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Dec 27 2012

No one should be embarrassed to speak the truth

Peter Higgs, the physicist, has spoken out against Richard Dawkins’ views.

“What Dawkins does too often is to concentrate his attack on fundamentalists. But there are many believers who are just not fundamentalists,” Higgs said in an interview with the Spanish newspaper El Mundo. “Fundamentalism is another problem. I mean, Dawkins in a way is almost a fundamentalist himself, of another kind.”

You know, whenever I see people babbling ignorantly like this, I have this urge to strap them down Clockwork Orange style and force them to watch an hour of James Dobson or Tony Perkins or Ken Ham or Bryan Fischer, and then ask them, “Do you still think Dawkins is a fundamentalist?” The only way you can make this ridiculous comparison is by cultivating a near-total ignorance of what fundamentalists are actually like. But then I have to confess that forcing someone to correct their folly and putting them to the question is exactly what a fundamentalist would do, so I can’t. (I notice in the article that Dawkins simply refused to respond to Higgs.)

He agreed with some of Dawkins’ thoughts on the unfortunate consequences that have resulted from religious belief, but he was unhappy with the evolutionary biologist’s approach to dealing with believers and said he agreed with those who found Dawkins’ approach “embarrassing”.

Higgs is an atheist. He agrees with Dawkins that religion has lead to some ugly outcomes. But speaking out about them? Actually saying out loud in public that religion is wrong, faith is a delusion, and that there is no god? Oh dearie me, how embarrassing. Not the thing a proper gentleman would do at all.

And that’s really the problem. Society has so thoroughly beaten the default assumption of respect for religious lies into our heads that even many atheists are made deeply uncomfortable at the prospect of openly rejecting faith-based nonsense. But criticizing fellow atheists? That’s easy. That’s thoroughly sanctioned by culture. You can freely make stupid accusations against atheists without suffering the pushback you’d get if you made honest statements of fact about priests.

What I learned from this interview is mainly that Peter Higgs is an intellectual coward who retreats from his convictions in the face of potential social disapproval, and will cheerfully join in the mob in kicking a fellow atheist. He should be…embarrassed.

150 comments

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  1. 1
    Kevin, Youhao Huo Mao

    Very well put, PZ. I see it all the time: Oh if we were only less strident, if we only worked together with religion, if we weren’t so controversial or so mean, religious people would see things our way and we could work together to make a better world.

    Bull. Shit.

    I provide the whole “Atheists” billboard as an example of that. It was the least controversial, least in-your-face, least mean thing ever, and it was denied. Our existence is controversial. Religion doesn’t want to work together with us, religion wants to pretend we don’t exist.

  2. 2
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    I think the problem is that a lot of sloppy, shallow thinkers who are relatively insulated from the (to them) plausible consequences of kookery hold the conceit that fundamentalists are defined by (and objectionable because of) being vocal and confident regarding their views.

  3. 3
    Brain Hertz

    One brief, additional thought: Peter Higgs is British, and based in Scotland. Speaking as a transplanted Brit (I’ve lived in the US for well over a decade, but travel back to the UK fairly often) I’d have to say that it’s very difficult for someone who lives in the UK to fully appreciate just how religion-soaked the US really is.

    It’s quite hard for somebody to understand how seriously the kind of fundamentalism you mention is treated here without living in it for a while, so I can understand Peter Higgs not really taking it into account, and thinking of it as some kind of unimportant outlier.

  4. 4
    Marcus Ranum

    Dawkins in a way is almost a fundamentalist himself, of another kind.

    Yeah, because Dawkins’ special version of evolutionary theory is based on a literalist interpretation of some stuff an imaginary being whispered in his ear. And, most importantly, Dawkin’s arguments are based on eyes-bugged-out speechifying – and there’s absolutely no evidence supporting them, and no way Dawkins’ arguments can be tied to some kind of objective reality. Sure. He’s just like a fundamentalist.

    Now, Dawkins has opinions too. But he seems to do a pretty good job at telling the difference between his opinion and objective fact. If there’s one thing that, to me, typifies “fundamentalist” thinking it’s that they believe in the literal truth of their holy book(s) because it’s in their holy book. It’s mistaking one’s opinion for fact.

  5. 5
    atheist

    Higgs’s criticisms are quite similar to those of media figures who pharisaically call for “civility” whenever someone points out that invading Iraq killed civilians, or that cutting Social Security will leave the elderly to starve. I always wonder what such people think they will gain by criticizing, does Higgs really think the religious will thank him for telling Dawkins to shut up?

  6. 6
    Chuck

    I would appreciate seeing the interviewer asking for specifics when people trot out the “Dawkins is the flip side of the fundamentalist coin” meme. How, exactly?

  7. 7
    trucreep

    I notice in the article that Dawkins simply refused to respond to Higgs

    This is why I think atheism and skepticism outside the blogosphere are able to be taken much more seriously; he knows how to pick his battles.

  8. 8
    Gregory in Seattle

    PZ, you reminded me of a cartoon I saw a while back, probably here. The conversation was along the lines of

    Person A: I believe that there is an invisible pink unicorn living in my garden, and that if I bribe it with carrots and hay it will grant me wishes.

    Person B: That is the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.

    Person A: It is my religion.

    Person B: And I totally respect it.

    I can kind of understand this desire to not rock the religious boat, as religion has been the leading cause of war in western civilization for at least 1800 years. To some extent, the meme of “be respectful towards the beliefs of others” is a cultural safety mechanism. But at the same time… an invisible pink unicorn that can be bribed to grant wishes? That really is pretty stupid, religion or not.

  9. 9
    left0ver1under

    I’m reminded of the classic from Atheist Cartoons:

    http://www.atheistcartoons.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2009/06/unholy_trinity3.jpg

    Those who call Dawkins, Harris and others “fundamentalists” remind me a lot of the types who say “we have to show the other side” in news. Both are trying to falsely equate unrelated things. Just as one or two fossil deniers do not debunk evolution, Dawkins’ strenuous words and tone do not equate to religious terrorism and war mongering.

  10. 10
    naturalcynic

    Higgs thoughts seem to approaching a case of Clarke’s 1st Law: “When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.” Dawkins’ arguments seem mostly to have sailed over Higgs’ head which may very well be stuck in a genteel paradigm of academia.

  11. 11
    cyberCMDR

    It looks like Dawkins has discovered the Higgs Bozo.

    I agree that Higgs’ point of view is probably limited, in that he has not experienced the religious zealots here in the US. He should sit in on a meeting of the Texas State Board of Education sometime, when they are deciding what should go into their science textbooks. That should be enough to scare any scientist.

  12. 12
    Gregory Greenwood

    “What Dawkins does too often is to concentrate his attack on fundamentalists. But there are many believers who are just not fundamentalists,”

    Dawkins criticises the irrational and toxic nature of religion – the fundamentalists are simply the most obvious and well known example of the toxic effects of the magical thinking that lies at the root of all religious belief.

    Afterall, the non-fundamnetalists are not exactly harmless in their own right. Most of those who would deny women their bodily autonomy in the name of protecting the notional ‘rights’ of foetuses; or who assert that marriage should always be ‘between one man and one women’; or who consider trans* people to be ‘offensive’ and ‘unnatural’, would not see themselves as fundamentalists but would rather characterise themselves as ‘mainstream’ moderates. And they would have some justification in doing so, given that all the above positions are espoused by so called ‘moderate’ religious leaders including Pope Palpatine.

    I wonder whether Higgs would care to explain how these non-fundamentalist believers are harmless really, and shouldn’t have to suffer under the verbal lash of mean old Prof Dawkins…?

    “Fundamentalism is another problem…

    Fundamentalism draws its power and influence from mainstream beliefs. As Voltaire famously said; those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities. The violent and discriminatory delusions of fanatics could not gain traction if we did not already live in a world where equally unevidenced, irrational and downright foolish beliefs were not merely normalised but afforded such near total protection from criticism. How can the ‘moderate’ believer credibly criticise the fundamentalist for believing that society should be run according to the very letter of millennia old religious texts when they themselves accept the authority of a priesthood that is based upon nothing more than… millennia old religious texts?

    That old saying about the relative reflection coefficient of pieces of low albedo culinary equipment springs to mind…

    I mean, Dawkins in a way is almost a fundamentalist himself, of another kind.”

    Factual criticism of the toxic character of unevidenced beliefs is the same as the inflexible denial of reality in favour of poorly writen fantasy fiction now?

    When Dawkins starts ordering the mass destruction of religious texts, or starts denying fundamental human rights to groups of people in society on the basis of his atheism, or starts burning people at the stake for the heresy of professing belief in god, then I might start taking the charges of ‘fundamentalism’ levelled against him seriously.

    He agreed with some of Dawkins’ thoughts on the unfortunate consequences that have resulted from religious belief, but he was unhappy with the evolutionary biologist’s approach to dealing with believers and said he agreed with those who found Dawkins’ approach “embarrassing”

    Because lies may be shouted from every rooftop, but one must only ever whisper the truth, lest the unconscionable horror of embarrassment be unleashed upon an unsuspecting world…

    Higgs is your standard issue accommodationist – he calls himself an atheist, but is far more interested in policing the tone of those who would actually call religion to account for its manifold abuses than he is in actually standing up for reason in the face of organised mass delusion.

  13. 13
    Grumps

    Dawkins so rude, so strident
    http://m.youtube.com/#/watch?v=ULv2B51HY80
    …. Not!

  14. 14
    Sastra

    When people compare outspoken atheists to fundamentalists, what they usually mean when you get right down to it is that both groups try to change people’s minds. “I am right about religion and you are wrong.” That’s what popular culture tends to think is fundamentalist: there is a factual truth about religion — one you can talk about it with people who don’t already agree with you.

    The horrors.

    Everyone has their own universal Truth. It shouldn’t be the same one. That’s just rude at best — and violent at worst.

    It’s not that they’re not listening to fundamentalists and taking them seriously. They’re not taking religion itself seriously. It’sall just a matter of taste and personal identity. Except it’s not supposed to be. Unlike fundamentalists, atheists don’t have to “convert” people with smarmy tactics, emotional appeals, and bad arguments. We just have to talk reasonably on common ground. That only looks the same to people who think religious views are not just sacred, but psychological.

  15. 15
    stonyground

    It would appear that many in the atheist blogsphere are lining up to give Higgs a metaphorical slap. Here is just one:

    http://www.platitudes.org.uk/platblog/comments.php?y=12&m=12&entry=entry121227-145853

  16. 16
    Rob Grigjanis

    @5 : …does Higgs really think the religious will thank him for telling Dawkins to shut up?

    Except Higgs wasn’t telling anyone to shut up. He doesn’t care for Dawkins’ frequent equation of religion with fundamentalism or dogmatism. Nor do I. Dawkins is also a sexist jackass. So, yes, as an atheist, he is a bit embarrassing as a supposed spokesperson for my positions.

  17. 17
    David Wilford

    I think Higgs’ basic point is that there are religious fundamentalists and then there are… Unitarians. Both have religion in common, but there’s a wee bit of difference between the two groups. Southern Baptists who rant and rave about hellfire are definitely jerks, but Episcopalians who politely believe in God can be politely disagreed with as far as I’m concerned.

  18. 18
    Dalillama, Schmott Guy

    Katherine Lorraine

    religious people would see things our way and we could work together to make a better world.

    Any religious people who I want working with me on building a better world are already doing it, and for the same reasons that I am. Otherwise they’re on the same level as the people who say things like ‘oh, I used support gay rights, but those queers are just so strident and in your face. I’ll support them if they’ll be more polite.’ The hell with them.

    Katherine Lorraine

    religious people would see things our way and we could work together to make a better world.

    Katherine Lorraine

    religious people would see things our way and we could work together to make a better world.

    Gregory Greenwood

    Afterall, the non-fundamnetalists are not exactly harmless in their own right..

    Exactly. Most of the support for religious candidates and religiously influenced lawmaking comes from ‘moderate’ mainstream believers, and even wishy-washy non-church going cultural believers. As long as fairy tales are given a voice in policy, I have a severe problem with it..

  19. 19
    sc_770d159609e0f8deaa72849e3731a29d

    The kind of science they do probably affects the way religious people behave to Higgs and Dawkins and the way they respond in turn to believers. Higgs is best known for a hypothesis that has had to wait over forty years to possibly be confirmed, which would teach him patience, and for inspiring respectful responses in believers. They may talk nonsense about Higgs’s theories, but it is respectful nonsense.
    Dawkins on the other hand faces people who denounced him as an agent of the devil and a liar and said he should not be allowed to teach long before he expressed his opinion of them andtheir beliefs. It isn’t surprising Higgs thinks most believers are harmless and innocent fools and we should consider their feelings while Dawkins thinks they are ignorant and dangerous maniacs. Those are the aspects they’ve seen.

  20. 20
    Matt Penfold

    ..but Episcopalians who politely believe in God can be politely disagreed with as far as I’m concerned.

    Except you then find Episcopalians such as the CofE want to prevent gays from marrying, or think that not having a penis to act as an ecclesiastical aerial means you cannot be a bishop. So the mild-mannered Episcopalians turn out not be so nice after all.

  21. 21
    David Wilford

    The Church of England doesn’t want to prevent same sex couples from marrying. The CoE doesn’t want to be forced by the government to recognize such marriages. The issue is complicated in the U.K. thanks to the status given to the CoE as the state religion.

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/church-of-england-banned-from-offering-samesex-marriages-but-all-other-religious-organisations-can-opt-in-for-gay-ceremonies-8405966.html

  22. 22
    Rob Grigjanis

    @19: It isn’t surprising Higgs thinks most believers are harmless and innocent fools

    Did he say this? I thought he just said that religious belief and science are not necessarily incompatible. It’s almost as though he said something heretical.

  23. 23
    Matt Penfold

    The Church of England doesn’t want to prevent same sex couples from marrying. The CoE doesn’t want to be forced by the government to recognize such marriages. The issue is complicated in the U.K. thanks to the status given to the CoE as the state religion.

    The CofE is opposed to same-sex marriage. Here is a statement from the CofE on the subject.

    http://www.churchofengland.org/our-views/marriage,-family-and-sexuality-issues/same-sex-marriage.aspx

    The key quote:

    Currently, the legal institution of marriage into which people enter is the same whether they marry using a civil or a religious form of ceremony. And arguments that seek to treat ‘religious marriage’ as being a different institution fail to recognise the enduring place of the established church in providing marriages that have full state recognition. The Church of England will continue to argue against changing the definition of marriage, which has supported society for so long.

    Do you have anything to offer in your defence ?

  24. 24
    quisquose

    Reading the comments to the article on The Guardian site leads me to think that there are still many people that think if they can prove that Dawkins is a horrible man then God must exist.

  25. 25
    bassmanpete

    Dawkins is also a sexist jackass.

    I don’t agree; insensitive maybe, but that doesn’t make him sexist.

  26. 26
    Barklikeadog

    It’s quite hard for somebody to understand how seriously the kind of fundamentalism you mention is treated here without living in it for a while, so I can understand Peter Higgs not really taking it into account, and thinking of it as some kind of unimportant outlier.

    QFT. Come live in the South for awhile if you want to understant the fuckwittery and “REAL” harm that fundamentalism does to people. Their attitudes and self loathing of some people who just don’t fit the mold (so to speak). Fundamentalism allows attitudes to persist that are destructive to society. Some of the things I can think of is the intolerance of others, making people outcasts and the blatant mysoginy that is routinley expressed. One of the things, IMO, that allows fundamentalism to persist are the theists that aren’t Holy Rollers but when push comes to shove (like Methodists for one) will exibit the same attitudes that fundamentalists show everyday but the “softer” ones only bring out when they feel insulted or threatened (in their minds) with blantant things like an athiest in their presence.

  27. 27
    Barklikeadog

    Blockquote>Afterall, the non-fundamnetalists are not exactly harmless in their own right. Most of those who would deny women their bodily autonomy in the name of protecting the notional ‘rights’ of foetuses; or who assert that marriage should always be ‘between one man and one women’; or who consider trans* people to be ‘offensive’ and ‘unnatural’, would not see themselves as fundamentalists but would rather characterise themselves as ‘mainstream’ moderates. And they would have some justification in doing so, given that all the above positions are espoused by so called ‘moderate’ religious leaders including Pope Palpatine.

    What I was trying to say (I am little fuddled in the brain right now) but you said it so much better. Thank you.

  28. 28
    Barklikeadog

    Blockquote fail

  29. 29
    Barklikeadog

    Blockquote fail

    Afterall, the non-fundamnetalists are not exactly harmless in their own right. Most of those who would deny women their bodily autonomy in the name of protecting the notional ‘rights’ of foetuses; or who assert that marriage should always be ‘between one man and one women’; or who consider trans* people to be ‘offensive’ and ‘unnatural’, would not see themselves as fundamentalists but would rather characterise themselves as ‘mainstream’ moderates. And they would have some justification in doing so, given that all the above positions are espoused by so called ‘moderate’ religious leaders including Pope Palpatine.

    What I was trying to say (I am little fuddled in the brain right now) but you said it so much better. Thank you.

    I am little fuddled in the brain right now. More so than I thought I suppose.

  30. 30
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    Blockquote fail

    Join the very large club. Have some swill…

  31. 31
    Barklikeadog

    Join the very large club. Have some swill…

    don’t mind if I do. (Hiccups…)

  32. 32
    scottportman

    I used to think that Dawkins was strident and rude, until I actually listened to some of his interviews on YouTube. He was uncompromising in his criticism of ideas, but didn’t really engage in personal attack against individuals. The fact that I automatically held a knee-jerk but inaccurate assumption that he was a rude prick, makes me think PZ is correct with respect to the double standard. I can’t entirely fault Higgs for his statement or get all that outraged, because a year ago, I might have sympathized with what he said. I have to wonder whether Higgs has spent much time or interacted much with Dawkins?

  33. 33
    sc_770d159609e0f8deaa72849e3731a29d

    Did he say this? I thought he just said that religious belief and science are not necessarily incompatible. It’s almost as though he said something heretical.

    Can an atheist say something heretical?
    I was actually thinking of an interview with Higgs some time ago where he explained that it was a pity the term “God particle” had been invented and that the people who used it didn’t really understand anything about his theories, rather than that particular article.
    i’d still say that it is the responses of religious believers to their theories that probably affect Dawkins’s and Higgs’s attitudes to religious believers.

  34. 34
    RD Coste

    While I do not condone the statement made by Higgs and I tend to be a little sympathetic to Dawkins, I do think Prof. Higgs deservers a little more respect than to be called an “intellectual coward”.

    R.D.

  35. 35
    David Wilford

    In response to Matt Penfold:

    “Currently, the LEGAL institution of marriage into which people enter is the same whether they marry using a civil or a religious form of ceremony.”

    So if same sex couples can legally marry in a civil ceremony and have the same rights under law as any other legally married couple, the CoE can maintain whatever religious definition of marriage they like. That’s the same standard we have in the U.S. in those states that now allow gay couples to legally marry, and that’s fine with me. Again, this is an issue that the CoE has issues with precisely because the U.K. doesn’t have a separation of church and state as the U.S. does. So the issue of gay marriage is a wedge that’s helping to further reduce the connection between church and state in the U.K. I think that’s a good thing.

  36. 36
    thewordmaderapeyflesh

    Wy t rp t t Prf Hggs gys!!

    Srsly, ths fthst cmprmsrs nd t b rpd s thy knw thr plc n th TR THST MVMNT. Kp mnd-rpng ths sbhmn bstrds, thr dldd brns nd t b frcflly pntrtd ntl thy rlz thr s n LGTMT cmprms wth ths rlgs ntblls. Y nd t prctc yr tctcs thgh. s grp, y nd t tk thm t, gt thm lttl drnk, nd thn GNG RP thm ntl thy cm t thr snss. f dscssn hppns ftrwrd, t’s wht th P ntndd ll lng.

    [BYE. --pzm]

  37. 37
    mnb0

    “by cultivating a near-total ignorance of what fundamentalists are actually like”
    Well, there aren’t too many fundamentalists around in Europe, so for a Brit that isn’t too hard. So give Higgs a break. You know, he is not a closet atheist. There aren’t too many of that brand in Europe either. The reason is simple: life is much easier for atheists there. I have never been in some closet either. Higgs is not a coward either, simply because there is no need to be courageous. It took me some American stories to understand what’s happening in the USA as well.

  38. 38
    Ing

    Jesus fuck why did I even come back.

  39. 39
    objdart

    What I learned from this interview is mainly that Peter Higgs is an intellectual coward who retreats from his convictions in the face of potential social disapproval, and will cheerfully join in the mob in kicking a fellow atheist. He should be…embarrassed.

    Unless… his convictions include not tarring all of religion with a fundamentalist brush…

    As mine do. It seems quite a reasonable thing to say from my point of view. He used the word “almost” to suggest that the road of bigotry is the same road no matter what group you choose to hate at the other end. At least, that is a belief I hold and it seems fairly consistent with what he Higgs said in the interview. I am kind of surprised you take such an inflexible stance here. There is nothing wrong with religion in and of itself. People do all kinds of strange things and no one gets to point at someone else as being “weirder” without being a hypocrite. No one can throw the first stone there without lying.

    But there is something disturbing about anyone who preaches who we should hate. At least to me.

  40. 40
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    There is nothing wrong with religion in and of itself

    Nothing wrong with self-delusion that spills over into real life? Get real.

  41. 41
    objdart

    That is a pretty far road you traveled between what I wrote and what you decided I must have meant.

  42. 42
    Ing

    @objdart

    Um not really

  43. 43
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    That is a pretty far road you traveled between what I wrote and what you decided I must have meant.

    Fine, prove believing in an imaginary deity, and a book of mythology/fiction being inerrant isn’t delusion…

  44. 44
    John Morales

    objdart:

    But there is something disturbing about anyone who preaches who we should hate. At least to me.

    Have you any specific instance of this in mind?

    (A quotation would be helpful)

  45. 45
    timanthony

    “But criticizing fellow atheists?”

    OMG. The pot-kettle-black thing. JHC & FCS, PZ has now prescribed that atheists may not critique each other? And, we’re not fellow atheists, we’re atheists. Some of us stay out of the fray. Some of us haven’t realized just what the fuss is about. I only started to see religion as on balance being a scourge within the last 5 years (and thanks largely to Dawkins and Hitchens for that), even though I went to an overtly but not coercively christian school with its own grand and ornate chapel and a compulsory service 6 days a week, and even though I’ve been a complete atheist my whole life. It takes most pre-indoctrinated people (including atheists pre-indoctrinated just to see religion as not that bad) a lot of thought over time to arrive at a firm conclusion that religion is more bad than good. The correct information isn’t quite so readily available as you might think – if you’re not looking online, like Higgs might not be. I think most older people think organized religion is often bad, just more good than bad overall so they ‘tolerate’ it.

  46. 46
    objdart

    Nerd of Redhead, I really don’t know how to respond to that. Prove to me cabbages aren’t grapes. There are lots of ways to read the written word. One is to assume that everything is either a statement of fact or falsehood. That truth is external. That would be a fundamentalist point of view. Not, however, necessarily a religious point of view. Imaginary deities are what we imagine them as. If you imagine them as sky daddies, then they probably seem pretty silly to you. You are delusional if you think that’s what all religious people think of the idea of god(s). Or at least simply wrong.

    The most profound truths of our species are found in works of fiction and in our mythologies so I don’t know what to say to that either. Sounds like you know what you want to hate already.

    Hope that makes you happy. When you fix the world by getting us all to condemn the right people, I will probably be among the condemned. That will have solved the problem of dealing with responding to me by simply excluding me along with the rest of the riffraff. However, it won’t make you right. You are wrong. There is no solution which works which involves demonizing people with labels. Or worse, by demonizing labels with prejudice. A book is just a book. A belief is just a belief. They have no value themselves. If you confuse the map and the territory so drastically that you can’t tell the difference between a belief and an act or an individual and a label then I don’t think you and I will be able to have much of a conversation about it.

    It’s called prejudice and bigotry. In all cases. A label may indeed be applied to people who have done terrible things, but it is the terrible things, not the label, which makes a response potentially necessary. If you act to condemn based on a label, or you condemn the label based on your own idea of what that label involves, you are doing what fundamentalists do which you appear to disapprove of.

    Long and rambly, my apologies. I am obviously not of sound mind. Still, I hope Higgs has a chuckle at this blog post. And, I can’t for the life of me imagine a reason to feel shame that he spoke his truth. Why would anyone be ashamed to speak their truth? What a strange idea to imagine anyone should.

  47. 47
    adam quate

    Fundamentalist is widely and reasonably understood as a synonym for intolerance of conflicting ideology, so it’s very reasonable to point out that Dawkins and you guys are fundamentalists.

  48. 48
    Goodbye Enemy Janine

    So, Adam, care to tell us what book that atheists deem to be infallible. That is fundamentalism, going to the fundamental of holy word.

  49. 49
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    Fundamentalist is widely and reasonably understood as a synonym for intolerance of conflicting ideology, so it’s very reasonable to point out that Dawkins and you guys are fundamentalists.

    Citation needed. This doesn’t sound like a reasonable definition.

    The most profound truths of our species are found in works of fiction and in our mythologies so I don’t know what to say to that either. Sounds like you know what you want to hate already.

    Hate what? I don’t hate religious people. I dislike people who force other people to believe in their imaginary deities and that their holy books are anything other than mythology fiction, like books of morality. It isn’t religion itself that causes problems, nor would it if people kept it to themselves. It’s when they require others to believe the same as they do, and force religion into the public arena. If you can’t see the difference, that PZ, Dawkins, and myself want religion kept where it belongs, in homes and churches, and not in schools and in public, you don’t comprehend the problem we have with religion.

  50. 50
    andyo
    Fundamentalist is widely and reasonably understood as a synonym for intolerance of conflicting ideology, so it’s very reasonable to point out that Dawkins and you guys are fundamentalists.

    Citation needed. This doesn’t sound like a reasonable definition.

    All bets on adam quate not answering this one.
     
    objdart

    There are lots of ways to read the written word. One is to assume that everything is either a statement of fact or falsehood. That truth is external. That would be a fundamentalist point of view. Not, however, necessarily a religious point of view. Imaginary deities are what we imagine them as.

    Oh, you’re one of those.
     
    Also, waiting impatiently for your answer to John Morales at #44.

  51. 51
    adam quate

    You don’t think fundamentalism and intolerance are synonymous?

    Why don’t atheist+ Americans and middle aged European atheists (e.g. dawkins) realise how hilarious they seem to the younger generation of Euro atheists? You’re the embarassing hillbilly cousins of the secular movement.

  52. 52
    Rob Grigjanis

    @40: Nothing wrong with self-delusion that spills over into real life?

    Our lives are full of self-delusion. I’m not going to worry about pigs suffering horrendously in little cages, because I like pork. Our agricultural practices are unsustainable, but whatever. Yes, the climate is changing but I need to fly to the islands this winter. Wall Street and Madison Avenue govern our lives (did you get your new iPhone yet?), but we’ll hope everything turns out OK. Our ecological footprints are several sizes too big, but you just have to have kids, because! Choose your poison, and condemn the rest. Yes, organized religion (esp fundamentalism) and tribalism are horrendous anachronisms, but I wonder whether complacency and our thousand little self-delusions aren’t going to be our ultimate downfall.

  53. 53
    consciousness razor

    If you imagine them as sky daddies, then they probably seem pretty silly to you. You are delusional if you think that’s what all religious people think of the idea of god(s). Or at least simply wrong.

    Definitely. Some of them are earth mothers, for example. That’s not at all like a sky daddy.

    And, I can’t for the life of me imagine a reason to feel shame that he spoke his truth. Why would anyone be ashamed to speak their truth?

    We each get our own truths? Could you tell anyone else what yours is?

  54. 54
    adam quate

    why do i need a citation for the def of a word? we either agree to a definition or not

  55. 55
    consciousness razor

    You don’t think fundamentalism and intolerance are synonymous?

    Why don’t atheist+ Americans and middle aged European atheists (e.g. dawkins) realise how hilarious they seem to the younger generation of Euro atheists? You’re the embarassing hillbilly cousins of the secular movement.

    Fundamentalism
    Intolerance
     
    (Spoiler alert: they’re not synonymous)

  56. 56
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    You don’t think fundamentalism and intolerance are synonymous?

    Nope, only a fool would. We aren’t intolerant of religion. Just want it where it belongs, out of the public arena, and not playing a role in public policy. Religion is intolerant of atheism, and tries to convert us though…Reality, shows your deceptions and lies.

  57. 57
    adam quate

    You mean they’re not synonyms. Now look up synonymous.

  58. 58
    John Morales

    objdart:

    Why would anyone be ashamed to speak their truth? What a strange idea to imagine anyone should.

    I find it strange that you find it strange that speaking that which is shameful about oneself may impart shame.

    (But I guess that’s only a shallow truth)

  59. 59
    andyo

    You don’t think fundamentalism and intolerance are synonymous?

    Of course they’re not synonymous. They can converge, but one doesn’t have to do with the other, um fundamentally. But you are avoiding the question. Citation needed for the us being intolerant part of your cute little diatribe there.

    Hints: Calling someone stupid ≠ intolerance. Calling someone ignorant ≠ intolerance.

  60. 60
    andyo

    Oh, that didn’t go up as soon as it should. I see now that adam’s problem is that he doesn’t understand the meaning of words.

  61. 61
    Dalillama, Schmott Guy

    obldart

    The most profound truths of our species are found in works of fiction and in our mythologies so I don’t know what to say to that either.

    Name one. Provide evidence that it is, in fact, true.

    A belief is just a belief.

    Wrong. Some beliefs are in accordance with facts (Humans have existed in their current form for a few hundred thousand years), some beliefs are not in accordance with facts(humans have existed in their present form for 6000 years), and some beliefs are about subjects on which facts are not a meaningful concept (The Doors are a better band than the Beatles)

    Why would anyone be ashamed to speak their truth?

    What a strange idea, that people have individual truths. There are things that are questions of fact, and on those topics, there is only one truth.

    If you act to condemn based on a label, or you condemn the label based on your own idea of what that label involves, you are doing what fundamentalists do which you appear to disapprove of.

    Bullshit. If someone embraces the label of actively delusional (which is to say religious), then it is perfectly reasonable to treat them with a certain degree of suspicion, because they will act unpredictably and often make very bad decisions based on said delusions.

    adam quate
    This is just stupid. Seriously. STFU and GTFO.

  62. 62
    Ing

    I’m not going to worry about pigs suffering horrendously in little cages, because I like pork. Our agricultural practices are unsustainable, but whatever.

    Oh I see. You’re just a bad person

  63. 63
    consciousness razor

    You mean they’re not synonyms. Now look up synonymous.

    Fuck, how long will this last? Could you look up the next word for me?

    synonymous syn·on·y·mous [si-non-uh-muh s] Show IPA
    adjective having the character of synonyms or a synonym; equivalent in meaning; expressing or implying the same idea.

  64. 64
    Inaji

    why do i need a citation for the def of a word?

    Because you don’t seem to know how words work. It understanding how they work, it’s rather crucial to understand what they mean. This isn’t a Lewis Carroll story* and you don’t get to decide that a word means something it doesn’t.

    *If you don’t get the reference, do something novel, like read.

  65. 65
    John Morales

    [meta]

    adam:

    You mean they’re not synonyms. Now look up synonymous.

    Properly pedantic.

    (Correct, but it advanced nothing)

  66. 66
    consciousness razor

    (Correct, but it advanced nothing)

    It was incorrect. I said what I meant.

  67. 67
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    Now look up synonymous.

    You first. Look up intolerant, look up fundamentalist. An atheist can’t be a fundamentalist, as there is nothing to be fundamental about. No holy book, no theology, no rituals, etc. Just a lack of belief in imaginary deities.

  68. 68
    andyo

    Off a citation to find, Adam went.

  69. 69
    John Morales

    [meta]

    CR, other than that they’re spelled differently, yes, ‘synonyms’ and ‘synonymous’ are synonymous. ;)

  70. 70
    adam quate

    One’s a noun one an adjective. So they wave vaguely at the same concept, but may identify different…fuck this :)

    Calling somebody stupid or ignorant would require justification beyond fact to qualify as tolerant.

  71. 71
    Ing

    Um JM is not synonym a noun and synonymous an adjective? Thus they’re not just spelled differently they’re two different words.

  72. 72
    adam quate

    ^i love you

  73. 73
    John Morales

    [meta]

    I see CR’s #55 has been duly evaded by adam. So far.

  74. 74
    Goodbye Enemy Janine

    A sneering attitude and yet nothing to justify adam’s assertion.

    You have not shown any reason why I should have any regard for what you say.

    Just as I detest anyone from the US who looks down upon anyone from Europe (or the rest of the world) just because they are from elsewhere, I detest it when a person sneers at someone just because they are from the US.

    (Oops! It must be that intolerant atheist fundamentalism slipping through.)

  75. 75
    Rob Grigjanis

    @62: Disingenuousness is always an option when you have nothing to say, I suppose.

  76. 76
    consciousness razor

    An atheist can’t be a fundamentalist, as there is nothing to be fundamental about.

    I disagree.

    First, because no atheist is only an atheist and nothing else. For example, there are atheists who are also Scientologists, Raelians, Randians, etc. — they may be fundamentalists about specific beliefs which aren’t equivalent to theistic religion (or to atheism itself, obviously).

    Second, I’m sure some (not many, but some) atheists do hold that some of their beliefs about theism/atheism are inerrant. (Some things are simply impossible, because that’s just how logic works, so calling that “fundamentalism” would be confusing; but I mean to say some may make empirical claims about reality which they don’t think could be wrong, which aren’t evidential or logical truths.) Not relying on a particular holy book doesn’t make it any less fundamentalist if you ask me, because, for example, I wouldn’t say that a pope is not a fundamentalist when he claims infallibility just because that claim isn’t in the Bible.

  77. 77
    Scientismist

    Knowledge is not a loose-leaf notebook of facts. Above all, it is a responsibility for the integrity of what we are, primarily of what we are as ethical creatures. You cannot possibly maintain that informed integrity if you let other people run the world for you while you yourself continue to live out of a ragbag of morals that come from past beliefs. That is really crucial today. ..And yet, fifty years from now, if an understanding of man’s origins, his evolution, his history, his progress is not the commonplace of the schoolbooks, we shall not exist. The commonplace of the schoolbooks of tomorrow is the adventure of today, and that is what we are engaged in.
    – Jacob Bronowski, The Ascent of Man 1973.

    Bronowski said this about the same time Higgs came up with his theory on the nature of mass. How unfortunate and ironic that both theories may come to fruition on the same time scale.

    If Higgs really thinks that Dawkins’ ethical criticism of unsupported belief can be dismissed as “fundamentalism” and “embarrassing,” and that science and religion can be easily reconciled, then his own science really has become a loose-leaf notebook, and may end up fluttering away on the winds of True Belief. How sad.

  78. 78
    Goodbye Enemy Janine

    The fundamentalists created the word to describe themselves. I think it should be tied to them. Those atheists who believe that their unquestioned bigotry should remain unchallenged, I am happy to call assholes.

    Here is a hint, adam, the fundamental used their holy book to justify the treatment of people who do not follow their sect, atheists, LGBT people, racism and all sorts of other bullshit. It is hatred made sacrosanct

    Explain how Richard Dawkins or atheists from the.US fall under this. Here is one hint, a sneer is not an answer.

  79. 79
    adam quate

    Two dictionary definitions clearly showing that the terms are not synonyms. They do share connotation, though, even if the root meanings aren’t well aligned.

    @67 some here seem have a fairly fundamentalist attitude about the dictionary.

    Anyway, if you’re all going to be so vehement about enforcing precision through formalism, why stop at the dictionary? If we were being really precise we should use predicate logic or something, right? So the facility and stricture of the formalism we pick is arbitrary unless we impose some criteria, define what we’re trying to achieve with this discussion.
    I think we are trying to infer a population level attitude to the relationship between fundamentalism and intolerance. Therefore, given the looseness of mutual understanding at this level, too much formalism is going to be more hindrance than help – the dictionary just will not capture every shade and facet of meaning that the two words convey. Wikipedia is maybe a more useful resource in this instance.

    @74 I like you man, take it easy!

  80. 80
    adam quate

    dammit can’t edit – first sentence of last post answers JM

  81. 81
    Ing

    Um no fundamentalist does not necessarily imply intolerance. Fundamentalist to WHAT is the question.

  82. 82
    Goodbye Enemy Janine

    So far, I do not like you.

    Please, tell me what country you are from so that I may mock it. Seeing that you are setting yourself up as a superior example to be emulated. And you think that being intolerant of one’s nationality is worthy of being mocked.

  83. 83
    adam quate

    @81 got to love the “necessarily”.

    @82 I’m hardly mocking the country.

  84. 84
    Ing

    @Adam Quate

    That’s not a response.

    Here’s a more blatant one for your slower mind. Fundamentalist does not imply intolerance by definition.

  85. 85
    Goodbye Enemy Janine

    Adam, you are full of shit. Here is what you said at #51.

    Why don’t atheist+ Americans and middle aged European atheists (e.g. dawkins) realise how hilarious they seem to the younger generation of Euro atheists? You’re the embarassing hillbilly cousins of the secular movement.

    I am really not liking you at all.

  86. 86
    Ing

    If Adam is any sample organism the younger Euro Atheists are shits

  87. 87
    consciousness razor

    Two dictionary definitions clearly showing that the terms are not synonyms. They do share connotation, though, even if the root meanings aren’t well aligned.

    If someone is intolerant, that doesn’t imply they are a fundamentalist, and vice versa. So whatever “shared connotation” you introduce into the meaning of those words should take that into account, or else it is wrong.

    If we were being really precise we should use predicate logic or something, right?

    Would it be a problem for you if we were strictly logical, or would it just be inconvenient? Is it okay with you if we use logic in natural language?

    Are you going to give us a reason why we should accept sloppy thinking from you?

    Therefore, [oh no, logic!] given the looseness of mutual understanding at this level, too much formalism is going to be more hindrance than help – the dictionary just will not capture every shade and facet of meaning that the two words convey.

    I’m not stopping with the dictionary. I just don’t see why we shouldn’t we use different words for different things, since we don’t all agree with the connotations you think they have?

    To me, “intolerance” means not tolerating someone or something. “Fundamentalism” means thinking a certain belief is fundamental and inviolable. You can believe someone must be wrong because of presuppositional nonsense, yet still tolerate them having what you think is a false belief. It’s not inevitable that you must act on such a belief in a way that fails to tolerate such differences. Similarly, you can be intolerant of someone or something without strict adherence to any formal belief system like a fundamentalist religion, or even if you’re a fundamentalist you may be intolerant of them for other non-fundamentalist reasons.

    Leave the dictionary behind, go out in the real world, and that is the sort of thing you find happening all over the place.

  88. 88
    consciousness razor

    Sentence is borked:

    I just don’t see why we shouldn’t we use different words for different things, since we don’t all agree with the connotations you think they have?.

    Don’t answer that, adam quate. It’s not a question.

    For reference, this is the definition of “question.” And this is the definition of “definition.”

  89. 89
    usagichan

    Reading the article, I tend to think that the problem with Peter Higgs is that his Atheism isn’t an intellectual position, but simply the result of upbringing – he doesn’t engage with the intellectual side of the question (and doesn’t seem to want to). He seems to regard it as someone else’s argument. The flip side of the religious scientists that are able to seperate their work from their whacky beliefs?

    Of course it is not his work that the religious are trying to ban, and it is not his discipline that is currently under so much fire from the religious, so it is easy for him to undertake a very public bout of tone trolling. Perhaps when there has to be a trial to allow the teaching of particle physics in a science class, he might find his accomodation with those “nice” religionists slightly harder to maintain.

  90. 90
    adam quate

    It’s interesting though that the greater accommodation of the church within the state typical in Europe compared to the US has resulted in a significantly less proseltysing church. So accommodation is observably the superior strategy even if your object is to eliminate religion.

  91. 91
    Goodbye Enemy Janine

    Speaking as a queer atheist, fuck the idea of accommodation. My rights should be up to debate just because right wing christians feel threatened by my existence.

    (Please, call me an atheist fundamentalist and show how you really do not understand the term and how you think that rights should be up to debates and accommodation.)

    Also, know your fucking history, it was not too long that your ancestors were trying to christianize the heathens.

  92. 92
    consciousness razor

    It’s interesting though that the greater accommodation of the church within the state typical in Europe compared to the US has resulted in a significantly less proseltysing church. So accommodation is observably the superior strategy even if your object is to eliminate religion.

    Correlation is not causation.

    Besides, whatever the relative merits of different strategies for having a secular society*, they don’t imply anything about whether science and religion are compatible. So now you seem to be equivocating with the word “accommodation,” or else I don’t know what your point is supposed to be.

    *Which is not the same as wanting to “eliminate religion,” which hasn’t happened in Europe anyway.

  93. 93
    Matt Penfold

    So if same sex couples can legally marry in a civil ceremony and have the same rights under law as any other legally married couple, the CoE can maintain whatever religious definition of marriage they like. That’s the same standard we have in the U.S. in those states that now allow gay couples to legally marry, and that’s fine with me. Again, this is an issue that the CoE has issues with precisely because the U.K. doesn’t have a separation of church and state as the U.S. does. So the issue of gay marriage is a wedge that’s helping to further reduce the connection between church and state in the U.K. I think that’s a good thing.

    So you have nothing to say in your defence ?

    I note that again you are being less than truthful. The UK does NOT have an established church. Scotland and Northern Ireland never have. The Church in Wales was disestablished in the 1920s. Which leaves only England still with an established church, and as you clearly are not aware, England is not the UK.

    Please at least try not to be so stupid.

  94. 94
    Matt Penfold

    Speaking as a queer atheist, fuck the idea of accommodation. My rights should be up to debate just because right wing christians feel threatened by my existence.

    In the case of the Church of England is not so much a problem of right-wing Christians, but of the nice liberal Anglicans being willing to discriminate against gays in order to avoid schisms within the CofE, and the worldwide Anglican community.

    Essentially they had to choose between gay rights and keeping their bigots happy, and they went with keeping the bigots happy. They think this is a moral position deserving of respect.

  95. 95
    brucegorton

    The thing with “Dawkins is a fundamentalist”

    Richard Dawkins gets accused of being a fundamentalist a lot.

    The basis of this is that he wrote a book once, and had a TV show that concluded that religion is not, in fact, the root of all evil.

    Meanwhile real fundamentalists do things like shoot children in the face for wanting to go to school.

    The thing that gets me though is – what has Dawkins actually done?

    I mean for all the flack he gets about being a seriously bad, evil, not-good person, what has he actually done? He wrote a children’s book about evolution and took part in other people’s protests in a way that The Guardian completely misrepresented at the time, but really?

    Why are we still talking about Richard Dawkins, even though so far as I can see he hasn’t actually done anything for ages now? He hasn’t added to his arguments, okay he has done interviews on his arguments, but its not like he has been forced to bring anything new to the table.

    He isn’t even that big a mover in the “new atheist” movement anymore. He really has slowed down since his retirement.

    I think the reason is that there hasn’t really been a satisfactory response to the God Delusion.

    The basic arguments within it are often called mediocre philosophy, and “literalist” and all of those things, but when you dig down deeper, there really hasn’t been a response that has proven satisfactory to it.

    The reason he is still such a huge deal, is because he pointed out that the emperor has no clothes.

    His mediocre philosophy actually beats out religious apologetics, and I think that really burns the buttocks of those who just want to get along without challenging anyone’s preconceptions.

    He is portrayed as a villain, precisely because his charges have not yet been met, and are unlikely to be in the near future.

  96. 96
    Matt Penfold

    The basis of this is that he wrote a book once, and had a TV show that concluded that religion is not, in fact, the root of all evil.

    And he has said, on many occasions, that the choice of “The Root of All Evil” as the title for the TV series was not his choice and it was not a title he was happy with since he does not regard religion as the root of ALL evil, just some.

  97. 97
    David Wilford

    Matt Penfold, your own lack of any sort of response to my main point about the CoE not standing in the way of making same sex marriage legal in the U.K. is duly noted. I wish we here in the U.S. could say the same about the Catholic Church.

    So, as Higgs might say, it isn’t quite right to lump all religious believers in to a “fundamentalist” camp when critisizing religion. In fact, in Minnesota there were plenty of religious believers who worked hard to defeat a proposed constitutional amendment banning gay marriage at the polls last November.

  98. 98
    David Wilford

    This is a few days old, but it’s still the holiday season so what the heck:

    http://crookedtimber.org/2012/12/21/the-christmas-sermon-2012-on-not-believing-in-canada/

    (I have to confess, I’m not a Canadatheist as I do believe in Manitoba.)

  99. 99
    Matt Penfold

    Matt Penfold, your own lack of any sort of response to my main point about the CoE not standing in the way of making same sex marriage legal in the U.K. is duly noted. I wish we here in the U.S. could say the same about the Catholic Church.

    The only reponse to your point is that it is not true. The CofE is opposed to legislation that will allow same-sex marriage. Since I have already explained this to you, and provided you with a statement from the CofE confirming their opposition. I fail to see what more I need to say.

    It was possible when you first claimed the CofE was not opposed to same-sex marriage that you were simply mistaken. That benefit of the doubt can no longer be extended to you.

    You lied.

  100. 100
    Matt Penfold

    Report from the BBC, confirming C of E opposition to same-sex marriage.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-20723593

  101. 101
    David Wilford

    From the BBC article you quoted, Mr. Penfold:

    ‘ The CofE spokesman said there was no wish for “protection or exemption for ourselves in ways that are any different from any other Church”, though it was accepted that its unique position as the established Church would require particular legislation.

    “If, despite our opposition, the legislation goes through, we support the government intention of leaving the choice of conducting same-sex weddings with all churches and faiths.” ‘

    Seems to me that the CoE isn’t totally opposed to legalizing same-sex marriage then, but is having fits about being protected by legislation from having to conduct them themselves. Contrast that with the U.S. Catholic Church’s official position that there should be no legal same-sex marriage at all, and it shows there are shades of grey on the issue, not simply a “fundamentalist” mindset that all believers share on the subject. Which, to get back round to it again, is Higgs’ basic point.

  102. 102
    Matt Penfold

    Seems to me that the CoE isn’t totally opposed to legalizing same-sex marriage then, but is having fits about being protected by legislation from having to conduct them themselves. Contrast that with the U.S. Catholic Church’s official position that there should be no legal same-sex marriage at all, and it shows there are shades of grey on the issue, not simply a “fundamentalist” mindset that all believers share on the subject. Which, to get back round to it again, is Higgs’ basic point.

    Yet it is totally opposed. The CofE does not support plans to introduce same-sex marriage in the UK. The bishops in the House of Lords will vote against such legislation.

    So your claims that CofE is not opposed are simply not true. You seem to be ignorant on the subject, as shown by your thinking the CofE operated throughout the UK. Oh, I never saw your correction of that mistake. Did I miss it, or did your manners desert you and you never provided one ?

    Why do you persist in your dishonesty ?

  103. 103
    Matt Penfold

    Oh, and willfully ignoring bigotry on the part of the religious is not evidence to support Higgs.

  104. 104
    Owlmirror

    If you imagine them as sky daddies, then they probably seem pretty silly to you. You are delusional if you think that’s what all religious people think of the idea of god(s). Or at least simply wrong.

    Sometimes God is their imaginary friend. Sometimes God is the reification of values and emotions. Sometimes God is the label they put on what they think of as their highest values. Sometimes God is the personalization of necessary truths about reality, or the personalization of reality itself.

    But these confusions and confused ideas are all pretty silly. At least part of religion is not caring that you’re not making sense; that you’re confusing ideas in your mind with something about reality outside of your mind.

    The most profound truths of our species are found in works of fiction and in our mythologies so I don’t know what to say to that either.

    This is equivocating around different meanings of the word “truth”. I agree that narratives and stories can indeed have strong personal resonance, such that they “feel” true; that some sort of “true” moral or message or emotional truth can be extracted from them. Monsters can be beaten; evil can be resisted; lives spent fighting monsters or evil can have meaning.

    But this is distinct from the meaning of truth as referring to logical truth; to necessary aspects of reality and correspondence with reality.

    That’s the real distinction between fundamentalist religious people, and the vocal New Atheists: The former are so strongly convinced that their confusion is true that they want their ideas to be the law of the land, and are sometimes willing to use violence and even kill for what they believe in; New Atheists . . . want to point out that there is a difference between what is emotionally felt to be true, and what actually is true, and it is the latter that should be cared about far more than the former.

    There is no solution which works which involves demonizing people with labels.

    Like “fundamentalist atheist”?

    A belief is just a belief.

    Beliefs have consequences.

    You seem to have the confused belief that beliefs don’t have consequences, except when they do (else why are you arguing here at all?)

    They have no value themselves.

    Do you think that false beliefs should be given exactly the same weight as true beliefs?

    If you confuse the map and the territory so drastically that you can’t tell the difference between a belief and an act or an individual and a label then I don’t think you and I will be able to have much of a conversation about it.

    Do you really think that beliefs never lead to actions?

    Long and rambly, my apologies. I am obviously not of sound mind.

    I don’t think you’re crazy, but I do think you’re confused.

    But do you want to be less confused?

    And, I can’t for the life of me imagine a reason to feel shame that he spoke his truth. Why would anyone be ashamed to speak their truth?

    Once again, you’re confused about what “truth” means, and you’re deliberately trading on that confusion.

  105. 105
    David Wilford

    It seems the Church of England (and CoWales) are a mite conflicted about same-sex marriage legislation:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2012/dec/13/anglican-church-protests-gay-marriage-ban

    – The Church of England and the Church in Wales have expressed their “complete shock” at the government’s plan to ban them from offering same-sex marriages, claiming they were not consulted over the proposed legislation, which would make them the only religious organisations to be legally barred from conducting the ceremonies.

    On Tuesday the culture secretary and equalities minister, Maria Miller, offered a comprehensive guarantee that neither church would have to marry same-sex couples. Although the move was intended to reassure Tory MPs who are threatening a rebellion over the proposals, it was greeted with dismay by senior figures in both churches, who said they knew nothing of the legal plans until Miller made her statement to the Commons. The Church in Wales said that it would push to have the proposals amended. –

    So on one hand they don’t want to have to be forced to perform same-sex marriages, but on the other hand they don’t want to be banned under law from performing them either. Sounds like both the CoE and CoW need to get their act together and declare they’re o.k. with making legal marriage purely a civil matter so the state can neither force them or ban them from performing same-sex marriages.

  106. 106
    Matt Penfold

    It seems the Church of England (and CoWales) are a mite conflicted about same-sex marriage legislation:

    CoWales ?

    Do you mean the Church in Wales ?

    So on one hand they don’t want to have to be forced to perform same-sex marriages, but on the other hand they don’t want to be banned under law from performing them either. Sounds like both the CoE and CoW need to get their act together and declare they’re o.k. with making legal marriage purely a civil matter so the state can neither force them or ban them from performing same-sex marriages.

    They have declared they are against same-sex marriage full-stop. They do not want to conduct such marriages themselves, but nor do they want anyone else, including the stare, conducting them either.

    You are remarkably slow on the uptake. How many times have I explained this to you now ?

    You are just pissing around, and since you cannot even apologies for your mistakes and dishonesty, I suggest you fuck off.

  107. 107
    David Wilford

    Mr. Penfold, as I said earlier it seemed to me that as long as the CoE (and Church in Wales) could maintain their independence with respect to performing same-sex marriages themselves, they weren’t opposed to other churches performing them. I suspect they’ve counted the votes and know that same-sex marriage will soon be legalized in the U.K. and are trying to get the best outcome for themselves in the process. I grant that both churches would rather not have to deal with the matter at all and keep the status quo, but that’s not in the cards now.

  108. 108
    Matt Penfold

    Mr. Penfold, as I said earlier it seemed to me that as long as the CoE (and Church in Wales) could maintain their independence with respect to performing same-sex marriages themselves, they weren’t opposed to other churches performing them.

    I know what you have been saying. The problem is that you keep saying it, and no matter how many times you say you are still wrong. They oppose changing the law to allow same-sex marriage regardless of any safeguards offered to them.

    How fucking hard is this for you to understand ? Why keep repeating something you have been told is untrue ?

    It is well past the time you offered an apology for your stupidity, ignorance and dishonesty.

  109. 109
    Matt Penfold

    Currently, the legal institution of marriage into which people enter is the same whether they marry using a civil or a religious form of ceremony. And arguments that seek to treat ‘religious marriage’ as being a different institution fail to recognise the enduring place of the established church in providing marriages that have full state recognition. The Church of England will continue to argue against changing the definition of marriage, which has supported society for so long.

    That is part of the official position of the CofE on same-sex marriage.

    The key part: The Church of England will continue to argue against changing the definition of marriage, which has supported society for so long.

    Now I will grant that this is the CofE, and so it tends to be a bit woolly in how it says things, but then you will have allowed for that, seeing as you follow the machinations of the CofE so closely.

  110. 110
    David Wilford

    Mr. Penfold, I agree with how confused the CoE has been one the subject of same-sex marriage. I think they do try to scaremonger people about it but they’re also cognizant that a majority in the U.K. support making same-sex marriage legal and are trying to salvage what influence they still have as an institution. In other words, it’s a muddle as the conversations here discuss:

    http://www.thinkinganglicans.org.uk/archives/005840.html

  111. 111
    Matt Penfold

    Wilford,

    It seems you cannot explain your lack of honesty. Not I suspect because you do not know why you were dishonest, but because you are dishonest to the extend to pretending you were not dishonest.

    Now I offer you one last chance to admit your dishonest and apologise.

  112. 112
    Matt Penfold

    Wilford,

    What part of “The Church of England will continue to argue against changing the definition of marriage, which has supported society for so long” do you not understand ?

    You do know that the CofE is using the argument that the Government does not have the right to change the definition of marriage as the basis for its opposition. So that when they say the will continue to oppose changing the definition they are saying that they will continue to oppose same-sex marriage ?

    So please, explain to me how that sentence can mean anything other than they will continue to oppose gay marriage.

  113. 113
    David Wilford

    “You do know that the CofE is using the argument that the Government does not have the right to change the definition of marriage as the basis for its opposition.”

    No, but I suspect the Government has that right anyway and will soon be exercising it. So unless the CoE has some actual authority under law to rule on such matters, it’s so much blather on their part.

  114. 114
    Matt Penfold

    No, but I suspect the Government has that right anyway and will soon be exercising it. So unless the CoE has some actual authority under law to rule on such matters, it’s so much blather on their part.

    What do you mean no ? How the fuck can you not have known ?

    You have some explaining to do.

  115. 115
    Matt Penfold

    Wilford,

    Still waiting for your explanation.

  116. 116
    Steve Caldwell

    adam quate wrote:

    Fundamentalist is widely and reasonably understood as a synonym for intolerance of conflicting ideology, so it’s very reasonable to point out that Dawkins and you guys are fundamentalists.

    So … your definition suggests that an anti-racist activist who rejects the ideology of white supremacy advocated by the KKK is a “fundamentalist”??

    The problem with your definition is there are certain ideologies that should be rejected — The KKK ideology is just one example. If you’re going to call that “fundamentalism,” then you will have to accept there are instances where “fundamentalism” (as you have defined it) is an appropriate response.

  117. 117
    alqpr

    To “force them to watch an hour of James Dobson or Tony Perkins or Ken Ham or Bryan Fischer” in order to educate people about what is a fundamentalist is like having them study the career of Mengele to decide on the value of medicine. Fundamentalism is about the content of a position not either the strength which one believes it nor the passion with which one defends it. The idea that all religion is fundamentally a net contributor of evil to the world is indeed a fundamentalist position which I find plausible though without much certainty and only intermittent passion.

  118. 118
    a_ray_in_dilbert_space

    Adam Quate: “Fundamentalist is widely and reasonably understood as a synonym for intolerance of conflicting ideology, so it’s very reasonable to point out that Dawkins and you guys are fundamentalists.”

    Dumbass! Crack a dictionary. Fundamentalist means advocating a return to fundamentals.

  119. 119
    Chris Lynch

    The quibbling about the definition of the “f-word” is really pointless.

    What Mr. Higgs’s comment should really mean to the atheist is to raise the suggestion that atheism proper is really a form of closed-mindedness akin to a religion that is overly reliant on dogma. (Yes, this is a meaningful distinction.)

    The comparison to fundamentalists is intended to help atheists see themselves as believers and agnostics see them.

  120. 120
    Dalillama, Schmott Guy

    …atheism proper is really a form of closed-mindedness akin to a religion that is overly reliant on dogma

    And, as has been pointed out in this very thread, among others, this is not an accurate description. Since there is no dogma of atheism, atheism cannot be reliant on one. We are aware that many theists do not understand this, but their lack of understanding does not change the reality.

  121. 121
    Tony! The Queer Shoop

    Close minded is when believers state that nothing could convince them that god is non existent.
    Open minded is when atheists state that it is extremely unlikely, bordering on impossible that any god exists BUT PRESENT US WITH EVIDENCE AND WE WILL CHANGE OUR MINDS.

    Damn. It isn’t that hard to grasp.

  122. 122
    Tony! The Queer Shoop

    Chris Lynch:
    Aren’t you beimg close minded by rejecting the possibility that Odin or Quetzalcoatl are real?

  123. 123
    Chris Lynch

    Responding to 120 and 121: @Tony & Dalillama: for starters, we appear to be using different definitions. I (and Kloor, I suspect) would refer to the “open mindedness” in 121 as *agnosticism* that “leans way negative” on the question of God’s existence. This is why I thought it important to refer to “atheism _proper_”, which is defined in philosophy departments the world over as a positive conviction and/or assertion that — in informal language — “God does not exist”. To the extent that the open mindedness in 121 is real, that is normally called agnosticism. However, I am not dogmatic about using these definitions; we can use mine or we can use yours. I realize that Kloor and I can be accused of misrepresenting, “labeling” or even defaming atheists with our definitions. In my case, it is just my academic background and not our of any desire to give offense. (I won’t try to speak for Kloor, but he seems a decent guy.)

    Responding to 122: if there were people in my culture who sincerely believed in Odin or the big feathered snake, and if they demonstrated intelligence, goodness, and brought reasonable historical and logical arguments for these entities’ existence, I would not simply dismiss them. We would talk about it respectfully and rationally (I hope).

    BTW: I used to call myself an atheist, subscribing to the idea that religion existed only due to ignorance of how the world worked (i.e., physics, biology, etc). Eventually I realized that I did not really know what the religionists were claiming nor why they claimed it. With a little study of the matter, atheism proper seemed less and less reasonable, and I passed easily into agnosticism. Further study and life experience brought me first to intellectual belief in God, then to a personal commitment. Trust me, this last thing was the furthest thing imaginable from what I predicted for myself and wanted for myself when I was an atheist! Living out a commitment to God is certainly not an easy road. For me, the searching and the struggling are ongoing (probably permanent :-), but I do it because my philosophical inquiry convinces me that I’m going to live forever, and I want to be ready for it.

    I wish both of you wisdom and peace.

  124. 124
    Dalillama, Schmott Guy

    …and brought reasonable historical and logical arguments for them

    Funny thing, I don’t see evidence in there. All the logic in the world is meaningless without evidence to back it up. I can construct a perfectly logically valid argument that the Moon is in fact a mass hallucination, and there’s nothing really in the night sky. It would be at least as good logic as religious apologists can manage, because I could actually just substitute a couple words into exactly the same arguments that they use. It would still not be as sound argument, though, because it’s directly contradictory to a vast body of evidence. Once again, just like religious apologia.

  125. 125
    Chris Lynch

    I think you overstate your case, here. History is just another word for recorded observation, which I assume you would call “evidence”. And logic helps one sort out contradictory reports, improving the quality of the data. For example, logic provides the principle of non-contradiction, which I assume that you accept once you are presented with the proposition and the meaning of the terms, without need to be shown any data. It also provides various forms of syllogism, which I am sure you accept as valid intellectual tools with no evidence of any kind needed to establish their validity.

    History and logic would be evidence, for example, when investigating what the U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment means, or whether life on earth arrived via comet, asteroids, or lightning hitting the primordial soup.

    Or say you had developed an unusual medical condition. History and logic would be valuable tools in diagnosing your problem.

  126. 126
    Tony! The Queer Shoop

    Chris:
    Agnosticism is a ridiculous answer to the question “do you believe a cosmic teapot orbits Jupiter”?
    Based upon what science has established, there is no proof of anything supernatural. Because of this, it makes no sense to say “I believe in every possibility.” The default should be “because the evidence is lacking, I do not believe in every possibility.”. However, since science doesn’t have answers for everything, when it comes to knowledge, it makes more sense not to make a completly absolute statement like “no gods exist”. We do not know that for certain, but based on all the available evidence, there is no reason to go about our lives as if any god exists.

    ****
    Now, which god do you believe in? Humans have created lots of imaginary deities, and I have no idea which one you believe in.
    Why do you believe in this god?
    What is the evidence for his or her existence?
    How do you know your god exists, and other religions have it wrong?
    Does your god require worship? Why? How do you know?

  127. 127
    Ing

    Responding to 122: if there were people in my culture who sincerely believed in Odin or the big feathered snake, and if they demonstrated intelligence, goodness, and brought reasonable historical and logical arguments for these entities’ existence, I would not simply dismiss them. We would talk about it respectfully and rationally (I hope).

    That’s nice. I’m sure all the people in line to be sacrificed on alters appreciate how respectful you’re being.

  128. 128
    Tony! The Queer Shoop

    And why the hell would you want to live for countless billions of years?

  129. 129
    Ing

    @Tony

    Well it depends on the type of immortality. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t mind a Doctoresq regeneration deal. Best of immortality while being able to die and refresh on occasion. Plus new perspective from being someone slightly different!

  130. 130
    Tony! The Queer Shoop

    Oh, and Chris, by believing in whichever ones of the thousands of choices of gods available, and assuming you are monotheistic, you cannot believe in Odin. So why do you reject his existence? On what basis does your god exist, where Odin does not?

  131. 131
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    Further study and life experience brought me first to intellectual belief in God, then to a personal commitment.

    Where is your conclusive physical evidence, physical evidence that would pass muster with scientists, magicians, and professional debunkers as being of divine, and not natural, origin. No evidence presented Eergo, your argument is false, better known as self-delusion. Your imaginary deity exists only between your ears. Show otherwise with solid and conclusive physical evidence, or shut the fuck up about your delusions.

    Agnosticism is for wimps who can’t realize the null hypothesis is non-existence, due to any physical evidence for a deity.

  132. 132
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    I think you overstate your case, here.

    No, that is you overstating lack of evidence for your delusions.

  133. 133
    Chris Lynch

    @Tony @ 126: I don’t understand your first paragraph. At first you seem to be deriding the agnostic position, then saying that “it makes the most sense” from a knowledge point of view. Are you talking about two flavors of agnosticism, here — one which expresses no preference at all and one which is 99% sure? Or a theoretical vs. practical distinction? Or something else?

    Regarding your list of questions: those are great questions, but one really needs to first get past the Really Big Question: “why is there something rather than nothing?” After a lot of wrestling with the alternatives, I accepted St. Thomas Aquinas’s answer: that there was, of necessity, a prime mover, an uncreated agent, a single, first being whose existence was not handed down from something prior. This still seems to me better than any of the cosmogenies favored by atheists, which challenge our modern sense of physics by positing an infinite regress of creation or generating problems with the second law of thermodynamics. (E.g., Hawking’s proposition that time is circular, or that the proposition that matter and energy do not have contingent existence but necessary existence. Then there’s the proposition that the universe “created itself”, which I have heard apparently serious people say. )

    Once you have accepted the idea of a creator, the grand quest begins: what is he/she/it like? Is he/she/it still around? (Could God “die”?) What can we say with any certainty, and what is speculation? And what of the Christian claim that God himself entered history, in the form of a man, by being born of a Jewish woman?

    Your question about which God to believe in comes after the above investigations, which are historical, archaeological, and philosophical (philosophy including logic and metaphysics). A thorough answer to your question would take me a week of 24/7 typing.

    Suffice it to say that I have read dozens of books in the above areas, and settled on Catholicism as the most reasonable of the philosophical/religious traditions available to me, edging out the various non-Catholic flavors of Christianity, and Judaism, in my humble opinion. (If you are interested in a list of such books, I’d be happy to oblige you.) The rest of the religions have at least one fatal flaw, in my — ahem — humble opinion.

    (BTW: as to the question of “why not Odin?”, the bulk of Odin worshippers converted to Christianity a long time ago and Odin’s “star waned”. For me, that is evidence.)

  134. 134
    Rev. BigDumbChimp

    You have a very weak threshold for evidence.

  135. 135
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    Once you have accepted the idea of a creator,

    Once you accept the fallacious presupposition that a creator who isn’t created exists….Fixed that for you. Your deity only exists in your mind because you wish it to. No physical evidence for one without the presupposition.

    uffice it to say that I have read dozens of books in the above areas, and settled on Catholicism as the most reasonable of the philosophical/religious traditions available to me,

    Your testament is self-serving bullshit, can’t be verified, and that means nothing but delusional lies.

  136. 136
    a_ray_in_dilbert_space

    Chris Lynch,
    Define what you mean by “something” and “nothing”. Is “nothing” the vacuum state of the Universe? If so then “nothing” produces “something” (virtual particles) continually. If your meaning is different, then what is it?

    As to your choice of Catholicism…. Really? Are you kidding? You do realize that most of the doctrines in Catholicism were adopted to prop up the ever expanding Roman Empire, don’t you? And that the Roman emperor had the dissenting bishops killed to facilitate his position? Do you really think it’s a coincidence that the same people brought you the Catholic Church and the Mafia? You sure you’ve looked into this?

  137. 137
    Dalillama, Schmott Guy

    Chris Lynch@#125

    History is just another word for recorded observation, which I assume you would call “evidence”

    History, as a formal study, is a study of what humans did or said they did. Combined with evidence gathered by archaeologists, sociologists, anthropologists, etc., we can often come to fairly accurate conclusions about what various groups of humans did when. That’s what history teaches us. This includes what types of religious beliefs and ceremonies they had, but that only tells us what they believed, not whether it’s true or not.
     
    Logic is a useful tool, but only given sound inputs. Garbage In, Garbage Out is an inviolable law of logic. All logic used by religious apologists has faulty premises, which means that it is not possible to get a sound argument therefrom no matter what logical pretzels you might bake. Their logic is usually crap too, though; apologists can rarely even manage valid logic, let alone sound. This applies to you too, Chris. Step up your game if you want to play here.

    History and logic would be evidence, for example, when investigating what the U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment means, or whether life on earth arrived via comet, asteroids, or lightning hitting the primordial soup.

    Or say you had developed an unusual medical condition. History and logic would be valuable tools in diagnosing your problem.

    History is only useful for the first of those. History can help us work out what the people who wrote it meant, and it can also help us determine whether it was a good idea (hint: it wasn’t). For the second, a historian would be useless, and you’d want to talk to geologists, organic chemists, etc, while the last is a matter for epidemiologists, biochemists, and doctors.
    From 133

    Question: “why is there something rather than nothing?”

    As a_ray pointed out, fluctuations in the quantum foam; particles with a net energy of zero pop into existence all the time and continue to exist for indefinite periods. Since this phenomenon is known, observed, and adequately explains all of our present body or evidence (e.g., the universe has a net energy of zero), this is the most parsimonious explanation.

    I accepted St. Thomas Aquinas’s answer

    Why on Earth would you suppose that a 12th century mystic would know anything at all about something like that? Or anything at all, really?

    Then there’s the proposition that the universe “created itself”, which I have heard apparently serious people say.

    See quantum fluctuations, above. You really should try to educate yourself on things like this before you go around sounding like an idiot. Hell, even Aquinas knew that much.

    And what of the Christian claim that God himself entered history, in the form of a man, by being born of a Jewish woman?

    And what about the Hindu proposition that Vishnu himself entered history for the seventh time, in the form of a man, by being born to a woman of Ayodhya? It’s been believed by a lot more people than Catholicism, and for longer, too. So there’s your historical ‘evidence.’ They’ve got philosophers at least as good as Aquinas, too, if you go and read them. So why aren’t you a Hindu, Chris?

  138. 138
    Chris Lynch

    So many possible threads, so little time! If y’all don’t mind, I’d like to focus on the “uncaused cause” concept, and exactly where my physical ideas have gone wrong.

    To answer a_ray, my definition of “nothing” is the hypothetical state of affairs when there was no space, no matter, no energy, and (therefore, in my cosmogeny, no time.) No particles or any kind. No potential particles popping in from “nowhere”. Zilch. The absolute negation of every conceivable concept of existence, including dimension. This is all on the assumption that space, matter, and energy are all effects of something else. It also may depend (I’m not certain) that if “time” has come into existence and disappeared from existence, that there is some concept of ordering, such that we can say that this incarnation of the universe happened before that one, or the other way around.

    Before I display my ignorance of theoretical physics any further, would somebody please point me to an authoritative account of when and how quantum foam was “observed”, as described above? My impression from my reading is that it has not been experimentally verified. Also, something which describes its role in a cosmogenic role would be appreciated.

  139. 139
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    I’d like to focus on the “uncaused cause” concept, and exactly where my physical ideas have gone wrong.

    The presupposition your imaginary creator exists. If you don’t presuppose the idea, you can’t reach it from any physical evidence…

  140. 140
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    The absolute negation of every conceivable concept of existence, including dimension. This is all on the assumption that space, matter, and energy are all effects of something else. It also may depend (I’m not certain) that if “time” has come into existence and disappeared from existence, that there is some concept of ordering, such that we can say that this incarnation of the universe happened before that one, or the other way around.

    And and is where your imaginary deity must *POOF* into existence. It has to be created somehow. Why haven’t you told us how your delusion came to be? You just *POOF* it into existence out of nothing…
    Talk about philosophical impossibilities, except by presupposition.

    Still waiting for your conclusive physical evidence, the equivalent of the eternally burning bush….

  141. 141
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    Also, if your imaginry creator step is left out, the same result occurs as with it. Parsimony says it can and should be left out. Discuss parsimony in all your further posts, showing your imaginary creator makes a more logical and simpler case than simply ignoring your delusions…

  142. 142
    Dalillama, Schmott Guy

    hypothetical state of affairs when there was no space, no matter, no energy, and (therefore, in my cosmogeny, no time.)

    Why do you hypothesize this state of affairs? What reason do you have to suppose that it obtained at some point?

  143. 143
    John Morales

    Chris Lynch @133:

    @Tony @ 126: I don’t understand your first paragraph. At first you seem to be deriding the agnostic position, then saying that “it makes the most sense” from a knowledge point of view. Are you talking about two flavors of agnosticism, here — one which expresses no preference at all and one which is 99% sure? Or a theoretical vs. practical distinction? Or something else?

    Epistemic agnosticism.

    (Too small a gap to fit a God into)

  144. 144
    John Morales

    Chris Lynch:

    Once you have accepted the idea of a creator, the grand quest begins: what is he/she/it like? Is he/she/it still around? (Could God “die”?) What can we say with any certainty, and what is speculation? And what of the Christian claim that God himself entered history, in the form of a man, by being born of a Jewish woman?

    You tell us: it’s your magical, imaginary friend.

    (The Christian claim is idiotic, that’s “what of” it)

  145. 145
    Chris Lynch

    There are many causes of my “delusion” or “presupposition”. I’ll put a ballpark percentage on these areas to indicate my admittedly subjective assessment of how strongly they support a God hypothesis.

    Here is one: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cosmological_argument, particularly the argument from contingency. I recognize that because it is inductive, it is not airtight. However, for being based on observation and because some of the leakage comes from what looks to me to be circular reasoning, such as circular chains of causation: 80%

    Another cluster of causes comes from human mental equipment: sense perception, cognition, and the possibility of free choice. In each of these areas, a materialist worldview encounters philosophical difficulties, and explanations involving an immaterial component are more parsimonious. For example, I do not think it is possible that a substance composed only of matter and energy can know, and know that it knows. Spiritual substances solve many of the thorniest problems in human psychology. 95%

    A third is the difference in science between description and explanation. Sometimes a more detailed description is made of something, and this is described as an explanation, but there is always the next round of questions about why things work the way they do at the new, more detailed level of understanding. (And a good thing, too — it keeps scientists employed! :-) ) The difficulty of getting to the bottom (i.e., the very bottom) of things and the fact that most “explanations” are really just very detailed descriptions: 90%

    A fourth are the hundreds of historical accounts of medical miracles, particularly those apparently resulting from prayer. Recognizing that this is an argument “from ignorance” (i.e., we can’t explain X) but also that they are persistent, recent, and in the presence of trained observers: 80%

    Of course, this is not science, it is educated guessing. Pascal’s wager enters the equation, as well. I like to think about it while I’m not busy solving my employer’s problems, keeping my family happy, or fixing the broken stuff in my house.

    Gotta go. I have a bunch of mouse poop to clean up.

    Cheers, etc.

  146. 146
    Dalillama, Schmott Guy

    Cosmological argument

    Is a very long form of petitio principii. . The entire thing is circular, since it presupposes a)everything requires a cause(virtual particles, for instance, do not) and b)except God, who exists without cause. This also violates parsimony, since it requires fewer entities to say that the universe exists without cause. Also, you’re an idiot for even bringing this bullshit to the table. Do you think that this is new and different? Do you think we haven’t demolished this bullshit thousands of times already? Please try to actually have a thought, Chris. It’s so important in the modern world.

    For example, I do not think it is possible that a substance composed only of matter and energy can know, and know that it knows.

    Why not? What else might things be composed of? What evidence do you have for these things being a part of the human composition? Have you done any reading in neurology, or any of the cognitive sciences? Argument from ignorance gets you nowhere around here, dipshit.

    A third is the difference in science between description and explanation. Sometimes a more detailed description is made of something, and this is described as an explanation, but there is always the next round of questions about why things work the way they do at the new, more detailed level of understanding. (And a good thing, too — it keeps scientists employed! :-) ) The difficulty of getting to the bottom (i.e., the very bottom) of things and the fact that most “explanations” are really just very detailed descriptions:

    This is just incoherent. I think you’re trying to badly paraphrase the so-called ‘problem of induction.’ The answer is that you’re right, science doesn’t deal in absolute certainties, just probabilities. However, all the people who claim absolute certainty are provably wrong, so I really can’t take their criticisms of the only reliable why of acquiring knowledge ever designed very seriously.

    A fourth are the hundreds of historical accounts of medical miracles, particularly those apparently resulting from prayer. Recognizing that this is an argument “from ignorance” (i.e., we can’t explain X) but also that they are persistent, recent, and in the presence of trained observers

    Citation fucking needed, asshole. You say there are ‘hundreds.’ Name 5, and provide references for them. Do it now, or shut your stupid noisehole.

    Of course, this is not science, it is educated guessing. Pascal’s wager enters the equation, as well. I like to think about it while

    Wrong. It’s deeply uneducated guessing. Pascal’s Wager assumes only two options, dipshit. Like I’ve said before, why aren’t you a Hindu? It’s just as good a bet as Catholic,and by your standards better, since it’s been believed longer by more people.

  147. 147
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    However, for being based on observation and because some of the leakage comes from what looks to me to be circular reasoning, such as circular chains of causation: 80%

    Take away presupposition, 0%. Not worth your time to think it means anything.

    Spiritual substances solve many of the thorniest problems in human psychology. 95%

    Take away your presuppositions, then everything is explained by evolution, and spiritual is a null concept used by woomeiters. 0%. Still nothing.

    A third is the difference in science between description and explanation.

    Science has evidence and your explanation requires presuppostion, another 0%. Still not getting anywhere except in your delusional mind.

    A fourth are the hundreds of historical accounts of medical miracles, particularly those apparently resulting from prayer.

    Funny how the evidence says otherwise, and prayer does diddly squat under controlled and non-biased circumstances. So 0%. Absolutely no evidence for your imaginary deity without your presuppositions.

    it is educated guessing [fuckwitted presupposition].

    Fixed that for you.

    You presented no conclusive evidence, just your inane presuppositionak fuckwittery. Real evidence would be the equivalent of the eternally burning bush. So, another wasted post by a delusional fool.

  148. 148
    Nick Gotts

    Chris Lynch,

    And what of the Christian claim that God himself entered history, in the form of a man, by being born of a Jewish woman?

    It’s logically incoherent. since “God” (the Abrahamic god, at any rate) and “man” have incompatible attributes, nothing can possibly be both. doctrinally orthodox Christianity has the distinction of being, unlike most religions which are simply false, logically impossible.

    Trust me.

    Why should we? For believers to claim to have once been atheists is very common, and often appears to be false. It may be true in your case, but none of us know you.

    To answer a_ray, my definition of “nothing” is the hypothetical state of affairs when there was no space, no matter, no energy, and (therefore, in my cosmogeny, no time.)

    That’s not a state of affairs, because a state of affairs must persist for some time.

    I’ll put a ballpark percentage on these areas to indicate my admittedly subjective assessment of how strongly they support a God hypothesis.

    Why should anyone be in the slightest interested in your “admittedly subjective assessment”?

    Here is one: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cosmological_argument, particularly the argument from contingency. I recognize that because it is inductive, it is not airtight. However, for being based on observation

    What observation? The only useful meaning of “contingent” is “true in some but not all logically possible worlds”. “God exists” is contingent, since it’s logically possible that this should be true, and logically possible that it should be false.

    explanations involving an immaterial component are more parsimonious

    Bullshit. Show me an “immaterial component”. Tell me how it could interact with material ones.

    For example, I do not think it is possible that a substance composed only of matter and energy can know, and know that it knows.

    So. Fucking. What? What you think or do not think is not an argument.

    Sometimes a more detailed description is made of something, and this is described as an explanation, but there is always the next round of questions about why things work the way they do at the new, more detailed level of understanding. (And a good thing, too — it keeps scientists employed! :-) ) The difficulty of getting to the bottom (i.e., the very bottom) of things and the fact that most “explanations” are really just very detailed descriptions

    This is just drivel. What are you trying to say?

    A fourth are the hundreds of historical accounts of medical miracles, particularly those apparently resulting from prayer. Recognizing that this is an argument “from ignorance”

    No it’s not. It’s an argument from an unsupported claim, as there are no such accounts which stand up to scrutiny (I notice you don’t give any specific cases). Oh, and what does “God” have against amputees?

    Of course, this is not science, it is educated guessing.

    No it’s not, it’s just the usual stupid garbage we’ve heard and refuted a thousand times before. Couldn’t you at least have tried to come up with something original or unusual?

  149. 149
    John Morales

    [meta]

    Chris Lynch:

    Gotta go. I have a bunch of mouse poop to clean up.

    Hopefully, you are not entirely worthless at everything you essay.

    (Good luck!)

  150. 150
    Chris Lynch

    @John: thanks for the kind words on the mouse poop. Mission accomplished!
    @Rev. BigDumbChimp #134: yes. My standards and methods vary with the question on the table. Try treating a woman like an engineering problem, and you will see what I mean! :-)

    A few thoughts on the above:
    * Parsimony demonstrates nothing. It is not a scientific theory nor even a hypothesis. It is merely a heueristic like “where there’s smoke, there’s fire”, or “when people say it’s not about X, it really is about X”. People making assumptions of parsimony have been spectacularly wrong, because their field of vision was not wide enough.
    * The word “delusion” was used unscientifically above. I don’t blame y’all — Dawkins led the way. This would be one good reason for Higgs to call Dawkins “embarrassing”.
    * Speaking of Dawkins, he has stated that a serious argument can be made for a deistic god [i.e., small 'g' god]. A reasonable version of that argument is here:

    http://deism.com/dogmaticatheism.htm

    There is that epistemologic wiggle room, referenced above.

    * Assertions about validity of different kinds of knowledge are the domain of philosophy, and cannot be made on a scientific basis. To imply, as several here have done, that these assertions are in the body of “scientifically determined knowledge” shows a gross lack of knowledge. Scientific standards of evidence were not determined scientifically, but by an evolving moral code of behavior. It is the same with “default hypotheses” (nulls, etc.) No different from “thou shalt not steal”.
    * My statement that I did believe not that a purely physical system could know and know that it knew (i.e., self-reflection) is based on my research on knowledge bases, artificial languages, natural languages, and sensor fusion. We just don’t know enough about intelligence or consciousness at this point to say that physics can produce valid thought. Dreyfus’ extremely negative views (“What Computers Can’t Do” and “What Computers Still Can’t Do”) have been borne out, to-date. His skepticism is well-reasoned.

    One more thing — I don’t believe there is any scientific literature supporting the use of name-calling as a persuasive technique. :-)

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