Elephants’ wings

Once upon a time, four blind men were walking in the forest, and they bumped into an elephant.

Moe was in front, and found himself holding the trunk. "It has a tentacle," he said. "I think we have found a giant squid!"

Larry bumped into the side of the elephant. "It's a wall," he said, "A big, bristly wall."

Curly, at the back, touched the tail. "It's nothing to worry about, nothing but a piece of rope dangling in the trail."

Eagletosh saw the interruption as an opportunity to sit in the shade beneath a tree and relax. "It is my considered opinion," he said, "that whatever it is has feathers. Beautiful iridescent feathers of many hues."

The first three, being of a scientifical bent, quickly collaborated and changed places, and confirmed each other's observations; they agreed that each had been correct in the results of their investigations, except that there wasn't a hint of feathers anywhere about, but clearly their interpretations required correction and more data. So they explored further, reporting to each other what they were finding, in order to establish a more complete picture of the obstacle in the path.

"Tracing the tentacle back, I find that it is attached to a large head with eyes, fan-shaped ears, and a mouth bearing tusks. It is not a squid, alas, but seems to be a large mammal of some sort," said Moe.

"Quite right, Moe — I have found four thick limbs. Definitely a large tetrapod," said Larry.

Curly seems distressed. "It's a bit complicated and delicate back here, guys, but I have probed an interesting orifice. Since this is a children's story, I will defer on reporting the details."

Eagletosh yawns and stretches in the shade of a tree. "It has wings, large wings, that it may ascend into the heavens and inspire humanity. There could be no purpose to such an animal without an ability to loft a metaphor and give us something to which we might aspire."

The other three ignore the idling philosopher, because exciting things are happening with their elephant!

"I can feel its trunk grasping the vegetation, uprooting it, and stuffing it into its mouth! It's prehensile! Amazing!", said Moe.

Larry presses his ear against the animal's flank. "I can hear rumbling noises as its digestive system processes the food! It's very loud and large."

There is a squishy plop from the back end. "Oh, no," says Curly, "I can smell that, and I think I should go take a bath."

"You are all completely missing the beauty of its unfurled wings," sneers Eagletosh, "While you tinker with pedestrian trivialities and muck about in earthy debasement, I contemplate the transcendant qualities of this noble creature. 'Tis an angel made manifest, a symbol of the deeper meaning of life."

"No wings, knucklehead, and no feathers, either," says Moe.

"Philistine," says Eagletosh. "Perhaps they are invisible, or tucked inside clever hidden pockets on the flank of the elephant, or better yet, I suspect they are quantum. You can't prove they aren't quantum."

The investigations continue, in meticulous detail by the three, and in ever broader strokes of metaphorical speculation by the one. Many years later, they have accomplished much.

Moe has studied the elephant and its behavior for years, figuring out how to communicate with it and other members of the herd, working out their diet, their diseases and health, and how to get them to work alongside people. He has profited, using elephants as heavy labor in construction work, and he has also used them, unfortunately, in war. He has not figured out how to use them as an air force, however…but he is a master of elephant biology and industry.

Larry studied the elephant, but has also used his knowledge of the animal to study the other beasts in the region: giraffes and hippos and lions and even people. He is an expert in comparative anatomy and physiology, and also has come up with an interesting theory to explain the similarities and differences between these animals. He is a famous scholar of the living world.

Curly's experiences lead him to explore the environment of the elephant, from the dung beetles that scurry after them to the leafy branches they strip from the trees. He learns how the elephant is dependent on its surroundings, and how its actions change the forest and the plains. He becomes an ecologist and conservationist, and works to protect the herds and the other elements of the biome.

Eagletosh writes books. Very influential books. Soon, many of the people who have never encountered an elephant are convinced that they all have wings. Those who have seen photos are at least persuaded that elephants have quantum wings, which just happened to be vibrating invisibly when the picture was snapped. He convinces many people that the true virtue of the elephant lies in its splendid wings — to the point that anyone who disagrees and claims that they are only terrestrial animals is betraying the beauty of the elephant.

Exasperated, Larry takes a break from writing technical treatises about mammalian anatomy, and writes a book for the lay public, The Elephant Has No Wings. While quite popular, the Eagletoshians are outraged. How dare he denigrate the volant proboscidian? Does he think it a mere mechanical mammal, mired in mud, never soaring among the stars? Has he no appreciation for the scholarship of the experts in elephant wings? Doesn't he realize that he can't possibly disprove the existence of wings on elephants, especially when they can be tucked so neatly into the quantum? (The question of how the original prophets of wingedness came by their information never seems to come up, or is never considered very deeply.) It was offensive to cripple the poor elephants, rendering them earthbound.

When that book was quickly followed by Moe's The Elephant Walks and Curly's Land of the Elephant, the elephant wing scholars were in a panic — they were being attacked by experts in elephants, who seemed to know far more about elephants than they did! Fortunately, the scientists knew little about elephant's wings — surprising, that — and the public was steeped in favorable certainty that elephants, far away, were flapping gallantly through the sky. They also had the benefit of vast sums of money. Wealth was rarely associated with competence in matters elephantine, and tycoons were pouring cash into efforts to reconcile the virtuous wingedness of elephants with the uncomfortable reality of anatomy. Even a few scientists who ought to know better were swayed over to the side of the winged; to their credit, it was rarely because of profit, but more because they were sentimentally attached to the idea of wings. They couldn't deny the evidence, however, and were usually observed to squirm as they invoked the mystic power of the quantum, or of fleeting, invisible wings that only appeared when no one was looking.

And there the battle stands, an ongoing argument between the blind who struggle to explore the world as it is around them, and the blind who prefer to conjure phantoms in the spaces within their skulls. I have to disappoint you, because I have no ending and no resolution, only a question.

Where do you find meaning and joy and richness and beauty, O Reader? In elephants, or elephants' wings?

More like this

PZ has the tale of Larry, Moe, Curly, and Eagletosh. Worth a read.
PZ has the tale of Larry, Moe, Curly, and Eagletosh. Worth a read.
If for some incomprehensible reason you are not interested in the big chess match, and are looking for something evolutiony to read, let me suggest Jerry Coyne's big review of the recent books by RIchard Dawkins and Jerry Fodor and Massimo Piatelli-Palmarini. The review was published in The Nation…
This particular elephant was one of the nicest elephants I've ever met.click for a larger picture I was leading a tour group in the vicinity of the Kruger National Park in South Africa. The local guide suggested that we could take a walk along a particular trail, as long as vehicles stayed near by…

This is one o' them "metaphors," ain't it?

By Sven DiMilo (not verified) on 10 May 2009 #permalink

We are all blind men and women discovering elephants on our trails, and it's those that get covered with the droppings who are the lucky ones.

Your best tale yet, PZ! I'm sending this one around.

Still, you can't disprove the wings if they're quantum.

Although I appreciate Moe, Larry, Curley, and Eagletosh's perspectives I'd much rather learn about the elephant from Degas, Renoir, Monet, and Cassatt.

By bunnycatch3r (not verified) on 10 May 2009 #permalink

Hmm. When I heard this tale, Curly, who was beneath the elephant, said scornfully, 'You're both wrong - it's a large, pendulous, leathery bag.'

Musta been three other philosophers.

By Chris Davis (not verified) on 10 May 2009 #permalink

My first thought went to Stephen Colbert's interview with Bart Ehrman, in which Colbert dismisses various contradictions with "Jesus is an elephant." Am I right that this essay was in part inspired by that interview?

By Madrigalia (not verified) on 10 May 2009 #permalink

I'm rather interested in what the elephant wrote up about its encounter with, and subsequent experiments on, four blind apes.

Thank you PZ :-)

I love the story...I will definitely be saving this one.

I just love how you write, PZ. This is such a great little fable. [Little things can be great!]

Someone ought to make a short movie from this piece, you know. Animated, maybe?

Worldnet Daily Exclusive:

Popular Evolutionist calls scientists stooges

By Charles Vaughn (not verified) on 10 May 2009 #permalink

And Dembski said, how could a thing with wings not be designed? After all, planes have wings, and they're designed.

Then he said, if you believe in intelligent design of elephants, you can ride flying elephants. If you don't believe in intelligent design of elephants, you don't get to fly them.

And that is the theology of intelligent design in a nutshell.

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

I love the title of Larry's book: The Elephant Has No Wings. That feels like it could become a serious meme. Can I use it? Or are you claiming copyright?

By Blue Powder Monkey (not verified) on 10 May 2009 #permalink

Really beautiful story.

(Just why did you spell Feagletosh "Eagletosh"?)

Does Ghosts/Spirits Really Exists

Yes, I believe they do exists 14%
Heck yes, I've experienced paranormal activity 45%
No, I don't believe they exists 37%
Not sure 4%
Total Votes: 49

LOLcat grammar fail.

By David Marjanović, OM (not verified) on 10 May 2009 #permalink

Nice allegory but where does Dumbo fit in?

He has profited, using elephants as heavy labor in construction work, and he has also used them, unfortunately, in war. He has not figured out how to use them as an air force, however…

Had Moe been more intimate with the prophets of quantum, or even chosen to pursue a non-adversarial relationship with Eagletosh, he would have soon had his elephant air force. It's only Moe's stubbornly religious reliance upon the tenets of Metaphysical Naturalism that prevent Moe from obtaining a Magic Feather, and seeing an elephant fly.

WTF. So blockquotes are still indented instead of edented, except the first paragraph?

Can someone whack the ScienceBorg webdesigners upside the head already?

Pretty please?

And Dembski said, how could a thing with wings not be designed? After all, planes have wings, and they're designed.

Thread, meet winner.

By David Marjanović, OM (not verified) on 10 May 2009 #permalink

it seems Chris Davis was told this tale by someone who really hadn't ever seen an elephant. ;-)

By Nomen Nescio (not verified) on 10 May 2009 #permalink

I find meaning in both accounts, if only because the prospect of aerodynamic probocidians is so charming. I like it when you spin parables. The one about the wall would make a good children's book. And, by the way, where is Shemp?

By Scott Hatfield, OM (not verified) on 10 May 2009 #permalink

Is PZ eligible for the OM?

By Ferrous Patella (not verified) on 10 May 2009 #permalink

Tempelton Prize approaching from above.

PZ should write a children's book. If only Dawkins's children's book turns out this good.

I presume that that evil bastard, Russell Blackford, has asserted copyright over Eaglefish and so you had to coin Eagletosh?

Nice story btw. A further question. How do Elephant wings taste when battered and deep fried?

By Brian English (not verified) on 10 May 2009 #permalink

Nice allegory but where does Dumbo fit in?

In making a mockery of Feagletosh, and in reality being stranger than fiction: his wings are simply the ears, they are not quantum, and they are not on his flanks.

By David Marjanović, OM (not verified) on 10 May 2009 #permalink

Did PZ actually write that?

By Marc Abian (not verified) on 10 May 2009 #permalink

And, by the way, where is Shemp?

He's demigod, not part of the trinity.

Nice story btw. A further question. How do Elephant wings taste when battered and deep fried?

Pachydermaliscious.

* yes i know they aren't considered pachyderms still.

Eagletosh saw the interruption as an opportunity to sit in the shade beneath a tree and relax. "It is my considered opinion," he said, "that whatever it is has feathers. Beautiful iridescent feathers of many hues."
"What are you smoking?" asked the other three. "Any why didn't we get any?"

I have an invisible superman on my shoulder. Not impressed, eh? He has a really big schlong too so you better be impressed!

his wings are simply the ears, they are not quantum, and they are not on his flanks.

Sorry DMOM, but Dumbo flaps his ears in sympathetic rhythm with his quantum wingspan. Ears can only act as ailerons, and are obviously incapable of lifting an elephant, which would require powerful invisible wings. And, of course, the feathers are all magic.

I just loved this story. Usually, when I realize I'm reading a metaphor on this subject, my stomach knots up. I know the ending will glorify the religious nut and give the proper comeuppance to the smug scientist. (Think: pencil dropping prof and soldier who punches prof for god.)

Thank you for a lovely read!

My life will be slightly incomplete until I find an excuse to use the words "I suspect they are quantum. You can't prove they're not quantum."

This is one of the best things I've read in a while. Thank you so much, PZ. I'll definitely be sharing this with my friends.

By Kevin Schreck (not verified) on 10 May 2009 #permalink

Man... this is going to be a classic someday.

One sympathizes with the poor elephant who has been mercilessly poked, prodded and - according to Curly - probed.

You forget to mention that elephant (they call 'im "Gop" for some reason), is very ill and not very popular among his jungle mates anymore. He may have had wings once, but they're long, long gone.

The elephant could totally have quantum wings. But the intangible, invisible wings probably flow through the air without making wind or displacing a single molecule.

Magical, but effectively nonexistent. I guess I find the elephant more inspiring.

By the way, is Eagletosh your answer to Ditchkins? If so: niiiice.

I still want winged, flying elephants, for the purposes of that would be fricking awesome.

The end result: Add religion and shit and you get bullshit.

By Anonymous (not verified) on 10 May 2009 #permalink

Happy Elephant!

Not quite sure what you're getting at, PZ. Hit me over the head some more!

Seriously, excellent analogy.

By Elwood Herring (not verified) on 10 May 2009 #permalink

Excellent parable. And less opaque than any of Jeebus'.

I have seen elephants that fly (assisted, though not by a magic feather): the so-called Southbound pachyderm

By sasqwatch (not verified) on 10 May 2009 #permalink

where is Shemp?

Curly hasn't had his stroke yet, so there's no need for Shemp.

By 'Tis Himself (not verified) on 10 May 2009 #permalink

For once, I'm at a loss for words.

All I can say is that this is one of the best summations of the creationism/evolution debacle I've read so far.

Sorry DMOM, but Dumbo flaps his ears in sympathetic rhythm with his quantum wingspan. Ears can only act as ailerons, and are obviously incapable of lifting an elephant, which would require powerful invisible wings. And, of course, the feathers are all magic.

The ears are easily big enough to carry Dumbo (at least in gliding), and... your classical education leaves much to desire. The very point of the story is that the feather is completely unnecessary.

By David Marjanović, OM (not verified) on 10 May 2009 #permalink

How in the world is this even sensible? Can you name a single properly scientific conclusion that someone who agrees with Eagleton's theology would be required, on pain of contradiction, to reject? Can you name a single aesthetic aspect of the scientific enterprise he couldn't appreciate? This is even worse than the now rampant idiotic use of the Courtier's Reply: *originally*, it was at least quite sensible; this one is nonsense from the get-go.

Wow.

Quite an ending.

That is nominally devastating, PZ. A future classic of atheist literature (short form).

Slightly off-topic... but this looks like a good place to reprise my personal definition of Metaphysics: "The blind leading the stupid into the unknown, on a quest for the unfathomable."

Whenever I proffer that definition, I am inevitably confronted by someone who takes metaphysics way too seriously, and (very huffily) asks something like: "So... what does that make you, then... blind or stupid?"

I've got a stock answer for that: Well... since I consider myself to be a teacher and a student... honesty compels me to admit that I am both... blind and stupid. The difference, though, is that I know that I am both blind and stupid, whereas you are oblivious to both. Since I am conscious of my blindness and stupidity, I am able to take them into account... which leaves me with something of an advantage.

"A bad analogy is like a diagonal frog." ~ Unknown

Actually we should be glad that elephants don't fly. Like most herbivores, elephants produce large amounts of manure. It would be unpleasant to be underneath a pachyderm while it was dumping ballast.

By 'Tis Himself (not verified) on 10 May 2009 #permalink

PZ, you forgot to mention Stan and Ollie who firmly accepted the no wings theory, yet also believed elephants had wings. They wrote books and went on lecture tours explaining why the two positions on elephant wings were not necessarily incompatible. Both Stan and Ollie admonished Larry not to publish Elephants Have No Wings, claiming that militant “No Wingers” were making it more difficult to bring proponents from both sides of the controversy to some form of enlightened agreement.

By C. M. Baxter (not verified) on 10 May 2009 #permalink

The ears are easily big enough to carry Dumbo (at least in gliding), and... your classical education leaves much to desire. The very point of the story is that the feather is completely unnecessary.

There you go again, DMOM, interpreting the tale in a rigidly materialistic secular humanist manner. What about the mystic pink elephants? Even if you do analyze the story in a way that ignores the necessity for quantum feathered wings, where is the structural support in those flappy stretched out membranes? Cartilage alone wouldn't do it, nor are elephant ears sufficiently prehensile.

Clearly, the point of the tale of Dumbo is about the imperative for belief. Without faith in the feather there can be no flight. Even if the feather is unnecessary, it's the belief in the feather that is important--even in a Straussian sense, it is better that Dumbo believes in his capacity to fly than that he surrender to mere skepticism and doubt.

It appears that Eagletosh got his info from a mythological source, Disney's classic "DUMBO"

By bluescat48 (not verified) on 10 May 2009 #permalink

Once upon a time, four blind men were walking in the forest, and they bumped into an elephant.

I hope that the elephant was sufficiently discerning to leave Moe, Larry & Curly alone, & give a feckin' good stomping to Eagletosh.

By Anonymous (not verified) on 10 May 2009 #permalink

bunnycatch3r @ 7

I'm Impressed by those four!

Eric | May 10, 2009 3:40 PM

How in the world is this even sensible?

heh... You clearly must be the only one here with a brain, as it's clear, no one else gets it... Or, doesn't get it.

You feel lonely?

By Capital Dan (not verified) on 10 May 2009 #permalink

As a physicist I'd like to say: "leave us out of it".

Unless you can pass me elephant wings in a nice piece of Dirac notation we don't want 'em. Even if we did have your elephant wings they'd only be about for <10^-34 seconds - which isn't there at all.

Anyway we can only really model perfectly spherical winged elephants in a vacuum....

Bravo!

By abelianjeff (not verified) on 10 May 2009 #permalink

"Quantum wings" ...

BWAH HAH HAH

Thank you, PZ, so much for posting this valuable information.

As a child I was sunburned on several occasions and could really have benefited from the shade of the elephant's glorious (and quantum) wings. But, alas, my education was entirely one-sided.

In fact, this is the very first time I've even heard about the Elephant Controversy. But I'm darned sure gonna let my local school board know that I want my kids taught the TRUTH about elephants.

It would be a more devastating critique of Eagleton if it actually had the remotest connection to his views. Is PZ mixing up Frank Tipler with Terry Eagleton? Where on Earth does TE every mention "quantum" anything?

Bring us more cephalopods please.

Rudy, PZ's diatribe was prompted by Stanley Fish's review of a book by Terry Eagleton. It was a stinking crock of shit, by a religious apologist.

By Richard Harris (not verified) on 10 May 2009 #permalink

In The Science of Discworld, Terry Pratchett uses quantum as the Discworld equivalent of magic. Makes me wonder if Eagleton is from the Stolat Plains or Ankh-Morpork.

By Orson Zedd (not verified) on 10 May 2009 #permalink

You're missing a blind "agnostic" who will attack Larry as a "humorless" man who has made a-wingism his religion. This despite the fact that Larry's book was filled with humor and that a careful reading shows that he holds the exact same philosophical position as the agnostic.

Here, Matt Taibbi has provided an example to help you out.

But this sort of thinking is exactly what most agnostics find ridiculous about religion and religious people, who seem incapable of looking at the world unless it’s through the prism of some kind of belief system. They seem to think that if one doesn’t believe in God, one must believe in something else, because to live without answers would be intolerable. And maybe that’s true of the humorless Richard Dawkins, who does seem actually to have tried to turn atheism into a kind of religion unto itself. But there are plenty of other people who are simply comfortable not knowing the answers.

Have fun.

By Patrick Q. (not verified) on 10 May 2009 #permalink

Excellent post, PZ. Clever, yet has poop jokes. A fine balance. :)

By BeccaTheCyborg (not verified) on 10 May 2009 #permalink

Eric @ 51: not sure about that Eagleton guy, but in
PZ's parable, Fiedelbaum's theology is constructed so
as to require no one who subscribes to it to reject any
'proper scientific conclusion'. & anyone may appreciate
science on an aesthetic basis, even if he is a devout
follower of Fiedelbaumism.

By Blue Suede Schubert (not verified) on 10 May 2009 #permalink

Blue Suede Schubert, reread the last two paragraphs:

"And there the battle stands, an *ongoing argument* between *the blind who struggle to explore the world as it is around them*, and *the blind who prefer to conjure phantoms in the spaces within their skulls*. I have to disappoint you, because I have no ending and no resolution, only a question.
Where do you find meaning and joy and richness and beauty, O Reader? In elephants, *or* elephants' wings?"

That doesn't strike me as an instance of the inclusive 'or'...

Methinks you spelled Eagletoosh incorrectly.

By Reginald Selkirk (not verified) on 10 May 2009 #permalink

Perhaps you should write childrens books.

By Dr. Strangelove (not verified) on 10 May 2009 #permalink

"Yeah, you strike me as an elephants' wings kind of guy, Eric."

Only in the sense that Ken Miller, John Polkinghorne, Freeman Dyson, Owen Gingerich, Arno Penzias, etc. are 'elephants' wings' guys. Which is to say, in a sense that defies the logic of your parable.

How in the world is this even sensible? Can you name a single properly scientific conclusion that someone who agrees with Eagleton's theology would be required, on pain of contradiction, to reject?

You've completely missed the point: we really cannot prove that elephants don't have wings that are Discworld-quantum or otherwise ineffable.

We can't even prove (so far) that Russell's Teapot doesn't exist.

Even if you do analyze the story in a way that ignores the necessity for quantum feathered wings, where is the structural support in those flappy stretched out membranes? Cartilage alone wouldn't do it, nor are elephant ears sufficiently prehensile.

(insert indistinct waffling about fibrocartilage, elastin, and calcified cartilage, as well as curiously hypertrophied muscles...)

Clearly, the point of the tale of Dumbo is about the imperative for belief.

You probably also believed the moral of The Incredibles was "if everyone is special, nobody is special".

No. An important scene in Dumbo is when Dumbo loses the feather and starts plummeting, Generic American Rodent tells him "you don't need the feather, you can fly just so", and Dumbo decides to test that hypothesis.

Science and skepticism make another appearance, too: right in the beginning, when Generic American Rodent looks at Dumbo, compares his knowledge of anatomy to his knowledge of aerodynamics, concludes that Dumbo must be able to fly, and sets out to test that hypothesis by hook or by crook. Everyone but Dumbo knows that the "magic feather" was plucked from the nearest available random bird's tail.

By David Marjanović, OM (not verified) on 10 May 2009 #permalink

This metaphor with people feeling up an elephant was used a lot when I was a wee lad, and people tried to use it to fight the cognitive dissonance between "knowing" your religion is true, and knowing that a thousand other people also "knowing" their respective religions are true.

The roles of the scientists in this story were casted as people of other faiths, trying to describe their gods, which were really all just aspects of the one true god which was the god of the person telling the story of course.

By Dutch Delight (not verified) on 10 May 2009 #permalink

Hmm, I sense another deity worthy to join the ranks of the FSM and the IPU. The EWIW. (Elephant With Invisible Wings)

By Max Fagin (not verified) on 10 May 2009 #permalink

Whenever I hear theists make an argument for God from quantum effects, I practically vomit. I don't know of any word that's misused more.

That said, Eric, the point of this whole exercise was simply to mock Eagleton's view that there is something more to the world (elephants wings/god/a soul/etc.) that is unobservable and unnecessary.

The fact that quantum arguments aren't Eagleton's thing is also part of the joke. When you've changed your opponent to Eagletosh, instead of a real person, who needs to keep it consistent with real views? This is exactly what Eagleton did with Ditchkins, and is what PZ is mocking here.

I'm really not sure how you could misunderstand this, unless you haven't read the post on Eagleton.

"You've completely missed the point: we really cannot prove that elephants don't have wings that are Discworld-quantum or otherwise ineffable."

No, I think you've missed mine. The point is that the 'or' the story ends with doesn't follow from the story itself.

No, I think you've missed mine. The point is that the 'or' the story ends with doesn't follow from the story itself.

You're still missing the point. :-) The point is the principle of parsimony: We don't need to assume that elephants have ineffable wings. We have no reason whatsoever to assume that elephants have ineffable wings. So why assume that elephants have ineffable wings?

Sire, je n'ai pas besoin de cette hypothèse.

By David Marjanović, OM (not verified) on 10 May 2009 #permalink

Everyone but Dumbo knows that the "magic feather" was plucked from the nearest available random bird's tail.

Well of course it was plucked from a random bird's tail, the interpretation to go for if you're willing to settle for the obvious and exoteric reading... You need to find the original story of Dumbo, by HP Blavatsky and illustrated by PDQ Ouspensky, to learn about the secret teachings concealed within the fable. As it is, the Disney version isn't even the Disney version, as the animators, having just broken Walt's spirit by striking and unionizing, cranked out the movie Dumbo in his absence, after getting Walt even more drunk than usual and sending him to South America to work on Saludos Amigos, so it has little to do with the original story. If you can't be bothered to read the Blavatsky/Ouspensky classic, in the original Enochian, mind you, I can't blamed for your secular reading that ignores the sacred flapping of the quantum winged elephant.

Nice job framing PZ. I think you have a talent for this type of thing. Perhaps you could instruct others on communicating science and skepticism.

"You're still missing the point. :-) The point is the principle of parsimony: We don't need to assume that elephants have ineffable wings. We have no reason whatsoever to assume that elephants have ineffable wings. So why assume that elephants have ineffable wings?"

Again, I must disagree. The point, it seems to me, is that some find life rich and meaningful by looking at the world as it is, while others have to 'make things up' out of whole-cloth to find meaning. The principle of parsimony is epistemic, not evaluative.

That aside, I think the Eagletons of the world would argue that while me may not have any scientific reasons to believe X, it doesn't follow that we therefore have no reasons as such to believe X. This is another problem with the parable: The Eagletons of the world don't simply make things up arbitrarily, and to even suggest that they do is intellectually dishonest.

Finally, whether one needs a particular hypothesis (or explanation, etc.) depends on what you're trying to do or understand. I agree, you don't explicitly need any of Eagleton's theology to conduct scientific research, but that's not at all relevant. You don't need to understand biology to read Shakespeare, or to understand QM to raise a child. Note, this doesn't in any sense impugn the worth of Shakespeare, child rearing, or biology.

Huh???
This story is odd. Does is have to do with Deepak Chopra and his "quantum consciousness" new agey woo?
The "quantum wings" thing was a dead giveaway then.

By Ineffable (not verified) on 10 May 2009 #permalink

Eric, you may need your imaginary deity, but we don't. Your philosophical approaches fail every time. Just like now. If you were as smart as you think you are, you would just give up on the idea of us accepting a deity, and quit bothering us with you inane logic.

By Nerd of Redhead, OM (not verified) on 10 May 2009 #permalink

That aside, I think the Eagletons of the world would argue that while me may not have any scientific reasons to believe X, it doesn't follow that we therefore have no reasons as such to believe X.

Of course it doesn't, especially if you have a morbid need to believe in things for which there is no evidence.

This is another problem with the parable: The Eagletons of the world don't simply make things up arbitrarily,

No, the Eagletons of the world lack the originality and wit to do so. They simply steal and embellish and polish the tropes most readily marketable to the credulous marks, a grift that works because "there's a seeker born every minute" here in the newage.

and to even suggest that they do is intellectually dishonest.

So, therefore, we must conclude that "Ditchkens" is real! QED!

I've admired Eagleton's work - his thought is rooted in Marxism - but this new book sounds like a totally misguided effort.

Another one bites the dust.

By CalGeorge (not verified) on 10 May 2009 #permalink

"If you were as smart as you think you are, you would just give up on the idea of us accepting a deity, and quit bothering us with you inane logic."

Nerd of Redhead, if you were as smart as you think you are, you would (1) acknowledge the possibility that I may not be merely attempting to persuade you but may also enjoy discussing issues with people who disagree with me, and from whom I may learn something, and would (2) at least attempt to point out exactly where my logical errors are, as opposed to merely suggesting that they're there.

The Eagletons of the world don't simply make things up arbitrarily, and to even suggest that they do is intellectually dishonest.

Ah, good point. Most of the things that were made up arbitrarily were imagined by people who died many centuries ago, and what people like Eagleton are doing is simply apologizing for the persistent tradition of believing in such fairy tales by the unimaginative of today. Of course, being that apologetic does take some degree of imagination, so I think the parable still holds, and quite well, too.

By RamblinDude (not verified) on 10 May 2009 #permalink

"Of course it doesn't, especially if you have a morbid need to believe in things for which there is no evidence."

Ken Cope, let's approach this obliquely: Can you provide evidence for every belief you hold?

Eric, your error is no physical evidence for your god. Philosophy with evidence is sophistry. You are a sophist. That has been explained to you several times. You would do well to remember that.

By Nerd of Redhead, OM (not verified) on 10 May 2009 #permalink

You don't need to understand biology to read Shakespeare,

it does however help to know that fairies aren't real, and that Shakespeare wrote stories, not The Truth(TM). And the day that idiots start wars over interpretations of Shakespeare, or insist on Teaching the Controversy that fairies are real, we WILL have to point out that there's no such thing as fairies!!! and we'll use science for it.

way to compare apples and oranges.

...and of course some people believe in The Wrong Kind Of Wings, and others that the sacred Okapi has wings (but not the elephant), and still others that a sacred herd of bulls and cows have wings...

By DiscoveredJoys (not verified) on 10 May 2009 #permalink

"Eric, your error is no physical evidence for your god. Philosophy with[out] evidence is sophistry."

NOF, have you ever heard of a category error? Asking for physical evidence for god (as classically conceived) is akin to asking what the mandelbrot set tastes like.

Can you provide evidence for every belief you hold?

I don't have to. Among my most avid pursuits is learning where and why it was appropriate to have held any particular belief provisionally, because new evidence compels me to abandon or revise it.

From this thread alone, Eric, I have evidence for your being an obtuse ass who has had the point of the parable explained to you in detail and in multiple ways, and you lack the gonads to revise your position in light of new evidence. Please, avail yourself of the opportunity show me that my belief about you is, in this case anyway, unfounded.

And besides, who said anything about Eagleton?

By RamblinDude (not verified) on 10 May 2009 #permalink

NOF, have you ever heard of a category error? Asking for physical evidence for god (as classically conceived) is akin to asking what the mandelbrot set tastes like.

thank you for finally admitting that god doesn't have any noticeable effect on the universe at all

@Eric

That aside, I think the Eagletons of the world would argue that while me may not have any scientific reasons to believe X, it doesn't follow that we therefore have no reasons as such to believe X. This is another problem with the parable: The Eagletons of the world don't simply make things up arbitrarily, and to even suggest that they do is intellectually dishonest.

There is a little detail that you are missing: we have turned the light of scientific method to the question of why people believe in X despite a lack of evidence for it. Thus, now we know, 1) there is no evidence for X 2) as a human, under certain conditions, you are biased to believe in X and finally 3) X is a vague, ambiguous and unnecessary assumption.

By Lotharloo (not verified) on 10 May 2009 #permalink

god (as classically conceived)

How was that, by invisibly raping a virgin and leaving such an impression that she didn't even know she'd had sex? In the form of a bull? A swan? So many gods, so many classic trysts...

The point is the principle of parsimony

not exactly.

the point of the or statement is to make clear that there are those who find happiness in exploring the world as it is, and then there are those that find happiness in making shit up as they go along.

The problem, as usual, only comes when those who make shit up insist that it's real.

the problem with Eagletosh wasn't that he made shit up, it was that "He convinces many people that the true virtue of the elephant lies in its splendid wings."

and thus convinces many that do indeed have wings, which they most obviously do not.

I shouldn't even have to say this, but since you're arguing with fucking ERIC, of all things, it's quite obvious that the story is a warning of the dangers of trying to convince people your made up shit is real.

The danger being that anyone who becomes convinced of such will be in a perpetual vacuum of knowledge.

Such is the danger of creationism. the more people who become convinced that its fantasies are reality, the more people who will never even begin to be able to contribute positively to our understanding of the real world.

Instead, look at the contributions OTHER than what an elephant actually is, to our knowledge that the further investigations of Larry, Moe and Curly lead to. What did the imaginings of Eagletosh lead to?

who knows what child, upon succumbing to the lies of Eagletosh, might instead have grown up to be a Larry, Moe, or even Curly?

What would happen if you convinced your kids that Bugs Bunny, Mickey Mouse, and the Flintstones were all real, and that they could do exactly the same things as those characters?

oh, nevermind, that's pretty much Kent Hovind's experiment.

a) elephant landing strips in jungles are hard to maintain.
b) elephant proboscis can jet water, so obviously it can fly.
c) if elephants can't fly, why do they have landing gear?
d) forest elephants are related to forest fruit bats.
e) nanofeathers are invisible but very strong in tension.
f) elephants can't jump or sprint, but can fly underwater.
g) elephants don't need wings, winged scarabs taxi them.
h) noah amputated their vast wings to save space aboardship.
i) always hide one's wings from stooges. always.
j) the truth is in the tale ... and under the tail.

NOF, have you ever heard of a category error? Asking for physical evidence for god (as classically conceived) is akin to asking what the mandelbrot set tastes like.

one, it's not even close to being a category error, and two, your analogy is meaningless.

just like all other god-bothering tub-thumpers, your mind has been so warped you are only able to make shit up and claim it as fact.

utterly useless, and self-defeating.

Asking for physical evidence for elephant wings is akin to asking what the mandelbrot set tastes like.

I think we have a breakfast cereal for a marketing tie-in!

"It's fractally delicious!"

Eric, we get that you are a theist. Fine, we can live with that. But you need to stop trying to convince us of your belief. That is what we object too, since it sounds like you are proselytizing. So we would appreciate it if you kept your belief to yourself, like Scott Hatfield, OM. That is our point.

By Nerd of Redhead, OM (not verified) on 10 May 2009 #permalink

This reminds me of something I think that scientists perhaps could emphasize more. It's so obvious that scientists tend to miss that it even needs stating ... but those who don't know the science are so confused that they don't realize that it is a necessary correlate of how science works:

A scientific theory needs to be both consistent and cumulative. That is, it needs to explain all the evidence in a non-contradictory way, and it must take into account all of the previous observations that have been made.

The modern Neo-Darwinian synthesis might have certain components changed or modified by new evidence, like some new explanation involving epigenetic factors, or a certain degree of horizontal genome transfer. But the vast amount of evidence that we have in favor of the evolutionary process is not going to go away, and it will never be the case that some new evidence will come in and force science to say "Well, we have to throw all of evolution out." Even though Newtonian mechanics was falsified by General Relativity, Relativity still explains Newtonian kinetics by having Newtonian mechanics as a special case where velocities are very small. In the same way, anything that comes along and "falsifies" evolution will still need to explain as a special case all of the evidence that the current theory of evolution explains -- and it needs to do so in an evidence-based, parsimonious, and falsifiable way, just as Relativity does for Newtonian mechanics.

------

I was also reminded of another notion that I've had recently.

We often say that atheism just means not believing in God. But it occurs to me that there's more than one way to not believe.

Infants are sometimes claimed as atheists, because they don't believe. But it seems a bit facile to do so, because they don't believe because they don't know anything outside of their limited nonverbal experience. They're also not English-speakers, or voters, or mathematicians, or good people, or evil people. It seems unfair to claim them for anything, when all they might know or do exists only in potential.

Another type of atheism is the atheism of rebellion; of simply rejecting one's parents religion, or the religion of one's society. I suspect that this is what most religious people mean when they say "I used to be an atheist". Because it's more of an emotional response than an intellectual one, this type of atheism may indeed lead back to religion, inasmuch as some religion might bring with it a more positive emotional experience. I suspect that more than a few religions and religious schisms got their start from a similar sort of rejecting the current religious faith; certainly, all proselytizing religions include an implicit demand that one reject one's previous religion, whatever it might be.

But the final form of atheism is a specifically intellectual one. It is a reasoned conclusion, rather than an emotional response, although it may well start with an emotional rejection. Yet it tries to avoid emotion-based arguments themselves, seeking to specifically analyze religious claims, and rejecting them for for their inconsistency, incoherence, and inherent contradiction.

Why should it be believed that a non-physical entity exists? Why should it be believed that this entity has attributes like knowledge, power, and goodness, when the entity never demonstrates these attributes? Why should it be believed that special exceptions should be made for this entity not demonstrating these attributes, when the only way that we do know of these attributes in the first place is from real, physical entities -- people -- demonstrating them?

And after thinking of all that, it also occurred to me that there are multiple ways of believing in God.

Young children do seem to have an instinct for animism, teleology, magical thinking, and superstition. They think that their own thoughts and emotions might affect the world around them, and the idea that there is a big bodiless thing out there somewhere whose thoughts might affect the world doesn't seem wrong or unnatural. They don't yet have a good grasp on what natural even means. And this tendency towards magical thinking usually persists into adulthood, especially if it is not countered with an education or upbringing that includes skepticism, analysis, critical thinking, and elimination of bias and egocentric thinking.

On top of this already existing tendency towards magical thinking all too often comes religious indoctrination. Children, and often young adults and full adults as well, repeat and learn that which comes from those all around them. This works best in small, tight-knit communities, and it can be so thoroughly combined with general socialization and cultural conditioning that it never really occurs to them that things could be different, or that religious belief can be separated from things like morality, ethics, and social politeness.

Something that should not be ignored for its importance to those who experience them is some vivid personal event. What skeptics would classify as being lucid dreams or mild seizures or waking hallucinations might seem, to those who have them, to be so real, immediate, and fraught with personal emotional import that it feels like a communication from outside of their own heads; a genuine revelation about the true nature of reality. They are firmly committed to thinking that they have received a message, and that the message directly implies a real message-sender.

And then there are the mystics. Mysticism might be described as being the child's habit of magical thinking all grown up and carefully nurtured and mentally defended against critical thinking. It is the idea that somehow there is more out there than can be found by reason, logic, and evidence. There is something outside of our universe with its physical logic and consistency, and they, the mystics, are the ones who know the real truth. Plato, of course, was the first to argue comprehensively for this type of thinking, and neo-Platonism was absorbed into much of Christian theology and philosophy.

The mystics of the world are thus certain that if the logic of evidence-based empirical skepticism reaches the reasoned conclusion that God, as defined by religions, does not exist, then there is something wrong with the reason and logic of evidence-based empirical skepticism. They don't know what it is, but they will often castigate those they disagree with for not being open-minded enough.

Finally, I don't think we can leave out general mental confusion. Believers may well argue that since they are not children, their belief is not childish -- even though it is the same sort of magical thinking at its root. Or they may argue that their personal experience is valid, even if everyone else is just deluded or lying to themselves. The very idea that they should actually try to eliminate personal bias from the conclusion that the experience was real just does not occur to them. Critical thinking is something that has to be carefully worked at. Humans have a strong tendency towards egocentrism, and that very trait tends to cause them to not realize that egocentrism is something that should be reduced or eliminated before reaching conclusions.

Anyway, I think it's worth keeping the above ideas in mind when arguing with believers, and with non-believers.

By Owlmirror (not verified) on 10 May 2009 #permalink

I think the Eagletons of the world would argue that while me[sic] may not have any scientific reasons to believe X, it does follow that we therefore have no [useful] reasons as such to believe X

fixed.

imagination is fine, so long as you don't confuse it with reality, or try to convince others to do so as well.

then it becomes a weapon of mass ignorance, causing everything it touches to stagnate.

Miller and Dyson would never substitute imagination for reality, and never have. Not once has Miller claimed his imaginations of God trump his direct observations of reality. Instead, his imagination of god has retreated further and further away in the face of what he himself has seen. IOW, he is to the point where he leaves the possibility open that elephants may, at some time and place that cannot be defined, have had wings, but he is certainly convinced they don't NOW, and that it would be not only silly and ineffectual, but downright interfering to claim otherwise.

YOU, OTOH, seem bound and determined to do otherwise, and convince others that it's a legitimate and right course of action.

IOW, you are not only being silly and ineffectual, but downright interfering.

so, fuck off already, and let the rest of us actually work with and teach knowledge that has practical use.

Eric, what sort of evidence do you have for your god if it is not physical evidence? If your god leaves no physical traces in this universe whatsoever, how can it be said to interact with the universe?

Ken Cope: "From this thread alone, Eric, I have evidence for your being an obtuse ass who has had the point of the parable explained to you in detail and in multiple ways, and you lack the gonads to revise your position in light of new evidence. Please, avail yourself of the opportunity show me that my belief about you is, in this case anyway, unfounded."

Eric: "The point, it seems to me, is that some find life rich and meaningful by looking at the world as it is, while others have to 'make things up' out of whole-cloth to find meaning."

Ichthyic: "the point of the or statement is to make clear that there are those who find happiness in exploring the world as it is, and then there are those that find happiness in making shit up as they go along."

Ken Cope, is Ichthyic obtuse too?

"Asking for physical evidence for elephant wings is akin to asking what the Mandelbrot set tastes like."

I agree. But that brings us to my other problem with your story (which I mentioned earlier): can you honestly say that the reasons philosophers and theologians tend to adduce for belief in god are in any sense analogous to the reasoning of 'Eagletosh' with respect to quantum elephant wings?

"one, it's not even close to being a category error, and two, your analogy is meaningless."

It's not a category error to ask for physical evidence for the classical conception of god -- a conception that is broader than the concept of 'existence' itself? That said, it is a category mistake to ask what the Mandelbrot tastes like.

"I think we have a breakfast cereal for a marketing tie-in!
"It's fractally delicious!"

That's hilarious!

Owlmirror and Ichthyic, could you at least tag each other so only one of you at a time leaves a big wet stain on the mat where Eric used to be? It's starting to look like a Gallagher concert here outside the ring.

can you honestly say that the reasons philosophers and theologians tend to adduce for belief in god are in any sense analogous to the reasoning of 'Eagletosh' with respect to quantum elephant wings?

yup.

as evidence in support I give you the greek pantheon.

try again?

As Nerd of Redhead says: "philosophy without evidence is sophistry". Eric, if there is no evidence for X, then to claim X is indistinguishable from making shit up. Which is fine of course, you are well within your right to do so. But to then take X and claim that it is a part of reality is nothing more than projecting your beliefs onto the world. X is a construct of your mind, and no matter how well you dress X up it'll still be the case.

It's not a category error to ask for physical evidence for the classical conception of god -- a conception that is broader than the concept of 'existence' itself?

perhaps you should actually look up what the definition of a category error is first.

you seem more confused than usual today.

can you honestly say that the reasons philosophers and theologians tend to adduce for belief in god are in any sense analogous to the reasoning of 'Eagletosh' with respect to quantum elephant wings?

Yep, I can honestly say that. Just read Genesis, then read up on modern scientific thought. Then tell me which one has been carefully crafted through observation and reason, and which one was pulled out of someone's arse.

That said, it is a category mistake to ask what the Mandelbrot tastes like.

correct, but applying that as an analogy to asking for empirical evidence to support the definition of the abrahamic god as defined by scrying the scribblings of ancient middle-eastern goatherders is completely inane, and of course does NOT make the thing you incorrectly analogized to also a category error by personal fiat.

IOW, it's a fail, you moron.

if you can't do better, you won't keep anyone's interest.

Love it, love it, love it.

Ken Cope: When I started typing my comment, there were no comments yet on this post. It took me that long to get my thoughts in order and expressed in words, with breaks to eat and do other stuff.

Yes, I'm slow.

By Owlmirror (not verified) on 10 May 2009 #permalink

When you broke the seal on your box of Sierpinski Gasket cereal, you implicitly acknowledged that the elephant wings* included in every box are invisible, which does not, in any way, compel us to provide any sort of evidence whatsoever for their existence.

*The RDA value for invisible elephant wings has not yet been formally established, beyond rigidly defined areas of doubt and uncertainty tacitly assented to by Vroomfondle and Majikthise, and thus cannot yet be counted as comprising any of the six impossible things Alice eats apart from a complete breakfast, although nobody can prove that it isn't.

Eric: It's not a category error to ask for physical evidence for the classical conception of god -- a conception that is broader than the concept of 'existence' itself?

What I find hilarious is the act of simply defining something in such a way that you claim that it is beyond the scope of "physical evidence." Therefore you can get away with the bait-and-switch of considering yourself justified (or at least reasonable) to believe in the existence of this thing, and never be under the requirement to produce evidence that this thing is actually real in any meaningful sense of the word. A nice trick.

By Kingasaurus (not verified) on 10 May 2009 #permalink

Owlmirror,

When I started typing my comment, there were no comments yet on this post.

See, that's what you get for thinking before you type. You miss out on all the fun, and then when you weigh in, the rest of us down in front are all glad we brought clear plastic tarps along.

Asking for physical evidence for elephant wings is akin to asking what the mandelbrot set tastes like.

I have trouble describing the taste, but I like 'em grilled with a bit of spicy mustard, if that helps.

And speaking as devil's advocate here, it *IS* possible to get down off both a duck and an elephant...

Quack erat demonstradum...

By Randomfactor (not verified) on 10 May 2009 #permalink

Yes, I'm slow.

but thorough.

I like to get in a couple of quick nips, then don the goggles and rain coat, and sip a libation while waiting for Owlmirror to work his magic.

By Nerd of Redhead, OM (not verified) on 10 May 2009 #permalink

The mandelbrot set tastes exactly like bacon.
Around here we call it mandelbrotwurst.

Where do you find meaning and joy and richness and beauty, O Reader? In elephants, *or* elephants' wings?"

That doesn't strike me as an instance of the inclusive 'or'...

What do you mean, he's asking if people put childish assumed notions of a large proverbial mammal before the pursuit of the knowledge of the animal and the proverbial Serengeti around it.

As to my personal thoughts on that question: I find beauty in the elephant that is, and humor in the wings that are not. I find beauty in the fact that I find that beautiful, and the fact that if I couldn't find beauty, well, I'd probably go insane. Thus it is to my advantage to see beauty.

I find the fact that beauty has a function without a purpose to be one of the most beautiful things about the univ- I mean Serengeti.

Or, who knows, I'm still young. Maybe I spewed out bullshit, and as I continue to search for knowledge, I'll realize "well that was a stupid fuckin thing to say. Junior fuckin Plato over here..."

Just because a winged elephant would epicly kick ass does not mean that an earthbound one isn't pretty frickin neat.

I like to get in a couple of quick nips, then don the goggles and rain coat, and sip a libation while waiting for Owlmirror to work his magic.

[passes flask back] There's good company and some fine close-ups to be seen from the cheap seats here in the peanut gallery. Incoming!

"Asking for physical evidence for god (as classically conceived) is akin to asking what the mandelbrot set tastes like."

Exactly. But you act like this means the exercise is useless. It's not.
If you don't know anything about mandelbrot sets and set out to learn about them first by trying to determine their flavor, you'll quickly learn something about mandelbrot sets. They don't have a flavor, the very question of their flavor is nonsensical, and anyone asserting that they DO have a flavor is experiencing an characteristic not of mandelbrot sets but rather of a peculiarity of their own mind's interpretation of them.

Same way searching for evidence of a god will teach you that the question of the existence a god is nonsensical and a person's experience of a god is a processing error.

By Jafafa Hots (not verified) on 10 May 2009 #permalink

Eric:

If you had no head, how would you know there is a god?

Just because a winged elephant would epicly kick ass

bah.

I prefers dragons meself.

Ichthyic, let's look at two standard sources and see what they have to say about category mistakes.

The Oxford Guide to Philosophy:

"The error of ascribing to something of one category a feature attributable only to another, or otherwise misrepresenting the category to which something belongs."

The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy:

"The placing of an entity in the wrong category. A second use of 'category mistake' is to refer to the attribution to an entity of a property which that entity cannot have... Both involve misunderstandings of the natures of the things being talked about."

Now, my claim is that to ask for physical evidence for an immaterial entity is to place 'immaterial entities' in the category of 'entities for with there could be physical evidence.' To make this point clearer, imagine reversing it and asking for immaterial evidence for the existence of physical entities like elephants. Absurd, eh?

I prefers dragons meself.

I would like to see this elephant (which sounds like an Aztec or Mayan monster with the description of colorful wings) fight a dragon.

The mandelbrot set tastes exactly like bacon.

No, it tastes like anti-bacon. I wonder if Rev remembers that conversation.

Yeah, make that 'evidence for *which* there could be physical evidence...'

I prefers dragons meself.

Red? Green? Blue? What kind?

Asking for physical evidence for god (as classically conceived) is akin to asking what the mandelbrot set tastes like.

Looks like Eric needs reminding that, for the greater proportion of Christanity's history the vast majority of Christians believed - as many still believe - their god would (or will) be shown to exist via physical evidence.

It is only because the more intellectually dishonest Christians realised that, while science was discovering how everything else in the universe worked, it wasn't coming any closer to finding any more physical evidence for their god than they'd been able to discern in the previous thousand (or so) years of hoping.

Christians just decided to change the rules and declare that their god - who, incidentally, they worship based (in part at least) on a book full of examples of his physical interaction with the universe - was always so nebulous and intangible that it would be outside the reach of science.

By Wowbagger, OM (not verified) on 10 May 2009 #permalink

Now, my claim is that to ask for physical evidence for an immaterial entity is to place 'immaterial entities' in the category of 'entities for with there could be physical evidence.'

So is saying that said immaterial entities have any effect, whatsoever, on the material world. I think that is the whole point of PZ's parable.

Hell, there could be invisible, immaterial, quantum wings on an elephant or such shit like that. But since they have no effect on the material, they don't matter.

In other words, an elephant's invisible wings or something else along those lines is effectively nonexistent.

Eric, if your god is philosophical it you, he is non-existent nonsense to us. So quit trying to pretend you have an argument. You don't. Believe in your god, but quit trying to push it upon us.

By Nerd of Redhead, OM (not verified) on 10 May 2009 #permalink

Owlmirror,

But the final form of atheism is a specifically intellectual one. It is a reasoned conclusion, rather than an emotional response, although it may well start with an emotional rejection. Yet it tries to avoid emotion-based arguments themselves, seeking to specifically analyze religious claims, and rejecting them for for their inconsistency, incoherence, and inherent contradiction.

I would yet add a slightly altered form of atheism. It is in the same camp as the intellectual atheist (they draw water from the same nearby creek), but it’s a heady mix of emotional and intellectual realization that isn’t necessarily arrived at by logic per se. It is the atheist—who perhaps grows up with superstition—who looks at the rituals/beliefs/trappings/icons/emotional involvement of religion and says, “Wait a minute, this is all bullshit!” It’s an “Aha!” moment arrived at by clearly perceiving the mechanics of the very human mental process in which people try to find psychological security in constructs created solely by thought. It’s the ability to tell when people are doing this, when they are less interested in getting to the truth and more interested in believing things.

This perception is, of course, reinforced by solid reasoning based on the continuing lack of evidence for said bullshit beliefs, but I would say it is a perception that is, initially, more intuitive than well-reasoned. Or something like that.

What I mean is, science supports the intuitive conclusion that the deities are imaginary, but the original epiphany comes about when one is perceptive enough to realize that “Hey, you’re making shit up and living in a made-up world!”

By RamblinDude (not verified) on 10 May 2009 #permalink

Let me second (third, fifth, eleventieth?) the idea that something like this would make an excellent children's book. I think you have a talent for these whimsical "morality tales."

By Edward Lark (not verified) on 10 May 2009 #permalink

"but quit trying to push it upon us."

Where have I ever done that? Believe what you want. I only take issue with misrepresentations of theism and atheism, not with your atheism.

"Where do you find meaning and joy and richness and beauty . . .?"

In the immensity of geologic time, the vastness of the cosmos, the mystery of existence without the need to posit a creator, the awareness that the cosmos examines itself through its human primate minds . . .

Meaning, joy, richness, beauty and awe.

Mandelbrot sets taste like almond bread, of course! That's what mandelbrot is in German. A good accompaniment with bacon too.

Where have I ever done that?

ROFLMAO!

man, that is one serious case of denial you got there.

eric, are you willing to specify that your "god" has _nothing in common_ with the entity described as "God" in the Bible? I ask because that entity is supposed to have left a smoking trail of physical evidence across the world, and thus clearly can't be the immaterial imaginary friend you claim is really "god".

By Stephen Wells (not verified) on 10 May 2009 #permalink

Where have I ever done that? Believe what you want. I only take issue with misrepresentations of theism and atheism, not with your atheism.

No, you use every perceived opportunity to push your invisible vacuous deity. Your idea of philosophy fails again and again for everybody except you. Lose the attitude that you know more than us. Quit pushing your idea of god upon us. Then we won't complain.

By Nerd of Redhead, OM (not verified) on 10 May 2009 #permalink

"man, that is one serious case of denial you got there."

Let's see if your commitment to evidence is mere lip service: quote a single line from me, from any thread, which could be characterized as my trying to push theistic belief on anyone. I guarantee you'll do as poorly here as you did with your failed attempt to criticize my attribution of a category mistake to NoR's question.

Eric @ 143

Your lack of a physical head would be evidence enough that there is no imaginary god, since that is where the idea is born and germinated into the insanity it is now.

In other words, an elephant's invisible wings or something else along those lines is effectively nonexistent.

An elephant's invisible wings are as effectively nonexistent as any evidence of intellectual dishonesty on PZ's part, despite Eric's ill-founded allegations. Eric tried to claim that PZ putting words about the quantum in the mouth of a character named Eagletosh was wrong, because some non-fictional character named Feebletoad, or Feetlebaum, or Eagleton, had not really appeared to have anything much to say one way or another about the quantum. It has already been pointed out that an imaginary character named Ditchkins created by the non-fictional Feebleload character, whom Eric seems to so admire, can be safely made an object of ridicule by Beatlestones, even though the positions "Ditchkens" is used to embody holds no positions that any actual person we're meant to be reminded of is actually on record as espousing. Is one strawbeing less honest than another?

I like it. A nice adaptation of the old Jainist story. Christianity never came up with philosophy like that. Hell, they didn't even do the Golden Rule first.

Believe what you want. I only take issue with misrepresentations of theism and atheism, not with your atheism.

How can one 'misrepresent' theism? It's like trying to argue that someone is 'misrepresenting' unicorns by claiming they have green eyes. When you believe in something entirely unsupported by evidence you don't have any ground to stand on when attempting to define what it is or isn't.

You claim belief in a god for which there exists no known quantities - only presumed, assumed and speculated ones. Until you can provide some evidence for why you believe what you believe you have no right to say that someone else's definition is wrong.

By Wowbagger, OM (not verified) on 10 May 2009 #permalink

Eric, there is no reason to posit god for anything, especially only a philosophical one. Vaporware in the extreme. If it is just personal, you would shut up about our logic. So you set my BS detector off since you won't shut up about it. Why must you continue to push the idea of your vacuous philosophical god? Especially, since this is a site devoted to science, and science requires physical evidence?

By Nerd of Redhead, OM (not verified) on 10 May 2009 #permalink

The Mandelbrot Set tastes like............bacon!

"Lose the attitude that you know more than us."

'We're all ignorant, only in different areas.' You know more than I do about many things, no doubt; isn't it possible that I know more than you do about some things? How many philosophy courses have you taken? How many books and journal articles have you read in the area of philosophy of religion? I don't come in here and debate scientific issues because most of you know far more than I do in those areas. Not only that, but I doubt there's much, if anything, we disagree about scientifically.

Eric asked for evidence that he is pushing a specific theistic viewpoint:

a conception that is broader than the concept of 'existence' itself?

done.

shall we continue?

...akin to asking what the mandelbrot set tastes like.

You've never had Mandelbr-Os for breakfast?!? You're missing out-- they're fractally delicious!

(Ken Cope beat me to it, but I had to add a name for the cereal.)

isn't it possible that I know more than you do about some things?

still waiting for any evidence of that.

how long you been posting here now?

You know more than I do about many things, no doubt; isn't it possible that I know more than you do about some things? How many philosophy courses have you taken? How many books and journal articles have you read in the area of philosophy of religion?

Yeah, Nerd - how can you say that angels don't exist when you haven't even bothered to read up on what colour tap shoes they wear while they're dancing away on the head of that pin?

By Wowbagger, OM (not verified) on 10 May 2009 #permalink

This doesn't explain how octocats can fly without wings.

And when will the fully illustrated children's book be coming out?

Good story.

By illustrator (not verified) on 10 May 2009 #permalink

Red? Green? Blue? What kind?

Dusky brown with tinges of dark green. Scales that are hard but light, like carbon fiber. Hooked, sinewous claws. The size of a midsized SUV with a 70 ft wingspan. A powerful jaw with a wicked curve toward the front. And horns! Sharp, nasty horns.

Oh, yeah. Watch out, Dumbo! Quantum Dragon has your name down.

Not only that, but I doubt there's much, if anything, we disagree about scientifically.

Then answer me this:

How is the concept of the abrahamic god useful in scientific endeavor?

see, this is where we differ from you. This is where science differs from you. It's not even at the specifics level, it's far, far deeper than that.

It's like you're thinking somehow we differ on the description of trees, when actually you are missing the whole fucking forest.

Now, my claim is that to ask for physical evidence for an immaterial entity is to place 'immaterial entities' in the category of 'entities for with there could be physical evidence.' - Eric

Your claim is a bunch of crap, and very obviously so. Emotions, minds, numbers, social norms are all immaterial entities for which there is abundant physical evidence.

By Knockgoats (not verified) on 10 May 2009 #permalink

Eric's arguments always make me think of that guy in Mystery Men who can turn himself invisible - but only when no-one's looking...

By Wowbagger, OM (not verified) on 10 May 2009 #permalink

Eric @ 165

Why would you agree or disagree about scientific matters when your imaginary god directs all that there is to know for you? Your god should be ruling your life, not science matters that oppose your beliefs.

I find beauty in the simple replicating molecule that has built a giant elephant body and brain in order to more effectively replicate itself.

The principle of parsimony is epistemic, not evaluative.

What do you mean by "evaluative"? And what do you mean by "meaning"?

That aside, I think the Eagletons of the world would argue that while me may not have any scientific reasons to believe X, it doesn't follow that we therefore have no reasons as such to believe X.

What else, personal experience?

Finally, whether one needs a particular hypothesis (or explanation, etc.) depends on what you're trying to do or understand.

Fine, but from that it does not follow that every hypothesis is needed to explain something.

let's approach this obliquely: Can you provide evidence for every belief you hold?

I can provide either evidence or parsimony or both for every belief I hold.

(Maybe you'll find I hold shockingly few beliefs, but that's neither certain nor necessary.)

This story is odd. Does is have to do with Deepak Chopra and his "quantum consciousness" new agey woo?

Not really. Much more with the recent Eagleton and Fish threads.

Asking for physical evidence for god (as classically conceived) is akin to asking what the mandelbrot set tastes like.

What other kind of evidence is there? Personal experience (which is difficult to distinguish from hallucination and stuff; see also comment 115)? Logic (Gaunilo's Island)?

See, we want you to explain how we can distinguish God from the dragon in Sagan's garage and from the Discworld-quantum wings of an elephant.

As to what the Mandelbrot set tastes like – er, like almond bread of course, whatever that is. After all, that's what its name means! (Only bacon tastes like bacon, heretics.)

can you honestly say that the reasons philosophers and theologians tend to adduce for belief in god are in any sense analogous to the reasoning of 'Eagletosh' with respect to quantum elephant wings?

Yes, I think they're all analogous, except for those that are arguments from ignorance (I've read a recent book by Hans Küng on science and religion that is majorly disappointing in that latter respect). Are there any reasons you think I have overlooked?

By David Marjanović, OM (not verified) on 10 May 2009 #permalink

Clarification: it is the claim that it is a "category mistake" to ask for physical; evidence of an immaterial entity is a bunch of crap, and very obviously so.

I enjoy discussions with those I disagree with from whom I can learn something too. Unfortunately, you don't appear to belong to that category.

By Knockgoats (not verified) on 10 May 2009 #permalink

Eric, without physical evidence, your god doesn't exist for a majority of us. What part of that statement don't you understand? If necessary, I can teach in words of one syllable or less. Don't like my attitude? Lose yours. You are no smarter than the rest of us here, as we show you time an time again. You have tried repeatedly and failed to convince us you are right. Just give it up.

By Nerd of Redhead, OM (not verified) on 10 May 2009 #permalink

"How is the concept of the abrahamic god useful in scientific endeavor?"

You've lost all credibility with me at post #166 (not that you had much before that), but... See post #89 where I wrote, "I agree, you don't explicitly need any of Eagleton's theology to conduct scientific research, but that's not at all relevant. You don't need to understand biology to read Shakespeare, or to understand QM to raise a child. Note, this doesn't in any sense impugn the worth of Shakespeare, child rearing, or biology."

"Eric tried to claim that PZ putting words about the quantum in the mouth of a character named Eagletosh was wrong, because some non-fictional character named Feebletoad, or Feetlebaum, or Eagleton, had not really appeared to have anything much to say one way or another about the quantum."

I said no such thing.

Eric;
I don't think you would want to be dead. There's no future in it. No imaginary god waiting for you; nothing. And you will never know.

"Emotions, minds, numbers, social norms are all immaterial entities for which there is abundant physical evidence."

Let's stick to a specific entity. In what sense are you claiming that numbers are immaterial? After you clarify that, provide me with *physical evidence* for a realist position about numbers.

were swayed over to the side of the winged

Too many liberal blogs: I read this the first time as "... side of the wingtarded."

Where do you find meaning and joy and richness and beauty, O Reader? In elephants, or elephants' wings?

Ironically, largely in religiously-inspired classical music. (And not just the Bach cantata where the pope is called the demon from Rome.)

Or vodka.

And bacon.

By Uncle Glenny (not verified) on 10 May 2009 #permalink

I agree, you don't explicitly need any of Eagleton's theology to conduct scientific research, but that's not at all relevant.

yes, THIS part IS relevant. You not only DON'T need Eagleton's, or anyone's, theology to conduct research, it's actually an impediment to it. That wasn't your challenge, though. This was your challenge:

"Can you name a single properly scientific conclusion that someone who agrees with Eagleton's theology would be required, on pain of contradiction, to reject?"

and we have been painstakingly since explaining to you exactly why your question is not only tangential to PZ's thesis (which you still seem to be misinterpreting), but also why theology itself is in conflict.

However this part you add here:

You don't need to understand biology to read Shakespeare, or to understand QM to raise a child. Note, this doesn't in any sense impugn the worth of Shakespeare, child rearing, or biology.

is entirely irrelevant.

You challenged PZ conclusion, and we are pointing out where he is correct, and you are misinformed.

It's quite simple really.

you tapdancing all around it isn't helping your case.

I said no such thing.

and PZ never used the name "eagleton".

"Asking for physical evidence for god (as classically conceived) is akin to asking what the mandelbrot set tastes like."

Ah-ha, an Eagletonian metaphor. The student of the flailing master?

Eric

Here lies Eric in his grave, all dressed up with no place to go.
I'm trying to spare you the agony and ennui of long drawn out repartee with clipped and quipped remarks to prove to you that your beliefs are not worth lengthy rebuttals.
You only have to show us your god for proof that you can back up bullshit with reality.

"Eric tried to claim that PZ putting words about the quantum in the mouth of a character named Eagletosh was wrong, because some non-fictional character named Feebletoad, or Feetlebaum, or Eagleton, had not really appeared to have anything much to say one way or another about the quantum."

I said no such thing.

@51, and this @89:

That aside, I think the Eagletons of the world would argue that while me may not have any scientific reasons to believe X, it doesn't follow that we therefore have no reasons as such to believe X. This is another problem with the parable: The Eagletons of the world don't simply make things up arbitrarily, and to even suggest that they do is intellectually dishonest.

If you're going to make shit up, it's generally a good idea not to leave a record behind when it becomes convenient to change your story in mid-stream. Can you even keep track of what is that you're arguing for? You might have been more successful if all you were trying to achieve was the automatic gainsaying of what the rest of us post, but don't be surprised at all the volunteers offering free getting hit on the head lessons.

@64

As a physicist I'd like to say: "leave us out of it".

Unless you can pass me elephant wings in a nice piece of Dirac notation we don't want 'em. Even if we did have your elephant wings they'd only be about for

In another forum, I had an interesting "conversation" with a nutjob who went on and on about "quantum" this and "quantum" that, Rupert Sheldrake, Depak Chopra and a whole bunch of other loony tune stuff.

Finally, I posted the Schrodinger equation and told him to either solve it for a hydrogen atom or STFU.

He stopped bleating about quantum stuff after that.

// physics major, not physicist..

By maddogdelta (not verified) on 10 May 2009 #permalink

Gah! So much traffic! I want to go to bed here!

god-and-phony show

Priceless.

By David Marjanović, OM (not verified) on 10 May 2009 #permalink

"Can you name a single properly scientific conclusion that someone who agrees with Eagleton's theology would be required, on pain of contradiction, to reject?"

Er, wait...Eagleton has a discernible theology? I agree with Taibbi, you can try and try to discern Eagleton's theology and just come away with frustration.

By Anonymous (not verified) on 10 May 2009 #permalink

Let's stick to a specific entity. In what sense are you claiming that numbers are immaterial? After you clarify that, provide me with *physical evidence* for a realist position about numbers.

Oh, goody. Now we get into the argument that goes along the lines of 'We can conceive of immaterial things that aren't god; ergo, the specific god of the broader Judeo-Christian religion and everything pertaining to it must exist.'

<sarcasm>No, that's not much of a leap.</sarcasm>

I can conceive of a magic watermelon that does Tom Waits covers in a German accent. What does that mean?

By Wowbagger, OM (not verified) on 10 May 2009 #permalink

If you're going to make shit up, it's generally a good idea not to leave a record behind when it becomes convenient to change your story in mid-stream. Can you even keep track of what is that you're arguing for?

answer:

no.

conclusion:

troll.

Here lies Eric in his grave, all dressed up with no place to go.

Hac sunt in fossa
Bedae Venerabilis ossa.

Finally, I posted the Schrodinger equation and told him to either solve it for a hydrogen atom or STFU.

He stopped bleating about quantum stuff after that.

B-)

By David Marjanović, OM (not verified) on 10 May 2009 #permalink

"If you're going to make shit up, it's generally a good idea not to leave a record behind when it becomes convenient to change your story in mid-stream. Can you even keep track of what is that you're arguing for?"

Cope, you're the one making sh*t up. You claimed that I criticized PZ for suggesting that Eagleton had referred to quantum.

Cope: "Eric tried to claim that PZ putting words about the quantum in the mouth of a character named Eagletosh was wrong, because some non-fictional character named Feebletoad, or Feetlebaum, or Eagleton, had not really appeared to have anything much to say one way or another about the quantum."

To support this, you presented a quote that in no way supports your claim.

"That aside, I think the Eagletons of the world would argue that while me may not have any scientific reasons to believe X, it doesn't follow that we therefore have no reasons as such to believe X. This is another problem with the parable: The Eagletons of the world don't simply make things up arbitrarily, and to even suggest that they do is intellectually dishonest."

I say nothing about 'quantum' here. However, if you look at post #68 by Rudy, you'll see an explicit complaint that Eagleton hadn't mentioned quantum:

"It would be a more devastating critique of Eagleton if it actually had the remotest connection to his views. Is PZ mixing up Frank Tipler with Terry Eagleton? Where on Earth does TE every mention "quantum" anything?"

You're the one who lost track of the argument (as usual), not me.

So it's true: all paragraphs of a blockquote except the first are still indented.

PZ, please raise a stink in the ScienceBlogs web design department.

The new layout is the stupidest idea since Austria's completely unqualified science minister, Johannes Hahn, decided that Austria would quit CERN and pump the 16 million € per year into the budget hole instead (or into the hilarious fighter planes, who knows).

By David Marjanović, OM (not verified) on 10 May 2009 #permalink

The Mandelbrot Set tastes like............bacon!

Much as I love bacon, it really tastes of almond bread.....

Eric@186,
Numbers are immaterial in the sense that they are do not have a spatio-temporal location, or any physical properties. However, they do have non-physical properties, such as being prime or composite, independent of our beliefs or wishes. Hence they are in a readily intelligible sense, real.

By Knockgoats (not verified) on 10 May 2009 #permalink

Where on Earth does TE every mention "quantum" anything?

and where does PZ mention eagleton?

see, even, #69.

*yawn*

you're making me sleepy, Eric.

time for something more productive than watching trolls flail.

Hac sunt in fossa
Bedae Venerabilis ossa.

Ok, polyglot guy, you got my attention. I lost my translation dictionary for that language, whatever language that might be.

How about a translation?

Korero tangata Maori koe?

@203 ...and we can find physical evidence that particular numbers have specific non-physical properties. For example take n cubical blocks of the same size: if you can arrange them in a rectangle of width greater than one block, n is composite; if you can't it's a prime.

By Knockgoats (not verified) on 10 May 2009 #permalink

Oh dear me, did I mix up one troll's droppings with another troll's fewmets? You still accused PZ of intellectual dishonesty for creating a strawtheist and in your non-denial denial of my accurate description of your actions, all you've offered is the fact that I had not quoted you in the midst of my barrage of rotten vegetables hurled in your general direction. So, as if anybody cares, I'm just curious if you can make a positive claim. What are you arguing for? What can you offer in support of your conclusion? So far as I can tell, you're here to make everybody else look ten times smarter just by virtue of not being you.

Kamaka,

It's Latin. These are in ..?.. something..

#207
Simple, but made from the finest grade of Win.

You're the one who lost track of the argument (as usual), not me.

Fine. Could you then answer my questions instead? :-)

By David Marjanović, OM (not verified) on 10 May 2009 #permalink

It's Latin. These are in ..?.. something..

Very helpful, thanks GMacs

Ok, polyglot guy, you got my attention.

Seriously postclassical Latin: "In this ditch are / the bones of the Venerable Bede." Allegedly that's what it really says on his grave. Sort of contradicts the whole "venerable" thing and sounds more like... ka ngaro i te ngaro a te moa, right? (Does a macron belong there anywhere?)

By David Marjanović, OM (not verified) on 10 May 2009 #permalink

Eric said:

How many philosophy courses have you taken?

What has that got to do with the price of fish in China? The philosphical argument here is that without evidence, rhetoric is at best a fairy story, at worst a con job. Anybody can make stuff up, and some people do just that. Worse, the made up stuff starts to propagate throughout a community, distorting the community's perception of reality.

Eric, the only way you can make headway in this argument is to present evidence that your particular god, which looks like a myth to us, is real.

If you can't produce evidence that the myth is real, it remains at the status of a myth. You can't make a myth real by saying or believing that it might be real. You need some evidence in the real world. Are you trying to argue, philosophically of course, that believing in fairies makes them real?

And yet, it flies.

By Buccephalus (not verified) on 10 May 2009 #permalink

Are you trying to argue, philosophically of course, that believing in fairies makes them real?

See, this game comes up often in threads cluttered with Eric's pribbling. We keep assuming that there must be some point other than Eric's pointlessness, so we keep playing guessing games about what it is that it seems he must be getting at, and we don't even get any old Harry Nilsson songs for our troubles. Eric's deniability is not plausible.

ka ngaro i te ngaro a te moa, right?

Hahaha, Totally Busted!! Yah, close enough to count.

I couldn't have written that sentence, but I can read it.

Just how many languages do you know?

N? Maka &lsquo&#256

And then there are the mystics. Mysticism might be described as being the child's habit of magical thinking all grown up and carefully nurtured and mentally defended against critical thinking. It is the idea that somehow there is more out there than can be found by reason, logic, and evidence.

Problem is, we're intimately stuck with this often irrational, unpredictable, difficult-to-understand thing called "mind". Is it rational to abandon the quest for self-knowledge simply because the data is difficult to crunch? Is it inherently deluded to fill in the gaps of self-understanding with a working hypothesis? Is meditative tinkering worthless because our ordinary state of consciousness is clearly optimal?

Copyright in "Eaglefish" belongs to Ophelia Benson - I picked it up from her. You have too many scruples Dr. Dr. :)

By Brian English (not verified) on 10 May 2009 #permalink

Eric gets a zillion posts telling him that his sky god is imaginary b.s., along with a zillion posts telling him not to push his theism on people.

I guess it's not technically projection if the two sets of posters don't intersect... it's projection on the part of the Collective Mind That is Pharyngula.

(And, while it's cute for PZ to jump in and pretend he wasn't talking about Eagleton, it makes it hard to take this forum seriously. Does PZ just want to preach to the converted? Is this just the PZ Myers fan site?)

Has anyone considered the fact that, if you believe the elephant has wings, then he will fly you over to Gumdrop Land when you die? He won't fly you there if you don't believe, so I say, hedge your bets and believe in wings. It doesn't cost you anything if you are wrong, but just imagine the gain if you are right! Eternal gumdrops! Yum!

(all I ask is that it is known as Pablo's Wager in the official encyclical)

Eric, I can empathise with what (I think) you’re saying up to a point. I was corrupted in my youth by reading lots of stuff about zen and have always liked the idea of obtaining sudden insight into the nature of reality through personal empirical study of one’s own consciousness. So in that sense I can empathise with your position about some explanation of reality / deity being somehow beyond “existence.”

However where theists lose me is that, after saying how a diety is beyond understanding, they immediately attribute him (!) with a whole lotta attributes, such as omniscience, compassion, wings, and a dislike of just about everything including foreskins, pork (hmmm pork ….) praying in the wrong direction, same sex marriage etc. A proactive generally and accurately described as "making shit up."

The thing I’ve always liked about the stories of zen masters is, if someone had the effrontery to actually try and describe their experience, at the least they got a good verbal bashing and at best a solid whack over the head with a large stick. If Eagletosh had been fortunate enough to have this happen to him early in life, it might have avoided a lot of unnecessary bloodshed in the name of Eagletoshianty or Eagletoshlam.

By SinSeeker (not verified) on 10 May 2009 #permalink

- Eagletosh saw the interruption as an opportunity to sit in the shade beneath a tree and relax. "It is my considered opinion," he said, "that whatever it is has feathers. Beautiful iridescent feathers of many hues."

I was expecting this:

Eagletosh saw the interruption as an opportunity to sit in the shade beneath a tree and relax. "It is my considered opinion," he said, "that whatever it is, we should get inside because its raining pretty hard from where I am sitting"

Except I'm not talking about Eagleton. I'm talking about a general attitude among many defenders of theism.

I could have called him Colleagishins, I guess. Doesn't matter. You're getting too hung up on a name.

@220

Aw how cute! Eric has a wannabe.

I'll try to break it down for you, Rudy. "Ditchkins" is a straw atheist, and "Eagletosh" is a straw theist. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is more or less accidental, but entirely non-actionable.

Rudy #220

And, while it's cute for PZ to jump in and pretend he wasn't talking about Eagleton, it makes it hard to take this forum seriously.

Think of Eagletosh as a generic theist apologist if that makes life easier for you.

By 'Tis Himself (not verified) on 10 May 2009 #permalink

@eric
"The Eagletons of the world don't simply make things up arbitrarily,"

of course not it comes from the only place it can come from the deep psychology of man. The images that speak to our emotions, to the experience of being alive here know, out of memory, out of the mind. They All come from within and that is where they have any meaning at all.

I have heard other stories about the blind men and the elephant before. The point is that we are all blind (as was said above) and see, experience this thing called living from our own point of view and like PZ's blind men only see a part of the whole. PZ's point of departure is the collaboration of the three to combine what they see to form a more complete understanding (science) of what they have encountered. The one who used only his mind to understand points out his foolishness and arrogance. He is only interested in himself and his own thoughts.

By uncle frogy (not verified) on 10 May 2009 #permalink

OK, PZ, so he's not Eagleton. I'll go back and reread the story with that in mind.

The "tosh" part sounded kind of anti-intellectual too (like "posh"); your new name is better.

And supporters of the Winged Elephant hypothesis pointed at the wealth of art and music that had been created by humans in praise and glorification of the Winged Elephant, and of the Beneficial Effects throughout the history of human civilization of veneration of the Winged Elephant, and of the flight-capability thereof, invoking it as evidence for the existence of the Winged Elephant, for surely if the beast was only figment, so many would not have been moved to such acts of creation in It's name, and surely civilization could not have acquired such Beneficial Effects apart from the reality of the Winged Elephant, and surely humans would feel no urge to flight themselves, but for the flight of the Elephant.

And Rudy, remember if you want to post here: philosophy without evidence is sophistry. This is a science blog. Evidence is de rigueur.

By Nerd of Redhead, OM (not verified) on 10 May 2009 #permalink

Colleagishins

heh.

I should add that the composite "Ditchkins" enables the grifter to attack positions held neither by Dawkins nor Hitchens, while "Eagletosh" is a stand-in for positions that punters like Eric rush in to take umbrage at. "Ditchkins" is more an assault characterizing people on the NY-Times bestseller list, while "Eagletosh" is a characterization of the tosh itself, common to all tosh-slingers, no matter what their name may be.

"No, I think you've missed mine. The point is that the 'or' the story ends with doesn't follow from the story itself."

No Eric you missed the point.
Either you believe people who "conjure phantoms in the spaces within their skulls" or you don't.
Believeing evidence does not change the fact you also believe in non-evidenced things.

Another analogy is that during the Salem Witch Trials "spirit evidence" was accepted. That is the witnesses were allowed to present evidence from the spirit world. The court could have followed every other legal precept but that would not change that they accepted evidence from young girls claiming to be channeling spirits.

(what stopped them was when they accused the Governor's wife)

It comes down to accepting Eagletosh's views or not.
You can accept Larry, Moe, and Curley's evidence AND accept Eagletosh's views but it comes down to believing Eagletosh's account OR not.

By buttershug (not verified) on 10 May 2009 #permalink

Ken Cope (225),

I've posted here before, though not often (before the last couple of days it's been a few months I think).

I have a thick skin, calloused from a decade wasted on the 'net. So I'm not saddened by your cruel characterization of me as a (sniff) wannabe.

The focus on Eagletosh obscures the real genius of the tale, which is that the enterprise of science is a product of knuckleheads, with the presumption that they are knuckleheads, but that collectively, they rise to the level of Stooges, yet still, they are more productive than Eagletosh can ever be.

I have a thick skin, calloused from a decade wasted on the 'net. So I'm not saddened by your cruel characterization of me as a (sniff) wannabe.

Yet you had to take the time to tell him.

NOF, have you ever heard of a category error? Asking for physical evidence for god (as classically conceived) is akin to asking what the mandelbrot set tastes like.

This is begging the question by making an unjustified assumption that there is a category other than the natural. You've got two choices: (1) provide evidence of the supernatural category in which it becomes untenable to assign it to a completely separate category, or (2) accept that you're building castles on pure fantasy.

By Occam's Aftershave (not verified) on 10 May 2009 #permalink

OK. Admittedly, I've been hanging with my family* and drinking all day and I've only skimmed this thread, but I'm at a loss as to what Eric's argument is - especially if it's about a deity. Eric, if it's not too much trouble, would you mind spelling it out (feel free to cite others, as long as you've described their positions)? Thanks.

*Yes, the only reason I can visit and post here is that I'm away from home and not on my computer. That's how serious the Sb problem is for me.

your cruel characterization of me as a (sniff) wannabe

It isn't the accusation of wannabe that was cruel--many of us have heroes and role-models whom we emulate on our way toward discovering who we are. It was my identification of your remarks in emulation of a troll whose positions you were primed to echo that should offend you. It is your capacity to reflect upon your arguments, and, in light of new information, consider revising them, that puts you in a category beyond the aspirations of any dime-a-dozen Eric.

SC do you need a computer consultation?

You're so sweet. No, I need a new computer, desperately, which I plan to get very soon (it has been a decade - I don't think I'll lose any Swamp Yankee cred :)). Still, everything was just fine until they started messing with it, and it's still fine on every other site, so I'm pretty confident blaming them. I also hate when people make changes without warning, providing a rationale, or openly addressing potential problems. Sure, I may not understand what's going on, but that's not my fault.

SC, I'm beta testing Firefox 3.5b4 for Macs (PPC version), and SB has been blowing up at least twice a day. It started with the "improvements". Safari works fine, but doesn't have the add-ons. *Shakes fist at SB software*

By Nerd of Redhead, OM (not verified) on 10 May 2009 #permalink

Can you name a single properly scientific conclusion that someone who agrees with Eagleton's theology would be required, on pain of contradiction, to reject?

Hard to say. Does Eagleton have a consistent theology? It seems to me from reading quotes that he writes about a God that is not a possible object of cognition, or to put it another way, KtlikitkaktlbargleElessar. A creationist like Gosse seems sophisticated by comparison.

As for the claim that Eagleton doesn't arbitrarily make up anything except Ditchkins, does he give any reason for believing in a God that is not an object of cognition? (Hint: this is trick question.)

Similarly, if you can tell us what "immaterial" means then we can have a discussion about it. Otherwise, it's all KTlik.

It started with the "improvements".

For a bit of context: I'm the sort of person who LOVES the thing on airplanes that gives you all of the information about your status and progress. I also want to be kept informed not only about the reasons for any delays or changes but about the reasons behind the course of action that's being taken. I have no problem with change, but I hate having it sprung on me without explanation, and I've yet to see a constructive change made here by the Sb staff. I can't imagine why these people would take what's possibly the most popular science blog on the planet and go fucking about with it.

Nerd, PZ's story is not evidence, it's a story. Sometimes the only way to present an idea is a story (this is what the philosopher Richard Rorty used to argue, thinking of Dostoevsky and Dickens); the still popular academic "narrative theology" makes religion all about stories - in a good way of course :) Like turtles, it's stories all the way, well, a long way down.

Ken Cope, if Eagletosh (now Colleaglshins) was intended just as a straw counterpart to Mr. D, the story wouldn't have any point except to prove that PZ Can Play That Game Too. That doesn't seem to be what most of the posters here took away from PZ's story, they paid PZ the compliment of taking it seriously.

SC,OM,consider this inexpensive solution to your puter problem :

http://eeepc.asus.com/us/products.html?n=0

Reading SB from work on a PC workstation via IE leads to hang-ups,given the number of widgets,JS shit and Flash thingies buried in the pages.Pretty much unreadable without Firefox and the blocking tools.

By Rorschach (not verified) on 10 May 2009 #permalink

I am sensing a bit of inspiration from the flying sheep sketch here.

...
-Uh...those ARE sheep aren't they?
-Yeh.
-Hmm, thought they were. Only, what are they doing up in the trees?
-A fair question and one that in recent weeks 'as been much on my mind. It's my considered opinion that they're nestin'.

By Anonymous (not verified) on 10 May 2009 #permalink

I am willing to concede this much to Eric. The fact that the characters are seeking knowledge about a physical object stacks the deck in favor of the scientists. I doubt that philosophers or theologians would disagree that science is the best way to learn about an elephant.

Imagine a parable where scientists make fools of themselves trying to find what makes Beethoven's 8th great by spending years analyzing the attributes of the sound waves. Meanwhile, an artist listens once and guided mostly by her emotional response produces an explanation that resonates with many listeners. In other words, there are other paths to knowledge besides science, if you aren't too rigid about what you mean by knowledge.

The fact remains, however, that theology contributes nothing of value. It has no way to get beyond riffing on imaginary and hypothetical concepts and beings. It is an enormous distraction and waste of time.

Rudy, two things of note. One, PZ did tell a story. I thought it was a nice story. Two, Eric thinks he is the philosophy specialist here and we all should bow down to him and his conclusions, and gets very upset when we don't. Especially with the existence of god being philosophically correct. This has been a multithread argument over about three months on and off, and today was just the latest round. My warning to you is to remember this is a science blog, and science requires physical evidence (I know, as I've been doing science for 30+ year, and been a skeptic for 20+).

By Nerd of Redhead, OM (not verified) on 10 May 2009 #permalink

SC,OM,consider this inexpensive solution to your puter problem :

You're sweet, too (extra cuteness points for calling it what my friend's little 2-yr-old daughter does :)). I'm getting another HP* - been researching online and on Consumer Reports. I would ask for opinions here, but...

...well, you can imagine the mayhem that would ensue amongst opinionated computer people...

@Rudy
It seems that Nerd never said that the story was meant to be taken as evidence for anything really. He simply reiterated an earlier comment that he aimed at Eric since he thought you were going to bring up the same sort of "evidence" as Eric.

The story does have a point other than the name that you're fixated on, which was basically what everyone else responded. The only thing I got from the name was that it was a sort of parody of the "Ditchkens" strawman. The thing is, though, that the parody was not meant to represent any views of Eagleton or Fish, or at least I did not think so as it was not stated anywhere. I think the problem is that you thought it was implied that Eagletosh was meant to represent the views of either Eagleton or Fish. It seems like you simply misunderstood, but I could be wrong.

By anonymouroboros (not verified) on 10 May 2009 #permalink

Rudy @246, see my post @235. Of course the Tosh is flashy and distracting, but even knuckleheads working collectively as Stooges yield more toward our understanding of the way things are, enabling us to modify our surroundings for good or ill, while invisible quantum elephant wings are, at best, otiose.

Dude: Horton Hatches The Egg precedes Roger Dean, too. Again, as per Jean-Luc Godard, “It’s not where you take things from—it’s where you take them to.”

I'm getting another HP*

Yeah, there must have been a reason for that asterisk. Can't for the life of me remember what it was...

SC,OM,

Off to work,the question is not which brand,theyre all nice,more or less fast and gadgety these days,but which OS,really,IMO.
*Drops the Linux bomb and runs*

By Rorschach (not verified) on 10 May 2009 #permalink

...well, you can imagine the mayhem that would ensue amongst opinionated computer people...

What? People here have opinions and express them? ;)My Mac is 8 years old and the PPC will no longer be supported by Snow Leopard according to the rumor mill. Sigh. The iMacs look very nice though...

By Nerd of Redhead, OM (not verified) on 10 May 2009 #permalink

*Drops the Linux bomb and runs*

Oh gods, not a religious discussion, here; won't somebody please think of the children...

Um, which distro? (he said, running Vista64, since Windows is the price we pay for cheap hardware, and I build my desktops myself). New Mac laptops shore look purty though...

Um, which distro? (he said, running Vista64, since Windows is the price we pay for cheap hardware, and I build my desktops myself). New Mac laptops shore look purty though...

Vista runs better on cheap hardware?! In which universe?!

also: Ubuntu rulez. the only reason not to go with Ubuntu on PC is if you do serious graphic work, and then an iMac is better, anyway.

freakin genius. solid gold :)

Nerd of Redhead..

I was wondering about your use of OM in the following comment of yours.

"So we would appreciate it if you kept your belief to yourself, like Scott Hatfield, OM. That is our point."

Is it this definition from the Urban Dictionary.?

OM
a dum retarded loser who keeps bragging nonstop about anything that he achieved that HE thought was great. Super talkative and a loserish wanna be. only way to shut him up is to ignore him.

By Anonymous (not verified) on 10 May 2009 #permalink

Eric, FYI Richard Healy posts here sometimes. Not every poster tries to argue from authority by establishing his bona fides.

have you ever heard of a category error? Asking for physical evidence for god (as classically conceived) is akin to asking what the mandelbrot set tastes like.

I suppose you think the category error is that God belongs to the category "non-physical things", and it is inappropriate to expect physical evidence for things belonging to this category. That's all well and good, but it doesn't excuse believing in God without any evidence at all. God and numbers might both belong to the category "non-physical things" but neither of them belongs to the category "things it makes sense to believe in without evidence". That isn't a problem for mathematics, but it is a problem for religion.

PZ's entire point is that the definitions here are drawn from... what, exactly? Why should we think the classical conception of God relevant, particularly in the absence of the regular transparent sort of evidence everyone can go check?

"OM" is short for "Order of the Molly"

Vista runs better on cheap hardware?! In which universe?!

also: Ubuntu rulez. the only reason not to go with Ubuntu on PC is if you do serious graphic work, and then an iMac is better, anyway.

One of the reasons I stick with Windows. One, I'm an IT manager and need to have windows because of what we run, and two since I'm on windows and I'm also a photographer I can't quite switch 100% to gimp as Photoshop and Lightroom are too important for me.

Though I do run RHEL for a number of our servers at work.

In case no one else has done so, thank you, Owlmirror, for a lovely essay. It is worth reading more than once.

By Lee Picton (not verified) on 10 May 2009 #permalink

Vista runs better on cheap hardware?! In which universe?!

also: Ubuntu rulez. the only reason not to go with Ubuntu on PC is if you do serious graphic work, and then an iMac is better, anyway.

Admittedly, Vista was a rather intensive upgrade your hardware program, as in, what? you still think your Wacom tablet will run on a serial port? Where have you been? Serial ports are so last century! But I was raised to prefer rolling your own, er, roasting my own. That is, I roast my own green coffee beans, and don't know what else you might be thinking about rolling green stuff. As for the hardware, Apple has gone Intel and Nvidia, and so do I. Since I do 3D animation and game development, I go for the lowest common denominator. Apple's OS shore is purty, but I want it first and flakey, not months later and bee-aye-oot-i-ful.

a dum retarded loser who keeps bragging nonstop about anything that he achieved that HE thought was great. Super talkative and a loserish wanna be. only way to shut him up is to ignore him.

sounds more like the definition of John Kwok to me.

Ken, I rarely use my tablet, and I find color management on linux and windows to be a massive pain in the ass; not to mention that AI CS3 doesn't run in Wine, and the sites I sell my images at don't accept SVGs for the most part, so I can't just post my Inkscape files (the EPS files from Inkscape have too many issues as well).

and the mouse scrolls sideways. SIDEways!!!!

I'm getting another HP* - been researching online and on Consumer Reports. I would ask for opinions here, but...

I went with ASUS instead last year and couldn't be happier.

btw, there's nothing saying you can't install a linux distro on a PC with Vista.

AI CS3 doesn't run in Wine, and the sites I sell my images at don't accept SVGs for the most part,

Ah, I can tell your selection is based on what hardware/OS combination best supports your most critical applications too. Glad to see we're neither of us are bound to rigid ideologies.

there's nothing saying you can't install a linux distro on a PC with Vista.

Sigh. Yet another thread deteriorating into nothing more than vigorous agreement...

"Where do you find meaning and joy and richness and beauty, O Reader? In elephants, or elephants' wings?"

Like I suspect most here do, elephants. I find these things in the way I choose to live my life, relieving pain, bringing pleasure, exploring myself and the universe. I find richness and joy in music, arts, science, friends and family. The awe I experience almost daily from ourselves, our world and our universe is amazing. I do not fear death, only of dying before I am ready. I don't need imaginary wings to soar. I don't need a meaning decreed to me, I create my own. The meaning of life is to be all that you can be to your family, friends, community, and world.

Sorry, felt the need to answer the question... :-)

Ah, I can tell your selection is based on what hardware/OS combination best supports your most critical applications too.

well, that's MY reasoning for using the iMac. But it certainly helped that the boyfriend wanted to buy me one because it's the only type of computer we don't have at our home yet. :-p

The collection now includes: one self-built desktop, running appx. 10 different linux distros, plus Windows 7; one netbook, running eeebuntu and Windows 7; one laptop, running ubuntu; one iMac, running OSX (Leopard); one server, temporarily not running anything at all

and now he's debating whether to build some archaic form of computer(don't ask me what... but I think it had to do with not using an Intel chip), or buy a MacBook :-p

What does the elephant think of this?

And a bird?

We can't know, but we can empathize. And then consider that those who refuse to empathize and consider the life of any but themselves as having self-imposed blinders. Blinders, when we of all animals can most empathize, if only we choose.

By Anonymous (not verified) on 10 May 2009 #permalink

Congrats for creating the new word "Eagletosh", which previous to today had precisely zero google hits! And growing...

Congrats for creating the new word "Eagletosh", which previous to today had precisely zero google hits! And growing...

Errr, I should say "prior" to today. Anyway, Eagletosh is taking off like an... ummmmmmmm... I can't really think of an idom at the moment. Eagletosh is tasking off like an... ummmm... somethin. I dunno.

By elephantbirdie386sx (not verified) on 10 May 2009 #permalink

Errr, I should say "prior" to today. Anyway, Eagletosh is taking off like an... ummmmmmmm... I can't really think of an idom at the moment. Eagletosh is tasking off like an... ummmm... somethin. I dunno.

Grrr...

s/idom/idiom

s/tasking/taking

Okay, beddie byes time apparently...

Now, my claim is that to ask for physical evidence for an immaterial entity is to place 'immaterial entities' in the category of 'entities for with there could be physical evidence.' To make this point clearer, imagine reversing it and asking for immaterial evidence for the existence of physical entities like elephants. Absurd, eh?

Your problem is that ascribing the property of "existence" to an entity which is "immaterial" in the sense you're using the word is itself a category error.

I remember being recited this poem several dozen times back when doing my undergrad. It was never used to defend theology, but used to defend qualitative research and their epistemology. Interesting to see a new take on the poem ... albeit, I think PZ had it right, that the original "Elephant" poem had more to do with theology than the quant vs. qual "battle".

Sorry, I've been drinking nice red wine al evening, but isn't using metaphysical/spiritual arguments in a debate surrounding science a major "CATAGORY ERROR"?????
Robert "at this point an abalone" Estrada

By Robert Estrada (not verified) on 10 May 2009 #permalink

I'm so glad that if I wanted to believe in God I wouldn't have to support those beliefs with evidence because that would be a category error. I'm so freakin relieved about that.

Saying that metaphysical/spiritual arguments in a debate surrounding science is a major category error is itself a major category error, because some things that previously were thought to be metaphysical/spiritual turned out to belong to the domain of science. For example, people once thought that lightning, planetary orbits, and comets were metaphysical/spiritual.

Hate to rain on your parade Mr. Myers, but how do you explain this?:

Very simple: it is a major, major category error. Everybody stop making category errors!!

@Ebeneezer
Many physicists and mahematicians (like Roger Penrose and Paul Davies) believe mathematical truths and abstractions exist as platonic forms (in a realm outside of space and time). Is platonic realism a scientific theory?

By Ineffable (not verified) on 10 May 2009 #permalink

Is platonic realism a scientific theory?

Not when mahematician Roger Penrose wanks about platonism and the quantum, it isn't. While he's useful doing sums for Hawking, his quantum microtubules shite should have him committing sepuku out of sheer humiliation for having become a laughingstock. All Davies is good for any more is whoring after Templeton cash.

That was SUPERB PZ!

Aber sauber!

By astrounit (not verified) on 10 May 2009 #permalink

Damn but that is funny. A medieval wanker who is impressed by Aquinas' variants of Aristotelian science asks if Platonic realism is a scientific theory.

Only for the Catholic Church.

Somewhere in the TRUE REALITY there is to be found the idealized Ineffable. It has to be even more insufferable than the pale reflection we deal with here.

By Janine, OMnivore (not verified) on 10 May 2009 #permalink

Sorry to bring this up again, but eric said "I only take issue with misrepresentations of theism and atheism, not with your atheism," which leads me to ask: in what sense is he a theist who admits the total absence of evidence (i.e. physical effects) of a deity? Isn't that saying "I believe in an imaginary God"?
He does know, doesn't he, that "immaterial evidence" is never going to keep anyone persuaded after the drugs wear off?

By John Scanlon FCD (not verified) on 10 May 2009 #permalink

I always liked Pogo's take on the story--when someone in the comic strip compared a situation to the wise men and the elephant, saying something like Each was partly right and each was partly wrong, Pogo answered, Yes, but remember, each was wholly blind.

Sigh. Another one pushing the 'we believe in other non-physical concepts so why not believe in the Judeo-Christian god and all the rubbish that comes with it?' approach as part of the argument for belief.

Putting it all together I guess the equation goes something like this (for them): philosophical arguments supporting the possible existence of a non-specific god + fact that we don't yet know exactly how everything in the universe works + general consensus amongst historians that someone approximating Jesus existed + argumentum ad populum = undeniable Christian faith.

But that seems pretty weak to me - I guess that's why I'm not a Christian.

By Wowbagger, OM (not verified) on 10 May 2009 #permalink

I have to say I am disappointed at the treatment Erik is receiving on this board. Erik criticizes something and goes to the trouble to define terms and actually have a legitimate argument, and then people yell, "keep your god to yourself," without addressing the substance of his argument and without Erik mentioning god at all. I don't know. I expect better from atheists.

Following the lead of Eagletosh, Eric sat on his ass and declared, "It is my considered opinion that God is 'an immaterial entity' and is immune to any form of physical test and thus no physical evidence of its existence can be found." He lazily sipped his drink and continued, "Nonetheless, this immaterial entity, created the universe 13 billion years ago, filled it with galaxies, clusters of galaxies, massive supernovas and many other wonders, and then commanded that no man is allowed to put his penis inside another's anus."

By Lotharloo (not verified) on 10 May 2009 #permalink

Elephants have wings? I saw lions take down an elephant and it didn't try to fly away. It didn't even try. It just ran. There were like a bunch of lions, it looked like a dozen or so lions (possibly more, maybe less).

Like, if I saw someone being hurt and had the ability to stop it, I would. You know, like seeing a child raped by someone. I would stop it. If I could supposedly stop it with minimal effort on my part (say picking up a telephone and calling the police or using my supernatural powers to alert someone of it happening, or by sending down a angel with a flaming sword to exact justice), I would do that. I wouldn't watch. I wouldn't do nothing.

I couldn't allow someone to be hurt if I could stop it, and I would have flown away from the lions.

I expect better from atheists.

Why? While I'd love to say that all atheists are more likely to behave in a more intelligent, perceptive way than all theists, I can't support than claim with evidence.

We have no defining qualities save a lack of belief in gods. Beyond that, one atheist is no more likely to behave like another than are any other two people with characteristics unrelated to the determination of behaviour.

By Wowbagger, OM (not verified) on 10 May 2009 #permalink

Thus spake SC,OM

I need a new computer, desperately…

Having seen it, I can vouch for its antiquity — SC's computer is so old that paleographers are still debating its exact date — it had to be smuggled out of the Middle East.

By Emmet, OM (not verified) on 10 May 2009 #permalink

Oh AssProf PZ, I'm so embarrassed for you! This is really a dreadfully boring read, constructed without any literary grace or skill. I understand that you're madly in love with your own thoughts and words, but this narcissism causes you to produce far too much gunk that clogs the internet and assaults the minds of all those with a sense of taste and style. I think you were trying to write some sort of fable but just proved yourself to be as mediocre a writer as you are researcher. Really, dear AssProf, less is more when it comes to your writing.

Thank you for you helpful and insightful comment, AssFace.

By Janine, OMnivore (not verified) on 10 May 2009 #permalink

Robert, a whining pissant, squealed:

Oh AssProf PZ, I'm so embarrassed for you!

Not half as embarrassed as you should be by your own actions.

... and assaults the minds of all those with a sense of taste and style.

While there are people in the world who fit that description nothing you've written here would support a claim that you are amongst them.

I think...

I doubt it.

Really, dear AssProf, less is more when it comes to your writing.

Less is certainly more when it comes to you, Robert. Why is it you come here again?

By Wowbagger, OM (not verified) on 10 May 2009 #permalink

This is another problem with the parable: The Eagletons of the world don't simply make things up arbitrarily, and to even suggest that they do is intellectually dishonest.

So we commend them for such a paucity of imagination that they instead believe things that were made up arbitrarily by illiterate bronze-age goatherds.

Now, my claim is that to ask for physical evidence for an immaterial entity is to place 'immaterial entities' in the category of 'entities for with there could be physical evidence.'

So, you simply define away the necessity for empirical evidence — “God is that which exists, but for which there is no evidence of existence” — that seems like an extraordinarily feeble cop-out that seeks to invent a new category of existence to dispense with the requirement to assign god(s) to be either physical or notional. If by “immaterial entity” you mean “figment of imagination” then, yes, god(s) do(es) indeed exist(s) — in the same sense as unicorns and Harry Potter — if you mean “exists” in the sense of physical existence in the real world, then you must present empirical evidence. What you cannot do is implicitly invent a new definition of “exist” like a theological Humpty Dumpty.

By Emmet, OM (not verified) on 10 May 2009 #permalink

Eric,

A universe with a powerful being that regularly intervenes in human affairs would like very different that a universe without such a being. Such interventions could be pointed to and be said to be physical evidence for that being.

Now, this argument doesn't work if you believe (1) God rarely or never intervenes in human affairs or (2) he "covers his tracks". There are many theist who don't accept (1) or (2). A God "covering his tracks" seems a bit deceptive, a feature many wouldn't consider a supreme deity to have. Thus asking for physical evidence for God isn't necessarily wrong. In fact, many theist do point to things like the Virgin Mary in a grilled cheese sandwich or other "miracles" as physical evidence for God. I have yet to see convincing evidence.

I have two question:

- Do you accept (1) and/or (2) or is there some other reason the requirement of physical evidence doesn't apply to God?

- What is your evidence, if not physical, for God?

By Feynmaniac (not verified) on 10 May 2009 #permalink

"also: Ubuntu rulez. the only reason not to go with Ubuntu on PC is if you do serious graphic work, and then an iMac is better, anyway."

I switched over to Linux through Ubuntu, but now run Arch on my desktop and Debian on my PPC laptop. That being said, I'd recommend any linux distro over Windows/Mac.

Great stuff, PZ. Are we allowed to spread this around?

By Citizen of the… (not verified) on 10 May 2009 #permalink

Eric, if you're willing to specify that your god exists in the same sense that, say, Aragorn the Ranger exists- as a fictional entity in a story- you might be doing OK. But if you claim that it in some sense "really" exists and has any properties such as, say, creating universes, you will need some convincing evidence.

At the moment you're repeatedly taking issue with atheists for not taking your god-concept "seriously". But I have a nagging feeling that in a conversation between a fundamentalist who thinks God loves him personally and is planning to end the world next week, an atheists who thinks there are no gods, and you, you'd side with the fundie in browbeating the atheist. Am I wrong about this?

By Stephen Wells (not verified) on 10 May 2009 #permalink

That being said, I'd recommend any linux distro over Windows/Mac.

I giggled.

@300

There are lots of Athiest blogs out there. Few have the amount of readers PZ has. Few blogs have the amount of readers as Pharyngula. This is mostly because PZ is a good writer. He is very easy to read. If you are wrong on this point, perhaps you are wrong on others. Perhaps more important points. Maybe you should think about that a bit.

Delightful, PZ, and well constructed; so many bases touched (Ken Cope points out one of many in #235). And there are some great comments; to mention just a couple: Owlmirror's #115 is a tour de force. And after wading through a long, dreadfully boring exchange with Eric, with many responses to him substituting ad hominems for for substantive response (hint to David and Windy about making certain persons bad guys), I finally encountered buttershug's point-getting #233. I would add about Eric and his arguments: First, on communication skills: starting out with "How in the world is this even sensible?" when everyone else finds it eminently sensible is good trolling but is not a good way to discuss issues with people with whom one disagrees, especially when it is followed, not by an explanation of why it isn't sensible, but by two questions that completely miss the many sensible points of the parable (including the reflection of "Ditchkins" in "Eagletosh"). On substance: talk of "the" classic conception of god is nonsensical when there are many, and most of them involve someone who does various things that have physically discernible consequences -- like chatting with prophets and other folk, as one frequent theme, often to get them to write down the god's thoughts and actions in holy books. The very existence of these books is purported evidence of the god and is often presented as such. And if not, these books are indistinguishable from fictional fables; there is no reason to think or claim that they are about anything real. As for category mistake, the notion that something with no physical attributes or for which there cannot be physical evidence "exists" is a category mistake -- existence is about membership in a set, and the set that is meant when the word is used without qualification is the set of physical phenomena (I agree with Knockgoats about emotions, minds, and social norms but not about numbers). (Ah, I see that Azkyroth made the same point about this being a category mistake in #279).

On a personal note: I escaped from the fires, smoke, and ash in Santa Barbara but hope to return home tomorrow. I'm staying with a friend in the woo capital of California -- perhaps of this entire plane of existence. Much of what you write about here, PZ, applies to purveyors and practitioners of woo, and Owlmirror's analysis captures the human elements that contribute to the formation of these beliefs. These folks are generally very nice and have their hearts in the right place (they aren't libertarians, conservatives, or other forms of sociopath), but they're rather gullible, they pay lip service to science but have a poor understanding of what science has taught us about how the world works, and they reinforce each other's mistaken beliefs, especially when gathered together in a community like this one.

Speaking of beliefs, I notice that Ken Kope in #102 and David Marjanović in #181 talked sensibly of their beliefs being grounded in evidence, and there are other mentions of belief that recognize that beliefs can be grounded in evidence or not grounded in evidence, and no one took objection. I strongly suspect that everyone here understands what the word means except when they're in the midst of defending clearly mistaken claims about it.

Ah, and Sastra should note Occam's Aftershave's #237.

*Drops the Linux bomb and runs*

As someone who has been running various Linux distributions since Yggdrasil, I would say that's not a good idea for anyone who doesn't think of their computer as a hobby unto itself.

As for HP, regardless of whether it's the best possible choice, it's a good choice.

By nothing's sacred (not verified) on 10 May 2009 #permalink

@Lotharloo
Following the lead of Eagletosh, Eric sat on his ass and declared ...

Another case of commenter genius.

@Shane
Erik criticizes something and goes to the trouble to define terms and actually have a legitimate argument, and then people yell,

How many people?

"keep your god to yourself," without addressing the substance of his argument

Did none of those who did that ever address any of the substance of his argument? Did no one ever address any of the substance of his argument?

and without Erik mentioning god at all. I don't know. I expect better from atheists.

All atheists? Or just those particular atheists?

Are you an atheist? If so, shouldn't you expect better of yourself?

By nothing's sacred (not verified) on 10 May 2009 #permalink

and the blind who prefer to conjure phantoms in the spaces within their skulls.

Unfortunately, the above also applies to mathematicians. Would you lump mathematics together with religion?

That's the basic problem with the equation "science=experiment". Feynman addressed this problem by decreeing that mathematics are not a science - "or at least, not a natural science", he qualified.

Excellent.

Eagleton is such a goddamned fool. It's highly enjoyable seeing his dishonest, disingenuous, pseudo-intellectual apologist mindset lampooned so well.

Probably been answered a few times, but I've been at work so I'm pleading ignorance...In relationship to physical evidence for God, if one claims that there can be no physical evidence for God then they are conceding that God does not interact with the world, it takes any concept of the supernatural and relegates it to deism. If God physically interacted with the world then there should be evidence. Even if God is in the supernatural realm, in order to influence the natural God has to interface with the natural. Otherwise the natural remains unchanged. Thus any god that cannot have physical evidence has to be deistic in nature and unknowable my humans. To take this point further, this is nothing more than having your cake and eating it too. Christianity is founded on the principle of there being physical evidence, that God is indeed a force in this reality and has chosen to physically manifest in the world some 2000 years ago. A theist believes in an interactive god, so it takes more than philosophical musings to demonstrate this notion. Either concede that God has no physical dealings in this world (and is thus unknowable) or concede that there has to be physical evidence in order for us to come to know it...

Great post, PZ. But you forgot one thing: since they're quantum wings, they only exist when someone looks at them; otherwise, they're in an indeterminate, existing/non-existing state. The only reason the others haven't seen them is because they're not as "pudgily superior" as Eagletosh. As soon as he looks at them, they'll pop right into existence. CHECKMATE!

@Kel (#313)

Either concede that God has no physical dealings in this world (and is thus unknowable) or concede that there has to be physical evidence in order for us to come to know it...

My guess is that a) since it further diminishes the gaps in which to hide in, very few of faith find that an appealing question, and b) the "hard facts" are actually found in the bible, beyond examination (or at least, very difficult to put to the test), while god's intervention nowadays seems to be restricted to rather ambiguous prayer-answering or miracle-cures-when-no-one-is-watching. This dualism is so pathetic, more so when used apologetically.

To the topic, I liked the story a lot (especially the ending... "O Reader", loved that). For some mememetic engineering it might yet be good to shorten it a little... but don't ask me how or where.

Just a small note - I'm on an iMac (leopard/firefox), and apart from the indenting blockquote problem, I never would have noticed the issues in scienceblogs in the last couple of days if posters hadn't commented on it. It's been working just the same as always as far as I can see.

By Tassie Devil (not verified) on 10 May 2009 #permalink

Erik criticizes something and goes to the trouble to define terms and actually have a legitimate argument

He did? Where?As far as I can make out, he opined that he was better than anyone here because he <i>knows philosophy</i>. Then he ducked the physical/non physical issue, without which he has no argument at all.

By Anonymous (not verified) on 10 May 2009 #permalink

To be serious with the likes of Eric, from my personal anecdote, his point is raised quite often by people working in theoretical fields, specially pure mathematics. These people, because of their profession, sometimes treat the real world as a mathematical construct with no regard to evidence or the methodology of the scientific method. Probably the most well-known example here is Godel's ontological argument.

As repeated by many people, the answer to Eric is that one cannot define something into existence. Defining a concept to be unmeasurable does not make it more likely than all the millions of other unmeasurable and undetectable concepts (e.g., Sagan's invisible dragon).

So here is a question for Eric and his sympathizers: I agree, that it is possible that unmeasurable and undetectable things exist; however, if you accept the existence of one, then how can you deny the existence of others?

If your belief in an unmeasurable and undetectable deity stems from your feeling that such a deity "makes sense" or "feels real", then what happens when we show that as a human you are biased towards such feelings? In other words, what if your feeling is a logical illusion? Just as the visual system of our brains can be easily fooled by optical illusions, what if the logical part of your brain has fallen victim to say agent detection illusion?

By Lotharloo (not verified) on 10 May 2009 #permalink

My guess is that a) since it further diminishes the gaps in which to hide in, very few of faith find that an appealing question, and b) the "hard facts" are actually found in the bible, beyond examination (or at least, very difficult to put to the test), while god's intervention nowadays seems to be restricted to rather ambiguous prayer-answering or miracle-cures-when-no-one-is-watching. This dualism is so pathetic, more so when used apologetically.

That's just it. The bible is filled with stories of God interacting with the earth in one way or another. It means that God has to hide his tracks or that there should be evidence if there is any validity at all to the concept. Eric by trying to avoid the evidence question makes God even more implausible as it calls into question any way of knowing God. But Eric does believe in the physical manifestation of God and has used the gospels as evidence for Jesus. Apparently a few "eyewitness" accounts are enough to validate the concept of the man-god and thus the Trinity.

I see the value of the philosophy of religion as an interesting exercise, but not very useful beyond that - and pointless as a basis for making claims regarding the existence of the Christian god.

Being able to argue that some kind of god could exist (or may have existed) is one thing; extrapolating from that the definite existence of the specific deity known as Yahweh is another thing entirely, if for no other reason than we have no verifiable facts regarding that god's qualities - only folk tales, speculation and propaganda.

By Wowbagger, OM (not verified) on 10 May 2009 #permalink

NS,

as someone that just recently had to evacuate due to bushfires,it's good to see you safe and well !

To the 'puter debate,I think unless you're working professionally with Windoze API and editing tools,Linux can do all that the others can,and is cheaper and safer.
Bought a cheapo Dell Laptop 6 months ago,kicked Vista off and installed Ubuntu,running like a charm,very fast,use it for all my presentations and some minor video editing.
Back to work!

By Rorschach (not verified) on 10 May 2009 #permalink

Windows has games so that's keeping me on Microsoft's software. If it weren't for games and the phoning abilities of Google Talk, I'd switch back to Linux. But yeah, Windows wins by supporting the software I use - sad really.

@Kel (319), and as a more general aside: This does not stop at whether or not god exists (still hesitant to write it with a capital G, I am; you of course know that I refer to the "arguably... most unpleasant character in all fiction" (Dawkins, 2006)), and is one of the deeper reasons for me to oppose christian derivation of morals even here in Germany, where it is not nearly as great a problem as in other countries:

Fallacious legitimacy.

Most christians I know are peculiarly eclectic about what they accept from their holy book (mostly, they tend to defend only those implications that happen to conform to this culture's social values anyway), notwithstanding the fact that Jesus' legitimacy was derived by his referring to Old Testament-prophecies and being entrenched in the corresponding cultic in-group-/out-group-morals. To derive one's morals from this source even today is denying that it has been watered down from the beginnings in order to be memetically viable.

Finding Jesus admirable as a person or not has no bearing whatsoever on his authority (which is derived from the Old Testament), and even if Jesus' character is brought up as an excuse for being christian ("ah yeah the Old Testament, but you know, thankfully Jesus arrived with the second covenant and all that..."), this is a hollow appeal to justify any influence at all of "christianity" on today's society. There might have been more pleasant characters, and of course, there is the question of whether it is more acceptable to idolize an individual to accept his norms (through authority) or to formulate a philosophical foundation of how to behave morally. Since the Enlightenment, at the latest, we supposedly know the answer.

post scriptum: Kel, regarding your statement

Apparently a few "eyewitness" accounts are enough to validate the concept of the man-god and thus the Trinity.

I have talked to people who said they witnessed the moment the leg of someone (with formerly differently sized legs) grew longer in a prayer circle. And of course Our Lady of Fatima. Conspicuously, never is there an alleged sceptic witnessing these incidents.

I keep waiting for Eric to take the high dive into the Anselm cesspool. He seems to be hovering on the end of the diving board. Somebody push him in, and get it over with.

On a personal note: I escaped from the fires, smoke, and ash in Santa Barbara but hope to return home tomorrow.

Glad to hear that you're alright, NS. That's great news.

Indeed, Gorogh. I'm guessing it's the same argument everywhere. Morality has been hijacked by religion to the point where it seems one cannot be moral without religion. The fact that believers still do "wrong" while there are many noble non-believers really should be evidence against that view. Morality is a social construct and that's something that needs to be said loudly time and time again.

I heard people say that there wouldn't be a black man as president until pigs could fly. And then, three months later...swine flew (flu)! ;).....(but, of course, you can't see their wings either)

Speaking of winged mammalians... I heard people say that there wouldn't be a black man as president until pigs could fly. And then, three months later...swine flew (flu)! ;).....(but, of course, you can't see their wings either)

sorry, reached in and tried to grab it before it left, but alas, I have lost that first step.

I just read that DARPA had a secret multimillion dollar research project to weaponize flying elephants, but that it was canceled after several years without explanation...

By AncientBrit (not verified) on 11 May 2009 #permalink

@Jo (#329),

another poll (this time on a Christian site) that shows just how moral those religious types are - this one's about how great they think waterboarding is.

This seems like a dilemma. Personally, I'd vote "yes, it's unethical"; but what message would that send? Assuming the poll is going to be pharyngulated in this direction, whether or not this is to our intended goal (to further our view of the world) would be determined by whom this result is attributed to. Anyone reading the poll result of a majority condemning torture might say, "apparently, it's not true religious people tend to justify torture - they are not so bad after all; maybe we should listen to what they have to say". Whereas, if everyone voted "no, waterboarding is ethical", the consequence might be closer to what we actually intend to achieve.

These are pragmatic considerations. Nevertheless, I am going to vote "yes, it is unethical".

I just read that DARPA had a secret multimillion dollar research project to weaponize flying elephants, but that it was canceled after several years without explanation...

... and the bumblebee was the prototype?

p.s.: Enough spamming for now, excuse me :/ Lunchtime.

Gorogh @ 324

The shorter leg grew longer in a prayer circle? If someone, whether they were there and witnessed this insane event, or whom were not there but claim it to be true told me this, In would not laugh but use the most vitriolic derision I can muster and end by judging them retarded. Of course there was no alleged sceptic witnessing these incidents; that explains the insane absurdity of it all. One wonders why a shorter leg will grow longer, yet a severed leg will not regenerate at all. It isn't hard to equate insanity with religious delusions.

@Holbach (#335), emotionally I perfectly agree with your sentiment

If someone, whether they were there and witnessed this insane event, or whom were not there but claim it to be true told me this, In would not laugh but use the most vitriolic derision I can muster and end by judging them retarded.

To preserve civic conversation, though, I answered somewhere along these lines (after that guy insisting on his question, around 1:15), only less eloquently.

There. You got me. Still not off for lunch.

*off, muttering*

This is truly beautiful. Especially since just the other day I read a chapter in a German book titled "Gott" (God) where the author claimed that the discovery of quantum mechanics meant the end of reasonable atheism. You know, God twiddling around on the quantum level and the ascension just a very rare, yet perfectly plausible quantum event.

Speaking of winged mammalians... I heard people say that there wouldn't be a black man as president until pigs could fly. And then, three months later...swine flew (flu)! ;).....(but, of course, you can't see their wings either)

ooooof

I loved this story!

My favorite part is Eagletosh's confident insistence (as a blind man) that the wings are iridescent, and the nods of wondering agreement that this statement must have evoked in his (blind) followers.

"They're iridescent, people!"

Simply brilliant.

Don't forget all the folk tales about elephants trampling little children because their parents believed the wings were the wrong color... Or is that stretching the analogy too far? :D

By James Sweet (not verified) on 11 May 2009 #permalink

Gorogh @ 336

I have seen that video of Richard Dawkins deriding that obviously religion strickened retard, and I suppose out of deference to not alienating the whole audience, he was somewhat mild with his rebuke. I would definitely not be so inclined to sympathetic understanding but would express precisely how religion has caused this person's dementia through his own volition. To witness this insane outporing from this religious idiot would cause me to worry for the breakdown of rationality that seems to be in dire straits the more these examples are witnessed and known. As with insanity, these religion saturated morons have no inkling of how they sound or appear to rational minds. Scary.

PZ, may I please reproduce this fable (giving you full credit, of course) on a discussion forum website for military personnel and veterans? I'm a veteran, but also a biologist, and I've become sick and tired of the idiotic Creationists and the blindly religious who seem to pervade the military. I think your parable here has the point put into terms that even some of the Creationists might be able to understand. In the very least, I want them to squirm a bit.

So, may I have your permission? As I promised, I'll give you full credit.

Beautiful piece of writing - really, really lovely, witty and incisive. Awesome! Think I'm gonna have to save it.

I like the quatum wings, just yesterday some idiot tried arguing with me that Quantum physics is weird=the over 99% of scientist who think a flood and 6000 year old earth is idiotic are dead wrong.

By penguinsaur (not verified) on 11 May 2009 #permalink

*checks in the morning after*

Huh. Not too bad for posting while (slightly) plastered.

btw, there's nothing saying you can't install a linux distro on a PC with Vista.

Yup, then I think I'll rebuild a transmission. There's nothing saying I can't.

:)

Seriously, I know nothing about this stuff.

As for HP, regardless of whether it's the best possible choice, it's a good choice.

Thanks. I know I may not have the same luck this time, but I'm going with the one that's worked out well for me.

It's OK Eric, when you finally arrive at the end of your journey and shed your mortal coils, you will then be able to witness the full glory of the shimmering iridescence of the elephant's quantum wings for all eternity. Enjoy!

Unless of course you screw up somehow and incur the wrath of the great elephant in the sky and end up in a steaming heap of elephant dung for the same eternity. Bummer!

As for the rest of us, we will just cease to be conscious and our matter will be recycled in the ebb and flow of natural cycles. Cest La Vie!

By Fred the Hun (not verified) on 11 May 2009 #permalink

"But this sort of thinking is exactly what most agnostics find ridiculous about religion and religious people, who seem incapable of looking at the world unless it’s through the prism of some kind of belief system. They seem to think that if one doesn’t believe in God, one must believe in something else, because to live without answers would be intolerable. "

No, we all don't need answers for everything, but our self-awareness does demand an ability to make sense of the world around us, a worldview, or else we'd have a very disoriented engagement with the world.

A worldview is how we perceive purpose, what motivates us to get up everyday, and strive the way we do, what we live for, and the questions that pertain to that, and that answers that we have for them.

I'm a mathematician by training, and I agree that math types think differently about the world than scientists.
That our abstract entities seem so real makes us more willing to accept religion, or at least religious arguments. (I had a discussion about this with an atheist friend last year).

Some important 20th century Soviet mathematicians seem to have been influenced by heterodox theological ideas. See
Russian Mathematical Mystics".

But I think mathematical training also makes it easier to see the rhetorical/abstract nature of arguments against religion. Most of the arguments against theism in this thread would apply equally against the existence of beauty, love (or hate), or any other immaterial quality.(Lovingkindness, sunyata, metta, ...)

No one actually stops using these ideas (people still love their kids and their partners, people still like looking at pictures in museums and listening to Bach). You can argue that they are emtoions, explicable in material terms, and Darwin definitely has something to tell us about the emotions. But if I say, "Yes, we have emotions like many animals do, and they are a gift from God", I don't think I'm being like Coll... sorry, can't spell that. I could spell Eagletosh.

On mathematicians:
I think E.O. Wilson in "Biophilia" makes a remark about mathematicians collecting examples the way naturalists collect species, or something like that.

Most of the arguments against theism in this thread would apply equally against the existence of beauty, love (or hate), or any other immaterial quality.

That's one of the oldest, hoariest, deadest arguments around, you know, and it's completely bogus. Evolution is also an "immaterial quantity", yet we can measure it. We even have criteria for assessing love -- we do it all the time. These are phenomena that actually have effects in the world, and not just because people believe in love while it actually doesn't exist.

In The Science of Discworld, Terry Pratchett uses quantum as the Discworld equivalent of magic. Makes me wonder if Eagleton is from the Stolat Plains or Ankh-Morpork.

Lancre. He's one of the Nac Mac Feagletosh.

I'm getting a lot of requests to reproduce this. It's a blog -- knock yourself out. All I ask is proper attribution, and if you make a profit off of it, I get a cut. But hey, if you're just putting it on a blog or website or newsletter, go ahead.

if Eagletosh (now Colleaglshins) was intended just as a straw counterpart to Mr. D, the story wouldn't have any point except to prove that PZ Can Play That Game Too.

Rudy, to me that reads like a false dichotomy. It's both. This story, as many do, has more than one point, and yes, one of the points is "PZ Can Play That Game Too."

I suppose this comment is redundant by now, but there it is.

Almond bread? Mandelbrot is biscotti, pure and simple. My grandmother and I make mandelbrot every time I fly out there to see her. A Mandelbrot set would, therefore, be a piece with a cup of coffee.

By speedwell (not verified) on 11 May 2009 #permalink

The Mandelbrot set tastes like
broccoli. Yum, yum.

hithesh, we don't need your imaginary god and morally bankrupt religion for anything. Much less for meaning for life, which both only provide the illusion of. Quit bothering us with your woo, unless you are ready to show physical evidence for your alleged god.

By Nerd of Redhead, OM (not verified) on 11 May 2009 #permalink

It's nice that you have a worldview to motivate you to get up and brush your teeth in the morning, Hithesh. Now, wouldn't it be so much better if that worldview were not founded on lies?

(Oh man, 350 comments already. Teach me to go see Star Trek instead of monitoring my incoming RSS.)

Couldn't you have had the elephant just stomp Eagletosh, back at the start?

Nerd: "hithesh, we don't need your imaginary god and morally bankrupt religion for anything. Much less for meaning for life, which both only provide the illusion of. Quit bothering us with your woo, unless you are ready to show physical evidence for your alleged god."

:)

It's a public site, and i can woo where i want to.

And who do you think you are to demand of me anything? You demand that I do this, in order to respond on this site, and you act is i care about your silly demands? Get a life, and find another tree to bark at it.

By Anonymous (not verified) on 11 May 2009 #permalink

Rudy #349:

I'm a mathematician by training, and I agree that math types think differently about the world than scientists.That our abstract entities seem so real makes us more willing to accept religion, or at least religious arguments.

I hope no one thinks, as a result of reading this, that mathematicians are unusually susceptible to religion. It doesn't make any difference how much the methodologies of mathematicians and natural scientists differ. All that matters is that they both work: results build on each other to great heights without collapsing in a heap as they would if significant numbers of false ideas were lurking in the pool of accepted results. Lack of care to filter out false assertions would be a bad idea for mathematicians as well, so the contrast with religious thought is just as sharp.

Hithesh, this is not a public site. It is PZ's blog, which is considered private. So watch your attitude, as you can be banned if you prove obnoxious. Check the dungeon in the masthead for those who ran afoul of PZ's rules. It also describes behavior that PZ considers a crime. Being an arrogant godbotting wanker is the easiest way to get there. You are on your way.

By Nerd of Redhead, OM (not verified) on 11 May 2009 #permalink

PZ Meyers "Evolution is also an "immaterial quantity", yet we can measure it. We even have criteria for assessing love -- we do it all the time. "

And you miss the point don't you. We speak of love in non-scientific terms all the time. If you wife were to ask you why you loved, and you expounded on the biology of it, she'd probably slap you.

In your other post you said you believed that if we all adapted the imagery of the star gazing child, to be a depiction of the human condition, we'd be living in a better world. Of course that's not a scientific belief, but a statement of meaning and you expound on it as such, which according to you logic should be no different than your poor parody of Eagleton.

...It's a public site...

Nope, babe, it's PZ's site.

By speedwell (not verified) on 11 May 2009 #permalink

And after wading through a long, dreadfully boring exchange with Eric, with many responses to him substituting ad hominems for for substantive response (hint to David and Windy about making certain persons bad guys)

Whatwhat? I forget which thread that was in, but we weren't trying to.

I'm staying with a friend in the woo capital of California -- perhaps of this entire plane of existence.

Glad you're OK. I have to ask, what is the woo capital of California? SF?

Nicely done! One of your best yet.

By Hollis Henry (not verified) on 11 May 2009 #permalink

Eric's Elephant poop:

I think the Eagletons of the world would argue that while me may not have any scientific reasons to believe X, it doesn't follow that we therefore have no reasons as such to believe X. This is another problem with the parable: The Eagletons of the world don't simply make things up arbitrarily, and to even suggest that they do is intellectually dishonest.

Well, no, Eagleton didn't make things up arbitrarily. He just follows a book written by a bunch of bronze age goat herders who made things up arbitrarily.... HUGE difference. HUGE, I tells ya.

Not to mention that people are still being forced to follow those beliefs at the end of a proverbial sword in parts of the world to this day. This isn't a harmless joke about elephantine lack of wings. Those who believe as our also mythological Eagletosh are killing real people in the real fucking world on a daily basis. Just because the worst offenders are those who believe that elephants breath fire, but don't have wings are the ones doing the killing, does not absolve the Eagletosh's of the world from taking some responsibility for enabling the violent fire breathing elephantists (of peace).

If I told my wife that I loved her, and then slept around on her, treated her like a slave, said nasty things about her in public, and so forth, then she would be able to actually assess my love for her and realize that I was lying. Science is not about slide rules and graduated cylinders, you know -- it's about analyzing the evidence. And yes, human beings examine love scientifically and rationally all the time. Those that don't end up in relationships that fall apart.

Is Eagletosh, perchance, an artist? a poet? a writer? Maybe he's a philosopher?

I have to agree with several of the commenters above. THIS IS MY SITE, and I am both capricious and merciless.

It's amazing that some people don't get that.

hithesh, PZ's wife _actually exists_. So does mine. Unscientific discussions of our love for our spouses is rooted in the _reality_ of real people living out their lives. You appear to have confused this with your deep conviction that your imaginary friend exists and loves you. You might as well argue that because we give Christmas presents, Santa Claus must exist and have a palace at the North Pole.

By Stephen Wells (not verified) on 11 May 2009 #permalink

And yes, human beings examine love scientifically and rationally all the time. Those that don't end up in relationships that fall apart.

'Course that can happen to people that do, as well.

(Twice, even.)

By Sven DiMilo (not verified) on 11 May 2009 #permalink

You might as well argue that because we give Christmas presents, Santa Claus must exist and have a palace at the North Pole.

Wait

Santa doesn't exist or have a palace at the north pole?

Course that can happen to people that do, as well.

Beat me to it,Sven.

By Rorschach (not verified) on 11 May 2009 #permalink

Hithesh:

And you [PZ] miss the point don't you.

No. You do. Badly.

Maybe we're touching on a major misunderstanding here: a lot of commentators seem to regard "science" as something cold and inhuman, done with slide rules and test tubes. In fact, it's just the acquisition of knowledge, and can include any proposition for which, if we were wrong, we would know we were wrong. That's why it's ridiculous to make your god "scientifically untestable"; because that means your god _makes no difference_.

By Stephen Wells (not verified) on 11 May 2009 #permalink

Wowbagger:

I can conceive of a magic watermelon that does Tom Waits covers in a German accent. What does that mean?

It means you need to share the drugs, man....

Most of the arguments against theism in this thread would apply equally against the existence of beauty, love (or hate), or any other immaterial quality.(Lovingkindness, sunyata, metta, ...)

I see PZ stomped on this, too. Man, it’s irritating when people say crap like this. The elephant has properties that many agree on: purity of form and function, pleasing aesthetics. Others would agree that it is an ugly animal, bloated and snouty, but these are personal and social sentiments about what actually is. The goddamn elephant does not have wings, and though you sit around writing dissertations about them, wax poetically about the fineness of the feathers and admonish ever larger congregations of the dangers of not believing in them, though you may love them or hate them and feel kindly or not toward them—they do not exist except in someone’s overactive imagination. Why do you guys keep trying to blur the line between the real world—or as close as we can get to it—and the imaginary?

Why do you insist on mischaracterizing scientists as being so cold and skeptical that they’re stupid?

By RamblinDude (not verified) on 11 May 2009 #permalink

On the non-physical existence of mathematical objects, by a mathematician.

The philosophical foundations of maths are somewhat interesting in their own right but they really don't matter to anything else. Whether something like the category of all groups "really" exists in a Platonic realm, or is part of an elaborate fictional story or is a move in a formal game doesn't make any difference to the practice of pure mathematics, let alone to anything about the world in which we live. Your God just doesn't matter.

And so it is with the more philosophical versions of God or gods. You can define in the abstract what they are. You can reason about them based on your definitions (although this has a dreadful track record of letting in hidden assumptions). Some philosophers may be able to say that the word "exist" applies to your abstraction and others will say not. The difference between there arguments will be things that make no difference to the world: not just in terms of things with SI units but no difference to what beauty or goodness or love is.

The existence or not of these things just doesn't matter. If they proved themselves to build useful models of things around us (as a tiny subset of all possible maths does) they would be of great worth, but this is true whether of not they are really real (and FWIW they have a shit record).

So spin your philosophers gods all day long, but don't expect anyone to care much whether they really exist of not, any more than people care much whether the axiom of choice is "really true".

so many posts, and no one has answered the only important question: How much do you have to lead the flying elephant with a .416 rigby at 80 yards?

I enjoyed that. Thanks!

By SeanJJordan (not verified) on 11 May 2009 #permalink

@Holbach (#341), while I agree with your statement

I have seen that video of Richard Dawkins deriding that obviously religion strickened retard, and I suppose out of deference to not alienating the whole audience, he was somewhat mild with his rebuke.

that Dawkins was somewhat mild, the title of the youtube-video alone implies how "cruel" it appears to some people not to believe them. Dawkins was, on the face of it, far from cruel or even insulting, and yet, the simple "I do not believe you" is sufficient to insult people not used to being questioned. It is nothing original to emphasize that religious beliefs even hold a special position in the eyes of many. So, I guess it is, for the people convinced of their deluded ideas' reality, drastic enough just to deny their credibility; it's a fine line not to cross if you want to continue the conversation, whatever it is worth.

Among like-minded people like you, one may of course be more outspoken than that.

@PZ's #370,

I am both capricious and merciless

Waaaaiiit a minute... that remiiiinds me of someone... who was it again...

*scratches his head*

*stares at a tattered bible*

PZ = God?

I did not say the wings of elephants are quantum.

My detractors, whom, for the purposes of rhetorical onanism I will contract to "Lurly", lacking a sense of poetry, confuse "quantum" with the "quantum of solace", that existential consolation yearning to be satisfied in the hearts and groins of humanity. The erstwhile and archetypal poetic Everyman, the man from Nantucket, desires to have genital reassignment surgery performed on his pinna, (and indeed wipes his mouth with relish at the prospect), while the merely prosaically-inclined Lurly dreams of a cochlear implant. His feet are on the ground, while the wing-ed elephants and all their fellow travelers are soaring the heights of imagination and wonder.

The wings of elephants, being of one substance with this imaginative sense, are gossamer thin and of course quite useless for the purposes of mere flight. That is the whole point of gossamer wings, that they be useless. "Lurly" fails to see this. Indeed, he is quite blind and continues to fist elephants in his efforts to acquire mere knowledge.

By Professor Eagletosh (not verified) on 11 May 2009 #permalink

Why do you insist on mischaracterizing scientists as being so cold and skeptical that they’re stupid?

Because it suits their sophistic aims to do so.

Same as it ever was.

for the purposes of rhetorical onanism

Stealin' it.

The erstwhile and archetypal poetic Everyman, the man from Nantucket, desires to have genital reassignment surgery performed on his pinna

Laughin' out loud at it.

By Sven DiMilo (not verified) on 11 May 2009 #permalink

I will contract to "Lurly"

Not "Marly"?

Nope, babe, it's PZ's site.

Yes, because PZ owns Seed Media. We've been over this before.

Skimmed the thread and just wanted to point out that one of the notorious Four Horsemen is, himself, a philosopher.

Gorogh, you are sadly mistaken if you think PZ = God?

Who is known for being Merciless?

By Janine, OMnivore (not verified) on 11 May 2009 #permalink

His feet are on the ground, while the wing-ed elephants and all their fellow travelers are soaring the heights of imagination and wonder.

Well, not really. What these Dumbo riders (whom I will unimaginatively contract to “Lurvers,” lacking a sense of veracity) are actually doing is grasping fistfuls of wrinkly grey flesh, closing their eyes, and letting others take them on a journey into imagination. They themselves are not all that imaginative and require others to do all the detailed mental work. The result is: they only soar so high.

Meanwhile, scientists, who conceive of actually flying, are building flying machines.

By RamblinDude (not verified) on 11 May 2009 #permalink

Yes, because PZ owns Seed Media. We've been over this before.

Yes, we have. Over and over, point after pointless point.

Don't be an idiot. At least try.

Don't be an idiot. At least try.

That's an incomplete thought. Try what?

Who of the "Eagletoshes" argue that their "winged elephant" is simply poetical, simply metaphorical, simply allegorical, simply symbolic, simply subjective, simply Shakespearian-like tales, parables, myths or moral exemplars?

Religionists always seem to use this equivocation when backed into a corner – one which gets exceedingly smaller over time. We can all find meaning in poetry, parables, and fiction, but this is decidedly not the ground on which the "Eagletoshes" wage their war on science.

And, if you're one of those who wish to argue for the "best" of both worlds, in what existential space does that other world exist if it's not simply poetical, metaphorical, allegorical, symbolic, literary, moral or subjective? The issue here is not simply about what is meangful…

Try to read this:

We believe in providing our bloggers with the freedom to exercise their own editorial and creative instincts. We do not edit their work and we do not tell them what to write about.

By &amp;&amp;&amp; (not verified) on 11 May 2009 #permalink

Try to read this:

Okay, I tried to read it, and succeeded in my efforts. Now what?

Indeed, he is quite blind and continues to fist elephants in his efforts to acquire mere knowledge.

Do you have a better way of pregnancy testing them?

By MAJeff, OM (not verified) on 11 May 2009 #permalink

@Janine (#390), as to having seen

Who is known for being Merciless

I can only cringe in terror of the revelation... yet, Flash Gordon was before my time, the only connection I have to the series is the fact that Queen was the first band I considered myself being a "fan" of. Nevertheless, "Merciless Ming" strikes a chord. Might be because I played Jade Empire recently.

Now what?

Hmmm. Anybody have any suggestions?

What is the airspeed of an unladen elephant?

By John Bode (not verified) on 11 May 2009 #permalink

That's an incomplete thought. Try what?

Wow! You're actually too stupid to figure it out? Really? That's impressive, though not totally surprising for someone intent on once again pursuing the pointless "blog ownership" argument. Or are you being intentionally obtuse because you mistakenly believe that you've failed to convince everyone that you're a gaping asshole?

Obviously, PZ Myers doesn't own Seed Media. However, for all practical purposes he has dominion over Pharyngula, and that's what's being discussed. Got it yet?

Is this still the religious wars thread?

I used to have an SGI Indigo on my desk at work for 3D and next to it, a Mac IIFX, running the first Photoshop. Later the spouse and I bought a Quadra 950 instead of the 840AV she'd been running at work. It survived the Northridge Quake and a two-bookcase avalanche. When Softimage came out for NT, I could do my 3D and 2D on the same box.

A few years ago I played with Suse and Redhat and Windows 2000 on a PC assembled just for fun. The Power Tower Pro Apple clone was orphaned by Apple's vertical hardware/OS upgrades. The more recent Apples are fun to play with at school. For me, Apple's current appeal, apart from the slick GUI, is nostalgia for Unix. When it's time for a laptop, I'll likely go Apple.

At home, EVGA makes a lot of my hardware (I tried an SLI system, but decided one GPU was enough and built a new system around the extra video card for the spouse rather than make her inherit an older system. Parity at last! So, at the moment, what's plugged in are two Vistas and an XP. Like Kel, I like to push those frame rates on games, most of mine are through Steam. Valve's development tools are worth enduring Vista for now. Otherwise, the dead tech museum is in storage.

Posted by: John Bode | May 11, 2009

What is the airspeed of an un Greg laden elephant?

By Janine, OMnivore (not verified) on 11 May 2009 #permalink

PZ Myers: "It's nice that you have a worldview to motivate you to get up and brush your teeth in the morning, Hithesh. Now, wouldn't it be so much better if that worldview were not founded on lies?"

Well, it's not just me who has a worldview, but we all do, it's a part of being human, your image of the child gazing at the stars is what you yourself proposed as the center of it, the power you afford this imagery to make the world a better place, is all a part of that world view, and it's no less of a lie or less superstitious than my own.

In fact I'd say that mines is far more grounded in reality than your own, it's not founded on a disneyland notion of human nature, or the naive magical thinking that leads you to believe the star gazing child is the aspiring image of the human condition.

What's odd is you can profess to see the sawdust in the eyes of other, and fail to see the log in your own. There's magical thinking at it's best.

Gorogh @ 382
Yes, the religion afflicted do not like to questioned on their insane beliefs, and when done so react with outrage and umbrage. I always get the usual reply, as do we all, that how can I be certain there is no imaginary(my word, not theirs) god and what if there was? My reply is that this god will most definitely reveal itself in any physical manner if it exists, and when I die all life and thoughts of a god ceases, as with you, but I die knowing there has never been a god, but you will die and you will never know. This last is enough to frustrate them and walk away in a huff, preferably with a mind disordered by my blatant and provoking comments. Suffer, you morons.

Wow! You're actually too stupid to figure it out?

No, I just don't like to make assumptions.

Really?

No, fakely.

That's impressive, though not totally surprising for someone intent on once again pursuing the pointless "blog ownership" argument.

Where did I pursue the argument? I didn't even know it was on the run, to be honest.

Or are you being intentionally obtuse because you mistakenly believe that you've failed to convince everyone that you're a gaping asshole?

I resent that remark! How dare you insinuate that I am greater than 90 degrees! I'll have you know that my angle is only pi/2.2 radians!

Obviously, PZ Myers doesn't own Seed Media.

Oh, but he does. We've been over this before. Please try to keep up!

he has dominion over Pharyngula

Dominion? Didn't they sell out to A&P back in the eighties?

Got it yet?

Got what? Swine flu? No, not yet.

What is the airspeed of an unladen elephant?

About the same as an elephant being ridden by bin laden.

Isn't it the case that you have faith that love (the emotion of love) exists?
Atheists accept that some things are of necessity taken "on faith," so why not accept God "on faith"?

By logicamente (not verified) on 11 May 2009 #permalink

So it's to be childish wiseassery, then? Have at it.

@410
I've been "in love". I love the Grateful Dead and the E Street Band. I love flowers and bugs and vegetable gardening, driving fast and smoking grass. None of this requires "faith". Love exists, though it is hard to quantify. Gods are entirely imaginary.

@Logicamente #410: Ah, now I have a pet theory that I call "selective irrationality" that I would like to put forth. I think it is okay to be irrational about certain things if three conditions are met: One, you have to be aware you are being irrational about it. Two, you can't expect anyone else to believe it or try to get them to believe it. And three, you have to be careful that this irrationality is not causing significant harm to yourself or others, and be willing to let go of it if it does.

I believe -- and I mean it, I literally believe this -- that my wife and I were fated to be together. I see all sorts of things in our life stories that seem to make this obviously true. But I am also aware this is an irrational belief. I don't expect anyone else to believe it. And although I believe it with all my heart today, if there were to come a time when it was expedient for us to terminate our relationship, I know I would have to revisit this belief and decide if it is still right for me.

The problem with many (not all, but many) religions is that they don't meet all of these criteria. Biblical literalists fail the first criterion. Any religion that proselytizes (and for the record, asking us "why not believe in God?" counts) violates the second criterion. And when Rick Warren says things like "surrendered people do what God says even if it doesn't make sense," you'd better believe that violates the third criterion.

Daniel Dennett has put forth the idea of an "avirulent" religion. In my mind, it would have to be one that met those three criteria I listed above. If any of those criteria are violated, you've got something really dangerous on your hands.

By James Sweet (not verified) on 11 May 2009 #permalink

Atheists accept that some things are of necessity taken "on faith," so why not accept God "on faith"?

Why not accept the little green leprechaun on my shoulder on faith?

Let's see.

1) Atheist accept the notion of love on faith.

2) God is love.

3) Therefore, atheists should accept the notion of God on faith.

Logicamente, could you use your blinding brilliance to determine which God which we should accept?

By Janine, OMnivore (not verified) on 11 May 2009 #permalink

I should point out that I never, ever combine smoking grass and driving fast.

I think it is okay to be irrational about certain things if three conditions are met: One, you have to be aware you are being irrational about it. Two, you can't expect anyone else to believe it or try to get them to believe it. And three, you have to be careful that this irrationality is not causing significant harm to yourself or others, and be willing to let go of it if it does.

Ha, my Azathoth-cult has just been intellectually vindicated!

PZ Myers: And yes, human beings examine love scientifically and rationally all the time. Those that don't end up in relationships that fall apart.

Let's get something straight, we can speak of love rationally and not speak of it scientifically. You would like to believe all our rational ways of conveyance, are scientific when in fact they're not. If I were to express the meaning I found in a painting, this expression is aesthetic one, not a scientific one.

You seem to imply that abusive husband doesn't scientifically love his wife, and it's a lie if he says he does. You can rationally make a case for that, and some may even make a case that regardless of his failures, he does love his wife, but you can't make a scientific case for that either way. We'd have to agree on your subjective standard of love, in order to agree if the man loved his wife or not, but science is not about subjective values. It is beyond the ability of science to define what true love is, just as it is to define what morality is, or the meaning of one's life is or should be. Science may inform these views, but it's capable of defining them. Though we speak of these notions rationally, don't confuse this with a fairy tale that we're speak of them scientifically.

I know you'd like to believe that science is all encompassing, but its not. And you as a scientist should know better.

In fact I'd say that mines is far more grounded in reality than your own.

Any belief based upon imaginary deities and biblical fairy tales is inferior to reality. You haven't shown your deity exists, so you are just a delusional fool until you show the physical evidence for your alleged god.

By Nerd of Redhead, OM (not verified) on 11 May 2009 #permalink

hithesh #418: Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think your argument boils down to "The word love is poorly defined, therefore science cannot define it." :p

By James Sweet (not verified) on 11 May 2009 #permalink

In fact I'd say that mines is far more grounded in reality than your own, it's not founded on a disneyland notion of human nature, or the naive magical thinking that leads you to believe the star gazing child is the aspiring image of the human condition.

I actually agree with you. The current state of the human condition is all too often more precisely represented by a man being tortured by being nailed to boards. We are certainly programmed to be endlessly preoccupied with this (and similar) macabre concept. Do you think we can change that? For the better? Is it ennobling to even try? Or not? (Which, by the way, was the whole point of PZ’s earlier post, was it not?)

By RamblinDude (not verified) on 11 May 2009 #permalink

Isn't it the case that you have faith that love (the emotion of love) exists?

Not if you mean the only way to ascertain whether the emotion of love exists as it is commonly defined is to take it on faith.

Atheists accept that some things are of necessity taken "on faith,"

This one doesn't.

so why not accept God "on faith"?

First and foremost, because I have never in my life had an experience that appeared to involve or require a transcendant entity of any kind. Secondarily, because a cursory glance around the world's religious traditions tells me that "faith" gives the answer you wanted all along --it's just a euphamism for "wishful thinking." Faith can't be trusted, or it would find the same object acrross cultures and traditions. Clearly it does not.

Shorter: "I have no need of that hypothesis."

Kel @ 313:

In relationship to physical evidence for God, if one claims that there can be no physical evidence for God then they are conceding that God does not interact with the world, it takes any concept of the supernatural and relegates it to deism. If God physically interacted with the world then there should be evidence. Even if God is in the supernatural realm, in order to influence the natural God has to interface with the natural. Otherwise the natural remains unchanged. Thus any god that cannot have physical evidence has to be deistic in nature and unknowable my humans.

Suppose a scientist were able to travel back in time to the wedding feast at Cana and test the contents of the water jars. He is able to confirm that they contain water.

Scientist leaves the room.

Jesus performs His miracle.

Scientist returns.

Scientist tests the contents of the pots again and is able to confirm that they now contain wine.

Based on his observations, our scientist cannot make any further comment on what has occurred.

What "physical evidence" do you expect? Do you imagine the wine will contain faint traces of God particles?

By Piltdown Man (not verified) on 11 May 2009 #permalink

Scientist leaves the room.

Wait, why?

By Sven DiMilo (not verified) on 11 May 2009 #permalink

Holy Shit! Did the Hoax just use time travel as part of the reason why one cannot scientifically prove the existence of god?

'Head crashes into keyboard.'

By Janine, OMnivore (not verified) on 11 May 2009 #permalink

Gorogh @324:

And of course Our Lady of Fatima. Conspicuously, never is there an alleged sceptic witnessing these incidents.

Obviously you didn't read your own Wiki link:

Columnist Avelino de Almeida of O Século (Portugal's most influential newspaper, which was pro-government in policy and avowedly anti-clerical), reported the following: "Before the astonished eyes of the crowd, whose aspect was biblical as they stood bare-headed, eagerly searching the sky, the sun trembled, made sudden incredible movements outside all cosmic laws ..."

By Piltdown Man (not verified) on 11 May 2009 #permalink

Wait, why?

It's a wedding feast. To get laid, of course.

By MAJeff, OM (not verified) on 11 May 2009 #permalink

Scientist leaves the room.Jesus performs His miracle.Scientist returns.

Unless the room was guarded inside, a scientist would say a fraud had occurred. Since matter was made out of nothing, there should be some energy readings and the like that are out of kilter. If not, look for the trap door for the tunnel. Miracles are fiction (frauds) until proven otherwise with good hard evidence.

By Nerd of Redhead, OM (not verified) on 11 May 2009 #permalink

Is it just me or is the feeling shared that to try to answer a certain kind of question by people with a certain set of mind is a rather futile, tedious attempt doomed to repetition?

Extrapolating MAJeff's comments in #428... does this mean that the only reason us atheists haven't seen evidence of God's existence is because every time He performed a miracle, we were in the other room getting laid?!

Hmmm... I suppose one might call this an "erotic epistemology?"

By James Sweet (not verified) on 11 May 2009 #permalink

Suppose a scientist were able to travel back in time to the wedding feast at Cana and test the contents of the water jars. He is able to confirm that they contain water.

But then gets distracted, 'cause Holy Shit! Is that Dionysius over there?

Gorogh @#324: "And of course Our Lady of Fatima. Conspicuously, never is there an alleged sceptic witnessing these incidents."

Of course, in the very wikipedia article to which you linked, there *is* mention of an alleged skeptic witnessing the miracle of the sun.

"Columnist Avelino de Almeida of O Século (Portugal's most influential newspaper, which was pro-government in policy and avowedly anti-clerical),[1] reported the following: "Before the astonished eyes of the crowd, whose aspect was biblical as they stood bare-headed, eagerly searching the sky, the sun trembled, made sudden incredible movements outside all cosmic laws - the sun 'danced' according to the typical expression of the people.""

According to other internet sources (I haven't checked any of this extensively!) Almeida had published a satirical and skeptical article about the alleged miracles at Fatima just a few days earlier.

By Anonymous (not verified) on 11 May 2009 #permalink

Piltdown Man,

You just described a scenario in which the scientist would have no reason not to continue being skeptical, as not only did he not see the "miracle" being performed, but has seen with his own eyes (from his own time) the most astonishing illusions and sleight of hand tricks – often done without the need for sophisticated, modern technology. And in any case, what you describe as a “miracle” was actually the misinterpretation of the event by some of Jesus’ followers who didn’t see him quickly (and innocently) exchange the urn of water with one filled with wine—prove me wrong.

By RamblinDude (not verified) on 11 May 2009 #permalink

Stephen: "You appear to have confused this with your deep conviction that your imaginary friend exists and loves you. You might as well argue that because we give Christmas presents, Santa Claus must exist and have a palace at the North Pole."

Yes, one of my favorite equations. I don't have any deep conviction that a imaginary friend exists. There no big old bearded white dude in the sky here. God's love and the love one finds abound him are not two. Just as the slaves belief "In we shall overcome", or a Rev. Kings belief "in a way out of no way" and belief in God don't equal two.

If our common atheist where a bit more inquisitive they'd understand why this is so, the what it means when Eagleton claims that God is a condition of possibility.

The slaves belief, "in we shall overcome", Rev. Kings belief "in a way out of no way", is a belief in that which can make this possible.

I believe in the transformative power of love, it's ability to heal our condition, as the only means to overcome hate and indifference, the last remnant of hope and saving grace in the world. This beliefs and God don't equal two, because God is only that which can make this possible, compared to if we were to say a leprechaun, for which the belief would not just be "in that which makes this possible", but also in attributes unrelated to this, such as a belief in tiny sized men, who are of green color, wear funny hats, and place gold at the end of rainbows.

Is it just me or is the feeling shared that to try to answer a certain kind of question by people with a certain set of mind is a rather futile, tedious attempt doomed to repetition?

Godbots lack imagination, so they tend toward the same stupid arguments. They also put their hands over their ears so they will hear nothing against their idiocy.

By Nerd of Redhead, OM (not verified) on 11 May 2009 #permalink

Sven DiMilo @ 424:

Scientist leaves the room.

Wait, why?

Okay, suppose he stays and witnesses the miracle. There is still no physical evidence that a miracle has occurred, that the waterpots formerly contained water. Even if our hypothetical scientist accepted that what he had witnessed was no conjuring trick and became a fervent follower of Jesus there and then, there would be nothing he could present to a sceptical colleague for analysis when he returned to his own time.

By Piltdown Man (not verified) on 11 May 2009 #permalink

Weird. Scientist gets a time machine, and uses it to visit a Jewish wedding? If I had a time machine, I wouldn't waste it on something so trivial. I'd be going straight to the Cambrian.

"Before the astonished eyes of the crowd, whose aspect was biblical as they stood bare-headed, eagerly searching the sky, the sun trembled, made sudden incredible movements outside all cosmic laws ..."

Funny how this was not witnessed in the rest of the world. It must be the same type of event as the Sun stopping over one city but the rest of the world did not witness an extra long day.

Also funny how god can somethings violate all physical laws a handful of times, proving that it exists but cannot too often so us of us know. Oh, yeah, right, having faith in an authority figure is better then actually knowing a fact.

By Janine, OMnivore (not verified) on 11 May 2009 #permalink

Hithesh -- if your definition of God is "that which makes it possible for slaves to become free," then yes, I believe in God. God is the end result of a long political struggle. Sure, I believe that exists. I would just probably use a different word for it, because that's an oddball definition of God...

Honestly, Hithesh, I think your problem is that you have not precisely defined a lot of the words you are using.

By James Sweet (not verified) on 11 May 2009 #permalink

James @431: ROTFL. I will probably steal "erotic epistemology" from you, just warning you.

I'm not sure the premise works, though. In #433 it was reported that "Before the astonished eyes of the crowd, whose aspect was biblical as they stood bare-headed, ..."

A biblical aspect, even standing bare-headed could be construed as engaged in erotic coupling while also witnessing signs from god, god, oh god.

Scientist leaves the room.

Wait, why?

God is peculiarly impotent to perform his magic under close and careful observation.

By Owlmirror (not verified) on 11 May 2009 #permalink

Nerd of Redhead @ 429:

Since matter was made out of nothing, there should be some energy readings and the like that are out of kilter.

God laughs at your tricorder.

James Sweet @ 431:

Extrapolating MAJeff's comments in #428... does this mean that the only reason us atheists haven't seen evidence of God's existence is because every time He performed a miracle, we were in the other room getting laid?!

In a manner of speaking.

By Piltdown Man (not verified) on 11 May 2009 #permalink

There is still no physical evidence that a miracle has occurred.

Wrong fraudbreath. If the jars were sampled prior to the miracle and after the miracle, showing the change from water to wine. That would be physical evidence.Your god either acts in the physical world doing miracles, and then we can find physical evidence for him, or he is a philosophical god who doesn't interact with world. Make up your mind which one he is and live with the consequences of that decision.

By Nerd of Redhead, OM (not verified) on 11 May 2009 #permalink

So, this deep in the thread, what we're getting from the usual suspects is the assertion that - firstly - the water-to-wine thing is more likely to be a genuine "miracle" than a trick (paging David Hume), and secondly - we should also expect that "real miracles" would leave absolutely zero evidence that would could use to distinguish it from sleight-of-hand.

We're also being told we should have some confidence that Fatima is a "real miracle," with the implicit assumption that a crowd of people STARING INTO THE SUN won't cause them to see anything weird or unusual, like - oh, I don't know - the Sun appearing to move around or wobble.

You guys are truly the gift that keeps on giving.

By Kingasaurus (not verified) on 11 May 2009 #permalink

I don't have any deep conviction that a imaginary friend exists. There no big old bearded white dude in the sky here. God's love and the love one finds abound him are not two. Just as the slaves belief "In we shall overcome", or a Rev. Kings belief "in a way out of no way" and belief in God don't equal two. If our common atheist where a bit more inquisitive they'd understand why this is so, the what it means when Eagleton claims that God is a condition of possibility.

So... just to clarify, you're saying that I am not a person at all, merely a hypothetical of hope?

I ask only for information.

James Sweet @ 431:

Extrapolating MAJeff's comments in #428... does this mean that the only reason us atheists haven't seen evidence of God's existence is because every time He performed a miracle, we were in the other room getting laid?!

In a manner of speaking.

By a time traveling Satan who has to work hard having sex with people in order to distract them from gaining true knowledge of god. Satan must be one tired bastard.

By Janine, OMnivore (not verified) on 11 May 2009 #permalink

@Piltdown Man (#427),

Obviously you didn't read your own Wiki link

I admit that it was more a rhethorical allusion to miracles witnessed by people already inclined to believe them, so I did not read the article fully. But you are right in this regard, that an alleged sceptic, Mr. de Almeida, seems to have been part in the witness, which diminishes my point of argument somewhat. Yet I may formulate the hypothesis that miracles are, in a statistically significant manner, witnessed more frequently by people without a uncompromisingly sceptical background.

That is, granted that Mr. de Almeida happens to be as impeccably sceptical and above suspicion of mass delusion as his the preliminary events and his affiliation to an "anti-clerical newspaper" suggest; and that Father John de Marchi's report is accurate on de Almeida's testimony.

God is peculiarly impotent to perform his magic under close and careful observation.

I will be glad to smite you so as to demonstrate My existence -- but I will only do so when you don't expect it.

Oh, and stop looking at Me.

God laughs at your tricorder.

God laughs at your Eucharist.

Truth be told, God is rather easily amused.

Mhrmm I always expected god to write in capital letters... you know, like Pratchett's Death.

*still a little suspicious*

Natural effects that would produce what was seem above Fátima (and by people some distance away) are known and understood. On the other hand stuff like this is the best argument I've seen for the supernatural - certainly worth more than all the Feagletosh theology in the world. What you had was some shepherd-kids claiming to have been told (by the mother of Jesus) to expect a miracle on given time and place, this being widely publicized and then something impressive and unlikely happening at specified point in space-time.

It's certainly not proof that the children's story was true, but it was at least evidence, in a Bayesian sense. If you count in all the publicized predictions of miracles through history where nothing happened and it was forgotten and also consider that things as impressive as occurred at Fátima have been faked by magicians (and that there was certainly motive to fake it) it isn't strong evidence; it shifts my level belief that a god can control the weather from "minuscule" to "very slightly less minuscule". Still, it's the best type of argument for God I've seen and the sophisticated theologians seem embarrassed of it. Very strange.

<heaping more praise on comment 235>

Just how many languages do you know?

Not Māori. I just read the proverb somewhere. :-) German (native), English, French; 6 years of Latin at school; 4 years of Russian at school (which, especially 9 years afterwards, is not enough); way too little Mandarin*; I'm starting Spanish. Also, with French and Latin and some theoretical knowledge of linguistics (that is, how sound shifts work), I can read scientific articles in Spanish and Italian.

* The limiting factor is the writing system. If you don't sit down every day and write a line of every character you know, you forget all but the graphically simplest ones very quickly. Obviously, I don't have time for that, and that basically means I can't learn any more vocabulary. Sure, learning words without the characters is feasible, but in this day & age it wouldn't help much. In sum, I took a few beginners' courses, stopped, and forgot most of the characters I had known at one time or another. :-) And then, of course, you start forgetting the tones. Learning a tonal language, if you don't start very early, is, well, not trivial.

SC, I'm beta testing Firefox 3.5b4 for Macs (PPC version), and SB has been blowing up at least twice a day. It started with the "improvements". Safari works fine, but doesn't have the add-ons.

Take that, Firefox disciples!!!1!

I hereby confirm that Safari on Mac works fine. Probably it simply ignores the more complicated stuff, while Internet Explorer 7 for Windows tries to parse it and takes 10 seconds for it, overheating my laptop (the ventilator gears up like mad when I try to scroll down for the first time on a page).

Hmm. Interesting. Firefox 2.0.0.17 on the same Mac (a G5) appears to work fine. Apparently the ScienceBorg tried to implement some extra-complicated gadgets and did it wrong.

Is platonic realism a scientific theory?

If it were wrong, would it be possible to find that out?

If yes, then it is scientific. If no, it's not.

I escaped from the fires, smoke, and ash in Santa Barbara but hope to return home tomorrow.

Sounds like good news!

Speaking of beliefs, I notice that Ken Kope in #102 and David Marjanović in #181 talked sensibly of their beliefs being grounded in evidence, and there are other mentions of belief that recognize that beliefs can be grounded in evidence or not grounded in evidence, and no one took objection. I strongly suspect that everyone here understands what the word means except when they're in the midst of defending clearly mistaken claims about it.

Good observation.

As someone who has been running various Linux distributions since Yggdrasil, I would say that's not a good idea for anyone who doesn't think of their computer as a hobby unto itself.

Even better observation :-)

My (highly limited) experience is: Windows doesn't let you do anything yourself (unless maybe if you're a Grand Master who dares messing with the Registry); Linux forces you to do everything yourself, and if you don't know how, you're out of luck.

And yes, human beings examine love scientifically and rationally all the time. Those that don't end up in relationships that fall apart.

Best wording of this so far.

Yes, because PZ owns Seed Media.

Dude, if he starts banning people left and right for shits & giggles (imagine the wizard in Monty Python and the Holy Grail), do you really think the Seed Overlords will do anything about it?

By David Marjanović, OM (not verified) on 11 May 2009 #permalink

Truth be told, God is rather easily amused.

Is god also easily distracted by bright shiny objects.

And Satan, how tiring is it to travel through time in order to have sex with people and thus, distracting them from witnessing god's miracle? Or do you claim that having sex with you is a miracle?

By Janine, OMnivore (not verified) on 11 May 2009 #permalink

Nerd of Redhead @ 444:

If the jars were sampled prior to the miracle and after the miracle, showing the change from water to wine. That would be physical evidence.

Not to anyone who didn't witness the miracle. They would just be separate samples of water and wine. I would have to take the witness' word for it that they were extracted from the same body of liquid before and after a transformation.

By Piltdown Man (not verified) on 11 May 2009 #permalink

God laughs at your Eucharist.

It was funny for the first fifteen centuries. Now it's mostly only good for a slight chuckle, although I do admit to an occasional guffaw when they do something particularly baroque like put the silly thing in a monstrance.

Truth be told, God is rather easily amused.

Shush! Stop giving away My secrets!

Only I am allowed to do that.

Am I the only pilot in this forum ? I have actually SEEN these creatures in the air! And they are not dark as described, but rather whiteish and fluffy...

By rubberduck (not verified) on 11 May 2009 #permalink

Dude, if he starts banning people left and right for shits & giggles (imagine the wizard in Monty Python and the Holy Grail), do you really think the Seed Overlords will do anything about it?

They would probably bring in Dick to the Dawk to the Ph.D. (smarter than you, got a science degree) to replace him.

Not to anyone who didn't witness the miracle.

Wrong again Fraudbreath. Scientists, unlike godbots like yourself who tell falsehoods right and left, try to be scrupulously honest in their professional work. This gives us a degree of trust. This allows us to trust, but we also verify where possible.

We have verified you have lied several times. Hence, we don't trust anything you say.

By Nerd of Redhead, OM (not verified) on 11 May 2009 #permalink

Still, it's the best type of argument for God I've seen and the sophisticated theologians seem embarrassed of it. Very strange.

No, not really. "Sophisticated theologians" are psychologically invested in thinking they know all about what God is and what God does, and they are pretty much arguing from a conception of God as distant from reality, and uninvolved with humans. At most, they think of God as acting by slight and undetectable manipulations of physical events, much like a theistic evolutionist thinks of all of those tiny Divine mutations.

Something big and flashy and obvious is actually rather an embarrassment to them.

Something big and flashy and obvious is actually rather an embarrassment to them.

Why else would I do it?

If I had a time machine, I wouldn't waste it on something so trivial. I'd be going straight to the Cambrian.

Ack! Don't do it, PZ -- one literal misstep and you could squash a key distant ancestor of humans, and leave our future populated only by large tentacled things.

Hey...wait just a minute here...

Is god also easily distracted by bright shiny objects.

It depends on how bored I am.

And Satan, how tiring is it to travel through time in order to have sex with people and thus, distracting them from witnessing god's miracle? Or do you claim that having sex with you is a miracle?

Satan does not have sex. Nor do I. We are bodiless and immaterial entities.

Distracting people from seeing miracles is pretty much a matter of simply saying: "Look over there! It's the Wingéd Victory of Samothrace!". You would be surprised at how often that works.

Which one? Ric, Arn, Ole or Tully?

Just… wow. For absolutely any topic of human knowledge, there seems to be an expert on it right here among the readership.

:-o

Isn't it the case that you have faith that love (the emotion of love) exists?

No. Instead, it's the case that you have failed to read comment 367.

To comment on a thread without having read all of it is evil.

so why not accept God "on faith"?

Comment 415 for a start…

It is beyond the ability of science to define what true love is

Oh, please. Making up definitions isn't the job of science. Definitions are arbitrary conventions! Nomenclature isn't science, however convenient for science it can be.

Finding out whether something conforms to a particular definition, that can be the job of science (wherever logic alone doesn't suffice).

By David Marjanović, OM (not verified) on 11 May 2009 #permalink

Just… wow. For absolutely any topic of human knowledge, there seems to be an expert on it right here among the readership

Pfft. I'm no expert. I never watched wrestling.

However growing up where I did I heard about it a lot and it only took a brief visit to google to find out who was in the four horsemen.

Hethish, since whatever-it-is you call god isn't anything like, say, a biblical god, why do you call it god? What is a god, anyway?

By Stephen Wells (not verified) on 11 May 2009 #permalink

god @ 464

Hey god, why do you capitilize your name and give credence to your non-existence? You'll never catch me doing that, as I know the difference between what is real and what pretends to be real.

I believe in the transformative power of love, it's ability to heal our condition, as the only means to overcome hate and indifference, the last remnant of hope and saving grace in the world. This beliefs and God don't equal two, because God is only that which can make this possible, ...

In other words (because your words are somewhat difficult to parse, it seems), you are one of those "God is love" fools? Claiming "God is only that which can make this possible" is a typical bit of nonsense from this crowd. As many people do, you seem to need something supernatural in your life, an imaginary father figure, and have latched onto love as the cubbyhole for this.

The rest of us have no need for a fatherly "love god", we have plenty of love in our lives without any assistance from Bronze Age mythology, thank you very much. To claim "God is love" is nothing more than a last, feeble attempt to make god relevant in your life, after every other meaning of god has been stripped away. The sooner you realize you don't need any gods to know love, the better off you will be.

By pdferguson (not verified) on 11 May 2009 #permalink

DM: The point is the principle of parsimony: We don't need to assume that elephants have ineffable wings. We have no reason whatsoever to assume that elephants have ineffable wings. So why assume that elephants have ineffable wings?

Very important point -- it has an actual physical analog. An indistinguishable difference is not a real difference but simply a convention. Or in other words, just bullshit (loosely paraphrasing old Bill James). The physical effect can be seen with superconductivity, where the physics depends on electrons being indistinguishable -- and therefore in no meaningful way different, and in a very meaningful way the same.

So if you add shit that makes no difference, in no way distinguishes the universe you're in from the simpler universe without your extra shit, all you're doing is wasting energy in an energy constrained world. Aka, you're a waste of breath.

Bateson -- information is a difference that makes a difference.

FastLane @377:

Wowbagger:

I can conceive of a magic watermelon that does Tom Waits covers in a German accent. What does that mean?

It means you need to share the drugs, man....

What it means is that, finally, I know who's responsible for the scripting of about 1/4 of my dreams, that's what it means. Whether or not drugs are involved, and whether Wowbagger is willing to share, are completely beside the point.

BTW, is anyone else finding Pharyngula to be unusually sluggish and slow to respond, these last few days, or is it just me?

BTW, is anyone else finding Pharyngula to be unusually sluggish and slow to respond, these last few days, or is it just me?

The SB techs did some back-end upgrades last week. My experience today at work with XP and IE6 has been painful. My Mac at home, much less so, but still problems.

By Nerd of Redhead, OM (not verified) on 11 May 2009 #permalink

The physical effect can be seen with superconductivity, where the physics depends on electrons being indistinguishable -- and therefore in no meaningful way different, and in a very meaningful way the same.

Zeilinger goes so far as to equate information and reality. That seems to be nothing but a short summary of quantum physics…

By David Marjanović, OM (not verified) on 11 May 2009 #permalink

James: "I believe in God. God is the end result of a long political struggle. Sure, I believe that exists. I would just probably use a different word for it, because that's an oddball definition of God..."

But we're not talking about the end result see, but the conviction that led to struggle for the end result. The slave who sung we shall overcome didn't sing it because he had faith in politics, or any thing in his surrounding to find hope in. They had faith, not in things seen, but as Paul puts it: "the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." When Rev. King believes in "a way out of no way" it's exactly as this.

These are all supernatural beliefs, in that they're not deduced from logic, they were no real reason for slaves to actually believe they would overcome. But the slaves believed regardless.

"Honestly, Hithesh, I think your problem is that you have not precisely defined a lot of the words you are using."

Let's try and break it down for you even further, let's take a fictive bob, he is a disbeliever until one day he prays and find that his prayer is answered, he witnessed that his dead wife has been raised from the dead, he gazed upon life and comes to believes there's an inherent sense of design to it (this is basis for his belief). Bob now believes in God, as most of us would if this held true for us as well. Notice the belief says nothing else about God, doesn't afford him any other attributes such as he resembles a leprechaun, a midget, and green colored. The only attribute of God is that which he made possible. God and the force that made these things possible are not two. Like if we were to believe that our house has been broken into, and our next door neighbor did it are two. If I were to believe my house was broken into, this means that i believe in something someforce that did this, but this doesn't imply that I'm giving specifics to this something beyond this, like this something is a black guy as well.

For the slave and Rev. King, what was being spoken about is Hope. Hope is an assumption that believes that what's hoped for will be realized. It's a belief in whatever force one believes can do so. If I have Hope, that I'd do well on the test, it's because of a faith in my studying that I can believe so.

For Rev. King and the slave spiritual, their hope is not of a natural variety, not from an evaluation of their circumstances, their potential political power, the weapons at their disposal, their hope isn't believed to be grounded in something seen, but rather unseen. There hope is not derived at by reason, or logic.

The faith lies not in reason, in the visible potentials of their circumstances, but in an unseen force which can make it possible, a belief in God. Whose attribute here doesn't lie beyond his ability to realize their hope.

I mean, seriously, it took me this long to be able to post again! That's following it up ASAP, with a running start and a favorable tail-wind!

According to other internet sources (I haven't checked any of this extensively!) Almeida had published a satirical and skeptical article about the alleged miracles at Fatima just a few days earlier. - Anonymous

And supposing Almeida was secretly anti-government and pro-"miracle", isn't that just what he'd do? I'm not saying he did (much more likely he just got caught up in the mass hysteria), but either of these hypotheses is more credible than the (utterly pointless) "miracle" of making the sun appear to turn cartwheels. Big, fucking, deal. Why not something useful like, say, Mary appearing to the warring armies and commanding them to stop fighting? How many independent testimonies are there of the "miracle", taken immediately after the event i.e. soon enough to prevent contamination of the individual's perception and memory by talking to others in the crowd, or what appeared in the press? My guess would be - none.

By Knockgoats (not verified) on 11 May 2009 #permalink

DM:Is platonic realism a scientific theory?
If it were wrong, would it be possible to find that out?
If yes, then it is scientific. If no, it's not.

Not exactly. A scientific theory requires consistency between data and theory -- but you also have mathematical theory, where internal consistency is sufficient. So you can have a theory that can be "wrong", yet not scientific.

I know you love pedantry.

The faith lies not in reason, in the visible potentials of their circumstances, but in an unseen force which can make it possible, a belief in God. Whose attribute here doesn't lie beyond his ability to realize their hope.

One doesn't need a god for hope. One doesn't need faith in god for anything. Faith in god and a $1.35 will get you a bottle of water from the drink machine. My drink there costs $1.35. A god that exists only between peoples ears is a worthless bit of delusion that gets in the way of appreciating reality.

By Nerd of Redhead, OM (not verified) on 11 May 2009 #permalink

Hithesh @ 475

Seriously, there is no such thing as a god, but just what was thought of in the brains of humans. Come now, if you did not have a brain there would be no thought of a god. Now isn't that simple enough that even you can comprehend it? Heck, it's not your fault that there is no god, but it is your fault if you make one up and expect other morons to believe in the same crap as you do. Do a simple test. Cut your head off and see if you still have thougts of a god. Now if all those others who believe in the same thing and were to do as you did, there you have it; no more gods. It really is simple as that. Do you get the point? Get the crap out of your head and come to your freaking senses.

Nerd of Redhead @ 459:

Scientists, unlike godbots like yourself who tell falsehoods right and left, try to be scrupulously honest in their professional work. This gives us a degree of trust.

Very good - you believe you have grounds for trusting someone's word.

You accept their testimony as authoritative.

Still no physical evidence.

+++

Satan @ 450:

God laughs at your Eucharist.

Yeah, but why would I believe anyone called "Satan"?

By Piltdown Man (not verified) on 11 May 2009 #permalink

Nerd: "A god that exists only between peoples ears is a worthless bit of delusion that gets in the way of appreciating reality."

It's weird when the critics of religion, the godless type, engage in peddling superstition all the time, without ever noticing it, like PZ belief that the peddling of the image of a child gazing at the stars, will heal the world. Or you belief that there's something appreciative to all in reality. If your hungry, poor, and the verge of dying with no visible means to get out of this, does this mean that you have something to be appreciative for in reality?

Their mythical post-christian belief among atheist that runs rampant in these part, a repulsive version of redemption, than man is held back from something, from realizing his true glorious nature, he's held back from seeing life is so gloriously beautiful with it's ponds and houses made of gold. The only cure for such a sickness, is to accept atheism. If we realize the hope of no religion, only then can we reach Providence.

And you have the nerve to accuse me of believing in fairy tales? Perhaps it's time you peer more closely in the mirror.

hithesh, there are two big problems with your "God is We Shall Overcome" screed. The first big problem is that, if you equate "People have done things because they believed X" with "X exists", you've just validated the existence not of "God" but of _all_ gods and other ideals including the triumph of the proletariat _and_ the glorious Fourth Reich. Your second problem is that religion has regularly been trotted out to _justify slavery_ - it's Biblical! - so your identification of God with only the stuff you like is hypocritical.

By Stephen Wells (not verified) on 11 May 2009 #permalink

If your hungry, poor, and the verge of dying with no visible means to get out of this, does this mean that you have something to be appreciative for in reality?

why not try it and see for yourself? Surely, after all material possessions are gone, you still have your faith, right?

Or is what you have really a bunch of projection and denial masquerading as faith?

you're a pathetic wanker.

@482: ponds and houses made of gold? Have you been smoking something?

By Stephen Wells (not verified) on 11 May 2009 #permalink

Step away from the Pharyng. for a few hours and the thread is so long I can't even catch up.

Anyway, if anybody is still interested in the "math" subthread, I agree with the poster who said that mathematicians are not unusually susceptible to religion, and didn't mean to give that impression. They *are*, however, way more susceptible than the average physicist. I've known math types of a great number of religious persuasions (including Mennonite), but nearly all physicists I've known have been non-religious.

That's anecdotal, but I saw a survey somewhere that backed up my impressions. (Biologists were somewhere in between).

hithesh @ 482. I did what you said--looked in the mirror--and I still didn't see your strawman. Maybe I was doing it wrong.

It's the same Atheism is a religion argument dressed up in baroque prose and dripping with condescending self image and still lacking in anything of substance.

Yeah, but why would I believe anyone called "Satan"?

Why would you believe anyone or anything? Are you a follower of Pyrrho?

Pilty the hoax. You have no idea of how science is run. A miracle can be shown with science with the proper controls. For example, many attempts to show paranormal phenomena lack proper controls, which if present, show paranormal to be bunk. But then, miracles don't exist except in the minds of the delude godbots like yourself. Your god either interacts with the world or he doesn't. Make up your mind and live with the consequences. Otherwise, you are fraud and con man.

By Nerd of Redhead, OM (not verified) on 11 May 2009 #permalink

Is there a word for someone who's arguing just to argue, like a teenager who's baiting her parents? Besides the word "Eric" or "troll", I mean. Someone who insists that the (so-called) argument hasn't been addressed because their interlocutor didn't stand on his head or say "Simon Says" first.

It's on the tip of my tongue.

"It's the same Atheism is a religion argument dressed up in baroque."

No I don't believe Atheism is a religion, but some atheist do treat their atheism as a religion, and this should be pretty obvious even to you.

I was an unbeliever for most of my adulthood, and I sure didn't treat my disbelief as a religion, as a sort of cure to peddle to humanity, to be evangelized, as a means for humanity to appreciate reality, or any other sort of similar tracts.

By Anonymous (not verified) on 11 May 2009 #permalink

Says Piltdown Man

There is still no physical evidence that a miracle has occurred, that the waterpots formerly contained water.

That is why experiments are controlled, and can be rerun. With a time machine, the scientist could go back and watch it again, but this time, he could coax Jesus into doing it in a vial, while being watched by a camera, with spectrophotometry ongoing. He could weigh the total solution, and see if Jesus was really summoning new matter into existence(ethanol, acetic acid, etc.) or just somehow converted the water's mass into something else. If you wanted to get really fancy, you could put Jesus into a fMRI machine and watch his brain patterns while it was happening. If he is supposedly doing this by thought alone, then there will be some kind of correspondence between his thoughts and what happens in the real world. Would this process result in the transformation of all water in contact with the transformed water? In other words, is it a chain reaction? Do Jesus' hands have to come in contact with the solution to be changed? In short, you could dissect a miracle into its component parts, and come up with an explanation for it.

Hell, we could check out Jesus' chromosomes, just to be sure, and see if he had 'magic' DNA, or just regular old human chromosomes, with all of their flaws, repeats and bullshit. We could do a paternity test, and blow the whole 'Mary and Joseph were just platonic lovers' BS out of the water.

When Jesus healed people, we would be able to rewind and watch the process over and over again. Is it instantaneous? Do the cells of the sick/blind/dead reorganize, change expression patterns, etc? If we agree that blindness and sickness are physical states, with physical causes, then whatever 'miracle' Jesus performed had to have been a physical solution.

Could Jesus get sick? We could inject viruses into his veins, and see if he had a superhuman immune response, or what exactly happened to the viruses in his blood. If we were unhappy with the results, we could culture his cells in vitro, to visualize it better.

You have a very limited conception of what scientists might think of to investigate reality. They are, to a person, very curious, and interested in knowing more. Contrast this with your idea of the scientist who, perfectly happy to remain ignorant, 'leaves the room' and tries to avoid learning. I know the theme of projection is brought up far too often here, but come on! Leaves?! The only person who might conceivably do this is one who was already certain they knew the outcome. That is, a *believer*.

If it affects the world, we can come up with models for how it works. Deal with it.

like PZ belief that the peddling of the image of a child gazing at the stars, will heal the world.

You're projecting again. PZ said nothing about "healing the world" and you won't find atheists talking about healing the world, because that's a religious concept that has no referent in physical reality. "The world" is an abstraction. It cannot be sick or injured; there is no objective standard by which we can assess whether a given act of "healing" has had any effect on it whatsoever.

Is there injustice, suffering, unreasoning cruelty and violence in the world? Yes. Are the myths invented about a Suffering Servant as god's annointed in the 1st century Eastern Mediterranean one way that a group of pious Jews tried to make sense of these harsh facts in the light of their own experience of them in their seemingly hopeless situation? Sure. Are they relevant to me? No, not any more than the Dream Time of native Australians is.

@492: I knew the earth was round for most of my adulthood, but I would never have dreamed of peddling the idea to anyone as an actual truth about the world; I had too much respect for the deeply held beliefs of flat-earthers.

By Stephen Wells (not verified) on 11 May 2009 #permalink

Hithesh, you are a deluded fool. No evidence, no existence. Your god is fiction, and does nothing for the human condition, except in your deluded mind. You don't like being called deluded, then quit presenting your delusions here, and just go away. No one is stopping you from that action. Until you show phyical evidence for your imaginary deity, you are just another liar and bullshitter for Imaginary ObjectsTM.

By Nerd of Redhead, OM (not verified) on 11 May 2009 #permalink

Is there a word for someone who's arguing just to argue, like a teenager who's baiting her parents?

Devil's advocate? Barrack-room lawyer?

[blah blah blah]...and I sure didn't treat my disbelief as a religion, as a sort of cure to peddle to humanity, to be evangelized, as a means for humanity to appreciate reality, or any other sort of similar tracts.

Perhaps you should wait until somebody actually does the thing you dislike before you start railing against it.

Or maybe take your pill and have a lie-down. I'm sure you'll feel much better.

but some atheist do treat their atheism as a religion

Only in statements you just made up, moron.

I was an unbeliever for most of my adulthood

99.9% chance of a Big Fat Lie, with rain during the evening.

and I sure didn't treat my disbelief as a religion, as a sort of cure to peddle to humanity, to be evangelized, as a means for humanity to appreciate reality, or any other sort of similar tracts.

Yes, exactly. Except not at all. Bald is not a hair color.

Do you really think that if you take 500 words to say "God is love" (but not really, something else, but the cause, the, *THUD* sorry, all rational people just fainted from sheer boredom) that people won't realize that that makes God a meaningless, superfluous, amorphous, untestable semi-intellectual reach-around for those smart enough to avoid organized religion but weak enough to still need their binky of meaning for their pitiful existence?

Really, you might want to drop the "atheism is a religion" crock. And comparing humans striving for freedom with any useful concept of a God is truly pathetic and shows you as weak and dumb as a sack of hammers. And that is not two. Nowhere in your thousands of words of verbal diarrhea have you even come close to even a meaningful, discussable definition of God. Start with that. Hop to it. Ten words or less.

No I don't believe Atheism is a religion, but some atheist do treat their atheism as a religion, and this should be pretty obvious even to you.

No, some atheists (like myself) treat their atheism as politics, not religion. And rightfully so. Our primary issue is with those who use religion as a weapon of ignorance, hatred and violence. That's a political issue, and this should be pretty obvious even to you.

By pdferguson (not verified) on 11 May 2009 #permalink