, free will comes from evolution. All you do with these lies is make yourself look stupid. And you are doing a good job of it. Still no evidence your imaginary creator exists. Still no evidence that your ID concept is a scientific idea, rather than a religious idea. Which is is due to Kitzmiller v. Dover.

    ID is analysis of scientific data

    Nope, it is the desire to throw an imaginary deity into the works, which isn’t allowed by science. Ergo, it isn’t science, but religion. The burden of evidence is upon you to prove otherwise, and you keep coming up short. Anything other than the peer reviewed scientific liteature is coming up short.

  97. #98 Janine, She Wolf Of Pharyngula, OM
    December 19, 2009

    By the way, the strained view that Christians are the most violent people are really strained. Look at the tens of millions killed by atheists Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot.

    Ross Olson, you really are a historically illiterate. There is one reason why the theocratic rulers of Europe’s past did not have the body count of those three you name; they did not have access to the weapons that they had in the twentieth century nor the larger population of potential victims.

    Nobody has dealt with the simple logic — information comes from intelligence.

    Even I know that DNA is not a computer program. It does something very different, it directs chemical reactions for the development of embryos.

    You are making arguments when you do not even know the terms of the words you are using. It is like trying to use calculus when you cannot tell the difference between “+” and “x”.

  98. #99 raven
    December 19, 2009

    rossolson lying xian kook:

    Nobody has dealt with the simple logic — information comes from intelligence.

    Ross, we’ve heard these creationist lies a thousand times. Stop lying, it is boring.

    Your first comment is an assertion without proof. Repeating an old lie a thousand times doesn’t make it anything but a lie.

    Tom Schneider referenced above in PZ’s post has a simple evolution computer program called evo or evol or some such. It creates information using a simple program that mimics evolution.

    More to the point, we see information being created all around us constantly by evolution. In my own field, we are now dealing with a newly evolved virus, swine flu, while dealing with a newly involved older virus, HIV.

    The scientists at Scripps recently created a primordial replicator. It evolves and test tube evolution was used to create it.

    Computer programs are created all the time by in silico program evolution, genetic algorithms.

    One fact slays a thousand lying assertions without proof. We have thousands of facts.

    scienceagogo:

    The ultimate goal was to take one of the RNA enzymes already developed in the lab that could perform the basic chemistry of replication, and improve it to the point that it could drive efficient, perpetual self-replication.

    This involved synthesizing a large population of variants of the RNA enzyme that then underwent a test-tube evolution procedure to obtain those variants that were most adept at joining together pieces of RNA. Ultimately, this process enabled the team to isolate an evolved version of the original enzyme that was a very efficient replicator. The improved enzyme fulfilled the primary goal of being able to undergo perpetual replication. “It kind of blew me away,” says Lincoln.

  99. #100 raven
    December 19, 2009

    rossolson accidently getting something right:

    By the way, the strained view that Christians are the most violent people are really strained. Look at the tens of millions killed by atheists Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot.

    Oh Great Cthulhu. Olson accidently got something right. I guess what they say about monkeys and typing is right.

    Comparing xians to Mao, Pol Pot, and Stalin is a good comparison.

    You left out Martin Luther, a few Popes, the Taiping Rebellion, the Afghani Taliban, and Al Qaeda.

    The difference between xian fundies and moslem fundies is crystal clear and well known. A defining feature of all civilized societies is that they don’t let religious fanatics run around loose.

    Without the cops, courts, and armed forces, the USA would look like a cross between Africa, Iraq, and Afghanistan in a few weeks.

  100. #101 raven
    December 19, 2009

    Janine:

    Even I know that DNA is not a computer program. It does something very different, it directs chemical reactions for the development of embryos.

    Humans manage to violate two fundie xian laws.

    1. We all start out as single cells. We end up as functioning adults. All without a guiding intelligence, a purely natural process.

    2. We violate the second law of thermodynamics. This enormous increase in complexity and information occurs despite the fact that entropy decreases rather than increases.

    Of course, fundie xian laws are about equal to fundie xian morality. Both are nonexistent in the real world.

  101. #102 Kel, OM
    December 19, 2009

    Genuine free will is not possible in a mechanistic universe

    No, contra-causal free will is not possible in a mechanistic universe. Not that we live in a true mechanistic universe, but quantum indeterminacy doesn’t actually change the point. Free will as we understand it Does just fine.

    Please tell how will can be anything but causal? How does decision making work in the supernatural realm? If one is to choose between chipping the keeper or going for a powerful shot at goal for example, how would one go about making the decision by which path to choose?

  102. #103 Janine, She Wolf Of Pharyngula, OM
    December 19, 2009

    1. We all start out as single cells. We end up as functioning adults. All without a guiding intelligence, a purely natural process.

    For the good old days when it was known that a miniature human was carried in the semen. And that seed would grow into an imperfect human (female) if the womb was too cool.

    2. We violate the second law of thermodynamics. This enormous increase in complexity and information occurs despite the fact that entropy decreases rather than increases.

    A curse on the nutrients that come in through the umbilical cord. And all of that food that is consumed after birth. And that big old Sun the supplies the energy that is needed to grow plants and feed those that eat the plants. And continues to feed those who eat those who eat plants.

  103. #104 SC OM
    December 19, 2009

    If survival of the fittest is the law of the jungle…

    What does “survival of the fittest” mean to you, exactly?

  104. #105 'Tis Himself, OM
    December 19, 2009

    By the way, the strained view that Christians are the most violent people are really strained. Look at the tens of millions killed by atheists Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot.

    There is a difference between the Crusaders killing Jews, Muslims and fellow Christians in the name of Christ and what Stalin et al did. None of Communism’s victims were killed in the name of atheism.

  105. #106 WowbaggerOM
    December 19, 2009

    There is a difference between the Crusaders killing Jews, Muslims and fellow Christians in the name of Christ and what Stalin et al did. None of Communism’s victims were killed in the name of atheism.

    There’s that, and there’s also the hypocrisy – atheism, unlike Christianity, makes no claims regarding divine instructions to be good to each other; nor does it have a deistic figure it refers to as ‘The Prince of Peace’. Any time any Christian kills anyone the religion is undermined.

    Atheism, on the other hand, doesn’t teach anything – it can’t, because it’s simply the word used to describe a worldview that excludes gods. What you do once you’re free of the burden of god-belief is something else.

  106. #107 REINDEERS + ELVES?? 386sx
    December 19, 2009

    Oh, I see Ross “dog ate my homework” Olson brought along some extra fallacies today. Even more than usual! Pretty amazing…

  107. #108 'Tis Himself, OM
    December 19, 2009

    Evidence against a natural explanation (evolution) IS evidence for an outside of nature explanation (creation).

    Nope, evidence that supposedly contradicts evolution is merely evidence that supposedly contradicts evolution. What you creationists (don’t lie and try to tell us that ID isn’t creationism) have to do is not only show that evolution is false but all (that’s ALL) the evidence supports GODDIDIT.

    By the way “and then a miracle happened” is not evidence.

  108. #109 Kel, OM
    December 19, 2009

    Nobody has dealt with the simple logic — information comes from intelligence.

    And where does intelligence come from?

    The problem with such statements such as this is that randomness + selection = information. [paper here]

  109. #110 WowbaggerOM
    December 19, 2009

    By the way “and then a miracle happened” is not evidence.

    Well, it’s evidence – that the person making the claim is dishonest, intellectually dishonest and/or deluded…

  110. #111 Kel, OM
    December 19, 2009

    That’s the problem I see with the theistic explanation for everything. It’s all tending towards a non-answer. It doesn’t actually explain anything, and even at times the non-answer can be reduced to the absurd.

    Take free will for example. Now how is it that free will can exist supernaturally? How would decision making happen in the supernatural world? We don’t know how it could happen, such a notion is incomprehensible. For all we know is chance or necessity. Yet dualists are more than willing to appeal to the supernatural in order to have their atom-free free will, yet that’s where it stops. No explanation of how it works, just that it’s there.

    It’s amazing the intellectual hoops some jump through to come to a non-answer. Positing the supernatural explains nothing scientifically, it has profound existential and ethical implications though and that’s where the motivation is. God truly is a substitute for human ignorance, an idea to push ones own absolute will onto others.

  111. #112 Malcolm
    December 19, 2009

    Reading through the inane comments by the likes of RossOlsen, it occured to me that their lives would be a lot simpler if they just realised a few basics about scientific debate.

    1) Once an argument has been thoroughly shredded, i.e. Pascal’s wager, Aquinas, Irreducible Complexity, you don’t get to keep using it without new evidence for it.

    2) “I don’t understand it” is not evidence.

    3) Failure to understand points 1 & 2 will lead to your interlocutor getting annoyed and insulting you.

  112. #113 raven
    December 19, 2009

    if they just realised a few basics about scientific debate.

    There is nothing the least bit new about his fallacies.

    His main point seems to be the fallacy of Argument from Consequences.

    If the Law of Gravity is true, then Gravitationists will run around pushing people out of windows.

    Even if they are doing that, it doesn’t change the fact that the Law of Gravity is true.

    The truth value of science does not depend on what the consequences are.

    And oddly enough, the Gravitationists aren’t running around pushing people out of windows. Most of them seem to be carelessly dressed geeks who wear glasses and hang around labs filled with computers arguing about Dark Matter and Energy and claiming gravity waves are more real than string theory.

  113. #114 calilasseia
    December 19, 2009

    Oh dear. Look who turned up. The very self-same individual whose canards I addressed in that competition. This is going to be interesting.

    Which means that it’s time to begin with a familiar refrain … let’s take a look at this shall we?

    I wondered if anyone would notice. Not being torn to shreds is bad for my self esteem.

    Oh, you think that your canards somehow survived the examination they have received from various quarters? Hardly surprising that you should entertain such fantasies, given that you entertain fantasies about the biosphere, not to mention valid science.

    The retorts confirm my impression not only that the blogosphere’s primary strength is character assassination but that abstract reasoning is weak.

    Oh, so demonstrating that your assorted eructations were based upon blatant misrepresentation of valid science constitutes “weak reasoning” does it? I suppose you think that apologetics constitutes “strong reasoning” as well. Another of those fantasies that you appear to be singularly fond of.

    What is missing is an understanding of how a world view affects, first ideas, and then actions.

    Congratulations upon missing the point entirely. Namely, that unlike you and other ideological stormtroopers for doctrine such as yourself, the critical thinkers here do not start with presuppositions. They start, in a properly rigorous fashion, by asking the basic question “what is reality telling us?”, then set about determining how to answer that question. Unlike yourself and other doctrinal fetishists, who start by asking “how can I force-fit reality to my presuppositions?”

    But then, it’s hardly surprising that a full-blown ideological warrior for doctrine would find the concept of a reality-based world view wholly alien. You, after all, come from a presuppositionalist background, whereby you have accepted uncritically the unsupported blind assertions of a mythology, regard those unsupported blind assertions as constituting purported “axioms” about the world, and regard those purported “axioms” not only as being unconditionally and eternally true, but as being beyond question. It’s hardly surprising that you would find the modus operandi of science, which exists to test assertions and presuppositions to destruction, as being beyond your capacity to imagine.

    Darwinism means that we are all individual manifestations of a cosmic chain of accidents.

    Poppycock. You manifestly know nothing about genuine scientific theories, as opposed to the bastardised cariactures thereof that creationists routinely erect. therefore, I shall educate you.

    Evolutionary theory, like all other scientific theories, postulates that well defined and testable mechanisms were responsible for the observational phenomena that form part of its remit. Mechanisms that, moreover, have been subject to direct empirical test and verification in the peer reviewed scientific literature. The creationist caricature that evolution is based upon “accidents” is precisely that – a caricature – as anyone who paid attention in a real science class knows only too well. Moreover, in case you hadn’t worked this out, whilst busy erecting your strawman cariactures, as part of the business of propagandising for the masturbation fantasy of a doctrine you adhere to, evolution is based upon a well known, well documented phenomenon. It’s called inheritance. A process that even the tiresome book of myths, that you assert constitutes valid knowledge about the world, accepts the validity of. Though your turgid collection of badly written mythology would be even more divorced from reality than it already is, if it tried to deny the validity of inheritance. Inheritance, coupled with the dissemination of variation across generations via processes such as meiosis, and the occasional input of germline mutations into a lineage, has been demonstrated repeatedly to be sufficient to account for observed biodiversity, and I can cite the relevant scientific papers supporting this.

    What evolutionary theory postulates, if you had bothered to pay attention in a science class, is that the biosphere is unified by inheritance. No magic needed. And before you try to erect the usual tedious and asinine canards about “microevolution” versus “macroevolution” in order to try and hand-wave away this empirically validated postulate, I have numerous peer reviewed scientific papers in my personal collection that document cladogenesis events – that’s speciation to the layman. Indeed, Dobzhansky produced a speciation event in the laboratory back in 1971, and documented this in a landmark paper in Nature. More recently, a paper I have presented elsewhere not only documents a speciation event in the wild amongst Heliconius butterflies, but reproduced that speciation event in the laboratory, and demonstrated that the laboratory organisms were fully reproducitvely compatible with the wild type organisms postulated to be the products of that speciation event in the wild. The paper in question being:

    Speciation By Hybridisation In Heliconius Butterflies by Jesús Mavárez, Camilo A. Salazar, Eldredge Bermingham, Christian Salcedo, Chris D. Jiggins and Mauricio Linares, Nature, 441: 868-871 (15th June 2006)

    That’s how real science is done, by verifying postulates empirically, not by engaging in duplicitous armchair apologetics of the sort that creationists routinely pull from their rectal passages.

    Moving on …

    Please strain your brains and try to figure out an escape from that.

    I didn’t have to strain anything, let alone my brain, in order to refute your fatuous strawman caricature of evolution. Read the above.

    Then consider that your brain is an organ designed my [sic] chance

    Poppycock. What part of well defined and testable natural mechanisms are you incapable of understanding again?

    Indeed, elsewhere, I presented several papers on the evolution of the ASPM and FOXP2 genes, which are critical genes implicated in the development of the brain. Here’s a sample of those papers:

    Accelerated Evolution Of The ASPM Gene Controlling Brain Size Begins Prior to Human Brain Expansion by Natalay Kouprina, Adam Pavlicek, Ganeshwaran H. Mochida, Gregory Solomon, William Gersch, Young-Ho Yoon, Randall Collura, Maryellen Ruvolo, J. Carl Barrett, C. Geoffrey Woods, Christopher A. Walsh, Jerzy Jurka and Vladimir Larionov, Public Library of Science Biology, 2(5): e126 (23rd March 2004)

    Evolution Of The Human ASPM Gene, A Major Determinant Of Brain Size by Jianzhi Ziang, Genetics, 165: 2063-2070 (December 2003)

    Molecular Evolution Of FOXP2, A Gene Involved In Speech And Language[/i] by Wolfgang Enard, Molly Przeworski, Simon E. Fisher, Cecilia S. L. Lai, Victor Wiebe, Takashi Kitano Anthony P. Monaco and Svante Pääbo, Nature, 418: 869-872 (22 August 2002)

    Molecular Evolution Of Microcephalin, A Gene Determining Human Brain Size by Yin-Qiu Wang and Bing Su, Human Molecular Genetics, 13(11): 1131-1137 (1st June 2004)

    I don’t expect you to bother reading those papers, except perhaps to quote mine them for your duplicitous apologetics, but those papers flush your strawman cariacture of “chance” down the toilet.

    and selected for survival, not truth-seeking.

    Actually, one of the traits that was positively selected for was the ability to determine patterns in the real world, a process that scientists routinely put to good use. I suggest you try it sometime.

    In fact, please try to come up with genuine free will in a glorified billiard table where no molecule can decide to go the other way.

    In case you hadn’t worked this out, the capacity to perform a choice of actions depending upon the available data is routinely performed in deterministic machines. The CPU at the heart of your PC does this hundreds of times per second. Once again, those of us who paid attention in a science class don’t need magic in order to appreciate how this can happen. As for how this happens in the brain, I’ll direct you to pose the relevant questions to professional neuroscientists, who know more about this than I do. Unlike propagandists for doctrine, I don’t pretend to be able to pontificate on subjects I know little about.

    B. F. said it in “Beyond Freedom and Dignity” but did not see the irony that, if he is right, he could not help but write that book.

    I don’t recall anyone taking Skinner seriously these days. Science has moved on. Courtesy of that little something that creationists never engage in, namely empirical research.

    If survival of the fittest is the law of the jungle then to apply it to all areas of life is only natural.

    This tiresome caricature was never a part of Darwin’s thinking, and certainly doesn’t form a part of rigorous biological work. What Darwin, and those came after him, recognise is survival of the sufficiently competent. Provided that an organism is capable of producing descendants, it doesn’t have to be the acme of perfection. I recall describing this cariacture, when dealing with Michael Behe’s incarnation thereof, as the “Bugatti Veyron fallacy”.

    Individual value must be subordinated to the collective good and self esteem is an illusion.

    Poppycock. Self-esteem, like other cognitive functions, is an emergent complex phenomenon arising from neuronal activity. And in case you harbour the naive and simplistic view that complexity cannot arise from simplicity, there exists an entire branch of mathematics devoted to the analysis of dynamical systems in which this very phenomenon takes place. I’ve seen it at work in the behaviour of a simple ordinary differential equation known as the Verhulst Equation, which exhibits increasingly complex bifurcation behaviour as the fecundity parameter is increased.

    But who decides? Each self is the center of an egocentric universe.

    Nebulous metaphysical waffle. Do you have any substance to bring here?

    As to the scientific evidence, stripped of the flowery language, both PZ Myers’ and Richard Dawkins’ ideas for the generation of information are rhetorical dodges and classical bait and switch.

    Poppycock. Aside from being a defamatory slur on the professional integrity of these two scientists, information theory supports their postulates and refutes your assertion-laden canards wholesale. First of all, there are at least two rigorous information measures that are applicable, and one of the classic creationist bait and switch operations is to use one when the other is applicable, then pretend that this misapplication somehow refutes 150 years of valid scientific endeavour. But then, people like you think science is a branch of apologetics.

    The kind of information they are talking about does not help evolution.

    Poppycock. Here’s some more scientific papers that refute your nonsense wholesale:

    Evolution Of Biological Complexity by Christoph Adami, Charles Ofria and Travis C. Collier, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA, 97(9): 4463-4468 (25th April 2000)

    Evolution Of Biological Information by Thomas D. Schneider, Nucleic Acids Research, 28(14): 2794-2799

    See http://tccsa.tc/articles/index.html#hitler

    Your duplicitous apologetics have been roundly refuted. Not least by dozens of scientific papers. Try harder next time.

    and scroll down to the paragraph on why we look at the results of evolution.

    Since when did creationists ever look at reality? You and your fellow ideological stormtroopers for doctrine regard mythology as supposedly “axiomatic” about the world, and strive to force-fit reality to that presuppositional framework.

    The lack of a mechanism for evolution is either not comprehended or has been repeatedly ignored.

    Lack of a mechanism? Are you serious? This is suppuratingly palsied and encephalitic gibberish of the most foetidly pungent order. Only a complete scientific ignoramus would asserts such asinine tripe. Never heard of selection? Allow me to educate you, as you are so manifestly in need of it.

    Selection is simply the succinct umbrella term, applied to those processes in an ecosystem that result in differential survival of organisms in a population. Ecosystem interactions such as predation, the effect of parasites and microbial pathogens, mating choices within the population, and various environmental influences such as weather. All of these interact with a population of organisms, resulting in some organisms not surviving to produce descendants, whilst other organisms do survive to produce descendants. Selection mechanisms have been subject to direct empirical test and verification, and apposite papers include:

    Sexual Isolation Caused By Selection For Positive And Negative Phototaxis And Geotaxis In Drosophila pseudoobscura by E. del Solar, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA, 56: 484-487 (1966)

    Empirical Fitness Landscapes Reveal Accessible Evolutionary Paths by Frank J. Poelwijk, Daniel J. Kiviet, Daniel M. Weinreich and Sander J. Tans, Nature, 445: 383-386 (25 January 2007)

    Genetics Of Natural Populations XII. Experimental Reproduction Of Some Of the Changes Caused by Natural Selection by Sewall Wright & Theodosius Dobzkansky, Genetics, 31(2): 125-156 (1946)

    Hybridisation And Adaptive Radiation by Ole Seehausen, Trends In Ecology And Evolution, 19(4): 198-207 (April 2004)

    Indeed, Ole Seehausen published a landmark paper on sexual selection in the Lake Victoria Superflock, in which he experimentally manipulated the cues used by the fishes in order to determine the effects of sexual selection in those fishes. The paper in question being:

    The Effect Of Male Colouration On Female Mate Choice In Closely Related Lake Victoria Cichlids (Haplochromis nyererei Complex) by Ole Seehausen and Jacques J. M. van Alphen, Behavioural Ecology and Sociobiology, 42: 1-8 (1998)

    Indeed, New Scientist magazine covered this paper in some detail in an article in March 1999.

    If you think there is no mechanism underlying evolution, then you manifestly never paid attention in a science class in your life.

    A random scramble of letters takes more memory to describe and thus is “more information” than a thousand repetitions of the alphabet, but it will not get you published in either The New Yorker or Science. It is nonsense. The Encyclopedia Britannica needs intelligence to exist.

    Oh look. It’s fatuous analogy time. Wondered when we would see this.

    In case you haven’t worked this out, books possess neither a self-replicating capability, nor an internally maintained mechanism of inheritance. Oh, and just to rub your nose in your manifest ignorance, here’s another scientific paper that is apposite here:

    Protein Engineering Of Hydrogenase 3 To Enhance Hydrogen Production by Toshinari. Maeda, Viviana. Sanchez-Torres and Thomas. K. Wood, Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology, 79(1): 77-86 (May 2008)

    I’ll quote the abstract for this paper, as it’s particularly appropriate here:

    The large subunit (HycE, 569 amino acids) of Escherichia coli hydrogenase 3 produces hydrogen from formate via its Ni-Fe-binding site. In this paper, we engineered HycE for enhanced hydrogen production by an error-prone polymerase chain reaction (epPCR) using a host that lacked hydrogenase activity via the hyaB hybC hycE mutations. … The best epPCR variant contained eight mutations (S2T, Y50F, I171T, A291V, T366S, V433L, M444I, and L523Q) and had 17-fold higher hydrogen-producing activity than wild-type HycE. In addition, this variant had eightfold higher hydrogen yield from formate compared to wild-type HycE. Deoxyribonucleic acid shuffling using the three most-active HycE variants created a variant that has 23-fold higher hydrogen production and ninefold higher yield on formate due to a 74-amino acid carboxy-terminal truncation. Saturation mutagenesis at T366 of HycE also led to increased hydrogen production via a truncation at this position; hence, 204 amino acids at the carboxy terminus may be deleted to increase hydrogen production by 30-fold. This is the first random protein engineering of a hydrogenase.

    So, what did the authors of this paper do?

    Basically, they wanted to improve the performance of the hydrogenase-3 enzyme that is used by Escherichia coli, with a view to using it as a commercial producer of hydrogen gas. Now, there were two possible approaches to solving this problem. The first approach would have been to dissect the enzyme, amino acid by amino acid, determine how that enzyme worked based upon its structure, then try and design a better one with a more economical structure with improved performance. However, the authors realised that this process would keep them up to their necks in supercomputer analyses of the molecules for the next 50 years. Needless to say, they wanted a quicker route. So what they did was this. They decided to let evolution do the hard work for them.

    Now, in order to understand the neat trick employed here, bear in mind that in order to copy DNA molecules, scientists use what is known as a polymerase enzyme, which is an enzyme that is present (in various forms) in all living organisms. Everything from bacteria to humans possesses a polymerase enzyme of some sort. Indeed, these enzymes were first pressed into service on a large scale in forensic science, where they are used to amplify the contents of a DNA sample, so that there is sufficient material available for gel electrophoresis (the so-called “DNA fingerprinting” technique). However, forensic scientists are interested in eliminating copying errors, so that the amplified DNA fragments are all faithful copies of the original. So, forensic scientists have been looking for high-fidelity polymerase enzymes (and have found them) to perform this task. What the authors of the above paper were interested in was not the production of high-fidelity copies of their hydrogenase gene, but accelerated generation of mutant versions of that gene. So, they deliberately looked for a polymerase enzyme with low copying fidelity in order that mutations would be introduced into the gene population at an accelerated rate.

    Once they had their population of mutants, they then tested each of the mutants for efficiency in producing hydrogen. The abject failures were discarded, whilst those that produced hydrogen more efficiently than the original were used as seed material for a second round of the same process – accelerated mutation, followed by selection of the successful mutants. In other words, the classic Darwinian process. And, when they did this experimentally in the laboratory, it worked. Not only did their accelerated evolution process produce lots of nice mutants to select from, but it eventually produced a mutant that was thirty times better than the original wild type enzyme at producing hydrogen.

    In other words, evolution has been demonstrated experimentally to work in the laboratory and to be capable of producing improvements in a function coded for by a given gene. No “intelligence” required, certainly not a supernatural one. Oh, and before you assert that this somehow supports “design”, it doesn’t, because “design” implies direct and knowledgeable manipulation of entities, relying prior knowledge of the outcome of those manipulations. The authors of the above paper did not know in detail how the hydrogenase enzyme worked to anything like the extent that would be required in order to “design” a better enzyme, so they let evolution produce a better enzyme in the test tube. All they did was select the successful products for further rounds of mutation.

    Nobody has dealt with the simple logic — information comes from intelligence.

    Bullshit. There is nothing “magical” about information. Information is nothing more than the observational data available with respect to the current state occupied by a system of interest. That is IT. All that is required for that observational data to be capable of producing emergent complexity is the existence of appropriate interactions that produce different ouctomes for different system states. Turing realised this in 1936 when he wrote his paper on computable numbers.

    Genuine free will is not possible in a mechanistic universe.

    Decision making on the basis of observational data certainly is. Your computer’s CPU performs this task hundreds of times per second, and your computer’s CPU is a deterministic machine. If free will consists simply of the ability to make differential choices about actions based upon available data, then this is certainly possible in a deterministic system. Computer CPUs wouldn’t work if it wasn’t possible.

    These statements do not have to be printed in a refereed journal to be true.

    Even if they were, by some bizarre quirk of fate, printed in a peer reviewed journal, it wouldn’t stop them being false. Your computer’s CPU on its own renders them false.

    You people are so tied to authority and revelation

    Oh look, it’s projection time!

    This from someone who propagandises for a doctrine based upon authority and revelation. Talk about pot, kettle, black.

    (your secular deities, the “experts”)

    Your specious attempt to erect a bogus “symmetry”, between reality-based science and the assertion-laden miasma that is your doctrine, is precisely that – specious. It’s hardly surprising that you have to resort to such imagery in order to propagandise for your mythology. Once again, what part of “we regard the scientists as experts in their field because they have demonstrated that REALITY supports their postulates” are you either incapable of understanding, or wilfully and mendaciously ignorant of?

    to whom you trust decisions on the most important question in the universe!!

    Once again, this has something to do with the fact that those scientists have demonstrated that REALITY supports their postulates. All you have, in contrast, is apologetic blind assertion.

    ID is analysis of scientific data

    Poppycock. Exactly how does “I can’t work out how a natural process can achieve X, therefore no natural process can achieve X, therefore magic man did it” constitute an analysis in any logically consistent universe? Because that’s all that ID is – a blind assertion that a magic man is needed because its adherents are too stupid to do real science.

    which LEADS TO the conclusion that there must be a Creator.

    Bollocks. Your “conclusion” is PRESUPPOSED FROM THE BEGINNING.

    For those of you who will only accept as science, analysis that leads to the conclusion that there IS NOT a Creator, how could you ever find out if you were wrong?

    How about providing real substantive evidence (as opposed to apologetic blind assertion) that your magic man actually exists? But then you and your ilk won’t ever do this because real empirical research is too much like hard work. You prefer the intellectually indolent approach of armchair apologetics.

    Evidence against a natural explanation (evolution)

    None of which exists. See those scientific papers above? They stick the middle finger to your mythology-based presuppositions.

    IS evidence for an outside of nature explanation (creation).

    Only in your ideological wet dreams. if evolution was falsified tomorrow, it wouldn’t make your mythology right, not least because REALITY says your mythology is wrong. Fantasy global flood anyone?

    I think many of you actually suspect as much and bristle at the thought.

    No, what some of us here bristle at is the duplicity of ideological stormtroopers for mythology-based doctrines such as you.

    By the way, the strained view that Christians are the most violent people are really strained.

    Do I have to post those nice gruesome images of Inquisition torture implements here? It wasn’t atheists who used those – any atheists around in mediaeval Europe were on the receiving end of those torture implements.

    Look at the tens of millions killed by atheists Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot.

    Poppycock. These individuals were enforcing conformity to a doctrine, specifically one or more variants of Marxism. Which has nothing to do with atheism. Atheism simply consists of a refusal to accept uncritically blind supernaturalist assertion, and in its rigorous formulation doesn’t erect any postulates of its own. Therefore your specious attempt to erect this blatant falsehood is once again specious.

  114. #115 'Tis Himself, OM
    December 19, 2009

    Kel #111

    That’s the problem I see with the theistic explanation for everything. It’s all tending towards a non-answer.

    Miracles make science, logic and rationality meaningless. If there is a rational explanation for a specific phenomenon then that phenomenon is part of science. That explanation may not be known yet but it is knowable. However throwing a supernatural, therefore unnatural, miracle just gums up the works. Nothing becomes explainable because The Big Guy In The Sky may arbitrarily change things just for grins and giggles.

  115. #116 Kel, OM
    December 19, 2009

    His main point seems to be the fallacy of Argument from Consequences.

    Exactly, and this is the bullshit that is creationist rhetoric. The undesirability of nuclear weapons doesn’t invalidate the science, even if as a social policy one wishes that governments never got their hands on the technology. Yet this is all creationists do. Not a refutation of the science, the appeal to bad social consequences. One could point to many acts done in the name of religion, yet the religious are quick to try to associate atheism with immorality despite there not being any evidence that atheism caused that immorality.

    It’s all part of the bullshit PR exercise on the question of ethical and existential dilemmas. And highlights the moral bankruptcy of those claiming moral superiority. They are liars for Jesus; either inadvertent liars who are too stupid to know better, or malicious liars who do know better yet manipulate those who don’t.

    It would be nice of Ross Olson would stop his appeal to consequences against those who see through his bullshit rhetoric. If Nazis read out of the origin of species to the Jews as they were entering the gas chambers, it wouldn’t for one minute degrade the fact of evolution. It might be unfavourable to believe, but it doesn’t stop it being true. While the fossil record, the genetic code, the geographic distribution of life, embryonic development, vestigial structures, homologies in morphology, cladistic analysis, observed selection, observed adaptation, observed speciation, etc. all attest to the fact of evolution, all creationists can do is try to poison the well and reject the science as undesirable. Another sad Liar for JesusTM who has nothing scientific to go on so he has to draw up social implications.

    Nazis were also the first ones to show a link between lung cancer and cigarette smoke – is that reason enough to smoke down 5 packs a day?

  116. #117 Janine, She Wolf Of Pharyngula, OM
    December 19, 2009

    Calilasseia, I think you have just earned a second Jerry Bergman book.

  117. #118 edinblack
    December 19, 2009

    re: #93 Aaron Baker
    Your response to Carrier’s claim that people are propping up the Nazi’s-weren’t-Christians with fake and bungled quotes is “even if the Table Talk were disregarded completely…”–in other words, not really dealing with the central claim of the article, namely that the quotes are fake and bungled (and therefore don’t support the Nazi’s-weren’t-Christians story).

    In the big picture, hateful, power-hungry atheist dictators and hateful, power-hungry Christian rulers of the world both have plenty of blood on their hands. As far as the Nazis were concerned, there’s no need to use fake quotes; and, though I am by no means an expert on Nazi Germany, it’s pretty clear that Germany was basically Protestant and Austria was basically Catholic, and neither of those facts prevented either country from having a big Nazi love-fest with the other (Anschluss). These are just the basic facts. Even if one believes that Hitler himself and the people at the top were atheists (which can be debated), they were selling their poison by wrapping it up in Christianity, and the majority of the Christian population thought that was just dandy.

    The heroic Christians–in my opinion, the better Christians–who were killed by the Nazis were, unfortunately, outliers, unusual Christians who went against what their churches and Christian leaders generally said, unusual Christians who bravely swam upstream against the current of the great nationalistic, militaristic, anti-Semitic Christian stream they found themselves trapped in.

  118. #119 David Marjanovi?
    December 19, 2009

    Then consider that your brain is an organ designed my chance and selected for survival, not truth-seeking.

    Not being able to see the leopard that truly is in the bush in front of you is selected against.

    Evolutionary epistemology. Look it up, you ridiculously porphyritic granitoid. It even has a Wikipedia article.

    In fact, please try to come up with genuine free will

    Why? What for?

    I can’t tell whether I have free will. A Turing machine cannot simulate itself faster than it actually acts.

    in a glorified billiard table where no molecule can decide to go the other way.

    That doesn’t make it a billiard table, glorified or otherwise. You seem to have slept through the entire 20th century… you know, quantum theory and stuff.

    If survival of the fittest is the law of the jungle

    Ooooh, are we trying to derive an “ought” from an “is” again. <patting on Ross’ little head>

    then to apply it to all areas of life is only natural. Individual value must be subordinated to the collective good and self esteem is an illusion. But who decides? Each self is the center of an egocentric universe.

    Non-sequitur brainstorming from beginning to end.

    A random scramble of letters takes more memory to describe and thus is “more information” than a thousand repetitions of the alphabet, but it will not get you published in either The New Yorker or Science. It is nonsense. The Encyclopedia Britannica needs intelligence to exist.

    Massimo Di Giulio (2004): The coevolution theory of the origin of the genetic code, Physics of Life Reviews 1:128?137

    Abstract:

    A review of the coevolution theory of the origin of the genetic code is presented. This theory maintains that the origin of the code should be sought in the biosynthetic relationships between amino acids. In particular, some amino acids, the precursors, occupied the structure of the genetic code early on. As the product amino acids developed from these precursors, part or all of the codon domain of the precursor amino acid was ceded to the product amino acids, which resulted in the structuring of the genetic code. This paper therefore reviews the evidence in favour of this theory. The existence of some molecular fossils representing the biosynthetic pathways on which the coevolution theory suggests biosynthetic transformations took place (precursor amino acid ? product amino acid) seems to be a strong corroboration of this theory. A generalisation imposed by this theory on the ancestral metabolic state is then discussed and, finally, the main prospects that seem to stem from the coevolution theory are presented.

    Try to get that paper to get a small glimpse of an entire field of research that you didn’t even know exists.

    The reason I cite just this one is that I happen to have it on my harddisk.

  119. #120 Goldenmane
    December 19, 2009

    Ladies, gentlemen, and others,

    Welcome to the Cali Debunking Experience. If anyone needs popcorn, beer, or Peril Sensitive Sunglasses, feel free to ask.

  120. #121 Lynna, OM
    December 19, 2009

    Evolutionary epistemology. Look it up, you ridiculously porphyritic granitoid. It even has a Wikipedia article.

    Excellent use of the newly-coined insult, David. I have always said that creationist brains seem lithified. I think the descriptive phrase is apt on many levels.

  121. #122 David Marjanovi?
    December 19, 2009

    We violate the second law of thermodynamics. This enormous increase in complexity and information occurs despite the fact that entropy decreases rather than increases.

    The fuck do we violate the second law of thermodynamics. We aren’t isolated systems, and neither is the Earth as a whole.

    …which is the very point that most creationists don’t get.

    I say “most” because it is on the list by Answers in Genesis of “Arguments We Think Creationists Should Not Use”!

    Germany was basically Protestant

    Very, very roughly the northeastern half of Germany was Protestant (and still is except for the general increase in godlessness lately).

    You’re right about Austria.

  122. #123 Sven DiMilo
    December 19, 2009

    This is suppuratingly palsied and encephalitic gibberish of the most foetidly pungent order.

    Oh, I like that.
    Very much.

  123. #124 John Morales
    December 19, 2009

    I was about to say Calilasseia just used a sledgehammer to crack a peanut, but it’d be too much of an understatement.

  124. #125 calilasseia
    December 19, 2009

    Evolvability of the genetic code? Oh, I have a nice collection of papers on that too, which flush several more tiresome creationist canards down the toilet.

    A Coevolution Theory Of The Genetic Code by J. Tze-Fei Wong, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA, 72(5): 1909-1912 (May 1975)

    A Mechanism For The Association Of Amino Acids With Their Codons And The Origin Of The Genetic Code by Shelley D. Copley, Eric Smith and Harold J. Morowitz, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA, 102(12): 4442-4447 (22nd March 2005)

    Collective Evolution And The Genetic Code by Kalin Vetsigian, Carl Woese and Nigel Goldenfeld, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA, 103(28): 10696-10701 (11th July 2006)

    Emergence Of A Code In The Polymerisation Of Amino Acids Along RNA Templates by Jean Lehmann, Michel Ciblis and Albert Libchaber, PLoS One, 4(6): e5773 (June 2009)

    Evolution Of Amino Acid Frequencies In Proteins Over Deep Time: Inferred Order Of Introduction Of Amino Acids Into The Genetic Code by Dawn J. Brooks, Jacques R. Fresco, Arthru M. Lesk and Mona Singh, Molecular & Biological Evolution, 19(10): 1645-1655 (2000)

    Evolution Of The Genetic Code: Partial Optimization Of A Random Code For Robustness To Translation Error In A Rugged Fitness Landscape by Artem S. Novozhilov, Yuri I Wolf and Eugene V. Koonin, Biology Direct, 2(4): doi:10.1186/1745-6150-2-24 (23rd October 2007)

    Exceptional Error Minimisation In Putative Primordial Genetic Codes by Artem S. Novozhilov & Eugene V. Koonin, arXiv (25th August 2009)

    Importance Of Compartment Formation For A Self-Encoding System by Tomoaki Matsuura, Muneyoshi Yamaguchi, Elizabeth P. Ko-Mitamura, Yasufumi Shima, Itaru Urabe and Tetsuya Yomo, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA, 99(11): 7514-7517 (28th May 2002)

    On The Origin Of The Genetic Code: Signatures Of Its Primordial Complementarity In tRNAs And Aminoacyl-tRNA Synthetases by S. N. Rodin and A. S. Rodin, Heredity, 100: 341-355 (5th March 2008)

    Origin And Evolution Of The Genetic Code: The Universal Enigma by Eugene V. Koonin and Artem S. Novozhilov, arXiv (10th September 2008)

    Recent Evidence For Evolution Of The Genetic Code by Syozo Osawa, Thomas H. Jukes, Kimitsuna Watanabe and Akira Muto, Microbiological Reviews, 56(1): 229-264 (March 1992)

    Rewiring The Keyboard: Evolvability Of The Genetic Code by Robin D. Knight, Stephen J. Freeland and Laura F. Landweber, Nature Reviews Genetics, 2: 49-58 (January 2001)

    A Simple Model Based On Mutation And Selection Explains Trends In Codon And Amino-Acid Usage And GC Composition Within And Across Genomes by Robin D. Knight, Stephen J. Freeland and Laura F. Landweber, Genome Biology, 2(4): research0010.1?0010.13 (22nd March 2001)

    Let’s take a look at some of these shall we? First, the Novozhilov, Wolf & Koonin paper:

    Abstract

    Background: The standard genetic code table has a distinctly non-random structure, with similar amino acids often encoded by codons series that differ by a single nucleotide substitution, typically, in the third or the first position of the codon. It has been repeatedly argued that this structure of the code results from selective optimization for robustness to translation errors such that translational misreading has the minimal adverse effect. Indeed, it has been shown in several studies that the standard code is more robust than a substantial majority of random codes. However, it remains unclear how much evolution the standard code underwent, what is the level of optimization, and what is the likely starting point.

    Results: We explored possible evolutionary trajectories of the genetic code within a limited domain of the vast space of possible codes. Only those codes were analyzed for robustness to translation error that possess the same block structure and the same degree of degeneracy as the standard code. This choice of a small part of the vast space of possible codes is based on the notion that the block structure of the standard code is a consequence of the structure of the complex between the cognate tRNA and the codon in mRNA where the third base of the codon plays a minimum role as a specificity determinant. Within this part of the fitness landscape, a simple evolutionary algorithm, with elementary evolutionary steps comprising swaps of four-codon or two-codon series, was employed to investigate the optimization of codes for the maximum attainable robustness. The properties of the standard code were compared to the properties of four sets of codes, namely, purely random codes, random codes that are more robust than the standard code, and two sets of codes that resulted from optimization of the first two sets. The comparison of these sets of codes with the standard code and its locally optimized version showed that, on average, optimization of random codes yielded evolutionary trajectories that converged at the same level of robustness to translation errors as the optimization path of the standard code; however, the standard code required considerably fewer steps to reach that level than an average random code. When evolution starts from random codes whose fitness is comparable to that of the standard code, they typically reach much higher level of optimization than the standard code, i.e., the standard code is much closer to its local minimum (fitness peak) than most of the random codes with similar levels of robustness. Thus, the standard genetic code appears to be a point on an evolutionary trajectory from a random point (code) about half the way to the summit of the local peak. The fitness landscape of code evolution appears to be extremely rugged, containing numerous peaks with a broad distribution of heights, and the standard code is relatively unremarkable, being located on the slope of a moderate-height peak.

    Conclusion: The standard code appears to be the result of partial optimization of a random code for robustness to errors of translation. The reason the code is not fully optimized could be the trade-off between the beneficial effect of increasing robustness to translation errors and the deleterious effect of codon series reassignment that becomes increasingly severe with growing complexity of the evolving system. Thus, evolution of the code can be represented as a combination of adaptation and frozen accident.

    So, since the structure of the genetic code itself is a demosntrable evolvable entity, it should come as no surprise to learn that scientists consider that there are no barriers to the emergence of complexity from simpler beginnings. Indeed, there is an entire branch of mathematics devoted to the study of emergent complexity from simple systems, an excellent example of which is provided by the Verhulst Equation, a simple differential equation (one, moreover, that is used to model population growth) which exhibits increasingly complex behaviour as just one parameter in the equation is slowly increased. Now, if such complex behaviour as that exhibited by the Verhulst Equation can arise in a simple system modelled by one ordinary differential equation, it should come as no surprise to learn that complex behviour can arise in systems that begin from the outset with a greater number of variables. Since DNA strands can be constructed to arbitrary levels of complexity simply by repeat application of the appropriate chemical reactions (which is, incidentally, what our cells do every time they copy a DNA strand – they set in motion the appropriate chemical reactions), the idea that there exists some sort of “magic barrier” preventing this system from exhibiting any level of complexity required to achieve a given end result in terms of genome expression is not supported by reality.

    How about the Brooks et al paper?

    To understand more fully how amino acid composition of proteins has changed over the course of evolution, a method has been developed for estimating the composition of proteins in an ancestral genome. Estimates are based upon the composition of conserved residues in descendant sequences and empirical knowledge of the relative probability of conservation of various amino acids. Simulations are used to model and correct for errors in the estimates. The method was used to infer the amino acid composition of a large protein set in the Last Universal Ancestor (LUA) of all extant species. Relative to the modern protein set, LUA proteins were found to be generally richer in those amino acids that are believed to have been most abundant in the prebiotic environment and poorer in those amino acids that are believed to have been unavailable or scarce. It is proposed that the inferred amino acid composition of proteins in the LUA probably reflects historical events in the establishment of the genetic code.

    Or how about the Copley et al paper?

    The genetic code has certain regularities that have resisted mechanistic interpretation. These include strong correlations between the first base of codons and the precursor from which the encoded amino acid is synthesized and between the second base of codons and the hydrophobicity of the encoded amino acid. These regularities are even more striking in a projection of the modern code onto a simpler code consisting of doublet codons encoding a set of simple amino acids. These regularities can be explained if, before the emergence of macromolecules, simple amino acids were synthesized in covalent complexes of dinucleotides with ?-keto acids originating from the reductive tricarboxylic acid cycle or reductive acetate pathway. The bases and phosphates of the dinucleotide are proposed to have enhanced the rates of synthetic reactions leading to amino acids in a small-molecule reaction network that preceded the RNA translation apparatus but created an association between amino acids and the first two bases of their codons that was retained when translation emerged later in evolution.

    Or how about the Vetsigian et al paper?

    A dynamical theory for the evolution of the genetic code is presented, which accounts for its universality and optimality. The central concept is that a variety of collective, but non-Darwinian, mechanisms likely to be present in early communal life generically lead to refinement and selection of innovation-sharing protocols, such as the genetic code. Our proposal is illustrated by using a simplified computer model and placed within the context of a sequence of transitions that early life may have made, before the emergence of vertical descent.

    Or how about the Novozhilov & Koonin 2009 paper?

    Abstract

    Background: The standard genetic code is redundant and has a highly non-random structure. Codons for the same amino acids typically dier only by the nucleotide in the third position, whereas similar amino acids are encoded, mostly, by codon series that differ by a single base substitution in the third or the first position. As a result, the code is highly albeit not optimally robust to errors of translation, a property that has been interpreted either as a product of selection directed at the minimization of errors or as a non-adaptive by-product of evolution of the code driven by other forces.

    Results: We investigated the error-minimization properties of putative primordial codes that consisted of 16 supercodons, with the third base being completely redundant, using a previously derived cost function and the error minimization percentage as the measure of a code?s robustness to mistranslation. It is shown that, when the 16-supercodon table is populated with 10 putative primordial amino acids, inferred from the results of abiotic synthesis experiments and other evidence independent of the code evolution, and with minimal assumptions used to assign the remaining supercodons, the resulting 2-letter codes are nearly optimal in terms of the error minimization level.

    Conclusions: The results of the computational experiments with putative primordial genetic codes that contained only two meaningful letters in all codons and encoded 10 to 16 amino acids indicate that such codes are likely to have been nearly optimal with respect to the minimization of translation errors. This near-optimality could be the outcome of extensive early selection during the co-evolution of the code with the primordial, error-prone translation system, or a result of a unique, accidental event. Under this hypothesis, the subsequent expansion of the code resulted in a decrease of the error minimization level that became sustainable owing to the evolution of a high-fidelity translation system.

    Or how about the Knight et al paper from Nature??

    The genetic code evolved in two distinct phases. First, the ?canonical? code emerged before the last universal ancestor; subsequently, this code diverged in numerous nuclear and organelle lineages. Here, we examine the distribution and causes of these secondary deviations from the canonical genetic code. The majority of non-standard codes arise from alterations in the tRNA, with most occurring by post-transcriptional modifications, such as base modification or RNA editing, rather than by substitutions within tRNA anticodons.

    Or the Knight et al paper from Genome Biology?

    Abstract

    Background: Correlations between genome composition (in terms of GC content) and usage of particular codons and amino acids have been widely reported, but poorly explained. We show here that a simple model of processes acting at the nucleotide level explains codon usage across a large sample of species (311 bacteria, 28 archaea and 257 eukaryotes). The model quantitatively predicts responses (slope and intercept of the regression line on genome GC content) of individual codons and amino acids to genome composition.

    Results: Codons respond to genome composition on the basis of their GC content relative to their synonyms (explaining 71-87% of the variance in response among the different codons, depending on measure). Amino-acid responses are determined by the mean GC content of their codons (explaining 71-79% of the variance). Similar trends hold for genes within a genome. Position-dependent selection for error minimization explains why individual bases respond differently to directional mutation pressure.

    Conclusions: Our model suggests that GC content drives codon usage (rather than the converse). It unifies a large body of empirical evidence concerning relationships between GC content and aminoacid or codon usage in disparate systems. The relationship between GC content and codon and amino-acid usage is ahistorical; it is replicated independently in the three domains of living organisms, reinforcing the idea that genes and genomes at mutation/selection equilibrium reproduce a unique relationship between nucleic acid and protein composition. Thus, the model may be useful in predicting amino-acid or nucleotide sequences in poorly characterized taxa.

    So, to my knowledge (which is incomplete in this particular field), there are thirteen extant scientific papers demonstrating that the genetic code was itself an evolvable entity. These papers include direct empirical tests of assorted randomly generated codes to see how they behave over time, and how they gravitate toward local maxima based upon robustness to translation errors.

    The chances are, as someone else has observed above, that creationists don’t even know that this research exists. Yet they posture as being in a position to tell us that the world’s most educated scientists are all mistaken, and that a group of ignorant Bronze Age nomads writing mythology somehow produced the last word in knowledge, despite said nomads being too incompetent to count correctly the number of legs that an insect possesses. I regard alighting upon research such as the above as a source of delight, because it introduces me to a whole new vista of knowledge, which makes the creationist rejection thereof seem all the more pitiful and pathetic.

  125. #126 Sven DiMilo
    December 19, 2009

    tl;dr

    But I’m sure it was good stuff.

  126. #127 calilasseia
    December 19, 2009

    @126:

    Very simply, creationist Gish Gallops don’t work with me. If they want to play war of attrition, it’s their loss. :)

  127. #128 Kel, OM
    December 19, 2009

    The problem with Ross Olson is that we won’t engage in a war of attrition, he’ll just keep doing a Gish Gallop with the same disproved rhetoric time and time again regardless of what objections are raised. Just another creationist hack caught in an infinite loop.

  128. #129 John Morales
    December 19, 2009

    Kel, Yeah, but the beauty of such a thorough refutation in this medium is that if the same claims are made again, we can just point to back to it.

  129. #130 Sven DiMilo
    December 19, 2009

    Damn, this guy Olson is an odious toad.
    Can you believe this shit?!

  130. #131 Aaron Baker
    December 19, 2009

    #118:

    “Your response to Carrier’s claim that people are propping up the Nazi’s-weren’t-Christians with fake and bungled quotes is “even if the Table Talk were disregarded completely…”–in other words, not really dealing with the central claim of the article, namely that the quotes are fake and bungled (and therefore don’t support the Nazi’s-weren’t-Christians story).”

    I never said I was dealing with the central claim of that article; I claimed that, EVEN IF every word of the TABLE TALK were shown to be fabricated (and not many, if any, scholars are maintaining that), there would still be a number of pieces of evidence quite independent of the TABLE TALK for a hostile attitude to Christianity on the part of Hitler.

    The reason I don’t deal with that central claim of Carrier’s is that 1) I don’t have the various versions of the TABLE TALK at hand and 2) I have a decidedly limited amount of time away from my day job. A quick perusal of Carrier’s other article that I mentioned strongly suggested to me: use this guy with caution. But for the purposes of discussion I’m willing to grant that his thesis is correct: every anti-Christian utterance in the TABLE TALK is a later fake. My point is: that doesn’t clinch Carrier’s other thesis that Hitler “was no more anti-Christian than your run-of-the-mill Protestant bigot.” He has to prove that the other quotations are faked, or at least have some plausible context allowing us to interpret them differently, if he’s going to maintain that other thesis.

  131. #132 Aaron Baker
    December 19, 2009

    Calilasseia’s demolition of Olson is so impressive I hate to quibble (and maybe I’m doing so at my peril), but when he says:

    “Poppycock. These individuals [Stalin, Mao, & Pol Pot] were enforcing conformity to a doctrine, specifically one or more variants of Marxism. Which has nothing to do with atheism. Atheism simply consists of a refusal to accept uncritically blind supernaturalist assertion, and in its rigorous formulation doesn’t erect any postulates of its own”

    I have to respond: Atheism means more than one thing, and certainly one variety of atheism has been commonly, though not always, a constituent of Marxism. These dictators were indeed enforcing a doctrine, but in each case that doctrine included a version of atheism. And the atheism wasn’t regarded as a side issue either: it’s simply wrong for ‘Tis himself to say, and for Wowbagger to agree, that “None of Communism’s victims were killed in the name of atheism.” Some indeterminate but large number of victims were manifestly killed because of their religiosity.

    The atheism of Stalin or Mao may not be atheism “in its rigorous formation,” but I don’t think it’s disqualified from being atheism because it’s presented as a doctrine (by this I assume you mean a set of postulates) that you’d better not disagree with. The main postulate of the Marxist version of atheism is very simply: “there is no God.” Surely no one is disqualified from being an atheist for saying that?

    I really think your definition of “atheism” (“Atheism simply consists of a refusal to accept uncritically blind supernaturalist assertion”) would be better applied to “skepticism.” But that’s maybe a secondary issue here. There is doctrinaire atheism (God doesn’t exist, and you’d better agree with me) and there is non-doctrinaire atheism (perhaps shading imperceptibly into skepticism). The latter provides no such obvious excuse as the former for mistreating people (though of course the capacity of human beings to mistreat each other on the flimsiest excuses is just about infinite).

    So it seems best to me to say: this latter is the kind of atheism I’m talking about; it’s unlikely to harm others; and so far it hasn’t harmed anybody.

  132. #133 Alexander the Good Enough
    December 20, 2009

    I am personally acquainted with Dr. Thomas D. Schneider whose paper Evolution of Biological Information is cited in Calilasseia’s answer to the second question. Unfortunately, Dr. Schneider’s attempts to comment here were thwarted by the registration kludge. His post was to be as follows:

    Thanks for the generous citation. Folks who would like to play with the newer Java version of the program, which is lots of fun since you can see the evolution modeled in real time, can go to http://alum.mit.edu/www/toms/papers/ev which is a permanent link.

    It’s a remarkable page. I recommend it to those with plenty of time and a strong mathematical inclination. In many key instances, biology can indeed be distilled to mathematics.

  133. #134 Alexander the Good Enough
    December 20, 2009

    Dr. Schneider asked me to post this additional comment:

    In section [22] of http://forum.richarddawkins.net/viewtopic.php?p=2416335#p2416335

    Claude Shannon provided a rigorous treatment of information, but a treatment that was strictly applicable to information transmission, and NOT applicable to information storage. Therefore, application of Shannon information to information storage in the genome is a misuse of Shannon’s work. The correct information analysis to apply to storage is Kolmogorov’s analysis, which erects an entirely different measure of information content that is intended strictly to be applicable to storage. Mixing and matching the two is a familiar bait-and-switch operation that propagandists for creationist doctrine are fond of.

    This is wrong. Take a look at Pierce’s 1980 book An Introduction to Information Theory: Symbols, Signals and Noise for the generality of information theory. Suppose that the information after transmission is stored, as being printed on paper. Alternatively consider the paper as the direct receiver and consider the process of printing on the paper. Then that stored information will still have the properties (error as low as desired, need for coding etc) of the transmitted information. What about buffering in a computer during ‘transmission’? Further he suggests that one should use Kolmogorov instead – which is not a state function and so isn’t even bits. (By Kolmogorov one can get more than one bit of information out of a coin that has no more than two states.) The point about mixing and matching and bait switching is inappropriate given that he later cites my work … which is indeed about storage in the genome and is entirely a Shannon computation. Rsequence is a measure of the storage. Rfrequency is a measure of the requirement on the system. In this case the “environment” can be considered the transmitter of the information Rfrequency that allows the evolution of the stored information Rsequence (as Chris Adami suggested). Yet the model theory gives a rather nice result that Rsequence generally evolves towards Rfrequency, as observed in nature.

    Whee. A fine example of why Dr. Schneider is a Dr., and why so few creationists have the wherewithal to even approach wrapping their brains around the subject. Dunning-Kruger must suffice for them.

  134. #135 Lynna, OM
    December 20, 2009

    @125 (though I should specify near the end of 125):

    So, to my knowledge (which is incomplete in this particular field), there are thirteen extant scientific papers demonstrating that the genetic code was itself an evolvable entity. These papers include direct empirical tests of assorted randomly generated codes to see how they behave over time, and how they gravitate toward local maxima based upon robustness to translation errors.
         The chances are, as someone else has observed above, that creationists don’t even know that this research exists. Yet they posture as being in a position to tell us that the world’s most educated scientists are all mistaken, and that a group of ignorant Bronze Age nomads writing mythology somehow produced the last word in knowledge, despite said nomads being too incompetent to count correctly the number of legs that an insect possesses. I regard alighting upon research such as the above as a source of delight, because it introduces me to a whole new vista of knowledge, which makes the creationist rejection thereof seem all the more pitiful and pathetic.

    Thank goodness for a cogent summary! A lot of the rest of that post was too technical for me, though I do appreciate having the resource material listed. Please don’t allow others to discourage you with “tl;dr” — being thorough is a virtue.

  135. #136 Rey Fox
    December 20, 2009

    “The problem with Ross Olson is that we won’t engage in a war of attrition, he’ll just keep doing a Gish Gallop with the same disproved rhetoric time and time again regardless of what objections are raised.”

    The real problem is that he’s so afraid of the concept of ethics being figured out by human rationality (and granted, it’s something that humans have been struggling with for their entire existence) that he’ll run back to the comfort of his divine father figure every time, and it will continually hamstring his thinking in all areas.

    One real change in my thinking over the last several years is how I’ve come to realize that the notion that how and when and why the universe was created should have some all-important bearing on how we treat each other in our little lifetimes is really rather absurd.

  136. #137 Sven DiMilo
    December 20, 2009

    Please don’t allow others to discourage you with “tl;dr”

    Oh, nobody’s trying to discourage anybody. It was a comment about my own attention span.

  137. #138 Owlmirror
    December 20, 2009

    Scholarship to Ross Olson is pearls before a swine, so all that I’m going to bother with is snark.

    What is missing is an understanding of how a world view affects, first ideas, and then actions. Darwinism Creationism means that we are all individual manifestations of a cosmic chain of accidents malign thug. Please strain your brains and try to figure out an escape from that. Then consider that your brain is an organ designed my chance by a liar and selected for survival gullibility, not truth-seeking.

    Fixed.

    In fact, please try to come up with genuine free will in a glorified billiard table where no molecule can decide to go the other way. B. F. said Christians say it in “Beyond Freedom and Dignity” The Lord’s Prayer but did not and do not see the irony that, if he is they are right, he they could not help but write that book say that.

    Moar fixed.

    If survival of the fittest is the law of the jungle love God and hate his enemies is the law of religion then to apply it to all areas of life is only natural. Individual value must be subordinated to the collective good and self esteem is an illusion. But who decides? Each self is the center of an egocentric universe that claims to know God’s will.

    Still moar fixed.

    As to the scientific evidence, stripped of the flowery language, both PZ Myers’ and Richard Dawkins’ ideas for the generation of information are Ross Olson’s anti-evolution and disassociation from Nazism are rhetorical dodges and classical bait and switch. The kind of information they are talking about does not help evolution Ross Olson fundamentally agrees with Adolf Hitler.

    Even moar fixed.

    A random scramble of letters takes more memory to describe and thus is “more information” than a thousand repetitions of the alphabet, but it will not get you published in either The New Yorker or Science. It is nonsense, just like all Creationist arguments. The Encyclopedia Britannica Creationism needs intelligence ignorance, disingenuous dishonesty, and stupidity to exist.

    Fixed and done!

  138. #139 Owlmirror
    December 20, 2009

    A very very minor quibble:

    and that a group of ignorant Bronze Age nomads writing mythology somehow produced the last word in knowledge

    As pointed out, here, something like “Bronze Age nomads” is inaccurate as a descriptor for the authors of the bible, both in terms of time period and general lifestyle as determined by archaeology.

    The entire thread, with comments and clarification by Christopher Heard and Hector Avalos, is worth at least a skim.

    A brief summary of Heard’s argument:

    I just get tired of the “Bronze Age goatherders” or “desert nomads” trope. The biblical books aren’t the product of Bronze Age desert nomads, but of Iron Age urban elites.

  139. #140 Kel, OM
    December 20, 2009

    Evidence against a natural explanation (evolution) IS evidence for an outside of nature explanation (creation).

    BZZT, wrong. Evidence against a natural explanation just means that we don’t know. Consider the Lamarkian form of evolution. Imagine the time before 1858 and take yourself as a biologist trying to test out Lamarkian inheritance. You take a frog and chop off one of its legs, then you get it to breed. Now the resulting offspring have four legs despite Lamarkian inheritance suggesting otherwise. Have you now proved Creation?

    No, of course not. All you’ve done is blown away the current explanation for how inheritance works. You haven’t shown any evidence for creation, just evidence against Lamarkism. So what makes you think that if you blow away Natural Selection that you’ll automatically assume creation?

    It’s like someone saying “All cars are red”, then finding a non-red car. Not that the statement “all cars are red” is falsified, but that it must mean “all cars are blue”. All you do at best by rallying against natural selection is weaken the case for natural selection, you still haven’t given any reason for there to be creation. In other words, If P is not true, all all that follows is ¬P. It doesn’t follow that R is true.

  140. #141 Ichthyic
    December 20, 2009

    it’s simply wrong for ‘Tis himself to say, and for Wowbagger to agree, that “None of Communism’s victims were killed in the name of atheism.” Some indeterminate but large number of victims were manifestly killed because of their religiosity.

    what’s wrong is for you to equate the deaths of undesirables with supporting atheism.

    it was political, that’s it.

    so, no, you’re actually the one who is “simply wrong”.

  141. #142 David Marjanovi?
    December 20, 2009

    I just bookmarked comment 125. It’s fascinating. I’ll try to get all these papers in the next 2 weeks…

    And the atheism wasn’t regarded as a side issue either: it’s simply wrong for ‘Tis himself to say, and for Wowbagger to agree, that “None of Communism’s victims were killed in the name of atheism.” Some indeterminate but large number of victims were manifestly killed because of their religiosity.

    They were killed because their religion was something other than communism. It was simply one religion waging a holy war against all others in order to stay in power.

    OK, not all denominations of communism qualify as “religion” if we define that as “belief in something supernatural”. But the more violent such a denomination, the better it fits the definition. The Little Red Book was said to work miracles like making it rain when rain was needed, Kim Il-sung is still the president of North Korea, Stalin was the Red God to begin with… well, he was the Son, and Lenin the Father, in Stalinist art.

  142. #143 WowbaggerOM
    December 20, 2009

    Aaron Baker wrote:

    And the atheism wasn’t regarded as a side issue either: it’s simply wrong for ‘Tis himself to say, and for Wowbagger to agree, that “None of Communism’s victims were killed in the name of atheism.” Some indeterminate but large number of victims were manifestly killed because of their religiosity.

    But ‘killed because of their religiosity’ ≠ ‘killed in the name of atheism’. Antitheism is not atheism.

  143. #144 Kel, OM
    December 20, 2009

    I just bookmarked comment 125. It’s fascinating. I’ll try to get all these papers in the next 2 weeks…

    If you find any of those papers that aren’t behind a paywall, can you link them?

  144. #145 David Marjanovi?
    December 20, 2009

    arxiv.org is not behind a paywall.

  145. #146 Kel, OM
    December 20, 2009

    Cheers, thanks

  146. #147 Aaron Baker
    December 20, 2009

    Ichthyic, Marjanovic, Wowbagger:

    The special pleading here is thick enough to cut with a knife. And antitheism isn’t atheism? My head is starting to hurt. I’d say it definitely is atheism if one of its postulates is “God doesn’t exist.”

    That atheists can be muderous shits, too, may be disquieting; but granting that undeniable fact needn’t cause you too much discomfort. A properly skeptical take on everything, including poliitical claims, is an unlikely basis for persecution.

    I expected better from some of you. This stuff is a little too similar to Raven’s lithium-deprived stylings.

  147. #148 WowbaggerOM
    December 20, 2009

    And antitheism isn’t atheism?

    Those who killed the religious probably all had teeth as well – though perhaps not that many. That aside, by your ‘logic’ (using the term loosely), having teeth leads to murder.

    I’d say it definitely is atheism if one of its postulates is “God doesn’t exist.”

    Please detail the set of logical steps where a person can move from the position of ‘God doesn’t exist’ to ‘I must kill believers’, using only the definition of atheism as ‘one who is without belief in gods’ – i.e. without adding another other sociopolitical concepts.

    If you can then you’re right. If you can’t then please stop bleating about it.

    That atheists can be muderous shits, too, may be disquieting; but granting that undeniable fact needn’t cause you too much discomfort. A properly skeptical take on everything, including poliitical claims, is an unlikely basis for persecution.

    No-one’s denying that atheists can be ‘murderous shits’, or even that atheists have perpetuated genocide or mass murder. The problem is that there’s no more reason to cite atheism as a motivator for their doing so than there is to point out that they also didn’t believe in unicorns or leprechauns, that they might have had moustaches, liked wearing hats or hadn’t read any of the Harry Potter books.

    What they almost all had in common that is relevant is that they were in a position of power that they were determined to keep and were prepared to murder people who sought to remove that power from them, regardless of ideology.

    Did any of the so-called ‘murderers in the name of atheism’ only murder those who they knew were religious, or did they murder anyone who got in their way? If it’s yes to the latter then it’s obviously more complicated than you’re claiming.

  148. #149 Kel, OM
    December 20, 2009

    The special pleading here is thick enough to cut with a knife. And antitheism isn’t atheism? My head is starting to hurt. I’d say it definitely is atheism if one of its postulates is “God doesn’t exist.”

    The problem here is that you’re attributing causation. Was atheism, the notion that there is no God, responsible for those murders? Did the events take place which would otherwise not because of atheism? That’s what the contention is here, not that they were atheists but the actions stem from the notion of atheism.

    That atheists can be muderous shits, too, may be disquieting; but granting that undeniable fact needn’t cause you too much discomfort.

    Of course, but really that’s not what is being contended here.

    Take the crusades or witch burning, there is a clear causal link between religious motivation and action. That because of the religious belief such events took place. What is being contended here is that there is no causal link between the notion of atheism and the hideous actions of those brutal dictators. Was the motivation for the action motivated by atheism? People here are contending otherwise.

  149. #150 Aaron Baker
    December 20, 2009

    Wowbagger wrote:
    “Those who killed the religious probably all had teeth as well – though perhaps not that many. That aside, by your ‘logic’ (using the term loosely), having teeth leads to murder.

    ……

    Please detail the set of logical steps where a person can move from the position of ‘God doesn’t exist’ to ‘I must kill believers’, using only the definition of atheism as ‘one who is without belief in gods’ – i.e. without adding another other sociopolitical concepts.”

    This is idiotic. You first suggest (preposterously) that the atheism of the Bolsheviks was as irrelevant to the murders they committed as their having teeth–something the many Russian clerics who were murdered after the Bolshevik coup in 1917 would have been astonished to learn. Then you say I’m wrong unless I can prove that atheism led to the murders without the addition of some other concepts.

    All that needs to be proved here is that atheism was one motivator among others for many of the murders committed by communists–and this has been proved. (Consult the relevant chapters of the BLACK BOOK OF COMMUNISM if you doubt it.)

    But let’s look more closely at some of the added concepts that operated here. In addition to attacking anyone they thought might threaten their power, Stalin, Mao, and others of a similar ideology saw religion specfically as an evil because of its association with, and support for, traditional regimes and their oppressions; because its supernatural consolations tended to blunt the revolutionary strivings of proletarians and peasants; and because religioni was out of place in a rational, unalienated, this-worldly society. None of these ideas, in and of themselves, are unreasonable, and they follow pretty logically from an atheism that doesn’t just deny the existence of God, but also regards belief in God as the cause of many evils (as most atheism does).

    You’re the one bleating here, and pretty ignorantly, I might add.

  150. #151 Aaron Baker
    December 21, 2009

    Kel wrote:

    “What is being contended here is that there is no causal link between the notion of atheism and the hideous actions of those brutal dictators. Was the motivation for the action motivated by atheism? People here are contending otherwise.”

    And they’re wrong. Please consult the book I cited for Wowbagger’s benefit: THE BLACK BOOK OF COMMUNISM. It provides a handy summary of communism’s victims and it deals at some length with the various reasons they were killed or imprisoned.

  151. #152 WowbaggerOM
    December 21, 2009

    Aaron Baker, you should have continued reading my post #148, because it contained this question which you failed to address:

    Did any of your so-called ‘murderers in the name of atheism’ only murder those who they knew were religious, or did they murder anyone who got in their way? Because if they murdered even one fellow atheist then it was not about simply murdering the religious.

    Oh, and I’ll repeat the obvious, since you seem to need reminding: atheism ≠ communism.

  152. #153 Aaron Baker
    December 21, 2009

    Wowbagger wrote:

    “Did any of your so-called ‘murderers in the name of atheism’ only murder those who they knew were religious, or did they murder anyone who got in their way? Because if they murdered even one fellow atheist then it was not about simply murdering the religious.”

    Of course it wasn’t about simply murdering the religious–if by that you mean the Bolsheviks or Mao’s Communists had a variety of motives for murder. This I’ve never disputed. But you’re asserting something very different: that atheism was irrelevant to any of the murders. That I dispute, and the last part of your post does nothing to change my mind.

    Nor have i anywhere suggested that communism = atheism. Please review my initial remarks on this subject.

  153. #154 Kel, OM
    December 21, 2009

    And they’re wrong. Please consult the book I cited for Wowbagger’s benefit: THE BLACK BOOK OF COMMUNISM. It provides a handy summary of communism’s victims and it deals at some length with the various reasons they were killed or imprisoned.

    Again, how is it to do with atheism itself? Did these acts get committed because of atheism? It’s a bit hard sitting here that you cite a book that I don’t have at hand and I can’t verify, so if you could provide a couple of examples where atheism caused it.

  154. #155 WowbaggerOM
    December 21, 2009

    But you’re asserting something very different: that atheism was irrelevant to any of the murders.

    It’s only relevant in the sense that it gave them a straightforward ideological opposite who would be against them gaining power – and has nothing to do with atheism in and of itself, just as was the case with religious schismatics. Catholics murdering Protestants (and vice versa) was the case of religious people being murdered for being religious, but that’s hardly the fault of atheism, is it?

    They were killing the enemy who were religious – not simply because they were religious. As demonstrated by their having no problem with killing the non-religious.

    Really, in order for atheism to have ’caused’ these actions you have to demonstrate that murdering people is a tenet of atheism – or, alternatively, that not murdering people is a tenet of atheism that these atheists were disobeying, thereby demonstrating their implicit hypocrisy – which is where Christianity falls down so often.

    Atheism is a state of being without gods; as such it can’t be the motivation for anything.

  155. #156 Rorschach
    December 21, 2009

    Aaron Baker @ 132 et al,

    it’s simply wrong for ‘Tis himself to say, and for Wowbagger to agree, that “None of Communism’s victims were killed in the name of atheism.” Some indeterminate but large number of victims were manifestly killed because of their religiosity.

    Which part of “killed because of religiosity(and, I might add, position of influence or public appreciation)” does not equal “killed in the name of atheism” do you not understand ?

    Your “quibble” is nothing but a load of horse manure, and it seems to me that in your subsequent answers you are being willfully obtuse.

    There is doctrinaire atheism (God doesn’t exist, and you’d better agree with me) and there is non-doctrinaire atheism (perhaps shading imperceptibly into skepticism)

    Do you have examples for those strawmen you built there ?

  156. #157 Mr T
    December 21, 2009

    Aaron Baker:
    Neither communism nor murder of the religious follows logically from atheism. As an atheist, I can not believe in gods, believe religions are bad, and at the same time not want to kill or even harm anyone.

    Thus, when you write:

    I have to respond: Atheism means more than one thing, and certainly one variety of atheism has been commonly, though not always, a constituent of Marxism. [my emphasis]

    You’re not actually talking about atheism in general or atheism per se. You’re talking about communists, Marxists, Maoists, etc., who were atheists. Atheism is just a lack of belief in gods. It is never “in the name of atheism” that such acts are committed.

  157. #158 Aaron Baker
    December 21, 2009

    Wowbagger wrote:

    “It has nothing to do with atheism in and of itself.”

    I’ve heard similar special pleading by theists: belief in God, in and of itself, doesn’t motivate people to kill. They may even be right; but belief in God doesn’t exist hermetically sealed from a host of corollary beliefs that the believer also holds, and the same is true of atheism as believed and practiced by many communist movements. This fact led many of them to imprison, torture, and sometimes kill a host of people who were not, on any purely rational calculation, a threat to them, because their victims were religious. So, theism can motivate murder, and has done so, and so can and has atheism.

    Rorschach,

    I’m tempted to ignore your post, but instead I’ll add this: “‘killed because of their religiosity’ does not equal ‘killed in the name of atheism'” is a distinction worthy, in its dishonest sophistry, of the worst fundamentalist fraud. You’d make quite the party ideologist.

  158. #159 WowbaggerOM
    December 21, 2009

    Aaron Baker,

    I’ve heard similar special pleading by theists: belief in God, in and of itself, doesn’t motivate people to kill.

    Yes, except:

    1) Theists who wants to kill can cite the bible, which is full of examples of God ordering genocide, and God’s people slaughtering their enemies.

    Is there an atheist bible with similar justifications? Where do atheists obtain this book? I’ve been an atheist for many years and I’ve never seen it.

    2) Theists also kill others who have a different interpretation of the bible.

    What book can atheists fight and kill each other over the interpretation of? Is it the hypothetical atheist bible I mentioned earlier? I’m still yet to receive mine – can you please let me know where I can pick up my copy?

    3) Judeo-Christians who kill are hypocrites because they are explicitly told not to kill in the bible.

    What orders are atheists disobeying if they kill? Are atheists ordered not to kill in the atheist bible? Really, if this book exists you really need to help me find one – I can’t continue the argument until I know exactly where atheists are getting their instructions (or are disobeying the orders) from.

  159. #160 Aaron Baker
    December 21, 2009

    Kel asked for examples, a reasonable request.

    I’ll run off a few, from books I have at home. Anyone else could come up with additional examples. No one will be convinced, though, who shares Wowbagger’s fascinating unless-the-killing-resulted-only-from-atheism-and-only-atheism-in-and-of-itself-it-doesn’t-count argument. For one thing, multiple motives were no doubt present in many of these instances. For another, which I stated before, atheism among Communists was joined with a set of attendant attitudes, some following pretty logically from atheism, others not having a necessary connection with it, such as illiberalism and a contempt for due process. But here goes anyway:

    THE BLACK BOOK OF COMMUNISM (p. 172) re the Soviet anti-religious offensive of 1929-30: “[It] occurred in two stages. THe first began in the spring and summer of 1929 and was marked by a reintroduction and reinforcement of the antireligious legislation of 1918-1922. On 8 April 1929 an important decree was promulgated to increse the local authorities’ control over parish life, imposing new restrictions on the activity of religious societies. Henceforth any activity ‘going beyond the limits of the simple satisfaction of religious aspirations’ fell under the law. Notably, section 10 of the much-feared article 58 established that ‘any use of the religious prejudices of the masses . . . for destabilizing the state’ was punishable ‘by anything from a minimum three-year sentence up to and including the death penalty.”

    The authors go on to describe a five-day work week law, ruling Sunday out as a rest day, “deliberately introduced ‘to facilitate the struggle to eliminate religion.'[quotation from Nicolas Werth]” I cite these passages specifically as documenting the existence of explicitly anti-religious legislation in the Soviet Union.

    Also on p. 172 is a reference to a group called the League of the Militant Godless, formed specifically to harass, bully, and cajole Russian Christians into giving up their religion.

    Robert Conquest, THE GREAT TERROR (rev. ed., p. 317): “Common [prisoners in the Dzhezkazgan camp in the 30s] were soldiers, intellectuals, and especially Ukrainian and other nationalists, on the one hand, and members of religious sects on the other. Solzhenitsyn points out that the Baptists were in the camps simply for praying. For this (at the time he writes of) ‘they all got twenty-five years . . .'”

    Roy Medvedev, LET HISTORY JUDGE (rev. ed., p. 454): “In 1936-1938 approximately eight hundred higher officials of the Orthodox and the ‘New Church’ and many thousands of ordinary clergy were arrested. Thousands of churchgoers were also arrested, primarily among diverse sects such as the Baptists and Seventh-Day Adventists, which were legal bodies under Soviet law. The Catholicos of Armenia, Khoren I. Muradbeykan, a popular leader, was killed in 1937 in his residence.”

    Note please that Baptists and Seventh-Day Adventists were politically insignificant in the Soviet Union.

    BLACK BOOK, re Mao’s terror in 1950-1951 (pp. 482-483): “Foreign residents were also targeted: 13,800 ‘spies’ were arrested in 1950, including many priests,; one Italian bishop was condemned to life imprisonment. As a direct result of this persecution, the number of Catholic missionaries fell from 5,500 in 1950 to a few dozen in 1955, after which the Chinese faithful began to feel the full force of repression without any awkward witnesses from abroad. THere were at least 20,000 arrests in 1955; the number of Christians of all denominations who were arrested over the next two decades ran into the hundreds of thousands.”

    ” . . . Mao himself spoke of the liquidation of 800,000 counterrevolutionaries” [in this period; of course only some of these would have been killed on account of religion.]

    BLACK BOOK (pp. 593-594)re the Khmer Rouge and Catholics: “According to Sliwinski, Cambodian Catholics were the group that met the worst fate; at leaqst 48.6 percent of them disappeared. Many factors conspired against them: they came mostly from the cities, were primarily Vietnamese in, and inevitably were associate with colonial imperialism. The cathedral in Phnom Penh was one of the few buildings razed to the grund.”

    BLACK BOOK (pp. 594-595 re the Khmer Rouge and the Muslim Cham: “The attempt to eradicate Islam provoked some extremely serious incidents. In 1973, mosques were destroyed and prayers banned in the liberated zones. Such measures became more widespread after May 1975. Korans were collected and burned, and mosques were either transformed into other buildings or razed. Thirteen Muslim dignitaries were executed in June, some for having gone to pray rather than attending a poliitical rally, other for having campaigned for the right to religious wedding ceremonies. Often Muslims were forced to make a choice between raising pigs and eating pork or being put to death. . . . Some Cham were forced to eat pork twice a month . . . The more fervent were all but wiped out; of the 1,000 who had made the pilgrimage to Mecca, only 30 survived these ears. Unlike other Cambodians, the Cham frequently rebelled, and large numbers of them died in the massacres and reprisals that followed these uprisings . . . Ben Kiernan calculates that the overall mortality rate among the Cham was 50 percent; Sliwinski’s figure is 40.6 percent.”

    Of course the Cham had two strikes against them under Pol Pot: they were Muslims AND an ethnic minority. Also they frequently fought back. But the specifically anti-Muslim animus here is impossible to miss.

  160. #161 Kel, OM
    December 21, 2009

    Thanks, I can see now where you are coming from.

  161. #162 WowbaggerOM
    December 21, 2009

    Aaron Baker wrote:

    No one will be convinced, though, who shares Wowbagger’s fascinating unless-the-killing-resulted-only-from-atheism-and-only-atheism-in-and-of-itself-it-doesn’t-count argument.

    Then fucking demonstrate it! Show how atheism – the lack of belief in gods – can, logically, be used to JUSTIFY killing the religious.

    You can quote whomever you like. Cut & paste from whatever books you can find to illustrate that atheists have killed the religious; it doesn’t make a lick of difference until you can demonstrate how the lack of belief in gods is a justification for those actions.

    Right now what you’re doing is the equivalent of arguing that, if a guy with dark hair murdered another guy who had blonde hair and claimed ‘it was because he had blonde hair’, the first guy having dark hair is what caused the murder.

    Do you not realise how ridiculous that is?

  162. #163 Aaron Baker
    December 21, 2009

    Wowbagger,

    Let me try again. Maybe more detail for my previous example will help. (And let me add, btw, that there’s nothing at all mysterious about the motivations of the Bolsheviks, or Mao and his followers, or the Khmer Rouge, or any number of other Marxist revolutionaries. I’m not wildly hypothesizing here.)

    You’ve decided that God doesn’t exist. But you don’t rest with that: you decide as well, as many unbelievers and not just Marxists do, that religion, which you now regard as false, is not simply a harmless delusion. More particularly, you see how it’s used repeatedly to shore up noxious, reactionary regimes and noxious, reactionary customs. Also, its consolations, which you’ve concluded have no basis in fact, function as a kind of narcotic, blunting the anger of the oppressed and making it less likely for them to rise up against their oppressors. You hate the oppression they endure, and you want them to rise up. But there’s religion, this evil obstacle, keeping it from happening in innumerable ways. Because of this evident evil, you resolve to struggle against religion wherever and whenever you can.

    All these opinions you’ve formed owe their origin in no small degree to your atheism. If you thought religion were true, you’d have to accommodate it somehow, even if you became in many respects a radical. Since it’s false, it has for you no virtues that outweigh its evils. You think then that the best thing for you to do is to strive for a world in which it doesn’t exist. (Theists, by the way, may strive to purify religion, or free it of its more objectionable doctrines; they don’t, as a general rule, strive to eliminate religion; that I think requires atheism as a presupposition.)

    Now assume in addition that you’ve either never enjoyed, or never felt sympathy for, the niceties of a liberal theory of politics: due process of law is just a fancy disguise for oppression; equality before the law is an obvious sham; tolerance enables the intolerable to continue day after day. Unconstrained by any of these liberal notions, unconstrained by compassion as well (which gets in the way of any thorough-going revolution), you acquire a monopoly of power. What then are you likely to do to religion, and to the religious who fall into your hands? The color of your hair has nothing to do with how you behave next; but your atheism does. You wouldn’t regard the complete elimination of religion as desireable otherwise.

    As I think I’ve granted again and again, it isn’t atheism by itself that leads to mass murder and other oppression; it’s a collection of attitudes, some, though not all, of which are actually pretty reasonable consequences of the rejection of theism.

    Faced with ample evidence that a variety of Communists have sought to eliminate religion by every means at their disposal, how do you not realise how ridiculous it is to say their atheism had nothing to do with this?

  163. #164 WowbaggerOM
    December 21, 2009

    Aaron Baker,

    All these opinions you’ve formed owe their origin in no small degree to your atheism.

    This is where you make your mistake – this repeated assertion. You have yet to demonstrate the process where atheism – bearing in mind that atheism is simply the lack of belief in gods and nothing more – provides the motivation for forming these opinions that you claim stem from it.

    Now assume in addition that you’ve either never enjoyed, or never felt sympathy for, the niceties of a liberal theory of politics: due process of law is just a fancy disguise for oppression; equality before the law is an obvious sham; tolerance enables the intolerable to continue day after day.

    See what you did there? The key words ‘in addition’ – your taking atheism and adding to it the key factors that lead to the action being taken. Atheism is the lack of belief in gods. It cannot, on its own, motivate anyone to do anything. It provides no justification for murder – or any other action whatsoever. It is descriptive – not prescriptive.

    As I said before, atheism ≠ antitheism. That’s why there are two words – one, atheism, for lacking the belief in gods; the other, antitheism, for a position opposing the belief in gods. I’m quite happy to accept that all antitheists are atheists (I’ve never claimed otherwise) – but not that all atheists are antitheists.

    Faced with ample evidence that a variety of Communists have sought to eliminate religion by every means at their disposal, how do you not realise how ridiculous it is to say their atheism had nothing to do with this?

    You said upthread that you’ve never claimed the communism = atheism. If that’s the case, why are the only examples you’re able to provide of ‘atheism’ inspiring people to commit anti-religous acts are those performed by communists?

    If communism had included a directive to wear red shoes, and all communists agreed and wore red shoes would you be claiming that red shoes are responsible for murder?

  164. #165 Owlmirror
    December 21, 2009

    THe first began in the spring and summer of 1929 and was marked by a reintroduction and reinforcement of the antireligious legislation

    Note the bolded and underlined text. Does the idea that religion should be opposed by law arise from atheism, or from a fanatical opposition to religion?

    ‘any use of the religious prejudices of the masses . . . for destabilizing the state’

    Reminds me of Catholics and Protestants outlawing each other’s religion and implying or declaring the holders of them to be treasonous.

    Also, Deuteronomy 17.

    The authors go on to describe a five-day work week law, ruling Sunday out as a rest day, “deliberately introduced ‘to facilitate the struggle to eliminate religion.'[quotation from Nicolas Werth]”

    Reminds me of the Christian council that declared anathema on any Christian that celebrated the Sabbath on Saturday, as part of their (eventually successful) bid to eliminate early Judeo-Christianity.

    Often Muslims were forced to make a choice between raising pigs and eating pork or being put to death.

    Much like Crypto-Jews and Muslims under Catholic Spain.

    Really, the parallels do seem to strengthen the analogy of Communism being like a monolatrist fanatical religion.

  165. #166 Aaron Baker
    December 22, 2009

    Here’s where I think you go wrong:

    “Atheism is the lack of belief in gods. It cannot, on its own, motivate anyone to do anything. It provides no justification for murder – or any other action whatsoever. It is descriptive – not prescriptive.”

    But people can be and are motivated to do any number of things by descriptive beliefs and propositions. E.g. “There’s uncontaminated water in that stream”; hearing this may motivate you to drink from it, or bathe in it, or whatever. No doubt certain other conditions have to obtain, like thirst, but that’s unavoidable: in the real world descriptive propositions don’t exist in isolation. So the purely descriptive proposition (“the water is drinkable”) is heard by a thirsty person, and he drinks. It would be absurd to claim afterwards that he drank only because he was thirsty, and that it’s simply wrong to say he drank because he believed the water to be uncontaminated.

    Moreover, people can draw, rightly or wrongly, any number of prescriptive conclusions from descriptive propositions, depending on what mental baggage they’re carrying. If I say to you: John punched George in the face, and you know John’s an adult and George is a four-year old, given certain already existing moral intuitions, you’re likely to come to very prescriptive conclusions. Again, it would be absurd to say that Wowbagger knocked John to the ground because of his hostility to battery, but not because he believed John had struck George. Our beliefs, be they ever so descriptive, will often have prescriptive implications for us. (I leave completely open the question of whether such implications are warranted.)

    You also say: “I’m quite happy to accept that all antitheists are atheists (I’ve never claimed otherwise) – but not that all atheists are antitheists.” To put it a little more technically, atheism is a necessary, but not a sufficient, condition for antitheism. But how is it not then a cause of antitheism?

    You don’t find my suggestions of what motivations likely operated in the case of Communists to be plausible (though they’re based on a fair amount of reading about just such people). That’s fine; though I think they’re banally obvious suggestions, and I’m having trouble believing in your professed incredulity. But I would just add here that the word routinely used by such people in describing themselves was “atheist” or “Godless,” not “antitheist.” (E.g. the League of the Militant Godless and its newspaper, Bezbozhik (“Godless”).) Atheism, not the color of their hair or the state of their teeth, mattered to these people. They pretty clearly regarded it as a motivator–as did their victims.

    You go on to say: “You said upthread that you’ve never claimed the communism = atheism. If that’s the case, why are the only examples you’re able to provide of ‘atheism’ inspiring people to commit anti-religous acts are those performed by communists?”

    I don’t understand this question. I’ve said consistently that there’s no necessary connection between atheism and mass-murder. I’ll go further and say there’s no necessary connection between atheism and anti-religious acts–although I’m sure plenty of non-communist atheists have engaged in those. Maybe you meant to ask: why are the only examples you’re able to provide of “atheism” inspiring people to cmmit mass-murder are those performed by communists? Because those are the only ones I know of. Why would it follow from this that I equate atheists and communists? If you want me to acknowledge that people with the predisposition to be communists come to atheism with pretty peculiar baggage, and that without that baggage there’d be no lethality, I don’t see how it hurts my position to say Yes. I still think the particular form taken by the lethality owes (necessarily) something to their being atheists.

  166. #167 WowbaggerOM
    December 22, 2009

    So the purely descriptive proposition (“the water is drinkable”) is heard by a thirsty person, and he drinks.

    and

    Moreover, people can draw, rightly or wrongly, any number of prescriptive conclusions from descriptive propositions, depending on what mental baggage they’re carrying.

    Emphasis mine – because, again, you’ve added other conditions that go beyond the capacity of meeting a description to determine behaviour. The water did not make the person drink it; the person chose to drink the water based on his/her perceptions. Likewise, it is the possession of emotional baggage that causes the behaviour, not simply having a quality – unrelated to the performing of an action – they possess.

    But how is it not then a cause of antitheism?

    To punch someone I need fists. If I didn’t have fists I couldn’t punch someone. But does possessing fists make me punch people? Hardly. You’re skipping the vital step regarding how meeting a description prompts the described person to act – and therein lies the flaw in your argument, since you’re conflating the perception of difference with the choice to act on the perception of difference.

    The possession of a quality that allows one to differentiate oneself from another in such a way that they are able to justify killing another who doesn’t possess that quality is, while in and of itself ethically problematic, cannot be considered to be the motivation for that act, beyond it being a means by which differentiation occurs. It is not the quality’s fault; it is the fault of the perception of the person possessing that quality that a person lacking that quality is justifiably killable.

    I’ll try yet another analogy: a tall man kills a short man because he’s short and the tall man dislikes short people. Is ‘tallness’ to blame for this murder? How is that possible? If it isn’t possible, in what way is tallness different from atheism? One is relative measure of height; the other a relative measure of belief in gods.

  167. #168 Kel, OM
    December 22, 2009

    From seeing how this argument lies, I think it can be summised thusly.

    Humans have the capacity to organise into in-groups and out-groups, and no surprise that the in-groups can sometimes do bad things to those in out-groups. That an in-group of atheists can do bad things to the out-group should be no surprise, it would be surprising otherwise given the capacity for the in-group / out-group distinction.

    It seems that two different standards are being argued for here. Wowbagger et al. seem to be arguing that the explicit motivations aren’t there, while Aaron seems to be arguing that implicit motivations stem from the concept.

    Wowbagger seems to be arguing that there’s an explicit causal connection between say the persecution of homosexuality and the damnation of homosexual via religious instruction, whereas since atheism doesn’t prescribe anything, then it as an idea cannot be held accountable for any implicit inferences people take from it.

    Whereas Aaron seems to be arguing that even though atheism doesn’t prescribe anything about how to behave, as it is a negation of religion then actions taken against those who are religious can in effect be taken back to the notion that could seem to be at the root of the problem. Though from the examples listed above, it seems that it doesn’t appear to be a strong motivating factor.

  168. #169 WowbaggerOM
    December 22, 2009

    Wowbagger seems to be arguing that there’s an explicit causal connection between say the persecution of homosexuality and the damnation of homosexual via religious instruction, whereas since atheism doesn’t prescribe anything, then it as an idea cannot be held accountable for any implicit inferences people take from it.

    Sort of. If I was going to replace Aaron Baker’s use of ‘atheism’ with ‘theism’ it would be specific to those kinds theism that depend on a source for their tenets: i.e. if you believed in a god (not the Christian one) but also believed that that god had not provided any particular instruction (i.e. no bible) then I would be arguing just as much to say that that theist’s theism was no more able to justify murder than the atheist’s atheism.

    How can it? It the absence of a quality. How can the absence of a quality be the catalyst for behaviour? Theists like to argue that the lack of belief in the judgement of the afterlife means the lack of a moral compass, but that’s not the same thing. An atheist believing that it’s okay to steal because he/she won’t get caught and punished for it, even after he/she dies, is not the same thing as them being motivated by their lack of belief in gods to steal.

    Atheism is the lack of belief in gods. It – in and of itself – provides no guidance. No rules. No instructions. No fables, parables, allegories, analogies, syllogisms, allusions, metaphors, poetic devices, euphemisms or anything else from which any kind of motivation can possibly be derived.

    Christians, however, have the Old Testament to turn to whenever they want to justify genocide – though I’m also going to make it quite clear that under no circumstances do I consider that theism makes people more likely to murder; I’m just saying that those religions with what can be interpreted as a divine mandate to slaughter (as in the bible) have something that atheists – since atheism, as mentioned before, is descriptive not prescriptive – do not and can not have.

    And don’t get me wrong; I’m also not about to argue that atheists – like those Aaron Baker cited – who have committed genocide and mass murder etc. did not concoct ludicrous and ethically feeble defences for their actions. It’s just that they can’t – and nor can Aaron Baker – claim they were motivated to do so by atheism.

  169. #170 Rorschach
    December 22, 2009

    Aaron Baker @ 158,

    I’m tempted to ignore your post, but instead I’ll add this: “‘killed because of their religiosity’ does not equal ‘killed in the name of atheism'” is a distinction worthy, in its dishonest sophistry, of the worst fundamentalist fraud

    You really don’t get the distinction, do you ? And because you’re obviously too simpleminded to get it, throw a few swearwords around instead.Classy !

    You quoted Wowbagger and ‘Tis and then said :

    it’s simply wrong for ‘Tis himself to say, and for Wowbagger to agree, that “None of Communism’s victims were killed in the name of atheism.” Some indeterminate but large number of victims were manifestly killed because of their religiosity.

    This is not sophistry you dick, it is just not the same thing, which you are obviously too thick to understand ! There is no such thing as “in the name of lack of belief in deities”.
    Personality cult leaders kill religious people, or non-religious people for that matter, because they are in the way of their power ambitions, not because they hold belief XYZ.

    Whereas Aaron seems to be arguing that even though atheism doesn’t prescribe anything about how to behave, as it is a negation of religion then actions taken against those who are religious can in effect be taken back to the notion that could seem to be at the root of the problem.

    He’s not arguing, he is inventing strawmen classes of atheists @ 132, that he then gives strawmen properties, which he then uses to argue from consequence.
    I’m done with this clown.

  170. #171 WowbaggerOM
    December 22, 2009

    How about this: white racists murder African-Americans for not being white. Which aspect of their description is the problem – the whiteness or the racism?

  171. #172 Aaron Baker
    December 22, 2009

    167:

    I’m not really sure from your first paragraph, Wowbagger, what we’re disagreeing about. You bold-face some of my statements as if these are devastating admissions, rather than part of my argument. Yes, atheism purely considered by itself (also, I think, and you seem to as well, theism PURELY CONSIDERED BY ITSELF without reference to “holy” books or this or that presupposition or propensity) doesn’t lead to murder. We seem to be on the same page there.

    I’d quarrel, though, with language like “not simply having a quality – unrelated to the performing of an action.” It just isn’t the case in my view that atheism bears no relationship to the various torments to which Communists have subjected relgious people. It bears a relationship by virtue of being a necessary condition (and necessary cause) for such persecution (though not just that).

    In your next paragraph, you jump on my necessary condition/cause argument with the analogy of possessing fists as necessary to punching somebody. We don’t “blame” (your word) the possession of fists for the punching. Nor do we “blame” skin color for a racially motivated murder (to use your later example). But “blame” is never a word we use for mere facts of nature or unconscious instrumentalities. Fists and skin color still remain but-for causes of these events, though ones to which no moral blame can be attached.

    It’s different with ideas. Those are chosen by conscious agents. No one here is going to blame anyone for choosing atheism in and of itself; but if it makes any sense at all to blame people, we can certainly blame them for what they do with atheism in company with other beliefs (some, though certainly not all, of which I persist in thinking bear a perfectly logical relationship to atheism).

    That’s the gist of my argument–that and the evidence I’ve seen that Communists themselves haven’t hesitated to regard atheism as a motivator of their actions (i.e. they quite literally did a host of things “in the name of atheism”).

    Anyway, I’m grateful for being forced to clarify & substantiate my comments. I’m not going to fight you for the last word here; but I suspect we’re going to continue to disagree about some (not all) of this.

    Rorshach at #170 wrote:
    “And because you’re obviously too simpleminded to get it, throw a few swearwords around instead.Classy!”

    Rorschach, I never fail to be amazed at how, on this website of all places, an environment teeming with hundreds (maybe thousands) of ferocious mini-Menckens, said mini-Menckens manage to be so thin-skinned when someone tosses their feces back at them. You started with the insults, so suck it up, bro’.

    I am fully aware that ‘killed because of their religiosity’ is a different proposition from ‘killed in the name of atheism.’ I’ve gone on at exhaustive (and exhausting) length about why the two propositions are closely enough connected to cause atheists discomfort and why (I think) both propositions can be correctly applied to communists. You’re under no obligation to agree; you’re under no obligation even to read my (I admit) long-winded maunderings. But you don’t get to toss out hastily cooked-up insults, and then expect to be treated like a serious interlocutor.

    I’ll take you seriously all the same, and ask you this: if a group of Christians, say, persecuted a bunch of atheists, how would you react to this argument: “We didn’t kill, imprison, torture them in the name of theism; we did all that because of their irreligiosity”?

    I dunno, but I think you’d regard it as the rankest of sophistry.

  172. #173 WowbaggerOM
    December 22, 2009

    It’s different with ideas. Those are chosen by conscious agents. No one here is going to blame anyone for choosing atheism in and of itself; but if it makes any sense at all to blame people, we can certainly blame them for what they do with atheism in company with other beliefs (some, though certainly not all, of which I persist in thinking bear a perfectly logical relationship to atheism).

    Once again you admit that it is not atheism causing these behaviours but other factors on top of the atheism – which has been my point all along. All atheism does is provide a point of difference upon which someone can choose to act – and is no difference from skin colour or hair colour or height.

    Having a ‘perfectly logical relationship’ to atheism? That’s an assertion – you need to back it up. How is the non-belief in gods in any way logically connected to an act of violence? Show the steps from a to b.

    I’ll take you seriously all the same, and ask you this: if a group of Christians, say, persecuted a bunch of atheists, how would you react to this argument: “We didn’t kill, imprison, torture them in the name of theism; we did all that because of their irreligiosity”?

    This is the point I’ve been making all along – because we can point to their bible and show where their god – who they worship and obey and take guidance from – has ordered people to murder those who don’t bow to his will.

  173. #174 Aaron Baker
    December 22, 2009

    I’m not going to rehash my steps from atheism to killing–they either carry conviction or they don’t.

    As to your last point, I suppose the accusation of sophistry would owe something to our knowledge of genocidal passages in the Bible. But that’s not the only reason: one proposition (killed because of their irreligion) sounds like an effort to get rid of a moral onus. I incidentally think that’s one reason why “killed in the name of atheism” is so offensive to some of the folks who post here: it suggests a moral problem for atheists which they’d prefer not to exist; and because I think this, it’s also why “they weren’t killed because of atheism but because of their religiosity” has (for me) an odor of bad faith in the mouth of another unbeliever. (Note, btw, I’m NOT suggesting that atheists who say this are trying to shift the burden onto the victims; rather, I think they’re just trying to shift it away from atheism.)

    Moreover, would you be less annoyed by the distinction if it were offered by some philsophical proponent of undogmatic theism (a Stoic, or a Deist, or even an Epicurean)? The position of this hypothetical philosopher is that it’s very wrong for you, an atheist to say, Theism has many crimes on its balance sheet–because, as you yourself have suggested, taken in isolation theism is a morally neutral doctrine that doesn’t by itself lead to atrocities (certainly, Stoics, Deists, and Epicureans are not high on anybody’s list of the world’s greatest criminals). I think that, rather than calmly agreeing, you might be quite exasperated and say: stop with this handwaving about doctrines in isolation! In practice, theism has inspired plenty of killing (whatever the attendant circumstance may be)–so no, I’m not going to give it the pass you want me to.

    I think, regardless of who says it, this “they were killed because of X and not because of Y” assertion still has that whiff of bad faith about it. Which is why it annoyed me so much coming from Rorschach.

  174. #175 WowbaggerOM
    December 22, 2009

    Aaron Baker,

    What you seem to be saying is that, if people identify that there are people are different from themselves, and certain other events occur, those people will kill those who they see as different. If that’s what you’re saying, and that atheism can be one of those qualities, then yes I agree. It has happened and no doubt will happen again; I don’t make the claim that atheism automatically leads to pacifism.

    But I don’t agree that atheism – any more than skin colour, ethnicity, support of a sports team, language spoken, height, hair colour, relative wealth, taste in music or (despite your assertion that I would) non-dogmatic forms of theism which doesn’t include a mandate for murder like Christianity does – can be considered to cause the actions you’ve described beyond providing a person with a perceived opposition.

    For atheism to be set apart from any of those other qualities you have to demonstrate how it is different.

    Christianity, on the other hand, allows both the formation of the opposition and a biblical mandate to justify murdering the opposition. Atheism lacks any such mandate because it is simply the lack of belief in gods and has no holy book, doctrine or dogma to take instruction from – which is also why the constant references to the atrocities committed by Communists have no bearing here, because Communism includes prescriptions for actions and behaviour that are wholly distinct from atheism.

    Note, btw, I’m NOT suggesting that atheists who say this are trying to shift the burden onto the victims; rather, I think they’re just trying to shift it away from atheism.

    I don?t need to shift anything ?away? from atheism because you?ve yet to demonstrate how atheism acts as a motivator beyond providing an in-group/out-group differentiation just as capable of motivating as observing dark haired people look different from fair-haired people.

    Moreover, would you be less annoyed by the distinction if it were offered by some philsophical proponent of undogmatic theism (a Stoic, or a Deist, or even an Epicurean)?

    I would be no more or less annoyed by the theism of the proponent; I would still require the proponent to outline the mechanism of how meeting the description of lacking belief in gods was able to motivate anything given that it is a description of a state.

    Atheism is the lack of belief in gods. For you to continue arguing that it causes anything, you have to explain how that is possible, given that meeting the description of lacking belief in gods includes no prescriptive instruction of any kind.

    Yes, atheism provides a source for in-group/out-group differentiation. But so does skin colour, and no-one is claiming ‘whiteness’ is what makes the KKK a hate-group.

  175. #176 Aaron Baker
    December 22, 2009

    “I would be no more or less annoyed by the theism of the proponent; I would still require the proponent to outline the mechanism of how meeting the description of lacking belief in gods was able to motivate anything given that it is a description of a state.”

    That’s not the point I was trying to make with my “philosophical theist.” He (or she) isn’t asserting anything about atheism; he (or she) is saying that killing people because of their irreligion is not the same thing as killing people in the name of theism–theism being in this person’s view as neutral as atheism is in yours.

  176. #177 WowbaggerOM
    December 22, 2009

    That’s not the point I was trying to make with my “philosophical theist.” He (or she) isn’t asserting anything about atheism; he (or she) is saying that killing people because of their irreligion is not the same thing as killing people in the name of theism–theism being in this person’s view as neutral as atheism is in yours.

    I would only make the claim that someone was killing in the name of theism if there was an identifiable mandate to kill provided as an integral part of that theism’s belief system – like there is in Christianity. For example, if a deist killed a non-deist I would not claim they were killing in the name of deism because deism doesn’t have a holy book that says it’s okay to kill non-deists.

  177. #178 Owlmirror
    December 22, 2009

    The position of this hypothetical philosopher is that it’s very wrong for you, an atheist to say, Theism has many crimes on its balance sheet–because, as you yourself have suggested, taken in isolation theism is a morally neutral doctrine that doesn’t by itself lead to atrocities (certainly, Stoics, Deists, and Epicureans are not high on anybody’s list of the world’s greatest criminals). I think that, rather than calmly agreeing, you might be quite exasperated and say: stop with this handwaving about doctrines in isolation!

    If they are defending undogmatic theism, then I don’t see why I would disagree with them — about undogmatic theism. Why would I have a problem with considering doctrines — or perhaps rather the lack of hostility in some doctrines — in isolation?

    In practice, theism has inspired plenty of killing

    Theism, and a secondary doctrine of direct hostility to doctrinal outgroups as being inherently evil and deserving of punishment. This secondary doctrine of hostility is usually claimed to be the revealed will of the God or Gods that they believe in.

    Theism that lacks that doctrine is as morally neutral as atheism — although I would dispute its logical coherence.

    I think, regardless of who says it, this “they were killed because of X and not because of Y” assertion still has that whiff of bad faith about it.

    The assertion that both X (theism) and !X (atheism) are both inspirations for the same behavior is logically incoherent.

    Your entire argument appears to be a post-hoc fallacy.

  178. #179 Aaron Baker
    December 22, 2009

    “The assertion that both X (theism) and !X (atheism) are both inspirations for the same behavior is logically incoherent.”

    Um, No.

    Quite conflicting ideas can influence people to engage in the same or similar behavior; e.g., the doctrinal underpinnings of Christian and Buddhist asceticism are very different.

    …………

    “Your entire argument appears to be a post-hoc fallacy.”

    “After this, therefore because of this” would be a post hoc fallacy.

    Now if a Communist joins the League of the Godless, contributes to the periodical “Godless,” and says he harasses observant Christians and Jews because he’s godless–concluding that he’s been influenced to engage in these acts by his atheism is called a plausible inference from experience.

  179. #180 Rorschach
    December 22, 2009

    Your entire argument appears to be a post-hoc fallacy.

    Fallacy of undistributed middle, really, but that would have totally flown over his head.Well, most of the other arguments did too, for that matter.

  180. #181 WowbaggerOM
    December 22, 2009

    Now if a Communist joins the League of the Godless, contributes to the periodical “Godless,” and says he harasses observant Christians and Jews because he’s godless–concluding that he’s been influenced to engage in these acts by his atheism is called a plausible inference from experience.

    Again with the communism. Has it not occurred to you that, since every one of your hypothetical and historical collections of atheists is also a communist that it might actually be the communism and not the atheism leading to the action? Considering communism is a complex sociopolitical ideology and atheism is (exceedingly) simply the lack of belief in gods, it would seem reasonable to consider that one would provide motivation where the other cannot possibly do so.

    You’ll have a point when you can demonstrate the mechanism by which lacking belief in gods motivates and/or justifies the action against the faithful. You have yet to do so. All you’re doing is (repeatedly) illustrating that a person with quality A is hostile to a person without quality A – not that quality A motivates that person beyond providing in-group/out-group differentiation.

    Like I asked before, is it the whiteness of the members of the KKK that leads them to act against non-whites, or is it their racism?

  181. #182 Aaron Baker
    December 22, 2009

    Sorry, Wowbagger, I was willing to just let it go, but there’s a smugness to some of this that really gets under my skin:

    When you write: “I don?t need to shift anything ?away? from atheism because you?ve yet to demonstrate how atheism acts as a motivator beyond providing an in-group/out-group differentiation just as capable of motivating as observing dark haired people look different from fair-haired people,”

    I have to reply: this is exactly how someone arguing in bad faith would respond. The suggestion that there’s a more than coincidental connection (in one class of atheists) between atheism and very bad behavior is obviously infuriating to many people on this blog–so much so that the same people are quite resistant to the suggestion. So I’ve documented the connection until my fingers ached. I also suggested a perfectly plausible mental progression from atheism to antitheism and then to wrongful behavior (which accords with my experience of communists, both personal and from my reading about them). But it doesn’t matter how plausible the suggestions are, or whether I give you 10 times the documentation; your response would still be the same. You’ve yet to demonstrate to me that any amount or kind of evidence would convince you.

    It’s blindingly obvious (everywhere in the world but here) that atheism (like theism) in different circumstances motivates different kinds of socio-political behavior (unlike, say, hair color). It motivates such behavior because it’s never the hermetically isolated postulate that you like to describe. Some of these behaviors (maybe most of them) have had beneficial outcomes; others not. But their obvious connection to atheism doesn’t become debatable just because someone expresses incredulity.

    My position is what is was before: the statement that no one ever killed anyone in the name of atheism (though some communists have quite explicitly done just that), or because of atheism, but rather because of a particularly depraved antitheism (something that wouldn’t have existed but for atheism) sounds like a really lame evasion of an uncomfortable fact. You?ve yet to demonstrate how I’m wrong in thinking so.

  182. #183 'Tis Himself, OM
    December 22, 2009

    Having read all of Aaron Baker’s posts, I have two reactions:

    Aaron has not shown that one single person has ever been killed in the name of atheism. He’s shown that atheists have killed religious people. He’s shown that some atheists have been double-plus ungood people. He’s even shown that Communist regimes have made anti-religious laws which included the death penalty for being religious. But he’s not shown how someone being an atheist has caused that person to kill someone else.

    Aaron fixates on the atheism of Communists and apparently ignores some of their other qualities. Stalin was a sadistic paranoiac who killed people because of perceived threats. In the 1930s and 1940s more Soviet army generals were killed by Stalin’s people than by Hitler’s people. Mao was a megalomaniac who had people killed for ideological incorrectness. Religion was one form of this incorrectness. Pol Pot suffered from various types of insanity and seemed to kill just on general principles. Killing people because they wore glasses is insane by any standard.

    Sorry, Aaron, but you’ve yet to show anyone being killed in the name of atheism. Nice try, and there’ll be a lovely gift for you on your way out.

    Comrade, is your gun loaded? Aaron will be by any moment now.

  183. #184 Aaron Baker
    December 22, 2009

    “Fallacy of undistributed middle, really, but that would have totally flown over his head.Well, most of the other arguments did too, for that matter.”

    Fallacy of the undistributed middle is a fallacy of categorical syllogisms, NOT inductive arguments.

    Maybe you were going for affirming the consequent?

    Rorschach: dumb, boorish, AND pretentious.

  184. #185 WowbaggerOM
    December 22, 2009

    I have to reply: this is exactly how someone arguing in bad faith would respond.

    Yet you remain unable to demonstrate how I am arguing in bad faith, other than by citing examples of where an atheist was driven by other emotional, psychological or sociopolitical motivators to perform an action.

    The suggestion that there’s a more than coincidental connection (in one class of atheists) between atheism and very bad behavior is obviously infuriating to many people on this blog–so much so that the same people are quite resistant to the suggestion.

    It would be exactly the same reaction if you’d claimed that a chicken laid an egg that produced a kangaroo. You’re making an assertion you cannot back up, and posters here (myself included) are the kind of people who won’t let that stand. It’s called SIWOTI. Hilariously, the quote that goes with the definition is one of PZ’s.

    I also suggested a perfectly plausible mental progression from atheism to antitheism and then to wrongful behavior (which accords with my experience of communists, both personal and from my reading about them).

    Which I completely agree – except that atheism ≠ antitheism. The second you use the word antitheism you cease describing atheism, since antitheism describes the state of being against theism and can prescribe behaviour while atheism is simply the lack of theism and can prescribe nothing.

    You’ve yet to demonstrate to me that any amount or kind of evidence would convince you.

    Fair enough. As I see it, what differentiates an atheist from a Christian in this case is this: the Christian can identify the same in-group/out-group difference that the atheist can. The Christian can then look in the Old Testament and see that the Christian god has commanded his followers to commit genocide against those who do not worship the god. The Christian then acts, secure in the mandate provided by the Christian god.

    Short version: the Christian can kill in the name of religion because a tenet of the religion provides justification for doing so.

    If you can show me that an equivalent tenet exists for atheism – without involving another ideology like communism which has its own tenets – then I will happily concede the point to you and accept that atheists can kill ‘in the name of atheism’.

    Again, look at my analogy of the KKK. The KKK are white people who, thanks to an invented ideology of racial superiority, justify hating non-whites. What prompts the action, their ‘whiteness’ or their ideology?

  185. #186 Aaron Baker
    December 22, 2009

    Well, ‘Tis himself:

    How about this from the Albanian Constitution (1976): “The State recognises no religion, and supports atheistic propaganda in order to implant a scientific materialistic world outlook in people.”

    Keep in mind that under Enver Hoxha, religion was banned completely in Albania. This is oppression expressly in the name of atheism. I grant there’s no express admission to killing (but there often isn’t, for reasons having nothing to do with motivation and everything to do with concealment of what one’s up to). But, given that we’re talking about Albania, people were no doubt killed in the furtherance of this provision. Would that not be killing in the name of atheism?

  186. #187 Aaron Baker
    December 22, 2009

    Wowbagger wrote:

    “It would be exactly the same reaction if you’d claimed that a chicken laid an egg that produced a kangaroo. You’re making an assertion you cannot back up, and posters here (myself included) are the kind of people who won’t let that stand. It’s called SIWOTI.”

    Ah, but it’s nothing like saying a chicken egg produced a kangaroo, and I have backed it up. Please also see my latest, from Albania. Plus, I suffer from SIWOTI, too, or I wouldn’t still be in this conversation. (Btw, I saw that cite to Myers in the online definition; I’m very careful now to look up online definitions, thanks in part to you. Don’t ever say you haven’t influenced me.)

    As for my fixation on communists: I know something about them. I know very little about anarchists, by contrast, who went through a phase of secular terrorism around the end of the 19th c. and the beginning of the 20th. Maybe atheism had something to do with whatever bug they had up their backsides? But to address your real question: I fully agree that people predisposed to be communists bring a very peculiar set of predispositions with them; maybe then, they are the only atheists whose conduct is really objectionable. But I’d still disagree with you as to what and how much atheism motivates.

  187. #188 John Morales
    December 22, 2009

    A Baker:

    How about this from the Albanian Constitution (1976): “The State recognises no religion, and supports atheistic propaganda in order to implant a scientific materialistic world outlook in people.”
    Keep in mind that under Enver Hoxha, religion was banned completely in Albania. This is oppression expressly in the name of atheism.

    No, it’s expressly in the name of the State. Duh.

  188. #189 Aaron Baker
    December 22, 2009

    “No, it’s expressly in the name of the State. Duh.”

    Wow, John. Wow. It’s all so clear now. What could I have been thinking?

  189. #190 WowbaggerOM
    December 22, 2009

    Keep in mind that under Enver Hoxha, religion was banned completely in Albania. This is oppression expressly in the name of atheism. I grant there’s no express admission to killing (but there often isn’t, for reasons having nothing to do with motivation and everything to do with concealment of what one’s up to). But, given that we’re talking about Albania, people were no doubt killed in the furtherance of this provision. Would that not be killing in the name of atheism?

    Again, it’s an outline of in-group/out-group differentiation where the in-group persecutes the out-group. Unless what differentiates the in-group from the out-group includes some kind of instruction to persecute the out-group (as noted earlier is the case in Christianity) then it can’t be considered, in and of itself, motivation for acting any more than any other kind of in-group/out-group differentiation can.

  190. #191 John Morales
    December 22, 2009

    A Baker:

    What could I have been thinking?

    Confused thoughts.

    After all, by your reasoning, any non-smoker would be a de-facto anti-smoker; any non-soccer-follower is anti-soccer etc.

  191. #192 'Tis Himself, OM
    December 22, 2009

    “The State recognises no religion, and supports atheistic propaganda in order to implant a scientific materialistic world outlook in people.”

    Yep, the State, in this case Communist Albania, was officially atheist. No argument there. However COMMUNIST Albania was other things besides atheist. First and foremost, as stated in the excerpt you quote, it was a state. It was also authoritarian and totalitarian, both conditions leading to killing “enemies of the state.” Incidentally, considering how fast post-Communist Albania became Islamic Albania (with large Roman Catholic and Orthodox minorities), it would appear that Hoxha’s atheism wasn’t too successful.

    As I see it, Aaron, you desperately want to find some example of killing in the name of atheism in hope that it’ll somehow excuse all the people killed in the name of religion.

  192. #193 Aaron Baker
    December 23, 2009

    “After all, by your reasoning, any non-smoker would be a de-facto anti-smoker; any non-soccer-follower is anti-soccer etc.”

    As I pointed out above, John, people often (not always) proceed from atheism to anti-theism (incidentally, for what I consider pretty good reasons). I never presumed that anything of the kind always happened or must happen. Please become acquainted with my reasoning before you comment on it.

    “It was also authoritarian and totalitarian, both conditions leading to killing ‘enemies of the state.'”

    But what led this state specifically to define the rejection of a scientific and materialistic outlook as enmity to the state? Why did it specifically regard instilling a scientific (and materialistic) outlook in the people as an ideal to be pursued aggressively? Plenty of authoritarian regimes have been only too happy to work hand in glove with religion. This one decided that religion was an evil to be suppressed, and supplanted by a specific kind of atheism.

    “As I see it, Aaron, you desperately want to find some example of killing in the name of atheism in hope that it’ll somehow excuse all the people killed in the name of religion.”

    That, ‘Tis Himself, you’ve just pulled out of your ass. Is this one of those occasions when you say something completely outrageous, and then claim later you were just shooting off to be provocative? Or do you actually believe this crap? If you do, state your basis for it. I have never once on this blog or elsewhere excused religion for its long record of atrocities. I hope you’ll feel some measure of embarrassment about this later.

    As for desperately wanting to find an example of killing in the name of atheism, I’ve given you an official expression that religion will be suppressed (with capital punishment unstated but clearly on the table), explicitly in the interest of . . . not the divine right of kings . . . not blood and soil . . . not even antitheism, but science, materialism, and atheism. I’m still puzzled as to why this doesn’t pass muster.

    “Again, it’s an outline of in-group/out-group differentiation where the in-group persecutes the out-group. Unless what differentiates the in-group from the out-group includes some kind of instruction to persecute the out-group (as noted earlier is the case in Christianity) then it can’t be considered, in and of itself, motivation for acting any more than any other kind of in-group/out-group differentiation can.”

    But your first sentence doesn’t really address WHY people have chosen this particular in-group/out-group designation. They’ve elected to see some special value in atheism (more specifically, an atheism that is scientific and materialist). It isn’t just an accidental distinction they’ve chosen to invest with importance after the fact as an excuse to mistreat others (race prejudice may arise from that); they’ve alected to be atheists because it’s valuable; it’s important for them from the get-go. Regarding it as valuable, they’ve also come to regard religion as an evil (a pretty common kind of binary thinking). I use “evil” deliberately: as appalling as their conduct is, their objection to religion has a moral basis. This I think is a bigger deal than just an in-group/out-group distinction, since those needn’t be invested with moral significance.

    Obviously, there is no instruction to persecute attached to atheism “in and of itself.” And quoting some Marxist instruction to persecute (some of Lenin’s statements might qualify) wouldn’t be enough; those can be dismissed as relevant only to Marxism. But, as before, I don’t see much point in addressing atheism “in and of itself.” As I’ve said above, these people have decided (whether correctly or not) that atheism has a moral valence. It matters to them in a way that accidental characteristics generally don’t.

  193. #194 WowbaggerOM
    December 23, 2009

    But your first sentence doesn’t really address WHY people have chosen this particular in-group/out-group designation. They’ve elected to see some special value in atheism (more specifically, an atheism that is scientific and materialist).

    Once again you’re conflating possessing a quality (no matter what its cause) with choosing to use the possession of that quality to justify an action – or, in this case, a perception of difference beyond the difference provided by the quality itself.

    Why does lacking belief in gods mean the person thinks it has ‘special value’? If you make this kind of assertion you have to back it up somehow.

    Also, atheists can be scientific and materialists, but not all atheists are – since atheism is simply the lack of belief in gods and does not specify that other beliefs are necessary. Ergo, scientific materialism is not a requirement for atheism and is therefore irrelevant to this discussion. If you want to argue that people have murdered in the name of scientific materialism then you’re up against an even taller brick wall than the one you’re currently at the bottom of.

    It isn’t just an accidental distinction they’ve chosen to invest with importance after the fact as an excuse to mistreat others (race prejudice may arise from that); they’ve alected to be atheists because it’s valuable; it’s important for them from the get-go.

    What are you talking about? Atheism is the lack of belief in gods; ‘value’ and ‘importance’ plays absolutely no part in that whatsoever – it’s not defined as ‘considering a lack of belief in gods to be valuable and important‘, after all.

    If I choose to see that as valuable and important, that’s a completely independent act, hardly any more specific to atheism than it would be to skin colour – and one which takes us back to the fact you’re unwilling to accept – that atheism is nothing more than a description and, at worst, can only be used to differentiate an in-group from an out-group.

    As I’ve said above, these people have decided (whether correctly or not) that atheism has a moral valence.

    People have decided…that atheism has a moral valence. That’s the key phrase here. Once again, substitute ‘whiteness’ for ‘atheism'; those in the KKK consider their whiteness to make them ‘better’ than non-whites. Is their whiteness responsible for this, or is it their perception that white is better?

    It matters to them in a way that accidental characteristics generally don’t.

    That’s an awfully large, and quite foolish. assertion. Have you met every atheist and asked them whether it matters more to them than their skin colour or which sporting team they support? Like any other kind of in-group/out-group differentiation, it’s only ever as important as the person sees fit to make it – which has been my point all along.

  194. #195 John Morales
    December 23, 2009

    A Baker: (my emphases)

    As I pointed out above, John, people often (not always) proceed from atheism to anti-theism (incidentally, for what I consider pretty good reasons).

    Then you admit they are two different things, else how can one proceed from the other!

    cf. Wowbagger @143:
    “But ‘killed because of their religiosity’ ? ‘killed in the name of atheism’. Antitheism is not atheism.”
    and your response @ 147:
    “The special pleading here is thick enough to cut with a knife. And antitheism isn’t atheism? My head is starting to hurt. I’d say it definitely is atheism if one of its postulates is “God doesn’t exist.””

    In short, your arguments are based on a conflation you both assert and (implicitly) deny.

  195. #196 Aaron Baker
    December 23, 2009

    John, I’ll admit to expressing myself poorly in the earlier posting. What irritated me there was the obvious special pleading: “It wasn’t atheism that motivated the killings; the victims were killed because of their religiosity,” a quite offensively stupid statement in most environments, even if not regarded as such here.

    So, I’ll be as clear as I can here: atheism doesn’t equal antitheism; but so what? No antitheist is an antitheist (so far as I know) without first being an atheist: atheism is an antecedent condition without which antitheism won’t appear. And antitheism is normally closely associated in the mind of an atheist with atheism. Nobody would be surprised to hear someone say: I’m an antitheist in no small part because I’m an atheist. I’ve decided that God doesn’t exist (atheism) and then surveyed religion and seen little if anything to justify it in the absence of its being true (atheism as partial cause of antitheism). That one’s atheism is actually caused (at least in part) by one’s atheism would seem to me to be uncontroversial–as is the very close association of the two ideas in the head of a single person.

    To look then at the high value placed by Communists on atheism (not on antitheism, a term they seem rarely to use), such that communist anti-religious legislation typically states that it’s being implemented to promote atheism–it strikes me then as very odd to insist that such oppressions are not being carried in the name of, or for the sake of, atheism. You could accuse the drafters of inexact or inaccurate language: they should have said “antitheism,” instead of “atheism.” But I think you’d be wrong. It is atheism they want to promote. They think atheism is a positive good in the world and that its more-or-less opposite, religion, is an evil.

  196. #197 Aaron Baker
    December 23, 2009

    Wowbagger wrote:

    “What are you talking about? Atheism is the lack of belief in gods; ‘value’ and ‘importance’ plays absolutely no part in that whatsoever – it’s not defined as ‘considering a lack of belief in gods to be valuable and important’, after all.”

    This is so obtuse as to make me wonder whether it’s deliberate. One can consider a proposition (for example, that disease is caused by demons, or that washing hands lessens the spread of the same disease), which makes no moral assertion in and of itself, and still decide whether it is a good thing or a bad thing that people believe the proposition, act on the proposition, or try to convince other people of the truth of the proposition. One can even decide that it is moral or immoral even to utter the proposition.

    It is thus manifestly absurd to say that atheism (and here I definitely mean atheism in and of itself) has nothing to do with morality.

    Here are some set pieces from Lenin, which may address my contention that for him and his followers athesim had a special value (it’s a very good thing) and religion a special value, too (it’s an evil):

    “Atheism is a natural and inseparable part of Marxism, of the theory and practice of scientific socialism” (from RELIGION)

    “Religion is the opium of the people: this saying of Marx is the cornerstone of the entire ideology of Marxism about religion. All modern religions and churches, all and of every kind of religious organizations are always considered by Marxism as the organs of bourgeois reaction, used for the protection of the exploitation and the stupefaction of the working class.” (from ABOUT THE ATTITUDE OF THE WORKING PARTY TOWARD RELIGION).

    Rather than being at the bottom of any wall, I’m asserting things that would be glaringly obvious to a convention of historians of the Soviet Union. That they’re not obvious here is amusing, but really irrelevant.

    You seem to be suggesting that Communists seized on atheism simply as a means of marking a distinction between in-group and out-group (on the analogy of skin-color for Europeans who wanted to enslave Africans or American Indians). This is to ignore the abundant evidence that for them atheism was that very good thing I’ve spoken of, so good that they tried to inculcate it by a variety of ruthless methods.

    The relevance of atheism’s being scientific here is this: science is another very good thing in Marxist circles. Marxism is “scientific” socialism; the atheism promoted is “scientific” and materialistic (that is, it posits nothing as existing that science doesn’t reveal to us).

    You’re quite ignoring what one might call the evangelical quality of Marxism: it’s trying to share some very good things with humanity, in an effort to better the life of humanity. There’s no warrant for reducing their purposes to something else.

  197. #198 Aaron Baker
    December 23, 2009

    And now if you’ll excuse me, I have a family and a holiday to get back to.

  198. #199 Kel, OM
    December 23, 2009

    To look then at the high value placed by Communists on atheism (not on antitheism, a term they seem rarely to use), such that communist anti-religious legislation typically states that it’s being implemented to promote atheism–it strikes me then as very odd to insist that such oppressions are not being carried in the name of, or for the sake of, atheism.

    I find this odd. Surely you can see that the doctrine is communism, not atheism. It’s not in the name of atheism, the oppression was not for the sake of atheism rather it seems that it was for destroying competing doctrines.

    What I think you’re missing (indeed there is a lot of talking past each other) is that you’re attributing motivation to something that of itself doesn’t provide any motivation. That’s what Wowbagger et al. are arguing. Atheism itself has no dogma, nothing stems from it. That’s what they are arguing. That atheist ideologies motivate those to do bad things, no-one would be in disagreement. But atheism itself is a negative position, the position itself entails nothing.

    And that I think is the problem with this argument. “In the name of atheism” makes no sense. Unlike those who will martyr themselves for 72 virgins or want to play Jesus, atheism has no motivating factor. No dogma, nothing. Meanwhile we can point to atheists and atheist groups who do push a dogma, but that doesn’t necessarily follow from atheism even if there is atheism at the core.

    Another way to look at it is this. Now there may be racists who are atheists. Does it follow that they are racist in the name of atheism? It just seems absurd to tack on what people do to a negative position as if the negative position stems towards positive instruction. Nothing in atheism entails racism, yet atheists can be racist. There are atheists in the Holocaust denial movement for example. But I wouldn’t be able to say in the name of atheism.

    Now this does sound like trying to have my cake and eat it too, but atheism is not a worldview. It’s simply the negation of theism. That’s it, nothing can stem from it as it doesn’t entail anything. How people behave as atheists, what ideologies they follow, what cult of personalities they adhere to, what ideas they take on (and atheists are just as bad as every other human on this planet in that respect), doesn’t follow from atheism.

    To give one example, recently on facebook I was invited to a group calling for the banning of “Merry Christmas”. What the fuck? This kind of shit is a bad idea, it shows intolerance and an ignorance of culture and is getting up in arms over something so trivial. I was frankly embarrassed that people I considered intelligent would jump onto something like that as almost a gut reaction to the religiousity of Christmas.

    In that situation, do I think their non-religiousity played a part in it? Of course. But it differs from Fred “God Hates Fags” Plelps who uses the dogma of Christianity to justify his position, or a Muslim using the Koran to justify Jihad.

    Or to put it another way, atheism itself has no baggage so any baggage one brings with it is their own. While in religion since there is ideology and dogma there is baggage that comes with it, whether someone chooses to use it or not. And on that I can understand the concerns of those who think that there’s being a religion created out of the new atheists, indeed the Dawkins cult-of-personality is getting tiring because of the caricature of atheists to adhering to the Dawkins-dogma and those who validate such a caricature of the rest of us.

  199. #200 WowbaggerOM
    December 23, 2009

    Aaron Baker,

    Since you’ve appeared to bid us goodbye, you probably won’t read this – but I’m going to write it anyway, if for no other reason but to clarify my thoughts.

    You’ve done nothing more than restate the same position without addressing the issue of how atheism – simply the lack of belief in gods – acts as a motivator for action, positive or negative; I included the latter because it’s just as true, since atheism cannot (by definition) inspire positive acts any more than it can negative ones.

    One can consider a proposition (for example, that disease is caused by demons, or that washing hands lessens the spread of the same disease), which makes no moral assertion in and of itself, and still decide whether it is a good thing or a bad thing that people believe the proposition, act on the proposition, or try to convince other people of the truth of the proposition. One can even decide that it is moral or immoral even to utter the proposition.

    Again the key words here are ‘consider’, ‘decide’, ‘believe’, ‘act on’, ‘try’ – all of which indicate a personal choice regarding what that person perceives atheism to be. It comes not from atheism itself, but from the perception of the person who fits that description. Atheism contains no prescription; any action taken ‘on its behalf’ is the invention of the person taking the action.

    You seem to be suggesting that Communists seized on atheism simply as a means of marking a distinction between in-group and out-group (on the analogy of skin-color for Europeans who wanted to enslave Africans or American Indians).

    I haven’t made any speculations regarding the role of atheism in Communism. My reference to in-group/out-group differentiation is purely in reference to the only way that atheism can be in any way the source of enmity – and, even then, only if acted upon in the same way something like skin colour might be acted upon.

    As far as its role in Communism goes, I believe it was more political in nature, since the architects of Communism (as far as I’m aware) considered religion to be one of ways through the downtrodden were oppressed, and the Russian Church specifically to be aligned with the ruling class in order to maintain the societal inequity – opposing them was therefore far more about them being a threat to the regime than it was about conflicting opinions on theology.

    Which is why any actions by communists who happen to be atheists is entirely the result of communism, not atheism – since communism has tenets specifically outlining action, while atheism is simply the term used to describe lacking the belief in gods.

    This is to ignore the abundant evidence that for them atheism was that very good thing I’ve spoken of, so good that they tried to inculcate it by a variety of ruthless methods.

    But atheism has no capacity to require those who meet that description to inculcate others. It’s just the lack of belief in gods – how is that, in and of itself, a command to change the minds of those who don’t agree?

    It is thus manifestly absurd to say that atheism (and here I definitely mean atheism in and of itself) has nothing to do with morality.

    Another assertion made without anything to support it. Why does atheism have anything to do with morality? It’s the lack of belief in gods – not the lack of belief in morals. If you are implying that morals aren’t possible without belief in gods then you’d damn well better present some evidence to support that.

    You’re quite ignoring what one might call the evangelical quality of Marxism: it’s trying to share some very good things with humanity, in an effort to better the life of humanity. There’s no warrant for reducing their purposes to something else.

    I’m only ignoring Marxism because we’re debating atheism, since Marxism ≠ atheism. Marxism is a sociopolitical ideology which has specific tenets which its adherents may use to justify their actions; atheism is the lack of belief in gods and has no tenets and cannot be used to justify anything.

    Anyway, have a good holiday.

  200. #201 'Tis Himself, OM
    December 24, 2009

    That, ‘Tis Himself, you’ve just pulled out of your ass. Is this one of those occasions when you say something completely outrageous, and then claim later you were just shooting off to be provocative? Or do you actually believe this crap? If you do, state your basis for it. I have never once on this blog or elsewhere excused religion for its long record of atrocities. I hope you’ll feel some measure of embarrassment about this later.

    I may be wrong, but I get the distinct impression that you’re desperately trying to excuse the millions killed in the name of religion by pretending that millions were killed in the name of atheism. As I said I may be wrong, but I doubt it. I really, truly, actually think I know your motivation for trying to prop up your flimsy argument about people being killed in the name of atheism.

    There’s the other possibility that you’re just arguing for the sake of arguing and you really know that you’re talking out of your ass. In fact, upon further consideration, this is a distinct possibility.

    Either way, your argument that millions were killed in the name of atheism has been shown to be–let me put this politely–untenable. This was reasonably demonstrated some time ago, yet you continued to argue the point.

  201. #202 Owlmirror
    December 24, 2009

    “The assertion that both X (theism) and !X (atheism) are both inspirations for the same behavior is logically incoherent.”

    Um, No.

    Quite conflicting ideas can influence people to engage in the same or similar behavior; e.g., the doctrinal underpinnings of Christian and Buddhist asceticism are very different.

    Your example is terribly confused. Both of your examples have an identical tenet: asceticism is a good and proper way of living. Where is the contradiction there?

    “After this, therefore because of this” would be a post hoc fallacy.

    Yes. You’re claiming that Communist aggression against theists happened after they became atheists, and that therefore it was because those Communists became atheists.

    But the very fact that there are atheists who do not agree with aggression against theists demonstrates that there is no causal connection between the aggression and the atheism in and of itself. There is indeed an additional component of a tenet that such aggression is itself a good and proper way of acting.

    Now if a Communist joins the League of the Godless, contributes to the periodical “Godless,” and says he harasses observant Christians and Jews because he’s godless–concluding that he’s been influenced to engage in these acts by his atheism is called a plausible inference from experience.

    By his atheism, and his additional and possibly implicit tenet that harassing the religious is a good and proper way of living.

    After all, he’s perfectly capable of making the same fallacious argument that you are making.

  202. #203 Aaron Baker
    December 27, 2009

    Wowbagger wrote:

    “Again the key words here are ‘consider’, ‘decide’, ‘believe’, ‘act on’, ‘try’ – all of which indicate a personal choice regarding what that person perceives atheism to be. It comes not from atheism itself, but from the perception of the person who fits that description. Atheism contains no prescription; any action taken ‘on its behalf’ is the invention of the person taking the action.”

    And as I’ve said ad nauseam, atheism doesn’t exist in and of itself among actual human beings. So repeating that atheism in and of itself doesn’t motivate anything is really beside the point. In the minds of human beings, in conjunction with other postulates and assumptions, atheism does motivate enmity, does motivate other opinions, does motivate action. Saying that any action taken ‘on its behalf” is the invention of the person taking the action doesn’t magically change atheism from a cause to a non-cause. And it’s nothing short of absurd to view a course of behavior that would never have happened without the presence of atheism, and then argue that atheism is irrelevant to it.

    You write: “You’ve done nothing more than restate the same position without addressing the issue of how atheism – simply the lack of belief in gods – acts as a motivator for action, positive or negative.”

    I’ve addressed the issue repeatedly: atheism, in conjunction with other facts, as well as with other premises, has normative, moral, and pragmatic implications–such that people can argue, fight, impose legal disabilities, and even kill in the name of, or on behalf of, or because of, atheism. If you conclude that God doesn’t exist, whatever the specific actions you take, you’re going to draw very different moral or pragmatic conclusions from those drawn by a believer when you encounter a church trying to impose particular policies on the strength of its relation to a non-existent God. No matter who you are, or where you are, you will make moral, normative, and pragmatic decisions different from those you would have made if you had continued to believe. If you want to say that the particular virulence of certain Communists in promoting atheism and combating religion would never have emerged without specific assumptions they’ve contributed, I wouldn’t disagree. I have never said that atheism was a sufficient cause, merely a necessary one.

    You also write: “Another assertion made without anything to support it. Why does atheism have anything to do with morality?” To which I’ll respond with another rhetorical question: who, anywhere in the world, becomes an atheist without subsequently drawing certain moral conclusions that he or she wouldn’t have drawn without becoming an atheist? The unsupported absurdity here is the assertion that atheism has nothing to do with morality.

  203. #204 Aaron Baker
    December 27, 2009

    Owlmirror wrote:

    “Your example is terribly confused. Both of your examples have an identical tenet: asceticism is a good and proper way of living. Where is the contradiction there?”

    Asceticism carried out by a Buddhist does NOT have the same motivations as asceticism carried out by a Christian. They’re definitely not doing it for the same reason (more specifically, nirvana, the extinction of desire, is not the same thing as a mystical union with Christ or the Trinity).

    However, if you don’t like that example, try this: One man saves another because he (the saver) is motivated by a Kantian commitment to duty, which among other things means he may not save another for the sake of a reward. Another man saves another, for the hoped-for reward. Conflicting motivations, I would say.

    You then write: “Yes. You’re claiming that Communist aggression against theists happened after they became atheists, and that therefore it was because those Communists became atheists.”

    I never made any such argument. I have asserted that anti-theistic aggression occurs AFTER the aggressor ceases to be a theist, because I regard atheism as a but-for cause of anti-theism, but I’ve never said: it came after this, therefore it happened because of this.

    You go on to write:

    “But the very fact that there are atheists who do not agree with aggression against theists demonstrates that there is no causal connection between the aggression and the atheism in and of itself. There is indeed an additional component of a tenet that such aggression is itself a good and proper way of acting.”

    Now if a Communist joins the League of the Godless, contributes to the periodical “Godless,” and says he harasses observant Christians and Jews because he’s godless–concluding that he’s been influenced to engage in these acts by his atheism is called a plausible inference from experience.

    “By his atheism, and his additional and possibly implicit tenet that harassing the religious is a good and proper way of living.”

    What then are we arguing about? I’ve said (and I’ll say again) that atheism is a motivator to action only in conjunction with other facts and premises.

  204. #205 Kel, OM
    December 27, 2009

    I’ve addressed the issue repeatedly: atheism, in conjunction with other facts, as well as with other premises, has normative, moral, and pragmatic implications

    What are the moral implications of atheism? Atheism itself is not prescriptive in any way (indeed I’ve seen a theist before argue that since atheism doesn’t prescribe how to behave that atheists are all immoral)

  205. #206 Nerd of Redhead, OM
    December 27, 2009

    Aaron Baker has previously shown himself to be sophist philosopher, so there is no surprise that his inane logic goes further afield, without showing any improvement for the conclusions. Garbage in, garbage out.

  206. #207 Owlmirror
    December 27, 2009

    In the minds of human beings, in conjunction with other postulates and assumptions, atheism does motivate enmity

    But it does not. It’s the other postulates and assumptions that do.

    And it’s nothing short of absurd to view a course of behavior that would never have happened without the presence of atheism, and then argue that atheism is irrelevant to it.

    Correlation does not imply causation.

    I’ve addressed the issue repeatedly: atheism, in conjunction with other facts, as well as with other premises, has normative, moral, and pragmatic implications–such that people can argue, fight, impose legal disabilities, and even kill in the name of, or on behalf of, or because of, atheism.

    Only if those atheists use the same sort of fallacious reasoning that you keep using.

    If you conclude that God doesn’t exist, whatever the specific actions you take, you’re going to draw very different moral or pragmatic conclusions from those drawn by a believer when you encounter a church trying to impose particular policies on the strength of its relation to a non-existent God.

    Not necessarily.

    While you’ve been focusing on one particular theme in early Soviet Russian history — that of extreme anti-clericalism — the later interaction between the atheist government and the Russian Orthodox Church was far more ambiguous, interdependent and often even cooperative.

    To which I’ll respond with another rhetorical question: who, anywhere in the world, becomes an atheist without subsequently drawing certain moral conclusions that he or she wouldn’t have drawn without becoming an atheist?

    I’ve seen at least some liberal theists agree that they would not change their moral behavior if they became atheists. And many former believers here have made the same assertions.

    Of course, that depends on what “morality” means. If it means “how one treats other people”, then it’s perfectly possible for it to not change after becoming atheist.

    The unsupported absurdity here is the assertion that atheism has nothing to do with morality.

    Actually, the unsupported absurdity is your assertion that atheism does have something to do with morality.

  207. #208 Aaron Baker
    December 27, 2009

    Kel,

    I’m not really sure there’s all that great a difference between us here. I’m perfectly happy to say that, minus specifically communist baggage, there wouldn’t have been the enormites they committed.

    But nobody comes to a particular postulate like atheism without preexisting baggage, or without a particular set of facts on the ground. Atheism may have no dogma, but having decided it’s correct, and then seeing, say, a church that consistently supports the most reactionary social policies, and then asserts in favor of those policies the authority of a non-existent God, you’re likely to draw certain moral conclusions. Moreover, your conclusions are unlikely to be identical to what they’d be if you had continued to believe in said God.

    Sure, Wowbagger and I are arguing past each other. I’d be perfectly happy to leave him alone with his atheism “in and of itself.” But he seems to want to use it to assert something about the real world that just isn’t going to fly, given what to me seems obvious: that (always taken in conjunction with other things) atheism can and does motivate conduct, including conduct one may not care for.

  208. #209 Owlmirror
    December 27, 2009

    What then are we arguing about? I’ve said (and I’ll say again) that atheism is a motivator to action only in conjunction with other facts and premises.

    We’re arguing because atheism is not a motivator to anything without those other premises.

    To put it another way, you certainly appear to be insisting that atheism is prescriptive, which is false. Atheism is (self-)descriptive; any behavioral prescriptions must therefore be extraneous to that condition.

  209. #210 Kel, OM
    December 27, 2009

    But nobody comes to a particular postulate like atheism without preexisting baggage, or without a particular set of facts on the ground.

    Well we are human. Though from my experience, I never really came to atheism in terms of leaving a religion. Never really believed, and when I got old enough to make up my own mind I explicitly said I was an atheist. No moral rejection of church policies, I had nothing to reject except the notion of the deity itself. The “Christian education” I got at school wasn’t that disagreeable, it’s not like I had the fire and faggot sermons.

  210. #211 Aaron Baker
    December 27, 2009

    Wowbagger’s reply is just more of the same tedious waffle that I’ve addressed before. Keeping things at a sufficiently high level of generality and vagueness, you might be convinced that you’d behave no differently after becoming an atheist; you’d almost certainly be wrong, however, when you came down to details. E.g., having decided God doesn’t exist, your reaction to a sick friend who believed that prayer to his non-existent deity might help his illness would, I think, be somewhat different from when you thought prayer was efficacious.
    …………………………………..

    I’d like to add something else to the discussion. Part of the apparent unreality of a lot of the argument here arises from the obvious importance of atheism to Communist regimes; they certainly believed, rightly or wrongly, that they were motivated (at least in part) by atheism in pursuing their anti-religious policies. I think this puts a significant burden of proof on someone who wants to argue that they were NOT so motivated.

    I’ve cited Lenin on the indispensibilty of atheism to scientic socialism, and I’ve cited a number of communist atrocities, as evidence that said atrocities are not adequately explained as motivated by a desire to eliminate competing centers of power (too many of the victims were powerless); but everything done DOES fit in plausibly with a specifically anti-religious animus. I also cited that provision from the Albanian Constitution, in which anti-relgious policy and the promotion of atheism go hand in glove.

    I wanted to find examples of Soviet or Chinese lawmaking that show a similar two-pronged approach to religion; unfortunately, I haven’t found an online database of such legislation yet. As a second best, I’m including here a summary of Soviet anti-religious policy from a standard reference work of the 1980s. Note, please, the dual goals of the policy: imposing legal disabilities on religion, AND promoting atheism:

    (From: ENCYCLOPEDIA OF SOVIET LAW (2nd ed., Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, Dordrecht, 1985))

    1. Anti-Religious Policy of Party and State.
    Party organizations are obliged to implement an elaborate system of measures for the strengthening of ?atheist education? (CPSU Decrees of 1964 and 1971). Cadres for atheist work are trained, among others, in the Institute of Scientific Atheism, established 1964 in the Academy of Social Sciences of the CPSU Central Committee. To conduct atheist propaganda ?on a wide scale? is a task set by the Program of the Communist Party (1961). The ?freedom to indulge in cult practices? does not include the right to spread ?religious propaganda.? Such a right was, in fact, provided for by the RSFSR Constitutions of 1918 and 1925, but it was revoked in 1929. Since then, only its opposite has enjoyed the protection of the Constitution, namely the ?freedom of atheist propaganda? (Art. 52 1977 Constitution). This asymmetry reflects the anti-religious policy of party and state. But it would be wrong to conclude from it that ?religious propaganda? is necessarily a criminal act. The law in question is ambiguous.
    ?Systematic propaganda? in a religious group which encourages citizens to refuse the performance of civil obligations constitutes a crime (Art. 227 RSFSR Criminal Code). Proselytizing, however, and other types of spreading religious beliefs in oral form are not covered by the law in force.
    Religious instruction is a special case. Organized and systematic conduct of religious instruction of minors is considered to be a violation of the law on the separation of church and state which entails criminal responsibility (Art. 142 RSFSR Criminal Code, as interpreted by RSFSR Decree of 18 March 1966). The organization of Bible work for adults is prohibited under administrative law.
    The religious upbringing of children within a family is legally possible, but it is not guaranteed. The organs responsible for supervising family affairs are entitled to regard such upbringing as an abuse of parental authority. If they do so a court may order the taking away (otobranie) of a child and may place it in the charge of guardianship agencies (Arts. 52, 64 RSFSR Family Code.) The court can also revoke parental rights.
    With the aim of isolating religious organizations from society, the church is deprived of the possibility of being active in the cultural and social fields. It may not form children?s or women?s circles, arrange literary or handicraft meetings, hold concerts of sacred music, organize excursions, lay out children?s playgrounds or maintain libraries. The church is also forbidden to conduct any form of charitable work and may not render material to is members. The freedom of the press granted to citizens (within the limits of Art. 50 of the Constitution) does not extend to religious associations and centers. The right to publish has to be granted by state authorities in each individual case. Publications of a religious character may be used in state libraries only with a special permission.
    The restriction of the church to the practice of its cult knows one exception: the church may engage in politics. But this freedom is qualified?it may be exercised only in the interests of Soviet society. Religious centers have made wide use of it, in particular by participating in the ?struggle for peace? and in their international contacts.
    (Original text at: http://books.google.com/books?id=j7gBESqTciYC&pg=PA107&lpg=PA107&dq=soviet+anti-religious+legislation&source=bl&ots=aLHIkHu6OG&sig=UJYNFDSquEnkann0pK-GxAaVlTE&hl=en&ei=N5k2S4z6NM6CnQf5-eTrCA&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=6&ved=0CBQQ6AEwBTgU#v=onepage&q=soviet%20anti-religious%20legislation&f=true)

  211. #212 WowbaggerOM
    December 27, 2009

    So repeating that atheism in and of itself doesn’t motivate anything is really beside the point.

    Er, no. That’s entirely the point. If atheism can’t be demonstrated to motivate the person who meets that description it is no more relevant to bring it up than it is to note any other kind in-group/out-group differentiation – skin colour, musical taste, or whether the person likes giraffes. Any of those qualities is just as able to be used to justify action as atheism is.

    Until you can demonstrate that atheism – in and of itself – has some special power to motivate a person to act then all you’re doing is noting an in-group/out-group differentiation – which I’ve made no attempts to refute. But you can’t blame the difference itself for a person’s choice to act on it – unless there’s an aspect of that difference which affects the decision making process, i.e. the biblical Judeo-Christian mandate for murdering the unbeliever.

    I’ve addressed the issue repeatedly: atheism, in conjunction with other facts, as well as with other premises, has normative, moral, and pragmatic implications–such that people can argue, fight, impose legal disabilities, and even kill in the name of, or on behalf of, or because of, atheism.

    Emphasis mine. Once you’ve linked atheism with something else then all you can blame it for is being the source for in-group/out-group differentiation with problems caused by other factors. And any perceived in-group/out-group differentiation – skin colour, for example – could have the same impact, rendering your argument irrelevant.

    To which I’ll respond with another rhetorical question: who, anywhere in the world, becomes an atheist without subsequently drawing certain moral conclusions that he or she wouldn’t have drawn without becoming an atheist?

    Er, ‘becomes’ an atheist? Are you forgetting that every human is born atheist and remains so unless taught otherwise? If a person is never indoctrinated into a religion then they never have to contemplate any ‘moral conclusions’ about atheism, any more than they do the language they speak or the culture to which they belong – which demonstrates that there is at least one atheist who has become so without the process you asserted must exist.

  212. #213 Aaron Baker
    December 27, 2009

    “We’re arguing because atheism is not a motivator to anything without those other premises.

    To put it another way, you certainly appear to be insisting that atheism is prescriptive, which is false.”

    Then, frankly, I’m mystified. I went out of my way to agree with Wowbagger that atheism in and of itself was non-prescriptive. I have gone on to say, however (and forgive me but I am getting a little tired of repeating it), that, having accepted it as a fact, it becomes relevant to some of the prescriptive propositions you assert. Take another example: the assertion that human beings need food and shelter to survive doesn’t say anything, in and of itself, about moral obligations. But it certainly has motivated (in company with other facts on the ground and other propositions, factually correct or otherwise) plenty of prescriptive assertions and plenty of moral argument.

  213. #214 Antiochus Epiphanes
    December 27, 2009

    This disagreement may be semantic. Pardon me if this is a mischaracterization*, but those who claim that atheism by itself doesn’t motivate anything mean that it doesn’t motivate anything in particular. It seems obvious that any major change in a person’s world view would motivate some change in behavior. But, the assertion that people would reassess morality following the adoption of atheism doesn’t imply that they would come to any of the same conclusions, does it Aaron?

    The more important point I think (and Wowbagger makes this) is that all people who are theists were at one time in their life converted. However, many atheists were always that way (me for instance). I didn’t become an atheist. I failed to become a theist. There was no reassessment, no change of heart.

    *I have not had time to read all of the thread carefully.

  214. #215 Aaron Baker
    December 27, 2009

    “Emphasis mine. Once you’ve linked atheism with something else then all you can blame it for is being the source for in-group/out-group differentiation with problems caused by other factors. And any perceived in-group/out-group differentiation – skin colour, for example – could have the same impact, rendering your argument irrelevant.”

    Once again, really slowly: look at the specific evidence that I’ve cited for communists. Under your expression, “in-group/out-group differentiation with problems caused by other factors,” there are included a set of normative judgments about both atheism and religion, many of which follow quite reasonably from the situation communists were confronted by: theism on the one hand, a promoter of political and cultural reaction, and an opiate of the oppressed, and atheism on the other, quite naturally construed as liberating you from any further need to treat this reactionary force with respect. The “problems caused by other factors” are actually in part caused by one’s being an atheist. There is no championing of atheism (the normal practice of communists everywhere) without atheism itself.

  215. #216 Owlmirror
    December 27, 2009

    Keeping things at a sufficiently high level of generality and vagueness, you might be convinced that you’d behave no differently after becoming an atheist; you’d almost certainly be wrong, however, when you came down to details. E.g., having decided God doesn’t exist, your reaction to a sick friend who believed that prayer to his non-existent deity might help his illness would, I think, be somewhat different from when you thought prayer was efficacious.

    This argument fails because not all theists do think prayer is efficacious. They sometimes even (unwittingly) argue against the bible itself and say that God helps those who help themselves.

    And the specific point was not about “behavior” but about “moral behavior”. Are you arguing that prayer is in and of itself a moral behavior?

    ——

    I went out of my way to agree with Wowbagger that atheism in and of itself was non-prescriptive. I have gone on to say, however (and forgive me but I am getting a little tired of repeating it), that, having accepted it as a fact, it becomes relevant to some of the prescriptive propositions you assert.

    Its relevance is not being questioned, but rather, how you (or Communists) get from the description to the prescription without committing a fallacious argument.

    Take another example: the assertion that human beings need food and shelter to survive doesn’t say anything, in and of itself, about moral obligations. But it certainly has motivated (in company with other facts on the ground and other propositions, factually correct or otherwise) plenty of prescriptive assertions and plenty of moral argument.

    I think you’re making a subtly false analogy here, at least with regard to atheism.

  216. #217 WowbaggerOM
    December 27, 2009

    Aaron Baker wrote:

    Then, frankly, I’m mystified. I went out of my way to agree with Wowbagger that atheism in and of itself was non-prescriptive.

    Which is to say that it only serves as a source of in-group/out-group differentiation – and is therefore no more a ‘motivator’ than any other kind of in-group/out-group differentiation ? and which has been my point all along. However, you continue to leap from this claim to one where atheism ? despite being, as you?ve admitted, non-prescriptive ? somehow magically becomes prescriptive.

    Unless you can demonstrate there is a special kind of differentiation caused specifically by atheism then it’s no more accurate to say atheism is responsible than it would be to say skin colour, or height, or taste in music is responsible, since moral values can just as easily be applied to those as they can to atheism – since it is simply the lack of belief in gods and cannot prescribe behavior of any kind.

    Wowbagger’s reply is just more of the same tedious waffle that I’ve addressed before.

    Ad hominems don’t help your argument, Aaron. Nor does the dishonest claim; you have not addressed how atheism – the lack of belief in gods (not the lack of belief in morality, the lack of belief in gods) – can be anything more than a source of in-group/out-group differentiation and therefore no different from any other perceived difference.

    Take another example: the assertion that human beings need food and shelter to survive doesn’t say anything, in and of itself, about moral obligations. But it certainly has motivated (in company with other facts on the ground and other propositions, factually correct or otherwise) plenty of prescriptive assertions and plenty of moral argument.

    Okay, I can accept that hunger and exposure is a motivator; if you don’t eat and shelter yourself you’ll die – you’re motivated by not wanting to die. You may have to kill someone else to survive, making it a moral issue.

    What’s atheism’s power to motivate? Are you saying that an atheist must continue to lack belief in gods or they’ll die, and that’s why they commit violent acts against theists?

  217. #218 Kel, OM
    December 27, 2009

    Ad hominems don’t help your argument, Aaron.

    How was that an ad hominem?

  218. #219 Sastra
    December 27, 2009

    Atheism is consistent with every atrocity and crime — except those atrocities and crimes which are justified by appealing to facts which are outside the knowledge of the world, and depend on obedience to God. These untestable supernatural facts are, by nature, subjective, and confined to a narrow in-group.

    Those crimes and atrocities which are directly justified by a religion, then, are not just “consistent” with religion — they are derived from its specifics.

    Thus, there is a difference here: atheism and theism don’t quite balance. Religion has more content, because it uses both the facts of this world, and the facts of another, “higher” world — which usually comes with mandates which don’t have to make any sense to outsiders.

  219. #220 Aaron Baker
    December 27, 2009

    “The more important point I think (and Wowbagger makes this) is that all people who are theists were at one time in their life converted. However, many atheists were always that way (me for instance). I didn’t become an atheist. I failed to become a theist. There was no reassessment, no change of heart.”

    Okay, Antiochus (or do you prefer to be addressed O Basileu?):

    You’ve always been an atheist; there’s been no change of heart. I haven’t taken account of every situation here; so let me take account of this one. I would say, again, that atheism in and of itself isn’t prescriptive. However, as I’ve insisted before, it can be a partial cause of prescriptive judgments, just like any other proposition. It’s being an atheist, always having believed that there’s no God, rather than becoming one, that would be appropriately viewed as this partial cause (a but-for but not sufficient cause) in your case. I would say your being an atheist is relevant (in conunction with other facts and propositions) to your moral judgments, and I would venture to suggest that a sudden conversion on your part to theism would likely result in some different moral judgments from the ones you make now.

    “But, the assertion that people would reassess morality following the adoption of atheism doesn’t imply that they would come to any of the same conclusions, does it Aaron?”

    I’m a little puzzled by this question (is a negative missing?). I think it very unlikely (or at least very uncommon) that becoming an atheist after first being a theist would have NO effect at all on one’s moral judgments. But I’m not suggesting that one’s moral judgments would be completely altered, either–so, much of one’s moral outlike might well remain the same.

  220. #221 WowbaggerOM
    December 27, 2009

    Kel asked

    How was that an ad hominem?

    He dismissed my argument by claiming it was ‘tedious waffle’ – not by refuting any of the points. Isn’t that an ad hominem?

  221. #222 Aaron Baker
    December 27, 2009

    Sastra wrote:

    “Religion has more content, because it uses both the facts of this world, and the facts of another, “higher” world — which usually comes with mandates which don’t have to make any sense to outsiders.”

    I agree. Religion has more content, and much (maybe most) of that content is bollicks. Atheism and religion thus don’t quite balance. And this is probably the main reason that religion has much more often played a role in violence than has atheism.

  222. #223 Antiochus Epiphanes
    December 27, 2009

    “But, the assertion that people would reassess morality following the adoption of atheism doesn’t imply that they would come to any of the same conclusions, does it Aaron?”

    Are you asserting that atheists should share moral behavior because of shared disbelief?

  223. #224 John Morales
    December 27, 2009

    A Baker:

    I agree. Religion has more content [than atheism], and much (maybe most) of that content is bollicks.

    Of this additional content, what is it that you consider is not bollocks?

  224. #225 WowbaggerOM
    December 27, 2009

    And this is probably the main reason that religion has much more often played a role in violence than has atheism.

    Except that many forms of theism – including Islam, Judaism and Christianity – include adherence to the contents of a text which includes a mandate to perform acts of violence against those not adhering to that form of theism.

    Atheism, being the lack of belief in gods, has no equivalent prescription and therefore cannot promote any such action.

  225. #226 Sastra
    December 27, 2009

    Aarom Baker #220 wrote:

    I would say your being an atheist is relevant (in conunction with other facts and propositions) to your moral judgments, and I would venture to suggest that a sudden conversion on your part to theism would likely result in some different moral judgments from the ones you make now.

    I think you’re forgetting humanism — not just secular humanism, but religious humanism as well. A humanist stance would be that, if God exists, then what God wants, makes rational sense. There are no additional spiritual facts which change anything. God’s will and nature, can be derived from a study of this world, and the people in it, and an approach of good will.

    If a secular humanist changes their moral judgments after coming to believe in God, it would only be because they’re in possession now of new knowledge which changes their interpretation — knowledge which is only available to those who understand a Big Picture grounded in faith and obedience.

    Knowing that prayer works, might be one of these special pieces of knowledge. Knowing that the infidel must be purged from the earth to purify the world for the final return of the Messiah, might be another. It’s a bit of a crap shoot, here. It can go anywhere, because God doesn’t have to be a humanist.

    A theist who became atheist would only lose those moral judgments which make no sense to a rational person, and don’t have good outcome in this world. Since most theists use a morality which makes sense most of the time, we’re probably not talking anything drastic.

  226. #227 Kel, OM
    December 27, 2009

    He dismissed my argument by claiming it was ‘tedious waffle’ – not by refuting any of the points. Isn’t that an ad hominem?

    That’s not “to the man”, he wasn’t having a go at you.

  227. #228 WowbaggerOM
    December 27, 2009

    If a former theist has a change in moral outlook as a result of abandoning religion, any subsequent action contrary to the previously held moral position would still be dependent on the person believing that their former morality was somehow linked to belief in gods – and therefore becomes about what the person thinks atheism means – i.e. applying a value to it.

    Externally applied value ≠ intrinsic power to motivate.

  228. #229 WowbaggerOM
    December 27, 2009

    That’s not “to the man”, he wasn’t having a go at you.

    True, but he certainly wasn’t addressing the argument – and by describing what I wrote as ‘tedious waffle’ seemed to be doing exactly what ad hominem covers, i.e. a fallacy that because of something other than the argument (in this case the style), the argument itself can be dismissed out of hand.

    Ad scriptum, perhaps? Apologies for those whose Latin sensibilities I may have offended!

  229. #230 Owlmirror
    December 27, 2009

    @#220:

    However, as I’ve insisted before, it can be a partial cause of prescriptive judgments, just like any other proposition.

    Any other proposition? Like 1+1=2?

    You might want to reconsider that.

    @#226:

    A theist who became atheist would only lose those moral judgments which make no sense to a rational person, and don’t have good outcome in this world. Since most theists use a morality which makes sense most of the time, we’re probably not talking anything drastic.

    I’m not sure that we’re talking about anything at all. If actual moral judgments are under discussion — those that result from a consideration of actions (or lack thereof) that have a real affect other humans — then what’s being lost isn’t moral judgments, but rather, superstitions and magical thinking. Or to be more polite, ritualistic actions which are believed to be beneficial in the religion under discussion.

    After all, if a theist concedes that atheists are not necessarily immoral, it follows that those things that theists do purely out of belief, like prayer and other sacramental acts, are not necessarily moral, in and of themselves.

    (I’m echoing back what I’ve understood from your own previous arguments here, so I’m not actually disagreeing with you, I think.)

  230. #231 Kel, OM
    December 27, 2009

    To be honest, this argument has been a lot of talking past each other and the same points are coming up again and again. Think back to how many times we needed to tell facilis that his position was circular (to which he responded that how can we say its circular if we can’t account for logic?) – I’d call facilis’ argument manifestly false tedious mental masturbation that we’ve been through countless times – is that an attack on facilis himself? More like getting sick of going through the same thing over and over.

  231. #232 Aaron Baker
    December 27, 2009

    Wowbagger wrote:

    “you have not addressed how atheism – the lack of belief in gods (not the lack of belief in morality, the lack of belief in gods) – can be anything more than a source of in-group/out-group differentiation and therefore no different from any other perceived difference.”

    Yes I have. I’ve given what so far as I know is a historically accurate account of just how Lenin and the many people inspired by him saw in atheism something much more than simply a source of in-group/out-group differentiation. For one thing, they elected to evangelize on behalf of atheism, i.e. tried to convince others to be atheists, rather than regarding atheism as a permanent mark of distinction between themselves and everyone else (as, say, a racist regards skin color). This is one reason why you can’t just subsitute some other demarcating quality, like hair- or skin-color, and say the exact nature of that quality is irrelevant here.

    In showing all this, however, I have not felt in the least bit bound by your requirement that I prove how atheism IN AND OF ITSELF can be regarded as a cause of such behavior. You haven’t provided a convincing reason why I should do so.

    Wowbagger & Owlmirror: With my “people need food and shelter” argument, I had in mind an activist, agitating for guaranteed food and housing for all, regardless of their circumstances. If such a person says: “I’m engaged in this kind of activism because people need food and shelter to survive,” absolutely no one thinks this is a complete account of the causes of this person’s activism. But no one thinks the person who says this has committed a logical fallacy either; the fact that people need food and shelter has in fact (though only in part) motivated the activist here. Now please remember: there is NOTHING prescriptive about the statement “people need food and shelter to survive” in and of itself. It’s just an a proposition (accurate) about some biological limitations of human beings. And yet it provides some of the basis for the prescriptive statement that we should feed and house everyone; indeed, without that factual assertion about nature, we will never arrive at the prescriptive proposition. And you can’t substitute just any other factual proposition for this one.

  232. #233 Owlmirror
    December 27, 2009

    True, but he certainly wasn’t addressing the argument – and by describing what I wrote as ‘tedious waffle’ seemed to be doing exactly what ad hominem covers, i.e. a fallacy that because of something other than the argument (in this case the style), the argument itself can be dismissed out of hand.

    He was being insulting, but that’s not committing an ad hominem fallacy.

    I think I’ve posted this before:

    How to disagree

    I suppose he was committing a DH2; Responding to (perceived) tone.

    I don’t think you were tedious or waffling, and I think Aaron actually has been — but I’ve been trying to respond to the source of why we disagree, rather than getting sidetracked by how his repeated confusion makes me feel.

  233. #234 WowbaggerOM
    December 27, 2009

    Yes I have. I’ve given what so far as I know is a historically accurate account of just how Lenin and the many people inspired by him saw in atheism something much more than simply a source of in-group/out-group differentiation.

    Emphasis mine – to show that, once again, bullet meets foot. I noted upthread that externally applied value ≠ intrinsic motivation and, as a result, any other quality could be substituted for atheism with no difference in the outcome.

    In showing all this, however, I have not felt in the least bit bound by your requirement that I prove how atheism IN AND OF ITSELF can be regarded as a cause of such behavior. You haven’t provided a convincing reason why I should do so.

    You haven’t been able to prove it because you can’t. The reason why you should do so is obvious to everyone here but you – because without it you have no argument.

  234. #235 Malcolm
    December 27, 2009

    Aaron Baker,

    But nobody comes to a particular postulate like atheism without preexisting baggage, or without a particular set of facts on the ground. Atheism may have no dogma, but having decided it’s correct, and then seeing, say, a church that consistently supports the most reactionary social policies, and then asserts in favor of those policies the authority of a non-existent God, you’re likely to draw certain moral conclusions. Moreover, your conclusions are unlikely to be identical to what they’d be if you had continued to believe in said God.

    For your argument to be valid, atheism would have to lead to the same conclusions for every atheist. Since it doesn’t, your argument is bollocks.

  235. #236 Aaron Baker
    December 27, 2009

    I’m pretty much in agreement with Kel that a lot of what we’ve said we’ve already said (a bunch of times) and that there is plenty of talking past each other going on here. I’ve reached the point where I’m perfectly happy to stop.

    Also, I’ve reached the point where even some genuinely new questions, e.g. from Antiochus Epiphanes and John Morales, are starting to make my head hurt (it’s not your fault, gentlemen, but my head is still hurting). I’ll just say something brief in response to those questions:

    John Morales wrote: “Of this additional content, what is it that you consider is not bollocks?”

    I don’t know. Maybe nothing at this point. I started out as an atheist who became religious, and then moved back to disbelief. There’s a sort of hangover effect to religion under those circumstances–maybe like the twinges of a reformed drug addict–or I might express myself more categorically. I suppose I still think that religion has contributed some moral propositions to the world that one would reasonably continue to believe after jettisoning religion itself. Beyond that, probably not much.

    Antiochus wrote: “Are you asserting that atheists should share moral behavior because of shared disbelief?”

    I think some moral propositions seem more likely to be correct if you’ve become an unbeliever, and so I suppose that shared disbelief should lead to some moral agreement. However, there are a host of competing reasons for making moral decisions; so there’s no reason to think atheists would or should ever come to complete moral agreement.

    And with that folks, a happy rest of the holidays!

  236. #237 WowbaggerOM
    December 27, 2009

    And with that folks, a happy rest of the holidays!

    You too, Aaron. I may not agree with you but it’s been a genuinely interesting discussion.

  237. #238 Owlmirror
    December 27, 2009

    With my “people need food and shelter” argument, I had in mind an activist, agitating for guaranteed food and housing for all, regardless of their circumstances.

    Like I said, I think this is a false analogy to begin with.

    How do you argue from the nonexistence of something to a moral prescription?

    There is no phlogiston, therefore … what?

    There is no luminiferous æther, therefore … what?

    There is no vital fluid, therefore … what?

    What moral prescriptions can be drawn from statements like those? What’s the reasoning, and how is that reasoning not fallacious?

    —–

    However, there are a host of competing reasons for making moral decisions; so there’s no reason to think atheists would or should ever come to complete moral agreement.

    Heh. Hence the disagreement above.

    And there are a host of reasons for people to become atheist.

    (Some are born atheist, some achieve atheism, and some have atheism thrust upon them.)

  238. #239 Kel, OM
    December 27, 2009

    I always like to put it in terms of non-astrology. Exactly what Owlmirror is saying above, astrology is bullshit so then what? If astrology tells one how to live, then the absence of astrology says what exactly?

  239. #240 Aaron Baker
    December 27, 2009

    Wowbagger wrote:

    “Emphasis mine – to show that, once again, bullet meets foot. I noted upthread that externally applied value ? intrinsic motivation and, as a result, any other quality could be substituted for atheism with no difference in the outcome.”

    Garb, I’m like a dog returning to (someone else’s) vomit . . . but:

    Yes, you’ve convinced me: we could substitute hair color for atheism, and the whole history of Bolshevism would have been the same. Has it not occurred to you that a certain gob-smacking stupidity on the part of some of your assertions might reasonably be construed as shooting yourself in the foot?

    And Owlmirror:

    “I suppose he was committing a DH2; Responding to (perceived) tone.

    I don’t think you were tedious or waffling, and I think Aaron actually has been — but I’ve been trying to respond to the source of why we disagree, rather than getting sidetracked by how his repeated confusion makes me feel.”

    For someone so confused, I seem to have had little trouble fielding your comments. (And yes, a mathematical proposition can form part of a moral argument. The consistency which which 1+1+1=3 would be highly relevant to the moral judgment you formed of someone who asserted that 1+1+1=1, and who tried to convince others to believe the same thing.)

    And then comes the inevitable Pharynguloid discussion of tone (always an infuriating subject for me, for reasons I’ll explain shortly). It seems I’ve committed your DH2, the lowest form of addressing another person’s argument, because all it disagrees with is the other fellow’s tone–and not really even that, but what I’ve perceived to be his tone.

    Well, let’s review some of Wowbagger’s “perceived tone”:

    “That aside, by your ‘logic’ (using the term loosely), having teeth leads to murder.”

    “Oh, and I’ll repeat the obvious, since you seem to need reminding: atheism ? communism”

    “Do you not realise how ridiculous that is?”

    “That’s an awfully large, and quite foolish, assertion.”

    In other words, in Wowbagger we have someone who loves to insult and patronize–but who then whines and cries ad hominem when I characterize some of his blather a little harshly (and I do believe it’s blather, and I’ve given my reasons why). Because I’ve run into this completely one-way attitude towards insult more than once here, I have trouble not believing that’s the real ethic of discussion on this blog: assholishness for me, but not for thee. And to that, what sort of polite response am I obliged to make?

    By the way, you’re pretty patronizing yourself.

  240. #241 Aaron Baker
    December 27, 2009

    Didn’t catch Wowbagger’s more conciliatory comment. I feel somewhat guilty, now. You remain infuriatingly insulting, Wowbagger, but I do appreciate being forced to clarify my arguments. Thank you for that.

    Owlmirror wrote:

    “What moral prescriptions can be drawn from statements like those? What’s the reasoning, and how is that reasoning not fallacious?”

    I suggested above that Marx’s (and Lenin’s) moral prescriptions follow non-fallaciously from atheism in combination with other facts and assertions; to repeat all that would be more of my tediousness and waffling, n’est-ce pas?

  241. #242 WowbaggerOM
    December 27, 2009

    Aaron Baker wrote:

    Yes, you’ve convinced me: we could substitute hair color for atheism, and the whole history of Bolshevism would have been the same.

    If you can demonstrate (rather than simply assert) how atheism has a power to motivate that hair-colour doesn’t then you’d be correct to mock my analogy. But you have so far failed to do so.

    Has it not occurred to you that a certain gob-smacking stupidity on the part of some of your assertions might reasonably be construed as shooting yourself in the foot?

    Maybe you should try being specific, and explaining how I did so – because at this point I can honestly answer ‘no’ to this question.

    In other words, in Wowbagger we have someone who loves to insult and patronize–but who then whines and cries ad hominem when I characterize some of his blather a little harshly (and I do believe it’s blather, and I’ve given my reasons why)

    Except that in every example of snark you’ve listed – and I make no apologies for that; it’s how I deal with obtuse non-arguments – I’ve presented points that refute your assertions. You can make no such claim. Your insult was pure handwaving to avoid dealing with the fact you have repeatedly failed to back up your assertions.

  242. #243 Aaron Baker
    December 27, 2009

    “Except that in every example of snark you’ve listed – and I make no apologies for that; it’s how I deal with obtuse non-arguments – I’ve presented points that refute your assertions. You can make no such claim. Your insult was pure handwaving to avoid dealing with the fact you have repeatedly failed to back up your assertions.”

    That settles it then.

    Enjoy the holidays, Wowbagger.

  243. #244 Nerd of Redhead, OM
    December 27, 2009

    I suggested above that Marx’s (and Lenin’s) moral prescriptions follow non-fallaciously from atheism in combination with other facts and assertions;

    Suggestions don’t cut the mustard. You haven’t proven your argument with conclusive positive evidence, but you are using the typical creationist technique of super skepticism to all the people answering you. That doesn’t prove your argument. You are wrong until you prove yourself right. We are still waiting…

  244. #245 Owlmirror
    December 27, 2009

    For someone so confused, I seem to have had little trouble fielding your comments.

    You haven’t been refuting anything I’ve said — just demonstrating your own continued confusion, and repeating fallacious arguments.

    And yes, a mathematical proposition can form part of a moral argument. The consistency which which 1+1+1=3 would be highly relevant to the moral judgment you formed of someone who asserted that 1+1+1=1, and who tried to convince others to believe the same thing.

    Since no-one has been arguing against relevance, you commit the fallacy of a strawman argument here.

    And you fail to demonstrate the moral prescription, too.

    By the way, you’re pretty patronizing yourself.

    Tu quoque.

    I suggested above that Marx’s (and Lenin’s) moral prescriptions follow non-fallaciously from atheism in combination with other facts and assertions; to repeat all that would be more of my tediousness and waffling, n’est-ce pas?

    I agree that you repeating your fallacious arguments, as they currently stand, would be tedious.

    Try thinking through your arguments more, and maybe breaking them down to more explicit steps.

  245. #246 WowbaggerOM
    December 27, 2009

    That settles it then. Enjoy the holidays, Wowbagger.

    Aaron, you seem to be taking a lot more offence than what I’m offering. I don’t dislike you. You talk of how insulting I’ve been but – as I’m sure a cursory glance through some other posts would illustrate – I’ve been far more courteous to you than I usually am in similar situations.

    I just consider the entire basis of your argument to be fundamentally wrong, and in order for that to change you need to do a lot more than cite examples of the anti-theistic practices of early-mid 20th century Communism and related doctrines.

    As you’ve noted, Communism (at that time at least) was a political ideology that included atheism and opposed theism. But its opposition of theism was about political power, not theology. The church was attacked because it was competition – not because its adherents believed in a god.

    However, as I have also pointed out, even if the atheists had killed theists for no other reason than they because they believed in god, the decision to act is unrelated to atheism itself beyond its ability to provide in-group/out-group differentiation.

    Yes, atheists caused harm to theists. But the bigger question is why – and to answer it with ‘because they were atheists’ is profoundly unsatisfying, and – as far as I’m concerned – illogical, based on the fact that atheism is the lack of belief in gods. Atheism does not claim that atheism is better than theism; nor does it include the mandate to take any action against those who are not atheists.

    Hence my continued use of analogies such as skin colour or hair colour. If a person killed another because they had different coloured skin, it would not – could not – be argued that it was the skin colour that motivated the action. And if skin colour – which lacks prescriptive power – cannot motivate action it logically follows that atheism – which also lacks prescriptive power – cannot either.

    If you want to claim that some atheists mistakenly assume that their atheism gives them a justification to kill theists then I can’t argue with that – but that once again comes down to the perception of what atheism is – not what it actually is. The second that it becomes anything more than a description of the state of lacking belief in gods then it ceases being about atheism and begins being about value judgements.

  246. #247 Aaron Baker
    December 27, 2009

    Owlmirror wrote:

    “Since no-one has been arguing against relevance, you commit the fallacy of a strawman argument here.” Fair enough. Instead of using the phrase “very relevant to,” I should have said “partial cause of.” Your moral objections to, say, someone asserting that a series of numbers can equal anything he wants it to and who wanted to misinform others with this odd notion of his, would arise, in part, from your recognition that 1+1+1 doesn’t equal anything and everything you happen to like. Two mathematical assertions are relevant here: 1+1+1 = 3 and 1+1+1 = only a quantity adding up to 3. If you don’t accept both propositions, you have no basis, I think, to get into a moral wrangle with someone who lets 1+1+1 come out any way it suits him and then tells others they can do the same. No strawman, and it meets your objection.

    As for my comment about being patronizing, it was attached to my observation of a pretty blatant mischaracterization by you of how I reacted to someone else’s comments. You’ll be on stronger ground being so patronizing if you’re actually getting things right.

    And while we’re logic-chopping, in your response to my comment:

    “And it’s nothing short of absurd to view a course of behavior that would never have happened without the presence of atheism, and then argue that atheism is irrelevant to it,”

    you wrote:

    “Correlation does not imply causation.”

    An odd to thing to say, when I stated that the presence of atheism was a necessary cause, not a correlate, of the course of behavior followed. Incidentally, Wowbagger had agreed to this much: no anti-theism in the absence of atheism. Your argument here strikes me as (what are the words?) confused and fallacious.

    But again, I’m grateful for being forced to clarify my position.

  247. #248 Aaron Baker
    December 27, 2009

    Wowbagger,

    I’m thin-skinned (worse than thin-skinned, really–but I won’t bore anyone here the details), despite all my efforts not to be (maybe my continuing to post here is among those efforts). The offense is my fault. You haven’t convinced me I’m wrong, mind you, but the offense has much more to do with me than anything specific you say. So please don’t be bothered by the offense.

  248. #249 WowbaggerOM
    December 27, 2009

    Incidentally, Wowbagger had agreed to this much: no anti-theism in the absence of atheism.

    Actually, I wouldn’t go as far to say that antitheism without atheism can’t happen, just that I’m unaware of any concrete examples. With the human potential for irrationality and the ability to overcome astonishing cognitive dissonance I wouldn’t be surprised that a person could believe in gods and yet be against other people believing in them. But, like I said, I don’t have any examples.

    But antitheism in the sense of being against belief in a particular god (or interpretation of god) while still believing in one or more gods is hardly new for those who aren’t by any stretch of the imagination atheists; we just call it a holy war (in the first case) or sectarianism (in the second).

  249. #250 Owlmirror
    December 28, 2009

    Instead of using the phrase “very relevant to,” I should have said “partial cause of.”

    Still not quite right.

    Your moral objections to, say, someone asserting that a series of numbers can equal anything he wants it to and who wanted to misinform others with this odd notion of his, would arise, in part, from your recognition that 1+1+1 doesn’t equal anything and everything you happen to like.

    Excuse me, but I am waiting for you to demonstrate how this then leads to a prescriptive judgment.

    If you don’t accept both propositions, you have no basis, I think, to get into a moral wrangle with someone who lets 1+1+1 come out any way it suits him and then tells others they can do the same.

    Why are you getting into a moral wrangle rather than a mathematical one?

    No strawman, and it meets your objection.

    You haven’t showed how math causes persecution of amathists.

    You’ll be on stronger ground being so patronizing if you’re actually getting things right.

    So far, you’ve not gotten very far in showing me wrong.

    “Correlation does not imply causation.”

    An odd to thing to say, when I stated that the presence of atheism was a necessary cause, not a correlate, of the course of behavior followed.

    Your statement was begging the question.

  250. #251 Owlmirror
    December 28, 2009

    I wouldn’t be surprised that a person could believe in gods and yet be against other people believing in them.

    A dystheist/misotheist who also believed that God (or gods) feed on belief might oppose people believing in God (or gods) (on the basis that an evil God (or gods) should not be strengthened).

  251. #252 WowbaggerOM
    December 28, 2009

    A dystheist/misotheist who also believed that God (or gods) feed on belief might oppose people believing in God (or gods) (on the basis that an evil God (or gods) should not be strengthened).

    Well, if I could be convinced that the Christian god existed I’d therefore be believing in an evil god. Whether or not I’d then be bothering to try and oppose him by attempting to diminish his power through minimising his worshipper base is something else entirely.

    But if I could be convinced that that would work, then hell yeah. If Yahweh existed the fucker would deserve a bullet.

  252. #253 Aaron Baker
    December 28, 2009

    If you say that someone should not pass on misinformation to others, you’re making a moral assertion. A premise included in any moral argument against passing on specific misinformation to people will be that certain propositions (themselves by no means necessarily moral) are correct. If the misinformation relates to mathematics, the correct propositions in question will be mathematical. If you’re not convinced that the propositions are correct, you won’t be making an accusation of misinforming others in this case.

    “Your statement was begging the question.”

    Nope. I documented at length a course of behavior that included inculcating atheism and imposing both legal and extralegal disabilities on people for practicing something other than atheism, and then concluded that this course of behavior wouldn’t have occurred in the absence of atheism. Given that evidence, what other conclusion should I have drawn?

  253. #254 Rorschach
    December 28, 2009

    Is this still going on ? Does Aaron still not get the concept that not being a fan of Manchester United does not equal hating Manchested United ?

    I’m thin-skinned (worse than thin-skinned, really–but I won’t bore anyone here the details)

    As thin as your arguments have been, and they are what counts.

  254. #255 Aaron Baker
    December 28, 2009

    If arguments are what counts, Rorschach, why don’t you crawl back under your bridge?

  255. #256 Kel, OM
    December 28, 2009

    Does Aaron still not get the concept that not being a fan of Manchester United does not equal hating Manchested United ?

    In my case it does ;)

  256. #257 Rorschach
    December 28, 2009

    Hi Aaron Baker,

    we are 3 for 94, that’s a lead of 290.And the weather is really nice, not too hot, but also not too cold, kindof just right.The PM asked Warnie to come out of retirement yesterday, I dont reckon he’s going to do it though, what are your thoughts?

  257. #258 Owlmirror
    December 28, 2009

    If you say that someone should not pass on misinformation to others, you’re making a moral assertion.

    Granted.

    What then is additionally necessary that gets you to actually persecuting amathists?

    I documented at length a course of behavior that included inculcating atheism and imposing both legal and extralegal disabilities on people for practicing something other than atheism, and then concluded that this course of behavior wouldn’t have occurred in the absence of atheism. Given that evidence, what other conclusion should I have drawn?

    That the atheists asserting that religious people should to be so persecuted were making an additional unwarranted, unnecessary, and fallacious prescriptive argument.

  258. #259 John Morales
    December 28, 2009

    [meta]

    I’m attempting to resolutely resist joining the dogpile, because Aaron isn’t trolling. It ain’t easy.

  259. #260 Aaron Baker
    December 28, 2009

    “That the atheists asserting that religious people should be so persecuted were making an additional unwarranted, unnecessary, and fallacious prescriptive argument.”

    Fine, but would the course of behavior in question have happened in the absence of atheism? Remember, that’s all that’s at issue in this instance.

  260. #261 WowbaggerOM
    December 28, 2009

    Remember, that’s all that’s at issue in this instance.

    It’s really not, Aaron. That’s the problem.

  261. #262 Owlmirror
    December 28, 2009

    Fine, but would the course of behavior in question have happened in the absence of atheism?

    Have you read anything about anti-clericism under the French Revolution and Reign of Terror?

    Remember, that’s all that’s at issue in this instance.

    No. The issue is that getting from atheism to any behavioral prescription involves a fallacious argument.

  262. #263 lukeprog
    January 1, 2010

    PZ,

    Those answers are amazing. You need to do more of these contests.

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    January 2, 2010

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  264. #265 alberty788
    February 11, 2010

    His most brutal eviscerations usually start with the words “Let’s take a look at this, shall we?” You can almost hear him cracking his knuckles when he does that.The truth value of science does not depend on what the consequences are. And oddly enough, the Gravitationists aren’t running around pushing people out of windows. This information proved to be very useful. Can you please provide more aspects of this subject? Thanks. properties

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