Pharyngula

California wrapup

On top of previous summaries, Zeno now recounts the tale of my visit to Sierra College. One amusing feature of the Q&A at Sierra was that a notorious creationist showed up, and I caused him considerable distress by turning his complaints against him by asking him to give his best evidence for god, and also by viciously inviting him to our post-talk libations. I am such a poopyhead.

I also got one horrified reaction to my Davis talk published by a faitheist. It’s hilarious. The author professes to be an atheist, but then defends Christianity. Sort of.

Christians may refer to themselves as a “flock,” but they aren’t sheep. It takes courage to say you believe in something that can’t be proven. When scientists formulate hypotheses, they are vulnerable to critique, and they must conduct research to remove all doubt. Religious believers must deal with the same vulnerability, but with the knowledge that they can never prove the existence of a God. Religion takes bravery.

Well, gosh. Then I guess the bravest people of them all are the ones who pick the most absurd, most ridiculous, most insane religious beliefs. If courage trumps reason as a virtue, the greatest thing you can do is flail madly for lunacy.

Comments

  1. #1 David Marjanovi?
    January 31, 2010

    Science? Prove? Remove all doubt?

    ?? One of these things is not like the others… ?

  2. #2 prostock69
    January 31, 2010

    Religion takes bravery? LMFAO!!! That is a good one. It takes no bravery to go along with the crowd and believe what the majority of people believe. The problem is the majority of those people don’t realize that there isn’t no evidence for their god. They are told on a weekly basis that god is real and Jesus is his son. They are CERTAIN their beliefs are true. So his argument fails on both accounts.

  3. #3 Zabinatrix
    January 31, 2010

    Yep – that’s the reason why people who believe in both the Flying Spaghetti Monster and the Invisible Pink Unicorn are the bravest of the brave.

    Of course, Christians might be a little braver still – I mean, it takes real balls to be a member of a group with a huge amount of members and political pull in most countries.

  4. #4 Zeno
    January 31, 2010

    It was a pleasure to have you visit us in California, PZ. Come again anytime! (We could always use more water and the rainstorms you brought with you were quite welcome, if a rather novel experience after years of drought.)

  5. #5 Nerd of Redhead, OM
    January 31, 2010

    I am such a poopyhead.

    Or pure evil. Nice switcheroo for the evil atheist…

  6. #6 raven
    January 31, 2010

    Religious believers must deal with the same vulnerability, but with the knowledge that they can never prove the existence of a God. Religion takes bravery.

    Hmmm, religion takes bravery.

    Well, using that criterium so does:

    1. Believing in UFOs

    2. Believing in Bigfoot and the Loch Ness monster

    3. Believing George Bush isn’t a moron

    4. Believing in ghosts

    5. Believing in fairies in the garden

    6. Leaving a saucer of milk for the brownies

    7. Bringing your lucky rabbits foot to a casino

    8. Believing you can cut taxes, increase spending, and balance the federal budget

    9. Believing in any sort of New Age woo

    10. Believing if you bail out Wall Streeters with a trillion dollars when they screw up means that they won’t do it again when they can

    And so on. This is just silly. That means most humans are “brave”. The bravest are uneducated and live in poverty in third world countries.

  7. #7 tacroy
    January 31, 2010

    Wow, what an amazing backhanded complement – honestly, that guy is being more insulting than we ever are.

    He’s basically giving Christians a pat on the head and saying, “Good for you, tilting at those scary windmills! Keep it up! Even though I know for a fact that the windmills aren’t really giants, and I’m pretty sure you know it too, you’re so brave for doing it anyway!”

  8. #8 Moggie
    January 31, 2010

    Whether something takes bravery is orthogonal to whether it is praiseworthy or above criticism. Armed robbery requires a lot of courage.

  9. #9 hje
    January 31, 2010

    Minstrel: [singing] Brave Sir Robin ran away…
    Sir Robin: *No!*
    Minstrel: [singing] bravely ran away away…
    Sir Robin: *I didn’t!*
    Minstrel: [singing] When danger reared its ugly head, he bravely turned his tail and fled.
    Sir Robin: *I never did!*
    Minstrel: [singing] Yes, brave Sir Robin turned about, and valiantly, he chickened out.
    Sir Robin: *Oh, you liars!*
    Minstrel: [singing] Bravely taking to his feet, he beat a very brave retreat. A brave retreat by brave Sir Robin.

  10. #10 Bad Albert
    January 31, 2010

    You Californians were so lucky. Here in Edmonton we had to sit through a debate with a wacky creationist before we got to the Q&A. By the way, does anyone know if the Edmonton debate video ever get posted to the Internet?

  11. #11 Odonata
    January 31, 2010

    Zeno – Thanks a lot for your descriptive summaries! I enjoyed reading them.

  12. #12 Pastor Farm
    January 31, 2010

    “If courage trumps reason as a virtue, the greatest thing you can do is flail madly for lunacy.”

    If I recall correctly, that’s the moral of Man of la Mancha. As much as I love that show, it’s really got a simple-minded way of presenting the book’s satire and meaning. It seems to equate the madness of idealism (as it was considered a madness in Don Quixote) as the antithesis of reason.

    It reminds me of Supertramp’s The Logical Song. Another piece I like despite its anti-reason inanity.

  13. #13 bfish
    January 31, 2010

    From the link:
    “I did not expect to end up spending the night with PZ Myers.”

    Indeed, who ever does?

    Great first sentence for your novel, though, Robert.

  14. #14 Knockgoats
    January 31, 2010

    ChristiansIslamist jihadis may refer to themselves as a “flock,”“slaves” but they aren’t sheep. It takes courage to say you believe in something that can’t be provenfly a jumbo jet into a skyscraper full of people.

  15. #15 puseaus
    January 31, 2010

    In short: Courage without reason is dangerous and should be avoided.

  16. #16 Legion
    January 31, 2010

    WAR IS PEACE
    FREEDOM IS SLAVERY
    IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH.”

    – George Orwell from 1984

    To this we can add: RELIGIOUS STUPIDITY IS BRAVERY

  17. #17 raven
    January 31, 2010

    excerpt from zeno’s blog:

    I’m hoping it’s complete collapse. Creationism has not been able to gain any scientific credibility. Groups like the Discovery Institute?which pretends to be scientific?are getting more and more fundamentalist. They don’t make much headway with abstract arguments. Look at Dover, which was supposedly about intelligent design and Of Pandas and People. It was pushed by the old-fashioned creationists on the school board, who probably felt betrayed when the Discovery Institute ducked out. The Discovery Institute doesn’t bring in much money anymore, at least not from their creationist activities. Answers in Genesis is the big money maker.

    1. The DI has been getting more fundamentalist and extreme. I’ve dealt with several. They were all wild eyed Xian Dominionists who openly hated the US secular democracy, science, and modern western civilization. They have a lot in common with the Chalcedon foundation and Rushdooney, obvious influences. The Chalcedon foundation does things like discuss seriously how. when, and where to stone disobedient children to death like it says to do in Deuteronomy.

    They are becoming lunatic fringe extremists.

    2. The DI is still well funded. IIRC, their budget is something like $4 million/year, mostly from Xian Dominionist sources. The same people who fund Exodus International, the xian organization trying to organize the genocide of gays in Uganda.

    On PT, we estimated that creationists spend $50 million/year. It is all spent on propaganda attacking science and evolution. They could buy a lot of research with that amount of money. They don’t bother, probably because somewhere deep down, they know they won’t find god or anything else.

    If you set up god as a hypothesis to be falsified, you have to be prepared and accept that that the hypothesis (god) might really be falsified. Then what?

    The True Believers don’t dare spend their money on something like that.

  18. #18 raven
    January 31, 2010

    Zeno – Thanks a lot for your descriptive summaries! I enjoyed reading them.

    Ditto. Thanks again. Sounds like it was a fun time and I never heard of Godel’s ontological mathematical proof of god before. Must not have been very convincing.

    Didn’t do him any good. IIRC, Godel died of voluntary starvation.

  19. #19 articulett
    January 31, 2010

    Religion ennobles magical thinking, and makes people feel humble and knowledgeable while being arrogant and ignorant.

  20. #20 Kausik Datta
    January 31, 2010

    From Zeno’s account:

    Zazzle.com is advertising a ?Crocoduck tie like Richard Dawkins wears!? We’ll all be wearing them the next time PZ comes to California.

    SACRILEGE!! There Shalt Be Only Two Crocoduck Ties In Existence Forevermore!!

    Eh, what? Oh… Never mind. Move along. Nothing to see here.

  21. #21 Gregory Greenwood
    January 31, 2010

    So, religion takes bravery eh? Because you believe something that flies in the face of established scientific knowledge without any proof and without any effort to procure proof.

    Well then, I believe that a Jabberwock lives in my garden shed. Don’t try looking for it. It is invisible.

    Don’t try using a thermal camera or any other form of technological detection. It is wholly undetectable by any scientific means, only revealing itself to a chosen few. Like me.

    Don’t try setting a trap for it. It is too smart for that, and you would make it angry. You wouldn’t like it when its angry.

    Above all else, you should believe in the jabberwock too. If you don’t, it’ll come and get you, and then you’ll be sorry. In fact, education about Jabberwocks should be manditory, and since I brought this revelation to you, I should be in charge. Just give me lots of money and do what I say and everything will be fine. If you don’t go along, well, things might get ugly. Jabberwocks can be real touchy, you know.

    One more thing; never ask me to prove the existence of the Jabberwock. If you do so, you are persecuting me. Just like if I am not allowed to kill you for not doing what I say. That REALLY makes the Jabberwock mad. So mad that you would be putting us all in danger. That’s how natural disasters happen.

    So, to recap:- I believe in something without proof that I expect you to believe in too and accept as a source of my authority over you. If you do not go along with this, I will howl the house down about how you are persectung me while threatening dire retribution.

    Brave, aren’t I?

  22. #22 Legion
    January 31, 2010

    Religion embiggens the smallest mind. It’s a perfectly cromulent way to perceive reality.

  23. #23 FrankT
    January 31, 2010

    Was he really surprised that all the nasty atheists had considered and rejected the ontological argument? The sadness of that exercise is not that someone would throw out the ontological argument and have nothing but sputterings and Godwins to follow, the true sadness is the fact that that seriously is their A-game.

    “God is so great that the greatness precludes existence.”
    -Raimundo Pannikar

  24. #24 Reginald Selkirk
    January 31, 2010

    MADELINE McCURRY-SCHMIDT thinks Weird Al’s words to “Luke Skywalker” apply to Myer’s attack on religion: “I know Darth Vader’s really got you annoyed / but remember, if you kill him then you’ll be unemployed.”

    Cute trick, citing Weird Al, but it’s just not true. Prof. Myers gets paid to teach college level biology. That’s his day job. Traveling around giving anti-Creationist lectures is a side gig. If there were no Creationists, he would continue to teach biology, and could probably teach it even better with fewer of his students having been brainwashed in anti-science during their childhood.

  25. #25 Kausik Datta
    January 31, 2010

    Q. I’ve heard a lot of mudslinging tonight, but we won’t get anywhere if we constantly disrespect each other. Religion has been part of society for thousands of years and should be treated with more respect.

    A. Bad sanitation has been part of society for thousands of years, too.

    FTW!!

  26. #26 The Pint
    January 31, 2010

    “It takes courage to say you believe in something that can’t be proven.”

    Wait… what? Seems to me it would take more courage to say that you believe in something that is “vulnerable to critique” and ultimately depends upon careful research and experimentation because, you know, there’s always the possibility that you could be proven wrong. You’re taking a very real risk that the evidence may ultimately not support you, but you’re going to go ahead and research it anyway, despite the risks to your pride/reputation/desperate need to be right because ultimately what matters is finding out whether or not your hypothesis is true.

    Asserting your belief in something that (by current scientific standards) can’t be definitively proven wrong means you can luxuriate in the illusion of “if they can’t proven me wrong, I must be right!” It’s an illusion that requires very little bravery to perpetuate and really, it’s kind of sad, lazy and pathetic.

  27. #27 CTC
    January 31, 2010

    You could probably shorten that to FAITH IS BRAVERY, Legion.

  28. #28 Strangest brew
    January 31, 2010

    #17

    “If you set up god as a hypothesis to be falsified, you have to be prepared and accept that that the hypothesis (god) might really be falsified. Then what?”

    They have never, nor ever will, have or had any intentions to seriously questioning the premise of some fatuous deity.

    Which is why the teach the controversy mantra is such a misnomer.

    To weigh the evidence of a supernatural fairy has got to be a risky and ultimately a fatal undertaking to their delusion.
    Which …even though apparently xians are brave little bunnies…not one would ever dream of doing!

    Weighing the evidence is not what they have in mind when they spout ‘Weighing the evidence’

    Rather twisting, distorting and lying about most of what can be adequately construed as evidence is a far better bet.
    Because the only evidence available is unfortunately not in their favour!
    That way they protect their claim of a sky daddy while denigrating the opposition.

    No such thing as an honest theologian…they cannot afford the luxury!

  29. #29 Stardrake
    January 31, 2010

    Reginald Selkirk @24–She got the song citation wrong, too–that’s from “Yoda” (Y-O-D-A, Yoda, Yo-yo-yo-yo yo-daaa!)

    Hope she isn’t as far off on any other citations she makes….

  30. #30 Citizen Z
    January 31, 2010

    My favorite part of that Aggie post:

    Myers displayed a slide showing the tenants of science: reason, evidence, critical thinking and naturalism. But he forgot a major theme that keeps science rolling forward: collaboration. Discourse between scientists strengthens experiments and tests theories. Scientists come from many different spiritual backgrounds. To characterize them all as ignorant is offensive and halts the scientific process.

    Yeah, it “halts the scientific process”. Presumably because religious scientists are so thin-skinned they refuse to collaborate on scientific research with atheists. And that’s the atheists’ fault, apparently.

  31. #31 percyprune
    January 31, 2010

    Armed robbery requires a lot of courage.

    So does suicide bombing.

  32. #32 tsg
    January 31, 2010

    I much prefer the term “atheist buts” rather than “faitheists”. I mean, it’s what they call themselves: “I’m an atheist, but …”

  33. #33 Gregory Greenwood
    January 31, 2010

    ‘Persectung’? Err, what the heck does ‘persectung’ mean? Is it in German?

    That should be ‘persecuting’. I didn’t make a mistake, though. High Priests of the Jabberwock are infallible, don’t cha know.

  34. #34 Sven DiMilo
    January 31, 2010

    Damn, O’Bri*n???

    harkens one back to yesteryear…

  35. #35 IanM
    January 31, 2010

    Of course they aren’t sheep. That’s just foolish. They are just people who think they are sheep.

  36. #36 Pierce R. Butler
    January 31, 2010

    It takes great courage to stand up for the Emperor’s boldly stylish wardrobe!

    /courtier

  37. #37 jonwell
    January 31, 2010

    I dunno, I think I disagree with the fatheist. For me it would take a lot more courage to present an idea that could be taken down- I would have to have the conviction that I was right, that my thinking was sound etc. Standing by a faith claim, however, takes no more than simply saying ‘this is what I believe so there,’ which is hardly something that can be reasoned with.

  38. #38 Gregory Greenwood
    January 31, 2010

    Further to my comment @ 33;

    Myself and other wise, holy men (yup, the Jabberwock is a misogynist. Get over it) have determined that the ‘persectung’ incident was no mere malapropism, but the holy claw of the Jabberwock itself at work. I was typing in tongues (like speaking in tongues, only requiring more dexterity).

    ‘Persectung’ is now a holy word of the Jabberwock meaning ‘source of the divine light’. Doubting this, or worse still laughing at the term, is blasphemy. The Church of the Jabberwock is currently campaigning to have blasphemy laws reinstated the world over (good show Ireland, you are ahead of the curve). Death penalty preferred.

    All hail the Jabberwock Most High!

  39. #39 aratina cage of the OM
    January 31, 2010

    MADELINE McCURRY-SCHMIDT thinks Weird Al’s words to “Luke Skywalker” apply to Myer’s attack on religion: “I know Darth Vader’s really got you annoyed / but remember, if you kill him then you’ll be unemployed.”

    Understanding the context of humor FAIL. Weird Al’s words proved true for Mark Hamill (with respect to the Star Wars franchise) who was not brought back for the prequels unlike Ian McDiarmid. Besides that, this could be seen as an argument for evil from McCurry-Schmidt, and it could mean that she ultimately thinks of PZ as a force for good like Luke Skywalker.

  40. #40 Carlie
    January 31, 2010

    The sadness of that exercise is not that someone would throw out the ontological argument and have nothing but sputterings and Godwins to follow, the true sadness is the fact that that seriously is their A-game.

    I have to admit that I’ve never understood the ontological argument. It’s not that I can point to why it’s bad, exactly; I can’t understand it to start with. I can see that a lot of philosophers have spent an awful lot of time on it, but I look at it and just go “Wow, that makes no sense, and is totally circular, and says nothing”. At least with some of the other arguments for God I can grasp how they’re trying to prove it, but the ontological seems like all it is is “Because I said so.” Am I missing something?

  41. #41 Knockgoats
    January 31, 2010

    Myers displayed a slide showing the tenants of science

    Y’know, I never realised until now that science rents out rooms!

  42. #42 Gregory Greenwood
    January 31, 2010

    Knockgoats @ 41;

    Y’know, I never realised until now that science rents out rooms!

    Only in the bad parts of town. If you know what’s good for you, don’t be late with the rent. ;-P

  43. #43 Lynna, OM
    January 31, 2010

    The Faitheist at Davis doesn’t recognize his own knee-jerk reaction to anyone dissing religion.

    And as others have commented, the “bravery” claim really strikes a sour note. It’s not bravery, but self-delusion (I might add willed delusion, or nurtured delusion) to believe in something for which there is no evidence.

    Religion takes bravery obedience, obedience to the point of brain damage.

    I want to be a tenant of science. Can I just rent a room in physics or biology?

  44. #44 Vitis01
    January 31, 2010

    This is why I think the ontological arguement sucks and this is what I posted to Huperborea’s blog.

    - Ontological logic puzzles are fun but are only as strong as their assertions. This one is classic and most philosophers I know can just tell you off-hand that it falls down on it’s initial assertion.

    The concept of ‘understanding’ and the modal realm of possibility is misused. Anselm’s argument suggests that understanding something means imagining it, but that is not the same as something that exists in the realm of modal possibility. Sobal’s Objection at section 8 touches on this.

    1-6 are then reduced to concluding that accidental conceptual existence (existence in our minds) or non-existence is not logical. But necessary conceptual existence is logical. Now one more step is needed. If our concept of God requires that he exists, then logically he either exists or our concept of God is false.

    Existence outside of our minds requires physical evidence. Since none can be provided the logical conclusion is that our concept of God is false.

  45. #45 Strangest brew
    January 31, 2010

    “Religion takes bravery”

    I think the term is ignorance…not bravery!

    So basically the ‘Atheist but’ wants to pat rabid xians on the head for believing a nonsense that changes character and demeanour cult to cult.
    Half of the xian cults hate and do not respect the other half but we as passers by must respect both rancid looney tune arguments they regurgitate as truth, neatly setting up a situation of their choosing where one of the cults is false and the other is truth by their own claims which is nothing to do with atheists.
    But we are not given the clue of which is actually which.

    So we are doubly damned of having to respect bullshit and having to respect that regarded as bullshit by the bullshit.
    But have no idea which bullshit is actually bullshit.

    Apart from the fact that atheism by default tends to have a fairly strong sense in cohesion by tagging both bodies as bullshit, it is neither here nor there!

    To respect the fact that they are fucking moronic in extremis and that is a feature to be celebrated and not called out is not actually respect nor is it brave, it is completely bloody barking and I will have no part of that inane insanity.!
    ‘Atheist but’ better think it out again…or get labelled as mentally challenged, which does not do the atheist cause much in the way of helpful methinks.

  46. #46 Rincewind'smuse
    January 31, 2010

    Christians may refer to themselves as a “flock,” but they aren’t sheep.

    Let’s see…..blind obedience, skittish when threatened by a different environment, only comfortable in large groups of the like minded…..No, I think sheep pretty much covers it…..

  47. #47 Circe of the Godless
    January 31, 2010

    I must be unfathomably brave, as I am SURE there are pink unicorns down the bottom of my garden. I just KNOW it in my heart.

  48. #48 Hypatia's Daughter
    January 31, 2010

    #17 Raven We need more of the backgound skulduggery brought out in the open on these groups. I was watching Eugenie Scott’s talk at the 2009 AAI “Creationism: Still Crazy After All These Years”” and she did a good recap of the CreoID legal tactics, past & future. But she never addressed who was behind the scenes doing the planning & funding. Many states are now drafting new “teach the controversy” laws, carefully worded to pass Supreme Court challenges (they hope). I cannot believe that each state drummed up local lawyers who figured the same new legal twist. I suspect some fattly funded CreoID think tank came up with the principle and passed it along to the local CreoID groups.
    Laughing at the local yokel waving his Bible at a school board meeting might be fun; but we should be paying more attention at the big guns behind the movement – & getting the word out to the general public who are being mislead that this movement is just an expression of the “vox populi”.

  49. #49 Deiloh
    January 31, 2010

    Honestly, I’m pretty sure I was just plain lazy when I was a believer. Bravery is going where the evidence leads no matter the social and cultural pressures. There are brave Christians but not because they continue to believe in religion.

  50. #50 'Tis Himself, OM
    January 31, 2010

    Carlie #40

    At least with some of the other arguments for God I can grasp how they’re trying to prove it, but the ontological seems like all it is is “Because I said so.” Am I missing something?

    I have the same reaction to the ontological argument. It starts with an assertion and offers no further evidence other than restatements of the unproven statement. “I think god exists, I can think, therefore god exists” is the most basic form.

  51. #51 FrankT
    January 31, 2010

    I have to admit that I’ve never understood the ontological argument. It’s not that I can point to why it’s bad, exactly; I can’t understand it to start with. I can see that a lot of philosophers have spent an awful lot of time on it, but I look at it and just go “Wow, that makes no sense, and is totally circular, and says nothing”. At least with some of the other arguments for God I can grasp how they’re trying to prove it, but the ontological seems like all it is is “Because I said so.” Am I missing something?

    Carlie, you’re basically right that it is an empty piece of reasoning. The philosophical underpinnings are the idea that infinite series actually do reach their end. That the universe is infinite and everything that can happen does happen and all that. None of which is precisely true. The universe is not infinite, it’s just really very large.

    There are five axioms to it, and I will bold the ones that are bullshit:

    1. A quality can be uniquely positive or negative.
    (fails even a cursory Buddhist or Aristotelian analysis, but moving on)
    2. If a quality is uniquely positive, then the qualities implied by having that quality are positive.
    (I think this one slides, because it’s basically definitional, not that it matters because I cannot name a single uniquely positive trait)
    3. If two qualities are positive, both qualities together are positive.
    (while I like “delicious” things and “intelligent” things, I would prefer that intelligent things not be delicious)
    4. All properties are uniquely positive or negative and not both.
    (this one is just actually laughable, so whatever)
    5. Existence is a quality that is positive.
    (existing would seem to have an overall degree of positiveness equal to the overall positiveness of the thing that either did or did not exist. Something baleful like a werewolf would be more negative if it existed than if it did not exist, while something awesome like the invisible pink unicorn would be more positive if it existed. And of course, something completely inconsequential like the celestial teapot would be just as meaningless if it existed as if it didn’t)

    So basically it’s really easy to refute, because all of the premises are wrong. Furthermore, there is a core problem with the logic, which is that just because an infinite series summation of positive traits would, given those premises, sum to the existence of an all powerful all whatever god-thing, doesn’t mean that such an infinite series ever actually starts.

    Achilles catches the tortoise, because Zeno’s paradox is answered by Leibnitz and Newton and the infinite series of half distances does complete and total up to a whole. But Achilles does not catch every tortoise, he just catches the ones he chases. He has to start a series before he can finish it. And there is no reason to believe that anything ever started amassing an infinite series of all possible positive traits, even if there was such a thing.

    Now, the Ontological Argument goes that basically by imagining the collection of all possible positive traits that you have in fact started that process – that your very own hubris is Achilles and that when you catch the tortoise it will be an omnipotent god. That is a level of solipsism and hubris that defies ready comprehension. But you can see why it might have appealed to St. Anselm, Leibnitz, and Kurt Gödel. Because they were all whack jobs who spent all their time thinking about infinity.

    And while Kurt Gödel ended his life of starvation because he was mortally afraid of being poisoned and would not eat unless his wife prechewed his food to assure him that it had not been poisoned, he was very good at thinking about infinity when he wasn’t waiting for his wife to get out of the hospital so that he could eat again.

  52. #52 alysonmiers
    January 31, 2010

    I would believe that religion takes bravery if religions didn’t often represent a majority of the population of a given area, if religious affiliation were not primarily passed down from parents, if religions did not insist on being exempt from criticism, if people did not write and vote on laws based on piety, and if believers did not think it was okay to harass and attack nonbelievers in certain areas. It doesn’t take bravery to do the same thing as everyone else around you.

  53. #53 Sastra
    January 31, 2010

    from the faitheist:

    It seems like scientists and Christians could see the struggle to follow one’s convictions as a common ground, not a schism.

    If people should be admired, and not attacked, because they are brave enough to ‘follow their convictions,’ then on what basis does McCurry-Schmidt attack Prof. Myers? Doesn’t he get credit for following his convictions, and bravely saying things that he knows people like McCurry-Schmidt aren’t going to like?

    Perhaps the standards are higher for Myers, because he doesn’t need to be condescended to for refusing to put his beliefs on the line, and hiding behind the armored-tank that is faith. Or, perhaps, the ‘mother’s skirt of faith.’

    Scientists and Christians are struggling for the same common ground — what is true? What is real? Recognizing this is respect for the opposition. Acting as if the Christians are just asking for the freedom to ‘be themselves’ is disrespectful. Take the views seriously enough to think they’re stupid views, and you’ve taken the people who hold them seriously enough to meet them head-on.

  54. #54 raven
    January 31, 2010

    wikipedia:
    In the 1970s Ahmanson became a Calvinist and joined R. J. Rushdoony’s Christian Reconstructionist movement.

    Rushdoony’s Chalcedon Foundation for over ten years. In an article published in the Orange County Register on June 30, 1996, Ahmanson said he had left the Chalcedon board and “does not embrace all of Rushdoony’s teachings.”[2] However, Max Blumenthal reported in 2004 that “until Rushdoony’s death in 2001, Ahmanson served on the board of his think tank, Chalcedon, granting it a total of $1 million.”[3]
    deleted for length

    [edit] Controversial beliefs
    Ahmanson was a lifelong friend of R. J. Rushdoony, and his ties to the Christian Reconstructionist movement continue to be a source of controversy. For example, in an article on the Episcopal Diocese of Washington website attacking the American Anglican Council, Jim Naughton emphasized Ahmanson’s ties with Rushdoony.[5] Ahmanson told the Orange County Register in 1985, “My goal is the total integration of biblical law into our lives.” After a $3,000 contribution to Linda Lingle, a Republican running for governor of Hawaii, was returned in 2002, the Ahmansons admitted they had an image problem and let the Orange County Register do a five-part series on them in 2004 to give the public a more accurate view of their work and beliefs.[6]

    Ahmanson seems to have moderated his views to adopt a broader but still extremely far-right Dominionist political theology. He is reported to have “never supported his mentor’s calls for the death penalty for homosexuals”;[1] rather, as the Orange County Register reported in 2004, “he stops just short of condemning the idea”, saying that he “no longer consider[s] [it] essential” to stone people who are deemed to have committed certain immoral acts. Ahmanson also told the Register, “It would still be a little hard to say that if one stumbled on a country that was doing that, that it is inherently immoral, to stone people for these things. But I don’t think it’s at all a necessity.”[7] Also in 2004, when asked by Max Blumenthal for Salon if “she and her husband would still want to install the supremacy of biblical law”, Roberta Ahmanson replied: “I’m not suggesting we have an amendment to the Constitution that says we now follow all 613 of the case laws of the Old Testament … But if by biblical law you mean the last seven of the Ten Commandments, you know, yeah.”[3]

    deleted
    In 2008 Ahmanson’s company Fieldstead and Co. contributed $995,000 to the YES on 8 campaign (my note, it was a lot more than that) according to the Los Angeles Times “Follow the donors” page. Prop 8 which was on the November 2008 ballot for California voters eliminated the rights of homosexual couples to marry. [10]
    and
    Ahmanson is also a major backer of the Discovery Institute, whose Center for Science and Culture opposes the theory of evolution and manages a public relations campaign promoting Intelligent Design.

    #17 Raven We need more of the backgound skulduggery brought out in the open on these groups.

    Agreed. I keep an eye out for them but don’t make a huge effort. These xian Dominionists are repulsive toads and dealing with them for long causes some serious nausea.

    It isn’t too hard to track them. They aren’t that smart or competent. They are all crackpots and kooks of very questionable sanity. And they are all religious fanatics and extremists who frequently go on god babble tirades. Just collecting their public quotes makes them look like xian versions of Moslem Jihadist extremists. Which they are.

    There is a good article on Ahmanson on wikipedia. He is reputed to have inherited a billion USD from his father. In other words, his claim to fame is that he won the lucky sperm competition and came out of the vagina of the wife of a billionaire.

  55. #55 raven
    January 31, 2010

    4. All properties are uniquely positive or negative and not both.
    (this one is just actually laughable, so whatever)

    Well this is confusing.

    Is the color red positive or negative?

    Is a trapezoid positive or negative?

    How about the number 9?

    How about my cat?

  56. #56 Gyeong Hwa Pak, the Pikachu of Anthropology
    January 31, 2010

    Just collecting their public quotes makes them look like xian versions of Moslem Jihadist extremists. Which they are.

    Agree, and now they’re setting up their first version of Christian Sharia law in Uganda. I’d like to think that these people were just a fringe group with no power but it seems like they’ve become even more vocal and powerful.

  57. #57 Stogoe
    January 31, 2010

    Leaving a saucer of milk for the brownies

    Now that one just makes sense. Brownies are always better with milk.

  58. #58 Mike Wagner
    January 31, 2010

    “The TV tells me who is good and who is bad, who is to be rewarded and who is to be punished. It speaks to me and only I can hear it.” This we call crazy, and we lock people up for it.

    “The bible tells me who is good and who is bad, who is to be rewarded and who is to be punished. Jesus speaks to me and only I can hear it.” This is called religion, and it gets you tax exemptions, additional holidays, and special protection from government that listening to the TV does not.

  59. #59 silaren
    January 31, 2010

    @Pastor Farm (#12): my interpretation of the lyric to “The Logical Song” works out not to “anti-reason” but rather to “mild griping at the fact that using reason and logic is hard“. (For whatever this is worth, which is probably not much. :-) )

  60. #60 Evolving Squid
    January 31, 2010

    the knowledge that they can never prove the existence of a God

    I’ve always felt that assertion is crap. It should be trivially easy to prove the existence of a timeless, omnipotent, omnibenevolent being simply by showing what would be indisputable evidence of his awesome powers bending the rules of the universe to support some purpose. The only way it wouldn’t be possible is if the being is not omnibenevolent… i.e. it deliberately shields itself from the queries and tests of its followers by removing evidence.

    Now, if Christians wish to assert that their God is not benevolent, perhaps they have room to say they can never prove the existence of God. But if their God is benevolent, then he must not be hiding the evidence of his existence from truth seekers. Thus such evidence should exist and be relatively trivial to track down.

  61. #61 PeteJohn
    January 31, 2010

    I’m going to go ahead and borrow from Christopher Hitchens’s formidable treasure chest of insults.

    People who blindly believe that a multi-thousand year old book contains all the wisdom a person could possibly need (particularly if they are trying to get others to buy that nonsense) shouldn’t be looked at as brave. They should be walking the streets selling pencils out of a paper cup.

  62. #62 MadScientist
    January 31, 2010

    Aaaahahahaha! Oh, that’s painfully funny.

    They’re a “flock” with a “pastor” who proclaim “the lord is my SHEPHERD” and talk about guiding the flock with their “rod and staff” (a favorite claim of the pedophile priests), but they’re not sheep? WTF?

    [OT] Lying for jesus is horrible, but what about kidnapping for jesus? Some religious folks are in Haiti nabbing the kids and trying to run them out of the country – and they don’t even have evidence that the kids were orphaned. In typical lying-for-jesus fashion they make the claim that they are smuggling the kids out of the country to combat child trafficking. And they say that with a straight face. DUH.

  63. #63 MadScientist
    January 31, 2010

    “It takes courage to say you believe in something that can’t be proven.”

    Ah, I’ve heard that lame excuse so many times I’ve lost count. No, it takes a special smugness and stupidity to believe in something that can’t be proven and to make a claim for which there are volumes of evidence against its veracity.

  64. #64 Carlie
    January 31, 2010

    Ok, so the ontological argument really is “I made it up, therefore it’s true”? That’s…astounding. Good to know, though.

  65. #65 timrowledge
    January 31, 2010

    They’re a “flock” with a “pastor” who proclaim “the lord is my SHEPHERD” and talk about guiding the flock with their “rod and staff”

    And you know what the purpose of a shepherd is, don’t you children? Yes, that’s right Jimmy, he looks after the sheep until they’re all fattened up and ready to be slaughtered and eaten.

    Does anyone think sheep would actually worship the shepherd?

  66. #66 raven
    January 31, 2010

    quote from PZ Myers blog:

    The three Americans who spoke at the conference — Scott Lively, a missionary who has written several books against homosexuality, including “7 Steps to Recruit-Proof Your Child”; Caleb Lee Brundidge, a self-described former gay man who leads “healing seminars”; and Don Schmierer, a board member of Exodus International, whose mission is “mobilizing the body of Christ to minister grace and truth to a world impacted by homosexuality” — are now trying to distance themselves from the bill.

    truthwinsout.org:

    That ex-gay activist is likely to be either Lively or Schmierer. According to his LinkedIn profile, Schmierer is a program officer for Fieldstead and Company, the fund-raising arm of religious-rightist financier Howard Ahmanson Jr.

    For his part, Ahmanson acknowledges he is a donor to Exodus International and, over the past decade, Ahmanson has funded efforts to cause schism in the U.S. Episcopal Church, drawing antigay Anglican congregations into a rebel alliance with the Anglican Church of Uganda.

    Looks like Ahmanson is up to his neck in the proposed Ugandan genocide.

    So he won the sperm lottery and has a billion bucks to play with. And all he can do is fund the Discovery Institute (trying to destroy US science) and genocide in Uganda with it? What a waste.

    FWIW, this poisonous perverted fundie form of xianity doesn’t remotely resemble the mainstream Protestant version I grew up with. They really are two separate religions that happen to have the word xian somewhere in the name.

  67. #67 Sastra
    January 31, 2010

    Whether calling Christians “sheep” who need a “crutch” is an insult or not often depends on the tone of voice being used. As long as you imply sympathetic approval and admiration, you can call them mindless, weak, crippled, illogical, self-contradictory, foolish, childish, irrational — all compliments, if spun just a bit, and said with a sincere little smile. These insults have formed the basis for many a sermon.

    I’ve noticed I can do this with New Agers. They hardly ever catch on.

  68. #68 ianmhor
    January 31, 2010

    Hearing this mantra of “having faith is brave” more and more and it appears to me to be just another bit of the brainwashing. It’s the sort of “bravery” of walking into the road with your eyes shut or the death wish bravery of D H Lawrence driving his car at speed through crossroads for the adrenaline rush.

    Perhaps that what is intended. The faithful are being programmed for an adrenaline rush when the defend their Gods from the infidels (I think that’s us).

  69. #69 llewelly
    January 31, 2010

    raven Author | January 31, 2010 12:16 PM:

    Hmmm, religion takes bravery.

    Well, using that criterium so does:

    1. Believing in UFOs

    You have to be tough to lie awake all night, coping with the terrifying possibility that aliens could walk through your walls at any moment, abduct you, sample your rectum for zoonotic diseases, and return you to your bed, with no trace but half-erased memories no-one will ever believe. It does indeed require bravery to live with the terrible knowledge that Aliens think your rectum so important that they will travel light years to investigate it.

  70. #70 nigelTheBold
    January 31, 2010

    I would argue that there is only one “positive” attribute: existence. Something that contains all that is positive is simply all that is. Most of us would call that “reality,” or possibly, “the universe.” (Though there may be some argument for other universes.)

    The intrinsic problem with the ontological argument is the existence of reality. “All that is positive” really is, “that which necessarily exists.” The problem is generating a coherent “god” that is independent of the deistic god of Spinoza. By the time you follow “all that is positive” out to its logical conclusion, you end up with a god that is indistinguishable from simple reality.

    Anyone who tries to make more of it than that is fooling themselves.

  71. #71 FrankT
    January 31, 2010

    Carlie wrote:

    Ok, so the ontological argument really is “I made it up, therefore it’s true”? That’s…astounding. Good to know, though.

    At its core, yes. However, they only believe that specifically making up “the sum of all possible positive traits” that that becomes true because by the time it gets to infinite positive traits it will have acquired “realness” as one of them.

    Presumably they believe that with enough math and philosophical wanking, you can stumble upon a great many other things that come into being just because you started thinking about them. Leibnitz was actually pretty explicit about that belief.

  72. #72 David Marjanovi?
    January 31, 2010
    It seems like scientists and Christians could see the struggle to follow one’s convictions as a common ground, not a schism.

    That’s a good one. Scientists do not follow their convictions, they follow the evidence. Convictions are seen as something to get rid of as quickly as possible.

  73. #73 nigelTheBold
    January 31, 2010

    Presumably they believe that with enough math and philosophical wanking, you can stumble upon a great many other things that come into being just because you started thinking about them. Leibnitz was actually pretty explicit about that belief.

    Wow. It must not be a coincidence that Goedel was a fan of Leibnitz, then.

    I’m not sure about this “modal logic” thing. I’ve been reading up on it, and it seems to be associated with presentation. In the end, it seems the idea is to disassociate knowledge from the preconceptions of language. However, at the same time, it seems to merge epistemology and ontology. Or am I way off base here?

    I guess it’s supposed to be a meta-language for logic. But as soon as you abstract a thing, you lose the essence of the thing. It’s like it’s a language for all logics, but loses the attributes that make our specific logic useful.

    Or am I way off base here?

  74. #74 'Tis Himself, OM
    January 31, 2010

    Sastra #67

    I’ve noticed I can do this with New Agers. They hardly ever catch on.

    Our kind, sweet, rational, never raises her voice nor uses naughty words Sastra purposely insults New Agers? I’m shocked! Shocked, I tell you!

  75. #75 Sastra
    January 31, 2010

    Tis Himself, OM #74:
    Heheheh … bottom line, all they really notice is tone, and their real pursuit isn’t truth, but getting the approval of other people. With the right word salad tossed on top of genuine criticism, they’ll think they have it.

    Dear little things.

  76. #76 raven
    January 31, 2010

    Preacher: Bible Mandates Execution Of Rebellious Children (Forum …William O. Einwechter’s article, “Stoning Disobedient Children,” appeared in the January issue of Chalcedon Report, a monthly journal published by the …

    wikipedia:

    Ahmanson has funded the magazine Chalcedon Report, the magazine of the Chalcedon Foundation.

    Ahmanson also funds the Discovery Institute and Exodus International, xian Dominionist fronts.

    The goal of the xian Dominionists is to set up a theocracy with Biblical law. Biblical law is like the Islamic Sharia law but far more homicidal. Stoning to death is prescribed for disobedient children, gays, adulterers, Sabbath breakers, blashemers, atheists, and a huge number of similar offenses.

    It is estimated that under Biblical Law, 99% of the US population would be executed. Can’t see it becoming too popular but who knows, the world is a strange place.

  77. #77 Twin-Skies
    January 31, 2010

    Religious believers must deal with the same vulnerability, but with the knowledge that they can never prove the existence of a God.

    The metaphor of a Fly trying to get through a glass window comes to mind.

  78. #78 frankosaurus
    January 31, 2010

    atheists don’t eat as much fiber as Christians, which means they get more blockage in their digestion, and have foul smelling farts. It’s brave of us to put up with it.

    source:
    Science

  79. #79 Nerd of Redhead, OM
    January 31, 2010

    source:
    Science

    As usual Fuckosaurus has no idea how things are done. Usually you need to cite the authors, journal, issue number, pages and year. Others may even require the title of the article. So Fuckosaurus has another wasted post. What a worthless loser.

  80. #80 Rorschach
    January 31, 2010

    atheists don’t eat as much fiber as Christians, which means they get more blockage in their digestion, and have foul smelling farts

    Works for newfie.

  81. #81 Paul W.
    January 31, 2010

    I’m not sure about this “modal logic” thing. I’ve been reading up on it, and it seems to be associated with presentation. In the end, it seems the idea is to disassociate knowledge from the preconceptions of language. However, at the same time, it seems to merge epistemology and ontology. Or am I way off base here?

    If you’re talking about formal modal logic, it’s fine stuff in itself. It’s just logic, with special “necessarily” and “possibly” operators.

    As with any logic, you can abuse the hell out of it by subtly sneaking your conclusion into your premises (or just the English-language exposition of what the terms mean) and then proceeding to formally, rigorously, and logically prove the desired conclusion. Typically, the proof is logically valid, but doesn’t mean at all what it purports to mean—everything is in the interpretation of the terms.

    For apologists, formal logic ends up being a way of dressing the same old fallacies up in spiffy, scientific-looking clothes that most people can’t see through.

    Real logicians despise those guys for abusing logic that way.

  82. #82 professordendy
    January 31, 2010

    Hey guys… happy Sunday!

    I have a great idea for the pro-abortionists and I think I may have figured out why some women are lesbians. I also wanted to say congrats to those who took me up on the special offer for atheists… bet your feeling better already!

  83. #83 Nerd of Redhead, OM
    January 31, 2010

    Dandy, still the fool. No evidence for your imaginary deity. No evidence your babble isn’t myth/fiction. Total inability to present even unconvincing evidence here. And most of us will ignore your blog whoring (you are a blog whore) until the CO lands your ass in the dungeon for gross insipidity.

  84. #84 Blind Squirrel FCD
    January 31, 2010

    Do you smell something? I though I did. Like troll farts.

    BS

  85. #85 'Tis Himself, OM
    January 31, 2010

    Perfesser, stop blog whoring.

  86. #86 Sastra
    January 31, 2010

    professordendy #82 wrote:

    I also wanted to say congrats to those who took me up on the special offer for atheists… bet your feeling better already!

    I just watched the video — very odd. At first I thought it was a satire, but now suspect it’s supposed to be sincere, but funny. For some reason, theists think that “fake it till you make it” is a valid way to evaluate religious claims. It’s also ironic that they probably fail to realize how much their ‘product’ is just that — a self-improvement therapy course.

    It’s a bit creepy watching someone try to make intellectual dishonesty ‘hip’ and amusing. It’s as if these folks they genuinely believe that what really holds atheists back from giving in to faith is a fear of looking uncool.

  87. #87 Janine, Mistress Of Foul Mouth Abuse, OM
    January 31, 2010

    Sorry you old shitstain on the panties of life but I am not following any links you provide. I know that bit about lesbians is directed at me. Just fuck off already. No one has any reason to trust nor believe what you have to say, you have already established yourself as a liar. And it seems that you will not defend why you have done so.

  88. #88 Twin-Skies
    January 31, 2010

    @professordendy

    Hi, I’m new here, but after seeing that you’re a strong Mr. Coulter fangirl, I think I will stay away from you. That tells me everything I need to know.

    Also, I think I need to shower after visiting your blog.

    Thank you.

  89. #89 WowbaggerOM
    January 31, 2010

    I’m going to have to keep reminding you to take it easy on ‘professor’ dendy – he has severe mental problems, he’s married but is disgusted by the idea of man/woman sex, and he has three kids he needed another man to father when he couldn’t.

    Pity the poor man. He’s not a fully-functioning adult and is so messed up he probably doesn’t understand most of what he writes.

  90. #90 Patricia, Queen of Sluts OM
    January 31, 2010

    This is the best we can do for trolls? An idiot, and some dork that thinks one crappy babble verse explains lesbians? He’s not even using the correct babble verse. Throw the bums out.

  91. #91 Sven DiMilo
    January 31, 2010

    bet your feeling better

    Look at this shit. Dendy, you’re so fucking far from professor material it’s not funny.

  92. #92 Twin-Skies
    January 31, 2010

    Do you smell something? I though I did. Like troll farts.

    There you go – no wonder I had an urge to take a shower after visiting its blog :(

  93. #93 OurDeadSelves
    January 31, 2010

    One, two! One, two! And through and through
    The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
    He left it dead, and with its head
    He went galumphing back.

    And, has thou slain the Jabberwock?
    Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
    O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!’
    He chortled in his joy.

    Sorry Greg G., your religion is dead now. Snicker-snack!

  94. #94 Scott
    January 31, 2010

    Christians may refer to themselves as a “flock,” but they aren’t sheep. It takes courage to say you believe in something that can’t be proven.

    Yes…and No.

    This relates to an earlier thread, where someone argued that believers, not satisfied with the universe in all its glory, have to ADD an extra layer of fantasy.

    But everyone does that in some way or another. Fantasy and imagination are part of the human experience. I would argue that the real problem is one of SUBTRACTION: in order to satisfy their intuitions/beliefs about what must be true, people not only deny ‘X’ but rather systematically attempt to suppress the notion that ‘X’ is taught and that ‘X’ might be true.

    That is, of course, cowardly. There’s nothing brave about that strategy, even if it’s being pursued on behalf of a minority viewpoint.

    On the other hand, suppose you have a believer who is honestly engaged with all the evidence and arguments at hand, who doesn’t try to run away and hide, who really attempts to make their case in an ethical way, and not use arguments that they know are rotten?

    That would not be cowardly. I’m not sure that this qualifies them as heroic, but it would certainly show a certain resolve, especially if they tried to make their case in fora such as this.

  95. #95 Bebette
    January 31, 2010

    Brave Christians, eh? The sames ones being so horribly “persecuted” in America these days, right?

    Give me a break. I applaud every atheist here for the bravery it takes to be in a reviled minority. Here in the buckle of the bible belt, in a small and small-minded town, it is so important to have people like you standing up against the vast xian hordes!

    My own family is very religious, and I love my Fundie family in spite of themselves, but they are not brave. In fact, they are the worst kind of cowards, hiding in a huge pack of fellow Jesus-junkies to take shots at people different from themselves.

  96. #96 Miki Z
    January 31, 2010

    I don’t even understand why they would want to claim bravery. “God-fearing” is a compliment in religious circles.

    Does being brave make you blasphemous? Certainly, if you’re being blasphemous (in your own mind), you’re exhibiting some bravery. It takes a lot of guts to stand up to an omnipotent deity with a penchant for slaughter.

  97. #97 professordendy
    January 31, 2010

    oh Bebette… you are so brave! Oh you poor victim of discrimination!

  98. #98 OurDeadSelves
    January 31, 2010

    Dendy:
    White? Check.
    Male? Check.
    Middle class? Check. (I assume.)
    Christian? Check.

    Oh man, I just don’t know how you get through your day with “the man” always trying to keep you down! All of those black lesbian communist Muslims can be really oppressive, huh?

  99. #99 Miki Z
    January 31, 2010

    oh Bebette… you are so brave! Oh you poor victim of discrimination!

    I’m checking off “Need for stimulation/proneness to boredom” on psychopath bingo because I already have “grandiose sense of self-worth” from before. Anyone else who wants to play can get their scorecard here.

  100. #100 Janine, Mistress Of Foul Mouth Abuse, OM
    February 1, 2010

    So, old fuckface had scripture waiting for me. He could not even have bothered to spell it out here.

    But I have to be honest, it is not like I would have been persuaded.

    Patricia, I thank you for the information but, stop going to his site. He is just here to goad people into pushing up his site hits. He should be left to starve.

  101. #101 SteveM
    February 1, 2010

    re 72:

    That’s a good one. Scientists do not follow their convictions, they follow the evidence. Convictions are seen as something to get rid of as quickly as possible.

    I think that rigorously following the evidence is itself a conviction.

  102. #102 co
    February 1, 2010

    Aww. Dendy even misquotes the Corinthians verse, sticking in homosexuals wherever he wants (yes, I meant that).

  103. #103 Miki Z
    February 1, 2010

    Janine,

    This is the most appropriate reply to dendy that I can find:

    To One Who Loved Not Poetry

    THOU liest dead, and there will be no memory left behind
    Of thee or thine in all the earth, for never didst thou bind
    The roses of Pierian streams upon thy brow; thy doom
    Is now to flit with unknown ghosts in cold and nameless gloom. (source)

  104. #104 co
    February 1, 2010

    Wow. That’s some brilliant poetry right there, Miki Z. Rough stuff. And the writer must particularly grate on ol’ Dendy. Nice one.

  105. #105 Sioux Laris
    February 1, 2010

    “Oh! Papa Tooney! They’ve got themselves a looney!” at the UC Davis site!

    Ro’B hisself – that’s right! The celebrated Mr. Kit… um, ROBERT O’BRIAN – Him of Godel’s Proof o’ (Ro’B's Xian-creationist version of) “God” theorem proponent and eminen… professional mathemati…. statician [alleged] – has now warned … three times… so far… (with the third time backing off a bit to claim only the great majority of us here are vicious name-calling morans*) that any further comment readers at the Davis embarrassment to prepare their pearls for clutching at all of the ugly, mean people here about to flood the site with comments.

    Ro’B, I know you read this. And here’s the sop you pray for more sincerely than you ever do for your plastic Jesus: you’re a crank, a liar, numb-skull, and a waste of otherwise fine chemicals. And you’re not even entertaining.

  106. #106 https://me.yahoo.com/a/SaqGVG0xvJEQVwURVamS3DTCdvov0BLhXK1jOsYPPJQ-#b4893
    February 1, 2010

    Thank you very much, Zeno. I truly appreciate the effort you put into this.

    MikeM

  107. #107 bad Jim
    February 1, 2010

    I recently saw something suggesting that the ontological argument wasn’t originally devised as a proof of God’s existence, since that wasn’t really in doubt, but as a way to investigate His nature or demonstrate His necessity, or something, which is reasonable, since of all the conventional arguments for the existence of God, it’s got to be the least convincing.

  108. #108 FrankT
    February 1, 2010

    I’m not sure about this “modal logic” thing. I’ve been reading up on it, and it seems to be associated with presentation. In the end, it seems the idea is to disassociate knowledge from the preconceptions of language. However, at the same time, it seems to merge epistemology and ontology. Or am I way off base here?

    Modal logic has a place in the world. We give credit for its invention (or at least making the case that we needed such a thing) to Occam. And he made our favorite sharp implement.

    The idea is that in sentential logic something is merely true or false. And that’s not adequate for a world that changes and has unknowns. Consider the following false statements:

    * Mike is a married bachelor.
    * Mike lives in a red house.
    * Mike is home right now.

    We’ll take it for granted that all of them are false. But in a very real way, each one gets less false as you move down the list. Mike will never be a married bachelor, because it’s logically impossible for such a thing to ever exist. That concept is incoherent and the statement is necessarily false. Mike’s house is blue, but he could move or get his house painted. So while the statement is not true, there is no reason that it has to stay false. It is probably false. And finally, Mike is at work. That makes him not at home, but he will presumably go home at some point. Indeed, if he stays at the office long enough it will become his home. So depending on when the statement is read, it might even be true. It is possibly false.

    And that’s all well and good honestly. There’s a lot of contingencies you can talk about rationally that way that you can’t discuss coherently with binary truth values.

    The fact that the Ontological argument is a total failure has little to do with the fact that it uses modalities. It’s that both the premises and the logical chain after it are wrong. Perfectly valid attacks against it include attacking virtually any of the premises. But also the fact that infinite series summation just doesn’t work that way. Convergent series reach conclusion and give real answers. But divergent ones don’t. In the real universe there are no infinitely large rocks, infinitely large amounts of energy, infinitely large spaces, or infinitely powerful forces. Everything, even amongst the really stupidly large things, is finite.

    So if someone has a series that includes infinite power or infinite anything else, then that series by definition never completes. So since it never finishes acquiring all the traits, there’s no reason to believe it ever acquires “existence” either.

  109. #109 Gregory Greenwood
    February 1, 2010

    OurDeadSelves @ 93;

    Sorry Greg G., your religion is dead now. Snicker-snack!

    I take it you have never heard of the Jabberwock resurrection? The Jabberwock died for our sins, err, or something.

    Hey, if Jebus can do it…

  110. #110 Stephen Wells
    February 1, 2010

    Ontological arguments are based on an equivocal use of “exists” in natural language. You define whatever you want to exist, e.g. God, with a set of properties that include or imply necessary existence, then you conclude necessary existence. But of course you haven’t established the existence of your entity; you have only established that, _if your entity exists_, it exists- big whoop. The bait-and-switch is when you declare something like “X exists as an idea” or “X exists as a proposition in this logic” or something equivalent. This stage is not valid. It would be valid to say “The idea of X exists”, but this is not the same as “X exists”.

    Anselm explicitly argues that God “exists in the understanding” of a sceptic, then leverages this to argue that God really exists. But this instantly fails because it is not true that God exists in the understanding; only the _idea of_ God exists in the understanding. Godel’s version is just a more formalised version of the same error; define god as wonderful-thing-that-necessarily-exists and conclude that it has necessary existence.

  111. #111 Stephen Wells
    February 1, 2010

    Just checked: Kant put the above much more rigorously than I did :)

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ontological_argument#Kant:_existence_is_not_a_predicate

  112. #112 nigelTheBold
    February 1, 2010

    Paul W, FrankT, and Stephen Wells:

    Thanks. It’s easy to see that the Ontological Argument is based on the fallacy of the equivalence of conceptualization and existence. (Is there a better name for that?) I just couldn’t wrap my head around the use of modal logic, as I’ve not really studied modal logic at all.

    Your comments have brought enlightenment.

  113. #113 Nerd of Redhead, OM
    February 1, 2010

    Is there a better name for that?

    I prefer the shorter GIGO.

  114. #114 FrankT
    February 1, 2010

    Thanks. It’s easy to see that the Ontological Argument is based on the fallacy of the equivalence of conceptualization and existence. (Is there a better name for that?)

    Awesomely enough, it’s called the “Masked Man Fallacy.” You can also call it “illicit substitution of identicals.”

    http://www.fallacyfiles.org/illisubs.html

    And yeah, that’s exactly what Anselm is doing. He walks out and says “God exists in the context of me thinking about god” and then wanders around for awhile and reaches back and pulls the “god exists…” part out of his original statement. Weaksauce.

    Gödel isn’t quite doing that. He’s doing something much much crazier. He’s basically saying that by thinking about a set of infinite powers that the set will acquire “existing” as one of the powers. In short: he is straight up saying that he has a “god equation” that doesn’t so much prove that there is a god, but actually create one through math magic.

    Which is why I was so surprised that our creationist friend stood up and said that his best argument for a god was Gödel’s ontological proof. Because that one is a set of magic words written by a crazy man after he started wasting away into madness. That’s like saying that your best argument for something is the last mad scratchings of Dr. Herbert West.

  115. #115 caseyhov
    February 1, 2010

    Well after readig the creationist in th arguments actual blog, I wish I had been meaner, the retard jokr I made was not nearly sufficient enough.

  116. #116 abb3w
    February 1, 2010

    FTA: Literal interpretation? ?Those are two words that don’t go together,? said PZ.

    I would disagree slightly. It’s similar to where in mathematics, zero is an increment: the trivial increment. However, most “literal interpretation” involves non-trivial amounts of “interpretation” using rules not fully specified in the literal written text. Science has the edge there, in that science implicitly relies on mathematics, which can express rules of mathematics mathematically (albeit accepting Gödelian incompleteness as the price of self-consistency).

    In other words, this semantic quibble would probably just distract from the main point: too much “interpretation”.

    FTA: A. That just goes to show that there is no objective morality.

    Another mathematical quibble: that just goes to show that there is no agreement about objective morality.

    FTA: A. I’m hoping it’s complete collapse.

    Unrealistic to the point of religious self-delusion. (But then, that’s pretty much what Hope is for.)

    Looking at the sequence:

    Creationism -> “Is religious establismentarianism ” +>
    “Creation science” -> “is religion in a labcoat” +>
    intelligent design -> “just adds Groucho glasses to the labcoat and still isn’t science” +>
    “teach the controversy” -> “the controversy is political not scientific” +>
    …?

    To my intuition, “science is politicized and dogmatic” seems to be the next favorable direction for a mutant strain of creationism; probably as a “big tent” movement that brings in a lot of the anti-intellectual movements at large in the US.

    The reaction will need to be something on the lines of “…but less than any other human endeavor that tests itself by facts”.

    FTA: Answers in Genesis is the big money maker.

    So, pragmatist anti-creationists might want to think about ways to compete for such resources to starve the parent organization. The most obvious method (embezzlement) is seriously criminal, and that’s not even the least of it’s drawbacks.

    Less obvious but still criminal (civil at least, probably ) would be massive copyright violation: a “Teach the Controversy” download/torrent group that puts out packages containing file pairs with PDF/xvid copies of the assorted creationist “homeschool” materials, together with “why this is wrong” books. For political cover, it could also have pirate materials for evolutionary biology, with creationist responses — written as badly as possible (although making them worse than the real thing while still passing the counterfeits would be challenging).

    Still, a lawful approach would be preferable.

    FrankT: Furthermore, there is a core problem with the logic, which is that just because an infinite series summation of positive traits would, given those premises, sum to the existence of an all powerful all whatever god-thing, doesn’t mean that such an infinite series ever actually starts.

    Relatedly, I think there’s also some self-consistency problems.

  117. #117 Owlmirror
    February 1, 2010

    @FrankT: I think you’re misinterpreting Gödel. As best I can tell, checking Wiki, Gödel did not think his proof was true, but merely logically possible. And I note that he lacked the confidence to publish it, suggesting that logical possibility was insufficient to convince him of its more general worth.

    The proof strikes me as being about as useful as arguing that the claim that “if wishes were horses, then everyone would have a pony, tada!” is logically sound and logically possible, but not otherwise interesting.