How to tell the difference »« Vile Islam

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  1. says

    I’ll start promoting Newt tomorrow. It’s a small first step.

    Seriously.

    Gingrich’s numbers in the general election are worse than Romney’s.

    If this keeps up, voters should seriously consider voting for Newt in the Republican primary elections.

    (That depends on each voter’s situation, of course. If there’s a seriously contested federal congressional, state or local seat on your Democratic primary ballot that you’re interested in, then it would make sense to vote in the Democratic primaries. But if it’s all the same to you, then vote Newt!)

  2. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Now, now, PZ, have some grog, swill, and popcornz. All will be right in the morning (poor students)…

  3. Charlie Foxtrot says

    I’m an Antipodean but, yes please, if you can’t get Obama back then go for the small green muppet.

  4. Sastra says

    Ophelia is brilliant again, of course, and pointing out that so-called tolerant religions seem to seek this sort of nonjudgmental “bridge-building” in a way you generally wouldn’t see in politics, in science, in economics, or in fact in any area where there’s an emphasis on facts as opposed to identity. We don’t debate our differences. Instead, we agree to disagree and change the subject to something we DO agree on. Celebrate the diverse ways we believe. Don’t “attack.”

    This is the only way religions can get along with each other, because there’s no common ground for settling differences. And the olive branch of peaceful non-judgment is extended graciously towards the atheists.

    Sometimes this is a good idea. Sometimes it’s nice. Sometimes it’s useful. Atheists can show everyone else that they’re nice people too. We’re human, we have values. We can blend in.

    But I think that, as an overall strategy, it sucks. It’s not going to work in the long run. Bridge-building is counterproductive if one side frames the issue of disagreement in terms of a rational conclusion from evidence and the other side frames the issue of disagreement in terms of types of people: those who respond to Love and those who don’t.

    The religious want to have a ‘dialogue’ with us. What that means is that they want us to try to show them how similar we are to them. And so we are, in many ways. But it also means that the root of hostility towards atheists isn’t going to be addressed.

    The real resentment against atheists and atheism isn’t just because religious people don’t know any nice atheists. The real resentment against atheists and atheism is — imo –because religious people think religious belief is a matter of faith — and faith is a virtue. Atheism is unreasonable. Atheism makes no sense. Any ordinary person would choose God, reach for transcendence, express the hope in their heart and embrace the sacred and endorse the divine.

    When we explain WHY we don’t believe — and act as if the issue is a rational one — it starts to destroy this illusion. It starts to undermine the real rationale for anti-atheist prejudice: fostering faith as a sign of character. Suddenly, not having faith is being put forward as a sign of character — and they really, really don’t like that.

    They want belief to remain a matter of being the kind of person who chooses to believe out of love. They don’t want atheists to make sense and atheism to sound reasonable. They don’t want ‘losing their faith’ to start sounding like ‘changing their mind.’

    Gnu atheists want to turn the bridge-building dialogue into a debate.

    Ultimately, if we keep allowing the other side to duck the ideas by calling intellectual challenges “attacks” they will like us just fine on their own terms: not as equals, but as spiritual cripples with whom they can graciously share cookies and milk.

    I like cookies and milk, but come on. The majority in power with crappy arguments wants to agree to disagree and move on. No kidding.

  5. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    Sastra, you are one of the most valuable and singular commenters on these issues. Your experience as a former New Age woo-er and your critique of it is so spot-on and trenchant I never find it short of brilliantly insightful. You really should have essay space in publications like Free Inquiry or compilations about secularism and atheism.

  6. crowepps says

    Sastra, that was a brilliant summary.

    The majority in power with crappy arguments wants to agree to disagree and move on.

    Move on to incorporating their religious beliefs into laws that will impose conformity with those beliefs on everyone, while those who disagree are supposed to be ‘respectful’ of their ‘faith’ and not point out there’s no logical basis for their being allowed to do so.

  7. Sastra says

    crowepps #9 wrote:

    Move on to incorporating their religious beliefs into laws that will impose conformity with those beliefs on everyone, while those who disagree are supposed to be ‘respectful’ of their ‘faith’ and not point out there’s no logical basis for their being allowed to do so.

    Actually, I think most of the religionists who want to have the bridge-building circle jerks are in favor of the separation of church and state. These are the liberal religious, after all. But what they want is for us to criticize the conservatives who want to impose theocratic laws as having the wrong kind of religion because they’re the wrong kind of people. They’re bad people distorting faith.

    They seem to think atheists will think this is a really good ground to stand on. Don’t pick that faith over there because atheists don’t like it: if God existed, He would want you to be in favor of church/state separation. Choose the reasonable faith.

    As if there’s rules about revelations from God. Or as if caring what God wants is something even atheists think is a good idea.

    So apparently we atheists have to tell fundamentalists their beliefs are wrong without undermining the method, the foundation, or the system which makes it impossible to determine who is right about God. I just don’t see how — or why — we should play along. We don’t have to. It’s not in our best interest.

    I’m not saying we can’t or shouldn’t work with liberal religions on church/state issues (or environment or science or whatever.) But when the topic is sharing what we believe and our perspective, we shouldn’t be expected to blend in.

  8. shouldbeworking says

    I have a question about these primary elections of yours. If a person is registered to vote as a democrat, can that person then vote for a republican candidate or is the peron reuired to vote democrat? In Canada, a person registers to vote, that means the name appears on the others list. There is no party affiliation.

  9. screechymonkey says

    @11, it varies by state. Some states have “open primaries” in which you can vote in whichever party’s primary you want, some (most, I think) don’t. And some states have “caucuses” which are different from primaries.

  10. Aquaria says

    I have a question about these primary elections of yours. If a person is registered to vote as a democrat, can that person then vote for a republican candidate or is the peron reuired to vote democrat?

    It’s that way, in, of all states, Texas–you can vote for whichever side you want–but you do have to vote the whole ticket for that party, because you’re given one ballot or the other when you report to a polling place, or get an absentee ballot.

    A few Democratic women in Texas crossed party lines to vote for Kay Bailey Hutchinson, because she has consistently had the best views about women’s issues of any Texas Republican of the last 20 years, and it looks like we’re stuck with Republicans in the governor’s mansion until the Hispanics become the outright majority in 20 years or so. She’s not great on those issues compared to your average Democrat, but she’s not foaming at the mouth insane about them. And that makes her the only remotely feminist member of the Texas GOP.

  11. gillyc says

    Sastra, I just wanted to chime in with the others to say ‘that was brilliant!’. Seriously, whenever I read something in the comments here that makes me go ‘wow’ – a lot of the time, it’s you.

  12. Louis says

    I second Josh, Sastra. That was bloomin’ insightful that was, guv’nur.

    So insightful I broke out into spontaneous Dick Van Dyke Cockney. And that doesn’t happen every day.

    Louis

  13. jfigdor says

    I’m sure I’ll be dog-piled for this, but I wanted to stand up for Chris Stedman. He is a good guy, a co-worker at HCH, and someone who wants to advance the Atheist/Humanist position. He may not see things your way, PZ, but take it from someone who sits across from him every day trying to build Humanist community and increase engagement, he really is on your side (provided your goal is providing equal rights and social standing for atheists and Humanists), whether you believe him or not. I wish we could all do a better job of spraying water on the fire (conservative Christianity, Islam, and Judaism, etc.) instead of spraying each other.

  14. says

    jfigdor,

    I wish we could all do a better job of spraying water on the fire (conservative Christianity, Islam, and Judaism, etc.) instead of spraying each other.

    you realize that as long as Stedman criticizes gnu approaches, there is no hope of detente, right?

    I’m not even talking about who started what. Gnus will never completely stop reacting, and will not even significantly slow their reactions until several months after there is nothing new to react to.

  15. jfigdor says

    I guess I’m the lone GNU who supports Chris, even through my vigorous disagreement with his criticism of the GNUs. I respect him greatly, despite our differences. He may be wrong about everything, but knowing him as well as I do, he only seeks the best for Atheism/Humanism.

    PS: I hope everybody misses our champion, Christopher Hitchens, who died last night. We GNUs now have to redouble our efforts. Here’s my new theodicy question: if god exists, why didn’t he first find someone who could beat Hitchens in a debate, instead of being a chump (the easy way out) and killing him?

  16. jfigdor says

    And one more thing, Chris Stedman welcomes vigorous debate and disagreement. He would never want to silence anyone, or prevent anyone from criticising him. Criticize Chris for his flawed ideas, not his character, his professionalism, or his willingness to face criticism. He is one of the nicest guys I know, and isn’t arrogant enough to consider himself above criticism.

  17. says

    I guess I’m the lone GNU who supports Chris, even through my vigorous disagreement with his criticism of the GNUs.

    Please do us (and perhaps him) a favor and ask him what good he expects to accomplish with that criticism.

  18. jfigdor says

    I asked him this bluntly a year ago when we started working together. He said (paraphrasing slightly), “I want Atheists and Humanists to be respected in society like Christians, Jews, Muslims, and Buddhists, etc., no better, no worse. I want a world in which gay people and minority religions are not harassed by conservative, religious minorities.”

  19. says

    “I want Atheists and Humanists to be respected in society like Christians, Jews, Muslims, and Buddhists, etc., no better, no worse. I want a world in which gay people and minority religions are not harassed by conservative, religious minorities.”

    My problem with this is how I can possibly respect anyone who still believes in fairy stories – seriously! Being of a different race or sexual orientation can’t have any effect or impact on ability to be rational, but claiming that your particular magic invisible sky fairy is the one and only! How can I vote for anyone who thinks that way? Hoe can I respect anyone who thinks this way?

    It is not only impossible for me to believe the things religion claims; it is equally impossible for me to truly respect anyone who can believe it. It is also difficult to respect those politicians who pander to it, regardless of how smart they are otherwise .

  20. says

    And what’s wrong with newts? They are my second favorite kind of amphibian. If fact, I was turned into a newt once. Of course, I got better…..

  21. says

    I asked him this bluntly a year ago when we started working together. He said (paraphrasing slightly), “I want Atheists and Humanists to be respected in society like Christians, Jews, Muslims, and Buddhists, etc., no better, no worse. I want a world in which gay people and minority religions are not harassed by conservative, religious minorities.”

    What’s interesting to me is that I don’t see this sort of thinking by liberals in relation to anarchism. Anarchists are vehemently criticized and attacked, but not in the same way. I rarely hear any denial from liberals that anarchists have goals and values that differ from theirs. I think most liberals who know anything about anarchism would get how silly it would be to suggest that anarchists should focus only on achieving specific goals through organizing political parties and running candidates for office within liberal democratic capitalist systems. Or to say that anarchists are thinking too narrowly in comparison with their own broader political vision.

    Yet I hear this sort of talk all the time from accommodationists about gnus. There is a basic failure to appreciate social and ethical visions that are fundamentally nonreligious. There’s also a basic failure to recognize epistemology as a moral issue. They’ll reject certain specific religious beliefs when they don’t like them, but people like Stedman simply will not acknowledge that the basis for beliefs or the respect given to faith are moral and social issues (related to other moral and social issues, and at the root of many).

    Even liberals who diagree with anarchists recognize that anarchists have a broader vision for changing the system and see the liberal version of democracy itself as a moral problem that needs to be addressed rather than accommodated to. They disagree with this, and might even think anarchists are hurting their cause, but they recognize it. But faitheists just will not appreciate this with regard to gnus. So they keep repeating either that we (gnus) lack broader goals and values or that we all share the same goals (the accommodationists’), and that we (gnus) our hurting “our” cause of being respected and accepted into the existing system as another “faith,” just like any other religious group.

    They’re constantly shocked when we point out how condescending their remarks about us are. I think this surprise is genuine. They really do not appreciate our goals and values as goals and values.

  22. says

    jfigdor:

    “…I want a world in which gay people and minority religions are not harassed by conservative, religious minorities.”

    That would be lovely, wouldn’t it?

    As long as religion is a socially acceptable motivation for oppression, this goal is impossible.

    Stedman wants an alliance with progressive theists. He advocates respect for their beliefs. That’s all well-and-good. But they are already allied with the very people who harass and intimidate gays and other minorities. This alliance between the progressive theists and the conservative theists supersedes any alliance between atheists and progressive theists.

    Consider: the progressive theists hold an indefensible belief. They have staked a large part of their life, their identity, on this indefensible belief. They know they cannot claim with certainty their belief is the correct one. So, they have to defend others with similar beliefs, beliefs that are a bit less progressive. And those slightly less progressive theists must defend even more conservative theists. And so on.

    By shielding the progressive theists, Stedman is helping prop up all theistic belief. Even the belief that homosexuality is evil. He is not only providing protection to those with “acceptable” beliefs. He is protecting the very flaw that makes religion dangerous: the arbitrary nature of revelatory morality. By doing so, he is supporting an ecosystem that shields even the most vile doctrines.

    That doesn’t even get into the intellectual dishonesty of his position. Claiming we should respect his choice of acceptable mythology over all the others is condescending to everyone involved.

    In any case, he’s not really helping the world become a better place for minorities as long as he continues to shield the very flaw that makes religion so dangerous in the first place.

  23. Ms. Daisy Cutter says

    And one more thing, Chris Stedman welcomes vigorous debate and disagreement.

    AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA…..

  24. anaththe apostle of reason says

    Ok, I’ve been watching the petty Stedman flaming go on for a while and I’ll bite.

    Obligatory Disclaimer: I’m one of the most hardass Gnu atheists. I’ll happily punch anyone in the face with Reason and Science and Atheism and when I walk into the room all the happy drains out of it and is replaced with cold hard logic. A glance from me makes babies cry and puppies commit suicide, and I not only know every way to skin a cat, I do on a regular basis just for the lulz. I don’t take criticism to Gnu atheism lightly because most of it is based on strawman depictions of us, in alignment with my self description in this paragraph.

    That being said, I’m not convinced that it’s a good idea to write off other techniques the same way Gnu atheism is written off. Yeah, being mushy touchy feely happy lets all hug and support nonsense isn’t really that great for the political arena, but you know where it just might work… talking to your relatives.

    A personal aside is that my mom and I have never talked about atheism. She suspects of course, but probably not too seriously because “she doubted too.” I don’t think she could make it through the God Delusion or God is not Great or Bertrand Russell or even actual Carl Sagan books, simply because she doesn’t like reading any of that stuff. She reads New York Times Bestseller novels and the Oprah book club with her multiple reading groups. Now that there is an Oprah book club version of atheism, I wonder if we can start a dialogue. And if that image gets popular enough, my whole extended family might be able to get involved. They love sappy heartwarming stories of hardship and cooperation and human goodness, with just enough controversy to be a little edgy but still safe. So really, I hope a movie deal for Faitheist comes along soon because then coming out will be a piece of cake.

    Just a thought.

  25. says

    anaththe apostle of reason:

    Yeah, being mushy touchy feely happy lets all hug and support nonsense isn’t really that great for the political arena, but you know where it just might work… talking to your relatives.

    You say that as if most of us don’t do that.

    I have a daughter who is very much Christian, in many of the bad ways. I love her dearly. If it came down to choosing between her and any other person (including myself), I’d choose her — save for one, my wife.

    I treat her with love and respect, and she treats me the same.

    It pains me she does not support same-sex marriage. It pains her that I’m going to hell. That changes neither the love, nor the respect.

  26. anaththe apostle of reason says

    I am happy that you are able to maintain a healthy dialogue with your daughter. :)

    And no, my intent was less about what some people actually do, and more about what they criticize. I apologize if you misread.

  27. says

    anaththe apostle of reason:

    And no, my intent was less about what some people actually do, and more about what they criticize. I apologize if you misread.

    Fair enough.

    To which criticism do you specifically refer? I guess that’s where my confusion arises.

  28. anaththe apostle of reason says

    You may or may not be included in this. Ultimately I’m really not “after” any one person or quote but a pervading attitude. Let me quote mine… I don’t need direct responses to any of these I just want to show you the sort of thing I am responding to.

    This thread:

    you realize that as long as Stedman criticizes gnu approaches, there is no hope of detente, right?”

    (Re: Stedman can criticize Gnus all he wants and be wrong about it, doesn’t mean other points he makes are wrong automatically. Big deal that he doesn’t like us, I don’t care, but that doesn’t mean we can’t acknowledge uses for his mushy mush approach.)

    My problem with this (Stedman’s paraphrased quote) is how I can possibly respect anyone who still believes in fairy stories – seriously!”

    (Re: Well what about when they’re your parents?)

    In any case, he’s not really helping the world become a better place for minorities as long as he continues to shield the very flaw that makes religion so dangerous in the first place.

    (Re: Maybe not in a big, political way but if being a Faithiest gets a group of middle aged women to read about atheism and think positively about it when they wouldn’t otherwise then it will make my life personally better.)

    But really a few of the criticisms I’m concerned about are those from the Dr. Dan Golaszewski thread. It’s tough to sift through the petty he-said-she-said-you’re-a-lackey bullshit going on in that thread but here’s some from that and elsewhere:

    I find the Stedman approach weasely, fruitless, pandering, and cowardly.

    (Re: But could it be useful in certain cases? And please don’t insult mustelids!)

    Now somebody tell this Stedman guy to go tell that to the theocrats hell-bent in demolishing the wall of separation between church and state. Let’s see what they think of this “working together” stuff.

    (Re: True, those people don’t give a shit and touchy feely will never work in such cases. But is this a valid and complete criticism… or are there other places we can actually use the touchy feely? Are there people who will listen?)

    And etc.
    A lot of the kneejerk response seems to be “eww Stedman”, in response to his kneejerk “eww gnu atheists.” But I support using the right tool for the right job. And for you, nigel, you are very lucky that you already have a dialogue open. But many of us are still trying to figure out how to open the door.

  29. says

    jfigdor, I wonder if you got my whole question the first time. I wasn’t wondering what Stedman hopes to accomplish by interfaith work. I understand what he expects to accomplish with that and I expect he will be partially successful. It’s probably worth doing.

    What I asked was what good he expects to accomplish with his criticism of gnu approaches. So this is a non sequitur:

    “I want Atheists and Humanists to be respected in society like Christians, Jews, Muslims, and Buddhists, etc., no better, no worse. I want a world in which gay people and minority religions are not harassed by conservative, religious minorities.”

    There’s not even an implicit argument there for how atheists, gay people and people of minority religions would gain respect by the criticism of gnu atheist approaches.

    So, if you heard me right, I would ask him how the answer follows from the question. But I’m thinking maybe you misunderstood, and you just thought I was asking what good he expects to accomplish in general. I’m still wondering what he expects to accomplish by criticizing gnus.

  30. says

    you realize that as long as Stedman criticizes gnu approaches, there is no hope of detente, right?”

    (Re: Stedman can criticize Gnus all he wants and be wrong about it, doesn’t mean other points he makes are wrong automatically. Big deal that he doesn’t like us, I don’t care, but that doesn’t mean we can’t acknowledge uses for his mushy mush approach.)

    anaththe, my point was descriptive, not normative. jfigdor said

    I wish we could all do a better job of spraying water on the fire (conservative Christianity, Islam, and Judaism, etc.) instead of spraying each other.

    I don’t necessarily wish the same thing. I have preferences about which arguments are used if we fight, but whether we fight is not a big deal to me either way.

    But if that is what jfigdor wants, then jfigdor should understand that the only chance for detente is for Stedman to stop criticizing gnu approaches entirely, as well as stop allowing guest bloggers to make those criticisms through his blog, and then wait several months (or perhaps years) for the reactions to his previous criticism to slow to a trickle.

  31. jfigdor says

    Thanks Love Moderately, I did misunderstand you. As far as Chris’s criticism of us GNUs, that’s basically the crux of my disagreement with Chris. I would prefer to see him focus on the real problem (i.e. conservative religion) rather than on correcting Atheists and Humanists who might be a little overly enthusiastic or a little simplistic in their critiques of religion. Personally, I prefer to let the whole spectrum of diplomats, firebrands, and everyone in between advocate for Atheism/Humanism as they see fit.

  32. jfigdor says

    Sorry for misunderstanding. I’ve been up since 5am today when I heard about Hitchens’s passing and its been particularly hard on me.

  33. chigau (違う) says

    How would I know how to behave if I didn’t have someone correcting my simplistic ways?

  34. John Morales says

    anaththe:

    I’m one of the most hardass Gnu atheists. [blah blah]
    A personal aside is that my mom and I have never talked about atheism.

    One of those sentences ain’t true, unless by ‘hardass’ you mean ‘timid’.

  35. kosk11348 says

    jfigdor says:

    Chris Stedman…is really is on your side (provided your goal is providing equal rights and social standing for atheists and Humanists), whether you believe him or not. I wish we could all do a better job of spraying water on the fire (conservative Christianity, Islam, and Judaism, etc.) instead of spraying each other.

    Why only “conservative” religion? Because that’s the only “bad” kind? Nope, you obviously don’t understand our goals and values in the least. Please stop saying we’re on the same team. I really think you fail to understand the primary motives of the gnu atheists. We’re not looking for mere “acceptance” from religious society. We really are looking to diminish religion, both the judgmental conservative kind and the inclusive liberal kind. Magical thinking is something to fight against for its own sake, like illiteracy.

  36. says

    Thanks Love Moderately, I did misunderstand you. As far as Chris’s criticism of us GNUs, that’s basically the crux of my disagreement with Chris.

    So are you saying his answer to your question made sense to you? “With criticism of gnu atheists I’m hoping to accomplish my goal(s) of _________________. Here’s how it works: _________________.” How would he complete that sentence?

    It appears you don’t care for his criticisms of gnus because you think it’s a waste of time, but you haven’t actually asked him to address the question love moderately suggested.

  37. Brownian says

    I wonder why we don’t simply agree with the oft-lobbed critique that gnu atheism is just another religion after all, and watch the faitheists give themselves whiplash running back here to shake our hands and build bridges with us.

    As atheists, we’re simplistic and in need of correction. But as religious people: well, maybe, if you’re a good boy and wish upon a star hard enough, maybe one day you’ll believe as we do.

  38. anaththe apostle of reason says

    #36:
    It was hard to see what was being meant at first. Yeah, I do agree with you here: “I don’t necessarily wish the same thing.” The fact is, I don’t particularly care what factions are saying about each other, but they should at least separate the arguments from the people who make them. Stedman is not immune to this, but my main point is that apparently neither are Gnus. *shrug*

    #41
    Hahah! Yeah! Well everyone where I currently live agrees with sentence 1, because I don’t hide anything in my day to day life and will argue people down. However I live 700 miles away from my family so I have the freedom to behave this way after spending several years hiding my beliefs and feeling very alone. I just haven’t gotten around to discussing things with my parents because I’m pretty happy that we’re not at each other’s throats for petty BS anymore, so why risk it? I’d like to get rid of that last bit of dissonance though. And if you didn’t notice, that first paragraph was tongue-in-cheek. But I do skin cats.

  39. kosk11348 says

    jfigdor says:

    I would prefer to see him focus on the real problem (i.e. conservative religion)

    Conservative religion is not the “real problem.” The real problem is religious faith itself. Bigoted beliefs are the tainted fruit, but faith is the tree that bears them. This article lays out the problem: religion has no reality check. It is by definition unreasonable. This applies to both conservative and liberal faiths. That is what we’re fighting against. If that’s not your fight–fine. But please stop telling us what we “really” should be against.

  40. says

    The fact is, I don’t particularly care what factions are saying about each other,

    Then stop tossing in.

    but they should at least separate the arguments from the people who make them.

    Hard as this may be to believe (or understand, as the case may be), I can disagree with arguments AND dislike some of the people making them. Particularly when their “argument” generally consists of a false and negative portrayal of us and what we’re about and a self-flattering comparison of themselves with us.

  41. says

    So are you saying his answer to your question made sense to you?

    jfigdor indicates he misread me the first time, so jfigdor’s answer was not directed at this question:

    “With criticism of gnu atheists I’m hoping to accomplish my goal(s) of _________________. Here’s how it works: _________________.” How would he complete that sentence?

    I’m still wondering that too, and I wonder if jfigdor has asked it of him.

  42. Brownian says

    Hard as this may be to believe (or understand, as the case may be), I can disagree with arguments AND dislike some of the people making them.

    Wha? I’m not sure if you’ve heard, but every defender of Stedman I’ve ever encountered assures us that in person he’s really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really nice.

  43. John Morales says

    [meta]

    Brownian, betcha if I met him and had a little chat, I could help him overcome that problem.

    (I have a way with people)

  44. anaththe apostle of reason says

    48: Then congratulations, my criticism is not directed towards you.

    And I think I should have said “approach” rather than “argument” in post #46, because my criticism is directly about the touchy-feely “lets all hold hands” approach and not about an argument against gnu atheists.

  45. Brownian says

    Brownian, betcha if I met him and had a little chat, I could help him overcome that problem.

    (I have a way with people)

    I’ve noticed ;)

    There’s a funny thing though; one doesn’t have to be known as really nice to be persuasive and well-liked.

  46. says

    kosk11348

    Conservative religion is not the “real problem.” The real problem is religious faith itself.

    They are both real problems, but they are not the same problem, and I would not accept a premise that one ought to be reduced to the other.

    I would be happy to see the power of conservative religion significantly diminished, as has occurred in much of Europe during the last century.

    I would be happy to see religion eliminated entirely.

    Evangelical Christian youth are becoming less conservative on the issue of gay marriage: “Forty-four percent of white evangelical Millennials favor allowing gay and lesbian people to marry, compared to only 12% of evangelical seniors and 19% of evangelicals overall.”

    This is a positive development that will improve gay people’s lives, even without the elimination of religion.

    Empirically, the problems are not the same.

  47. Brownian says

    I should clarify, of course, that there’s nothing wrong with being really nice. Just that it stops being really nice and starts being an asshole if you suggest that the only way to be is really nice.

  48. says

    48: Then congratulations, my criticism is not directed towards you.

    Your unsolicited criticism was extremely vague (“A lot of the kneejerk response seems to be ‘eww Stedman'”) and directed at a set of comments from a thread, of which you offered one example plucked from context. You started off by characterizing people’s posts as petty, kneejerk, etc. You said yourself:

    Ultimately I’m really not “after” any one person or quote but a pervading attitude. Let me quote mine… I don’t need direct responses to any of these I just want to show you the sort of thing I am responding to.

    This is disrespectful to the people you’re addressing.

    Oh, just fuck off. I’m so tired of people like you showing up with your unsolicited, unwanted, vague, ignorant, stupid “criticisms.”

  49. kosk11348 says

    Empirically, the problems are not the same.

    Right, so when accommodationists come along and say we’re all fighting for the same things, it’s demonstrably untrue. As you say, they are different goals. Some people work to make religion less nasty and more inclusive. I work to to make religion less credible and influential. Not the same goals at all.

  50. anaththe apostle of reason says

    Alrighty then. Next time I’ll be sure to ask if you want criticism first. Or you can request that PZ post a “No solicitors” sign to make sure no one who disagrees with you ever posts a comment.

  51. says

    rather than on correcting Atheists and Humanists who might be a little overly enthusiastic or a little simplistic in their critiques of religion.

    *eyeroll*

    There’s one of them in this very thread: Markr1957.

    My problem with this is how I can possibly respect anyone who still believes in fairy stories – seriously! … How can I respect anyone who thinks this way? It is not only impossible for me to believe the things religion claims; it is equally impossible for me to truly respect anyone who can believe it.

    I’ve been an atheist only for about seven or eight years.

    When I believed in God, I did not for that reason deserve to be treated as someone not worthy of respect.

    I have no trouble recognizing that Markr1957 is still my enemy. With anyone who thinks that way, I will not ally myself as a fellow atheist.

  52. jfigdor says

    To be honest, I’m not sure what Chris hopes to accomplish when he tells GNUs to quiet down. I would suggest you email him and ask him.

  53. jfigdor says

    If you put the question to him reasonably (like you did to me), he’ll probably answer and write a blog post about it. I’ll certainly mention it as an idea for him to write about (going to see him tonight).

  54. tomh says

    @ anaththe apostle of reason

    My problem with your approach is that you seem remarkably uninformed about the extent of religious privilege in America. What you call liberal religions, the ones you think you should encourage, spend several hundred million dollars a year in campaign contributions and lobbying, in successful efforts to influence government policies. These efforts have resulted in advantages for religion in areas like taxes, zoning laws, health and safety laws, immunization exemptions, copyright laws, civil rights laws, employment, pensions; there is no end to religious privilege that your liberal religions have bought. All of these have negative consequences for nonbelievers. Of course, it’s difficult to pin down exactly how much each one spends, since they also bought an exemption from reporting lobbying spending when the Lobbying Disclosure Act was passed in 1995.

    The other effect that liberal religions’ influence has, is that it enables so-called conservative religions’ privileges, privileges that include things like denying medical care to children. Liberal religions might not approve of such practices, but it’s all part and parcel of the same all-encompassing religious privilege that pervades America.

  55. John Morales says

    [meta]

    anaththe:

    Alrighty then. Next time I’ll be sure to ask if you want criticism first. Or you can request that PZ post a “No solicitors” sign to make sure no one who disagrees with you ever posts a comment.

    Well, that response (presumably to SC) tells me a lot about you.

  56. says

    Right, so when accommodationists come along and say we’re all fighting for the same things, it’s demonstrably untrue.

    That depends.

    If an accomodationist does not wish to see the eventual elimination of religion, then it’s demonstrably untrue that our goals are the same. That particular accomodationist shares only a subset of our goals.

    If an accomodationist does wish to see the eventual elimination of religion, and will work on both problems but treat them as separate problems, then that particular accomodationist does share our goals, and the question is about priorities. Many gnu atheists treat these as separate problems as well, and we disagree about priorities. In these cases, self-identification as accomodationist or gnu may depend mostly on networking, and how one’s peers self-identify.

  57. anaththe apostle of reason says

    Tomh: Very valid, though I’m not sure what you believe my “approach” is?

    I do not advocate an accommodationist approach when it comes to politics, as I stated in post #29 and to a lesser extent in post #33.

    Accommodationism will never solve the real problem, but using the work of accommodationists like Stedman can be a jumping point for dialogue with people in your community who aren’t yet ready for the heavy hitters.

  58. jfigdor says

    If you want to eliminate religion all together, I won’t stop you. But that isn’t my goal. I want to create a world where we secular constitute a strong majority, but one that is capable of living with and tolerating religious traditions that are sufficiently respectful of non-theists, (UU’s, Secular Buddhists, Christian Humanists, liberal UCC, liberal Reform Judaism, etc.). Religion is a human creation. Some of it is bad (ok, a large part of it is really bad), but there is some good in there too (though really not enough for a book that is allegedly inspired by god…).

  59. jfigdor says

    Oh, and we should certainly challenge religious privilege like tax exemptions and special treatment.

  60. jfigdor says

    Just wanted to give a shout out to “anaththe apostle of reason” for making some really good points, like this one: “Accommodationism will never solve the real problem, but using the work of accommodationists like Stedman can be a jumping point for dialogue with people in your community who aren’t yet ready for the heavy hitters.”

  61. says

    I would be happy to see the power of conservative religion significantly diminished, as has occurred in much of Europe during the last century.

    I would be happy to see religion eliminated entirely.

    I think you’re missing an important part of the point. Try putting the emphasis in “religious faith” on faith rather than religion. The problems are not the same but they are deeply related. Religion is the institutional embodiment of unjustified belief, especially that which is respected; religious crimes are a terrible scourge. But that the issue with faith is super important is clear when we recognize that religion is probably not, at present and going into the future, globally the biggest problem with regard to the effects of unjustified, false belief.

  62. says

    The other effect that liberal religions’ influence has, is that it enables so-called conservative religions’ privileges, privileges that include things like denying medical care to children.

    This is an abstract claim which needs empirical support. It is possible that liberal religionists would be willing to work to outlaw the ability for anyone to deny medical care to children.

    Rabbi Brad Hirschfield, of the the National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership, argued at WashingtonPost.com that Michigan’s anti-bullying law should have its religious exemption removed. So it is demonstrably the case that liberal religionists do fight against some religious privilege.

  63. jfigdor says

    Very true, SC. That is why skepticism will be increasingly important as religion recedes and naturalistic faiths (crystals, homeopathy, etc.) become the major impediments to reason.

  64. says

    Just wanted to give a shout out to “anaththe apostle of reason” for making some really good points, like this one: “Accommodationism will never solve the real problem, but using the work of accommodationists like Stedman can be a jumping point for dialogue with people in your community who aren’t yet ready for the heavy hitters.”

    The problem with this is that it rests on a stupid straw-man notion of gnu atheism, like we’re all advocating only the strongest and harshest approach in any and every circumstance. That’s bullshit. What the vast majority of us object to is the self-congratulation for “interfaith” approaches, the constant denigration of us and claims that our arguments and actions harm some alleged shared cause, the utter failure to engage with what we’re saying (e.g., the constant repetition of a false understanding of our argument that liberal religion abets fundamentalism in important ways), the demands that we all “must” go along with their actions, and so on. We have said over and over that certain approaches behaviorally are appropriate for certain situations, and gnus have given good evidence with their own actions of using a variety of approaches. So this is tiresome bullshit.

  65. says

    That is why skepticism will be increasingly important as religion recedes and naturalistic faiths (crystals, homeopathy, etc.) become the major impediments to reason.

    No, the most powerful and dangerous enemies of justified and true belief and respect for it are, and are increasingly, corporations and states. Woo is a distant third behind these and religion.

  66. says

    If an accomodationist does not wish to see the eventual elimination of religion, then it’s demonstrably untrue that our goals are the same. That particular accomodationist shares only a subset of our goals.

    If an accomodationist does wish to see the eventual elimination of religion, and will work on both problems but treat them as separate problems, then that particular accomodationist does share our goals, and the question is about priorities.

    Please stop this. That is not my primary goal.

  67. says

    I think you’re missing an important part of the point. Try putting the emphasis in “religious faith” on faith rather than religion. The problems are not the same but they are deeply related.

    I don’t know that most religions in the world even have the sophistication to make “faith claims” per se. That seems to be an anomaly of literate traditions.

    But that the issue with faith is super important is clear when we recognize that religion is probably not, at present and going into the future, globally the biggest problem with regard to the effects of unjustified, false belief.

    I don’t think it’s plausible to address all unjustified false beliefs as though they operate on the same cognitive templates as religious beliefs.

    I recognize that there is one particularly pernicious concept of “free speech” out there, by which people are praised for stating their opinions as though that was a noble and courageous thing. Certainly, this meme protects religious bigotry and global warming denialism more or less the same. But this cannot even be reduced to a respect for faith; I suspect its root is an unfortunate side effect of telling heroic stories about people who overcame real censorship.

    Taking global warming for an example, I don’t think we have time to treat it by encouraging critical thinking. I’m not even sure most of the population is capable of that degree of critical thinking. I suppose we will have to treat it like we treat evolution, by indoctrinating schoolchildren to believe it and by caricaturing the “old people” who are so uncool that they can’t handle new things.

  68. says

    Please stop this.

    No.

    That is not my primary goal.

    Then you’re not in the “our” that I speak of. Which points to the failure of these gnu and accomodationist labels, I suppose. The firebrand and diplomat stuff might be more applicable.

  69. anaththe apostle of reason says

    #72 OK now I see your problem and where I was not clear! Thank you.

    Here’s my point taken from my previous example of my mom:
    ~My mom will never read Dawkins, Hitchens, or even Sagan. She just doesn’t like that kind of book. But I want to begin a dialogue with her and get over this whole closet thing.
    ~She likes nice touchy feely stories.
    ~Stedman writes touchy feely stories, and includes atheism.
    ~She might read Stedman.

    Ergo I give her Faithiest and she shares it with her book club and they talk about how much they liked it. Then I say “Hey mom, that’s not really all there is to atheism and I have other reasons for being an atheist!” Now that she has successfully been heartwarmed by Stedman she is ready to talk about more, rather than just “oh atheism is *insert strawman here* I can’t wait until you find Jesus again, I’m praying for you.”

    See? Useful. :)
    We good now?

  70. tomh says

    love moderately wrote:

    This is an abstract claim which needs empirical support. It is possible that liberal religionists would be willing to work to outlaw the ability for anyone to deny medical care to children.

    Perhaps I wasn’t clear. I didn’t say that liberal religions are in favor of denying medical care to children, I said that by the very fact of spending millions of dollars to ensure their own privileges, they enable more “extremist” religions to ensure privileges also. One example is denying medical care to children. Of course liberal religions give at least lip service to decrying such practices, but in fact they are enabling it. The only solution is to remove all religious privilege, not just the ones that seem extreme.

  71. says

    I said that by the very fact of spending millions of dollars to ensure their own privileges, they enable more “extremist” religions to ensure privileges also.

    Well, that’s also an abstract claim which requires empirical support.

  72. John Morales says

    anaththe:

    See? Useful. :)

    This is really what you expect will happen?

    (Good luck with that)

    PS Faithiest?

    (How apropos. Yes, very faithy indeed!)

  73. anaththe apostle of reason says

    Haha, “Faithiest” is the title of the book.

    Of course that’s not what will happen, I simplified. But since you clearly know about my situation and the people involved better than I do, I’m open for suggestion!

  74. says

    I don’t know that most religions in the world even have the sophistication to make “faith claims” per se. That seems to be an anomaly of literate traditions.

    Huh? Even if this were true numerically – and I’m a bit disturbed by your use of “sophistication” – it’s irrelevant. The major religions, which make unjustified claims of fact,* have billions of followers and the respect of the most powerful governments.

    *I’m not sure what you’re getting at with “faith claims.” I’m talking about the justification for claims of fact.

    I don’t think it’s plausible to address all unjustified false beliefs as though they operate on the same cognitive templates as religious beliefs.

    I don’t see why not. “But is it true? How do you know?” is a perfectly understandable concept. It’s foundational to democracy. It’s applicable to beliefs originating with religious, woo, corporate, or government propaganda. Refusing to apply it to one sort of beliefs respects a bad principle.

    I recognize that there is one particularly pernicious concept of “free speech” out there, by which people are praised for stating their opinions as though that was a noble and courageous thing. Certainly, this meme protects religious bigotry and global warming denialism more or less the same. But this cannot even be reduced to a respect for faith; I suspect its root is an unfortunate side effect of telling heroic stories about people who overcame real censorship.

    No, I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about a practice of evidence-based belief.

    Taking global warming for an example, I don’t think we have time to treat it by encouraging critical thinking.

    I don’t think we have time not to. Showing people that what they’re being told by corporations and their ideological supporters is false and showing them how to expect and challenge unjustified claims is the only way people are going to understand the problem. It’s especially important because global warming is far from the only catastrophic problem being caused by corporations and governments.

    There’s still a disconnect here: Epistemology is, as I said, itself a major social-moral issue. It’s not merely an approach to other problems. Am I not saying this well?

    I’m not even sure most of the population is capable of that degree of critical thinking. I suppose we will have to treat it like we treat evolution, by indoctrinating schoolchildren to believe it and by caricaturing the “old people” who are so uncool that they can’t handle new things.

    I’m writing a post I’m going to send to PZ for consideration as a guest post on this very subject.

    I don’t agree with your proposed approach. Indoctrinating is precisely what we don’t want to do. Even if I thought it acceptable on this question, I would think it pragmatically disastrous in the medium and long term, compounding the problems it’s attempting to manage. But none of this is really the issue we were discussing. The point I was making is that my major “goal” is not the eventual end of religion in all forms. People can of course disagree with my goal(s), but I want them to engage with what they are.

  75. says

    Yeah, you know, one of the lesser gripes I have with Stedman is his appalling lack of originality. He stole “non-prophets” from the far better known Atheist Experience podcast, and “faitheist” from Jerry Coyne.

  76. says

    I don’t agree with your proposed approach. Indoctrinating is precisely what we don’t want to do.

    See what you did there? Exactly what you complained about me doing a moment ago.

    (I don’t mind if you do it.)

  77. John Morales says

    [meta]

    anaththe: faithy, faithier, faithiest. :)

    (Don’t ever get into magic, you’ll have problems with your spells)

  78. 'Tis Himself, OM says

    I cannot speak for anyone else but my problem with Stedman and other accommodationists of that ilk is quite simple. I want them to stop trying to shut me up.

    I have no problem with Stedman et al trying to be buddy-buddy with goddists. If they get their jollies from sucking up to goddists then I wish them all the joy they can handle. Have a nice time, faitheists. Give us periodic updates on your successes in converting the deluded to rationality.

    All I ask is the accommodationists stop telling gnu atheists that our efforts are wrong, they’re not working, they’re getting goddists upset, and we shut just shut the fuck up. I’m willing to let accommodationists be as accommodating as possible. So it’s only reasonable they extend the same courtesy to me. Let me be as rude, crude and noisy as I want to be. I don’t think it’s too much as ask. But obviously certain accommodationists don’t want to be accommodating to me.

  79. says

    Then you’re not in the “our” that I speak of.

    OK. Who is? For which gnus do you think the eventual abolition of all religion is a goal more primary than the eventual victory of “Is it true? How do you know?”?

  80. anaththe apostle of reason says

    Oh that’s right, its (F)a(i)thiest, with a really long and unnecessarily long subtitle. Thanks for the correction.

    Yeah, I tried the magic thing, but I can’t keep up with how many new sets they put out.

  81. says

    See what you did there? Exactly what you complained about me doing a moment ago.

    No. My use of “we” was more like “Invading Iran is exactly what we don’t want to do.” If I say that, I’m not claiming to speak for the wants of the entire US – I mean we (humanity, broadly) shouldn’t. Granted, the phrasing left it open to being read wrong, but it was not meant as you read it.

  82. Anath the Apostle of Reason says

    You don’t honestly expect that I’d type out that whole absurdly long name when the first bit would suffice? o.O

  83. says

    Huh? Even if this were true numerically – and I’m a bit disturbed by your use of “sophistication” – it’s irrelevant. The major religions, which make unjustified claims of fact,* have billions of followers and the respect of the most powerful governments.

    Yes, it’s irrelevant if the concern is only for the major religions. And maybe it should be. But then I don’t agree that the problem is faith per se. The problem then is the major religions.

    *I’m not sure what you’re getting at with “faith claims.” I’m talking about the justification for claims of fact.

    And most religions don’t even make justifications for claims of fact. Things are what they are just because that’s what the local people believe. Justification doesn’t even happen.

    I don’t think it’s plausible to address all unjustified false beliefs as though they operate on the same cognitive templates as religious beliefs.

    I don’t see why not.

    Well, because they don’t operate on the same cognitive templates. Or many don’t. Belief in ESP probably does. Racism probably doesn’t.

    “But is it true? How do you know?” is a perfectly understandable concept.

    And just how successful is it in practice when arguing with a theist?

    It’s foundational to democracy. It’s applicable to beliefs originating with religious, woo, corporate, or government propaganda. Refusing to apply it to one sort of beliefs respects a bad principle.

    I never said that any question shouldn’t be applied to any particular belief due to respect. I don’t know why you said that last sentence. If it’s a tangent, cool, but if it’s meant to address me then it’s a strawman.

  84. says

    No. My use of “we” was more like “Invading Iran is exactly what we don’t want to do.” If I say that, I’m not claiming to speak for the wants of the entire US – I mean we (humanity, broadly) shouldn’t. Granted, the phrasing left it open to being read wrong, but it was not meant as you read it.

    Heh. Well. I suppose Stedman might think of his “we musts” in the same way.

    I really don’t give a fig, and I will continue to write as I write.

    OK. Who is? For which gnus do you think the eventual abolition of all religion is a goal more primary than the eventual victory of “Is it true? How do you know?”?

    What?

    I never said that one was more primary than the other. I don’t know what you’re talking about.

  85. says

    No, I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about a practice of evidence-based belief.

    Yes, I can see what you’re talking about. I don’t think you have a handle on the root problem. There would be no outrage about asking for evidence — people would probably still ignore the request, but they’d just shrug about it — if not for this unfortunately widespread dogma about “free speech”.

    I don’t think we have time not to. Showing people that what they’re being told by corporations and their ideological supporters is false

    I expect you can do that much. It’s relatively easy, since people are already accustomed to the notion that large and powerful organizations do shady things.

    and showing them how to expect and challenge unjustified claims is the only way people are going to understand the problem.

    It’s not the only way. Most people who accept evolution don’t understand it, but they understand that they are self-identified with groups who accept evolution.

    Consider how it is that libertarians end up denying AGW. It’s not because they understand the arguments for or against. They move in certain circles, they hear certain things, they come to understand that group identification means acceptance of the orthodoxy.

    Then they come to Pharyngula and complain that they aren’t accepted here even though they accept our evolutionary orthodoxy.

    If we succeed in making people agree that AGW is a problem, it will probably not be by making them understand AGW.

    There’s still a disconnect here: Epistemology is, as I said, itself a major social-moral issue. It’s not merely an approach to other problems. Am I not saying this well?

    You’ve said it before, I understand your argument, but I am not convinced that it’s actually a useful approach, at least not in a world where problems need to be fixed in a finite time. I’ve never seen evidence of major shifts in belief due to epistemological shifts. What I see is group identification.

    The point I was making is that my major “goal” is not the eventual end of religion in all forms. People can of course disagree with my goal(s), but I want them to engage with what they are.

    Okie doke. I’ll try to remember that.

  86. says

    Yes, it’s irrelevant if the concern is only for the major religions. And maybe it should be. But then I don’t agree that the problem is faith per se. The problem then is the major religions.

    No, because it’s a problem beyond religion. It’s more fundamental than religion.

    And most religions don’t even make justifications for claims of fact. Things are what they are just because that’s what the local people believe. Justification doesn’t even happen.

    If that were true of “most religions” [?], it’s still the same problem. (And it’s a strange argument. Even if it were true in the past, it’s not in the present. There aren’t any beliefs that haven’t become self-conscious.)

    Well, because they don’t operate on the same cognitive templates. Or many don’t. Belief in ESP probably does. Racism probably doesn’t.

    This business about cognitive templates aside, it operates on the basis of unjustified beliefs.

    And just how successful is it in practice when arguing with a theist?

    That depends on an extraordinary number of conditions. But again, the point isn’t about asking these specific questions in every imaginable circumstance. It’s about the justification for beliefs and not the abolition of religion being primary. I’m asking honestly: am I not presenting this clearly? Because I keep talking about it as a goal and you keep responding as though I’m talking about it as a means to achieve much more narrow goals.

    I never said that any question shouldn’t be applied to any particular belief due to respect. I don’t know why you said that last sentence. If it’s a tangent, cool, but if it’s meant to address me then it’s a strawman.

    Of course I wasn’t applying it to you! I was talking about society generally. Connected to challenging unjustified belief – note that this is different from challenging unjustified beliefs – is challenging respect for or deference to them.

    This challenging can take any number of forms in various circumstances, but it has to happen if this goal is to be accomplished. For some people, unjustified belief and respect for it are not major issues. For me, they are, and I think those people are wrong.

  87. says

    Heh. Well. I suppose Stedman might think of his “we musts” in the same way.

    He doesn’t. It’s clear from his words in context. He assumes shared goals and uses “we” to mean “you.” It’s not right for you to suggest this unless you really believe it and can back it up. Or are you suggesting I was being dishonest? If so, that’s worse.

    I really don’t give a fig, and I will continue to write as I write.

    Facts be damned.

  88. says

    What?

    I never said that one was more primary than the other.

    You said:

    If an accomodationist does not wish to see the eventual elimination of religion, then it’s demonstrably untrue that our goals are the same. That particular accomodationist shares only a subset of our goals.

    If an accomodationist does wish to see the eventual elimination of religion, and will work on both problems but treat them as separate problems, then that particular accomodationist does share our goals, and the question is about priorities.

    You plainly implied that the eventual abolition of religion was our primary/umbrella goal. You said nothing about the epistemic issue despite the fact that I had raised it earlier in the thread and someone had made similar points.

    I don’t know what you’re talking about.

    Clearly.

  89. you_monster says

    love moderately ॐ

    But then I don’t agree that the problem is faith per se.

    What do you consider to be the problem?

  90. says

    I think there’s a problem with equating faith to mean unjustified false beliefs.

    I hold a considerable number of unjustified false beliefs. I don’t hold any of them on faith. I just hold them because I don’t know any better, and either no one has brought them to my attention, or I hold contradictory beliefs as well and have not yet worked through the contradiction.

  91. you_monster says

    Seems to me that if we can shift people to a more rational approach to epistemology, and put more social pressure on people backing up their beliefs with evidence, then many irrationalities will fall by the wayside. It should be embarrassing for anyone to assert an unfounded claim, whether it be a religious one, a claim about pseudo-science, or an assertion of bigotry.

    Picking up on a topic discussed up-thread, emphasis of faith as a virtue is the means by which liberal/moderate religious enable more harmful variants. Attack the idea that one should be able to assert a claim sans evidence. Ridicule those who open their mouths and spit nonsense.

    I think there’s a problem with equating faith to mean unjustified false beliefs.

    No, they shouldn’t be completely equivocated. However, faith is by definition unjustified.

    I think the most progress will come by urging people to justify their beliefs.

  92. says

    No, because it’s a problem beyond religion. It’s more fundamental than religion.

    I really don’t think that it is. If I understand you correctly, you’ve defined as a set all the things which are wrong and which people aren’t rationally justified in believing. That’s a pretty abstract concept, and I don’t believe it corresponds to “the problem”.

    For instance, I don’t think that in the real world there’s any fundamental way in which unjustified false beliefs about race and unjustified false beliefs about religion are cogntively similar. And I don’t think that either can be adequately addressed with an abstract approach. (More pessimistically, I’m not even sure that most people can muster the insight to understand why they believe certain things. But they might be persuaded to self-identify with a group that believes different things, and then adjust their beliefs to fit in.)

  93. says

    Yes, I can see what you’re talking about.

    No. No. You can’t.

    I don’t think you have a handle on the root problem.

    Right back at ya.

    There would be no outrage about asking for evidence

    What are you talking about?

    — people would probably still ignore the request, but they’d just shrug about it — if not for this unfortunately widespread dogma about “free speech”.

    Oh, jesus. You’re still confusing goal with method. There’s a difference between a statement or question in a specific situation and having the goal of creating a situation in which unjustified beliefs are recognized as bizarre and immoral and challenges aren’t ignored.

    You can say that certain actions won’t lead toward this goal, but you have to first acknowledge the goal.

    It’s not the only way. Most people who accept evolution don’t understand it, but they understand that they are self-identified with groups who accept evolution.

    Then they don’t accept evolution.

    Consider how it is that libertarians end up denying AGW.

    I’ve considered it at length. How it happens is rooted in the practices described by Oreskes and Conway in Merchants of Doubt. None of the deniers would have power if “Is it true? How do you know?” prevailed in the culture and the law.

    If we succeed in making people agree that AGW is a problem, it will probably not be by making them understand AGW.

    ? It will be by making them understand that AGW is a problem. (They can take positive actions for other reasons, of course.)

    You’ve said it before, I understand your argument,

    No.

    but I am not convinced that it’s actually a useful approach,

    It isn’t an approach. It’s a fundamental goal.

    at least not in a world where problems need to be fixed in a finite time.

    It’s an urgent problem. It’s deeply connected to other problems.

    I’ve never seen evidence of major shifts in belief due to epistemological shifts.

    This sentence shows that you’re confused. You don’t think empirical science led to major shifts in belief? Right.

    Okie doke. I’ll try to remember that.

    You can only remember it usefully if you understand it.

  94. Anath the Apostle of Reason says

    Watching with interest and little intent to comment but…

    It’s not the only way. Most people who accept evolution don’t understand it, but they understand that they are self-identified with groups who accept evolution.

    Then they don’t accept evolution.

    I’m sorry but that’s just false. A lot of people learn about it in high school biology and then never read another word on the topic. If you were to ask them to clarify any part of the theory other than “things change over time” or maybe something about “survival of the fittest” you would not get an intelligible answer. But if you asked them “Evolution or Creationism” they’d laugh and insist on Evolution.

  95. says

    If that were true of “most religions” [?], it’s still the same problem

    No, it isn’t. If people aren’t concerned with justifying their beliefs, that’s a very different problem than if they give lip service to the value of justification but fail to do it.

    (And it’s a strange argument. Even if it were true in the past, it’s not in the present. There aren’t any beliefs that haven’t become self-conscious.)

    I don’t know why you bring up whether or not beliefs are self-conscious. Of course people know what they believe, they are conscious of that much. What I’m saying is they frequently don’t think to justify those beliefs, and they find requests to do so as quite odd.

    This business about cognitive templates aside, it operates on the basis of unjustified beliefs.

    Because all you have is a hammer.

    There is no such thing as “the basis of unjustified beliefs”, though. That does not correspond to a really-existing thing. There are various ways in which people do or do not concern themselves with justification.

  96. says

    It’s about the justification for beliefs and not the abolition of religion being primary. I’m asking honestly: am I not presenting this clearly? Because I keep talking about it as a goal and you keep responding as though I’m talking about it as a means to achieve much more narrow goals.

    Because I don’t accept it as a useful goal. So if you keep repeating that it is or ought to be a goal, I will continue to argue for why it is stupid and will fail.

    I understand you just fine. You’re wrong.

  97. you_monster says

    Anath,
    How can you accept a position you don’t understand? Here, I’ve invented a new word for a familiar concept (one that may be true or may not be), the word is Weolution. Do you accept Weolution, Anath? What’s that? you have no understanding of what Weolution is and therefore cannot know if you accept it or not?

    Someone could say the words “I accept evolution”, but if they don’t understanding the referent of that term, they certainly aren’t saying anything meaningful or true.

  98. says

    I really don’t think that it is. If I understand you correctly, you’ve defined as a set all the things which are wrong and which people aren’t rationally justified in believing.

    No. Unjustified belief. Not beliefs.

    For instance, I don’t think that in the real world there’s any fundamental way in which unjustified false beliefs about race and unjustified false beliefs about religion are cogntively similar.

    They are similar in that they are unjustified and false.

    And I don’t think that either can be adequately addressed with an abstract approach.

    Changing epistemic norms and practices is not an approach. It is a goal. Since it’s fundamentally related to all problems involving false belief, successfully addressing this (via whatever methods) will fundamentally effect those problems as well.

  99. tomh says

    I wrote:
    I said that by the very fact of spending millions of dollars to ensure their own privileges, they enable more “extremist” religions to ensure privileges also.

    love moderately wrote:
    Well, that’s also an abstract claim which requires empirical support.

    Well, the fact is, if privileges are allowed for “liberal” religions, then privileges will have to be allowed for “conservative” religions. Otherwise, the government gets into the business of deciding whose religious doctrines are worthy of privilege. This is exactly what the government can’t do. This supports the claim that liberal religions enable the privileges of conservative ones.

  100. you_monster says

    Correct me if I am misrepresenting you, SC, but it seems like love moderately was correct in saying that what you are arguing for is, essentially, just plain ol’ skepticism. I am fully behind the promotion of skepticism and participating in skeptical activism by applying social pressure to create a climate hostile to the promotion of unjustified beliefs.

    What is your beef with skepticism, love moderately? Do you really think “it is stupid and will fail”?

  101. says

    He doesn’t. It’s clear from his words in context. He assumes shared goals and uses “we” to mean “you.”

    I don’t think that’s quite what he’s doing. I think he consciously presents his goals as thought they ought to be shared goals, and thus invites the warmly-inclined listener to adopt his goals.

    I think that’s also what you’re doing when you say “we don’t want to bomb Iran” or “we don’t want to indoctrinate people.” You know people don’t agree with you, but you’d like them to.

    I’m perfectly fine with it as a rhetorical strategy, of course.

    Facts be damned.

    It’s not possible to speak of one thing that all gnu atheists agree on except increasing the number of atheists (that’s necessitated by the fact that gnu atheism is a political approach to atheism) and distinguishing themselves from non-gnu atheists.

    Those are the only wholly accurate things we can say about gnu atheists in general. If I say more and someone corrects me, that’s fine. But let’s be clear on something else: your insistence that opposing “unjustified false belief” per se is a gnu atheist goal? It ain’t necessarily so. That may be true of a subset of gnu atheists, and I don’t object to trying to attach other values to atheism, but if we’re nitpicking here, then this too ought to be recognized.

  102. says

    Because I don’t accept it as a useful goal.

    But this wasn’t the argument! You suggested that the goal of the gnu atheists was the eventual end of religion. I said previously and since that I don’t agree that that is the goal, in the sense of the major or primary goal. Your opinions about that goal are not relevant to that argument.

    Are you saying that it isn’t a fundamental gnu goal, or that it isn’t one you think is useful? Those are different.

    So if you keep repeating that it is

    I’m saying that it is, and that’s a fact claim. Are you saying it is not?

    or ought to be a goal,

    Again – that’s an entirely different matter. (Did you intend to reproduce is and ought so perfectly?)

    I will continue to argue for why it is stupid and will fail.

    How the hell can a goal fail? This shows, once again, that you are failing to appreciate something very fundamental here. You’re doing precisely what I praised liberals for not doing wrt anarchists above.

  103. Anath the Apostle of Reason says

    How can you accept a position you don’t understand? …

    Someone could say the words “I accept evolution”, but if they don’t understanding the referent of that term, they certainly aren’t saying anything meaningful or true.

    For one thing, we’re not talking about zero understanding, but even if we were, I accept the theory of quantum mechanics, gravity, anthropomorphic climate change, the accuracy of radiometric dating, a lot of geology, and a LOT of chemistry. I don’t understand a whole lot of any of those topics, but I do know that these are things that are accepted by the scientific community as true, and I’ve had a basic introduction to the topics. My support of them might not be “meaningful”, but you know, it really doesn’t matter. Why should it? And why should my knowledge of organic chemistry have any stake on its truth value?

    Similarly the people who don’t know that much about evolution and accept the theory based on small amounts of knowledge and scientific consensus are validly accepting the theory. They don’t have to answer a question like this in order to prove themselves (taken directly from my Vertebrate Evolution final exam):
    “Lipidosauria is recognized on the basis of a number of shared features, including:
    a) lower jaw is composed of a single bone; tympanic membrane is always present
    b) entire epidermis is shed simultaneously; cloaca is a transverse slit
    c) tail autonomy; a thyroid fenestra between the pubis and the ischium
    d) b and c
    e) all of the above

    “Really, if you can’t answer such a basic question I guess your acceptance of evolution is meaningless!” See how silly that statement is?

  104. says

    I don’t think that’s quite what he’s doing. I think he consciously presents his goals as thought they ought to be shared goals, and thus invites the warmly-inclined listener to adopt his goals.

    And you’re wrong (in the cases I’m talking about). He presents them as already shared goals, and then dishonestly speaks of “we must” when he means “you must” (STFU and go along). Since I’ve been participating in those discussions for months and I don’t recall your extensive input, I’ll continue to think that you’re speculating on the basis of limited knowledge.

  105. says

    I think that’s also what you’re doing when you say “we don’t want to bomb Iran” or “we don’t want to indoctrinate people.” You know people don’t agree with you, but you’d like them to.

    That isn’t what I’m doing. I’m simply making an argument, and used “we” rather than “people.”

    I’m perfectly fine with it as a rhetorical strategy, of course.

    It isn’t a rhetorical strategy for me. It’s a turn of phrase.

  106. says

    you_monster:

    What do you consider to be the problem?

    As regards belief? The problem is when people believe things that are both wrong and harmful. (There are some things which are wrong and benign; many dogmas about human rights, equality and fairness fit in this category.)

    If people happen upon correct beliefs by unjustified means — like believing there is no God because zomg Daniel Radcliff is an atheist — I don’t have a problem with it.

    What is your beef with skepticism, love moderately? Do you really think “it is stupid and will fail”?

    That was a bit too testy. I think skepticism is awesome and will fail.

  107. says

    It’s not possible to speak of one thing that all gnu atheists agree on

    Claim. Every single gnu atheist? probably not. The major lines of gnu arguments? I think so. You’ve argued that our primary shared goal is the eventual demise of religion. I’ve argued that it’s instead (as gnus – this doesn’t preclude other, including related, goals) primarily epistemic.

    except increasing the number of atheists (that’s necessitated by the fact that gnu atheism is a political approach to atheism)

    It’s a political approach to epistemology.

    your insistence that opposing “unjustified false belief” per se is a gnu atheist goal? It ain’t necessarily so. That may be true of a subset of gnu atheists, and I don’t object to trying to attach other values to atheism, but if we’re nitpicking here, then this too ought to be recognized.

    So I ask again: For which gnu atheists is it not a primary goal? For which do you acknowledge that it is?

  108. says

    You plainly implied that the eventual abolition of religion was our primary/umbrella goal. You said nothing about the epistemic issue despite the fact that I had raised it earlier in the thread and someone had made similar points.

    Yo. I was responding to kosk11348 at #57, who was responding to my #54, where I was quoting kosk11348 who made this statement:

    Conservative religion is not the “real problem.” The real problem is religious faith itself.

    So I was talking about conservative religion, and religion itself, because that’s what kosk11348 was talking about.

    Don’t make my statements be any more sweeping than I clearly intended them. My intention was clear. You are taking shit out of context.

  109. says

    Seems to me that if we can shift people to a more rational approach to epistemology,

    That’s a very big if.

    Picking up on a topic discussed up-thread, emphasis of faith as a virtue is the means by which liberal/moderate religious enable more harmful variants

    No, people don’t believe in any of those religions because they believe faith is a virtue. The origins of religious belief are much more complicated than that. See Religion Explained by Pascal Boyer.

    Neither liberal nor conservative religion needs enabling, and neither will fall for lack of enabling.

    I think the most progress will come by urging people to justify their beliefs.

    Most progress in the past has come by advocating fairness and equality as a matter of aesthetic beauty with great rhetorical flourish, and demonization of those who oppose these things, by leaders of groups who have the ability to influence those groups’ values.

    It’s a tried and true method.

  110. says

    Conservative religion is not the “real problem.” The real problem is religious faith itself.

    So I was talking about conservative religion, and religion itself,

    Except that kosk11348 didn’t say “religion” but “religious faith.” They went on:

    Bigoted beliefs are the tainted fruit, but faith is the tree that bears them. This article lays out the problem: religion has no reality check. It is by definition unreasonable. This applies to both conservative and liberal faiths. That is what we’re fighting against.

    So you could think that kosk11348 was talking about religion, but there was good evidence they were talking about belief (especially given my earlier comment and the link provided).

  111. says

    No. No. You can’t.

    Yes, yes, I can and do see what you are talking about. You’re being unfair now.

    You are saying that we should oppose false unjustified belief.

    I get that. I already indicated that I get that. You’re just being unfair.

    What are you talking about?

    You are complaining about false unjustified belief, and saying that “But is it true? How do you know?” is a means of combatting it.

    There would be no outrage about asking for evidence — people would probably still ignore the request, but they’d just shrug about it — if not for this unfortunately widespread dogma about “free speech”.

    Oh, jesus. You’re still confusing goal with method.

    No, I’m just not willing to argue on your terms, SC. You should understand this instead of assuming that the argument ought to be on your terms and that I must not be understanding you if I’m not arguing on your terms.

    I understand you just fine. I do not accept your goal, and so I am denigrating it both as a goal and as a method. Get used to it.

  112. you_monster says

    I think skepticism is awesome and will fail.

    Much better (still disagree about the inevitability of its failure however).

    If people happen upon correct beliefs by unjustified means — like believing there is no God because zomg Daniel Radcliff is an atheist — I don’t have a problem with it.

    I agree that so long as the belief in question is benign, I don’t have a big problem with it being believed even if the believer has no justification for it. I still think it is wrong-headed and should be opposed though. Nothing bad will come of urging people to justify their beliefs (even if that belief is a positively helpful one). So, I still do have a problem with people like that Daniel Radcliff fan, because they are acting based off unjustified (though true) belief. Better yet they act off justified true belief.

    The problem is when people believe things that are both wrong and harmful. (There are some things which are wrong and benign; many dogmas about human rights, equality and fairness fit in this category.)

    I really think you should re-examine excluding benign unjustified conclusions from being “part of the problem”. There are certainly gradients as to how problematic various unjustified beliefs are, but those un-skeptical supporters of benign belief systems still maintain that their level of skepticism (a deficient level) is correct, and are therefore reluctant to call out the less benign unjustified beliefs. If they are want to call out the more harmful of their un-skeptical brethren, they lack the most important tool in doing so – which is the skeptical analysis of the underlying justifications for holding one’s beliefs.

  113. says

    Most progress in the past has come by advocating fairness and equality as a matter of aesthetic beauty with great rhetorical flourish, and demonization of those who oppose these things, by leaders of groups who have the ability to influence those groups’ values.

    Bullshit. And I say that on the basis of many years of empirical research.

  114. says

    You can say that certain actions won’t lead toward this goal, but you have to first acknowledge the goal.

    I have repeatedly acknowledged your goal. It is not my goal. I think it’s silly.

    It’s not the only way. Most people who accept evolution don’t understand it, but they understand that they are self-identified with groups who accept evolution.

    Then they don’t accept evolution.

    That’s silly too. You’re obviously wrong about this. I don’t understand the big bang, but I accept it.

    I’ve considered it at length. How it happens is rooted in the practices described by Oreskes and Conway in Merchants of Doubt. None of the deniers would have power if “Is it true? How do you know?” prevailed in the culture and the law.

    But it never will prevail in the culture. It might in the law; that’s probably a worthwhile goal.

    It will be by making them understand that AGW is a problem.

    Doubtful. It will more likely be by getting them to self-identify with groups who proclaim that AGW is a problem. The same way that great masses of people learned to self-identify with science fandom, by indoctrination in the schools when the space race was a matter of national glory.

    It’s an urgent problem. It’s deeply connected to other problems.

    No, I don’t think so. You’re constructing the set too abstractly.

    This sentence shows that you’re confused. You don’t think empirical science led to major shifts in belief? Right.

    You’re deeply confused if you think that’s what happened. Only a few million in the world practice empiricism. The larger shifts in belief have come from media and government amplification of their findings, and the elevation of the image of scientists to arbiters of truth.

  115. says

    you_monster:

    How can you accept a position you don’t understand?

    Do you understand how single photons interfere with themselves in the double slit experiment?

    Do you not accept that they do?

  116. you_monster says

    Picking up on a topic discussed up-thread, emphasis of faith as a virtue is the means by which liberal/moderate religious enable more harmful variants

    No, people don’t believe in any of those religions because they believe faith is a virtue. The origins of religious belief are much more complicated than that. See Religion Explained by Pascal Boyer.

    That wasn’t my point. I wasn’t saying that people believe in religion because they think faith is a virtue. I was pointing out essentially what SC quoted at 129,

    religion has no reality check. It is by definition unreasonable.

    Standing by and doing nothing while wrongs are being committed is being part of the problem. Moderate religions, while being generally benign, do not evaluate their claims in light of evidence. Promoting faith as a virtue takes away a powerful arrow from the quiver full of our tools for fighting oppressive religion. Religion is false, moderate and oppressive alike. If this fact were to spread, there would be less oppression in our world. The moderate religions are a roadblock to the spread of this very healthy idea.

    They also propagate by inculcating pre-rational children, and see the concept of a jainist-child, christain-child, muslim-child etc. not as what it really is (the title given by parents who are fond of indoctrinating their kids).

    I am making a lot of definitive statements about what “moderate religions” do and promote, and I am aware that there are going to be some that do not completely fit the bill. If anyone can point out a religion to me that asserts no unevidenced claims, and actively promotes skepticism, then I will exclude them from being part of the problem as i see it.

  117. says

    If I understand you correctly, you’ve defined as a set all the things which are wrong and which people aren’t rationally justified in believing.

    No. Unjustified belief. Not beliefs.

    Okay but that an identical set. Unjustified belief is the set of all unjustified beliefs.

    For instance, I don’t think that in the real world there’s any fundamental way in which unjustified false beliefs about race and unjustified false beliefs about religion are cognitively similar.

    They are similar in that they are unjustified and false.

    Haw haw haw!

    That’s why this is a perfectly useless concept. Thanks so much for the laugh.

    Changing epistemic norms and practices is not an approach. It is a goal. Since it’s fundamentally related to all problems involving false belief, successfully addressing this (via whatever methods) will fundamentally effect those problems as well.

    You might succeed in getting people to give lip service to the notion of justification, like creationists do with fossils. Have fun.

  118. says

    Yes, yes, I can and do see what you are talking about. You’re being unfair now.

    You are saying that we should oppose false unjustified belief.

    I get that. I already indicated that I get that.

    No, you haven’t indicated that. Quite the contrary. You’ve said it, but your other statements indicate the opposite.

    You are complaining about false unjustified belief, and saying that “But is it true? How do you know?” is a means of combatting it.

    This is what I mean. “But is it true? How do you know?” is not a means.* Not a means. A goal. (A plausible goal because the questions are perfectly comprehensible.) It’s difficult to describe without using verbs (challenging, rejecting), but that’s only because the end-goal is not a state of being but involves continuing practices.

    I understand you just fine. I do not accept your goal,

    What is my goal, in your understanding? Please try to answer this without reference to means/methods/approaches/actions.

    *Asking the question can be a means in particular circumstances, but that’s not what I’m talking about.

  119. says

    Okay but that an identical set. Unjustified belief is the set of all unjustified beliefs.

    Not a set. A practice. An institutionalized practice. Particular beliefs result.

    Haw haw haw!

    That’s why this is a perfectly useless concept. Thanks so much for the laugh.

    You’re welcome. I’m a bit embarrassed for you.

    You might succeed in getting people to give lip service to the notion of justification, like creationists do with fossils. Have fun.

    Ay.

  120. says

    Well, the fact is, if privileges are allowed for “liberal” religions, then privileges will have to be allowed for “conservative” religions.

    But only the exact same privileges. So if they give a tax break to the liberals, they have to give it to the conservatives. Only that much is true.

    Otherwise, the government gets into the business of deciding whose religious doctrines are worthy of privilege. This is exactly what the government can’t do.

    Bzzzt. The government already does that. Judges have ordered the Catholic Church to make adoptions available to gay couples or get out of the adoption business.

    Here’s something you need to understand: once an issue comes to be understood as vital to the national interest, the government always wins. Judges will find a way to make it happen.

    Equal treatment of religious beliefs is accorded very serious consideration, yes; religious identity is a suspect classification which triggers strict scrutiny. But even strict scrutiny is not absolute. If the government really, really wants to decide whose doctrines are worthy of privilege, it will, and nothing will stop it.

    So no, your interpretation of equal treatment under the law is just that fanciful. The empirical evidence is on my side.

  121. says

    There’s one of them in this very thread: Markr1957.

    So if you can find a comment in a thread that’s criticizable, that justifies figdor’s characterization of the objects of Stedman’s criticism. That’s great. Any criticisms of gnus are based on ahumanape’s comments and totally justified. How dumb.

  122. says

    Except that kosk11348 didn’t say “religion” but “religious faith.” They went on:

    You should probably look at what they said before, too.

    So you could think that kosk11348 was talking about religion, but there was good evidence they were talking about belief (especially given my earlier comment and the link provided).

    Haw! You think they were paying attention to what you said? No.

    Look, here’s what kosk11348 said even earlier:

    Why only “conservative” religion? Because that’s the only “bad” kind? Nope, you obviously don’t understand our goals and values in the least. Please stop saying we’re on the same team. I really think you fail to understand the primary motives of the gnu atheists. We’re not looking for mere “acceptance” from religious society. We really are looking to diminish religion, both the judgmental conservative kind and the inclusive liberal kind. Magical thinking is something to fight against for its own sake, like illiteracy.

    For kosk11348, there is no meaningful distinction between religion and religious faith. They are interchangeable terms.

    Now, in any fucking case, I was responding to kosk11348 at #57, who was responding to my #54, where I was quoting kosk11348 who made this statement:

    Conservative religion is not the “real problem.” The real problem is religious faith itself.

    So I was talking about conservative religion, and religion itself, because that’s what kosk11348 was talking about.

    Don’t make my statements be any more sweeping than I clearly intended them. My intention was clear. You are taking shit out of context.

  123. says

    So if you can find a comment in a thread that’s criticizable, that justifies figdor’s characterization of the objects of Stedman’s criticism.

    Nope. You are reading way too much into it. There are in fact people here who are simplistic in their critiques of religion, and I just wanted to complain about that.

  124. you_monster says

    Do you understand how single photons interfere with themselves in the double slit experiment?

    The argument about accepting an idea you don’t understanding is going to get awfully pedantic and semantics-based, but I’ll trudge forward if you are willing. The exchange to which I felt compelled to add my two cents to was this,

    Most people who accept evolution don’t understand it, but they understand that they are self-identified with groups who accept evolution.

    Then they don’t accept evolution.

    I understood the phrase “don’t understand evolution” to mean essentially that they do not understand that evolution is the change in gene frequencies/heritable traits over generations (or something similar). Thus, lacking a general referent to which term applies, I found (and still agree) that any utterance of “accepting it” is meaningless and useless. If you ask someone what the “it” is that they are accepting, and they have no clue, what does it mean to say they “accept it”? If you don’t understand Weolution, I don’t think you know what you are talking about if you say you accept it.

    However, there is another sense in which “not understanding X” can be understood. You could have a basic grasp of the concept – have a referent for X firmly in mind- but not be said to “understand X”. Your example of photon behavior uses “understand” in this sense. I understand the referent of wave-partical duality , the phenomenon of photons reacting the way they do in the double slit experiment, and I accept that this phenomenon occurs. My acceptance of a concept which I only vaguely comprehend obviously has limited meaning as well, since I am not even clear just what I am accepting.

    Colloquially, I say “I accept the big-bang” or some other vaguely-grasped concept, but what I mean is that “I understand the referent of the concept ‘big-bang’ and I accept it based off the fact that it is well-verified by the experts in this specific scientific field and is widely held by said experts to be true.” I do this knowing full well that my understanding of it is limited, but my acceptance is still of the referent/the phenomenon in question.

    If what was meant by someone “not understanding evolution” is the later sense of understand, then I see no problem in saying you “accept it” despite not understanding it.

  125. says

    I have repeatedly acknowledged your goal. It is not my goal. I think it’s silly.

    I don’t think you do understand it.

    That’s silly too. You’re obviously wrong about this. I don’t understand the big bang, but I accept it.

    Either you have enough understanding of what it is you accept, or you don’t. If you accept it because you identify with some group, that’s meaningless. You can say that practically it isn’t meaningless, and I’d say you’re a short-term and confused thinker, but then we’d be talking more about tactics and strategy.

    But it never will prevail in the culture. It might in the law; that’s probably a worthwhile goal.

    I think you’re wrong. But even if you think it’s utopian, at least you’re implicitly recognizing the fucking goal! It’s a start!

    Doubtful. It will more likely be by getting them to self-identify with groups who proclaim that AGW is a problem. The same way that great masses of people learned to self-identify with science fandom, by indoctrination in the schools when the space race was a matter of national glory.

    This is all a tangent, but having just read The Age of Anxiety and The Lavender Scare, I’d say the ’50s were about as bad for science and its application to human needs as a decade could be, both short term and long.

    No, I don’t think so. You’re constructing the set too abstractly.

    No set.

    You’re deeply confused if you think that’s what happened. Only a few million in the world practice empiricism.

    Baloney.

    The larger shifts in belief have come from media and government amplification of their findings, and the elevation of the image of scientists to arbiters of truth.

    Oh, FFS. You’re wrong and creepy.

  126. says

    Nope. You are reading way too much into it. There are in fact people here who are simplistic in their critiques of religion, and I just wanted to complain about that.

    Then complain about that without supporting a false claim about Stedman and the objects of his criticism.

    Stedman is criticizing people like PZ, Ophelia, and Dawkins, not random people making a few comments on the internet.

  127. John Morales says

    ॐ:

    For kosk11348, there is no meaningful distinction between religion and religious faith. They are interchangeable terms.

    No; religious faith is a form of magical thinking for kosk11348 — a contention with which I agree — and religion its formalised instantiation. Whether it’s ‘bad’ (conservative) or ‘not bad’ (liberal) religion is not the point.

  128. says

    you_monster

    I agree that so long as the belief in question is benign, I don’t have a big problem with it being believed even if the believer has no justification for it. I still think it is wrong-headed and should be opposed though. Nothing bad will come of urging people to justify their beliefs (even if that belief is a positively helpful one)

    Are you sure about that? Are you aware that many beliefs which make our society function, like the value of fairness and equality, are ultimately unjustifiable as anything but aesthetic preference?

    When I’m drunk and have been reading Nietzsche I feel like yelling about it, but when I’m sober I’m just not sure that any good could really come from it.

    So, I still do have a problem with people like that Daniel Radcliff fan, because they are acting based off unjustified (though true) belief. Better yet they act off justified true belief.

    Or, here: why is it better for that belief to be rationally justified?

    (If you want, you can save yourself some time and skip to the abyss; I’m going to be asking “why is that preferable” to every answer you give.)

    I really think you should re-examine excluding benign unjustified conclusions from being “part of the problem”.

    If I do, I will probably become a neoconservative, and nobody wants that.

    those un-skeptical supporters of benign belief systems still maintain that their level of skepticism (a deficient level) is correct, and are therefore reluctant to call out the less benign unjustified beliefs.

    That there therefore is an empirical claim, and I’ve never seen evidence for it. What I have seen, repeatedly, is the complaint that anyone who has their beliefs challenged is being denied their rights to free speech. By Ockham’s Razor, this is explicable more simply than you’d have it: they really believe that free speech means they get to say what they want without being challenged. This is sufficient to explain why people are reluctant to call out others’ beliefs, and therefore your additional explanation is multiplying unnecessary entities.

    If they are want to call out the more harmful of their un-skeptical brethren, they lack the most important tool in doing so – which is the skeptical analysis of the underlying justifications for holding one’s beliefs.

    That’s a reasonable assumption, but Dan Sperber’s argumentative theory of reason suggests it’s not so. They probably do have all the skills they need to argue that their opponents are wrong; they simply do not apply those skills against themselves.

  129. says

    Then complain about that without supporting a false claim about Stedman and the objects of his criticism.

    You’re right, I should have done that. I used a bad segue to do it. I apologize.

  130. says

    …Magical thinking is something to fight against for its own sake, like illiteracy.

    For kosk11348, there is no meaningful distinction between religion and religious faith. They are interchangeable terms.

    What? Magical thinking is not the same thing as religion.

    So I was talking about conservative religion, and religion itself, because that’s what kosk11348 was talking about.

    Don’t make my statements be any more sweeping than I clearly intended them. My intention was clear. You are taking shit out of context.

    I quoted from that post. I do not agree that kosk11348 was talking about religion institutionally rather than religious faith as an epistemic practice.

    I don’t think it was one or the other for kosk11348, but your going on to talk about the abolition of religion made it seem like it is in general.

  131. says

    Are you aware that many beliefs which make our society function, like the value of fairness and equality, are ultimately unjustifiable as anything but aesthetic preference?

    Beliefs and values aren’t the same thing.

  132. says

    (If you want, you can save yourself some time and skip to the abyss; I’m going to be asking “why is that preferable” to every answer you give.)

    WTF? Then go drown in your Nietzsche. Sheesh!

    “Why is it preferable not to commit genocide?”

    “Why is it preferable that puppies not be tortured?”

    “Why is it preferable that people not be poisoned with dioxin?”

  133. walton says

    Speaking for myself, I’m entirely indifferent either way to whether religion itself eventually dies out as a social phenomenon. I’d like to see the decline and fall of the nastier and more corrupt organized religions, certainly, but I’d be perfectly content with a world in which a great many more people were Unitarian Universalists, liberal Quakers, or something similar. While I am a non-theist, and entirely unapologetic about being so – like Bertrand Russell, I cannot believe in something for which there I see no evidence and no reasonable explanation – I do not see universal adherence to atheism or agnosticism as either necessary or sufficient for a better and more peaceful world. (If only because atheists are as capable as anyone else of being irrational and bigoted; see also, Elevatorgate, and also the number of atheists who admire Pat Condell or go on inflammatory anti-Muslim hate-rants.)

    What I want is a world in which all the forms of institutionalized violence and unjust discrimination that currently shape our lives no longer exist, in which there is no more dire poverty, and in which human relations are characterized not by violence and coercion but by free and voluntary consent. I don’t know if that goal is achievable, or even what such a world would look like in practice, but I know there are lots of goals towards which we can work to bring ourselves closer to it: peace and disarmament, for instance; universal worldwide access to birth control and reproductive health services (a simple concept that would vastly improve the lives of millions of people in the developing world); the end of all immigration restrictions and other racist laws that discriminate against people on the basis of birth and ancestry; and an end to anti-gay laws and other forms of institutionalized bigotry. Some religious people are actually strong allies on these issues: the Unitarians were pushing for marriage equality as early as secular groups were, for instance, and are now active in campaigning for immigrants’ rights. Either way, I don’t think the disappearance of religion would get rid of all forms of bigotry; I am certain, for instance, that nationalistic and xenophobic bigotry would continue to exist independently of religion (see, for instance, the continued tide of far-right anti-immigration sentiment in increasingly-secular Western Europe).

  134. walton says

    (I should add that this doesn’t mean I wouldn’t like to see the disappearance of some forms of religion. The collapse of the Catholic Church as an institution, in its present form, would certainly be a very good thing, for instance. It has a huge amount of blood on its hands for its blanket anti-contraception and anti-abortion stance alone, let alone its advocacy of anti-gay discrimination.)

  135. you_monster says

    why is it better for that belief to be rationally justified?

    (If you want, you can save yourself some time and skip to the abyss; I’m going to be asking “why is that preferable” to every answer you give.)

    Societies which favor rationally justified beliefs are societies in which there is a better standard of living. I think that is preferable to the situation in magic-thinking-prevalent countries, which have reduced well-being and societal health.

    Rational thinking scales with the well-being of people. I say well-being is better than pain and suffering.

    You ask why that is preferable?

  136. you_monster says

    Either way, I don’t think the disappearance of religion would get rid of all forms of bigotry; I am certain, for instance, that nationalistic and xenophobic bigotry would continue to exist independently of religion

    This is why it is important to focus energy on the larger issue of unjustified beliefs, and not purely on the issue of religion. Fighting irrational belief fights jingoism and xenophobia as well.

  137. says

    I understood the phrase “don’t understand evolution” to mean essentially that they do not understand that evolution is the change in gene frequencies/heritable traits over generations (or something similar).

    Well, if you asked them “do you accept that evolution is the change in gene frequencies/heritable traits over generations” they’d probably say yes because you’re reminding them of a memory they could not normally access on their own.

    If you asked them “what does evolution mean” they’d tell you that it means dogs are descended from wolves, and if you’re lucky they’d tell you it means birds are descended from dinosaurs, and if you’re really lucky they’d tell you that humans are descended from something that looks like a salamander.

    If you asked them how that happened, they might be able to roughly articulate the bit about dogs. And that’s it.

    If you asked them something wrong, like if you showed them a drawing of a pterosaur and asked them if modern birds are descended from that, they’s say yes.

    And if you asked them whether species were trying to evolve, or needed to develop some trait, then they’d probably say yes.

    In fact — I finally found what I’m digging for! — you’d probably find that:

    (a) changes in traits were attributed to a need-driven adaptive process rather than random genetic mutation and sexual recombination, (b) no role was assigned to variation on traits within a population or differences in reproductive success, and (c) traits were seen as gradually changing in all members of a population.

    This last one, (c), is pretty much a deal-breaker. If you believe that, then you really, really do not understand evolution.

    But if they accept what evolutionary biologists tell them about evolution, when they come across writings by evolutionary biologists, then they accept evolution. Even though they don’t understand it.

  138. says

    SC,

    What? Magical thinking is not the same thing as religion.

    okay, now I am going to accuse you of dishonesty.

    This is what I quoted:

    Why only “conservative” religion? Because that’s the only “bad” kind? Nope, you obviously don’t understand our goals and values in the least. Please stop saying we’re on the same team. I really think you fail to understand the primary motives of the gnu atheists. We’re not looking for mere “acceptance” from religious society. We really are looking to diminish religion, both the judgmental conservative kind and the inclusive liberal kind. Magical thinking is something to fight against for its own sake, like illiteracy.

    And you ignored all that to focus on the last sentence. You are being dishonest.

  139. says

    And you ignored all that to focus on the last sentence. You are being dishonest.

    Remember, my response was only to kosk11348 talking about wanting to get rid of both liberal and conservative religion. That’s all I was talking about. You want to make it into so much more than that. This is not fair, and I am right to be angry at you.

  140. you_monster says

    Before it was over, more than 10,000 Federal employees lost their jobs. Based on the award-winning book by historian David K. Johnson, THE LAVENDER SCARE shines a light on a chapter of American history that has never received the attention it deserves.

    Wow, I can’t believe I haven’t heard of this before. I will be sure check this movie out.

    g’night SC

  141. walton says

    This is why it is important to focus energy on the larger issue of unjustified beliefs, and not purely on the issue of religion. Fighting irrational belief fights jingoism and xenophobia as well.

    Yep, I agree with that. But I think some unjustified beliefs are more harmful than others. A belief that God wants one to discriminate against gay people, or that one needs to exclude “foreigners” from one’s country by force in order to “preserve one’s culture”, is both unjustified and extremely harmful. By contrast, a belief that the spiritual balance of one’s soul can be enhanced by half an hour of daily meditation and by abstaining from red meat, say, is unjustified but probably not all that harmful, and I can’t be bothered to waste any energy on disputing it.

    (One can argue, of course, that the ideal would be a world in which everyone thinks critically and subjects unjustified beliefs and ideas to rational scrutiny, and discards anything which isn’t in accord with logic and evidence. And I agree. But I’m sceptical that that’s achievable; human beings, even intelligent human beings, are not purely rational creatures, and we are all prone to be swayed by emotion, confirmation bias, tribalism, and other factors that affect our cognition and reasoning. Of course, my own ideals aren’t necessarily achievable either, so I can’t really criticize you on that ground.

    Furthermore, discarding unjustified factual beliefs about reality wouldn’t necessarily solve all of society’s problems; there are some ideas which are not necessarily irrational but are still socially harmful. For instance, it might be perfectly rational for an investment banker to lobby for unrestrained financial capitalism, or for an international arms dealer to promote wars, say, in the hope of making as much money as possible and then escaping to a tax haven. Both of them are acting as rational actors, in accordance with evidence and logic, in order to maximise their own self-interest; yet they’re still harming others in the process.)

  142. John Morales says

    ॐ:

    Remember, my response was only to kosk11348 talking about wanting to get rid of both liberal and conservative religion.

    No, kosk11348 talks about wanting to fight religious faith (to diminish it); clearly, it cannot be got rid of, people being what they are): Conservative religion is not the “real problem.” The real problem is religious faith itself. Bigoted beliefs are the tainted fruit, but faith is the tree that bears them. This article lays out the problem: religion has no reality check. It is by definition unreasonable. This applies to both conservative and liberal faiths. That is what we’re fighting against.

    You want to make it into so much more than that.

    Physician, heal thyself.

  143. says

    *makingmelogbackingrumble*

    And you ignored all that to focus on the last sentence. You are being dishonest.

    No. What John Morales said @ #147. The emphasis was on magical thinking. People were talking about religion, but it’s not limited to religion. The link provided was to a GC post about religion, but understood mainly as a particularly egregious and respected instantiation (:)) of magical thinking and respect for it. The point was that gnus are not primarily concerned with specific bad beliefs but with the institutionalized practices of magical, or unjustified, belief.

    I wasn’t claiming that you were being dishonest, but you are (again) claiming that I was. I’m not at all OK with that.

    Good night.

  144. says

    If what was meant by someone “not understanding evolution” is the later sense of understand, then I see no problem in saying you “accept it” despite not understanding it.

    Well, you already complained when Anath made your own argument:

    I’m sorry but that’s just false. A lot of people learn about it in high school biology and then never read another word on the topic. If you were to ask them to clarify any part of the theory other than “things change over time” or maybe something about “survival of the fittest” you would not get an intelligible answer. But if you asked them “Evolution or Creationism” they’d laugh and insist on Evolution.

    Anath clearly indicated that they had some referent. And you didn’t accept this. Instead you acted like you couldn’t read what was said:

    How can you accept a position you don’t understand? Here, I’ve invented a new word for a familiar concept (one that may be true or may not be), the word is Weolution. Do you accept Weolution, Anath? What’s that? you have no understanding of what Weolution is and therefore cannot know if you accept it or not? Someone could say the words “I accept evolution”, but if they don’t understanding the referent of that term, they certainly aren’t saying anything meaningful or true.

    So by this point you were just making other people to be saying what you wanted them to say in order to have an opportunity to state your irrelevant case. Fine, that’s cool.

    Anyway, this is probably the best we can hope for with AGW, and this is how we’re going to change policy, by indoctrinating children in schools to recite some facts about AGW, and demonizing the old and vaguely disgusting conservatives who won’t accept new things.

    I’m just glad that now you’re admitting to agreeing with me and Anath: people can and do accept evolution without understanding it.

  145. says

    Wow, I can’t believe I haven’t heard of this before. I will be sure check this movie out.

    I know! “I can’t believe I haven’t heard of this before” was my thought the entire time I was reading it. Learning about it really changes your whole view of history and the present. The book is quite good. Hope the movie lives up to it.

    g’night SC

    ‘Night.

  146. says

    No, kosk11348 talks about wanting to fight religious faith (to diminish it

    kosk11348 also talks about religion itself. Do you deny it?

    kosk11348 talks about wanting to “diminish religion, both the judgmental conservative kind and the inclusive liberal kind”. Do you deny it?

    This is why I was talking about religion. Because kosk11348 was talking about religion. That is all I was saying, and you and SC want to make me out to have been talking about so much more than that. Fuck you both.

    +++++

    No. What John Morales said @ #147. The emphasis was on magical thinking.

    I don’t give a fuck what you thought the fucking emphasis was on, SC. I know what I was responding to. Put on your theory-of-mind cap and start trying to see that I cannot possibly have been focusing on the same shit you were focusing on, okay?

    Why in the fuck would I say this:

    “If an accomodationist does not wish to see the eventual elimination of religion, then it’s demonstrably untrue that our goals are the same. That particular accomodationist shares only a subset of our goals.

    If an accomodationist does wish to see the eventual elimination of religion, and will work on both problems but treat them as separate problems, then that particular accomodationist does share our goals, and the question is about priorities. Many gnu atheists treat these as separate problems as well, and we disagree about priorities. In these cases, self-identification as accomodationist or gnu may depend mostly on networking, and how one’s peers self-identify.”

    Why in the fuck would I say that unless I thought kosk11348 was talking about just conservative religion per se and religion in general per se?

    Think about it. Why would I say those things? Not what you think I’m talking about. What could I have been talking about?

    So you objected to me leaving out your fucking goal of skepticism. O-fucking-kay. As I already fucking said, I will try to remember that in the future. Now fucking let it go, and

    DO NOT fucking drag me though this shit anymore. I don’t give a fuck whether it’s because you’re dishonest or you can’t manage to put yourself in someone else’s head, but I can’t fucking deal with it either way. Fuck off.

  147. says

    I wasn’t claiming that you were being dishonest, but you are (again) claiming that I was. I’m not at all OK with that.

    And no, I did not claim you were dishonest until #159 when I explicitly said you were dishonest.

  148. says

    It’s just astonishing that you think it’s sufficient for you to say you weren’t calling me dishonest, while insisting that I nevertheless must have been calling you dishonest when I didn’t say anything of the sort.

    I know, I know. I know why it happens. But goddamn.

  149. John Morales says

    [meta]

    ॐ, sorry to have upset you — that was not my intent; I was just arguing my interpretation (which involved disputing yours).

    I desist, but first want to note that I think SC has no less reason (and perhaps a tad more) to get upset about your perceived misunderstanding and/or misrepresentation of her than you do about hers of you.

    (I guess she just copes better)

  150. tomh says

    love moderately wrote:
    But only the exact same privileges. So if they give a tax break to the liberals, they have to give it to the conservatives.

    Which has nothing to do with anything. So liberal churches could also deny medical care to kids if they wanted. So what? They spend millions of dollars every year to ensure privileges for everyone – there are no harmless privileges, just some that are more harmful than others. If so-called liberal churches wanted to stop the extremism of conservative churches, they would give up their own privileges. They never will, so there will always be extremists.

    Here’s something you need to understand: once an issue comes to be understood as vital to the national interest, the government always wins. Judges will find a way to make it happen.

    That’s what I need to understand? That you’re a conspiracy nut? Besides the fact that religious privilege has nothing to do with the national interest, the idea that the government and those judges are out to get you is typical Tea Party rhetoric. Let me guess, you’re the local Tea Party leader.

  151. you_monster says

    love moderately ॐ,

    This last one, (c), is pretty much a deal-breaker. If you believe that, then you really, really do not understand evolution.

    Yeah, I agree with that. In that situation, that person doesn’t understand evolution.

    What do you think of someone with a category (c) understanding of evolution telling their friend, “I accept evolution”? At this point they do not know what evolution is, so what does it mean for hir to say they accept it? Since they don’t know what evolution is, we do not yet know if they will actually accept it, once it is presented to them. Anyways, It seems weird that we are analyzing their statement based off how they may respond to a set of events (having evo explained to them) in the future.
    Analyze their statement in the present tense.
    They are saying are actively accepting position X, and being interpreted as actually referring to X, but they are in their head accepting position Y (mistaking it for X of course).
    I was wrong earlier to call it a meaningless statement, but it is certainly a false one. You cannot properly “accept X” without understanding what the fuck “X” is.

    Hmm, thinking about this more, I now see that the extension of what I am arguing is that no religious believer can “accept” that there is a god. There is no referent for that belief, no understanding to be had, so does that mean they are wrong when they say they “accept” theism as true?
    Actually, it reminds me of a response I’ve heard Matt Dilahunty’s give to the question of whether he used to pray. He said “no”. He quickly had to amend that response to explain that yes, of course he used to “pray”, like all praying christians do. But since he now realizes there is no god to be prayed at, and that is what he had understood prayer to be, he, in fact, never did “pray”.
    Seems like the most accurate description for someone saying they “accept god” or “accept evolution”, when they hold some grossly false view of what evolution is, is that they are deluded.

  152. says

    I don’t think you do understand it.

    I understand your goal. I have repeatedly acknowledged your goal. It is not my goal. I think it’s silly.

    Either you have enough understanding of what it is you accept, or you don’t. If you accept it because you identify with some group, that’s meaningless.

    People who understand evolution quite well do not accept it. People who understand evolution not nearly so well do accept it. Both of them have “enough” understanding to have an idea of what evolution is, and to tell you that it’s how dogs came from wolves.

    But what is the reasos that explains why some who understand it accept it and some who understand it do not accept it? This is due to group identification. Those who hang out with liberals who affirm evolution are more likely to accept it. Those who hang out with conservatives who dispute evolution are more likely not to accept it.

    Ultimately, this is why the average person accepts or does not accept evolution. It’s not for lack or presence of understanding. Michael Behe probably understands evolution better than many commenters here. It’s possible that he understands it better than I do, though I understand it quite well. Understanding it is not sufficient to explain why people accept it or not.

    You can say that practically it isn’t meaningless, and I’d say you’re a short-term and confused thinker, but then we’d be talking more about tactics and strategy.

    Most people will never understand evolution, but it’s still important for us that they accept it enough that they prefer to send their children to public schools which teach evolution. This is not short-term in any sense of the word. It is all we’re ever going to accomplish. Most people are never going to understand why trickle-down economics doesn’t work either, but what we really need is for them to recognize who benefits and loses from it.

    I think you’re wrong. But even if you think it’s utopian, at least you’re implicitly recognizing the fucking goal! It’s a start!

    When you wrote this, why didn’t you go back to your first sentence and delete “I don’t think you do understand it”?

    By your own logic, if I’m recognizing your goal for what it is, then I must be understanding it.

    This is all a tangent, but having just read The Age of Anxiety and The Lavender Scare, I’d say the ’50s were about as bad for science and its application to human needs as a decade could be, both short term and long.

    That is indeed a tangent, since my point was only that that is when science came to be something that average people began identifying with. That is of course not the same as saying it was a good time for scientific advancement per se.

    No set.

    Yes, your set is the set of {all unjustified beliefs}. This is identical to {unjustified belief} itself, as a set. They contain the exact same members.

    Baloney.

    You’re deeply confused if you think that’s what happened. Only a few million in the world practice empiricism.

    Oh, FFS. You’re wrong and creepy.

    It is creepy, but I’m right. The larger shifts in belief have come from media and government amplification of their findings, and the elevation of the image of scientists to arbiters of truth.

  153. says

    ॐ, sorry to have upset you — that was not my intent; I was just arguing my interpretation (which involved disputing yours).

    Your interpretation means fuck all, since it ultimately involves telling me that I was not talking about what I know I was talking about. If you think kosk11348 was talking about something else, that’s fine, but it doesn’t matter, because I do know what I was saying in response to kosk11348.

  154. walton says

    Are you aware that many beliefs which make our society function, like the value of fairness and equality, are ultimately unjustifiable as anything but aesthetic preference?

    Indeed. Or, as someone wiser than me once put it.

    “All right,” said Susan. “I’m not stupid. You’re saying humans need . . . fantasies to make life bearable.”

    REALLY? AS IF IT WAS SOME KIND OF PINK PILL? NO. HUMANS NEED FANTASY TO BE HUMAN. TO BE THE PLACE WHERE THE FALLING ANGEL MEETS THE RISING APE.

    “Tooth fairies? Hogfathers? Little -”

    YES. AS PRACTICE. YOU HAVE TO START OUT LEARNING TO BELIEVE THE LITTLE LIES.

    “So that we can believe the big ones?”

    YES. JUSTICE. MERCY. DUTY. THAT SORT OF THING.

    “They’re not the same at all!”

    YOU THINK SO? THEN TAKE THE UNIVERSE AND GRIND IT DOWN TO THE FINEST POWDER AND SIEVE IT THROUGH THE FINEST SIEVE AND THEN SHOW ME ONE ATOM OF JUSTICE, ONE MOLECULE OF MERCY. AND YET – Death waved a hand. AND YET YOU ACT AS IF THERE IS SOME IDEAL ORDER IN THE WORLD, AS IF THERE IS SOME . . . SOME RIGHTNESS IN THE UNIVERSE BY WHICH IT MAY BE JUDGED.

    “Yes, but people have got to believe that, or what’s the point-”

    MY POINT EXACTLY.

  155. says

    What do you think of someone with a category (c) understanding of evolution telling their friend, “I accept evolution”? At this point they do not know what evolution is, so what does it mean for hir to say they accept it?

    But wait. They do know other things about what evolution is. They almost certainly understand that it’s why dogs are descended from wolves.

    And they may, at the very same time, understand that “evolution is the change in heritable traits over generations”.

    Since they don’t know what evolution is, we do not yet know if they will actually accept it, once it is presented to them.

    Of course we do. They affirm evolution. Therefore when they are corrected on a misunderstanding by someone who seems to know more about the subject, they will accept that instead. That study was done on college students who’d just had a semester of biology. If they believe themselves to be accepting of evolution, there’s no reason to posit that they they won’t continue to accept evolution upon being corrected.

    The value of self-identification is that the person wants to fit in; if they realize they are not fitting in properly, they will adjust themselves to fit in better.

    I was wrong earlier to call it a meaningless statement, but it is certainly a false one. You cannot properly “accept X” without understanding what the fuck “X” is.

    I don’t know about “properly”. If that’s the case, then I do not properly accept evolution. I continually forget important matters of population genetics. I am wholly unequipped to make any arguments for or against group selection; I only know who advocates it and who doesn’t.

    But a person can understand significant portions of X, and this can be enough to accept X.

    Consider children who are big fans of dinosaurs, who demand that their parents take them to the natural history museum, and who learn to tell you which dinosaurs evolved from which other dinosaurs. Are we to insist that they don’t accept evolution, perhaps because they haven’t even yet learned basic Mendelian genetics? There’s a great deal that children get wrong, but it’s easy to differentiate the kids who accept evolution from the kids who don’t.

    Hmm, thinking about this more, I now see that the extension of what I am arguing is that no religious believer can “accept” that there is a god.

    Yeah, if you’re leading yourself to nonsensical conslusions, that might be a hint that you’re on the wrong track.

  156. walton says

    It is creepy, but I’m right. The larger shifts in belief have come from media and government amplification of their findings, and the elevation of the image of scientists to arbiters of truth.

    On an anecdotal basis, I suspect this may well be true. In reality, most laypeople don’t come to accept evolution because they’ve weighed the evidence and spent years studying evolutionary biology in order to understand the issue. Rather, in practice, I suspect that most people who accept evolution do so because there’s a near-universal consensus on the subject among biologists and a huge amount of published scientific literature, the entire modern field of biology is premised on evolution, and most people are inclined to trust the experts. Certainly, I know I “believed” in the truth of evolution long before I had anything more than a schoolchild’s understanding of it.

    (I don’t think this is just a pure appeal to authority; I think it’s a rational substitute for forming one’s own judgment when one is not equipped to do so. On a very concrete level, we can all see, and all experience, concrete and perceptible benefits that have been produced by the modern scientific method, from heart surgery to the Internet. This gives us a basis on which to trust that the corpus of empirical knowledge on which these practical applications, and the epistemological method by which scientists acquire such knowledge, is essentially reliable. Or, to put it in simpler terms: most of us are generally inclined to trust the scientific profession, and the epistemological methods of modern natural science, because they have a good track-record of producing practical results.)

  157. John Morales says

    [OT]

    walton, that stupid quotation from a fantasy book may make your point, but it’s a silly one. It annoyed me when I read it, it annoys me when you quote its deepity.

    “JUSTICE. MERCY. DUTY. THAT SORT OF THING.” aren’t lies, they’re just abstract human concepts, and refer to motivations and attitudes that really exist.

    On a very concrete level, we can all see, and all experience, concrete and perceptible benefits that have been produced by these concepts and their application, however flawed.

    (Unlike Tooth fairies or Hogfathers, which are abstract human concepts which refer to beings that do not really exist)

  158. says

    The difficulty really is psychological and exists in the perpetual torment that results from your saying to yourself, “But how can it be like that?” which is a reflection of uncontrolled but utterly vain desire to see it in terms of something familiar. I will not describe it in terms of an analogy with something familiar; I will simply describe it. There was a time when the newspapers said that only twelve men understood the theory of relativity. I do not believe there ever was such a time. There might have been a time when only one man did, because he was the only guy who caught on, before he wrote his paper. But after people read the paper a lot of people understood the theory of relativity in some way or other, certainly more than twelve. On the other hand, I think I can safely say that nobody understands quantum mechanics. So do not take the lecture too seriously, feeling that you really have to understand in terms of some model what I am going to describe, but just relax and enjoy it. I am going to tell you what nature behaves like. If you will simply admit that maybe she does behave like this, you will find her a delightful, entrancing thing. Do not keep saying to yourself, if you can possible avoid it, “But how can it be like that?” because you will get ‘down the drain’, into a blind alley from which nobody has escaped. Nobody knows how it can be like that.

  159. Anath the Apostle of Reason says

    This might have been answered by the time I hit post, internet is a bit spotty.

    What do you think of someone with a category (c) understanding of evolution telling their friend, “I accept evolution”? At this point they do not know what evolution is, so what does it mean for hir to say they accept it? Since they don’t know what evolution is, we do not yet know if they will actually accept it, once it is presented to them.

    I feel as though even with C it is acceptable. They don’t have to know the exact mechanisms, just that “change happens.” If they need to know more than that, we’re going to fall into the slippery slope I presented in post 122. Do you know the answer to my exam question? If not maybe you just don’t know enough about evolution to understand it and your claim to accept it is meaningless. After all, just how much does one actually need to know to be considered reasonable? Do I need to be able to calculate the planetary orbits to have “accepted” heliocentric theory? Does it even matter if I know that the orbits are elliptical and not circular, or is simply “orbiting the sun” enough?

    Really, love moderately hit the point right here:

    Most people will never understand evolution, but it’s still important for us that they accept it enough that they prefer to send their children to public schools which teach evolution. This is not short-term in any sense of the word. It is all we’re ever going to accomplish.

    And also, what exactly are you playing at by claiming responses are “meaningless”? “Meaning” in what sense? And does it really matter whether a response has meaning? If so, why?

    And the claim of falseness isn’t really particularly valid either, because what seems to matter in claims of affirmation and acceptance is belief of belief. That is, the one claiming to know believes they really know, or know enough to make a claim. So when they say “I affirm point X” they are technically making a true statement, because they really do accept X and will defend X viciously, even if their conception of X is faulty.

  160. Anath the Apostle of Reason says

    ** To clarify: do you know the answer to the question WITHOUT Wikipedia or Google.

  161. says

    Beliefs and values aren’t the same thing.

    Then I shall rephrase for clarity:

    Are you aware that many beliefs which make our society function, like that fairness and equality are valuable, are ultimately unjustifiable as anything but aesthetic preference?

    WTF? Then go drown in your Nietzsche. Sheesh!

    I am afloat.

    What I have for my aesthetic preference is my group identification, so I advocate equality because I am in solidarity with people who demand equality.

  162. says

    you_monster

    Societies which favor rationally justified beliefs are societies in which there is a better standard of living.

    But why should I care about other people’s standard of living? My own is fine. (My answer for why I do is above at #183, but it is, as I said, aesthetic.)

    I think that is preferable to the situation in magic-thinking-prevalent countries, which have reduced well-being and societal health.

    I want to interject here that you’ve probably got the causation backwards. It is very likely that greater economic equality causes a decline in superstition.

    Whitson, J. A., & Galinsky, A. D. (2008). Lacking control increases illusory pattern perception. Science, 322, 115-117

    Rational thinking scales with the well-being of people. I say well-being is better than pain and suffering.

    You ask why that is preferable?

    Yes, you’re talking about other people’s well-being. Why should I consider their well-being preferable? Indeed, why should you?

  163. says

    This is why it is important to focus energy on the larger issue of unjustified beliefs, and not purely on the issue of religion. Fighting irrational belief fights jingoism and xenophobia as well.

    No, it doesn’t. This is too abstract to be a meaningful statement. Fighting jingoism fights jingoism. Fighting xenophobia fights xenophobia.

    Now, if you want to fight xenophobia by speaking rationally, that there is one tactic. But it’s not a tactic to simply “fight irrationality”. For instance, arguing against the existence of crystal magic? Doesn’t do anything for xenophobia.

    And if you’re directly fighting xenophobia, then it’s just a trick of words to say you’re fighting irrationality and thus fighting against xenophobia as well. That’s creative accounting.

  164. says

    tomh:

    Which has nothing to do with anything. So liberal churches could also deny medical care to kids if they wanted.

    Here’s what you deliberately ignored:

    Otherwise, the government gets into the business of deciding whose religious doctrines are worthy of privilege. This is exactly what the government can’t do.

    Bzzzt. The government already does that. Judges have ordered the Catholic Church to make adoptions available to gay couples or get out of the adoption business.

    Do you get it? Your entire claim, that the government has to treat liberal religious privileges and conservative religious privileges equally, is false. Liberal religious groups are still free to handle adoptions. Conservative religious groups which object to the new rules are no longer free to handle adoptions. Their religious privileges of “conscience” were taken away. And it’s awesome!

    So what? They spend millions of dollars every year to ensure privileges for everyone – there are no harmless privileges, just some that are more harmful than others.

    Okay, this is stupid and wrong. You’d have to be a bigot to believe this, after what I just pointed out to you. The liberal religious groups which are still handling adoptions, because they’re willing to let gay couples adopt, are thereby granted a positive privilege which is beneficial to society. Now, I wouldn’t have any philosophical objection if all religious groups were denied their ability to handle adoptions, but let’s be clear, that would put a greater financial and administrative burden on the state. Letting the religious groups handle part of the burden is a positive thing, since they are now not allowed to discriminate against gay couples.

    If so-called liberal churches wanted to stop the extremism of conservative churches, they would give up their own privileges.

    And so now we’re back to your unevidenced claims which you still need to provide evidence for. I gave evidence contradicting you. You are just repeating yourself now without even dealing with that evidence. That is what a dogmatist does.

    Here’s something you need to understand: once an issue comes to be understood as vital to the national interest, the government always wins. Judges will find a way to make it happen.

    That’s what I need to understand? That you’re a conspiracy nut? Besides the fact that religious privilege has nothing to do with the national interest, the idea that the government and those judges are out to get you is typical Tea Party rhetoric. Let me guess, you’re the local Tea Party leader.

    Holy shit you are really stupid, tomh. What is in the national interest, in this case, is for gay couples to be able to adopt children from any and all adoption agencies.

    The fact that what is understood to be in the national interest will always trump private concerns, and the judges will always make it happen, is evidenced by history. Korematsu, anyone?

    What I’m saying is that religious privileges are trumped when they get in the way of the national interest. How goddamn stupid can you be, to say that “religious privilege has nothing to do with the national interest” when you just listed a bunch of shit that affects the nation?

    Taxes? Civil rights laws? Nothing to do with the national interest? Goddamn, but you are a slow wit. If those issues come to be understood as conflicting with the national interest, then religious groups will be overridden.

    Let’s remember what you completely ignored, again:

    Otherwise, the government gets into the business of deciding whose religious doctrines are worthy of privilege. This is exactly what the government can’t do.

    Bzzzt. The government already does that. Judges have ordered the Catholic Church to make adoptions available to gay couples or get out of the adoption business.

    Do you understand that?

  165. tomh says

    love moderately wrote:
    The liberal religious groups which are still handling adoptions, because they’re willing to let gay couples adopt, are thereby granted a positive privilege which is beneficial to society.

    I’m talking about special privileges which are granted to churches through our laws. I don’t know what you’re talking about. These liberal religious groups which are handling adoptions have been granted nothing special, no extra privilege, above and beyond what any secular group is allowed. As opposed to laws granting them special privileges that secular entities are not privy to. Laws affecting zoning, health, safety, taxes, copyrights, and many others. There is no special privilege for religion granted in adoptions and why you think there is I have no idea.

  166. says

    I’m talking about special privileges which are granted to churches through our laws. I don’t know what you’re talking about.

    Alright, but wait a minute:

    Laws affecting zoning, health, safety, taxes, copyrights

    Secular groups do lobby successfully for all of these things to be applied to them. That’s what corporations do. So if you’re trying to say that there are certain types of privileges which only religious groups are successful in having granted to them, then you haven’t made that case.

    Now, regardless, it is not the case that the government is not allowed to decide whose doctrines are worthy of privilege. Can you break out of your rut for a moment and recognize that the government did in fact make a distinction which denied conservatives their claims of conscience?

  167. says

    I wanted to QFT anaththe apostle of reason‘s #79,

    Here’s my point taken from my previous example of my mom:
    ~My mom will never read Dawkins, Hitchens, or even Sagan. She just doesn’t like that kind of book. But I want to begin a dialogue with her and get over this whole closet thing.
    ~She likes nice touchy feely stories.
    ~Stedman writes touchy feely stories, and includes atheism.
    ~She might read Stedman.

    Ergo I give her Faithiest and she shares it with her book club and they talk about how much they liked it. Then I say “Hey mom, that’s not really all there is to atheism and I have other reasons for being an atheist!” Now that she has successfully been heartwarmed by Stedman she is ready to talk about more, rather than just “oh atheism is *insert strawman here* I can’t wait until you find Jesus again, I’m praying for you.”

    This doesn’t contradict the point that Stedman’s criticisms of the gnus are unjustified, frustrating, and tiresome. They are. But some of his work can be useful, as a way to sneak descriptions of atheism into otherwise resistant heads, nevertheless.

    If folks still wish to dispute that, consider this an invitation.

  168. John Morales says

    JesseW:

    But some of his work can be useful, as a way to sneak descriptions of atheism into otherwise resistant heads, nevertheless.

    Can you be more specific about which work?

  169. consciousness razor says

    I understand your goal. I have repeatedly acknowledged your goal. It is not my goal. I think it’s silly.

    You think it’s silly? Then why did you call it “awesome” before?

    What is your beef with skepticism, love moderately? Do you really think “it is stupid and will fail”?

    That was a bit too testy. I think skepticism is awesome and will fail.

    I’d like to understand what your problem is with it as a goal; or if you have no such problem, why you are having this argument.

    Oh, FFS. You’re wrong and creepy.

    It is creepy, but I’m right. The larger shifts in belief have come from media and government amplification of their findings, and the elevation of the image of scientists to arbiters of truth.

    This may be how things often work, but the question is if this is how things should work. Even if you’re right about this, it’s irrelevant, because it’s not an argument against a goal to suggest that things don’t work that way now. This is a goal precisely because this not how things are today; and because ideally, that is what some people want the future to be like.

    I want people to think about their world and their society honestly, with an eye toward why they think the things they do, then engage with reality on their own terms, so that I or people like me would not need to be manipulative with them.

    No one will ever be “completely rational,” justifying every belief or action they take; but I simply want more people to be more rational, for societies to be more encouraging of rationality in general.

    Are you aware that many beliefs which make our society function, like that fairness and equality are valuable, are ultimately unjustifiable as anything but aesthetic preference?

    No, are you aware that this is itself an unjustified belief? If you left out “ultimately,” I would read it somewhat differently. Today, many beliefs like the ones you describe are not well-justified, but this is not the same as saying that it’s impossible for them to be justified in any “ultimate” sense.

  170. says

    I understand your goal. I have repeatedly acknowledged your goal.

    No, you’ve repeatedly presented it as a means.

    It is not my goal. I think it’s silly.

    Your opinion of the goal is irrelevant to whether it is in fact a goal.

    When you wrote this, why didn’t you go back to your first sentence and delete “I don’t think you do understand it”?

    Because a lone statement demonstrating an incipient understanding and acknowledgement in a sea of others showing a lack thereof is merely, as I said, a start.

    That is indeed a tangent,

    Yes, and it’s your tangent, due to the fact that you’re confusing my discussion of goals with means.

    Yes, your set is the set of {all unjustified beliefs}. This is identical to {unjustified belief} itself, as a set. They contain the exact same members.

    Unjustified belief is not a set. It is a cultural practice.

    You’re deeply confused if you think that’s what happened. Only a few million in the world practice empiricism.

    Even if “practice empiricism” weren’t extremely vague, this would be a silly statement.

    The larger shifts in belief have come from media and government amplification of their findings, and the elevation of the image of scientists to arbiters of truth.

    To the limited extent that this is true, it’s a description of a cultural problem which you’re presenting as an unchangeable human reality.

    Here’s the crux of our disagreement, as I see it: You believe irrationality, a lack of skepticism, and vulnerability to manipulation are human psychological constants characterizing the vast majority of people. So you conclude, creepily, that we should take advantage of these constants in advancing our concrete goals. Marketing, PR, and propaganda are effective, so we should turn them to our advantage.

    I think you’re wrong. These are psychological traits, but so are investigation, skepticism, and resistance to manipulation. The extent to which these two sets of practices predominate varies. So we’re not talking about psychological constants but cultural variables. Given that, social movements can have an effect. A social movement seeking to change the epistemic culture can potentially do so.

    I see myself as part of such a movement – one of epistemic consciousness-raising. The current epistemic situation I regard as a major social problem which is at the heart of many other major social problems.* A situation in which people are manipulable is not preordained, and I’m confident that cultural and institutional changes we can help to bring about will lead to different epistemic practices. Will every single person come to be a full skeptic about every subject? Of course not. Will many more? Will the institutionalization of bad epistemic practices be reduced? I believe so. You seem to base your idea primarily in psychology; I base mine in history.

    I don’t care what you think of any of my proposed means, for two reasons. First, I haven’t really proposed any. You’re reading them into my goals. Second, if you don’t share my goals and believe them to be unachievable then I don’t find listening to your criticism of my methods worthwhile. You’ve suggested that propaganda and manipulation are your preferred tools, and those are contrary to my goals (both in strengthening bad practices and in making people more vulnerable to corporations, governments, religion, and woo).

    (By the way, regarding these supposedly “unsophisticated” cultures, you’re wrong. My point is that no beliefs can be unselfconscious after contact with people who hold different beliefs. Empirically speaking, you’ll find that remote “tribes” very self-consciously develop and deploy their beliefs in dealings with powerful groups and governments. This is not to say that they are being dishonest or inventing false belief systems, but that there’s nothing unsophisticated or taken-for-granted in their discussions of cosmological belief. If you don’t believe me you can listen to what they’ve said.)

    *Which of course doesn’t mean it’s the only factor that can be addressed in these problems.

  171. says

    Even if you’re right about this, it’s irrelevant, because it’s not an argument against a goal to suggest that things don’t work that way now. This is a goal precisely because this not how things are today; and because ideally, that is what some people want the future to be like.

    Yes. This.

  172. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    But some of his work can be useful, as a way to sneak descriptions of atheism into otherwise resistant heads, nevertheless.

    Sorry, the only way to get into their heads to shock the hell out of them by ridiculing them, like the gnu atheists do. Show that your inane method really works on hard cases. Try here for evidence, rather than your opinion.

  173. ChasCPeterson says

    we’re not talking about psychological constants but cultural variables

    Smooth sleight-of-hand, or -tongue, or -keyboard or whatever. If they are not psychological constants, they are psychological variables. ‘Psychological’ is not, of course, necessarily the same thing as ‘cultural’. Given that, a social movement seeking to change the epistemic culture may or may not have a widespread effect. Given the ubiquity of biological variation, I would predict only that such a movement would be effective for some, but not all, current believers (as you acknowledge), but I couldn’t even hazard a guess at the ratio.

    no beliefs can be unselfconscious after contact with people who hold different beliefs.

    I wonder. Again, suppose that, as for every other phenotypic trait, there is some natural range of variablity in the propensity to self-consciously examine beliefs. Empirically, psychological self-fooling mechanisms seem common.

  174. says

    Smooth sleight-of-hand, or -tongue, or -keyboard or whatever. If they are not psychological constants, they are psychological variables.

    Nah, I just didn’t communicate as clearly as I could have. I should probably have switched to “psychological propensities” or “potentialities.” Then, when I talked about one or the other set predominating, I meant across times and cultures rather than in terms of individual psychology. To some extent you could argue that this is the sum of individual psychologies, but it goes beyond this to collective practices and institutions, which in turn shape individual psychologies. In any case, I wasn’t suggesting variation across individuals such that the predominance of one set meant a larger number of individuals with that inherent psychological profile vs. those with a different one.

    ‘Psychological’ is not, of course, necessarily the same thing as ‘cultural’.

    Correct.

    Given that, a social movement seeking to change the epistemic culture may or may not have a widespread effect.

    See above.

    Given the ubiquity of biological variation, I would predict only that such a movement would be effective for some, but not all, current believers (as you acknowledge), but I couldn’t even hazard a guess at the ratio.

    I don’t think talking about biological variation is particularly useful here. My point is that our biology is consistent with a range of potentials, which are encouraged or constrained by the societies in which we live. Effective social movements change societies, and so affect this pattern of constraint and encouragement and therefore our psychological development.

    Do I think some people might have a greater potential or “talent” for skepticism? Probably. But I think that in the development of skeptical practices, the cultural context is vastly more important than any biological variation in potentialities (if such exists). (The pattern of scientists losing religious belief supports this.) And I certainly don’t think there’s any large proportion of “born credulos” who are constitutionally incapable of skepticism.

  175. tomh says

    love moderately wrote:
    So if you’re trying to say that there are certain types of privileges which only religious groups are successful in having granted to them, then you haven’t made that case.

    I didn’t realize your ignorance was so broad and deep. If you’re really unaware of the hundreds, more likely thousands, of special rights that churches have, that exempt them from laws that apply to everyone else, you need to educate yourself. Most state child abuse laws contain religious exemptions, ranging from immunity for corporal punishment to withholding medical care. Read up on the RLUIPA, a federal law passed, “giving churches and other religious institutions a way to avoid burdensome zoning law restrictions on their property use.” These are special tools not available to secular property owners. Read up on church businesses that are exempt from health and safety laws, day care, for instance. Look at copyright law, that exempts churches from paying royalties on music that secular organizations must pay, IRS regulations that exempt churches from not just taxes, but reporting requirements that secular businesses must file, the basis for audits. This is the tip of the religious privilege iceberg.

    Instead of blathering on about national interest and judges, you should educate yourself about the true state of religious privilege in America.

  176. says

    I understand your goal. I have repeatedly acknowledged your goal.

    No, you’ve repeatedly presented it as a means.

    I understand that is it a goal for you, and I said I would try to address that in the future when I write about this. Now go fuck yourself.

    Because a lone statement demonstrating an incipient understanding and acknowledgement in a sea of others showing a lack thereof is merely, as I said, a start.

    I’m going to go ahead and call you dishonest for this too.

  177. says

    I’m really glad that you keep fucking around like that, SC. It saves me the trouble of feeling bad for what I said earlier. Thank you.

    +++++
    tomh, here’s what you keep deliberately ignoring. I see no reason to address you as worthy of consideration until you acknowledge a reality that was earlier presented to you:

    The government already judges whether conservative and liberal religious claims are legitimate or not, and does not treat them equally. Judges have ordered the Catholic Church to make adoptions available to gay couples or get out of the adoption business.

    Do you understand that this is a government evaluation of religious claims, which ends up continuing to favor liberal religionists while revoking power from conservatives?

    +++++
    consciousness razor, it requires a long response. I’ll have to get back to you in the next couple days.

  178. says

    Your opinion of the goal is irrelevant to whether it is in fact a goal.

    What I already told you:

    No, I’m just not willing to argue on your terms, SC. You should understand this instead of assuming that the argument ought to be on your terms and that I must not be understanding you if I’m not arguing on your terms.

    I understand you just fine. I do not accept your goal, and so I am denigrating it both as a goal and as a method. Get used to it.

    Yes, and it’s your tangent, due to the fact that you’re confusing my discussion of goals with means.

    No, it was another opportunity to talk shit about your stupid goal.

    Unjustified belief is not a set. It is a cultural practice.

    Everything is a set. This is definitional. It is largely not cultural, but that does factor in, so we can talk about {the cultural practice of unjustified belief}, which is a set.

    Even if “practice empiricism” weren’t extremely vague,

    It’s true, and it’s not vague. Most people do not practice empiricism. Only a few million people in the world do.

    To the limited extent that this is true, it’s a description of a cultural problem which you’re presenting as an unchangeable human reality.

    No, I’m not presenting it as unchangeable. It’s about as changeable as the very existence of the state. Good luck.

    Here’s the crux of our disagreement, as I see it: You believe irrationality, a lack of skepticism, and vulnerability to manipulation are human psychological constants characterizing the vast majority of people. So you conclude, creepily, that we should take advantage of these constants in advancing our concrete goals. Marketing, PR, and propaganda are effective, so we should turn them to our advantage.

    It’s not very creepy. It happens constantly even in the healthiest interpersonal relationships.

    So we’re not talking about psychological constants but cultural variables.

    Actually we’re talking about both.

    Second, if you don’t share my goals and believe them to be unachievable then I don’t find listening to your criticism of my methods worthwhile.

    This is one of those constraints: a selection bias against seeking contradictory evidence.

    By the way, regarding these supposedly “unsophisticated” cultures, you’re wrong. My point is that no beliefs can be unselfconscious after contact with people who hold different beliefs.

    I see your point. It is not what I’m talking about. This is not the same as justifying one’s beliefs. Being aware that others believe differently does not entail justifying one’s self.

  179. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    The government already judges whether conservative and liberal religious claims are legitimate or not, and does not treat them equally. Judges have ordered the Catholic Church to make adoptions available to gay couples or get out of the adoption business.

    No, the judges didn’t make the order on their own. The attorney general/state didn’t renew the contract whereby the state paid Catholic Charities to carry out adoptions for the state because the CC wouldn’t go by state law, which meant that gays must be considered (due to civil unions being legal). CC decided their religion trumped state law. After the state dropped the contract, and CC sued to keep it, and lost. CC still thought they were special, and still do.

    The state wasn’t judging the differences in religion, merely whether they were obeying state law for programs using state money. You seem to an ignorant fool.

  180. says

    As far as I can tell from the link love moderately provided, the Catholic Church has only lost its contract with Illinois to provide adoption services, not its licence to do so.

    That’s correct. But it turns out to be a distinction without a difference. Can you point to any adoption providers of similar size who do not operate with state assistance?

    +++++

    No, the judges didn’t make the order on their own. The attorney general/state didn’t renew the contract whereby the state paid Catholic Charities to carry out adoptions for the state because the CC wouldn’t go by state law, which meant that gays must be considered (due to civil unions being legal).

    Yeah, wow, when I said a judge ruled, I never imagined anyone would be so literal-minded as to think that I was saying the attorney general wasn’t involved. Whatever you think you’ve accomplished by pointing that out, you’re welcome to it.

    The state wasn’t judging the differences in religion, merely whether they were obeying state law for programs using state money.

    And therefore the judge is determining that their religious claims do not override state law. The result dictates who gets to have their religious claims recognized. The Catholics are of course free to change their religious beliefs such that they are in compliance with the law.

  181. says

    I understand that is it a goal for you, and I said I would try to address that in the future when I write about this.

    What I already told you:

    No, I’m just not willing to argue on your terms, SC. You should understand this instead of assuming that the argument ought to be on your terms and that I must not be understanding you if I’m not arguing on your terms.

    I understand you just fine. I do not accept your goal, and so I am denigrating it both as a goal and as a method. Get used to it.

    This has nothing to do with arguing on anyone’s terms. The discussion in which you intervened concerned the primary goals of the gnus and whether the faitheists share them or not. That’s what the discussion was about. I had commented earlier about the primary goal being epistemic and, while rightly focused on religion, going beyond that. The comment to which you were responding appeared to me to agree with my assessment.

    True, kosk11348, did talk explicitly about making religion specifically “less credible and influential,” but the posts and the GC post kosk11348 linked to suggested to me that they were talking about the same thing I was: religion and respect for it as an epistemic problem and the goal of addressing this problem.

    You, though, seemed to read kosk11348’s comment as supporting your own view of the gnu atheist goals:

    Right, so when accommodationists come along and say we’re all fighting for the same things, it’s demonstrably untrue.

    That depends.

    If an accomodationist does not wish to see the eventual elimination of religion, then it’s demonstrably untrue that our goals are the same. That particular accomodationist shares only a subset of our goals.

    If an accomodationist does wish to see the eventual elimination of religion, and will work on both problems but treat them as separate problems, then that particular accomodationist does share our goals, and the question is about priorities.

    I don’t see how this can be read as anything other than the claim that the eventual elimination of religion is the primary or defining gnu goal. And I think that claim is wrong. I’m not talking just about me personally; I’m making a specific claim about the movement: the primary or defining goal of gnus is changing the epistemic culture. I do not think you’re right about what gnu goals are. None of these are normative statements. It’s a question of fact.
    I think the literature produced by gnus, especially in arguments with accommodationists, supports my claim and not yours. (It’s worthwhile to note that there could be major reasons for wishing the eventual end of religion that aren’t primarily epistemic. But that’s not what I’m seeing.)

    So I asked:

    OK. Who is? For which gnus do you think the eventual abolition of all religion is a goal more primary than the eventual victory of “Is it true? How do you know?”?

    You replied:

    What?

    I never said that one was more primary than the other. I don’t know what you’re talking about.

    If you don’t know what I’m talking about, I can’t imagine why you intervened in this particular discussion to make a claim about gnu goals.

    I understand you just fine. I do not accept your goal, and so I am denigrating it both as a goal and as a method. Get used to it.

    All of this about accepting the goal and thinking it’s silly is completely irrelevant to the argument about whether this is or is not the primary or defining gnu goal (again – not just mine personally, but that of the movement). If you’re saying that you acknowledge that it is, then you should retract your response to kosk11348.

    There is no “both as a goal and as a method” here. It is not a method. Not a method. A large number of methods – including your creepy ones – could be used in advancing the goal. The goal itself is not a method. I might have contributed to the misunderstanding early on with my presentation, but at this point there is no reason for this not to be recognized. That you keep repeating this stuff is why I’m saying you’re not getting it.

    Everything is a set. This is definitional. It is largely not cultural, but that does factor in, so we can talk about {the cultural practice of unjustified belief}, which is a set.

    This is simply drivel. You suggested that I was talking about a set of beliefs that are unjustified. I responded that I’m talking about epistemic practice. Of course, there’s a set of epistemic practices, and subsets of good and bad ones, but these are separate things. Practices are of course largely cultural. They’re taught and learned and vary across cultures. Cultural.

    It’s true, and it’s not vague. Most people do not practice empiricism. Only a few million people in the world do.

    Bizarre, vague assertion.

    No, I’m not presenting it as unchangeable. It’s about as changeable as the very existence of the state. Good luck.

    The vast majority of human history has been stateless. Religion has a longer and more embedded history than states do. But the two goals and the obstacles to reaching them are distinct, and your little rhetorical ploy is noted and stupid.

    It’s not very creepy.

    It is.

    Actually we’re talking about both.

    OK, I’m tired of your reading my turns of phrase in the most disingenuous manner possible. If that’s not what you’re doing, you’re playing word games.

    Second, if you don’t share my goals and believe them to be unachievable then I don’t find listening to your criticism of my methods worthwhile.

    This is one of those constraints: a selection bias against seeking contradictory evidence.

    No, bias against wasting my time listening to people who have no interest in the success of my movement and who, finding its goals stupid, oppose it and thus aren’t likely to provide useful information to me. I would care about your evaluation as much as I as a Black Panther would have found it worthwhile to listen to the opinions of the California police about the usefulness of their methods or feminists are interested in the opinions of MRAs concerning our methods. I care insofar as it gives information about where you’re likely to oppose me, but I’m not going to waste my time in long discussions about it with you. Your interest in debating methods can’t be an honest search for the best ones to achieve my goal.

    I see your point. It is not what I’m talking about. This is not the same as justifying one’s beliefs. Being aware that others believe differently does not entail justifying one’s self.

    You said:

    And most religions don’t even make justifications for claims of fact. Things are what they are just because that’s what the local people believe. Justification doesn’t even happen.

    I am saying this is not an accurate characterization of religions in the contemporary world. But to the extent that it is correct, it’s not contrary to anything I’m saying. Making claims or maintaining beliefs without justifying them is an epistemic practice.

  182. says

    I would care about your evaluation as much as I as a Black Panther would have found it worthwhile to listen to the opinions of the California police about the usefulness of their methods or feminists are interested in the opinions of MRAs concerning our methods.

    Which brings me back to my first post on this thread. Stedman et al. do not recognize publicly that our goals are different from theirs. If they did, they would have to stop using that faux-we and condescendingly speaking to and about us like we just don’t get that we’re hurting “our” collective cause. They would have to acknowledge that, while there’s of course some overlap in goals, there are fundamental differences that render their “we” dishonest. And that when they’re criticizing methods, they’re not really talking about our methods being bad in advancing “our” goals but harmful as they see it to advancing theirs. They have to sense at some level that honest recognition of significant differences in goals would show plainly that their commentary on our actions should be met with “Why the hell do we want your advice?” (It is often now, because people can see through their presentation, but they continue to refuse to make it explicit.)

  183. says

    SC, how many times do I have to acknowledge that it is a goal for you and I will try to address that when I talk about it in the future?

    Since you’re determined to persist in this stupidity, I’m done with this thread. I don’t plan to have further discussions with you on the subject in the future, and after this am wary of trying to discuss anything with you. I’ve ignored your personal attacks for the most part, hoping that we would be able to have reasoned, substantive discussion, but I’m no longer optimistic about that possibility.

  184. says

    SC, how many times do I have to acknowledge that it is a goal for you and I will try to address that when I talk about it in the future?

    Since you’re determined to persist in this stupidity,

    I’m determined to persist in that stupidity?

    No.

    I told you way upthread not to drag me back into the kosk11348 shit because I never intended what you wanted to be making me out to be saying. You would not let it go. Finally I give up and ask you how many more times I have to acknowledge that it is a goal for you before you’ll quit persisting in flogging me for it.

    And that, of all things, is what finally gets you to stop berating me for not saying it the way you wanted in the first place. How very odd. Of all the bizarre reactions, I never expected that.

    So! The answer to my question was apparently “four”. Good to know.

  185. says

    and after this am wary of trying to discuss anything with you.

    Yeah, likewise. But while I understand that you have reason to be angry with me for calling you dishonest when I didn’t rule out other possibilities, I doubt you have paid enough attention to understand why I have reason to be angry with you.