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Jan 31 2013

We get email: Believers and their security blankets

You know what theists are hung up on? This notion of absolute certainty and dogma. Because they are so often trained to think in no other way, they cannot fathom how rational people can freely admit to not knowing a thing for certain, and yet still feel confident in rejecting the truth of the thing on the grounds of a lack of evidence. So why is it, the more we ask for their evidence for God, they insist we really don’t want to see any? Isn’t that just their way of comforting themselves in light of the fact they know full well they cannot meet their burden of proof? Of course it is.

We’ve had an especially dense fellow emailing us since yesterday, and the exchange so far has wound up with the following…


Out of one side of your mouths you claim that you do not believe in God,
on the other side of your mouths you claim that you do not know if God exists, and to make matters worse you live your lives as if you knew for sure that God does not exist.

Martin: [Name withheld], your problem is that you simply do not seem to be bright enough to make meaningful distinctions, nor to consider ideas with any degree of intellectual nuance. Try, however you can, to allow this concept to penetrate the very thick walls of your skull: it is possible to admit that you do not know something for certain, and yet have an opinion concerning its truth or falsity. I do not know for certain that an alien city does not exist beneath the surface of Pluto. However, do I believe there is an alien city beneath the surface of Pluto? Moreover, do I live my life, day to day, as if the existence of an alien city beneath the surface of Pluto is a relevant fact that should influence my decisions? No, I do not. I have no reason to, and doing things with no reason is foolish. If, at some point, evidence for such a city comes to light, I may be forced to change my mind about the matter. But until such evidence comes, I feel confident in dismissing Plutonian alien cities, even while admitting I lack absolute knowledge about their existence.

So no, this is not “talking out of both sides of our mouths.” This is us being smart and knowledgable enough to understand epistemology (look it up), which, as each of your emails makes more and more clear, is not a subject you understand.

You do this by rejecting all evidence that comes your way.

Increasingly Frustrated Sentient Human, aka Martin: But you have not sent any evidence our way. You have just whined and bellyached that we haven’t accepted your beliefs as blindly as you have. But that is your problem, not ours.

Let me demonstrate what I’m talking about. Matt admitted that he did not hear the debate, Morey vs Barker, but yet on one quote from Morey, Matt decides, “Morey doesn’t know what he’s talking about.”

Martin, Who Is Hoping There Is a City on Pluto As He’s Ready to Request Asylum There: This is because the one quote you provided from Morey contained a logical fallacy called a “straw man argument.” And when people employ fallacies, it is a pretty safe bet that they either do not know what they’re talking about, or do not know how to argue effectively even if they do know what they’re talking about. So either Morley is an ignorant idiot, or he isn’t and simply has a bad habit of sounding like one. Either way, first impressions count, and the quote you provided made a bad one. Perhaps you could have found a better quote.

It is clear to me that this kind of superiority complex Matt suffers from makes it impossible to have a meaningful discourse.

Martin, Who Would Headdesk If He Wasn’t Typing on His Lap Because He’s Tired of Replacing Broken Desks: Except it’s not a superiority complex to point out when someone has said something inaccurate or ignorant. I would say what makes it impossible to have a meaningful discourse is when ignorant people insist on clinging to their ignorance despite many attempts to communicate concepts to them accurately and clearly in the hopes of improving their understanding. As Exhibit A, I would point to my attempts to clarify things to you, and your continued inability to grasp them.

Why do you ask people for evidence for God when you don’t even believe in God in the first place. You should be asking yourselves, what would prove it to me? But this you will not do, why? Because your pride won’t let you.

Martin, Who’s All Out of Love, and Ready to Throw a Punch or Two Below the Belt: I think you should redirect this line of questioning. Try this instead:

People who don’t believe in things ask for evidence because — are you sitting down, because this will come as a shock — they are open to having their minds changed. But instead of providing that evidence, you insist we would reject it, even though we have prompted you many times to produce it. This should tell you something, and here it is: You know you do not have evidence, you know you cannot rationally defend your religious beliefs, you know deep down you do not have good reasons to believe in God and the Bible…but your pride (or rather, your fear, instilled in you through a life of strict indoctrination) won’t let you admit this.

Suddenly the game changes, doesn’t it?

I leave you with this. Down through the centuries the Bible has survived ALL the attacks of Atheists, skeptics, you name it, who hate God & His Christ. Matt Dillahunty’s Atheist experience show, which seems to be his lifes purpose, is a small wrinkle in time, it’s a sad pathetic experience, it’s illogical, non historic, he makes mistakes that are absolutely mind boggling.

Martin, Still Here: You do realize you’re the one you’re trying to convince with this childish, petulant tirade, right? We terrify you with our rejection of your myths and our ability to out-reason you. And this is the security blanket you weave to hide behind.

The Bible is the ONLY reliable thing we have to show us the meaning and purpose of life.

Martin, Now Just Mopping Up the Blood: Speak for yourself. I have chosen reason as my source of meaning and purpose, and from the higher perch on which I sit looking down at you, it’s clear to me you have chosen an impoverished idea of meaning and purpose.


Our inbox really looks like this, people, more often than you know.

83 comments

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  1. 1
    Alverant

    Again we see christian privilege. I notice that at the end he forgot that other religions have also survived through the centuries despite all the attacks of christians and if you were to ask followers of those religions they would say that their faith is the only thing to give life meaning. Rather sad of them.

  2. 2
    Akira MacKenzie

    …Who Is Hoping There Is a City on Pluto As He’s Ready to Request Asylum There…

    I don’t know about cities, but I do know of some nice fellows (one could call them “fun-guys”) who might be able to make some arrangements.

    How do you feel about coffee cans?

  3. 3
    micko

    Well, see it from his perspective – if he even lets the slightest doubt/reason enter his mind, one logical fallacy after another might enter his thoughts, and his whole world view might come tumbling down. Some people just cannot deal with this idea that they’ve wasted their entire life on a pointless faith. Having been an atheist all my life (thank god – badum psch) I have a hard time identifying with people coming out, but I would imagine it’d be a great source of fright and sadness, that up until that point, they wasted their lives on Sundays and/or Wednesdays or whatever. It takes cajones to admit that you were wrong, and that you spent all your life trying desperately to please someone who set up rules that YOU CANNOT FOLLOW, someone who condemns murder, but orders genocide, all the while they cursed the non-believers (or, indeed, the WRONG believers) to hell for believing in no god, the wrong god, or even the same god but in the wrong way. Boggles the mind, quite frankly.

  4. 4
    Sunday Afternoon

    Our inbox really looks like this, people, more often than you know.

    Complete with the illegible font? I’m impressed are your perseverance!

    1. 4.1
      Martin Wagner

      Actually Comic Sans is our default idjit font. His actual email — no joke — was in something like 24 point Helvetica.

    2. 4.2
      JE Hoyes

      :D It’s easier to read on the emailed version of this post. Don’t know why the AE bloggers use that awful palace script style font on the blog. With the kind of mentality being shown in the theismails, they should use comic sans. Or, more appropriately: “ElePhAnT uNcLe” http://www.fontspace.com/eodissa/elephant-uncle

    3. 4.3
      Lord Narf

      Eh, Comic Sans isn’t that bad. It not as pleasing as a serif font, but it’s far from illegible. It just looks kind of round and goofy, which is kind of the point.

  5. 5
    robster

    It’s difficult discussing religious nonsense with its victims. They’re victims because they have, at least, bought the fraud. They’ve been completely conned, duped and proved gullible. They secretly know this deep down but cling to their belief system becaus it’s really all they’ve got. It’s their social outlet and offers constant reinforcement of the belief system and that offers those prone to it, a sort of vacuous comfort.

    1. 5.1
      JE Hoyes

      Maybe there’s a way of talking to them with a bit more compassion for their plight. They’ve been abused into believing without evidence and they align this with their very humanity. It’s got to hurt to have that challenged with reasonable doubt. Like finding out a person you’ve loved for years has been cheating on you.

  6. 6
    Jasper of Maine

    You do this by rejecting all evidence that comes your way.

    We reject a lot of what apologists think is evidence. Believe it or not, there are standards with qualifications that need to be met before something is considered valid evidence.

    If you go to a job interview for “Lead Aerodynamic Engineer”, and you’re supposed to prove that you’re competent with a resume, references, example designs you’ve done, etc…. and all you’ve got is “I like to play with legos”, it’s not going to be surprising that your “evidence” of your engineering prowess gets rejected.

    Further, if you start screaming at the job interviewer that “I GAVE YOU THE PROOF THAT I AM THE BEST ENGINEER EVER AND YOU JUST REJECT ANY EVIDENCE SO YOU REALLY DON’T ACTUALLY WANT TO HIRE AN ENGINEER”, don’t be surprised if he calls security.

    1. 6.1
      Edgardo

      Well, I have to say that maybe things would be clearer if the guys on the show would care to define and clearly state their criteria to accept evidence as solid or valid. I know they have done it at different times, but sometimes they fail to do it at the moment someone brings up the “there’s plenty of evidence even if you don’t accept it”. I think if they responded something like “solid evidence as a basis for rational belief from a skeptic standpoint can only come from sources like our senses, measurable variables in reality, sound and valid logical arguments, the scientific method etc.” then some believers who call would understand that quoting scripture, fallacious arguments, unsupported premises, hearsay etc. cannot constitute evidence.

  7. 7
    mikmik

    Man, it pisses me ff no end when someone claims to know what I really am doing. Your whole article shows zero consideration that they feel the same way about you. If someone is brought up from to think that truth comes from an internal source, ie feelings and emotions, that is proof that we don’t understand what is obvious to them. They base what is true as being supported by the ‘hysteria’ and self reinforcing experiences of elation. They are a subculture, much as the one in full bloom here at FTb. They see atheists refusing to understand the obvious just as we see them doing the same thing. It’s been covered before, I’m not going to explain what should be obvious for a skeptic to do, is to ask questions about their own conclusions, and to probe other options that explain their behavior.
    It’s like us arguing with fish that it is obviously much better to live on land, and vise versa. Just fucking come live on land, WTF is your problem. We can make planes and fly(*for instance) and do everything so much more efficiently because we don’t have to waste energy fighting the drag produced by water.
    The fish think we are just being obstinate goofs, because how do these freaks know what it’s like do live in water, and float effortlessly thus exp4eriencing a sense of calm and freedom. We have to expend so much unnecessary energy because we have to build shelters in order to be able to float in a calm daydream, and we have to always go to the same place to do it.
    We, each to the other, don’t understand that our foundation for truth is as different as air and water.

    I know this is simplistic, and living in water and air, in which it is fatal to be in the wrong atmosphere. It is fatal for us objective, rationality based thinkers to rely on feelings to know what is true, just as it is fatal to their truth base, in which the ecstasies of group feedback reinforces a sense that this must be the right way, look how free and enveloped in God’s and each others blissful love. Sure, they are going to make the mastery over nature and it’s resources, so to provide themselves with the means to build a physical security, but the fuck for anyways, the main game doesn’t start until they are dead anyways, and thus their future is secure, to themselves, in Heaven.

    now reality doesn’t work that way, so fucking painfully obviously, and their actions are so painfully paradoxical that they don’t realize that reason and common sense is what is keeping them alive.

    I’m really losing my train of thought, but suffice it to say that around here, in the activist environment, we are doing the same fucking thing as Christians do, and that is to call each other fuckheads, and purposely ignorant, because one group feels very strongly about feminism, one group about racism, one this, and one that, and the fact that one group doesn’t fucking get it is that they are to stupid to see that the other groups priorities are the most important.

    It is past sickening to me, to see rationality, skepticism, and empathy and compassion for each other, to degenerate into a morass of factions and emotionally driven views on what constitutes truth.

    I cannot believe the fucking insistance that each other are scheming fuckheads out to undermine whichever subcultere we happen to feel is the most crucial, at the moment.

    Is this the fucking state of thinking here, the predominate focus on showing how fucking stupid the religious are thast we are still investing the sasme signifigant amount of time, and passion, into fucking setting up example after example of some idiot fanatically religious, or politacally immoral pathetic example of the opposition, im order for us to gather together and shoot fucking fish in a barrel, and create a strawman the we endlessly enjoy getting our shit in a knot, over and over and over and over, the same fucking example of idiocy, but different specifics, just the same as 5 or more years ago.
    Fucking get over it, for fuck sakes, time to grow up and accomplish things together, put our passions into productive endeavors instead of subsisting on the in – fucking – scessent return to being immature fucks and tittering to each other about some fucking assholes that are far to stupid to get the obvious.

    It is exactly what is happening, we are turning into the dolts we despise, because we can’t seem to get our emotional shit together and rise to the level of decent adults. No, everyone ‘gets mail’ now. Everyone fucking gets obsessed with their own little island of truth, and now atheists and skeptics have turned on each other because there just aren’t enough Christians to laugh at and tell to fuck off. So we, under the guise of ‘look how fucking rational we are that we can criticise each other in order to expose our collective misdirections, and work to correct them together, based on mutual respect.

    Now, I am sick of the shit that passes for the ‘rational pursuit of truth and justice, you fucking bunch of cannibalistic prima donnas. You have wasted time on a target that’s bigger than the side of a barn, norman, or hermin, or who gives a fuck what their name is today, a blog article dedicated, yet again, yawn, to making fun of some fool.

    Aren’t you fucking bright enough to realize, after 5 or more years, that our fucking supposedly rational and skeptical endeavors haven’t changed a thing but to whip our group into frenzied mobs that got the taste of easy blood, and now that’s our main reason for getting together, to feast on the blood of the next defenseless(intellectually) cripple.

    We have people, me definitely included, telling people that we usually find inspiring, to ‘fuck off you loser’ so lizard brain our behaviors have become. I used to be proud to hear people talk about the FTbullies, because I thought that meant that we don’t put with no shit from idiots, get that straight, right out of the gate.

    Now we are all a bunch of shit disturbing bullies whose raison d’être is to bully anyone that doesn’t tow the line, into silence.
    I mean, look at me, I’m judging the fuck out of ‘everyone‘ myself, even thought probably 90% of the folks here don’t act the way, that I have now worked myself into thinking.

    But this article is not worth the paper it is printed on(not as funny as I imagined, that), both in intent, and awkward shedding of critical thinking in order to draw, what has now become, tasteless blood.

    Holy shit do I take myself seriously! I just think this is becoming a habit amongst us.

    1. 7.1
      Martin Wagner

      There is quite a lot I could say in response to this confused, tone-trolling tirade, but as I have a busy morning ahead, I will focus on the following brief excerpt.

      It’s like us arguing with fish that it is obviously much better to live on land, and vise versa. Just fucking come live on land, WTF is your problem.

      Dude, this is so wrong it’s not even wrong, but transcends wrong by traveling through a wormhole of wrong into its own wrong alternate universe, where everything is wrong. Try this simile instead: us arguing with Christians is like arguing with a fish who has been indoctrinated by the Fish Church to believe that Fishgod wants them all to live on land, and only sinner fish live in the sea. We’re trying to point out that the sea is actually where fish belong, and are being called dogmatic for our troubles. (This simile is employed solely for the sake of this argument, and disregards evolutionary history and the fact that we’re here at all because some fish decided “Fuck it” and chose living on land instead.)

      You’re arguing that Christians are simply people who have come to “truth” from a different path, and that their approach to truth is not necessarily any less valid, and that by critiquing theirs, we’re just being silencing bullies. Honestly, if I’ve heard anything dumber in all the years since Dan Quayle misspelled “potato,” I don’t know what it is.

      Are you aware of what our TV show even does? We take live calls from Christians, and argue with them. Sometimes the arguments are friendly, sometimes they’re testy or even downright hostile. Arguments are things that take place between two people who exhibit a character trait called “conviction,” which is actually a good trait to have. However, conviction alone does not guarantee that your view is the correct one, and so debate was invented (many centuries ago by someone who was probably Greek and had an epic white beard) as a way of sifting truth from passionately held belief, and coming to points of agreement and disagreement. Perhaps, to people unaccustomed to argument and uncomfortable with the idea of confronting conflicting opinions, debates and arguments are just all about finding someone we don’t like and telling them to fuck off for being losers. Of course, to think that way would make one a bit of a loser himself, but only he can change that about himself.

      As for our correspondent in the above exchange: It bears pointing out that while we are eager to engage in respectful disagreements with theists, as well as fish who’d rather live on land, it’s also the case that at The Atheist Experience, you get what you give. And as this person opened his exchange with a deliberately insulting volley of remarks in which he presumptuously (and incorrectly) attempted to instruct us on the proper definition of atheism (supposedly it’s the “dogmatic” view that no God exists), and implying that we were dishonest hypocrites when we carefully tried to explain the difference between atheism and agnosticism, and that a person could be both — then frankly, I feel like I gave the guy quite a fair chance to improve the tone of the discussion before finally letting him have it in kind.

      But ultimately the point is this: does truth (defined as what can be shown as factual, not just passionately believed regardless) matter? All things being equal, is it better for a person to hold beliefs that actually conform to observable reality, or is that simply irrelevant? And who are the actual “bullies”? The people who say, “Yes, truth does matter and we should approach it rationally?” Or the people out there ignore rationality and use the received dogma of their religions to justify passing laws restricting a woman’s use of her own internal organs, telling people whom they can and cannot marry, and trying to impose Bronze Age myths into school science classes?

      I’d suggest that letting go of some of the emotion in your outburst and approaching the matter with a little bit of calm perspective might help you see things a little more clearly, and accurately.

      1. EnlightenmentLiberal

        Dude, this is so wrong it’s not even wrong, but transcends wrong by traveling through a wormhole of wrong into its own wrong alternate universe, where everything is wrong.

        One might say, fractally wrong?
        http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Fractal_wrongness

        1. Steven Rowlinson

          Damn it codemonkey; you beat me to it! Kudos all the same….

    2. 7.2
      SallyStrange

      I’m certainly judging the shit out of you right now. My judgments are as follows:

      1. Incoherent

      2. Inconsistent

      3. Self-absorbed

      4. Myopic

      5. Unnecessarily verbose

      So what?

      1. Steven Rowlinson

        1. Yep

        2. Uh-huh

        3. Deffo

        4. Gotcha

        5. On the button.

        Ten points for describing exactly why that comment gives me a migrane just by acknowledging its very existence.

      2. mikmik

        Acknowledged, although you(both) don’t address any of my points, so if you want clarification about anything, just ask, or tell me why you think I’m full of shit to at least give your opinions some substance.
        I know my writing is fucked right up many times, and it doesn’t help that I switch into, and out of, sarcasm without being clear about that – definitely inconsistent and incoherent.
        But I have to disagree that my view is myopic.
        Do you people think that responding to someone with a criticism by flaming them, stereotyping them, and implying that they are only there to pursue an agenda(trolling) is really conducive to both parties? And sorry, Sally Strange, but I use myself as an example most of the time because I don’t have the right to speak for anyone else. Besides that, it is immediately accountable to me to be dealt with directly.

        Steve, thanks for all the power to inflict you with migraines. I don’t wield it lightly. I got a migraine just writing it. I’ve got to be more careful ;)

        1. LykeX

          If you want a more reasoned response, you might want to take a moment to distill out your main points and phrase them in an easily accessible manner. Your post does come off as a big block of randomly scattered ideas and it’s a bit hard to follow. People have limited time and don’t want to waste it, so most are simply going to skip over it.

          Let me point out one problem, as an example; you start off talking about Christian ways of thinking and different standards of evidence and then suddenly your off talking about FtB bullies. I didn’t even remotely see that coming, suddenly you were just talking about something else. You have to make sure that the connection between topics is clear, or it’ll read as a weird, abrupt change of direction.

          Your post comes off as something written in a sudden burst of energy and passion. It would have been a good idea if you had saved this as a first draft, gone off to take a break, then come back and re-written it for clarity.
          When I write long posts, I usually go through several drafts and often end up throwing away half of what I wrote because I realize it just got in the way. It wasn’t contributing to my point, it obfuscated it.

        2. Lord Narf

          Admittedly, it was a bit of word salad, at points, MikMik. I only read about the first 2 paragraphs, myself, before I lost interest and moved on to other things. Try a bit of a rewrite and lay out your points quicker, then expand upon them. Try a new comment, down at the bottom, so that we can nest from it. If you do it in a reply to LykeX or me, at this nesting depth, it will be more difficult, since we’re nearly at max nested depth.

        3. mikmik

          Thanks for this input. I think it best that I compose my responses using a text program, like Notepad, then give it a proof read. (LOL, now I read the nested bit.) I’ll rewrite my rant in English and post it anew.
          I do appreciated this. Thanks.

          1. Lord Narf

            No problem. Personally, I never post anything without at least one read-through for clarity and to catch substituted words. My typing has a particularly obnoxious pattern of typos. I generally never miss individual letters. My brain stem, or whatever it is that handles that sort of thing, tends to substitute similar words, such as “though” in place of “height” or something like that. It’s annoying, because Firefox’s spell checker doesn’t flag anything that’s an actual word. It doesn’t do anything for grammar.

            If I’m writing anything more than 3 paragraphs long, I’ll usually proof each paragraph as I complete it, then proof the whole thing, at the end, for inter-paragraph coherency and general thought-flow.

    3. 7.3
      EnlightenmentLiberal

      But there is one important difference between the two cultures and the peoples in the cultures. We’re right, they’re wrong. Evidence-based thinking good, faith-based thinking bad.

      1. mikmik

        Couldn’t agree more. It is so frustrating, and it drives me nuts. The people I live around, being evangelical, don’t even understand what a valid argument looks like. They do the same shit with gun control, politics, etc.
        The only thing that matters to them, besides thinking they are logical, is that they all get together and get worked up into an orgiastic frenzy, therefore Goddidit.

        I go out of my way to present analogies that mirror what they do as precisely as possible, but they just can’t, and I mean can’t, make the connection.

        But, I absolutely must admit that I like tearing into malignant behaviors, and emails are one of them. I just want to keep it separate from how we treat each other in the freethought community because “Evidence-based thinking good, faith-based thinking bad.” is present in our discussions all the time. Example, people that defend everything RW does without hesitation, and everyone that says she’s just a smug prima donna, and therefore, wrong about everything.
        I like Cult of Dusty, on youTube, is that he ends every video by pointing to his head and saying, “Logic.”

        Are you the codemonkey?

  8. 8
    andybreeden

    I sure hope Martin’s OK. ;-)

  9. 9
    John Kruger

    yet on one quote from Morey, Matt decides, “Morey doesn’t know what he’s talking about.”

    Geez, you find one mistake in my math problem and you just throw out my answer! You just want it to fail!
    This, though, has got to be one of the most baffling sentences I have ever read:

    Why do you ask people for evidence for God when you don’t even believe in God in the first place.(Sic)

    Why do you drive your car around when you have not even reached your destination? Why do you eat food when you are not already full? Why do you read a blog when you don’t already know what it has to say? Wow. Just wow.
    Some of these emails are just magnificent in their tragedy. At some level I don’t want to laugh at people so staggeringly stunted by religious thinking, but some of the stuff they come up with is just too comical. This post made my morning.

    1. 9.1
      Jasper of Maine

      Yeah that one was truly a killer stump-argument.

    2. 9.2
      Lord Narf

      Yeah, that second quote you pulled out is just mind-blowing. If that’s the way that this guy goes about his life …

      I dunno, it’s one of the most stupid things I’ve heard in a while. You only go around searching for evidence for things you already believe? That kind of sums up what’s wrong with the religious worldview, in one sentence.

      1. EnlightenmentLiberal

        You know, I’m going to have to starting quoting your post there, good sir.

        1. Lord Narf

          ???

          Which part? About the two ways of doing things in the two different worldviews, and why the religious approach is so screwed up? It’s far from an original thought, so I’m not sure who you’d trace back to, as an original source to quote.

          I saw a political cartoon, once, something to the effect of:

          First frame, group of scientists:
          “Okay, here’s the data. Let’s see what sorts of conclusions we can draw from them.”

          Second frame, group of religious people:
          [holding a Bible] “Okay, here are our conclusions. Let’s see what evidence we can find to support them.”

          1. EnlightenmentLiberal

            Just this entire conversation struck a cord with me. Specifically:

            I dunno, it’s one of the most stupid things I’ve heard in a while. You only go around searching for evidence for things you already believe? That kind of sums up what’s wrong with the religious worldview, in one sentence.

            I just saw this elsewhere in another discussion I was in, where they claimed that atheists dogmatically reject arguments for god. I had to calmly explain that, no, no we don’t.

          2. Lord Narf

            Ohhhhhhhh, just the turn of phrase. Gotcha. I’ve definitely been focusing on my wording, for dramatic effect, in writing standup material. It must be leaking out into other things.

            Go for it. Ctrl-C; Ctrl-V.

            I know what you mean. It’s like theists have a super power, being able to leap huge logic holes, in a single bound. We mortals have to use … well, you know, actual logic.

  10. 10
    sonorus

    I like what Matt said about this once: “An omniscient being would know what evidence I would require in order to believe.”

  11. 11
    jacobfromlost

    The whole, “What evidence would it take for you to believe?” question is nonsense. I posted this in the comments a year ago (January 16, 2012):

    ………………
    Anyway, what would convince ME of a particular god would be several mutually confirming pieces of evidence along these lines…

    A holy book that makes specific, falsifiable, ongoing predictions over thousands of years that are such that humans can’t make them happen themselves (and are “ongoing” in such a way as to be occurring every few months or years).
    * Personal revelations that can be and are verified empirically (for instance, “Look for the Higgs around 125 GeV) on an ongoing basis in conjunction with the message that “Specific God X” is passing that message along.
    * Clear and verifiable knowledge that comes from believing in the correct god (without study), and ONLY comes from believing in the correct god. It would be quite compelling if the only people who could write computer code, fix my car’s engine, or develop a model of quantum mechanics that works in reality were those who believed in Specific God X.
    * A continuing demonstration that those who believe in the correct god do not get sick, and those who believe in the wrong ones do, with no disconfirming examples of either of these (no one with correct belief sick, no one with incorrect beliefs healthy).
    * A continuing demonstration that once one begins believing in the correct god, their sicknesses instantly heal, and they gain instant knowledge per above that can be demonstrated empirically.
    * A continuing demonstration that anyone who believes in the correct god cannot be defeated in any way, shape, or form by those who don’t believe in the correct god.
    * A continuing demonstration that belief in the correct god results in broad, observable, verifiable, predictive, and falsifiable outcomes that are MARKEDLY DIFFERENT than the outcomes found with confirmation bias, wishful thinking, groupthink, peer pressure, mythmaking, pareidolia, brainwashing, hysteria, or any belief that is NOT in the correct god.

    If all of these things mutually confirmed each other in falsifiable ways (while accompanied by correct belief), and yet were never falsified, I would believe as surely as I believe in anything. Would I be absolute sure that the object of this belief was real, or even existed? No, as I can’t be absolutely sure of anything, but the evidence would be such that I WOULD believe it until presented with disconfirming evidence…and that disconfirming evidence would have to be pretty spectacular among all of that mutually confirming evidence.
    …………………………..

    1. 11.1
      Warp

      Actually none of those would be certain evidence of a god. Sure, it would be compelling evidence that there’s some phenomenon that clearly and consistently affects people when they act in a certain manner, that that in itself doesn’t tell us what the source of those effects are, nor what kind of properties it might have. (For example, it would not tell us if this source is actually what “created” the universe, or whether there’s life after death, or even whether this source is from within this universe or from a possible “outside”, if there exists such a thing.)

      For all we know it could be sufficiently advanced aliens who are running an experiment on us, and who themselves evolved in the normal way and do not have any superior “god” that affects their lives.

      1. escuerd

        Well, he did note this (like pretty much everything) would fall short of absolute certainty.

        There are, for any set of data, an infinite number of possible alternative explanations. But if some putative god has a consistent track record of giving you verifiably accurate, non-trivial information about the universe on an ongoing basis, and also claims to have created the universe, it isn’t exactly a huge leap to think that that statement might be accurate too (provided there’s not some other disconfirming evidence to discount it).

        I’d also find the kind of evidence in jacobfromlost’s scenario compelling.

        But he’s also right that “What evidence would you accept?” is a bit of a red herring and an attempt to shift the burden of proof. I couldn’t enumerate all the possible sets of evidence that would convince me of something, but I can damn sure recognize one when I see it. Examples like the above suffice to show that convincing evidence is conceivable, but that’s not what believers who ask this question are looking for. They would likely take such a response as setting absurd burdens of proof that we already know won’t be met.

        So naturally either we must be ignoring the “evidence” that’s all around us, or we must be holding them to some ridiculously high standard (as opposed to one that’s, you know, commensurate with the strength of the god claim in question).

      2. jacobfromlost

        Warp: Actually none of those would be certain evidence of a god.

        Me: Evidence is never certain. There is always the possibility of it not being what it seems given that we cannot know everything. I couldn’t honestly use evidence in one way for everything else in my life (like gravity, scientific conclusions, etc), and then ask for evidence of a god that goes beyond the same kind of evidence for gravity. Humans don’t have the capability of being absolutely certain of anything–we can always be wrong.

        Warp: that in itself doesn’t tell us what the source of those effects are, nor what kind of properties it might have.

        Me: What kind of evidence would be “beyond a reasonable doubt” if an ongoing demonstration of mutually confirming evidence would not suffice? This is the same kind of evidence we accept for all kinds of claims that are supported by mountains of evidence and contradicted by none. (Also, I wasn’t arguing for an “absolute belief” in this god, as I don’t think absolute beliefs have any bearing on the real world–if you believe things because the evidence supports it, then I would have to believe in a god if mountains of evidence per my post above supported it. That doesn’t mean that belief couldn’t still be wrong because ANY belief based on mountains of evidence could still be wrong.)

        Warp: (For example, it would not tell us if this source is actually what “created” the universe, or whether there’s life after death, or even whether this source is from within this universe or from a possible “outside”, if there exists such a thing.)

        Me: Sure, but I was imaging that the “correct belief” would include such characteristics as creator god, existing in or out of the universe, etc, and that since that “correct belief” would be directly died to empirically demonstrable, verifiable, reproducible, and falsifiable outcomes, then those characteristics would be beyond a reasonable doubt. That doesn’t mean they are correct, true, but to be intellectually honest I would have to believe them in the same way I believe gravity is real based on mountains of evidence. Do I know the exact nature of gravity in terms of every physical phenomenon known or unknown? No. Thus there is always the possibility of being wrong.

        Warp: For all we know it could be sufficiently advanced aliens who are running an experiment on us, and who themselves evolved in the normal way and do not have any superior “god” that affects their lives.

        Me: Right. The possibility of being wrong is not something a human can EVER get away from (evidence isn’t something that demonstrates something true with absolute certainty, ever). I was just pointing out that when theists claim we are intellectually dishonest because we wouldn’t accept ANY evidence of a particular god, they are wrong, at least in my case. If we had evidence for a god akin to evidence we have for anything else that is empirically demonstrated, I would believe it (and by “believe it”, I don’t mean absolutely believe it, because I don’t think claiming absolute certainty about anything actually makes you absolutely certain). And I think my list (although not the only one conceivable) would empirically demonstrate the existence of something we could beyond a reasonable doubt conclude is a god with the specific characteristics under “correct belief”.

    2. 11.2
      mikmik

      I would question my sanity, over and above all ‘evidence’ to the contrary i.e. everyone else seeing the same miracles and confirming them as true.
      I would still question my sanity, and doubt the existence of God, as the more likely explanation.
      LOL, I just realized how ironic that is. There are christians around here that unequivocally claim that even if God was proven to not exist, they would still believe. One of them is, IMO, a twisted goof, but the other, a woman my atheist friend married, is the most mature and well adjusted a person you could hope to meet.
      LOL!

      1. jacobfromlost

        Interesting. Another thought I had was that if my above list of evidence for a god actually occurred, then it would be an evolutionary pressure that would eventually lead to almost everyone believing. Nonbelievers would always be defeated when coming into conflict with believers. Nonbelievers would always be susceptible to illness and injury, while believers would not. Indeed, in that scenario it would even be smart to be a believer because you would have clear advantages over anyone else. (Of course, one might imagine two believers coming into conflict. Then what happens? lol It would be interesting to live in such a universe to run that experiment and find out.)

    3. 11.3
      Lord Narf

      I think the basic question is deformed and corrupt, and I think you guys are falling into their trap by answering it in the way that the theists are asking the question. The way that the theists intend the question is to ask what one piece of evidence will convince us of the existence of God. That’s the way you guys are responding.

      I don’t ask for much. I ask for the evidence to demonstrate a god. I ask for the evidence to demonstrate a god. All of it. All of the evidence that there is.

      Science doesn’t work off of one bit of evidence to support a model. It works with a preponderance of evidence supporting a model of the universe. If you have 30 data points that you use to construct a model, and the other 70 data points from your study don’t fit the model, you go back and test all 100 data points again, to make sure you got it right. If you confirm the data that doesn’t fit your model, then it’s time to throw out your model and come up with something else.

      95 data points fitting your model and 5 not fitting could justify keeping the model and tweaking the finer points to fit the data, but sometimes, those 5 data points are sufficient to discard a model, say Newtonian physics, in favor of Einstein’s relativity models. Sure, Newtonian physics is still a useful tool, but it’s not the way things are, and we’re talking about ultimate reality here.

      Quite simply, there’s nothing that a theist of the Christian, Muslim, or Jewish sort could provide which would be adequate. Their holy books have already been demonstrated to be crap.

      If the Abrahamic god existed, I would expect distinct, unconnected genetic-lines in the different groupings of species. The existence of “kinds” is enumerated in Genesis 6. I would expect every cat to be genetically distinct from every dog, every horse, every elephant, without the profound genetic similarity between species that we actually see.

      I would expect Jesus, Mohammad, and the Jewish prophets to explain that some people are possessed by demons, and some people just have a genetic defect that makes their brain not work right. I would expect them to tell us how to differentiate between the two scenarios. I would expect Jesus to tell us how to differentiate between a schizophrenic and someone who’s actually talking to God. I would expect Jesus to demonstrate to his disciples that he isn’t schizophrenic.

      We should expect evidence from cosmology, mathematics, and physics that the universe was created by a god. There could be alternate interpretations of some of the evidence, sure, but I would expect the majority of it to point to a god creating it all, as described in His divine, dictated or inspired holy book.

      Gods come loaded down with baggage. Once you demonstrate the creation myth to be false … once you demonstrate the given history and societal myths to be dross (the Tower of Babel and the entire flood mythology), the god is crap. The moment that you say something like “This part of the holy texts are metaphor,” or “This part is just myths from surrounding cultures,” then the entire holy book is bullshit. A text that relies on divine authority is worthless as soon as you dismiss the first bit of it, and you can throw out the whole thing as worthless, except perhaps as cultural commentary and very tentatively as a historical document, once you find a great deal of contemporary, external support.

      Anyone who dismisses divine creation of the universe, the global flood, the Tower of Babel, the divine creation of the different species, and demons causing all mental illness is a heretic and has no right to hold up anything from the Bible as fact, when they reject huge portions of it.

      1. mikmik

        I think the basic question is deformed and corrupt, and I think you guys are falling into their trap by answering it in the way that the theists are asking the question. The way that the theists intend the question is to ask what one piece of evidence will convince us of the existence of God. That’s the way you guys are responding.

        I don’t ask for much. I ask for the evidence to demonstrate a god. I ask for the evidence to demonstrate a god. All of it. All of the evidence that there is.

        Science doesn’t work off of one bit of evidence to support a model. It works with a preponderance of evidence supporting a model of the universe. If you have 30 data points that you use to construct a model, and the other 70 data points from your study don’t fit the model, you go back and test all 100 data points again, to make sure you got it right. If you confirm the data that doesn’t fit your model, then it’s time to throw out your model and come up with something else.

        This is the best answer I have ever seen, Lord Narf! You nailed it about my approach(and all other’s). This is the answer to all red herring arguments because, of course, they avoid the entirety of the central proposition.

        Even then, calling anything evidence is premature, and lastly, like you say, one piece of evidence would never be accepted as proof for a far reaching concept.

        I will, in all likelihood, reference back to your comment here, if I may, if anyone should ever say, “Good point, mikmik.” Bloody right it’s a good point.

        1. Lord Narf

          Heh, thanks man. I put a lot of effort into that one. I’m working on a religion rant segment, for my standup, this morning … errrrr, afternoon, now. I thought back to this example of the various “What would it take for me to believe in a god?” discussions I’ve seen, since it was the most recent.

          I just went with it, here, and I think that all makes a pretty good rough draft. I think I can pretty much lift that blog post and drop it into the standup segment, with only a little massaging of the intro and outro, for flow. Maybe I’ll insert 2 or 3 absurdity-twist laugh points, somewhere in there. I think I can get a few in, in the second half, when I start listing specific examples.

          Something about the faith healers being one of the few consistent groups of Christians, since they reject pretty much all modern medicine and psychology … and kill their kids in large numbers, because of it. Hmmmmmmm …

          1. mikmik

            Something about the faith healers being one of the few consistent groups of Christians, since they reject pretty much all modern medicine and psychology … and kill their kids in large numbers, because of it. Hmmmmmmm …

            Good thing that their parents weren’t so diligent. Or is it bad Okay, leave the writing to you, and break a chair leg tonight!

          2. Lord Narf

            Well, that was pretty much the punchline: killing their kids. Something about how the Christian Scientists and their sort are the true believers, and you should be holding them up as true, good Christians, and I’d talk them up a bit. Oh, wait, their kids end up dead.

            The language and flow are going to need a lot of massaging.

        2. Lord Narf

          Oh, and I meant to add, quote or reference away. And tell them to come see my show, when I get my worthless ass out and touring. ^.^

        3. mikmik

          Ha ha, that’s great that you do stand-up. I live in Edmonton, AB, and the first thing I thought of was wondering if ever get up here. You bet’cha I’ll put in a plug!
          I really like the idea about killing their kids. You’d think some of the others could throw a few rocks at theirs once in a while, just for appearance sake.

          But your comment. Well said. If you ever get up this way, food and drinks on me, and I even have a hide-a-bed!

          1. Lord Narf

            I’ll be making it up that way, eventually, assuming I can get off the ground and touring. Seattle, WA and Portland, OR would be obvious stops on a tour. I’ll probably be heading up into the northeast, first, though. I’m in North Carolina, so there’s a good chain of major cities, heading up the coast.

            The problem with western Canada is even worse than the west coast of America. You have such a damned long distance between major cities. Edmonton and Calgary aren’t that insanely far apart, but it’s almost 1,000 miles to get from Vancouver to Calgary. Oh, wait, the damn thing defaulted to kilometers. 600 miles, though. Well, that’s not quite as bad, but still a bit of a haul. I limit myself to about a thousand miles a day, and I’m going to have very limited functionality after that.
            Still, some of my best performances have been done while absolutely exhausted. I’m too tired to get jittery. The exhaustion also adds to the presentation, because I spend most of the time swinging between tired/depressed and outraged, for most of the segments.

            My political material wouldn’t play as well in Canada, since it’s fairly US-centric, but I’ve only got one 10-minute segment that’s explicitly political. I imagine I’ll have more swap-out material by the, time I make it over to the west coast. I’ve only got about an hour and a half or an hour and 45 minutes worth of material, right now.

          2. Indiana Jones

            @Lord Narf You should try Perth Western Australia: 1400 miles (yes MILES) to nearest other capital city, and nothing but desert in between. :’(

          3. Lord Narf

            Yeah, I definitely won’t be hitting Australia, unless I can hit the point that I can fill amphitheaters. It’s just too spread out to wander the country hitting every small comedy club along the way. Even in the central US, I would have no more than 300 miles or so, to the next major city, where I could do a show.

        4. Julia Lynne

          The whole, “What evidence would it take for you to believe?” question is nonsense.

          Not to me it isn’t. In the case where ‘God’ has provided me with compelling evidence, I cannot determine whether my mind is being forced into false belief by a sufficiently powerful being (Descartes’ demon) or convinced of Truth by a benevolent God. As it wouldn’t take much of a superior mind to cloud mine (I admit to being fooled by intellects less than mine on occasion,) the only way I see that a benevolent God can convince me that He/She/It/They is not a demon is by giving me those powers of discernment. Essentially making me a God on the same level as itself.

          This hasn’t happened yet AFAIK.

          Then we’d have to get into the whole question of how an all knowing God knows He/She/It/They are all knowing…

          1. mikmik

            Julia Lynne – Then we’d have to get into the whole question of how an all knowing God knows He/She/It/They are all knowing…”

            That’s hilarious! I never thought of that, but it’s great!

          2. jacobfromlost

            Julia: I cannot determine whether my mind is being forced into false belief by a sufficiently powerful being (Descartes’ demon) or convinced of Truth by a benevolent God.

            Me: Sure, but that would fall under the same category of uncertainty we have about any conclusion derived from mountains of evidence. We could all be being forced to believe gravity consistently works by an army of evil aliens. Given that I will always be human, and always be unable to absolutely sure of anything, I think if there were mountains of evidence for a specific god claim, I would believe it the same way I believe in gravity–that is, not absolutely, but solely because many different kinds of evidence support it, and none of the known evidence contradicts it. Could all of that evidence be some kind of trick from something unknown? Sure. But that’s a problem for the support of any claim, not just god claims. I don’t invoke absolute certainty (and/or evidence) about anything, thus I can’t tacitly pretend a god claim must have absolute proof for it for me to believe in it. If there were mountains of consistent evidence using entirely different principles that all pointed to the same god (with characteristics a, b, c, d, etc), then I would believe it just as I believe the age of the earth based on a variety of self confirming evidences that rely on entirely different principles yet point to the same age/conclusion.

          3. Lord Narf

            In the case where ‘God’ has provided me with compelling evidence, I cannot determine whether my mind is being forced into false belief by a sufficiently powerful being (Descartes’ demon) or convinced of Truth by a benevolent God.

            You would then have to take that evidence and test it against the world around you. If a “god” spoke into your head and gave you messages that couldn’t be tested against reality, you still wouldn’t have evidence. That’s not evidence.

            How would you know you’re not schizophrenic? I’ve heard statistics that something like 5% or 6% of the population report hearing distinct, external voices and other psychotic symptoms. It’s only the worst 1% or so of those who feel intensely compelled by those voices or are catatonic or otherwise noticeably insane. It’s the same with my own issues, Bipolar Disorder and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. Most people would never notice a thing. It’s only people who live with me or are otherwise around me on a regular basis, for a long period of time, who would notice the patterns.

            What could God possibly tell you that would be compelling evidence, without external confirmation? I bet you can’t come up with something that most (I realize we have some Christians and non-skeptics wandering around sometimes) of the people on this blog would accept, if it happened to them. God already talks to millions of people, worldwide, apparently. Why hasn’t he told them anything that would stand up under scrutiny by anyone who isn’t absolutely gullible? I’ve heard lots of incontrovertible evidence that God has provided to believers I’ve known. It’s always absolute shit.

          4. escuerd

            the only way I see that a benevolent God can convince me that He/She/It/They is not a demon is by giving me those powers of discernment.

            Or just tricking you into thinking you have them.

            Seeking absolute certainty is a fool’s errand. There’s no way to ultimately avoid some variant of the evil demon problem. A more realistic and productive goal than trying to eliminate every shadow of a doubt is to focus on finding the best explanation one can for the data at hand (and, if it would help, of course, find more data).

            A benevolent universe-creating god isn’t a very parsimonious explanation for the universe we observe. But it’s possible to imagine a universe where it would be more parsimonious than some Cartesian evil demon.

          5. Julia Lynne

            escuerd
            Or just tricking you into thinking you have them.
            Seeking absolute certainty is a fool’s errand.

            Understanding that second line requires more subtlety of thought than possessed by those who think they have the aforementioned certainty.
            However, if one were to obtain, by whatever means, an actual power of discernment greater (on what scale I cannot imagine, but I am able to imagine that such scale exists) than God (ie greater than aelph something infinite), you should be able to validly determine that 1) you aren’t being fooled by Him/Her/It/They and 2) you are greater than God.

            I think a good place to show this superiority would be in a WWF style battle royal. God will bring his minions to the ring, angels and archangels dressed in spandex, gold lame capes and feathers. I will be the small girl in the green corner. Two falls out of three determine the outcome.

          6. LykeX

            I cannot determine whether my mind is being forced into false belief by a sufficiently powerful being

            Oh, it gets better than that. See, assuming god exists, he’s in the same position. He can’t actually be sure that he’s god*. It would be possible for god to take a human being and make them believe they were god. He could supply them with all the power and knowledge needed. He could give them fake memories of having created the world. He could make it utterly impossible to distinguish where the power really came from. And consequently, he can’t be sure that a higher, hidden god hasn’t done exactly that to him.

            Furthermore, since he’s omniscient, this is the only point on which he has any doubts whatsoever. It’s the single unknown for god. In a world of perfect certainty, this one point is a question mark. That might explain why he’s so insecure and needs constant validation that he really is god :)

            I know, I’m being facetious. I just think it’s fun to take these idea seriously for a bit and see where they lead. This scenario has the benefit of actually explaining that old question; why does god want us to worship him? Why did he create us in the first place? What’s the one thing that god needs us for?
            External validation.

            * Yes, you could invoke some mystical omniscience, but that falls for the same objection; you can’t tell if you’re really omniscience or you’ve just been convinced you are.

          7. Julia Lynne

            LykeX

            I just think it’s fun to take these idea seriously for a bit and see where they lead. This scenario has the benefit of actually explaining that old question; why does god want us to worship him? Why did he create us in the first place?

            I think it’s fun too. Though whenever I do try to think too much about it, recursion makes my head hurt. Could God fool itself into thinking we were independently and freely choosing to worship Her/Him/It/They? If not, and It/They/He/She, being (mostly,) omni-everything, couldn’t, wouldn’t that take a lot of the fun out of creating us to independently support Their/Its/Her/His (massive and insecure) ego? I like to live my life such that, if we were created to at least appear to be free, my most interesting and independent actions are to specifically NOT do what It/He/She/They command(s). And the first of these is to love God. So I don’t.

          8. Julia Lynne

            LykeX

            And consequently, he can’t be sure that a higher, hidden god hasn’t done exactly that to him.

            BTW, My name for that hidden individual is Larry, the first meta-god.
            After that, the second meta-god is Curley then, Moe. I don’t have names for any others above them, just numbers.

          9. Lord Narf

            I just think it’s fun to take these idea seriously for a bit and see where they lead.

            Absolutely. That’s how you construct a reductio ad absurdum. They’ve gone over that a few times, on TAE and NPR. I did one this past weekend, with a couple of Christians I went to church with. I did a fairly good demonstration, I think, of how it’s impossible to get from Christian doctrine to the anti-abortion position.

            My case was bolstered by the fact that many of the most evangelical Christians of the time period (including Falwell) were originally for the Roe v. Wade decision, until they realized, a couple decades later, what a powerful political and fundraising (the latter being more of a consideration than the former, I imagine) tool the anti-abortion position could be.

          10. nude0007

            Here’s a great video about why we shouldn’t believe “god’s word” or take god at his word.

      2. And How

        “……..and you can throw out the whole thing as worthless, except perhaps as cultural commentary………”

        Throw out the whole thing as worthless!! Heretic !!! Are you implying that men and women of the 21st century should NOT be using the social norms,customs and thinking of the ignorant people of tribal and primitive middle eastern culture?

        Enjoyed your comments as well.

        1. Lord Narf

          Are you implying that men and women of the 21st century should NOT be using the social norms,customs and thinking of the ignorant people of tribal and primitive middle eastern culture?

          Aww, crap. I see the error in my thinking now.

          Allahu akbar!!!

          … someone’s going to make an “It’s trap!” joke now, aren’t they?

          1. Lord Narf

            God dammit.

            * “It’s a trap!”

            Proofread, then hit submit, dumbass.

          2. And How

            Lord Narf:

            Got a quick question for you if you happen to have the time to respond. If you don’t I completely understand.

            I recently read an internet article that I felt made some good points about religous groupthink. II’m unclear as to the point being made in the last 5 sentences of the second to last paragraph. I am referring to the sentence that starts with “In quantam theory…… ” and through the end of that paragraph.

            I am interpreting this as God = Free Will, but it makes no sense based on the statements and tone of the rest of the article. Am I missing something here?

            http://www.collegiatetimes.com/stories/8503/column-religion-is-nothing-more-than-groupthink

          3. Lord Narf

            Uhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

            It feels to me like he suddenly slipped into a bullshit, pseudosciencey framework, something along the lines of “What the Bleep do we Know?” as soon as he used the word quantum. He wasn’t abusing the term in the same way that the pseudoscience crowd does, but the word worked its little curse and turned everything to shit, after it was invoked. I dunno. He was doing fine, and then he ran his little train off the tracks.

            Maybe he had a coherent analogy he was trying to make with the concept of God, in his mind, but I don’t think it survived the trip to text. I’ve got nothing, man. It’s pretty incoherent to me, too. It seems like he stuck “Free will,” in there at random, as some sort of mantra that was supposed to make it all make sense. It didn’t.

          4. Lord Narf

            As for the actual subject matter, which I guess I should have addressed: he’s trying to draw a line from quantum wave collapse to free will, but he never actually states his thought process. He just stuck free will in there and expected us to do the work. Why he’s trying to link that to a concept of deity is beyond me.

            Here’s one mistake that atheists often make, myself included. When someone says they’re an atheist, we tend to assume that they’re one of our kind of atheists, since most who embrace the label are. We tend to assume that they’re a New Atheist, which almost always includes skepticism in the mix.

            This guy’s usage of the female pronoun for god tells me that he might be recently out of a Pagan/New Age background, assuming he wasn’t just using it to annoy Christians, as I might. Perhaps he’s an atheist because he doesn’t believe in a deity, but perhaps he’s still holding onto a lot of the pseudoscience crap that he picked up as a Pagan. I can only guess, when I only have that article to go on.

          5. And How

            Thanks. I looked up quantum theory because I wanted to refresh my memory anyway. Wikipedia has an article titled Philosophy of Physics

            If you go about 1/3 the way down the article under the section called Philosphy of Quantum Mechanics. Then go to the first section called Determinism. Go to the last couple sentences and I think there you’ll find the connection being made with quantum mechanics and free will. This article is mostly over my head because I just don”t know enough about philosphy to follow, but here is the link in case you are interested. .

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quantum_mechanics,_philosophy_and_controversy

            I understand the concept of God as being a supreme being who created the universe in which some believers see this supreme being as being involved in our lives (theist) or not involved (diest). I also do not see the link between free will and a diety. Since, the rest of the article seemed coherent, I thought maybe I was missing something. Thanks again.

          6. mikmik

            “It’s trap!” See, God created mens (peoples) to, ahem, share his love. His love for himself, and He said that it must be a person’s choice to Love and worship Him(I’m paraphrasing here), thus – He endowed us with the capacity to make the choice to love Him, or leave Him, leaving Him no choice but to inflict punishment on the infidels that freely chose to disobey Him.
            Downright diabolical, if you ask me, because now we are left with the choice to obey(love) Him, and if we don’t? Plagues, pain, shortened life spans filled with suffering, genocide, painful child birth, and enough weeds and thorns to make the life of your average farmer a veritable horror show of frustration, leaving the farmer no choice but to capture slaves and make them do all the weeding. If you continued to freely not grovel, I mean love Him, He would have no choice but to send droughts and pestilences on your sorry ass.
            Now a days, we call that coercion, blackmail and extortion, and back stabbing, and if you were driven to homicidal rage because His Fairness like your brother over you, because, just because, if you killed your brother out of jealousy, He made sure that if anyone tried to kill you back, they would suffer seven times what they tried to inflict on you.

            This is where particle physics entered the picture. God figured that if peoples/us spent enough time scratching our heads trying to figure out it the universe was ultimately probabilistic, we might be sidetracked enough to not notice that if you didn’t grovel, I mean freely choose to love His narcissistic ass, then you/we/us/snakes wouldn’t notice that free choice between freely giving Him your fear/love, or receive torture and despair, isn’t actually a non coerced decision = one that we don’t really consider free, in the strictest sense of the word..

            If you are confused, talk to the landlubbers that didn’t happen to be in Noah’s little incestuous circle of friends.

            It only follows, then, that the ever increasing need to up the pain and dire consequences of not freely choosing sycophantic grovelling to His Greatness, He necessarily Had to invent eternal un-death in which to perpetually sear the flesh from our person for all eternity. Personally, I really don’t see How he could escalate punishment much further, in order to chow his Love for us, his Children.

            This is directly analogous to free neutrons dancing around a pile(pun) of uranium 235* and if you, the heutron, happen to piss off the atom you bump into, all hell breaks loose i.e. gOD unleashes hIS Rage.

            *Uranium-235 is an isotope of uranium making up about 0.72% of natural uranium. Unlike the predominant isotope uranium-238, it is fissile, i.e., it can sustain fission chain reaction. It is the only fissile isotope that is a primordial nuclide or found in significant quantity in nature.

          7. Lord Narf

            “It’s trap!” See, God created mens (peoples) to, ahem, share his love. His love for himself, and He said that it must be a person’s choice to Love and worship Him(I’m paraphrasing here), thus – He endowed us with the capacity to make the choice to love Him, or leave Him, leaving Him no choice but to inflict punishment on the infidels that freely chose to disobey Him.

            Actually, I wasn’t going for anything even vaguely that elaborate, MikMik. Any time you say Allahu Akbar, you usually get some joker popping up with a Star Wars quote from Admiral Akbar. I figured I would head that off.

          8. Lord Narf

            I understand the concept of God as being a supreme being who created the universe in which some believers see this supreme being as being involved in our lives (theist) or not involved (diest). I also do not see the link between free will and a diety. Since, the rest of the article seemed coherent, I thought maybe I was missing something. Thanks again.

            Yeah, he lost me at the same spot, too. Like I said in the second response I did, I can recognize the components he’s using, but he never made any coherent connections or came to any kind of point.

            Marijuana can do that, making all kinds of false connections in your mind, while you’re cooked on the stuff. I don’t know if this guy has that good of an excuse, though.

            I’ll check out the link. I spend many afternoons tangent surfing the philosophy and science sections of Wikipedia.

          9. escuerd

            The author of that article states:

            In quantum theory, any physical system remains in a superposed state of endless possibility until it interacts with the mind of an observer.

            This is not right. The “mind of an observer” is irrelevant. A “measurement” of one system can be thought of as an interaction with another system whose outcome depends on the state of the first one.

            There are a bunch of different interpretations of what wavefunction collapse means, but I think that invoking an observer’s mind is a good sign someone has wandered into woo-woo territory.

            Personally, Everett’s “many worlds interpretation” seems the most credible to me, and it’s actually a deterministic model in that wavefunctions don’t really collapse. It just has the weird implication that there are superposed states of observers each observing different results. But I’m not sure that’s much weirder than any other interpretation of QM. In some ways it seems more natural to me in treating observers the same way it treats any other physical system.

          10. Lord Narf

            … but I think that invoking an observer’s mind is a good sign someone has wandered into woo-woo territory.

            That’s my general assumption, too. Any time someone uses the word quantum to make an argument for anything that doesn’t directly relate to particle physics, it’s usually a pretty good marker that indicates the point at which they started making everything up. The new-age crowd is one of the worst offenders in this, particularly books such as The Secret.

          11. mikmik

            LOL, The Secret was the brain-child(lol) of some marketers that got together to create a product that would sell, and it was The Secret. In other words, they just made it up! Now that is funny :)

        2. And How

          I want to edit my above comment by saying that in no way do I blame Middle Eastern culture for dogmatic religous thinking. From what I understand about the history of ancient civilizations the people living in Europe were equally as “tribal and primitive” and just as superstitous. My understanding is there was a lot of cross fertilization of religous ideas between ancient civilizations before Christinaity and Muslim emerged as predominant. I guess Christianity and Islam developed largely in the Middle East, but in no way do i see that as a negative reflection on the Middle East people per se, it makes absoltuely no sense Christianity would have been adopted by people living in European culture had they not been of the same mindset.

          1. Lord Narf

            I just took it as a specific detail, that those are the particular social norms, customs, and thinking of that particular primitive, tribal culture, which we got stuck with … not a qualitative statement of their relative worth. Although, they did kind of suck, compared to the Greeks of the time.

            We know that you’re racist, but we think it’s noble of you to try to cover it up. :-p

  12. 12
    Warp

    “The Bible is the ONLY reliable thing we have to show us the meaning and purpose of life.”

    For some reason theists seem to keep pounding on this “only God/the Bible can give purpose to life”, that if there is nothing out there, then life is meaningless and has no purpose…

    Yet, very seldom do they actually stop to think what exactly is the purpose of life according to God or the Bible? Does the Bible actually say explicitly and unambiguously what “the purpose of life” actually is? Sure, you can probably find a couple dozen of passages that could be vaguely interpreted as being this mythical “purpose”, most of them being quite different from each other, without much consistency.

    What’s worse, often when you directly ask them what they think the purpose of life is, what’s one of the most typical answers? “To serve God.” And they never stop to think how that makes any kind of sense, or why that would be any kind of meaningful and fulfilling “life’s purpose.”

    They seldom stop to think about this particular aspect of their personal theology. Did this alleged all-powerful all-knowing perfect creator of the universe create sentient, living beings just to worship him? “Hey, I created you, and your purpose in life is to serve and worship me.” That doesn’t sound like a perfect, benevolent being. That sounds like an a*hole. (Just imagine the dictator of a country who demands that all citizens serve and worship him, and if some don’t, they will be tortured and killed. We would call that kind of person a mentally sick monster. But of course God gets a free pass. When God does that exact same thing, it’s good and desirable.)

    1. 12.1
      Edgardo

      Well, if we accept that God created human beings to worship and serve him (believe me, I’ve seen books written by 21st century priests that claim this) then that would be the purpose of life in a certain sense, since it’s the goal for which you were designed and created.

      Also, if you take as an axiom that everything God does is good just because he does it, then creating beings just to worship you (which would be despicable for any other entity) is still good when God does it. I am not claiming any of these statements is good, desirable or correct. I’m merely pointing out that, at least, they can be internally consistent when you define what is right or wrong based on the concept of God.

      1. mikmik

        Yes. That’s what W.L. ‘Two Citations’ Craig argues. You are right, and I think one modern example has been pointed out in North Korea. When Kim Jong-il died in 2011. Here is what-the-pedia:

        On 12 January 2012 North Korea called Kim Jong-il the “eternal leader” and announced that his body will be preserved and displayed at Pyongyang’s Kumsusan Memorial Palace. Officials will also install statues, portraits, and “towers to his immortality” across the country.[127][128] His birthday of 16 February has been declared “the greatest auspicious holiday of the nation”, and has been named the Day of the Shining Star.

        There were (many) people shown openly crying, and distraught beyond grief, all through the capital because they thought Kim Jong-il was basically God. People that he starved, in order to fund the military,

        Ironically, <a href=" “>Christian Today reported:

        While international attention is focused on North Korea’s rocket threat, a citizen living inside the country has raised another concern that often is overlooked.

        According to a letter from a Christian in North Korea to Open Doors USA, the current living conditions in the reclusive communist country are “very bad”.

        “The price of rice continues to increase,” the person, who was not identified, wrote in the letter recently received by the Christian ministry.

        “Recently five women from our neighborhood were publicly executed; the youngest only age 28 … Their crime? Trying to survive by looking for food. After their execution, we were no longer allowed to trade at the market.”

        North Korea is one of the poorest countries in the world with about nine million citizens needing urgent food assistance, according to the World Food Programme. The country has depended on food aid since the 1990s when a devastating famine resulted in the death of as many as two million people.

        Despite widespread hunger, the North Korean government recently refused to accept future US food aid and expelled all five relief groups that distribute American aid in the country.

        “What should we do? Nevertheless, we are not afraid to starve,” wrote the Christian living in North Korea. “We have already received support from Christians worldwide. We do our best to spread God’s Word in North Korea.”
        There are an estimated 400,000 Christians in North Korea who live under the constant threat of imprisonment, torture or public execution if authorities discover their Christian faith.

        Being found a Christian in North Korea is one of the worst crimes according to the oppressive government. All citizens are forced to adhere to a personality cult revolving around the worship of the current dictator and his deceased father.

        Like, this is Old Testament stuff! I doubt many christians like it when it happens to them, yet defend God’s plagues and genocides and rewarding Israeli troops(LOL) all the (surviving)women and children, through Moses, to rape and kill them as they saw fit.
        Yet here is W.L. Craig insisting that that was moral!

  13. 13
    ayamesohma

    These are the recidivist piles of human sewage that do not understand what projection is. They also consider Samson’s act of suicide-murder not “suicide” because it was an “act of war.” Atrociously repulsive and disgusting.

  14. 14
    mikmik

    escuerd =

    The author of that article states:

    In quantum theory, any physical system remains in a superposed state of endless possibility until it interacts with the mind of an observer.

    This is not right. The “mind of an observer” is irrelevant. A “measurement” of one system can be thought of as an interaction with another system whose outcome depends on the state of the first one.

    The other one I like is that the observed system is disturbed just by observing, or looking, at it, because the photons we see it with ‘hit’ what’s being looked at! What, we shoot photons from our eyes? If any photons have interacted with the event, the wave function has been collapsed, whether we see it, or not.
    From quiki-pedia:

    In his original lecture on the topic, Bohr pointed out that just as the finitude of the speed of light implies the impossibility of a sharp separation between space and time (relativity), the finitude of the quantum of action implies the impossibility of a sharp separation between the behavior of a system and its interaction with the measuring instruments and leads to the well known difficulties with the concept of ‘state’ in quantum theory; the notion of complementarity is intended to symbolize this new situation in epistemology created by quantum theory. Some people consider it a philosophical adjunct to quantum mechanics, while others consider it to be a discovery that is as important as the formal aspects of quantum theory. Examples of the latter include Leon Rosenfeld, who claimed that “[C]omplementarity is not a philosophical superstructure invented by Bohr to be placed as a decoration on top of the quantal formalism, it is the bedrock of the quantal description.”,[6] and John Wheeler, who opined that “Bohr’s principle of complementarity is the most revolutionary scientific concept of this century and the heart of his fifty-year search for the full significance of the quantum idea.”[7]

    I was looking for something he published, or discussed, in 1952(I think), where he showed a circumstance in which measurements can be made in classical terms so that both position and momentum could be known at once, but I can’t find it. It still involved complimentary indeterminism at some level, though, along the lines that an observer of the system in which an observer is making a measurement see the observer in the initial observer/observed system as determining complimentary properties classically, but that by observing that system, it is indeterministic what the initial observer sees! But, I digress.
    Still, I like that explanation, in the quote, that a sharp distinction cannot be made between the wave function and space-time.

  15. 15
    escuerd

    The other one I like is that the observed system is disturbed just by observing, or looking, at it, because the photons we see it with ‘hit’ what’s being looked at!

    I tend not to like this explanation, because I think it’s misleading (or is that what you were saying too?). It seems to suggest that a system whose position is being measured actually has a well-defined momentum, but it is just unknowable because it’s been disturbed by photons or something.

    But that can’t be right, because there are measurable statistical predictions (viz Bell’s inequalities) that would result if these classical variables were well-defined but simply unknowable, and as best we can tell, those inequalities don’t hold.

    So while we ultimately have to do experiments in terms of classical variables, because that’s what we can measure, these variables are apparently only an approximation of reality that breaks down and becomes probabilistic on a smaller scale. In the “many worlds interpretation”, the wavefunction is a more fundamental description of reality, and it behaves deterministically and never collapses. Every possible classical state of the wavefunction is still “out there” after it gets measured, but there’s a possible state of the observer for each that only sees one of them, so from their perspective, it seems to have “collapsed”.

    I can’t say definitively that interpretation is “correct”, because as far as I know, there’s no experiment to distinguish it from some of the others, but it certainly strikes me as more parsimonious than others I’ve heard that give observers or macroscopic things some special status and assume that they somehow collapse a wavefunction into a particular eigenstate. Actually, the MWI sounds kind of similar to what you were talking about at the end with the superposed observer.

    Anyway, that’s probably enough for my marginally coherent, hand-wavy philosophizing. I actually need to get back to some actual QM homework now so I can understand a bit more about it. Philosophy of QM, mind-boggling as it is, is just so much less taxing than slogging through a bunch of associated Legendre polynomials and Bloch functions. Fuck me.

  16. 16
    mikmik

    LOL, that is what I was saying. It drives me nuts when people say that, and I saw it used on one of the SciAm blogs not long ago. That’s what I meant when I said, “What, we shoot photons from our eyes?” because whether we are ‘looking’ or not, the OS(observed system) is interacting with photons, and furthermore, we don’t ‘see’ the interactions with photons, lol. It’s mathematically inherent, as I understand it
    The way I understand it, as the probability of knowing position approaches 1, the probability of knowing it’s momentum approaches zero. I think it might be that position is a scalar property, and momentum is a vector. I am really just guessing, at this point(!).
    I just realized something. The ‘many worlds’ hypothesis is an example to Bohr’s 1952 ‘the observer of an observer of an observed system will still find it probabilistic and unpredictable what will obtain while at the same time, every world knows what happened at the event being observed, because for each world, the result has turned into a probability of 1, because that’s what happened. So, say Schrodinger’s cat is in the box and we can’t see, the cat(s) already knows whether it died or not, with a certainty of 1 for each cat, LOL!

  17. 17
    mikmik

    ” The ‘many worlds’ hypothesis is an example to Bohr’s 1952 ‘the observer of an observer of an observed system will still find it probabilistic and unpredictable what will obtain while at the same time, every world knows what happened at the event being observed
    ->
    at the same time, every world(Instance of the observer/observed system) knows what happened at the event being observed

    Fuck, even I don’t know what I just said, harrumph ;)

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