Faith hurts

Since a Wall Street Journal editorialist has denounced secularism as the source of all of society's ills, it's only fair to get another opinion. Like, say, of a social scientist who has actually done a comparative study of different nations, looking for correlations between religiosity and superior moral values or stability or whatever. Surely, faith-based societies will have some virtues, won't they?

Uh-oh. The results don't look good for believers.

In general, higher rates of belief in and worship of a creator correlate with higher rates of homicide, juvenile and early adult mortality, STD infection rates, teen pregnancy and abortion in the prosperous democracies.

The United States is almost always the most dysfunctional of the developing democracies, sometimes spectacularly so.

Some of the problems that the religious most strenuously deplore are ones that are exacerbated by the beliefs they advocate.

The study concluded that the US was the world's only prosperous democracy where murder rates were still high, and that the least devout nations were the least dysfunctional. Mr Paul said that rates of gonorrhoea in adolescents in the US were up to 300 times higher than in less devout democratic countries. The US also suffered from "uniquely high" adolescent and adult syphilis infection rates, and adolescent abortion rates, the study suggested.

Mr Paul said: "The study shows that England, despite the social ills it has, is actually performing a good deal better than the USA in most indicators, even though it is now a much less religious nation than America."

He said that the disparity was even greater when the US was compared with other countries, including France, Japan and the Scandinavian countries. These nations had been the most successful in reducing murder rates, early mortality, sexually transmitted diseases and abortion, he added.

Now to be fair, these aren't causal relationships, and this is only a study of correlations, so religion might not be directly responsible — you aren't likely to catch gonorrhea by going to church. But with the state of American religion, you are very likely to catch a kind of pernicious ignorance by going to church, and that disability might make it more likely that you will make bad decisions with unfortunate consequences that will add to the roster of dismaying statistics.

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Reminds me of seeing a couple of maps in USN&WR a while back. The first map showed the rate church attendance within the last month. The second showed rate of out-of-wedlock births. The maps were almost identical. Religion=problems due to ignorance.

By Nerd of Redhead (not verified) on 22 Nov 2008 #permalink

Greg Paul a "social scientist?" He's probably better known as a dinosaur-ologist. (2 links)

By Sven DiMilo (not verified) on 22 Nov 2008 #permalink

I'm surprised that gay marriage wasn't included in the reason for society's ills. To blame secularism and homosexuality for
the USA's or world's decline is, well, humorous. I give you, ta da, George W. Bush, a heterosexual, Christian who has been determined to completely destroy everything in his path.

I imagine that, if there's a causal relationship there, it goes the other way.

Isn't it more likely that prosperity and security erode religious belief? The US, while wealthier per capita than most other countries, has a higher poverty rate due to increased inequality (this is exacerbated by the more generous social safety nets in other countries), and a great deal of the US' higher crime, STD, and abortion rates is attributable to the activities of the poor. People living in and around these conditions are more likely to feel the need to embrace a religion.

No doubt religion makes some of it worse (abstinence-only sex ed, for example), but I don't buy that it makes people worse off in general - it just preferentially attracts the worse off (which makes sense since religion is largely about making sense of an unpleasant world with promises of an afterlife).

It might to some extent be a question of sosial problems leading to religion rather than the opposite. That is, if people suffer, they might turn to religion for support and comfort.

Likewise, it might be that people in well functioning societies are more likely to turn away from religion.

These sorts of correlations are fairly old news, but I'm cheered by the fact that this article is the Tory-leaning, Murdoch-owned, Times> of London. It's like Darwin on banknotes; it makes me feel secularism is safe in my homeland.

I know it's the same person.

By Sven DiMilo (not verified) on 22 Nov 2008 #permalink

Now to be fair, these aren't causal relationships, and this is only a study of correlations, so religion might not be directly responsible

It doesn't mean that religion is responsible, but it is evidence against the notion that religion increases morality.

By Citizen Z (not verified) on 22 Nov 2008 #permalink

Correlation is indeed not necessarily cause. I hate to bring it up, but if you've ever taken a look at abortion rates, to use one example, you'll not that the District of Columbia has far and away the highest-per-capita rate of any state or district in the country. I have to run out and don't have time to find the link but the numbers, last I checked, were quite staggering. DC is very liberal and very black. Therefore, it would seem that a crucial factor one should be careful to avoid minimizing would be the continuing psychological and sociological aftermath of 300 years of slavery and Jim Crow. One might reasonably wonder what the rates would be once blacks were excluded from the American sample.

Of course, slavery and Jim Crow were the handiwork of our ever lovin', Bible thumpin' southern states so I suppose it would be quite reasonable to bring it all back to religion's doorstep if one has a mind to.

By Michael Fonda (not verified) on 22 Nov 2008 #permalink

I suppose you could get gonorrhea by going to church if you're a Catholic altar boy.

It might to some extent be a question of sosial problems leading to religion rather than the opposite. That is, if people suffer, they might turn to religion for support and comfort.

You mean like,

Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.

"Faith is believing in something you know isn't true." -Mark Twain

"But with the state of American religion, you are very likely to catch a kind of pernicious ignorance by going to church..."

Bullshit.

These correlations are associated only with a particular flavor of church, and I suspect you know that, PZ.

I dare speculate that the religious are much more likely to suffer a loss of faith in god than we godless nonbelievers are.

It's true -- religion often leads to apostasy!

Sven--The article linked to in post #3 says it was written by Gregory Paul in Baltimore, MD. Greg Paul the paleontologist works at Florida State University in Tallahassee, so I think we can conclude that these are two different Greg Pauls.

By cactusren (not verified) on 22 Nov 2008 #permalink

I believe the cause of America's social ills is not religion, it's right-wing conservatism. The US is by far the most right wing democratic nation on the planet, and it's the only modern industrial nation not to have implemented progressive institutions like universal health care and an effective social safety net. That results is greater disenfranchisement, a larger poverty gap, and worst of all, a massive prison population (five times that of any other western nation) which further promotes violence and social instability.

One can argue whether fundamentalist religion begets conservatism, or conservatism begets fundamentalist religion, but am increasingly convinced that it's conservatism that's the root cause. What you believe, and how you believe tends to be determined by your political outlook, not the other way around.

Moving the country politically to the left and keeping it there is the most important way to close the gap on our competition around the world. Hopefully a successful two term Obama presidency will take us a long way down that road.

NB That's old news (check the date on it) - meaning (among other things) that the "Wall Street Journal editorialist" had no real excuse for remaining unaware of the reality of the situation, had he bothered to do the research part of his job.

That article has been in my collection of interesting links from before it even had that particular URL format (and has often been posted in rebuttal to false religious claims). The locations of things change from time to time and then I have to struggle to find the new one if the old one doesn't redirect properly. Perhaps, in future, I'm going to have to store representative strings of text from the content of pages.

spgreenlaw: Me too; that's why I took the opportunity to repeat it. It's surprising how many people only know the second sentence.

This must be God reducing the murder rates, early mortality, sexually transmitted diseases and abortion, of non religious countries such as France, Scandinavia, Japan.

It's obvious this is one of his tests, to check if Americans can resist the temptation of losing their religiosity.

By negentropyeater (not verified) on 22 Nov 2008 #permalink

Re #19: No, Greg *Erickson* is the paleontologist who works in Florida. The article PZ links to is indeed by Greg Paul the paleontologist from Maryland, because I know his opinions on religion & society quite well from the VRTPALEO mailing list.

My own take on it is that the more secular societies are better able to make pragmatic decisions. Deeply held religious beliefs may inhibit a society from adopting policies that work if they are seen to offend those beliefs.
Secular societies are not immune from these effects, and religion isn't the sole source of them but it's one less disadvantage.

I find that to be a fascinating correlation. I agree that we should be careful to attribute a causal relationship here. I would also add that the church folk and the "unvirtuous" in these countries (like the USA) aren't necessarily the same people. (They might be; I don't know.) In other words, not only might this be the result of a common cause (I vote for despair and insecurity about the future), but that religiosity and crime, etc. may be rival ways of coping with it. It would be interesting to see a more detailed demographic analysis that addresses this.

@ 24

Agh...I'm embarrassed. For some reason I seem to switch around people's last names. I did the same thing recently with Larry Whitmer and Larry Martin. Stupid brain!

By cactusren (not verified) on 22 Nov 2008 #permalink

Posted by: Michael Fonda | November 22, 2008 12:25 PM

Correlation is indeed not necessarily cause. I hate to bring it up, but if you've ever taken a look at abortion rates, to use one example, you'll not that the District of Columbia has far and away the highest-per-capita rate of any state or district in the country. I have to run out and don't have time to find the link but the numbers, last I checked, were quite staggering. DC is very liberal and very black.

I got the biggest politics-shock of my life as a young white professional to that back in the 1980s. As we saw in California, from a SOCIAL standpoint blacks are a lot more conservative about many things than whites. Like it or not, black does not equal liberal, despite overwhelmingly voting for (pandering) Democrats over (racist pandering) Republicans.

Since then I've pretty much believed that it's best to not even try to classify blacks as "liberal" or "conservative" from the white political meme of what is either. It is, in this area, a significantly different population.

I have generally find blacks to be more 'conservative,' if you will, in their attitudes about law and order, religion and sex. Much of this is because of their situation in this fucked up country of ours.

Now, the correlation in DC, FWIW, happens to be around poverty. Which is, frankly, (at 75%) THE PRIMARY DRIVER OF ABORTION -- the inability to raise a child due to economic conditions.

I tell Christianist people all the time, you want to fix "abortion" as birth control? First, fix poverty. Second, fix sex education and make birth control easy to get. Those will put a HUGE dent in abortion.

And it's what 'Jesus' would do, not blow up abortion clinics or act like self-righteous assholes...

Re #19: No, Greg *Erickson* is the paleontologist who works in Florida. The article PZ links to is indeed by Greg Paul the paleontologist from Maryland, because I know his opinions on religion & society quite well from the VRTPALEO mailing list.

This is absolutely correct. The author of the linked article and the palentologist are the same Gregory Paul.

Cliff
Baltimore, MD

John wrote: These correlations are associated only with a particular flavor of church, <\i>

And which flavor would that be? Any one you don't subscribe to, perhaps?

I'm not a sociologist or statistician (Deo gratias) but a few things strike me as dubious about this piece of research.

Firstly, the survey, by its own admission, deals only with the "quantifiable" (ie material) indicators of social wellbeing. But is social health measurable in purely quantifiable terms? Let's suppose for the sake of argument that the survey is right in its assertion that religious societies are more crime- and violence-ridden than secular ones. For all we know, religious faith might help make the populace more psychologically robust in coping with violence. For all we know, the prevalent religious attitudes might lead to more vigorous counter-strikes and stricter punishments against the criminal classes on the part of the authorities, thus boosting the general morale of law-abiding society.
Conversely, the survey might be right in claiming that secular societies have a greater level of material prosperity than religious ones - but does prosperity always equal happiness? What about the levels of stress and depression in these respective societies?

Secondly, the survey never really gets to grips with what constitutes a "religious" or "secular" society. How are these to be defined? One might assume Spain's Catholic heritage qualifies it as relatively "religious", but it's still considerably more secular than it was, say, in Franco's day. And Phillip II probably wouldn't even recognise modern Spain as being a Catholic country at all.
The fact is, most modern "religious" nations are half-secularized anyway. Consider the curious assertion that non-religious societies have "low" abortion rates - does that mean in comparison to religious societies? Which religious societies have higher abortion rates than non-religious ones? And suppose if could be shown that (to take a purely hypothetical example) Ireland has higher abortion rates than the UK, that would still only be modern, semi-secular Ireland. I don't believe De Valera's Ireland had higher abortion rates than Brown's Britain.
And what about France? The survey classes France as secular. Well, yes, there is a powerful current of laïcisme in post-Revolutionary France, but there is also a strong spirit of Catholic reaction that should not be underestimated. And I suspect an analagous situation exists in Japan, another "secular" nation according to the survey.
These hazy definitions allow the survey to play fast and loose. If the USA seems in many ways "dysfunctional" - well, that can only be because it is the "most theistic" secular nation (ie isn't really secular at all) - which is highly questionable. (BTW, I love the chutzpah with which low crime-rates in Catholic countries are dismissed as "statistical noise".)

Thirdly, the ultra-secular UK is conspicuous by its absence. Could that be because its high levels of crime, delinquency, teenage pregnancy and STDs give the lie to the survey's thesis?

Finally, as PZ concedes, even if we accept the claim that some religious societies are more dysfunctional than some secular ones, how can we be sure religion is the causal factor here? There might be countless other factors, economic, climatic, God knows what, that the survey doesn't take into account ...

By Piltdown Man (not verified) on 22 Nov 2008 #permalink

"The study shows that England, despite the social ills it has"

Social ills? Huh? Compared to other countries we are hardly remarkable. We have far fewer cases of rampant fundie mentalism.

@Piltdown man: Not vague, not at all. See original article linked @3. Lots of specific measures of religiosity plotted against lots of specific markers of social well-being and broadly the same story across them all. Britain is included in the data; it doesn't actually seem to far from "religion sucks" trend-line on most of the scales.

Likewise, it might be that people in well functioning societies are more likely to turn away from religion.

I think there is an important feedback element here :

1. as long as religion keeps people, especially the more defavorised, into the mode of rationalization of inequalities, they don't demand as much welfare improvements
Typical example is of course the extremely low voter turnout in all postwar US presidential elections of the "bottom quarter", (the 25% lowest income have systematically showed up with less than 35% turnout in each election) : this helps to ignore their demands and explains why the US has never had any form of social-democratic alternance to the usual Republican//Democratic system.

2. A gradual decrease in religiosity should reduce the element of rationalization of inequalities experienced by the populations, thereby increasing their demands for welfare. As more welfare programmes are put in place, the need for religion decreases, whch accelerates the decline in religiosity.

The USA is now begining phase 2, whereas European countries started with it n the 60s.

The result will be the same, a very rapid and accelerated decline of religion in the next 25 years, andincreased demands for welfare and social benefits from the more defavorised.

Can't change the movement.

By negentropyeater (not verified) on 22 Nov 2008 #permalink

Pilty, what's so hard about understanding religion keeps people stupid. A mind free of god and religion can ask the right questions to really solve problems.

By Nerd of Redhead (not verified) on 22 Nov 2008 #permalink

#12

While African Americans vote liberal (its in their economic and basic social interests) they are also very religious. Often fundamentalist. This is why, among other reasons, there is still so much pandering to religion in the Democratic party.

John wrote: These correlations are associated only with a particular flavor of church

That isn't incorrect. If all those millions of right-wing fundamentalist Christians were faithful Methodists or Presbyterians then America would be a much different place. That's why I believe it fundamental correlation with the health of a society is with political belief, not religious belief.

If we moved America politically leftwards to the center of the political spectrum of a typical Western democratic nation, then we would all be much better off.

2/3rds of voters under the age of 30 voted for Obama this time around, which is a hopeful sign that we're beginning to move in the right direction. If he has a successful first term and is re-elected then a whole generation of voters will be left-leaning (much like Reagan did in 1980/84). If, at the same time we get meaningful healthcare and welfare reform (to bring us into line with other countries) then a permanent shift may well be within our grasp.

The right-winger know it. Just the other day, one of the leaders of the Cato Institute said that if the Democrats get universal healthcare passed into law, Republicans--as they exist today--are all but doomed.

We have far fewer cases of rampant fundie mentalism.

I can picture John Hagee right now, giving someone a cold reading - "Yessir! The Lo-ahd Jayzuss iz-ah telling mah! The name begins with an S...or a K...or an SK..."

Hee. Rampant fundie mentalism.

Firstly, the survey, by its own admission, deals only with the "quantifiable" (ie material) indicators of social wellbeing.

Oh, goodness. The DI approach to social science, now?

By Citizen Z (not verified) on 22 Nov 2008 #permalink

If all those millions of right-wing fundamentalist Christians were faithful Methodists or Presbyterians then America would be a much different place.

Are Presbyterians uniformly moderate on that side of the pond? In Europe we get fuckwits like Ian Paisley.

For all we know, the prevalent religious attitudes might lead to more vigorous counter-strikes and stricter punishments against the criminal classes on the part of the authorities, thus boosting the general morale of law-abiding society.

Except that the part behind the "thus" doesn't follow from the part before.

And what about France? The survey classes France as secular. Well, yes, there is a powerful current of laïcisme in post-Revolutionary France, but there is also a strong spirit of Catholic reaction that should not be underestimated.

I live in France, and I can tell you that the Catholic reaction can be safely ignored, even more so than the Bible Belt of the Netherlands. Yes, it exists, but it is much smaller than you seem to believe, and of course smaller than it portrays itself.

Typical example is of course the extremely low voter turnout in all postwar US presidential elections of the "bottom quarter", (the 25% lowest income have systematically showed up with less than 35% turnout in each election) : this helps to ignore their demands and explains why the US has never had any form of social-democratic alternance to the usual Republican//Democratic system.

Voting for president in a safe state is completely useless, and many people understand that...

What does turnout in swing states look like?

By David Marjanović, OM (not verified) on 22 Nov 2008 #permalink

Are Presbyterians uniformly moderate on that side of the pond?

To be honest, I'm not sure. I just picked the first two mainstream denominations I thought of. I was raised a Methodist in the U.K. so I know they're liberal Christian lot (though that does seem to vary more in the U.S.) and I'd forgotten about Ian Paisley and his mob.

Suffice to say that if instead of fundamentalists and charismatics we had mainstream moderates in the Christian church in the U.S. then we probably wouldn't have half the number of social ills we currently have in America.

My parents are practicing Methodists and I am an atheist, but they are more liberal than I am in some cases! Oh for an America full of wishy-washy liberal Christians! (I would prefer non-believers, of course, but it would be a step in the right direction).

And what about France? The survey classes France as secular. Well, yes, there is a powerful current of laïcisme in post-Revolutionary France, but there is also a strong spirit of Catholic reaction that should not be underestimated.

Well, you must like plaisanteries

In case you speak french, here's a little article on some statistics summarising the situation :
http://atheisme.free.fr/Contributions/Religion_etat_des_lieux.htm

1. only 55% declared catholics left in France
2. of these 55%, only 50% of them believe in God !
3. that means only 22.5% true catholics (TM)
4. of these, only 4% (!!!) , practice regularly.

Strong Catholic spirit in France ?

Maybe in your dreams...

By negentropyeater (not verified) on 22 Nov 2008 #permalink

What does turnout in swing states look like?

What's the relevance to the point I was making ?

By negentropyeater (not verified) on 22 Nov 2008 #permalink

Piltdown, while it's true that we do care about things that have thus far avoided quantification (happiness, say), unquantifiables aren't the only things that matter. Take the homicide rate. It's obvious that lowering it is a good thing for society, whether or not doing so increases average happiness.

You could speculate that religion is so good for the unquantifiables that religious societies are actually better off, even though they tend to have worse quantifiables, but you've really got nothing to go on here.

Piltdown, I have one thing to correct you on: Japan does not have a reactionary religious movement. The figures for religious people in Japan (i.e. those who actually regularly attend any kind of spiritual organization) are very low. They might have some reactionary Nationalist views lurking in the background, but religion is nearly dead there. Every Japanese teacher I have had has said that when asked what religion they belong to, they don't even know what the questioner means.

They come from a place where religious traditions are blended with about as much reverence as we have for tacky fads. Even Shinto, the native belief system, is not so much believed in, as it is inherited like a tradition. Sort of like someone who is culturally Jewish.

Anyway, everyone else seems to have taken care of the rest of your post.

David Marjanović @43:

I live in France, and I can tell you that the Catholic reaction can be safely ignored ... Yes, it exists, but it is much smaller than you seem to believe, and of course smaller than it portrays itself.

Size isn't everything.

negentropyeater @45:

Strong Catholic spirit in France ?
Maybe in your dreams...

I'd rather dreams than nightmares.

By Piltdown Man (not verified) on 22 Nov 2008 #permalink

I'd rather dreams than nightmares.

Ignoring the fact that this has no baring at all, on the fact that your previous claim (to which negentropy eater was responding) was pure wishful thinking: MOST ARBITRARY. PROJECTION CURVE, EVAH!

Ugh - The Times. Not a pleasant use of trees or bytes - see their regular denial of climate change, amongst others.

The original article - http://moses.creighton.edu/JRS/2005/2005-11.html - provides some interesting conclusions:

...the exceptionally wealthy U.S. is so inefficient that it is experiencing a much higher degree of societal distress than are less religious, less wealthy prosperous democracies. Conversely, how do the latter achieve superior societal health while having little in the way of the religious values or institutions? There is evidence that within the U.S. strong disparities in religious belief versus acceptance of evolution are correlated with similarly varying rates of societal dysfunction, the strongly theistic, anti-evolution south and mid-west having markedly worse homicide, mortality, STD, youth pregnancy, marital and related problems than the northeast where societal conditions, secularization, and acceptance of evolution approach European norms.

...higher rates of belief in and worship of a creator correlate with higher rates of homicide,...

Repeat after me, "correlation does not equal causation." Faulty logic is faulty logic no matter what it is in support of.

By Dave Wiley (not verified) on 22 Nov 2008 #permalink

tacitus @39:

2/3rds of voters under the age of 30 voted for Obama this time around, which is a hopeful sign that we're beginning to move in the right direction.

Oy vey!

By Piltdown Man (not verified) on 22 Nov 2008 #permalink

I'd rather dreams than nightmares.

Yes, and I suppose you believe all Muslims are active jihadists too? Give me a break.

Look, having a majority practicing Muslim population in France is no more appealing that having a majority practicing Catholic population, but there is no need to give in to hysteria. The key is to maintain a strong secular state and state institutions that will withstand an increase in the numbers of religious adherents, and institute policies of integration to ensure that the religious community doesn't become isolated and resentful.

There is nothing inevitable about the rise of Islam to be the dominant faith (politically) in Europe. In fact much of the religious-right's fearmongering about a majority Muslim population in Europe in a few decades has already been debunked many times. Religious extremism of all kinds must be fought at home and (where absolutely necessary) abroad, but being paranoid about it doesn't help at all.

I'd rather dreams than nightmares

Oh, the beautiful projection curve that shows that shows that muslims are going to take over France, and probably why not the whole of Europe.

One of the favourite myths of the ignorant American religious right.

The only problem with it, is that unfortunately for you guys, second and third generation muslims show EXACTLY the same secularization trends in France as the Catholics.

They just abandon the practice of the religion of their parents. They can't be bothered, in our society, there is no need for it, plus our Laïc schools where they learn the same things (Science, Evolution, History, Philosophy, etc...) just makes sure they get rid of their dogmas very rapidly.

So that curve, well, it had an ncrease for a while because we had an influx of immgrants for two generations, but that's stopped, and their chldren are as French and secular as may be.

Tough luck. You won't see no muslims invading Europe, just those damned Atheists.

By negentropyeater (not verified) on 22 Nov 2008 #permalink

SC #55,

I have 0% trust in this kind of research !

By negentropyeater (not verified) on 22 Nov 2008 #permalink

Oh, the beautiful projection curve that shows that shows that muslims are going to take over France, and probably why not the whole of Europe.

One of the favourite myths of the ignorant American religious right.

I realize you're on one of your anti-American tears today, neg, but that's really one of the favorite myths of the European right, and not much discussed over here. And I believe P. Scumbag is one of yours, too. :)

I have 0% trust in this kind of research !

The kind conducted by the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research?

Marx:

Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.

This quote by Marx is no where near as anti-religious as people make it out to be. Nothing wrong with opium or its myriad of derivatives per se. These are among the most common and widely prescribed pain killers.

If you have continuous, untreatable pain from any number of causes, back dysfunction, cancer etc., you will be glad that the FSM invented poppies.

I guess quote mining dates back a few centuries at least.

I somehow doubt that the Icelanders are still so happy ...

I was thinking the same thing when I read it!

After Pilty was properly sliced and diced, s/he attempted to to redirect comments to disparage a different religion. Looks trollish, maybe we should ignore the comments.. s/he's a fake anyway.

@raven#60: When it's quoted in full I don't think anyone takes it as particularly hostile. It's only without the first sentence it can be read as "they're all junkies"

Piltdown Scumbag,
You really are totally incapable of the most elementary intellectual honesty, aren't you? Certainly this survey is not (and does not claim to be) absolutely definitive, but the trends look quite clear: increased religiosity correlates with increases in multiple, measurable social ills. You are reduced first to pretending that France and Japan are not secular countries, and then to the pathetic "I'd rather have dreams than nightmares"! Where's your countervailing research, Scumbag? Time to shut up about the evils of secularism, until you can produce some evidence. And no, before you ask, the Pope's opinion is not evidence.

By Nick Gotts (not verified) on 22 Nov 2008 #permalink

And no, before you ask, the Pope's opinion is not evidence.

Nor is any other random quotation, P.S.

"Who are you going to believe, me or your own eyes?" - attrib Groucho Marx

By Piltdown Man (not verified) on 22 Nov 2008 #permalink

"Who are you going to believe, me or your own eyes?" - attrib Groucho Marx

Idiot troll.

Is it not absolutely typical of the intellectual and moral coward such as Piltdown Scumbag that, when defeated in argument, they flail about wildly, trying to change the subject and land a blow - any blow- on the opponent? What on earth does a graph of the French Muslim population (without of course any hint as to how the projection for future figures was arrived at) or an Obama t-shirt, have to do with the subject under discussion? And for that matter, why is the Obama t-shirt linked to via a Yiddish expression. Obama is Jewish? Or just a tool of the worldwide Jewish-Muslim-Masonic conspiracy against the One True Religion?

By Nick Gotts (not verified) on 22 Nov 2008 #permalink

I have to admit, I got a kick out of the potatohead's link to a picture of the big, scary Muslim population growing unchecked and giving the sniveling little twit "nightmares."

I suggest not clicking on any of the links that idiot slaps up. They're just red herrings, and they're not worth the bandwidth. If the moron is too stupid to answer questions himself, ignore the troll.

BTW, Puerto Rico isn't a country but a self-governing US territory.

PZ, I disagree that the relationship isn't causal (though I think you were getting at this, and know that already).

Look at STD rates, and you'll find that the rates are disproportionately high in religious communities (not simply, as religious people try and suggest, urban communities). Pregnancy and STD rates are highest among areas where "abstinence only" lessons are taught, whether at school, at home or in church.

The moral: kids have sex, and in order to be safe, they need to be made aware of all of their options.

In terms of homocide, again we find that those rates are high in poor, religious communities (which are often urban). There is a direct correlation between poverty and religiosity, and that should always be pointed out.

Why do religious people kill more people than non-religious people?

It's not because they have a jihad.

It's because religious societies don't encourage education, they encourage faith and ignorance, and it is uneducated people, as a general rule, that are responsible for homocides and other violent crimes.

SC@58,
Actually, I have heard the "Muslims are gonna take over in Europe" meme more from Americans than Europeans (although this may be because I argue a lot with Americans on the web). It's used as a taunt by a lot of right-wing Americans whenever any aspect of the US is criticised by a Brit.It's often linked with the invented term "Eurabia", coined by Bat Ye'or, a British historian of Egyptian Jewish origin, but has been publicised extensively by the Canadian Mark Steyn; and with the accusation that most Europeans are antisemitic.

By Nick Gotts (not verified) on 22 Nov 2008 #permalink

Nick Gotts:

Is it not absolutely typical of the intellectual and moral coward such as Piltdown Scumbag

I'm sensing some hostility here, Nick.

What on earth does a graph of the French Muslim population (without of course any hint as to how the projection for future figures was arrived at) or an Obama t-shirt, have to do with the subject under discussion?

Well, the Muslim thing just seemed tangentially interesting in the light of remarks about the Church's waning influence on an increasingly secularized French society.

The T-shirt was prompted by tacitus' enthusiasm for the Obama Nation.

And for that matter, why is the Obama t-shirt linked to via a Yiddish expression. Obama is Jewish? Or just a tool of the worldwide Jewish-Muslim-Masonic conspiracy against the One True Religion?

Nah, the slogan on the T-shirt just reminded me of a famous Nazi slogan.

By Piltdown Man (not verified) on 22 Nov 2008 #permalink

Nah, the slogan on the T-shirt just reminded me of a famous Nazi slogan.

God With us?

Yeah, that was pretty popular amongst Nazis, both during WW2 and today.

What kind of fucking retard posts links to pictures instead of answers to questions? - Capital Dan

A "traditionalist Catholic" fucking retard!

By Nick Gotts (not verified) on 22 Nov 2008 #permalink

Actually, I have heard the "Muslims are gonna take over in Europe" meme more from Americans than Europeans (although this may be because I argue a lot with Americans on the web).

It seemed I heard variants of it all the time in Europe (Spain and the Netherlands), but very rarely in the US (which I've chalked up to the more immediate concern of the right - "OH NOEZ! The MEXICANS! Soon we'll all be speaking Mexican!" - and to the fact that the news/pundits in the US generally pay little attention to anything occurring anywhere in the world that doesn't directly involve the US). I could be wrong, though - it's entirely anecdotal. I was somewhat taken aback by neg's reference (again) to the US in response to Scumbag's comment when I don't believe he's from the US.

Nah, the slogan on the T-shirt just reminded me of a famous Nazi slogan.

Godwin's law...you lose.

Or do you need a picture?

By Feynmaniac (not verified) on 22 Nov 2008 #permalink

Which flavor would that be?

Chunky Monkey?

I'm finding Pilty to be just as mentally disturbed as our poor PR. And about as truthful. In other words, he is too tied up with the lies of the church to see the real truth. Pilty, drop god and religion. That leads to rationality. Time to make the break.

By Nerd of Redhead (not verified) on 22 Nov 2008 #permalink

ugh

yes i know it's tutti frutti.

*mumbles something to himself about correcting something so stupid and shuffles off to check on the Rube Goldberg machine he's creating in his basement

Nick Gotts wrote: Actually, I have heard the "Muslims are gonna take over in Europe" meme more from Americans than Europeans, ...

As long as personal anecdote is going to count for evidence, I can say that I've lived in America all my life and never heard anyone, of any political persuasion, say anything like that. As someone pointed out, very few Americans care at all about what goes on in Europe.

Piltdown Scumbag,

Do you really not realise that a graph including a projected future trend without any explanation of how the projection was arrived at is worthless?

tacitus said:
"Moving the country politically to the left and keeping it there is the most important way to close the gap on our competition around the world. Hopefully a successful two term Obama presidency will take us a long way down that road."

Do you really think a picture of a t-shirt, without any context, is somehow an answer to that? Is this, indeed, a t-shirt intended for supporters or fans of Obama, or for the "New World Order" conspiracy nuts, as seems more likely? What, if anything, were you trying to say? The URL you give has absolutely no context. I tried putting the slogan into google, and the only relevant website is a far-right, racist American one, which claims the t-shirt has appeared in Montreal.

By Nick Gotts (not verified) on 22 Nov 2008 #permalink

Or just a tool of the worldwide Jewish-Muslim-Masonic conspiracy against the One True Religion?

That sounds like a fun conspiracy theory. I love the ones which totally contradict themselves, don't you? It reminds me of one I ran across in around 1997 on the internet, in which the Nazis, Jews, Freemasons, AND Communists were plotting together to take over the world. I think they had a moonbase, too.

As someone pointed out, very few Americans care at all about what goes on in Europe. - tomh

That's not incompatible with what I reported. The meme is just used as a handy sneer when arguing with a Brit (or presumably, any other European). No knowledge of, or concern about Europe is needed.

By Nick Gotts (not verified) on 22 Nov 2008 #permalink

I ran across in around 1997 on the internet, in which the Nazis, Jews, Freemasons, AND Communists were plotting together to take over the world. - Kristinmh

Quite possibly Piltdown Scumbag originated it.

By Nick Gotts (not verified) on 22 Nov 2008 #permalink

I first read of the "muslim takeover of France" in an article by Sam Harris.

Kristinmh wrote: I ran across in around 1997 on the internet, in which the Nazis, Jews, Freemasons, AND Communists were plotting together to take over the world.

Nick Gotts wrote: Quite possibly Piltdown Scumbag originated it.

Yeah, Pilty is a troll. Don't feed him. No need to become polemic.

I drew from this very study in crafting a post about Henninger's column for the WSJ Opinion Journal forum - a post that was rejected because they had already locked the thread (no doubt because half of the early comments were negative and getting high ratings from readers).

Anyway, you can see similar patterns within the U.S. between strongly religious states, especially in the poverty-ridden South, and their more secular "elitist" counterparts. In response to Henninger's admiring remarks about the South being a reservoir of morality, I did a little research and found that Alaska, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and West Virginia had the highest divorce rates in the nation in 2005, and South Carolina and Tennessee came in second and third for all violent crimes in 2007, behind DC.

If poverty and hopelessness are what's driving so many people to seek solace in an imaginary God as well as the real emotional and material support of religious communities, it behooves the godless community to support secular aid organizations and publicly-funded social programs that raise people out of poverty. Bus ads and billboards are nice, and they might change a few middle-class minds, but they don't address the underlying reasons for the prevalence of religious fundamentalism in America.

By Sanity Jane (not verified) on 22 Nov 2008 #permalink

Actually, one could speculate a causal connection: For instance, in areas with high religiosity, perhaps effective sexual education is voted down or protested.

By Adam Cuerden (not verified) on 22 Nov 2008 #permalink

It reminds me of one I ran across in around 1997 on the internet, in which the Nazis, Jews, Freemasons, AND Communists were plotting together to take over the world.

Noooo, the Commie Nazis have gathered allies!

By Feynmaniac (not verified) on 22 Nov 2008 #permalink

Realistically, it's far more likely that poverty and poor education leads to both the societal ills and the religious belief. Critical thinking is religion's greatest nemesis.

A lot if it's to do with optimism. The Liars for Jesus™ are telling them that there's an invisible super-best-friend in the sky who loves them and who will take them to a better place when they die and maybe, just maybe, will reward them with a miracle - a way out of their miserable lives.

But the belief in the religion don't seem to extend as far as actually living by its restrictions - if they even know what those restrictions are; data show actual knowledge of key aspects of scripture is minimal. This implies their belief isn't really that strong. It's like a combination of Pascal's Wager and a fervent hope for some sort of deus ex machina life-changing event.

They want to believe it's true. And they don't believe their lives can get any worse; why not tick the box marked 'Christian' on a survey form? There might be a god, and he might be watching.

It's been the same way for centuries. How do you keep the peasants from revolting? Tell them there's a god, and that god is all-powerful - but he's on the King's side so you'd better not rebel or god will punish you. But don't worry - yes, the king has a castle and a bed while you live in the mud with the pigs, but when you die you'll go to a wonderful place anyway.

I don't think it's fair to say religion is causing the problems, but it may well be making them worse. And it certainly isn't helping.

By Wowbagger (not verified) on 22 Nov 2008 #permalink

I'm not a sociologist or statistician (Deo gratias)

Yeah, because God forbid you should actually study something before spouting off about it.

Let's suppose for the sake of argument that the survey is right in its assertion that religious societies are more crime- and violence-ridden than secular ones. For all we know, religious faith might help make the populace more psychologically robust in coping with violence.

Oh, is that why you had the bronze shiny ones to state that "the law is a big girl's blouse" about the actual legal definition of assault?

Conversely, the survey might be right in claiming that secular societies have a greater level of material prosperity than religious ones - but does prosperity always equal happiness? What about the levels of stress and depression in these respective societies?

Oh! Well, that one is easy. Since strict religious authorities constantly harp on how their congregation is GOING TO BURN FOREVER IN HELL if they don't follow the LAWS OF GOD TO THE LETTER, thereby causing stress and depression in their congregants, those places with fewer strict religious authorities are going to have less stress and depression.

Sheesh.

By Owlmirror (not verified) on 22 Nov 2008 #permalink

This is something we need MA Jeff to throw some sociology-fu at.

Do we know where he's disappeared to?

By Wowbagger (not verified) on 22 Nov 2008 #permalink

This is something we need MA Jeff to throw some sociology-fu at.

Do we know where he's disappeared to?

Hey! I resent that! I'm a sociologist! :) (Albeit one with a very bad cold and a very bad leak that just sprung up in her kitchen...and probably too lazy even under the best of circumstances to take this up. Not even up to discussing the Marx&religion thing at the moment :(.)

Just heard from him the other day - he's OK, dissertating.

Hey SC - sorry, I'd forgotten that you were also a sociologist. I just got so used to MA Jeff being the go-to guy for that sort of expertise that he's who I always think of in situations like this. My own musings are only vaguely- informed ones.

Good to know he's doing okay. Dissertating? Sounds painful - no wonder I stopped a bachelor level (twice)...

By Wowbagger (not verified) on 22 Nov 2008 #permalink

As much as I would like MAJeff to post, I understand the last few weeks before the dissertation is done is rather intense--even if my experience was many years ago.

SC, tell him HI! from all of us, and after he turns in his tome to please post here for a little sanity prior to his defense. We support his efforts.

By Nerd of Redhead (not verified) on 22 Nov 2008 #permalink

Wowbagger - No need to apologize; I was just joking. I generally like to speak as a nonsociologist around here, even though I do get a lot of great ideas for research from reading. He offered much more in the way of substantive sociological contributions.

Dissertating is indeed extremely painful, for all involved. There was a funny article in the Chronicle a while back about how waiting for someone to finish a dissertation is like waiting for a person die of a long-term illness. In this case, though, the suffering has a reward, and I'm sure he'll get there.

Hi PZ! Long time fan here. However, I am disappointed in this post. I beleive this is a misrepresentation of evidence. At least you acknowledge that this is correlational evidence, which many journalists fail to do, but I think that was rather inadequate. There are many many other possible variables here, including race relations or economic disparity. It ought to at least have been said that religion is only one of many things correlating with STDs, violence, and other ills of society.
As a scientist, I beleive you should strive to accurately report evidence, even in an informal blog, and even if it isn't your research. More people will probably read your blog post than the actual article - it is your duty as a scientist to report accurately what a study is showing, which I beleive you failed to do here.
As a social scientist, I take this very seriously, and I hope you do in the future as well.
Also, keep up the good work. This post was an exception.

SC,
Sorry to hear about your cold (and your leak). I'm still recovering from a cold which hit me right in the larynx, and had me on sick leave for over a week - longest I've ever taken off work in my life. Off to Paris for a conference tomorrow, hoping my voice will be fully recovered for my presentation on Tuesday. At least now they've moved the London terminal of Eurostar to St. Pancras, Aberdeen-Paris by rail can be done in a day!

By Nick Gotts (not verified) on 22 Nov 2008 #permalink

I'll certainly tell him you guys were asking after him.

Thanks, Nick. I always get sick when I travel (though this particular trip was well worth it). Most upsetting is that I had to cancel a class, which I absolutely hate to do; also that there will now be maintenance guys here shortly - with any luck - tearing up my kitchen ceiling again.

Sorry to hear about your illness, but your trip sounds nice. Hope you get your voice back!

SC - cool.

Yeah, I can imagine how this is a good place to find starting points for research. My background is in psychology - plays no part in my current life, but it's something I'll forever be interested in - so I'm always wondering about how people end up thinking and acting the way they do.

Hence my fascination the other with how Heddle could be a later-in-life convert after obtaining a PhD in Physics. It just don't add up!

By Wowbagger (not verified) on 22 Nov 2008 #permalink

Hence my fascination the other with how Heddle could be a later-in-life convert after obtaining a PhD in Physics. It just don't add up! Wowbagger

My guess is he was always a prim, strait-laced, pedantic type, drawn to physics by its remoteness from the messiness of human life rather than its intellectual excitement; and has had the misfortune to be infected by the memetic virus of Calvinism, to which his psychological type is naturally prone, possibly after some personal disappointment. After all, if God has predetermined everything, the disappointment was bound to happen, there's nothing he could have done about it... However, I haven't studied his website in any detail, there may be more clues there.

By Nick Gotts (not verified) on 22 Nov 2008 #permalink

Posted by: JStein @#73

PZ, I disagree that the relationship isn't causal (though I think you were getting at this, and know that already).

Look at STD rates ...

JStein,

Remember that there are a whole variety of traits that are being lumped together here. I agree that there probably is a causal relationship between religiosity and things like STD & teen pregnancy rates, but I hesitate to draw that causal connection with violent crimes.

...possibly after some personal disappointment.

That tends to be the clincher, doesn't it? As I always say, I hope my life never becomes so bad that I'm forced to turn to religion for solace.

Still, as sects go, Calvinism is (from what I know) a bit less flat-out stupid than a lot of the others.

By Wowbagger (not verified) on 22 Nov 2008 #permalink

TheSciencePundit,

The causal relationship between religion and violent crime in the inner-city is, your right, a little more difficult to see or argue for. Of course, in many societies, it's incredibly obvious (The Middle East being the prime example).

It also creates inter-civilization warfare and encourages the same kind of tribalism we see in gang warfare.

If it's not causal, then why bring it up?

I mean, there is a high correlation between the level of brainless fuckbotism and the reading of this blog.

Does this blog CAUSE the fuckbotism? Perish the thought.

By pharynguphat (not verified) on 22 Nov 2008 #permalink

This discussion has a beard longer than Santa's,and we have talked about this here a million times before.

Not having the time right now to read this study,I just want to say that I always found it useful to just compare the societies mentioned,in terms of what they are doing to educate,put to work,protect socially and financially,their inhabitants,and to draw conclusions from that.

And while its probably difficult to say whats chicken and whats egg,just look at the scandinavian countries for example for a moment,and compare them with the US,whats the difference?

Health care,employment,education...The murder rate will go down right with religiosity in such an environment,where people just do not have to worry so much

Just my private little theory of everything before I head off to work.....

I mean, there is a high correlation between the level of brainless fuckbotism and the reading of this blog.

If you're presenting yourself as evidence then you're quite correct. Unfortunately, your sample size of 1 isn't good for validity.

By Wowbagger (not verified) on 22 Nov 2008 #permalink

here in Japan, it seems most people have at least some Shintoist/Buddhist/Christian beliefs. however, the performance of rituals etc is extremely unintrusive on public life. if you visit a shrine at any time of day, there will be someone there, praying for good luck, or success or the like - but the minute they leave the shrine, Shinto ceases to hold much importance on the rest of their day. also, people tend to switch faiths according to which is most convenient at a certain time. there is no great political or social investation in religion, generally.

also,

Mr Paul said: "The study shows that England... nation than America."

fail.

We need to be cautious about excusing the United States Christian's criminal tendencies lest we hire another one like g dubya bush. Dubya is very much the same as the christians I have known. Not every christian in the United States commits crime but a disproportionately large number of christian and other god-idea believers do commit crime in the United States.

United States christians learn deception and manipulation directly from their church. They learn thou shall not lie except when it is justified by doing it for their god-idea and in that way there is no crime that a christian can't justified. The bad book that is the center of christian religion can be and is used to justify anything.

Every christian hopes for the "return" of their jebus. In order for that to happen the earth must be in the process of complete failure, they want it and they are willing to work toward that goal. What more cause could there be?

It may not be proven that United States christianity is the root cause of the high crime rate but the arrows do have a tendency to point in that direction.

Well, Catholicism's flavor is obviously that of 2000 year old zombie blood and flesh. Not too appetizing.

As for the others, I dunno but I just imagine them tasting of very mildewy old parchment.

Wait - what does batshit taste like?

The U.S. a "faith based society"? Not since the disciples of John Dewey have been around. Why don't the cowards hiding on our high school and college campuses today stand up and take the credit for the secular society we have become? But then the "higher rates of homicide, juvenile and early adult mortality, STD infection rates, teen pregnancy and abortion in the prosperous(read educated) democracies" would be laid on their doorstep. God forbid! Oops.

By Mike Berry (not verified) on 22 Nov 2008 #permalink

tacitus
The US is by far the most right wing democratic nation on the planet, and it's the only modern industrial nation not to have implemented progressive institutions like universal health care and an effective social safety net.

http://www.ramusa.org/

Past Expedition At the expedition on July 25-27 in Wise, VA, 1584 volunteers provided 5475 services to 2670 patients, for a total value of care of $1,725,418.00! We would like to thank all of the volunteers who made this year's expedition successfu

By maxamillion (not verified) on 22 Nov 2008 #permalink

Mike Berry@117,
Address the issue. There is no doubt the US is much less secular than any other rich nation - and the survey shows it has a much higher incidence of measurable social pathologies. Hence it is absolutely clear at the least that high levels of secularity are completely compatible with much lower levels of these social pathologies than the US shows. (This is, of course, one reason why this survey is highly pertinent even though the mechanisms causing the clear correlation between religion and social pathologies cannot be deduced from it. It gives the lie to anti-secularist propaganda such as yours.)

By Nick Gotts (not verified) on 23 Nov 2008 #permalink

Posted by: Mike Berry | November 23, 2008 2:48 AM
" But then the "higher rates of homicide, juvenile and early adult mortality, STD infection rates, teen pregnancy and abortion in the prosperous(read educated) democracies" would be laid on their doorstep. God forbid! Oops."

Wow Mike! That must be why:

"...white evangelical Protestants make their "sexual début"--to use the festive term of social-science researchers--shortly after turning sixteen. Among major religious groups, only black Protestants begin having sex earlier."
http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2008/11/03/081103fa_fact_talbot

A study of 18 democracies found that the more atheist societies tended to have relatively low murder and suicide rates and relatively low incidence of abortion and teen pregnancy.
http://moses.creighton.edu/JRS/2005/2005-11.html

"Divorce rates among conservative Christians were significantly higher than for other faith groups, and much higher than Atheists and Agnostics experience.
"The Associated Press analyzed divorce statistics from the US Census Bureau. They found that Massachusetts had the lowest divorce rate in the U.S. at 2.4 per 1,000 population. Texas had the highest rate at 4.1 per 1,000. They found that the highest divorce rates are found in the "Bible Belt."
"The AP report stated that 'the divorce rates in these conservative states are roughly 50 percent above the national average of 4.2 per thousand people.' The 10 Southern states with some of the highest divorce rates were Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Texas. By comparison nine states in the Northeast were among those with the lowest divorce rates: Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Vermont."
http://www.religioustolerance.org/chr_dira.htm

Please notice the last quotes were from "belief.net"... not exactly a hotbed of immoral atheists.

"Oops."

By mayhempix (not verified) on 23 Nov 2008 #permalink

//.white evangelical Protestants make their "sexual début"--to use the festive term of social-science researchers--shortly after turning sixteen. Among major religious groups, only black Protestants begin having sex earlier."//

*Gets out the can with the spray tan*

Where can I sign up to that mob???

Owlmirror @96:

I'm not a sociologist or statistician (Deo gratias)

Yeah, because God forbid you should actually study something before spouting off about it.

I used to work in a university bookshop where the sociology department was larger than the philosophy, theology and history sections combined. I spent many a wasted lunch hour browsing through the latest Bauman or Giddens. The impenetrability of the prose was matched only by the transparency of the agenda.

By Piltdown Man (not verified) on 23 Nov 2008 #permalink

Pilty,

you claim qualifications to talk about a particular issue or field from having been in the same room with books on the topic?
Now thats refreshing....

We new it. Pilty is a fraud, just like his moniker.

Pilty, since you post here for often we must think you wish to come over to the rational side. All you need to do is to renounce one more god than you have at the moment. Then the illogic that is religion can fall away, and you can become sane.

By Nerd of Redhead (not verified) on 23 Nov 2008 #permalink

I used to work in a university bookshop where the sociology department was larger than the philosophy, theology and history sections combined. I spent many a wasted lunch hour browsing through the latest Bauman or Giddens. The impenetrability of the prose was matched only by the transparency of the agenda.

Ha! Hahahahahahahahahahahahaha!

(BTW, in the past I used Bauman's Modernity and the Holocaust in intro classes. If you find that prose impenetrable, you're a turnip.)

Sociology may contain a fairly high proportion of blithering nonsense - but it comes nowhere near theology's 100%.

By Nick Gotts (not verified) on 23 Nov 2008 #permalink

//Sociology may contain a fairly high proportion of blithering nonsense //

*Anxiously awaiting SC's deadly reply*
LOL

Atheists are smarter than religitards.

Proud to be an atheist.

By Phil E. Drifter (not verified) on 23 Nov 2008 #permalink

*Anxiously awaiting SC's deadly reply*

:). Nah, I don't have any excess disciplinary pride or defensiveness. I do interdisciplinary research myself, and there's a lot of garbage in most fields. I'm confident that my own work is solid, and I know of (and know) many other strong sociologists, so I don't get my hackles up when people point out the junk.

Hi, clinteas, by the way - long time no flirt. ;)

Hi, clinteas, by the way - long time no flirt.

Yes,i know....dont tempt me tho lol...

Yes,i know....dont tempt me tho lol...

Now I'm tempted to tempt you. Better wait till I'm feeling better, though.

...unless you're planning to send that ticket, Dr. Handsome;D.

SC,
im defenseless atm,tired an a lil tipsy at 3am,worked all day,id send you the crown jewels right now LOL

Been busy with work,therefore lack of presence recently,will try to improve on that i promise...:-)

** It's corporate welfare health care, stupid **

No friend of the big3 monotheisms here.

But, the countries that do well in health are those which have good, universal health care! Including good prenatal care! (surprise! surprise!)

Even in countries which are dominated by the Catholic Church, France, Italy, Spain, medical care is universal and adequate birth control including abortion is provided.

In the US lack of adequate health care resides with corporations which run the most expensive, least provident health care in the world. Second, our means of offering health care through businesses only worsens as workers are closed out of business participation in the system.

Then we must add racism to the mix of deprivation. Poor nutrition among the poor, including poor whites, increases the percentage of chronic diseases like diabetes, heart diseases, and cancer.

Certainly the proto-fascist religions (Southern Baptist, Mormons, right-wing RCs) use the vote, intimidation, death threats, and assassination to curtail all forms of sex education, family planning, birth control.

It's too easy to blame the f**ked up health care system on religion. Bad health care lines the pockets of America's super rich at the same time as providing poor health services to our "loser" demographic segments.

Put your voice on line for health care reform which attacks the rich . . . and we'll see how long you keep your tenured position.

bipolar2

. . . write to Henninger directly via his email. Here's my message to him about the benefits of monotheism:

Date: November 23, 2008 9:15:19 AM PST
To: henninger@wsj.com

Subject: xianity is also a lousy heuristic

** monotheist religious ideologies are equivalent and equally pernicious **

• worldly benefits prove nothing about otherworldly claims

The very earliest xians certainly received benefits in the-here-and-now for their faith: group solidarity and ideological support, especially nurturing anti-intellectualism, anti-semitism, and class hatred. (1Cor1:1-30)

Doubtless, xianity still has something to offer as it has for 2,000 years -- but psychological comfort, decent burial of the dead, communal warmth, common action, pathways for employment, and opportunities for "martyrdom" among the heathen are irrelevant to the truth of any hysterical claim made first by Paul or later writers of Jesus legends, whether accepted into xian orthodoxy or not.

Any member of any sect within islam, xianity, judaism, or zoroastrianism (the big-4 monotheisms) can cite his myths, cultic practices, and endlessly *circular* commentary to equal effect. Citing scripture in *defense* of itself is totally illogical.

What uplifts me, what comforts me, what I'm willing to die for . . . is no evidence whatsoever that any otherworldly belief is true or false. Such reasoning exemplifies ignoratio elenchi -- lack of any logical connection between statements about anyone's psychological state and any religious claim.

The monotheists' magical texts are neither self-guaranteeing nor divinely inspired. They are propaganda.

I'd cheerfully proclaim 'Merry Christmas' if it would really save the Republic from its proto-fascist radio demagogs, its murdering xian thugs, its splenetic prelates, its lying hypocritical politicians, its laughably simple-minded editorialists. But, empty xian cliches won't do a damn thing to make Ameristan back into America. (The America of the 1st amendment guarantees 'freedom of conscience' -- the right not to believe and to say so, exercised freely by Franklin, Jefferson, and Lincoln.)

But, Merry Christmas to you, Mr. Henninger.

bipolar2

Gotchaye wrote,

...a great deal of the US' higher crime, STD, and abortion rates is attributable to the activities of the poor.

This sounded suspect to me so I checked it out.

There is a correlation between poverty and STDs and abortion (see this, this, and this--all articles in peer-reviewed journals). Probably this is due to inadequate access to healthcare. But, the correlation between poverty and homicide is sometimes found to be weak (see this and this), although this study found it to be stronger.

Interesting. It does make sense. Lack of access to healthcare would reasonably result not only in lack of 'family planning' but in STDs going undetected and passed on more frequently. Note that in the UN document in the first reference above,

Portugal's representative pointed out that his Government considered family planning not as a population policy measure, but as a human right and part of a healthy lifestyle.

How different the current U.S. government is... read this article about how anti-sex "pro-life" forces are blocking women's access to reproductive healthcare in the poorest countries in the world...

On another note... Matt Heath quoted:

Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.

Wow. Like others, I had only ever heard the second sentence. The first is so much more compassionate... and rings so true. It must be so comforting to think that some magic infinite being cares about human suffering and will one day come to punish the evil and reward the righteous....

Thanks for the post and the discussion.

Sociology may contain a fairly high proportion of blithering nonsense - but it comes nowhere near theology's 100%.

Case in point: several paragraphs from the Pontifical Biblical Commission on what is acceptable in interpreting Genesis. (Note that it's near the bottom).

When I responded: "I see where the word "pontificate" comes from. blah blah blah blah. What a bloody soporific stretch of stultifying stilted silted sticky sacerdotal stupefacient."; Pilt accused me of having ADHD.

Hypocrite that he is.

By Owlmirror (not verified) on 23 Nov 2008 #permalink

I really think you're reversing the direction of causation. If poverty and disease run rampant, you're more likely to want to pray to a higher power to save you. While this does a great job of disproving the religious right's claim that increased faith will save us, I don't think you can turn around and say that it is causing such abject misery without more evidence. If we fix social ills, people will stop flocking to fairy tales. If we eliminate religion, people are left in shitty situations without hope in a loving God. Fix social problems, and eliminating religion will take care of itself

What a bloody soporific stretch of stultifying stilted silted sticky sacerdotal stupefacient.

I remember this. :)

Sociology may contain a fairly high proportion of blithering nonsense - but it comes nowhere near theology's 100%.

Just to be clear on my response: I agreed with what Nick was saying here (although I don't believe sociology to have an especially high proportion relative to numerous other disciplines), and assumed he wasn't generalizing from this to a dismissal of sociology as a whole. Those who do so are usually not worth the time it takes to educate them (and in Scumbag's case, that's already been established).

Ignorance isn't the cause; arrogance is. Most Christians are raised from an early age to look at baptism and "being saved" as a get out of jail free card. They act immorally and stupidly, not because they don't know any better, but because they are taught to believe that their negative behavior will carry no inescapable consequence.

I really think you're reversing the direction of causation.

PZ, and the original author, are careful to note correlation rather than causation.

If we fix social ills, people will stop flocking to fairy tales. If we eliminate religion, people are left in shitty situations without hope in a loving God. Fix social problems, and eliminating religion will take care of itself

I don't think PZ (or indeed, most atheists) would disagree with this. I certainly don't, not entirely.

(Although there are some more complex and cynical ideas about the relation of religion to social ills, in that I think that religion can indeed make things worse in some cases. See Fighting Words by Hector Avalos for a clearer formulation of some of these ideas. But I would disagree that religion always leads to social situations worsening. At least at the moment.)

By Owlmirror (not verified) on 23 Nov 2008 #permalink

SC @125:

in the past I used Bauman's Modernity and the Holocaust in intro classes. If you find that prose impenetrable, you're a turnip.

In fairness, Ziggy the Commie Collaborator's prose is impenetrable not because it's incomprehensible but because it's juiceless. 'Unreadable' would have been a better word.

But it's not hard to find examples of authentic gibberish:

Rather than a single equilibrium point, such systems generally have multiple metastable regimes. Within each regime, change may occur, but the set of dynamically important variables and interactions remains fixed. ... Systems with multiple metastable regimes may switch rapidly between them as critical thresholds are passed. Furthermore, hysteresis is common. ...

Owlmirror @15:

Pilt accused me of having ADHD.

That was just a joke. I don't actually believe in ADHD or any of the other 'syndromes' to which I jokingly referred.

Julian @139:

Most Christians are raised from an early age to look at baptism and "being saved" as a get out of jail free card. They act immorally and stupidly, not because they don't know any better, but because they are taught to believe that their negative behavior will carry no inescapable consequence.

Wait a minute - I thought the big problem with Christians was that they were oppressed by a crushing weight of moral guilt - that they are taught to believe that the slightest transgression will result in them being hurled headfirst into the lake of fire where they will burn for ever and ever.

Come on, atheists, at least get your story straight.

By Piltdown Man (not verified) on 23 Nov 2008 #permalink

I don't actually believe in ADHD or any of the other 'syndromes' to which I jokingly referred.

Oh! I assume that you actually meant demonic possession, then?

Most Christians are raised from an early age to look at baptism and "being saved" as a get out of jail free card. They act immorally and stupidly, not because they don't know any better, but because they are taught to believe that their negative behavior will carry no inescapable consequence.

Wait a minute - I thought the big problem with Christians was that they were oppressed by a crushing weight of moral guilt - that they are taught to believe that the slightest transgression will result in them being hurled headfirst into the lake of fire where they will burn for ever and ever.

Come on, atheists, at least get your story straight.

*snort*. It is Christianity that teaches both of those contradictory ideas, depending on various theological factors, and which is most convenient for some particular situation.

You get your story straight.

By Owlmirror (not verified) on 23 Nov 2008 #permalink

Got to enjoy Pilty being here, after all the normal theists that come to soften our view of religion, Pilty is here to remind us of the batshit insanity religion either causes or attracts.

Quite interesting how most people negate the cause

The uSA has about 2,3 Million prinson inmates, this is 9 times the number the European Union has with about 68 per 100.000 inhabitants.

The country ist morally bankrupt, caused by its bigottery

Quite interesting how most people negate the cause

The uSA has about 2,3 Million prinson inmates, this is 9 times the number the European Union has with about 68 per 100.000 inhabitants.

The country is morally bankrupt, caused by its bigottery

In fairness, Ziggy the Commie Collaborator's prose is impenetrable not because it's incomprehensible but because it's juiceless. 'Unreadable' would have been a better word.

I have my criticisms of his arguments, but to use MATH as an example of an unreadable [impenetrable, agenda-driven(hard to see how it can be both this and juiceless, but such self-contradiction is typical of you)] sociological work is beyond stupid. (Anyone who doesn't believe me can look it up on Amazon.)

But it's not hard to find examples of authentic gibberish:

Sure - wait until he's out of town like the coward that you are. Don't worry - I'll be sure to point it out to him when he returns. (And he's not a sociologist, AFAIK.) Scumbag.

Ignore Piltdown Scumbag. He dissembles and obfuscates and rationalises like a catholic priest caught in the confessional with an altar boy.

By Wowbagger (not verified) on 23 Nov 2008 #permalink

Yes Mr Myers, how Christians love to bag secularism for their messes. If there was a purity worth sanctifying there wouldn't have been a splintering in the first place requiring the umbrella of secular moderation to keep things under control - or is that confusing the message with man's far from perfect attempt at interpreting it?

If anything, it's the rampant hypocrisy that infects too many religions that leaves them prone to often fair criticisms. We'd probably find that in locales where spirituality takes on a far more authentic way-of-life oriented form, that that practice of faith does actually positively impact their wider spheres. So, yes a differentiation of how that may be experienced and how major world religions too to an appreciable degree tend to. Would appear a cultural thing, and up to the individual personalities in application of their beliefs, like whether someone is a dominator or meek.

Secularism has its roots in a religious past, has never truly extricated itself from an interconnectivity, as is actually defined by its parts. Fair to say that a dominator or even well intentioned paternalistic outlook hinged in religiosity does wreak considerable havoc. There's something can't quite pin down about religion that too often lets bullies rein. They're not in exclusive territory there though. America has been so damned stupid in who they let be top dog and allow selves to be lied to, yet if it's any comfort obedient Asians allow autocratic rule (yet Catholic inspired people power overthrew this in the Philippines) as do African nations who still have one foot firmly planted in tribal forms of definition. Err, but we're meant to be so evolved as the world's superpower.

No one appeared to pick up through the thread the 'argument' that religion as Piltdown reiterated, may help us cope with violence; inferring at the hands of the heathen, poor, uneducated and non privileged stratas. And if not 'heathen' as such, still the other as in the us'n'them script. After all southern blacks joined churches on this very premise ultimately cognisant a moral high ground.

Religion to help cushion us from 'the violence', eeh?....and the economic meltdown (while we accepted divisions of groaning poverty); the war we had to pick (the fact our leaders were Saddam buddies, in bed over guns'n'oil as with many a Muslim, our tempting fate with our tacky B grade spoofs on kicking his and other Arab butts aside); to keep at bay fear of the odds of a crime happening to us (or again (and again), or to help ameliorate life scarring such incidents may have already inflicted), and of course the energy to keep buried any cathartic realisation that enjoying our relative comfort is key to the problem - the historic, complex yet often simple and brutal, entrenched and far reaching violence WE continue to perpetrate under the cloak of denial.

Doesn't seem to matter whether it's our own internal fortitude we depend on or any belief structure leanings, if your head's in the sand over social inequities, what is the difference? Put it this way, I've seen the difference faith has made in people's lives, and the rub is: for better or worse. Immaterial really because how anyone regardless of their label copes with a monumental collapse, will be seen with hindsight either through the lens of pitiful, pathetic yet logical conclusions or as a divine wake up call. So as we brace ourselves for the roller coaster of the economic shake up that us in the over consuming west will have much farther to fall from, the question is will we humble ourselves and learn the lesson (repent the heedlessness) of not having been kind to our brother.

The only way to cope with the festering manifestations of societies gone mad - which you won't truly know unless you live in a first (or other for that matter) world war zone or your insulated comfort zone has been rocked - is to become part of the solution. Really is obscenely woeful that we go to space, invent the most amazing advances yet still haven't dealt with homelessness/ adequate housing, health nor brought education for all out of the dark ages - thus conspiring to maintain/ deepen the status quo.

Depriving a decent education ensures the fear/ ignorance/ poverty fester factor that does not overly concern a secular society anymore than it did a religious one.
Dig deeper: the horror of drugs today exists because of covert govt policies not only designed to debase along racial/poverty lines (wherever established fault lines can be widened), but as indirect revenue through cosying up with cartels and supplier (arms requiring) nations.

Oh yeah, help us cope with keeping intact the thin veneer of civility to keep the bubbling rage of bigotry from boiling over when we decided, or let be decided for us, that it was much easier to blame the socio/ politically/ economically constructed injustices that blight our otherwise comfortable existences ......on the real victims. And of course, we're all jumping up now declaring we ain't racist, sexist, classist etc.

Yeah sure, there's few who can truly lay claim to not have at least covertly - and this is where religion has taught secular bureaucracies well - benefitted from such exercises of power abuse. So we can distance ourselves from overt bigotry, yet all continue to benefit from or be kept under by the structures that maintain inequality. Influences of religion, secularism or post secular aside, squat has changed on that score....except for when a nation slapped itself outa costly malaise and stood up for The Man who stepped up.

There are otherwise invisible disabilities that aren't really disabilities or mental illnesses at all, but blessings if the world didn't have such a narrowly defined view of 'normal'. Like many forms of discrimination there abounds rampant ignorance and denial that certain neurobiological differences even exist let alone what they mean. Yet prisons and psyche wards are loaded with these socially defined sufferers and it's called ADD. Yet despite the demonization of not so/little children, their parents and controversy around drugging, there is simply no causal link to innate criminality in these groups. In the homeless bracket are people with Aspergers (both are on the autistic spectrum), these categories comprising many of the most gifted people now and in history, including Da Vinci, Einstein, Gates and many more (incl entrepreneurial, computer, academic, engineering, legal, medical and creative fields) for whom the world would not be the one we take for granted if they'd been prohibited from expressing their eccentricities.

It flat out sickens me to read reference to a 'criminal class'. What you are in fact referring to Piltdown, is the fact that our types of societies are structured in a pyramid shape where by design, those considerable numbers 'on the bottom' are relied upon for an exploiting strata above. This 'class' vulture feeds on failing to prevent, exacerbates and would appear to at times maliciously derive pleasure from further perpetrating (the 'morale boosting' indulged in by religious/secular alike) in ensuring the disadvantaged stay so.

This comprises, and within each a variety of splintering roles of (though as a generalisation is not meant to offend/invalidate good apples within and restricted by rotten systems), psychologists, social workers, psychiatrists especially the so called clinical forensic type, teachers, doctors, specialists, nurses, refuge workers and variety of community and quasi or govt funded workers (often buck the trend, yet it's worse when those meant to help, engage in client abuse), police, corrections workers, foster 'carers', child 'safety' officers, lawyers, judges, court and other justice dept workers, legal funding entities, journalists....and more. A host of spin off professions that for whom some, much or all of their income is derived on the spoils of another human's often contrived misery.

Innocent people are incarcerated or otherwise punitively dealt with because of sloppy lazy police 'work' that doesn't look past the supposed obvious (hint the licence of tv points at what should be, especially when dealing with the white collar crimes on Criminal Intent; cold cases etc). Children the western world over are taken (traumatised by the act of unwarranted intervention and then abused in 'care') on fraudulent, frivolous grounds. The tools of which are profiling any combination of vulnerable, poor, struggling, non white, single parents.

Oh and so are religious of the non-looney variety targeted as are parents and/or children with mild often undiagnosed disabilities/learning difficulties and of which says nothing about their parenting - often excellent in the face of injustice. Just that they won't have the millions to defend their families and the truth from a monster that has a direct role in producing the types noted in the study. Yet our farce of a society permits flush abusers to pay their way to sanctioned predation.

State legitimised child theft appears as a uniquely secular crime, with its roots of course in colonial brutalities and forms of socialism (hard for a leftie to admit). It is an industry that is through autocratic carte blanche, deception, manipulation, breaking the law including constantly abusing the rights and snuffing out the voice of suffering children 'in their care', perjury, media blindness and lack of political will, defrauding the tax payer, plus near on total contrived public ignorance.

The fact that child abuse is abhorrent, that we all assume that the depts charged with keeping children safe, and that they too often don't is something that we collectively ignore*. We're swayed by slick pr and shock reports which serve as smokescreen propaganda that obscure leaving blatantly hurting kids in danger and removing 'easy to place' innocents with complying foster fraudsters (those complicit with lies).

The prison complex is another heinous industry of "vigorous counter-strikes" that essentially amounts to a condoned and largely unquestioned (profit/punitive driven) war (against often manufactured victims) within so called civilised nations. Along with all the other economic based ventures that hinder and harm rather than help human development, they will spiral out till the backlash reduces our ignorant greedy empires to catastrophe.

Often it's subsets of religion that help clean up some of these messes, that in turn other adherents deepen. However doesn't matter what part of any culture or group you belong to, it you are part of the middle mediocrity that never bothered to examine why/how things transpired as they have, you're likely to fall prey to accepting the biases/persecutions of blaming the victims as though inherent traits deserving of vilification.

*See www.familyrightsassociation.com re congressional inquiry, www.fightcps.com, there's lots out there. There's also a site on adult children speaking out against cruel court decision ripping them from their caring parent (usually mother) and placing with violent abusive predators.

By Pacificpearl (not verified) on 23 Nov 2008 #permalink
What does turnout in swing states look like?

What's the relevance to the point I was making ?

You came up with a hypothesis that explains why voter turnout is so low in the USA. I came up with a more parsimonious one, and that one predicts that turnout is much higher in swing states than in safe states, so that turnout in swing states would have to be higher than the national average. Is it?

If it's not causal, then why bring it up?

It probably is causal. We just can't demonstrate that yet.

Every christian hopes for the "return" of their jebus. In order for that to happen the earth must be in the process of complete failure, they want it and they are willing to work toward that goal.

That depends on the denomination. Most 1) would consider any attempt to accelerate the coming of Judgment Day an attempt to tell God what to do, in other words incredible blasphemy, and 2) believe in Mark 13:32, which says that not even Jesus himself knows when he will return. "The Day of the Lord" is supposed to come "like a thief in the night", without any warning whatsoever, several times in the New Testament.

Those few denominations that disagree, however, are very widespread in the USA...

countries which are dominated by the Catholic Church, France

Fail.

By David Marjanović, OM (not verified) on 23 Nov 2008 #permalink

Sorry, PZ, but you will one day refer to this post as your greatest embarrassment. Citing the Greg Paul study as evidence for anything is really bad for one's credibility. The study is methodologically invalid in all kinds of ways. I met Greg Paul before he published the study and I tried to reason with him about it, but unfortunately his mindset is that of a deeply religious person. (As much as I think the term "fundamentalist atheist" is absurd, people like GP provide some justification for it.) It was even more unfortunate that he succeeded in publishing it in some second-rate religious studies journal (every field has a "Journal of Otherwise Unpublishable Papers" and I suspect religious studies has a shitpile of those) and attracted media attention. (He said he didn't actively publicize his study to the media. In any case, that was in effect the channel for publication of the strong conclusion which he had had to drop in the peer review process.) Because the paper is so easy to debunk - and the reports about it in the media even easier - it has hurt the atheist and secularist causes. I was hoping that enough time had passed and it was forgotten; the last thing we need is to exhume it.

But it's not hard to find examples of authentic gibberish:

Rather than a single equilibrium point, such systems generally have multiple metastable regimes. Within each regime, change may occur, but the set of dynamically important variables and interactions remains fixed. ... Systems with multiple metastable regimes may switch rapidly between them as critical thresholds are passed. Furthermore, hysteresis is common. ...

And this you call gibberish? Come on. That's dead easy. OK, "dynamically important" is not quite clear to me, and I don't know what hysteresis is, but the rest is crystal-clear. I take it you don't know what "metastable" means?

--------------------

Phew. Pacificpearl, please first figure out what you want to say, and then write it down. Otherwise the result gets extremely long-winded, convoluted, and hard to grasp, as it did in this case.

By David Marjanović, OM (not verified) on 23 Nov 2008 #permalink

I'm sure in Pilty's 'mind' - though I use the term loosely - theological writing is magically translated from gibberish into meaningful text by their god's magic powers infinite wisdom. Which, of course, wouldn't happen when anyone who didn't believe in their god read it - it'd only work for True Believers™.

I'm sure I read something to that extent on Ray Comfort's blog.

Considering that these people believe a cracker becomes one of their gods after the witchdoctor does a voodoo dance priest performs a ceremony it's not too hard to accept that they'll believe pretty much anything.

By Wowbagger (not verified) on 23 Nov 2008 #permalink

The time Pilty mentioned he believed that PZ was under demonic posession was the funniest moment I've had on the internet in a long time. It took me about 5 minutes to stop laughing hysterically.

Greg Paul a "social scientist" ..lol. He draws dinosaurs for a living.
This study is a sham. Paul arbitrarily excludes former USSR nations that would contradict his conclusion.Paul also limits the discussion to homicide when he doesn't reveal that crime rates as a whole(taking into account theft, breaking and entering...) are greater according to interpol and International crime victims survey.
Epic fail for secularism (and this post)

Paul arbitrarily excludes former USSR nations that would contradict his conclusion.

And Soviet Union was a secular nation?

Facilis,

Yeah, that would totally undermine all the other evidence for the benefits of a secular society. Care to guess what the crime rates of secular countries like Sweden and Denmark are?

Epic fail for you, assclown.

By Wowbagger (not verified) on 23 Nov 2008 #permalink

Epic fail for secularism

No, it is no more an "epic fail" for secularism than Tim Mahoney or Eliot Spitzer are "epic fails" for the Democratic Party. The study can only embarrass those who support it. It would only become an "epic fail" for secularism if most secularists stubbornly defended such studies against reason.

SC @146:

I have my criticisms of [Bauman's] arguments, but to use MATH as an example of an unreadable [impenetrable, agenda-driven(hard to see how it can be both this and juiceless, but such self-contradiction is typical of you)] sociological work is beyond stupid.

Never read MATH; the one I looked at was called Liquid TImes. In justice, I have to say that this torrent of porridgy prose did contain one vivid and apt series of metaphors. Prof Bauman likened pre-modern man to a gamekeeper, respectfully maintaining an environment whose parameters had been set from on high. By contrast, modern man was a gardener , confidently taking responsibility for designing and shaping his environment according to his own (rationally justified) desires. By contrast again, post-modern man is a hunter struggling to survive by asserting himself against other sin an amorphously hostile and uncertain environment.

Bauman approved of the transition from gamekeeper to gardener, but seemed disconcerted by the latest hunter phase of human development, going so far as to apply the menacing Dantean word inferno to the contemporary societal situation, a word whose theological provenance ironically evoked the pre-modern gamekeeper era.

It occurred to me that Bauman's dismay was that of the eternal Girondin reluctant to admit a ghastly possibility - that the gamekeeper's decision to repudiate his terms of contract and set himself up as a self-employed gardener defined a pattern of rebellion which the hunters merely re-enacted on a universal scale. However respectable his gardening business might appear, however rational and harmonious his garden layouts might seem, the gamekeeper had unilaterally renounced his obligations to uphold the status quo and so effectively turned poacher. By doing so, of course, he had forfeited any right to the Landlord's protection from more cunning and aggressive poachers who might appear on the scene.

But it's not hard to find examples of authentic gibberish:

Sure - wait until he's out of town like the coward that you are. Don't worry - I'll be sure to point it out to him when he returns. (And he's not a sociologist, AFAIK.)

Maybe not a sociologist, but a 'social scientist' surely?

+++

Pacificpearl - if "the Man who stepped up" is a reference to this guy, you're probably in for a (yet another?) sombre disappointment. Check this out.

By Piltdown Man (not verified) on 23 Nov 2008 #permalink

Forgive me -- couldn't resist this (it's by Kipling):

The Gods of the Copybook Headings*

[* "Copybooks disappeared from schoolrooms in Britain and America during, or shortly after, World War II. A copybook was an exercise book used to practice one's handwriting in. The pages were blank except for horizontal rulings and a printed specimen of perfect handwriting at the top. You were supposed to copy this specimen all down the page. The specimens were proverbs or quotations, or little commonplace hortatory or admonitory sayings--the ones in the poem illustrate the kind of thing. These were the copybook headings."]

AS I pass through my incarnations in every age and race,
I make my proper prostrations to the Gods of the Market Place.
Peering through reverent fingers I watch them flourish and fall,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings, I notice, outlast them all.

We were living in trees when they met us. They showed us each in turn
That Water would certainly wet us, as Fire would certainly burn:
But we found them lacking in Uplift, Vision and Breadth of Mind,
So we left them to teach the Gorillas while we followed the March of Mankind.

We moved as the Spirit listed. They never altered their pace,
Being neither cloud nor wind-borne like the Gods of the Market Place,
But they always caught up with our progress, and presently word would come
That a tribe had been wiped off its icefield, or the lights had gone out in Rome.

With the Hopes that our World is built on they were utterly out of touch,
They denied that the Moon was Stilton; they denied she was even Dutch;
They denied that Wishes were Horses; they denied that a Pig had Wings;
So we worshipped the Gods of the Market Who promised these beautiful things.

When the Cambrian measures were forming, They promised perpetual peace.
They swore, if we gave them our weapons, that the wars of the tribes would cease.
But when we disarmed They sold us and delivered us bound to our foe,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: "Stick to the Devil you know."

On the first Feminian Sandstones we were promised the Fuller Life
(Which started by loving our neighbour and ended by loving his wife)
Till our women had no more children and the men lost reason and faith,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: "The Wages of Sin is Death."

In the Carboniferous Epoch we were promised abundance for all,
By robbing selected Peter to pay for collective Paul;
But, though we had plenty of money, there was nothing our money could buy,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: "If you don't work you die."

Then the Gods of the Market tumbled, and their smooth-tongued wizards withdrew
And the hearts of the meanest were humbled and began to believe it was true
That All is not Gold that Glitters, and Two and Two make Four
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings limped up to explain it once more.

As it will be in the future, it was at the birth of Man
There are only four things certain since Social Progress began.
That the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her Mire,
And the burnt Fool's bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire;

And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins
When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins,
As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will burn,
The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return!

By Piltdown Man (not verified) on 23 Nov 2008 #permalink

Never read MATH; the one I looked at was called Liquid TImes. In justice, I have to say that this torrent of porridgy prose did contain one vivid and apt series of metaphors...

Blah blah blah. You're far from qualified to pontificate on such matters, Scumbag.*

Maybe not a sociologist, but a 'social scientist' surely?

So what? Sociology was the discipline under discussion. In any event, you've not established by any stretch of the imagination that what you quoted was gibberish, in context or not. It was merely a bit of scumbaggery on your part, which we've all come to expect.

*Perhaps SfO, having installed shelving in a college bookstore, will weigh in soon...

@Wowbagger
[Care to guess what the crime rates of secular countries like Sweden and Denmark are?]
We don't have to guess.You can check the stats here
http://www.verumserum.com/?p=25

From what I see the US does pass Sweden in homicide rate but Sweden does pass us in other categories like theft, assault, sexual assault and overall victimization.Sweden has an overall higher victimization rate.

Faith hurts =

more than 75% of born again christians voting for G.W.Bush

By negentropyeater (not verified) on 23 Nov 2008 #permalink

From what I see the US does pass Sweden in homicide rate...

Well, it's not as if Christians have ever been told they shouldn't murder people, is it?

Oh, wait...

By Wowbagger (not verified) on 23 Nov 2008 #permalink

@Wowbagger
[ Well, it's not as if Christians have ever been told they shouldn't murder people, is it?

Oh, wait...]
FBI statistics indicate the majority of of homicides occur due to gang violence in urban areas. I'm going to ask you to be honest and practical. Do you think that this gang violence occurs due to
a)religious affiliation
b)other factors like lack of gun control, illegal immigration, poverty and drug abuse
Which do you feel?

Facilis,

At no point is it posited that religious affiliation causes increased crime; it's more that adhering to it as a belief system is meant to lead to a better, more moral society. The US is considered a strongly christian nation; ergo, it should be a better, more moral society.

And yet it's not. Numerous studies show that the proportion of US prison population features an overrepresentation of christians and an underrepresentation of non-religious, relative to the US population.

Christianity doesn't necessarily make people 'bad'. But it claims to be able to make them 'good', but it's been shown that it fails miserably.

By Wowbagger (not verified) on 23 Nov 2008 #permalink

@Wowbagger
[it's more that adhering to it as a belief system is meant to lead to a better, more moral society. The US is considered a strongly christian nation; ergo, it should be a better, more moral society.
And yet it's not.]
But I showed that the overall crime rate of the US was less than the example of Sweden you used.
And I'm going to ask you- do you think the drug lords and gang-bangers committing those homicides are typical church-going Christians? Answer honestly.
And about the prison statistics,Stistics from English and Welsh prisons show that those who are non-religious are 4 times as likely to go to jail that a Christian.
I don't know what you got your survey from.

And I'm going to ask you- do you think the drug lords and gang-bangers committing those homicides are typical church-going Christians?

If the gang-bangers call themselves Xian, they are Xians. You have to accept everyone who calls themselves one. Otherwise, you run up against the "no true Scotsman" syndrome. You cannot pick and chose your data.

By Nerd of Redhead (not verified) on 23 Nov 2008 #permalink

I don't know what you got your survey from.

In the US prison system, only a tiny fraction of atheists are in there per capita than of religious bent. Now I think this has nothing to do with atheism being better than religion, just that religion targets the stupid and the desperate so of course they'll have a higher crime rate.

But to argue about this is to miss the point. Religion prides itself on being a moral beacon for humanity, yet the evidence shows this is the opposite. The point is not that religion makes you evil, it's that it's not the magic answer that it's reported to be. It's time we shifted our thoughts away from religious ownership of morality, and work towards a more secular* society.

*note that secular != atheist.

Facilis wrote:

And I'm going to ask you- do you think the drug lords and gang-bangers committing those homicides are typical church-going Christians? Answer honestly.

Why do you have to be 'typical' or 'church-going' to be a christian? I don't believe any of the christian commentators who describe the USA as 'a christian nation' and cite statistics of how large a proportion of the US identify as christian specify that it must be 'typical' or 'church-going' christianity to qualify. As Nerd explained, all it takes to be considered a christian is to say 'I'm a christian'; otherwise you're descending the slippery No True Scotsman slope.

If the drug lords and gang-bangers identify as christian then they are christians for the purpose of analysis.

Here are some figures of US prison population, found here

Response Number %
---------------------------- --------
Catholic 29267 39.164%
Protestant 26162 35.008%
Muslim 5435 7.273%
American Indian 2408 3.222%
Nation 1734 2.320%
Rasta 1485 1.987%
Jewish 1325 1.773%
Church of Christ 1303 1.744%
Pentecostal 1093 1.463%
Moorish 1066 1.426%
Buddhist 882 1.180%
Jehovah Witness 665 0.890%
Adventist 621 0.831%
Orthodox 375 0.502%
Mormon 298 0.399%
Scientology 190 0.254%
Atheist 156 0.209%
Hindu 119 0.159%
Santeria 117 0.157%
Sikh 14 0.019%
Bahai 9 0.012%
Krishna 7 0.009%

Please note where 'Atheist' appears in the list.

By Wowbagger (not verified) on 23 Nov 2008 #permalink

@Wowbagger
Don't embarrass yourself
look here
http://christiancadre.blogspot.com/2008/03/bogus-atheist-social-science…
That figure you highlighted is only the people who put "atheist" in response to the question of religion.
Your own source reveals that 18381 inmates answered unknown or non-religious. (about 20% of the full total) Why don't we just take all the non-religious people?
And what about those prisons who convert during their time in prison.
http://main.uab.edu/show.asp?durki=87547
Studies show they are less likely to be violent.

Ahh believers, you just can't convince them of anything but the good that Christianity does. If one set if figures doesn't work, look at another and say it's more important. So there's lies, damn lies, statistics, and whatever that facilis uses to justify his own delusion that religion makes someone a better person.

Facilis,

I don't see how I embarrassed myself. Even if you assume that the 'unknown' and 'non-religuous' respondents are all atheists (unlikely), and you add those numbers to the 'Atheist' total you still get fewer than either the 'Catholic' or the 'Protestant' totals alone, let alone all the christian sects added together.

Atheist 156 + unknown/non-religious 18381 = 18537
Catholic = 29267
Protestant = 26162

I'll admit the other study you cited has potential, but it's one study in one prison. Plus the information is gathered, if I interpret the article correctly via self-report ('Inmates were asked about...') - I'd prefer data obtained via other methods.

By Wowbagger (not verified) on 23 Nov 2008 #permalink

@Wowbanger
The point is that atheists make up about 3% of the US and non-religious about 9%. So the percentage of non-religious people inside jail is higher than out.
And the percentage of protestants is about 53% while in prison it is about 35%.
So we can conclude that non-religious people are over-represented in prison and Protestants are under-represented.

Facilis, why don't you do what any good scientist would do. Get a grant to do a proper study, then do the study on a much larger cohort and honestly publish the results. Personally, I am a bit worried about your honesty when it comes to publishing the results. You appear to have a bias.

By Nerd of Redhead (not verified) on 23 Nov 2008 #permalink

facilis,

we can conclude no such thing.
But you probably know that.

Facilis,

Your last post supports my position - that christianity is not in any way helpful in providing a moral and/or ethical framework. If there were fewer christians than atheists in prison then you might have a point - but there aren't. There are far, far more.

Even when you misinterpret data (why do you separate protestants from catholics? Both are christian, just different sects) as you've just done, the numbers are still clearly showing belief as a stronger indicator of criminality than non-belief.

By Wowbagger (not verified) on 23 Nov 2008 #permalink

It's funny watching Facilis coming to the conclusion that America is better off than Sweden because Sweden has more general crime, even though the murder rate is much lower. Statistics can be used to represent anything as facilis is showing, just another hack who knows how to manipulate the numbers to suit his own agenda.

(why do you separate protestants from catholics? Both are christian, just different sects)

Not according to the protestants.

Heh.

By Owlmirror (not verified) on 23 Nov 2008 #permalink

just another hack who knows how to manipulate the numbers to suit his own agenda.

Hilariously enough, Kel, if you go to the link he posted in one of his threads it'll show you that Australia is actually the most dangerous country in the world, according to the statistics.

I found that extremely amusing.

By Wowbagger (not verified) on 23 Nov 2008 #permalink

@Nerd
[Facilis, why don't you do what any good scientist would do. Get a grant to do a proper study, then do the study on a much larger cohort and honestly publish the results.]
Why don't you go do a proper study?
[You appear to have a bias.]
I don't see you decrying the study PZ cited and its bias. (Greg Paul was writing secularist and anti-Chritian books saying that secular soieties were more moral before he ever did any study)

@Kel
[It's funny watching Facilis coming to the conclusion that America is better off than Sweden because Sweden has more general crime, even though the murder rate is much lower. Statistics can be used to represent anything as facilis is showing, just another hack who knows how to manipulate the numbers to suit his own agenda.]
America tends to have more murders because of gang violence and such.
But he wanted to compare America to Sweden and I showed him the overall statistics. What is wrong with that?

Hilariously enough, Kel, if you go to the link he posted in one of his threads it'll show you that Australia is actually the most dangerous country in the world, according to the statistics.

lol, the only thing to be afraid of in Australia is Drop Bears.

I don't see you decrying the study PZ cited and its bias.

So it's okay for you to be biased because we aren't calling others out on their bias?

America tends to have more murders because of gang violence and such.
But he wanted to compare America to Sweden and I showed him the overall statistics. What is wrong with that?

The problem with that is it's misleading. Sweden is a much safer place than the United States, yet by counting murder as comparable to minor theft, you can make Sweden look far more dangerous. This is the misuse of statistics to further your own agenda.

[So it's okay for you to be biased because we aren't calling others out on their bias? ]
I'm just pointing out inconsistencies

[The problem with that is it's misleading. Sweden is a much safer place than the United States, yet by counting murder as comparable to minor theft, you can make Sweden look far more dangerous. This is the misuse of statistics to further your own agenda.]
What about other things like sexual assault? Aren't those dangerous?

Facilis, the original post includes this:

These nations had been the most successful in reducing murder rates, early mortality, sexually transmitted diseases and abortion, he added

Emphasis mine - and I believe you yourself found data to support this. The linked article does not mention the relative levels of other kinds of crime, which is what your argument has so far been dependant upon.

Neither PZ nor Greg Paul appear to have made that claim. So far it's only been me who made generalised claims about the difference in crime statistics, and I admit I was wrong to have made an unfounded claim - bearing in mind I'm not admitting to being wrong until I see more data.

But that has no bearing on the original topic - which is that the data support a population's religiosity as indicative of certain specific antisocial behaviours.

By Wowbagger (not verified) on 23 Nov 2008 #permalink

Your own source reveals that 18381 inmates answered unknown or non-religious.

PHWEET!!!!!

I call 'Foul'.

The actual text says:

  Unknown/No Answer 18381

Not "non-religious". No Answer.

The "Orthodox" answer looks a bit low. And why is it not broken out into at least Russian and Greek Orthodox?

I would suspect that there are a lot of Russians in jail who gave No Answer.

What the hell religion is "Moorish"? And for that matter, "Nation"?

Hm.

This looks like this might be the former:

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

And perhaps the latter is short for this?

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

Yet why are they separate from Islam itself? Are they really that distinct?

By Owlmirror (not verified) on 23 Nov 2008 #permalink

We don't have to guess.You can check the stats here ...

A post on a Christian blog? Colour me unimpressed. Let's use the source they claim to use [1] and examine your claims...

Sweden does pass us in other categories like theft,

The prevalence rates (USA/Sweden) are: theft of car, 1.1/0.5 [1,p.50]; theft from car 5.2/4.2, [1,p.54]; theft of motorcyle, 0.3/0.6 [1,p.58]; bicycle theft, 5.0/2.9 [1,p.60], strongly correlated with ownership rates [1,p.63]; burglary 2.5/0.7; theft (incl. pickpocketing) 4.8/2.4 [1,p.71].

assault,

Continuing: robbery 0.6/1.1 [1,p.74], assaults and threats 4.3/3.5 [1,p.81].

sexual assault

Continuing: sexual assault against women 1.4/1.3 [1,p.78]

and overall victimization.

The overall rate of victimisation in Sweden is lower than in the United States (p.43), but not significantly.

In other words, in every category you have listed, except the subcategories of two-wheeled vehicle theft and robbery, you are wrong.

1: Van Dijk, van Kesteren, and Smit, Criminal Victimisation in International Perspective: Key findings from the 2004-2005 ICVS and EU ICS, Boom Legal Publishers, The Hague, Netherlands, 2008. Available from: http://rechten.uvt.nl/icvs/news.htm#Report

What about other things like sexual assault? Aren't those dangerous?

Indeed they are. Just as regular assault is. But to add up all numbers together and compare the two per capita is misleading. This is why statistics are such a hard tool to use properly, they can be misused by anyone who has an agenda. In this case, despite the massive murder rate in the United States, you are arguing that Sweden is more dangerous because it's got a higher overall level of crime. You need to include the severity of crime, the reporting rates, the way the data was compiled, whether the same types of data are included.

That's the problem when you are changing the data set. Murder rates are comparable, overall crime in a society is more diffuse and harder to represent accurately. It's hard enough to deal with a single set of statistics, don't blend & mesh.

[This is the misuse of statistics to further your own agenda.]
I'm not trying to further any agenda. He claimed that Sweden was better off and I compared statistics and showed him the only category that US led Sweden in was homicide and Sweden had us beat in every other one. No manipulation involved

I'm not trying to further any agenda. He claimed that Sweden was better off and I compared statistics and showed him the only category that US led Sweden in was homicide and Sweden had us beat in every other one. No manipulation involved

Yet it seems that was a lie as Emmet pointed out above.

Of course homocide is a huge factor in the safety of society. Having a slightly higher theft rate does not make up for the glaring difference in murder rate.

@Emmet
I and the guys at veritas were using the 1999 figures. You appear to use a different year.
But I'm glad you agree that overalll crimerates aren't that much different

So far it's only been me who made generalised claims about the difference in crime statistics...

It's very difficult indeed to make meaningful international comparisons of crime statistics because of, inter alia, different definitions in different jurisdictions, different rates of reporting and recording, different social attitudes, etc. Interpol removed the per country crime statistics from their website in 2006 for exactly this reason -- people comparing apples and oranges.
Ireland (nice little Catholic country that it is) tops the poll in many categories in ICVS-5, but the actual crime statistics don't bear out the survey. I put it down to the fact that we like to bitch :o)
Murder is somewhat, but not entirely, exceptional, since the definition of murder tends not to vary so much from one country to another. In addition, murder is much less likely to go undetected/unreported or be miscategorised than, say, having one's wallet stolen. This is, most likely, the reason why Paul used murder alone.

But I'm glad you agree that overalll crimerates aren't that much different

Except Sweden has less than half the murder rate...

Overall statistics may be similar, but the murder rate is a biggie. This is the importance of weighted statistics.

I'm not trying to further any agenda. He claimed that Sweden was better off and I compared statistics and showed him the only category that US led Sweden in was homicide and Sweden had us beat in every other one. No manipulation involved

Looking at the actual numbers, it certainly looks like you lied outright.

USA beat Sweden at every type of crime except motorcycle theft and robbery.

By Owlmirror (not verified) on 23 Nov 2008 #permalink

I and the guys at veritas were using the 1999 figures. You appear to use a different year.

I used the most recent ICVS. There is no ICVS report or data from 1999.

But I'm glad you agree that overalll crimerates aren't that much different.

I draw no such conclusion.

[Looking at the actual numbers, it certainly looks like you lied outright.]
No I didn't look at the Interpol data and the 1999 International crime victims survey. Emmet used a completely different set.

USA beat Sweden at every type of crime except motorcycle theft and robbery.

In particular, the crime rates were, on balance, higher in the USA than in Sweden for every broad category which he explicitly listed and claimed to have data-based knowledge of.

Your own source reveals that 18381 inmates answered unknown or non-religious.

PHWEET!!!!!
I call 'Foul'.The actual text says:   Unknown/No Answer 18381Not "non-religious". No Answer.

Caught out lying there facilis, what a surprise...

You do know the difference between "no answer" and "not religious" right?

No I didn't look at the Interpol data

I wonder if the guys compiling the "rebuttal" did either: they don't provide a reference for their Interpol data and Interpol's international crime statistics haven't been publicly available since 2006.

and the 1999 International crime victims survey.

There is no such survey.

Emmet used a completely different set.

Which set did you use? You said:

I and the guys at veritas were using the 1999 figures.

This suggests that you used the same source as they did, but they claim to have used unspecified Interpol data and ICVS.
So, again, which data did you use?

No I didn't look at the Interpol data and the 1999 International crime victims survey. Emmet used a completely different set.

The first sentence appears to be missing some punctuation, and interpolating that which is missing could change the actual meaning radically.

Try again. And try not to lie.

By Owlmirror (not verified) on 23 Nov 2008 #permalink

You accused me of lying.
I didn't.Look at the Interpol data and the 1999 International crime victims survey displayed on the site. Emmet used a completely different set.
(Sorry about the punctuation.

Look at the Interpol data

Where is this data available from? The original report, not "processed" by anyone.

and the 1999 International crime victims survey

For the third time, there is no such survey.

Still waiting for you to tell us what data led you to your Sweden vs. US claims, which we'll be forced to conclude were bullshit unless you can substantiate them.

His data come from this blog which links to the 'International Crime Victim's survey', which is here - but it won't load for me so I can't tell you much about it, such as whether it actually exists or not.

Anyway, screw the US; according to the graphs, Australia is the scariest place to live. You'd think I'd have noticed by now, 'since I live there...

By Wowbagger (not verified) on 23 Nov 2008 #permalink

You accused me of lying.

Well, it wasn't me who said that, but I think it's a reasonable accusation: you made a specific assertion about crime rates in Sweden vs. the US, which we know to be contradicted by ICVS-5. You claim this assertion is backed by 1) a document (1999 ICVS), which we know not to exist, and 2) mysterious Interpol data, which we know to be extraordinarily difficult to gain access to?
If you make the documents available to us and they contain the data that you claim they contain, I'm sure the charge of being a liar will be retracted immediately.

His data come from this blog...

Yes, I got that.
The point is that if you actually Google for their sources, you find that one has been superceded by a later report that directly contradicts them (so the dishonest fuckwads pretend it doesn't exist), and the other is not referenced.
In other words, the "debunking" is a crock of shit: it uses out-of-date and occult sources to attack arguments Paul is not reported to have made.
I've no idea whether Paul makes his case or not (I haven't read his paper), but the central notion, that certain social indicators are unfavourably (for the religious apologist) correlated with religiosity, is at least superficially plausible from publically available data. It was never my point to support Paul, but to underline my suspicion that facilis never read the source material, took the blog post at face value, and was bullshitting. I consider that point made.

Good on you Emmet,that was well done.

You accused me of lying.

You are lying by equating non-answer to non-religious, then building a case around that. That was incredibly dishonest behaviour, and a gross misuse of statistics.

according to the graphs, Australia is the scariest place to live. You'd think I'd have noticed by now, 'since I live there...

Shit yeah,all these areas in downtown Sydney,Melbourne or Perth you cant go without a gun or a bodyguard or both,is scary as hell.....

Shit yeah,all these areas in downtown Sydney,Melbourne or Perth you cant go without a gun or a bodyguard or both,is scary as hell.....

Well, I'm lucky I'm in Adelaide - all those churches must mean I'm safe, right? Though it does have that somewhat bothersome track record of serial killers...

By Wowbagger (not verified) on 24 Nov 2008 #permalink

Took the parents to the Adelaide hills last year when it was 35 or so and the power went out,now that was scary lol....

Maybe if you want to compare crime rates,just take a stroll through Copenhagen,Stockholm,Cologne,Sydney in the middle of the night,and compare your experience with a walk through any major US city....

You are lying by equating non-answer to non-religious, then building a case around that. That was incredibly dishonest behaviour, and a gross misuse of statistics.

I think it was just being naive: he couldn't imagine why anyone who had a religion wouldn't proudly proclaim it whenever asked.

That said, facilis does exhibit confirmation bias...

By David Marjanović, OM (not verified) on 24 Nov 2008 #permalink

Facilis #182. I'm not a sociologist. I have no interest in doing a study, as I still have a day job doing science. You are the one complaining, so I challenged you to do the right thing scientifically, and actually prove your point. You dodged the question, which means you are merely a troll.

As far as I could tell, the data was honest. Besides, we Pharyngulites know religious people are often bad, but try to hide it behind a facade, and use the "no true scotsman" at the drop of a hat. Such a correlation does not surprise us. Atheists are very mild mannered people.

By Nerd of Redhead (not verified) on 24 Nov 2008 #permalink

Emmet,

I'm a straight man and (assuming you're a man), your absolutely wonderful smackdown of that fraud has made me more than a little attracted to you.

All joking aside, the preposterous idea that Australia is more dangerous than the US (or indeed the most dangerous country) is one of the best gags I've heard in quite some time. The only possibility is that it's taken from the perspective of a pot of beer. If you're a beer in Australia, yep, you're screwed.

I continue to want to disbelieve that people like Pilty and facilis actually exist, I truly do. However it's people like this that prove themselves time and again that they're utterly unable to be persuaded by any data (that those of us with two cents of reason to rub together as 'real') that make me incredibly depressed.

I'm sure if Christianity and it's adherents were actually practiced what they preach (hah!) then yeah, it might be a better world, but it's the times when they mumble 'Except when you really wanna' after 'Thou shalt not kill.' that completely derail their whole defense of 'We're more moral.'

Sigh

The point is that if you actually Google for their sources, you find that one has been superceded by a later report that directly contradicts them (so the dishonest fuckwads pretend it doesn't exist), and the other is not referenced.

In other words, the "debunking" is a crock of shit: it uses out-of-date and occult sources to attack arguments Paul is not reported to have made.

I've no idea whether Paul makes his case or not (I haven't read his paper), but the central notion, that certain social indicators are unfavourably (for the religious apologist) correlated with religiosity, is at least superficially plausible from publically available data. It was never my point to support Paul, but to underline my suspicion that facilis never read the source material, took the blog post at face value, and was bullshitting. I consider that point made.

Waiting to see if The Facile One has a response to this. It ought to be interesting.

[You are lying by equating non-answer to non-religious, then building a case around that. That was incredibly dishonest behaviour, and a gross misuse of statistics.]
Ok a bunch of prisoners are asked to give their religion on a survey. A large number of prisoners give none.
These prisoners are either
a)highly religious people trying to conceal their religious identity
b)don't really belong to any religion

I wonder which?Hmm....

[All joking aside, the preposterous idea that Australia is more dangerous than the US (or indeed the most dangerous country) is one of the best gags I've heard in quite some time. ]
I know. I was quite surprised when i heard the US had such high homicide rates. I've never heard of a murder in my area the entire time I've lived in the US. Just goes to show how statistics can surprise you

It surprises me how many people here think they've "debunked " anything. My points about the problems with GP's survey still stand and no-one has responded.
And Emmet just cause you can't access a certain survey doesn't mean someone else at the blog made it up.
And I don't see how the differences between the ICVS for 1999-2003 count (unless there was a massive upswing in secularism in Sweden in those years) when we try to establish a correlation between religion and crime.
I think I'll quote you
[The overall rate of victimisation in Sweden is lower than in the United States (p.43), but not significantly.]
Right. there is a significant difference in religiousity between Sweden and America but the difference in overall crime victimisation rate is not significant. this is all I wanted to say. Point made.

[I continue to want to disbelieve that people like Pilty and facilis actually exist, I truly do. However it's people like this that prove themselves time and again that they're utterly unable to be persuaded by any data (that those of us with two cents of reason to rub together as 'real') that make me incredibly depressed.]
*sticks fingers in ears* PZ's "social scientist" is so reliable that i wont accept contradictory data from sources like Interpol and ICVS.*sticks out tongue* And won't bother to look at the problems anyone point out with the survey

#12 makes the moral assumption that abortion is a bad thing. Obviously if a woman practices a religion that prohibits an abortion then she is much less likely to get one, don't you think? If a woman thinks that an abortion is a perfectly normal medical procedure then theoretically she would have no problem with having one. So if the per capita rate of abortion is lower in a highly religious state then this tells me nothing. What about the teen pregnancy rate? Here are the top 10 states:

1. Nevada (113)
2. Arizona (104)
3. Mississippi (103)
4. New Mexico (103)
5. Texas (101)
6. Florida (97)
7. California (96)
8. Georgia (95)
9. North Carolina (95)
10. Arkansas (93)

And here are the top ten states for teen live births:

1. Mississippi (71)
2. Texas (69)
3. Arizona (67)
4. Arkansas (66)
5. New Mexico (66)
6. Georgia (63)
7. Louisiana (62)
8. Nevada (61)
9. Alabama (61)
10. Oklahoma (60)

I think I heard someone comment on Democracy Now a week or two ago about how the US "Bible Belt" corresponds perfectly with the "Lynching Belt".

I have no issue whatsoever with the crazy batshit that religious people believe. Until, that is, they try to codify their batshit into MY public policy. We need GOOD sex education in this country. It kills me that the anti-abortionists are ALSO anti-sex ed, the one and only way to curb unwanted pregnancies. Simply denying the evidence and shooting the messenger never helped anything or anyone.

Before my mother was "saved", she wasn't a racial, class, or sexual bigot. Now she is. In my opinion, becoming a Christian made her a worse Christian than she was as an unbeliever.

By Mike in Ontario, NY (not verified) on 24 Nov 2008 #permalink

Ok a bunch of prisoners are asked to give their religion on a survey. A large number of prisoners give none.
These prisoners are either
a)highly religious people trying to conceal their religious identity
b)don't really belong to any religion

I wonder which?Hmm....

Nice false dichotomy there, a justification for your poor rationalisation. How many people were simply not surveyed? How many chose to conceal their religious beliefs? To take everyone who didn't answer as non-religious is a gross misuse of statistics, though you've been quite happy to do so all throughout this thread.

The fact is you don't know how many of them are non-religious, not even those who made the survey know. It's unknown. You are making a huge assumption and from there running with it to prove your point. You could have just said that the unknown makes the data unreliable but no. You had to form the conclusion based on your assumption that anyone who doesn't answer for whatever reason has to be atheist and then used that to condemn atheists as more violent. You don't know the first thing about using statistics, so I'd suggest dropping the whole holier than thou attitude of yours.

Farcilis,

Ok a bunch of prisoners are asked to give their religion on a survey. A large number of prisoners give none.
These prisoners are either
a)highly religious people trying to conceal their religious identity
b)don't really belong to any religion
I wonder which?Hmm....

Really, if someone doesn't give an answer the only possibilities are they are highly religious or not religious? They can't be somewhat religious? It can't be they simple object to answering it because they don't feel it's anyone's business?

And Emmet just cause you can't access a certain survey doesn't mean someone else at the blog made it up.

No, but this does,

The project is now known as the International Crime Victims Survey (ICVS). After the first round in 1989, the surveys were repeated in 1992, 1996, and 2000 and 2004/2005.

Notice the lack of a "1999 International crime victims survey".

By Feynmaniac (not verified) on 24 Nov 2008 #permalink

Wowbagger,

Australia is actually the most dangerous country in the world, according to the statistics.

This despite the fact that Australia has 70,000 Jedis. Or maybe because of it?

I say we run a survey to see how many Jedis in Australia have fallen to the dark side of the force. The Jedi mind trick might make this survey tricky....

By Feynmaniac (not verified) on 24 Nov 2008 #permalink

Actually, now that I think of it, it was only a couple of months ago that a bikie gang member got shot in front of his house, one street over from my place; two weeks ago a Somali teenager was stabbed to death by another Somali teenager in a shopping mall about a block from my office.

So despite Adelaide being a fairly quiet place (with a lot of churches) there is still violent crime going on - but it doesn't seem to happen to random passers-by; it's more about gangs or race.

By Wowbagger (not verified) on 24 Nov 2008 #permalink

[The fact is you don't know how many of them are non-religious, not even those who made the survey know. ]
Yes I don't know which was why I specified non-religious or unknown in my post.
[It's unknown.]
I agree.
[You had to form the conclusion based on your assumption that anyone who doesn't answer for whatever reason has to be atheist and then used that to condemn atheists as more violent.]
I never condemned atheists as more violent. I was showing Wowbagger how his figures were faulty.
Naturally if someone has no religion the would put none when someone asked for their religion.
And note according to wowbagger's figure we would have to conclude protestants are quite moral- Based on the total percentage in jail compared.(And that's not counting those who were converted to protestantism after they got in).
Hooray for protestants

And note according to wowbagger's figure we would have to conclude protestants are quite moral- Based on the total percentage in jail compared.(And that's not counting those who were converted to protestantism after they got in). Hooray for protestants

They still constitute at least 35% of the prison population - and you're still making the assumption that none of the 'no answer' people are, in fact, protestant.

Hardly a cause for celebration - or for considering the religion to be in any way beneficial to morality.

By Wowbagger (not verified) on 24 Nov 2008 #permalink

Yes I don't know which was why I specified non-religious or unknown in my post.

Again, because you don't seem to understand. "No answer" != "Non-religious". They are two different phrases and by no way mean the same thing.

As you said:
Your own source reveals that 18381 inmates answered unknown or non-religious. (about 20% of the full total) Why don't we just take all the non-religious people?

Naturally if someone has no religion the would put none when someone asked for their religion.

And there was a category for that, 156 people chose that category. Not answering is not non-religious. Stop dancing around the issue.

Stop lying facilis, your bullshit won't work here.

Facilis stop lying? Then what would be the point of posting here. His/her bias showed many posts ago.

Religious people tend to be stupid. Cops only catch stupid criminals. So it it isn't a surprise that religious people are over represented in jail. There's some type of bias at work.

By Nerd of Redhead (not verified) on 24 Nov 2008 #permalink

Wow! powerful stuff.

Yes, it is a powerful testament to why dinosaur doodlers should not presume to engage in statistical analyses.

By Peregrinus (not verified) on 24 Nov 2008 #permalink

Yes, it is a powerful testament to why dinosaur doodlers should not presume to engage in statistical analyses.

As opposed to christian apologists?

By Wowbagger (not verified) on 24 Nov 2008 #permalink

Facilis stop lying? Then what would be the point of posting here. His/her bias showed many posts ago.

Yeah, but it's important to call out those who do wilfully lie - if for nothing else than to show that we are onto them. facilis not only used statistics in a dishonest way, but changed what the statistics represent which it deliberately being deceptive. Not answering is not the same as being atheist, it's unknown data pure and simple. The only conclusion that could have been drawn from that data is that it's not complete, nothing more.

It's like an exit poll after the election asking people who they voted for. If someone chooses not to answer, it's not indicative that they didn't vote. Rather some things are personal where people don't feel it's anyone elses business. A non-answer is not indicative of anything, the answers we do have show a general trend, but they must be taken with some scepticism and uncertainty. But changing no answer to non-religious is outright lying, facilis has demonstrated here that he/she doesn't mind being another Liar for Jesus™

Yes, it is a powerful testament to why dinosaur doodlers should not presume to engage in statistical analyses.

And this is powerful testament to the fact that ad hominem is not a valid rebuttal.

As opposed to christian apologists?

I have an advanced degree in statistics. Do you?

By Peregrinus (not verified) on 24 Nov 2008 #permalink

I have an advanced degree in statistics. Do you?

And now an appeal to authority, you just like to rack up the logical fallacies.

Let's see; is that lies, damned lies and advanced degree in statistics?

By Janine ID AKA … (not verified) on 24 Nov 2008 #permalink

Let's see; is that lies, damned lies and advanced degree in statistics?

By Twain, I think she got it.

By Nerd of Redhead (not verified) on 24 Nov 2008 #permalink

Let's see; is that lies, damned lies and advanced degree in statistics?

You win the "post of the day" award

I have an advanced degree in statistics.

Then you're ideally positioned to publish a comprehensive rebuttal of Paul's paper, rather than the vacuous straw-men and ad hominem attacks that we've seen heretofore. We await your contribution.

We await your contribution.

Don't worry; it's on my to-do list.

By Peregrinus (not verified) on 24 Nov 2008 #permalink

Could people please read the link he sent?
The question asked for their "religious affiliation". Those who considered atheism as their religious affiliation put that on the card and those with no real religious affiliation probably didn't answer.I suppose some people might have n=been religious but wanted to conceal their religious identity or didn't feel like answering(those that didn't answer were about 20%)
Wowbagger was the one that presentedthe faulty sstatistics. I used what he gave me. I'm sure wowbagger will concede those statistics are worthless though.

I have an advanced degree in statistics. Do you?

Why do you assume it was you to whom I was referring? It wasn't; my comment was aimed at Facilis, for his dubious analyses upthread.

Persecution complex much?

By Wowbagger (not verified) on 24 Nov 2008 #permalink

The question asked for their "religious affiliation". Those who considered atheism as their religious affiliation put that on the card and those with no real religious affiliation probably didn't answer.

Probably? You are making another assumption there. You don't know how many where religious or not, you are imposing your own will. And you changed the presentation of the data to support your view. If you copied "unknown / no answer", it presents a very different meaning from "unknown / no religion". It's unknown data, pure and simple and you inferred that not only that no answer meant non-religious but that unknown was also to be taken as no religion. You've deliberately misrepresented data to support your point, the least you could do is man up and admit it instead of weaseling around showing any culpability.

I suppose some people might have n=been religious but wanted to conceal their religious identity or didn't feel like answering(those that didn't answer were about 20%)

You suppose they might be? On what grounds do you again base your assumption? You are still placing your own assumptions on the data, and it still doesn't change the fact that you deliberately tried to mislead us by changing "no answer" to "non-religious". You lied, just man up already.

Wowbagger was the one that presentedthe faulty sstatistics. I used what he gave me. I'm sure wowbagger will concede those statistics are worthless though.

The statistics aren't worthless, there's a degree of uncertainty to them. It's like saying that 20% of people didn't want to be part of a phone poll therefore all answers given are invalid.

[They still constitute at least 35% of the prison population - and you're still making the assumption that none of the 'no answer' people are, in fact, protestant.

Hardly a cause for celebration - or for considering the religion to be in any way beneficial to morality. ]
Well we make up 53% of the majority and about 28% of the total in prison.We are rather underrepresented in prison (dontcha think)

[The statistics aren't worthless, there's a degree of uncertainty to them. It's like saying that 20% of people didn't want to be part of a phone poll therefore all answers given are invalid.]
A question
Do you think the people who do not belong to any religion have a greater chance of not answering a question about religious affiliation?
Do you think people who do belong t a religion are more likely to?

I used what he gave me.

No, you misused what I gave you by claiming the 'unknown/no answer' respondents must be atheists - a ridiculous assumption. Choosing not to answer =!= atheism or even no religion. It means 'chose not to answer'.

As for 'faulty data', well, it's from an analyst at the Federal Bureau of Prisons, according to the site I found it at. I agree it's not great, but it's still a better indicator than that which you provided.

By Wowbagger (not verified) on 24 Nov 2008 #permalink

Do you think the people who do not belong to any religion have a greater chance of not answering a question about religious affiliation?
Do you think people who do belong t a religion are more likely to?

I honestly don't know, all I could do is make an assumption. And that's all you could do as well, you don't know better.

You are still evading that you changed "unknown / no answer" to "unknown / non-religious", which is trying to deceive us. Are you going to admit you lied or carry on with your holier than thou attitude? It's not about what assumptions and conclusions you made, it's that you deliberately misrepresented data in order to make a point.

I also reject how you conveniently excluding catholics, i.e. those who don't fit your definition of True Christians™.

If you're going to try and split those hairs you're going to want to find a better way of delineating than simply 'protestant', since there are plenty of sects with numerous significant ideological differences between them. If you can lump them all in together you're going to have to include the papists as well.

By Wowbagger (not verified) on 24 Nov 2008 #permalink

. If you can lump them all in together you're going to have to include the papists as well.

Ah, but papists are not Christians! They are actually Satanists, and therefore... are secretly atheists!!11!one!1

By Owlmirror (not verified) on 24 Nov 2008 #permalink

Wowbagger was the one that presentedthe faulty sstatistics. I used what he gave me.

No, you used a study that didn't exist. The ICVS website has no "1999 International crime victims survey". It numbers its studies 1 through 5 for the years 1989, 1992, 1996, 2000 and 2004/05, respectively. You have not still not explained yourself.

By Feynmaniac (not verified) on 24 Nov 2008 #permalink

Looks like facilis is just another Liar for JebusTM. (s)he will say/do anything to try to make religious people look better. Citing a paper that doesn't exist is a classic avoidance technique. The lack of honesty when caught demonstrated to us the lack of character, including not bearing false witness. The whole "no true Scotsman" play another classic lie. Facilis, at least come up with a new wrinkle if you are dumb enough to reply again.

By Nerd of Redhead (not verified) on 24 Nov 2008 #permalink

Looks like facilis is just another Liar for Jebus™

Nerd, all you have to do is glance at Facilis's blog to get an understanding of what he (I believe it's 'he') is about: in one post he lists some 'facts', the first of which is that Jesus died by crucifixion - because the crucifixion is multiply attested [to] in and outside the Bible.

So, he exhibits a history of trusting dubious, irrelevant and mostly debunked sources. Why would he stop now?

By Wowbagger (not verified) on 24 Nov 2008 #permalink

[No, you misused what I gave you by claiming the 'unknown/no answer' respondents must be atheists - a ridiculous assumption. ]
Where did I make this claim? All I said was mostlikely that they were non-religious. But all I ask is that you see the faults.

[Nerd, all you have to do is glance at Facilis's blog to get an understanding of what he (I believe it's 'he') is about: in one post he lists some 'facts', the first of which is that Jesus died by crucifixion - because the crucifixion is multiply attested [to] in and outside the Bible.]
Yes, Do you want to respond to my challenge. I think you would lose on the crucifixion though.From the New estament documents to the patristic writers and even Roman and Jewish sources the crucifixion is well-attested.

[So, he exhibits a history of trusting dubious, irrelevant and mostly debunked sources. Why would he stop now?]
And you trust a study dome by a man who draws dinosaurs for a living- need I say more?

@Peregrinus
You don't have to do any response. Professional statisticians like Scott Gillbreath (of magicstatistics.com ) and George Gallup have torn that study to shreds and show hw it does ot live up "to scholarly muster".

Where did I make this claim? All I said was mostlikely that they were non-religious.

Right here:
Your own source reveals that 18381 inmates answered unknown or non-religious. (about 20% of the full total) Why don't we just take all the non-religious people?
You said "non-religious" when the study says no such thing. It says there is "no answer", you put the word non-religious in there, not us.

And you trust a study dome by a man who draws dinosaurs for a living- need I say more?

You can say ad hominem

David M,

OK, "dynamically important" is not quite clear to me, and I don't know what hysteresis is, but the rest is crystal-clear.

"Hysteresis" just means that the behavior of the system depends on past states as well as the present ones. The canonical example is a thermostat which turns your heater on when the temperature drops below (say) 35 degrees, but doesn't turn it off until the temperature climbs above (say) 40 degrees. In that case you can't predict whether your heater will be on or off at 37 degrees unless you know what the temperature was a little while ago.

The bit Piltdown quoted is perfectly coherent, as you say.

By Anton Mates (not verified) on 24 Nov 2008 #permalink

The quote Piltdown provides seems to make sense. If you want something totally baffling;

The move from a structuralist account in which capital is understood to structure social relations in relatively homologous ways to a view of hegemony in which power relations are subject to repetition, convergence, and rearticulation brought the question of temporality into the thinking of structure, and marked a shift from a form of Althusserian theory that takes structural totalities as theoretical objects to one in which the insights into the contingent possibility of structure inaugurate a renewed conception of hegemony as bound up with the contingent sites and strategies of the rearticulation of power.

That 94 word sentence got Judith Butler first prize in The Bad Writing Contest. If anyone knows what the fuck it's saying please let me know.

By Feynmaniac (not verified) on 24 Nov 2008 #permalink

Facilis - out of interest's sake, you do know what the word 'facile' means, don't you?

Anyway, as to whether Jesus existed or not - knock yourself out: The Jesus-myth hypothesis

By Wowbagger (not verified) on 25 Nov 2008 #permalink

Sorry, link fail.

Facile - see definition 1.

By Wowbagger (not verified) on 25 Nov 2008 #permalink

Anton Mates and Feynmaniac,

The selection Scumbag quoted is perfectly coherent. In case you missed it, please see the link I provided @ #152 for the source and further evidence of Piltdown's villainy.

Piltdown Man, naming yourself after a fraudulent man-orangutan-chimpanzee fossil is quite appropriate.

By Feynmaniac (not verified) on 25 Nov 2008 #permalink

Is the Nicholas M. Gotts of the article in question the same Nick Gotts that posts here?

By Feynmaniac (not verified) on 25 Nov 2008 #permalink

From the link you provided-
"Authors such as Earl Doherty, Robert M. Price and George Albert Wells have recently re-popularised the argument. HOWEVER IT IS NOT SUPPORTED BY THE VAST MAJORITY OF BIBLICAL HISTORIANS OR SCHOLARS"

Woah, biblical scholars don't buy that Jesus could have been made up? Who'd have thunk it. Next you'll be telling me that the vast majority of Muslim scholars think that Muhammad was God's final prophet...

Is the Nicholas M. Gotts of the article in question the same Nick Gotts that posts here?

I would be extremely surprised if there were two of them in Aberdeen (see his comment @ #103) with such similar interests and knowledge. :)

[Woah, biblical scholars don't buy that Jesus could have been made up? Who'd have thunk it.]
Yeah, I mean Robert Price is the only one with a Phd in NT studies that supports it.You think more people with credentials would support it if it was a valid theory.

[Next you'll be telling me that the vast majority of Muslim scholars think that Muhammad was God's final prophet...]
Too bad for your analogy that most New testament scholars aren't Christian

Too bad for your analogy that most New testament scholars aren't Christian

Really now?

It's too bad you are a proven liar, that you are willing to say anything to support your own agenda.

One problem with Liar for JebusTM is that they can't realize when they are in over their heads. Facilis, the first law of holes is when in too deep, quit digging. The dirt you throw up is falling on your head, so time to quit digging. You failed due to being intellectually challenged.

By Nerd of Redhead (not verified) on 25 Nov 2008 #permalink

Posted by: Wowbagger | November 22, 2008 8:53 PM

I mean, there is a high correlation between the level of brainless fuckbotism and the reading of this blog.

If you're presenting yourself as evidence then you're quite correct. Unfortunately, your sample size of 1 isn't good for validity.

N of mindless fuckbotism = 274 and counting.

By pharynguphat (not verified) on 25 Nov 2008 #permalink

Pharynguphat, your mess-up of blockquotes shows us what a fuckbot you are. You need a brain to think rationally. Get one. Then post something cogent.

By Nerd of Redhead (not verified) on 25 Nov 2008 #permalink

Too bad for your analogy that most New testament scholars aren't Christian

So... most of those Christians who actually study the evidence most carefully are inspired to deconvert? And most of those non-Christians who study the evidence are not inspired to convert?

I already knew it, but it's good to see that most scholars agree that the evidence is very unconvincing.

However, I am pretty sure that those non-Christian scholars would agree that among the other reasons that they find the evidence unconvincing is that the crucifixion is not "well-attested".

http://www.ebonmusings.org/atheism/camel.html

http://www.bringyou.to/apologetics/ShreddingTheGospels.htm

By Owlmirror (not verified) on 25 Nov 2008 #permalink

Oh look it's pharyngufuckhead. How many comments have you made now and still not a single intelligent argument or point?

Well, if he can be trusted to count correctly, 274.

However, I wouldn't trust him. I'm pretty sure that it's much more than that.

By Owlmirror (not verified) on 25 Nov 2008 #permalink

Anton Mates @263:

The bit Piltdown quoted is perfectly coherent

It may be coherent (I'll take your word for it) but it's rebarbative. If the emperor is wearing clothes, they're bloody ugly.

SC @267:

Piltdown's villainy.

What is truly villainous is attempting to apply pseudo-scientific concepts to human society.

By Piltdown Man (not verified) on 25 Nov 2008 #permalink

What is truly villainous is attempting to apply pseudo-scientific concepts to human society.

Ignorant scumbag is ignorant scumbag.

What is truly villainous is attempting to apply pseudo-scientific concepts to human society.

Much like religions do, then.

(Hark at the man who believes in demons using the phrase "pseudo-scientific")

By Owlmirror (not verified) on 25 Nov 2008 #permalink

[So... most of those Christians who actually study the evidence most carefully are inspired to deconvert? And most of those non-Christians who study the evidence are not inspired to convert?]
I might as well say "well most people are Christian so they see the evidence and they converted".I'm sure you know that there are a lot of factors like emotion, coincidence...etc that lead to conversions and deconversions besides evidence.

[I already knew it, but it's good to see that most scholars agree that the evidence is very unconvincing.]
Umm, no your own source said that most New testament scholars find the Jesus myth unconvincing.

[However, I am pretty sure that those non-Christian scholars would agree that among the other reasons that they find the evidence unconvincing is that the crucifixion is not "well-attested".

http://www.ebonmusings.org/atheism/camel.html

http://www.bringyou.to/apologetics/ShreddingTheGospels.htm]
So don't bother to read PhD and New testament scholars like I did and do the research. 2 links is enough to refute me (1 of them is from some guy who read Doherty's poorly reasearched book and thinks he found the holy grail )

Piltdown,

It may be coherent (I'll take your word for it) but it's rebarbative. If the emperor is wearing clothes, they're bloody ugly.

The mathematical community apologizes for offending you with dynamical systems theory. I guess.

By Anton Mates (not verified) on 25 Nov 2008 #permalink

I might as well say "well most people are Christian so they see the evidence and they converted".

But most Christians do not see the evidence, nor do they study it, nor did they convert — they were indoctrinated. So that would be false.

What I wrote was true, and followed logically from assuming that your statement, "most New testament scholars aren't Christian", was true. Was your statement true? Or were you lying about that?

Umm, no your own source said that most New testament scholars find the Jesus myth unconvincing.

Wasn't my source. Do you find it hard to pay attention to who wrote what?

1 of them is from some guy who read Doherty's poorly reasearched book and thinks he found the holy grail

As best as I can see, none of those who argue against Doherty have a problem with his research, but rather with his interpretation of that research.

Do you know of anyone who points to problems in the research itself?

My original point was that regardless of whether or not Jesus was a myth, those who claim that the crucifixion was "well-attested" are simply wrong, and that is backed up by the research.

Feel free to find an actual refutation of the research.

By Owlmirror (not verified) on 25 Nov 2008 #permalink

So... most of those Christians who actually study the evidence most carefully are inspired to deconvert? And most of those non-Christians who study the evidence are not inspired to convert?

I already knew it, but it's good to see that most scholars agree that the evidence is very unconvincing.

However, I am pretty sure that those non-Christian scholars would agree that among the other reasons that they find the evidence unconvincing is that the crucifixion is not "well-attested".

Anyone who doubts the historicity of Jesus is a damn fool. The gospels, Josephus, and Tacitus are enough to establish it, let alone other documentation.

And yes, I know Josephus has been tampered with in the Greek, but a) people overwhelmingly tend to alter accounts that are already in the text, instead of creating them whole cloth and b) there is an Arabic version without the obvious glosses.

Really, I can't fathom the sheer stupidity involved in doubting the historicity of Jesus.

By Peregrinus (not verified) on 25 Nov 2008 #permalink

Anton Mates @285:

The mathematical community apologizes for offending you with dynamical systems theory. I guess.

Your sarcasm is misplaced. I don't doubt that mathematicians, sorry, "the mathematical community" have developed a serious branch of mathematics called dynamical systems theory. Good for them. May their research in that field prove fruitful. And if much of their work seems obscure to me, I daresay that's down to me being a layman in the field. No problem.

The thing is, when I look at the essay in question, I see precious little mathematics. I see lots of sub-Marxist drivel ("the major institutional innovations in this model are transformations between predominant "modes of accumulation" that modify the workings of the iteration cycle. The two most important occurred when chiefdoms developed into states, which happened on several independent occasions, and when capitalism developed in Western Europe. Chiefdom-state transitions replaced primarily normative systems of obligation based on real or mythical kinship, with tributary systems in which labor, taxes, and tributes are exacted by systematic armed coercion from slaves, peasants, and weaker neighboring societies, as the main way for elites to accumulate resources. ...") semi-camouflaged under a language of mock-scientific/arithmetical exactitude and pretence at system.

(Of course I could be wrong.)

By Piltdown Man (not verified) on 25 Nov 2008 #permalink

...those who claim that the crucifixion was "well-attested" are simply wrong, and that is backed up by the research.

Quit while you're behind.

By Peregrinus (not verified) on 25 Nov 2008 #permalink

Peregrinus, then show us the evidence outside of the bible for the crucifixion. You are wrong until you prove yourself right.

By Nerd of Redhead (not verified) on 25 Nov 2008 #permalink

Anyone who doubts the historicity of Jesus is a damn fool. The gospels, Josephus, and Tacitus are enough to establish it, let alone other documentation.

The gospels are evidence of Jesus?

What I find amusing is that Christians put so much into the historicity of an obviously mythical character. I'd bet there was a Jewish cult leader who said a few good things, but it takes a huge leap to place historical Yeshua with mythical Jesus. Walking on water, healing the sick, magically feeding the poor, turning water into wine, raising the dead and finally conquering death? Mythology. Having a historical Jesus does not mean the gospel accounts are any more credible.

Peregrinus, then show us the evidence outside of the bible for the crucifixion. You are wrong until you prove yourself right.

I provided you with two sources outside the Bible, Josephus and Tacitus.

By Peregrinus (not verified) on 25 Nov 2008 #permalink

Anyone who doubts the historicity of Jesus is a damn fool.

Wrong, again.

Besides, I was not arguing against historicity, only against

The gospels, Josephus, and Tacitus are enough to establish it, let alone other documentation.

Wrong, again.

The gospels contradict each other and the proper historical details of the region.

Tacitus cannot be relied on in establishing the historicity of Jesus. Note that he wrote about the Christians living in Rome, and what he says about their founder was arguably derived from Christians themselves!

http://jesuspuzzle.humanists.net/CritiquesRefut3.htm

And as for Josephus...

And yes, I know Josephus has been tampered with in the Greek, but a) people overwhelmingly tend to alter accounts that are already in the text, instead of creating them whole cloth and b) there is an Arabic version without the obvious glosses.

Will you think for two whole seconds? An Arabic translation from the tenth century must be a translation from an earlier Greek source, which would not be immune from having been tampered with.

As noted here, even the reduced portion of the "Testimonium Flavianum" did not make sense in context.

http://ebonmusings.org/atheism/camel2.html#josephus

Note also the point that Origen, a devout Christian apologist and scholar, when citing Josephus never referred to the sections that mention Christ.

The first Christian who quoted the Testimonium was Eusebius, in the fourth century; some scholars believe that he was the one who forged it.

Sheesh.

By Owlmirror (not verified) on 25 Nov 2008 #permalink

Yes, your link trumps all Peregrinus...

It wasn't just any old link, "mate." It was a link to a New Testament scholar who provided Shlomo Pines' translation of the Arabic version of Josephus.

By Peregrinus (not verified) on 25 Nov 2008 #permalink

Last I knew the Josephus quote was a fraudulent later add on and is considered as such by most scholars. Tactitus got his info from the corrupted Josephus. Now show us some unrefuted evidence.

By Nerd of Redhead (not verified) on 25 Nov 2008 #permalink

It wasn't just any old link, "mate." It was a link to a New Testament scholar who provided Shlomo Pines' translation of the Arabic version of Josephus.

Which is also corrupt, as detailed in many links already provided.

Last I knew the Josephus quote was a fraudulent later add on and is considered as such by most scholars. Tactitus got his info from the corrupted Josephus. Now show us some unrefuted evidence.

I suggest reading some scholarly works on the topic. Scholars think Josephus wrote about Jesus while acknowledging the interpolations in the Greek text and Tacitus wrote his account independently of Josephus.

By Peregrinus (not verified) on 25 Nov 2008 #permalink

All you have are godbots who must prove historical Jebus. Not any help.

By Nerd of Redhead (not verified) on 25 Nov 2008 #permalink

Which is also corrupt, as detailed in many links already provided.

Please blockhead. I've read Shlomo Pines' book. The only alteration in the Arabic version is the possible mistranslation of a word from Syriac to Arabic and the loss of a phrase.

Don't pretend that you know what you are talking about because you read some crap on the internet.

By Peregrinus (not verified) on 25 Nov 2008 #permalink

since we're on the subject of the Gospels, it would be interecting to note that Jesus lies in John, chapter (from what i recall) 13. yep, lies. very interesting food for thought. In later translations (this was KJV, so fairly old), they changed it from, "i will not go down to the feast" to "i wii not YET go down to the feast." Dubious, very dubious.

[Do you know of anyone who points to problems in the research itself?]
Ben Witherington III has a critique of Doherty's poor research up.

[My original point was that regardless of whether or not Jesus was a myth, those who claim that the crucifixion was "well-attested" are simply wrong, and that is backed up by the research.]
I presented the patristic writers ,The New testament documents, Josephus , Tacitus and Lucian of Samotosa. You have not dealt with any of those.

So the whole historicity of Jesus comes down to obviously mythical stories written almost 50 years later, a passage from a historian over 60 years later that by all consensus was tampered with in the 4th century and another historian who wrote almost a century after the supposed event? Fuck, I'm convinced. Nevermind the incredulous nature and the wild claims of the life of Jesus, a few guys who never met him said it so it must be true!!!

All you have are godbots who must prove historical Jebus. Not any help.

You've already proved you are an idiot. Now you are just being gratuitous. Dr. Alice Whealey earned her doctorate from Berkeley and her book on the "Testimonium" is quite good.

Dan Barker does not even come close to those qualifications, and it shows.

By Peregrinus (not verified) on 25 Nov 2008 #permalink

Facilis, Josephus was a later add-on, and the other two got their information from Josephus. Still a Liar for JebusTM. In order to stop lying to us, you have to stop lying to yourself first.

By Nerd of Redhead (not verified) on 25 Nov 2008 #permalink

[Last I knew the Josephus quote was a fraudulent later add on and is considered as such by most scholars.]
Well you know wrong. I suggest you consult studies on the subject by Louis Feldman. Most scholars accept that Testimnium passage is genuine with a few interpolations(few suggest it wholly unreliable). All accept that the Jamesian passage is authentic.

[Tactitus got his info from the corrupted Josephus.]
You guys better get your timeline straight. Tacitus wrote in the 2nd century and another guy claims Josephus was only corrupted in the 4th century

Facilis, Josephus was a later add-on, and the other two got their information from Josephus. Still a Liar for JebusTM. In order to stop lying to us, you have to stop lying to yourself first.

Dimbulb,

The Greek version of Josephus has an authentic nucleus and you need to demonstrate Tacitus' dependence on Josephus.

By Peregrinus (not verified) on 25 Nov 2008 #permalink

Please blockhead. I've read Shlomo Pines' book. The only alteration in the Arabic version is the possible mistranslation of a word from Syriac to Arabic and the loss of a phrase.

Don't pretend that you know what you are talking about because you read some crap on the internet.

Blind assertions aren't very convincing. Don't pretend you know what you're talking about until you can actually rebuff the criticisms raised by the "crap on the internet", because if you can't defend your position against crap, then all you have is worthless shit.

The New testament documents

The new testament documents? Where the first gospel was written 40 years after the event by people who had never met Jesus, then subsequently copied into the other gospels? Yeah, those are convincing.

Someone completely defies the laws of physics and the best we have is 2nd and 3rd hand eyewitness accounts of those trying to sell their God to a pagan population... Christianity is nothing more than a cult for greedy gullible fools.

You guys better get your timeline straight. Tacitus wrote in the 2nd century and another guy claims Josephus was only corrupted in the 4th century

Logic, arithmetic, reading, or, indeed, anything requiring more than the reptilian complex, is not their strong suite. I suggest resorting to pictograms.

By Peregrinus (not verified) on 25 Nov 2008 #permalink

[Note also the point that Origen, a devout Christian apologist and scholar, when citing Josephus never referred to the sections that mention Christ.]
That is untrue. He does mention the Jamesian passage about Jesus. Look up Origen's commentary on Matthew online

Still doesn't change the fact that you believe the most miraculous story in the history of mankind based on 2nd, 3rd and 4th hand eyewitness accounts well after the supposed time the event took place. Quite funny that people are so eager to believe something so implausible purely on testimony of people who didn't even witness. Hell, even now we look at eyewitness accounts as anecdotal evidence - the weakest form of evidence.

Silly Christians, myths are for kids.

Same old arguments that have been refuted time and time again here. Your god doesn't exist. Jesus was a myth. What part of this do you have trouble with?

By Nerd of Redhead (not verified) on 25 Nov 2008 #permalink

Same old arguments that have been refuted time and time again here. Your god doesn't exist. Jesus was a myth. What part of this do you have trouble with?

Bearing your testimony ad nauseam does not make it true. So sorry.

By Peregrinus (not verified) on 25 Nov 2008 #permalink

Peregrinus wrote:

Logic, arithmetic, reading, or, indeed, anything requiring more than the reptilian complex, is not their strong suite. I suggest resorting to pictograms.suite

Lucky you didn't include typing and/or spelling.

By Wowbagger (not verified) on 25 Nov 2008 #permalink

Peregrinus&Facilis: So, instead of citing other accounts, you invoke the argument from authority. Facile allusions to recondite evidence, but never a citation.

As Nerd says, show us, don't just allude.

PS your would-be bombastic orotundity is amusing.

By John Morales (not verified) on 25 Nov 2008 #permalink

Of course, if you'd criticised me personally for an inability to cut and paste you'd be on firmer ground...

By Wowbagger (not verified) on 25 Nov 2008 #permalink

Bearing your testimony ad nauseam does not make it true. So sorry.

And you appealing to anecdotal evidence written decades and even centuries after the fact doesn't make it true either. You still believe in an implausible event based on 2nd, 3rd and 4th hand eyewitness testimony...

And you appealing to anecdotal evidence written decades and even centuries after the fact doesn't make it true either. You still believe in an implausible event based on 2nd, 3rd and 4th hand eyewitness testimony...

Ex post facto history was exceedingly common in Antiquity and it is not necessarily unreliable.

By Peregrinus (not verified) on 25 Nov 2008 #permalink

Ex post facto history was exceedingly common in Antiquity and it is not necessarily unreliable.

You are talking about an implausible event. When one dies, that is it. The end. You are talking about someone conquering death and walking among the living. What's being proposed is scientifically impossible, the implausibility of the whole resurrection demands a greater evidence than 2nd hand anecdotes.

Great. [Christian religious] history is not necessarily unreliable. I like that admission.

By John Morales (not verified) on 25 Nov 2008 #permalink

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. Carl Sagan

So where is your extraordinary proof?

By Nerd of Redhead (not verified) on 25 Nov 2008 #permalink

Of course, even if incontrovertible evidence of the existence of someone named Yeshua existed, and all historians agreed upon it, it still doesn't guarantee that he said the things attributed to him or was punished in any way by either (or both) the Jewish and Roman authorities - it and certainly doesn't authenticate the performing of miracles.

But the bigger question is that if we say the he did exist and did all the amazing things he's alleged to have done, why aren't there more accounts? Why are you left scrabbling for 2nd, 3rd and 4th hand accounts and discredited references?

He performed miracles, after all - that's the sort of thing that people talk about, and other people write down at the time. Surely someone so amazing would have had word about them travel far and wide to the other communities in the region.

You should be waist-deep in stories from numerous sources - not desperately sifting through parchment for any scrap of support for his existence, accepting anything that even seems to be alluding to the possibility he might have existed.

By Wowbagger (not verified) on 25 Nov 2008 #permalink

kel, scientifically unfeaseable, not impossible.

It goes against the basic tenets of biology, and the laws of physics. Our understanding of reality would have to be wrong for it to apply. Though I guess whether we call it an impossibility, implausibility, or infeasible, it doesn't change the point. The resurrection of Jesus is far too beyond the scope of observed reality to leave historical proof of the event to 2nd hand eyewitness testimony written decades after the event.

They kill people in the OR all the time Kel. bring them right back. Now it would take an amazing act of Star-Trekkery to heal jesus after 48 ours of death, but i imagine it could be done. Now, all the time he was wandering around afterwards, THAT'S impossible.

In response to the 2nd, 3rd, 4th hand stuff: Where's the Gospel of Jesus? Or even the Gospel of Joseph, something. In all his followers, every one of them was illiterate? None of them said, "O Lord, please tell me everything that i may write it down for others to beleive!"?

In response to the 2nd, 3rd, 4th hand stuff: Where's the Gospel of Jesus? Or even the Gospel of Joseph, something.

If there was a Gospel of Jesus the early church leaders no doubt surpressed it because it contradicted their principles - just as it would contemporary church leaders'.

There is no better evidence against christianity than christians themselves.

By Wowbagger (not verified) on 25 Nov 2008 #permalink

RickrOll,

[1] They kill people in the OR all the time Kel. bring them right back. [2] Now it would take an amazing act of Star-Trekkery to heal jesus after 48 ours of death, but i imagine it could be done.

1. No, they don't kill them. That's the whole point of operating - to keep them alive.
2. Really. Super-science demortified Jesus? You find this plausible?

By John Morales (not verified) on 25 Nov 2008 #permalink

It goes against the basic tenets of biology, and the laws of physics.

Please, enlighten us; I am especially interested in reading how the Resurrection violates the laws of physics.

By Peregrinus (not verified) on 25 Nov 2008 #permalink

Peregrinus, you are making the claim for the resurrection. The burden of proof will always be on you. Show us how it is possible. Welcome to science.

By Nerd of Redhead (not verified) on 25 Nov 2008 #permalink

The resurrection of Jesus is far too beyond the scope of observed reality to leave historical proof of the event to 2nd hand eyewitness testimony written decades after the event.

Yes, except that according to the Gospels, Jesus was only up on the cross for 3-6 hours, not long enough to die, and the original Greek word translated as "resurrection" might equally have been translated as "resuscitation". Even if one stipulates that the Gospels are somewhat historically accurate (quite a stretch, of course), one plausible explanation is that Jesus was comatose, rather than dead, when taken down from the cross and later spontaneously woke up in the tomb. That version is not far beyond the scope of observed reality but, of course, it ain't no miracle either.

But the bigger question is that if we say the he did exist and did all the amazing things he's alleged to have done, why aren't there more accounts?

A) Jerusalem was destroyed not once, but twice, within 100 years of Jesus' life and death.

B) The materials used for writing in ye olden times were not especially durable. We are fortunate in that the desert clime/sands preserved texts that would otherwise have been lost.

C) Writers often did not preserve copies of their source material.

By Peregrinus (not verified) on 25 Nov 2008 #permalink

Peregrinus, you are merely describing your troubles find proof. Still no proof exists. Time to quit.

By Nerd of Redhead (not verified) on 25 Nov 2008 #permalink

oh come on, you people need to lighten up. What's to say, wowbagger, that ther Gospel of Jesus wouldn't have Replaced the other 4 gospels? After all, that is precisely what i mean by a Gospel of Jesus, a narrative by Jesus himself or one of his close followers. I'm assuming had such a document existed, then it would have been accepted and the other Gospels might not have existed at all.

My mistake John, they Die all the time in the OR. they are pretty good at bringing them back. What are defribulaters for? CPR? I'm using a very loose sense of the word "dead"

"Really. Super-science demortified Jesus? You find this plausible?"
at a propability index in the 1/ 15^9,856,392,085,673,992,750 area, yes. so plausible, no. Could it be done? Yes, nearly anything can be done. oh and it was closer to 36 hours, not 48. Friday late afternoon to Sunday morning. i don't know how big of a difference it makes, maybe bumps the last few digits of the improbability down to 2,642 lol.

Peregrinus, you are making the claim for the resurrection. The burden of proof will always be on you. Show us how it is possible.

Actually, the claim within the context of this discussion is that the Resurrection violates the "tenets of biology" and the laws of physics. Kel needs to provide support for that claim.

Welcome to science.

The dinosaur coloring book you own does not qualify you as a scientist.

By Peregrinus (not verified) on 25 Nov 2008 #permalink

Please, enlighten us; I am especially interested in reading how the Resurrection violates the laws of physics.

Biology is built on physics. You violate the laws of biology, you violate the physics that underlies them.

They kill people in the OR all the time Kel. bring them right back.

People don't die in the OR, they come close to death but not die.

Thanks Caulfield. But i have to point out the brutal flogging they gave him before hand was what did him in, not the short period on the Cross. Often, it was the former that essentially killed them.
What pisses me off is that it was against Roman law to remove a body when it is crucified. The last bit of the humiliation was that carrion birds would come down to have dinner. What's more, placing him in a tomb seems very very highly suspect.
He was dead; even if he was comatose, the stabbed him with a spear and his blood had already separated. If that was wrong he would have bled to death.

Peregrinus, the discussion is a subset of the existence of Jesus. You are still required to show proof that things happened as written, including the resurrection. The only way out for you is to drop the idea.

By Nerd of Redhead (not verified) on 25 Nov 2008 #permalink

A) Jerusalem was destroyed not once, but twice, within 100 years of Jesus' life and death.

But wouldn't the events described in your bible have been so amazing that word of them would have travelled well beyond Jerusalem? There were Romans and Greeks in the middle east; they'd have gone back and told stories about this man with magical healing and catering and fig-tree-smiting powers and someone would have thought it worth putting quill to papyrus.

Well, perhaps not in Rome - since they'd already heard similar stories about Mithras. Funny, that.

By Wowbagger (not verified) on 25 Nov 2008 #permalink

Love how you are stalling on my claim about death being final. Isn't that the whole point of Christianity, to stop death from being final? That if you believe in Jesus you will not die but have eternal life?

If you want to do the experiment yourself, here you go. Take a cat, whip the motherfuck out of it then put it on a cross. Pierce it with a spearlike object. Make sure that animal is dead. Now put the dead cat in a box and leave it for a few days. Come back and see whether the cat has vanished or like biology states it would the dead form has started to decompose.

The resurrection goes against one of the most self-evident truths of life, if you are born you will die. Are you going to get hung up on that claim as a way to avoid facing up to the fact that you believe on decades later 2nd hand anecdotal evidence that someone beat that?

Ben Witherington III has a critique of Doherty's poor research up.

Witherington's work is useless. If you're a Christian, and don't want a single one of your baseless preconceptions about the formation of the NT writings challenged, he's your guy. I have read several of his books, and found nothing but an uncritical, credulous rehashing of centuries of apologetic handwaving. (A case in point: he relegates to a footnote an exceedingly brief mention of the frankly glaring fact of the disagreements between Acts and the letters of Paul where they treat the same events.) Hardly one to talk about the poverty of another's research.

That is untrue. He does mention the Jamesian passage about Jesus. Look up Origen's commentary on Matthew online

Here 'tis (the passage from Origen):

And James is he whom Paul says in the Epistle to the Galatians that he saw, "But other of the Apostles saw I none, save James the Lord's brother." [5267] And to so great a reputation among the people for righteousness did this James rise, that Flavius Josephus, who wrote the "Antiquities of the Jews" in twenty books, when wishing to exhibit the cause why the people suffered so great misfortunes that even the temple was razed to the ground, said, that these things happened to them in accordance with the wrath of God in consequence of the things which they had dared to do against James the brother of Jesus who is called Christ. [5268]And the wonderful thing is, that, though he did not accept Jesus as Christ, he yet gave testimony that the righteousness of James was so great; and he says that the people thought that they had suffered these things because of James.

This is practically a slam-dunk case against your contention that "[the]Testimnium passage is genuine with a few interpolations" (a contention I always found dubious on the basis of parsimony alone. The parts that generous scholars leave on the grounds that the style and diction are consistent have style and diction so generic as to be consistent with any Greek prose of the type.)

Anyway, why would Origen content himself with this James fellow (keeping in mind that the "called the Christ" bit is almost certainly another little Christian cookie) when he had a direct reference to the messiah himself? And furthermore, going back to the James passage itself in Antiquities, if you remove the "called the Christ" bit, just provisionally, which at least you must entertain with an open mind, it becomes much more likely that we're talking about the brother of Jesus, the son of Damneus who is mentioned in the same passage.

The arguments of Peregrinus and facilis have been dead for some time. The stench of their decomposition is overwhelming. Will they attempt a miraculous resurrection? Stay tuned to Faith Hurts, daily on SBC.

Kel @343: NOOOOOOOOOOOOO! SPARE THE KITTENS! Crucify the chihuahuas instead!

I still don't know how facile guy can take any of this seriously after Jesus himself lies in John Ch.7. So, First Mithras, then he steals the birthday of another Pagan god. Way to be original Jesus.

It's not just risen from the dead, it's risen from the dead and then transported off to heaven.

Unless you are claming the Zombie Cadaver of Jesus is physically walking around on earth

Rickr0ll @339,
You misunderstand me a little, I think. I don't believe there's sufficient evidence to conclude that Jesus even existed or that any of the things that the Gospels assert happened to him ever actually happened at all. I think it much more likely that Jesus is a myth, invented to interpolate moral lessons, expressed as folk parables, from oral tradition into a more engaging continuous narrative.
Clearly, our experience and all evidence is that if one dies, one does not ever become undead later. However improbable it might be, owing to the injuries that you point out, that he was comatose when laid in the tomb is infinitely more plausible than that he was actually dead. A non-miraculous explanation is better than a miraculous one, but it punctures the notion of Jesus' divinity.
As Conan Doyle would have it, when you've eliminated the impossible, whatever is left, however improbable, must be the truth.

Piltdown,

The thing is, when I look at the essay in question, I see precious little mathematics. I see lots of sub-Marxist drivel

Why not post that part, then? This--

"the major institutional innovations in this model are transformations between predominant "modes of accumulation" that modify the workings of the iteration cycle. The two most important occurred when chiefdoms developed into states, which happened on several independent occasions, and when capitalism developed in Western Europe. Chiefdom-state transitions replaced primarily normative systems of obligation based on real or mythical kinship, with tributary systems in which labor, taxes, and tributes are exacted by systematic armed coercion from slaves, peasants, and weaker neighboring societies, as the main way for elites to accumulate resources...."

--looks like pretty straightforward socio/anth talk to me. You may disagree with what it says--I have no informed opinion one way or the other--but it's hardly gibberish.

By Anton Mates (not verified) on 25 Nov 2008 #permalink

a⋅pol⋅o⋅gist
   /əˈpɒlədʒɪst/
-noun
1. one who expects another to accept a religious claim based on evidence of such little rigour that they themselves would not accept it were it to be used in defense of a different god

a⋅pol⋅o⋅get⋅ics
   /əˌpɒləˈdʒɛtɪks/
-noun (used with a singular verb)
an act which relates to thinking in much the same manner that masturbation relates to sex

By Brownian, OM (not verified) on 25 Nov 2008 #permalink

Brownian rocks.

Brownian rocks.

Amen sister! Great definitions.

By Nerd of Redhead (not verified) on 25 Nov 2008 #permalink

Well, I am quite practiced in the art of, er, apologetics.

Yeah, let's call it that.

By Brownian, OM (not verified) on 25 Nov 2008 #permalink

Well, I am quite practiced in the art of...

Hard to believe you're not finding physical, um, evidence on a more regular basis.

(I actually mean that. Same thing with Emmet. I don't get it. We love cute, funny, smart guys. WTF?)

i'm not certain of the improbability of a person who lost all thier blood, fell into a very short coma, and wnadered around for 40 someod days afterwards as compared to my particular scenario. All the individual parts of your argument aren't implausible, so i must assume that 1/ 12^3,779,408,577,548,958,590 to be more realistic. Not infinitely, but suffiecently. I concede.

This is practically a slam-dunk case against your contention that "[the]Testimnium passage is genuine with a few interpolations" (a contention I always found dubious on the basis of parsimony alone.

Not remotely. It is only a "slam dunk" against those who think the Greek text we have is exactly what Josephus wrote.

By Peregrinus (not verified) on 25 Nov 2008 #permalink

[Clearly, our experience and all evidence is that if one dies, one does not ever become undead later.]
What?? Are you restricting what is probable to your experience? If so let's just throw out the American Civil War, neither you nor I "experienced that".
And you have yet to show that it is impossible for resurrections to happen.You may believe so on your blind faith in naturalism but if you're not a naturalist i see no reason to think so. I would say most reasonable people should be agnostic on it.

Brownian, the Ambrose Bierce of Pharyngula

Brownian is Ambrose Bierce after an anvil fell on his head. Twice.

By Peregrinus (not verified) on 25 Nov 2008 #permalink

Even if Josephus wrote t hat Jesus tap-danced on the back of an elephant while reciting the lords prayer, it doesn't make the story any more plausible. You've got Josephus talking 60 years after the supposed death of Jesus, 20 years after the first Gospel was written down. Christianity and the myth of Jesus was well in circulation by then, his testament does not make the impossible event of conquering death any more plausible.

Ex post facto history was exceedingly common in Antiquity and it is not necessarily unreliable.

To the contrary, history per se, of any sort, was exceedingly rare in antiquity. Furthermore, none of the gospels (canonical or apocryphal) meet the definition anyway. Whatever the reality of events in c.30 CE Galilee, the authors of the gospels were clearly not interested in writing in the historical mode (or even in the [Hellenistic] biographical mode, despite Luke's borrowing of some common tropes from that form).

The gospels are theological fictions, written for the twin purposes of explicating scripture in light of the cataclysmic upheaval of 2nd Temple Judaism and passing along a new genre of wisdom literature that over generations was syncretized and attributed to a founding figure (a practice "exceedingly common in antiquity"). Midrash is probably the closest literary equivalent.

This alone doesn't mean Jesus was a mythical figure. (Plenty of fiction is built around a kernel of truth.) But it's fully consistent with the hypothesis that he was, and it invalidates the gospels as a relevant source of historical information. We need to look outside of scripture for that, and, as discussed above, there simply is no extra-scriptural evidence that doesn't come with pretty serious doubts.

And then there's Paul. Shall we go there next?

Brownian rocks

Brownian motion. (heh) Endlessly entertaining

By RamblinDude (not verified) on 25 Nov 2008 #permalink

Whatever the reality of events in c.30 CE Galilee, the authors of the gospels were clearly not interested in writing in the historical mode (or even in the [Hellenistic] biographical mode, despite Luke's borrowing of some common tropes from that form).

I am familiar with the ancient historians, which is how I know you are full of ****. Even sober histories contain apologia.

By Peregrinus (not verified) on 25 Nov 2008 #permalink

Emmet Caulfield @349:

As Conan Doyle would have it, when you've eliminated the impossible, whatever is left, however improbable, must be the truth.

Didn't Conan Doyle also believe in fairies?

"The impossible often has a kind of integrity to it which the merely improbable lacks. How often have you been presented with an apparently rational explanation of something which works in all respects than one, which is just that it is hopelessly improbable? Your instinct is to say, 'Yes, but he or she simply wouldn't do that.' ... The [impossible] merely supposes that there is something we don't know about, and God knows there are enough of those. The [improbable], however, runs contrary to something fundamental and human which we do know about. We should therefore be very suspicious of it and its specious rationality ... If it could not possibly be done, then obviously it had been done impossibly. The question was how?"

By Piltdown Man (not verified) on 25 Nov 2008 #permalink

Even if Josephus wrote t hat Jesus tap-danced on the back of an elephant while reciting the lords prayer, it doesn't make the story any more plausible.

But it would make it pretty awesome.

By Peregrinus (not verified) on 25 Nov 2008 #permalink

Pilty and Peregrinus, your god is imaginary. Just between your ears. So nothing is gained by pretending gospels/dogma mean anything.

By Nerd of Redhead (not verified) on 25 Nov 2008 #permalink

you have yet to show that it is impossible for resurrections to happen.You may believe so on your blind faith in naturalism but if you're not a naturalist i see no reason to think so. I would say most reasonable people should be agnostic on it.

Try it this way: you have yet to show that it is impossible for divine conceptions authored by Zeus and Apollo to happen. You may believe so on your blind faith in monotheism but if you're not a monotheist i see no reason to think that the impregnation of Augustus's mother by Apollo in the form of a snake (reported by Suetonius) was impossible. I would say most reasonable people should be agnostic on it.

Are you agnostic on it?

What?? Are you restricting what is probable to your experience? If so let's just throw out the American Civil War, neither you nor I "experienced that".
And you have yet to show that it is impossible for resurrections to happen.You may believe so on your blind faith in naturalism but if you're not a naturalist i see no reason to think so. I would say most reasonable people should be agnostic on it.

Given that millions of people die every year, not one has been observed to come back to life. The process of death and decomposition is very well understood, what you are proposing defies all that we have come to know.

It's not about what any of us have experienced because not a single one of us has experienced death. What we have experienced through measure is the process that death takes on an organic organism. We're not only able to know the process, but use it for practical purposes too. Based on the state of the body, the time of death is able to be worked out to a fairly accurate degree.

In any case, even if one could conquer death, it still doesn't make it any less immaculate. Given the millions who die each year who don't conquer death, a single person who can doesn't make any previously reported stories of those resurrecting any less amazing. It's an immensely improbable event even if it's not impossible, and stories written decades later by people who did not witness it is not tangible evidence.

Pilty and Peregrinus, your god is imaginary. Just between your ears.

I give as much weight to your personal testimony as I give to the testimonies of Mormon missionaries.

By Peregrinus (not verified) on 25 Nov 2008 #permalink

I actually mean that. Same thing with Emmet. I don't get it. We love cute, funny, smart guys. WTF?

Well, I suppose, two outta three ain't bad, as the old song goes :o)
As is often the case, SC, your kindness makes me blush, but, speaking from experience on the other side of the fence, as it were, the "we" you mention are a vanishingly tiny minority. It's much more common to find people intimidated by "smart", and "funny" only gets you so far; as an ex of mine once said as she walked out the door "you're so smart it makes me feel inadequate, and I don't think anyone should have to feel like that".
I'll shut up now, lest my cynicism and misanthropy show ;o)

I am familiar with the ancient historians, which is how I know you are full of ****. Even sober histories contain apologia.

Fuck you, asshole --oh, I'm sorry, I meant, #@%& you, @$$&*^^.

Then bring some examples that address what I specifically said about the character of the gospels, beyond my introductory, or topic, and hence more general, sentence. You have a very Christian (read, petulant scumbag) way of pretending that you've attacked an idea, when you've only pulled out a snippet that you thought it would sound good to bash on.

And I'm not talking about apologia. That's not what midrash is, it's not what the gospels are. That's for later, self-conscious liars, like yourself. The authors of the gospels were honest enough; they've just been willfully misinterpreted by a long line of your intellectually bankrupt forebears to the point where honest folk turn away in embarrassment at what a mockery you've made of your religion's earliest literature.

****head.

Take a cat, whip the motherfuck out of it then put it on a cross. Pierce it with a spearlike object. Make sure that animal is dead. Now put the dead cat in a box and leave it for a few days. Come back and see whether the cat has vanished or like biology states it would the dead form has started to decompose.

Is that Schrödinger's cat? Because that would be really interesting - well, not for the cat, obviously.

Didn't Conan Doyle also believe in fairies?

But there's as much evidence for fairies as there is for your god. Are you seriously mocking someone else's belief in something that's based - as yours is - entirely on faith without evidence?

By Wowbagger (not verified) on 25 Nov 2008 #permalink

I give as much weight to your personal testimony as I give to the testimonies of Mormon missionaries.

Ah, so you are an atheist!

By Owlmirror (not verified) on 25 Nov 2008 #permalink

Is that Schrödinger's cat? Because that would be really interesting - well, not for the cat, obviously.

Not quite, Schrödinger's cat was alive when it was put in the box. It's a precondition that the cat is dead. A living cat put in the box can either be alive or dead when the box is opened, the whole point of this experiment is to show that if a dead cat is put in the box it's going to remain dead. It's the anti-Schrödinger experiment, there to evidentially show that the dead stays dead, rather than being a helpful analogy of wave-particle duality.Though considering Schrödinger made a thought experiment, and my experiment involved torturing and killing an animal, his is a lot more humane.

Well, I suppose, two outta three ain't bad, as the old song goes :o)

I love that song. And not only because he lives in CT, the center of the universe :P - and was as far as I know coaching a girls' softball team there for a while. Tangentially-related fact: One night when I stayed over at MAJeff's, we belted out "Paradise by the Dashboard Light" at the top of our lungs (I'm sure his neighbors hate me, and him). He's trained, BTW, and has a beautiful voice. Great fun.

...the "we" you mention are a vanishingly tiny minority. It's much more common to find people intimidated by "smart", and "funny" only gets you so far...

I don't think that's true, and I hope I'm right. Perhaps you're going to the worng places and meeting the wrong women...

Didn't Conan Doyle also believe in fairies?

And ghosts, too, speaking at seances.

Doyle was neither Sherlock Holmes nor Dr. Joseph Bell.

"The impossible often has a kind of integrity to it which the merely improbable lacks.[...]"

You do have a knack for quoting atheists...

By Owlmirror (not verified) on 25 Nov 2008 #permalink

I love that song...

Me too. I can probably belt out every tune off both BooH albums with varying degrees of success -- I don't have the range and power of Aday. I wouldn't really think of myself as a fan, per se, but to the extent that I am, I'm more a fan of Steinman than Aday: the album he did without him (Midnight at the Lost and Found) was unadulterated muck.

I don't think that's true, and I hope I'm right.

Me too, but I've seen precious little evidence of it.

Perhaps you're going to the worng places and meeting the wrong women.

Maybe. It's a packaging problem. Finding available women to fornicate with is not difficult. Finding people to have intelligent conversations and a good laugh with is not difficult. Finding both in the same package is as rare has hens' teeth.

See ya'll. I'm off to the usual wrong place. If I'm lucky, I'll meet a wrong woman or two. At least the beer's always good, and later, the apologetics!

By Sven DiMilo (not verified) on 25 Nov 2008 #permalink

as rare has hens' teeth

...and later, the apologetics!

See? Too cute and funny!

I give as much weight to your personal testimony as I give to the testimonies of Mormon missionaries.

I give your testimony even less weight. God doesn't exist. Get over it.

By Nerd of Redhead (not verified) on 25 Nov 2008 #permalink

It's funny watching apologists squirm when their usual tactics don't fly. Assertion then avoidance, assertion then avoidance. By now I'd just expect one to front up and say "it's faith", then we can all stop this charade. But no, they want there to be evidence for their beliefs and will decent those slim morsels they do have until the end of time.

BTW Peregrinus is Robert O'Brien banned for stupidity. A man so stupid Ed Brayton named a stupidity award after him.

It funny watching these atheists and their tactics. They haven't even addressed any of the patristic writers. They make assertions about the type of literature the gospels are and the dates they were written without providing evidence.
They have not been able to come up with any consistent story regarding the Testimonium, haven't made any arguments against its overall reliability.
When cornered they throw out links to Doherty's parrots at Ebon Musings and FFrF.
And they whine about how Tacitus is too late cuz it is 80 years later (I wonder if any checked to see the earliest evidence we have for Caesar crossing the Rubicon outside of his own works and its dating?)
I love watching them squirm when pressed with good historical scholarship.

I love watching them squirm when pressed with good historical scholarship.

If you actually showed any good historical scholarship we might be impressed. Don't pat yourself on the back too hard. It's unbecoming.

By Nerd of Redhead (not verified) on 25 Nov 2008 #permalink

I love watching them squirm when pressed with good historical scholarship.

Do be a good child and let us know when this happens, so we know what it looks like. Though I doubt you'd know good historical scholarship if it bit you.

By Wowbagger (not verified) on 25 Nov 2008 #permalink

They have not been able to come up with any consistent story regarding the Testimonium, haven't made any arguments against its overall reliability.

The consistent story is that Eusebius, or someone earlier, faked it.

Josephus wasn't a Christian.

And they whine about how Tacitus is too late cuz it is 80 years later

Wait, what?

I love watching them squirm when pressed with good historical scholarship.

Heh. Since you haven't provided any, nobody's squirming. Hell, you have trouble putting together basic English sentences.

So, where is this so-called resurrected God-man of whom you speak? If he's real, bring him out for us. Let's see him do a miracle. I hear he turns water into wine; if he can magic a bottle of Evian into a nice Cabernet, or better yet, a Château Lafite, maybe we can chat.

By Owlmirror (not verified) on 25 Nov 2008 #permalink

They haven't even addressed any of the patristic writers.

They are after the rise of the Jesus myth, what is there to say?

They make assertions about the type of literature the gospels are and the dates they were written without providing evidence.

Okay, Mark was written first. This has been derived from the style of the writing in the three synoptic gospels, and the way that Mark, Matthew and Luke all disagreed. This is the view accepted by most biblical scholars. The earliest date for Mark would have been after the destruction of the temple at 70CE. Matthew and Luke are thought to be written anywhere between 70 and 100CE, and John was a composite work that came a bit later.

They have not been able to come up with any consistent story regarding the Testimonium, haven't made any arguments against its overall reliability.

Have you simply ignored what people have posted in this thread? The authorship of the Tetstimonium has been disputed quite heavily. Actually read what people write here and stop lying. I know you have a habit of lying when caught out, and it's not endearing in the slightest of what Christianity does to the mind.

And they whine about how Tacitus is too late cuz it is 80 years later (I wonder if any checked to see the earliest evidence we have for Caesar crossing the Rubicon outside of his own works and its dating?)

Ceasar crossing the Rubicon and Jesus resurrecting from the grave are on two very different scales of evidence.

Yet all this doesn't change the fact that you believe in the implausible based on 2nd hand accounts written decades later.

Shit, even when you try and make a point you make a bad one. How is it you can even turn on a computer?

So, where is this so-called resurrected God-man of whom you speak? If he's real, bring him out for us. Let's see him do a miracle. I hear he turns water into wine; if he can magic a bottle of Evian into a nice Cabernet, or better yet, a Château Lafite, maybe we can chat.

Actually, that's why the kid's been late. The hosts of heaven asked him about this "wine" stuff they'd heard about, and, well, next thing you know, they're all either completely smashed or hungover, or in the process of going from one to the other. And cherubim are happy drunks, and seraphim are angry drunks, and between the partying and the fighting, this place has pretty much gone to Hell.

Damn angels can't hold their drink, and you can't tell a drunk angel anything.

Why do they all want proof of god, don't they know that it would cause him to negate his own existance?
"For proof denies faith, and without faith, I am nothing."
"But," says man, "the [historical accuracacy and veracity of the Bible {HA!}] is a dead giveaway, isn't it? It could not have [come about] by chance. It proves you exist, and so therefore, by your own arguments, you don't. QED"
"Oh dear," says God,"I hadn'e though of that," and promptly vanishes in a puff of logic.

Seriously, though.
If God is defined by logic, then he isn't omnipotent, because the fact and nature of his existance must fall within reason.
If God isn't a logical being, he is completely unnecessary, and we would be the same with or without him; logic, as we all know, suffuses reality, and the illogical merely entertain our thoughts (faires, specteres, ect).
Or he doesn't exist at all, no escaping that fact, as he is a logical immpossibility. The best you theists can hope for is the second option, but such an existance belies the possibility that any sufficiently powerful entity becoming a diety, which doesn't very well support your idealogue of an infinite, eternal Ruler of Everything. Clearly.

God, i thought angels couldn't imbibe alchohol? Hey, is it really true that they have no genitals? HAHAhaha!

How is it you can even turn on a computer?

Clearly, we are being punished. Why else would we be subject to such gushings of intellectual santorum?

  1. In the beginning, PZ created the site and the blog.
  2. And the blog was without 'tards or trolls; and comment was within the realm of logic. And the spirit of science moved upon the face of the thread.
  3. And Google said, Let there be trolls: and there were trolls.
  4. And PZ saw the trolls, that they were lame: and PZ divided the trolls from the clowns.
  5. And PZ called the trolls fuckwits, and the other he called Mollies. And the postings and the comments were on the first host.
  6. And Seed said, let there be advertisements in the midst of the postings, and let them separate the content from the content.
  7. And they made the advertisements, and divided the content which was left of the advertisements from the content which was right of the advertisements: and it was so.
  8. And Seed called the advertisments Revenue. And the postings and the comments were on the second host.
  9. And Seed said, Let the comments under the postings be gathered together unto one place, and let the content appear: and it was so.
  10. And Seed said, Let the 'net bring forth clowns, the 'tard yielding drivel, and the cretin yielding crap after his kind, whose brain is very tiny, even on the 'net: and it was so.
  11. And the 'net brought forth 'tards, and imbeciles yielding muck after his kind, and the cretin yielding crap, whose head was up his ass, after his kind: and PZ saw that it was bad.
  12. And the posting and the comments were the next thread.
  13. And Seed said, Let there be sounds in the advertisement of the iPhone to divide those with Adblock from those without; and let them be annoyed, and for reasons, and for days, and years:
  14. And let them be for sounds in the advertisement of the iPhone to give annoyance upon the blog: and it was so.
  15. And Seed made two great ads; the greater ad to rule the top, and the lesser ad to rule the right: they made the banners also.
  16. And Seed set them in the HTML of the pages to give cash from the blog,
  17. And to rule over the top and over the right, and to divide the content from the comments: and Seed saw that they made cash.
  18. And the posting and the comments were the next thread.

["For proof denies faith, and without faith, I am nothing."]
Depend on how you define faith. Faith is trust in a person or thing and is used in the bibleto mean trust in god.

[If God is defined by logic, then he isn't omnipotent, because the fact and nature of his existance must fall within reason.]
Logic is a reflection of God's absolute unchanging nature that God has revealed to us.Logic is part of his nature and doesn't limit his nature any more than the fact that his nature is perfectly moral and god is the standard of goodness.

[the illogical merely entertain our thoughts (faires, specteres, ect).]
How are they illogical?
[Or he doesn't exist at all, no escaping that fact, as he is a logical immpossibility. The best you theists can hope for is the second option, but such an existance belies the possibility that any sufficiently powerful entity becoming a diety, which doesn't very well support your idealogue of an infinite, eternal Ruler of Everything. Clearly.]
What????

the fact that his nature is perfectly moral

So genocide and infanticide are perfectly moral by nature? ;)

Facile Guy: Faith is pretty much the absance of any good reason to believe, and spiting that.
Douglass Adams is a Legend in literature, by the way, in addition to being very intellectually capable. http://www.americanatheist.org/win98-99/T2/silverman.html

"Absolute Unchanging Nature": http://www.georgeleonard.com/yahweh.html

Fairies: Illogical because thier existance has no basis in rationality. They pretty much fall right under the definition of illogical.

You'll have to think through the last part yourself

Owlmirror @ 377:

You do have a knack for quoting atheists..

Ex-atheists you mean.

By Piltdown Man (not verified) on 25 Nov 2008 #permalink

God, i thought angels couldn't imbibe alchohol

That film, while amusing, was grossly inaccurate in many ways. Among other things: I don't care for skee ball; while there was a black apostle, his name was not "Rufus" (it was Thaddeus); there is no such thing a "shit demon"; and I sure as Hell do not take orders from the Roman Catholic Church.

"Plenary indulgence", my ineffable backside.

Hey, is it really true that they have no genitals?

You can find out for yourself, but you have to die first. There are some angels that will do anything when drunk... and I do mean anything.

Ex-atheists you mean.

Your lot lurking around deathbeds again, huh? Bravo.

By Wowbagger (not verified) on 25 Nov 2008 #permalink

Facilis, do you have any physical proof for your imaginary god? Until you present some, quit positing god.

By Nerd of Redhead (not verified) on 26 Nov 2008 #permalink

Logic is a reflection of God's absolute unchanging nature that God has revealed to us. Logic is part of his nature and doesn't limit his nature any more than the fact that his nature is perfectly moral and god is the standard of goodness.

If the above is true, then the bible must be false, precisely because God, in the bible, is neither moral nor logical. Are you a Deist?

If, on the other hand, you hold with Divine Command interpretation and assert that anything that God does is moral and logical, then neither "morality" nor "logic" have any meaning whatsoever; they are merely arbitrary labels for whatever it is God chooses to do at any given point.

So which is it?

By Owlmirror (not verified) on 26 Nov 2008 #permalink

[If, on the other hand, you hold with Divine Command interpretation and assert that anything that God does is moral and logical, then neither "morality" nor "logic" have any meaning whatsoever; they are merely arbitrary labels for whatever it is God chooses to do at any given point.]
Did you read what I said? Logic and morality are a reflection god's unchanging nature

Facilis, your god is imaginary. Making declarations that god exists doesn't make it so. If you have some physical proof for your imaginary god, please trot it out so we can investigate it. I'll make sure to bring in scientists, magicians, and professional debunkers to make sure your claim is real.

If you have to accept god on faith, go somewhere else to peddle your tripe.

By Nerd of Redhead (not verified) on 26 Nov 2008 #permalink

They make assertions about the type of literature the gospels are and the dates they were written without providing evidence.

We can get into as much detail as you'd like. These are blog comments, and they generally need to be shorter than essay length, y'know. I'll provide more evidence for my position when it faces a serious challenge. Mostly, it just faces bluster, like your weak attempt to mock what you don't understand.

I made an argument about "the type of literature the gospels are" specifically against the contention that they can be considered "history" in any sense. The response from li'l bobby was that I am "full of shit" (except he ever so tactfully used ****). So who's asserting, and who's arguing?

We hadn't really got very deep into dating the texts, but nobody here has made any contention on that score that wasn't completely in line with scholarly consensus, and that is a broad agreement, shared by Christian and secular scholars. Doherty, if anyone, wants to date them much later than the consensus does. If we were his "parrots," or relied on them, whoever they are, why wouldn't we insist on these much later dates?

They have not been able to come up with any consistent story regarding the Testimonium, haven't made any arguments against its overall reliability.

If anybody has an inconsistent story, I'd say it's you slippery bastards that won't settle on a story. li'l bobby just said that my case was only effective against an interpretation that assumed the greek we have is the greek Josephus wrote. But he didn't say what he did think Josephus wrote. It's obvious that he could not have written the passage as it was later rendered, so the most prsimonious hypothesis is that the whole passage is a forged interpolation. It seems to me that a "consistent story" needs to be told, in detail, to establish another hypothesis as more likely.

When cornered they throw out links to Doherty's parrots at Ebon Musings and FFrF.

I didn't do that. Did anyone here, in this thread, do that? And who is cornered? Owlmirror links to the Ebon Musings pages on occasion, and so what? These are blog comments, as I say, and we can't be writing a book here. External sources of in-depth investigation are useful adjuncts to points made here. There's serious research and argumentation there that you can't just dismiss with a wave of your hand. I'll need to see an argument about some specific content there if you want to rule it out of bounds.

Did you read what I said? Logic and morality are a reflection god's unchanging nature

I read what you wrote; I am trying to figure out what you meant by it.

If you really believe that god is unchanging, then it certainly sounds like you are a deist. Why, then, are you arguing for the bible? The bible does not describe a logical, moral, or for that matter, unchanging god.

By Owlmirror (not verified) on 26 Nov 2008 #permalink

li'l bobby just said that my case was only effective against an interpretation that assumed the greek we have is the greek Josephus wrote. But he didn't say what he did think Josephus wrote. It's obvious that he could not have written the passage as it was later rendered, so the most prsimonious hypothesis is that the whole passage is a forged interpolation.

Your knowledge of the concept of parsimony is as deficient as your knowledge of the NT and ancient history. Also, I was quite plain in stating that the Arabic version is closest to what Josephus wrote.

By Peregrinus (not verified) on 26 Nov 2008 #permalink

Peregrinus, I'll give you the same challenge to prover your god as I did Facilis in post 404. If you can't prove god exists, then arguing over whether jebus existed is a moot point.

By Nerd of Redhead (not verified) on 26 Nov 2008 #permalink

Your knowledge of the concept of parsimony is as deficient as your knowledge of the NT and ancient history. Also, I was quite plain in stating that the Arabic version is closest to what Josephus wrote.

It is precisely on the point of parsimony that we can be pretty sure that the Arabic version, which I see is not just a translation, but a translation of a paraphrase from a translation from a fragment originally in Syriac is not closest to what Josephus wrote.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Josephus_on_Jesus#Arabic_version

Sheesh.

By Owlmirror (not verified) on 26 Nov 2008 #permalink

Yeah, shithead's concept of parsimony amounts to "whatever fits my laughably childish preconceived notions is the simplest explanation." 'Cause, you know, he's simple.

Also, I was quite plain in stating that the Arabic version is closest to what Josephus wrote.

And again I am stating that it doesn't matter if Josephus thought that Christ tap-danced on the back of an elephant while reciting the lords prayer. 2nd, 3rd and 4th hand eyewitness accounts given decades later are not sufficient evidence given the gravity of the claims. Just think of all those people who say they have seen alien ships, there are so many people who have. No matter how many times someone says "I've seen an alien ship", it doesn't make the concept of alien life visiting earth any less plausible. Just as all those who say they've seen ghosts, seen bigfoot, seen whatever - and those are 1st hand eyewitness accounts.

All you have is some mythic storytelling several decades after the fact and a couple of historical accounts that happen well after Christianity had taken foot. It's not sufficient evidence, only evidence of your personal credulity.

Logic and morality are a reflection god's unchanging nature

God's unchanging nature? What, are you high? Unless the Old Testament (themes include: blood, fire, ethnic cleansing, butchery and floods) and the New Testament (themes include: peace, love and understanding) are about completely independent gods - and I'm pretty sure you don't believe that they are - then it's obvious he's about as constant as Melbourne weather*.

*Go visit for a couple of days. You'll see what I mean.

By Wowbagger (not verified) on 26 Nov 2008 #permalink

I agreed with what Nick was saying here (although I don't believe sociology to have an especially high proportion relative to numerous other disciplines), and assumed he wasn't generalizing from this to a dismissal of sociology as a whole. - SC@138

Quite right! I consider economics contains far larger and denser clouds of blithering nonsense than sociology! There seems to be plenty in anthropology, psychology, political science, human geography - the rest of the human sciences. I was thinking mostly of (what I know of) the postmodernist and poststructuralist writers in sociology/cultural studies, and much "sociology of science".

By Nick Gotts (not verified) on 26 Nov 2008 #permalink

The knowledge that Piltdown Scumbag finds one of my publications "rebarbative" and "vilainous" is quite gratifying. I note that he shifted to this description from a quite different one "gibberish" in response to several testimonies to his extracted phrases' coherence - for which many thanks SC, David M., Anton Mates, Feynmaniac. Anyone who wants can get the full context by following the link SC gave@152 (thanks again SC, and for alerting me to Scumbag's antics. It's amusing he doesn't realise what a favour he's done me by publicising my work and giving me a chance to talk about it!) Academic journals have specific audiences, and word limits. The meaning of the terms used would be known to most of those reading the article, and easily discovered by those who did not know them. The phrases Scumbag quotes are part of a summary of a school of thought about "social-ecological systems" which the paper criticises, largely because it underestimates the uniqueness of human capabilities; the consequent differences between ecosystems in which people are and are not active; and the extent to which people defy prediction by noticing patterns in events, and anticipating future ones (also because of its somewhat mystical-holistic approach to ecology itself).

The terminology Scumbag quoted concerns ecosystems, and is best explained with an example, say a tropical rangeland. These often have two "metastable states": grass-dominated and woody-shrub dominated - and maybe a third: semi-desert. A metastable state is just one that tends to persist (there are processes which push it back toward that state if it starts to leave it), but which can be ended - and often succeeded by another - by a large-enough disturbance. The "dynamically important variables" are those aspects of the system that most strongly determine its behaviour. In the tropical rangeland example these might be the density of herbivores, the amount of dead plant material, and the length of the dry season. Overgrazing can shift the system from grass-dominated to woody-shrub dominated (or semi-desert); fire (a type of episodic change) can shift it back from woody-shrub to grass. Hysteresis, as Anton noted, means that some properties of a system persist even when the factor that brought them about is removed. The most common ecological example is of lake eutrophication. A shallow lake may be (to simplify) oligotrophic or eutrophic - low productivity, high biodiversity and clear water vs high productivity, low biodiversity, algae making the water-column opaque. Increasing phosphate levels in a lake will shift it to a eutrophic state; but usually reducing the phosphate level to its original value will not clear the water - it has to go considerably lower.

Scumbag of course regards any attempt to understand the human past with horror; one can readily understand why. I regard it as very difficult, but important both in itself, and to help us avoid some of the worst pitfalls in negotiating what looks like a very difficult but still promising human future.

I'm very happy to discuss the paper with (almost) anyone interested.

By Nick Gotts (not verified) on 26 Nov 2008 #permalink

Nick Gott:

I note that he shifted to this description from a quite different one "gibberish" in response to several testimonies to his extracted phrases' coherence

Correct. Surely it's commendable to shift one's position if it proves to be untenable? Only a raving lunatic or swivel-eyed bigot would do otherwise. And note that I did so because I accepted the "testimonies" of others. IMHO that compares favorably with those who scream "liar!" whenever their calumnies are rebutted.

Scumbag of course regards any attempt to understand the human past with horror; one can readily understand why.

Nothing could be further from the truth. I just believe that any such attempt will be fruitless if it does not provide a 'metanarrative' without which history becomes a mere collection of contingent facts. If the past is to be "understood" , history cannot merely chronicle, it must also orientate. I daresay you subscribe to a 'metanarrative' of your own, an emancipatory one I would guess from your article.

I regard it as very difficult, but important both in itself, and to help us avoid some of the worst pitfalls in negotiating what looks like a very difficult but still promising human future.

Let them alone: they are blind, and leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into the pit.

By Piltdown Man (not verified) on 27 Nov 2008 #permalink

Let them alone: they are blind, and leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into the pit.

Thanks Pilty; nothing says "D'uh, I'm a Christian!" like posting scripture admonishing you not to do the very thing you're doing.

You obviously think we're the blind, so why don't you follow the book you purport to believe in and let us be?

Sorry, never mind. I forgot that to a Christian hypocrite like yourself the Bible is a mere collection of words to repeat rather than read and comprehend. Say 'Hi' to the Pharisees you'll be sharing tubtoys with in Hell for me.

By Brownian, OM (not verified) on 27 Nov 2008 #permalink

Pilty, I offer testimony that your imaginary god doesn't exist. Time for you to be swayed by my words, quit believing the irrationality of religion, and come over to the side of logic and rationality. Join us. You know you want to.

By Nerd of Redhead (not verified) on 27 Nov 2008 #permalink

I just believe that any such attempt will be fruitless if it does not provide a 'metanarrative' without which history becomes a mere collection of contingent facts. If the past is to be "understood" , history cannot merely chronicle, it must also orientate. I daresay you subscribe to a 'metanarrative' of your own, an emancipatory one I would guess from your article. - Piltdown

Why on earth should anyone be interested in what you "just believe"?

Why do you need inverted commas around 'metanarrative' and "understood" - and why different ones for each? If you believe the concept of a metanarrative is useful, you don't need the inverted commas. If you don't, why mention it? If you want to distinguish different types of understanding, or real and factitious understanding, do so explicitly. Do you even know what you are trying to say here?

By Nick Gotts (not verified) on 27 Nov 2008 #permalink

Let them alone: they are blind, and leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into the pit.

Thou shalt not speak evil of the deaf, nor put a stumbling block before the blind

But we preach Christ crucified: unto the Jews indeed a stumbling block, and unto the Gentiles foolishness

Pilt, as long as you're still stumbling around: If you had your way, and could magically transform the Vatican such that it would no longer be the modern, fuzzy, liberal (etc) that its...

Which papacy from the past would you choose to have in power instead?

You said you support a "Catholic sacral monarchy"; which Catholic monarch from the past would you choose to be the subject of?

Just out of random curiosity.

By Owlmirror (not verified) on 27 Nov 2008 #permalink

I just believe that any such attempt will be fruitless if it does not provide a 'metanarrative' without which history becomes a mere collection of contingent facts. If the past is to be "understood" , history cannot merely chronicle, it must also orientate.

Really.
I think you just want to embed teleological assumptions into the interpretation of history.

Aren't the inferences a student makes regarding relationships within this "mere collection of contingent facts" enough metanarrative?

By John Morales (not verified) on 27 Nov 2008 #permalink

Do you even know what you are trying to say here?

I don't know what Pilty's trying to say, but so far he's successfully told us that he's as shitty a Christian as he is a science student.

Ha-ha! Pilty can argue against evolution all he wants, but he's still gonna end up in hell!

By Brownian, OM (not verified) on 27 Nov 2008 #permalink

You said you support a "Catholic sacral monarchy

Rule By the Pope's Ass (tailbone)?

By Brownian, OM (not verified) on 27 Nov 2008 #permalink

Rule By the Pope's Ass (tailbone)?

Yep, that sounds like theological rule all right. Or close enough.

By Nerd of Redhead (not verified) on 27 Nov 2008 #permalink

Catholic sacral monarchy? Are you shitting me? How utterly ridiculous. The Church can't even stop their own priests from raping children - how the hell are they going to govern anyone else?

And, correct me if I'm wrong, wasn't the Thirty Years' War the result of the Catholic Church and the Monarchy getting together to make decisions?

By Wowbagger (not verified) on 27 Nov 2008 #permalink

Sometimes Pilty makes me wonder who is his supplier. It takes an altered state of mind for some of his nonsense.

By Nerd of Redhead (not verified) on 27 Nov 2008 #permalink

Amongst the bible's many, many failings as any kind of guidebook for modern society is the utter absence of anything resembling democracy - which is why monarchies have always been fond of religion - well, until King gets on the wrong side of the Pope.

The greatest single achievement in human history may well be the realisation that the concept known as 'The Divine Right of Kings' was a crock of shit.

By Wowbagger (not verified) on 27 Nov 2008 #permalink

The Church can't even stop their own priests from raping children - how the hell are they going to govern anyone else?

Well, he gets to choose the papacy. Presumably one he thinks will "clean house" with a round of excommunications, castrations, and incinerations, etc.

I assume that by Catholic sacral monarchy, he means that the Church crowns the king, who then has the divine right to rule, see? It's an old custom which, biblically speaking, goes back to the prophet Samuel anointing Kings Saul and David. In Christianity, it probably goes back to the Patriarch of Constantinople crowning the Byzantine emperors, and the popes crowning the Holy Roman emperors, etc.

By Owlmirror (not verified) on 27 Nov 2008 #permalink

And, correct me if I'm wrong, wasn't the Thirty Years' War the result of the Catholic Church and the Monarchy getting together to make decisions?

I am nearly certain that Pilt blames the war entirely on the Protestants, who naughtily refused to submit to the Church's stern, but God-authorized, discipline.

By Owlmirror (not verified) on 27 Nov 2008 #permalink

The divine right is post-Reformation, so Piltdown would presumably wish to stop short of that, with the Church as the highest power.

The Divine Right of Kings is a political and religious doctrine of royal absolutism. It asserts that a monarch is subject to no earthly authority, deriving his right to rule directly from the will of God. The king is thus not subject to the will of his people, the aristocracy, or any other estate of the realm, including the church. The doctrine implies that any attempt to depose the king or to restrict his powers runs contrary to the will of God and may constitute treason.
The origins of the theory are rooted in the medieval idea that God had bestowed earthly power to the king, just has He had given spiritual power and authority to the church, centering on the pope. With the rise of nation-states and the Protestant Reformation however, the theory of Divine Right justified the king's absolute authority in both political and spiritual matters

(my bold)

By John Morales (not verified) on 27 Nov 2008 #permalink

Nick Gotts @ 418:

Why on earth should anyone be interested in what you "just believe"?

Search me. I was merely responding to your comments about what I believed.

Why do you need inverted commas around 'metanarrative' and "understood" - and why different ones for each? If you believe the concept of a metanarrative is useful, you don't need the inverted commas. If you don't, why mention it? If you want to distinguish different types of understanding, or real and factitious understanding, do so explicitly.

I have no problem with the concept of metanarrative but the word itself strikes me as a rather uncouth neologism - one which, moreover, might be unfamiliar to some people. I felt the inverted commas suggested an appropriately polite distancing from the word. All I meant was some principle exterior to the events but present to the historian.

There were inverted commas around "understood" because it was a semi-quotation ("any attempt to understand the human past"); there was indeed also an intended distinction between real and factitious understanding , which I felt was made sufficiently clear by my contrast between chronicling and orientating.

By Piltdown Man (not verified) on 28 Nov 2008 #permalink

John Morales @420:

I think you just want to embed teleological assumptions into the interpretation of history.

Humans are uniquely storytelling animals and every story must have a beginning, middle and end. Why should that not be an unconscious reflection of the structure of reality itself?

Aren't the inferences a student makes regarding relationships within this "mere collection of contingent facts" enough metanarrative?

Well it depends what sort of inferences & relationships you're talking about. To evaluate requires a system of values which in turn surely implies a metanarrative.

By Piltdown Man (not verified) on 28 Nov 2008 #permalink

Piltdown,
Your latest comments deserve a serious response.

some principle exterior to the events but present to the historian.

Can you spell this out further? I agree that simply chronicling events does not produce understanding, but as it is, it's very vague - what kinds of "principle" count? The "some principle" could be "Stuff happens!", that is, there is no pattern to history. It could be a belief that history is following a predetermined path of some kind leading to some utopian, paradisal or apocalyptic endpoint (as in Christianity, Islam, many varieties of Marxism, and many other irrational belief-systems). It could be simply an attempt to construct a good story on the basis of real events - narrative for the sake of narrative. It could be an ethical viewpoint, with a primary focus on morally evaluating the behaviour of individuals or groups. It could be a theoretical framework intended to explain the course of past events in causal terms. It could be an attempt to distil past experience into practical knowledge: how best to make war, reduce poverty, combat disease...

Humans are uniquely storytelling animals and every story must have a beginning, middle and end. Why should that not be an unconscious reflection of the structure of reality itself?
Why should it be? Precisely because we are natural storytellers, if we seek real understanding of natural or human history, we need to beware of forcing events into the shape of our preferred stories.

By Nick Gotts (not verified) on 29 Nov 2008 #permalink

Humans are uniquely storytelling animals and every story must have a beginning, middle and end. Why should that not be an unconscious reflection of the structure of reality itself?

IF it were the case, why posit the existence of an entity with no begining, middle and end then ?

By negentropyeater (not verified) on 29 Nov 2008 #permalink

Humans are uniquely storytelling animals and every story must have a beginning, middle and end. Why should that not be an unconscious reflection of the structure of reality itself?

Why should that be so? There's no reason for us at all to understand the nature of reality beyond the cause and effect process that led to us. Our brains are built to understand the scope of our existence, there's no reason to suggest we have an unconscious knowledge that goes beyond the material universe in which we live.

Wowbagger @$@$:

Catholic sacral monarchy? Are you shitting me?

I shit you not.

By Piltdown Man (not verified) on 29 Nov 2008 #permalink

Piltdown, #436:

You do realise this means that limp pillock Charles (the current Prince of Wales) is the chosen of god? Not one of his better days, methinks.

Oh, and what's the @$@$ about?

By Wowbagger (not verified) on 29 Nov 2008 #permalink

Wowbagger:

You do realise this means that limp pillock Charles (the current Prince of Wales) is the chosen of god? Not one of his better days, methinks.

Perhaps God has him lined up as a victim soul. At any rate, he talks sense on some matters and it's hard to believe he could do a worse job than that scrote Brown.

Oh, and what's the @$@$ about?

Keyboard incompetence.

@ 426:

Amongst the bible's many, many failings as any kind of guidebook for modern society is the utter absence of anything resembling democracy

Oh I don't know ...

[Caiphas said to them:] It is expedient ... that one man should die for the people

And so Pilate being willing to satisfy the people

By Piltdown Man (not verified) on 29 Nov 2008 #permalink

Owlmirror @419:

If you had your way, and could magically transform the Vatican such that it would no longer be the modern, fuzzy, liberal (etc) that its...
Which papacy from the past would you choose to have in power instead?
You said you support a "Catholic sacral monarchy"; which Catholic monarch from the past would you choose to be the subject of?

I don't think there's much to be gained by such exercises, entertaining though they may be. However much one might yearn for another Pius IX to hurl jeremiads at the modern world, or a St Pius X to crack down on dissidents within the Church, one has to face the fact that it's probably not going to happen any time soon.

"I wish none of this had happened." "So do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us."

(Mind you, even today you occasionally see signs of a vestigial ecclesiastical spine.)

By Piltdown Man (not verified) on 29 Nov 2008 #permalink

Hmm, link doesn't seem to be working. Try here.

By Piltdown Man (not verified) on 29 Nov 2008 #permalink

So is that nutter Charles A. Coulombe expounding your political beliefs then, Piltdown? Go on! You're having us on! No-one could take that sort of bilge seriously, surely?

By Nick Gotts (not verified) on 29 Nov 2008 #permalink

Pilty, still trying to push dogma when you haven't proven the first step that your imaginary god exist. TSK TSK. If you are logical, then god first, then the scripture holy, then the dogma. You keep skipping over very important steps. Makes you look like a mental and philosophical lightweight. Then you don't like other peoples speculations, when you claim you are speculating. TSK, TSK, the hypocrisy.

By Nerd of Redhead (not verified) on 29 Nov 2008 #permalink

Humans are uniquely storytelling animals and every story must have a beginning, middle and end. Why should that not be an unconscious reflection of the structure of reality itself?

Precisely because humans are capable of imagining far more things than actually happen, and imagining things that conflict with themselves, and having psychological blocks (confirmation bias, etc) that prevent them from understanding that they have imagined something false.

We have a way to examine the "structure of reality" itself. It's called the scientific method. So far, when applied appropriately, it has provided far better results than relying solely on human storytelling.

Your pseudonym provides an example: the "Piltdown Man" was presented as an anthropological "missing link", and was provisionally accepted until the actual skull and jawbone were examined by scientific peers, and the hoax was exposed. The story was false; the truth was shown by those who had an honest scientific background in anatomy.

[Caiphas said to them:] It is expedient ... that one man should die for the people

And so Pilate being willing to satisfy the people

And that's the same sort of thinking that lead to the executions of heretics, non-Christians, and those who were called "witches", in Catholic Europe.

[Catholic sacral monarchy]

I shit you not.

No, I'm pretty sure that page was 100% pure shit. With a crown on top, true, but definitely shit.

Remind me again how you reconcile that shit with Henry VIII, and the fact the current English monarchy is Protestant (and, as you accused based on a postage stamp, with links to Freemasonry)?

(Mind you, even today you occasionally see signs of a vestigial ecclesiastical spine.)

I note the deep hypocrisy of a Christian calling someone "aggressive, disruptive and apocalyptic" as a criticism. Does he — and you — not realize that that was exactly what Jesus was?

Never mind the point that the accusation against Obama is almost entirely false, and therefore in violation of the 9th commandment.

I also note that Stafford appears to disagree with the idea of sacral monarchy:

"Because man is a sacred element of secular life," Stafford remarked, "man should not be held to a supreme power of state, and a person's life cannot ultimately be controlled by government."
By Owlmirror (not verified) on 29 Nov 2008 #permalink

His Eminence James Francis Cardinal Stafford criticized President-elect Barack Obama as "aggressive, disruptive and apocalyptic," - from Piltdown's link@440

I think the word His Pomposity was groping for was "uppity".

By Nick Gotts (not verified) on 29 Nov 2008 #permalink

I think the word His Pomposity was groping for was "uppity".

I think the first rule of pomposity is "never use one word when three will do". It used to be "never use one word when ten will do", but we live in a sadly debased and decadent era.

By Owlmirror (not verified) on 29 Nov 2008 #permalink

Nick Gotts @ 441:

You're having us on! No-one could take that sort of bilge seriously, surely?

Owlmirror @443:

I'm pretty sure that page was 100% pure shit. With a crown on top, true, but definitely shit.

I suspect that, left to themselves, free from the interference of rationalistic busybodies and unscrupulous revolutionaries, most people would choose to live under a monarchy. Quite apart from the fact that it most closely imitates the heavenly hierarchy, monarchy has the advantage that it supplies the important human need for splendour and spectacle in society. Why do you think all the classic fairytales - the ones that have stood the test of time - are all set in a world of kings and queens, princes and princesses, never presidents, prime ministers and parliaments? There are no republican fairytales. (It's perhaps significant that the only modern US president who acquired something of the glamour of myth was associated with Camelot.)

Owlmirror @443:

Remind me again how you reconcile that shit with Henry VIII, and the fact the current English monarchy is Protestant (and, as you accused based on a postage stamp, with links to Freemasonry)?

The same way that I imagine you would reconcile a belief in democracy with Richard Nixon and Tony Blair - by recognizing that we are imperfect beings in an imperfect world. (BTW the postage stamp - indisputably Masonic - was merely an illustration of the accusation, not the basis for it.)

[Caiphas said to them:] It is expedient ... that one man should die for the people ... And so Pilate being willing to satisfy the people

And that's the same sort of thinking that lead to the executions of heretics, non-Christians, and those who were called "witches", in Catholic Europe.

Only in the loosest sense that all were concerned with ensuring the wellbeing of the polity. The difference is, the Inquisitors believed that those they condemned were guilty, whereas Caiphas and Pilate knowingly condemned an innocent man because of expediency.

Humans are uniquely storytelling animals and every story must have a beginning, middle and end. Why should that not be an unconscious reflection of the structure of reality itself?

Precisely because humans are capable of imagining far more things than actually happen, and imagining things that conflict with themselves, and having psychological blocks (confirmation bias, etc) that prevent them from understanding that they have imagined something false.
We have a way to examine the "structure of reality" itself. It's called the scientific method. So far, when applied appropriately, it has provided far better results than relying solely on human storytelling.
Your pseudonym provides an example: the "Piltdown Man" was presented as an anthropological "missing link", and was provisionally accepted until the actual skull and jawbone were examined by scientific peers, and the hoax was exposed. The story was false; the truth was shown by those who had an honest scientific background in anatomy.

Point taken, although I don't accept that scientific method can supply a complete picture of reality. "The whole modern conception of the world is founded on the illusion that the so-called laws of nature are the explanations of natural phenomena. " - Wittgenstein

Nick Gotts @433:

The "some principle" could be "Stuff happens!", that is, there is no pattern to history. It could be a belief that history is following a predetermined path of some kind leading to some utopian, paradisal or apocalyptic endpoint (as in Christianity, Islam, many varieties of Marxism, and many other irrational belief-systems). It could be simply an attempt to construct a good story on the basis of real events - narrative for the sake of narrative. It could be an ethical viewpoint, with a primary focus on morally evaluating the behaviour of individuals or groups. It could be a theoretical framework intended to explain the course of past events in causal terms. It could be an attempt to distil past experience into practical knowledge: how best to make war, reduce poverty, combat disease...

Yes, those are all options, not all of them mutually exclusive. I, of course, would plump for Option 2.

Owlmirror @443:

I note the deep hypocrisy of a Christian calling someone "aggressive, disruptive and apocalyptic" as a criticism. Does he -- and you -- not realize that that was exactly what Jesus was?

Of course. But there can be only one.

Never mind the point that the accusation against Obama is almost entirely false, and therefore in violation of the 9th commandment.

I thought the gist of the Cardinal's "accusation" was that Obama intended to enforce a liberalization of the US abortion laws - and isn't it a matter of public record that Obama intends to do just that?

I also note that Stafford appears to disagree with the idea of sacral monarchy:
"Because man is a sacred element of secular life," Stafford remarked, "man should not be held to a supreme power of state, and a person's life cannot ultimately be controlled by government."

Possibly. It's hard to tell just what His Most Reverend Eminence is saying there. In any case, I wasn't holding him up as a paragon of politico-religious lucidity, just admiring the man's courage in speaking out against the faintly sinister secular-messianic cult of Obama.

Nick Gotts @444:

I think the word His Pomposity was groping for was "uppity".

And what makes you think that?

By Piltdown Man (not verified) on 30 Nov 2008 #permalink

Pilty, you amuse me.

Piltdown:

...the faintly sinister secular-messianic cult of Obama.

Stupid sophistic-hyperbolic innuendo.

By John Morales (not verified) on 30 Nov 2008 #permalink

John Morales:

Stupid sophistic-hyperbolic innuendo.

Right.

By Piltdown Man (not verified) on 30 Nov 2008 #permalink

Piltdown, more seriously, all USA elections have plenty of "splendour and spectacle", with huge rallies and people dressing up and dancing in the streets and hype galore.

As for your monarchic dreams, face it: You're fantasising.

By John Morales (not verified) on 30 Nov 2008 #permalink

I suspect that, left to themselves, free from the interference of rationalistic busybodies and unscrupulous revolutionaries, most people would choose to live under a monarchy. Quite apart from the fact that it most closely imitates the heavenly hierarchy, monarchy has the advantage that it supplies the important human need for splendour and spectacle in society.

Holy shit! This guy is nuts.

It might supply "splendour and spectacle" but it does a lousy job supplying bread and civil rights (look up French Revolution).

Why do you think all the classic fairytales - the ones that have stood the test of time - are all set in a world of kings and queens, princes and princesses, never presidents, prime ministers and parliaments?

Hmmmm, let's see. Why do "classic fairytales" only talk about political structures that existed in the past? Hmmmm.....

Aside from the obvious fact I'd also argue it's probably easier for children to understand an absolute monarchy than the inner workings of a parliamentary system.

Finally, in Star Wars the people fighting for the Republic were the good guys and those fighting for the Empire were bad. Here's a modern day "fairytale" that mentions senate, republic, etc.

By Feynmaniac (not verified) on 30 Nov 2008 #permalink

Again, I'd like to remind everyone that 'Piltdown Man' was a skull made from a man from the Middle Ages,a chimpanzee, and an orangutan.

It's also the name of a fraudulent fossil.

By Feynmaniac (not verified) on 30 Nov 2008 #permalink

Holy shit! This guy is nuts.

Seconded !

By negentropyeater (not verified) on 01 Dec 2008 #permalink

John Morales @451:

all USA elections have plenty of "splendour and spectacle", with huge rallies and people dressing up and dancing in the streets and hype galore.

True - I actually think the showbiz element is the healthiest aspect of US politics (and in a sense the most authentically democratic). But the hype surrounding Obama is of a different order - nobody said stuff like this about Reagan.

As for your monarchic dreams, face it: You're fantasising.

You mean to say you haven't heard of the numerous Catholic prophecies of a Great Monarch who will reclaim the crown of France, reunite Altar and Throne, break the power of Islam and usher in a final period of world peace prior to the rise of the Antichrist??

Feynmaniac @452:

It might supply "splendour and spectacle" but it does a lousy job supplying bread and civil rights (look up French Revolution).

I suspect there's more to the Revolution than that ...

I'd also argue it's probably easier for children to understand an absolute monarchy than the inner workings of a parliamentary system.

As good a reason as any to adopt monarchy.

Finally, in Star Wars the people fighting for the Republic were the good guys and those fighting for the Empire were bad. Here's a modern day "fairytale" that mentions senate, republic, etc.

I'm not too familiar with the mythos, but wasn't there a royal family involved somewhere (Princess Leia etc)? (Not to mention a powerful military-religious order ...)

RickrOll @447:

Pilty, you amuse me.

There's far too little laughter in the world.

All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.

From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.

By Piltdown Man (not verified) on 01 Dec 2008 #permalink

Why do you think all the classic fairytales - the ones that have stood the test of time - are all set in a world of kings and queens, princes and princesses, never presidents, prime ministers and parliaments?

Classic fairytales like...the bible?

True, there are no presidents, prime ministers or parliaments in there. Why? Because the bible - and the religion limited by it - are inherently anti-democratic. Yet another dead giveaway of their inapplicability to modern society.

Don't you think it's funny that the judeo-christian god wasn't even able to predict democracy? Heck, such concepts were are around even before the stories about jesus were fabricated emerged. I'd have thought an omniscient, all-powerful being would have mentioned something along those lines.

By Wowbagger (not verified) on 01 Dec 2008 #permalink

Piltdown Man,

There's far too little laughter in the world.
All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;....
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.

You do realize Pilty that you are quoting Tolkien and not the bible, right?

By Feynmaniac (not verified) on 01 Dec 2008 #permalink

You mean to say you haven't heard of the numerous Catholic prophecies of a Great Monarch who will reclaim the crown of France, reunite Altar and Throne, break the power of Islam and usher in a final period of world peace prior to the rise of the Antichrist??

Catholic prophecies that never realise, yes, you can always dream :
http://www.bva.fr/data/sondage/sondage_sondage/531/sondage_fichier/fich…

Opinion poll on the French and monarchy.

Would you be in favour of the restoration of monarchy in France :

absolutely in favour : 3%

rather in favour : 14%

rather opposed : 24%

absolutely opposed : 56%

Looks like that "prophecy" is going to require some kind of divine intervention...

And what's with "the power of Islam", again with your ridiculous projections that I've already seriously debunked ?

By negentropyeater (not verified) on 01 Dec 2008 #permalink

Pilty is very good at quoting fiction, whether it be Tolkien, the bible, or church dogma. Worth the paper it is written on, and very much stuck in the past. One of these days he may actually make it into the twenty-first century.

By Nerd of Redhead (not verified) on 01 Dec 2008 #permalink

Tolkien is God!!! If The Lord Of The Rings isn't a historical account, then why are there PYGMIES + DWARFS??

I'd also argue it's probably easier for children to understand an absolute monarchy than the inner workings of a parliamentary system.

As good a reason as any to adopt monarchy.

- Piltdown

You're absolutely right, there is indeed no better reason to adopt monarchy than that; and since that would be an extremely stupid reason to adopt a political system for adults, we can dismiss the idea as moonshine. Really, I know you and your kind are keen to infantilise people, Piltdown, but you're seldom so up-front about it as that.

By Nick Gotts (not verified) on 01 Dec 2008 #permalink

Piltdown Man,

I suspect there's more to the Revolution than that ...

Were you absent in school the day they taught how to use words to form arguments?

I'm not too familiar with the [Star Wars] mythos, but wasn't there a royal family involved somewhere (Princess Leia etc)? (Not to mention a powerful military-religious order ...)

I brought up Stars Wars to your claim that classic fairytales "never [have] presidents, prime ministers and parliaments". Of course they don't, there were virtually none back then. They also mention alchemy and say nothing about nuclear physics. However, if you look a modern tales there are examples of democratic institutions.

Nerd of Redhead,

One of these days [Piltdown Man] may actually make it into the twenty-first century.

I say we set reasonable goals and try to get him to the nineteenth.

By Feynmaniac (not verified) on 01 Dec 2008 #permalink

I suspect that, left to themselves, free from the interference of rationalistic busybodies and unscrupulous revolutionaries, most people would choose to live under a monarchy. Quite apart from the fact that it most closely imitates the heavenly hierarchy, monarchy has the advantage that it supplies the important human need for splendour and spectacle in society. - Piltdown

What you "suspect" is of no interest whatever, unless you have evidence to support your suspicion. It is not a fact that monarchy "most closely imitates the heavenly hierarchy" - because there is not such thing as the heavenly hierarchy in reality, and the various mythical accounts of it do not agree. The "human need for splendour and spectacle in society" does indeed exist - AFAIK, all societies have their ceremonies and spectacles - but that very universality means it is not something we have to take elaborate pains to preserve; it is met, for example, both in small-scale acephalous societies and in modern cosmopolitan megacities. Rather monarchies, like religious elites, and most modern political elites, stabilise their parasitic relationships with human societies in large part by exploiting this need.

By Nick Gotts (not verified) on 01 Dec 2008 #permalink

Pilty,

Et ses mains ourdiraient les entrailles du prêtre,
Au défaut d'un cordon pour étrangler les rois.

And his hands would plait the priest's entrails,
for want of a rope, to strangle kings.

Denis Diderot, Les Éleuthéromanes

By negentropyeater (not verified) on 01 Dec 2008 #permalink

I suspect that, left to themselves, free from the interference of rationalistic busybodies and unscrupulous revolutionaries, most people would choose to live under a monarchy. - Piltdown

Translation: people could be fooled into supporting absolute monarchy, if everyone critising it were silenced.

By Nick Gotts (not verified) on 01 Dec 2008 #permalink

negentropyeater,

Yes, it's said that humanity will not be free until the last king is strangled with the guts of the last priest. That's going to take some careful planning, and possibly a breeding programme for either kings or priests.

(Note to Piltdown - I'm joking. I do not advocate the physical destruction of either kings or priests - merely their complete redundancy as religion and monarchism wither and vanish.)

By Nick Gotts (not verified) on 01 Dec 2008 #permalink

Wowbagger @456:

Because the bible - and the religion limited by it - are inherently anti-democratic. Yet another dead giveaway of their inapplicability to modern society.

Nobody's denying biblical religion and modern society are incompatible, it's just a question of which will last longer.

Don't you think it's funny that the judeo-christian god wasn't even able to predict democracy? ... I'd have thought an omniscient, all-powerful being would have mentioned something along those lines.

If the Bible doesn't predict the precise political development of modern democracy, we can assume they have no intrinsic significance. However, the Bible does make predictions about certain spiritual developments which may not be unrelated to modern society:

For they are a rebellious people, lying sons, sons who will not hear the instruction of the LORD; who say to the seers, "See not"; and to the prophets, "Prophesy not to us what is right; speak to us smooth things, prophesy illusions, leave the way, turn aside from the path, let us hear no more of the Holy One of Israel.

For there shall be a time, when they will not endure sound doctrine; but, according to their own desires, they will heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears: And will indeed turn away their hearing from the truth, but will be turned unto fables.

The Son of man, when he cometh, shall he find, think you, faith on earth?

negentropyeater @458:

Opinion poll on the French and monarchy.

At best, an opinion poll is a snapshot of people's opinions at a particular moment in time. Who in 1900 could have predicted coming events. "There are many events in the womb of time which will be delivered."

Looks like that "prophecy" is going to require some kind of divine intervention...

But of course.

"What shall I say to you now, dear sons of France... ? The people who made an alliance with God at the baptismal font of Rheims will repent and return to its first vocation. Her faults will not remain unpunished, but she will never perish, the daughter of so many merits, so many sighs, and so many tears. A day will come ... when France, like Saul on the road to Damascus, will be surrounded by a heavenly light and will hear a voice repeating to her, "My daughter, why do you persecute me?" And to her response, "Who art thou, Lord?" the voice will reply, "I am Jesus, whom you persecute. It is hard for you to kick against the goad, because, in your obstinacy, you destroy yourself." And she, trembling and astonished, will say, "Lord, what wouldst thou have me do?" And He will say, "Rise up, wash the filth that has disfigured you, awaken in your heart those dormant affections and the pact of our alliance and go, eldest daughter of the Church, predestined nation, vessel of election, go, as in the past, and carry my name before all peoples and before the kings of the earth." - St Pius X

Feynmaniac @462:

Were you absent in school the day they taught how to use words to form arguments?

Res ipsa loquitur.

I brought up Stars Wars to your claim that classic fairytales "never [have] presidents, prime ministers and parliaments". Of course they don't, there were virtually none back then. They also mention alchemy and say nothing about nuclear physics.

And yet those tale remain stubbornly popular in an age when one might have thought their unfamiliar cultural presuppositions would have rendered them so alien as to be incomprehensible.

However, if you look a modern tales there are examples of democratic institutions.

Well in the case of Star Wars, they don't seem to be presented in a very favourable light. According to Wikipedia, "It was a democratic, though eventually ineffectual, constitutional republic tied up in layers of bureaucracy. ... Much of its operation is based on non-binding constitutional conventions, which were often ignored and undermined by corrupt and power-hungry politicians. Coalition governments were common with special interests defining the legislative agenda." Sounds familiar.

Nick Gotts @463:

The "human need for splendour and spectacle in society" ... is met, for example, both in small-scale acephalous societies and in modern cosmopolitan megacities.

Is there really such a thing as a wholly acephalous society?

Rather monarchies, like religious elites, and most modern political elites, stabilise their parasitic relationships with human societies in large part by exploiting this need.

Makes you wonder how educational elites stabilise their parasitic relationships with human societies, as they provide little in the way of intentional entertainment.

negentropyeater @464:

Et ses mains ourdiraient les entrailles du prêtre,
Au défaut d'un cordon pour étrangler les rois.

Allons armées catholiques
Le jour de gloire est arrivé!
Contre nous de la république
L'étendard sanglant est levé.

Quoi des infâmes hérétiques
Feraient la loi dans nos foyers?
Quoi des muscardins de boutiques
Nous écraseraient sous leurs pieds?

Chrétiens, vrais fils de l'Eglise,
Séparez de vos ennemis
La faiblesse à la peur soumise
Que verrez en pays conquis.

Ô sainte Vierge Marie
Conduis, soutiens nos bras vengeurs!
Contre une sequelle ennemie
Combats avec tes zélateurs!

Nick Gotts @466:

Note to Piltdown - I'm joking. I do not advocate the physical destruction of either kings or priests

Ah, but the Jacobins weren't joking, were they? They got rid of their king and priests and, after a period of bloody terror, ended up with - Napoleon! Nice going.

Once you set a revolution rolling, it's hard to control its speed and course.

By Piltdown Man (not verified) on 01 Dec 2008 #permalink

Is there really such a thing as a wholly acephalous society? - Piltdown
Yes, at least until recently, in the sense of societies where the decision-making unit is a family group - the Shoshone of the Great Basin, for instance. Such societies tend to be rather egalitarian and permissive even within family groups, as it is so easy for a disgruntled member to leave.

Makes you wonder how educational elites stabilise their parasitic relationships with human societies, as they provide little in the way of intentional entertainment. - Piltdown
Touché. However, some of them at least supply useful knowledge and training in useful skills, and so are not purely parasitic on society at large, unlike religious and most political elites. Many have, of course, acquiesced in the model of education as a "customer-focused" business, and the worst sell qualifications like pre-Reformation indulgences.

Once you set a revolution rolling, it's hard to control its speed and course. - Piltdown
Indeed, which is why I hope a revolution can be avoided in making the huge changes needed over the next decades to ensure civilization's survival.

Of course the same warning applies to counter-revolutions: the "White Terror" of 1794-5 was far more bloody than the Jacobin "Reign of Terror" that preceded it. The only possible way in which your "Catholic sacral monarchy" could make a reappearance is through the collapse of civilisation, so no doubt you're praying for exactly that.

By Nick Gotts (not verified) on 02 Dec 2008 #permalink

Piltdown,

And yet those tale remain stubbornly popular in an age when one might have thought their unfamiliar cultural presuppositions would have rendered them so alien as to be incomprehensible.

A lot of those tales are for children and thus have to be simple. I think children find monarchies easier to understand because it's similar, generally speaking, to how their family functions. Kings and Queens are like the father and mother of a country.

Also, just because something remains "stubbornly popular" doesn't make it right. Think slavery. Actually, do you support slavery?

Well in the case of Star Wars, [democratic intuitions] don't seem to be presented in a very favourable light.

No, but it's presented as a lot better than Empire.
I don't think anyone would argue that democratic representation is without fault. Since you seem to like quotes so much:

"Democracy is the worst form of government except for all those others that have been tried." - Winston Churchill

Honestly, Pilty I can't tell at this point whether you are joking or are a downright Poe (which would make the name very ironic) or just very backwards. You've shown to be somewhat knowledgeable, yet have taken this ludicrous position. The idea that someone would be advocating monarchy on the internet is somewhat hard for me to believe. Maybe it's because I grew up in North America and have ever seen anyone argue this. I've seen some in Canada argue to keep the Queen as a figurehead, but never to actually give her real power.

People outside North America that come to here seem stupefied that creationism is so popular in the US. I am not because I've seen it. Creationism is just as backwards as monarchism. Is monarchism popular wherever it is you are from? Or were you just born into a royal family and remain real pissed that all you get from it is a life of leisure?

By Feynmaniac (not verified) on 02 Dec 2008 #permalink

Pilty,

Singing la Marseillaise des Blancs won't help. Singing it another 205 years won't help transform your desires for reality.

A day will come ... when France, like Saul on the road to Damascus, will be surrounded by a heavenly light and will hear a voice repeating to her ... carry my name before all peoples and before the kings of the earth.

Great, we'll do that when it happens. Meanwhile we'll continue to think that Pius X was delusional. Ok ?

By negentropyeater (not verified) on 02 Dec 2008 #permalink

Nick Gotts @468:

Is there really such a thing as a wholly acephalous society? - Piltdown

Yes, at least until recently, in the sense of societies where the decision-making unit is a family group - the Shoshone of the Great Basin, for instance.

By that do you mean one family is pre-eminent in the tribe, or that the tribe is a federation of more or less independent families, or that the tribe is one extended family? Was there no hierarchy within the family?

some [educational elites] at least supply useful knowledge and training in useful skills, and so are not purely parasitic on society at large, unlike religious and most political elites.

Well I would say traditional political elites (monarchy and aristocracy) did play an eminently practical social role - they were the leaders. That role included providing training in the martial virtues and protection for the weak. They became "parasites" only once their power - and hence their function - was removed.

As for the religious elites, as the literate class they performed an educative and administrative function, as well as acting as a check on the power of the political elites.

Many have, of course, acquiesced in the model of education as a "customer-focused" business

The barbarians are at the gates.

and the worst sell qualifications like pre-Reformation indulgences.

Abusus non tollit usum.

the "White Terror" of 1794-5 was far more bloody than the Jacobin "Reign of Terror" that preceded it.

Source?

The only possible way in which your "Catholic sacral monarchy" could make a reappearance is through the collapse of civilisation, so no doubt you're praying for exactly that.

I dread the prospect but I don't see how it can be averted.

+++

Feynmaniac @469:

I think children find monarchies easier to understand because it's similar, generally speaking, to how their family functions. Kings and Queens are like the father and mother of a country.

Exactly. The family, not the individual, is the basic cell of society and the state is a family of families.

Also, just because something remains "stubbornly popular" doesn't make it right.

True.

Think slavery. Actually, do you support slavery?

The term has meant many different things over the centuries and I'm not sure what, if anything, the situation in the Greco-Roman world had in common with the CSA, for example. To imagine one can own a person body and soul is a grave evil, as (by extension) is buying & selling human beings like chattel. Men can never be property. I am less certain that owning a person's work - ie that a person be obliged to labour without his consent for another - is necessarily always and everwhere evil.

Well in the case of Star Wars, [democratic intuitions] don't seem to be presented in a very favourable light.

No, but it's presented as a lot better than Empire.

Isn't the point that the weakness and corruption of the one led inevitably to the rise of the other?

The idea that someone would be advocating monarchy on the internet is somewhat hard for me to believe.

A most irrational position. Why should a culture's level of technological sophistication determine its political organization?

+++

negentropyeater @470:

Singing la Marseillaise des Blancs won't help. Singing it another 205 years won't help transform your desires for reality.

Maybe not. All the same ...

Mon âme à Dieu. Mon corps au roy. Mon coeur à ma femme. Et mon cul à la République!

By Piltdown Man (not verified) on 02 Dec 2008 #permalink

A most irrational position. Why should a culture's level of technological sophistication determine its political organization?

Because it does. The printing press raised literacy rates and laid the seeds for the Age of Enlightenment. Industrialization meant fewer people were needed on the farm and more headed towards the city. Modern technology makes it possible so that the average person doesn't have to work 18 hours a day and has a least some time to be political. Technology has a HUGE impact on the political.

My point was merely it's very hard to believe that a culture that created computers and the internet someone would would be advocating something as backwards as monarchism.

Abusus non tollit usum

Yo puedo jugar este juego también.
Ou en français, si vous préférez?

Ah,argumentum ad latinum. Responding in Latin doesn't make your arguments any better, it just makes you look pompous. It also makes you look like you are aping older writers, who at least lived in a time when Latin was well known.

You could just have easily said the same thing in English and it would have been much easier on the reader. The only purpose I see to it is trying to intimidate the readers and/or patting yourself on the back for knowing a dead language.

By Feynmaniac (not verified) on 03 Dec 2008 #permalink

Note: In my last comment I'm not advocating that Latin should NEVER be used. Some phrases like 'et cetera', 'vice versa', or 'ad hoc' are so common that only a bozo would consider banning them. Other times there are technical terms in biology or law that have Latin roots. In these cases the Latin phrases are either very common or necessary. I was arguing against using Latin when saying the same thing in English (or whatever language is being spoken) would work just as well.

By Feynmaniac (not verified) on 03 Dec 2008 #permalink

By that do you mean one family is pre-eminent in the tribe, or that the tribe is a federation of more or less independent families, or that the tribe is one extended family? Was there no hierarchy within the family? - Piltdown

"Tribe" is a European designation which bears little relevance to how many small-scale societies are organised. The Great Basin Shoshone spent most of the year hunting and foraging as separate families; coming together in larger numbers occasionally for festivals and specialised hunting. There was relatively little specialisation in labour of difference in status between the sexes. No doubt the adults told the children what to do.

Well I would say traditional political elites (monarchy and aristocracy) did play an eminently practical social role - they were the leaders. That role included providing training in the martial virtues and protection for the weak. They became "parasites" only once their power - and hence their function - was removed.

As for the religious elites, as the literate class they performed an educative and administrative function, as well as acting as a check on the power of the political elites.

European feudal royalty and aristocracy were surely as purely parasitic a class as you could possibly find. The "martial virtues" were only needed because this elite persisted in fighting over the spoils of exploiting the primary productive classes - farmers and craftspeople. I'll concede that as a literate group, the clergy had some function in preserving, transmitting and even acquiring knowledge, but this became obsolete around 1450. From then on, they devoted considerable efforts to preventing the spread of literacy, which would reduce their power. It is no accident that countries where the Catholic Church retained power fell behind those where it did not, in literacy, and in technology, science and economic intensification.

By Nick Gotts (not verified) on 03 Dec 2008 #permalink

Italicisation failure@474: the paragraph beginning "As for the religious elites, as the literate class" is a quotation from Piltdown, and should be italicised.

"the "White Terror" of 1794-5 was far more bloody than the Jacobin "Reign of Terror" that preceded it." - Me

"Source?" - Piltdown

My source was memory - probably faulty, as what figures I can now find say the opposite. I withdraw the claim.

By Nick Gotts (not verified) on 03 Dec 2008 #permalink

Piltdown wrote, in reference to the collapse of civilisation:

I dread the prospect but I don't see how it can be averted.

And you think your side will win? I can't see how. Your god hasn't shown himself to be too concerned with the well-being of either his first group of chosen people or their supplanters (in their minds at least) as the favoured children; why would he be any different now?

Then, of course, there's that somewhat significant problem of there being many gods to choose from, and only one that can be correct. What if you've backed the wrong horse (if God's really picky you've only got a one in over 38,000 chance - not good odds) and the one true god will be urging your enemies to perform some Numbers 31 style retribution?

But here's the thing - there will always be atheists. Religions come and go but atheism will exist wherever people stop and think about the numerous unsupportable claims religion makes. Even if you succeed and wipe out the science that helps undermine everything you believe, people will just discover it all over again.

Truth will out, as they say.

By Wowbagger (not verified) on 03 Dec 2008 #permalink

It is no accident that countries where the Catholic Church retained power fell behind those where it did not, in literacy, and in technology, science and economic intensification.

I'm not sure that's entirely fair and accurate. As you know, I'm by no means an apologist for Catholicism, but in Ireland, it was substantially priests of the Catholic Church who educated the populace, at first against the penal laws of the occupying English power, and later, despite the inability and/or unwillingness of the state to finance universal education. Generations of Irish people were educated substantially by the religious. The ultimate irony is that the Church did a good enough job that, in the late 20th century, the populace became educated enough to evaluate and reject Church teaching on contraception and divorce. It's not the case, of course, that Ireland has entirely rejected the pernicious influence of the Vatican, but I suspect that progress would've been considerably slower were it not for Church involvement.

Feynmaniac @ 472:

Why should a culture's level of technological sophistication determine its political organization?

Because it does. The printing press raised literacy rates and laid the seeds for the Age of Enlightenment. Industrialization meant fewer people were needed on the farm and more headed towards the city. Modern technology makes it possible so that the average person doesn't have to work 18 hours a day and has a least some time to be political. Technology has a HUGE impact on the political.

Certainly the development of technology had a profound effect on social structures. BUt the fact that it may have contributed to the waning of historically specific monarchical systems doesn't mean that a sophisticated level of technology invalidates monarchy in principle - any more than literacy guarantees good government.

Similarly in the case of religion. The liberal Protestant "demythologizing" theologian Bultmann famously wrote that anyone who could flick on an electric light switch could no longer believe in miracles or demons. On one level the comment was perceptive: the abundant, tangible fruits of modern technology undoubtedly fostered the popular and comforting idea that reality was well on the way to being understood and hence controlled. But on another level it's a fatuous comment: demons exist or they don't, miracles happen or they don't regardless of whether people believe in them or not.

You could just have easily said the same thing in English and it would have been much easier on the reader. The only purpose I see to it is trying to intimidate the readers and/or patting yourself on the back for knowing a dead language. ... Some phrases like 'et cetera', 'vice versa', or 'ad hoc' are so common that only a bozo would consider banning them. Other times there are technical terms in biology or law that have Latin roots. In these cases the Latin phrases are either very common or necessary. I was arguing against using Latin when saying the same thing in English (or whatever language is being spoken) would work just as well.

I would say the phrase I used belongs to a third category of Latin usage - expressions or quotations which may not be part of everyday demotic speech or technical vocabulary but which are considered to be within the purview of a reasonably educated person (or at least have been considered so until recently). Other examples would include mens sana in corpore sano, alea jacta est, veni, vidi, vici, et tu, Brute, Carthago delenda est, dulce et decorum est pro patria mori and so forth. Far from being supercilious or an attempt to intimidate, their use shows a degree of faith in the reader's ability to recognize or learn them. There are plenty of examples in the Asterix series of children's cartoons, left untranslated. Why not translate them into English? Firstly because the Latin is pithy and euphonious. And secondly because even the slightest knowledge of that language provides a living link to at least two defining periods of Western history and civilization.

As for Latin being a "dead" language, it would be more accurate to call it an undead language. In the Dark Ages, Alfred the Great was lamenting the fact that virtually nobody in his kingdom understood Latin; as we know, it soon rose from the grave.

By Piltdown Man (not verified) on 04 Dec 2008 #permalink

Nick Gotts @474:

No doubt the adults told the children what to do.

In other words, these families exhibited the principle of hierarchical authority flowing from the top down, even if that authority was not invested in a single individual.

How can any society, whether a family or an empire, endure without somebody "telling others what to do"? Without an acknowledged authority willing and able to issue directives, the level of co-ordination necessary for survival would be impossible. A world without obedience is a world without structure. (Cf the experience of anarchist militias in the Spanish Civil War.)

If the Shoshone families had ever joined permanently in a larger social agglomeration, then some new principle of authority would have had to be found - a single pre-eminent family, a council of elders drawn from several families, or whatever.

European feudal royalty and aristocracy were surely as purely parasitic a class as you could possibly find. The "martial virtues" were only needed because this elite persisted in fighting over the spoils of exploiting the primary productive classes - farmers and craftspeople.

You seem to envisage a society in which these peasants and artisans could go about their business in peace without any interference from troublesome warriors.

However desirable such a state of affairs might be, it doesn't seem very realistic. Warfare is an unpalatable fact of life. Those strong enough to fight will always find pretext for doing so and when that happens, the weak suffer. The feudal system went some way toward mitigating this grim picture. Men would swear loyalty and service to stronger men in return for protection in a violent world. Eventually you had a chain of personal obligation stretching from the peasant to the lesser lord to the greater lord all the way up to the king (and beyond the king to God).

I see no difference in principle between this state of affairs and a modern democracy where the citizenry pay high taxes to high officials in return for certain basic services and the protection of a standing army. The main difference is that feudalism was based on ties of personal obligation and reciprocal responsibility, whereas the modern secular state is sustained by an impersonal technocratic bureaucracy managing an equally nameless and faceless mass of citizens.

I'll concede that as a literate group, the clergy had some function in preserving, transmitting and even acquiring knowledge, but this became obsolete around 1450.

You are of course right that developments have rendered certain social functions of the clergy redundant (whether it's been a beneficial development is a moot point).

At the end of the day attempts to justify religious elites on practical, functional grounds can only be secondary. Those self-proclaimed conservatives who see religion primarily as a force for social cohesion should remember that a priesthood ultimately stands or falls on whether the religion it represents is held to be true, not whether it's expedient.

That said, I can think of an enduring social function which belies accusations that the Church's social role is merely parasitic. An autonomous Church provides a check on the power of the state. As John Morales pointed out @429, it was the waning of ecclesiastical power that allowed monarchy to mutate into absolutism, the 'divine right of kings'.

This seems to me to be a concrete illustration of a new element introduced by Christianity - the radical anti-pagan idea that might does not make right; that, as Chesterton put it, "something is stronger than strength". The Old Testament accounts of Israel's vicissitudes, whether David against Goliath or the Maccabees against the Seleucid empire, were absorbed into the cultural bloodstream along with Jesus' Beatitudes. The ideal of the barbarian warrior was supplanted by that of the Christian knight and in a late work of Catholic fiction like LOTR it's the "little people" who prevail ...

It is no accident that countries where the Catholic Church retained power fell behind those where it did not, in literacy, and in technology, science and economic intensification.

Isn't "economic intensification" a euphemism for the exploitation of the poor and by the new oligarchs of industrial capitalism?

By Piltdown Man (not verified) on 04 Dec 2008 #permalink

Why do the drive-by creos have to post their shit in the safety of the early morning,when theyre safe from any immediate criticism?
Im not reading your shit Pilty,im just curious....

Piltdown,

How can any society, whether a family or an empire, endure without somebody "telling others what to do"? Without an acknowledged authority willing and able to issue directives, the level of co-ordination necessary for survival would be impossible. A world without obedience is a world without structure. (Cf the experience of anarchist militias in the Spanish Civil War.)

Coordination is certainly needed. However, this does not have to be exclusively, or even primarily, "top-down", as you claim. Even families differ widely in the extent to which this is so - some are domestic dictatorships, others are based on negotiated coordination; my point was simply that young children lack the knowledge and self-control of (some) adults; but a family that is democratic in approach (I don't mean everything is voted on, but that everyone's views and interests count) will bring them into decision-making as they mature (and yes, I am speaking from experience). The Shoshone have minimal needs for coordination above family level. Large societies have much more such need; the question again, as with families, is how far decision-making is top-down and power is concentrated. Additionally, we can ask whether the leaders are subject to democratic control.

You seem to envisage a society in which these peasants and artisans could go about their business in peace without any interference from troublesome warriors.

However desirable such a state of affairs might be, it doesn't seem very realistic. Warfare is an unpalatable fact of life. Those strong enough to fight will always find pretext for doing so and when that happens, the weak suffer. The feudal system went some way toward mitigating this grim picture. Men would swear loyalty and service to stronger men in return for protection in a violent world. Eventually you had a chain of personal obligation stretching from the peasant to the lesser lord to the greater lord all the way up to the king (and beyond the king to God).

I see no difference in principle between this state of affairs and a modern democracy where the citizenry pay high taxes to high officials in return for certain basic services and the protection of a standing army.

So you concede that the protection by armed thugs was needed in the medieval world because of the prevalence of... armed thugs. Yes, I do envisage a world without warfare - difficult to achieve, but your axiomatic pessimism is based only on your religiously warped view of human nature. We can find ways to change "facts of life": death from smallpox was also a "fact of life" until recently. The key difference between the feudal system and modern democratic systems is, of course, that the ruled get a chance to dismiss the rulers if unsatisfied with their performance; and individuals are not under the direct power of a "feudal superior" who may be incompetent, or psychopathic. I want to broaden and deepend democracy to cover major economic decisions, you want to destroy it. I understand that you loathe democracy, but it's foolish to pretend it is similar to feudalism.

This seems to me to be a concrete illustration of a new element introduced by Christianity - the radical anti-pagan idea that might does not make right

The claim that this is specifically Christian is ludicrous. Buddhism, Jainism, Taoism, Confucianism and Zoroastrianism all precede Christianity and all include this idea - and that is just to name some explicitly formulated belief-systems. Their common root is in our evolved capacity for empathy and desire for equity.

Isn't "economic intensification" a euphemism for the exploitation of the poor and by the new oligarchs of industrial capitalism?

I used it as a consciously neutral term. My point was that the priest-ridden societies of Europe lost out, and were bound to lose out, to those which had escaped the Catholic Church's clutches.

BTW, Piltdown, I'm not going to chase after your Latin tags if I don't recognise them - like practically everyone here, I can see they are just a way of trying to assert your superiority, and I'm not going to be drawn into your game. Nor do I follow most of your links, since they generally just indicate that you have no argument to make, and think an image somehow makes your point for you. Wrong.

BTW(2) - I guess you are one of the few adults who can read LOTR without wanting to throw up when encountering Sam Gamgee's worship of his "master", or finding the anti-democratic and racist overtones of the whole leave a nasty taste. I'm amused that you seem to think it's a work of moral significance.

By Nick Gotts (not verified) on 05 Dec 2008 #permalink

Italicisation FAIL at 481. Apologies. The following was quoting Piltdown, and so should have been italicised:

However desirable such a state of affairs might be, it doesn't seem very realistic. Warfare is an unpalatable fact of life. Those strong enough to fight will always find pretext for doing so and when that happens, the weak suffer. The feudal system went some way toward mitigating this grim picture. Men would swear loyalty and service to stronger men in return for protection in a violent world. Eventually you had a chain of personal obligation stretching from the peasant to the lesser lord to the greater lord all the way up to the king (and beyond the king to God).

I see no difference in principle between this state of affairs and a modern democracy where the citizenry pay high taxes to high officials in return for certain basic services and the protection of a standing army.

By Nick Gotts (not verified) on 05 Dec 2008 #permalink

However much one might yearn for another Pius IX to hurl jeremiads at the modern world, or a St Pius X to crack down on dissidents within the Church,

Why so modern the popes, though? I see that Pius IX was the last ruler of the Papal States, which were then taken by the Italian Nationalists, except for the Vatican itself. And really, reducing his papacy to "jeremiads at the modern world" renders a complex life pathetically simplistic.

You know, when researching extant monarchies, the Vatican is listed among them; the Pope is one of the last monarchs. Is there a particular reason that you don't move to the Vatican so as to be ruled by a true Catholic monarch?

I suspect that, left to themselves, free from the interference of rationalistic busybodies and unscrupulous revolutionaries, most people would choose to live under a monarchy.

And if that were true, the rationalistic busybodies and the revolutionaries would never have gotten anyone to follow them.

monarchy has the advantage that it supplies the important human need for splendour and spectacle in society.

Currently filled by Hollywood movies and celebrities. Which you may well call pathetically vapid, those celebrity affairs and feuds, and I would agree. But when you read about the actual lives of actual monarchs, they, too, seem to be filled with pathetically vapid affairs and feuds.

Why do you think all the classic fairytales - the ones that have stood the test of time - are all set in a world of kings and queens, princes and princesses, never presidents, prime ministers and parliaments?

Because they reflected the society of the storytellers and listeners, and it makes for simpler stories. Fairytales are simplifications upon simplifications; no real-world monarchy was ever as ridiculously simple as those in a story where a king would say that he would give half his kingdom and his daughter's hand in marriage to whoever (regardless of religion or class or family) killed the dragon terrorizing the land.

There are no republican fairytales.

I think there are some out there, given a loose enough definition of "republican" and "fairytale".

[Caiphas said to them:] It is expedient ... that one man should die for the people ... And so Pilate being willing to satisfy the people

And that's the same sort of thinking that lead to the executions of heretics, non-Christians, and those who were called "witches", in Catholic Europe.

Only in the loosest sense that all were concerned with ensuring the wellbeing of the polity. The difference is, the Inquisitors believed that those they condemned were guilty, whereas Caiphas and Pilate knowingly condemned an innocent man because of expediency.

Oh?

Let's see, the relevant chapters appear to be Matthew 26 and 27; Mark 14 and 15; Luke 22 and 23; John 18 and 19.

The texts contradict themselves, and each other, on the point of whether the people at large supported Jesus or demanded his death, and they give subtly different versions of what Jesus said and how Caiphas and Pilate reacted. But the first three narratives do have Jesus claim to be the son of God (a religious claim) to the priests, and the King of the Jews (a civil claim) to Pilate. He also has followers who are armed and violent.

I am certain that the bible is fiction, and that the "trials" have as much to do with real legal practice in Roman Judea as televised legal dramas have to do with actual modern legal proceedings.

However, within the context of the narratives themselves, Jesus makes religious and civil claims that appear to be considered capital crimes. How were Caiphas and Pilate supposed to know that the claims were "true", in the context of the story? They were not indoctrinated with Christianity from birth, like most Christians.

As far as they knew, Jesus was guilty.

Point taken, although I don't accept that scientific method can supply a complete picture of reality. "The whole modern conception of the world is founded on the illusion that the so-called laws of nature are the explanations of natural phenomena. " - Wittgenstein

"Illusion"? Wittgenstein appears to have been a mystic.

What, other than "natural laws", are the explanations of "natural phenomena"?

How would you know?

How would you know if you were wrong?

I note the deep hypocrisy of a Christian calling someone "aggressive, disruptive and apocalyptic" as a criticism. Does he -- and you -- not realize that that was exactly what Jesus was?

Of course. But there can be only one.

(Only one what?)

Ah, so Jesus was an immortal; hence his fascination with swords, and the explanation for why he didn't die when crucified. And Queen provided his soundtrack. Gotcha.

You really need to give up your addiction to popular entertainment. I'm sure that the Holy Office would tell you that it is pernicious and morally bad for your soul.

I thought the gist of the Cardinal's "accusation" was that Obama intended to enforce a liberalization of the US abortion laws - and isn't it a matter of public record that Obama intends to do just that?

Eh, argue about it with your fellow Catholics:

Political partisans from the conservative ranks portray the President-elect as anti-life. He is not; the new President merely intends to use compassion and assistance, not condemnation and prohibition to promote human life. The Cardinal I believe is reacting to a false portrayal that has obscured this fact. When the Cardinal comes to know the new President better, he will readily see that President Obama has far more in common with our great faith tradition than any political administration in recent memory. Quite obviously, and quite sincerely, President Obama shares with our Church a concern for the most vulnerable and the poor, the average family, health care as a human right, bringing to an end an unjust war, welcoming the stranger in a reformed immigration system, treasuring the environment.

I wasn't holding him up as a paragon of politico-religious lucidity, just admiring the man's courage in speaking out against the faintly sinister secular-messianic cult of Obama.

Much like a Jewish priest speaking out against the threateningly sinister secular-messianic cult of Jesus?

Obama, in contradistinction, has not spoken of bringing swords instead of peace, or killing those that do not accept him.

But the hype surrounding Obama is of a different order - nobody said stuff like [Link to "Is Obama an enlightened being?"] about Reagan.

I note that he also mentions your "sacral monarch" Kennedy. What's the problem? Oh, right. Only Catholics get to be "sacral".

You're both wackaloons; the difference is, Morford is not a bigot.

I suspect there's more to the Revolution [Link to Masonic Symbolism, OHNOES] than that

BTW, Pilt, I hope you avoid visiting Colorado anytime soon.

By Owlmirror (not verified) on 06 Dec 2008 #permalink

Nick Gotts -

So you concede that the protection by armed thugs was needed in the medieval world because of the prevalence of... armed thugs.

Thugs? I used a consciously neutral term. Not all warriors are thugs.

Yes, I do envisage a world without warfare - difficult to achieve

It would be easy if we could just get people to stop fighting.

your axiomatic pessimism is based only on your religiously warped view of human nature

"The leftist's despair is to do battle in the name of principles that forbid him cynicism." - EM Cioran

We can find ways to change "facts of life": death from smallpox was also a "fact of life" until recently.

You're comparing apples and oranges. Smallpox was a medical problem, war is a moral problem.

I want to broaden and deepend democracy to cover major economic decisions

As if people haven't got enough to worry about.

... a new element introduced by Christianity - the radical anti-pagan idea that might does not make right

The claim that this is specifically Christian is ludicrous. Buddhism, Jainism, Taoism, Confucianism and Zoroastrianism all precede Christianity and all include this idea

Maybe so, but with Christianity it becomes more than an abstract idea - it is incarnated in the very history of the Chosen People and the Christ.

BTW, Piltdown, I'm not going to chase after your Latin tags if I don't recognise them - like practically everyone here, I can see they are just a way of trying to assert your superiority, and I'm not going to be drawn into your game.

O tempora! O mores!

I guess you are one of the few adults who can read LOTR without wanting to throw up when encountering Sam Gamgee's worship of his "master", or finding the anti-democratic and racist overtones of the whole leave a nasty taste. I'm amused that you seem to think it's a work of moral significance.

To be honest, I found it unreadable, although I did enjoy the films. But as for your assertion that only a "few adults" are able to stomach it, I seem to recall that it was voted 'Book of the [20th] Century' in a recent poll. Naturally, this was the occasion of much wailing and gnashing of teeth among the Guardianistas, for whom the popular will is only respected when it happens to coincide with their liberal beliefs; when it diverges - for example in the case of the death penalty - 'democracy' (good) suddenly becomes 'populism' (bad) and the will of the people is ignored.

By Piltdown Man (not verified) on 06 Dec 2008 #permalink

Owlmirror:

BTW, Pilt, I hope you avoid visiting Colorado anytime soon.

Next up -- the true story of Paul Revere and the Green Dragon Tavern, Count Pulaski's battle flag and the statue of Liberty Enlightening the World! ;-)

By Piltdown Man (not verified) on 06 Dec 2008 #permalink

Piltdown:

[NG] We can find ways to change "facts of life": death from smallpox was also a "fact of life" until recently.
[PM] You're comparing apples and oranges. Smallpox was a medical problem, war is a moral problem.

Yes he is; war and disease are both are facts of life, much like apples and oranges are both fruit.
It's an entirely appropriate comparison which you've disingenuously claimed is inapplicable.
Medical and moral problems are both humanly addressable problems; medicine and ethics are both human endeavours. Religion's contribution to the latter* is not diminished because it's since been superseded.

As for religion solving war - does the term "Wars of Religion" mean anything to you? ;)

* And, charitably, perhaps to the former in some small degree.

By John Morales (not verified) on 06 Dec 2008 #permalink

Pilty does really seem to like this "Faith hurts" thread.

Does it hurt so much, Pilty ?

By negentropyeater (not verified) on 06 Dec 2008 #permalink

I think he knows god doesn't exist, but doesn't know what to do after investing so much effort into the myth. :)

By Nerd of Redhead (not verified) on 06 Dec 2008 #permalink

Piltdown:

[NG] Yes, I do envisage a world without warfare - difficult to achieve
[PM] It would be easy if we could just get people to stop fighting

So you avoid agreeing or disagreeing with Nick, though you try to hide this by being flippant. Do you want a world without war? I do.
Getting rid of religion and applying international law would be a great start. Would there even be a "Middle East Problem" without religion?

You're so evasive everytime an example of how faith hurts comes up.

By John Morales (not verified) on 06 Dec 2008 #permalink

As for religion solving war - does the term "Wars of Religion" mean anything to you?

I'm sure Pilty thinks fondly of the term, since many of the wars allowed his people to rid the world of the enemies of catholicism. And, as an added bonus, all the dead catholics, being True Christians™, would be in heaven while all the others wouldn't.

How can there be a downside when it's win/win?

By Wowbagger (not verified) on 06 Dec 2008 #permalink

Letting go of God? Pilty still hasn't let go of Latin and monarchy.

By Feynmaniac (not verified) on 06 Dec 2008 #permalink

That said, I can think of an enduring social function which belies accusations that the Church's social role is merely parasitic. An autonomous Church provides a check on the power of the state. As John Morales pointed out @429, it was the waning of ecclesiastical power that allowed monarchy to mutate into absolutism, the 'divine right of kings'.

So... are you in favor of monarchical absolutism, or not? Before you were linking to a screed about how magical and holy kings were, curing people just by touching them and just being so wonderfully wonderful, blah blah blah. Are you now saying that that was wrong; that monarchs need checks and balances?

Have you suddenly become a republican?

By Owlmirror (not verified) on 06 Dec 2008 #permalink

Piltdown:

Maybe so [The claim that this [might does not make right] is specifically Christian is ludicrous], but with Christianity it becomes more than an abstract idea - it is incarnated in the very history of the Chosen People and the Christ.

Didn't you say you were a historian? The history of Europe and of the Middle East is totally antithetical to this claim.

In short, you're asserting a palpable falsehood.

By John Morales (not verified) on 06 Dec 2008 #permalink
... a new element introduced by Christianity - the radical anti-pagan idea that might does not make right

The claim that this is specifically Christian is ludicrous. Buddhism, Jainism, Taoism, Confucianism and Zoroastrianism all precede Christianity and all include this idea

Maybe so, but with Christianity it becomes more than an abstract idea - it is incarnated in the very history of the Chosen People and the Christ.

Obviously false. Neither Judaeans nor Christians were particularly just nor peaceful people.

Really, Pilt, you keep making claims about how the Christian religion is this great thing that makes societies magically better. And your claims are disproven by simply examining the history of Christian societies.

By Owlmirror (not verified) on 06 Dec 2008 #permalink

Owlmirror wrote:

And your claims are disproven by simply examining the history of Christian societies.

Yeah, but according to Pilty any historical findings that display christian societies as anything other than idyllic are lies, as he illustrated when I reminded him of the negative impact catholicism had on the native peoples of South America.

By Wowbagger (not verified) on 06 Dec 2008 #permalink
I guess you are one of the few adults who can read LOTR without wanting to throw up when encountering Sam Gamgee's worship of his "master", or finding the anti-democratic and racist overtones of the whole leave a nasty taste. I'm amused that you seem to think it's a work of moral significance.

It's essentialist, romantic, nostalgic, strongly hierarchical, fundamentally despairing, yet finding hope and glory in fighting against the unavoidable darkness. And the whole universe only works because of the hidden hand of an omnipotent power (i.e., the writer himself).

Of course Pilt would like it.

The business with Frodo and Sam can be seen as being more about personal loyalty rather than class loyalty. And the racism arises from the essentialist foundations of the narrative. I think, in fairness to Tolkien, that he did not try to show that any one race was inherently the best; only that each race had some good points (except the orcs), and that the supposed best and brightest were often the most corrupted, or corruptible.

To be honest, I found it unreadable, although I did enjoy the films.

Probably for the best that you didn't read the books. Tolkien's conception of God, as depicted in The Silmarillion, crossed over the border, I think, into heresy.

I also note that none of the characters are in any way religious, and never pray to God in time of need. What's up with that?

By Owlmirror (not verified) on 06 Dec 2008 #permalink

Yeah, but according to Pilty any historical findings that display christian societies as anything other than idyllic are lies, as he illustrated when I reminded him of the negative impact catholicism had on the native peoples of South America.

Ah, but note that he implied that they might be lies, without actually coming out and saying it, by using a quote which he might or might not agree with, in an ambiguous context which he refused to clarify by explaining what the hell he meant by deploying the quote. Classic avoidance tactics.

Very diplomatic; very relativist; very ... statesmanlike.

By Owlmirror (not verified) on 06 Dec 2008 #permalink

Some news that will delight you all, while reaffirming me in my axiomatic pessimism.

By Piltdown Man (not verified) on 06 Dec 2008 #permalink

Some news that will delight you all

Why would we be delighted that children are being deprived of learning about the flora and fauna of their native country?

This is a biology blog, after all.

By Owlmirror (not verified) on 07 Dec 2008 #permalink

Not all warriors are thugs. - Piltdown

True, but practically all the medieval military elite were, in that their value-system glorified violence: war for self-aggrandisement was considered legitimate, as was capturing an enemy knight and holding him for ransom while simply killing prisoners without rich relatives.

My principles do not forbid cynicism, but I tried it in my teens and found it didn't suit me; I prefer realism. I consider it most likely our civilisation will come to a disastrous end; but no-one knows that such an end is inevitable; nor that war cannot be eliminated. You only think you know this, because of your religious delusions.

Maybe so, but with Christianity it [denial that might is right] becomes more than an abstract idea - it is incarnated in the very history of the Chosen People and the Christ.

The denial that might is right is more than an abstract idea every time a person helps someone suffering oppression by the powerful out of compassion, or love of freedom or equity. Your blithering about the "history of the Chosen People" and "the Christ" simply has no purchase in an argument with anyone who does not share your religious presuppositions. Christians do not, in any sense whatever, have a monopoly of or priority in opposing the doctrine that might is right. Stop pretending they do.

By Nick Gotts (not verified) on 07 Dec 2008 #permalink