Nick Matzke posted Entry 2810 on December 31, 2006 04:54 AM.
Trackback URL: http://www.pandasthumb.org/cgi-bin/mt/mt-tb.fcgi/2800

Those of you who have been watching the blogs over the last few days know that a kerfluffle has gone on about Richard Dawkins’s position on religion and religious freedom. Basically, Dawkins signed this scary-sounding petition, it was linked from the Official Richard Dawkins website, an ID blog that likes to think the worst about Dawkins freaked out, Ed Brayton freaked out because the plain reading of the petition (to American ears; see below) seemed anti-civil liberties, then PZ Myers freaked out in reaction to Ed, etc., etc. PZ did helpfully get some clarification from Dawkins, who then retracted his signature of the petition, but the disavowal didn’t cover the issues of whether or not the government should prevent parents from giving their children religious instruction, leading to yet more thinking of the worst on the ID blogs and yet more confusion in the comments on the blogs of PZ and Ed.

Well, I know that it is far more fun to spend endless threads bickering about what Richard Dawkins probably meant and whether or not it is good or evil, but as PZ noted, it really is better to email the guy. We can’t blame Ed for not doing so, because the petition had a clear meaning on its face. But it seemed to me that the problem was that the petition meant very different things in British vs. American contexts. I sent my hypothesis to Dawkins and he has confirmed it; I comment a bit more at the bottom.

From: Richard Dawkins
Subject: Re: Clarification on religion petition?
Date: Sun, 31 Dec 2006 08:52:30 +0000
To: Nick Matzke matzkeATncseweb.org

On 31 Dec 2006, at 03:20, Nick Matzke wrote:

Dear Dr. Dawkins,

I have observed the kerfluffle surrounding the petition to the PM and your retraction of it on Ed Brayton’s blog. I think part of what is going on is that Americans interpret the petition language
as a proposed universal statue [sic – “statute”] statute applying even to private communications in the home, parents taking children to church, etc. – whereas the petition, although poorly worded, was actually aimed at restricting the British government’s promotion of religion in the government schools. The first would be a major violation of standard constitutional rights (in the U.S.) which makes people freak out; whereas the second is just a quite reasonable request to move the UK closer to the US position of strong church-state separation.

If you have half a second I would like to get your answer and post it on the Panda’s Thumb blog (www.pandasthumb.org). It may seem silly, but this would avoid endless misrepresentation of your views on this point by creationists and others. So here goes:

1. Is my above understanding correct, i.e., that you read the petition in the second sense that I described?

Yes. In my all too cursory reading of the petition (if I had read the whole thing more carefully, I would have noticed the coercive phraseology and would not have signed it) I of course assumed that it referred to schools, not parents in the privacy of the home. I am sure that was also the intention of the petition organizer. The very idea of giving that control freak Tony Blair any more power over people than he already has appals me, and probably appals the author of the petition too. The problem in Britain is that Blair and his colleagues are hell bent on increasing the influence of religion in British schools. I want to reduce the power of religion in the schools. Blair wants to increase it. I now see that, since the petition lamentably failed to mention that it referred to schools, it can all too easily be read as an attempt to expand government power beyond the schools and into the home.

Incidentally, another reason why I would not have signed, if I had read the supporting statement as well as the petition itself, is that I am positively in favour of two aspects of religious education. I advocate teaching the Bible as literature. And I advocate teaching comparative religion as an important anthropological phenomenon. Schools should teach: ‘Christians believe X, Muslims believe Y, Buddhists believe Z.’ But a teacher should never say something like ‘You are a Christian child and we Christians believe …’

2. Obviously you are opposed to theism and think it is harmful. But do you actually think it would be a good idea for a government to make it *illegal* for parents to teach their religion to their children? (e.g., taking them to church, sending them to Sunday school, giving them private religious instruction, etc.)

Of course I don’t think it would be a good idea. I am horrified by the thought. My entire campaign against the labelling of children (what the petition called ‘defining’ children) by the religion of their parents has been a campaign of CONSCIOUSNESS-RAISING. I want to educate people so that they flinch when they hear a phrase like ‘Catholic child’ or ‘Muslim child’ – just as feminists have taught us to wince when we hear ‘one man one vote’. But that is consciousness-raising, not legislation. No feminist that I would wish to know ever suggested a legal ban on masculine pronouns. And of course I don’t want to make it illegal to use religious labels for children. I want to raise consciousness, so that the phrase ‘Christian child’ sounds like a fingernail scraping on a blackboard. But if I dislike the use of religious words to label children, I dislike even more the idea that governments should police the words that anybody uses about anything. I don’t want a legal ban on the use of words like nigger and yid. I want people to feel ashamed of using them. Similarly, I want people to feel ashamed of using the phrase ‘Christian child’, but I don’t want to make it illegal to use it.

Also please let me know if I may post your answer on the Panda’s Thumb blog.

Yes, you may post this entire e-mail, and I hope you will include your own admirably clear introduction.

By the way, Ed Brayton himself made the same point very clearly during the exchanges on his blog:

“If the petition was specific to what could and could not be taught in government-fun [presumably government-run] and financed schools, I would absolutely be in favor of it. But the text never mentions schools or government indoctrination, it says that the government would make it illegal to “indoctrinate” any child, which would include their parents advocating and teaching their own religion as well. That is my objection to it. If it only dealt with what schools could teach, I would be all for it.”

Posted by: Ed Brayton | December 30, 2006 01:07 PM

Bloody hell! All that storm in a teacup for nothing! If only the petition had been worded properly in the first place … And if only I had read it more carefully … And if only Brayton had read it more charitably … No wonder lawyers and diplomats need special training. I’m out of my depth here.

Richard Dawkins

Thanks so much for your time,
Nick Matzke

So, hopefully that answers all of the outstanding questions about Richard Dawkins’s committment to religious freedom, and those who desire can get back to discussing his actual views on science and/or religion.

A final comment: It is commonly said that the U.S. and the U.K. are divided by a common language, and I think we have a strong case of that here, particularly with the legal/political context that can be put behind the very same words. To Americans, where there is no established church, and separation of church and state is rigorously maintained, any mention that indoctrinating or labeling children by their religion should be “illegal” seems like it must be advocating a massive intrusion of governmental power into the home. But in the UK, there is an established state church, religion is taught in the government schools, and, I gather, parents have to check boxes on tax forms and school forms to classify their children as Protestant, Catholic, Muslim, Hindu, etc., and tax revenue and religion courses are alotted on this basis. Protesting this elaborate system of official government classification of children to the British Prime Minister is quite reasonable, particularly for a guy like Dawkins.

I think some cultural background that contributed to this confusion is found in the fact that Americans tend to be extremely litigious and view any particular activity as either (a) illegal and absolutely forbidden or (b) an absolute civil right and therefore completely without restriction of any sort. This is so natural that Americans don’t even realize that their way of thinking is peculiar unless they have spent a significant amount of time overseas.

Examples include:

* Private property: In the U.S., public land is public and private property is private and usually absolutely forbidden to the public. But in many other countries (like New Zealand and probably most of the British commonwealth) private land is often open to the public by default for hiking etc. It is quite clear that the British position is more rational and civilized, but for whatever reason Americans prefer to guard their private land with shotguns as if their lives depended on keeping everyone else off.

* Alcohol: In the U.S., alcohol is absolutely forbidden until the late age of 21, at which point you are suddenly given a license to get schnokered at will without restriction, which many people do. In many European countries, alcohol is served to teenagers in moderate amounts, and a culture of moderation limits binge drinking.

* Public/private schools: In the U.S., public schools are rigorously made to adhere to the Constitution and the state science standards, whereas private schools can usually teach whatever they want; other countries do things in very different ways.

* Finally, we have the religious establishment difference discussed above where the U.S. really is rather radical even compared with most other industrialized democracies (many of which have state churches and government-sponsored religious education).

For extra fun and confusion, in the U.K., the “private” “state” schools are run by the government and the “public” schools are privately funded. “Common language,” indeed.

(* Note: see comments for clarification on the not-so-clear terminology in various parts of the UK)

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Comment #152469

Posted by Elf Eye on December 31, 2006 6:02 AM (e)

Thank you for trying to bring the fratricide to an end.

Comment #152475

Posted by Tom on December 31, 2006 6:22 AM (e)

Actually in England: State schools are run by the government, Faith (used to be called “Church”) schools are run by permitted religious groups (Christian, Jewish, Muslim only at present, I believe) but are funded by the government, Private schools are privately funded and Public schools are generally the most exclusive private schools.

Scotland, I think, is different.

Fun indeed…

Comment #152478

Posted by Jedidiah Palosaari on December 31, 2006 7:15 AM (e)

I was just thinking yesterday, most European countries are far more secular in culture than the U.S.- less of a strong force of Christianity in their nations. And most of them don’t have a strong tradition of separation of church and state- not as much as the U.S. There might be something to this. That the strength of Christianity in the U.S. directly correlates to our commitment to separation of church and state, and as long as we stay committed to the latter, the former (or some other similar belief system) will prevail.

Comment #152481

Posted by SteveF on December 31, 2006 7:31 AM (e)

Meanwhile, ID is to be taught in English religious education classes. Hmmmmm.

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2087-252…

Comment #152482

Posted by daenku32 on December 31, 2006 7:40 AM (e)

Obviously the petition was vague enough to cause knee jerks, but in my years of arguing with strict libertarian-types, as a progressive or ‘leftist’ even attempts to merely raise public awareness are interpreted as direct attempts to get government force legislation.

Comment #152486

Posted by Peter Henderson on December 31, 2006 8:48 AM (e)

Actually in England: State schools are run by the government, Faith (used to be called “Church”) schools are run by permitted religious groups (Christian, Jewish, Muslim only at present, I believe) but are funded by the government, Private schools are privately funded and Public schools are generally the most exclusive private schools.

Scotland, I think, is different.

Fun indeed…

In Northern Ireland things are different again. The state schools (which are open to children of any religion/faith) are attended by mainly Protestant children. The Roman Catholic church has it’s own schools/education system and these are known as “the Catholic maintained sector”. They are often connected to Catholic churches (chapels). Most Roman Catholic children attend these. There is also a small, but growing, number of religiously integrated schools in the province. At least one fundamentalist Protestant school in the province is teaching YECism as science.

In addition to all of this, we still have academic selection, with the top 25% of children attending grammar schools and the remainder having to suffer the inferior secondary ones.

Comment #152497

Posted by Carl Hilton Jones on December 31, 2006 9:44 AM (e)

No moral person could possibly object to the petition. Needless to say, most Amereicans are immoral. Specifically, I live in a state (Arizona, one of many) that specifically protects the “rights” of religious parents to physically torture and kill their children in the name of religion.

Comment #152498

Posted by Apostrophe Avenger on December 31, 2006 9:49 AM (e)

The Apostrophe Avenger (Elf Eye’s alter ego [apostrophe for possession–used with nouns only!]) has arisen like Cthulhu, hungry for the flesh of writers who profane the sacred marks of punctuation. Not meaning to pick on Peter Henderson particularly, but it’s (apostrophe for contraction!) not “The Roman Catholic church has it’s own schools/education system….” Therefore, will the aforesaid writer please return the misappropriated apostrophe to the supply room so that it will be there when you really need it. I know this may seem like a really petty point, but, hey, an apostrophe there and an apostrophe there, and pretty soon we’re talking real language decay. OK, having thoroughly embarrassed myself and revealed my true identity as a pedantic English professor, I will now shut up and slink back into my cubbyhole, where I will caress semicolons and dream of ellipses.

Peter, no offense I hope. Your post just happened to be the one to hand. I certainly don’t want to start a Henderson versus Apostrophe Avenger “kerfluffle”! Eeek! I can see it now: the partisans of possession beating up on the connoisseurs of contraction.

Cthulhu, I really am embarrassing myself!

Comment #152502

Posted by Tim Tesar on December 31, 2006 10:12 AM (e)

Nick, thanks very much for your efforts. I am both a strong atheist and a strong civil libertarian. I become very concerned when atheists make statements or take actions which might in any way be interpreted as advocating limiting civil liberties, particularly freedom of conscience (or religion, if you prefer). In his ranting about theism, Dawkins has not been clear enough about his views on freedom of religion, and thus I have been bothered that people would think that Dawkins represents all atheists. I especially appreciate that he admits he has been “out of my depth” on the issue, something that was very apparent to me from reading his book. I hope his consciousness is being raised in this regard. The public image of atheists is poor, and we don’t need people like Dawkins (and PZ Myers) adding fuel to the fire. Now I agree with them that theistic beliefs are silly and are properly criticized, but we should emphasize that, in America, at least, freedom of religion is the law of the land. I am much more concerned about whether people understand and support civil liberties (including freedom of religion) than I am about whether they are theistic or not.

Comment #152504

Posted by Orac on December 31, 2006 10:21 AM (e)

It is quite clear that the British position is more rational and civilized, but for whatever reason Americans prefer to guard their private land with shotguns as if their lives depended on keeping everyone else off.

Why is it “quite clear” that the British position is more “rational and civilized”?

Comment #152508

Posted by sciencenut on December 31, 2006 10:30 AM (e)

“one people separated by a common language”

I dunno if it should be attributed to Twain,Wilde,Shaw,Churchill or others but I do know that the confusion can be embarrassing.

Don’t tell a Brit that you shag flies or an Aussie that you root for the home team.

One Yank consultant posited a foreign firm the question: “Do you have corporate muscle to pull it off?”

I’ll leave it at that.

Cheers!

Comment #152510

Posted by Peter Henderson on December 31, 2006 10:39 AM (e)

OK, having thoroughly embarrassed myself and revealed my true identity as a pedantic English professor

I definitely couldn’t argue with a pedantic english professor ! Just as long as you don’t make any spelling mistakes !

Comment #152511

Posted by Ian H Spedding FCD on December 31, 2006 10:40 AM (e)

Meanwhile, ID is to be taught in English religious education classes. Hmmmmm.

Why not? It’s a religious movement.

Comment #152512

Posted by Apostrophe Avenger on December 31, 2006 10:47 AM (e)

Peter,

Right! Now I will have to be vewy, vewy cahful.

Comment #152513

Posted by Bartholomew on December 31, 2006 10:52 AM (e)

For extra fun and confusion, in the U.K., the “private” schools are run by the government and the “public” schools are privately funded.

No, the “state” schools are run by the government - although sometimes in collaboration with various faith groups or (in recent years) private contractors (hence the Peter Vardy controversy). “Private” schools and “public” schools are both privately run, the difference being that the “public” schools are extremely posh - e.g. Eton. I’m sure that makes it all clear.

Comment #152517

Posted by Richard Simons on December 31, 2006 11:21 AM (e)

My understanding is that public schools in the UK were originally called that to distinguish them from the church-run schools. Any member of the public could attend (provided they paid the fees).

Years ago when I had to take religious instruction in school (before there had been much non-Christian immigration) most of us regarded it as a boring drag. From what I recall we concentrated on parables and similar uplifting stories. We were seldom encouraged to ask questions about the bible because invariably someone would find one of the passages most Christians would like to keep quietly hidden. All in all I think it acted as a fairly effective inoculation against the more extreme religious views.

Comment #152518

Posted by Larry Gilman on December 31, 2006 11:25 AM (e)

“Alcohol: In the U.S., alcohol is absolutely forbidden until the late age of 21” …

Not “absolutely.” The National Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984 allows alcohol to minors for the following:

An established religious purpose, when accompanied by a parent, spouse or legal guardian age 21 or older

Medical purposes when prescribed or administered by a licensed physician, pharmacist, dentist, nurse, hospital or medical institution

Comment #152520

Posted by Tony Jackson on December 31, 2006 11:36 AM (e)

re SteveF’s comment #152481:

Most unintentionally funny quote in that Times article:

“Canon Jeremy Davies, Precentor of Salisbury cathedral, said: “I don’t see why religious education should be a dumping ground for fantasies.”

Scariest quote in same article:

“Lord Pearson, a Tory peer and supporter of ID, who asked the question that prompted Adonis’s statement, said: “Advances in DNA science show that the DNA molecule is so complicated that it could not have happened by accident. It shows there is a design behind it.”

Comment #152522

Posted by wamba on December 31, 2006 11:43 AM (e)

It’s 31 December. Shouldn’t you rather be deciding on the silliest words or deeds by an ID supporter over the last year?

Comment #152526

Posted by Nick (Matzke) on December 31, 2006 12:38 PM (e)

“Alcohol: In the U.S., alcohol is absolutely forbidden until the late age of 21” …

Not “absolutely.” The National Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984 allows alcohol to minors for the following:

OK, OK, not that I don’t appreciate pedantry, but I think everyone knew what I meant…

Comment #152528

Posted by Ron Tolle on December 31, 2006 12:41 PM (e)

How much more evidence do you need to see that these kinds of antics are dividing the pro-science side and uniting and motivating the creationists? To my mind, Kenneth Miller–who is a devout Catholic–has done more to stop ID from insinuating itself into the public schools than Dawkins will ever do. His testimony was pivotal during Kitzmiller, and the results speak for themselves.
I’m an atheist, but personally I admire Christians who can think their way past Biblical literalism and can accomodate their faith with the modern world. Dawkins, on the other hand, is becoming a liability to the movement by making it appear as if the rest of us have an anti-religious axe to grind. These kinds of games are starting to wear a little thin.
The struggle isn’t against mainstream Christians. It’s against the fundies who want to sneak their religious beliefs into the public schools.

Comment #152532

Posted by Robert O'Brien on December 31, 2006 12:53 PM (e)

Carl Hilton Jones wrote:

No moral person could possibly object to the petition. Needless to say, most Amereicans are immoral.

That assertion is all kinds of stupid.

Comment #152535

Posted by Nick (Matzke) on December 31, 2006 1:14 PM (e)

I have junked a comment both because it was a bizarre detour (something about the n-word) and it was plagiarized from here.

Comment #152542

Posted by Gerard Harbison on December 31, 2006 1:37 PM (e)

Well, that should give us a respite of at least a week until someone else decides to prove their ‘moderation’ by going after the best contemporary expositor of evolutionary biology because he happens (horrors) also be an atheist who has the effrontery to articulate his world-view.

Comment #152543

Posted by Nick (Matzke) on December 31, 2006 1:38 PM (e)

It is quite clear that the British position is more rational and civilized, but for whatever reason Americans prefer to guard their private land with shotguns as if their lives depended on keeping everyone else off.

Why is it “quite clear” that the British position is more “rational and civilized”?

Go to New Zealand, see how much of the countryside – sheep farms and the like – is open to treking and hiking etc. – and you will see what I mean.

Comment #152545

Posted by Bill Gascoyne on December 31, 2006 1:53 PM (e)

but for whatever reason Americans prefer to guard their private land with shotguns as if their lives depended on keeping everyone else off.

Given the litigious nature of American society, and the screwed up fact that trespassers can successfully sue landowners for injuries suffered on private property, perhaps their lives do depend on it in a sense.

Comment #152546

Posted by Rob on December 31, 2006 2:06 PM (e)

I’ve spent large amounts of time in Europe, Australia, and elsewhere. The biggest thing that you said in your final comment that I actually agreed with is that Americans are unfortunately litigious. That’s an embarrassment and a terrible fact of life here.

But I mostly disagree with your opinions on a lot of the rest of it. In the end, that’s not really the point of your post or this space, so I guess I won’t bother writing a long comment about it. But I do hope you’re aware that there are people who HAVE spent significant amounts of time overseas, but still think you’ve got a lot of it wrong.

Meanwhile, the site is great, and your post here is helpful.

Comment #152549

Posted by Robert O'Brien on December 31, 2006 2:29 PM (e)

Gerard Harbison wrote:

Well, that should give us a respite of at least a week until someone else decides to prove their ‘moderation’ by going after the best contemporary expositor of evolutionary biology because he happens (horrors) also be an atheist who has the effrontery to articulate his world-view.

If that is all Richard Dawkins did I would not have a problem with him. It is his ignorant forays into philosophical theism and Christianity I object to.

Comment #152558

Posted by dirk on December 31, 2006 3:11 PM (e)

A Courtier wrote:

If that is all Richard Dawkins did I would not have a problem with him. It is his ignorant forays into philosophical theism and Christianity I object to.

A Shepherd wrote:

Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.

Comment #152561

Posted by DuWayne on December 31, 2006 3:29 PM (e)

I am glad that this is settled. I really enjoy reading Dawkins’ popularizing of science, but would have eliminated him from my reading altogether over this. I find myself mostly agreeing with him, on his clarification of his views.

I am also horrified to learn what I have about the British school system/s?, as a result of this. Being the ignorant American (though I read a lot of British lit), I assumed that their public schools were much like those here. While the U.S. has it’s quirks and negatives, I am damn glad to have recieved the education I did.

Comment #152563

Posted by Nick (Matzke) on December 31, 2006 3:45 PM (e)

Given the litigious nature of American society, and the screwed up fact that trespassers can successfully sue landowners for injuries suffered on private property, perhaps their lives do depend on it in a sense.

Yes, it is all a by-product of the litigious nature of American society I think. In other countries it seems that politeness and common sense gets people further.

Comment #152565

Posted by Steviepinhead on December 31, 2006 3:58 PM (e)

Nick, this effort at clarification is appreciated. Thanks!

I do think you have “statue” where you probably meant “stature,” however.

[/lawyerly nitpicking.]

Comment #152566

Posted by Steviepinhead on December 31, 2006 3:59 PM (e)

And now I have mis-typed “stature” where I meant to type “statute.” Yeesh!

Comment #152573

Posted by Scott Hatfield on December 31, 2006 4:15 PM (e)

Nick, as Elf Eye said, thanks for working to end what is essentially a family squabble. By bringing light to the matter, especially by giving the inimitable Dr. Dawkins a chance to explain, in his unmistakeable prose, exactly what mistakes were made, you performed an inestimable service for all of us interested in defending quality science education.

Or to put it another way, ‘blessed are the peacemakers.’

Comment #152582

Posted by Stevencnz on December 31, 2006 5:12 PM (e)

Just a few notes on public access to private lands in New Zealand:
1) There is a Queen’s Chain next to many waterways. This is a Chain of land which the public should have unrestricted access to. Often this is ignored or rendered unusable by intervening private land.
2) As much of New Zealand was planned by English people in England we have many ‘roads’ that are legally public access but are unformed and are treated as private land by the ‘owners’. Access is regularly denied to these public roads. A small survey found upwards of 80% of public roads have no access to them. A better example would be the English concept of Walkways, Bridleways and Carriageways, public access routes through private land that are maintained to a set standard.
3) A significant amount of the high country is leased by the landholders from the government. There should be public access to most of this leased land, but it is often denied. There is however tenure review occurring where the public rights are becoming more defined.
4) Having said that many farmers are really good about allowing access to their land but there is significant conflict between Farmers and Old users on one hand (who respect the land and the farmer’s needs in things like litter, gates and asking for permission) and people who disrespect the land on the other. However those who disrespect the land do it to public land too. If you have a reputation for respect (or belong to a club with a reputation) you have significantly more access.

Steven

Comment #152589

Posted by steve s on December 31, 2006 6:09 PM (e)

At least we had an open, if hostile, exchange of ideas. Here’s how the brouhaha would have gone down on UncommonDescent:

1. EdBrayton - Dec 31st 2006 at 4:28 pm

For what it’s worth I have quote from Richard Dawkins:
Who cares what Richard Dawkins says? -dt

Comment by EdBrayton — December 31, 2006 @ 4:28 pm

2. PZMyers - Dec 31st 2006 at 4:30 pm
I think what he meant was
Who cares I’m banning everything you say and you suck and don’t come back, homo. -dt

Comment by PZMyers — December 31, 2006 @ 4:30 pm

3. RichardDawkins - Dec 31st 2006 at 4:33 pm
I just thought I’d elaborate on my post, which was taken out of context. To wit:
To wit, RichardDawkins is no longer with us. -W.A.D.

Comment by RichardDawkins — December 31, 2006 @ 4:33 pm

And the next day the link would give you

404 - Page not found
Our web servers cannot find the page or file you asked for.
The link you followed may be broken or expired.

Click your browser’s Back button to return to the previous page.

Comment #152590

Posted by DragonScholar on December 31, 2006 6:12 PM (e)

This brings up a simple fact often ignored; people that are pro-rational and pro-science still have to play in the oft irrational arena of public realtions and publicity. Nothing changes that, and a few ill-advised words or actions can have repercussions - especially with people in the ID crowd watching for anyone of a scientific, rationalist, humanist, or atheist position to screw up in public.

Comment #152592

Posted by Ian B Gibson on December 31, 2006 6:20 PM (e)

It is quite clear that the British position is more rational and civilized, but for whatever reason Americans prefer to guard their private land with shotguns as if their lives depended on keeping everyone else off.

Why is it “quite clear” that the British position is more “rational and civilized”?

Perhaps because you can’t shoot someone to death for walking across your front lawn?

Comment #152594

Posted by Duane Tiemann on December 31, 2006 7:00 PM (e)

>I’m an atheist, but personally I admire Christians who can think their way past Biblical literalism and can accomodate their faith with the modern world. Dawkins, on the other hand, is becoming a liability to the movement by making it appear as if the rest of us have an anti-religious axe to grind. These kinds of games are starting to wear a little thin.
The struggle isn’t against mainstream Christians. It’s against the fundies who want to sneak their religious beliefs into the public schools.

Dr. Dawkins needs to be careful, but fundamentally, it looks to me he’s on the correct course. The “difference” between mainstream and fundy xians is like the “difference” between micro and macro evolution. Backing away from that may or may not be politically effective, but there does seem to be a cost in terms of intellectual honesty.

Comment #152595

Posted by Duane Tiemann on December 31, 2006 7:15 PM (e)

Religious freedom and child abuse are in tension here.

At one extreme, we can imagine xian skinheads or Muslim fundies raising their kids to raise hell. One might be tempted forestall the likely results of that sort of upbringing, not only for the sake of the kids, but for the sake of society in general. And it might be tough to do that while allowing everyone to indoctrinate their kids as they see fit. If there’s enough of that sort of stuff going on, we’re in the realm of tough choices.

Hopefully, mainstream religious instruction is less harmful, and may fall below the line where a wise society would take action. But it’s a moot point. We have no shot at anything other than pointing out negative effects of such junk. e.g. The assault on critical thinking ability/inclination; Impact on stem cell research; Faith based foreign policy; etc. But, for god’s sake, we surely have an obligation to do at least that. It is to the benefit of everyone to object to magical thinking. It does little good to claim the emperor is wearing underwear.

Comment #152596

Posted by Anton Mates on December 31, 2006 7:15 PM (e)

Robert O'Brien wrote:

Well, that should give us a respite of at least a week until someone else decides to prove their ‘moderation’ by going after the best contemporary expositor of evolutionary biology because he happens (horrors) also be an atheist who has the effrontery to articulate his world-view.

If that is all Richard Dawkins did I would not have a problem with him. It is his ignorant forays into philosophical theism and Christianity I object to.

I doubt you were included in “People who want to prove their ‘moderation’,” Robert.

Comment #152597

Posted by steve s on December 31, 2006 7:22 PM (e)

The British are oh so much more civil because they don’t allow trespassers to be shot? 50 out of 50 US states do not allow shooting trespassers during the day, and 49 of 50 don’t allow it at night.

IIRC, the British have higher crime rates than Americans. So perhaps the question is, why aren’t the British as civil as we are?

Comment #152599

Posted by Carol Clouser on December 31, 2006 7:42 PM (e)

Folks,

I can understand everyone’s sensitivity to the civil rights of parents to “discuss” religion in the privacy of their homes, a right to free speech that must be protected. But parents are legally responsible for protecting and nourishing the physical and mental well being of their children. Why should they have the right to so thoroughly indoctrinate their children that they can no longer think objectively about matters pertaining to religion?

There is a reason why the vast majority of believers in Islam were raised by parents who are believers in Islam, and the vast majority of believers in Christianity had parents who were like minded about that religion, and so on. After ten years of heavy indictrination of a young and fragile mind, it is very difficult for that mind to consider the issues from a skeptical or at least neutral perspective. This constitutes educational child abuse and no civil right to engage in such activity exists.

A distinction needs to be made between “speaking about” religion in the home and “indoctrination” in religion by parents. I realize this requires some fine legal work. But to ignore this distinction is to sit back and do nothing about the wholesale educational child abuse going on in the world today. Folks like Dawkins must re-evaluate their position on this, otherwise all their ranting about the ill effects of religion amounts to spitting in the wind.

Comment #152608

Posted by snaxalotl on December 31, 2006 8:42 PM (e)

if the creationists can’t properly allow for the cultural contexts out of which the bible arises, how do you expect them to do it for a petition?

Comment #152618

Posted by Ian H Spedding FCD on December 31, 2006 10:28 PM (e)

IIRC, the British have higher crime rates than Americans.

You mean like murder rates…?

Comment #152623

Posted by Russell Blackford on December 31, 2006 10:36 PM (e)

Niok, by this point what Professor Dawkins says in response to your questions should not be a surprise. Nonetheless, it sets the record straight once and for all, so thank you for your trouble and for posting the outcome here. Beyond that, I’ve had my say on the other blogs.

Comment #152631

Posted by Nick (Matzke) on December 31, 2006 11:04 PM (e)

Posted by Carol Clouser on December 31, 2006 7:42 PM (e)

Folks,

I can understand everyone’s sensitivity to the civil rights of parents to “discuss” religion in the privacy of their homes, a right to free speech that must be protected. But parents are legally responsible for protecting and nourishing the physical and mental well being of their children. Why should they have the right to so thoroughly indoctrinate their children that they can no longer think objectively about matters pertaining to religion?

There is a reason why the vast majority of believers in Islam were raised by parents who are believers in Islam, and the vast majority of believers in Christianity had parents who were like minded about that religion, and so on. After ten years of heavy indictrination of a young and fragile mind, it is very difficult for that mind to consider the issues from a skeptical or at least neutral perspective. This constitutes educational child abuse and no civil right to engage in such activity exists.

A distinction needs to be made between “speaking about” religion in the home and “indoctrination” in religion by parents. I realize this requires some fine legal work. But to ignore this distinction is to sit back and do nothing about the wholesale educational child abuse going on in the world today. Folks like Dawkins must re-evaluate their position on this, otherwise all their ranting about the ill effects of religion amounts to spitting in the wind.

That’s not even the important issue, although it will prove impossible to distinguish between “speaking about” and “indoctrination.” The important issue is the massive expansion of governmental power that would be required to enforce any regulation on private religious instruction. It could only happen with a violation of civil liberties that would make the controversial parts of the Patriot Act seem trivial.

The thing that surprises me is that not all atheists have figured this out yet. They often seem to have this bizarre kind of wishful thinking, wherein they naively think that (a) governmental blocks on private religious instruction would actually work (in fact, they would backfire and push religious people towards fundamentalism and radicalism), and (b) that such power, if given to the government, would not be applied to atheists. The reality is that atheism would be first on the chopping block if the government ever got power to regulate private discussions about religion between parents and children.

Comment #152644

Posted by Russell Blackford on December 31, 2006 11:38 PM (e)

I’ve added a comment in my own blog if anyone is interested, but I can’t resist adding a further point here. There are many things that we might consider morally wrong, while also believing that they must be politically tolerated. Usually it is people with, for example, statistically unusual sexual tastes who not only argue for the morality of their actions but also, as a last resort, at least for toleration by the state. Sometimes it is suggested that the liberal call for toleration is a sham, that what is really wanted is simply the overturning of traditional morality. There may even be some force in that - I, for one, think there is a fair bit in traditional morality that actually should be overturned.

But here we have a good example of toleration in action. At least some kinds of religious indoctrination, especially those that demand a rejection of rational inquiry in later life or involve threats of hellfire, are very unpleasant to behold. I am happy to condemn them morally, but I think they must be tolerated by the law, even if we get to the point one day where a majority believes otherwise. The state’s power of fire and the sword - I argue - can’t be used against every kind of moral aberration, but needs to be confined fairly narrowly. I’m glad to see that Richard Dawkins apparently takes a similar position.

Comment #152653

Posted by Anton Mates on January 1, 2007 1:12 AM (e)

Thanks for such a clear and levelheaded response, Nick. Hopefully Dawkins will be a little more cautious about what he puts his name to, and Ed Brayton will be a lot more cautious about speculation on Dawkins’ hidden agenda.

Comment #152656

Posted by Ira Fews on January 1, 2007 2:59 AM (e)

I’ve gotten a bit behind. Is Telic Thoughts breaking from the ID ranks in so openly trumpeting its contributors’ religiosity, or have the writers just been sloppy in their eagerness to rail against Richard Dawkins? Alternatively, have the ID people largely abandoned the charade about ID being an arligious concept since Kitzmiller vs Dover?

Comment #152668

Posted by Chris' Wills on January 1, 2007 5:00 AM (e)

>Posted by Duane Tiemann on December 31, 2006 7:00 PM (e)

Dr. Dawkins needs to be careful, but fundamentally, it looks to me he’s on the correct course. The “difference” between mainstream and fundy xians is like the “difference” between micro and macro evolution. Backing away from that may or may not be politically effective, but there does seem to be a cost in terms of intellectual honesty.>

Depends somewhat on one’s aims, n’est pas?

If one is defending the integrity of Scientific Methodology (natural causes, common rules/laws of nature across the universe (as above so below), repeatability of tests, logical inference etc) then the belief set of the person defending it isn’t relevant.

If the aim is to convert the world to atheism then mocking the beliefs of others may work on some; damn few though. I suspect from his recent book (not available yet here in Saudi, I wonder why :o), so most of my knowledge of it is from Dr Dawkin’s web site) that is Dr Dawkin’s aim in TGD.

Please do one or the other but don’t pretend that they are the same thing.

As far as I can see, science is Agnostic (doesn’t give a flying fig) about the God question and Agnostic is not a synonym of Atheist.

Oddly enough it is some religious and some atheists who seem to believe this equality.
The fundies seem to think that asking questions will lead to disbelief and some atheists think that Agnostics are Atheists stuck in a closet.

Happy 2007 to all and thanks to all the hard working scientists who have shared their knowledge with me and the world on this site and their other writings.

Oh, about trespass rules in the UK, the laws in Scotland differ from those in England/Wales.

Comment #152682

Posted by Just Another New Lawyer on January 1, 2007 7:19 AM (e)

This is a little bit misleading on the alcohol issue. In fact, many states allow minors to drink alcohol as long as it’s served by their parents or in the presence of their parents.

And Europe is not all a wonderland of moderation: check out the rates of cirrhosis in Finland, for example. I don’t recall seeing any culture of moderation when I went to uni in Glasgow, either, among the English, Welsh, Scots, Germans, and any other nationality who I happened to run across at parties or pubs.

I would also point out that US *corporations* are definitely extremely litigious—they clog up most of the dockets in court—but I doubt very much you would find the average American has ever seriously considered a lawsuit, much less file one, despite the propaganda of tort reform lobbyists.

Comment #152684

Posted by Just Another New Lawyer on January 1, 2007 7:24 AM (e)

Bill Gascoyne wrote:

Given the litigious nature of American society, and the screwed up fact that trespassers can successfully sue landowners for injuries suffered on private property, perhaps their lives do depend on it in a sense.”

What nonsense. This is a perfect example of the idiocy tort reforms try to trick the uninformed with. Not that it’s your fault you don’t know about licensees, invitees, trespassers, and the like, of course, but it’s still a shame that people accept such piffle unquestioningly.

Comment #152697

Posted by Dean Morrison on January 1, 2007 8:49 AM (e)

Well done to Dawkins for getting all those ID’ers Knickers in a twist at least.

The situation in the UK is rather different to that in the US of course, and you’ll have to excuse the prof for forgetting that some people think the entire cosmos mainly consists of the recently colonised bit of ground they happen to be standing on. This same bit of ground also happens to be the same bit favoured by the Intelligent Designer, who seemingly has transferred his loyalties recently from a rather smaller bit of ground somewhere in the Middle East.

Most people in the UK are atheists or agnostic - quite possibly because of the rather boring attempts at indoctrination in state schools. Most are also opposed to expansion of state-funded ‘faith schools’ - especially as this means rapid expansion of Islamic Schools here.We really don’t need more divisions in our society thank you.
However Tony Blair happens to run the country - and thinks more ‘faith schools’ would be a good thing - mainly because it allows the pushy middle classes to escape the tougher state schools by pretending to be Christian or whatever. Although he has been a great prime minister in may ways he’s been a complete idiot on this matter. He has been very relaxed about a situation where wealthy evangelicals have been allowed to ‘sponsor’ a state school - and then twist the curriculum to promote creationism and intelligent design. A lot of us Brits get pissed off about this, including Dawkins, and i don’t blame him for signing a loosely worded petition on the subject.

If anyone is interested in the situation here I’d recommend:

www.justscience.org.uk

which got a lot of inspiration from the Panda’s Thumb.

As for all the American atheists who seem to be embarrassed by Dawkins and seemingly want him to shut up - I’ll point out another little irony - whilst free speech may not have the legal protection here it has in the US, in practice its the norm. If you wish to criticise Dawkins, you should really address his arguments - not what you perceive to be his ‘tactics’.

One final thing - anyone know how to change the dictionary in Firefox so it stops trying to make me spell like a Yank??

Happy New year to one and all from Merry En-ger-land!!

Comment #152700

Posted by Dean Morrison on January 1, 2007 8:57 AM (e)

Oh and incidentally - thew UK government have just set up this on-line petition system as an excercise in ‘open government’. There is a bit of a craze for these things at the moment - which will quickly disappear once people realise that any petition getting less than a million signatures will go straight into the bin.

All the same I’ve just signed up to the thing - badly worded or not, the principle is right; even if the best way to turn out more atheists is to teach religion as another boring subject at school.

Comment #152725

Posted by carol clouser on January 1, 2007 11:33 AM (e)

Nick,

We already have significant federal and state regulation of private schools. How about limiting the time spent on religious indoctrination in those schools and compelling them to provide some balance on religious issues?

And I am at all not concerned about the regulations impacting atheists in a similar way. I don’t know of any private schools set up for the purpose of indoctrinating youngsters in the religion of atheism, and I doubt any such schools exist. But if any such institutions do exist, well, they too ought to be regulated. I certainly am no atheist, as many here who know me are aware. But I am opposed to the crippling of young minds by indoctrination for ANY purpose. Young minds ought to be trained in careful, rational and objective analysis, in order that they can truly make up their OWN INDEPENDENT MINDS as they mature.

You just don’t seem to think of this as a life and death issue. You should.

Comment #152731

Posted by James on January 1, 2007 12:26 PM (e)

>If that is all Richard Dawkins did I would not have a problem with him.
> It is his ignorant forays into philosophical theism and Christianity I object to.

What about theists ignorant forays trying to tell others that they should be taken seriously? It’s amazing you theists band together when you have such widely different beliefs to attack people just because they don’t believe any fantasy. Answer one question, why should anyone even consider theism in the first place? Because some ancient people couldn’t explain their surroundings? Is everyone supposed to give credence to a generic god or some particular one? Or is it you just want them to believe in *something* for which there is no evidence?

Philosophical theism - please believe me. I don’t have any evidence. I just need you to acknowledge my beliefs. I need them.

Comment #152733

Posted by James on January 1, 2007 12:31 PM (e)

There is a dragon in my garage that created the universe. And don’t you dare question my beliefs because he is god and that makes me a theist!

Comment #152740

Posted by carol clouser on January 1, 2007 1:39 PM (e)

James,

You seem blissfully unaware of the various rational, philosophical arguments for the existence of a non-corporeal entity (referred to as God) as the necessary first cause for the existence of a physical universe with specific characteristics, initial conditions and seemingly arbitrary constants. Your mocking theism only serves to display your own shallow intellectual skill set.

I say let the young hear all the arguments, be motivated to think for themselves, then as they mature let them make their own independent judgements, including an evaluation of the mutual mocking of ignorant proponents such as you in both camps.

Comment #152748

Posted by stevaroni on January 1, 2007 3:13 PM (e)

You seem blissfully unaware of the various rational, philosophical arguments for the existence of … God as the necessary first cause for the existence of a physical universe

Carol;

Unlike James, I lack a supernatural dragon in my garage.

Although I’m somewhat jealous, this might be for the best, since I’m sure it’s messy as all get out, and would really spook the bejeezus out of our cats. But it does mean I have no convenient deity to ask about the great beginning.

So I’m somewhat fascinated by your claim that the very existence of the universe necessarily implies the involvement of God.

Especially since we know just about absolutely nothing about events way back in the way back.

Less so, in fact, than we know about evolution, since there’s not much left from the big bang except confetti, some of which we live on.

So if you’ve been holding out on us with the much-rumored evidence for God, praytell, bring forth with the goods.

Comment #152759

Posted by carol clouser on January 1, 2007 5:01 PM (e)

Stevaroni,

To go into a detailed analysis of this age-old complex subject would necessarily derail this thread, something I am loathe to do since I have often been accused here of doing precisely that. This is why I limited myself to merely alluding in passing to the arguments for God. My point was not that there is evidence (in the scientific sense) for the existence of God, let alone that there is proof of same. I intentionally used terms such as “rational” and “argument” in this regard, to counter James’ description of theism as “fantasy” and “irrational”. One may not agree with a line of reasoning or its conclusion and yet recognize that it is based on reason.

To amplify just a little bit, consider what we do know, instead of all that we do not know about the universe. We DO know that it is governed by very specific rules which, for all we can ascertain, could have been different. We DO know that those rules contain various constants that, again, as far as we can ascertain at this point, could have had very different vales and thus would have led to a very different universe or no universe. We DO know that the present universe (the only one we have evidence for) evolved from initial conditions that, yet again, could have been otherwise.

So, how did all these come to be the way they are? Is this not the type of question science always asks about any and every phenomenon we encounter? HOW DID THIS COME TO BE THE WAY IT IS?

You are right, science has no satisfactory solution, in the case of the universe. And I dare say, with some trepidation, likely never will. An efficient argument (not proof or evidence) is to blame it all on the inscrutable (to us) whims of an entity regarding which all these questions cannot be asked. That entity is not governed by particular rules (so called supernatural), nor by any constant values, nor does it consists of specific physical characteristics, so no initial conditions can be specified or inquired about.

The only problem with this is that you (and I) cannot imagine or perceive such an entity. But there is a rational argument (there comes that word again) for that too. Our brains are the product of evolution and no survival or reproductive advantage ever existed for those brains to develop the skill set necessary to perceive the non-corporeal.

So, science itself provides the basis for why not everything can be discovered or studied scientifically.

Comment #152764

Posted by stevaroni on January 1, 2007 5:16 PM (e)

Well, I certainly wouldn’t want yet another thread to go crashing off the rails, but so far we’ve already had religion, politics, alcohol, lawers, gun control and masturbation discussed in this one, so maybe the other people in here will indulge me just a bit.

Isn’t marveling about how perfectly suited this universe is for a life-form like us sort of like the ice cubes marveling at how miraculous it is that the freezer tray would be the exact right size and shape to fit them so perfectly?

Maybe it’s just me.

Comment #152765

Posted by jon livesey on January 1, 2007 5:21 PM (e)

I’m very sorry to have to say this, but I simply don’t believe Dawkins’ clarification. I’m British and when I read the petition, which is very short, I came to the same conclusion that most people have - that it would make it illegal to indoctrinate children with religion or define them by religion, period. English - that is, the language I was brought up with - just isn’t that ambiguous and that is what it plainly says. The notion that Dawkins read this and signed it thinking it meant something else is very far-fetched. And FWIW, the idea that no-one in the UK could take the literal meaning seriously is mistaken. There are plenty of people in the UK, especially on the left, who would be delighted to ban religious teaching for children by law. If you doubt that, check how many people did sign. Are they all illiterate?

And before anyone starts, I’m an Atheist, but I hold atheism to a high ethical standard, and I’m starting to think that Dawkins is a very slippery character, as willing to shade the truth for the sake of Atheism as the worst fundy is to shade it for the sake of religion.

Comment #152766

Posted by Robert O'Brien on January 1, 2007 5:33 PM (e)

James wrote:

Answer one question, why should anyone even consider theism in the first place?

I think it is correct; that’s why.

James wrote:

Or is it you just want them to believe in *something* for which there is no evidence?

I am not particularly solicitous about your beliefs.

Comment #152767

Posted by Robert O'Brien on January 1, 2007 5:36 PM (e)

carol wrote:

James,

You seem blissfully unaware of the various rational, philosophical arguments for the existence of a non-corporeal entity (referred to as God) as the necessary first cause for the existence of a physical universe with specific characteristics, initial conditions and seemingly arbitrary constants. Your mocking theism only serves to display your own shallow intellectual skill set.

I say let the young hear all the arguments, be motivated to think for themselves, then as they mature let them make their own independent judgements, including an evaluation of the mutual mocking of ignorant proponents such as you in both camps.

Right.

Comment #152769

Posted by carol clouser on January 1, 2007 5:47 PM (e)

Stevaroni,

What I said above is in no way linked to the anthropic argument you allude to. Even if no life or humans ever appeared in the universe, the same questions could be asked and answered as above.

And your ice cube stuff is not an adequate response to the anthropic argument. The only way around the anthropic argument is to postulate the existence of an infinite number of diverse universes with most of them not evolving life forms. There is no shred of evidence to support such a notion, but even if it is the case the questions I enumerated above can still be asked.

Comment #152776

Posted by James on January 1, 2007 6:28 PM (e)

Carol,

I understand the philosophical arguments. But can you answer this, why should the concept of god even be raised? Does there need to be any evidence or only something that we call god *could* have done it?

Truth is, theists aren’t referring to *some* entity but the one *they* believe in.

Carol, please don’t refer to someone as ignorant when you want them to acknowledge the possibility for something for which there is no evidence or compelling reason to believe. Please tell me what the difference is between a dragon in my garage that created the universe and any other entity? What makes yours more reasonable than mine. Mere blowing me off, shows you don’t have any real reasons.

Comment #152779

Posted by James on January 1, 2007 6:32 PM (e)

> I think it is correct; that’s why.

That’s it Robert, you convinced me. How could I have been so blind. God is real! But your going to have to tell me which one because there are many thousands and I want yours not any false ones. But since you theists just want to talk about the wonders of theism here, I guess any one would do, wouldn’t it?

Comment #152781

Posted by Katarina on January 1, 2007 6:42 PM (e)

Carol,

And your ice cube stuff is not an adequate response to the anthropic argument. The only way around the anthropic argument is to postulate the existence of an infinite number of diverse universes with most of them not evolving life forms.

I thought Stevaroni’s ice cube analogy was a perfectly adequate response to the anthropic argument. We think we’re special because all the physical constants are just so to make us the way we are, yet we only see our own tiny universe - the freezer. It does imply that there are many other possible universes, though it is very difficult for us ice cubes to venture out and discover them.

Comment #152792

Posted by carol clouser on January 1, 2007 7:04 PM (e)

James,

No sir, you do NOT understand the arguments. If you did, you would not be repeating those stupid questions, such as what is the difference between your dragon and God.

For an avowed atheist, your writing is very poorly structured. Genuine atheists I know are almost always intelligent, educated folks who can write.

Comment #152799

Posted by James on January 1, 2007 7:39 PM (e)

Carol,

You have said absolutely nothing. But that is all you have so I will excuse you.

Comment #152809

Posted by GalapagosPete on January 1, 2007 8:34 PM (e)

Just Another New Lawyer wrote:

on January 1, 2007 7:24 AM (e)

Bill Gascoyne wrote:

Given the litigious nature of American society, and the screwed up fact that trespassers can successfully sue landowners for injuries suffered on private property, perhaps their lives do depend on it in a sense.”

What nonsense. This is a perfect example of the idiocy tort reforms try to trick the uninformed with. Not that it’s your fault you don’t know about licensees, invitees, trespassers, and the like, of course, but it’s still a shame that people accept such piffle unquestioningly.

So your legal opinion is that his fears are without foundation?

Comment #152814

Posted by stevaroni on January 1, 2007 9:02 PM (e)

Carol wrote…

And your ice cube stuff is not an adequate response to the anthropic argument. The only way around the anthropic argument is to postulate the existence of an infinite number of diverse universes

Actually, Carol, I can’t really tell just what the anthropic argument really is. I did a google search, but after poring through the results, I’m still pretty light on details.

As far as I can tell, the meta argument seems to be that the universe we’re in is somehow special because it so perfectly suits our needs as a species.

Various sources seem to claim that it’s either uniquely special (created just for us) or selectively special, (one of a number of otherwise unsuitable universes), but special nonetheless, based solely on the evidence that it “fits” us very well.

My ice cube analogy was meant to illustrate that to me it seems you’ve got it backward. The universe doesn’t fit us - we fit the universe, much the same way that the roots of a tree planted in rocky ground fit the pattern of rocks. The rocks were there first, and the tree had to work with what it had. The “fit” is inevitable, given the need to work within certain constructs, but the cause and effect are reversed.

I am, however, a reasonable man, who’s willing to admit that he might not “get” it. And I do appreciate the fact that you argue calmly and rationally, so I’d like to be fair. If you could point me to a cogent explanation of the anthropic argument, I’d love to take a gander at it.

Comment #152815

Posted by Flint on January 1, 2007 9:02 PM (e)

Our brains are the product of evolution and no survival or reproductive advantage ever existed for those brains to develop the skill set necessary to perceive the non-corporeal.

This strikes me as an astounding admission. After all, if anything non-corporeal actually DID anything, surely appreciation for that process would provide at least some small survival edge. Imagine two organisms, one of which is able only to see the results of non-corporeal machinations, while the other is able to perceive the performer of these machinations, and directly observe its intents and purposes. Which variation might have an advantage?

And so, despite my ignorance of biology, I would think the ability to perceive any meaningful non-corporeal entity would be AT LEAST as useful as being able to perceive light. Natural evolutionary processes would produce a wider variety of god-sensing organs than light-sensing organs. The only reasons I can think of why no known life form has EVER evolved this ability, is either because the non-corporeal entites don’t DO anything, or they don’t exist. If indeed there’s any difference at all between these alternatives.

Comment #152816

Posted by Torbjörn Larsson on January 1, 2007 9:03 PM (e)

Religious freedom and child abuse are in tension here.

Yes. On another thread Orac pointed out that Dawkins is possibly inconsistent since he doesn’t want the same regulations as for other “child abuse”. But there is a difference between voicing personal opinion at home vs violence. I don’t agree that it is a problem for public free speak or a much worse practical problem than other offences are, but it would make people miserable.

jon wrote:

The notion that Dawkins read this and signed it thinking it meant something else is very far-fetched.

You may have not noticed that Dawkins missed the full text.

“I signed it having read only the main petition: “We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to make it illegal to indoctrinate or define children by religion before the age of 16.” I regret to say that I did not notice the supporting statement with the heading,

I signed the main petition, because I really am passionately opposed to DEFINING children by the religion of their parents (while ‘indoctrination’ is such a loaded word, nobody could be in favour of it).” ( http://scienceblogs.com/dispatches/2006/12/dawki… )

Comment #152821

Posted by Torbjörn Larsson on January 1, 2007 10:00 PM (e)

And Europe is not all a wonderland of moderation

Yes, Europe isn’t a monolith. The way I have heard it, and personally seen substantiated, is that the south has a relaxed view with daily wine at dinner, while the north indulge more in bilge drinking.

Especially the vodka belt, as I understand it primarily from Russia over Finland/the Baltic states, Sweden/Denmark, Norway to Iceland and possibly Greenland is habituated to weekend bilges. This seems to have started to change to the better (since bilge drinking is dangerous) with increasing cultural exchange.

I doubt very much you would find the average American has ever seriously considered a lawsuit

Too little (and possibly too much) litigation seems to decrease the ability to change in a society. Problems are easier to hide within a bureaucracy. IMO some countries could definitely do better with a more balanced opportunity for it.

private land is often open to the public by default

The scandinavian “Everyman’s right” (“allemansrätt/allemansret”) is an old habit. It may not be formalized in law but then used in framing them. It seems to have beneficiary social consequences.

“The main rule is that one can walk, ski or cycle everywhere as long as nothing is harmed and nobody disturbed…. It’s maybe also an explanation why the environment protection has become such an important issue in contemporary Scandinavian politics, despite these countries not at all being more poluted [sic] than for instance Germany or Poland.” ( http://www.pinetreedevelopment.net/scandinavia/a… )

In Sweden all land which is not fenced off without gates, or within sight of a house (or within about 200 m) is open. You may forage or rest one night on such land. But you have to take care of it. Using dead wood for fires, littering isn’t allowed et cetera. The rule is that you can’t leave traces. (Kids may love that as a game.)

It still works great, except for local conflicts around often used rafting or canoing waterways.

Comment #152822

Posted by jon livesey on January 1, 2007 10:14 PM (e)

“You may have not noticed that Dawkins missed the full text”

No, I didn’t miss that. I’m talking about what he did read, and what the other signers presumably also read. “We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to make it illegal to indoctrinate or define children by religion before the age of 16.”

What I’m saying is that I find it implausible when he says “I of course assumed that it referred to schools, not parents in the privacy of the home.” He’s a write and an academic. He knows that words count.

Are we supposed to believe that Dawkins and hundreds of other signers all shared the assumption that the petition doesn’t say what it plainly does say, or that it says something that it doesn’t say? You don’t need the “more details” to understand what the petition says; the one-sentence summary says it quite nicely.

In the UK, if one wanted to “end religious instruction in state schools”, one would say that. It’s a widely debated idea. The phrase is very familiar. You would hardly word a petition that didn’t mention schools in the hope that people would assume that it did. You’ve got twenty or so words to make your point, so why omit the word that counts?

Comment #152826

Posted by carol clouser on January 1, 2007 10:49 PM (e)

Stevaroni,

For a complete and balanced analysis of the anthropic argument I highly recommend “The Anthropic Cosmological Principle” by John D. Barrow and Frank J Tipler, Oxford Univ. Press. It is widely available and, no, I was not involved editorially in the production of that work.

I look forward to your reaction when you’re done.

Flint,

You MUST be joking.

Just in case you’re not, would you kindly proffer a specific example of how the ability to perceive the non-corporeal would or could endow an organism with some avantage in the competition for survival?

Comment #152829

Posted by Torbjörn Larsson on January 1, 2007 11:15 PM (e)

jon wrote:

In the UK, if one wanted to “end religious instruction in state schools”, one would say that.

I see. Well, some of the UK commenters have commented to the effect that Dawkins assumption was more understandable from a UK view point. But you are of course entitled to your assumption.

Comment #152833

Posted by Torbjörn Larsson on January 2, 2007 12:09 AM (e)

stevaroni wrote:

If you could point me to a cogent explanation of the anthropic argument, I’d love to take a gander at it.

I can’t pass up this opportunity, especially since carol has done such a good job of misrepresenting it.

It is indeed a large subject. If you want introductions with pointers to references (including carol’s) try both articles about the anthropic principle and the fine-tuned universe in Wikipedia.

The anhropic argument itself is an old religious argument. As you yourself suggest, and the Ikeda-Jefferys argument shows, it is simply a variant of the texas sharpshooter fallacy in a probabilistic setting.

Even if (which is not shown) the probability for a life-friendly universe or a life-friendly earth would be low assuming a naturalistic universe, doesn’t mean that the converse probability that the universe is naturalistic given that we observe life is low.

It is an elementary mistake with probabilities. I recommend Mark Chu-Carroll’s explanation of kook probability fallacies on “Good Math, Bad math” blog - he calls this the “perspective mistake”.

In science, and here is where carol really goes wrong, there are similar discussions about fine-tuning of parameters in fundamental theories and diverse anthropic principles that may help pin them down.

carol wrote:

the necessary first cause for the existence of a physical universe

‘First cause’ or ‘origin’ is a folk psychology and philosophical concept without any physical significance. Causality is derived and is not a fundamental concept. Physics looks at patterns and boundary conditions. ( http://pancake.uchicago.edu/~carroll/nd-paper.ht… )

There are several possible cosmologies that discuss spacetime as randomly originated from a prespace or as infinitely old.

carol wrote:

science has no satisfactory solution, in the case of the universe…. The only way around the anthropic argument is to postulate the existence of an infinite number of diverse universes with most of them not evolving life forms.

Carols’ own contradiction shows her wrong on no solutions. Besides that it is an incomplete description. Cosmology may or may not pin down the laws and initial conditions. But this is also discussed in theoretical physics.

One way the laws and their fine-tuning may be pinned down is by a complete fundamental theory. Other ways is as I mentioned above by anthropic principles.

Two such principles are seriously discussed.

The tautological anthropic principle (TAP) is the observation that laws and parameters must be compatible with life. It has already been used as an adhoc method to find out correct theories. (Stellar carbon cycle.) It is also a description of your ice cube or Addam’s water puddle - the initial conditions could simply be a result of a completely random and equal choice of parameters.

The weak AP is often discussed in combination with multiverse or string theories, where a generic solution is randomly varying parameters from one possible universe to the next. It is the assumption that if it is a random choice here we probably have a situation where our life-compatible parameters were more probable. It has been used to find parameter values. There are many caveats (for example semiclassical infinite universes seems to be ruled out) and a large question is if it is testable.

As one can see from Wikipedia, Barrow and Tipler discusses a range of anthropic arguments, in both a scientific and religious context. I would start with shorter and neutral descriptions in wikipedias references. (Barrow is a deist.)

Comment #152834

Posted by Torbjörn Larsson on January 2, 2007 12:24 AM (e)

Torbjörn wrote:

Stellar carbon cycle.

Drat! Not the carbon cycle. I meant of course the triple-alpha process that results in the carbon that is subsequently used in the carbon cycle.

Comment #152835

Posted by Carol Clouser on January 2, 2007 12:38 AM (e)

Torbjorn,

Thank you for so thoroughly misrepresenting what I said.

Stevaroni,

I would suggest you just ignore Torbjorn’s incoherent drivel and find out about the anthropic argument from knowledgable sources, such as the one I recommended above.

Comment #152836

Posted by Torbjörn Larsson on January 2, 2007 12:44 AM (e)

Torbjörn wrote:

randomly originated

Folk psychology indeed. I should have said “comes stochastically” to be consistent.

I also forgot to mention no-boundary cosmologies, which explicitly have no ‘first cause’ in a universe.

Comment #152837

Posted by tomh on January 2, 2007 12:50 AM (e)

carol clouser wrote:
You are right, science has no satisfactory solution, in the case of the universe. And I dare say, with some trepidation, likely never will. An efficient argument (not proof or evidence) is to blame it all on the inscrutable (to us) whims of an entity regarding which all these questions cannot be asked.

The exact same “efficient” argument has been used for every natural phenomenon from thunder to comets to volcanic eruptions and everything in between. As science has gradually explained each one there is less and less for this entity, as you call it, to be responsible for. Finally, we’re down to the last chance, why the universe is the way it is. No doubt theists are praying hard that science doesn’t explain that or this entity will just have to exist without purpose.

Comment #152844

Posted by Torbjörn Larsson on January 2, 2007 1:12 AM (e)

Due to the spam filter, I have to cut up the comment in parts.

carol,

What did I misrepresent?

It is easy to see from Wikipedia anthropic principles ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anthropic_principle… ) and fine-tuning (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fine-tuned_universe…) that you were wrong on the physics.

Comment #152846

Posted by Torbjörn Larsson on January 2, 2007 1:15 AM (e)

carol:

It is also easy to see from Ikeda-Jefferys (http://quasar.as.utexas.edu/anthropic.html) and Mark Chu-Carroll ( http://scienceblogs.com/goodmath/2006/08/messing… )

Comment #152847

Posted by Torbjörn Larsson on January 2, 2007 1:17 AM (e)

carol:

that the cosmological argument ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cosmological_argume… ) is wrong. Note that I didn’t call you a kook, but that Chu-Carroll mentions that “this comes up in creationist screeds”.

Finally, I realize I may misrepresent Barrow’s and Tipler’s text which I haven’t read.

But Wikipedia says “The most thorough extant study of the anthropic principle is the controversial book The Anthropic Cosmological Principle by John D. Barrow, a cosmologist, and Frank J. Tipler, a mathematical physicist. This book contains an extensive review of the relevant history of ideas, because its authors believe that the anthropic principle has important antecedents in the notions of intelligent design, the philosophies of Fichte, Hegel, Bergson, and Whitehead, and the omega point cosmology of Teilhard de Chardin. Barrow and Tipler carefully distinguish teleological reasoning from eutaxiological reasoning; the former asserts that order must have a consequent purpose; the latter asserts more modestly that order must have a planned cause. They attribute this important but nearly always overlooked distinction to Hicks (1883).[14]

Barrow and Tipler set out in great detail the seemingly incredible coincidences that characterize our universe and that permit human beings to evolve in it. They then maintain that only the anthropic principle can make sense of this raft of coincidences.” [bold added] ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anthropic_principle… )

In the light of the possibility of exact fundamental theories and the extensive treatment of something which is an elementary mistake and not relevant to science, I think I am entitled to call their book slanted.

Comment #152849

Posted by Torbjörn Larsson on January 2, 2007 1:29 AM (e)

Torbjörn wrote:

that the cosmological argument ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cosmological_argume…… ) is wrong.

OK, now I was incoherent. Here I meant that the anthropic argument was wrong. Too many links, I suppose.

The drivel is still all carol’s, of course. ;-)

Comment #152850

Posted by fnxtr on January 2, 2007 1:47 AM (e)

Herr Larsson, a nit:

I think you mean binge drinking, great quantities in a short time.

Bilge is the bottom inside of a ship, and the unpleasant fluids which accumulate there.

At least I hope you don’t mean bilge drinking. I’ve never been to the Baltic, however, so you may be right.

Comment #152857

Posted by Anton Mates on January 2, 2007 2:21 AM (e)

Torbjörn Larsson wrote:

This seems to have started to change to the better (since bilge drinking is dangerous) with increasing cultural exchange.

I think you mean binge drinking. :)

(Though bilge drinking is dangerous. My dad started casually, just sipping off the bottoms of motorboats and yachts at parties. Pretty soon he and a buddy or two were rowing up to oceanliners on cloudless nights, armed with a power drill and a very long straw. Mom forced me to go along with them once I was old enough to be designated helmsman. I didn’t want to, but the Coast Guard wouldn’t have needed a breathalyzer to notice the rust and diesel on Dad’s breath if they pulled him over.)

Comment #152858

Posted by Anton Mates on January 2, 2007 2:23 AM (e)

Whoops, didn’t refresh in time to see fnxtr. I’ve had this window open too long….

Comment #152860

Posted by Anton Mates on January 2, 2007 2:37 AM (e)

carol clouser wrote:

So, how did all these come to be the way they are? Is this not the type of question science always asks about any and every phenomenon we encounter? HOW DID THIS COME TO BE THE WAY IT IS?

You are right, science has no satisfactory solution, in the case of the universe. And I dare say, with some trepidation, likely never will. An efficient argument (not proof or evidence) is to blame it all on the inscrutable (to us) whims of an entity regarding which all these questions cannot be asked.

An even more efficient argument is to declare that all those questions cannot be asked of the universe itself. If that’s your definition of efficiency, anyway.

That entity is not governed by particular rules (so called supernatural), nor by any constant values, nor does it consists of specific physical characteristics, so no initial conditions can be specified or inquired about.

Untrue. If that entity’s responsible for setting the laws and constants of nature, that’s a characteristic which can be inquired about. You can choose not to inquire about it, if you want, but you could have done that in the first place.

And your ice cube stuff is not an adequate response to the anthropic argument. The only way around the anthropic argument is to postulate the existence of an infinite number of diverse universes with most of them not evolving life forms.

Not hardly. One can postulate the existence of a single universe going through an infinite (or large) number of iterations. Or a single universe, with natural laws such that it had to feature conditions such as ours. Or a single universe whose laws were selected randomly and just popped out as ours.

There is no shred of evidence to support such a notion, but even if it is the case the questions I enumerated above can still be asked.

Many of the multiverse-implying physical theories are supported by the same evidence as all their non-multiverse-implying counterparts–for instance, the support for the many-worlds interpretation in QM is the same as for the Copenhagen interpretation. They are also supported by the anthropic argument itself, inasmuch as that argument has any validity.

And yes, of course those questions can still be asked. “Why is everything the way it is” can always be asked. Introducing a deity doesn’t change that.

Comment #152870

Posted by Torbjörn Larsson on January 2, 2007 5:47 AM (e)

fnxtr, Anton:

Thank you! Of course, often binge drinking ends up contributing to the bilge. Alcohol is a major reason why many Baltic boats and their passenger gets into trouble, as I understand it.

I’ve had this window open too long….

Doesn’t seem fair, does it, since having ordinary windows open long makes for automatic refreshment. I blame the illogic on Microsoft.

Comment #152894

Posted by stevaroni on January 2, 2007 10:33 AM (e)

Carol wrote…

For a complete and balanced analysis of the anthropic argument I highly recommend “The Anthropic Cosmological Principle” by John D. Barrow and Frank J Tipler, Oxford Univ. Press.

An entire book! Waddya think this is, the 90’s?! ;)

Sadly, I need the Cliff Notes version. I don’t have nearly enough time to read actual books these days.

A pity, actually. I used to be a voracious reader, and I far prefer paper books to the on-line version. Though linked text is wonderful, books are so much more tactile in a comforting way.

But these days, the only time I get to read anything at all that doesn’t involve work is this blog, the cnn website, and the occasional news magazine on a plane.

It’s funny, but it seems that the more bandwidth is available, the less actual signal I get to use.

Welcome to the new millenium, I guess.

Comment #152897

Posted by James on January 2, 2007 10:56 AM (e)

The wikipedia article on Tipler is interesting
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frank_Tipler

Comment #152903

Posted by TW on January 2, 2007 12:14 PM (e)

Thanks for publishing this email online. I live in the UK and, to be honest, it took some time work out what the big deal about this was. My initial reading of the petition was that it would apply to schools / government systems and nothing else. Obviously things mean something else in the US.

Comment #152913

Posted by Carol Clouser on January 2, 2007 12:43 PM (e)

Anton wrote:

“An even more efficient argument is to declare that all those questions cannot be asked of the universe itself.”

The difference is that you are declaring so by fiat, without any reason whatsoever, whereas in the approach I outlined above the questions become not applicable and whither away.

It is as if you and I are looking at a green horse. I ask: How did this horse get to be green. Your solution - shhh, it is forbidden to ask questions about green horses! My solution - some entity must be responsible for painting it green.

“If that entity’s responsible for setting the laws and constants of nature, that’s a characteristic which can be inquired about. “

If you mean to inquire as to why that entity chose to create the universe we know, you are on to something. But that is a different, less onerous question. It is one thing to inquire into, for example, the value of constants that supposedly could have taken on many other values but did not do so, it is quite another to inquire into the motives of an entity so different from our existence that we cannot even perceive it. The inability to solve the latter is far more palatable because it becomes intertwined with the mysterious and unimaginable nature of the entity itsdelf.

“One can postulate the existence of a single universe going through an infinite (or large) number of iterations. Or a single universe, with natural laws such that it had to feature conditions such as ours. Or a single universe whose laws were selected randomly and just popped out as ours.”

The first is basically the same solution as many universes, and no evidence exists for either. If you are going to propose solutions for which not a shred of evidence exists, than you cannot belly-ache anout there being no evidence for God. The second begs the question. What compelled the universe to feature such conditions? The third goes against the axiom most reasonable people accept that things happen for a reason. Universes don’t just “pop out” out of nowhere on any given afternoon.

Stevaroni,

No pain, no gain. It is a big subject if you aim to get to the bottom of it.

Comment #152918

Posted by stevaroni on January 2, 2007 1:33 PM (e)

It is as if you and I are looking at a green horse. I ask: How did this horse get to be green. Your solution - shhh, it is forbidden to ask questions about green horses! My solution - some entity must be responsible for painting it green.

Ah, but Carol, in this case, there is only one horse (as far as we’ve ever seen). Far from concluding some entity must have painted it, barring obvious evidence of fresh paint, the prudent observer would most likely decide that maybe green is just the way horses are, like parrots or newts.

No pain, no gain. It is a big subject if you aim to get to the bottom of it.

Alas, that’ the problem, I’m more worried all the pain and still no gain after it’s all done.

I went into it trying to keep an open mind, I figure that I owe you that since you argue politely. I was hoping that you could direct me to a cogent summary so I wouldn’t be dismissing it out of hand, but everything I’ve turned up so far has the distinct flavor of pseudoscience, lots of “it is obvious” quotes, but little backing evidence.

Comment #152926

Posted by Carol Clouser on January 2, 2007 2:15 PM (e)

Stevaroni wrote:

“I went into it trying to keep an open mind, I figure that I owe you that since you argue politely. I was hoping that you could direct me to a cogent summary so I wouldn’t be dismissing it out of hand, but everything I’ve turned up so far has the distinct flavor of pseudoscience, lots of “it is obvious” quotes, but little backing evidence.”

You really will do yourself a lot of good by reading that book I recommended. Nobody ever accused Barrow, a prominent physicts, of engaging in pseudoscience. And you will learn a lot of physics in the process. Sounds like a win-win situation to me.

Comment #152939

Posted by Period Avenger on January 2, 2007 4:09 PM (e)

Apostrophe Avenger wrote:

Therefore, will the aforesaid writer please return the misappropriated apostrophe to the supply room so that it will be there when you really need it.

Will the aforesaid avenger please return the misappropriated period to the supply room and replace it with a question mark, which is the common form of indicating an interrogatory?

Comment #152940

Posted by Flint on January 2, 2007 4:19 PM (e)

Carol:

would you kindly proffer a specific example of how the ability to perceive the non-corporeal would or could endow an organism with some avantage in the competition for survival?

Carol, I used logic. I challenge you to do the same. If there IS anything non-corporeal, if the non-corporeal actually DOES anything, then awareness of it is beneficial. Imagine if there were real gods out there (whatever that might mean), do you suppose the ability to sense them might come in handy? THINK about this! There are whole populations of people who sincerely believe their faith is beneficial, despite there being no god-sensing organ operating and no evidence of any gods. So why would such an organ be useless if there WERE any gods?

So here you go: Let’s say I perceive God directly, I can see what He’s up to, I can sense why He’s doing it, I can predict what He’s going to do next. But you for the life of you can’t *possibly* imagine any *conceivable* advantage this might give me? If I were to use this knowledge (just as a f’rinstance) to win every lottery every time, THEN would you maybe see some advantage?

Comment #152941

Posted by Anton Mates on January 2, 2007 4:25 PM (e)

Carol Clouser wrote:

“An even more efficient argument is to declare that all those questions cannot be asked of the universe itself.”

The difference is that you are declaring so by fiat, without any reason whatsoever, whereas in the approach I outlined above the questions become not applicable and whither away.

The questions only became inapplicable because you declared so, by fiat. Why is your entity not governed by particular rules or constant values? Why does it have no specific physical characteristics? Why are its motives and mechanisms of creation unknowable? Because you said so?

It is as if you and I are looking at a green horse. I ask: How did this horse get to be green. Your solution - shhh, it is forbidden to ask questions about green horses! My solution - some entity must be responsible for painting it green.

And when I ask, “How and why did that entity come to paint the horse green?” you answer that it is forbidden to ask questions about green-horse-painting entities. Thus the Divine Painter needlessly complicates our picture of the world without actually providing any explanation for the horse’s color.

“If that entity’s responsible for setting the laws and constants of nature, that’s a characteristic which can be inquired about. “

If you mean to inquire as to why that entity chose to create the universe we know, you are on to something.

That’s one question, certainly, but there’s also the question of mechanism. Saying “Because someone painted it” doesn’t settle the question of how that painting occurred. Your green horse may be covered with acrylic paint or watercolor; it may have been applied from a spray can or a brush; it may have been applied in an hour or over several days–in fact, all the possibilities for how it became green which were there before you hypothesized a Divine Painter are still in place.

But that is a different, less onerous question. It is one thing to inquire into, for example, the value of constants that supposedly could have taken on many other values but did not do so, it is quite another to inquire into the motives of an entity so different from our existence that we cannot even perceive it. The inability to solve the latter is far more palatable because it becomes intertwined with the mysterious and unimaginable nature of the entity itsdelf.

Um, it’s more palatable to declare the origin of the universe theoretically unknowable, than just to admit it’s currently unknown? I don’t think any scientist would agree with that.

Imagine if Einstein had said, “The ultraviolet catastrophe does not occur because of an entity called Azathoth, who prevents it from happening. I don’t know how Azathoth accomplishes this, or what Azathoth is, but I don’t need to know because I posit that Azathoth is intrinsically undetectable and unimaginable. Finished!”

“One can postulate the existence of a single universe going through an infinite (or large) number of iterations. Or a single universe, with natural laws such that it had to feature conditions such as ours. Or a single universe whose laws were selected randomly and just popped out as ours.”

The first is basically the same solution as many universes, and no evidence exists for either. If you are going to propose solutions for which not a shred of evidence exists, than you cannot belly-ache anout there being no evidence for God.

We’re entitled to propose as many evidenceless solutions as we want, God included, provided they’re not actually contradicted by evidence. But the fact that there’s a bazillion such solutions means that it’s unreasonable to pick one of them in particular to believe in.

Beyond that, again, there does exist evidence for several of the multiverse-implying physical theories. Every bit of experimental evidence for QM, for instance, is also evidence for QM under the many-worlds interpretation. And if you give the anthropic argument any credence, it itself is evidence for a multiverse.

The second begs the question. What compelled the universe to feature such conditions?

And that can be answered by positing yet another law, as often as the question is asked.

The third goes against the axiom most reasonable people accept that things happen for a reason. Universes don’t just “pop out” out of nowhere on any given afternoon.

How do you know? When was the last time you built a spontaneously-appearing-universe detector?

And most reasonable people don’t accept that all things happen for a reason. For one thing, most of them are theists and don’t require a cause for their deity’s existence. For another, most scientists accept that things in quantum mechanics happen for no reason at all…unless you restore determinism to the theory via the many-worlds interpretation.

Comment #152943

Posted by Malapropism Avenger on January 2, 2007 4:31 PM (e)

Period Avenger wrote:

Apostrophe Avenger wrote:

Therefore, will the aforesaid writer please return the misappropriated apostrophe to the supply room so that it will be there when you really need it.

Will the aforesaid avenger please return the misappropriated period to the supply room and replace it with a question mark, which is the common form of indicating an interrogatory?

Will the aforesaid avenger please return the word “interrogatory” to the supply room and replace it with the word “interrogative,” which can be found two drawers to the left?

Comment #152956

Posted by Uncivilized Yank on January 2, 2007 6:04 PM (e)

“…view any particular activity as either (a) illegal and absolutely forbidden or (b) an absolute civil right and therefore completely without restriction of any sort…” Yes, we all think like this without exception, unless we’ve had help from the old world.

“…the British position is more rational and civilized…”

Yes, we all sit around with shotguns in anxious paranoia waiting to kill people. You have done an excellent job of characterizing an entire people with accuracy and fairness.

Three cheers for relevance and style!

Please, look up the Gricean Maxims.

Comment #152965

Posted by Carol Clouser on January 2, 2007 7:26 PM (e)

Flint,

You are confusing the ability to perceive the non-corporeal, that is to comprehend its existence, with the ability to predict how it will act in the future coupled with the ability to then proceed to circumvent those actions and intentions. These are not the same.

In any event, even if you do find some evolutionary advantage to perceiving the non-corporeal, it can still be postulated that evolution has not yet evolved to the point that our brains can do so. Its really quite as simple as that.

Comment #152966

Posted by Carol Clouser on January 2, 2007 8:06 PM (e)

Anton wrote:

“The questions only became inapplicable because you declared so, by fiat. Why is your entity not governed by particular rules or constant values? Why does it have no specific physical characteristics? Why are its motives and mechanisms of creation unknowable? Because you said so?”

No, I did not declare anything of the sort. You insist on missing the point. The reason these questions are inapplicable is because the basis for them has disappeared. You cannot ask why is the horse green unless it is or appears green. If a non-corporeal entity created the universe and its rules, does it make sense to ask why those rules don’t apply to itself? They don’t because the entity didn’t design them that way!

Anton continued:

“And when I ask, “How and why did that entity come to paint the horse green?” you answer that it is forbidden to ask questions about green-horse-painting entities. Thus the Divine Painter needlessly complicates our picture of the world without actually providing any explanation for the horse’s color.”

I never said anything is forbidden. You must resort to such contrivances. As far as I am concerned, you may ask any sensible question you wish. And the divine painter provides a satisfactory explanation for how the horse came to be green, although we may shake our heads at the motives. In contrast, you provide nothing but fiat, prohibitions and silence.

Anton continued:

“Um, it’s more palatable to declare the origin of the universe theoretically unknowable, than just to admit it’s currently unknown? I don’t think any scientist would agree with that.”

It is far more palatable, it seems abundantly clear to me, to postulate purposeful creation by an entity that our limited brains cannot perceive and whose motives maybe difficult for us to ascertain, than that the universe appeared suddenly without cause, with parameters, rules, constants and initial conditions all part of the package, all POOF here I am!

Anton continued:

“We’re entitled to propose as many evidenceless solutions as we want, God included, provided they’re not actually contradicted by evidence. But the fact that there’s a bazillion such solutions means that it’s unreasonable to pick one of them in particular to believe in.”

And we are entitled to favor those theories that seem to make more sense, seem to be most efficient, seem to leave as few loose ends dangling as possible, until contradicted by REAL evidence.

Anton continued:

“Beyond that, again, there does exist evidence for several of the multiverse-implying physical theories. Every bit of experimental evidence for QM, for instance, is also evidence for QM under the many-worlds interpretation. And if you give the anthropic argument any credence, it itself is evidence for a multiverse.”

That is stretching the definition of “evidence” totally beyond recognition. Evidence consists of data that directly (within reason) confirms an hypothesis.

Anton continued:

“How do you know? When was the last time you built a spontaneously-appearing-universe detector?”

Well, for one thing, in thousands of years of recorded human history there is no record of anything ever appearing suddenly out of nowehere, for no apparent reason.

Anton continued:

“For another, most scientists accept that things in quantum mechanics happen for no reason at all…unless you restore determinism to the theory via the many-worlds interpretation.”

Incorrect. Quantum Mechanics operates under the rubric of various rules. It does NOT turn the universe into a free for all, where anything and everything can happen. This is the case for all views of QM, even the non-deterministic view.

Comment #152975

Posted by Henry J on January 2, 2007 9:11 PM (e)

Re “It is far more palatable, it seems abundantly clear to me, to postulate purposeful creation by an entity that our limited brains cannot perceive and whose motives maybe difficult for us to ascertain, than that the universe appeared suddenly without cause, with parameters, rules, constants and initial conditions all part of the package,”

Reality is under no obligation to be palatable to us.

Henry

Comment #152977

Posted by Anton Mates on January 2, 2007 9:23 PM (e)

Flint wrote:

And so, despite my ignorance of biology, I would think the ability to perceive any meaningful non-corporeal entity would be AT LEAST as useful as being able to perceive light. Natural evolutionary processes would produce a wider variety of god-sensing organs than light-sensing organs.

Well, we haven’t evolved to perceive everything that affects us in one way or another. Detecting high-energy radiation would probably come in handy now and then, if only to make sure we didn’t forage near the pitchblende, yet no organism I can think of has that ability. Either it’s too difficult to develop a biological Geiger counter, or it’s just not worth the resources.

Suppose all God does is show up and smite sinners? If you can’t dodge divine wrath, what’s the evolutionary benefit in seeing it coming?

Comment #153016

Posted by Anton Mates on January 2, 2007 11:10 PM (e)

Carol Clouser wrote:

“The questions only became inapplicable because you declared so, by fiat. Why is your entity not governed by particular rules or constant values? Why does it have no specific physical characteristics? Why are its motives and mechanisms of creation unknowable? Because you said so?”

No, I did not declare anything of the sort. You insist on missing the point. The reason these questions are inapplicable is because the basis for them has disappeared. You cannot ask why is the horse green unless it is or appears green. If a non-corporeal entity created the universe and its rules, does it make sense to ask why those rules don’t apply to itself? They don’t because the entity didn’t design them that way!

You just decided that the entity has the property of “non-corporeality.” We can ask how and why it has that property. It also, clearly, has the properties of “ability and intent to create a universe with constants and laws such as we perceive,” and that means that every single question about “Why does the universe have property X?” is still here, in the form, “How and why did this entity give the universe property X?”

You have, in other words, more unknowns than you started out with. That’s not a good thing in a hypothesis.

In contrast, you provide nothing but fiat, prohibitions and silence.

Me? Carol, it was you who characterized an “efficient argument” as eliminating all origin questions as fast as possible. Remember this?

“An efficient argument (not proof or evidence) is to blame it all on the inscrutable (to us) whims of an entity regarding which all these questions cannot be asked.”

I merely said that if you defined efficiency that way, you might as well just prohibit such questions in the first place. I certainly don’t want to prohibit them myself.

“Um, it’s more palatable to declare the origin of the universe theoretically unknowable, than just to admit it’s currently unknown? I don’t think any scientist would agree with that.”

It is far more palatable, it seems abundantly clear to me, to postulate purposeful creation by an entity that our limited brains cannot perceive and whose motives maybe difficult for us to ascertain, than that the universe appeared suddenly without cause, with parameters, rules, constants and initial conditions all part of the package, all POOF here I am!

You confuse “without cause” with “due to a currently unknown cause, if any.”

But yes, it’s certainly clear that God is more palatable to you than any alternative.

“We’re entitled to propose as many evidenceless solutions as we want, God included, provided they’re not actually contradicted by evidence. But the fact that there’s a bazillion such solutions means that it’s unreasonable to pick one of them in particular to believe in.”

And we are entitled to favor those theories that seem to make more sense, seem to be most efficient, seem to leave as few loose ends dangling as possible, until contradicted by REAL evidence.

Ah, now you’re invoking parsimony. Trouble is, an undetectable, incorporeal creator is a perfect example of a “loose end.”

Whereas some of the multiversal theories are arguably more parsimonious than their rivals. For instance, you get the many-worlds interpretation of QM by eliminating the postulate of wavefunction collapse.

“Beyond that, again, there does exist evidence for several of the multiverse-implying physical theories. Every bit of experimental evidence for QM, for instance, is also evidence for QM under the many-worlds interpretation. And if you give the anthropic argument any credence, it itself is evidence for a multiverse.”

That is stretching the definition of “evidence” totally beyond recognition. Evidence consists of data that directly (within reason) confirms an hypothesis.

Are you joking? Do you really think that a hypothesis cannot be unconfirmed, yet supported by some evidence?

“How do you know? When was the last time you built a spontaneously-appearing-universe detector?”

Well, for one thing, in thousands of years of recorded human history there is no record of anything ever appearing suddenly out of nowehere, for no apparent reason.

Who says that if universes appear spontaneously, they would have appeared within recorded human history, in front of humans, in a way humans could detect?

I mean, you just invoked an incorporeal, undetectable god, Carol. After that, why use “no human has ever seen it” as an argument against anything?

“For another, most scientists accept that things in quantum mechanics happen for no reason at all…unless you restore determinism to the theory via the many-worlds interpretation.”

Incorrect. Quantum Mechanics operates under the rubric of various rules. It does NOT turn the universe into a free for all, where anything and everything can happen. This is the case for all views of QM, even the non-deterministic view.

Sure, but what does that have to do with anything? Your claim was that everything which happens has a reason; that’s simply not the case under most interpretations of QM.

Comment #153059

Posted by Torbjörn Larsson on January 3, 2007 4:19 AM (e)

James wrote:

The wikipedia article on Tipler is interesting

Yes. He seems to be fringe or worse by now. Even more reason to view a “controversial book” as not suitable for an introduction in a topic. At least it doesn’t seem like the “balanced” text carol promised.

carol:

I don’t see any specification on misrepresentation, so I will take it as a moot point. Similarly I don’t see any argument on my description at all, so I will take it that you describe what you don’t understand as incoherent drivel.

Comment #153060

Posted by Torbjörn Larsson on January 3, 2007 4:21 AM (e)

carol wrote:

My solution - some entity must be responsible for painting it green.

No. If this was a real example of a natural object without any preexisting information, for example with a bluckphynx from Vega, you must first show that green isn’t a natural color for a bluckphynx.

Comment #153061

Posted by Torbjörn Larsson on January 3, 2007 4:23 AM (e)

carol wrote:

The first is basically the same solution as many universes, and no evidence exists for either.

It is very compelling since it is a generic solution for both the proposal for a fundamental theory that is string theory and for proposals for general inflation models in cosmology that build on our concordance LambdaCDM inflationary cosmology.

In fact, AFAIK multiverses are the only cosmology that predicts the slightly negative spatial curvature of our concordance LambdaCDM cosmology. The value isn’t significant enough for test yet ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lambda-CDM_model ), but the upcoming Planck probe could change that. Of course, it may be that a family of cosmology models will not be accepted on one prediction only. But we can’t say no evidence either.

And as Anton says, if you believe in the anthropic argument in any form, it supports a multiverse. Go and study the Ikeda & Jefferys’ paper, it shows how that works in a formal context.

carol wrote:

Universes don’t just “pop out” out of nowhere on any given afternoon.

In some cosmologies they do according to physics. “Common sense” is as useless here as elsewhere in physics on non-normal scales.

Comment #153063

Posted by Torbjörn Larsson on January 3, 2007 4:28 AM (e)

carol wrote:

The first is basically the same solution as many universes, and no evidence exists for either.

It is very compelling since it is a generic solution for both the proposal for a fundamental theory that is string theory and for proposals for general inflation models in cosmology that build on our concordance LambdaCDM inflationary cosmology.

In fact, AFAIK multiverses are the only cosmology that predicts the slightly negative spatial curvature of our concordance LambdaCDM cosmology. The value isn’t significant enough for test yet ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lambda-CDM_model ), but the upcoming Planck probe could change that. Of course, it may be that a family of cosmology models will not be accepted on one prediction only. But we can’t say no evidence either.

And as Anton says, if you believe in the anthropic argument in any form, it supports a multiverse. Go and study the Ikeda & Jefferys’ paper, it shows how that works in a formal context.

carol wrote:

Universes don’t just “pop out” out of nowhere on any given afternoon.

In some cosmologies they do according to physics. “Common sense” is as useless here as elsewhere in physics on non-normal scales.

Comment #153064

Posted by Torbjörn Larsson on January 3, 2007 4:31 AM (e)

Sigh! PT’s comment queue… Sorry about the double post.

carol wrote:

That is stretching the definition of “evidence” totally beyond recognition.

Not if the physical models which uses the anthropic principle predicts data that is testable.

carol wrote:

It does NOT turn the universe into a free for all, where anything and everything can happen.

That wasn’t claimed. What was claimed is that quantum events may appear genuinely random and spontaneous in our universe when observed. (But possibly not in the birds eye view of the many-worlds interpretation.) The description of the system between such observations is completely deterministic.

Comment #153105

Posted by Raging Bee on January 3, 2007 11:59 AM (e)

…No wonder lawyers and diplomats need special training. I’m out of my depth here.

Richard Dawkins

Reading a petition, and thinking about it, before signing it, is “out of his depth?” And then he tries to pretend he’s more intelligent and civilized than us superstitious colonial rubes. And then, on top of all that, he blames Ed Brayton for not reading him “charitably” enough. Like a scientist of Dawkins’ caliber is suddenly in need of “charity?”

I nominate Dawkins for the 2007 “Upper-Class Twit of the Year” award. Having run over himself, just like in the sketch, he’s pretty much earned it. (Of course, Sam Harris has almost a year to come up with something dumber…)

Comment #153114

Posted by Carol Clouser on January 3, 2007 12:29 PM (e)

Anton wrote:

“You just decided that the entity has the property of “non-corporeality.” We can ask how and why it has that property. It also, clearly, has the properties of “ability and intent to create a universe with constants and laws such as we perceive,” and that means that every single question about “Why does the universe have property X?” is still here, in the form, “How and why did this entity give the universe property X?”

Well, this brings us back full circle to what I argued earlier that not all questions of the form “How come” and “why” are of equal poignancy. I, for one, am significantly less annoyed at not being able to get a handle on the motives and methods of an entity totally beyond my experience and comprehension, than I am at being unable to fathom why and how come the universe exists with the particular conditions, constants and characteristics that it has.

You could have gone a step further and asked, “How come the entity exists?” But, aghain, considering that the entity is non-corporeal, that is less of a dilemma than how come the universe has, this or the other parameter.

Anton continued:

“You confuse “without cause” with “due to a currently unknown cause, if any.”

Not at all. All the theories pertaining to origins only shift the questions up, down or sideways to other times or conditions, they do not resolve them. Science provides framworks, models and mechanisms, concerning “how”, not “why”. The questions never end until there is reason for them to end, when they are no longer applicable or when they are not particularly annoying. That is, when you bump up against the first cause.

All the theories now in play and those yet to be conceived, are a compatible with the first cause, since physical theiries provide mechanisms for how, not reasons for why. Therefore, I am not precluding any theory, but you are. You preclude the first cause. Now, what do you have against that?

Anton continued:

“Ah, now you’re invoking parsimony. Trouble is, an undetectable, incorporeal creator is a perfect example of a “loose end.”

Not as loose as the others, for the reasons described earlier and others.

Anton continued”

“Are you joking? Do you really think that a hypothesis cannot be unconfirmed, yet supported by some evidence?”

That’s not what we are talking about. A hypothsis could be supported by some evidence if it directly supports the hypothsis. You are proposing that aspects of a hypothesis be considered supported by evidence that tends to support other aspects of the hypothesis that the hypothesis claims are related to each other.

More Anton:

“Who says that if universes appear spontaneously, they would have appeared within recorded human history, in front of humans, in a way humans could detect?”

I didn’t mean it as a serious argument but, come on, maybe not a universe but could not at least a little pebble have appeared somewhere out of nothing?

Comment #153146

Posted by Sounder on January 3, 2007 4:48 PM (e)

I didn’t mean it as a serious argument but, come on, maybe not a universe but could not at least a little pebble have appeared somewhere out of nothing?

If a mere pebble could not, how could a being as incomprehensibly complex as a creator come from nothing?

Comment #153185

Posted by rhubarb on January 3, 2007 10:37 PM (e)

I’d like to thank Orac, Uncivilized Yank, jon livesey, and Raging Bee for their relevant and much-needed remarks about this whole stupid mess. You folks saved me the trouble of commenting. I also congratulate the various Grammar Avengers for providing us with a most delightful extended metaphor.

Comment #153210

Posted by Popper's ghost on January 4, 2007 1:31 AM (e)

In his ranting about theism, Dawkins has not been clear enough about his views on freedom of religion

Your ignorance of what Dawkins has said is not an indication of his clarity. And it’s more than a little hypocritical for all you Dawkins-bashers to accuse him of ranting.

Comment #153211

Posted by Popper's ghost on January 4, 2007 1:36 AM (e)

Reading a petition, and thinking about it, before signing it, is “out of his depth?” And then he tries to pretend he’s more intelligent and civilized than us superstitious colonial rubes. And then, on top of all that, he blames Ed Brayton for not reading him “charitably” enough. Like a scientist of Dawkins’ caliber is suddenly in need of “charity?”

So Dawkins is both a high caliber scientist and isn’t more intelligent than you? The fact is, you don’t have the intelligence to realize just how much unintelligence you display here.

Comment #153214

Posted by Popper's ghost on January 4, 2007 1:55 AM (e)

It is far more palatable, it seems abundantly clear to me, to postulate purposeful creation by an entity that our limited brains cannot perceive and whose motives maybe difficult for us to ascertain, than that the universe appeared suddenly without cause, with parameters, rules, constants and initial conditions all part of the package, all POOF here I am!

a) The former is far less “palatable” than the latter because it includes the latter – the former is the latter plus an unperceivable “entity” with motives and incomprehensible powers of “creation” that somehow “causally” connects this “entity” with the appearance of a universe from nothing.

b) Neither of these are necessary. There are apparently viable cosmological theories that hold that this universe (a “brane”) and its rules etc. has existed forever, but has repeatedly collided with another “brane” with different rules; these theories produce almost the exact same predictions as the inflationary big bang theory, but there are slight differences that may be resolved in a year or two. As for why these branes exist, modal realism has the answer: because they can.

Comment #153215

Posted by Popper's ghost on January 4, 2007 2:12 AM (e)

I can’t pass up this opportunity, especially since carol has done such a good job of misrepresenting it.

It is indeed a large subject. If you want introductions with pointers to references (including carol’s) try both articles about the anthropic principle and the fine-tuned universe in Wikipedia.

The anhropic argument itself is an old religious argument. As you yourself suggest, and the Ikeda-Jefferys argument shows, it is simply a variant of the texas sharpshooter fallacy in a probabilistic setting.

Talk about misrepresentation. The anthropic argument is a rebuttal of the sharpshooter fallacy. An example of the fallacy is arguing that the winner of a lottery must have cheated, or been intentionally selected, because the odds of that person winning are so low. This obviously confuses the a priori probability that this person would have won the lottery before it was held, with the a posteriori probability that this person actually did win the lottery. In cosmology, winning the lottery is existing in a universe that makes one’s existence possible, and the winners are us.

Comment #153217

Posted by Torbjörn Larsson on January 4, 2007 2:20 AM (e)

carol wrote:

But, aghain, considering that the entity is non-corporeal, that is less of a dilemma than how come the universe has, this or the other parameter.

You pretend that you have separated out “Why does the universe have property X?” from “How and why did this entity give the universe property X?”. But you haven’t, instead you have compounded the original question.

carol wrote:

You preclude the first cause. Now, what do you have against that?

‘First cause’ (and its relative ‘origin’) is folk psychology and philosophical concepts without any operational definition. There is no ‘first cause’ in physics.

Indeed, causality itself is a derived and not fundamental property of spacetime. Physics concerns itself with patterns (“laws”) and boundary conditions (“initial conditions”). ( http://pancake.uchicago.edu/~carroll/nd-paper.ht… )

So the proper questions to ask in science is: “why these laws and initial conditions”. These questions are as described above discussed in theoretical physics and cosmology. Several possible models contains answers to them. So while we don’t yet know, it is possible we one day will know.

carol wrote:

You are proposing that aspects of a hypothesis be considered supported by evidence that tends to support other aspects of the hypothesis that the hypothesis claims are related to each other.

I think you are trying to say that a hypothesis may contain objects and their properties, or that a theory may contain sets of hypotheses with mutual support.

Yes, all aspects of a theory is supported when it is supported by evidence. We have to accept it all, or not, because it works as a whole. (Or you could come up with a simpler hypotheses or theory.) The proof is in the pudding - these methods of science works.

For example, we can currently not observe dark matter directly. Nevertheless, it is possible to find observational evidence that decides that it is indeed dark matter and not a revised general relativity theory that explains galaxy mass distributions. ( http://cosmicvariance.com/2006/08/21/dark-matter… )

carol wrote:

come on, maybe not a universe but could not at least a little pebble have appeared somewhere out of nothing?

Not to pick pebbles, and perhaps it is possible, but you would be amazed how difficult it could be. The universe is tightly interwoven regarding energy, gravitation is dependent on the other forces. And any non-local signaling needed when ‘appearing’ objects destabilizes field theories describing forces.

So it would not be an inconspicuous event if it happened on earth. I would think it would be like a pebble of antimatter appearing, a release of energy within the physics we observe that could not be contained. But I wouldn’t know how to even begin modeling it.

Comment #153218

Posted by Popper's ghost on January 4, 2007 2:31 AM (e)

What I’m saying is that I find it implausible when he says “I of course assumed that it referred to schools, not parents in the privacy of the home.” He’s a write and an academic. He knows that words count.

So it’s more plausible that Dawkins signed a petition while realizing that it not merely violates his oft-expressed strong civil libertarian principles, but calls for something absurd that virtually no one supports?

Are we supposed to believe that Dawkins and hundreds of other signers all shared the assumption that the petition doesn’t say what it plainly does say, or that it says something that it doesn’t say? You don’t need the “more details” to understand what the petition says; the one-sentence summary says it quite nicely.

“plainly does say” plainly begs the question, since whether it could have been misinterpreted is a disputed issue.

In the UK, if one wanted to “end religious instruction in state schools”, one would say that.

More question begging; there’s more than one way to say a thing.

It’s a widely debated idea. The phrase is very familiar.

So familiar that “in state schools” can be assumed, much as “end busing” was widely understood in the U.S. as not suggesting that all buses should be put out of commission.

You would hardly word a petition that didn’t mention schools in the hope that people would assume that it did.

You would if that’s a common and obvious assumption.

You’ve got twenty or so words to make your point, so why omit the word that counts?

The word that counts is “indoctrination”, which in the context of the U. K. debate is understood to mean government indoctrination. In the U.S. that would not be understood, since we don’t have a government policy of religious indoctrination to end.

It’s really quite foolish to make the utterly implausible assertion that this petition was intended to call for laws against parents saying certain things to their children, a position with virtually no support.

Comment #153219

Posted by Torbjörn Larsson on January 4, 2007 2:33 AM (e)

RB wrote:

Like a scientist of Dawkins’ caliber is suddenly in need of “charity?”

I think he refers to the principle that IIRC Dennett discuss, that one should read an argument in the most charitable way when in doubt. That way one avoids straw men as much as possible.

RB wrote:

Reading a petition, and thinking about it, before signing it, is “out of his depth?”

For example, reading Dawkins charitably, he is referring to the whole affair, since he includes Brayton’s reading before that declaration.

RB wrote:

Twit of the Year

:-) Brayton would prefer the latest “Robert O’Brien award” winner, though.

Comment #153220

Posted by Popper's ghost on January 4, 2007 2:47 AM (e)

If there IS anything non-corporeal, if the non-corporeal actually DOES anything

There is no coherent sense in which “non-corporeal” differs from “has no physical existence”, nor in which “the non-corporeal” can “do anything” to something corporeal (the interaction problem) – which is why Cartesian dualism is broadly considered by philosophers to be an untenable stance. Contra Clauser, there are no “rational” philosophical arguments for a non-corporeal creator – not if rationality entails validity.

Comment #153221

Posted by Popper's ghost on January 4, 2007 2:53 AM (e)

I think he refers to the principle that IIRC Dennett discuss

The Principle of Charity is often associated with Willard Quine, one of Dennett’s mentors.

One of Dawkins’s failings, a serious one for someone who holds the Charles Simonyi Chair for the Public Understanding of Science, is that he naively assumes that people aren’t ignorant louts.

Comment #153222

Posted by Torbjörn Larsson on January 4, 2007 2:56 AM (e)

PG wrote:

The anthropic argument is a rebuttal of the sharpshooter fallacy.

If you read further you see that I make a distinction between what I call the “religious argument” and the diverse anthropic principles that science discuss. As you point out, the tautological and weak anthropic principles are rebuttals when correctly applied, which you can see I cover later.

The religious argument is when the sharpshooter fallacy is applied on what you rightly call a cosmic lottery to infer design by finetuning. It was this carol choose to call “the anthropic argument”. If you have a better name, I would be eager to know it.

Comment #153224

Posted by Torbjörn Larsson on January 4, 2007 2:58 AM (e)

“It was this carol choose to call “the anthropic argument”” - It was this carol choose to call “the anthropic argument” and then refers to the whole subject when pointing out an introductory text.

Comment #153226

Posted by Torbjörn Larsson on January 4, 2007 3:03 AM (e)

PG wrote:

The Principle of Charity is often associated with Willard Quine, one of Dennett’s mentors.

Thank you for the link. I see that it is considered to prevent introducing fallacies more than erecting straw men.

PG wrote:

he naively assumes that people aren’t ignorant louts.

Yes, I often do that mistake myself. :-) I will try to amend that.

Comment #153227

Posted by Popper's ghost on January 4, 2007 3:11 AM (e)

It is as if you and I are looking at a green horse. I ask: How did this horse get to be green. Your solution - shhh, it is forbidden to ask questions about green horses!

Clouser is the most repeatedly transparently dishonest poster here.

My solution - some entity must be responsible for painting it green.

Clouser’s solution is to beg the question. And in this case to offer an idiotic example that undermines her own position. Among numerous other possibilities, the horse may be covered with algae, or may be a natural malachite formation that only resembles a horse.

Comment #153229

Posted by Popper's ghost on January 4, 2007 3:32 AM (e)

If you read further

Sorry, it’s a long thread and I indeed haven’t read it all. My “misrepresentation” charge was off base.

It was this carol choose to call “the anthropic argument”. If you have a better name, I would be eager to know it.

It’s a teleological argument, specifically a fine-tuned universe argument. The Wikipedia article says that it’s “built upon the anthropic principle” but that’s rather confused as, strictly speaking, the anthropic principle is the truism that the universe we exist in must be such that it’s possible for us to exist. The Antropic Principle article seems too heavily based on Tipler’s writing.

I see that it is considered to prevent introducing fallacies more than erecting straw men.

The Principle of Charity actually erects iron men; it advocates finding the best possible interpretation, which may even be better than the one that the author had in mind. This is in line with Quine’s dictum that one should seek to be right (know the truth) rather than to have been right (won a debate).

Comment #153233

Posted by Popper's ghost on January 4, 2007 3:44 AM (e)

Suppose all God does is show up and smite sinners? If you can’t dodge divine wrath, what’s the evolutionary benefit in seeing it coming?

Or suppose all God does is show up and smite those who have an ability to detect it.

Comment #153237

Posted by Popper's ghost on January 4, 2007 3:50 AM (e)

Well, for one thing, in thousands of years of recorded human history there is no record of anything ever appearing suddenly out of nowehere, for no apparent reason.

Is she really that stupid? Aside from the fact that it is utterly irrelevant, it isn’t even true in the slightest. There are numerous records of things appearing suddenly out of nowhere, for no apparent reason.

Comment #153241

Posted by Popper's ghost on January 4, 2007 4:08 AM (e)

We’re entitled to propose as many evidenceless solutions as we want, God included

“God” can only included if we’re entitled to propose “unknown cause” as the cause of something.

Comment #153242

Posted by Popper's ghost on January 4, 2007 4:20 AM (e)

Nobody ever accused Barrow, a prominent physicts, of engaging in pseudoscience.

This is such transparent question begging argument from authority that it seems likely that the Clouser knows that it isn’t true. See, e.g.,
http://skepdic.com/refuge/weird.html on Michael Shermer’s “Why People Believe Weird Things: Pseudoscience, Superstition, and Other Confusions of Our Time”:

Duane Gish and the creationists, Willis Carto and the Holocaust deniers, and physicists John Barrow and Frank Tipler–to name just a few of those Shermer takes on–are at least as intelligent as their opponents. When an intelligent person believes something for which there is little more than faith to support the belief, what else can you say except that the person believes simply because he or she wants to?

For example, Barrow and Tipler think they have a new and improved argument from design which uses only physics to prove God exists. And Tipler thinks he has proved the immortality and the resurrection by physics alone. Yet despite his enormous intellectual endeavors to prove Christianity by physics, Tipler comes off a bit disingenuous when he admits that the only thing really going for his theory at this point is its “theoretical beauty.” Since beauty is in the eye of the beholder, that is not saying much. In short, for all his brilliance, Tipler’s theory is an elaborate construction which can only be accepted on faith. Since there are probably only a handful of people who could even understand his argument, refuting it seems unlikely to be very rewarding, but Shermer gives it a go. The argument is very complicated and likely to produce more yawns than hurrahs.

Comment #153243

Posted by Torbjörn Larsson on January 4, 2007 4:20 AM (e)

PG wrote:

It’s a teleological argument, specifically a fine-tuned universe argument.

Thank you! I had the impression theologists had named each and every argument they use, but apparently here is an exception. This will definitely help when discussing with the clousers of the world.

PG wrote:

The Antropic Principle article seems too heavily based on Tipler’s writing.

I thought so too. IIRC older versions mentioned the TAP specifically. Here under WAP they conflate the TAP (yours and Merriam-Webster definition) because it is supposed to fit Barrow & Tipler categories. The TAP everyone can agree on. The WAP is possibly agreeable in a multiverse setting, but scientists want to see testable predictions.

On one hand it is good to cover the ground, on the other hand the article becomes heavily tilted away from main science applications. This is one instance where I wish they split the wiki article between science and religion as they do on other places.

Comment #153250

Posted by Popper's ghost on January 4, 2007 4:53 AM (e)

And your ice cube stuff is not an adequate response to the anthropic argument.

Actually, it’s a perfectly adequate response, and the Clouser’s dismissal is par for her dishonest and rather dense course.

The only way around the anthropic argument is to postulate the existence of an infinite number of diverse universes with most of them not evolving life forms.

That’s quite a remarkable display of denseness, even for the Clouser. First, Stevaroni’s analogy implicitly includes a large (though not infinite – why would that be necessary?) set of objects that aren’t perfectly suited to holding ice cubes, so it’s adequate even by her criterion. Second, according to Barrow and Tipler, “An ensemble of other different universes is necessary for the existence of our Universe.” Thus Barrow and Tipler sympathize with the many worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics. Third, uh, so what? Modal realism postulates that every possible world exists – that’s multiverses on steroids. But if one possible world exists, why shouldn’t they all? Modal realism actually equates existence with possibility. which puts our universe and all its features on a strictly logical basis. The only argument against modal realism is incredulity, which is no argument at all.

Comment #153256

Posted by Popper's ghost on January 4, 2007 5:25 AM (e)

I say let the young hear all the arguments, be motivated to think for themselves, then as they mature let them make their own independent judgements

For once, the Clouser makes sense. But then, she is saying almost exactly what Dawkins says. But Dawkins adds that children should not be identified as belonging to a specific creed – “Muslim child”, “Catholic child”, etc., as that obviously interferes with independent judgment.

Comment #153257

Posted by Popper's ghost on January 4, 2007 5:37 AM (e)

The thing that surprises me is that not all atheists have figured this out yet. They often seem to have this bizarre kind of wishful thinking, wherein they naively think that (a) governmental blocks on private religious instruction would actually work (in fact, they would backfire and push religious people towards fundamentalism and radicalism), and (b) that such power, if given to the government, would not be applied to atheists. The reality is that atheism would be first on the chopping block if the government ever got power to regulate private discussions about religion between parents and children.

What should be surprising, but no longer is, is your string of straw man attacks against atheists. “often”? Who other than certified loons like the Clouser hold such views?

Comment #153260

Posted by Popper's ghost on January 4, 2007 5:52 AM (e)

50 out of 50 US states do not allow shooting trespassers during the day, and 49 of 50 don’t allow it at night.

Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, South Dakota, Arizona, and Idaho, at least, now allow the use of deadly force, not only on your lawn, but also in public, against an attacker.

Comment #153282

Posted by Raging Bee on January 4, 2007 8:56 AM (e)

…one should read an argument in the most charitable way when in doubt.

If there is any room for doubt – i.e., if an argument is so poorly worded that the less-charitable interpretation(s) are at all plausible – then the person making or supporting that argument should be called on it. Which is exactly what we do in response to poorly worded arguments by theists (like Carol above). That’s the issue here – not what Dawkins actually meant to say, but how clumsy and lazy he was to either (a) support a petition that didn’t clearly express what he actually believed; or (b) take a position and then run away when questioned and blame others for misinterpreting the position he supported.

(Funny how this “charity” principle only gets mentioned when a prominent atheist gets in trouble for supporting a poorly-worded argument. Bit of a double standard, innit?)

It’s really quite foolish to make the utterly implausible assertion that this petition was intended to call for laws against parents saying certain things to their children, a position with virtually no support.

There’s nothing foolish about holding the authors and signers of a petition accountable for writing a piece of crap that can so easily be misunderstood. If the authors and signers of this rubbish REALLY cared about freedom of speech and religion, why didn’t they take care to ensure that the petition really reflected their priorities? If they didn’t mean to say or imply something, why did they say or imply it? If they only meant to attack a particular policy of a particular government, why did they not make their wording more specific? Both their competence and their motives are open to question here.

Comment #153284

Posted by Katarina on January 4, 2007 9:03 AM (e)

Pops, I worry about you. When do you sleep?

Comment #153285

Posted by Raging Bee on January 4, 2007 9:17 AM (e)

And another thing…

It’s really quite foolish to make the utterly implausible assertion that this petition was intended to call for laws against parents saying certain things to their children, a position with virtually no support.

Many of the more militant atheists here have expressed support for policies very close to this one. Whenever they equate “religious indoctrination” with “child abuse” (or, worse yet, with the sexual abuse of children by priests), they are laying the groundwork to justify such laws. Taking such extreme positions, and then running away and claiming that such positions have “virtually no support,” is yet another sign of the intellectual dishonesty and cowardice of at least some militant atheists.

Comment #153291

Posted by Raging Bee on January 4, 2007 9:30 AM (e)

So Dawkins is both a high caliber scientist and isn’t more intelligent than you?

Appealing to authority already? I thought only creationists were supposed to do that.

Being brilliant in one field has never prevented anyone from being an utter nincompoop in other fields. Which is why we should be a little less quick to believe what Dawkins says about religion.

Comment #153303

Posted by Carol Clouser on January 4, 2007 10:53 AM (e)

Torbjorn wrote:

“‘First cause’ (and its relative ‘origin’) is folk psychology and philosophical concepts without any operational definition. There is no ‘first cause’ in physics. Indeed, causality itself is a derived and not fundamental property of spacetime. Physics concerns itself with patterns (“laws”) and boundary conditions (“initial conditions”). So the proper questions to ask in science is: “why these laws and initial conditions”. These questions are as described above discussed in theoretical physics and cosmology….”

Attaching a derogatory label such as “folk Psychology” to an idea constitutes no argument, it is just empty rhetoric. Nor does labeling any idea as “not scientific”, or decalaring that it “doesn’t exist in physics” or that “it is not proper in science” constitute an argument, even if correct (which you essentially are). Ideas must rise or fall on their own merit.

It is, after all quite possible that certain truisms are beyond the reach of the scientific method. Science is limited by its tools and methods, which constitute both its great strength and its potential weakness. To dispute this is entirely illogical. Your label of ideas as “philosophical” is actually a compliment, although you didn’t intend it as such.

Now, science is as you say concerned with patterns and conditions, in other words, cause and effect relationships. None of the theories at play in physics address the ultimate issue of the cause of it all, whatever the “all” includes. They all just jostle the effects to other causes. This is fine as far as it goes, it is all we expect from science.

It seems to me that raising this issue causes irritation among some scientists. Probably because those scientists see the cup as “half full”, are rightfully proud of all the great accomplishments of the past three centuries of scientific endeavor, develop a sense of hubris about what science can do, and feel helpless at not having much to offer pertaining to ultimate issues. These usually become your atheists.

On the other hand are scientists who see the cup as “half empty”, realize that we really have only “played with a few more pebbles at the sea shore (to parahrse Newton) while the great ocean of truth remain yet to be discovered”, develop a sense of humility about what science can achieve and humans can understand, and acknowledge the importance of confronting the ultimate issues. These usually become your theists or at least agnostics.

I can sympathise with both camps of scientists. What I will having to do with is the silly discourse of the likes of popper’s ghost whose shrillness only highlights the vacuity of the nonsense he/she spouts.

Comment #153313

Posted by Katarina on January 4, 2007 11:47 AM (e)

Carol, you coward. It is obvious you haven’t even considered the substance of PG’s comments, or the references he provided.

Comment #153319

Posted by Popper's ghost on January 4, 2007 1:25 PM (e)

So Dawkins is both a high caliber scientist and isn’t more intelligent than you?

Appealing to authority already? I thought only creationists were supposed to do that.

There’s no appeal to authority there, moron.

Being brilliant in one field has never prevented anyone from being an utter nincompoop in other fields.

The issue isn’t whether Dawkins is a nincompoop in one or more fields, it’s whether he’s more intelligent than a blithering idiot like you.

Comment #153320

Posted by Popper's ghost on January 4, 2007 1:27 PM (e)

Carol, you coward. It is obvious you haven’t even considered the substance of PG’s comments, or the references he provided.

Don’t be too hard on the Clouser; it really can’t help itself.

Comment #153321

Posted by Raging Bee on January 4, 2007 1:43 PM (e)

PG: first you respond to me (and apparently just about everyone else) with grade-school name-calling, completely ignoring all of the actual points I made about Dawkins’ behavior; then you stoop even lower by referring to Carol as an “it.” Way to dumb down the debate! If Dawkins knew you were doing this in support of him, would he be proud, or ashamed?

After a performance like that, you’re certainly in no position to question anyone else’s intelligence. Even Carol comes off sounding more intelligent, mature and honest than you. Next time Dembski sends Dawkins a thank-you note for making him look smart, perhaps he should CC you.

Comment #153322

Posted by Glen Davidson on January 4, 2007 2:07 PM (e)

A review of Dawkins’ book:

http://www.nybooks.com/articles/19775

Comment #153323

Posted by AC on January 4, 2007 2:07 PM (e)

Raging Bee wrote:

Many of the more militant atheists here have expressed support for policies very close to this one. Whenever they equate “religious indoctrination” with “child abuse” (or, worse yet, with the sexual abuse of children by priests), they are laying the groundwork to justify such laws. Taking such extreme positions, and then running away and claiming that such positions have “virtually no support,” is yet another sign of the intellectual dishonesty and cowardice of at least some militant atheists.

As Dawkins has rightly stated, religious indoctrination is a psychological form of child abuse. Now, consider the following two actions that could be taken by people who agree with that statement:

1) Personally kidnap, or work politically to allow Child Protective Services agents to take custody of, children whose home environments qualify as “religious indoctrination”.

2) Speak out against private religious indoctrination, and work politically to prevent (or end) religious indoctrination in public (government funded and operated) schools.

Without even having to consider cultural differences between the US and UK, which of these do you think is a more charitable reading? I know being defensive to the point of paranoia can be fun, but I’d hope desire for accuracy carries some weight.

Comment #153324

Posted by Popper's ghost on January 4, 2007 2:26 PM (e)

completely ignoring all of the actual points I made about Dawkins’ behavior

Your so-called points are entirely a product of your well known blind hatred of Dawkins; they have no reliable content.

Comment #153325

Posted by Popper's ghost on January 4, 2007 2:29 PM (e)

Without even having to consider cultural differences between the US and UK, which of these do you think is a more charitable reading? I know being defensive to the point of paranoia can be fun, but I’d hope desire for accuracy carries some weight.

It depends upon what one’s agenda is; in RB’s case, accuracy does not serve.

Comment #153326

Posted by Popper's ghost on January 4, 2007 2:33 PM (e)

After a performance like that, you’re certainly in no position to question anyone else’s intelligence.

More to the point, after calling Dawkins a twit, you’re certainly in no position … oh, never mind, you blithering idiot.

Comment #153329

Posted by Raging Bee on January 4, 2007 2:43 PM (e)

AC: obviously option 2 is the best response. But once you equate “religious indoctrination” with “child abuse,” as many atheists have been doing here, loudly and shrilly, option 1 becomes very plausible (that’s the standard response to actions we call “child abuse”); so you really can’t complain when others express doubts about your intentions.

But here’s where things get a little complicated: once you speak out against “private religious indoctrination,” you would be asked what actions, specifically, are bad and should be stopped, and why they’re bad; so you might as well dump the vague generalizations about “indoctrination” now, and start talking about specific “abusive” or harmful actions – you’ll have to go there sometime anyway, if you want to be taken seriously.

I know making sweeping generalizations can be easy and fun, but I’d hope desire for accuracy carries some weight.

Comment #153330

Posted by Steviepinhead on January 4, 2007 2:55 PM (e)

Torbjorn:

…the clousers of the world.

Thanks, Torbjorn!
I don’t know why your nominalization of the proper name tickled my funnybone, but it did.
She really does deserve to found a category: sincere, articulate, intelligent, polite, opaque, obtuse, afflicted with an enormous blind-spot.
Not quite a “concern troll”: her inimitable clouserosity is simply clouseresque to the degree of clousericulousness, if not clouseromity.

Comment #153332

Posted by Carol Clouser on January 4, 2007 4:02 PM (e)

Pinhead wrote:

“She really does deserve to found a category: sincere, articulate, intelligent, polite, opaque, obtuse, afflicted with an enormous blind-spot.
Not quite a “concern troll”: her inimitable clouserosity is simply clouseresque to the degree of clousericulousness, if not clouseromity.”

Hope your having fun.

You forgot to add to the list of my many attributes “and correct”.

How are those gerbils doing in the Mideast? Catch any lately?

Comment #153333

Posted by Sir_Toejam on January 4, 2007 4:04 PM (e)

How are those gerbils doing in the Mideast? Catch any lately?

How are those zebras faring against those evil, nasty hyenas?

Save any lately?

Comment #153334

Posted by Sir_Toejam on January 4, 2007 4:12 PM (e)

Being brilliant in one field has never prevented anyone from being an utter nincompoop in other fields. Which is why we should be a little less quick to believe what Dawkins says about religion.

we would take your judgements on Dawkins’ expertise more seriously, if you were any of the following:

an expert on human psychology and sociology
an expert on theology

or even knew wtf you were talking about when you speak of what Dawkins does and does not think.

but you ain’t any of these things.

so, in the immortal words of bygone lenny:

uh, why on earth should we care what you think about Dawkins again?

ya know, you should start your own Dawkins’ haters blog. I bet you would get a lot of readers and sell lots of ad space. You could even write a book. Heck, Coulter did it based on the same level of information about the subjects she expounded on and made a mint; I bet you could too.

Comment #153335

Posted by Katarina on January 4, 2007 4:21 PM (e)

Or have ever read a book by Dawkins.

Gotten around to that yet, Bee?

Comment #153342

Posted by Steviepinhead on January 4, 2007 5:53 PM (e)

Hi, Carol and Happy New Year!

I rather expect the Iraqui gerbils would appreciate a cessation to the conflict currently occurring in their habitat.

Not speaking Gerbil, however, that’s more of a reasoned supposition than a certainty. Needless to say, if your gerbils are being more communicative, let us know!

And I guess that’ll bee the last time that I second anyone’s nomination to nominalization! If the nominee’s going to start raging about it, and making me wish I’d jammed my toe instead. I mean, tobjorn it and dawkins-gone it anyway, this is not to be borne! No more poppering off, trying to convey a ghost of humor! I might as well heave myself ashore and katarina my hull-strakes, or something…!

Sheesh!

Comment #153346

Posted by Sir_Toejam on January 4, 2007 6:18 PM (e)

And I guess that’ll bee the last time that I second anyone’s nomination to nominalization! If the nominee’s going to start raging about it, and making me wish I’d jammed my toe instead. I mean, tobjorn it and dawkins-gone it anyway, this is not to be borne! No more poppering off, trying to convey a ghost of humor! I might as well heave myself ashore and katarina my hull-strakes, or something…!

my but that was a tangled bank of a post there, stevie.

any chance you could piratize that for us?

oop, sorry:

Ahoy, could ye please translate that t’ shipmate speak fer me?

Comment #153348

Posted by Steviepinhead on January 4, 2007 6:37 PM (e)

Arrhh! I’m plumb sorry, matey, but a well-set-up feller-me-lad with tentacles all hung about his face with care done strolled off with me salty-to-lubberly translatin’ thingamajiggy whilst I was a wee mite under t’influence of t’grog.

And all like that.

Comment #153350

Posted by Raging Bee on January 4, 2007 6:46 PM (e)

Or have ever read a book by Dawkins. Gotten around to that yet, Bee?

Of all the people who have trashed and ridiculed Behe, Luskin, Dembski, and the rest of that lot, how many have read their books? Have you gotten around to them, Katarina?

or even knew wtf you were talking about when you speak of what Dawkins does and does not think.

So what, exactly, have I got wrong on that subject? Plenty of people here have called me ignorant, but none, so far, have cited any writings of Dawkins that actually contradict what I currently understand of him. Every quote they cite, and every explanation or justification they’ve offered, merely repeats or rewords those opinions of Dawkins’ that I originally found uninformed, dishonest, and/or bigoted. If there’s anything in his books about religion that prove me wrong, you have yet to quote it.

You’ve also failed to explain why so many avowed atheists are explicitly distancing themselves from Dawkins for the very same reasons as mine.

Comment #153351

Posted by Sir_Toejam on January 4, 2007 6:47 PM (e)

oh me! that’s terrible.

here, matey, borrow mine:

http://www.syddware.com/cgi-bin/pirate.pl

Comment #153352

Posted by Sir_Toejam on January 4, 2007 6:52 PM (e)

have cited any writings of Dawkins that actually contradict what I currently understand of him

uh, you mean like the very letter posted at the top of this thread?

or better yet, how would you know if you never read any of his books either?

really, you and your fascination with a strawman of Dawkins does not become you in the slightest. You’d have been far better off abandoning it to irrational dislike ages ago, and move on.

I respect quite a bit of your banter on other issues, but on this one, you are “not even wrong”.

Comment #153354

Posted by Raging Bee on January 4, 2007 7:05 PM (e)

Glen: thanks fo rthe review of Dawkins’ book. Seems I’m not the only one who thinks Dawkins is clueless about religion and twisting logic to drive it to his preordained conclusions. This paragraph I found among the most telling:

The result is The God Delusion, a book that never squarely faces its opponents. You will find no serious examination of Christian or Jewish theology in Dawkins’s book (does he know Augustine rejected biblical literalism in the early fifth century?), no attempt to follow philosophical debates about the nature of religious propositions (are they like ordinary claims about everyday matters?), no effort to appreciate the complex history of interaction between the Church and science (does he know the Church had an important part in the rise of non-Aristotelian science?), and no attempt to understand even the simplest of religious attitudes (does Dawkins really believe, as he says, that Christians should be thrilled to learn they’re terminally ill?).

Oh, and this one:

Exercises in double standards also plague Dawkins’s discussion of the idea that religion encourages good behavior. Dawkins cites a litany of statistics revealing that red states (with many conservative Christians) suffer higher rates of crime, including murder, burglary, and theft, than do blue states. But now consider his response to the suggestion that the atheist Stalin and his comrades committed crimes of breathtaking magnitude: “We are not in the business,” he says, “of counting evils heads, compiling two rival roll calls of iniquity.” We’re not? We were forty-five pages ago.

Any comment, PG?

Comment #153373

Posted by Sir_Toejam on January 4, 2007 9:28 PM (e)

Glen: thanks fo rthe review of Dawkins’ book. Seems I’m not the only one who thinks Dawkins is clueless about religion and twisting logic to drive it to his preordained conclusions. This paragraph I found among the most telling:

cluelessness runs in packs, or hadn’t you noticed?

Comment #153374

Posted by Sir_Toejam on January 4, 2007 9:30 PM (e)

..oh and since you now assume that the best way to read a book is through quote mines, you place yourself squarely in the same camp as those who argue for creationism using the same quote mining technique.

good job.

shall we start calling you Sal’s little brother now?

Comment #153377

Posted by Anton Mates on January 4, 2007 10:31 PM (e)

Carol Clouser wrote:

I, for one, am significantly less annoyed at not being able to get a handle on the motives and methods of an entity totally beyond my experience and comprehension, than I am at being unable to fathom why and how come the universe exists with the particular conditions, constants and characteristics that it has.

You’re still unable to fathom the latter (as am I), you’ve just stopped worrying about it. Which is your prerogative, of course, but most scientists feel differently.

You could have gone a step further and asked, “How come the entity exists?” But, aghain, considering that the entity is non-corporeal, that is less of a dilemma than how come the universe has, this or the other parameter.

It is? Is there some good reason for non-corporeal entities to exist which doesn’t apply to corporeal ones? Or by “less of a dilemma,” do you again mean “doesn’t personally bother me as much because I like the idea of God?”

All the theories now in play and those yet to be conceived, are a compatible with the first cause, since physical theiries provide mechanisms for how, not reasons for why. Therefore, I am not precluding any theory, but you are. You preclude the first cause. Now, what do you have against that?

There’s nothing wrong with proposing a first cause. It’s asserting the existence of a first cause, ruling out the possibilities of an infinite regress of causes or no cause at all, which I object to.

That, and arbitrarily deciding that said first cause must be a “designer entity,” as opposed to a law of nature or a previous and uncaused universe or whatever else it could be.

And none of the multiversal theories are incompatible with a first cause anyway; you’re confusing the cosmological and teleological arguments for God.

You are proposing that aspects of a hypothesis be considered supported by evidence that tends to support other aspects of the hypothesis that the hypothesis claims are related to each other.

I’m not proposing that; it’s simply how science works. Experimentation would be useless if you couldn’t support a general hypothesis by finding support for various of its “aspects.” There’s always some aspect you can’t directly test on; what if conservation of energy was invalid in Antarctica for a three-day period four thousand years ago?

I didn’t mean it as a serious argument but, come on, maybe not a universe but could not at least a little pebble have appeared somewhere out of nothing?

Oh, that happens all the time. Virtual particles, for instance. Not-so-coincidentally, some of the multiversal theories involve universes spontaneously appearing and disappearing via the same or a similar mechanism as virtual particles do.

Comment #153378

Posted by Anton Mates on January 4, 2007 10:34 PM (e)

Popper's ghost wrote:

Or suppose all God does is show up and smite those who have an ability to detect it.

Jewish theology in a nutshell.

Comment #153379

Posted by Anton Mates on January 4, 2007 10:35 PM (e)

Raging Bee wrote:

(Funny how this “charity” principle only gets mentioned when a prominent atheist gets in trouble for supporting a poorly-worded argument. Bit of a double standard, innit?)

That’s because the principle is automatically assumed when believers get in trouble for doing the same. For which every Christian, who says “I believe in the Bible” but doesn’t believe in stoning gays and disobedient children, should be grateful.

AC: obviously option 2 is the best response. But once you equate “religious indoctrination” with “child abuse,” as many atheists have been doing here, loudly and shrilly, option 1 becomes very plausible (that’s the standard response to actions we call “child abuse”); so you really can’t complain when others express doubts about your intentions.

There are plenty of abusive actions that shouldn’t be addressed simply by outlawing them. As Dawkins said above, “I don’t want a legal ban on the use of words like nigger and yid. I want people to feel ashamed of using them.”

But here’s where things get a little complicated: once you speak out against “private religious indoctrination,” you would be asked what actions, specifically, are bad and should be stopped, and why they’re bad; so you might as well dump the vague generalizations about “indoctrination” now, and start talking about specific “abusive” or harmful actions – you’ll have to go there sometime anyway, if you want to be taken seriously.

Dawkins has been quite specific–labeling children as belonging to ideologies they don’t even understand, much less accept; and teaching them emotionally-scarring beliefs such as the damnation of unbelievers.

Raging Bee quoted someone else who wrote:

(does Dawkins really believe, as he says, that Christians should be thrilled to learn they’re terminally ill?)

Certainly. Dawkins doesn’t believe that Christians do believe that, but that they logically ought to given their belief in an afterlife.

For that matter, the popularity of stories about joyful martyrs and dying people anticipating heavenly bliss indicates that most Christians think they ought to believe it as well.

Comment #153389

Posted by Raging Bee on January 5, 2007 12:23 AM (e)

Dawkins doesn’t believe that Christians do believe that, but that they logically ought to given their belief in an afterlife.

According to whose “logic?” Based on what premises? If a Christian actually enjoys the earthly life his God gave him, and the people he has in it, and if he believes his God put him on the Earth for a purpose, then he won’t necessarily want it to end, nor would he want his relatives to be hurt by his departure.

For that matter, the popularity of stories about joyful martyrs and dying people anticipating heavenly bliss indicates that most Christians think they ought to believe it as well.

Oh really? Well, actually LISTENING to REAL LIVE CHRISTIANS indicates that they DON’T think that way, whatever you think they “ought” to believe. The only people whom I’ve heard to welcome the afterlife are the old, sick people whose lives are already mostly over and for whom death is merely the inevitable end of sickness and pain.

Your logic leads to a conclusion contrary to observable reality, therefore it is faulty. This just goes to show where listening to Dawkins will get you.

Comment #153392

Posted by Raging Bee on January 5, 2007 12:38 AM (e)

STJ: First you trash me for not reading Dawkins’ book; then you trash me for getting information from to someone who actually HAS read the book, and can discuss it intelligently. You’re really running out of excuses, aren’t you?

Face the facts, Skippy – you picked the wrong guy to lead you, he led you to a dead end, and now you’re left holding the bag and looking like a fool. It’s time you stopped making excuses and started learning from mistakes. Putting it off only makes you look sadder every day.

Comment #153397

Posted by Sir_Toejam on January 5, 2007 1:20 AM (e)

STJ: First you trash me for not reading Dawkins’ book; then you trash me for getting information from to someone who actually HAS read the book, and can discuss it intelligently. You’re really running out of excuses, aren’t you?

*sigh*

one, you’re the one who keeps making excuses for why you’ve never bothered to read the books yourself.

two, how do you know the person whose information you infer is correct based on the quote mines you used actually IS?

three, the question was addressed to you that you haven’t a clue what dawkins thinks, based on the nature of your posts, and you were given DIRECT WORDS FROM DAWKINS CLARIFYING HIS POSITION in this very thread, and chose to think he didn’t mean what he said.

you are totally and completely hopeless.

I’d say give up while you were behind, but that only would have been appropriate during the first set of your ignorant tirades and strawman building.

*shrug*

Comment #153399

Posted by Sir_Toejam on January 5, 2007 1:22 AM (e)

you picked the wrong guy to lead you

ah, you’re just insane, I see.

I’ll take that into account whenever I see your posts from now on.

Comment #153400

Posted by Sir_Toejam on January 5, 2007 1:24 AM (e)

This just goes to show where listening to Dawkins will get you.

no, this just goes to show how your cognitive dissonance has utterly destroyed your capacity to reason, and instead have come to prefer erecting strawmen to blow down for yourself.

hope you enjoy that, because the more you do it, the less you will be able not to.

Comment #153401

Posted by Raging Bee on January 5, 2007 2:09 AM (e)

two, how do you know the person whose information you infer is correct based on the quote mines you used actually IS?

Two reasons:

1) What he says about Dawkins’ opinions/assertions is pretty close to what Dawkins’ fans here have said about them.

2) If he got his facts wrong, you’d be pointing that out to us, in detail, rather than insulting me.

Comment #153406

Posted by Renier on January 5, 2007 3:47 AM (e)

STJ wrote to RB :

“three, the question was addressed to you that you haven’t a clue what Dawkins thinks, based on the nature of your posts, and you were given DIRECT WORDS FROM DAWKINS CLARIFYING HIS POSITION in this very thread, and chose to think he didn’t mean what he said.”

STJ has a very valid point here RB. Dawkins does clarify his position. It seems everybody gets it, except you and the usual crowd at UD.

So what exactly is your problem with Dawkins’s above reply to Nick? Sort of useless when people don’t bother to try and understand the clarification and instead goes on raging about Strawkins? In fact, I get the distinct feeling your own personal vendetta against your own erected straw man is getting the better of you.

RB wrote to STJ:

2) If he got his facts wrong, you’d be pointing that out to us, in detail, rather than insulting me.

What facts are we talking about here? STJ did point out the facts (regarding this topic, this thread) to you. Dawkins explains why his signature on the petition was a bad idea due to the petition’s wording, in hindsight. He also explains and clarifies his motive (the part I think you missed). Once again, what is you issue, apart from your hatred that we all know about by this time, since you never cease to rage about it? If you have issues with Dawkins’s reply to Nick, other than your own personal issues, then let’s hear them, by all means! If not, stop making all that noise.

Comment #153408

Posted by Katarina on January 5, 2007 4:20 AM (e)

Raging Bee:

Of all the people who have trashed and ridiculed Behe, Luskin, Dembski, and the rest of that lot, how many have read their books? Have you gotten around to them, Katarina?

My mother in law and I exchange books and articles, it has been a long-standing debate between us. Like Carol Clouser, she is an intelligent, well-read, polite and sincere person with a huge blind spot when it comes to creationism/intelligent design. So yes, unfortunately, I have read Dembski’s Design Inference, Behe’s Black Box, some articles here and there, and some scientific-looking creationist journals. Not as much as I should, I’m sure. I have even exchanged a few e-mails with Behe, who BTW is a very nice man.

Looking at the review of Dawkins’ book you cite, obviously H. Allen Orr is entitled to his own opinion, but not everyone has to agree with it.

H. Allen Orr in is review:

The most disappointing feature of The God Delusion is Dawkins’s failure to engage religious thought in any serious way. This is, obviously, an odd thing to say about a book-length investigation into God. But the problem reflects Dawkins’s cavalier attitude about the quality of religious thinking. Dawkins tends to dismiss simple expressions of belief as base superstition. Having no patience with the faith of fundamentalists, he also tends to dismiss more sophisticated expressions of belief as sophistry (he cannot, for instance, tolerate the meticulous reasoning of theologians). But if simple religion is barbaric (and thus unworthy of serious thought) and sophisticated religion is logic-chopping (and thus equally unworthy of serious thought), the ineluctable conclusion is that all religion is unworthy of serious thought.

Having been religious in the past myself (though perhaps not as sincere, or as theologically sophisticated as some), I don’t see merit in faulting Dawkins for failing “to engage religious thought in any serious way.” I think Dawkins wanted to make his book accessible to a wide audience, so it makes sense that he didn’t bring up a lot of tiresome apologetics.

Dawkins makes the excellent point in his book that the moderates set the stage for tolerance of extremists. More sophisticated theological arguments are based on the same shaky premises as the more simple and straightforward ones: There is a man in the sky, and he is the only god, but there are two of him, and actually there is a third part, but don’t think about it too much, oh and while you can pray to all three, only the specific belief that one of them was human and divine, played with the laws of physics, and wants you to drink his blood, will allow you to live forever.

Nuff said.

Comment #153414

Posted by Torbjörn Larsson on January 5, 2007 5:03 AM (e)

RB wrote:

If there is any room for doubt - i.e., if an argument is so poorly worded that the less-charitable interpretation(s) are at all plausible - then the person making or supporting that argument should be called on it.

That is exactly what the principle of charity is against. If there was no interpretation problem, the principle would not be needed.

In this case, several commenters have pointed out that Brayton should also had known, or had easily found out, that Dawkins position was different from the full petition text (when interpreted less-charitable).

Comment #153419

Posted by Torbjörn Larsson on January 5, 2007 5:26 AM (e)

RB wrote:

If they only meant to attack a particular policy of a particular government, why did they not make their wording more specific?

The situation is very different. This is covered in commentaries at Brayton site IIRC.

RB wrote:

Whenever they equate “religious indoctrination” with “child abuse” (or, worse yet, with the sexual abuse of children by priests), they are laying the groundwork to justify such laws.

So you are protesting an interpretation of a petition text that is against free speech, while suggesting that free speech is bad.

Comment #153422

Posted by Torbjörn Larsson on January 5, 2007 5:56 AM (e)

CC wrote:

it is just empty rhetoric.

No. Folk psychology is a description of common assumptions. “Folk psychology (sometimes called naïve psychology or common sense psychology) is the set of background assumptions, socially-conditioned prejudices and convictions that are implicit in our everyday descriptions of others’ behavior and in our ascriptions of their mental states.” ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Folk_psychology )

But the argument was that they are without any operational definition. That is that makes them outside science. You either did not understand this, or avoided it.

CC wrote:

in other words, cause and effect relationships.

Again you either did not understand the problem, or avoided it. Causality in spacetime is a derived principle, not a fundamental description. Therefore “cause and effect” is an insufficient description.

So your idea of a “cause of it all” makes no sense in physics. You acknowledges this in a way by erroneously stating that science “jostle the effects to other causes”, but you don’t understand what your infinite regress means. Again, since we should discuss patterns, “other causes” makes no real sense.

What makes sense is to ask “which patterns and which initial conditions”.

CC wrote:

It seems to me that raising this issue causes irritation among some scientists.

Essentially all scientists. That issue totally misunderstands what is involved in a description of observed reality.

CC wrote:

both camps of scientists.

You have made a non-existent division. All scientists acknowledge that there is facts to be discovered. There is nothing that says that the discoveries will ever stop.

But there is also nothing that says that we can’t answer the question above, “which patterns and which initial conditions”. In fact, in light of already existing models that may explain this it seems much more likely than that we will run out of possible patterns to research.

Comment #153424

Posted by Torbjörn Larsson on January 5, 2007 6:06 AM (e)

Stevepinhead wrote:

tickled my funnybone

Glad to give some back of what you so generously hand out. Which gift BTW was immediately returned with interest!

Comment #153426

Posted by Torbjörn Larsson on January 5, 2007 6:24 AM (e)

RB wrote:

This paragraph I found among the most telling:
The result is The God Delusion, a book that never squarely faces its opponents.

That is a very common complaint on the book by those who doesn’t like Dawkins. It is also wrong, it is the Courtiers reply. When Dawkins tries to point out the that the king lacks clothes, the courtiers reply that he doesn’t appreciate the fine points of embroidery.

“I would make a few points in reply. The first is that one of the main purposes of TGD is to show that theology has no content. That is, Dawkins has shown the epistemological equivalence of fairyology and theology.

The second point is that most of that body of literature classified as theology and the philosophy of religion is totally irrelevant to anything Dawkins was addressing in the book….
Criticizing Dawkins for not having undergone a rigorous training regimen in theology is not a response to his arguments, it is a way to avoid having to address them.” ( http://scienceblogs.com/evolutionblog/2006/12/co… )

Comment #153431

Posted by Katarina on January 5, 2007 7:06 AM (e)

Torbjörn - thanks, good link. Heated comments section (just the way I like ‘em).

Comment #153452

Posted by Raging Bee on January 5, 2007 10:03 AM (e)

Dawkins makes the excellent point in his book that the moderates set the stage for tolerance of extremists.

What about the moderates who use quotes from the Bible (or other holy text) to debunk the extremists? News flash: it happens all the time.

What about the moderate-Christian plaintiffs in the Dover trial? What about the official church doctrines (Catholic, Lutheran and others) that explicitly reject both creationism and literalism? How, exactly, are they “setting the stage for tolerance of extremists?”

What about the Christian abolitionists of the nineteenth century, or the Christian civil-rights activists of the twentieth? How, exactly, are they “setting the stage for tolerance of extremists?”

Dawkins’ point here is based, not on the actual deeds of the moderates, but merely on their existence as religious moderates. It’s guilt-by-association, a standard tool of bigots.

How would you feel if I accused moderate atheists of “setting the stage for tolerance of Stalinists?” Christian bigots do this all the time, and we rightly reject it as the work of mindless bigots.

Comment #153453

Posted by Anton Mates on January 5, 2007 10:06 AM (e)

Raging Bee wrote:

If a Christian actually enjoys the earthly life his God gave him, and the people he has in it, and if he believes his God put him on the Earth for a purpose, then he won’t necessarily want it to end, nor would he want his relatives to be hurt by his departure.

If a Christian believes his God put him on the Earth for a purpose, he generally also believes his God will remove him from that Earth for a purpose. And while a temporary separation from his living relatives is cause for regret, the prospect of being reunited with all his dead loved ones–in the direct presence of his God–in a state of perfect, eternal bliss–should be a net positive, don’t you think? That’s certainly what Christians say.

I mean, you’re familiar with the Lady Hope story. When she tried to represent Darwin as a proper Christian on his deathbed, how did she do it? She said he told her he “would like to speak to them of Christ Jesus and His salvation, being in a state where he was eagerly savouring the heavenly anticipation of bliss.””

For that matter, the popularity of stories about joyful martyrs and dying people anticipating heavenly bliss indicates that most Christians think they ought to believe it as well.

Oh really? Well, actually LISTENING to REAL LIVE CHRISTIANS indicates that they DON’T think that way, whatever you think they “ought” to believe. The only people whom I’ve heard to welcome the afterlife are the old, sick people whose lives are already mostly over and for whom death is merely the inevitable end of sickness and pain.

Congratulations! You’re almost to Dawkins’ point. Most real live Christians do not think the way their professed belief system would imply. Therefore, says Dawkins, it seems that most Christians don’t actually believe in the idea of Heaven. In fact, the Christians who do truly believe in it, and therefore rationally conclude that almost nothing is more important than getting themselves and as many other people as possible into Paradise, are generally the ones judged to be extremists if not outright insane by the rest of society.

Dawkins is hardly alone in this observation. Recall Bertrand Russell:

“The doctrine, professed by many modern Christians, that everybody will go to heaven, ought to do away with the fear of death, but in fact this fear is too instinctive to be easily vanquished. F. W. H. Myers, whom spiritualism had converted to belief in a future life, questioned a woman who had lately lost her daughter as to what she supposed had become of her soul. The mother replied: “Oh, well, I suppose she is enjoying eternal bliss, but I wish you wouldn’t talk about such unpleasant subjects.” In spite of all that theology can do, heaven remains, to most people, an “unpleasant subject.””

Comment #153454

Posted by Raging Bee on January 5, 2007 10:09 AM (e)

Torbjorn wrote:

So you are protesting an interpretation of a petition text that is against free speech, while suggesting that free speech is bad.

Where do I “suggest” that free speech is “bad?”

You’re really grasping at straws here…

Comment #153456

Posted by Raging Bee on January 5, 2007 10:33 AM (e)

Most real live Christians do not think the way their professed belief system would imply.

Just because you, or Dawkins, assert that a belief system “implies” something, does not mean the belief system “implies” the same thing to the believers. Has Dawkins asked the believers what it “implies” to them? This assumption about what a belief system “implies” is, at best, an extremely simplistic reading of other people’s beliefs; therefore, any conclusion based on this assumption is suspect.

Therefore, says Dawkins, it seems that most Christians don’t actually believe in the idea of Heaven.

Or their belief in Heaven is a bit more complex that Dawkins is willing to admit. The Christians I’ve talked to say that yes, eternal bliss awaits them after they die, but in the meantime, life on this plane is a gift from God that should be enjoyed, and learned from, not squandered or thrown away in pining for something better. (The Christians who have tried to convert me promise me both a blissful eternal afterlife and a happier life on this plane.)

…In spite of all that theology can do, heaven remains, to most people, an “unpleasant subject.”

No, the loss of a loved one remains an unpleasant subject. So might the actual manner of said loved one’s death (i.e., a grisly and/or pointless murder). It’s quite possible to believe in Heaven and still miss a loved one, and feel pain at the evil or horribly unfair particular circumstances of the death. Is Russell really that obtuse about such an obvious matter?

Comment #153464

Posted by AC on January 5, 2007 11:16 AM (e)

Raging Bee wrote:

AC: obviously option 2 is the best response. But once you equate “religious indoctrination” with “child abuse,” as many atheists have been doing here, loudly and shrilly, option 1 becomes very plausible (that’s the standard response to actions we call “child abuse”); so you really can’t complain when others express doubts about your intentions.

I fail to see how equating religious indoctrination with child abuse, in itself, causes Option 1 to become plausible.* In fact, that was my point: Someone has to actually advocate Option 1, or implement/support it through their actions, before it can be considered a charitable interpretation of their intentions. That said, one might point out (and some have) that Dawkins’s signing of the petition in question is an action that betrays his support of Option 1. However, as I am not the first to point out, due to cultural differences between the US and UK, Dawkins assumed the language of the petition (“indoctrination”) only applied to the state education system. That was his intention, even if it was misunderstood by some.

I right well can complain when others express confused or unreasonable doubts about someone’s intentions, especially when the confusion arises from misunderstanding, or when it is fueled by irrational dislike for the person. Or, as I suspect in your case, both.

But here’s where things get a little complicated: once you speak out against “private religious indoctrination,” you would be asked what actions, specifically, are bad and should be stopped, and why they’re bad; so you might as well dump the vague generalizations about “indoctrination” now, and start talking about specific “abusive” or harmful actions – you’ll have to go there sometime anyway, if you want to be taken seriously.

No offense, but to me, “being taken seriously” is not worth writing you a bloody book. However, the concept is simple, so it is easy to think of examples. To wit, here is a list, by no means comprehensive:

1) Warping a child’s sexuality by equating normal sexual urges with sin. This includes homosexual urges (which are normal for homosexuals) as well as plain old heterosexual lust (and of course the old bogeyman, masturbation).

2) Attempting to convince a child that someone (especially a friend or family member, whom the child loves with childlike innocence) will burn in hell for eternity because of a religious difference, sin, etc.

3) Threatening a child with eternal damnation because of alleged sinful thoughts, statements, behavior, etc.

These and other psychological abuses can leave scars that continue to cripple even after the person consciously understands and rejects the basis for their infliction. I consider them to be particularly odious because children are a captive audience to their parents - both physically and mentally. To prey on that vulnerability is monstrous. I think it is the citizen’s responsibility to speak out against this behavior and the state’s responsibility to provide education that allows children to make up their own minds.

* I also fail to see how doing so “loudly and shrilly” should convince me, though I certainly understand why “many atheists” doing so thusly convinces you.

Comment #153465

Posted by Carol Clouser on January 5, 2007 11:17 AM (e)

Anton wrote:

“You’re still unable to fathom the latter (as am I), you’ve just stopped worrying about it. Which is your prerogative, of course, but most scientists feel differently.”

No. I am able to fathom the latter (why the universe is the way it is) by attributing them to the intentions and actions of the entity. Those intentions and methods, in turn, I cannot fathom. There is a real difference here.

Anton also wrote:

“It is? Is there some good reason for non-corporeal entities to exist which doesn’t apply to corporeal ones? Or by “less of a dilemma,” do you again mean “doesn’t personally bother me as much because I like the idea of God?”

In a corporeal entity we are confronted with a multitude of effects that go around begging for causes, effects that do not arise with a non-corporeal entity. In a corporeal entity we demand to know why and how come it has this particular size and is not somewhat smaller or larger? Why is its temperature what it is and not higher or lower? And its color? And its mass-energy? And its charge? And on and on?

Anton continued:

“Oh, that happens all the time. Virtual particles, for instance. Not-so-coincidentally, some of the multiversal theories involve universes spontaneously appearing and disappearing via the same or a similar mechanism as virtual particles do.”

Excuse me, here, but you are wrong. Virtual particles lead a virtual existance. Real particle production and anihilation always conserves mass-energy and momentum and other quantities, so nothing of significance appears or disappears. In the case of quantum fluctuations you could get a very fleeting and temporary violation of the conservation laws, including conservation of mass-energy, and this is where we invent the virual existance of so called virtual particles, but these are all based on the uncertainties quantum mechanics imposes on the original and final mass-energies and on the time elapsed. This is NOT a case of someTHING appearing from NOthing.

Way back in my doctoral student years I had occasion to work with the great physicist Edward Tryon, the proponent of the notion that the entire universe is merely a quantum fluctuation with the universe’s agregate mass-energy equal to zero. I and others extensively debated these budding ideas with him. Even if correct, it doesn’t resolve the key question of why the entire package (rules of QM, initial conditions, etc.) exists in the form that it does? This is where the first cause, an intellectual necessity, comes in.

Comment #153466

Posted by Raging Bee on January 5, 2007 11:32 AM (e)

AC: Now we’re getting somewhere. I totally agree with your list of what constitutes emotional abuse of children. And this is why I think it so important to keep our criticism of “religious indoctrination” specific: vague generalized criticisms only waste time and allow the perpetrators of real abuse to avoid answering for their specific actions.

Another thing: once you get into specifics, you’ll probably find that not all Christians support such abuses, and even the ones who disapprove of gays, wanking, etc., would not necessarily approve of threatening mere children with Hellfire over it.

Comment #153467

Posted by AC on January 5, 2007 11:35 AM (e)

Raging Bee wrote:

Or their belief in Heaven is a bit more complex that Dawkins is willing to admit. The Christians I’ve talked to say that yes, eternal bliss awaits them after they die, but in the meantime, life on this plane is a gift from God that should be enjoyed, and learned from, not squandered or thrown away in pining for something better. (The Christians who have tried to convert me promise me both a blissful eternal afterlife and a happier life on this plane.)

This is a fair criticism. Christians not committing suicide, etc. despite their idea of heaven is only inconsistent if they believe that their “earthly” life is worth sacrificing; they may not. Furthermore, they may believe that God specifically forbids them from sacrificing said life “just to get to heaven sooner”.

However, all these beliefs, despite their ornateness, are still highly irrational. That is the essence of the atheists’ complaints.

Comment #153481

Posted by Carol Clouser on January 5, 2007 1:15 PM (e)

Torbjorn wrote:

“No. Folk psychology is a description of common assumptions. “Folk psychology (sometimes called naïve psychology or common sense psychology) is the set of background assumptions, socially-conditioned prejudices and convictions that are implicit in our everyday descriptions of others’ behavior and in our ascriptions of their mental states….. But the argument was that they are without any operational definition. That is that makes them outside science. You either did not understand this, or avoided it.”

I know what “folk psychology” means, but thank you for the lesson anyway. But you seem to have missed the whole point, which was that labeling an idea as folk psychology does not constitute an argument against it. Nor does labeling an idea as “outside of science”. Is that so hard to understand?

Whether or not “first cause” has an “operational” definition depends on your standard for operational. It certainly has an unambiguous definition. If that alludes you, do let me know. I will see what I can do about that.

Comment #153484

Posted by Raging Bee on January 5, 2007 1:29 PM (e)

However, all these beliefs, despite their ornateness, are still highly irrational. That is the essence of the atheists’ complaints.

So what? Art, literature, music, film noir, tourism, sexual relationships, our choice of friends, etc., etc., are all, “despite their ornateness…still highly irrational” – more so, in fact, than many of the religious beliefs I’ve heard. I don’t hear any atheists complaining about them. If mere “irrationality” is the “essense” of the atheists’ complaints (it isn’t, really, but that’s another matter), then what’s the point?

Comment #153488

Posted by Carol Clouser on January 5, 2007 2:44 PM (e)

Anton wrote:

“Or suppose all God does is show up and smite those who have an ability to detect it.

“Jewish theology in a nutshell.”

You obviously know ZILCH about Jewish theology and yet have the temerity to comment on it!

Comment #153489

Posted by AC on January 5, 2007 3:03 PM (e)

Raging Bee wrote:

AC: Now we’re getting somewhere. I totally agree with your list of what constitutes emotional abuse of children. And this is why I think it so important to keep our criticism of “religious indoctrination” specific: vague generalized criticisms only waste time and allow the perpetrators of real abuse to avoid answering for their specific actions.

Fair enough. Short of charitable readings, immediately asking someone to clarify his position is preferable to arguing against an uncharitable reading in the meantime.

Another thing: once you get into specifics, you’ll probably find that not all Christians support such abuses, and even the ones who disapprove of gays, wanking, etc., would not necessarily approve of threatening mere children with Hellfire over it.

As a matter of fact, I’m certain that they don’t. But as long as the shared, religious disapproval of various things makes strange bedfellows of moderates and extremists, the extremists will continue to evade the harsh light they deserve to sweat under. I think those Christians who don’t support such abuses should be more vocal about their disapproval. Luke 6:42 and all that.

So what? Art, literature, music, film noir, tourism, sexual relationships, our choice of friends, etc., etc., are all, “despite their ornateness…still highly irrational” – more so, in fact, than many of the religious beliefs I’ve heard. I don’t hear any atheists complaining about them. If mere “irrationality” is the “essense” of the atheists’ complaints (it isn’t, really, but that’s another matter), then what’s the point?

Perhaps “irrational” doesn’t sufficiently convey the point. The problem is more specifically delusion - believing something relating to objective reality, despite a lack of evidence to support it, or even in spite of evidence against it, for subjective reasons. That is dangerous, and thus complaint-worthy. Things that are purely subjective (like artistic expression and personal preferences) are less so, if at all.

Comment #153491

Posted by Raging Bee on January 5, 2007 3:22 PM (e)

The problem is more specifically delusion - believing something relating to objective reality, despite a lack of evidence to support it, or even in spite of evidence against it, for subjective reasons.

These beliefs are not held “despite a lack of evidence to support it;” they’re held based on subjective evidence, which is not the same as lack of evidence. (The two are, of course, pretty much the same in the natural sciences, but this is religion and spirituality we’re talking about here, not science.) Ask a person to back up his/her religious belief, and chances are your answer will consist of feelings, life-experiences both good and bad, voices in the believer’s head, remarkable coincidences, and maybe some incredible hallucinations whose import can’t even be described in words. None of that may be real or relevant to you, but it’s quite relevant to the believer.

As for whether it’s “dangerous, and thus complaint-worthy,” that depends on the specific belief, and the specific actions motivated by said belief. If the voices in someone’s head tell him that creationism is a lie, or that his gay son is still a person deserving of love, or that he should listen to the Grateful Dead more, than I won’t call that person “dangerous.” (Pink Floyd? Different story.) Let’s identify and focus on specific dangers while we’re still young enough to fight them, shall we?

Comment #153492

Posted by Raging Bee on January 5, 2007 3:29 PM (e)

But as long as the shared, religious disapproval of various things makes strange bedfellows of moderates and extremists, the extremists will continue to evade the harsh light they deserve to sweat under.

Even when said harsh light is directed by disgusted moderates within their own churches? This does happen, you know. (Any response to the other examples I cited earlier?) Check out those gay-hating Anglican churches in Virginia: they’ve been isolated by a less-homophobic majority in their own country’s church, so now they’re having to look all the way to Nigeria for validation of their bigotry.

Comment #153494

Posted by Glen Davidson on January 5, 2007 3:36 PM (e)

However, all these beliefs, despite their ornateness, are still highly irrational. That is the essence of the atheists’ complaints.

So what? Art, literature, music, film noir, tourism, sexual relationships, our choice of friends, etc., etc., are all, “despite their ornateness…still highly irrational” – more so, in fact, than many of the religious beliefs I’ve heard. I don’t hear any atheists complaining about them.

I am not unknown to complain about such things, in fact, or anyway, a portion of them. Perhaps part of the problem is that most on both sides can’t really take religion as lightly as they do other choices.

Yet I think AC’s complaint of “irrationality” (I don’t think that “rationality” strictly construed is the main point, though in the vernacular sense that he (I think) used I’d agree) goes beyond the usual irrational choices made. Isn’t a lot of the atheist’s problem that religion is often an “irrational” rationalization of otherwise admittedly irrational feelings, emotions, and spiritual impulses?

But this leads to my complaint about Dawkins, at least whenever he is taken to be more than a polemicist. He seems to have a problem with humans, that they don’t conform to rational modes of thought like good computers and organisms are supposed to do (in his opinion). I recall an anecdote wherein John Maynard Keynes was carping about Bertrand Russell’s irrational approach to humanity. Keynes related his sense of how Russell held two sensibly incompatible beliefs in his mind, that humans were hopelessly irrational creatures who caused endless problems via their irrationality, but that there was a really good answer to such irrationalism, which is that humans should begin to think rationally (well, it was something like that). Indeed, isn’t there something a little bizarre about commending the “rational life” to humans who evolved (usually holding to beliefs in magic, superstition, and anthropocentric animistic notions) without any coherent rational approach to life?

I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: there’s a kind of Puritan proscriptive impulse behind Dawkins’ recommendations that humans simply give up their irrational views and thought processes. I repeat that I don’t mind the polemic, for it is about time that the fundies should have to confront a real militant atheist, rather than supposing that the merely secular are “out to get them”. However, his “analyses” of religion are deficient, his approach doesn’t speak to the complexity of the religious mind, and he lacks the psychological, sociological, and anthropological knowledge to deal with the religious psyche. Indeed, Dawkins doesn’t need that knowledge to deal with the epistemic matters involved with the “God question”, but anyone who thinks that those are the issues which concern the public’s endorsement or non-endorsement of religion really doesn’t understand the discourse surrounding religion.

Dawkins tells the atheist who doesn’t know or understand religion what he wants to hear. That’s just about it. He essentially doesn’t speak to anyone else. If that were truly the goal of his book, then I’d say “well done”. As Orr notes, though, he purports to be writing to persuade believers, which he is hardly able to do.

The art of atheistic persuasion appears to be nearly dead. There was a time when the likes of Nietzsche, Voltaire (yes, I know he wasn’t strictly an atheist), and Thomas Paine (again, not a true atheist) wrote to deal with how people really think, rather than trying to answer the rationalizations of the religious. Nietzsche did it best (partly because he was later, partly because he was something of a psychologist), though it takes some learning and philosophical sophistication to understand him well. Dawkins, and for that matter, Myers, simply argue against the essentially specious props that people have erected to defend their core irrationality, not affecting the real reasons people are religious at all.

If mere “irrationality” is the “essense” of the atheists’ complaints (it isn’t, really, but that’s another matter), then what’s the point?

But it isn’t mere irrationality that is the essence of the complaint, it is an organized irrationality that wants to be taken as reasonable that is the atheists’ indictment of religion. This is why I don’t really have much problem with RB’s irrationalism which calls itself irrationalism, while I have always had a problem with Clouser’s attempts to claim that we should recognize the rationalism of her religion. While I certainly recognize the earlier (reptilian, some call it) brain that underlies my own H. sapiens rationality, and do not deny its reality and propriety in others, I do not see how the rationalization of that aspect ought to be taken on a par with sound investigations of the world.

Now that we have a good militant atheist bothering the complacency and delusions about “atheists” that the sheltered religionists have held for so long, we definitely need some good atheist/secular writers who will actually deal with the irrationality of the religious mind, instead of merely denouncing them as Dawkins typically does. The problem with a recommendation such as that one is that middle-brow writing is out of fashion at this point, and probably never appealed to many even in its heyday. The advancements in philosophy, psychology, and anthropology lead us to disdain making the arguments that persuasive writers like Nietzsche made more than a century ago, for these are no longer terribly interesting (his atheistic arguments, that is) or rewarded in intellectual circles. So the lack of persuasive atheistic writing, or even good critiques of religion which fall short of being truly atheist, may very well continue.

Glen D
http://tinyurl.com/b8ykm

Comment #153496

Posted by Robert O'Brien on January 5, 2007 3:38 PM (e)

Katarina wrote:

Carol, you coward. It is obvious you haven’t even considered the substance of PG’s comments, or the references he provided.

My good Katarina:

That would require Pill Popper’s posts to be substantive.

Comment #153504

Posted by Raging Bee on January 5, 2007 4:04 PM (e)

Glen: thanks for a nice and sensible post. All I can add right now (gotta go meet someone) is that in criticizing “religion” in general, we should do our best to avoid tarring the innocent with the crimes of the most extreme and/or dishonest religious nuts and charlatans. If we can’t get a bead on who, exactly, is committing injustices, then we can’t fight injustice. See ya Monday…

Comment #153517

Posted by tomh on January 5, 2007 5:55 PM (e)

Raging Bee wrote:
Ask a person to back up his/her religious belief, and chances are your answer will consist of feelings, life-experiences both good and bad, voices in the believer’s head, remarkable coincidences, and maybe some incredible hallucinations whose import can’t even be described in words. None of that may be real or relevant to you, but it’s quite relevant to the believer.

In other words, a personal experience born of one’s imagination. That’s all this non-believer has ever claimed about religion. I, for one, have no problem with people believing in such a fashion and doubt that any logic or argument will change that person’s belief. Witness Robert O’Brien or Carol Clouser, for example. The problem, for me anyway, comes when these religionists, who claim these experiences, feel the need to force feed these very personal beliefs, hallucinations, whatever you want to call them, to captive audiences such as children, or students, or even prisoners.

I’ve seen it claimed that prohibiting them from doing so would violate free speech but free speech implies a freedom not to listen. Children and other captive audiences don’t have that choice so there is no free speech issue involved. The only issue, as far as children are concerned anyway, is that parents own their children and can fill their heads with anything they please, whether mysticism, white supremecy, or anything else that strikes their fancy. Such is the law of the land, until it is changed.

Comment #153534

Posted by Steviepinhead on January 5, 2007 8:28 PM (e)

Oh, Carol!

To Anton:
You obviously know ZILCH about Jewish theology and yet have the temerity to comment on it!

Carol, I know that repairs for all this high-tech gear can mount up most distressingly, but it really is time to redeem your humor-meter from the shop where it seems to have been languishing lo these many moons…

Comment #153542

Posted by Anton Mates on January 5, 2007 10:46 PM (e)

Raging Bee wrote:

What about the moderates who use quotes from the Bible (or other holy text) to debunk the extremists? News flash: it happens all the time.

Dawkins’ argument, so far as I’ve read, is not that moderates don’t do such things, but that it doesn’t work out very well; they shoot themselves in the foot by promoting the factual or moral legitimacy of the Bible, because in fact it says many things that are extreme. Moderates may have learned where to rein in their acceptance of the Scriptures in deference to modern sensibilities, but not everyone will, and those will be the next extremists.

My main objection to this is that most religious extremists don’t adhere exceptionally closely to their texts. The Christian fundamentalist may be reading Leviticus very carefully, but he’s not listening much to Jesus’ words about turning the other cheek. The Muslim fundamentalist may look to the Quran for exhortations to jihad, but the costume he demands for his wife and daughters is found neither in the Quran nor the hadith. OTOH, I suppose Dawkins would say that generally fundamentalists think their beliefs are all found literally in their sacred texts, whether or not they read them, and it’s that certainty which is dangerous.

It also seems to me that many of the most dangerous believers are converts, who actively sought out a particular belief system that matched their attitudes; whether or not there’s a general pro-faith attitude in society won’t affect them much, since they’re not interested in what most of society thinks.

Again, I haven’t read TGD, but elsewhere Dawkins doesn’t seem to have provided much evidence for his psychological take on this matter.

What about the official church doctrines (Catholic, Lutheran and others) that explicitly reject both creationism and literalism? How, exactly, are they “setting the stage for tolerance of extremists?”

Fairly easily answered in the case of official Catholic doctrine; it most certainly encourages extremism in other areas, such as reproductive rights. Which is not at all based on Biblical literalism, but is based somewhat on the principles of their faith.

What about the moderate-Christian plaintiffs in the Dover trial?

I don’t think that they encouraged extremism at all, but of course their Christianity didn’t come into play much in the trial.

What about the Christian abolitionists of the nineteenth century, or the Christian civil-rights activists of the twentieth? How, exactly, are they “setting the stage for tolerance of extremists?”

Civil rights is probably the area where Dawkins’ point is closest to validity, actually. Many people who worked in the civil rights movement, disappointingly, refuse to support the gay rights movement and bristle at any comparison of the two–mostly because of their strong religious feeling. (Although there are many other equally devout civil rights champions who do support gay rights.) See for instance “What would Martin Luther King do? and Gay rights/civil rights. I think it’s a reasonable hypothesis that, if the civil rights movement in the US had been associated with less religious rhetoric, it would have found the inclusion of gays less jarring.

The flip side, of course, is that if the civil rights movement had been associated with less religious rhetoric, it would have numbered fewer people and not accomplished as much as it did in the first place.

How would you feel if I accused moderate atheists of “setting the stage for tolerance of Stalinists?”

It would be a closer parallel if moderate atheists and Stalinists endorsed the same book as a valuable source of moral truths.

Comment #153544

Posted by Anton Mates on January 5, 2007 11:02 PM (e)

Raging Bee wrote:

Just because you, or Dawkins, assert that a belief system “implies” something, does not mean the belief system “implies” the same thing to the believers.

Of course. But a belief whose obvious implications are rejected isn’t actually believed.

Has Dawkins asked the believers what it “implies” to them?

I don’t know. But, as I said, there are any number of stories generated and endorsed by believers which recognize precisely that implication. It’s not like atheists came up with the idea on their behalf.

Or their belief in Heaven is a bit more complex that Dawkins is willing to admit. The Christians I’ve talked to say that yes, eternal bliss awaits them after they die, but in the meantime, life on this plane is a gift from God that should be enjoyed, and learned from, not squandered or thrown away in pining for something better. (The Christians who have tried to convert me promise me both a blissful eternal afterlife and a happier life on this plane.)

Which adequately explains why Christians don’t kill themselves. But Dawkins was talking about the terminally ill, Christians who’ve tried to enjoy and learn from their lives but now find God taking those lives away. They’re being given something better, something infinitely better.

No, the loss of a loved one remains an unpleasant subject. So might the actual manner of said loved one’s death (i.e., a grisly and/or pointless murder). It’s quite possible to believe in Heaven and still miss a loved one, and feel pain at the evil or horribly unfair particular circumstances of the death. Is Russell really that obtuse about such an obvious matter?

C’mon now. When something bad happens to a loved one, and then something incredibly, transcendently good happens immediately afterwards, does your happiness for them not outweigh your pain? When your child suffers some painful, life-threatening injury, and after a traumatic surgery they’re restored to health, are you not inexpressibly happy and relieved? Sure, emotionally drained from agonizing over their suffering while they were going through it, but now happy nonetheless? How much happier would you be if they weren’t merely restored to health, but to a perfection and bliss greater than Earth could ever provide?

Comment #153546

Posted by Anton Mates on January 5, 2007 11:20 PM (e)

Carol Clouser wrote:

Excuse me, here, but you are wrong. Virtual particles lead a virtual existance. Real particle production and anihilation always conserves mass-energy and momentum and other quantities, so nothing of significance appears or disappears. In the case of quantum fluctuations you could get a very fleeting and temporary violation of the conservation laws, including conservation of mass-energy, and this is where we invent the virual existance of so called virtual particles, but these are all based on the uncertainties quantum mechanics imposes on the original and final mass-energies and on the time elapsed. This is NOT a case of someTHING appearing from NOthing.

Huh? The “significance” of particles lies in much more than just their lifetime. Virtual particles do things; they produce the Casimir effect, decay into real particles in neutron beta decay, and so forth. They “exist” just as much as real particles.

As for whether they really appear from “nothing,” well, they appear from as close to nothing as we’ve ever encountered. There may be no true vacuum in quantum theory, but if anything that demonstrates the problem in declaring, “Something cannot come from nothing;” we don’t know. We’ve never seen nothing.

Way back in my doctoral student years I had occasion to work with the great physicist Edward Tryon, the proponent of the notion that the entire universe is merely a quantum fluctuation with the universe’s agregate mass-energy equal to zero. I and others extensively debated these budding ideas with him.

I’m sure you did.

Anton wrote:

“Or suppose all God does is show up and smite those who have an ability to detect it.

“Jewish theology in a nutshell.”

You obviously know ZILCH about Jewish theology and yet have the temerity to comment on it!

’Twas a joke, Carol. Many, many Jews have commented on the fact that being God’s chosen people seems to go along with getting a disproportionate share of crap dumped on their lives.

But I’m sure that when their comments are translated literally, by Judah Landa, they come out as “Jews lead charmed lives and are incredibly fortunate in all things.”

Comment #153579

Posted by Torbjörn Larsson on January 6, 2007 10:25 AM (e)

RB wrote:

Where do I “suggest” that free speech is “bad?”

You’re really grasping at straws here…

I quoted your comment. Did you read it? You say that Dawkins should not discuss the problems of indoctrination, because it is “laying the groundwork to justify such laws”. Since he isn’t suggesting the later (quite contrary is against it) you claim that his free speech is a bad thing.

Comment #153580

Posted by Torbjörn Larsson on January 6, 2007 10:37 AM (e)

RB wrote:

This assumption about what a belief system “implies” is, at best, an extremely simplistic reading of other people’s beliefs;

So if theology and the bible are worthless (which I tend to agree on), why does people get so aggravated about Dawkins ‘lack of study’?

RB wrote:

The Christians I’ve talked to say that yes, eternal bliss awaits them after they die, but in the meantime, life on this plane is a gift from God that should be enjoyed, and learned from, not squandered or thrown away in pining for something better.

I haven’t read Dawkins view about this. But what you say is coherent with what I have seen. So you may have a point here.

Comment #153583

Posted by Torbjörn Larsson on January 6, 2007 11:25 AM (e)

CC wrote:

Virtual particles lead a virtual existance.

Anton has a point. Virtual particles are instantiated as real in many processes. Pair production is one such process, Hawking radiation another, and universes out of prespace is yet another.

CC wrote:

this is where we invent the virual [sic] existance of so called virtual particles,

No, virtual and off-shell particles (both violating classical Noether’s theorem on conservation, but not conservation itself) comes out in many places in quantum field and string theories.

CC wrote:

Even if correct, it doesn’t resolve the key question of why the entire package (rules of QM, initial conditions, etc.) exists in the form that it does?

No here we are back to determinism (fundamental theories pins parameters) or indeterminism (chance and/or anthropic principles).

CC wrote:

labeling an idea as folk psychology does not constitute an argument against it,

Of course it does in the area of science. Common sense assumptions doesn’t need to be true. Is that so hard to understand?

CC wrote:

Nor does labeling an idea as “outside of science”.

Of course it does in the area of science. Non-predictive ideas isn’t science. Is that so hard to understand?

CC wrote:

Whether or not “first cause” has an “operational” definition depends on your standard for operational.

Of course. Most folk psychology has no physical or psychological operational definition at all, for example ‘free will’. ‘First cause’ as a single ‘efficient cause’ (Aristotle) is also such. What physics deal with is laws and initial conditions.

This problem is compounded by spacetime. Where is the single ‘distal efficient cause’ in spacetime, considering causality is derived and applies to both deterministic (classical) and stochastic (quantum) theories? We don’t have a quantum gravity theory or an ultimate cosmology, but modern cosmology variants are instantiated in spacetime volumes, and it is probable that quantum theory immediately gives rise to causal events in the whole region.

So ‘first cause’ or ‘origin’ is neither usable nor necessary in cosmology.

Comment #153619

Posted by carol clouser on January 7, 2007 1:11 AM (e)

Anton wrote:

“Virtual particles do things.”

Not quite, Anton. Events occur, measurements are made, data is obtained, and then WE, in our minds, attribute the events to the intermediate action of virtual particles. In other words, we build models in our minds, concisely summarized by Feynman diagrams, of the events based on virtual particles.

Whether these particles, or anything, are “physically real” depends on whether mass-energy exists. The classical law of conservation of mass-energy basically states, in so many words, that something cannot come from nothing. Quantum Mechanics allows for violations of this law over very brief periods of time, but this is based on uncertainty in our measurements of conditions before, during and after an event. It is the uncertainty in the data that allows us to encounter new mass-energy that didn’t exist before, or old mass-energy that disappeared, over brief intervals of time. In other words, the mere fact of briefly existent created or destroyed mass-energy is uncertain.

Be that as it may, I think we can agree that no scenario as yet proposed for the origin of the universe (divine action, appearance out of nothing, endless iterations) has the attribute that all fundamental questions are satisfactorally unanswered. As such, they are all irrational. We can reasonably discuss which of them is most or least irrational, but they all leave key questions of “how come” and “why” unanswered. So atheists such as James above (which is how this discussion got started) who mock theists as irrational and theism as fantasy are just plain ignorant of the current state of affairs.

Comment #153620

Posted by carol clouser on January 7, 2007 1:16 AM (e)

Please correct above to “satisfactorally answered”

Comment #153630

Posted by Anton Mates on January 7, 2007 4:46 AM (e)

carol clouser wrote:

Not quite, Anton. Events occur, measurements are made, data is obtained, and then WE, in our minds, attribute the events to the intermediate action of virtual particles.

Precisely as we do with real particles, and indeed with all physical entities. We apprehend neither electrons nor elephants directly; both are inferred from their effects.

Whether these particles, or anything, are “physically real” depends on whether mass-energy exists. The classical law of conservation of mass-energy basically states, in so many words, that something cannot come from nothing.

Not particularly more than any other conservation law.

Quantum Mechanics allows for violations of this law over very brief periods of time, but this is based on uncertainty in our measurements of conditions before, during and after an event. It is the uncertainty in the data that allows us to encounter new mass-energy that didn’t exist before, or old mass-energy that disappeared, over brief intervals of time. In other words, the mere fact of briefly existent created or destroyed mass-energy is uncertain.

It would be more accurate to say that the energy of a system is poorly defined over brief periods of time. There’s no reason to hypothesize a “real” instantaneous energy that we just can’t measure quite perfectly, anymore than we assume a particle has a “real” but immeasurable precise position and momentum.

Be that as it may, I think we can agree that no scenario as yet proposed for the origin of the universe (divine action, appearance out of nothing, endless iterations) has the attribute that all fundamental questions are satisfactorally unanswered.

Depends on which questions you consider fundamental, but yes, something will remain unanswered.

As such, they are all irrational.

No, they may be perfectly rational. But they’re incomplete and untested. (It’s not irrational to propose a hypothesis which fails to explain everything, so long as it explains something).

We can reasonably discuss which of them is most or least irrational, but they all leave key questions of “how come” and “why” unanswered.

“How come” and “why,” in a teleological sense, are not key questions but meaningless ones in this context. But I would agree that there are other and meaningful questions which inevitably remain unanswered.

So atheists such as James above (which is how this discussion got started) who mock theists as irrational and theism as fantasy are just plain ignorant of the current state of affairs.

How does that follow? If a divine creator is one of myriad origin hypotheses, none of which explain every question and none of which can currently be confirmed or refuted, then choosing that hypothesis as true over all the others is irrational. The rational attitude is to admit that we cannot distinguish between them.

Comment #153678

Posted by Katarina on January 7, 2007 4:10 PM (e)

Raging Bee, gallant Bee, former comrade, brave defender of all things supernatural-yet-benign,

Haven’t you considered that the same moderate and liberal Christians whose case you defend, believe, by their doctrine, that the extreme right-wing Christians, while wrong on some points, will nevertheless be joining them in Heaven so long as they recite a few specific words, which may be rephrased so long as “Jesus” and “believe” are worked in, while you my Bee, shall roast, Raging wings and all, in eternal hellfire, and that you deserve this fate since you’re a Satan worshipper (since any entity or entities besides Jesus and I AM are Satanic)?

Unlike the valient defender Raging Bee, for Christians there is only one possible truth which necessarily shuts all others out.

Comment #153679

Posted by Katarina on January 7, 2007 4:19 PM (e)

Rob wrote:

My good Katarina:

That would require Pill Popper’s posts to be substantive.

My good troll,

Perhaps popping a pill or two would help you to actually participate in a thread.

Comment #153697

Posted by Carol Clouser on January 7, 2007 7:04 PM (e)

Anton wrote:

“Precisely as we do with real particles, and indeed with all physical entities. We apprehend neither electrons nor elephants directly; both are inferred from their effects.”

Yes, but there is a difference, which is why we refer to real particles as “real” and to virtual particles as “virtual”. The mass-energy of virtual particles (their “reality”) is fundamentally uncertain and even that only fleetingly so, while the fact that real particles have mass-energy is certain over the long term.

We can conjure things up in our imagination that are not real, and our conjurings just may coincide with reality.

Anton continued:

“How does that follow? If a divine creator is one of myriad origin hypotheses, none of which explain every question and none of which can currently be confirmed or refuted, then choosing that hypothesis as true over all the others is irrational. The rational attitude is to admit that we cannot distinguish between them.”

So you concede that atheism is irrational and the rational approach, in your opinion, is agnosticism. I think I smell progress in the air here. We are getting somewhere.

Now, if two or more theories exist to explain a set of phenomena, and physicists take sides, some becoming proponents of one theory, some supporting the other theory, do you conclude they all are being irrational? So, for example, the reputable physicists who currently oppose the Big Bang are irrational, as well as all the others who support it? Is that what you are saying? I doubt it.

To me the irrational approach is one and only one - supporting a theory against the evidence. Supporting one of a few theories, all of which fit the data or don’t fit the data, is perfectly rational so long as you can give reason for the choice and keep an open mind for future evidence. The evidence always trumpts the theories!

Comment #153759

Posted by Anton Mates on January 8, 2007 12:44 AM (e)

Katarina wrote:

Haven’t you considered that the same moderate and liberal Christians whose case you defend, believe, by their doctrine, that the extreme right-wing Christians, while wrong on some points, will nevertheless be joining them in Heaven so long as they recite a few specific words, which may be rephrased so long as “Jesus” and “believe” are worked in, while you my Bee, shall roast, Raging wings and all, in eternal hellfire, and that you deserve this fate since you’re a Satan worshipper (since any entity or entities besides Jesus and I AM are Satanic)?

I would imagine that many of the Christians who socialize with Bee, inasmuch as they’re willing to do so in the first place, would accept well-intentioned unbelievers getting into heaven. Even C.S. Lewis pushed that idea, and he was quite conservative compared to the average pro-evolution Christian today.

As a kid in a very liberal city, most of the Christians I was acquainted with said they thought I’d go to heaven.

Comment #153762

Posted by GuyeFaux on January 8, 2007 1:22 AM (e)

How does that follow? If a divine creator is one of myriad origin hypotheses, none of which explain every question and none of which can currently be confirmed or refuted, then choosing that hypothesis as true over all the others is irrational. The rational attitude is to admit that we cannot distinguish between them.

So you concede that atheism is irrational and the rational approach, in your opinion, is agnosticism. I think I smell progress in the air here. We are getting somewhere.

You lost me here.

The rational attitude is to admit that we cannot distinguish between them.

This means that they’re all equally (im)probable. Therefore the null hypothesis (atheism) is still what you’re left with.

Comment #153772

Posted by Anton Mates on January 8, 2007 3:56 AM (e)

Carol Clouser wrote:

“Precisely as we do with real particles, and indeed with all physical entities. We apprehend neither electrons nor elephants directly; both are inferred from their effects.”

Yes, but there is a difference, which is why we refer to real particles as “real” and to virtual particles as “virtual”. The mass-energy of virtual particles (their “reality”) is fundamentally uncertain and even that only fleetingly so, while the fact that real particles have mass-energy is certain over the long term.

We can conjure things up in our imagination that are not real, and our conjurings just may coincide with reality.

Stephen Hawking and Gordon Kane both opine that virtual particles do coincide with reality:

Stephen Hawking wrote:

One can interpret these so called vacuum fluctuations, as pairs of particles and anti particles, that suddenly appear together, move apart, and then come back together again, and annihilate each other. These particle anti particle pairs, are said to be virtual, because one can not measure them directly with a particle detector. However, one can observe their effects indirectly. One way of doing this, is by what is called the Casimir effect….here is thus a slight force pushing the plates together. This force has been measured experimentally. So virtual particles actually exist, and produce real effects.

Gordon Kane wrote:

Quantum mechanics allows, and indeed requires, temporary violations of conservation of energy, so one particle can become a pair of heavier particles (the so-called virtual particles), which quickly rejoin into the original particle as if they had never been there. If that were all that occurred we would still be confident that it was a real effect because it is an intrinsic part of quantum mechanics, which is extremely well tested, and is a complete and tightly woven theory–if any part of it were wrong the whole structure would collapse.

But while the virtual particles are briefly part of our world they can interact with other particles, and that leads to a number of tests of the quantum-mechanical predictions about virtual particles….Thus virtual particles are indeed real and have observable effects that physicists have devised ways of measuring. Their properties and consequences are well established and well understood consequences of quantum mechanics.

Back to Carol:

“How does that follow? If a divine creator is one of myriad origin hypotheses, none of which explain every question and none of which can currently be confirmed or refuted, then choosing that hypothesis as true over all the others is irrational. The rational attitude is to admit that we cannot distinguish between them.”

So you concede that atheism is irrational and the rational approach, in your opinion, is agnosticism.

No, both atheists and agnostics hold the attitude I described above. It’s conceivable that an atheist might go further and affirm that there was no deity of any sort involved in the origin of the universe, but few if any actually do this. Dawkins, for instance, merely says that the probability of a Big Bang-era intelligence is “very low,” and again it’s the absence of evidence he’s concerned with, not evidence of absence.

Now, if two or more theories exist to explain a set of phenomena, and physicists take sides, some becoming proponents of one theory, some supporting the other theory, do you conclude they all are being irrational? So, for example, the reputable physicists who currently oppose the Big Bang are irrational, as well as all the others who support it? Is that what you are saying? I doubt it.

There’s a difference between being proposing and supporting an unproven theory, and actually accepting it as true. Reputable physicists may feel very strongly that a particular theory will turn out to be correct, but they work very hard to try to show that it’s correct, and don’t consider their job to be done until the evidence is in. Most theists, on the other hand, are not just supporting the existence of god(s) as a promising hypothesis which might pan out one day; they’re treating it as a fact, and basing their reasoning and behavior around that fact. It’s as if a physicist was so confident in the many-worlds interpretation that she tried the quantum suicide experiment herself.

I think it’s perfectly rational to devote your life to devising and defending proofs of God, if that floats your boat. What’s irrational is to worship/pray to/fear the wrath of/expect miracles from said God before you’ve found a proof that works.

(This is not to say rational theism is impossible or even uncommon. If you believe in accounts of a particular god granting prayers and smiting unbelievers and appearing to believers, it’s quite rational to conclude that that god exists. You could also be a, let’s say, arational theist, like Martin Gardner. He has no reason to believe, and acknowledges this, but can’t particularly help it. Belief for him is axiomatic, and need not be defended.)

To me the irrational approach is one and only one - supporting a theory against the evidence. Supporting one of a few theories, all of which fit the data or don’t fit the data, is perfectly rational so long as you can give reason for the choice and keep an open mind for future evidence.

A single teapot orbiting Jupiter fits the data (particularly if it’s painted black). Is it rational to believe in same because you’re fond of tea?

Comment #153799

Posted by Katarina on January 8, 2007 7:56 AM (e)

Anton wrote:

I would imagine that many of the Christians who socialize with Bee, inasmuch as they’re willing to do so in the first place, would accept well-intentioned unbelievers getting into heaven. Even C.S. Lewis pushed that idea, and he was quite conservative compared to the average pro-evolution Christian today.

As a kid in a very liberal city, most of the Christians I was acquainted with said they thought I’d go to heaven.

I stand by what I said.

Still, one possible exception to this is the person never having been exposed to the “Good News,” thereby having an excuse to not believe in Jesus the Savior. And so churches continue to tirelessly dispatch missionaries all over the world, just to make sure.

And true, there are some modern Christians who deny the divinity of Christ, yet still view him as a teacher and believe he was somehow special. There is a deep split in the UM church over this that I am very well aware of, being myself a member. (And true, they tolerate the presence of atheists, but that doesn’t mean they believe we won’t burn unless we repent.) But even though the church is splitting, belief in the divinity of Christ remains a pillar of the Christian faith, and most would say, the most important one. Those who diverge fundamentally from the Apostle’s Creed or the Nicene Creed are considered heretics.

And just to make clear what we are talking about,

The Apostle’s Creed

I believe in God, the Father Almighty
the Creator of heaven and earth,
and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord:
Who was conceived of the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended to the dead.
The third day He arose again from the dead.
He ascended into heaven
and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty,
whence He shall come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and life everlasting.
Amen.

The Nicene Creed

We believe in one God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father by whom all things were made; who for us men, and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary, and was made man, and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate. He suffered and was buried, and the third day he rose again according to the Scriptures, and ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of the Father. And he shall come again with glory to judge both the quick and the dead, whose kingdom shall have no end.

And we believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life, who proceedeth from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified, who spoke by the prophets. And we believe one holy catholic and apostolic Church. We acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins. And we look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.

Please notice the central themes: Jesus the Lord, the trinity, and the salvation.

From Wikipedia:

Some religious groups such as Oneness Pentecostals, Church of Christ, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and Jehovah’s Witnesses adhere to Christian scripture and identify themselves emphatically as Christians, but reject the Nicene Creed as an error or a misinterpretation and further reject the more recent Lausanne Covenant that affirms the Creed. As a result, many other Christians regard these denominations as not being Christian at all….

In modern interfaith relations, there have been many heated clashes between Nicene and non-Nicene traditions over the definition of Christianity, and of what constitutes a Christian.

emphasis mine.

Comment #153804

Posted by Raging Bee on January 8, 2007 8:26 AM (e)

Katarina wrote:

Haven’t you considered that the same moderate and liberal Christians whose case you defend, believe, by their doctrine, that the extreme right-wing Christians, while wrong on some points, will nevertheless be joining them in Heaven so long as they recite a few specific words, which may be rephrased so long as “Jesus” and “believe” are worked in, while you my Bee, shall roast, Raging wings and all, in eternal hellfire, and that you deserve this fate since you’re a Satan worshipper (since any entity or entities besides Jesus and I AM are Satanic)?

Very few Christians actually believe that, and you’d know it if you actually litened to them. First, according to just about every Christian I’ve talked to, one gets to Heaven through sincere belief and desire to be one with Christ, not merely by “reciting a few specific words.” And since Christians cannot read each other’s souls like their God allegedly can, they judge each other’s sincerity and spiritual condition by their actions; which leaves plenty of room for disagreement among Christians. Second, they’re all aware of the existence of “false prophets” and other hucksters who use their God’s name for ungodly purposes, so there is always, for them, the possibility that someone who calls himself a Christian might actually be evil and insincere. Third, Christians understand that people can do great evil and then be “saved” and forgiven (if they sincerely repent and ask the right God for forgiveness, of course); so merely believing someone will go to Heaven, does not constitute support for any of their actions on Earth; they’re still human, still imperfect, and can still fall from grace. Fourth, even when moderates recognize wingnuts as “fellow Christians,” this alone does not stop them from opposing their worldly policies, by both word and deed.

Comment #153805

Posted by Katarina on January 8, 2007 8:33 AM (e)

my valient friend wrote:

Third, Christians understand that people can do great evil and then be “saved” and forgiven (if they sincerely repent and ask the right God for forgiveness, of course);

So will you eventually repent and deny the deity(ies) you currently favor, so that you can accompany your Christian friends in Heaven, instead of suffering eternal punishment?

Comment #153806

Posted by Raging Bee on January 8, 2007 8:47 AM (e)

Dawkins’ argument, so far as I’ve read, is not that moderates don’t do such things, but that it doesn’t work out very well; they shoot themselves in the foot by promoting the factual or moral legitimacy of the Bible, because in fact it says many things that are extreme.

Here’s a hypothetical situation: Imagine a right-wing “Christian” who thinks the Bible commands him, and all other good Christians, to (to take a random expmaple) punish all Jews for killing Christ. Now imagine that two people are trying to refute and discredit his claims: one of them is an atheist, and the other is a fellow Christian in the wingnut’s own church. Which of these two is most likely to convince the wingnut – or, at least, others in his church – that he’s on the wrong track?

It’s a pretty safe bet that the wingnut will reject out of hand whatever the atheist has to say – atheists, in his eyes, have nothing good to contribute to anything. But the words of a fellow churchman will not be so easy to brush off, if he’s quoting the Bible and appealing to any chunk of the church’s shared beliefs.

Of course, the wingnut himself is not likely to be convinced, but if his fellow churchmen hear an alternative reading of the Bible, from one of their own, then they will be less likely to hear the wingnut’s extreme claims without a bit more thought and skepticism. And the more doubt and skepticism one moderate churchman can sow, the greater the possibility that the wingnuts will find themselves isolated and embarrassed among their own friends – and this can deter extreme actions where reason alone might fail.

As for Dawkins’ claim that “it doesn’t work out very well,” that might have more credibiliy if Dawkins could show better results of his own.

Comment #153811

Posted by Katarina on January 8, 2007 9:00 AM (e)

First, according to just about every Christian I’ve talked to, one gets to Heaven through sincere belief and desire to be one with Christ, not merely by “reciting a few specific words.”

You must not talk to very many Christians, friend. My husband is a Christian, so are all my friends. Sure, you have to actually believe. Reciting words is supposed to help you to believe. If you say them with your mouth, it is an affirmation, and it is very important. If nothing else, it is a start. Whether or not belief is in your heart is your own business, but the words you speak nevertheless carry weight.

Comment #153812

Posted by Katarina on January 8, 2007 9:04 AM (e)

In order to get to heaven, you are required to at least try to lie to yourself and others by saying the words. Hopefully you are also willing to pray to a Man in the Sky, to help your unbelief. Just keep brainwashing yourself and you’ll be in heaven in no time.

Comment #153814

Posted by Raging Bee on January 8, 2007 9:47 AM (e)

In order to get to heaven, you are required to at least try to lie to yourself and others by saying the words.

If you’re lying to yourself by saying the words, then they won’t get you anywhere. You may fool others by lying to them, but just because they think you’re going to Heaven doesn’t mean you really are.

Comment #153817

Posted by Katarina on January 8, 2007 10:02 AM (e)

I agree. In the meanwhile, my point stands that the same people whose views you defend believe, if they are Christians, that you and I are going to hell.

Comment #153820

Posted by Katarina on January 8, 2007 10:31 AM (e)

defender of all things supernatural-yet-benign wrote:

It’s a pretty safe bet that the wingnut will reject out of hand whatever the atheist has to say – atheists, in his eyes, have nothing good to contribute to anything. But the words of a fellow churchman will not be so easy to brush off, if he’s quoting the Bible and appealing to any chunk of the church’s shared beliefs.

You’re wrong, friend. To wingnuts, atheists and moderates are barely distinguishable. How do I know? I have been to quite a few wingnut church services, and have many wingnut friends.

Comment #153835

Posted by Raging Bee on January 8, 2007 12:10 PM (e)

You say that Dawkins should not discuss the problems of indoctrination, because it is “laying the groundwork to justify such laws”. Since he isn’t suggesting the later (quite contrary is against it) you claim that his free speech is a bad thing.

First, I did not suggest that Dawkins should not discuss the subject of religious indoctrination at all. Second, your conclusion that I’m calling his free speech a “bad thing” is a ridiculous non-sequitur.

Comment #153845

Posted by Anton Mates on January 8, 2007 1:44 PM (e)

Raging Bee wrote:

Here’s a hypothetical situation: Imagine a right-wing “Christian” who thinks the Bible commands him, and all other good Christians, to (to take a random expmaple) punish all Jews for killing Christ. Now imagine that two people are trying to refute and discredit his claims: one of them is an atheist, and the other is a fellow Christian in the wingnut’s own church. Which of these two is most likely to convince the wingnut – or, at least, others in his church – that he’s on the wrong track?

Problem with this hypothetical: If the fellow Christian disagrees with said wingnut about the culpability of Jews, it’s unlikely that he was in the same church in the first place, and even less likely that he’ll continue to be welcome there. Extremist Christian churches are not known for the diversity of views among their members. So generally such a Christian is going to be placed on exactly the same level as an atheist–in fact, they’re both atheists in the wingnut’s eyes. One of them is just more honest about it.

It’s a pretty safe bet that the wingnut will reject out of hand whatever the atheist has to say – atheists, in his eyes, have nothing good to contribute to anything. But the words of a fellow churchman will not be so easy to brush off, if he’s quoting the Bible and appealing to any chunk of the church’s shared beliefs.

Two thousand years of schisms, sectarian wars and heretics’ purges argue against that hope. The Devil can quote scripture for his purpose; conservative Christians are quite comfortable with the idea that someone else can believe 99% of the same stuff they do and yet be a hellbound heretic on the strength of the other 1%.

So I don’t think moderates have much of a persuasive edge over atheists in this regard. And the atheist has a (similarly slight) counter-edge; whereas the moderate must argue that the Biblical passages supporting antisemitism “don’t really mean it,” or are overruled by other passages, the atheist can also argue that the Bible isn’t a reliable source of historical fact or morality anyway, so we don’t have to care whether or not it supports antisemitism. Of course the wingnut is unlikely to accept that unless he ends up radically modifying his faith, but that does occasionally happen, and if it does happen it’ll have the bonus effect of weakening all his fundamentalism-derived opinions into the bargain.

As for Dawkins’ claim that “it doesn’t work out very well,” that might have more credibiliy if Dawkins could show better results of his own.

Dawkins doesn’t claim to be particularly successful, but he’s got a Converts’ Corner where quite a few former believers have written in and credited him for their deconversion and introduction to mainstream science. Douglas Adams did so as well, as have several PT and Scienceblogs regulars IIRC.

I’ve never seen any attempt at quantitatively comparing Dawkins to other writers in this regard; have you?

Comment #153846

Posted by Anton Mates on January 8, 2007 1:55 PM (e)

Katarina wrote:

But even though the church is splitting, belief in the divinity of Christ remains a pillar of the Christian faith, and most would say, the most important one. Those who diverge fundamentally from the Apostle’s Creed or the Nicene Creed are considered heretics.

Many Christians, however, accept that such belief can be acquired after death. They’re not saying that any of heaven’s inhabitants remain Muslims/atheists, but that virtuous Muslims and atheists will convert to Christianity once they get to the afterlife and realize that Christ is the true god. See Lewis in “The Great Divorce,” or in the final Narnia book.

The Christians of your acquaintance are apparently very conservative, so I suspect they’re exceptionally hostile to this idea, just as the Christians of my and Bee’s acquaintance are probably exceptionally receptive to it. religioustolerance.org lists several polls which asked Americans about this subject. Note the USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll which found 44% of respondents (necessarily including some Christians) agreeing that “good atheists will enter heaven.” Christians who think nonbelievers can be saved may not be in the majority in the US, but they’re out there.

Some religious groups such as Oneness Pentecostals, Church of Christ, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and Jehovah’s Witnesses adhere to Christian scripture and identify themselves emphatically as Christians, but reject the Nicene Creed as an error or a misinterpretation and further reject the more recent Lausanne Covenant that affirms the Creed. As a result, many other Christians regard these denominations as not being Christian at all….

Sure, but the rest of us do regard (some of) them as Christian, so they qualify as Christians who reject the Nicene Creed.

Comment #153848

Posted by Anton Mates on January 8, 2007 2:06 PM (e)

Raging Bee wrote:

If you’re lying to yourself by saying the words, then they won’t get you anywhere. You may fool others by lying to them, but just because they think you’re going to Heaven doesn’t mean you really are.

As Katarina said, the idea is that after a while you’ll come to believe them. Of course, for many Christians it wasn’t really “lying to yourself” in the first place, because everyone deep down knows that Christianity is correct. It’s just a matter of admitting it.

Comment #153853

Posted by Katarina on January 8, 2007 2:28 PM (e)

Speaking of popular views, the majority of people who are Christian have their own ideas about what Christianity means. Few examine what they say they believe, or what the leaders of their churches say they believe. Naturally, popular polls reflect the ignorance of the many.

But the core beliefs that the churches affirm mean a lot, because the people who attend/belong to these churches usually recite these beliefs as part of the service. That implies they accept these beliefs and all that they imply, in spite of the possibility that they may not really feel that way. And the thing that is recited is the Nicene Creed, in the majority of mainstream Christian churches.

C.S. Lewis still doesn’t part from the view that one must accept Jesus as Lord to get to heaven. My point still stands. He also says that Aslan is not a Tame Lion. Think about that a minute.

Comment #153854

Posted by Raging Bee on January 8, 2007 2:29 PM (e)

Two thousand years of schisms, sectarian wars and heretics’ purges argue against that hope.

How, exactly? The mere fact that human progress is not as easy or clean as you would like it to be, or that people in past ages didn’t behave according to modern standards, proves…what? Your offhand reference to the horrors of the past is a bit of a non-sequitur.

Comment #153855

Posted by Raging Bee on January 8, 2007 2:53 PM (e)

Problem with this hypothetical: If the fellow Christian disagrees with said wingnut about the culpability of Jews, it’s unlikely that he was in the same church in the first place, and even less likely that he’ll continue to be welcome there. Extremist Christian churches are not known for the diversity of views among their members.

This assumes that everyone’s views remain unchanged over a long period of time, and churches get permanently divided as a result. The reality is that people who once had uniform views very often have disagreements as new people come into a community, new public issues arise, a charismatic preacher introduces a new idea (either moderate or extreme), and/or people react to such new ideas. So yes, there’s plenty of opportunity for disputes both within and between churches, and for all sides to push their respective opinions. As I’ve said before, it happens all the time, whether or not the dogmatists admit it.

Again, I’ll mention the recent split with in the Anglican Communion: a moderate majority has isolated the rigid “traditionalists” (already confined to a few churches) to the point where they have to look as far as Nigeria for validation of their extreme views. These extremists were marginalized by moderates within their own church, not by atheists.

Comment #153857

Posted by Glen Davidson on January 8, 2007 2:57 PM (e)

The Christians of your acquaintance are apparently very conservative, so I suspect they’re exceptionally hostile to this idea, just as the Christians of my and Bee’s acquaintance are probably exceptionally receptive to it. religioustolerance.org lists several polls which asked Americans about this subject. Note the USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll which found 44% of respondents (necessarily including some Christians) agreeing that “good atheists will enter heaven.” Christians who think nonbelievers can be saved may not be in the majority in the US, but they’re out there.

Yes, there are a lot of clauses, which make up for the fact that obviously a whole lot of decent people would be doomed if only those who accepted Christ went to heaven. And some of these clauses are in the Bible, after all, with Jesus saying that those who say “Lord, Lord” won’t necessarily make it, while those who do the will of the Father will enter the kingdom. Paul speaks of “The times of ignorance which God winked at.”

Those who leave “the faith”, however, are pretty much doomed if they don’t return (in some sects they can’t ever return if they fully left in some “spiritual” sense). They “know better”, so have no excuse. And those who actively “fight God”, perhaps by opposing ID, are usually headed for hell unless they repent (I’m talking of evangelicals and fundamentalists now). Remember Pat Robertson mentioning that Dover had better not count on prayers in any disaster following the Kitzmiller decision.

An atheist who might side with the “proper Christian” for some crucial purpose receives special dispensation among most of the evangelical/fundy persuasion. They’d never see this atheist as simply being fair-minded and having been helpful for that reason, rather this atheist does not fully turn off the Holy Spirit’s pleadings, or some such thing. This is why one never makes true alliances with most of these types of religionists, because they can never understand anyone who is “beyond the pale” (atheist, pagan, or the like) as simply being a decent person, rather the pull of God is fighting out in a territory (the person) who is pretty much Satan’s vessel (not that most of them would call the person that).

You see this at UD. They will sometimes be grateful for someone speaking up for an IDist or creationist where justice demands it (or perhaps does not), however they’d never suppose that the “Darwinist” happens to be open-minded and intent on equitable treatment. That he is a “Darwinist” is proof against that, at least if he actively speaks against ID. It’s more like especial proof that this one complaint is even more justified than the rest of their diatribes, ‘cause if even a Darwinist disagrees with’, say, PZ Myers at some point, then Myers must be way out of line. There is never a moment when they can see the “Darwinist” as merely being even-handed, for, as he “believes Darwinism”, he is either ignorantly or willfully prejudiced against “the truth”.

So I don’t think that the theological theories about who might or might not get into heaven matter much. The crux of the issue, and the reason why we can’t discuss matters with the great majority of the UD religionists, is that they already from the beginning of time have knowledge of the “prejudices” of anyone who doesn’t agree with them. If you’re not with God, you’re against Him, even if through ignorance. Yes, they’ll let some of us into heaven under certain criteria, but they won’t ever suppose that we’re trying to keep “the Truth” out of the schools due to our commitment to law and to the rules of evidence. Anything that goes against the Truth cannot be right, even if it is the right approach in every science not related to origins (or to select parts of origins).

Those are the facts that we have to deal with in these affairs, not the fantasies of every knee bowing and tongue confessing that Jesus is Lord at the end of time. C.S. Lewis might let us in, but not as we are in ourselves and in our own minds. We have to pledge loyalty to the ultimate monarch and become his willing servants, much as any hopeful citizen of a medieval aristocrat’s holdings would have to do (hardly a chance coincidence). And it is only then that UD believers will know to listen to us, since we at last have acknowledged the Truth.

This is where conservative religionists and cultists hardly differ, then. They will not (indeed, most cannot) listen open-mindedly to those “outside the Truth”. Yet this is also where religious “liberals” and perhaps “moderates” (depends on line-drawing) may be much like the secular person, for they are capable of thinking (to a degree. Few enough become fully open-minded, religious or not) about what another person says without an overriding prejudice.

This is another place where I’d part with Dawkins, for there is a huge difference between UDists who can never understand us to simply be arguing by using our intellectual honesty, and the Catholic or Methodist (etc.) who lends us a relatively unprejudiced ear. Furthermore, the slippery slope argument doesn’t wash here either (at least not in its simple form), since the sorts of prejudices found at UD may easily be found among secular partisans of various stripes (especially politically). Can we avoid slippery slopes anywhere? Not many places, at least.

The problem we have is not the longed-for disposition of “atheists” in some future judgment, but rather the a priori judgments that evolutionists and atheists are always wrong already, with the exceptions when they desist from their usual role of refusing to listen to the Holy Spirit and God (even if through ignorance). We cannot convince people such as these, at least generally not past the age of 30 or so, for not only do they have this narrow worldview by which they orient themselves to society, they know that they should not even begin to question their beliefs (again, this is not unique to religions, though it may be more readily effected in the religious mind). We are the enemy, and we will be up until the point at which we become one of them, should we at last see the Truth.

Glen D
http://tinyurl.com/b8ykm

Comment #153858

Posted by Torbjörn Larsson on January 8, 2007 3:00 PM (e)

RB wrote:

First, I did not suggest that Dawkins should not discuss the subject of religious indoctrination at all.

As Popper’s Ghost surely would say, “irrelevant”. (He would probably also add some suitable epithets for displayed lack of logic. :-) We are discussing that you implied it was bad to do so.

RB wrote:

Second, your conclusion that I’m calling his free speech a “bad thing” is a ridiculous non-sequitur.

“Whenever they equate “religious indoctrination” with “child abuse” (or, worse yet, with the sexual abuse of children by priests), they are laying the groundwork to justify such laws.”

How are you not “suggesting that free speech is bad” here?

Dawkins are discussing the ramifications of religious indoctrination which he has the right to do. Whereupon you suggest he is “laying the groundwork”, placing a moral burden on him while he in fact argues against the very thing, for someone “to justify such laws” which is presumably a bad thing.

Comment #153859

Posted by Katarina on January 8, 2007 3:15 PM (e)

I think Glen is right on the money. The bigger issue is that non-believers are considered outsiders, not to be trusted. It only goes to prove Dawkins’ assertion that religion is divisive.

Comment #153860

Posted by Raging Bee on January 8, 2007 3:19 PM (e)

“Whenever they equate “religious indoctrination” with “child abuse” (or, worse yet, with the sexual abuse of children by priests), they are laying the groundwork to justify such laws.”

How are you not “suggesting that free speech is bad” here?

Oh please – do I really have to explain the difference between disagreeing with what someone says, and implying he has no right to say it?

Get a grip already.

Comment #153861

Posted by Carol Clouser on January 8, 2007 3:26 PM (e)

Anton wrote:

“Stephen Hawking and Gordon Kane both opine that virtual particles do coincide with reality”

Well, your quote of Gordon Kane basically says that virtual particles are “real” because Quantum Mechanics says they ought to be. This is essentially what I said earlier, to the effect that we build models in our minds (in this case QM) to explain observed effects. It seems to me that there is some playing around with words going on here. And the same applies to what Hawking said (quoted by you). I still see a heck of a difference between the reality of real particles (detectable, with certain and long term mass-energy) and the “reality” they attribute to cirtual particles.

Anton continued:

“No, both atheists and agnostics hold the attitude I described above. It’s conceivable that an atheist might go further and affirm that there was no deity of any sort involved in the origin of the universe, but few if any actually do this. Dawkins, for instance, merely says that the probability of a Big Bang-era intelligence is “very low,” and again it’s the absence of evidence he’s concerned with, not evidence of absence.”

Now you are really playing with words. An atheists is certain there is no God, whereas an agnostic is doubtful. If what you say about most atheists above is correct, then most atheists are agnostic. I realize there is a continuum in levels of certainty and doubt and the terms “atheist” and “agnostic” assume a rather sharp dividing line that may not exist. But I am glad you concede that the genuine atheist (as I defined it above) is irrational. I agree.

Anton continued:

“There’s a difference between being proposing and supporting an unproven theory, and actually accepting it as true. Reputable physicists may feel very strongly that a particular theory will turn out to be correct, but they work very hard to try to show that it’s correct, and don’t consider their job to be done until the evidence is in. Most theists, on the other hand, are not just supporting the existence of god(s) as a promising hypothesis which might pan out one day; they’re treating it as a fact, and basing their reasoning and behavior around that fact.”

There is a range of certainty within the community of theists, just as there is within the community of agnostics and atheists.

Comment #153870

Posted by Anton Mates on January 8, 2007 4:35 PM (e)

Katarina wrote:

Speaking of popular views, the majority of people who are Christian have their own ideas about what Christianity means. Few examine what they say they believe, or what the leaders of their churches say they believe. Naturally, popular polls reflect the ignorance of the many.

I don’t really understand your point. It’s certainly true that most Christians support books, doctrines and religious figures without actually making sure they believe everything the latter espouse. But so what? That simply means those books, doctrines and religious figures don’t accurately reflect those versions of Christianity.

If a Christian thinks atheists can go to heaven, then that’s what he thinks. It’s a pity if he continues to affirm his support for a doctrine that implies differently, but that doesn’t alter his belief.

C.S. Lewis still doesn’t part from the view that one must accept Jesus as Lord to get to heaven. My point still stands.

Look at Emeth, the virtuous Calormene. He devoted his life to the devil-god Tash, but because he thought of him as a good god and tried to serve him by being a good person, he’s allowed into Aslan’s country. Aslan’s explanation, paraphrased, is “Anything good you do in the name of Tash, you actually do for me; and anything bad you do in my name, you do for Tash.”

Does Emeth accept Aslan as Lord eventually? Sure. But only after he’s dead.

Now Emeth is merely a believer in a false god, not an outright atheist. But That Hideous Strength has a virtuous unbeliever in the form of MacPhee, and it’s never suggested IIRC that he cannot be saved after death. And in The Great Divorce, we see the saved dead trying to persuade the damned (including some nonbelievers) to repent and come to Heaven, in some cases with success.

Comment #153872

Posted by Katarina on January 8, 2007 5:07 PM (e)

Anton,

My point is in the paragraph following the one you quoted.

I have The Great Divorce, but I haven’t yet read it, so I won’t discuss it. I have the Chronicles of Narnia and it’s been 5 years now since I’ve read them, so I don’t remember about your reference. Perhaps I’ll get back to you about that later, on an appropriate thread.

Meanwhile, I still stand by what I said. The Christians whose views you and Bee here represent, (or misrepresent, as may be the case), view unbelievers as outsiders and hellbound. Eventually, whether it’s before we die or after, we must repent. And I’ve already mentioned that there is a possible exception for someone who’s never heard the good news, which I think is what C.S. Lewis had in mind, but as I said, I will have to check it out for myself. (note to Bee: I like to read a book before I comment on its author’s views)

Comment #153874

Posted by tomh on January 8, 2007 5:09 PM (e)

Carol Clouser wrote:
An atheists is certain there is no God,

Where do you get that from? Can you quote an atheist as being “certain” there is no god? Certainly not Dawkins. Non-belief is a far cry from certainty.

Comment #153875

Posted by Anton Mates on January 8, 2007 5:16 PM (e)

Raging Bee wrote:

Two thousand years of schisms, sectarian wars and heretics’ purges argue against that hope.

How, exactly? The mere fact that human progress is not as easy or clean as you would like it to be, or that people in past ages didn’t behave according to modern standards, proves…what? Your offhand reference to the horrors of the past is a bit of a non-sequitur.

You misunderstand. I didn’t bring up “schisms, sectarian wars and heretic’s purges” because they were atrocities–some were quite non-violent. I brought them up as examples of conservative believers not being persuaded to change their views by their spiritual cousins.

You said that religious extremists are more likely to be swayed by their moderate cousins than by atheists, thanks to the shared beliefs of the former. I’m saying that for most of human history, religious extremists have demonstrated their ability not to be swayed by shared beliefs. They’re willing to treat other believers as their mortal enemies even when their beliefs are 99% identical.

Again, I’ll mention the recent split with in the Anglican Communion: a moderate majority has isolated the rigid “traditionalists” (already confined to a few churches) to the point where they have to look as far as Nigeria for validation of their extreme views. These extremists were marginalized by moderates within their own church, not by atheists.

But this argues against your claim. The extremists were “marginalized” precisely because the moderates failed to persuade them. And rather than compromise on this issue and focus on their shared beliefs, they withdrew entirely and allied themselves with extremists in other countries instead.

Comment #153880

Posted by carol clouser on January 8, 2007 5:36 PM (e)

Tomh,

Got a dictionary? Mine reads as follows: “An atheist is one who denies the existence of God or gods.” If you think an atheists is uncertain, than what does an agnostic claim?

Who cares what Dawkins says? Who elected him as spokesperson for atheists? Besides, I recall him saying he belives in God as much as he does in the tooth fairy. That tells me that he is convinced there is no God.

Comment #153881

Posted by tomh on January 8, 2007 6:00 PM (e)

Carol Clouser wrote:
Got a dictionary? Mine reads as follows: “An atheist is one who denies the existence of God or gods.” If you think an atheists is uncertain, than what does an agnostic claim?

A far more common definition, Mirriam-Webster for instance, defines atheist as, “one who believes that there is no deity”. Belief or non-belief is just that, whereas certainty requires undeniable evidence. I may believe there is such a thing as dark energy but I am not certain about it. Attempting to make an argument by parsing the difference between an atheist and an agnostic is meaningless. Both are non-believers.

Comment #153884

Posted by AC on January 8, 2007 6:23 PM (e)

Raging Bee wrote:

These beliefs are not held “despite a lack of evidence to support it;” they’re held based on subjective evidence, which is not the same as lack of evidence. (The two are, of course, pretty much the same in the natural sciences, but this is religion and spirituality we’re talking about here, not science.)

Why should “religion and spirituality” get an exception to that standard of evidence?

Ask a person to back up his/her religious belief, and chances are your answer will consist of feelings, life-experiences both good and bad, voices in the believer’s head, remarkable coincidences, and maybe some incredible hallucinations whose import can’t even be described in words. None of that may be real or relevant to you, but it’s quite relevant to the believer.

Therein lies the problem: this “subjective evidence” tells one nothing about the world outside his own brain. Your list might as well read “neurochemistry, memories, selection biases, and all sorts of hallucinations”. Its relevance to the believer is starkly contrasted with its sheer irrelevance to every other thing in the universe except the believer’s brain.

As for whether it’s “dangerous, and thus complaint-worthy,” that depends on the specific belief, and the specific actions motivated by said belief. If the voices in someone’s head tell him that creationism is a lie, or that his gay son is still a person deserving of love, or that he should listen to the Grateful Dead more, than I won’t call that person “dangerous.” (Pink Floyd? Different story.) Let’s identify and focus on specific dangers while we’re still young enough to fight them, shall we?

The danger is in the mode of thinking itself. It is dangerous to exaggerate the significance of “subjective experience” to that of objective evidence. Saying that voices in people’s heads don’t always tell them to kill, or that feelings sometimes lead to noble actions, doesn’t change that fact. I think that, human nature being what it is, it’s important for people to appreciate and value the distinction. It hardly means the end of art, music, etc.

Even when said harsh light is directed by disgusted moderates within their own churches? This does happen, you know. (Any response to the other examples I cited earlier?) Check out those gay-hating Anglican churches in Virginia: they’ve been isolated by a less-homophobic majority in their own country’s church, so now they’re having to look all the way to Nigeria for validation of their bigotry.

I’m sure it does. But exceptions don’t change the prevailing principle. I certainly hope that, in this case, enough build up over a long enough period that they are no longer exceptions. But there is still the issue of “getting the right answer for the wrong reasons”. Modern, liberal Christianity is surely better than Fundamentalism in many respects, but belief in nonsense still hinders the humanistic ethic.

Comment #153885

Posted by Gglen Davidson on January 8, 2007 6:27 PM (e)

Perhaps it would be well to bring up the old, generally well-known, distinction made between “strong atheists” and “weak atheists”. “Strong atheists” are said to believe that there is no god, often claiming that there is evidence against God’s existence, while “weak atheists” are said to believe that there is either no evidence, or insufficient evidence, to answer the “God question” in the affirmative. Weak atheists are frequently thought to be roughly the same as agnostics, and weak atheism appears (to me at least) to have gained numbers at the expense of “agnosticism”.

Then there are people who think that the proper default condition (ignoring claims having insufficient evidence, as much as possible) should not be labeled as either atheism or agnosticism. Must we claim privation of what to all appearances is a figment of imagination and cultural competition, or are we simply humans lacking all of such faulty claims, rather than the lack of all-but-one of them that so many people opt for?

I’m far more in line with the latter thinking, but know that I would be called “atheist” in the dialectical metaphysical schemes that many religionists try to force everything and everybody into.

Glen D
http://tinyurl.com/b8ykm

Comment #153888

Posted by tomh on January 8, 2007 6:45 PM (e)

Gglen Davidson wrote:
“Strong atheists” are said to believe that there is no god, often claiming that there is evidence against God’s existence,

Yet this is still a belief. I have yet to see an atheist claim “certainty”, as in Ms. Clouser’s definition.

Comment #153938

Posted by Anton Mates on January 8, 2007 9:04 PM (e)

Carol Clouser wrote:

Now you are really playing with words. An atheists is certain there is no God, whereas an agnostic is doubtful. If what you say about most atheists above is correct, then most atheists are agnostic.

Exactly. I called myself an agnostic for many years, then switched to atheist without any change in my views. “Atheist” and “agnostic” overlap a great deal; the choice between them is usually a matter of social utility and linguistic preference.

Myself, I have yet to encounter an atheist who “is certain there is no God.” And I attend a group of them pretty regularly.

There is a range of certainty within the community of theists, just as there is within the community of agnostics and atheists.

Quite true.

Comment #153939

Posted by Anton Mates on January 8, 2007 9:07 PM (e)

Katarina wrote:

Meanwhile, I still stand by what I said. The Christians whose views you and Bee here represent, (or misrepresent, as may be the case), view unbelievers as outsiders and hellbound. Eventually, whether it’s before we die or after, we must repent.

But the difference between “before” and “after” is critical. If a Christian thinks that good people of all belief systems die, come into the presence of God, realize their error and then repent and are saved, then conversion in this lifetime is relatively unimportant. Sure, it’s still a good idea, since Christianity is correct and being strong in the Christian faith helps you be a good person, but if your friends/coworkers/fellow voters are obstinate in their unbelief, it’s not the end of the world. They’ll come around later.

But if good people have to repent and be saved before their death, then conversion is the most important activity imaginable. You would be morally obligated to harass and manipulate and legally bully every unbeliever toward faith; no ethical nicety outweighs the need to save humanity from eternal torture. And if you were unwilling to devote your life to that (as most fundamentalists are, not that I blame them), then you would have to put up social and psychological walls between your community of faithful and the outside world; you can’t afford to let them contaminate you, and how could you bear to grow close to someone marked for such a horrible fate?

Comment #153940

Posted by Anton Mates on January 8, 2007 9:10 PM (e)

Syntax Error: mismatched tag 'quote'

Comment #153943

Posted by Anton Mates on January 8, 2007 9:22 PM (e)

Glen Davidson wrote:

Perhaps it would be well to bring up the old, generally well-known, distinction made between “strong atheists” and “weak atheists”. “Strong atheists” are said to believe that there is no god, often claiming that there is evidence against God’s existence, while “weak atheists” are said to believe that there is either no evidence, or insufficient evidence, to answer the “God question” in the affirmative. Weak atheists are frequently thought to be roughly the same as agnostics, and weak atheism appears (to me at least) to have gained numbers at the expense of “agnosticism”.

Thing is, although I’m aware of that distinction, I have yet to even hear of a “strong atheist” who actually fits that definition. Even with the people I’ve seen call themselves “strong atheists,” it turned out that the God they actively believed didn’t exist was a particular one, usually a personal god with a known “personality” who dabbles directly in the modern universe. See strongatheism.net, or Chris Ho-Stuart’s Why I am a Strong Atheist.

It seems to me that this choice of definition of “God” is a large factor in most unbelievers’ choice of label. If I believe that a benevolent, omniscient, omnipotent, active personal God does not exist, based on logical disproof or empirical evidence against; if I don’t believe that a deist or “quantum-hidden” God exists, based on lack of parsimony and evidence for; if I can’t decide either way about “God is love” or “God is the spirit of order in the universe,” because I’m not really sure what those claims even mean; then I could be a strong atheist or a weak atheist or an agnostic, depending on which of those I think it’s important to consider as “God,” at least when talking to others.

Comment #153945

Posted by Katarina on January 8, 2007 9:33 PM (e)

Yeah, I can see how before/after makes the difference. Well done. But I do think you’re grasping at straws. I’m not convinced this exception of C.S. Lewis’, if that is what it is, is what most Christians believe. Perhaps the conservative community I live in taints my judgement, but it’s difficult to judge now how Christianity will change - will the fringe become mainstream? In the meantime, the churches speak for themselves, and the majority of these stick with the specific beliefs aforementioned, and uphold evangelical views (i.e. conversion of unbelievers). Most of the liberal and conservative denominations I’ve associated with hold the view that if you don’t spread your faith, it is pretty much worthless. It really operates much like a business; without new converts, where will the money come from?

Comment #153948

Posted by Sir_Toejam on January 8, 2007 9:43 PM (e)

It really operates much like a business; without new converts, where will the money come from?

ever consider that maybe it SHOULDN’T be a business to begin with?

maybe that’s where it will “evolve” to.

Comment #153955

Posted by Sir_Toejam on January 8, 2007 9:59 PM (e)

Ask a person to back up his/her religious belief, and chances are your answer will consist of feelings, life-experiences both good and bad, voices in the believer’s head, remarkable coincidences, and maybe some incredible hallucinations whose import can’t even be described in words. None of that may be real or relevant to you, but it’s quite relevant to the believer.

RB is absolutely correct; i see this all the time; even my own father’s beliefs are often predicated on things like “remarkable” coincidences.

Therein lies the problem: this “subjective evidence” tells one nothing about the world outside his own brain. Your list might as well read “neurochemistry, memories, selection biases, and all sorts of hallucinations”. Its relevance to the believer is starkly contrasted with its sheer irrelevance to every other thing in the universe except the believer’s brain.

…and AC is absolutely correct that a basis for one’s faith being predicated on such things is ridiculous at best, and can lead to self-reinforcing delusions at worst.

Moreover, it more seems that most of the “fiathful” of this type use religion to explain the context of their own incredulity, rather than actually asking the question they should be asking themselves:

What ELSE might explain these voices in my head, the apparent coincidences, etc.

In that sense, how does that make them any different than the IDists?

Moreover, Carl Jung could have told you you don’t need religion to come up with some neat metaphysical explanations for coincidences. Ever read his “theories” on synchronicity, or his ideas on the collective subconscious?

How come there isn’t a religion based on his very detailed concept of synchronicity, I wonder…

Comment #153964

Posted by Sir_Toejam on January 8, 2007 10:18 PM (e)

Here’s a hypothetical situation: Imagine a right-wing “Christian” who thinks the Bible commands him, and all other good Christians, to (to take a random expmaple) punish all Jews for killing Christ. Now imagine that two people are trying to refute and discredit his claims: one of them is an atheist, and the other is a fellow Christian in the wingnut’s own church. Which of these two is most likely to convince the wingnut – or, at least, others in his church – that he’s on the wrong track?

by your use of the term “wingnut” to begin with, you essentially have isolated the individual from those who posess a rational decision-making process.

Based on that, who is to say which the wingnut would find more convincing?

Are you trying to say that only the religious could possibly understand and analyze what’s written in the KJV? it IS just a book, after all. It has no supernatural powers, nothing that makes it a thing unable to be studied and understood (oh, except by Carol, who requires Judah Landah to interpret it for her in the “original” Hebrew, I suppose).

Moreover, sectarian disagreements can be the most vehement of all. You should have seen some of the vitriol amongst the Lutheran community a few decades ago. I hardly think the folks on either side of that great debate would have prefered the “wisdom” of those opposing them, even though they were fellow lutherans.

Comment #153975

Posted by Anton Mates on January 8, 2007 11:36 PM (e)

Katarina wrote:

I’m not convinced this exception of C.S. Lewis’, if that is what it is, is what most Christians believe.

I don’t think it is either; I just think a significant fraction of American Christians think that way. Hell, George W. Bush said Heaven isn’t Christians-only, and while I can easily imagine he’s lying, he apparently thought that would be a politically popular thing to say.

Comment #154020

Posted by Raging Bee on January 9, 2007 9:21 AM (e)

Are you trying to say that only the religious could possibly understand and analyze what’s written in the KJV?

It must have been a painful stretch to reach for that interpretation. No, I’m trying to say that moderate theists are more likely than atheists to discredit extremists among believers, simply because most of those believers will listen to one of their own before they listen to an atheist. (The extremists probably won’t listen, as I’ve said before, but the goal here is to expose them as, well, extreme, and thus to isolate and neutralize them. Besides, even extremists can be responsive to peer-disapproval and ostracism when reason fails.)

Moreover, sectarian disagreements can be the most vehement of all. You should have seen some of the vitriol amongst the Lutheran community a few decades ago. I hardly think the folks on either side of that great debate would have prefered the “wisdom” of those opposing them, even though they were fellow lutherans.

Is there any indication that they gave the “wisdom” of atheists any hearing at all?

You’re absolutely right about sectarian disagreements – and one reason for this is that opposition coming from within a community is the hardest to ignore or brush off.

Moreover, it more seems that most of the “fiathful” of this type use religion to explain the context of their own incredulity, rather than actually asking the question they should be asking themselves:

What ELSE might explain these voices in my head, the apparent coincidences, etc.

Sure, there are other possible answers that are “better” from a rational-inquiry standpoint – but that’s no guarantee that the believer would either understand them or be able to use them in his own life.

Take my stock example of a drug-addict: if he were to interpret a recent firing or drug arrest as a “sign from God” that he had to clean up his act, a rational observer would consider this claim laughable – but if the power of that belief helped him to do what was right, against the force of his addiction, then that “delusion” will have done more good than harm; and mocking such thinking would serve no useful purpose. Treating addiction as a biochemical issue may be perfectly “rational” and true from a scientific standpoint; but treating it as an “enemy” to be fought through radical changes in one’s attitude and lifestyle is what actually gets the job done.

A religious belief of this sort may be a “delusion” contrary to reality; or it may be an important truth, expressed in terms an ordinary person can understand and act on within his own life. “Subjective” does not equal “wrong.”

Comment #154029

Posted by Glen Davidson on January 9, 2007 10:16 AM (e)

Thing is, although I’m aware of that distinction, I have yet to even hear of a “strong atheist” who actually fits that definition. Even with the people I’ve seen call themselves “strong atheists,” it turned out that the God they actively believed didn’t exist was a particular one, usually a personal god with a known “personality” who dabbles directly in the modern universe. See strongatheism.net, or Chris Ho-Stuart’s Why I am a Strong Atheist.

I certainly agree. This “strong atheist” seems to be a strawman, for the most part. Also, I had written something parenthetically about how those who thought there was evidence against God were thinking about a ‘particular God’, but then I decided that it was too cluttered and cut it out.

The “strong atheist” seems really to be, in truth, not so much a strawman among actual non-theists as a type against which most atheists contrast their relatively careful and considerate claims regarding what the evidence can support. Or to put it another way, the typical UD and yahoo-theist assumption of what an atheist is happens to be this “strong atheist” who stupidly claims that God as a general concept is demonstrably false, when of course the normal “atheist” merely is waiting on evidence, so to speak.

The typical UD post is no better with respect to evolution, naturally, so that they’re usually flailing away at some supposed “evolutionist claim” that design cannot be detected at all, and another one, that design is completely ruled out by evolutionary theory. The barest rudiments of science have not bothered the sludge within their skulls one tiny bit, so the thought that somehow they ought to provide evidence for their designer’s existence, for God’s existence, remains foreign to them. They really do think that all they have to do is to defend against our evidence, never providing any (non-Biblical, non-theistic) evidence themselves. This is an outgrowth of their inability to understand what is at stake in the “God question”, and their mistaken beliefs that if one disagrees with their religion it is because these “materialists” think and believe that they can fully refute their own evidence-free truths.

Not that I’m telling you anything here, Anton, I just wanted to elaborate on these matters in order to relate what we’re discussing to what this blog is ostensibly about.

Glen D
http://tinyurl.com/b8ykm

Comment #154032

Posted by Katarina on January 9, 2007 10:32 AM (e)

politically popular thing to say.

Exactly. We’re on the same page, Anton.

Comment #154034

Posted by Katarina on January 9, 2007 10:58 AM (e)

STJ:

ever consider that maybe it SHOULDN’T be a business to begin with?

Well, yeah, I always had trouble with this, even as a believer. But there is a practical aspect to this too, I mean, who will pay for the building, the staff, etc?

Comment #154062

Posted by Torbjörn Larsson on January 9, 2007 1:57 PM (e)

RB wrote:

Oh please – do I really have to explain the difference between disagreeing with what someone says, and implying he has no right to say it?

You aren’t merely disagreeing with what Dawkins say, you are suggesting it has bad consequences, even when he argues against those consequences. As you say, do I really have to explain the difference between implying that it has bad consequences when someone says something, and merely disagreeing with what he says?

Comment #154120

Posted by Anton Mates on January 9, 2007 10:01 PM (e)

Torbjörn Larsson wrote:

You aren’t merely disagreeing with what Dawkins say, you are suggesting it has bad consequences, even when he argues against those consequences. As you say, do I really have to explain the difference between implying that it has bad consequences when someone says something, and merely disagreeing with what he says?

Claiming some statement has negative consequences doesn’t equate to claiming people shouldn’t be allowed to make that statement, though.

After all, Dawkins himself claims that religious moderates’ affirmations of faith are harmful, even when they argue against those negative consequences. But he doesn’t claim that they have no right to say such things.

Comment #154200

Posted by Katarina on January 10, 2007 6:27 AM (e)

Paulina’s Peril

Comment #154261

Posted by Torbjörn Larsson on January 10, 2007 11:19 AM (e)

Anton Mates wrote:

Claiming some statement has negative consequences doesn’t equate to claiming people shouldn’t be allowed to make that statement, though.

That is the difference I am trying to make. And as I originally noted, but also seems to be lost on RB, it is rather appalling to blame Dawkins when he is actually arguing against those consequences.

Comment #154273

Posted by Katarina on January 10, 2007 11:54 AM (e)

No one gets my reference? The Peril of Paulina from Dennett’s book Freedom Evolves? (thanks to PG for recommendation)

It’s a little long to read, but I think a worthwhile illustration to your excellent points, Anton and Torbjörn.

Daniel Dennett wrote:

A former student of mine, Paulina Essunger, developed a vivid example that takes the issue out of philosophical fantasy-land into cold reality. She has worked in AIDS research, and knows the perils that face that field well, so I will call her example the Peril of Paulina:

Let’s say I were to “discover” that HIV can be eradicated from an infected individual under ideal circumstances (total patient compliance, total absence of events inhibiting drug-action such as nausea, etc., total absence of contamination with extraneous virus strains, and so on) with four years of a certain therapeutic regime. I can be wrong about this. I can be wrong in quite a simple, straightforward way. Say I’ve miscomputed something, misread some data, misjudged the enrolled patients, or perhaps extrapolated too generously. I could aslo be wrong in publishing these results even if they are true, because of their potential environmental impact.(Further, the media could be wrong in carrying the story, could be wrong in how they carry the story. But some of their responsibility seems to fall back on me. Especially if I use the word “eradicate,” which in viral contexts usually refers to wiping the virus off the face of the earth, not “merely” ridding one infected individual of it. For instance, an irrational complacency may spread among, let’s say, male homosexuals: “AIDS is curable now so I don’t have to worry about it.” The incidence of unprotected high-risk sex in this group might rise again due to this complacency. Moreover, the widespread prescription of the treatment might lead to a dramatic spread of resistant virus in the infected population due to periodic patient non-compliance. (Essunger, personal correspondence)

In the worst case, you could have a cure for AIDS, know you have a cure for AIDS, and yet be unable to find a way of making that knowledge publicly available in a responsible way. It is no good fuming at the complacency or recklessness of the at-risk community, no good blaming the irresolute patients who abandon their treatments in midcourse–these are predictable and natural (if lamentable) effects of the impact your publication would have….

Comment #154279

Posted by Raging Bee on January 10, 2007 12:12 PM (e)

Torbjörn: Just to clarify (in case you’re interested in clarity), I’m blaming Dawkins for speaking out about the right issue (the evils of at least certain forms of religious indoctrination, especially when practised by state-funded institutions) the wrong way (by signing a poorly-worded petition, and making over-generalized statements that divert attention away from specific abuses and raise legitimate questions about his real intentions).

Comment #154280

Posted by Raging Bee on January 10, 2007 12:21 PM (e)

Katarina: thanks for the Paulina example. This example shows, at least, that one’s choice of words, and choice of venue for propagating those words, is, in its consequences, just about as important as the actual content of the message itself. You can’t have it both ways: if you want people to listen to what you say, then they will listen to what you say, and how you say it, not what you “really meant;” Blaming others after the fact for not understanding you the “right” way, is no substitute for getting your message right before the fact.

Comment #154282

Posted by Katarina on January 10, 2007 12:25 PM (e)

Bee, let’s not go down this road again. Dawkins doesn’t regret his words (do you know what they are?), only a document he signed. Are his subsequent statements not enough for ya? He’s only human.

The Peril of Paulina was meant to illustrate how people mis-use, mis-represent, and mis-understand the words of those who make careful statements about their views.

Comment #154284

Posted by Katarina on January 10, 2007 12:33 PM (e)

To quote Dennett again from his book,

The Peril of Paulina that we naturalists face is that whenever we put forward circumspect, precise versions of our positions, some of these guardians of the public good turn their cleverness to tranforming our careful claims into sound bites that are indeed foolish and irresponsible. I have found hat the more care I devote to making my message clear and compelling, for instance, the more suspicious these guardians become. What they say, in paraphrase, is this: “Don’t pay attention to all the caveats and complications masked by slick rhetoric! All he’s really saying is that you don’t have consciousness, you don’t have a mind, you don’t have free will! We’re all just zombies and nothing matters–that’s what he’s really saying!” How can I dael with this? (For the record, that’s not what I’m really saying.)

Since you don’t even have a clue what Dawkins is actually saying, how can you even begin to paraphrase what he is really saying?

Comment #154471

Posted by Henry J on January 10, 2007 9:57 PM (e)

So, is that intermediate output from somebody’s Weasel program?

Henry

Comment #154475

Posted by Sir_Toejam on January 10, 2007 10:29 PM (e)

I mean, who will pay for the building, the staff, etc?

you didn’t go quite far enough considering what I was asking, so I’ll pose the obvious extension:

what exactly, do you need a building, staff, etc. for?

just to be blatantly obvious, have you considered the problem might really arise from the “organized” part of organized religion?

do you need a building and a staff to have faith?

hmm.

Comment #154480

Posted by Sir_Toejam on January 10, 2007 10:49 PM (e)

Syntax Error: mismatched tag 'kwickxml'

Comment #154607

Posted by Katarina on January 11, 2007 7:50 AM (e)

I don’t know, STJ. Organized can be good, if people have a worthwhile objective. Such as debunking creationism. Or charity. I don’t object to the organized part so much as I object to the objective of spreading the Word.

Comment #154670

Posted by Torbjörn Larsson on January 11, 2007 1:38 PM (e)

RB wrote:

the wrong way (by signing a poorly-worded petition, and making over-generalized statements that divert attention away from specific abuses and raise legitimate questions about his real intentions).

The first part was put to rest earlier.

The second part may be true, but that wasn’t what you said. What I objected to was when you said“Whenever they equate “religious indoctrination” with “child abuse” (or, worse yet, with the sexual abuse of children by priests), they are laying the groundwork to justify such laws.” Dawkins should be free to make his case without being made responsible for others actions, as you should be free to state such points as the second part above. Especially when he argues against those very actions.

But I find I’m repeating myself, exactly as you are.

Comment #154906

Posted by Thanatos on January 12, 2007 7:10 PM (e)

hello having read these posts as a whole ,having bumped upon this page googling “war on science”,
i’m happy to see that there are still on this planet free thinking people

some comments on comments (I spent all night writing,I’m on the other hemisphere):

153016,153377,153379,153061,153217,153114,153465,153488153846 and …
Anton Mates,Torbjorn,Carol Clouser

anton and torbjorn (although i agree with you in principle opposing carol)some remarks:
determinsm is one thing causality is another. Quantum Mechanics is a non deterministic theory,NOT non causal.Very important distinction.
(i can’t recall of a non causal physical theory,at least not at some level of persumed reality…)
ie causality according to present theories maybe breaks down inside black holes…that’s partly why we don’t think that we have the right theories…)
Everything in QM happens for a reason(instabillity of nuclei and so on),the non deterministicity is happening randomly with respect to time. Why is it like that happening we don’t know…
Causality is not exactly derived from physical laws .they’re correlated or perhaps equivalent but perhaps in a far abstract way.in fact one may define science as the ultimate search of and for causility but of the very (if existing)measurable objective kind.
ie initial values problems of differential equations require -physics-mathematics,mathematics require rational thinking aka causality(unfortunatelly selfreference but still…) .
Your whole discussion is in,on,at,by the front or boundaries of science but both sides treat frontline theories of theoretical physics as solid ground(ie parallel cosmoi(universe = singular) )

Carol as many others have explained the problem in your arguments is that you alternate between acceptance of scientific principles and non acceptance at will and at the same time you regard yourself as rational.To a scientifically thinking person science=rationality….
Explaining that the non material god exists and created the world in a way that we cannot understand ,leaving no proof and we cannot understand it because he intentionally created it thus, is an explanation of faith and not logic (classic false proof via self reference. Long Live Russel!).if you cannot tell the difference your apparent high and broad education was acquired i think in vain.
ie
1 if so why not assume that there are two(or three and so on) non corporeal non rational binded first causes and not name the former god and the latter hmmmm satan???? and lets say that the omnipotence property of these beings is shared 40 (former) to 60 (latter)…
2 i’m surprised and amazed.how can an obviously educated person in both modern (pseudo-) philosophy and science cannot cope with principles as occam’s razor and so on?
3 jewish theology.the peaceful and philathropous judeo-cristian-muslim world-belief is based on the torah aka old testament.
any (non believer) reader of it can see that it’s a quite interesting book.in fact in this lovelly holly book the chosen highly sophisticated nomad people of god slains or calls the fair god to slay the following minor civilisations of antiquity :Babylonians-Aegyptians-Phoenicians-Cretans-Greeks. :)
(no antisemism meant here but … scripta manent)
and you talk about god.For the love of god!!!!!

Anton on the causality-first cause(aristotle’s “proton kinoun” meaning first thing moving other things)-fundamental element ad infinitum upon f. element theories of everything
we come to the classical endless loop or chain.things may be so.maybe there isn’t out there in the platonic or the material world the Divine M theory,the explanation of the rock,sex,dvd player,milky way,banana,…,everything.maybe we ‘ll always have to search to find the more basic more fundamental theory upon theory ad infinitum.there is no scientific proof of the opposite.But i think that (at least conventional) science aesthetics cannot deal very pleasantly or easely with this view as a true explanation.
and Although infinity (small or big) is commonly used in science have in mind that although as far as now we can’t do without it it maybe the source of all of our problems, being equivalent or the creator of self reference problems that are still everywhere in science.v=dx/dt what really means-is dx or dt(continuum problem)? and if spacetime is discrete what is to move? and if mass equals energy then mass creates field that is energy that is mass that creates field … and if the forces between particles came to being via virtual particles then the virtual one create real-virtual ones that create virtual that create real … and if to define the field of mass you need a mass without field …
Zeno,Zeno where are you? (also remember one of the schools of modern mathematics rejects every notion of infinity)

153494
Glen Davidson
quite right as a strategy but not very appauling to scientists

153408,153678,153799,153846,153799
Anton MAtes and Katarina

what’s UM,UW church? meaning what um,uw stands for?
cristianity and-or religion isn’t viewed outside US as you do in fact there are not 2,3,4,5 but maaany views.ie The main divisions of cristianity isn’t according to other cristian dogmata catholic,protestants and …others.You think in such terms because of the dominence there of these dogmata.
ie all of the (almost homogeneously) orthodox eastern europe barelly thinks protestants as cristians (on the borderline)and evangelists,jehova’s witnesses,… as not at all

the following isn’t exactly :) the nicene creed as you wrote…

We believe in one God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.
And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father by whom all things were made; who for us men, and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary, and was made man, and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate. He suffered and was buried, and the third day he rose again according to the Scriptures, and ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of the Father. And he shall come again with glory to judge both the quick and the dead, whose kingdom shall have no end.
And we believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life, who proceedeth from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified, who spoke by the prophets. And we believe one holy catholic and apostolic Church. We acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins. And we look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.

This text has the so called filioque (latin for “and from the son”) roman catholic addition to it.
(language of prototype -and of the last parts of the old testament and all of the whole of the new testament-was greek as greek was the lingua franca of the the roman empire and of the age.something that mel gibson seems to have -intentionally????- got totally wrong in his Truely(here,now we laugh) represented passions of the christ. america,america…)
The nicene creed is as the above without the filioque part (…who proceedeth from the Father,who with the Father…) (orthodox cristians keep onto the original mix :) )
The catholic wasn’t the main nor the only cristian dogma before luther.catholics came to life at 1056 (changing formally to the above version of the creed) when the great schism took place between the western (latin dominated) and eastern (greek dominated) roman empire dividing the church into catholic(means “of the whole” in greek) and orthodox(means “of the right faith-dogma” in greek)
something (among infinite others) that dan brown also got wrong in davinci code (heretic from hereticus or haereticus as dan says isn’t a latin word but the latin form of the greek word haeretikos meaning he who chooses.
many heresies had gone against the main or conventional or formal body of the church till the nicene creed and after it) have you americans(besides katarina) ever heard something of the above????)

in general Katarina i agree with you,in fact your posts show a quite fascinating cpmbination of knowledge and anticonformal boldness for an american (sorry guys but….)are you really one???

153105,153389,153452,153491,…
Raging Bee and others
As a general friendly comment.And to all of you out there proud citizens of the United Stated of
America.THERE IS A PLANET OUTSIDE THE USA.The World Series cannot really be world series because it’s only in the U.S. .In fact most of humanity doesn’t play baseball.The most popular sport on the planet is football meaning soccer…Your world champion of boxing is not the world champion of boxing but of the USA.Homo sapiens sapiens doesn’t in his vast majority speak english(take all my spelling,grammatical or syntactical mistakes in this text as clues(go non anglophones go!),this is obviously meant for the brits also).The American Dream is the dream of the americans.WE the 5.5+ billion REMAINING HUMANS have MORE interesting things to dream about. It’s maybe hard for you to grasp but the planet isn’t the USA. states,laws,religions,customs,languages,ethics,… differ from yours.People don’t think like you,don’t live like you,and don’t want to. Try to think in context of that…

Comment #154913

Posted by Thanatos on January 12, 2007 8:55 PM (e)

sorrygreat schism took place in 1054ad not 1056ad and i would like to point out that the complete history behind those events is quite more complex (as always),here simplified…and by the way good morning :) to all of you out there here is 4:53am

Comment #154914

Posted by Thanatos on January 12, 2007 8:57 PM (e)

sorry great schism took place in 1054ad not 1056ad and i would like to point out that the complete history behind those events is quite more complex (as always),here simplified…and by the way good morning :) to all of you out there here is 4:53am

Comment #154940

Posted by Katarina on January 13, 2007 7:53 AM (e)

Thanatos, welcome to PT.

By UM I meant United Methodist, and I am not sure what the other one is. You are right, I forgot to include Orthodox views. Shame on me for forgetting my “roots” (blame it on my commie daddy). But you are wrong, the posters here are very knowledgable and culturally aware, and they support the theory of evolution in spite of the popular tendency (in America, but now increasingly abroad) to dismiss it as “just a theory, not a fact,” which is a testament to their independence of thought.

Thanks for your contribution to the discussion, late as it is, and I hope you stick around, this is a great blog with great people, most of whom are much more educated and knowledgable than myself.

Just a note, a constructive criticism, it was rather difficult to read your comment since you don’t seem to care for, although you seem to be familiar with, the proper use of punctuation and capitalization. May I suggest that you make better use of these tools so as to make it easier for us to understand you without straining?

Comment #154989

Posted by Robert O'Brien on January 13, 2007 12:27 PM (e)

Katarina wrote:

My good troll,

Perhaps popping a pill or two would help you to actually participate in a thread.

I would have to take a chisel to my head to descend to the level of vapidity that characterizes Pill Popper’s posts.

Comment #154998

Posted by Thanatos on January 13, 2007 1:23 PM (e)

Katarina (and others) I’m very sorry for my lack of punctuation or capitalization and for the -I’m sure- many other errors.As I mentioned,when I began reading the thread,I found it very interesting, so I started again from the top,writing down some major objections ,thoughts etc.Then having finished reading , I started writing my comment,realising that there were so many and diverse things to write that I had to choose only the most important and only the ones I could express without having to write a book (the major problem was and is that usually when talking to most americans (even educated,are your universities so specialised?don’t you ever talk about (non trivial not on the news)things concerning the world outside US,aren’t you curious at all?) one unfortunatelly discovers that they are so hyper-ultra-selfcentred at everything that one has to reinvent the wheel and rediscover America :-) backing his thesis up),so I stopped caring for punctuation rules etc and focused on expressing myself ,as better and as fast as I could ,in english again after a long long time on non trivial issues.

Commie daddy in america? You must have had a very interesting childhood over there ,trying to persuade your friends that commies don’t eat children. :-)

Representing the other hemisphere good night to you all!

Comment #155001

Posted by Katarina on January 13, 2007 1:42 PM (e)

would have to take a chisel to my head

Don’t get our hopes up :)

Comment #155002

Posted by Katarina on January 13, 2007 1:53 PM (e)

Commie daddy in america? You must have had a very interesting childhood over there ,trying to persuade your friends that commies don’t eat children. :-)

LOL! I didn’t know communism was a bad thing until I came here, and was very shocked to learn it! In fact the principles formed my ethical foundation for life. We came to America in 1987 when I was 10 years old. I’ve still not decided to apply for citizenship, but someday I probably will, having had children here with my American husband. Our hope is to spend at least part of our lives in Europe, later on.

I don’t mean to pick on your grammer, but it does make it easier to communicate when we all use the same rules, and in addition, it demonstrates respect for the group when we make an effort to make ourselves more easily understood.

No big deal though, BTW, which part of Eastern Europe are you from? I am Serbian.

Comment #155031

Posted by Anton Mates on January 13, 2007 5:48 PM (e)

Thanatos wrote:

determinsm is one thing causality is another. Quantum Mechanics is a non deterministic theory,NOT non causal.Very important distinction.
(i can’t recall of a non causal physical theory,at least not at some level of persumed reality…)
ie causality according to present theories maybe breaks down inside black holes…that’s partly why we don’t think that we have the right theories…)
Everything in QM happens for a reason(instabillity of nuclei and so on),the non deterministicity is happening randomly with respect to time. Why is it like that happening we don’t know…

You’ll have to give me a definition of causality before I know how to respond. Certainly both necessary and sufficient causes in the usual sense are out the window in QM, as the present (observable) state of a system in general neither implies nor is implied by its past state.

Bell’s Theorem is usually taken to torpedo causality, unless you go with many-worlds. At a minimum, if a formerly entangled particle’s observed state has a cause, that cause is no longer necessarily in its past.

3 jewish theology.the peaceful and philathropous judeo-cristian-muslim world-belief is based on the torah aka old testament.
any (non believer) reader of it can see that it’s a quite interesting book.in fact in this lovelly holly book the chosen highly sophisticated nomad people of god slains or calls the fair god to slay the following minor civilisations of antiquity :Babylonians-Aegyptians-Phoenicians-Cretans-Greeks. :)

You probably don’t know this, but it’s rather a waste of time to discuss the Torah with Carol. If you search back through the PT archives, you’ll find that she’s the editor and publicist for Judah Landa’s book on how the Torah, when translated “literally,” is completely consistent with modern science. You’ll also find out that her definition of “literally” is rather a, er, nonliteral one.

cristianity and-or religion isn’t viewed outside US as you do in fact there are not 2,3,4,5 but maaany views.ie The main divisions of cristianity isn’t according to other cristian dogmata catholic,protestants and …others.You think in such terms because of the dominence there of these dogmata.
ie all of the (almost homogeneously) orthodox eastern europe barelly thinks protestants as cristians (on the borderline)and evangelists,jehova’s witnesses,… as not at all

I’m not sure what you’re saying there…the last bit seems to imply that eastern Europeans recognize fewer views as “properly Christian” than do Americans. We’ve got Mormons, Moonies and Pentecostals, after all.

many heresies had gone against the main or conventional or formal body of the church till the nicene creed and after it) have you americans(besides katarina) ever heard something of the above????)

From what I recall from my Magic, Religion & Law class, there was no “main body” of the church until well after the Council of Nicea; or rather, that “main body” got redefined with each new emperor’s religious preference. Christians were calling each other heretics for centuries prior, but no one sect had the power to define orthodoxy until the Imperial government was behind them.

It’s maybe hard for you to grasp but the planet isn’t the USA. states,laws,religions,customs,languages,ethics,… differ from yours.People don’t think like you,don’t live like you,and don’t want to. Try to think in context of that…

Laws, religions, customs, languages and ethics also differ within the USA. It’s probably wise to find out how any one American thinks before deciding how

Comment #155032

Posted by Anton Mates on January 13, 2007 5:50 PM (e)

It’s probably wise to find out how any one American thinks before deciding how

…ignorant they are of global cultural diversity, I meant to finish by saying.

Comment #155162

Posted by Thanatos on January 14, 2007 12:23 PM (e)

Panda seemed to have crashed-gone to sleep for some hours.Or is it just me?
prothysterally (oh my god I’ve written two pages)
Anyway

To Anton Mates

Regarding causality and physics.
Causality (aka aetioty :the property of having a cause) is usually defined as “An effect has A cause” ,cause preceding effect and determinism (aka aetiocracy:the rule of causes) as “The (same) effect has The (same) cause” (roughly speaking something like 1-1 function or not).Causality is much more fundamental than determinism.Determinism can’t exist without causality ,causality can exist without determinism.Perhaps in future superhypersuper theories (I mean theories fully explaining and fully predecting not just the sperms (of them?) now existing) everything will be otherwise understood.But till then ,everything after the bigbang(leaving at this point the “before”-how else to put it? and the “event” itself- STILL to scientific research (and not god of course)) is being understood in its totality in tempore or cum tempore but not sine tempore.
(parallel cosmoi,multiverses,copenhagen and so on are semi-scientifical,semi-philosophical interpretations of QM ,not QM itself.The measurement paradox at least from what I have heard STILL stands….)

Regarding eastern christianity.
Eastern christianity has not “mixed” or “lived” together with prostestants(and offsprings) at all.It’s what Katarina mentioned about the nicene creed and how (formal) christianity is defined around it.Since the eastern christian world (orthodoxy,monophysitism,koptism etc) never went through the lutheran ,calvinian,protestant ,in general, reform (and of course the relevant wars) ,

- and as it didn’t also went through renaissenance end enlightment (mainly due to the turks) but bumped onto modernity in a very violent way -

the nicene creed and the “holy” tradition (mysteries,saints,seremonies,monastecism,language in use,non polyphonic byzantine music (not totally valid for rusia and some others) etc) in the east are strictly kept.

-Over here in a statistical weight manner of speaking
a. non orthodox-catholic-jew-muslims are simply non corporeal :-) and
b. the corporeals are in a random combination constantly at war with one another :-)

-Even if you are a non believer or an opposer of the religion and although the power of the church isn’t now like in older times, religion,nationality,culture etc are so (homogenoously) closely intermixed-interweaven that there is no escape.
Ie for orthodoxs(!?! -es!?!) like catholics on each day in the calendar there is the in memoriam celebration of a saint-martyr-hosius (or of two or more). So even if you do hate christ and his teachings ,even if you indeed are a devoted atheist ,
you expect that your friends,relatives,… call you and wish you many years on your name’s celebration (the celebration of the homonym saint mentioned above) and hold a grudge and feel very lonely if they don’t…. :-)

The deniers ( aka you :-) ) of the above are simply either not considered because there are simply not around :) or considered not as simply heretics -like ie the catholics due mainly to the “filioque” - but as heretics to the point of another not dogma-doctrine but religion.
So yes much fewer as properly christian are recognised.
Damn you Heretics!!! :-)))))

Regarding faith and the creed
Yes in general you are right about the main body of the church and Synode of Nicaea(the complexity of the history of synodes,faith,people,doctrine,empire) but that’s in general what I also meant(formality, historically, in christianity after all is defined by constantine’s the great action of inagaurating christianity as the official religion of the imperium)
The problem is obviously inherent ->>>
“Should I mention this ,is this meant,should I mention that,does he-she knows what-where-when-why is that?”
Repeating myself again and again the problem is how to communicate with people that although are multicultural,multiethnical… ,they unfortunately STATISTICALLY also are ignorant of all the others and of their affairs in general. Politics,dreams,regimes,races,history,culture,religion,language(not just english and spanish for an increasing minority or some words-expressions of languages to be forgotten in two-three generations),economy,technology(do they use missiles or poison-darts? :-) ) ,geopolitics,geography , geography-location not in gps accuracy, simply on which continent on the globe :-) accuracy ,,,,,, ….….….….
How many americans do you believe(and you live over there –at least I suppose you do-so you are infinitely more trustworthy than me ) STATISTICALLY ie have ever heard of the nicene creed(not to forget some text driven to life by some event long long time ago somewhere far far away!!!!) ?????? In my country most would be lying if they said that they remembered what the Oecumenical Synodus of Nicaea was or was about, but everyone,I mean 99% everyone knows or knows about the nicene creed here being called the “Pisteuo”= “I believe” or “Symbolon tes Pisteos”= “Symbol of Faith”.In my country chances are that one may point on the map to most major countries.I don’t believe that most americans can point to my country or many foreign countries.
I understand that you mean that you are not all the same.OF COURSE.
I don’t wish to offend you as in fact and indeed I’m very merry-happy :) communicating with penseurs like you.
I just want to point out to some people that Earth isn’t “ US Americans and others…”,that infact Earth in most places isn’t called Earth.

About Carol.
No I didn’t know(or anyway happened to notice) about hers literallity of interpretation. I can’t really understand the manichaism-binarity of such combined rational-non rational thought.
eeeennnn- does not compute - does not compute-divide by zero error at #0234A5432
Long live the kingdom of superfuzzy logic!

to Katarina
I’m from Greece.Greetings!

Comment #155183

Posted by Thanatos on January 14, 2007 2:03 PM (e)

Dear Carol
please, please forgive me! I have indeed errored!
I’m wrong ,wrong,I’m totally wrong,
you obviously aren’t well educated,not educated at all.

Although I must admit that due to my erroneous disregard of formality,due to the lack of practicing serious writing in english for a long time(some years I might say) and due to the other problems already mentioned elsewhere ,my writings were not so easy to comprehend, it’s a plain fact to me now that my BABBLE of self-reference Russell paradox,Zeno of Elea infinity paradoxes,continuum problem,definition of a field,points and facts on the very history of christianity and so on, couldn’t even in a thousand years be understood by you.

Bises :)

PS: By the way, it’s Thanatos

Good night to you all!