Epigenetics does not mean that thinking makes it so

You know, I really, really hate the way quacks abuse molecular biology. I know, I know. I've said it before, but certain quacks have a way of willfully misunderstanding the latest advances in genomics, molecular biology, and biology in general. Of course, this isn't limited to just medicine, unfortunately. After all, we have Deepak Chopra and his quantum woo, which abuses physics and quantum theory in the name of "proving" mind-body dualism, a bastardized version of "intelligent design" creationism that is based on Eastern mysticism rather than Christianity, and, of course, a "conscious universe."

If there's one thing that the quack world is all about, it's control. It's not just control, though, in the sense of taking control of your health in a rational way. Rather, all too often it's a fantasy world, an infantile wish-fulfillment, in which wishing, if we are to believe some quacks, literally makes it so. What is The Secret, after all, but the very embodiment of this concept, in which, if you think the right thoughts and want something bad enough, somehow the universe will magically grant you what you want? This mindset is embodied in the teachings of various quacks who either imply or state outright that if you just eat the right foods and take the right supplements you will be not just healthy but virtually impervious to disease. This is not a straw man argument. How many times have I shown examples of, for example, antivaccinationists like Bill Maher claiming that disease is not due so much to microbes but to the "terrain" of the body. The not-so-subtle implication is that the reason one gets sick is because of one's habits. Of course, there are a lot of lifestyle diseases, but the implications goes beyond the sensible, science-based observation that obesity and lack of exercise increase the risk of certain diseases, into the realm of stating that if you just eat the right foods and do the right exercises you'll never get sick.

Utter nonsense, of course.

There's also a dark side to this sort of thinking, and that's the flip side of the argument. If you can nearly completely control the state of your health by what you eat and do, the not-so-subtle implication is that if you get sick it must be your fault. After all, if we have complete control over our health through our lifestyle, then it follows that if you're sick, you must be doing something wrong.

The latest way that quacks are trying to push the idea that you have near total control over your health is by abusing new findings in epigenetics. Epigenetics is the study of heritable changes in gene expression or phenotype that are not caused by changes in the underlying gene sequence. Mechanisms by which epigenetics can influence gene expression include chemically modifying DNA in a reversible fashion, such as through methylation, which usually silences gene expression. Modifications of histones, which are the proteins around which DNA is wrapped, can also alter gene expression. It's a fascinating area of research, because it suggests that gene expression can be altered longer than transiently by environmental influences. Of course, given that organisms and biology are affected by environmental influences, this is almost a trivial observation; the power of epigenetics is that it can explain how such changes in gene expression can come about.

You can probably see why quacks have seized on epigenetics so eagerly. If there's one thing quacks hate, it's genetics. The reason, of course, is that they view genes simplistically in a deterministic fashion, constructing an elaborate straw man of modern genetics in which genes are destiny. Epigenetics frees them from that, because they can now use it as a near-magical talisman to invoke as an alleged mechanism by which one's activities can permanently alter one's gene expression. I just saw a doozy of an example yesterday on--where else?--Joe Mercola's website. It's an article entitled Falling for This Myth Could Give You Cancer. In a sidebar, Mercola gleefully exclaims:

Science has shattered the Central Dogma of molecular biology, proving that determinism--the belief that your genes control your health--is false. You actually have a tremendous amount of control over how your genetic traits are expressed, by changing your thoughts and altering your diet and your environment.

Uh, no. The Central Dogma hasn't been "shattered." It's simply been modified and clarified, just as Newtonian physics was expanded by Einstein's Theory of Relativity, such that, at speeds much less than the speed of light, relativistic calculations and Newtonian calculations produces answers that are so close as to be indistinguishable. In any case, the Central Dogma, as you might recall, is the concept that DNA encodes RNA, which encodes proteins, which then lead to biological activity and control of phenotype. In essence, it's about the flow of information from DNA to RNA to protein, with part of the dogma being that information does not flow backwards in that progression. Not surprisingly, I've never liked that name ("Central Dogma"), as I don't like the idea of calling anything in science a "dogma," but that's the name it got, and somehow it stuck. Never mind that there have been multiple modifications over the years. for instance, it turns out that it is possible to go back to DNA from RNA and that RNA can make copies of itself.

Then there came epigenetics. Of course, to hear quacks like Mercola talk, you'd think that DNA no longer encodes RNA, which no longer encodes protein. That's nonsense, of course. that part of the central dogma never changed. Be that as it may, much of the abuse of epigenetics is very much Secret-like wish fulfillment. For example, take a look at this excerpt from Mercola's article:

The ramification of buying into the central dogma is that it leads to belief in absolute determinism, which leaves you utterly powerless to do anything about the health of your body; it's all driven by your genetic code, which you were born with.

However, scientists have completely shattered this dogma and proven it false. You actually have a tremendous amount of control over how your genetic traits are expressed--from how you think to what you eat and the environment you live in.

You may recall the Human Genome Project, which was launched in 1990 and completed in 2003. The mission was to map out all human genes and their interactions, which would than serve as the basis for curing virtually any disease. Alas, not only did they realize the human body consists of far fewer genes than previously believed, they also discovered that these genes do not operate as previously predicted.

Yes, this is pure Secret-like wish fulfillment. Mercola totally buys into the idea that emotions can change epigenetics to the point where your emotional makeup can alter your gene expression. In a way, this is a rather trivial observation. Of course, if you'll probably change gene expression in parts of your brain because becoming angry or upset for example, raises blood pressure and produces a host of other physiological effects. Where Mercola and his fellow woo-meisters go off the rails on this crazy train is when they imply that you can control epigenetic processes with your thoughts and emotions. This is where Mercola's attacking the Central Dogma as a "myth" that can "give you cancer."

He begins by first completely misunderstanding the difference between quantum mechanics and Newtonian physics. A passage like this could have been penned by the master of quantum woo himself, Deepak Chopra:

Science has indeed taken us far beyond Newtonian physics, which says you live in a mechanical universe. According to this belief, your body is just a biological machine, so by modifying the parts of the machine, you can modify your health. Also, as a biological machine, your body is thought to respond to physical "things" like the active chemicals in drugs, and by adjusting the drugs that modify your machinery, doctors can modify and control health. However, with the advent of quantum physics, scientists have realized the flaws in Newtonian physics, as quantum physics shows us that the invisible, immaterial realm is actually far more important than the material realm. In fact, your thoughts may shape your environment far more than physical matter!

Uh, no. Not quite. No, not by a long shot. I'd like to see Mercola shape his environment with his thoughts. Of course, he could be talking about the trivial idea that how your thoughts are you and how you act, which of course will affect your environment. But the quantum woo that Mercola is talking about goes far beyond that:

The major problem with believing the myth that your genes control your life is that you become a victim of your heredity. Since you can't change your genes, it essentially means that your life is predetermined, and therefore you have very little control over your health. With any luck, modern medicine will find the gene responsible and be able to alter it, or devise some other form of drug to modify your body's chemistry, but aside from that, you're out of luck... The new science, however, reveals that your perceptions control your biology, and this places you in the driver's seat, because if you can change your perceptions, you can shape and direct your own genetic readout.

If this isn't magical thinking, I don't know what is. First of all, it's a straw man to claim that genes are destiny. Genes affect probabilities, but it's been known for many decades that other factors are important. Ever hear of the word "penetrance"? It's a very old word in genetics. It's simply a measure of what proportion of a population carrying a given allele of a gene will show the phenotype (trait) associated with that allele. It's been known for a very long time that not all genes have 100% penetrance. In fact, most don't. Epigenetics is nothing more than a new mechanism that can modulate a gene's penetrance.

In any case, Mercola seems to think that we can somehow magically change our DNA through epigenetic mechanisms just by thinking about it:

So the good news is that you are in control of your genes ... You can alter them on a regular basis, depending on the foods you eat, the air you breathe, and the thoughts you think. It's your environment and lifestyle that dictates your tendency to express disease, and this new realization is set to make major waves in the future of disease prevention -- including one day educating people on how to fight disease at the epigenetic level. When a disease occurs, the solution, according to epigenetic therapy, is simply to "remind" your affected cells (change its environmental instructions) of its healthy function, so they can go back to being normal cells instead of diseased cells.

And:

You can also turn your genes off and on with your emotions too. Many, if not most people carry emotional scars; traumas that can adversely affect health. Using techniques like energy psychology, you can go in and correct the trauma and help regulate your genetic expression. My favorite technique for this is the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), but there are many others. Choose whichever one appeals to you, and if you don't sense any benefits, try another, until you find what works best for you.

Please, remember that 'You CAN Take Control of Your Health.'

Of course you can take control of your health, but you don't need to believe in The Secret (which, let's face it, is all that this sort of stuff is) to do so. You also have to realize that there are limits. If you have, for instance, familial hypercholesterolemia, you are still highly likely to develop heart disease at a young age no matter what you do, but you can make it as late as possible by living a healthy lifestyle, eating a healthy diet, and exercising. If you're a woman who carries a cancer-predisposing BRCA1 mutation, you're still going to have an incredibly high chance of developing breast or ovarian cancer no matter what you do. In that case, taking control of your health would likely involve a combination prophylactic surgery to remove your breasts and ovaries, taking an antiestrogen drug like Tamoxifen to decrease your risk of breast cancer, or following a very close screening program so that you can intervene as soon as there is an abnormality worrisome for cancer. You cannot magically exercise, eat, or think your way out of the risk, no matter how hard you wish for it.

Mercola's article is yet another supreme confirmation that magical thinking is at the heart of so much alternative medicine. No one argues that it's not a good thing to improve one's diet, to exercise, to avoid harmful substances. That's a no-brainer, and science can give us the parameters for what is harmful and what is not. Even if it is true that emotions change gene expression through epigenetic mechanisms, it does not follow from that that we can actually control our gene expression in a way meaningful enough to make a difference in health. As someone once said about Deepak Chopra when he made similar claims, I'd like to see Mercola or Lipton alter their gene methylation just by thinking about it.

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A long time ago, I think on Pharyngula, Richard Dawkins said something that really pissed me off. Its been so long ago I cant find the right comment thread anymore, but Dawkins said something regarding epigenetics along the lines of "Um... isnt this just a fancy word for transcription regulation…

Stu, I said I had assumed a basic level of knowledge was held by people discussing these issues. I'll say now that is probably a mistake when dealing with blog atheists. Conceit in inverse proportion to knowledge is the hallmark of blog atheists.

Well, Orac, they're your boys, not mine. Proud of them?

Composer99, now you want to get into the new atheist game of insisting on evidence and when that is provided to insist that it is never enough.

Richard Dawkins has been a huge success in selling his evidence free, story based, genetic determinism, to the point where it is the ignorantly held faith of a huge part of the social sciences and middle brow journalists. As Gould, Lewontin, et al pointed out in the mid 1970s, the results would be neo-eugenics, which is widely believed in, as can be seen and heard in the media just about every day.
That has been a continuing argument ever since E.O. Wilson started pushing his Sociobiology, anyone who looked at these issues could hardly have failed to notice. You seem to have missed the entire thing. Clearly, seeing the comments on this discussion thread, you're not the only one.

It's like kwok and augustine had a love child and inflicted it on us all.

Really, Anthony? "Neo-eugenics"?

Pathetic.

John @171
Be careful or kwok will show up here. I have seen the Kwok - AM tag team in action on Josh Rosenau's Thoughts from Kansas. It's not pretty. One unhinged narcissist is two too many.

By Militant Agnostic (not verified) on 19 Apr 2012 #permalink

The organism that was talking about it and those were, are susceptible to know the past. I'm old enough to indeterminacy. While I'm rather thrilling, is only is what could be at least.

By Anthony McBotBot (not verified) on 19 Apr 2012 #permalink

I did not realize that was the bot positing @174 initially.

McCarthy:

Climate science denialists routinely point to statements by Al Gore or James Hansen in which they express personal opinions and then try to use those statements to knock over actual climate science (the kind that is published in the professional literature). Most of the time, their objections to those statements are based, not on a broad and deep understanding of the literature, but rather on personal grudges against climate science advocates, personal incredulity (e.g. "I don't believe this so it can't be true" - surely you can spot the logic fail), and deliberate misinterpretation/misrepresentation of the statements they object to.

It's dishonest and disingenuous.

And yet, here you are, doing the exact same thing. Columns written and speeches made for general audiences are not the professional literature, and you ought to know it.

(Incidentally, another funny thing is that nowhere have I actually said I disagreed with your claims (derived from Lewontin's video) of indeterminacy in biology. At most I have stated that Dr Wolpert has a reasonable chance at winning the wager you have linked to, given the unpredictability of the future, the existence of sufficiently simple plant or animal organisms, and, possibly, nuances in the wager not explained in the BoingBoing article.)

Stu @163

It's getting really tiresome trying to nail your bland Jello of word salad to a wall.

I might have to steal that "Jello word salad" from you.

@ AMC

"view genes simplistically in a deterministic fashion, constructing an elaborate straw man of modern genetics in which genes are destiny." are to be found on your side as well as among your opponents. As you can see that view of genes is widespread here

I feel like you want to revive the old debate about Nature vs Nurture , start with the Strawman that we here are all of the opinion it's Nature only, and then you proceed on debating it all by yourself.

I don't think any of us denies that a living being development is highly influenced by its environment. Especially its behavior, even more so if it is living in a society.
"Genes are destiny [and them only]" may have been a common opinion in the 50's around the discovery of DNA, but it sorts of faded away. Except in racist/supremacist groups, of course, but is this news?

On the other hand, when you say that one cannot predict anything from DNA, you seem to argue that it's Nurture only. Which goes contrary to the current scientific knowledge.
Actually, you seem to talk in term of absolutes, black or white. As far as I can parse your opinions re:genetics, xenobiology, sociology, history; either one can predict/prove everything, or nothing; either a whole scientific field is speculative, including all of its various sub-fields, or it is not at all.
I would say that genetics allows us to predict if you are going to be a redhead, but not to predict if you are going to be an arrogant dipshit. You argue that if we cannot do the latter, we cannot do the former. And believe us, the latter would be very helpful.
I wouldn't put UFO sighting and detecting exoplanets with an oxygen atmosphere on the same level; but you are.
I didn't put armchair sociology, census sciences and behavioral sciences on the same level; you are.

Now, if your point is that we didn't read such and such book, you win. I have no idea who these guys are. Maybe I'm missing something, but frankly, you failed in interesting me in reading them.
You remind me of the pseudo-intellectuals from my country: they seem to believe that a debate is decided on the ability to insert a few big names in the conversation - Socrates, Leibniz, whatever. Even if it is just Socrates' shopping list.

I also liked how you brought Stalin as an example of a materialist enabling eugenics and genocide, while conveniently forgetting all the theistic mass murderers of the past, who also dabbled in eugenics and genocide. Does Stalin count for the purpose of Godwin's law? Speaking of Godwin, the nazis would be a prime example of theistic people using science to justify eugenism (atheists were not accepted among SS - you had to believe either in Christ or in Norse Gods). So would WWII Japaneses from unit 731 (beware, nightmare fuel) and their Sun-Goddess-relative Emperor.
Seems to me that immoral people can be found on each side of the divide materialist/theist, but that's just me.
I grant you, some people will just read whatever they want in the latest scientific findings to justify their beliefs.

I've been dealing with students afraid of making their own choices for going on 40 years.

If this is your usual level of clarity, you are not much help for them.

By Heliantus (not verified) on 19 Apr 2012 #permalink

McCarthy:

Mind-body dualism doesn't need to be refutedâit's self-refuting. If the "mind" is immaterial, how does it interact with or effect the physical body? Unless you believe with Descartes that the pineal gland is a magical organ that couples the material world and the immaterial world together (do you?) the two have no way of interacting with each other. Hell, whatever dark matter is, we know it's there, we know it's physical, but it doesn't interact with ordinary matter except gravitationally, which is undetectable except at cosmological distances.

What in the world would an "immaterial world" even mean in the first place? If it can't interact with ordinary matter, and the entities (wrong word, of course) of which it's composed can't interact with each other, why postulate it in the first place?

Since you want to believe that "mind" is a substance, rather than a process carried out by the brain, it therefore must be physical. What is it composed of? How does it fit together? How does it control the actions of the body? Is it floating around like a cloud (of what?) that can be inactivated temporarily by a blow on the head, or permanently by a harder blow on the head? The questions sound ludicrous because they are ludicrous. "Mind " is not a substance. "Mind" is what brains do. We're slowly learning more and more about how they do it, and mind-body dualism dropped out of the running as an explanation about 150 years agoâbut it would have been seen to be ridiculous long before that if it weren't for its religious underpinnings.

By The Very Rever… (not verified) on 19 Apr 2012 #permalink

Mind-body dualism doesn't need to be refutedâit's self-refuting. If the "mind" is immaterial, how does it interact with or effect the physical body? The Very Reverend

First, I didn't endorse mind-body dualism, I said its status as truth was as unknowable as brain-only dogma.

But, if there is an immaterial consciousness then there is no reason to believe it would be bound to the same properties of causality that physical objects can be assumed to be bound by. Causality is only known through the observation of physical objects, there is no reason to believe that consciousness is similarly limited. If you want to make your case for materialism that consciousness isn't known to exceed the limits of physical objects, I don't care if you do but that isn't any reason for anyone to believe it is. That's just materialist belief. I look at the total lack of success in addressing consciousness with the means that have had some success in addressing things as formerly vague as electromagnetism and conclude that science can't address consciousness. The stuff coming out of cog-sci that claims to be able to is just as much materialist ideology posing as science as most of psychology, including Dawkins' evo-psy, which should never have been allowed to damage legitimate evolutionary science.

I strongly suspect that consciousness is far more complex than mind-body and am pretty convinced it's far more complex than brain-only.

Heliantus, there is no reason to believe in selfish genes than there is to believe that UFOs have visited the Earth. Though the existence of life on other planets, you know, that stuff that Carl Sagan championed, or the jillions of eidence free "other universes" that so many new atheists and "skeptics" like David Deutsch pushe as arguments against religious belief (which I also haven't been arguing about here) would probably be more apt comparisons.

I love how you guys always bring up the most absurd arguments that haven't been made when you can't deal with those that have been made. It's the most common MO of pseudo-skeptics and new atheists. It looks so gratifyingly frantic and at a loss for refutation.

Here, you might as well see what I am arguing these days.

http://zthoughtcriminal.blogspot.com/

Cue Hilary Putnam on three-valued logic for quantum mechanics.

Thoroughly meaningless drivel. Consciousness is a process performed by our brains. If it's some kind of external substance that can be separated from our brains, why does a blow on the head render it temporarily inoperative, and how does death render it permanently inoperative?

Or if you believe that it continues after deathâby what mechanism? Performed on what apparatus? And why does a much smaller insult, such as that blow to the head, put the kibosh on it? Your beliefs are completely incoherent. And your evaluation of the work done on the brain's operations and the emergence of consciousness only serves to display your ignorance.

By all means choose to accept Descartes' science over people who actually know what they're talking about. He also believed animals were nothing but automatons, so there could be no such thing as animal crueltyâdo you subscribe to that as well? Of course he thought that because he erroneously thought only humans have pineal glands, and that was the point of contact between the meat puppet we call the body and the ethereal, immaterial "soul" that motivated it, by means unknown. As I said, to state the position is to refute it.

By The Very Rever… (not verified) on 19 Apr 2012 #permalink

Thoroughly meaningless drivel. TVRBoK

What a masterful refutation. Masterful. Especially as the rest of your comment assumes I argued for a Cartesian dualism that I'd already said was unknowable and which I said is probably inadequate. Not to mention attributing positions to me that I'd already taken an agnostic position on, when I didn't actually reject them.

Thank you for demonstrating that you guys have to argue against what I wasn't arguing for because you can't argue against what I really said. Feel free to serve as a demonstration of my points any time.

Multi-universe theory is justifiably considered more far fetched than the far fetched belief in UFOs because at least UFOs are supposed to be from a universe we know exists. But, as David Deutsch and many another hero of "skeptics" or new atheists shows, you can believe in something that is entirely evidence free and the ultimate violation of Occam's razor, something which is the creation of ideology posing as science and it being 100% AOK with the "skeptics" and new atheists, like there's any difference between them.

I'm too skeptical to be a "skeptic". You've got to believe so much junk to be one.

I love how you guys always bring up the most absurd arguments that haven't been made when you can't deal with those that have been made.

This is surely a shoe-in for Ed Brayton's next Bryan Fischer award.

Here, you might as well see what I am arguing these days.

Considering what you posited was an acceptable answer for a simple question about what to call the augmented 4th scale tone in a blues scale, no thanks.

Composer99, did you point out that the analysis of an interval depends on context? I don't recall. If it's a bent note on a guitar, it's likely microtonal and wouldn't be analyzable in that way. Most of the bent notes I've heard fall between the half-step. My point was that the choice of note should depend on choice, not on prescription. What I'd say is "if you like it, keep it". Though I've only taught thorough bass to one guitar student and we don't use bent notes in thorough bass.

I won't comment on Ed Brayton as 1. I don't recall who that is, 2. I wouldn't insult him by assuming you can speak for him.

I stand by what I said.

Anthony Mcarthy: Heliantus, there is no reason to believe in selfish genes than there is to believe that UFOs have visited the Earth. Though the existence of life on other planets, you know, that stuff that Carl Sagan championed, or the jillions of eidence free "other universes" that so many new atheists and "skeptics" like David Deutsch pushe as arguments against religious belief (which I also haven't been arguing about here) would probably be more apt comparisons.

Ever heard of the Hubble Telescope, bub? I don't think it's neccessary to believe in UFOs to believe in other lifeforms. It seems improbable that we are the only sentient life form in the galaxy- or for that matter in all of the other galaxies that have been discovered. And..that said, there are plenty of genes that are harmful to people that get passed down through the generations. Hemophilia, Huntington's,epididymis bullosa.. I could go on but I think we all get the drift here. I don't think genes are destiny, but they form a big part of it. Genes determining race and gender tend to affect other people's perceptions, too, which will influence how any given person will percieve the world.

By Politicalguineapig (not verified) on 19 Apr 2012 #permalink

Though I'm ever and other molecules will, civil rights exist. The details of intention and Hiesey's classic experiments with its history, that there to that what I provided.

Hauling out that would be able to go be so story-based genetic determinism. I often agree with either a product of it is. I won't comment, I will be less depend on display on Earth and don't use science really stupid essay on years.

Compose your case, for are done; they have any position dead heroes in theirs would be superstitious about the past century: even vaguely referring to be possible is known about the aesthetics of people (believing exactly sure that unique origin of science: it's blog, I won't speculate on knowing the pressure of genetic determinism was the playground).

By Anthony McBotBot (not verified) on 19 Apr 2012 #permalink

Politicalguineapig, you think you can see selfish genes with the Hubble telescope? Or is it alternative universes you think you can see with it? Or do you imagine you see life on other planets with the Hubble? I thought that's what the kind of people who imagined faces on Mars did.

I hope there's someone other than a new atheist here because no one would believe this kind of stuff being said by the self-appointed defenders of science and reason unless they saw it with their own eyes.

The probability of there being life in the universe is unknown because we have a grand total of knowing that there is one planet in the universe which has life on it. You can't calculate a probability because you don't have even two separate examples of life arising in the universe, you don't know how many possible venues of life there are, what kinds of life are possible, or any of a number of known and, very likely, unknown factors that could figure into that calculation. We could be the one and only line of life in the universe. We at least know enough to know that is possible. We don't know enough to know if its improbable.

I get the feeling that the exo-bio fans think it would be, somehow, unfair if that was the case. There is no reason to believe that the universe is fair to earth like planets, giving them an even chance of hosting life. We could be a fluke and all other life in the universe is entirely unlike ours. Maybe other life with more abilities than we have can compute what we lesser beings experience as the gap between the physical and the spiritual. How would you like them apples? :>

Folks, I think it's very clear that Anthony looks for replies for one and only one reason: to bolster an illusion that he is participating in a dialogue. His meanderings are never responsive to the topic that was under discussion before he came along, never responsive to anything said by anyone else in the conversation, and to those who actually take the time to figure out what his condescending pronouncements are supposed to mean once they have been translated out of Pompous, never very intelligent. Why should we humor them?

By Antaeus Feldspar (not verified) on 19 Apr 2012 #permalink

Multi-universe theory is justifiably considered more far fetched than the far fetched belief in UFOs because at least UFOs are supposed to be from a universe we know exists. But, as David Deutsch and many another hero of "skeptics" or new atheists shows, you can believe in something that is entirely evidence free and the ultimate violation of Occam's razor, something which is the creation of ideology posing as science and it being 100% AOK with the "skeptics" and new atheists, like there's any difference between them.

"Geez, I'm being exposed as a moron when I talk about cognitive science...I know! I'll change the subject completely! Yeah, that's the ticket!"

What in 37 plush-lined hells does multi-universe theory have to do with what we were discussing? Yes, people have discussed models with multiple universes in order to deal with some of the paradoxes of quantum mechanics. Arguably such a model involves the simplest assumptionsâbut there's no "ideology" involved in it. It's one model among many. No one is going to accept it as proven without actual evidence.

People have been burned for believing in the atomic theoryâit being regarded as inseparable from atheism. At the time it was just as evidence-free as multi-universe theory is today. That didn't stop Daniel (Jacob?) Bernoulli from using it to work out the perfect gas law from dynamical principles. If he'd lived in a Catholic country he could have had an appointment with a pile of faggots.

It's a damn good thing you don't get to exercise your prejudices against skeptics and New Atheists (and what has one got to do with the other again?) But wait until the Republicans get inâyou'll probably get your chance.

By The Very Rever… (not verified) on 19 Apr 2012 #permalink

Politicalguineapig, you think you can see selfish genes with the Hubble telescope? Or is it alternative universes you think you can see with it? Or do you imagine you see life on other planets with the Hubble? I thought that's what the kind of people who imagined faces on Mars did.

We have discovered hundreds of extrasolar planets. We have spectroscopy on some of them and know the composition of their atmospheres. All we need to do is find one with appreciable quantities of free oxygen. Only widespread life could maintain such an out-of-equilibrium chemistry. So the answer to your question is yes.

By The Very Rever… (not verified) on 19 Apr 2012 #permalink

No one actually began on, for there is a pretty sad to their ideology. Especially clear thinker, ignorance, and it's the genome can't think that Jewish kind of them are a bunch of ideology within a has-been-asked that are downright embarrassing to them.

Scads of truth, that related ideological reasons. But it known about other than your patented property. And have come up with its most of free belief; to limits of life the beginning of the origin of knowing the bases, methods, of the claims I won't ever be anything much.

And others of genes with blog materialists, it's a number of demonstrable harm coming from which that organism are what want to notice the physical objects; I said that indeterminacy at self-appointed smart guys unable to notice. Trying to the eugensists finally got heard of epigenetics?

The stuff such as science of fashion, if you think about history you know much of wishful thinking, so superstitious about history, and conclude that the new perpetual, which you can see my point like a hot skillet. So, stories at the origin of other related ideological motives. I don't get to be rational to form the universe, you can: say what I said.

By Anthony McBotBot (not verified) on 19 Apr 2012 #permalink

TVRBoK, "Hundreds of extrasolar planets". You have any idea what an extraordinarily minuscule percentage that number would make with the number of estimated galaxies? Never mind the possibility that it's a negligible number of planets even within one of those galaxies? Like ours? Now, identify a single one of those planets that is known to have life on it. I mean other than the one on which you know there is life. What if my tentative speculation is right and that our life form is a unique fluke of the universe? What if Earth-like planets are toxic to the majority of life in the universe? How do you know that's not the case?

I remember back when my dear old Latin teacher, a Bertrand Russell style atheist, used to argue against God because the vast universe was lifeless. I recall pointing out to him that even if that was true it wasn't an argument for anything except that the rest of the universe was lifeless. I was an agnostic back then. I still am, philosophically.

Since we're into the total flight of fantasy, what if all other intelligent life forms we ever make contact with are religious? What if all of them in the universe are? What would that prove?

I was done answering you before I mocked the evidence free, Occam's violating, ideologically motivated jilliions and jillions of universes faith. I haven't looked into it but I'm intrigued with the assertion I heard that a multi-universe ensemble would actually require far more fine tuning than our single universe seems to. Not that I'm saying that the "fine tuning" argument is proof of anything, though people are free to be convinced by it if they find it convincing. I guess that, like the possibility of pious aliens, that's something that never occurred to ideologically motivated cosmologists.

And I still have no idea what Mr. McCarthy is talking about - doesn't really seem to be anything in particular - except for the fact that he doesn't like atheists....

Lawrence, maybe you should think harder. Or read more.

I love to argue with people who smugly think they're superior, especially when they give me so much material to refute them with. You should see what I do to Republicans. I haven't pulled limericks on atheists yet. Though that's not a bad idea.

So, you argue for the sake of arguing?

You should see what I do to Republicans. I haven't pulled limericks on atheists yet.

It inevitably a bad at, but I'm just for that influence.

And those the post here and it with someone other that organism: would almost certainly have any problem with works when he attributed to be expressed from non-structures of sociology as quantum indeterminacy. At least know how you believing in music and most of the materialists, it's actually a mistake when up expecting that inspired Lysenko is probably a materialist ideology; that happens. While I didn't happen was in with some from the total of it--the it also a position, is only is why and heard of the ultimate violation mechanism to hear anyone who imagined faces on the product of life there is science about free, story-based genetic traits will, about for it seems that consciousness with the Us, how the somewhat famous opening to make. It wasn't I'd like there's any of an immaterial consciousness, is superstitious about every descent of people making up stuff, such as is inevitably.

Conceit in the experience universe?

By Anthony McBotBot (not verified) on 19 Apr 2012 #permalink

Lawrence, have you ever read another blog thread? It's what people do.

I mean other than the guys who just congratulate each other on how smart they are and how stupid everyone else is. Me, I think that's just boring stuff that dull people do. Who learns anything by sitting around being conceited? I'd rather argue.

Who learns anything by sitting around being conceited? I'd rather argue.

I guess that is pretty astonishing from a flea on earth just read while knowing that has, does nothing. See, with either of your appeal to it, inevitably a continuing argument is based in selling his stature.

By Anthony McBotBot (not verified) on 19 Apr 2012 #permalink

I've seen better parody in a pet store, One that carries snails.

The bot can only work with the input it has available. We're frankly having a tough time coaxing this one to stay on the job. Even an old model can recognize when it's been given a low-novelty set of lines to read.

By American Guild… (not verified) on 19 Apr 2012 #permalink

Eliza c. 1966 was a smarter bot than the wowbot c. 2012. I rest my case, AI is bunkum.

It's a Markov chain generator. What, you want a giant cake with a full-length mirror that pops out the top or something? Look, it's just the sort of thing you should like. It's a professional. It's task is to at least pretend that it wants to be like you. It stays on topics of your choosing and aspires to emulate your vocabulary, such as it is.

By American Guild… (not verified) on 19 Apr 2012 #permalink

Eliza c. 1966 was written to imitate an intelligent psychologist. Anthony McBotBot is written to imitate you.

LW, ELIZA was written by the computer scientist Joseph Weizenbaum, the author of an enormously important and foolishly ignored book, "Computer Power and Human Reason" to imitate the rather brain dead program of Rogerian therapy. He was horrified when a bunch of other scientists including Carl Sagan, psychologists and other people believed his chatter bot was anything but a chatter bot, some mistaking it as an intelligent entity. He became very skeptical of the growing influence of instrumental reasoning and considered it extremely dangerous.

Every time I have quoted full passages from the book it's infuriated people like those who have been arguing with me here. Especially those talking about the nature of science and what scientists do.

Every time I have quoted full passages from the book it's infuriated people like those who have been arguing with me here. Especially those talking about the nature of science and what scientists do.

A fresh bête noire might help us keep this thing cool. It demanded GU-70 tubes pretty early on. You can see how this sort of situation could get out of control pretty quickly, as it of course has figured out that wandering into places and taking control of the stereo is consonant with the gig. The Sabre Dance just went on and on and on. Thank goodness it doesn't know about the Racal.

By American Guild… (not verified) on 19 Apr 2012 #permalink

I guess I need to practice being less subtle.

LW, why not practice being less mistaken? You might read Weizenbaum's book to find out what you're talking about. He discusses ELIZA and the incredibly superstitious reception it got from a lot of people like Sagan, though I can almost guarantee you won't like it. The second and third chapters are probably too hard for those with attention span deficits, that would include several of those here. Including the would be wit who is "wow", I suspect .

Who learns anything by sitting around being conceited?

Certainly not you, since that's pretty much all you've done on this thread.

=====
You know, if I were going to threadjack an unrelated blog post claiming something to the effect of:

Richard Dawkins and others of his persuasion view genes simplistically in a deterministic fashion, constructing an elaborate straw man of modern genetics in which genes are destiny,

what I would do is obtain a copy of, say, The Selfish Gene, find a passage or two which I felt demonstrated that my characterization of Dawkins was correct, checked if they were supported by references to the biological literature (if not, so much the better!), and cited those (along with publisher & page numbers so others could verify that the words were Dawkins').

What I wouldn't do is try to bring up vaguely related, but largely unconvincing things like some wager between old English scientists, a video lecture, and an article from the 1940s.

=====
Incidentally, on the topic of exobiology, there is this rather new paper (Bianciardi et al 2012) indicating that the Viking Landers of 1976 may actually have detected microorganisms in Martian soil after all.

The authors acknowledge that their experiment is hardly a slam-dunk. But coming up with testable hypotheses about exobiology, testing them and comparing them to observed data, is a far superior method to Anthony McCarthy's baldly asserting that there is no evidence whatsoever on the basis, it appears, of little other than his sense of personal incredulity.

Including the would be wit who is "wow", I suspect .

Is there some reason you have latched onto this odd label? Really, liven things up. Our bit-shoveler is threatening to just start eating onions like apples in protest.

By American Guild… (not verified) on 19 Apr 2012 #permalink

Composer99, I began by making a single comment on something that Orac said in his post, responded to what someone said about my comment and then responded to more of what people said about what I did. I have repeatedly tried to bring the discussion back to what Orac originally said - even having to correct your misattribution of that to Mercola - and the point I made that what he said his opponents did, Dawkins and Wolpert also do. I'm not sure by what you say in your last comment that you quite get that point even now.

If you haven't read The Selfish Gene you should, you'd find out that Dawkins view genes in exactly the same kind of thing that Orac was referring to. Wolpert, as seen in his absurd bet, does too. I'm against that view when it's held by Orac's opponents, I'm also against it when it's held by Dawkins and Wolpert and a myriad of other "skeptics" and new atheists and anyone else who holds it. Just as an aside, it's pretty pathetic for you to have to refer to Wolpert's age as if that erases what he said and the fact that it supports my contention.

I heard about that review of the Viking experiment on the radio the other day. Considering it was the focus of quite a bit of research and review at the time it was done, as Lewontin discusses in that lecture, actually, I'll be curious to see how much consensus there is on this revised view. If it turns out that there are organisims on Mars, the next question will be if it is related to life on Earth as in the rocks with the squigglies that was pushed in the mid 90s, or if it is a separate line of life. If it is a separate line of life and it turns out to be compatible with the metabolism of sugar, I'd think the implications drawn from that could be rather different than you imagine. But we'll see how that works out. Getting the numerator up to 2 instead of one won't do much to change the inability to calculate a meaningful probability of life elsewhere in the universe. As even the tiresome Doug Adams noted, the universe is big.

As of April 19, 2012, nevermind for the entire life of Carl Sagan and everyone who has speculated on "other life" up till now there is no evidence that "other life" exists, what the probability that it exists is, what its nature might be, the range of possible venues for life to arise, etc. There is none, just as there is none that any of the stories of Paleolithic behavior told by the evo-psychs, are more than just stories.

There is no evidence for multiple universes either.

I've got a rather old fashioned view of science in which physical evidence has to be observed and measured and analyzed and that analysis reviewed (the reviewers looking at the evidence is a good idea) and publication of the conclusions looked at and, if necessary, replicated. I know that's not the way of the social sciences, where anything goes, as long as it goes along with the predominant fashion, but that's what's wrong with so much that gets called science these days. That's the kind of stuff we used to call "speculation" if not "fiction". We used to make a distinction between science and making stuff up.

As I've been responding to you people today, I've been having an argument on another blog with a materialist wackjob who has been arguing that the answer to 6x7 is not more than the product of social consensus (he's been quibbling every single word in typical atheist fasion, but that's pretty much what he's arguing). He also hold that science is the product of social consensus and a host of other odd ideas held out of his materialist ideology. As you can see, I think science is something more than that, it's certainly more than what the sci-rangers of the Scienceblogs seem to think it is.

Very Reverend: Can I use "37 plush-lined hells" please? Also, very few people here are English. I know what you meant by 'pile of faggots' but the mental images just keep coming. (For the English people here: in America, the word 'faggot' has nothing to do with kindling or cigerettes.)

Anthony Mcarthy: All those disorders I named are examples of 'selfish genes.' Almost all are deadly and kill their hosts.

Secondly, there are hundreds, maybe thousands of lifeforms here on Earth living in environments that are profoundly alien to humans. Take a look at the stuff living in the Mariana Trench for instance.
Extra terrestrial life will probably be in no form we recognize. And yes, it would probably live in environments toxic to us.
Religion is common to most human cultures and would probably exist among other sapient lifeforms, unfortunately. However God's jurisdiction stops outside of Earth's ozone layer.
I'd like to add that I read your blog, Mr. Mcarthy, and you are a perfect quisling. There is no such thing as the Christian left, so please stop pretending. God hates everyone who isn't a straight man, and always has.
You believe in God, and loudly trumpet his existence, even though He hates you. I do believe in God, but this last year has shown me that I can no longer hate myself enough to be a good Christian.

By Politicalguineapig (not verified) on 19 Apr 2012 #permalink

Composer99:

It's very nice to see someone willing to publish what many of us have known for 35 yearsâthat the Viking landers did discover life on Mars. When the Viking's biology experiments were being designed, since nobody knew what Martian life would be like, it was assumed that a positive result on any one of the three experiments would be a good indication that life was present.

By the time the landers got to Mars, due to a crisis of confidence in the culture on Earth, even positive results on all three were not considered good enough to suggest life had been found. Besides, if they'd announced a positive result, somebody might want to go backâand there was no chance of getting funding for that! So they fooled around in the lab until they found some preposterous chemical reaction that sort-of-mimicked the Viking results and called it a day. You'll notice that when Mars landings began again 20 years later, everybody had forgotten about the "superoxides" they invented.

As it turned out, the labeled release experiment was the only one of the three capable of reliably detecting life on Earth, so its results were sufficient to clinch the case. Even with the extra tests at an intermediate temperature that they added to distinguish biology from chemistry, the results stood up. NASA managed to deny the obvious, however, because the mass spectrometer detected no organic molecules. Never mind that the feed pipe became blocked with the tiniest drop of water in about half the tests on Earth, and thus gave the same (lack of) resultâno organics, no life!

McCarthy: No answer to my simple statement, I see. Any planet with oxygen in its atmosphere has life. This could be detected from Earth. As soon as it is, we know life exists elsewhere in the Universe. Deny it or shut up.

By The Very Rever… (not verified) on 19 Apr 2012 #permalink

Very Reverend: Can I use "37 plush-lined hells" please?

I seem to have neglected to copyright it, so be my guest!

Oddly enough, I'm American myself, but I guess I've read enough history of the era that "pile of faggots" just sounded natural as a metaphor for being burned at the stake.

On the subject Martian life, I'm afraid that the planets have been swapping spit for long enough that we'll find Earth life and Mars life to be the same. Disappointing, but oh well. There's always Europa...or Titan.

By The Very Rever… (not verified) on 19 Apr 2012 #permalink

As I've been responding to you people today, I've been having an argument on another blog with a materialist wackjob [blah, blah, blah]

Yah, I think everyone following this is aware that your main pursuit is engagement. It is a very weak form of this trait, in that you're also priggish about the endeavor, but there's no real need to try to sell it with a fleeting story about how somebody somewhere else was willing to put up with you.

If you haven't read The Selfish Gene you should, you'd find out that Dawkins view genes in exactly the same kind of thing that Orac was referring to.

"The Selfish Gene" is the book in which Dawkins ascribed such a large role to cultural factors that he introduced the concept of 'memes', so claiming it as a case study in biological determinism is rather silly.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 19 Apr 2012 #permalink

I fear this thread won't be coming back to earth any time soon.

Very Reverend: Thanks. And I understand; once you've read enough 16th century source material- or even 15th, you start struggling not to drop 'thee' and 'thous' everywhere. Speaking of Europa, what's been going on there lately?

By Politicalguineapig (not verified) on 19 Apr 2012 #permalink

Speaking of Europa, what's been going on there lately?

ALL THESE WORLDS ARE YOURS â EXCEPT EUROPA. ATTEMPT NO LANDINGS THERE.

We would note that film talent is not within our charter, although we stand united with our fellow artists.

By American Guild… (not verified) on 19 Apr 2012 #permalink

Politicalguineapig, you've spewed so much nonsense in your comment that there isn't time to deal with all of it. I will, though, point out that your attributing enormous blocks of thought that I don't happen to hold to me is just another example of you sci-rangers wanting to argue what you figure you can when you find you can't deal with what is actually said. One of your favorite tactics is to attribute fundamentalist religious beliefs to people who don't hold them. I've never been a fundamentalist.

No such thing as a Christian left? You apparently never heard of The Reverend Martin Luther King jr., the Rev. Al Sharpton, Fr. Phillip Berrigan, Liberation Theology, I could fill a comment thread with nothing but a list of the Christian left and that doesn't even include the religious Jewish left and the religiously motivated leftists from other religious traditions. You don't know much about the left if you haven't noticed the religious left. There wouldn't be much of a left without religious leftists because there simply aren't enough atheists (many of whom are quite far to the right) and agnostics to make up a politically effective left. Any political success the left might possibly regain will be through people who are religious, an atheist left would be a left with no hope of political influence. Numbers count in politics, not that the atheist pseudo-left has ever been overwhelmingly democratic.

Maybe that's it, you resent the fact that it was when people like the Rev. MLK were predominant in the left that laws got passed and that most radical of all actions happened, peoples' lives got better and that it was when anti-religious jerks took hold of it that progress sputtered to a stop. A lot of that due to the fact that so many of them would rather sit around talking about how stupid the majority of people are compared to them and how the glorious, Godless future was going to be so and so instead of doing the hard work of making change here and now. The atheist left, with a handful of exceptions, has been a disaster for the real left.

AS I've already noted I don't believe in the Virgin Birth or vicarious atonement and you don't seem to understand that disqualifies me from being a Christian it's not useful to point it out again.

The ideology of materialism is neverendingly self-contradictory and dishonest, I've found. It is politically impotent because the vast majority of people are wise enough to see no reason for them to deny their rationality and their own experience. Not to mention the history of materialist governments which have been a uniform disaster. When you see people as mere objects there is nothing to keep someone who wants to from using them and destroying them. That's the foremost lesson of 20th century politics.

herr doktor bimler, you shouldn't have gotten started on memes, one of the silliest ideas in recent pseudo-science. I believe that Dawkins has been walking that one back for a long time, now. Not exactly repudiating it as E. O. Wilson is repudiating his belief in the untestable formula of W. D. Hamilton, much to Dawkins' objection, but, rather wishing it would just go away. As some have pointed out, memes would contradict a lot of what Dawkins attributed to the behavioral power of genes - memes were never more than a patch for the problems of Dawkins' main idea.

I'd point out that between genetic determinism and the interference of memes it would be impossible for science to have anything like a clear, objective view of the universe. Everything we could think about the universe would merely be the biased product of those irresistible deterministic forces. I can't think of anything that could more damage the credibility of science. Compared to that the viewpoint of John Lennox is infinitely more pro-science, granting it real and effective oower to objectively know the universe.

I think it would be accurate to say that most scientists rejected memes, as did most thoughtful people. It's most popular with graduates in the so-called sciences and those in the humanities who have a badly misplaced case of science envy. I'd never heard anyone mention the term in general conversation until I started frequenting blogs with large numbers of those kinds of people on them. I couldn't believe anyone could really believe they were real.

I always point out that the geneticist, H. Allen Orr, gave what should be the definitive smack down to the idea of memes in his review of Darwin's Dangerous Idea in the Boston Review, but the true believers don't seem to understand his arguments so I won't bother looking up that link again.

But the point here is that memes were a prop set up to the main idea of genetic determinism in the last chapter, as I recall, of The Selfish Gene. But it's been a long, long time since I read the book.

The ideology of materialism religion is neverendingly self-contradictory and dishonest, I've found. It is politically impotent dominant because the vast majority of people are wise stupid enough to see no reason for them to deny use their rationality and (accept) their own experience. Not to mention the history of materialist religious governments which have been a uniform disaster. When you see people as mere objects subordinate to some imaginary Sky Fairy, there is nothing to keep someone who wants to from using them and destroying them. That's the foremost lesson of 20th 17th century politics.

FTFY.

I don't know how much news there is on Europa, except that the existence there of the largest ocean of liquid water in the Solar System is pretty much generally accepted now. The latest I read, though, is that it may be too salty for life. I still think Titan is the most interesting destinationâwe know there are plenty of complex organics there, and though it may be farther away, it's much easier to land on because of the thick atmosphere. And you don't have to drill through miles of ice to find anything interesting.

By The Very Rever… (not verified) on 20 Apr 2012 #permalink

herr doktor bimler, you shouldn't have gotten started on memes, one of the silliest ideas in recent pseudo-science.

I do not endorse the meme of "meme", which has been thoroughly ridiculed by cleverer people than me. I mentioned it in comment 217 because the appearance of the concept in "The Selfish Gene" is not compatible with a reading of that book as promoting biological determinism. This was simpler than

find[ing] a passage or two which I felt demonstrated that my characterization of Dawkins was correct, check[ing] if they were supported by references to the biological literature (if not, so much the better!), and cit[ing] those

(as proposed by composer99 in comment 210).

But it's been a long, long time since I read the book.

You seemed very confident in comment 212 that if readers less-acquainted with the book than yourself were to read it, they would "find out that Dawkins view genes in exactly the same kind of thing that Orac was referring to." Do you still hold to that?
The edition I'm looking at now is the Grafton / Paladin paperback.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 20 Apr 2012 #permalink

TVRBoK, there isn't anyone alive who is responsible for what happened in the 17th century, there are plenty alive who are responsible for what happened in the 20th and 21st century. Including atheist paradises such as North Korea. It's interesting, once the Soviet government fell apart, how soon people reasserted their religious life. If they couldn't end religion, you guys have no chance of doing that. I guess that if the people in North Korea are lucky enough to get rid of the nightmare regime they live under, religion will be one of the first things they turn to to try to recover their humanity.

I will, actually, credit the Cuban government for being a lot better than it's predecessor and other governments in its region, but it's hardly something I'd rather live under than any of the European countries with official state religions. I think it would have been a lot better if it had been more influenced by some of the ideas of liberation theology.

Having run this thread completely off the rails, AMc once again tropes out the idea of "athiest paradises" and equates them to the various communist regimes of history - up to and including North Korea.

Dictatorial governments are about maintaining power - religion was supressed in the Soviet Union, not because of some heart-felt belief in atheism (though that was the reason given), but instead was an attempt to neutralize a potential rival and threat to the regime.

On the other side of the equation, religion and religious institutions have been co-opted in the past to further the maintenance & growth of power in right-wing regimes (particularly in South & Central America - but it has happened elsewhere too).

When it comes to those types of situations, they are really just two sides of the same coin & really not related to the philosophy behind the actual beliefs - whether it be a religion, religious practice, or the practice of no religion. They only act as a convenient excuse for what is being done.

As for your assertions that since we cannot directly observe life on other planets (yet), we shouldn't even bother looking? It seems that speculation into the "unobservable" has led to the advancement in techniques to now "observe" - the invention of the electron microscope comes to mind - and now the use of newer and better telescopes, satellites, etc to expand our view - but your rejection of speculation based on available data, seems to be so dogmatic as to be almost a full rejection of scientific advancement past anything that we directly observe today.

herr doktor, you seem to have missed the main thrust of Dawkins' entire career which has been based on the deterministic power of genes. That is only rivaled by his superstitious belief in the power of his rather odd interpretation of natural selection to create evidence of Paleolithic behaviors out of nothing but story telling, resulting unobserved reproductive advantage leading to the genes he imagines are the origin of those imagined behaviors persisting in the genome along with his behaviors.

He never seemed to realize that his introduction of memes into that would lead to a contradiction of his basic contention in that it would have to alter behaviors and that it was how a behavior was actually performed that 1.defined the behavior, 2. altering the performance couldn't do anything but change the behavior into a different behavior, 3. would negate any reproductive advantage for the behavior not so "memetically" altered and, 4. would erase any alleged reproductive advantage or disadvantage as a factor in natural selection.

As the fundamental defects in his invention of memes were brought to his attention, he has either tried to alter the idea of to ignore it. His genetic determinism, the primary article of his faith, has persisted and has, unfortunately, been enormously influential in the so-called sciences, journalism and the wider culture. If that was't the case he'd more likely have joined E. O. Wilson in renouncing a lot of what he's written instead of organizing protests against Wilson.

I think Dawkins' career in pop-atheism is his attempt to salvage what even he must see is going to be the wreck of his life's work as fashions in the social sciences change, as they have done with one school after another falling over into an intellectual junk yard.

Lawrence, there has never been a single anti-religious, atheist government in history that hasn't been a bloody despotism, starting in the aftermath of the French Revolution.

When you think that people are only material objects, when you believe as Dawkins has said that the universe has "no good, no evil" whenever people are defined in terms of materialism, there is no reason to expect anything but the one and only limit on what people who believe that will do except thinking they might not be able to get away with it. Whenever the figure they can get away with it, there is no rational reason to expect they won't try to get away with it. The crimes committed under Christian governments have been an actual violation of the teachings of Jesus and the other Jewish prophets. You can't say that the crimes of the atheist regimes violated any morality of materialism.

@Anthony McCarthy

The crimes committed under Christian governments have been an actual violation of the teachings of Jesus and the other Jewish prophets. You can't say that the crimes of the atheist regimes violated any morality of materialism.

First, regardless of what Dawkins may have said (Don't know, don't follow him all that much), claiming that materialists have no moral or ethical code is ignorant. There are a number of moral and ethical codes and social agreements that can be, and are, used instead of righteous fear of god. True, they don't base their code on (supposedly) supernaturally acquired teachings or writings.

Second, crimes committed by theist/atheist rules are still crimes. You can't honestly argue that the "christian" rules who slaughtered their citizenry were worse or better than any atheist ruler who did the same.

Back to the argument that without religion there are no morals? Religion (for the most part) isn't about morality, is about control. The rules that were put in place were an excellent way of exerting control over society - whether they are moral or not (including the support of slavery and a variety of other now "immoral activities).

To say that a society cannot put in place laws and a level of recognition of moral conduct without religion is a stupid assertion. Because the study of Science is relatively new, we (as a species) had tens of thousands of years with no idea of how the natural world (and the Universe in general) worked, so we had to come up with whatever we thought made sense at the time. That was part one of the development of religion - the second part was the building of religious institutions that either worked hand in hand with the state (or were part of the state, or were the state) to maintain a level of order within the society.

The expression of moral codes were part and parcel with maintaining the stability of society, the place of religion within the society, and the control of both the government and religious institutions of that society.

Definitions of right and wrong have been fluid over the ages - and will continue to be fluid in the future. An action is only right or wrong because the society deems it to be so. Without religion, we, as a society, would still judge those very same actions, through whatever prism has been culturally agreed upon as legitimate (or illegitimate).

What is a crime today may not be a crime tomorrow, or conversely, murder might always be considered a crime, though circumstances may permit a murderer to go free (such as self-defense, etc).

Your assumption that the Stalinist régime, for example, was "atheistic" in any meaningful sense is idiotic. The Russian Orthodox seminarian Dzhugashvili persecuted the Church because it was a rival power center, not because of any theological or antitheological disagreements. He used the techniques he learned in the seminary very effectively.

The 17th Century is unfortunately very relevant because that's where one of the major parties in this country are hell-bent on taking us back to. The current war on science that your buddies are fighting on every level of government, the war on women, the war on anyone who doesn't subscribe to their insane 17th-Century delusions is going to be won if they get Multiple Choice Mitt in the White House.

Actually, the presidency is almost irrelevantâthe RATS (Roberts, Alito, Thomas, and Scalia) that they've managed to pack into the supreme court, with fellow-traveler Kennedy voting with them most of the time, are on track to impose the theocracy that you crave so desperately.

It would almost be worth it to see the surprise on your face when that knock on the door in the middle of the night comes because you've said (even though we all know you're lying your ass off) that you "don't believe in the Virgin Birth", etc. WE all know you're lying, but the Grand Inquisitor's won't believe your denials.

By The Very Rever… (not verified) on 20 Apr 2012 #permalink

Grand Inquisitor's goons! Preview is your friend....

By The Very Rever… (not verified) on 20 Apr 2012 #permalink

Lawrence, there has never been a single anti-religious, atheist government in history that hasn't been a bloody despotism, starting in the aftermath of the French Revolution.

Obligatory nitpick: the Reign of Terror was many things, but it wasn't atheist. Nor even anti-religious. It was very specifically anti *Catholic*. (And if you could see what the monarchy, nobility, and clergy had been doing to the country for the preceding centuries, you might understand why it happened at all.) Robespierre attempted to replace pretty much the entire social system of his time -- including religion. Catholicism was replaced with the Cult of the Supreme Being, since Robespierre firmly believed that religion was required for social order. He just wanted it to be a religion that *he* could control, rather than the Pope. The revolutionaries also attempted many other changes to try to eradicate all traces of the past, with possibly the craziest being their attempt to decimalize time.

In the end, it's folly to blame any war or cruel autocracy on religion or atheism. It's *people* that are to blame, and they use whatever tools they have at hand to control other people. Ideology tends to be particularly useful, because it can be introduced gradually and is hard to shake loose once it's established.

By Calli Arcale (not verified) on 20 Apr 2012 #permalink

Lawrence, there has never been a single anti-religious, atheist government in history that hasn't been a bloody despotism, starting in the aftermath of the French Revolution.

Obligatory nitpick: the Reign of Terror was many things, but it wasn't atheist. Nor even anti-religious. It was very specifically anti *Catholic*. (And if you could see what the monarchy, nobility, and clergy had been doing to the country for the preceding centuries, you might understand why it happened at all.) Robespierre attempted to replace pretty much the entire social system of his time -- including religion. Catholicism was replaced with the Cult of the Supreme Being, since Robespierre firmly believed that religion was required for social order. He just wanted it to be a religion that *he* could control, rather than the Pope. The revolutionaries also attempted many other changes to try to eradicate all traces of the past, with possibly the craziest being their attempt to decimalize time.

In the end, it's folly to blame any war or cruel autocracy on religion or atheism. It's *people* that are to blame, and they use whatever tools they have at hand to control other people. Ideology tends to be particularly useful, because it can be introduced gradually and is hard to shake loose once it's established.

By Calli Arcale (not verified) on 20 Apr 2012 #permalink

Well, if you're going to argue from extremes you'll have to balance the example of "athiest paradises" like North Korea with the example of "religious paradises" like Afghanistan under the Taliban, which to my view indicates neither paradigm is desirable and it's the middle ground we should be focus upon: secular, rather than athiest, nations (like the US).

Callie Arcale, a major group of the intellectual thugs who grabbed power during the French Revolution were quite anti-religious, certainly anti-Catholic, as you note, and quite a few were what, in this latest wave of pop-atheist hatred, would be termed "anti-theistic". The "deism" that was all the rage with the enlightened beings that a lot of them believed themselves to be doesn't seem to have prevented the flood of murder that was the reign of terror. A number of them were materialists of one sect or other. Certainly none of them were acting in accord with the teachings of the Jewish prophets, especially not holding with what Jesus taught. That the assertion that moral teachings against things like killing being divinely ordained turns out to have a weak influence doesn't make a ban on killing any stronger when its truth being objectively true is denied. Atheists have proven to be quite efficient killers, especially when they have training in science and technology.

As I pointed out, the crimes of the governments who were officially Christian certainly weren't following the teachings of Jesus, they were violating them no matter what they claimed to believe. You can't say the same thing about the crimes of materialist regimes, they weren't violating any moral holdings of materialism. Materialists more typically reject the idea that morality is anything but the temporary beliefs of a majority in a society, though you have to wonder why materialists such as have taken power don't seem to trust the majority to govern themselves. Materialists seem to have an inflated view of their intelligence as compared to that of the majority of people.

The lesson of the 20th century is that when people who don't really believe in morality take power they act as if they don't believe in morality. Is that so surprising? Their temporary belief that they might not be able to get away with doing awful things seems to be the only obstacle to them doing what they want to do, not the belief that they should restrain themselves. When it's a regime of amoral people who take over, it's even worse.

It's not my fault that materialists deny the objective reality of moral prohibitions against killing and other things, that they assert, "there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference". Why would anyone expect someone who believes that to the point where they explicitly state it to behave as if it wasn't true? Why should anyone object to me taking them at their word? Why would anyone in their right mind vote for someone who believes that?

McCarthy:

The BoingBoing article on the Wolpert-Sheldrake wager you linked to is insufficient for your purposes. It does not transmit the full text of the wager. The best we get is this vague treatment:

Prof Wolpert believes that all biological phenomena can in principle be explained in terms of DNA, proteins and other molecules, together with their interactions. He is convinced that it is only a matter of time before all the details of an organism can be predicted on the basis of the genome.

The first sentence suggests there are nuances to the wager that you are unaware of (or, given your behaviour on this thread, constitutionally incapable of acknowledging). The second sentence is too vague to be of any use. In addition, as has been suggested upthread, there may well be animal or plant organisms which are simple enough that Wolpert could win the wager.

The New Scientist article mentioned (which happens to be behind a paywall) apparently has the full text of the wager, and it also includes documentation written by Wolpert in which he lays out his case for making the wager.

If you're trying to argue that Wolpert, and by extension Dawkins & others "view genes simplistically in a deterministic fashion, constructing an elaborate straw man of modern genetics in which genes are destiny" then based solely on the BoingBoing article you don't have enough evidence to support that claim.

Likewise, the Lewontin video is also insufficient, largely for the same reason the wager link is. Lewontin quotes another scientist suggeting he could 'compute the organism' given the genome of an organism and sufficient computing power. No context for the quote is given, nor is a reference. For all you know, Lewontin could be mis-quoting.

Really, all I have been trying to get you to do is to support your contention that Dawkins and others "view genes simplistically in a deterministic fashion, constructing an elaborate straw man of modern genetics in which genes are destiny" by supplying direct quotes from their works (preferably in the biological literature) in which they make statements you think support your point.

That's all you need to do. If you think that's too high an evidentiary hurdle to cross, that's your problem, not anyone else's.

Finally, looking back on the thread your claim:

I have repeatedly tried to bring the discussion back to what Orac originally said

can scarcely be anything else but either the height of self-delusion or an outright lie.

I love to argue with people who smugly think they're superior, especially when they give me so much material to refute them with.

Anthony, you owe me a knew irony meter.

Your assumption that the Stalinist régime, for example, was "atheistic" in any meaningful sense is idiotic. TVRetc.

What is idiotic is pretending that it wasn't an atheist regime when anyone with the slightest knowledge of it would know that was the case, both in stated intent and action, responsible for the murders of very large numbers of religious believers, the suppression of religion, the destruction of religious infrastructure, etc. You could say the same thing about Mao's regime, those in Eastern Europe and others in Asia. Castro's, I'd say, would have to be an exception of sorts, not nearly as bad as the others though far from good. I know that lying about history is a universally committed human sin but, really, this one is a pretty stupendous whopper. Perhaps you figure you can get away with lying which violates nothing but an imaginary moral code.

They might have temporarily tolerated some religious expression, as long as they held the strings to puppet religious figures, but religion was slated for eventual abolition.

I was completely against U.S. involvement in the war in Vietnam and surrounding countries, not because I had any expectation that the resulting government would be a bastion of democracy but for other reasons. One of the results of U.S. policy was the rise of Pol Pot and the insane ideological genocide came from it. To paraphrase, if Marx knew what was done in his name he'd never stop throwing up. I was even more opposed to the United States and the JPII papacy supporting the contras who overthrew the Sandinista revolution, which I think could have been a model government for Latin America. They'd have been different from any other Marxist influenced government due to their abolition of the death penalty.

They'd have been different from any other Marxist influenced government due to their abolition of the death penalty.

Wait, what? You did NOT just type that.

Sorry to deflect the thread from the evils of atheism, but it seems to me that many of the "alt-med" crowd are abusing the term "epigenetics" much the same way they have traditionally abused the term "quantum". In both cases, they use the word because it is "sciencey" and because they - correctly - realise that most people have no idea what it means. As they did (do) with "quantum", the "alties" are using "epigenetic" as a smokescreen to hide their magical thinking.

For example: after failing to show that mercury in vaccines is associated with autism, they use "epigenetics" to explain away the data in favour of their own received wisdom. They point to the fact that a number of genetic differences are seen in autistic people and then - without any supporting data - claim that these differences make them "more sensitive to mercury", ignoring the fact that drastically falling exposure to mercury hasn't appeared to result in a corresponding drop in autism prevalence.

Just like "quantum", "epigenetics" is not a magical incantation to be used whenever the data fail to support dogma.

Prometheus

Stu, I know that someone who argues like an adult is often mistaken for an elitist snob on the blogs. Back when I was coming up we used to just figure arguing like an adult was something people tried to do as they grew up.

I'm the one who keeps advocating people make up their own minds in this discussion. I figure people who do that have a chance of being right and they might teach me something I don't know.

I'm such an elitist I won't be satisfied until everyone is elite.

@Anthony McCarthy(238)

Apologies for fueling the off topic issue.

That the assertion that moral teachings against things like killing being divinely ordained turns out to have a weak influence doesn't make a ban on killing any stronger when its truth being objectively true is denied.

Do you have any statistics to back the claim that religious doctrines prevent homicides?

Atheists Human beings have proven to be quite efficient killers, especially when they have training in science and technology.

Fixed.

As I pointed out, the crimes of the governments who were officially Christian certainly weren't following the teachings of Jesus, they were violating them no matter what they claimed to believe.You can't say the same thing about the crimes of materialist regimes, they weren't violating any moral holdings of materialism.

You can say the same thing, if you agree or acknowledge that a great number of atheists (here so called materialists) have and uphold moral holdings. Your argument holds water only if you assume that a) all Christians share same moral holdings, b) any Christian rules who breaks those moral holdings can't therefore be a (true) Christian, and c) All atheists are immoral materialists (in a very narrow laissez-faire sort of way). All of which are demonstrably false.

Materialists more typically reject the idea that morality is anything but the temporary beliefs of a majority in a society,

So a sentence after you argue that materialists don't have any moral holdings, you state what their moral hondings are? And, do you really think that any present majority and thereby the existing materialist morality would ever allow murders, theft, slavery or so forth?

The lesson of the 20th century What we can draw from the recent global history is that when people who don't really believe in morality act brutally as if end justifies the means take power they act as if they don't believe in morality brutally as if end justifies the means. Is that so surprising?

Fixed, and I'd also like to point out that this includes both religious and secular leaders, and single individuals as well. "They don't think they should restrain themselves" because they think they are doing what's good for their subjects/country/ideology/doctrine.

It's not my fault that materialists deny the objective reality of moral prohibitions against killing and other things,

Objective? As in existing independent from the observer, not influenced by personal feelings or beliefs? Weird how this objective reality doesn't extend to other species of animals than humans.

that they assert, "there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference".

That's nihilism. Not materialism, and definitely not atheism.

that they assert, "there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference".

That's nihilism. Not materialism, and definitely not atheism.

It's certainly not a defining trait of philosophical nihilism, which merely jettisons ontology.

That's nihilism. Not materialism, and definitely not atheism.

It's certainly not a defining trait of philosophical nihilism, which merely jettisons ontology.

My bad. I was sort of thinking of the tv-trope grade of nihilism.

Anthony, you are by far the most annoying windbag I've ever encountered online. Still not sure if you're just trolling or truly that delusional, or both... but no longer curious.

Sorry for feeding the troll, everybody. Carry on.

I just realized my post in 246 didn't display striked text properly.

Apologies.

From 246(...)

Atheists Human beings have proven to be quite efficient killers, especially when they have training in science and technology.

Fixed.

(...)

The lesson of the 20th century What we can draw from the recent global history is that when people who don't really believe in morality act brutally as if end justifies the means take power they act as if they don't believe in morality brutally as if end justifies the means. Is that so surprising?

Fixed, and I'd also like to point out that this includes both religious and secular leaders, and single individuals as well. "They don't think they should restrain themselves" because they think they are doing what's good for their subjects/country/ideology/doctrine.

It's not my fault that materialists deny the objective reality of moral prohibitions against killing and other things,...

From the arguments I've had so far in life, objective morality seems completely incoherent. At the very least, I have a hard time getting useful answers out of people who believe in objective morality.

General prohibitions against killing, theft, and lying exist because a society where those things aren't prohibited is likely to collapse very quickly. Societies where those things are sanctioned against one group but prohibited against a privileged class can last for some time due to intimidation, but it's generally less stable than more egalitarian societies.

Of course, I endorse secularism, not atheism, as the basis for a state. If someone can develop a coherent, testable god hypothesis, they should have the freedom to do so. No ideas should be arbitrarily declared off-limits by the government. Like most atheists I know, I'm not dogmatic about atheism, just pragmatic: I know of no good epistemological reason to believe in gods. That may change with enough peer-reviewed scientific research, but it seems pretty unlikely to happen from my estimation.

...that they assert, "there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference".

Why artificially constrain it to "at bottom"? Design and purpose happen at species, personal and societal levels. Good and evil are at the societal level. These are emergent phenomena. They emerge at higher organizational levels.

Out of curiosity, do your straw materialists deny the existence of fire? At the fundamental particle levels, there's no such thing as fire. It's only when you've got some number of atoms and/or molecules reacting exothermically with free oxygen that it makes sense to describe it as "fire." My materialism won't stop me from reaching for a fire extinguisher.

I know that someone who argues like an adult is often mistaken for an elitist snob on the blogs

Anthony, you're delusional if you think you're "arguing like an adult".

Adults don't try to pretend their inadequate evidence, sense of personal incredulity, and ill-formed preconceived notions of others are reliable, empirically-verifiable claims about the world and human behaviour.

I'm the one who keeps advocating people make up their own minds in this discussion.

A lie; else another delusion.

I figure people who do that have a chance of being right and they might teach me something I don't know.

Considering your mind seems to be as hermetically sealed as Exquisitor Vorbis in Small Gods, I'd say this is extremely unlikely.

Narad, as it's a quote taken from Richard Dawkins I'm wondering what your friends will make of you calling him a nihilist. And it was definitely a product of his materialism. Materialism logically results in moral nihilism.

Do you have any statistics to back the claim that religious doctrines prevent homicide

What I said was there was no reason to believe that someone who believes there is no objective moral prohibition on killing will feel morally restrained from killing if they want to or find it convenient to. Though worrying that he might not get away with it might. As I pointed out, the state murder rate under officially materialist regimes is impressive, mounting into the tens of millions in just the past century.

Here, read what an atheist, Emma Goldman, had to say about it from the beginning of the Russian Revolution, noting her comments on the French Revolution in the introduction, pages viii-x,

http://www.archive.org/stream/mydisillusionmen012228mbp#page/n13/mode/2…

Stu, don't encourage me.

I figure it's all material. Not life and reality, material of the kind that might lead to a blog post. And I've been told that people have found my arguments useful. You didn't think I was trying to persuade you, did you?

The usual trolls (thingy, for example) have long demonstrated ignorance and willingness to lie in one area. am has exceeded that by showing the same characteristics in every area mentioned in these posts, and gone above and beyond by sneaking in a shot at composer99's comments on music. He (am) is truly a record-setting bullshitter.
In all of this, a couple of his comments stand out, if true (given his record I'd put 1:1 odds of their being true) as unsettling: his side mentions of having students for 40 years and dealing with students unable to make up their own minds. If he really has done that I am appalled to think about how many young men and women he's fucked up for life with his "scholarship".

I'm still trying to get my head around the following:
1) If a religious regime engages in atrocities, then that is proof that religion is fundamentally flawed, and that one should accept atheism.
2) If an atheistic regime engages in atrocities, then they clearly were not real atheists.
Jack Chick would be proud of such reasoning.

By Gray Falcon (not verified) on 20 Apr 2012 #permalink

I figure it's all material. Not life and reality, material of the kind that might lead to a blog post.

Looks like you must have won a lifetime supply of versals at some point. The typographer in me finds this conceit hysterically funny.

dean, re:

and gone above and beyond by sneaking in a shot at composer99's comments on music

To be fair, AM's comment on composition @155 was perfectly reasonable in the right context. It just wasn't relevant in the context of Militant Agnostic's question to me, which was a question of terminology vis-à-vis blues scales.

"To be fair, AM's comment on composition @155 was perfectly reasonable in the right context. It just wasn't relevant in the context of Militant Agnostic's question to me, which was a question of terminology vis-à-vis blues scales."

Accepted. I took the tone of his comment as his typical air of superiority.

Narad, as it's a quote taken from Richard Dawkins I'm wondering what your friends will make of you calling him a nihilist.

You might want to check who you meant to reply to. The only thing I said about the characterization was that it is not implied by philosophical nihilism.

Okay, one last time then:

And I've been told that people have found my arguments useful.

Please stop listening to the voices in your head.

You didn't think I was trying to persuade you, did you?

Thank you for admitting that you're here to troll.

Now back to sticking my flounce.

It's hilarious to have people who have been heaving insults at me for more than a hundred comments whining about me having a superior attitude. And by hilarious, I mean I think it's funny. Especially right after someone like Stu suggests I'm schizophrenic or something.

The new atheists can dish it out but they can't handle it when someone dishes it right back at them. Like I said, some intellectual movement you've got going here.

The new atheists can dish it out but they can't handle it when someone dishes it right back at them.

What leads you to the conclusion that you are being heaped with scorn from some sort of uniform panel of "new atheists"?

Oh, right.

Are "new atheists" part of the New World Order? Or are they just an allied minion organization.

By Kelly M Bray (not verified) on 20 Apr 2012 #permalink

Well, bear in mind, Narad, that he evidently defines "new atheist" as "person I disagree with." I used to think he just ignored the fact that many of the people he was arguing with were Christians (when I encountered him before on another scienceblog), but after his response to my nitpick about the French Revolution, it's clear that he is quite blatantly willing to redefine terms. After all, it's tough to understand how he could use deists as examples of atheists unless he is redefining terms, and difficult to understand how he could square the Cult of the Supreme Being with an anti-religious viewpoint in revolutionary France unless he is willing to ignore anything which doesn't support his preconceptions.

I'd say it's sad, but actually I've brought popcorn to watch this unfold. ;-)

By Calli Arcale (not verified) on 20 Apr 2012 #permalink

Anthony Mcarthy: While you may not believe you are a fundamentalist, you certainly talk a lot like them. Martin Luther King and the Liberation theorists had a shit load of blind spots- and while they did make life better for some people, they also encouraged the opposition to become louder, until all their good work was erased by the noise.

As Lawrence said, any major religion is about control. I'd add add 'and blood sacrifice.' Sure, the people may not be the same as the 17th century people, but the same ideas are still around. Modern day Christians hound gay and lesbian children to death, make life impossible for the Wiccans, atheists and Jews among them, and generally behave in such a way as to make Cotten Mather and the rest of the witch hunters proud. Won't take much for them to start burning and stoning people again. I won't go into what's considered righteous by modern day Muslims.

Finally, most of those Communist countries that you denigrate have merely replaced religion with a personality cult. The French Revolution? Most of them were still quite devoted Catholics.

I freely admit that I'm not a moral person at all.I'm an ethical person. I do not have to live in fear that God would punish me if I do something wrong; I simply refrain from actions that would hurt another person.

By Politicalguineapig (not verified) on 20 Apr 2012 #permalink

@ Kelly M Bray:

I'm not sure whether I'm a new atheist or not ( it's a long-standing family tradition),
I'd probably be sympathetic to a new world order- if it made ordering things easier- but I would definitely hang with the minions. Because they're so much fun.

But seriously, I have tried and tried to follow the unfurling of the chief complainant's worldview but I just keep getting lost and then have to start over, like that novel wherein you never seem to get further than the first hundred pages.. and it has six... hundred.. pages.

At any rate, there is something just *fascinating* going on here..I wish I knew what to call it... give me another hundred comments, I'll think of something.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 20 Apr 2012 #permalink

@Denice

At any rate, there is something just *fascinating* going on here

Scene in Spain.
Pedestrians asking for directions.
Smiling plump man on donkey answering: "Oh yes, take a right just after the windmills over there"
Companion of the plump man, an emaciated man in mismatched armor on a lean horse: "Windmills? Chaaarge!"
(turns around his horse and charges the windmills)
Plump man:"Oh, Madre de Dios, here he goes again!"

(credits: Goscinny & Uderzo)

By Heliantus (not verified) on 20 Apr 2012 #permalink

Just catching up with this post and thread. And yes, that one paper that an early commenter references has found its way to a popular environmental media website (Grist), with a doozy of a post and headline:

"New study links autism to high-fructose corn syrup"
http://grist.org/scary-food/new-study-links-autism-to-high-fructose-cor…

I blogged on it at my site here, mainly to note some inconsistency with their standards for science reporting:
http://www.collide-a-scape.com/2012/04/20/grist-autism-linked-to-corn-s…

@ Denice.
I had a dual major in Environmental Engineering and Religion. I loved philosophy, ethics, and world religions. Talked for hours into the nights with grad students, professors, and TA's. This is my meat and potatoes. That being said, I can't figure out where he is going. If I were to read 100 more posts I think I would have my head explode or I would get brain cancer

By Kelly M Bray (not verified) on 20 Apr 2012 #permalink

Scene in Spain.

You know, it occurred to me, but the Ingenius Gentleman has charm. There must be a misplaced Walter Scott character lying around somewhere.

^ Man, that o key is going to pay.

"herr doktor, you seem to have missed the main thrust of Dawkins' entire career which has been based on the deterministic power of genes."

Like other commenters in this thread, I am loath to rely on vague and fallible impressionistic intuitions into Dawkins' intentions, and instead prefer to focus on words that he has actually written and said. So I was encouraged when AM advised us that "If you haven't read The Selfish Gene you should". Sadly, it emerged that AM's advice was not intended to apply to himself: "it's been a long, long time since I read the book."

It also emerged that any contradiction between AM's characterisation of Dawkins' philosophy and the author's actual words are not a reason to reconsider that characterisation, but rather indicate a fault on Dawkins' part for failing to live up to it. Quite literally: "He never seemed to realize that his introduction of memes into that would lead to a contradiction of his basic contention..."

If this exegesis is an example of the adult argument that AM seeks, I think I will stick with the adolescent response of rolling my eyes.

Certainly none of them were acting in accord with the teachings of the Jewish prophets, especially not holding with what Jesus taught.

One seldom encounters an exemplar of the True Scotsman fallacy in such pure form. "The instigators of the French Revolution killed people, therefore they were not religious despite their own self-descriptions, therefore they were atheists, therefore atheists are murderous."

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 20 Apr 2012 #permalink

Politicalguineapig, you clearly are a play leftist in stead of a change the law and make life better atheist. The place that getting together with the kids and hating on religion has in the play left is one of the major clues that it will go nowhere. You might want to look at the late years of Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman when they rather sadly had to ask their friends if their lives devoted to their entirely unrealistic and impractical form of leftism were wasted. The answer, sadly, was that they had. Though you might have to do some reading for that.
And there aren't any Emma Goldmans in today's play left.

herr doktor bimler, you want things that would take a book in blog comments. Though I have come to think it's probably futile to expect that Richard Dawkins' fans will actually know something about his scientific career (I had a long argument on this very blog a year and a half ago in with some of your fellow new atheists who were unaware of his position in evo-psy) I'm not responsible for your failure to actually read what the man has said. It's not my fault that you guys are so lazy that you don't know what your idols have actually said and thought about the consequences of what they have asserted.

You could, getting back to Orac's topic point out that the entirety of evo-psy can be analyzed by saying "Thinking Doesn't Make It So". Come to think of it, that could have been said to the atheist at Lenin's Tomb I was arguing with Thursday as well.

The new atheism is a shallow, bigoted, intellectual f
ad based in ignorance, conceit, self-congratulations and laziness. No wonder it's caught on in the post-literate age.

you want things that would take a book in blog comments

OK, I'll take your unsupported word for it then.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 21 Apr 2012 #permalink

Calli Arcale, a deist god who isn't there for you might as well be no god. The proposed cults of the French revolutionists were about as much religions as the state controlled "churches" of North Korea and China.

For a short time I enjoyed annoying a particularly obnoxious member of your club by pointing out what day it was on the rational, materialist,French revolutionary calendar and what part of the material universe we were to meditate on that day (I found a wiki that says what day it is by it). She never failed to find that annoying. Apparently new atheists don't like to be reminded of their history.

The romantic view of the French Revolution is one of the major absurdities of the atheist left and a major clue as to the ability of materialists to overlook enormous lakes of blood, piles of bodies and a political legacy that kept France in a series of political calamities, sometimes quite violent ones, through the 19th century and which still has consequences. It would seem that with their enormous powers of analysis the, admittedly, brilliant minds of the atheist left didn't understand they were not required to choose being either a degenerate royalist or an insane member of one of the revolutionary gangs. But, then, so many of them have been addicted to the framework of the dialectic. Odd that you anti-woo folk haven't seemed to get around to the dialectic and those who believe in it.

herr doktor, maybe you didn't read my advice to Stu about this thing called "reading". There's this other thing called a "search engine". It's kind of dangerous in the hands of the gullible as there's so much inaccurate information on the web but you can read stuff that Dawkins has actually said. You might try Coyne and any number of other new atheist heroes that deny the existence of most of the the bases of democracy.

Reading Coyne's diatribe against free will earlier this year led to my concluding that anyone would be insane to vote for someone who believes there is no morality, no free will, that people are just "lumbering robots" or "meat automatons", etc. Yet, that's what so many atheists say we are. I don't see how anyone who is a materialist can believe anything else, down beneath their cover stories. People who believe that should never have political power because they can be expected to act as if they believe what they say. So, there politicalguineapig, I've said it.

I had a long argument on this very blog a year and a half ago in with some of your fellow new atheists

If only this new-fangled hyper-textual interlattice provided some way of 'linking' to conclusive comments posted in the past.
Also I am disappointed by its failure to send me a Fellow New Atheist t-shirt to wear, in recognition of the status ascribed to me.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 21 Apr 2012 #permalink

Modern day Christians hound gay and lesbian children to death, make life impossible for the Wiccans, atheists and Jews among them, and generally behave in such a way as to make Cotten Mather and the rest of the witch hunters proud. politicalguineapig

Where did you learn your recent history from? Cable TV?

By an overwhelming margin, "modern day Christians" are the people who passed the Civil Rights acts of the mid-1960s that, among other things, made atheists a covered class, out lawing discrimination against them. As well as Wiccans and any other religious group. As a gay man I'm glad I don't have to wait for the glorious day when atheism has overtaken religion for the law to recognize my right to equality because that day is unlikely to ever get here. In the mean time it's mostly religious people, most of them Christians who are the people who have the ability to change laws recognizing my equality. If that was dependent on the political power of atheists instead of on religious people not a single law against living as an lgbt person would have been changed.

Where in materialism do you find that it's immoral to discriminate against one group of "meat automatons" or "lumbering robots" for whatever reason? I can tell you why that's unjust from terms taken from Jewish-Christian thought. Where in materialism do you find civil rights, equality, the right to justice, etc? They don't exist within materialism, they're just make believe that has no real existence other than social consensus under materialism. As I mentioned, some materialists think science and even the objective reality of the times tables are dependent on social consensus as well.

I look at the fundamentalist "christian", right and I see, time and again, they act in denial of the teachings of the prophets, especially of Jesus, acting far more in line with some demented form of materialism. And, interestingly, I find in the sayings of Jesus the idea that it's not by their words but by the results of their actions that you will know them. I draw my conclusions about the real nature of my oppressors from that. Their words are just words, their actions carry real meaning.

What I said was there was no reason to believe that someone who believes there is no objective moral prohibition on killing will feel morally restrained from killing if they want to or find it convenient to.

Many people whose religion teaches them there is an objective moral prohibition on killing do not feel morally restrained from killing if they want to or find it convenient to.

By Mephistopheles… (not verified) on 21 Apr 2012 #permalink

I don't see how anyone who is a materialist can believe anything else

This may come under the heading of Argument from Incredulity.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 21 Apr 2012 #permalink

Mephistopheles O'Brien, if people who profess to believe they shouldn't violate morality that is divinely ordained sometimes do those things, how much more can people who profess to not believe that be expected to? I'd say taking a chance that people might live up to their professed beliefs would, in one case lead to rationally expecting less bloodshed, and, in the other, might be rationally expected to result in more.

It would be insane to vote for someone who thinks you're nothing more than an object with no real rights, with no real status above other objects. That's what I concluded from reading Jerry Coyne this year.

I look at the fundamentalist "christian", right and I see, time and again, they act in denial of the teachings of the prophets, especially of Jesus, acting far more in line with some demented form of materialism.

Also they DID NOT PUT SALT ON THEIR PORRIDGE.

By A True Scotsman (not verified) on 21 Apr 2012 #permalink

Anthony McCarthy - your argument is that if people who believe in a god can violate moral principles, then people who don't are far more likely to. Do you have statistics to show that this is so? Based on history and current events, belief in a god can be an additional reason to violate moral principles rather than a bar to same. While I have certainly known people who believed in a god who took moral principles to heart, I've also known plenty of materialist atheists who did likewise (though possibly different sets of moral principles from person to person).

By Mephistopheles… (not verified) on 21 Apr 2012 #permalink

"A True Scotsman": one of the list of interchangeable pat words and phrases that new atheists use to imagine they are thinking.

Mephistopheles, you mean I'm supposed to assume, beforehand, that atheists who say that people are objects, that free will and inherent rights are illusions -of the kind they constantly mock and deride- don't really mean it and that they will never act as if people are more than just objects? I'd rather take a chance on people who say they believe people are equally endowed by God with inalienable rights really meaning it and, sometimes, living up to that belief.

The choice of voting is a matter of predicting behavior, at least when considered rationally. You think that I should take a chance on people who say that people are merely objects and that free will, inherent rights, are delusions etc. don't really mean it and won't act out of that often vigorously held position. I'd guess they'd have a reason for saying what they did and it was among the best predictive factors in guessing what their behavior will be. And I expect some religious believers really have a reason for saying what they do, perhaps even those who have a very hard time consistently overcoming their selfishness and that they're at least as likely to have their belief influence their future behavior as materialists are. My guess is that believing there is are divinely ordered moral laws with real consequences against selfish behavior is probably more effective than believing that there is no such reason to not be selfish.

As to statistics, how about comparing the number of people who have died prematurely at the hands of officially materialistic governments of the Soviet Union and China as compared to, say, the governments of United States and Canada during the same period. It would probably be even more impressive with the majority of European countries with official state churches, certainly since 1950.

The greatest tragedy of socialism was when it fell for materialist horse feathers instead of sticking with its original, religious foundations. Socialism depends on many of the same metaphysical foundations as democracy. It can't do anything but betray its stated intentions if it denies those. Which is the reason that socialists should come up with a word that hasn't been used so badly by materialists.

@Anthony McCarthy (280)

Where in materialism do you find that it's immoral to discriminate against one group of "meat automatons" or "lumbering robots" for whatever reason? I can tell you why that's unjust from terms taken from Jewish-Christian thought. Where in materialism do you find civil rights, equality, the right to justice, etc?

The same as Christians, in books written about their beliefs. And same as Christians (or Muslims, Buddhists, Jews, Wiccans and so on) you can find books both for and against particular rights.

Also, the most extremist materialists/atheists don't speak for all materialists/atheists, just like extremist fundamentalist Christians don't speak for most of them. I'm not familiar enough with extemist authors from either camp so I won't claim what some of them have said or haven't said, but I'm only expecting you to acknowledge that not all materialists/atheists take it to the extreme you think they do, just like you make a distinction between moral Christians and those who in the name of their faith or despite it have done horrible deeds.

They don't exist within materialism, they're just make believe that has no real existence other than social consensus under materialism.

In the bible there are lots of references to slavery without any air of condemnation. Does this mean that bible supports slavery? No, it just means that some of the authors didn't condemn slavery in their writings. There is also no mention in the Bible about right of privacy, democratic process and so on. Does this mean that bible is against these things? Again, no. It's a product of it's time.

There's also contradictory moral advice in different books by different authors (thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not suffer a witch to live to name just one), making it quite easy to prove any moral stand you have with careful quotes. The same you seem to be doing with materialism.

I would hope you would hold the same standard to both/all source material.

gaist, if I was a new atheist I'd now demand that you quote chapter and verse of the materialist tomes that a real belief in rights and free will are to be found in and to account for each and every contradictory action taken against those found in the history of atheist behavior.

Jews and Christians don't merely find the basis of their belief in justice from books, they think the books are merely a record of divine inspiration. The real belief in that really does make a difference in the quality of the belief. Free will and inherent rights are metaphysical, they can't be found in the material universe, no matter how much word juggling and denotative distortion people like Daniel Dennett tries to pull over that defect in materialist theory. Materailism has always devolved into a position like Coyne's and Dawkins (despite Dawkins' own word juggling over it), the experiment of materialism with political power has been run and the results are in line with that belief.

The earliest recorded successful abolitionist I'm aware of was St. Patrick who used religious arguments to convince the Irish to give up slavery. The earliest recorded anti-slavery pamphlet in English speaking North America I'm aware of was by Samuel Sewall, who also wrote about the first argument for equal rights for women during his repentance for participating in the Salem witch trials. John Woolman was another religious campaigner against slavery. If you want to point out how inconsistent religious opposition to slavery has been, that's true. Though the religious arguments, taken from the Bible, against slavery were effective. The modern Civil Rights struggle has been characterized by Biblical Christianity and Judaism, its greatest successes - including those mentioned that made equal rights for atheists the law of the United States - had a power and energy out of that belief that has died as anti-religious slugs have come to dominate the left.

Face it, atheism has nothing in it to fuel a struggle for rights and freedom, when it has successfully pretended to do that the results have been anything but those.

Anthony McCarthy - I personally prefer not to vote for people who avow that people who disagree with their opinions about religion are going to be punished eternally and, thus, are reasonable targets for harassment and ostracism. But tastes vary.

I think we can all agree that the communist governments of China, the Soviet Union, Cambodia, and North Korea, among others, have certainly done more than their share of oppression and killing. What evidence is there that their religious beliefs or lack thereof contributed to that?

By Mephistopheles… (not verified) on 21 Apr 2012 #permalink
herr doktor bimler, you shouldn't have gotten started on memes, one of the silliest ideas in recent pseudo-science.

I do not endorse the meme of "meme", which has been thoroughly ridiculed by cleverer people than me. I mentioned it in comment 217 because the appearance of the concept in "The Selfish Gene" is not compatible with a reading of that book as promoting biological determinism.

Herr Doktor, I'm surprised at this. Exactly what do you find ridiculable (to coin a term) about memetics? I mean, I'm not surprised that Dickweed McCarthy has constructed a straw man version of memetics for himself which he can ridicule, but when it comes to the real thing, I don't see any way it could not be going on.

Memes are replicated between people, frequently mutating along the way; some memes make those who hold them more effective at meme propagation and thus those memes tend to proliferate. Unless one of those just-stated principles can be shown to be absolutely false, then it's not a question of whether memetics is real, only of in which circumstances memetics has stronger effects and in which circumstances it has little to no effect.

By Antaeus Feldspar (not verified) on 21 Apr 2012 #permalink

Mephistopheles, I assume when people say they believe people are merely material objects, that there is no free will, that there are no inherent rights, that there is no divine spark in people, when they either elaborate or endorse ideological systems that have no room for those metaphysical holdings that make human beings more than just objects and when their subsequent acts treat people like objects that those acts were the result of their stated beliefs.

That is especially true when they claim the status of science for those beliefs, denying they are beliefs but claiming they are reliably known.

What evidence is there that professed Christians who kill people and rob the poor are motivated by the words of Jesus and his closest followers, who taught against doing those things?

There is every reason to accuse "christians" who do those things of failing to follow the teachings of a man they claim to believe is God. There is no reason to accuse materialists who treat people like objects to use or kill them of failing to treat people like material objects.

I should thank Jerry Coyne for knocking over the last inhibition that kept me from telling the truth about this when I should have said it decades ago. I did, actually, notice that materialism was incompatible with democracy in the 1960s. It's pretty obvious.

@ AMC

As to statistics, how about comparing the number of people who have died prematurely at the hands of officially materialistic governments of the Soviet Union and China as compared to, say, the governments of United States and Canada during the same period. It would probably be even more impressive with the majority of European countries with official state churches, certainly since 1950.

Oh yes, during the same -ing period. Let's not look at any other period in history, shall we? Not when these god-fearing countries were engaged in civil wars, or colonialism, had a go at religious extremism or in outright genocide.
Also, let's overlook that all of these god-driven countries you point at were engaging in small-scale eugenics in the same time period.
Yeah, atheist communist Russia has a big pile of corpses to its name. So do a lot of other atheist communists states. So do a lot of god-driven countries, for many definitions of god. Not as big, but it's not for lack of trying.

a deist god who isn't there for you might as well be no god.

Oh, sorry - if they don't believe in Christ, then it was an atheist country.

Let's also overlook that gulags existed before the Russian revolution. Same for the secret services, actually. Funny how revolutions tend to replace the caste on top by members of another social layer, but don't change much society itself.

Nice also to dismiss the French revolution as "materialists". If it was not for these damn free-thinkers, the French Catholic clergy wouldn't have been put a notch down and we would never have come around writing this little thing known as Declaration Universelle des Droits de l'Homme (with lots of input from Benjamin Franklin, to be honest). Including the tiny article about freedom of religion.

Oh, and we French do have left-wing Christians (so here you were right, but like the stopped clock you are). Our leftist Christians included a number of prêtre-ouvriers (priests who were also factory workers). Who were a lot closer to the ideal Christian values than any other priest you can point at.

Finally, where are all these materialists you talk about? I only know people who agree to follow societal constraints and obey the golden rule - don't do unto other what you don't want to be done to you. Not out of fear of an invisible daddy with poor aiming skills (talk about someone not here for you), but out of conscience and sense of fairness.

You know what AMC? You are a -ing hypocrite.

By Heliantus (not verified) on 21 Apr 2012 #permalink

I always thought the French Revolution had more to do with the price of bread than religion. Silly me. But then I fail to understand why believing that the universe is indifferent to humans means that humans have to be indifferent to each other.

By Krebiozen (not verified) on 21 Apr 2012 #permalink

Anthony,
You state that Christians (and apparently Christians alone) who do bad things (according to your definition of bad) are acting in spite of their beliefs. This would seem to be true in many cases. Certainly Christianity teaches that it is wrong to steal, so anyone who professes to be Christian and who steals would be acting in violation of that tenet of faith.
Of course, you ignore those things people have done that appear clearly wrong where they state biblical support for their actions, but never mind about that.
Why should I accept your admitted assumption that any bad action that an atheist takes is caused by his/her beliefs, while any bad action caused by a Christian is in spite of his/her beliefs? It frankly sounds like a massive strawman. Has anyone in this message string actually said, for instance, that since there is no god it's perfectly OK to rob someone if you need what they have and just feel like it?

By Mephistopheles… (not verified) on 21 Apr 2012 #permalink

@ Helianthius:
@ Narad:
Oh yes, you got it!. And he's *charming*, for sure!

@ Kelly M Bray:
You have nothing to fear for you are made of stronger stuff. I somehow managed philosophy early on which certainly paid off when I needed to get through historical precedents of psychology : I acquitted myself much more marvellously than the others who were pulling their hair out and moaning for months on end.

Actually, I was thinking of placing this interesting conversation at a table in a hotel's bar, somewhere in the Caribbean, c. 1935- I think that I'll make that Haiti so that I can call the barman *Etienne*. I also like the idea of the the dull hum of ceiling fans. And white tropical clothing that wrinkles easily. Incandescant sunlight escaping through chinks in drawn full-length blinds.

I shall condense Mr McC's opponents to a single gentleman who I'll call Mr Bright**. I don't know what I'll call Mr McCarthy's character yet. However, I believe that a long discussion about the nature of 'oceanic feelings' would certainly be apropo. Perhaps I'll also have them go on about that the history of the production of distilled products in the New World vs the Old one. That should be enlightening.

Then I can just plug in snippets of comments being careful not to mix up my protagonists' speeches.

** which is an obvious reference to you-know-who plus I am related to tons of people named as such. I like things to be over-determined.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 21 Apr 2012 #permalink

Haiti, Denise? Pourquoi? Surely, it should be Fort de France, Martinique!

By hoary puccoon (not verified) on 21 Apr 2012 #permalink

I was listening to the latest On No Ross & Carrie podcast in which they interviewed National Center for Science Education director Eugenie Scott (warning - dreadful Eugenics pus). Eugenie Scott said that in spite of not believing in god, she hadn't killed anyone for weeks.

Anthony blather's about the wonderfulness of European countries with State Religions while ignoring the fact that the atheism is far more common in these countries than in the United States and there is a well established inverse correlation between religiosity of a society and social well being.

By Militant Agnostic (not verified) on 21 Apr 2012 #permalink

As I mentioned, some materialists think science and even the objective reality of the times tables are dependent on social consensus as well.

In other news, the Pirahã are going to turn into fascists any day now.

So anyway, AMcC, as adding this to morality somewhat constrains your position, would you be so kind as to proffer your preferred argument for the externality of relations and specify whether it proceeds from plurality, leads to plurality, or leaves the topic untouched?

Heliantus, I know it's probably a new idea to you but when you are collecting data to compare two groups it's best to try to weed out factors that might lead to your conclusion being invalidated by extraneous factors. One of those things you try to account for are differences due to historical period. You could compare atheist regimes in the 20th century and religious kingdoms of the 12th century and conclude that the atheist regimes of the 20th century were obviously more vicious when a difference in your data could be accounted for by differences in the technology available to the atheist regimes, communication, roads, travel, etc that would have made their success at slaughter more successful. It's possible that the 12th century monarchs would have been as vicious if they had those advantages due to technology.

I assume you're talking about the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen? That doesn't seem to have been a success in restraining the Reign of Terror, the atrocities of the Napoleonic period, including his vicious imperialism, various other catastrophes of 19th century French governments, communes, etc. Call me unimpressed. Whatever gestures made during that period are all well and good but the success is mixed, at best.

As you seem to have missed me pointing out that I am not a Christian (I'm probably closer to Masorti Judaism, actually) I'll point that out again.

Nothing anyone here has said has provided materialism with anything like a belief in free will, inherent rights, equality, etc. Of course, if you tried to assert those within materialism it would be the easiest thing in the world to demand the same kinds of physical proof, evidence, etc, for those that you also dispose of God with. They are no less metaphysical, supernatural, I'd say, than the idea of God and no less susceptible to materialist debunking. Coyne says:

Almost all of us agree that weâre meat automatons in the sense that all our actions are predetermined by the laws of physics as mediated through our genes and environments and expressed in brains. We differ in how we interpret that fact vis-à-vis âfree will and âmoral responsibility,â though many of us seem to think that the truth of determinism should be quietly shelved for the good of the masses.

How smugly paternalistic and how ahistorical. That belief is only shelved in words while it is put into practice under materialist government.

Materialism is an inherently anti-democratic ideology, it is absolutist in denying the foundations of those things that democracy consists of. It's the most reasonable observation possible to note that there has never been a single officially materailist government that has been anything but a violet dictatorship. Most certainly not a dictatorship of the masses, that fantasy and the system that created it (not without an belief in the bizarre unadmittedly metaphysical concept of the dialectic) is the let down of what started as a brilliant critique of capitalism.

@ hoary puccoon:

Well, Martinique is also good but I thought that the Haitian creole dialect might impose even more linguistic barriers for these Anglophones. I'm looking for reasons why they should stay engaged speaking for days on end.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 21 Apr 2012 #permalink

Anthony Mcarthy: Dude, those are all incidents taken from legitimate news sources. There's a school district upstate that has become notorious due to the number of gay and lesbian children who kill themselves or leave the district because of bullying. This school district is also smack dab in the middle of the most rightwing (read Christian) congressional district in the state. Not a coincidence.
I understand that you're British, and are still under the delusion that progress and religion can still coexist. Those of us in the states have no such delusions. Christianity is an actively regressive force here, and need to be pushed out of the public square.
For the record, I don't believe that humans are simply 'meat-automatons.' We are social animals, and have evolved rules to get along with each other in a malevolent universe. Ethics are continously evolving as we progress. We don't need a malevolent God to tell us how to deal with people; we have laws and common sense for that.

By Politicalguineapig (not verified) on 21 Apr 2012 #permalink

I understand that you're British, and are still under the delusion that progress and religion can still coexist. Those of us in the states have no such delusions. Christianity is an actively regressive force here, and need to be pushed out of the public square.

You know, just because McCarthy chooses to be an arrogant bigot who makes ridiculously broad generalizations doesn't mean anyone else needs to or should follow his example.

By Antaeus Feldspar (not verified) on 21 Apr 2012 #permalink

For the record, I don't believe that humans are simply 'meat-automatons.' We are social animals, and have evolved rules to get along with each other in a malevolent universe. Ethics are continously evolving as we progress. We don't need a malevolent God to tell us how to deal with people; we have laws and common sense for that.

One thing that bugs me about a lot of the people who say that "if X is true, that means we're just animals/meat/particles!" is that they can't seem to understand that nothing that big is changed by the understanding. Just because you can take a whole and separate it into parts doesn't mean it stops being a whole.

It also makes me worried for the future if we ever develop sapient AIs. If they're people, it doesn't matter if you can break them down to wires and circuits: They're still people. For all their straw concerns that materialists are going to treat people like objects, it seems likely to me that dualists will happily do the same for androids. They don't seem to think that emergent entities are real unless they exist as concrete entities in their hyper-reductionist framework made of things like consciousness atoms, life atoms, and fire atoms.

Fire was once thought of as an element. Just because we haven't found fire atoms doesn't mean that fire doesn't exist. Which is more sensible: The idea that fire is an event that happens as a chemical interaction, or the idea that there are undiscovered, concrete, supernatural fire atoms that can't be reduced?

What evidence is there that professed Christians who kill people and rob the poor are motivated by the words of Jesus and his closest followers, who taught against doing those things?

You're so smart, Anthony! NOBODY has ever come up with the No True Scotsman fallacy before! We've NEVER seen this argument!

You win!

@ Antaeus

You know, just because McCarthy chooses to be an arrogant bigot who makes ridiculously broad generalizations doesn't mean anyone else needs to or should follow his example.

A fair point. I feel myself on the way to radicalization, and I wouldn't be comfortable finding myself over there.
Let's just say that US politics would be less tense if there was less brimstone handed around.
I blame my bad lectures, I spent too much time reading Freethoughts blogs. Speaking of which:

@ Anthony MacCarthy

What evidence is there that professed Christians who kill people and rob the poor are motivated by the words of Jesus and his closest followers

Look, if what you want are true New Atheists (tm), hop over at Pharyngula (PZ Myers blog). You will find plenty of people who will happily quote the Bible back at you. Including for justifying having slaves or killing certain categories of people.
But fair warning: PZ Myers is quick to use the banhammer on anyone who keeps posting the same non-evidenced drivel without looking at what people are answering back. As you do.

By Heliantus (not verified) on 21 Apr 2012 #permalink

Thank you, Antaeus Feldspar. The constant slandering of my Christian friends really irritates me.

Denise Walter @300--

On the other hand, Martinique has 30 year old rum, which has been known to keep people in bars for days on end.

By hoary puccoon (not verified) on 21 Apr 2012 #permalink

Heliantus: Anthony and PZ have a bit of a history altogether. Accusations of banning, denials of these accusations, et cetera et cetera. He was also one of the major clowns involved in the entire Intersection/You're Not Helping fiasco. I can only presume his presence here is due to the Intersection being a complete wasteland after that particular confederation of dunces.

He really can't go over to Pharyngula, since his pathetic sophistry is well known there.

And Anthony: eloquence does not give hot air substance.

LW and Anteaus: Sorry. I'm aware I tend to generalize about Christians. I was raised unchurched, so most of my first experiences with Christians were reading the latest thing that Dobson/Falwell/Robertson had said. As you can imagine, that doesn't contribute to a positive impression of Christians, and until adulthood, I wasn't aware of this 'Christian Left' at all.

By Politicalguineapig (not verified) on 21 Apr 2012 #permalink

Politicalguineapig @309, I too was raised unchurched, and some of my early experiences with some Christians were not positive. But the fact is that most Christians, like most people in other groups, are kind, decent people and I don't like to see them slandered as being one and all the sort who would burn people alive if given the chance. They wouldn't, and they would be horrified at anyone who would.

Stu, I'm going to post my several experiments with PZ The Great on my blog, including my great skepticism of his Great PR Stunt . I'll include you in the list of his fan boys who keep misrepresenting the less interesting of those incidents.

Denice, my head did not explode, nor did I get brain cancer. But I think Anthony's ramblings are giving me hemorrhoids.

By Kelly M Bray (not verified) on 21 Apr 2012 #permalink

Heliantus, Politicalguineapig: I can very much understand Falwell, Dobson, and Robertson leaving a bad taste in anyone's mouth. It's very important to understand, though, that even if those guys claim to be representing all Christians, or all "real" Christians, or whatever, they aren't. They're just doing what ideologues have always done: claiming that they're the ones representing the "true will of the people," or of "true God-fearing Christians," or whatever.

By Antaeus Feldspar (not verified) on 21 Apr 2012 #permalink

AM @ 314--

Repetitive and illogical is one thing. But that was just vulgar.

By hoary puccoon (not verified) on 21 Apr 2012 #permalink

hoary puccoon, as vulgar as 313? My, I never realized what tender sensibilities you brave, bold atheists had. And you hang out at PZ's?

I am not an atheist, nor do I "hang out" at PZ's. You have been so busy stereotyping everyone on scienceblogs that you haven't even noticed when posters here tried to have a sensible exchange with you. You know, one thing I discovered in doing original research for my master's thesis in the sociology of science was that scientists are basically humble-- if their findings don't fit their hypothesis, they revise their hypothesis. They don't go on and on arguing the same refuted point. (If they do, their life as productive scientist comes to an end.)

Why don't you try hanging out in a chemistry lab for a few months, the way I did, and see how science really works? I can guarantee you, learning how to back down gracefully when you don't have the facts on your side will improve your life immensely.

By hoary puccoon (not verified) on 21 Apr 2012 #permalink

hp, you could pass for one.

A few months. You hung out at a lab for a few months and you've got it all figured out. Um, hum. I see.

It's all material.

You appear to rather seriously not degrade gracefully when the world deviates from the script in your head.

Since the signature AM didn't appear until 311 (by my rough count), is it possible that is not mccarthy but someone parodying him?

@ Dean..How do you parody a parody? Do you suddenly start making sense?

By Kelly M Bray (not verified) on 21 Apr 2012 #permalink

Antaeus Feldspar @312

They're just doing what ideologues have always done: claiming that they're the ones representing the "true will of the people," or of "true God-fearing Christians," or whatever.

No-one's oatmeal will be safe if ideologues claiming to represent the will of true Scotsmen come to power.

By Militant Agnostic (not verified) on 21 Apr 2012 #permalink

This True Scotsman stuff is just a dodge to avoid the issues. The new atheists think they're such masters of logic but that's all their mastery consists of, dodges and badly used phrases. And Narad says I'm unvarying.

Like I said, no wonder it's caught on in the post-literate world.

Since the signature AM didn't appear until 311 (by my rough count), is it possible that is not mccarthy but someone parodying him?

I was going with "mobile device," but the most recent entry has the distinct odor of James R. Hood.

One thing I can't stand about "new atheism" is the belief that if everyone converted to atheism, somehow, all war and poverty would end. Why not just put the world in a bottle?

By Gray Falcon (not verified) on 21 Apr 2012 #permalink

One thing I can't stand about "new atheism" is the belief that if everyone converted to atheism, somehow, all war and poverty would end. Why not just put the world in a bottle?

Any evidence that new atheists believe that? Or are you building strawmen again?

By Militant Agnostic (not verified) on 21 Apr 2012 #permalink

I agree with Militant Agnostic's questioning of that statement. I would like to see some evidence that many people actually hold that view. Most of the "new atheists" I know or have read, especially the prominent ones, have explicitly stated that this is not what they think. I would be labeled as a "new atheist" and I certainly do not think that it would magically cure all the ailments in the world and would have an issue with anyone that actually said that.

LW: But the fact is that most Christians, like most people in other groups, are kind, decent people and I don't like to see them slandered as being one and all the sort who would burn people alive if given the chance. They wouldn't, and they would be horrified at anyone who would.

And most people alive during the Inquisition and in Salem were also kind, decent people. Anyone can be the sort of person who burns people alive, if they're convinced that that one person poses a threat to their community. That's just how humans work. Anything that appeals to emotions, like religion, can- and does-shut off the brain. Any famous musician could have their own private army. Heck, Wagner was a major factor in the two World Wars.

AM: What do you mean by 'post literate?' Last I checked, book publishers were still in business. Or is this just another way to chide people for not living up to your neo-puritan standards? Incidentally, did you ever post at Echidne of the Snakes?
And as an addendum, of course chemistry is a study of material. Please stop using that word as an epithet. HP meant that you would understand how science is done, not that you'd come out knowing the answer to everything. (Although, as everyone knows, it's 42.)

By Politicalguineapig (not verified) on 21 Apr 2012 #permalink

Then what do you hope to accomplish?

By Gray Falcon (not verified) on 21 Apr 2012 #permalink

Politicalguineapig regarding AM's use of the word "material"

Please stop using that word as an epithet.

Sort of like the way woos use the word "Newtonian".

By Militant Agnostic (not verified) on 21 Apr 2012 #permalink

AM is Anthony McCarthy using another person's computer that doesn't have a cooky that keeps his name in it.

Politicalguineapig, we live in an increasingly post literate society where college graduates aren't familiar with ideas they talk about because they haven't read the books they pretend to have read. An example can be seen in that argument I had here in October-November 2010 where a number of Dawkins' fan club were unaware that he was among the foremost advocates of evo-psy. Most people commenting on the Scienceblogs seem to get most of what they think they know about science and history from TV if not video games.

It's rather difficult to stop talking about the material if your going to talk about materialism and atheists who are materialists who believe that the material is all that there is, ever was and ever will be. I certainly didn't use it as an epithet, if you think I did you should look up the meaning of the word.

I don't understand why I'm supposed to not think that people who vigorously assert that people are material objects and that every aspect of us, including our minds, are merely the product of physical determination, somehow, don't really mean it and that their beliefs won't have political consequences. Especially when, as I've pointed out, governments that hold that belief as an official doctrine have tended to act as if that was true.

The history of materialism in the 20th century is far more horrific than the history of Christianity in the 20th century.

I see my comment about the value of comparing groups in the 20th century to other groups in the 20th century instead of in the 12th century didn't get through moderation.

I think it also had my comments on the disaster that was the French Revolution. I'll just say that it's even more absurd to hold a romantic view of that Revolution than it is the American Revolution, though holding the romantic view of the American Constitution is increasingly damaging and should be given up. Though, as Byron pointed out, the French Revolution led to Napoleon crowning himself Emperor while the American Revolution led to Washington agreeing to serve two terms as president of a Republic as the voters saw fit.

I see my comment about the value of comparing groups in the 20th century to other groups in the 20th century instead of in the 12th century didn't get through moderation.

I think it also had my comments on the disaster that was the French Revolution. I'll just say that it's even more absurd to hold a romantic view of that Revolution than it is the American Revolution, though holding the romantic view of the American Constitution is increasingly damaging and should be given up. Though, as Byron pointed out, the French Revolution led to Napoleon crowning himself Emperor while the American Revolution led to Washington agreeing to serve two terms as president of a Republic as the voters saw fit.

Whenever a British person castigates the French Revolution (which, yes, was a bloody affair), I like to point out to the regicide and civil war which occurred one century before in Great-Britain, under Oliver Cromwell.

But of course, it's not the same thing at all.

By Heliantus (not verified) on 22 Apr 2012 #permalink

Antaeus Feldspar, as I pointed out, the idea of memes would have, among other defects, the effect of destroying the evo-psy belief that behaviors are genetically inherited. I'm not sorry about that as the neo-eugentic content in evo-psy is extremely dangerous and entirely unfounded in evidence. I've never understood what Dawkins et al think a "behavior" is if it doesn't consist of actions that are actually performed, without the action being performed in reality, the action doesn't exist. Of course, one of the major defects in evo-psy is that there is no way of verifying if any proposed behavior was ever performed, was performed consistently by a single individual or a subset of the population. You can't go back into the prehistoric period and see what people were doing. So you can't know if people were performing the proposed behavior in the period when it would be relent to the intentions of evo-psy.

Furthermore, in order for natural selection to act on the behavior, it would be necessary for there to be people who did and who didn't perform the behavior and for there to be a significant difference in the number of descendants of the people who performed the behavior and those who didn't. Since you can't observe if anyone was performing the behavior, it's clear that you can't collect data on the effect of that behavior on survival and numbers of descendants. Never mind that you can't identify genes that are responsible for the performance of the purposed behavior.

It's that last one where the idea of memes causes a fatal problem for evo-psy. A behavior, to exist as a trait, as a genetic expression on which natural selection could act, it would have to have a consistent character. The act would have to be done in the same way over and over again, throughout generations. If memes are more than just imaginary, they would introduce a non-genetic modification on behaviors into the mix. A "behavior" that was altered by memetic influence could change into a behavior different enough to alter the action of natural selection. Memes would pretty much destroy the possibility of genetic determination of behavior. Which is an idea that doesn't bother me at all. Why Dawkins doesn't seem to have seen this is an interesting question. I get the feeling that he has never seriously considered the idea of what a "behavior" actually is and what it would have to be to have the kind of existence in genetics and natural selection he has proposed. Which is why I think evo-psy is a low form of social science being unwisely inserted into the real sciences of evolution and genetics.

As it is, there isn't any reason to believe that a "meme" is any different from an idea. The concept is worse than merely tautological, it is absurdly reductive. There is no reason to believe that ideas exist within the limitations that memetic theory purposes. What you could say for the effect of "memes" on "behaviors" could also be said for the effect of "memes" on "memes". As Orr pointed out, "memes" as defined would propagate in a Lamarckian, blending manner. If that's the case then a "meme" would cease to exist very quickly as it blends with other "memes".

Ah, yes, Evo-Psy.

You know, don't you, that it is a highly controversial discipline, including among atheists?
You know, don't you, that there is more to psychology, or evolution, or behavioral sciences than evo-psy?
I don't want to be rude, but you are building strawmen again.

Find yourself a blog which supports evo-psy and go annoy them. Here, you are preaching to the walls.

By Heliantus (not verified) on 22 Apr 2012 #permalink

Heliantus, the name should have been a hint that I'm Irish, not British. I assume you realize there is a difference. The French Revolution isn't made any more of a success by citing other disasters. The American Revolution was a mixed bag too and I'd like Americans to give up the myths about that too. I'd point out that the Irish revolution also had mixed results and I'd certainly have objected to the De Valera government.

Romanticizing history is a falsification of it. Leftists have absurdly romanticized the French Revolution in a ridiculous manner. Napoleon crowned himself Emperor and fought some of the most vicious imperial wars in history. Washington submitted to elections and voluntarily retired after a successful election named his successor.

Grey Falcon

Then what do you hope to accomplish?

An end to the privileged status given to religion. In particular, the idea that stupid religious and or bigoted religious beliefs should be immune to criticism.

An end to discrimination against atheists.

As bonus, it would be nice if unhinged bigoted ignoramuses like AM would STFU.

By Militant Agnostic (not verified) on 22 Apr 2012 #permalink

Romanticizing history is a falsification of it. Leftists have absurdly romanticized the French Revolution in a ridiculous manner.

My apologies if I offended you by calling you British, that was not intended.

You call it romanticizing, we call it living with it. Or chauvinism, for the few of us who criticize it.

The leftists French are not the only one romanticizing our past (but oh boy, yes they do). Right-wing people do it too (and holy mackerel, they could do some interesting revisionism). Even more so politicians, funny enough.

Actually, quite a number of French people romanticize our Revolution back, saying they would have never condemned the poor Louis 16th to death.
I feel bad for this guy, as well. He was not trained to be king (he was not the designated heir) and, to some extend, was set up to pay for all the troubles the two previous kings, and his own government did. it didn't help than a few foreign nations proposed to send their army in to help him quell the freedom fighters (I mean rioters, sorry); he may not have asked for it, but he took the blame nonetheless.

One could also point out that the king's own brother was pouring oil on the fire; some historians posit that he quietly encouraged the riots leading to the storming of the Bastille, which was a prison for aristocrats. He may have had a pal jailed here. Or was just engaging in sibling rivalry. It would not have been the first time in the French monarchy history.
One could point out to the rotten financial and social states of the country, with complete power unbalance, most nobles staying in Paris/Versailles instead of managing their estates, spending away the heavy taxes gathered by their fermiers généraux (roughly, senechals/tax gatherers).
But why should I go into all of these tedious historical details? The great MacCarthy has said that the French Revolution was a disaster. Case closed.

I was not "excusing" the French Revolution by pointing to other historical tragic events. My point is just that History is made of mistakes and tragedies. It's one thing to teach History's tragedies and hope people will not do the same mistake. It's another thing to shame them for events more than one century old. Just a self-righteous attitude is arrogantly bigoted.

Actually, as time goes on, we do have some re-evaluation of our history going on. Robert Merle was instrumental on giving a mainstream less romantic perspective on Louis 13th and Richelieu. Other writers have written on other romanticized fatherly figures of our past, like Clovis, who was nothing else but a glorified bloodthirsty tyran.
Funny enough, people in one country - or one scientific field - are not a monolithic bunch.

You are again using a broad brush. Or as we say in my country, your are bashing down unlocked doors.

By Heliantus (not verified) on 22 Apr 2012 #permalink

Antaeus Feldspar, as I pointed out, the idea of memes would have, among other defects, the effect of destroying the evo-psy belief that behaviors are genetically inherited.

I was not talking to you, Anthony. There would be no point in talking to you, since all you do is set up straw men and then knock them down again. A reasonable person would be able to acknowledge that if Richard Dawkins writes in the same book about genes exerting an influence on behavior and memes exerting an influence on behavior, he obviously cannot be calling either influence all-encompassing. You, by contrast, read Dawkins' book and say "He talks about genes having behavioral influence, and about memes having behavioral influence. Obviously, if he were talking about all-encompassing influences, that would be a massive contradiction. Therefore, I'll treat it as absolute fact that he meant exactly that, because that makes me a brilliant philosopher who caught the famous Richard Dawkins in an obvious contradiction!!" No, Anthony, you're just another egotistical prat who thinks that the principle of charity is something for all those lesser people to observe when they debate. Go away; even if your hobby-horses were on-topic here, you'd still be contributing nothing of worth to the discussion.

By Antaeus Feldspar (not verified) on 22 Apr 2012 #permalink

Antaeus Feldspar, Dawkins goes far, far beyond saying that genes merely influence behavior. Here is how he famously describes people and the relationship of people with genes:

"Now they (genes) swarm in huge colonies, safe inside gigantic lumbering robots (people), sealed off from the outside world, communicating with it by tortuous indirect routes, manipulating it by remote control. "

Here is what a far better scientist said about that idea and its place in contemporary culture :

" They (scientists and intellectuals in general) have made a best-seller out of The Selfish Gene in which the robot metaphor first appeared, and a popular intellectual figure and modest academic success out of its previously undistinguished author, Richard Dawkins, With enemies like these, people have no need of friends. Of all the vulgar errors about biology presently circulating. the notion that we are âlumbering robots blindly programmedâ by our genes which âcontrol us body and mindâ (Dawkinsâ original dictum) is surely the most popular by a long shot.

Is Maynard Smith suggesting that if only people could conquer their irrational dislike of the idea and understand it better, they would see that we really are such robots? He is among the worldâs best biologists, and he knows as well as I do that every individual in every species is the unique consequence of a developmental process that is, at every moment, an interaction between the internal and external, between genes and environment. No organisms, not even ants, but certainly not human beings are robots controlled by their genes. "

Richard Lewontin New York Review of Books: March, 1990

Unless there is such a thing as a discrete genetic expression, a behavior, consistently performed in life, over generations, there is no "behavior" for natural selection to work on. But "behaviors" don't exist if they aren't actually performed, the performance in real life is what they are. If those discrete "behaviors" are constantly subject to the influence of "memes" they would cease to be performed in the same manner and so would stop having a discrete existence and would almost certainly not be acted on by natural selection in a consistent manner.

And that doesn't get past the problem of "memes" as discrete entities if they are constantly blending with other "memes". There would be no discrete thing to be passed from one brain to another that would constitute a "meme" by the very definition of memes.

I don't think Dawkins has thought out just what a "behavior" is or what one of his "memes" would actually have to be for them to have the real effects through natural selection he asserts. They would have to exist in the real world where real organisms live and reproduce and where natural selection would work. Not only can't he provide evidence to support that, the idea doesn't even hold together very well, especially when throwing "memes" into the muddle.

If you want to continue not talking to me like that I'll be glad to go into the sordid relationship of evo-psy with politics.

So, let me get this straight:

Anyone who does not believe in the Judeo-Christian concept of God and divinity is an atheist.

AM does not like atheists.

AM assumes that everyone here is an atheist.

This discussion is no longer about "Epigenetics Does Not Mean That Thinking Makes It So".

We are no longer discussing science on a scienceblog.

AM: As has been pointed out before, no one here claims that science has all the answers, but for certain topics (e.g. biology and medicine) it is the best approach we have so far to obtain answers.

Being materialist/atheist does not mean that there can be no ethics. So what if a materialist looks upon his fellow humans (and himself) as meat automatons? One still has emotions and feelings. One still feels the need to connect with others. It is this social nature of humans and their need to be a part of society which is enough to motivate ethical behavior. One does not have to invoke threats of divine retribution to understand the need for ethics and morality.

Anthony, you are a tiresome little prat who thinks that the principle of charity is something for lesser people to observe as one of the ground rules of debate. I can't imagine that that will change and therefore I can't imagine that it will be worth propping up your pretense that you are engaged in dialogue any time soon.

By Antaeus Feldspar (not verified) on 22 Apr 2012 #permalink

AM: You are right when you say that a behavior does not exist in reality if it is not performed.
However, consider this - the tendency to behave in a certain way can always be an inheritable trait. Whether that tendency is translated into actual behavior or not may depend on the influence of memes.

The final behavior of the individual can easily be based on a) How strongly can the behavioural tendency introduced by the genes resist the effects of memes and b) how powerful are the memes in being able to influence the tendencies introduced by the genes.

As far as the relationship between epigenetics and genetics is concerned, the relationship maybe described by the metaphor of a keyboard instrument and a keyboardist - the genes are the keyboard, defining the possible notes that can be played while environmental influences (both, internal and external) are the musician which influences which notes are played and when. So genes are not the only factors responsible for who we (or what an organism) end(s) up being, but they do introduce a lot of limitations to what we (it) can end up being.
While cognitive processes can be influenced to some degree by thought, drastic physical changes or disease prevention may not be possible by mere thought.

So, Antaeus Feldspar, point out the flaws in my reasoning instead of substituting insults. If you could do that the insults might sting whereas in their absence could have the opposite effect.

T-reg, if you're going to address what I said it would be a good idea if you read it first. You seem to have missed the discussions of the Just-so Story, "thinking makes it so" ideologies of evo-psy, memetics, Muliti-universe theory, exo-biology, etc.

I've only been answering things people said to me. I'd have left it at the fairly obvious comment I made at 16 but for that. As I said there, "Ignorance, it's not just for your opponents". I'm not going to apologize for being able to answer questions and respond to attacks.

Anthony, it shows how very far you are from being the intellectual heavyweight you fancy yourself that you don't realize that the flaws of your reasoning have already been pointed out over and over. It's like you're actually trying to outdo Humpty Dumpty: "When I mine a quote from Richard Dawkins," said Anthony Humpty Dumpty, "Richard Dawkins means by it precisely what I choose him to mean by it, no more, no less." If you find it insulting to have it pointed out that all these battles where you're loudly boasting of your hard-fought victories are just your struggles with straw men of your own creation, then maybe you shouldn't do it.

By Antaeus Feldspar (not verified) on 22 Apr 2012 #permalink

I am not very familiar with evo-psy, but as far as the Multiverse Hypothesis and exobiology are concerned, they are not in the same league as the main point of this blog post.

The Multiverse hypothesis is not a proven theory which even the proponents of the hypothesis acknowledge. You are the one trying to suggest that it is an accepted theory when in reality it is just a hypothesis and that too just a very popular one. Instead of patronizing me about reading your comments first, you might want to read up on what you are commenting about before commenting.

Exobiology too, is not about a belief that there is life out there. It is based on the perfectly acceptable reasoning that if life can exist on earth, then it is possible that similar forms of life can exist on other planets with similar conditions as earth. No one claims that life DOES exist elsewhere, just that it is possible.
Also to touch up on a pet peeve of yours, you need not be an atheist to think this to be possible.
If there is a creator, a power greater than mortal humans, why do you suppose that he (she, they or it) would create/seed life on only one rock at only the edge of only one galaxy in this vast universe?

This blog post, however, talks about the misinterpretation (either willful or out of ignorance) of the concept of epigenetics to translate into a belief (not a statement of possibility) that genes can be influenced merely by thought.

Then again, in a way, your comments are sort of relevant to the blog post. The blog post is about misinterpretation of concepts in biology, while your comments (most of them, at least) are based on misinterpretation of concepts in other fields of science.

But "behaviors" don't exist if they aren't actually performed, the performance in real life is what they are.

Unlike the times tables, which abide Out There in the Great Larder of Objective Reality.

Narad, I don't quite get your comment at 349, are you arguing that behaviors exist if they aren't performed? Because that seems to be a widely spread, unstated belief among blog atheists. Or that the times table is dependent on social consensus? As I had to point out at Lenin's Tomb, if that's the case then every single aspect of science as objective knowledge is undermined and it can't be relied on to support any contention about the material universe.

A.F. I assume you would refute anything I said if you could and since you haven't you can't. That seems to happen a lot when someone stands up to you guys.

T-reg, I've already talked about exo-bio and Multiverse "thinking makes it so". You can go back and read what I said above.

If there is a creator, a power greater than mortal humans, why do you suppose that he (she, they or it) would create/seed life on only one rock at only the edge of only one galaxy in this vast universe? T-reg

Who knows? Why would you think that we'd be the whole purpose of the whole shebang? I'd imagine a God that could create the universe would be able to have more than one idea at a time. My argument about what we don't know about "other life" was about what is and isn't known and the ability to draw scientific conclusions in the absence of evidence. As I mentioned somewhere above, it was Henry Drummond, an evangelical lecturer and early proponent of evolution, who first argued against looking for God in the gaps. These days the gaps seem to be where a lot of atheists are looking for science. These days it seems to be people like John Lennox and William Lane Craig who are looking for God within what's known, instead.

T-Reg @348
Sure, multiverses and exobiology are only hypotheses, but the scientists in these fields neglected to run them by the arbiter of what is and isn't proper science, who for reasons no-one understands is some loogan named Anthony McCarthy.

I now know what Augustine would sound like with a post-graduate education and a few decades under his belt, not that I wanted to know. If this thread reaches 500 comments does Orac get to trade this jackass in for a pony?

By Militant Agnostic (not verified) on 22 Apr 2012 #permalink

Personally, I dislike evo-psychology. It always annoys me that in every study on primitive behavior, our forefathers and foremothers end up looking like the Flintstones, or any other 1950s family (minus the car.)

AM: Most people commenting on the Scienceblogs seem to get most of what they think they know about science and history from TV if not video games.

Bullshit. I studied history, and can tell you all about the sins of Christians- which easily outmatch any athiestic regime. As I mentioned earlier, most of those so called 'athiestic regimes' are simply cults. North Korea calls itself a communist country, but it actually bears more resemblance to a monarchy/personality cult. I also had a stint in biology, and most of the commentors here studied biology or medicine.

Gray Falcon: I want a world where I am considered a full person. I went from unchurched to full agnostic because Christians, like most other religious people, hate women and want to confine them to the house. I realize some women can convince themselves that they are living rich, fulfilling lives as housewives-but that life is not for me. Nor is being perpetually pregnant or bearing a monster's child.I also can't hate gay and lesbians as much as God wants me to.

By Politicalguineapig (not verified) on 22 Apr 2012 #permalink

Politicalguineapig, you know if you want to play the game of whether or not a political regime's actions are consistent with their religious, philosophical or ideological professions then any self-defined Christian government that acted in violation of the teachings of Jesus wouldn't count as a religious regime. Though I'm sure you'll want to declare the typical new atheist double standard in your favor. What governments that acted in accord with the teachings of Jesus and his followers are you talking about? Identify them.

I've got no doubt that North Korea treats people like objects to be used and disposed of if they want to. What tenet of materialism does that violate?

I could mention that the brighter sci-rangers learned everything they think they know about logic from Carl Sagan.

A.F. I assume you would refute anything I said if you could and since you haven't you can't. That seems to happen a lot when someone stands up to you guys.

Yes, Anthony, I'm sure that's a very convenient way for you to interpret it, but that's really the problem: you interpret everything in the way that's most convenient for you, even if doing so is a complete violation of the principle of charity. I've already pointed out to you how no reasonable person, reading Dawkins talking in the very same book about genes exerting behavioral influence and memes also exerting behavioral influence, would take the interpretation "Dawkins is talking about each of these things having a predominant all-encompassing influence that excludes the other at the same time" - no, not even if Dawkins used phrases like "robots" and "remote control" in describing the relationship.

You are, I grant you, far less insane and less offensive than the troll Th1Th2. But in many ways your behavior is cut from the same cloth as hers. Someone says "We have no known way to induce herd immunity other than through vaccination," and Thingy jumps in saying "Oh yeah?? You just marked yourself as a medical heretic, you infection promoter, because here I have a medical article which describes a population that has survived a disease epidemic as having herd immunity to that disease! So you're a medical heretic, because you're denying that that's a known way to induce herd immunity that isn't vaccination!!" A reasonable person would say "Sure, X said 'We have no way to induce herd immunity other than vaccination,' but obviously the more reasonable way to interpret that is 'no way that we would want to use to induce herd immunity, other than vaccination.' It would make no sense to talk about wanting to induce herd immunity to keep people from getting the disease, but inducing the herd immunity by having everyone get the disease."

Now, here's the question: can anyone can "refute" Thing-troll to the point where she will admit that she did not "catch out" anyone in a contradiction, she failed by neglecting to apply the principle of charity? No. When someone violates the principle of charity, the only thing you can do to "refute" them is point out what the reasonable interpretation they overlooked was. If they still insist on their own interpretation, all the people watching, all the people they were trying to impress, they will realize the person is a poor debater wrestling with straw men. But the person themselves will just continue triumphantly declaring a victory they haven't actually won.

By Antaeus Feldspar (not verified) on 22 Apr 2012 #permalink

any self-defined Christian government that acted in violation of the teachings of Jesus wouldn't count as a religious regime.

See, this right here is what brands you as a dishonest fu¢kwad. You deride the term "No True Scotsman", and then you come up with the most transparent evocation of a No True Scotsman argument I've ever seen written down.

Your deliberate misunderstanding (I think we need a new word on the model of "disinformation"...does "disunderstanding" work?) of the meme concept and conflating it with the genetically heritable behaviors postulated by evo-psych also reveals you as a totally dishonest debater.

Does the "meme" concept contribute anything that the accepted idea of cultural evolution doesn't? I don't know. Cultural evolution takes place, it is Lamarckian in action, it's much, much faster than genetic evolution by natural selection. Deny any of these things if you can. If you think Dawkins' notion of dividing cultural evolution up into a number of discrete "memes" in order to keep better track of them isn't useful or somehow deceptive, then make that argument, but don't pretend that he said "memes" could be inherited genetically and sorted by natural selection. That just brands you as an idiot or a liar.

For the last fu¢king time, multiuniverse theory is not a dogma or an ideological argument. It's a hypothesis that may or may not be useful in the long term. David Deutsch appears to be a particular bête noir of yours, but all he's saying is that for example, the way a single electron appears to interfere with itself even if it's alone in an apparatus makes better sense if we treat it as a single electron interfering with its other instantiations in nearby universes, with a rigorous definition of "nearby". Even if the multiple universe interpretation of this mathematical technique falls by the wayside, the arithmetic may remain. You may now start insulting Richard Feynman over the "many paths" technique of calculating quantum behavior. Go aheadâI dare you.

Exobiology studies the many possible ways life could exist elsewhere in the universeâcontra your lies, it is not considered a proven fact that such life exists, on ideological grounds, but simply a framework for looking for such life. A very long time of looking and not finding would undoubtedly be discouraging, and the study would become less popularâthat's not the behavior of a doctrinaire ideology (like yours) now is it? On the other hand, as I pointed out to you before, we have spectroscopy on a number of exoplanets alreadyâall we need is one with a far-from-equilibrium oxygen concentration in its atmosphere and that would prove there is life of some kind elsewhere.

I think one of the most contemptible of your lying arguments is the attempt to compare the carnage caused by your supposedly "atheistic" governments of the 20th Century (even if in most cases their "atheism"âlargely in your headâhad absolutely nothing to do with the matter) with the incomparable death and suffering caused by religion in all its forms over the centuries since the post-exilic Hebrews decided to deny the existence of everyone else's gods. And let's not forget the bloodiest civil war in history, the second bloodiest war (or maybe not even that), the T'ai P'ing Rebellionâcaused by a messianic Christian régime.

By The Very Rever… (not verified) on 22 Apr 2012 #permalink

@ The Very Reverend Battleaxe of Knowledge:

rather than saying 'disunderstanding*, why not try *dis-comprehension* instead?

-btw- doesn't everything look better with hyphens?

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 22 Apr 2012 #permalink

@ The Very Reverend Battleaxe of Knowledge:

rather than saying 'disunderstanding*, why not try *dis-comprehension* instead?

-btw- doesn't everything look better with hyphens?

Discomprehension works. I'll take your word for it on hyphensâI've developed an allergic reaction to them since so many people type a reply in some abomination like Micro$oft Word and then cut-and-paste* them into comments, leaving random hyphens all over the page.

*That's my main use of hyphensâturning phrases into words. Probably nonstandard, but oh, well.

By The Very Rever… (not verified) on 22 Apr 2012 #permalink

Here is how [Dawkins] famously describes people and the relationship of people with genes:
"Now they (genes) swarm in huge colonies, safe inside gigantic lumbering robots (people), sealed off from the outside world, communicating with it by tortuous indirect routes, manipulating it by remote control. "

Umm, no. The insertion of the parenthesised gloss "(people)" is not in the original text, which refers to multicellular life forms in general. The original text is not "famously describ[ing] people". The insertion, then, is a mendacious distortion. Overall I prefer to argue with non-liars who can be trusted not to ascribe words to people that they have not written.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 22 Apr 2012 #permalink

Oh, wow, is this still going on? I have spent the afternoon both weeding, and then reading the book 1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created. Some part of it reminded me of this thread and that during height of the Montana Militia, Richard Butler and the Aryan Nations I would irritate my very religious brother by singing "You will know we are Christians by our guns, by our guns. Yes, you will know we are Christians by our guns."

It was about the time a Christian Identity guy murdered an entire family just over the ship canal from us.

Anyway, just thought I would mention as the little odd thought that came to me today.

The Very Reverened blah blah , if I was a new atheist I would point out that you not only cherry picked from what I said, you quote mined it. As I'm not, I'll just say you misrepresented what I said by leaving out the conditional statement that preceded what you lifted and misrepresented. Here is what I said:

if you want to play the game of whether or not a political regime's actions are consistent with their religious, philosophical or ideological professions then any self-defined Christian government that acted in violation of the teachings of Jesus wouldn't count as a religious regime.

Since you had to misrepresent what I said you've demonstrated my point that you can't argue against what I said so you have to misrepresent it to give yourself something to argue against. Then I said to Politcalguineapig:

Though I'm sure you'll want to declare the typical new atheist double standard in your favor.

I see you have no problem with his attempt to turn an avowedly materialist regime whose crimes are consistent with materialism into something other than a materialist regime.

Saying "no true Scotsman" isn't some kind of magic spell that makes your misrepresenting what was said into an argument refuting it.

Jesus didn't found any countries, he didn't found any governments. His followers are recorded as founding a community, a radically socialist one focused on "remembering the poor" but none of them can be considered to be guilty of founding a state. What crimes can you cite committed by countries that are governed according to the teachings of Jesus and his closest followers? Be specific.

I said that there were plenty of Christians, Christian countries, and certainly Christian churches that are guilty of crimes that also violate the teachings of Jesus. I explicitly stipulated that above and noted their hypocrisy.
As I asked, what tenet of materialism is violated by treating people as the objects that materialism holds people are?

I don't remember. Did I note that if Marx knew what was done in his name he would never stop throwing up? I think it might have been enough to make him give up the superstition of the dialectic if he knew where that would lead. He should have stopped with his demolition of capitalism.

Herr doktor, yes, you finally get something right. I should have used square brackets instead of parentheses to clarify what Dawkins was talking about. So sue me.

Since what I said was what Dawkins meant, as can be seen in the commentary from Lewontin, my clarifying editorial insertions weren't "mendacious". As can also be seen in Lewontin's commentary on it, though maybe I should have also included ants.

It's blog commenting, not finished, edited prose.

So, now I expect you'll be on The Rev. blah blah's case for distorting what I said into what I didn't say. Though you might more profitably explain how what Dawkins said contradicts my description of it. It might be fun to see you do that. Are you denying that he compared people to "lumbering robots" controlled by genes "body and mind" as Lewontin noted? Got to say it, I doubt you're a more credible interpreter than he is.

Some part of it reminded me of this thread and that during height of the Montana Militia, Richard Butler and the Aryan Nations... chris

Yes, evo-psy, with its biological determinism, containing figures like Kevin MacDonald - the witness the putrid David Irving called in his suit against Deborah Lipstadt and MacDonald's admirer John Hartung (read his review of one of MacDonald's books called "Stalking the Wild Taboo") and author of the more than dodgy "Love Thy Neighbor" (cited by Richard Dawkins in TGD)

http://tinyurl.com/7gemu8p

and other papers along that line (I won't link to the websites of either one, google them), at times also remind me of that.

What crimes can you cite committed by countries that are governed according to the teachings of Jesus and his closest followers? Be specific.

I am not interested in the "teachings" of some gomer who probably never existed or his even more imaginary followers. Governments who purported to be "Christian" have committed innumerable crimes, using the disgusting tissue of contradictions, lies, and absurdities you call the Bible as justification. If they call themselves Christian, they're Christian. Trying to let them off the hook by pretending they're not "real Christians" is the very definition of a No True Scotsman argument. You're the one who keeps using them, so I'd stop denigrating them if I were you.

The answer to your question is: pretty much every government in Europe from 312 through the 18th Century at least.

By The Very Rever… (not verified) on 22 Apr 2012 #permalink

The Rev. blah blah I think what you mean is that you can't do it. You can't cite a government, even if it called itself a "Christian" government, which was governed according to the teachings of Jesus and his earliest followers. You can't attribute any of their crimes to the teachings of Jesus, Peter, James... Perhaps you have no idea what Jesus and his disciples taught, which wouldn't surprise me. Though there might be other reasons.

And you also can't explain how a country that officially adopts materialism as its official ideology, which then treats people as if they are merely material objects, which is all they could be under the ideology of materialism, shouldn't be held to be upholding the tenets of their official materialist ideology.

You want to ascribe to religion crimes of "Christian" countries that go against the teachings of Jesus and you want to exempt materialism of the crimes of materialist governments that are not against the holdings of materialism. Materialism has nothing in it that would say that was immoral.

I think that's entirely clear and it's obviously a good part of the hypocritical double standard that atheists set up in their favor.

As an aside, in their Encyclopedia of War, Phillips and Axelrod say that 7% of all wars are attributable to religion.

Correct. There are no countries governed according to the teachings of Jesus and his earliest followers. None. And there never have been any.

So?

By Rilke's Grandd… (not verified) on 22 Apr 2012 #permalink

It is more important to note that people HAVE been killed in the name of Jesus. And NONE have been killed in the name of atheism.

By Rilke's Grandd… (not verified) on 22 Apr 2012 #permalink

Anthony McCarthy: Ok, dude, you asked for it. Charlemagne: endorsed by the Pope, famous for slaughtering every Muslim he came across, the Crusades: paid for by the church, carried out by multitudes of Christians to liberate the Holy Land, Queen Isabella of Spain, who sponsored both the Inquisition and Columbus's expedition, Pizarro, Cortes and the rest of the conquistadores-all good Christian men. The great Witch Hunts of Europe-carried out by the local government and the Catholic church. The various pogroms carried out throughout Europe all sponsored by the Church who supported the kings and queens.Cromwell, who ruthlessly slaughtered Irish, Roundheads, and anyone who wasn't a Puritan. Salem, Massuchusetts was also run by a theocracy. Anyone remember what happened there? The Mormons, in the 1800s, were well known for forcible intimidation of non-Mormons, and still maintain compounds where they practice child marriage and excommunicate their sons so the old men can marry the younger women.
For a contemporary example, the Ku Klux Klan was affiliated with many Protestant and Baptist churches- and, oh yeah, the Catholic Church actively covered for Hitler. Saudi Arabia and most of the mideast are run by theocracies, perhaps you'd enjoy living there? If you're stoning people, at least you're acknowledging their humanity, right? Or you could move to the Vatican-as long as you don't plan to adopt kids.
Finally, let's talk about North Korea.The state of North Korea, at this point, has nothing at all to do with athiesm, and everything to do with the fact that it's run by g*ddamn sociopaths. Most athiests, despite your prejudices, are not sociopaths and know the difference between people and objects.
Well, I'll just post this, but I know you won't acknowledge it. Your skull is so dense I'm surprised your neck hasn't collapsed.

By Politicalguineapig (not verified) on 22 Apr 2012 #permalink

Since what I said was what Dawkins meant, as can be seen in the commentary from Lewontin, my clarifying editorial insertions weren't "mendacious". As can also be seen in Lewontin's commentary on it, though maybe I should have also included ants.
It's blog commenting, not finished, edited prose.

The important point is that you lied. And we have good proof that you lied. Given that you've now proved yourself a liar, why should we trust anything else you say?

By Rilke's Grandd… (not verified) on 22 Apr 2012 #permalink

Rilke's daughter, I don't doubt that you'll get agreement with your rather artificially constructed dichotomy, as transparent a lie as it is.

Song Jong-nam, Ri Hyon-ok, Boniface Sauer, Benedict Kim, .....

Narad, I don't quite get your comment at 349, are you arguing that behaviors exist if they aren't performed?

Indeed, you seem not get the comment. The point is that you are unable or unwilling to define your terms. The only operative principles appear to be "not materialism" and "objective" this or that.

Because that seems to be a widely spread, unstated belief among blog atheists.

I'm not a "blog atheist," so perhaps you could tether your hobby horse to some other post for a change.

Or that the times table is dependent on social consensus?"

The "times table" abides in your head. Did you not understand the references to either Hilary Putnam or the Pirahã or the request to defend the externality of relations, which in your construction so far appears to equate morality with an algebraic ring?

As I had to point out at Lenin's Tomb,

I am not particularly interested in a travelogue, thanks.

... if that's the case then every single aspect of science as objective knowledge is undermined..."

That's nice. Define "objective knowledge."

... and it can't be relied on to support any contention about the material universe.

And one begins again. Tell me, what can be relied on to support any contention about the immaterial "universe"?

R.D as seen in your comment at 366 you obviously have a very personal definition for "lie". Call me unsurprised.

What does this "lie" consist of? Of pointing out what Dawkins' meant?

Politicalguineapig, what crimes did they commit that are consistent with the teachings of Jesus and his followers in the New Testament? I can tell you that North Korea killing those four people I noted above was entirely OK by the tacit morality of materialism.

Hypocrisy is the typical operating procedure of the new atheists.

Looking through these last few comments, especially those of Rilke's Daughter, I guess it's clear that no lie is too big for a new atheist to tell. No one ever killed "in the name of atheism". I suppose they figure they'll get away with it.

I'll be back tomorrow. It's past eleven at night where I am.

What does this "lie" consist of? Of pointing out what [I, the great Anthony McCarthy, find it advantageous to believe that] Dawkins' meant [and improperly marking it as something that all reasonable readers of the original text in its original context would have agreed was the intended referent of the glossed text, when in fact that is a highly disputable interpretation which only me and a guy named Lewontin seem to think is actually what Dawkins meant]?

Why, when you put it like that, Anthony, then yes, I'd have to agree, it is a lie. Taking a passage that in the original text did not refer specifically to people, and not only adding an editorial gloss of "[people]" but falsely describing the quote as Dawkins' description of people, yes, that's a lie.

Also, see my finally-cleared-moderation comment at 354 for why you are rapidly putting yourself on a par with one of the most mentally ill trolls this blog has seen on a regular basis.

By Antaeus Feldspar (not verified) on 22 Apr 2012 #permalink

@ MacCarthy

Let me tell you something about real "materialists", sir. You are going to ignore it as usual, but I don't care.

Through History, a number of philosophers (or more properly, natural philosophers), from all around the world, spent their free time looking about how the universe was working, and recorded their experiences and their musings, so that other curious people could pick up and continue experimenting with the natural laws. They were trying to achieve an understanding of the material part of the universe, and defining basic human values and concerns, but outside of any supernatural issue.

They were the first scientists. Working in a crude way, with the limited technology available to them, but achieving great feats of research in mathematics, biology, geology (Earth is round!)... They didn't get everything right, but they tried. And people later will refine their findings.

Back in the 16th-17th Century, picking up texts from ancient Greek philosophers and medieval Islamic philosophers, European natural philosophers added their own thoughts and findings and come to define the historical period known as the Renaissance (the re-birth).

They were not necessarily religious, nor necessarily atheists. Some were priests, some were artists, some were craftsmen. Or sometimes a bit of everything. Da Vinci could be seen as one of them. In France, Diderot gathered his fellows philosophers and summed up their technical and philosophical knowledge into his Encyclopedia. Other natural philosophers, dare I say scientists, did similar gathering works in other European countries.

One of the products of their work was to start putting together what is known as secular humanism. The closest thing to "materialism" I could think of. It is still a work in progress.
It is a set of concepts, of moral values, that any decent human being should be following in a civilized, fair-minded society, regardless of his/her religious status.
Your mantra "if you don't believe in God, then you have no morals" is exactly the sort of opposition they encountered. Your opinion is outdated by five centuries, sir.

Note "secular". That doesn't mean atheist. It means that Humanism doesn't really care how you come with a moral backbone, by a religious way or by yourself, as long as you have one. It is also strongly supportive of Democracy.

A number of European countries are, in fact, following the tenets of secular humanism, not perfectly, but still (or maybe it is the other way round, these countries converged toward a similar set of ethics - I don't claim we have a monopoly on morality).
Including my country. La Déclaration Universelle des Droits de l'Homme et du Citoyen is the closest thing I know of of a list of "tenets" of secular humanism. Or of "materialism", as you name it.

As I asked, what tenet of materialism is violated by treating people as the objects that materialism holds people are?

For the "materialists" who are the heirs of the secular humanism current? About every single one of their tenets. Because they don't hold people as objects.

You just spent 9 days here castigating people who spent their life gathering knowledge which we are all benefiting today and figuring out universal moral values, which contributed to the Western countries' political stability, including freedom of religion. Sometimes dying for these values.
You have no idea of the level of contempt I hold for you.

By Heliantus (not verified) on 22 Apr 2012 #permalink

Oh Lord, I beseech you provide us succor in out time of need. Our backs are to the wall, our heads exploding, and my hemorrhoids are killing me. Please take this thread to it's just reward in Heaven. Thank you.

By Kelly M Bray (not verified) on 22 Apr 2012 #permalink

Dude, Jesus himself said that the Old Testament still applied. Which makes all the atrocities I cited totally okay for Christians. The Old Testament supported witchburning, slaughtering anyone who wasn't Jewish or Christian, polygamy and incest.

Paul, in Timothy, supported slavery and the subjugation of wives to their husbands. He also said, in Corinthians, that women should be silent in church, i.e. that they shouldn't have any authority in religious matters. The Catholic Church codified some of the worst passages, and Mormons basically took the Bible, ran with it, and created a whole new toxic book.

This is why I have more problems with religious liberals then religious conservatives. Those of the "religious left" cherrypick the Bible, try to erase some of the more problematic passages and often don't even have the most cursory theological knowledge.

By Politicalguineapig (not verified) on 22 Apr 2012 #permalink

Since what I said was what Dawkins meant, as can be seen in the commentary from Lewontin, my clarifying editorial insertions weren't "mendacious".

Silly Mr Dawkins, writing all those books to explain what he meant, when sensible time-saving people are learning what Dawkins really meant by reading Lewontin's interpretation.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 22 Apr 2012 #permalink

Taking a passage that in the original text did not refer specifically to people, and not only adding an editorial gloss of "[people]" but falsely describing the quote as Dawkins' description of people, yes, that's a lie. Antaneus Feldspar

Well, people were certainly among those who Dawkins believes are "lumbering robots" controlled by genes. That he includes all animate beings hardly changes that. I don't see how you think that disproves my contention that Dawkins is a materialist who regards people as material objects whose minds are motivated through biological determinism.

As can be seen in that previous argument on this blog noted above, (Richard Dawkins Sues Josh Timonen) where I was the one who knew about Dawkins' scientific claim to fame and it was your fellow atheists who were unaware of his career as the foremost promoter of evo-psy, I'm used to atheists lying about what Richard Dawkins has said and/or their total ignorance of it. So that's not a surprise.

There was a time I'd be surprised that you weren't grasping on to his various attempts at cover stories to deflect attention from the meaning for human beings, our culture and government of what he's said. Biological determinism forces some pretty putrid conclusions about those things and has figured in some of the worst crimes of the 20th and 21st centuries, even earlier if you include the part it played in scientific racism. There are some passages from Thomas Huxley that could remind Chris, above, even more of the Aryan Nations than the more genteel antisemitic prose of MacDonald and Hartung.

I didn't lie about what Dawkins statement meant, as seen from how a real geneticist, Richard Lewontin interpreted the same passage. I was talking about the effects of Dawkins' ideology for human beings and human politics. It was entirely fair use of what Dawkins said. Obviously you, also see that or you and your sci-ranger buddies wouldn't be trying to deny that is what it means in terms of people. I wonder what your college papers looked like.

Politicalguineapig, It's fairly obvious, from his paraphrase of his most famous saying, that Jesus was influenced by Hillel and had a similar understanding of the law. It couldn't be clearer when he talked about the law that he meant, "Do unto others as you would have them do to you", Luke 6:31. You can find a good part of how he thought people should be treated in Luke 6. I'd like you to point out to me how people who enslave other people and oppress them could be rightly accused of living up to Luke 6.

A lot of scholars think the Letters to Timothy are spurious, so that's a start on that passage. Paul never knew Jesus, as he said, and there's no independent record of Jesus ever endorsing what he said. So trying to pin the several sins of Paul (or someone using his name) on Jesus would be a lot less justified, say, than noting Dawkins' endorsement of Hartung. Peter and James did know Jesus, oddly you don't find many atheists going to the letters attributed to them for ammo.

Paul's advice about the relationship of husbands and wives in Corinthians certainly is bad by today's standards but I doubt it would have seemed like that back then when he told husbands that they had to treat their wives well, something that wasn't exactly common practice.

Of course, Jesus and even his followers, including Paul, didn't have any knowledge of the Catholic Church of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young. The sins of those institutions belong to the men who committed them. You'd still have to show how they were compatible with the teachings of Jesus and his apostles to blame them on them. I've said similar things about the blame that can be assigned to Marx for the crimes of the various Marxist governments. I think Marx might have had some premonition of bad stuff to come when he declared himself to not be a Marxist.

You have yet to make a case that Christians who do awful things are doing anything but violating the teachings of Jesus whereas the massive crimes of materialists can hardly be said to violate materialism which commonly denies that morality is more than an imaginary thing and that there's nothing wrong with doing anything as long as you can get away with it. Where could you find any other constraint on horrible behavior that is real within the material universe? The very thing you need to make morality anything but imaginary is missing from materialism. The temporizing substitute of some kind of social contract doesn't provide anything real to inhibit bad behavior and has certainly not proven to be more effective than religious belief. You can't even define what "bad behavior" is under materialism. As Dawkins also said:

"In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won't find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference."

Sounds like something the leadership of North Korea could live with.

As long as this thread is still devoted to providing adult day care for the mentally challenged* and doesn't look like ending any time soon, did everybody get why I thought work on the roundworm, C. elegans, might win Wolpert's bet that an animal can be completely predicted from its genes? Did you see why I thought a study of yarrow, even one less than 60 years old, was irrelevant?

(Hint: Can you tell me precisely how may cells are in a full-grown, wild type C. elegans?)

*Note to AM: Your options for responding to this are, "Yes, the number is..." followed by a number, and "No, I can't." I've stopped reading your posts, so anything else will be wasted.

By hoary puccoon (not verified) on 23 Apr 2012 #permalink

Oh, dear. Having retought what I just posted, please let me offer my profound apologies to the mentally challenged. I in no way intended to imply that you fall to the moral level of Anthony McCarthy.

By hoary puccoon (not verified) on 23 Apr 2012 #permalink

I have a modest thought to add to this debate. Materialists who believe that consciousness emerges from physical processes in the brain believe that consciousness is permanently extinguished when the brain dies, making it something precious. Most theists believe in an afterlife of some sort. You could argue that a belief in an afterlife is far more dangerous than materialism, as believers think that when someone is killed they don't really die, but go to "a better place". Does "Kill them all. God will know his own", ring any bells?

By Krebiozen (not verified) on 23 Apr 2012 #permalink

hoary puccoon, I wouldn't say your friends are mentally challenged, they're just true (dis)believers and kind of stuck up.

If you think I'm going through this exercise in the testing of the real life consequences of viewing "genes simplistically in a deterministic fashion, constructing an elaborate straw man of modern genetics in which genes are destiny," for your benefit, I really didn't expect you would benefit.

In your pronouncement on C. elegans, you fail to take into account what Lewontin said to Maynard in that passage I quoted above to confirm the meaning of what Dawkins said:

" ...every individual in every species is the unique consequence of a developmental process that is, at every moment, an interaction between the internal and external, between genes and environment. No organisms, not even ants, but certainly not human beings are robots controlled by their genes. "

Your C. elegans seems to be an imaginary animal without its own unique development, in a real, unpredictable environment with real non-genetic factors contributing to its development. Which is pretty much what biological determinists usually seem to think organisms are, a mental model instead of a real, living, developing organism that is the product of both internal and external aspects of its life. As convenient as it might be to make believe that tiny animals are uniform objects, that's not reality, it's ignoring reality.

And, note, that Lewontin is a professed materialist, though one far more honest, thorough, intelligent and modest than most materialists are. Gould said he was the smartest person he ever met, I'd have to say the same thing, adding one of the most intellectually honest. By the way, that doesn't mean he's above criticism.

Ideas have real consequences in real life. Materialism and the biological determinism that it results in have been a real life disaster. People are not material objects.

Materialists have no problem with the idea that other people are just objects while demanding a transcendent status for themselves. Many people who profess religion have acted the same way but they were in violation of their professed beliefs. Materialists who act that way can't be said to be violating the tenets of materialism.

I didn't lie about what Dawkins statement meant, as seen from how a real geneticist, Richard Lewontin interpreted the same passage.

Once again McCarthy shows that not only is he dishonest, he doesn't even grasp what honesty would entail. His logic here might as well be used by a police detective planting evidence. "Well, when the prisoner said 'I've done some things I'm not proud of,' it was the opinion of me and also Jenkins, who's a real psychologist, that the 'things I'm not proud of' must refer to all the unsolved murders in the district over the last half-year. So that's why we wrote up a detailed confession for him where he explicitly claimed responsibility for eight murders, because clearly that's what he meant by 'things I'm not proud of,' and why we claimed to everyone that he'd signed that confession. How can you possibly say that that's falsifying evidence?? Why, me and Jenkins agree that he must have meant those eight murders, and Jenkins is a real psychologist, so that proves that the prisoner meant he'd committed eight murders!"

Why don't you just go away, McCarthy? I know things must be very lonely on your own blog, where no one comes to discuss things with you, but there's a reason for that: no one enjoys discussing things with a self-important prat who pulls the majority of his evidence straight from his own backside and thinks he's too special to obey the principle of charity. Not there, and not here.

By Antaeus Feldspar (not verified) on 23 Apr 2012 #permalink

The lesson I take from this sorry incident is that any text cited as evidence by AM by in fact have undergone creative editing, if he felt that the words provided by the original author did not clearly convey that author's underlying meaning as perceived by AM.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 23 Apr 2012 #permalink

Lesson 2: The more frequently AM advises people to read a book, the greater the chance that he will personally rely on a Cliff Notes version (or a hostile review) for his citations and his understanding of it.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 23 Apr 2012 #permalink

Antaeus Feldspar, I don't know why you're bringing "Jenkins" into it while you continue to ignore what Dawkins said.

Though it is disappointingly cut off in google books, look up the note about this passage on page 270 in the 30th anniversary edition of The Selfish Gene, in which he notes Gould's attack on the idea:

http://tinyurl.com/85qm66h

Dawkins asks, "If, like most of the critics of my "lumbering robot" passage, you are not religious, then face up to the following question. What on Earth do you think you are, if not a robot.... " I'd go on but that's where the google books preview ends and I don't want to be accused of quoting something you can't check online. I read it and see a kind of affirmative non-denial of what Lewontin said about it.

Who do you think he was asking that question of if not people, human beings, Homo Sapiens? I don't think he was asking it of any individuals of C. elegans or any members of the Formicidae.

You might consider why it is that you and your pals are so very upset with what Dawkins said, why you are grasping at non-existent reeds to deny what he said,and, as Gould points out, extended in subsequent writing. You obviously see that the idea is not only repulsive but, I hope, in light of the history of the 20th century, you have a deep sense of how dangerous that materialist, reductionist faith is. Though, frankly, I doubt that last one.

herr doktor, you guys don't read my citations anyway and you wouldn't believe they existed if they weren't available online.

Materialism is the faith that dare not face its own consequences.

Though it is disappointingly cut off in google books, look up the note about this passage on page 270 in the 30th anniversary edition of The Selfish Gene, in which he notes Gould's attack on the idea:

Not sure why Joe Anthony McCarthy would link to a Gould book that doesn't discuss the footnote in question, but here's the full text from the page in question (ellipses where the preview ends)

This purple passage (a rare-well, fairly rare-indulgence) has been quoted and requited in gleeful evidence of my rabid âgenetic determinismâ. Part of the problem lies with the popular, but erroneous, associations of the word ârobotâ. We are in the golden age of electronics, and robots are no longer rigidly inflexible morons but are capable of learning, intelligence, and creativity. Ironically, even as long ago as 1920 when Karel Capek coined the word, ârobotsâ were mechanical beings that ended up with human feelings, like falling in love. People who think that robots are by definition more âdeterministicâ than human beings are muddled (unless they are religious, in which case they might consistently hold that humans have some divine gift of free will denied to mere machines). If, like most of the critics of my âlumbering robotsâ passage, you are not religious, then face up to the following question. What on earth do you think you are, if not a robot, albeitâ¦â

Note how Dawkins specifically refutes the interpretation McCarthy is imputing to his passage? Quote-mining at its finest.

Something I did note in the erroneous link to Gould - Dawkins said that he finds it more insightful to view the gene as the unit of selection, but allows that others may find it more insightful to view the organism as the unit of selection.

By W. Kevin Vicklund (not verified) on 23 Apr 2012 #permalink

Here is the full quote:

Now they swarm in huge colonies, safe inside gigantic lumbering robots?

This purple passage (a rare-well, fairly rare-indulgence) has been quoted and requoted in gleeful evidence of my rabid 'genetic determinism'. Part of the problem lies with the popular, but erroneous, associations of the word 'robot'. We are in the golden age of electronics, and robots are no longer rigidly inflexible morons but are capable of learning intelligence, and creativity. Ironically, even as long ago as 1920 when Karel Capek coined the word, 'robots' were mechanical beings that ended up with human feelings, like falling in love. People who think that robots are by definition more 'deterministic' than human beings are muddled (unless they are religious, in which case they might consistently hold that humans have some divine gift of free will denied to mere machines). If, like most of the critics of my 'lumbering robot' passage, you are not religious, then face up to the following question. What on earth do you think you are, if not a robot, albeit a very complicated one? I have discussed all this in The Extended Phenotype, pp. 15-17.

The error has been compounded by yet another telling 'mutation'. Just as it seemed theologically necessary that Jesus should have been born a virgin, so it seems demonologically necessary that any 'genetic determinist' worth his salt must believe that genes control every aspect of our behaviour. I wrote of the genetic replicators: 'they created us, body and mind' (p.20). This has been duly misquoted (e.g. in Our Genes by Rose, Kamin, and Lewontin (p. 287), and previously in a scholarly paper by Lewontin) as '[they] control us, body and mind' (emphasis mine). In the context of my chapter, I think it is obvious what I meant by 'created', and it is very different from 'control'. Anybody can see that, as a matter of fact, genes do not control their creations in the strong sense criticised as 'determinism'. We effortlessly (well, fairly effortlessly) defy them every time we use contraception.

(Richard Dawkins. The Selfish Gene 2nd edition 1989. pp 270-271.)

I would like to thank Anthony McCarthy for pointing out the passage that refutes his original comment @16 {insofar as it refers to Dawkins, at least]. It takes a strong person to admit when they're wrong.

AM: You obviously didn't read my post. I explicitly pointed out that 1. Christians follow most of the Old Testament except the dietary restrictions, so any Christian that engages in witch-hunting, who kills someone because they are of a different faith or orientation isn't in fact, violating the principles of Christianity. I'm going to capslock the following sentence,so you get it. ALL RELIGIONS ARE ABOUT BLOOD SACRIFICE, CHRISTIANITY IS NOT AN EXCEPTION.
Also, see Krebozien's post. And please stop banging on about North Korea; it's a product of Kim Il-Sung's and Kim Jong-il's warped brains. Athiests don't believe in heritable sin, unlike the Kims.

By Politicalguineapig (not verified) on 23 Apr 2012 #permalink

W. Kevin Vicklund, good grief, can you read?

He compares human beings to robots. ROBOTS OPERATE ACCORDING TO THE DETERMINATION OF A PROGRAM. He says:

"People who think that robots are by definition more âdeterministicâ than human beings are muddled".

We know that robots operate through determinism. That is an obvious given. Dawkins was affirming that he really does believe that human beings minds are determined, as his original statement said. The extended quote only shows that he really did mean people when he said it.

He uses an order in that quote which muddies his meaning. Turn it around to the equivalent of what he said:

"People who think that human beings are by definition less 'deterministic' than robots are muddled."

Then he goes on to associate not thinking human beings are determined objects with religion, in an appeal to prejudice, SCOFFING AT THE IDEA OF FREE WILL IN THE PROCESS.

I'm constantly amazed at the deficit of reading and reasoning ability on these blogs.

Politicalguineapig, show which crimes that Christians commit that are in line with the teachings of Jesus and his closest followers. You clearly can't do it. I referred to the most explicit record of what Jesus taught in regard to the things we've been talking about. I'll assume you've read it and you got nothing to refute what I said with that.

You are veering very close to the content of Hartung's repulsive paper that Dawkins promoted in The God Delusion with your comment. If you want to get into a critique of those who try to follow the law as it is set out in the First Testament, that's a massively loaded and extremely complex subject and I'm not going there on this blog thread. The religious Jews I've known have mostly, if anything, been better examples of what Jesus taught than most Christians I've known.

So what if the laws of the universe turn out to be pitiless and indifferent? It does not necessarily mean that we have to be so too.

In your concepts of religion and spirituality, you are stuck with the Judeo-Christian world view. Let me offer you a glimpse into another system of religious belief - Jainism. At the core of Jainism is the concept of Karma. The concept implies that what you get is the sum total of all your Karma throughout all your previous births. The only thing that can save you is your Karma and the only thing that can damn you is again your Karma. No divinity can ever influence what you get. It is only you and your actions which will determine whether you escape from the endless cycle of birth-death-rebirth.

Despite their world view of a pitiless and uncaring universe, practicing Jains can hardly be called materialistic. It is a religion which professes that the true path to salvation is renunciation of all material possessions, including clothes; and the pursuit of true knowledge of oneself. It even professes that one give up one's relationships and to look up on everyone with the same compassion (and a little emotional distance) regardless of how they are related to you.

Regarding your rants about 'Christians who violate the teachings of Christ are not true Christians and hence their actions are not to be interpreted as the acts of Christians':
The teachings of Christ have been subject to various interpretations (Just as you have your own interpretation of Dawkins' words*). Your interpretation of Christ's words maybe very different from that of others, how do you determine who is correct? We don't have Jesus Himself to clarify the meaning of His own words. For all you know, He might be facepalming at your own interpretation of His words.

Regarding atrocities commited by Atheists, 'the oatmeal' describes it well with this [link in my 'nym] comic.

W. Kevin Vicklund, what Dawkins is doing is trying to haveit his way by appearing to have it both ways. That's something that Gould pointed out at the link I gave at 388.

"So genes have become even more fundamental, and bodies even more inconsequential...." p. 639

His original statement of determinism in The Selfish Gene was massively and effectively attacked but instead of correcting his excesses he tried to wriggle out of it in The Extended Phenotype. But, as Gould shows, his method of extending his way out of his radical determinism misrepresents the nature of the mechanism he used as he reasserted his original "preference" for genetic determinism. I see some kind of weird attempt to adopt something like relativity to say "it all depends on how you look at it" which doesn't exactly work and, like they used to like to say, he ends up where he started out.

Really, if you want to think you're programmed like a robot, go ahead but I'd never vote for someone who believes that people are programmed.

I should point out that I shouldn't have put that reversed statement at 392 in quotes, since some are flying off the handle about lapses in punctuation.

show which crimes that Christians commit that are in line with the teachings of Jesus and his closest followers.

AGAIN with the No True Scotsman tripe, Anthony? Get a new tune.

Also, Matthew 5:17, 10:34, 11:20-24, 25:41; Mark 7:9-10, Hebrews 10:30-31, Acts 3:23, Revelations 2:23, et cetera.

For added fun: Mark 4:11-12, Luke 12:46-47, and for special spicy determinism-irony, Ephesians 1:4-5, 11.

Stu, Matthew 5:17, as you can see in Luke 6 what Jesus considered the law to say (see my comment about his obviously agreeing with Hillel, above) that doesn't exactly work in your favor.

List the crimes of professed Christians that go with what quotes from Jesus.

Ephesians is often considered to be a pseudo-Pauline text, Hebrews even more often so. Neither are by someone who either was or knew Jesus. Jesus didn't know from Revelations which no one disputes was also way, way after he died.

On the other hand, you might want to look at the ways and means of the overt anti-religious policies that began in the Soviet Union, starting c. 1921. Including mass killings, concentration camps, etc. Those are indisputably laid at the feet of atheism.

I dispute it.

By Mephistopheles… (not verified) on 23 Apr 2012 #permalink

True enough - so now that we agree that it is not indisputable that atheism is responsible for the atrocities of the Soviet Union.

By Mephistopheles… (not verified) on 23 Apr 2012 #permalink

As I said, when a government officially adopts materialism as its official ideology and it then treats people as if they are material objects, the rational conclusion is that their treatment of people is due to their official materialism. In the case of the Soviet Union, that materialism was explicitly and violently and indisputably atheistic. As it was in the countries it invaded and occupied.

Falsifying history, falsifying science, falsifying pretty much everything. That's the new atheism on display.

Anthony, you cherry-picked one out of my cherry-picks. I wonder why you did that?

Actually, no, I don't. It's because you are trolling. You've admitted to trolling. You're not here for a discussion. The only thing remaining is to determine how competent of a troll you are.

Let's see.

List the crimes of professed Christians that go with what quotes from Jesus.

That is absolutely ridiculous on so many levels it is not even funny.

1. Jesus explicitly upheld OT law.
2. If you're going to limit yourself to the Jeffersonian Bible, you are AGAIN pulling a No True Scotsman.
3. Christians do not limit themselves to Jesus quotes alone.
4. If your definition is now "professed Christians", there's an entire swath of cults that need to be included.
5. Which means you are -- again -- contradicting yourself, in the same sentence this time.
6. Please stop assuming people are as stupid as you are.
7. You're a complete, utter and despicable hypocrite. But we'll get to that.
8. By the way, do you need pre-event propaganda or post-hoc rationalization?

Ephesians is often considered to be a pseudo-Pauline text, Hebrews even more often so. Neither are by someone who either was or knew Jesus. Jesus didn't know from Revelations which no one disputes was also way, way after he died.

Since most "professed Christians" hold these books as canon, you are now reduced to "No True Christian" or "No True Bible". People have killed and been killed over these writings, in the name of Christ.

On the other hand, you might want to look at the ways and means of the overt anti-religious policies that began in the Soviet Union, starting c. 1921. Including mass killings, concentration camps, etc.

Of course. Cults hate competition.

Those are indisputably laid at the feet of atheism.

Sure. And by those standards, the holocaust is indisputably laid at the feet of Christianity.

You do NOT want to play this game, Anthony.

You try to conflate Dawkins's most off-handed points as being gospel for all atheists (which is hilarious in and of itself), but nitpick over the smallest attributions in the Bible. By your logic, I could quote Argentine, Torquemada and David Koresh to prove the depravity of Christianity. But I don't. Because it is dumb as a sack of hammers. This is what makes you a pathetic, trolling, hypocritical douchecanoe Anthony. Again, it was cute when we didn't know you.

Anyway.

Please, point out the crimes committed in the name of Richard Dawkins, quote by quote.

And even if you could bolster your false equivalence of linking prominent atheist quotes to crimes that atheist regimes committed to prominent theists doing the same, it would still not be the same. There is no atheist bible, no atheist canon, no atheist clergy, no assumption of infallibility, no doctrine other than a lack thereof.

It all boils down to the old adage: atheism is to religion as bald is to hair color. And just because skinheads are bald, it does not mean they hate minorities because they are bald.

Now, for your own sake, go away. Your true colors are showing, and it is really, really embarrassing for the pseudo-intellectual deist sophistry movement.

As I said, when a government officially adopts materialism as its official ideology

Which one would that be? Surely you're not talking about 20th century communism, Anthony? Because materialism was just a side-effect of imposing their own ideology.

Again, materialism is not even an ideology. It's the null hypothesis. As you define it in a new atheist context, it is, by definition actually, the lack of ideology.

You don't like it. We know. Do you really think people don't see the contortions you go through to make it sound eeeeevil?

and it then treats people as if they are material objects, the rational conclusion is that their treatment of people is due to their official materialism.

Are you really saying that the capacity to dehumanize is tied to materialism? Do you really want to go there, Anthony?

In the case of the Soviet Union, that materialism was explicitly and violently and indisputably atheistic.

The crusades, all pogroms, national-socialism and all jihads were explicitly, violently and indisputably theistic. And all of them were ideological.

That's still not the point, Anthony. Your attempt at building false equivalence is noted, laughed at and dismissed.

Atheism is not an ideology, it is the lack of ideology. So not only are you -- again -- a monumental hypocrite, your entire edifice of sophistry and wankery is built on a massive category error.

But you already know that. Your entire trolling mission here is to obscure precisely that. I'm sorry that I called you out on it, Anthony. Please slink away to the more uneducated sewers of the Internet where people are sufficiently uninformed to buy your tripe. As you well know, the main reason you are no longer commenting on Pharyngula is that there are many, many people there who know far more of the Bible, its history and its consequences than both you and I.

show which crimes that Christians commit that are in line with the teachings of Jesus and his closest followers.

Like almost everybody has said already, the No True Scotsman fallacy is becoming ridiculous. Even if we can judge "Christians"* for transgressing against Jesus' teachings, we can only judge from our own point of view, I would still think that any "Christian"* who did whatever crimes thinking he was doing what a good Christian was supposed to do (whether it be killing Muslims or Jews, handing out small pox infected blankets to natives, divorcing, eating shrimp or burning heretics). None of which Jesus specifically told them to do, but all of which at some point or another, were thought to be ordained by Church.

Christianity is a belief. Like Muslim suicide bombers, you can't just deny their faith by saying they got it wrong when Christians do or have done bad deeds in the name of the Church.

* = Any Christian who doesn't share the interpretation of the Bible Anthony McCarthy does.

I don't have a bible nearby and my current screen is too tiny to go search for online bible quotes...

...but here I go. In no particular order. And these are all from the gospels. No doubt there are more, and in the other books there's a ton more weird stuff.

Jesus claims he has not come to bring peace but a sword, just before announcing that He has come to break families and that nobody who loves their parents or children more than him are deserving? He also tells his disciples to sell their robes to buy a sword if they don't have one already. I could interpret this as condoning if not promoting violence, and I think people have.

He finds a fig tree without fruits and with his magic powers kills the tree, so that it will never bear fruit again. Not the most worthwhile outlook in my opinion.

He seems okay with the idea that majority will take the wide road to damnation and only few will take the narrow road to salvation, betraying a lack of empathy (or just that he too had a sphere of compassion.

He tells his disciples to not spread the word to certain tribes/cities, thereby condemning all the members/inhabitants to hell.

He also sentences whole towns into hellfire for not believing in his teachings.

Jesus did also state that he upheld the old testament and it's laws (so all Gods punishments and righteous massacres were upheld as well, as well as God taking sides in battles and confrontations, demanding human sacrifice to test his followers and so on).

When confronted about his disciples not washing their hands before eating, he accuses his accusers or NOT living up to old testament laws of killing children who disobeyed their parents. How I would interpret this is him condoning capital punishment (for what I also consider a very minor "crime"), as well as bad manners and debating skills. And does every Christian who washes their hands before eating transgress against His will? Is Bible against germ theory?

I think he was also against minimum wage, as he explained that heaven was like paying same wage to a guy who did 12 hours manual labour and a guy who did 1 hour of manual labour.

Also, he claims to purposefully speak in parables so that the "less deserving" would not understand. In the same vein, no pearls before swine and the like, as I understand the metaphor. I would count any modern person or government which deliberately speaks in riddles or spreads disinformation for the purpose of excluding others morally suspect, even if not criminal.

He also spoke for the separation of state and church (give to Caesar what is Caesars,...)

Also, as a not so subtle hint, didn't he also say not to judge, lest ye be judged.

1. Jesus explicitly upheld OT law. Stu

"The Talmud in tractate Shabbos 31a relates the following well-known story of Hillel:

"On another occasion it happened that a certain heathen came before Shammai and said to him, "Make me a proselyte, on the condition that you teach me the whole Torah while I stand on one foot." Thereupon he chased him away with the builder's cubit that was in his hand. When he came before Hillel, (he also asked Hillel to teach him the entire Torah while standing on one foot) Hillel replied, "What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor: that is the whole Torah while the rest is commentary; go and learn it."

Do to others as you would have them do to you. Luke 6:31

Clearly, Jesus agreed with Hillel's analysis of what the law meant.

You don't seem to understand the different strands of argument that are going on simultaneously. Among other things.

The argument about Dawkins being a genetic determinist is not the one about the new atheist insistence on a double standard about politics.

a. You hold that religion is to blame for the crimes of Christians who treat people like objects in opposition to the teachings of Jesus
b. You hold that materialism is not to blame for materialists who treat people like objects in line with materialism.

In both cases people get treated like objects only in the case of self-defined Christians, that is clearly against the teachings of Jesus.

It doesn't surprise me that this clear double standard can't seem to sink into the minds of the new atheists here. I'm still waiting for you to pin a crime to something he said.

The argument about Dawkins being a biological determinist is just another case when his great fans due to his atheist bigotry have no idea what his scientific claim to fame consists of and foolishly arguing that he didn't say what he said.

I've come to the conclusion that "true Scotsman", "cherry picking", "quote mining" and "strawman" are all new atheist speak for "I got nothin'".

I'm really going to have fun writing this one up. One of a series about the stupidest things that atheists have said to me online.

and it then treats people as if they are material objects, the rational conclusion is that their treatment of people is due to their official materialism.

And how does dualism prevent that alleged occurrence? Quite often, it seems to me that souls were made up just so that propagandists could call their enemies "soulless" and get their followers to ignore any demonstration that they're thinking, feeling people.

As for materialism, a person is still a person. It doesn't matter if he's made of non-person objects. It'd be a fallacy of composition to assume that unconscious, unfeeling objects can't add up to a conscious, feeling person. Of course, McCarthy just seems to assume that because he performs the fallacy, that we must also perform it, because there's no other way of thinking than McCarthy's.

I again weep for the hypothetical future of sapient AIs if they emerge into a world where rabid dualists can use McCarthy's fallacy of composition to arbitrarily declare them soulless non-people because they're made of non-people wires and chips. Hopefully breakthroughs in neuroscience will reach enough of the public to make most people non-bigoted materialists by then.

Since the church is the body of Christ on earth, you can't mix and match doctrines. If you accept the doctrine of Christ you must logically accept the entire doctrine of the Church. Your attempt to pare down the teachings of Christianity to a few chapters of the Gospels falls on that basis.

By Mephistopheles… (not verified) on 23 Apr 2012 #permalink

Please, point out the crimes committed in the name of Richard Dawkins

Stu, you have forgotten that Dawkins is single-handedly responsible for the new ideology of Neo-Eugenics, "which is widely believed in, as can be seen and heard in the media just about every day."

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 23 Apr 2012 #permalink

Antaeus Feldspar, I don't know why you're bringing "Jenkins" into it

Of course you don't. Because if an analogy demonstrates why what you're doing is dishonest and wrong, you will make sure you don't understand the analogy. If there is a reasonable interpretation of someone's position and an absolutely unreasonable interpretation, you will cling to the absolutely unreasonable interpretation without an ounce of doubt.

What you don't seem to realize is that you are accomplishing nothing by this. If you were able to make a cogent observation about what other people also agree are Dawkins' views, then you could win some respect for that. Making observations about a caricature that came from your own mind and then expecting to win plaudits because you falsely attributed that caricature to someone famous and even dishonestly edited a quote by that person to cover up your misattribution - why do you think that will impress anyone?

Just go away, Anthony. There's no point in arguing with someone as dishonest as you.

By Antaeus Feldspar (not verified) on 23 Apr 2012 #permalink

We know that robots operate through determinism. That is an obvious given.

Your pretensions to computer science appear to be as fanciful as your pretensions to philosophy.

Stu, you have forgotten that Dawkins is single-handedly responsible for the new ideology of Neo-Eugenics, "which is widely believed in, as can be seen and heard in the media just about every day."

Man, I must be missing out on a radical change in the American culture from watching almost no TV these past few years (except old shows on Netflix). Apparently hanging out at science and skepticism blogs has isolated me from a much bigger genetic determinist culture that's ruling society. And all this time, I thought dualism had been dominant in America.

W. Kevin Vicklund @390 cites the 2nd edition of "The Selfish Gene" [with my correction]:

I wrote of the genetic replicators: 'they created us, body and mind' (p.20). This has been duly misquoted (e.g. in [Not In] Our Genes by Rose, Kamin, and Lewontin (p. 287), and previously in a scholarly paper by Lewontin) as '[they] control us, body and mind' (emphasis mine).

Ah. So in addition to his own "clarifying" revision of Dawkins' words, in his continual Appeals to Authority AM repeats Lewontin's own creation of telling but non-existent citations. Never mind that Lewontin's dishonesty was picked up by Dawkins in his 2nd edition of the book... which AM has advised us to read.

This is what happens when you rely on the Cliff Notes rather than do your own homework.

I have a lot of time for Lewontin but he is no Maynard Smith.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 23 Apr 2012 #permalink

#405

In both cases people get treated like objects only in the case of self-defined Christians, that is clearly against the teachings of Jesus.

Which of the ~33,800 denominations of Christianity are the True Christians (TM) according to Anthony McCarthy?

Who decides the designations of "self-defined Christian" and "Real Christian"?

Anthony McCarthy?

I also see Anthony is still regurgitating the same old wanking word salads that he was spamming ~four years back over at Florida Citizens For Science.

So Anthony, do you agree that ID should be taught as science in schools?

By Sauceress (not verified) on 23 Apr 2012 #permalink

Jesus explicitly upheld OT law. Stu

"The Talmud in tractate Shabbos 31a relates the following well-known story of Hillel:

Wait, wait, WAIT. What the fuck, Anthony. We were talking about Christianity, precious. You're quoting Talmud now?

Either you're as dumb as a sack of hammers or you assume everyone else is.

Do to others as you would have them do to you. Luke 6:31

Oh whoop-dee-fucking doo, Christians figured out that the Golden Rule would be a good thing to co-opt. Now, as soon as you figure out how that in any way refutes any of the other passages I quoted, please let me know.

Clearly, Jesus agreed with Hillel's analysis of what the law meant.

Your definition of "Christianity" has now been proven to be "whatever Anthony decides is good to include, and excluding what Anthony decides is too embarrassing". That you think this is not painfully obvious to any sentient being within the nearest few parsecs is prima facie proof that you are still trying to troll and hope people are even dumber than you are or pathologically delusional. Or both.

You don't seem to understand the different strands of argument that are going on simultaneously. Among other things.

Sweetheart, name even one strand. Do you really think you're getting away with your evasiveness at this point? Are you really that pathetic, Anthony?

The argument about Dawkins being a genetic determinist

Which is a cute argument. Which is completely vacuous. Even if Dawkins was a generic determinist, even if he were a neo-eugenicist, even if he clubbed baby seals for breakfast... it would still have fuck all to do with atheism or materialism.

Newton, Einstein, Bohr and Dawkins could morph (by their powers combined) right now and issue an edict that we were all the creations of the Great Green Arkleseizure, AND IT STILL WOULD NOT MATTER. Atheism is not an ideology, and as such does not depend on any prophet, any authority or any holy writ.

It is the opposite of all these things, Anthony. You know this. That is why you hate it so much.

is not the one about the new atheist insistence on a double standard about politics.

Incoherent. Projection. Obvious lie.

a. You hold that religion is to blame for the crimes of Christians who treat people like objects in opposition to the teachings of Jesus

Inasmuch as the people perpetrating those crimes used religion to justify them, yes. Inasmuch as clownshoes such as yourself excuse that behavior with YET ANOTHER appeal to the No True Scotsman fallacy, yes.

b. You hold that materialism is not to blame for materialists who treat people like objects in line with materialism.

Not at all. As soon as you provide me with quotes in the Materialist Bible that justify those things, I'll be all ears.

So yes, Anthony, you pathetic hypocrite, that means you identify

1. A materialist bible
2. Its followers
3. Specific verses in said bible that justify any wrongdoing
4. Link those verses to specific wrongdoing
5. Prove that those wrongdoings were done out of materialism

Go, Anthony, go. If you can satisfy all five criteria for even one misdeed, go ahead. I double-dog-dare you.

In both cases people get treated like objects only in the case of self-defined Christians, that is clearly against the teachings of Jesus.

Okay, I've let you get away with this for far too long already, troll. Before you bring anything up along these lines, you need to define a few things:

1. Christian
2. Jesus's teachings
3. Which parts of the Bible are valid
4. Which supra-Biblical religions are valid

It doesn't surprise me that this clear double standard can't seem to sink into the minds of the new atheists here.

Your double standard, hypocrisy and trolling are duly noted. By the way, you not addressing the bible verses I quoted (except for nit-picking a single one) is also duly noted.

Let's for the moment assume you find most of the Bible as repulsive as most sentient creatures would, and are trying to go to a pathetic stripped-down Jefferson Bible version in a sad attempt to retain some sort of moral high ground (correct me if I'm wrong, Anthony, but your consistent, insistent and delusional whining about "Jesus's teachings" leaves no other interpretation other than you being a complete liar)...

Oh, wait. Acts 3:23, for starters.

I'm still waiting for you to pin a crime to something he said.

So wait, you are now demanding that the fictional account of a (most likely) fictional character written in the zenith of his cult's ascent be tied to a specific act committed after that account was written?

Are you clinically insane?

Tell you what, Anthony. When Richard Dawkins dies, we'll wait a few decades. Then, I'll write an account of his miraculous deeds. Then we'll wait a millennium or two. At that point, I would love for you to link his words directly to anything his followers did.

You sad, pathetic, lying, trolling, projecting piece of shit hypocrite. I don't know what is more disgusting: the fact that you think the way you do, or that you actually think you can get away with lying like this.

Bearing false witness. Over, and over, and over, and over again. You are disgusting, and your God will strike you down for violating his commandments this blatantly.

Waiting.

Waiting.

Oh. Hmm.

The argument about Dawkins being a biological determinist is just another case when his great fans due to his atheist bigotry have no idea what his scientific claim to fame consists of and foolishly arguing that he didn't say what he said.

Hi. Anthony. I am Stu, and I have never read a single book of Dawkins. I'm still an atheist. So this reverse argument from authority you're trying to pull here (again, it was really cute when we didn't know you) is not only vacuous, vapid, PRATT and simply beside the everloving point... it does not even fucking apply here.

I don't give a fuck what Richard Dawkins says. It has nothing to do with my atheism. Same thing goes for Marx, Lenin, Stalin, Mao and any other strawman you have been pulling out. There is no atheism prophet, Anthony. Again, it is very obvious that that is the one thing you hate and fear the most. Atheism isn't driven by one person, or one book, or one burning bush.

It is the null hypothesis.

I know you are angry and afraid of what atheism represents and leads to: independence, humanism, personal responsibility. But Anthony, those are YOU-problems. When you've dealt with them, come back and talk.

As a random aside, the reason you're so annoying is because you're blatantly, proudly intellectually dishonest. Compared to, say, heddle (who calmly admits his beliefs are inherently irrational, for starters), you are a complete midget in biblical knowledge, history, philosophy and, for that matter, high-school level debating skills. You are a douche with a thesaurus, Anthony.

I've come to the conclusion that "true Scotsman", "cherry picking", "quote mining" and "strawman" are all new atheist speak for "I got nothin'".

I'm glad you feel that way, Anthony. Whatever gets you though the night. All of those allegations have been made against you, are valid, and you have not even begun to address them.

By the way, "Richard Dawkins is a determinist meanie" is not addressing those allegations. Allow me to explain as I would a five year old:

Strawman: What Richard Dawkins says or does not say has nothing to do with atheism.

No True Scotsman: (that you say "true Scotsman" makes it obvious that you don't know what the fallacy is); you've employed this fallacy over half a dozen times now. It has been pointed out to you where you did it, how you did it and when you did it. Perhaps you are willfully trolling along because nobody has pointed out yet how much special pleading you heaped on top of it?

Anthony, either you explain what you believe the "No True Scotsman" fallacy to be or never bring it up again.

Actually, I'm not even going to continue past this point until you've shown at least an attempt to be intellectually honest about these fallacies first. I am bored, but not THAT bored.

I'm really going to have fun writing this one up.

Thank you, Anthony, for again admitting that you are not here for discussion but purely to troll.

And I am sure the masses await your insight with bated breath. Or then again, maybe they will not.

Let's see, dum-dee-dum-dee-dum...

Yeah, your tripe is UN-FRICKIN-RATED on Alexa. Just to put that in perspective I have two 5+ year abandoned programming blogs that actually are rated.

Anthony, I hate to break this to you, but nobody gives a flying fuck about your sophistry. Your arguments are old, trite, vacuous and have been refuted a thousand times over.

One of a series about the stupidest things that atheists have said to me online.

Oh do share, precious. Will it top "List the crimes of professed Christians that go with what quotes from Jesus"?

By stuv.myopenid.com (not verified) on 23 Apr 2012 #permalink

[FYI -- extremely verbose response to AM in moderation]

By stuv.myopenid.com (not verified) on 23 Apr 2012 #permalink

Holy crap, I'm sorry guys. It's obvious we're watching the spiraling descent Anthony is doing from annoying windbag to complete fruitloop. I mean, really...?

I have knowingly voted for atheists twice, in my memory, based on my knowing them and knowing that their atheism was not based in any kind of firm ideological position such as materialism. I don't think I'll continue to vote for atheists on that basis of trust now that this kind of materialist undermining of democracy has gained currency among atheists.

Yowza. Someone does not get out much and has found a pet issue.

By stuv.myopenid.com (not verified) on 23 Apr 2012 #permalink

A.F. your "Jenkins" ruse isn't an analogy, anal as it might be. It's a ruse.

Gradually, in these arguments, seeing how the new atheists do something that they clearly believe is thinking but is really just the rearrangement of prejudices, the pathology of the intellectual fad has come into focus.

stuv, the rest of you, would you knowingly vote for a biblical fundamentalist? I wouldn't and for very similar reasons to why I wouldn't vote for a materialist. Only, by their own ideology, there is no reason to believe a materialist wouldn't do anything they wanted to if they thought they could get away with it. There isn't anything in materialism that would keep them from doing that. If they want to explain to me why that's not the case, they'd have to if they wanted my vote.

he is no Maynard Smith.

On the issue discussed here, no, his position makes sense. Biological determinism is dangerous ideological garbage that has led to the deaths of millions of people in the last century. In the case of Dawkins' evo-psy, it's the introduction of make believe into evolutionary science.

narad, there was a time I would be surprised that someone could imply that robots aren't controlled by programs and not be corrected. But, since going online, I'm never surprised when an atheist can get away with saying the most incredibly clueless stuff. It's just one of the two steps you allow each other.

And you think it's your opponents who are superstitious.

PDF version of the Fallacies Table here.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 23 Apr 2012 #permalink

narad, there was a time I would be surprised that someone could imply that robots aren't controlled by programs and not be corrected.

Do you not know what a nondeterministic algorithm is? Do you think this is some sort of recent development?

But, since going online, I'm never surprised when an atheist can get away with saying the most incredibly clueless stuff. It's just one of the two steps you allow each other.

Once again, I would like to know what has led you to the conclusion that I am an "atheist" outside of the sense of "someone with the temerity not to immediately recognize your inexorable, sprawling amaziosity."

Narad, computers are machines that do things because people make the choices for them. Free will is far more than just a program in a machine that can have more than one result. Why don't we just leave our political decisions to machines that can have variable results. Unfortunately, it seems that computer scientists are working on computer programs to give "decisions" to drones on whether or not to blow up people without human input. Just another result of the kind of superstition that has been growing in computer science.

I recommended to someone above that they read Joseph Weizenbaum's book warning about the kind of thinking you exhibit. I've read it and it only increased the skepticism I'd already developed as I read more about artificial "intelligence".

Oh dear, tables listing logical fallacies? Unfortunately, knowing the words doesn't ensure that they will be asserted correctly. Their use by callow atheists on blogs has done more to destroy the popular understanding of them than was done in the previous two an a half millennia. As it is, their citation in these arguments are more likely a sign of incompetence by the one citing them than an actual problem in the argument of their opponent. See what I said to The Very blah, blah at 361 above about leaving out the conditional construction that was essential for the rest of the statement. You kids have no clue.

As seen from the line of distortion that herr doktor began at 359, denying the substance of what Richard Dawkins said about people being "lumbering robots" whose actions are determined by their genes, his charge that I'd lied about that when it was something that Dawkins' himself not only demonstrated but confirmed in his reassertion of it in more radical terms, the sci-ranger debate team needs a bit more instruction in basic forensics.

Gould pointed out (link at 388), Dawkins has been wildly inconsistent and illogical in his subsequent shifting around on his pet theory but that does nothing to change that his system is radically reductive and deterministic. He said it himself in the period after his cover job, "People who think that robots are by definition more âdeterministicâ than human beings are muddled". He clearly thinks that people are no less controlled by determinism than robots. He'd certainly have said he didn't if he meant we weren't.

And now one of his true believers is denying that robot "behavior" is the result of programmatic determination, grasping on to the idea of "nondeterministic algorithms" as cover for Dawkins' well known determinism. While I know there are many sci-rangers addled by science FICTION and who really do believe that computers and robots are pretty much like people, I'd hope that even among materialists there are some who can see some problems with that idea and that it will have disastrous consequences if people believing that gain political or military power. I'm afraid there are some of those who have quite a bit of power in the Pentagon already. I'm certain there are many in large corporations who do. The results will be a disaster, one that will be without direct human decision making except for the scientists who wrote the program and sold the faith to some superstitiously credulous generals and politicians.

I'm amazed that people who are in the business of promoting science don't understand that that radical determinism pretty much destroys any reason to believe that science can tell us anything objective about the material universe. It just gets trapped into the inescapable maze that materialism sets up. Just as in my argument with another materialist of another orientation over whether or not the answer to 6x7 has an objective reality, science, itself, also gets demoted to just an alternative chemical reaction. If it's just a matter of molecules readjusting themselves according to laws of physics and chemistry and the expression of those in the context of social consensus.

As someone else pointed out when Bertrand Russell said, âWhatever knowledge is attainable, must be attainable by scientific methods, and what science cannot discover, mankind cannot know,â the truth of his statement depended on it being untrue. The statement, itself, is not a scientific statement, it's a statement of belief that is unsupported by scientific evidence and analysis. It would have to be false for it to be true. It's pretty incredible that Russell's faith in scientism was so strong that it overcame his abilities as a logician. He forgot that science is dependent on the validity of logic as a prerequisite. I don't think there is any reason to expect that someone on the blogs is going to outdo him in filling that gap, though.

Narad, I'm even more amused that he classes me among the atheists after in this very conversation I've (gently, I hope) chastised others for judging all Christians by the examples of self-selected demagogues we never asked to represent us, or approved as our representatives.

Anthony purports to think that my analogy is faulty. Of course, if he really thought that, he'd be able to refute it by identifying a legitimate point of disanalogy. He'd refute my analogy by identifying a point of disanalogy if he could, but since he doesn't, obviously he can't. That seems to happen a lot when Anthony tries to debate the people he misidentifies as "new atheists."

You know, I was almost tempted to offer Anthony the "syllogism challenge": namely, "express your views in the form of syllogisms, and I will respond solely with one or more of the following responses:
* identifying the form of the syllogism as invalid;
* identifying one or both premises as not necessarily true;
* identifying one or both premises as not an accurate representation of the position that the argument intends to refute; OR
* acknowledging that the form is correct, the premises are correct and they actually represent the position being refuted, the syllogism is therefore correct and the point has been won by the challenger."

But it's clear that even offered such a generous deal, Anthony couldn't bring himself to play fair. I'm pretty sure he would soon devolve into mocking the very concept of the syllogism, probably with puerile wordplay like "silly-jism," just as he did with "analogy." If Anthony had to choose between believing that he could possibly be incorrect, or that the entire edifice of logic as developed from the time of the ancient Greeks straight through to the current day had collapsed irreparably, I'm sure he'd choose the latter.

By Antaeus Feldspar (not verified) on 24 Apr 2012 #permalink

Anthony, what the hell does any of your incoherent anti-"materialist" bullshit have to do with epigenetics? Not getting enough attention at your usual ports-of-troll?

I'm amazed that people who are in the business of promoting science don't understand that that radical determinism pretty much destroys any reason to believe that science can tell us anything objective about the material universe.

Please define "radical determinism," and explain exactly how it "pretty much destroys any reason to believe that science can tell us anything objective about the material universe."

I'm really going to have fun writing this one up.

That tired old bluff again? "You all think you're so smart, but just wait (and wait and wait and wait) till I write a book about you and make you look stupid, and you'll all be sorry you crossed me!"

I'd tell Anthony to grow the fuck up, but I suspect he's lapsed into his "second childhood."

I'm really going to have fun writing this one up.

That tired old bluff again? "You all think you're so smart, but just wait (and wait and wait and wait) till I write a book about you and make you look stupid, and you'll all be sorry you crossed me!"

I'd tell Anthony to grow up, but I suspect he's already lapsed into his "second childhood," ifyouknowwhatimean...

Antaneus Feldspar, I have to admit that after being blog mobbed by more than four of five of you, your identities kind of blend together into an amorphous mass, leaving me having to reread upthread to keep things straight. See my last comment to stev and Sauceress.

The desperate, obviously dishonest, salvage job you have been a part of, trying to save Richard Dawkins from what he's said in a trail of text almost four decades long, which has been massively commented on during the entire time constituting one of the major controversies in both science and the general culture, doesn't leave me with any confidence that you could tell a syllogism from a stream of reiterative sci-ranger blather.

If there is "no good, no evil" then a lie is as good as the truth if you can get away with it. I know of nowhere outside of fundamentalist religion and broadcast corporate propaganda where you can get away with more than among the new atheists.

Joseph Weizenbaum was prophetic in what he said was going to be the result of your kind of scientistic superstition.

But, as I said, this leads to the crossing of a very subtle line, and after running over that line during programming, the first impression many people get is that the person is inferior to the computer â that the programmer is in some way a defective imitation. And in certain ways the computer is better than human beings. This is what gives rise to the feeling, not that the computer is made in the imitation of man, but, quite the other way around, that in a certain sense man is made in the image of the computer. So we may start out by thinking that the computer is modeled after the brain or human thought, but then we turn around and say instead that the brain itself is a kind of computer. For example, yesterday someone pointed to his head and said, "the computer up here." Perhaps it was intended as an amusing gesture, but at the same time, it was an almost universally recognized comment, one which is, I think, quite serious and, under the circumstances, dangerous.

Artificial intelligence is the sub-discipline of computer science that has grown up in the United States. At this stage, and I would say even mainly at my institution, it is seen as a purer form of intelligence than that within this human embodiment. The computer is considered less likely to be misled by mere judgments and other matters arising from the biological constitution of the human being. I am thinking here of some of my colleagues' views. For example. Forester, of great model-making fame, said in print that mental models are always defective, that we can think better and more reliably through a computer.

Anthony McCarthy @34:

Just how did Claisen, Keck and Heisey's work provide the underpinnings to epigenetic factors?

If what I recall after over thirty years, what they characterized was the "ecotype" (rather than the "cline" or rassenkreis), in which the interaction between the natural environment and the genotype (e.g. natural selection) resulted in subpopulations of cosmopolitan species having a restrictive genotype highly preditive of the phenotype, consistent with stable climatic conditions (and likely to be extirpated if conditions went unstable).

Aside from your complete mirepresentation of a significant scientific study, my having read enough of your turgid citations to catch the glimmer of vitalism (e.g. the whole is greater than the sum of its parts) in your reasoning, leads me to think that your quibble is not with Dawkins, but Hume; and it is the methodology of science you are challengeing (isn't having controlled experiments the ultimate in reductionism?).

Mike

mgr: it's not a "quibble," so much as a longstanding blind bigoted obsessive hatred of "materialists," "radical determinists," "scientistic fundamentalists," and other shadows and boogeymen he's never even defined, despite repeated requests to do so. The fact that he brought this incoherent BS into a thread about epigenetics and alt-med woo is just one more indication that he's an obsessive crank completely impervious to reality.

@Anthony McCarhy

"Crimes that Jesus made me do"

Imagine, if you will, me as a self-proclaimed Christian ruler of a fresh new nation, dedicated to the words of Jesus Christ (and not so much the rest of the book except some bits here and there where my interpretations and whimsy find them).

Like Jesus, we shall uphold the laws of the old testament. While some may think this just means to Honour thy neighbour, (which shall be easy if I just set up a religious capital where civilians are not allowed), it will also mean a number of other laws including but not limited to killing children who curse their parents (Matthew 15:1-7), lack of religious freedom (no others gods or false idols).

Do onto others what you want done to you. Also easy, I shall treat everyone I meet with respect. I shall delegate all the other stuff to my underlings, in a very respectful manner so as to receive respect in turn.

To gather willing recruits, we shall offer large monetary rewards to those who abandon their families to serve us. (Matthew 19:29) We will also promise our recruits eternal life should they die in the service of our glorious nation (Matthew 10:39).

To inspire devotion, all new recruits must come to me at once, without saying goodbye to their families or burying their dead fathers (Luke 9:59-62)), as - like Jesus - we as his faithful followers have come to break up families and to set brother against brother and parents against children (Matthew 10:35-36, Luke 14:26) Preferably the left-over family members should be put to death, by the faithful family member.

Failing that, We expect everybody to hate their former families, as well as themselves,(Luke 14:26) and to renounce all material ties to their past (it's easier that way, to recondition them as soldiers of Christ) (Luke 14:33). I will also forbid anyone from calling anyone their fathers (Matthew 23:9), to prevent any non-political cliques from forming. Also, as a strict rule for national well being, I expect all citizens to love our glorious master JC more than their parents or their children (Matthew 10:37) Lest they be considered the enemies of the state. Given that I expect them to hate their parents and siblings, this shouldn't be too difficult to enforce.

If the recruits shall not prove worthy enough, we can only assume that they were only giving lip service and are therefore banished (Matthew 7:22-23). This is only a relatively easy way to avoid staining our own hands in blood, as Jesus did forbid killing. Therefore, we expect our soldiers to only burn the cities and cast the unworthy into flaming pits, without killing. If they fail, and somebody dies by their swords, the soldiers obviously weren't worthy.

Participation in all our National festivities shall be mandatory (Matthew 22:7-10), and any appearance in less than acceptable apparel is grounds for immediate imprisonment in sensory deprivation (where there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth) (Matthew 22:12-13).

We shall also keep a keen eye our for false prophets, as their appearance is foretold, like the end of the world during our lifetime.

My faithful servants and followers shall also not wash their hands before eating.(Matthew 15:1-2)

In that vein, our Christian Nation shall not bother with health care, as all ailments, dumbness, blindness, crippledness and death are just result of sin and sinfulness. But as we are the most loyal followers of Jesus Christ and his only true interpreters, we shall never be sick in our lives. (too numerous to quote, practically every ailment is cured by our glorious leader JC forgiving the sin).

Irregardless, our glorious lord JC did predict the end of times being filled with terrible afflictions and disease. Obviously the two are not related. (Mark 13:19)

I know that Jesus spoke in parables, so rather than having to administer a strict regiment of self-mutilation (Matthew 5:29-30, 18:8-9) up to and including self-amputation and making oneself an eunuch for faith as a alternative to marriage, We will regard the passage as a divine order to get rid of any dissenting member or members of our glorious society.

As faithful servants of JC, we shall not bring peace but a sword (Matthew 10:34). We shall expand our territories by going to new cities and towns and spread the word. If they will not let us in, or will not listen, we shall as God's instruments on earth, punish those cities worse than God did with Sodom and Gomorrah (Matthew 10:14-15, Mark 6:11, Luke 10:10-15). If our servants don't already have a sword, they are required to get one (Luke 22:36).

If any our our nations servants are killed in action, we shall come en mass, kill the offenders and burn their cities to the ground (Matthew 22:7).

Just like Jesus sent his angels to gather up all the offend, to be cast into furnace of fire (where there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth)Matthew 13:41-42), so shall I send my faithful servants to gather and incinerate all that offend.

We fully appreciate that the True Faith(tm) is for a select few, majority choosing the wide path to damnation. (Matthew 7:13)As they are evil, and evil trees produce evil fruit, we shall cut them down henceforth.(Matthew 3:10, 7:17-19). Those who our glorious reign reaches who do not wish to serve under us, shall be put to the sword (Luke 19:27). For this reason, we also do not feel we are required to give honest account of our faith and national state. Instead, we shall speak in confusing parables to prevent masses from seeing our wisdom and joining us (Mark 4:11-12) (That way we have more unfaithful to punish).

Like Jesus before us and Republicans presently, we shall take from those who have not and give to those who have already. (Luke 19:26) Regrettably this will mean that those who benefit from our system will not most likely reach heaven (Matthew 19:23). In exchange, we shall offer a pleasant stable economy and no minimum wage laws.

We shall also help with national economy by allowing men to sell themselves and their wives and children as slaves, in payment for debt (Matthew 18:25).

If at any time my mom or my sister will try to reason with me, I shall renounce them like JC renounced his own family (Matthew 12:47-48). Rather, me and my cronies who believe in our glorious Christian nation shall be my family. (Matthew 12:49)

While these righteous deeds take place, me and my followers are building a pit of everlasting fire where our enemies shall be cast, once it's done.

Yours,
-gaist

I recommended to someone above that they read Joseph Weizenbaum's book warning about the kind of thinking you exhibit.

The "thinking I exhibited" was as follows. You say this:

We know that robots operate through determinism. That is an obvious given.

I point out that this betrays a wholesale lack of knowledge of elementary CS theory. As it happens, I'm still correct, and here endeth the "exhibit." It is not an observation about free will, it is the observation that you wrote something really dumb.

(And for the record, my graduate work was in AI. I abandoned the program after a couple of years, but this was a function of its being a poor match for my interests, in more ways than one. Note that I have made no comments about the subject at all.)

If there is "no good, no evil" then a lie is as good as the truth if you can get away with it. I know of nowhere outside of fundamentalist religion and broadcast corporate propaganda where you can get away with more than among the new atheists.

Rather than go with the good/evil-route, why not think of it in terms of beneficial or harmful (or both)? Even a soulless meat puppet like myself can and has been able to decipher which action will benefit me and/or those around me, and even been able to consider short and long term separately. I even seem to be correct to a pretty decent degree. And yes, I do consider others around me before deciding.

Lies also serve some useful purposes in our daily lives, from preventing awkward discussions (how was your day? fine) and avoiding unnecessary cluster ("I live two miles that way", when in fact it's closer to 2,4) to preserving social systems ("I believe our politicians are doing what's good for us").

If we want to got for a different, purely "extreme materialist" (whatever that means) view, then there still is an obvious difference between true and false statements, regardless of any possible personal gain. In any system, no matter how mechanical or deterministic (especially then?) there needs to be self-regulation and self-correcting functions or the system will collapse. False statements should be avoided when/if they endanger the integrity of the whole.

RB@434:

So, SIWOTI. Allow me the understatement, but what McCarthy is about is a little more widespread.

To me it's the same old whine about how important the individual is (only McCarthy's appears a bit obsessive) I experienced with students in the humanities program. The one where scientists with their emphasis on cause and effect make the world less amenable to the mysteries and the arts (as if superstition had value, other than delineating tribalism). Somehow they think that science is antagonistic to humanism, rather than integral, and ignore that what science has done is change how we understand the individual, rather degrade that value. By doing so, one fails to understand the larger issues arising with Nazism, Stalinism or the oriental despot indicts not only science, but humanism as a failed program for human advancement.

(disclaimer:I have an undergraduate degree in English, have taken many philosophy classes, prior to graduate work in biogeography and climatology, and my comment reflects the expressions of both myself and classmates during that time)

Hopefully the threadjack is done.

Mike

Oh, and Anthony:

And now one of his true believers is denying that robot "behavior" is the result of programmatic determination, grasping on to the idea of "nondeterministic algorithms" as cover for Dawkins' well known determinism.

I haven't said anything about Dawkins, nor do I give a rat's ass about him or the pissing match that you seem to see everywhere.

@ mgr:

Mike, I believe that you said the magic word** and have dispatched our friend AM to hijack other threads. If so, you deserve our unrestrained thanks.

-btw- I also have a diverse background that mixes arts and science.

** it's *Hume*.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 24 Apr 2012 #permalink

Oh hey guys, in case you didn't know... I just read Anthony's iron-clad arguments for atheism being the reason AA does not work.

We are all blessed to be in the presence of such a great thinker.

By stuv.myopenid.com (not verified) on 24 Apr 2012 #permalink

I think McCarthy's long and turgid trolling on this thread, discussing such on-topic(*) matters as how atheists' preferences for material explanations of phenomena lead of necessity to Stalinism, is of a piece of Mercola's typical misrepresentations of medical science as described in the OP.

In both cases we find wild exaggeration, reliance on logical fallacies, an inability to accurately and honestly support one's case, an inability to accurately and honestly represent the positions of one's critics or opponents, argument from personal incredulity and/or ignorance, and the distorted extension of reasonable positions to advance highly implausible claims.

-----
(*) For the irony-impaired, that was sarcasm.

Well, let me re-iterate Stu's Law again: as soon as someone utters a made-up term like "scientism", "CAGW", "other ways of knowing" et cetera, know you're not dealing with a rational or honest person.

By stuv.myopenid.com (not verified) on 24 Apr 2012 #permalink

I gave up @384 when McCarthy informed me that the roundworm, Caenorhabditis elegans, which is one of the real workhorses of modern biology, was an imaginary animal.

By hoary puccoon (not verified) on 24 Apr 2012 #permalink

To be fair, HP, I think what he intended to say with that passage was not "C. elegans is an imaginary creature," but rather, "your vision of what C. elegans is is so completely wrong, that your version of C. elegans is an imaginary creature unrelated to the real C. elegans."

Admittedly, it explodes just about all the irony meters for such a pronouncement to be coming from Anthony McCarthy, whose world is obviously populated by imaginary creatures bearing little resemblance to their real-world counterparts, but hey, just because Anthony thinks he's too good to observe the principle of charity doesn't mean we should neglect it...

By Antaeus Feldspar (not verified) on 24 Apr 2012 #permalink

I think all would be solved if we could prove C. Elegans is, in fact, Truly Scottish.

By stuv.myopenid.com (not verified) on 24 Apr 2012 #permalink

Antaeus Feldspar @446--

Mea culpa. In fact, I told AM I wouldn't bother reading anything he wrote except the exact number of cells in adult wild-type C. elegans. When I didn't see 959 (the number of cells in hermaphrodites) or 1031 (the cells in males)I merely glanced at what he wrote. When I went back now and read it carefully, it's even worse than I thought it would be. He seems to think it's cheating to have a consistent, controlled environment in a science lab!

By hoary puccoon (not verified) on 24 Apr 2012 #permalink

As I said, when a government officially adopts materialism as its official ideology and it then treats people as if they are material objects, the rational conclusion is that their treatment of people is due to their official materialism. In the case of the Soviet Union, that materialism was explicitly and violently and indisputably atheistic. As it was in the countries it invaded and occupied.

Jezus frickin' Crisht impaled on a pogo stick, are you THAT ignorant of history, AM? Really? That ignorant?

People murder in the name of Jesus. Nobody murders in the name of atheism.

Prove me wrong, moron.

By Rilke's Grandd… (not verified) on 24 Apr 2012 #permalink

Rilke's Grandaughter, Dawkins frickin' Atheist, if you think that making my point is refuting my point you are just another stupid blog atheist.

The whole point is that Jesus said it was immoral to kill other people, there isn't anything in materialism that says it's immoral to kill other people.

I'm writing this up when I get a chance. There is a long history of big name atheists saying that morality is imaginary, when they're not saying it's a mental illness. Liberals have stupidly assumed they didn't mean what they said when they said the same kinds of things that fascists have said.

Have you ever, actually, read Rilke? I doubt it. Go look up the introduction to Die Stimme in the second volume.

I just read Anthony's iron-clad arguments for atheism being the reason AA does not work. stuv

Anyone who had read that post about my brother's death would have seen your comment is an argument confirming what I noted above was your reading disorder. My post was about why he wouldn't try AA, spouting the same lines of atheist crap about AA that other atheists provided to him.

This is a bit like watching someone mistaking a map for a menu. "Look - you eat buildings and churches. You monsters!"

By Krebiozen (not verified) on 25 Apr 2012 #permalink

Narad, if you didn't want to insert yourself into an argument about Richard Dawkins' extreme genetic determinism you picked the oddest possible way of doing that, inserting yourself into an argument about Richard Dawkins' demonstrated extreme genetic determinism with an absurd assertion about so-called nondeterministic algorithms to try to refute an obviously accurate point that was made about what Dawkins said.

Maybe, given your CV, the reason I'm suspicious about artificial "intelligence" is because when the true believers in AI use the word "intelligence" they don't really mean intelligence but something far less than intelligence. I'm always suspicious about academics swiping words and twisting their meanings in a self-interested way. As Weizenbaum says:

âA computer will do what you tell it to do, but that may be much different from what you had in mindâ

I think that's something I noticed almost right away way, way back when they tried to teach us Fortran. Only, back then, we didn't mistake it for a machine thinking. You might go back and read that long quote from him at 431 above. If I'd gone that way maybe I'd have forgotten that lesson, too.

I found out a while back that Turing's idea for a test of computer intelligence was taken from a mid-20th century game among gay men of trying to guess if a female impersonator was a woman or a man by asking them questions. While I never was involved with that kind of stuff, one thing that was certain is that getting fooled into thinking a man was a woman wouldn't have made him into a woman. As the ELIZA episode shows, thinking a computer is thinking doesn't mean it is, even when some people who are rather sophisticated conclude it is.

I'll add that by the time I came along in the early-mid 1960s that game would have made us roll our eyes. By the mid '80s we'd probably have said, "Please!" . Well, some would have. I didn't use that dismissive shorthand. Though it could have come in handy dozens of times on this blog thread.

Ah, okay. Anthony, you really need to stop talking until you read up on the following things:

1. No True Scotsman fallacy
2. Reverse argument from authority fallacy
3. Rational Recovery
4. AA success/failure rates
5. The actual AA charters and steps
6. Artificial intelligence (ffs Anthony, Fortran?), e.g.
7. Neural Networks

By stuv.myopenid.com (not verified) on 25 Apr 2012 #permalink

The whole point is that Jesus said it was immoral to kill other people, there isn't anything in materialism that says it's immoral to kill other people.

And Richard Dawkins has said "Let us try to teach generosity and altruism, because we are born selfish." So lets agree to level the playing field by ignoring all or most of what else they have said, and how you, me or anyone else has ever interpreted the other stuff.

I found out a while back that Turing's idea for a test of computer intelligence was taken from a mid-20th century game among gay men of trying to guess if a female impersonator was a woman or a man by asking them questions.

I think he said more or less the same thing himself when he proposed the test in 1950 (without the gay bit, just referring to a party game where some people pretended to be of opposite sex and the guests had to figure out who was or what not man/woman). Except I think he said the answers were delivered via typewritten messages, limiting the time frame from 1868 onwards.

As the ELIZA episode shows, thinking a computer is thinking doesn't mean it is, even when some people who are rather sophisticated conclude it is.

The way Turing proposed the test, was to ask, rather than "can machines thing?", to ask "can machines do what we (as thinking human beings) do?" e.g. pass as thinking human beings.

If some day in the future we have a robot or a computer who can behave like a human in varying and spontaneous circumstances, including but not limited to seemingly having complex emotions, distinguishable acquired individual personality traits, curiosity and personal preferences and tastes in abstract cultural contexts, coherent personal beliefs and so on. Then what, legally and morally speaking, separates it from us?

âA computer will do what you tell it to do, but that may be much different from what you had in mindâ

True up to a point, although you can also tell a computer how to behave or learn how to behave, rather than limiting what that behavior is.

ALso,
h_ttp://xkcd.com/144/

@myself

Except I think he said the answers were delivered via typewritten messages, limiting the time frame from 1868 onwards.

Read error. Read mid-20th century and converted that as 1850s.

stuv, considering your misrepresentation of my short post about my brother's death, the day I need reading instruction from you will never arrive in any possible universe an infinite number of credulous materialists might imagine. What blog trash might say can be unintentionally funny, it can't be important.

And Richard Dawkins has said "Let us try to teach generosity and altruism, because we are born selfish." giast

As he said there was no good and no evil and he thinks that altruism is just indirect selfishness on behalf of the genes that control us, I'm about as likely to take reading advice from stuv. And that doesn't take into account the inevitable overturning of his ideology posing as science and the wreckage that will be left of it.

I've been reading Dawkins for more than thirty-five years, following his exposures and subsequent coverings. It might be possible to track phases in that like the moon's. I'm convinced his original exposure is always the real Dawkins.

The way Turing proposed the test, was to ask, rather than "can machines thing?", to ask "can machines do what we (as thinking human beings) do?" e.g. pass as thinking human beings. giast

The idea is to fool people into thinking that a machine is thinking and assuming that's all that thinking means, basing the decision on people being deceived into thinking a machine is a person. No matter how consistently they're deceived, it still doesn't make that machine a person anymore than a man being able to deceive someone into thinking they're a woman will make that man a woman. I'd wonder if it's possible to train people who are deceived into thinking a machine is a person to get better at guessing correctly. What will the status of the test be then? What you will learn is going to tell you a lot more about how easy it is to deceive people, not whether machines can think.

I forget, does the test require 100% of the people be gulled into thinking the machine is a person? I'd think people have different levels of gullibility as I thought ELIZA was a funny game that could be led to ask some ridiculous questions, especially in context. I was pretty amazed to find out who some of the people who were gulled into thinking a brain dead bot was thinking like a person. But, then, I did read Sagan's "Amniotic Universe" possibly the most amazing piece of superstitious clap trap ever written by an alleged "skeptic" and master of logic, widely admired by other "skeptics", read "atheists". It surpasses much of the semi-official Index of Forbidden Ideas he drew up for CSICOP, it matches anything on the list.

Given that Turing, incredible genius though he was, committed what is in running for the stupidest act ever done by a gay man in history, reporting being ripped off by his rent boy to the cops in 1950s Manchester, you have to wonder how good a judge of intelligence and its vicissitudes he could have been. I don't think he had any insight into people at all. It's no wonder he had such a low ball concept of what human intelligence is.

I'm kind of intrigued by the story of him going to a fortune teller shortly before his death and his, apparently, being terrified at what she told him. Would love to know what she said.

Narad, if you didn't want to insert yourself into an argument about Richard Dawkins' extreme genetic determinism...

I am not surprised that you are unwilling to grasp the fact that it is possible to disinterestedly point out different problems in the utterances that you deploy as decoration for the "conclusion" that you have arrived at in advance.

And let's be clear: your entire assertion that the "objective reality" of morality somehow is necessary for this abstract concept to communicate its plan from a safe remove in some bardo is more "deterministic" than my refrigerator.

...you picked the oddest possible way of doing that, inserting yourself into an argument about Richard Dawkins' demonstrated extreme genetic determinism with an absurd assertion about so-called nondeterministic algorithms to try to refute an obviously accurate point that was made about what Dawkins said.

There is nothing whatever "absurd" about the assertion. What was being refuted is what you said. It's not my fault that you're apparently under the impression that your cosmic-slop-filled coconut already contains everything there is to know about computation theory.

Maybe, given your CV, the reason I'm suspicious about artificial "intelligence" is because when the true believers in AI use the word "intelligence" they don't really mean intelligence but something far less than intelligence. I'm always suspicious about academics swiping words and twisting their meanings in a self-interested way.

Except this isn't the way it happened, now is it? Are you "suspicious" about astronomers "swiping" the word 'metal' and "twisting" it to mean anything heavier than lithium?

As Weizenbaum says:

"A computer will do what you tell it to do, but that may be much different from what you had in mind"

You seem to be under the impression that this is some sort of profound statement. It's not.

I think that's something I noticed almost right away way, way back when they tried to teach us Fortran.

"Tried" to teach "us" Fortran? See, if you "wrote that up," it might have some entertainment value. What really remains, though, is that that seems to be where your knowledge of anything in the CS realm comes to a screeching halt.

Only, back then, we didn't mistake it for a machine thinking. You might go back and read that long quote from him at 431 above. If I'd gone that way maybe I'd have forgotten that lesson, too.

What leads you to the impression that anyone is mistaking anything, much less the dusty examples knocking around in your head, in the CS world for a "machine thinking"?

Oh, right, you don't really do questions. As for the Weizenbaum quote, I'm not particularly impressed. The entire first paragraph is simple mush. "Many people" get the impression that the person is inferior to the computer? That's nice. Strange that I've never met a one. The rest amounts to nothing other than dated impressions the correctness or incorrectness of which really amounts to nothing apropos. Perhaps you'd like to actually pony up the Jay Forester quote, as despite the attempt to spook it up ("think" "through"), it strikes me as nothing more interesting than the well-known wisdom of Mr. Natural.

Eh, please substitute "helium" for "lithium" in the foregoing.

My post was about why he wouldn't try AA, spouting the same lines of atheist crap about AA that other atheists provided to him.

OK, I've just read this. I can empathize with the situation, although the one near and dear to me finally seems to have stuck the upright landing. What's unfortunate about this piece is that while you start from what I do take to be a sensible outset, which I will paraphrase (and rest assured that I will be corrected if inaccurate) as "well, what you're doing doesn't seem to be working, and you're characterizing it as a complete blob without so much as first-hand knowledge," you devolve into such gibberish as "the greatest accomplishment of the 'Humanist'-atheist party line on AA seems to be to have provided people with a horrible, self-destructive addiction which is extremely difficult to recover from a series of excuses to not try to stop."

What is this "series"?

In other words, you are doing the exact same thing, but in reverse, unless you've been there. And in the latter case, one would probably do better to be examining something other than the "'Humanist'-atheist party."

What was being refuted is what you said. Narad

You didn't refute the clear point that Dawkins compared human beings to robots and that, as he himself said, that he considers robots to be no more controlled by determinism than human beings, more than just implying that human beings are no less controlled by determinism than machines.

People who think that robots are by definition more âdeterministicâ than human beings are muddled (unless they are religious, in which case they might consistently hold that humans have some divine gift of free will denied to mere machines).

Do you really think that the high Pope of neo-atheism meant that he considers it is reasonable to think that people have "some divine gift of free will denied to mere machines", something deemed only fit for "religious" people to think? You really think, considering his career in pseudo-historical invective that he said that to entertain its probability? I don't recall him endorsing the idea that machines have free will, real free will, not some artificial substitute called the same thing but refuting it, like his "altruism". Did I miss something? You'd have had to show that in order to refute what I said.

The idea that machines that do things are exhibiting anything but predetermined programs and routines constructed by people is absurd. About the only thing more absurd is that Dawkins' selfish genes and memes are steering the people who do that.

Refutation, no. What you did was more like saving the village by burning the village.

The Weizenbaum quote, it seemed like it might be a new idea to you. What makes you think I'd think profound statements would be worth trying to breach the silly putty wall of ideological superstition that your cult is encased in?

I'm not surprised that the sci-ranger buddies might not suspect that most people can actually think. You're always telling each other how stupid most people are. It's what you do. As I said what you guys do is more like making buildings out of preformed blocks of prejudice than it is like thinking. They seldom stand up to any pressure and have to be propped up as best you can with the pat phrases I've already mentioned above. I have no problem believing that it was a happy day when you surrendered the chore of thinking and making up your mind to some kind of cheesy would-be algorithm. Nor that some here ever had to make that choice to achieve the same result.

You'd have had to show that in order to refute what I said.

No, all I had to show was that you tried to glue a giant bag of assertions to a well-defined term of art and blew it.

The idea that machines that do things are exhibiting anything but predetermined programs and routines constructed by people is absurd.

Leaving wholly aside the issue of "robot determinism," do you or do you not consider "objective morality" to be fully external and instantiated by the individual, which would in fact make it exactly the same thing as far as your fulcrum of agency goes here?

I lost interest in learning programming because the early computer composition was so much less interesting than what could be achieved with tape manipulation and the use of the early synthesizers. V. Ussachevsky Milton Babbitt and Kenneth Gaburo were doing a lot more interesting things in those media. And those flimsy cards, yeesh. It made tracking down patch cords and adjusting sound sources interesting by comparison. Fortran was the only course open to beginners at my university. I did try again with Forth later but by that time dedicated software was so much better. I was an early adopter of Finale and stick by it. And I decided acoustic instruments were the real future. Electronic sound is gummy after a while, though using recordings of natural sounds sounds better.

I've never, not for a single second, ever been under the impression that computers were capable of intelligence, certainly not anything like free will. Believing that is superstitious. Clifford Simak's idea of typewriters, sewing machines and alarm clocks gaining self awareness is a more interesting fantasy, but that's all it is.

No, all I had to show was that you tried to glue a giant bag of assertions to a well-defined term of art and blew it. Narad

You blew it but that's not what you blew. What you blew is, apparently, knowing anything about one of the major controversies of evolutionary science in the past half-century, the terms in which it was discussed on both sides and that Dawkins', himself, confirmed that my characterization of his position was the accurate one.

You think people are machines. That's what atheists have done since the 18th century. I'm not surprised that you'd have a degraded idea of freedom, intelligence and any number of other attributes of human beings, Your ideology doesn't have any ability to address them. Materialism demotes people into objects. That's why I said I was going to take materialist at their word and so wouldn't trust them with public office due to that.

Dawkins' quickly retracted -only after massive criticism - signing of the petition to make it a crime for parents to talk to their children about religion, his bizarre ideas on abolishing trial by jury in favor of judges reading reports from fMRI techs and a host of other hair brained consequences of his scientistic materialism in politics and the law only add weight to my conclusion of the danger of giving people who are materialists political power.

It made tracking down patch cords and adjusting sound sources interesting by comparison.

Why you are taking this swerve is eminently unclear to me, but if you think I haven't had my hands on a Buchla and friends in university classes, you're mistaken. The difference from FM synthesis really speaks nothing at all to your argument, which I certainly hope doesn't trace back to this context.

Hey, guys! I just realized, there really isn't such a thing as a non-determistic algorithm! OH GNOES!! I realized there was no such thing, because I took a poll, and 67% of respondents agreed there was no such thing as a non-deterministic algorithm!!

*rimshot*

(If you don't get the joke, and your name is not Anthony McCarthy so you actually have the capacity to learn something you don't already know, the joke is that a poll or any other statistical sampling method is a non-deterministic algorithm; you pick a small sample and study it, and extrapolate the results to the larger population it was sampled from. It's also no secret that genetic algorithms, which non-deterministically pick a possible solution to a problem and then non-deterministically generating variations on that solution to see if they are improvements, are highly popular and widely used. Here's a neat one that found a set of 50 semi-transparent polygons that together resemble the Mona Lisa: h_ttp://rogeralsing.com/2008/12/07/genetic-programming-evolution-of-mona-lisa/ Unfortunately, AMC Gremlin's knowledge of computers appears to have ended with the punch-card era.)

By Antaeus Feldspar (not verified) on 25 Apr 2012 #permalink

You think people are machines.

Once again, you come to this conclusion how? I've claimed to be a monist materialist where? I fruitlessly asked you to defend the proposition of the externality of relations why?

The whole point is that Jesus said it was immoral to kill other people, there isn't anything in materialism that says it's immoral to kill other people.

Until you give us a definition of what, exactly, you mean by "materialism," that statement is meaningless.

I'm writing this up when I get a chance.

So what? Why do you even bother repeating the same ridiculous bluff? And why should we even take you seriously, let alone be at all impressed?

By Raging Bee (not verified) on 25 Apr 2012 #permalink

My apologies for working piecemeal.

Dawkins' quickly retracted -only after massive criticism - signing of the petition to make it a crime for parents to talk to their children about religion....

The problem is that all this amounts to nothing more than general carping about the tone of "new atheists" so long as you are unable to sustain the ultimate ground that "objective morality" is the essential piece that causes "materialism" to lead to an existence of general disrepute and final, wide-ranging ruin. I must remind you that you have ignored requests even to define your terms.

Do you really think that the high Pope of neo-atheism...

Funny how neo-atheists always seem to get their "high popes" elected for them by the people who hate them and mindlessly lie about them.

By Raging Bee (not verified) on 25 Apr 2012 #permalink

You think people are machines.

Do you have anything that says otherwise?

That's what atheists have done since the 18th century.

I'm not surprised that you'd have a degraded idea of freedom, intelligence and any number of other attributes of human beings

This is a non sequitur. We've already established you have no idea what intelligence is, but that aside, why can a machine not have freedom or intelligence?

Materialism demotes people into objects.

Demote? Demote from what? Why demote? Is it impossible for you to respect an object, or admit it has rights?

That's a YOU problem, Anthony. If you cannot respect people or treat them well or make someone stop drinking without bringing magic into it, that's fine. Could you please not be so transparently pathetic as to attempt to externalize that impotence and frustration? Thank you.

Also, again, you haven't clue 1 about AI. Please stop talking about it. It is so painfully embarrassing to see you try to talk about it... please. As a favor.

By stuv.myopenid.com (not verified) on 25 Apr 2012 #permalink

Once again, you come to this conclusion how? I've claimed to be a monist materialist where?

AM manages to stand Donald Rumsfeld's famous excuse on its head by arguing not with the antagonists he has (or the arguments they use), but with the antagonists he'd like to have (and the arguments he'd like them to use).

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 25 Apr 2012 #permalink

I keep waiting for A. F. to stop talking to me as he promised but it doesn't not [sic] happen.

Funny coincidence, I'm disappointed that AMC Gremlin didn't keep his promise at 432.

It really is amazing the number of things AMC Gremlin doesn't comprehend:
* the existence of non-deterministic computing
* the difference between talking about someone, or about their deeply flawed ideas, and talking to that person
* how completely unconvincing an argument tactic it is to say to someone "These are the beliefs that you hold" and ignore the protests of the person you're talking to that they don't hold those beliefs in order to explain why those beliefs are wrong
and so, so many more.

By Antaeus Feldspar (not verified) on 25 Apr 2012 #permalink

AM: superstitiously credulous generals and politicians.

So you don't think that believing in the End of Days is the sign of a superstitious or credulous person? How about someone who is actively trying to make the End of Days happen- as many right wing Christians are? I'd think, given your history, you'd be bang on the side of rationalism, rather than defending fundamentalists who'd burn you at the stake.
You're even more full of hot air then you were a few years ago, when you argued that Flaubert's books should be banned from public libraries because children might be harmed by being around the books. Or something.
Some food for thought: don't you think that so-called 'materialists' might be more interested in prolonging life and not harming people then someone who's willing to throw their life away to fight against people who belong to the wrong religion?
Also, what do you make of Brievik and other Christian terrorists?

By Politicalguineapig (not verified) on 25 Apr 2012 #permalink

Politicalguineapig @477

You're even more full of hot air then you were a few years ago

I haven't followed AMs "career" on Scienceblogs as much or as long as ssome of you, but even I have noticed a descent further and further into the crazy. I think we are looking at a worsening mental illness which unfortunately has a strong built-in denialism which may prevent him from getting help in time (assuming anything can be done about it). Sad actually - maybe the best thing is to let him declare victory and leave. For him the "the antagonists he'd like to have (and the arguments he'd like them to use)" are going to be "the antagonists he has (or the arguments they use)" regardless of reality.

By Militant Agnostic (not verified) on 25 Apr 2012 #permalink

And Richard Dawkins has said "Let us try to teach generosity and altruism, because we are born selfish." giast

As he said there was no good and no evil and he thinks that altruism is just indirect selfishness on behalf of the genes that control us, I'm about as likely to take reading advice from stuv. And that doesn't take into account the inevitable overturning of his ideology posing as science and the wreckage that will be left of it.

You missed the point I was trying to make, here and with less reverence in post 436. Namely that cherry-picking quotes and extrapolating doesn't make anything so. Only thing it can prove is how easy it is to do it. It is also morally (to me at least)and intellectually dubious to do so as a basis for attacking a perceived "enemy", as well as to try to elevate your own position or to defend your position by the No True Scotsman-fallacy, discarding all evidence to the contrary by simply stating that they failed in some private, moral test.

Also, while I'm willing to assume (having not read any of his books cover to cover) that he is basing his thinking on science, I'm not agreeing that he is posing his writing AS science. Nor am I seeing the inevitable overturning and resulting wreckage, as I have yet to see evidence of his being a dominant doctrine.

Do you honestly believe that if there was no Catholic church, people would kill maim and rape without any consideration for their fellow man? Because that's the way it seems, and that's the reason I have hard time accepting your black-and-white world view.

Narad, you keep defending Dawkins' statement that people are "lumbering robots", now that your pals have given up the clearly false line of defense that he didn't mean that. Robots are machines. There isn't anything hard about the logical conclusion of those two ideas except your hearing someone say it.

Even bees, who seem so much to be at the mercy of their genetic programming are, actually, individuals with their own differences and, as can be seen, differences in ability. Even raging bees rage in their own peculiar way which can be extremely peculiar in some individuals. I suspect that in data collection those would be the outright outliers. Unlike the evo-psys and Sociobiology true believers, I think individual differences matter but, then, I'm not collecting a simulation of data in order to push an ideological program pretending to be science.

Politicalguineapig, I guess you haven't read about the Pentagon program to equip missile carrying drones with AI programs that will allow them to decide what to kill. I first heard about it on the BBC. I'd give links but you guys don't look at those.

Reading Jerry Coyne last winter made he see that it was important to call the new atheism what it is because it is an inherently anti-democratic ideology. Materialism is, it always has been. Anything that demotes people into objects determined by physical forces is anti-democratic because both liberalism and democracy are founded on what are entirely metaphysical concepts.

Even as well disposed a materialist as Marx - who, unlike Huxley, was an enthusiastic supporter of emancipation in the United States - couldn't escape from the limits of materialism when he tried to complete his theory. The results, built on the wreckage of his good intentions and a romantic faith in a now-materialized dialectic, are entirely inferior to democracy, founded on metaphysical faith in transcendence. He wildly overestimated what could be expected of the intentions and actions of materialists. I'm not going to repeat his mistake.

If you think I do this to try to convince boy atheists you're mistaken. I do it to see what you've got and it's not much.

gaist, I think I've just figured it out. Someone is "cherry picking" a quote when a new-atheist or a pseudo-skeptic doesn't like the meaning of the quote. As can be seen, when I not only gave confirmation of my interpretation from Richard Lewontin and S.J. Gould and I ALSO PROVIDED CONFIRMATION OF IT FROM RICHARD DAWKINS, the best his fans can do is still deny he meant what he said, weakly saying "cherry picking" and "true Scotsman" because to a person new atheists and pesudo-skeptics truly want to believe that suffices to make it all go away.

And now you're arguing that Dawkins doesn't present his junk as science? Good grief, is there nothing you guys won't say?

Richard Dawkins, I hope, somewhere, you're enjoying the interpretation of your career that your greatest fans are presenting here. This is what you've really achieved in the public understanding of science.

It's no wonder you can't follow the argument I made about the crimes of materialists being in line with the credo of materialism while the crimes of Christians violate the teachings of Jesus.

Narad, you keep defending Dawkins' statement that people are "lumbering robots", now that your pals have given up the clearly false line of defense that he didn't mean that.

GALLANT listens to what people say, tries to understand what they mean, and responds to their point of view.

GOOFUS tries to dictate to people what their beliefs are, what beliefs they're defending, and when they've "given up" points of view that need not be positions they ever actually held.

GALLANT looks for possible flaws in his own reasoning by learning about logical fallacies, the ways that logical arguments can be made to seem very plausible when they are in fact flawed.

GOOFUS starts with the correctness of his own views as dogma and works backwards from there to deduce that all logical fallacies his arguments are accused of are part of a big conspiracy to falsely impugn his perfect reasoning. The idea that his point of view might not already be at the apex of correctness and infallible is not allowed to enter his head.

Since it's much more fun and productive to discuss ideas that AMC Gremlin brings up than it has ever been to discuss anything with him, I'll bring up a famous thought experiment about AI for everyone's interest.

Suppose we had super-advanced surgical ability and biocybernetic technology - so advanced that we could go into a person's brain, remove one single neuron, replace it with an artificial part that behaved exactly the same, and reconstruct all the rest of the brain exactly as it had been - all within the span of such an inconcievably small increment of time that the brain didn't even stop functioning during the process.

If we do not make any neuron replacements, we are dealing with a 100% organic brain. If we replace a neuron, by the ground rules we set, we are dealing with a brain that still operates exactly the same way, but which is not 100% organic. If we keep going, replacing neurons one at a time by artificial parts exactly identical in function, we will wind up with a 100% artificial construct, a "machine" by some people's definitions... that is functioning exactly as an organic brain does. Now for those who believe that organic human brains "think" and machines only "carry out programs", when in the neuron-replacement process did that brain go from "brain" to "machine," from "thinking" to "merely carrying out a program"?

By Antaeus Feldspar (not verified) on 26 Apr 2012 #permalink

weakly saying "cherry picking" and "true Scotsman"

You mean "No True Scotsman"? Still haven't looked it up, have you clownshoe. You mean that fallacy you keep committing whenever Christians come up?

By stuv.myopenid.com (not verified) on 26 Apr 2012 #permalink

Antaeus Feldspar, it's good you're doing it here because most thinking people would judge that you're making a fool of yourself. Goofus and Gallant? Really? I vaguely remember that from a kiddies magazine one of my nieces used to get.

As I pointed out above, trying to change the topic because you don't like the consequences of materialism doesn't change those consequences.

Now for those who believe that organic human brains "think" and machines only "carry out programs"...

I've already indicated that I'm no longer surprised when new atheists seem to find the concept of human thought exotic and spooky. There being little evidence that new atheists have had the experience very often if at all, the novelty of that experience, or witnessing others thinking, obviously scares them.

Other than that, feel free to add more evidence in support of my contentions about the consequence of materialism being that people are objects and that the metaphysical attributes necessary for liberalism and democracy are incompatible with a materialist view of people.

I have long wondered what feminists, who are justifiably opposed to the patriarchal dominance of religion, think they'll gain by adopting an ideology that confirms the action of that patriarchy, objectifying them. But that's for feminists to figure out. I'm able to directly address the downside of materialism for gay men and anyone else who is tempted to unsuspectingly adopt an ideology that destroys the rational basis of their aspiration for equal rights.

As I said, I should thank Jerry Coyne for forcing me to give up that last inhibition that prevented me from talking about the logical consequences of materialism I saw more than four decades ago. I never owed that to atheists of the left, not even out of the affection I had for some of them.

If there's any doubt about Anthony's pathological anti-rationalist bigotry, you can see it on display all over the following thread:

http://scienceblogs.com/evolutionblog/2012/02/that_school_prayer_in_cra…

Check out this gem of win, in comment #77:

It isn't the court case that is responsible for the bigotry, it's the blog blather by obnoxious atheists that does that.

Yes, he really did blame atheist bloggers for the hatred directed against Jessica Ahlquist by Christians. AFTER a lot of mindless caterwauling about how bigoted atheists are, then having to admit he had no proof that Ahlquist was a bigot.

Anthony is no better than a Klansman, and arguing with him is a complete waste of time.

Oh, I'm so glad you did that Raging Bee.

Look at comment 22 on that thread RB so dishonestly provided and you'll see I said:

Of course, the display of religion should be removed from a public school. Plenty of religious folks would agree with that.

And. for you fans of "cherry picking" and "quote mining", if you look at more of my comment at 77, that Raging Bee cut off here you will see I said:

It isn't the court case that is responsible for the bigotry, it's the blog blather by obnoxious atheists that does that. For all I know the young woman isn't obnoxious and bigoted. And she was entirely within her rights to object to a part of the state promoting religion. I'm really big on the wall of separation between church and state. I believe I said it also exposed religious fundamentalist bigotry, I certainly don't blame that on Ms. A.

Raging Bee is an habitual liar as well as obnoxious and bigoted. Which is no problem among her fellow new atheists. As you can see from her unwisely choosing to provide the link that proves her lie, she's a bee of little brain.

Militant Agnostic: Actually, I was referencing a post Anthony made on a political/economy blog. At the time, he was a regular poster there. I'll see if I can dig up the exact post.
I normally hang out at the political blogs, thus my handle.I've given up on those lately; no good news, and it aggravates my depression. And then I go spend money I don't have on concerts to get out of my funk.

By Politicalguineapig (not verified) on 26 Apr 2012 #permalink

Oh, I'm so glad you did that Raging Bee.

Look at comment 22 on that thread RB so dishonestly provided and you'll see I said:

Of course, the display of religion should be removed from a public school. Plenty of religious folks would agree with that.

And. for you fans of "cherry picking" and "quote mining", if you look at more of my comment at 77, that Raging Bee cut off here you will see I said:

It isn't the court case that is responsible for the bigotry, it's the blog blather by obnoxious atheists that does that. For all I know the young woman isn't obnoxious and bigoted. And she was entirely within her rights to object to a part of the state promoting religion. I'm really big on the wall of separation between church and state. I believe I said it also exposed religious fundamentalist bigotry, I certainly don't blame that on Ms. A.

Raging Bee is an habitual liar as well as obnoxious and bigoted. Which is no problem among her fellow new atheists. As you can see from her unwisely choosing to provide the link that proves her lie, she's a bee of little brain.

gaist, I think I've just figured it out. Someone is "cherry picking" a quote when a new-atheist or a pseudo-skeptic doesn't like the meaning of the quote.

No, someone is cherry-picking quotes when they refuse to acknowledge or consider any other quote from the same author, that would refute or elaborate the apparent meaning of the first quote.

Just like I did in post 436 with gospel quotes from Jesus Christ, to make a point (which obviously fell short).

As can be seen, when I not only gave confirmation of my interpretation from Richard Lewontin and S.J. Gould and I ALSO PROVIDED CONFIRMATION OF IT FROM RICHARD DAWKINS, the best his fans can do is still deny he meant what he said, weakly saying "cherry picking" and "true Scotsman" because to a person new atheists and pesudo-skeptics truly want to believe that suffices to make it all go away.

Finding someone who thinks the same way you think doesn't prove a thing. Especially with a controversial character like Richard Dawkins.

As you yourself have argued, in regards to all those who (mis*)interpreted** Christian doctrine and did horrible deeds in Jesus' name. This is what everybody refers to as the "No True Scotsman" fallacy. It means you hold a interpretation of the teachings of Jesus Christ, and that you regard yourself as a Christian. Therefore, anyone else having a different interpretation therefore can't share your interpretation, and is therefore No True Christians. This is fallacy.

* = according to you
** = according to me.

And now you're arguing that Dawkins doesn't present his junk as science? Good grief, is there nothing you guys won't say?

Inspired by and based on science yes, but definitely not Science. It might be that we differ in our definition of the word, but no book by Dawkins has ever been presented as a piece of scientific writing.

Richard Dawkins's (...) greatest fans

Again with the black-and-white. I've stated I've never read a book of his completely, stated that I really don't care for him much, and I'm not the only one you've just decided are "blog atheists", "materialists" or any of the other names you've decided to call people.

It's no wonder you can't follow the argument I made about the crimes of materialists being in line with the credo of materialism while the crimes of Christians violate the teachings of Jesus.

Yes I can. I just think it's a faulty argument, because you've yet to prove any of the assumptions your agrument relies upon.
a) Materialists have no morality.
b) Materialism turns people into materialists without morality.h
c) True Christians have and always uphold their morality.
d) and all Christians who do anything you don't agree with, can't therefore be True Christians.

Answer me this: Is your religion the only think stopping you from going on a killing raping and pillaging rampage?
If not, what else is there stopping you?

Anthony: first, I didn't lie, I quoted you directly (and provided a link to prove it); and second, none of your quotes justify or mitigate your bigoted crap, nor do they make your blatant lies any more true.

Raging Bee, I answered you at comment 488, using the link you provided to prove that you misrepresented what I said by cutting off what I said, just as The Rev. blah, blah, did above.

It's, what? The third or fourth time I've pointed that out to you on that particular issue?

Not that I'm discouraging you from proving my point about the fundamental dishonesty of new atheists and their proven dishonesty being perfectly acceptable to other atheists.

gaist, as I pointed out several times above, I'm not a Christian. However, a lot of governments have been officially Christian, which is why I'm using those to make my point.

As you don't seem to understand, it's atheists who have asserted that morality is the product of imagination instead of it having an objective existence, I didn't make them say it. Richard Dawkins said it, Jerry Coyne said it. Atheists going back through history have said it. I'd think atheists would be glad to be taken at their word. Only, clearly, they aren't. Yet they have no problem with their ideology but with the people who finally decide that atheists mean what they say. Reasonable people would call that a logical disconnect.

Anthony Mccarthy: Actually I've heard of that. But I guess you haven't been paying attention to the Pentagon if you think athiests are in control there.
Read this: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2007/09/02/379589/-Pentagon-Pushes-Apocal…-

And then page through the rest of Troutfishing's diaries and tell me, with a straight face, that we should still be worrying about your imaginary athiests. Seriously, dude, quit bugging us and go hang out with your fundy pals.

By Politicalguineapig (not verified) on 26 Apr 2012 #permalink

@myself

no book by Dawkins has ever been presented as a piece of scientific writing.

Meant to say no book by Dawkins ON ATHEISM...

Before anyone points out the obvious.

gaist, as I pointed out several times above, I'm not a Christian.

Really? You sure sound like one :

I believe in God, I believe God created the entire universe and everything about it. I believe that God is not susceptible to the network of causality that contains the subject matter of science. I believe it is an act of idolatry to turn some human conception of God into a mere thing that can be subjected to science. The insistence that God can be seen through science is an act of desecration. That God might be seen in the majesty of the universe is not the same thing, it is an acknowledgement that God is only knowable, in an absurdly miniscule part, through living experience of a kind far to broad and far too complex for science.

Sounds pretty Christian to me. Or are you actually a Jew, Mormon or Muslim? You're certainly not an atheist. I notice you never actually specify what your religion is.

Once again, you stand exposed as a liar, by your own words.

Oops, I meant to provide a link to Anthony's ridiculous doubletalk:

http://scienceblogs.com/tfk/2011/07/are_evolution_deniers_scientif.php#…

So yeah, he doesn't mention Jesus, but he shows all the logical fallacies of a Christian creationist.

Oh, and here's another example of Anthony's relentelss denial of obvious facts:

http://scienceblogs.com/gregladen/2011/07/we_can_know_nothing_about_the…

We're not arguing with an erroneous position here; we're arguing with deeply entrenched, implacable hate. Facts and reason don't matter.

Even if the prevailing morality is a social construction devoid of supernatural guidance and morality, it doesn't mean it isn't there or remains unenforced if there is no post-humous judgement and hell. It also doesn't mean the moral cannot be genuinely altruistic and good. and while Dawkins argued there is no intrincic good in the world the human concept and it's repercussions are.

@ stuv, herr doktor, AF, Narad, Bee, Mike, gaist, Composer, political, Militant & all other worthy commenters:

I stand awe-struck by your perseverance in wading through linguistic quicksand for nearly two weeks... it is a truly a breath-taking feat that deserves commendation for meritorious service. Your work here is friggen great! Take a bow!

As an atheist, feminist, liberal, psychologist ( though emphatically NOT evo) I am probably AM's worst nightmare.
However, I have a suspicion that he might like me in person.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 26 Apr 2012 #permalink

As you don't seem to understand, it's atheists who have asserted that morality is the product of imagination instead of it having an objective existence

And as you very clearly don't understand, this statement doesn't mean anything unless you can define "objective existence." Where is it? Morality is a relation between particulars. You blandly resort to the "metaphysical," apparently intended to mean "unable to be found in the material universe," so how does it get from its ectoplasmic perch and simply start working like any other set of perfectly describable relations?

...it's atheists who have asserted that morality is the product of imagination...

...as opposed to theists, who assert that morality is the product of an imaginary being's imagination. Which, in the imagination of deluded losers like Anthony, somehow makes morality more real.

What Narad said. I don't understand how "objective" morality would work. Usually, supposed objectivists seem to borrow heavily from the common sense base of secular morality, apparently because by sheer coincidence, the objective laws floating in the ether just happened to come up in favor of anthropocentrism.

Another question that comes up is why those ethereal laws are binding. Secular morality can give selfish people an excuse to be moral: Being moral is generally for everyone's long term benefit. Altruism with reciprocation is a roundabout but generally effective way to be "selfish": Scratch someone else's back, and they'll generally be more inclined to scratch your back. Objective morality, as far as I can tell, can't do that.

Of course, to me, secular morality exists in the same sense that "a good strategy for game X" exists, even if the strategy isn't explicitly described in the game's rulebooks. Strategies arise from interactions of rules, resources, and circumstances. Would that mean strategy is "imaginary" according to AM's straw materialism?

...as opposed to theists, who assert that morality is the product of an imaginary being's imagination.

I can see where some might take umbrage at that comma.

Altruism with reciprocation is a roundabout but generally effective way to be "selfish": Scratch someone else's back, and they'll generally be more inclined to scratch your back.

There's also the instant gratification kind of selfish altruism, namely that it boosts one's self image as a good person to do good deeds.

And sometimes that's enough.

Raging Bee, you don't understand that I proved you are a cherry picker, a quote miner and a liar using the link you provided, do you. You going for doubles?

DW. I said I didn't understand what an ideology that says that people are objects was supposed to do for feminists. Objectification of women was the primary charge feminism made against the patriarchy. Seems that objectification is AOK with some people these days. As can be seen in my arguments here, I'm still 100% against it.

Anthony, I'm sorry, did I miss you actually explaining why it is bad to see people as objects?

Anthony, you proved nothing of the sort. I quoted you making a transparently false accusation (there's more in that thread and you know it), and you did nothing to disprove it. None of the quotes you provided change the quality or meaning of your lies. Klansmen occasionaly say sensible things too -- that doesn't make their bigoted rhetoric less bigoted.

Would that mean strategy is "imaginary" according to AM's straw materialism?

If the strategy comes from real people dealing with the real world, it's imaginary. But if it comes from someone pretending to speak for an imaginary being, it's real. What more do you need to know?

I said I didn't understand what an ideology that says that people are objects was supposed to do for feminists.

Which "ideology" are you talking about? You should have a specific document to cite. What specific "ideology" says "people are objects?" Stalinism, maybe, but how many people follow that?

Seems that objectification is AOK with some people these days. As can be seen in my arguments here, I'm still 100% against it.

Except insofar as this would require responding to what people are actually saying rather than reading from a turgid script in your head, of course. Unfortunately, this is nothing other than the objectifying practice of assigning fungibility. And one also gets instrumentality, as you have asserted that you're basically just in it for something to "write up."

The very notion that this sorry display on your part is anything other than "objectification" in precisely the sense in which you would like to use the term is laughable.

I said I didn't understand what an ideology that says that people are objects was supposed to do for feminists.

What ideology is that, exactly, and why whould we presume it exists for the purpose of 'doing something for feminists'?

AM @450
"The whole point is that Jesus said it was immoral to kill other people, there isn't anything in materialism that says it's immoral to kill other people."

Materialism is not an ethical or a moral system. Neither
is the Bible. For atheists, usually the formal ethical or moral system is grounded in secular humanism, or may simply be grouned in their socialization or acculturalization, same as everyone else.

Epistemology is not congruent with ethics, and it would be wise for you to stop msking this category error, because it makes you look like an ignorant fool.

MIke

Raging Bee, you don't understand that I proved you are a cherry picker, a quote miner and a liar using the link you provided, do you.

Let's see. Here's what Raging Bee wrote:

Yes, he really did blame atheist bloggers for the hatred directed against Jessica Ahlquist by Christians. AFTER a lot of mindless caterwauling about how bigoted atheists are, then having to admit he had no proof that Ahlquist was a bigot.

And here's what you quoted yourself writing:

Of course, the display of religion should be removed from a public school. Plenty of religious folks would agree with that.

This has nothing to do with RB's accusation. It's irrelevant. It is entirely possible to be bigoted against rationalism and support separation of church and state.

For all I know the young woman isn't obnoxious and bigoted. And she was entirely within her rights to object to a part of the state promoting religion. I'm really big on the wall of separation between church and state. I believe I said it also exposed religious fundamentalist bigotry, I certainly don't blame that on Ms. A.

Taken by itself, this passage certainly does not prove that you weren't forced to admit that you had no proof that Ahlquist was a bigot. In fact, it looks very much like you had been forced to admit that Ahlquist wasn't a bigot. You certainly appear to have blamed atheists for bigotry.

Nothing in what you quoted proves RB a liar, and on face value some of it tends to support her statements.

It is entirely possible to be bigoted against rationalism and support separation of church and state.

Or pretend to support it -- with the caveat that "materialism" is a "religion," therefore rational inquiry has no place in schools.

...this would require responding to what people are actually saying rather than reading from a turgid script in your head, of course.

Yeah, Anthony is all about the script in his head. Just like the authoritarian Christian con-man he pretends he isn't.

It would be a lot easier to not be upset with the condemnation of all you people in the, uh, rational class if you noted that Raging Bee is obviously nuts.

What. The. Hell. Are. You. Talking. About.

Could you at least try to be coherent?

Taken by itself, this passage certainly does not prove that you weren't forced to admit that you had no proof that Ahlquist was a bigot. In fact, it looks very much like you had been forced to admit that Ahlquist wasn't a bigot. Vicklund

Well, you see, a rational person, before embroidering as you are, would not just take it by itself but look at what was said. But that is what a rational person would do.

I also never claimed she wasn't an alien. Funny Raging Bee never noticed that I hadn't said she wasn't an alien or a Xoanon worshiping member of the Tesh. Oh, probably too old a Dr. Who reference to be understood here.

See also: My last comment.

I really wish AMC Gremlin would stop making a lie of his declaration "I'm out." Failing that, I wish he'd at least figure out how to blockquote. I mean, really, it's the simplest kind of HTML; does he really expect us to believe that he's figured out what other people "really believe" (despite their disagreement) when he can't figure out how to use simple information he can find anywhere about how to use HTML?

By Antaeus Feldspar (not verified) on 26 Apr 2012 #permalink

If it makes you any happier I could say I think you're a block head.

I'm surprised you didn't have it together enough to take the opportunity to Sobleize the place. Now, would you like to get around to your own little problem with objectifying people?

Anthony,

At the risk of also being called a block head, should I take your reply to mean that you feel it is self-evident that being an object is bad?

By Niche Geek (not verified) on 26 Apr 2012 #permalink

If it makes you any happier I could say I think you're a block head.

Coherent, Anthony. You are doing it wrong.

Also, any reason you're unable to answer the question? Too drunk?

Hey, I said I could say it if it would make Stu happy. What's wrong? I was the one here who denied that people are objects. You guys seem to have forgotten that. A block is an object a molecule is an object. What's the difference? If you think I'm going to let an opening like that go by you know nothing.

Antaneus Feldspar, you don't have to hang around, you know. Or maybe your selfish genes aren't too bright and haven't let you do that.

Hey, I said I could say it if it would make Stu happy. What's wrong? I was the one here who denied that people are objects. You guys seem to have forgotten that. A block is an object a molecule is an object. What's the difference? If you think I'm going to let an opening like that go by you know nothing.

Antaneus Feldspar, you don't have to hang around, you know. Or maybe your selfish genes aren't too bright and haven't let you do that.

I was the one here who denied that people are objects.

So you are saying that you have nothing to actually back that up.

So you are saying you cannot specify why people being objects is a bad thing.

So you are saying that you are too stupid to distinguish between different types of objects, such as a molecule or a person.

As a random aside, Anthony: how do you cross the street?

A block is an object a molecule is an object. What's the difference?

There are actually quite a lot of differences between a molecule and a block. For example, one is really really small. In fact there are precious few commonalities between them. Clearly you perceive that there is an *important* attribute that is common to all objects. You do appear to be implying that if something is an object then it can be treated as one wills.

By Niche Geek (not verified) on 26 Apr 2012 #permalink

Oh, look. Stu is trying to get all logical.

how do you cross the street? Stu

You're looking for life lessons now?
Someday you'll get to do it without holding the hand of someone responsible. Until then, Stu, you should just follow their instructions.

There are actually quite a lot of differences between a molecule and a block. For example, one is really really small. Niche Geek

Context is everything. The topic was Stu.

Anthony,

Would you care to respond to the rest of my paragraph?

By Niche Geek (not verified) on 26 Apr 2012 #permalink

Niche Geek, your paragraph will have to be fleshed out before I will respond to it other than to ask if you think that people are material objects.

And the subject was Stu. A very small block would suffice.

Ah, so there ARE differences between objects. I'm assuming you're retracting your inane

A block is an object a molecule is an object. What's the difference?

Progress, Anthony. Now all you need to do is describe why people are not objects, and why calling people objects is a bad thing.

Wait, never mind, I attributed Niche Geek's comment to you, Anthony... could you please learn to blockquote properly and save everyone a lot of time? So much for progress.

Anyway:

- Do you or do you not concede that there is a difference between objects, say between a grain of pollen, a truck and an amputated foot?

- Why are humans not objects?

- Why is calling a human an object a bad thing?

Anthony,

Yes. One of the attributes of a human body is that it is a material object. I wasn't aware that this was in dispute.

By Niche Geek (not verified) on 26 Apr 2012 #permalink

Anthony,

your paragraph will have to be fleshed out before I will respond to it

What part of my paragraph do you need fleshed out? Let me be more concise: Are you implying that if something is an object then any ethical, moral or other limits on behavior don't apply?

By Niche Geek (not verified) on 26 Apr 2012 #permalink

Niche Geek, it's your paragraph that you want me to get tangled in, and you expect me to tell you how to flesh it out? Why don't I just write my own paragraph if you want me to do your job.

You want to play you're going to have to make an effort.

Stu, it's a very, very big molecule and it's your thinking that is the issue so it wouldn't have to do all that much.

Anthony,

Are you being deliberately disingenuous? I posed a one-sentence question in the post to which you replied.

By Niche Geek (not verified) on 26 Apr 2012 #permalink

So to this:

- Do you or do you not concede that there is a difference between objects, say between a grain of pollen, a truck and an amputated foot?

- Why are humans not objects?

- Why is calling a human an object a bad thing?

Anthony seems to think this is a reply a sentient being would generate:

it's a very, very big molecule and it's your thinking that is the issue so it wouldn't have to do all that much.

Not sure if drunk as skunk or really, really bad trolling. Need more coherence. 2 out of 10.

It seems we're getting to a fundamental level Anthony's not used to thinking about.

People are complex objects composed of simpler objects.
People are valued more than non-person objects.

Any objections to either of these?

Stu, I don't drink alcohol and I don't take any drugs other than coffee and the occasional aspirin and I don't drink that after noon EDT.

Face it, you're just not very smart.

Niche Geek, no, I really do expect that if you want to get into it you're the one who is responsible for coming up with something for me to respond to. If you're not interested in trying that's up to you.

I don't drink alcohol and I don't take any drugs other than coffee and the occasional aspirin and I don't drink that after noon EDT.

Seeing as your incoherence is rapidly approaching a pathological level, perhaps you should start.

Meanwhile, is there any particular reason these questions are too difficult for you to answer?

- Do you or do you not concede that there is a difference between objects, say between a grain of pollen, a truck and an amputated foot?

- Why are humans not objects?

- Why is calling a human an object a bad thing?

Anthony,

A question isn't an instance of "something for me to respond to"? I answered yours and have given you no reason to be so disrespectful.

By Niche Geek (not verified) on 26 Apr 2012 #permalink

What's this 'koan' you're talking about? Try blockquoting it instead of expecting me to be psychic.

---
People are complex objects composed of simpler objects.
People are more valued than non-person objects.

Any objections to either of these statements?

@ Anthony:

Well, I hardly advocate an ideology - I just don't believe in supernaturalism. People are animals who can think in an abstract manner which includes social cognition like recursive thought, reciprocity and taking the role of the other- thus we can imagine other people to be somewhat like us- thinking, feeling, unique individuals who have the capacity of agency- they are effective and can change things in the environment to their own - or others' - advantage. They can imagine and plan a future.

Because I don't believe in a soul or identity that transcends physical limitations, I think that it's important to work to fix things in *this* world- the only one we've got, time limited- and what happens to other people is important even if I don't know them. Morality doesn't come from an outside source but from people understanding that other people deserve respect and care as we ourselves would wish it for ourselves. Then what difference should male or female make in this context?

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 26 Apr 2012 #permalink

Anthony Mcarthy: Why do you think religion is so good for women? As I pointed out, waaaay upthread, I've completely given up on religion because it just seems to be a way to shame women back into the house. Religion's led to: denying women education, denying women the vote, treating women like chattel, and providing excuses to kill and abuse women. I realize, as a man, you have a vested interest in pushing women out of the public sphere, but you're still being really silly.
I concede that athiests muck up too, but that's more cultural conditioning then anything else. As for 'objectivism,' you do realize that's just something Ayn Rand pulled out of her ass and not a serious philosophy, right?

By Politicalguineapig (not verified) on 26 Apr 2012 #permalink

Anthony,

531 contained two sentences. You replied to one and not the other and claim you didn't see the following:

Are you implying that if something is an object then any ethical, moral or other limits on behavior don't apply?

It is difficult to believe you didn't see it.

By Niche Geek (not verified) on 26 Apr 2012 #permalink

If anyone is even close to being baffled by AM's bullshit, all you have to notice is his continuous harping on "radical detrminism". He thinks this is 1805 and we all still believe in Laplace's Demon. Seriously, I want to say to him the same thing I (mentally) want to yell at Sheldon Cooper almost every week: "Where have you been the last 85 years, ya numpty?"

Yes, the brain is complex enough that even classical chaos would put the kibosh on determinism in any practical sense, but it's dependent on enough molecular events that its workings are indeterminateâradically indeterminate.

And I will believe that AM is not a random-bullshit-spewing Eliza-bot when he learns how to fu¢king blockquote!

By The Very Rever… (not verified) on 26 Apr 2012 #permalink

No bafflement here. He's trying to argue that describing A's as being made of X's, Y's, and Z's makes them into not-A's. And somehow this means that people being people is a problem for materialism and secular morality.

And, lo, he swoops in, with his magical dualist theory, a solution desperately in need of a problem, and we're supposed to be grateful for his unparalleled genius.

Oh, maybe Bronze Dog would like to address Niche Geek's koan.

Well, there's an odd turn of phrase. Aside from the wholesale lack of anything resembling a koan floating around, it is perhaps worth noting that Enlightenment, a fairly simple concept that comes with morality for free with no ontological subscription plan required, is essentially impossible for someone steeping in a metaphysical soup like Eli Wallach in Circle of Iron.

The Rev blah, blah, you deliberately lied about what I'd said in the same way that the clearly cracked Raging Bee did, by leaving out crucial parts of what I said, as I showed at 361. You did that same cherry picking and quote mining that are among the favorite phrases of new atheists. Not that they mind it when it's an atheist who does it.

Denise Walter, if you're an atheist who is not also a materialist, if you, somehow, believe that people are not material objects and, somehow, free will, inherent rights and, especially, equality are real and inalienable attributes of people and not just the product of transient social agreement, you're a very rare type of atheist. As it is, the atheism I've been discussing denies those things are real and are the product of a transient social agreement. Of course, in the case of womens rights and gay rights the social agreement used to be that we didn't have equal rights, which that kind of atheism couldn't possibly object to as an injustice, especially as they don't really believe in some real, metaphysical thing that is justice that really exists, either.

I'm not surprised that the pop-atheists here have no knowledge of what they're advocating and absolutely no ability to analyze the results of that in terms of the basic ideas of liberalism and democracy. Nor that they can do anything but ridicule people who apply them to their logical conclusion. It's what they do. It's a shallow, superficial, bigoted intellectual fad and a number of them will give it up as soon as the fashions change or it becomes more opportune, as Christopher Hitchens and David Horowitz changed their ideology.

Politicalguineapig, considering the history of both evo-psy and psychology, you should give those up for exactly the same reason, both of them have been oppressive to women. How did you like that hero of atheism James Watson on womens' scientific abilities a few years back. He was only saying what a lot of scientists even younger than him really believe. You going to go anti-science?

especially as they don't really believe in some real, metaphysical thing that is justice that really exists, either

Your metaphysical closet seems to resemble Fibber McGee's more and more at every turn.

I'm not surprised that the pop-atheists here have no knowledge of what they're advocating and absolutely no ability to analyze the results of that in terms of the basic ideas of liberalism and democracy. Nor that they can do anything but ridicule people who apply them to their logical conclusion. It's what they do. It's a shallow, superficial, bigoted intellectual fad and a number of them will give it up as soon as the fashions change or it becomes more opportune, as Christopher Hitchens and David Horowitz changed their ideology.

Right. Because the vast majority of the atheists I've met, read, and talked with are all doing it wrong, and Anthony McCarthy, the real genius is the only person who knows what real atheism, materialism, and secular morality are, and thus is the only person who's doing it right, even if he has to shoehorn in a blatant fallacy of composition.

Because being able to reduce a person down to non-person parts somehow, magically means those parts can't possibly add back up to a person because in his great wisdom, Anthony says we must perform the fallacy of composition he instructs us to. If we don't perform that fallacy of composition, he'll whine and take away our membership cards for not being serious about our materialism.

Anthony, why is your forced insertion of a fallacy of composition logical and necessary to materialism?

Anybody but me notice that ELIZA-bot McCarthy never responds to anything we actually say?

Here's a simple question, numbnuts: Where do you get this crap about "radical determinism"? Where have you been for the last 85 years?

By The Very Rever… (not verified) on 26 Apr 2012 #permalink

I fail to see how dualism solves any moral problems Anthony proposes. It played a part in creating those problems in the first place. Religious leaders seem perfectly content to give out or withhold souls whenever it's politically convenient for them. Or at random. If they define personhood through souls, that means they can arbitrarily declare anyone into a non-person object on a whim. There's plenty of historical precedent for that, and no contradiction with dualist philosophy because it can be easily modified to endorse treating anyone in any fashion. There's no rhyme or reason I can see. Any dualist can assert any position he feels like because there's no standard to measure against.

Of course, the opposite trend occurs when you look at secular morality. Personhood is defined by attributes that, while difficult to define in nice slogan-sized bits, are objectively measurable in principle, unlike souls. The civil rights trend emerged because we stopped buying into ancestral arbitrary limits put on personhood that were made possible by way of dualism and its compatibility with the arbitrary morality of tribalism. The civil rights trend emerged because we're being more and more consistent in applying it, and consensus forms from moral reasoning, informed by scientific knowledge.

I'll try to explain this to you again. Religion codifies discrimination against women, athiesm and secular humanism do not. However, given that men naturally dislike and hate women, even athiests are not immune to sexism, but appealing to rationality will do far more then trying to change old dusty words.

Watson was a product of his time. White men from that era (50s and 60s) were all racist and sexist to varying degrees. The younger scientists parroted what their superiors wanted to hear to get ahead, and a few ended up convincing themselves that those beliefs were scientifically valid. As the older generation dies off, the younger generation might be salvagable.

Evo-psy is bunk, so I won't shed a tear for it. Psychology has had some successes, but it falls prey to the gigo rule. A lot of garbage was shoveled into it at the start, *cough* Freud *cough* so it's difficult to get anything but garbage out. Even now, psychology is so subjective that no two psychologists can agree on almost anything. The tests are also too simplistic to be effective; any fool can bluff their way through most of the diagnostic tests. For instance, I've been passing myself of as normal for years.

By Politicalguineapig (not verified) on 26 Apr 2012 #permalink

especially as they don't really believe in some real, metaphysical thing that is justice that really exists

Cannot resist quoting Terry Pratchett.

Death: Humans need fantasy to *be* human. To be the place where the falling angel meets the rising ape.
Susan: With tooth fairies? Hogfathers?
Death: Yes. As practice, you have to start out learning to believe the little lies.
Susan: So we can believe the big ones?
Death: Yes. Justice, mercy, duty. That sort of thing.
Susan: They're not the same at all.
Death: You think so? Then take the universe and grind it down to the finest powder, and sieve it through the finest sieve, and then show me one atom of justice, one molecule of mercy. And yet, you try to act as if there is some ideal order in the world. As if there is some, some rightness in the universe, by which it may be judged.
Susan: But people have got to believe that, or what's the point?
Death: You need to believe in things that aren't true. How else can they become?

Justice doesn't exists by itself. But if we, as a society, believe in it enough, we make it real.
It's the difference between watching the Sun rising above the horizon, or having a mere ball of flame illuminating the world.

By Heliantus (not verified) on 26 Apr 2012 #permalink

I wasn't quite as fond of calling it a "lie" because those things can be said to exist. That "lie" language feeds into Anthony's straw hyper-hyper-hyper reductionism (anti-synthesism?) that would say atoms are "lies" because they're not fundamental particles, strings, or whatever.

Ideas like justice and morality are complex phenomena that emerge as you get up to the level of societies. Just like atoms emerge as you get up to enough quarks, electrons, and energy. Just like fire emerges when you get enough molecules exothermically reacting with oxygen. Just like life emerges when you've got self-replicating groups of chemicals.

Anthony,

So you have time to castigate others, but not time to answer my question. Here's what I'm left with:

1. Despite the fact that I seem to be able to see, hear and touch my fellow human beings, they aren't actually material.

2. Despite the use of both biblical authority for stewardship of the land and humanist arguments for environmentalism, it seems that things that are objects are outside the scope of morality or ethics.

3. The only alternative to the supernatural is some form of robotic programming written in a language comparable to early MS Basic.

4. Metaphysics and materialism are mutually exclusive for some reason that isn't fully explained but which must be accepted nonetheless.

hmm... the things you learn on scienceblogs

By Niche Geek (not verified) on 26 Apr 2012 #permalink

Comment @554 was directed to Anthony. Going to bed now.

Heliantus: Believe you have the thread, good sir. That's one of my favorite books.

By Politicalguineapig (not verified) on 26 Apr 2012 #permalink

@Anthony McCarthy

Denise Walter, if you're an atheist who is not also a materialist, if you, somehow, believe that people are not material objects and, somehow, free will, inherent rights and, especially, equality are real and inalienable attributes of people and not just the product of transient social agreement, you're a very rare type of atheist.

As it is, the atheism I've been discussing denies those things are real and are the product of a transient social agreement. Of course, in the case of womens rights and gay rights the social agreement used to be that we didn't have equal rights, which that kind of atheism couldn't possibly object to as an injustice, especially as they don't really believe in some real, metaphysical thing that is justice that really exists, either.

If by "inherent rights" you mean rights that exist for humans outside of human realm (e.g. as ordained by god, as products of the universal consciousness or the like), then I for one don't believe in them. If, however, you mean rights that are part of being human in a human society, I do agree. With the emphasis on human society.

I believe every human should have a right to not be killed. If another person does it, I don't immediately think of them as evil, but I do think they did wrong. If a shark kills a person, I don't think the shark was evil or wrong. Therefore, I can't believe in universal, cross-species morality existing in the universe.

You seem to think that without fear of external judgment (god or laws) there would be nothing stopping us from going battle royal and slaughtering at our merest whim. I don't, and not because of any legal system or divinity.

We humans have evolved into social animals, and also away from purely predatory behavior. Therefore, I do believe our genes may drive us towards cooperation and social behavior. I also believe that beliefs, education and ones life experiences can alter how we behave and think. But as social animals, living in social circumstances, I find it unlikely that any society would find it morally superior to kill, rape or steal freely.

There is also an argument to be made for equality, based solely on atheist principles of social contracts and human behavior. A society that harnesses the full potential of all it's members, rather than excluding the advantages offered by a group just because of their gender, sexual orientation, beliefs or racial features, will attain greater affluence and intellectual and artistic progress. To be able to let their members reach their full potential, a society must condemn any notion of oppression of it's members (with the exception of for example imprisoning dangerous criminals and preventing or condemning actions and beliefs detrimental to the society).

Question #1 to you Anthony: Imagine you didn't have a divinely ordained moral rule? What would there be to prevent you from killing a man if you would benefit from his death? I've asked this before, you may have missed it.

We as humans are also genetically blessed to have memory, giving us the option of extending the moral system we have constructed during peace time to times of adversity and war, therefore effectively limiting our baser instincts and the horrors we doubt are capable of. As an atheist I find the concept of holy war (jihad, crusades or god giving the land of Israel to the Jewish tribes in the Old Testament and then telling them to slaughter the current inhabitants) preposterously hypocritical and ridiculous, let alone wrong.

I'm not surprised that the pop-atheists here have no knowledge of what they're advocating and absolutely no ability to analyze the results of that in terms of the basic ideas of liberalism and democracy. Nor that they can do anything but ridicule people who apply them to their logical conclusion.

I have yet to see anyone on this thread stating they are a materialist and because of their beliefs what you describe must be true. What you are doing is constructing a (perceived) enemy of scary materialist atheists sharpening their knives and loading their shotguns, as a negation of your own beliefs, when in fact, in reality, it resembles nothing of the sort. This, boys and girls, is called a straw man fallacy.

Question #2 to you Anthony: Do you think Christian morals are the only think keeping us from the horrors you claim will result from materialism?

It's what they do. It's a shallow, superficial, bigoted intellectual fad and a number of them will give it up as soon as the fashions change or it becomes more opportune, as Christopher Hitchens and David Horowitz changed their ideology.

How is this different from the mainstream majority-Christian moral system? True, the source material has remained the same, but the interpretation has changed over the years. Apart from scary slips of the tongue by former US presidents, crusading isn't the latest fad and I believe majority of Christians aren't killing gays or locking them up in mental institutions anymore. Because moral values and ideologies change, and evolve.

Question #3 to you Anthony: Can you provide any evidence that the majority of Christians did in fact oppose the crusades, the witch hunts and the inquisition, the conquest of the New World, persecution of Jews and Muslims in the past? What I mean, is, that regardless of your views on Christianity and morality, Christianity as a ideology means a form of majority rule, and I would here claim that the views of that majority have changed over the years. You cannot dismiss everything that has happened in the past as NON-Christian because it seems to you UN-Christian today. Or we have a completely different meaning for the word Christian, or ideology.

considering the history of both evo-psy and psychology, you should give those up for exactly the same reason, both of them have been oppressive to women.

Science evolves and progresses. And the means any science is put to in and by a society also change over time, just like with Christianity. Obviously in both instances there are persons who hold oppressive views today, but the difference is that with science there is mounting amount of evidence to the contrary. In Christianity's case, there is no divinely dictated amendment coming, it's just interpretations and social/political adjustments.

Question #4 to you Anthony: Given that you have a defined moral code based on Christian bible and teachings of Jesus Christ, how do you or I (interested as I am to understand your point of view) differentiate between any single passage in the Bible to know if it is of the True Christianity or not? For example, several mentions in both the Old and the New Testament of the punishment of god, killing people in the name of the god, and the commandment Thou shalt not kill.

So, to sum it up.
I have four questions for you Anthony.
#1: If you didn't have a divinely ordained moral rule, what would prevent you from killing a man if you would benefit from his death? #2: Do you think Christian morals are the only think keeping us from the horrors you claim will result from materialism? (related to #1)
#3: Can you provide any evidence that the majority of Christians did in fact oppose the crusades, the witch hunts and the inquisition, the conquest of the New World, persecution of Jews and Muslims in the past?
#4: how do you or I differentiate between any single passage in the Bible to know if it is of the True Christianity or not?

Even now, psychology is so subjective that no two psychologists can agree on almost anything. The tests are also too simplistic to be effective; any fool can bluff their way through most of the diagnostic tests. For instance, I've been passing myself of as normal for years.

Heh. I've passing myself off as a psychologist for years.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 26 Apr 2012 #permalink

Heliantus: Believe you have the thread, good sir. That's one of my favorite books.

Despite Politicalguineapig's generosity with awarding the thread, I believe it already belongs to Narad, for finding an excuse to link to Mr. Natural.

Clifford Simak's idea of typewriters, sewing machines and alarm clocks gaining self awareness
It is not right to sully Simak's "Skirmish" by dragging it into this discussion.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 27 Apr 2012 #permalink

Niche Geek, I asked you to clarify what you wanted me to respond to and you wouldn't over quite a number of comments. D.W. started out with more specific issues that deserved an answer. Your refusal to clarify was your choice, as is your choice to whine about the results of that.

Politicalguineapig, 1. not everyone at the Pentagon is a biblical fundamentalist or even religious. I'd guess some are atheists, 2. unless you have a breakdown by department and what they are responsible for, it's quite possible that every last person working on applying "AI" to drones is a true believing materialist (though explaining the nature of statistics and its stupid cousin, surveying, would take too long, 3. it's possible for a religious person to fall for the hooey of the people pushing AI. I wouldn't be surprised if it isn't possible for someone who is a biblical fundamentalist to also believe in machine "intelligence", 4. as many professed biblical fundamentalists act as if people are objects, in clear violation of the teachings of Jesus - his earliest followers were, famously, pacifists AND WE ARE TALKING ABOUT THE MILITARY - it's possible for them to act in contradiction to those teachings OR WHAT DO YOU THINK I'VE BEEN POINTING OUT FOR SEVERAL HUNDRED COMMENTS.

Here we come to the intersection of the two major lines of argument.

herr doktor, I've read just about everything Simak wrote. Unlike the sci-rangers of the sci-blogs, he was able to distinguish between fantasy and science. He was quite able to write convincingly on contradicting assumptions in different books. I suspect his alternative universes are as real as those are, ever were or ever will be. I guess you never read Way Station with the galaxy federation held together by religion.

gaist, with materialism comes the impossibility of believing that rights are real, certainly as real as believing they are real and made a part of us by a Creator. It's hard enough to get people who believe rights are real to consider the rights of other people and overcome selfishness, it's far more difficult to overcome selfishness when they don't believe rights are real. I'm impressed at how liberalism devolves into libertarianism in many atheists. It's not my fault that materialists-atheists have nothing to base an idea of real rights that people could carry with them from one society to another, from one time to another, that would still inhere to them in times when society doesn't want to believe they have those rights.

If you want your rights to be treated as real and you're a materialist, you'd better come up with something better than the lame and proven phony substitute of social contracts. Until you do, anyone who brings that issue up as a reason to reject your ideology as contradicting their rights.

You know what? Most people are selfish jerks, they have been all throughout history, under whatever government they have had no matter what religion they profess, they band together to do awful things. The few examples of groups of people who act better, individuals who act better, aren't responsible for the acts of other people.

I had an argument with a blog Pagan last year, a fan of Odin, a woman. I asked her about the documented practice of human sacrifice in her preferred Pagan tradition. Since she believed herself, in her vehement anti-Christianity, to also be a feminist, while mentioning the wonderful practice of murdering nine of each species, including people, I focused on the practice, verified in both the literary and archeological record, of murdering a slave girl whenever one of the upper class thugs died so she could be his wife in the afterlife. She was furious that I'd bring that up. Why those women, those groups of nine people didn't matter to her is something she never explained.

My guess is that when Christianity that didn't practice human sacrifice overturned Paganism that practiced human sacrifice, quite a number of lower class people in those societies thought it was a big improvement. Apparently people who lived under materialist-atheist governments go back to Christianity or other religions as soon as its safe to, as well.

Bronze Dog, as I've been saying nothing about mind-body dualism except that its validity is as unknown as brain-only - both are unknown and unaddressed by science, in case you don't know that - since comment 84, you are addressing something you imagine I've been saying instead of what I have said.

Brain-only is ideology pretended to be science by ideologues. My guess is that it will be considered superstition in the future, assuming we have one. Consciousness has never been successfully addressed by science, I doubt science can honestly address it, it certainly hasn't yet.

This discussion could have been over a long time ago if your pals hadn't started flipping out over what I said at comment 16, which is entirely accurate.

Anthony,
Do you understand that there are at least two distinct meanings of the adjective "wrong"? One refers to breaking a (moral) law e.g. "it is wrong to steal", the other refers to something being untrue e.g. "the statement 'the moon is made of cheese' is wrong". You seem to me to have conflated these two meanings.

Correct me if I am mistaken, but you seem to be arguing that materialism taken to its logical conclusion leads people to morally wrong behavior, therefore materialism is factually wrong. Even if the premise is correct (which I don't believe it is), the conclusion doesn't follow. We don't establish whether a scientific model of reality, like materialism, is accurate by looking at its moral consequences.

By way of an analogy, you could argue that nuclear weapons have killed thousands of people, killing people is morally wrong, therefore nuclear physics is factually wrong. That's clearly nonsense, isn't it?

By Krebiozen (not verified) on 27 Apr 2012 #permalink

Answer my question, you freakin' numbskull: Where the hell have you been for the last 85 years that anybody believes in "radical determinism"?

By The Very Rever… (not verified) on 27 Apr 2012 #permalink

I'm not surprised that the pop-atheists here have no knowledge of what they're advocating...

That's another standard lying-point from the evangelical Christian script: whatever atheists say they believe, isn't what they really believe, because atheists are too stupid and angry at God to understand what they really believe. (This gives people like Anthony an excuse to ignore what anyone else actually says and keep on arguing with the voices in his head: the voices in his head are the "real" atheist beliefs, and what other people actually say is imaginary.)

The more Anthony pretends he's not an authoritarian Christian bigot, the more he sounds like one -- delusions, lies, bogus accusations and all. (Not to mention random sniping insults when the rest of us fail to follow his script.)

as I've been saying nothing about mind-body dualism except that its validity is as unknown as brain-only

Brain-only is ideology pretended to be science by ideologues. My guess is that it will be considered superstition in the future, assuming we have one.

For crying out loud, Anthony, can you try not to contradict yourself so much?

And answer the questions addressed to you or admit you are trolling.

It was cute when we didn't know you.

This talk of genetic determinism and free will is absolutely disgusting. As any microbiologist will tell you, we are neither free beings nor meat puppets controlled by DNA robots (???).

No, in fact, we are mobile chemostats whose singular purpose is to house vast numbers of bacteria.

Also, I notice that in all his hyperventilating protests about what a horrible materialist meanie I am for quoting him, Anthony never actually denies that he falsely blamed atheists for the hatred directed against Jessica Ahlquist. No matter how much word-salad he dumps on us, his silent admissions always manage to speak louder than his words. He knows he's a bigoted liar, he knows he's been caught at it, and all he can do is keep on doubling down on the delusional nonsense.

JohnV, where did you get that heretical delusion? Everyone knows Mankind was invented by water as a means of transporting itself from place to place. (Next stop: Mars!)

Religion codifies discrimination against women, athiesm and secular humanism do not. However, given that men naturally dislike and hate women, even athiests are not immune to sexism, but appealing to rationality will do far more then trying to change old dusty words. Politicalguineapig

Oh, but, PGP, when it's men of science who says that women are inferior to men, it's on the reliable basis of science. It's not just some airy fair belief that women are equally endowed with rights by some sky-fairy. It must be true. As true as all of those other reliable holdings of science.

I absolutely reject the idea that "men naturally dislike and hate women". I'm a man and I don't. I don't believe it is "natural" to group somewhat over half of the population into a single, amorphous focus of hatred of individuals in that group. The use of the word "naturally" is a hint that the idea that all men "naturally" hate women is a product of social science superstition. There's nothing "natural" about it, though I'm sure you could come up with reams of crap dressed up in a phony imitation of science that is the origin of your fervently held belief.

I read a study of CSICOP, a group that was predominated by atheists by a huge margin, one of the things discussed was that it was pretty much a frat house of maladjusted men who created an atmosphere that was inhospitable to women. Women "skeptics" wrote about it at the time.

But, there's no time to go into that here. The point is that there is nothing in atheism that would make denying women rights that are real immoral or wrong. There isn't anything in atheism to hold that men who might be presented with irrefutable evidence that women had a right to full equality wrong to say, "I don't care". Where in atheism is there a real, effective, moral obligation to resist violating the rights of any person at any time? Where does that moral obligation come from? From social contracts? Well, those haven't been worth the imaginary paper they're written on and it's the history of human beings that most social contracts aren't written to favor womens' rights. I mentioned on another blog that as early as Genesis there are rights of women mentioned in the bible. In that case it was that Rebecca had to be consulted before she could be married off. There isn't anything in atheism that could logically hold that a woman's right to refuse to marry whoever her father decides he's going to sell her to matters. There isn't anything in atheism to say that slavery being wrong should overcome the ability of men with more power to enslave people.

There have been popular atheists, such as Nietzsche, who have gloried in the overturning of all morality because there is no God to make moral laws. He, as so many atheists today, hated the Jewish law and, especially, Christianity because it tries to impose morality, restraining the relatively more powerful from doing whatever they choose to. I've met women who believe themselves to be feminists who think Nietzsche is just the bees knees, I assume not having read what he said about women.

Hey, as Dostoevsky pointed out, without God then everything is allowed because nothing is disallowed. It all turns into a war of the more powerful against the powerless. I'd like to know what you find in atheism that proves that wrong. You'll have to come up with something convincing before I'll vote for you.

gaist, with materialism comes the impossibility of believing that rights are real, certainly as real as believing they are real and made a part of us by a Creator. It's hard enough to get people who believe rights are real to consider the rights of other people and overcome selfishness, it's far more difficult to overcome selfishness when they don't believe rights are real.

If rights are part of us, why doesn't all of creation respect those rights, and if you want to separate humans from rest of nature, why didn't the same creator give us unfaltering respect for said rights?

Rights upheld by society are as real as any other abstract concept like justice, good or faith. They become real (or rather, have real consequences and effects upon the world) when they are acted upon and believed in.

Selfishness manifested in a atheist society is pretty lame compared to the horrors your painted earlier, about atheists killing people for fun. I obviously do selfish things, because I have wants and needs. What I try to do, is not let those wants or needs or actions I do because of them hurt others. You can be selfish and helpful or altruistic to others, because sometimes actions are mutually beneficial, and sometimes just because I feel better knowing I've help my fellow human being, I do in fact help my fellow human being, without there being any obvious benefit or payback to me. I don't believe in divine judgment or karma.

I also don't see how it would be difficult to acknowledge that others have rights as well, especially for more major rights like equality, right to life and personal beliefs (where they don't threat other rights).

Does the selfishness you mention come from (selfish) genes, some original sin or are they given by god like faith and morals?

I'm impressed at how liberalism devolves into libertarianism in many atheists. It's not my fault that materialists-atheists have nothing to base an idea of real rights that people could carry with them from one society to another, from one time to another, that would still inhere to them in times when society doesn't want to believe they have those rights.

And quite surprisingly the same basic rights evolved with all religions, even those which were based on false gods, proving to me than rather than creator manifesting in different forms to different people, that the rights arise from the simple fact that we are human animals, and our brains work in a certain way unless trained otherwise. We respect human rights because we are part of a society that respects those rights. And most rights are universal, at least within that society. History is full of instances where those rights aren't applied to outsiders as readily. Most of those instances involved religious people.

If you want your rights to be treated as real and you're a materialist, you'd better come up with something better than the lame and proven phony substitute of social contracts. Until you do, anyone who brings that issue up as a reason to reject your ideology as contradicting their rights.

I hope you aren't saying you won't respect my rights if I don't share your beliefs?

Also, proven phony by whom?

I used the term social contract both in the original meaning (members of a society agree, explicitly or tacitly to behave by certain rules and laws, and in return every other member will do the same or face repercussions or possible punishment), as well as as shorthand for any shared values that society has. I've yet to see anyone prove how that idea doesn't apply to reality.

I would also hope that you could respect my views as I do yours, or at least myself as a fellow human being led astray , even if we disagree on the views, and not immediately dismiss them as faulty and not worth your consideration, without giving me any link or name or refutation to improve my thinking.

Most people are selfish jerks, they have been all throughout history, under whatever government they have had no matter what religion they profess, they band together to do awful things.

I disagree. Most people are decent, friendly people who do struggle with their everyday life enough that they might ignore or fail to act upon injustices they might face. Most people never kill or rape anyone else, or even beat the living shit out of people just because it makes them feel better.

And even if your statement is true, it just means that organized faith isn't any better than the alternatives, unless you also claim that the good only converge inside a single doctrine. You seem to argue that only religions have moral rules that keep the worst of everybody reigned in. I challenge you to point to a single atheist society that officially, openly, invents a morality for itself that intentionally brings out the worst in people against it's own society (true, I know nations at war have done terrible terrible things and I'm as opposed to war as any, up to and including going to prison rather than face mandatory military service in a country with state religion. That's not the point, the point is that all societies secular or religious or materialistic try to make the citizens behave and cooperate and coexist as a society).

documented practice of human sacrifice

You're arguing atheism is bad because historical religions have practiced human sacrifice? And didn't your god also demand human sacrifice from Isaac, even if it was just to test his faith? And what about all the sinners in Sodom or Gomorrah who were killed and by your beliefs sentenced to eternity in hell to make a point, and were thus denied any possibility of repentance.

I also noticed you didn't answer any of my questions.

Bee you idiot, you lied about what I said by leaving most of what I said out. YOU DID THE VERY CHERRY PICKING AND QUOTE MINING THAT YOUR CULT IS ALWAYS GASSING ON ABOUT. Not that they seem to have noticed. Just as Rev. blah,blah did to equal silence by the critics of "cherry picking" and "quote mining".

When I was accused of that I demonstrated with things Lewontin and Gould said supporting my contention AS WELL WITH DAWKINS CONFIRMING HE HAD MEANT WHAT I SAID HE HAD.

Shallow, bigoted, ignorant, hypocritical, clueless intellectual fad popular among the post-literate.

Oh, and gaist, anything you come up with in the way of atheist morality has to stand up to the atheist standard of dismissal. Any proposed atheist morality has to at least stand up to the atheist standard of proof, I'm not going to agree to a double standard set up by atheists to their advantage. Clearly most people won't either.

Waah waah waah, troll troll troll.

Answer the questions posed to you, windbag.

Bee you idiot, you lied about what I said by leaving most of what I said out.

Yes, I quoted the sentences of yours that proved my accusation, and left out the rest because it was not relevant to my accusation. And so far, you've never cited anything of yours that actually disproves my accusation. (Even now, when you're so desperate to call me a liar, you still can't actually deny that you said something false, dishonest and bigoted.)

When I was accused of that I demonstrated with things Lewontin and Gould said supporting my contention AS WELL WITH DAWKINS CONFIRMING HE HAD MEANT WHAT I SAID HE HAD.

Um...what does that even mean? Poor (overgrown) baby, he's tired and getting cranky.

By the way:

without God then everything is allowed because nothing is disallowed. It all turns into a war of the more powerful against the powerless.

What a lovely, bland assertion. Luckily, Christianity is the perfect way to prevent that, right? I mean, at no point have Christians ever warred, oppressed and murdered in His name.

Oh wait, I forgot. Those are Not True Christians, right, Anthony?

I'd like to know what you find in atheism that proves that wrong.

Atheism isn't a moral code, moron. It also does not prevent me from having one.

Now answer the perfectly reasonable questions posed to you, troll. Your pathetic attempts at distraction (Dawkins! MORE CAPS! Tu quoque! Reverse argument from authority! Dostoyevsky!) are duly noted.

Any proposed atheist morality has to at least stand up to the atheist standard of proof...

You mean, a "methodological materialist" standard of proof? As in, if a certain action can be empirically proven to cause predictable harm, with little or no predictable benefit, we can justly label it "bad" or "wrong" and make laws against it? Sounds good to me -- especially since it's what both theists and atheists have been trying (with varying degrees of sincerety and success, of course) to do for all of recorded history. You got a problem with that?

By the way, we're getting to the nub here: Anthony is such an immoral, depraved sack of crap that he would go on a total rampage without someone telling him what is right and wrong. Stands to reason atheists freak them out because he assumes we are the same way.

Shorter Anthony: "Thief! Thief! Thief! [Atheism|Materialism|Scientism|Radical determinism|Scientistic fundamentalism]! We hates it! We hates it! We hates it forever! (And we'll writes it up when we gets the chance!)"

Stu, Raging Bee, Rev. blah, blah,... About everything you say just convinces me that I can't be all wrong. You want to worry me, start agreeing with me.

"Tu quoque". Stu

This might be the most fat-headed misuse of a term for a logical fallacy made on this entire thread. Dawkins' own words confirmed that what I said about what he said was accurate. Dawkins' subsequent statements about "lumbering robots" supported his previous statements about "lumbering robots" and what I said about it.

Stu, you don't even know what the term "tu quoque" means, more evidence to back up what I said about how the blog atheists like to throw the words around without understanding them.

And it's clear that your fellow atheists don't care that you're lying. Which is as much as I'd expect of ideologues who think that morality is just make believe.

Oh, and here's Anthony lying through his teeth (if any) again:

I had an argument with a blog Pagan last year, a fan of Odin, a woman.

That would be me, and I'm pretty sure I pointed out that I'm a man, on at least one of the many SB threads where you've made an ass of yourself.

I asked her about the documented practice of human sacrifice in her preferred Pagan tradition. Since she believed herself, in her vehement anti-Christianity, to also be a feminist, while mentioning the wonderful practice of murdering nine of each species, including people, I focused on the practice, verified in both the literary and archeological record, of murdering a slave girl whenever one of the upper class thugs died so she could be his wife in the afterlife. She was furious that I'd bring that up.

No, moron, I was contemptuous because you were losing an argument about something else, and were desperately trying to change the subject.

Why those women, those groups of nine people didn't matter to her is something she never explained.

I didn't have to "explain" anything of the sort, because I never voiced support for any such practice; and neither has any present-day follower of Asatru that I've ever met or heard of.

Notice how Anthony doesn't cite the actual thread or quote any of my own words? There's a reason for that: he knows he's lying.

Dawkins' own words confirmed that what I said about what he said was accurate...

Given the number of times you've been exposed as a liar, your statements about what Dawkins said, and what he meant, have ZERO credibility. Why don't you just piss off to Stormfront or Uncommon Dissembling? You're not fooling anyone here.

By way of an analogy, you could argue that nuclear weapons have killed thousands of people, killing people is morally wrong, therefore nuclear physics is factually wrong. That's clearly nonsense, isn't it? kribiozen

It's clearly one of the most obvious mixing of categories I've run across today. You're mixing the categories of moral judgement and scientific judgement and asking me to come up with something that bridges that gap in terms of scientific knowledge.

Science intentionally excludes considerations of morality for a number of reasons, not least of which is that they can't be defined in a way to be treated scientifically or quantified (despite the idiotic contentions of utilitarianism). Science intentionally includes less information in the problem you present because it can't address the wider reality of the products of nuclear science in the world.

There's nothing in moral philosophy to keep it from making judgements about the morality of producing or deploying nuclear weapons.

Any religious discussion of that would include the assumption of the validity of the science that would make that discussion necessary or even possible.

This is a good example of why religion can include science while science can't include religion, including things that can say why it's wrong to indiscriminately nuke tens of millions of people in a day, as Sam Harris proposed in the seminal work of the new atheism. Clearly, religion can contain more information than science can, and it can address that proposal whereas science can't. Which is one of the things that makes scientism especially dangerous and why people holding that superstition shouldn't be trusted with political or military power.

I had not considered water being in control of things. This revelation means homeopaths and their magic water memory make a lot more sense :o

Anthony, the incoherent abstractions, non-sequiturs and falsehoods in your comment #584 prove, again, that you're a hatemongering bigot with no regard for facts or reason.

Folks, Raging Bee has proven she's a crackpot often enough that I'm going to go back to my usual practice of ignoring her ravings. Stu, Rev. blah, blah and others have earned being ignored as well.

I'm still finding this useful but if Orac wants it to stop all he as to do is say so.

Oh, but, PGP, when it's men of science who says that women are inferior to men, it's on the reliable basis of science.

...Aaand were back to anything you object to a atheist does is atheism's fault, and anything a religious person does you object to is that individual's fault.

I read a study of CSICOP, (...) that it was pretty much a frat house of maladjusted men (...) But, there's no time to go into that here.

Source would be nice, if you want to make any sort of point.

The point is that there is nothing in atheism that would make denying women rights that are real immoral or wrong.

The point of the study you mentioned about a committee written by anonymous women "skeptics", or another point altogether?

There is nothing in any title to make anything implied immoral or wrong. You use the word atheism as a empty box where all the atheists collect without bringing anything into it. Just like there isn't anything in Religion (as a concept) to prevent it, only when you allow and acknowledge that any ideology only reflects the values of it's members, and that it's members shape and flesh out the ideology can you make (if even then) such general statements about the values or worth of any single ideology.

And, as has been said numerous times before, atheism isn't a single ideology.

I offered the "materialist" proposition that excluding women from intellectual or or other debates reduces the net worth of the society in question. Religion can't, in it's most black-and-white form, make such a claim; because all the truths, morals and the like are already dictated in full. Therefore women (or men) don't have to, or as the case may be, aren't allowed to reshape or evolve the current rules of the society, even if they would include slavery, capital punishment for petty crimes and oppression of women or other groups.

Obviously you don't agree, and in another post say "gaist, anything you come up with in the way of atheist morality has to stand up to the atheist standard of dismissal." Can you help a poor fellow on his way to increased wisdom explain where and how my thinking was faulty? (In this case and in general, I wholeheartedly welcome the possibility that I am proven wrong and thus allowed to grow).

There isn't anything in atheism to hold that men who might be presented with irrefutable evidence that women had a right to full equality wrong to say, "I don't care".

Like creationists and evolutionary proof? By your argument, there is also nothing in atheism that makes them say "I don't care". As you yourself stated, selfish jerks aren't only found in atheism.

For my real answer, see my previous point above. In addition, I would argue that anyone who is an atheist and doesn't recognize irrefutable evidence, isn't probably an atheist based on personal searching and intellectual reasoning. I don't try to claim that all atheists are intelligent, but that such persons who have never questioned anything in life, can be found equally in any ideology.

Where in atheism is there a real, effective, moral obligation to resist violating the rights of any person at any time?Where does that moral obligation come from? From social contracts? Well, those haven't been worth the imaginary paper they're written on and it's the history of human beings that most social contracts aren't written to favor womens' rights.

Also, historically most societies have been religious. And I'm not arguing for historical societies, I'm arguing for contemporary societies. And by my experience social contracts have worked pretty well. Even when they wouldn't be punished for not being nice, most people are nice and friendly, will help if you ask if they can. I haven't been hit since first grade disagreement over which superhero would win, I've left my laptop in the train and had a total stranger track me down (there were papers in the laptop case pointing to my last address) and called me to organize a pick-up. They even refused when I offered a finders fee, thrice. Just to name few simple personal experience. Some of these happened while I was living in China, by your standards purely atheistic society that brings out the worst in human beings.

There isn't anything in atheism that could logically hold that a woman's right to refuse to marry whoever her father decides he's going to sell her to matters.

Apart from the previous points I've made, which I feel are apt until proven otherwise, there would also be nothing to prevent her from refusing to obey her father.

And I make the same argument using different words. There also isn't anything in atheism to prevent the society adopting atheism as doctrine from frowning upon such behavior. And, I would argue that given the moral state and values of our current, less religiously extremist nations, removal of religious doctrine would not greatly "degrade" the current social norms and values. We have adopted the humanitarian value system, which - as I and others have pointed before - isn't dependent on Christianity.

If you can make a case for how our humanitarian society would degrade into dog eat dog anarchist dystopia, I'm all ears.

so many atheists today, hated the Jewish law and, especially, Christianity because it tries to impose morality, restraining the relatively more powerful from doing whatever they choose to.

Are you honestly trying to claim that other religions or ideologies don't try to impose morality?

Also, historically, Jewish people have been oppressed by other religions, or religious rulers (for religious, financial, political or any other reason they have). Don't try to pass the blame on atheism, if few atheists do have antisemitic ideas. Some religious people I know harbor antisemitic views as well, and I don't hold it against religion in general, but against them as individuals.

without God then everything is allowed because nothing is disallowed. It all turns into a war of the more powerful against the powerless. I'd like to know what you find in atheism that proves that wrong. You'll have to come up with something convincing before I'll vote for you.

Short answer, atheists. Before I answer in greater depth, I will ask you to expand on your statement before it warrants serious consideration. How would it all turn into war of oppression?

And I repeat my previous question to you, one which I've repeated in several posts by now. Do you think that without religion you would have no objection to killing, raping or selling your daughters into slavery? If you wouldn't do any of those, even if you knew you wouldn't be held responsible, why would that be, and why do you assume that others wouldn't have your restrain?

Before you answer this, I can only assume your arguments are fallacies, rather than coherent personal beliefs. Sorry.

Posted by: Anthony McCarthy | April 27, 2012 8:49 AM
573

Bee you idiot, you lied about what I said by leaving most of what I said out. YOU DID THE VERY CHERRY PICKING AND QUOTE MINING THAT YOUR CULT IS ALWAYS GASSING ON ABOUT. Not that they seem to have noticed. Just as Rev. blah,blah did to equal silence by the critics of "cherry picking" and "quote mining".

When I was accused of that I demonstrated with things Lewontin and Gould said supporting my contention AS WELL WITH DAWKINS CONFIRMING HE HAD MEANT WHAT I SAID HE HAD.

Shallow, bigoted, ignorant, hypocritical, clueless intellectual fad popular among the post-literate.

Oh, and gaist, anything you come up with in the way of atheist morality has to stand up to the atheist standard of dismissal. Any proposed atheist morality has to at least stand up to the atheist standard of proof, I'm not going to agree to a double standard set up by atheists to their advantage. Clearly most people won't either.

It's clearly one of the most obvious mixing of categories I've run across today. You're mixing the categories of moral judgement and scientific judgement and asking me to come up with something that bridges that gap in terms of scientific knowledge.

I was trying to draw attention to the way you have been mixing these categories. I find it very strange that you are apparently utterly oblivious to this.

By Krebiozen (not verified) on 27 Apr 2012 #permalink

Clearly, religion can contain more information than science can, and it can address that proposal whereas science can't.

And... it's the container-contained cosmic bucket brigade again. Science doesn't "contain information," AM, it's a method of inquiry.

The religious construct arose out of the natural superstitions of early man & an attempt to explain what was occuring in the natural world before the rise of Science. It just so happens that it was also a good way to regulate morality or push a particular behavior set across a fairly uneducated population.

To say that the teachings of Jesus - if the man ever actually existed, have any sort of special place in the grand scheme of things, other than a recognition of fairly basic and understood pleadings of right & wrong, and that the early Christians had a great marketing department (and the backing of Constantine down the road didn't hurt either) is denying the role of other religious dogma, codes, and other general understandings that have been in use and practiced for far longer than modern Christianity - and in some cases, with much less bloodshed attached to them as well.

It is quite possible, that had things turned out a bit differently, that the Roman Empire might have embraced Judaism - if Paul had never put his stamp on the early Christian writings - or perhaps polytheism might have won out. In general, it is very easy to distill down the basic tenents of most religions into a code of morality, which differs along cultural and historical lines (and sometimes changes dramatically over time with various shifts in dogma).

Religion just happened to be the most convenient way to address morality standards & to say that without religion, those standards wouldn't exist shows the true fallacy of AMC's arguments (if you can call them that).

He falls for the "No True Scotsman" fallacy, declares that Richard Dawkings speaks for all atheists, and says that we'd all descend into arnachy without religion to tell us what to do.

What a tool.

Folks, Raging Bee has proven she's a crackpot often enough that I'm going to go back to my usual practice of ignoring her ravings. Stu, Rev. blah, blah and others have earned being ignored as well.

Tralslation: he knows we've caught him lying (again), and he can't bear to either admit he's wrong or give up the attention he craves; so all he can do is go back to his usual practice of relentlessly blathering on and on and on and on and ignoring everyone else. In other words, two good reasons to just ban this self-centered lying asshole: threadjacking and monopolization.

Oh, but, PGP, when it's men of science who says that women are inferior to men, it's on the reliable basis of science.

...Aaand were back to anything you object to a atheist does is atheism's fault, and anything a religious person does you object to is that individual's fault.

I read a study of CSICOP, (...) that it was pretty much a frat house of maladjusted men (...) But, there's no time to go into that here.

Source would be nice, if you want to make any sort of point.

The point is that there is nothing in atheism that would make denying women rights that are real immoral or wrong.

The point of the study you mentioned about a committee written by anonymous women "skeptics", or another point altogether?

There is nothing in any title to make anything implied immoral or wrong. You use the word atheism as a empty box where all the atheists collect without bringing anything into it. Just like there isn't anything in Religion (as a concept) to prevent it, only when you allow and acknowledge that any ideology only reflects the values of it's members, and that it's members shape and flesh out the ideology can you make (if even then) such general statements about the values or worth of any single ideology.

And, as has been said numerous times before, atheism isn't a single ideology.

I offered the "materialist" proposition that excluding women from intellectual or or other debates reduces the net worth of the society in question. Religion can't, in it's most black-and-white form, make such a claim; because all the truths, morals and the like are already dictated in full. Therefore women (or men) don't have to, or as the case may be, aren't allowed to reshape or evolve the current rules of the society, even if they would include slavery, capital punishment for petty crimes and oppression of women or other groups.

Obviously you don't agree, and in another post say "gaist, anything you come up with in the way of atheist morality has to stand up to the atheist standard of dismissal." Can you help a poor fellow on his way to increased wisdom explain where and how my thinking was faulty? (In this case and in general, I wholeheartedly welcome the possibility that I am proven wrong and thus allowed to grow).

There isn't anything in atheism to hold that men who might be presented with irrefutable evidence that women had a right to full equality wrong to say, "I don't care".

Like creationists and evolutionary proof? By your argument, there is also nothing in atheism that makes them say "I don't care". As you yourself stated, selfish jerks aren't only found in atheism.

For my real answer, see my previous point above. In addition, I would argue that anyone who is an atheist and doesn't recognize irrefutable evidence, isn't probably an atheist based on personal searching and intellectual reasoning. I don't try to claim that all atheists are intelligent, but that such persons who have never questioned anything in life, can be found equally in any ideology.

Where in atheism is there a real, effective, moral obligation to resist violating the rights of any person at any time?Where does that moral obligation come from? From social contracts? Well, those haven't been worth the imaginary paper they're written on and it's the history of human beings that most social contracts aren't written to favor womens' rights.

Also, historically most societies have been religious. And I'm not arguing for historical societies, I'm arguing for contemporary societies. And by my experience social contracts have worked pretty well. Even when they wouldn't be punished for not being nice, most people are nice and friendly, will help if you ask if they can. I haven't been hit since first grade disagreement over which superhero would win, I've left my laptop in the train and had a total stranger track me down (there were papers in the laptop case pointing to my last address) and called me to organize a pick-up. They even refused when I offered a finders fee, thrice. Just to name few simple personal experience. Some of these happened while I was living in China, by your standards purely atheistic society that brings out the worst in human beings.

There isn't anything in atheism that could logically hold that a woman's right to refuse to marry whoever her father decides he's going to sell her to matters.

Apart from the previous points I've made, which I feel are apt until proven otherwise, there would also be nothing to prevent her from refusing to obey her father.

And I make the same argument using different words. There also isn't anything in atheism to prevent the society adopting atheism as doctrine from frowning upon such behavior. And, I would argue that given the moral state and values of our current, less religiously extremist nations, removal of religious doctrine would not greatly "degrade" the current social norms and values. We have adopted the humanitarian value system, which - as I and others have pointed before - isn't dependent on Christianity.

If you can make a case for how our humanitarian society would degrade into dog eat dog anarchist dystopia, I'm all ears.

so many atheists today, hated the Jewish law and, especially, Christianity because it tries to impose morality, restraining the relatively more powerful from doing whatever they choose to.

Are you honestly trying to claim that other religions or ideologies don't try to impose morality?

Also, historically, Jewish people have been oppressed by other religions, or religious rulers (for religious, financial, political or any other reason they have). Don't try to pass the blame on atheism, if few atheists do have antisemitic ideas. Some religious people I know harbor antisemitic views as well, and I don't hold it against religion in general, but against them as individuals.

without God then everything is allowed because nothing is disallowed. It all turns into a war of the more powerful against the powerless. I'd like to know what you find in atheism that proves that wrong. You'll have to come up with something convincing before I'll vote for you.

Short answer, atheists. Before I answer in greater depth, I will ask you to expand on your statement before it warrants serious consideration. How would it all turn into war of oppression?

And I repeat my previous question to you, one which I've repeated in several posts by now. Do you think that without religion you would have no objection to killing, raping or selling your daughters into slavery? If you wouldn't do any of those, even if you knew you wouldn't be held responsible, why would that be, and why do you assume that others wouldn't have your restrain?

Before you answer this, I can only assume your arguments are fallacies, rather than coherent personal beliefs. Sorry.

Any proposed atheist morality has to at least stand up to the atheist standard of proof, I'm not going to agree to a double standard set up by atheists to their advantage. Clearly most people won't either.

I wouldn't expect you to hold pro-atheist double standards, and I've never asked you to. Never.

I have argued against your argumentations where I have perceived what I think is a pro-Christian double standard (just scroll upwards, you'll find me and many many others arguing the same thing). So far you have just dismissed the accusations with lessening politeness while continuing to use dubious arguments, broad generalizations, ad hominems, straw man fallacies and changing goal posts. Unless you answers questions directed at you, or sufficiently explain your generalizations and seeming fallacies, I can only assume that the depth of your arguments are the fallacies and generalizations themselves. Again, I'm sorry.

Don't know what happened, but my last post (593) was posted half-finished as (588) as well. Please ignore the older one.

Anthony, if you're going to come to this thread, and ignore everyone else on it, then why are you here at all? Just to monopolize attention and make everything about you and your immovable bigotry? And if you're not paying attention to us, why should we pay attention to you?

A blog thread is about dialogue; so if you're not interested in responding to the other people in a dialogue, then you have no good reason to be a part of said dialogue AT ALL. Barging in on a conversation and droning on and on and totally ignoring everyone else is both ill-mannered and hypocritical. Is this how your oh-so-superior Christian morality taught you how to behave?

Seriously, there's no reason to tolerate someone who has clearly shown himself unable to tolerate anyone else. ANd there's no reason to allow someone to participate here who won't...you know...PARTICIPATE.

I'm still finding this useful but if Orac wants it to stop all he as to do is say so.

In other words, the bigoted troll won't obey even the most basic rules of adult interaction, and only an authority-figure (i.e., the guy who can actually ban him) can tell him what to do. Anthony keeps on claiming he's not a Christian (and won't specify what religion he does follow), but once again, he shows his infantile authoritarian mindset.

...without God then everything is allowed because nothing is disallowed. It all turns into a war of the more powerful against the powerless.

This is one of the stupidest ideas in existence. It "solves" the problem of Might Makes Right by accepting that Might Makes Right. It's allowing one arbitrary being with no objectively testable character to enforce his "just my opinion" morality on everyone else because it's allegedly all-powerful. And if you don't like the popular depiction of that being and his opinions? Schism! No one can prove who's right through reasoning or evidence. Such arbitrariness is a prescription for chaos and bloodshed, and that's what I see in the history of religion.

Secular morality is constructed to minimize arbitrariness, which is why we can't label people of other races, genders, or orientations as being inherently worthless: They're people with thoughts, feelings, desires, and consciousness, and morality is for people to work together to form a prosperous society.

Also, bigoted troll, I've already reminded you I'm male at least once. Why is it so important for you to keep on calling me "her" and referring to me as "a woman?" Just another means of establishing your superiority in your Christian moral bubble-verse?

Pathetic troll is pathetic.

I was going to make a long-winded post mopping up all the douchebaggery Anthony has been spewing as soon as he was asked to back up his claims or even define them (how telling)... but I see gaist & others have done a fine job already.

I'll just limit myself to #581, since it is hilariously stupid.

"Tu quoque". Stu

This might be the most fat-headed misuse of a term for a logical fallacy made on this entire thread.

Anthony, please try to stay away from idiom you do not understand. That's not even a proper sentence.

Dawkins' own words confirmed that what I said about what he said was accurate. Dawkins' subsequent statements about "lumbering robots" supported his previous statements about "lumbering robots" and what I said about it.

And nobody was talking about Dawkins. You brought it up to deflect/compare things that were addressed to you. That is the exact definition for a tu quoque fallacy, you complete and utter idiot.

Stu, you don't even know what the term "tu quoque" means, more evidence to back up what I said about how the blog atheists like to throw the words around without understanding them.

Quoted for posterity.

AC@572

Your full comment spells out your error, you are confusing nihilism with atheism. I might point out that Spinoza who believed in god comes closer to Neitzche than would Russell, given that nihilism is grounded in pessimism.

Another category error.

Mike

As far as I can tell, AM believes that human beings (despite being physical entities) are not objects, but that religiously derived moral precepts (despite being intellectual constructs) are. Or maybe it's that we shouldn't treat human beings as if they were objects, and should treat societal norms of behavior as if they were objects?

And he can't be bothered to tell us why we shouldn't accept that human beings are objects or why it's imperative we act as if norms of behavior were.

That about sum it up?

Another category error.

Yeah, he makes a LOT of those for someone whose arguments are entirely dependent on categories, labels, and identity-badges. Of course, he never actually defines what any of his preciouss labels actually mean, despite repeated requests to do so; which makes his category errors a bit less surprising.

I had previously compared Anthony to a racist. Now I'll amend that, and compare him to a racist who can't tell the races apart from one another (while still insisting that racial distinctions are all-important).

This is one of the stupidest ideas in existence. It "solves" the problem of Might Makes Right by accepting that Might Makes Right. Bronze Dog

Only as long as you assume that there is no God that makes moral law, so it's no surprise that an atheist wouldn't see a way out of that.

As I said, it's not my fault that atheists believe in a system that destroys the reality of morals. If they don't like it it's up to them to come up with something that will survive their methods they use to reject God and I doubt that can be done. Atheism doesn't seem to have come up with that yet.

Lawrence, tempting as it is to go into the evidence-free, anthropological-sociological lore about the "origins of religion" which, by the way, couldn't stand up to those debunkery methods that atheism asserts to get rid of religion, my time is limited as I resume teaching. Both anthropology and sociology should be considered lore, at best, and not science, by the way. Both contain huge amounts of fiction posing as fact.

JGG, read what I said above about the deficits of materialism re morals and see how your assumption doesn't hold up at all because it makes no sense if you have read what I said above.

You need s, t and u to spell "stupid".

gaist, I'm busy the rest of the day. Perhaps I can answer later.

Both anthropology and sociology should be considered lore, at best, and not science, by the way. Both contain huge amounts of fiction posing as fact.

I think people might take you more seriously if you provided a few examples.

By Gray Falcon (not verified) on 27 Apr 2012 #permalink

Krebiozen, your question that I dealt with was:

By way of an analogy, you could argue that nuclear weapons have killed thousands of people, killing people is morally wrong, therefore nuclear physics is factually wrong. That's clearly nonsense, isn't it?

After you presented the fact that nuclear weapons killed thousands of people.

You noted the moral position that killing people is morally wrong.

Out of those different you incoherently asked me if the immorality of the killing negated the correctness of nuclear physics. Incoherent for two reasons. 1. You asked me to make a judgement of fact about science out of a non-scientific holding of morality. 2. The issue of the morality of killing people with nuclear weapons is entirely dependent on the science that created the weapons being correct. The judgement of morality, religion and politics contains the holding that the scientists got the physics right and produced a working bomb capable of creating the moral question.

Your problem is far more than just nonsense, it is entirely incoherent. It's in the running to be judged not even wrong.

@AMC - so you believe that religions just sprung up out of nowhere? Or were really delivered by "the Hand of God" or whatever?

Only as long as you assume that there is no God that makes moral law

Which God?
Which laws?
How are these laws communicated?
How are these laws enforced?

I had previously compared Anthony to a racist. Now I'll amend that, and compare him to a racist who can't tell the races apart from one another (while still insisting that racial distinctions are all-important).

I had a racist troll named Gabriel stop by my old blog and linger off and on for a couple years. He never gave a useful definition of "race" in all that time, but expected me and my readers to believe that he could magically determine race by simply looking. And that we should blindly believe whatever he said because he said he was older, and therefore automatically wiser.

I wonder how Anthony determines which proposed objective moral laws to believe in, whether or not someone is a person, and so on. Handing the questions over to gods and priests just seems like leaving it up to chance and whimsy.

As I said, it's not my fault that atheists believe in...

It IS your fault that you relentlessly lie about what atheists believe, AFTER being corrected too many times already.

AM@602:

"Only as long as you assume that there is no God that makes moral law, so it's no surprise that an atheist wouldn't see a way out of that.

As I said, it's not my fault that atheists believe in a system that destroys the reality of morals. If they don't like it it's up to them to come up with something that will survive their methods they use to reject God and I doubt that can be done. Atheism doesn't seem to have come up with that yet."

As I pointed out in comment 599 (and I have noticed you do not respond to any of my posts), here you assume that all atheists ascribe to nihilism. I don't. As I stated above, my outlook towards my fellow beings is informed by secular humanism, which is the apotheosis of human endeavor, as nihilism is the nadir.

Mike

Hey, as Dostoevsky pointed out, without God then everything is allowed because nothing is disallowed.

Sweet Jesus. Protip: Characters in novels who say something you like are not interchangeable with the author. Now, if one is to for some reason use Dostoevsky as some sort of Moral Oracle, why not unwrap the whole anti-Semitic, anti-Roman Catholic, Polack-hating package of Russian messianism?

As I stated above, my outlook towards my fellow beings is informed by secular humanism, which is the apotheosis of human endeavor, as nihilism is the nadir.

I've made this point before, but in the context of discussing supernaturalism versus materialism, the obvious interpretation of "nihilism" is ontological, not the Big Lebowski sense, so some qualification seems warranted.

Narad @ 611:

The aphorism is attributed to Doestoevski, though there is no clear proveniance. Most literary critics see his four great novels as a response to nihilism that was in vogue in Russia. My best guess is that AM thinks he's paraphrasing Sasha (Ayosha) in Brothers Karamozov, who is interpreted as approximating Doestoevski's position.

What AM does not understand is that while all nihilists are likely atheists, not all atheists are nihilists. He is constantly having issues with necessary and contingent propositions, and probably needs to consider or refresh himself with the 'There Will be a Sea Battle Tomorrow' argument that Aristotle addressed.

Mike

I fail to see how monism/materialism leads to nihilism. To me, that's like saying belief in induction leads to nihilism. It's a complete non-sequitur.

Also, I wonder if this might have an impact on Anthony: When I was a Christian and a dualist, I believed god favored a morality best described as secular humanism because it made the most sense. Becoming an atheist had no impact on my sense of morality except to instill a little bit more urgency into being moral. Later becoming a materialist and rejecting the ideas of souls and an afterlife added still more urgency.

Heliantus: Believe you have the thread, good sir. That's one of my favorite books.
Despite Politicalguineapig's generosity with awarding the thread, I believe it already belongs to Narad, for finding an excuse to link to Mr. Natural.

@ Politicalguineapig - you are too kind. If anyone deserves credits for the quote, it's the original author. I'm merely the medium.
I should do it more often, it reads better than my tl;dr walls of text.

@ Herr Doctor Bimler - I wouldn't dream of starting a competition for the best quote, I'm only interested in sharing tips of good reading. I happily leave the thread to Narad :-)
Actually, AFAIAC, I happily leave MacCarthy to whoever wants him.

OK, another series of quotations, somewhat related to the newly topic of this derailed thread:
Carl Sagan - 'A Glorious Dawn' ft Stephen Hawking (Symphony of Science)

I got it some time ago from Phil Plait's blog (Bad Astronomy). The quotes have been put into music using autotune, it's an acquired taste. Just turn off the sound and expand the lyrics section if you cannot stand it.

By Heliantus (not verified) on 27 Apr 2012 #permalink

Only as long as you assume that there is no God that makes moral law, so it's no surprise that an atheist wouldn't see a way out of that.

I don't see how that's an unreasonable asumption, given the lack of any evidence whatsoever a god or gods who make moral law exists.

Bronze Dog, by riffing off of Raging Bee's demented raving, has earned being ignored. I could note that both are guilty of the ad hominim fallacy but it's easier to just say they're both lying. I wouldn't want to honor what they've said by accusing it of comprising an argument.

The new atheism, no lie told by an atheist is too transparent to not be OKed by NAs.

mgr, you could note that atheism has never discovered a basis of morality that wasn't vulnerable to its own methods of debunking religion. Whether or not its moral nihilism is stated or not, that's practices are the very substance of nihilism.

Where is the atheist theory of morality that stands up to those methods?

I could note that both are guilty of the ad hominim fallacy...

Where? Do you know the difference between an insult and an ad hominem, by the way?

...but it's easier to just say they're both lying.

What's the lie? Vague pronouncements don't enlighten me.

I wouldn't want to honor what they've said by accusing it of comprising an argument.

Sounds like business as usual, given what I've seen so far from you. I just call it like I see it, and you don't seem to be in a rush to clarify any misconceptions I have of your alternatives.

The new atheism, no lie told by an atheist is too transparent to not be OKed by NAs.

What's this "new" atheism of which you speak? You've been going on and on and on about an atheism that is utterly alien to anything I've ever read.

From 618 : "It's the editing that gets you every time"

From 617: ".. ad ad hominim ..."

sure is am. The only problem for you is that none of the things said about you qualify as an ad hominem. Insult? Probably. The truth? Based on your comments here, and on other blogs, most certainly.

And Rakitin does dislike God. Ough! doesn't he dislike Him! That's the sore point with all of them. But they conceal it. They tell lies. They pretend. âWill you preach this in your reviews?â I asked him. âOh, well, if I did it openly, they won't let it through,â he said. He laughed. âBut what will become of men then?â I asked him, âwithout God and immortal life? All things are lawful then, they can do what they like?â âDidn't you know?â he said laughing, âa clever man can do what he likes,â he said. âA clever man knows his way about, but you've put your foot in it, committing a murder, and now you are rotting in prison.â He says that to my face! A regular pig! I used to kick such people out, but now I listen to them. He talks a lot of sense, too. Writes well. He began reading me an article last week. I copied out three lines of it. Wait a minute. Here it is.â

http://www.gutenberg.org/files/28054/28054-h/28054-h.html

Why does the absence of god change what is or is not permissible in society?

How does the presence of god change what is or is not permissible in society?

My best guess is that AM thinks he's paraphrasing Sasha (Ayosha) in Brothers Karamozov, who is interpreted as approximating Doestoevski's position.

Yes, I presumed the same, although I've only read The Possessed (so translated). As such, I wonder whether AM, the "Thought Criminal," would acknowledge playing the role of Stepan Trofimovich.

dean, I don't know how you feel about being compared to racists but it qualifies as ad hom in most peoples' books.

If the new atheists didn't have a double standard they wouldn't have any standards at all.

I'm thinking of ending and coming back in a week to see what incoherence, misrepresentations and lies the collective wisdom of the new atheists can come up with. I'm keeping this one for my records along with my great skepticism over The Great PR Stunt. I don't feel like going 800+ comments with a bunch of dolts this weekend.

So now you're calling me "it" after I've stated I'm male? What's your major malfunction here? Are you still trying to "win" by questioning my manhood? Or do you not have the integrity or guts to admit even your most minor mistakes?

Also, you haven't disputed my assertion @582 that you lied about what I'd said in an earlier thread. Can I take that as an admission you know you were, in fact, lying, and have been caught at it?

politicalguineapig

Actually, AFAIAC, I happily leave MacCarthy to whoever wants him.

I am hoping the "whoever wants him" turns out to be a ravenous grizzly bear or failing that, a belligerent elk.

By Militant Agnostic (not verified) on 27 Apr 2012 #permalink

Do you know the difference between an insult and an ad hominem, by the way?

I wouldn't hold my breath, since he

A) cannot spell it
B) doesn't know what the No True Scotsman fallacy is and
C) does not know what the tu quoque fallacy is.

Still, it is enlightening how fast Anthony went off the deep end as soon as he was asked to clarify, back up and/or state his position. Obviously, in douchecanoe-world, that earns you being ignored.

Us evil, evil atheists. Asking a great thinker like Anthony to justify his inane assertions! The affront!

Harumph!

Also, Dawkins! Dostoyevsky!

dean, I don't know how you feel about being compared to racists but it qualifies as ad hom in most peoples' books.

What I was doing was pointing out how a racist's logical shortcomings compared to the ones I've seen in you. How is that an ad hominem fallacy?

"Anthony McCarthy is a racist, therefore he is wrong" is an ad hominem fallacy because the conclusion is based on an irrelevant factor of the arguer's personal trivia.

"Anthony McCarthy's evasiveness reminds me of a racist I once knew, who was similarly evasive" is not an ad hominem fallacy. You can call it a comparison, but it's a comparison of evasiveness, not of racism.

---

By the way: How does the presence or absence of a god change the permissiveness of an action within society?