I’m a scientist, I believe in proof


Near as I can tell from the trailer for I, Origins, the movie is about an affectless neuroscientist who takes pictures of eyes for Science, and then because he finds someone with similar irises to his dead lover, decides that reincarnation has been proven.

All I know is that whoever wrote this dreck has no idea about how scientists think.

Oh, joy. Another What the Bleep Do We Know, a bad and stupid movie that clueless nitwits will be throwing in my face for years to come to inform me that science is wrong.

Comments

  1. nurnord says

    You’d have to threaten to rip my irises out to watch this misguided, targeted crap.

  2. Menyambal says

    Reminds me of the time I first saw an iridiology chart. I saw all the various bodily ills linked to spots on the iris, and just stood there dumbfounded. What a load of hooey.

  3. woozy says

    So if I make a movie about a plate of spaghetti that hovers two centimeters above the plate and have earnest shots of skeptical people “that’s not statistically possible”, will my movie be a convincing argument for the FSM?

    You know, putting something in a movie doesn’t mean the thing actually exists.

    I have a scientific mindset. Proof is for mathematics, not for science.

    Meh. Math is better than science. And I can prove it.

    (…Although in my gut I know intuition is right. …. and my toenails say….)

  4. woozy says

    Oh! “I” sounds like “eye”!

    Why that’s ….. DEEP! And …

    Oh wait, did I say “deep”? … I meant “stupid”.

  5. busterggi says

    Her irises say, “yes” but her retinas say, “no” – what to believe except I believe I’ll what a different film.

  6. mudpuddles says

    There are 1.2 billion people in India. An average annual total birth rate of 27 million live births per year. But in this melodrama the creaking Indian medical system ensures they all have photos taken of their eyes. Because science.

    Also, iris patterns are not fixed but subtly change throughout life as stroma cells die and are replced, with more rapid and noticeable changes as we age (dark brown eyes can pale, blue-fringing fades, etc.) So, any match between two iris patterns would be fleeting. But God, so, you know…
    (My partner is an opthalmologist, when she watched the trailer she said “Their eyes match? For how long? Are they on exactly the same diet? Have they had similar diseases throughout their whole life? How? What? What the fuck? Oh wait, its magic, isn’t it? God and stuff. I see.”)
    I’m guessing that this movie is about as profound and challenging as Transformers.

  7. Gregory Greenwood says

    There is a discussion about this cinematic abomination over on the Lounge. Overall, the film sounds like it will be two hours of poorly written, tooth-grindingly stoopid variations of ‘yeah, but science can’t explain love! Checkmate skeptics/atheists!!11!1eleventy!!’

  8. Gregory Greenwood says

    woozy @ 5;

    So if I make a movie about a plate of spaghetti that hovers two centimeters above the plate and have earnest shots of skeptical people “that’s not statistically possible”, will my movie be a convincing argument for the FSM?

    You know, putting something in a movie doesn’t mean the thing actually exists.

    Exactly. If wooists are going to embrace argumentum ad ‘it was in the movies’, then they have a few problems.

    We would need to abandon space exploration right friggin’ now. I mean, have any of you people even watched Alien(s)? You really want those things down here after Sigourney Weaver warned us about them?

    Oh, and we need to avoid equatorial and other high average temperature regions of the planet during heat waves. The Predator likes it hot.

    And of course we must stop all AI research immediately, because Terminator (and soon enough Transcendence).

    Indeed, just stop all scientific research altogether. It just never ends well in the movies, what with all the ‘mad scientists’. Who are mostly German for some reason that must surely be entirely unrelated to flogging the dead horse of WW2 era stereotyping.

    And we need to evacuate the continental USA before the end of this month, what with Godzilla set to go on a city-flattening rampage in May…

  9. Gregory Greenwood says

    Cross post from the Lounge;

    ——————————————————

    In a good mood today? Feeling that there may be a few bastions of decent Cinema left in the world? Let me help you with that – que the forthcoming movie I, Origins* show cased at the Sundance film festival.

    Eyes as literal ‘windows to the soul’? Check.

    Cussing out science for being mean to god? Check.

    Heavy handed plotlines about ‘scientific beliefs’ (a term that on its own demonstrates that the writers have no understanding whatsoever about the scientific method – it is hardly about blind faith) being ‘disproved’ by spiritualism? Check.

    It is a supermassive black hole of teh smug, ignorant stoopid, and that is before we get to the creepy guy stalking a child in India because she supposedly has his deceased wife’s eyes…

    It is enough to put you off films for good.

    ————————————————————————————————————————–

    * Health advisory for toxic levels of credulous, wooist idiocy

  10. mudpuddles says

    This kind of “I believe in proof” crap reminds of the film Contact. I really liked Sagan’s novel that the movie was based on, and I know he had some input to the movie, but it was mostly appalling in its depiction of scientists. Jodie Foster’s screen-chewing depiction of a scientist who insisted on proof (not evidence) kind of set a standard for dumb which was reflected in Prometheus and now in this I Oranges.

  11. Gregory Greenwood says

    Second cross post from the Lounge;

    ———————————————————-

    A Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought;

    Of all the bullshit on top of other bullshit in that movie, there’s also the improbability of finding that match (even if there was possibility for it to exist), but I guess that was Fate and Serendipity and other randomly bolded words.

    Doesn’t that lie at the heart of the entire racket of florrid, ‘find your soul-mate’ romanticism? The idea that the mark is indeed a special snowflake, and that god/destiny/the universe has ensured that there exists one other equally special snowflake in all the world whose heart beats just for you, and that the spheres will align and all of reality will conspire to bring the two of you together no matter how far apart you are or how unlikely it is, despite the ludicrously vast odds of two particular individuals among billions just wandering into one another.

    It is the same hook that pretty much all of religion uses. It seeks to convince the potential convert of that which so many people already want to believe; that, despite the vastness of the universe at large, they are not, in the grand scheme of things, ultimately rather insignificant individuals, but instead are of cosmic import. That the petty to-ings and fro-ings of their lives are important enough to be of interest to anyone outside themselves. Indeed, are so important that they must be pre-ordained.

    And also like religion, this encouragement toward egotistical self-obsession with regard to ordained romance can be dangerous. Afterall, if you buy into this, and believe that you have found your one and only true soulmate who was created just to be with you, only to discover that they do not feel the same, and perhaps find your weird obsessiveness creepy or threatening, then how is the thwarted party likely to react, especially if existing power gradients in society already favour them over the target of their stalkerly behaviour? I wonder to what degree rubbish like this feeble excuse for a movie (and the whole wider industry of promoting obsessive psuedo-love that surrounds it) contributes to the problems society has with harrassment, stalking, and the violence that often escalates from those roots.

  12. sarah00 says

    As others have said, proof is for mathematicians. Evidence is for scientists, and the evidence so far suggests this is going to be a pile of poo. What’s up with the whole numerology thing at the beginning? All the elevens? I thought it was going to be another “The Number 23″.

    The good thing is the trailer’s told us the whole story so no-one needs to see the film. Unless there’s more to it than boy meets poster, finds the girl in the poster, boy and girl fall in love, marry, she dies, he thinks he’s found her reincarnation and flies to India to find her in the form of a young girl. I don’t think I want to know what happens after that because my mind is going ‘euwwwwww’ at the most obvious ideas.

  13. Gregory Greenwood says

    sarah00 @ 16;

    What’s up with the whole numerology thing at the beginning? All the elevens? I thought it was going to be another “The Number 23″.

    So far as I can tell, it is a heavy handed attempt to imply that their relationship was pre-ordained by god/karma/destiny/*insert preferred form of woo*, to such a degree that the very fabric of reality was organised in such a way as to bring them together.

    So in other words it is just really, really stupid and hideously badly written. Even Michael Bay and his incessant explosions is better than this dreck.

    The good thing is the trailer’s told us the whole story so no-one needs to see the film. Unless there’s more to it than boy meets poster, finds the girl in the poster, boy and girl fall in love, marry, she dies, he thinks he’s found her reincarnation and flies to India to find her in the form of a young girl. I don’t think I want to know what happens after that because my mind is going ‘euwwwwww’ at the most obvious ideas.

    Yup – that plotline seems to be going to a very dark place indeed. The whole reuinited-with-his-lost-love-whose-consciousness-now-inhabits-the-body-of-a-child thing reeks of an attempt to sanitise paedophillia.

    I found the ending of Ghost in the Shell to be rather off putting, but this is way worse.

  14. Menyambal says

    I hadn’t thought of that earlier, but yeah, the iridiology idea kinda shoots this movie out the window. For those of you who haven’t hit it yet, the iris of the eye shows all the diseases of the body, once the code is learned. If I recall correctly, it was discovered when some guy broke a leg of his pet owl, and noticed a spot appear in its iris at that moment, and it got sillier from there.

    So unless the child has all the same physical problems the woman had, the irises will be different. And, if he doesn’t hustle, her irises will have changed by the time he gets there—a cold, a sore foot, scurvy—all this in accordance with the spiritual spirit of the film. (And, I assume, a girl having the same irises as a grown woman means something about menses, virginity and other creepy implications.)

    So there are aspects of spiritual woo that conflict with the premise of the movie. It smugly ignores its own spiritual problems while slagging science.

    By the way, science has successfully dealt with and incorporated such crazy-seeming stuff as electricity, the spectrum of light, quantum, photons, plate tectonics and radioactivity. Some of the things we deal with still have the words for spirit and ghost in them, but they are now science.

    If, repeat, if, there were two identical eyes out in the world, we could probably figure out why. We would certainly try to figure out why. We would not ignore it, if it were fact.

    We would not fall down and accept every other bit of woo we have ever heard about. As I said, I cannot accept this movie and iridiology, both. Checkmate, spiritualists.

    (If the spirit was so great, why did he have to fly to India and hunt for the girl? The magic peacock couldn’t help better than that?)

  15. Rey Fox says

    The title is just awful. Horrible. Is it supposed to refer to “I, Claudius” or something? And what does the “origins” part even mean? What does it have to do with any of this? And now it’s going to be spoken in reverent tones by all the rubes and going to grate on my ears even worse.

  16. woozy says

    What’s up with the whole numerology thing at the beginning? All the elevens? I thought it was going to be another “The Number 23″.

    I think it’s the old numbers are clinical and empirical sciencey; Intelligent and soulless, cold and ultimately deadening. Words on the other hand are poetic and soulful and although delicate, underappriciated by the intellect but ultimately the “real” reality.

    Fuck it.

    Exactly. If wooists are going to embrace argumentum ad ‘it was in the movies’, then they have a few problems.

    Yes. But my point was more of the technique of “but it could be true and what if this happened” and treating it as though because it’s conceivable then in some form of alternate reality it has to be real somewhere. So there’s a movie about a girl with the same irises as another person. Do you realize how amazing that would be? But you would respond as the clinical scientists, wouldn’t you? But the poet would win in the end because science can’t actually explain it? Um… so? It’s a fictional movie. There isn’t a girl with the same irises so hypothesizing about how science wouldn’t be able to explain it makes as much sense as claiming that science wouldn’t be able to explain a hovering plate of pasta. Take that, gravity-restricted sphaghetti monster proponents!

    The sort of “It’s impossible/therefore I can write a story where it’s true/therefore it *is* true” phenomenon is surprisingly common.
    There’s a *very* popular eastern urban legend that one of the astronauts on the moon heard a very specific voice of God talking and when the astronaut returned to earth he became a devout muslim for the rest of his life.
    There’s a commonly held belief that scientists have determined by theory and by evidence the exact age of the universe. However it’s utterly puzzling because the evidence of the age of the universe is *exactly* 24 hours shorter than the theory. This puzzled scientists until one realized that this was evidence of the old testament story of the day where the heavens stood still. Ha! Explain that atheists!
    Then there’s that scientist who told us that if you study the radioactivity of the shroud of Turin it’s decay rate is unusual (unusual how? what radioactivity? You know sciencey unusual and sciencey radio-thaumo-whatsit. Science stuff!) and that it could be probability– the same probability of waiting for a brick to start flying. Ha! Explain that, mathematicians!

    The trouble is once you start seeing this “It’s isn’t true– so therefore it must be true” assumptions, you start seeing it everywhere and if you have a dram of rational and logical sensibility it drives you out of your friggin’ MIND *YAAARRRGGGH*.

    Sorry. Another public nervous breakdown brought on by illogic. Sorry.

  17. Rey Fox says

    Reading one of the comments in the Lounge about what the movie could be…

    This isn’t a man opening his mind, it’s a man utterly broken after the love of his life died, and reading a mere coincidence as something more- grasping at straws so he can have her back. At least, that could be a movie built off this premise that might be worth watching. Somehow, I doubt that’s where they are going with this.

    …made me wonder if, in fact, this is what the movie is. The history of movies is littered with misleading trailers and advertisements. Perhaps the studio thought it would sell better this way.

    But probably not. I don’t really have the patience to sit through the trailer myself, but I’m assuming this is an indie production, so maybe there would be more honesty there and fewer studio heads interfering with marketing. And maybe this is coming out of a well-known source of religious/spiritual blah. Just a thought.

  18. mudpuddles says

    @ Rey Fox #19
    Maybe it’s supposed to be “iOrigins”. Its about a new app for mobile phones that helps you find your eye match so you can stalk them.

  19. Sastra says

    Oh, joy. Another What the Bleep Do We Know, a bad and stupid movie that clueless nitwits will be throwing in my face for years to come to inform me that science is wrong.

    No, not quite another What the Bleep Do We Know because from what I can tell from its reviews the particularly obnoxious element in that movie was the talking head “scientists” intruding into the story with their “scientific evidence” that the docu-drama completely comports with exciting new cutting-edge discoveries. At least this movie apparently isn’t pretending to be an educational film. It’s a story.

    And like all fictional stories which assume the truth of the supernatural, the paranormal, the spiritual, and/or the religious there’s a double-edge sword aspect to the ability to manipulate narrative and details. On the one hand, it allows the Believer to engage in a masturbatory fantasy of what it would be like or will be like when all those materialistic atheist scientists finally get their comeuppance and find out what the open-minded faith-inspired seekers of other realities have always known: it’s true. Here’s the convincing evidence you seek: take that, atheists! Now shift your paradigm!

    But on the other hand it’s rather obvious that this is not actually what the world looks like, is it? This is a story dreamed up by writers and so everything is just so perfect and obvious because that is the way it was written. The characters, the circumstances, the events — the entire plot is a human creation of what it OUGHT to look like … but oh-so-strangely does NOT.

    In other words, the pro-supernatural position is being subtly undermined by what amounts to a prediction, a thought experiment of what it might really look like if ghosts or reincarnation or ESP or God or whatever really did exist. The contrast between reality and fiction is hard to miss if you’re not closing your eyes to it. So who is being “open-minded” here?

    This movie looks like the New-Agey sophisticated Spiritual-But-Not-Religious version of God is Not Dead. It’s only going to convince the convinced — if that’s what it is trying to do. To anybody else, it’s just going to make the Believers look naive, silly, and disturbingly self-absorbed. No, not us: them.

  20. mikeyb says

    So deepity, but the Chopra/Oprah crowd is a pittance compared to Jesus. Should have made it like the nitwit book/movie about a kid who sees Jesus and the revenue stream would have been a lot bigger. So disappointing.

  21. Sastra says

    mikeyb #24 wrote:

    So deepity, but the Chopra/Oprah crowd is a pittance compared to Jesus.

    Is it? I’m not so sure. For one thing, there is a huge overlap between Christianity and what I’ll call Spirituality. Many moderate and liberal Christians — and probably even a good helping of so-called conservatives and fundamentalists — incorporate various forms of supernatural ‘woo’ into their interpretation of the Divine. It doesn’t have to be strictly consistent. Remember, faith inspires rationalizations, compartmentalizations, and adaptations. The religion/spirituality boundary is fuzzy — assuming it exists at all. They don’t just pick and choose from the Bible: they pick and choose from the whole Shebang of Supernatural Crap.

    I think a movie like this would appeal to a wider audience than one which focuses only on Jesus-as-Savior. All the folks who think they inhabit the Golden Middle between the dogmatic fundamentalists and arrogant atheists — which is possibly most of the country and probably most of the theater-going public — would thrill to watch their deep-seated intuitions that Everything Happens For a Reason and I-Am-Cosmically-Special enacted on film.

  22. kingeofdremes says

    11:11 is my favorite Regina Spektor album. So, I thought it might be a New York thing, but nope, there it is in an entry for numerology in Wikipedia.

    Apparently, all kinds of stuff happens at 11:11, much more so than at any other time of day. It’s a sign! Most especially of spiritual and other New Agey things that skeptics aren’t attuned to. Sad.

  23. John A says

    This platitude is a pretty smug statement, as it presupposes that there are people who don’t “believe in proof”. Everyone believes in proof.

  24. Snoof says

    This platitude is a pretty smug statement, as it presupposes that there are people who don’t “believe in proof”. Everyone believes in proof.

    I dunno, some of those presuppositionalist don’t seem to. Or claim they don’t. Or something. I dunno, I usually stop listening after the first five minutes.

  25. John A says

    Heavy handed plotlines about ‘scientific beliefs’ (a term that on its own demonstrates that the writers have no understanding whatsoever about the scientific method – it is hardly about blind faith)

    Why does “belief” have to mean “blind faith”? And why are all cases of “blind faith” the same?

    All of human experience, including science, is based on belief, though not all the pejorative version of “blind faith”. There is nothing wrong it that.

    It is the same hook that pretty much all of religion uses. It seeks to convince the potential convert of that which so many people already want to believe

    All religion uses the same “hook”? What makes you think that religion is all a top-down enterprise, where the bosses at the top pull the strings and the masses are just ignorant minions who follow along?

    Oh and religion convinces the massses of what they want to believe? In that case, the branches of Hinduism “teach” the “masses” that reincarnation exists, even though it is a terrible thing that looks people into a miserable world. Actually there are many examples of religion not teaching what the “masses” what to believe. Frequently it is the opposite actually. You simply have a caricature view of religion.

    despite the vastness of the universe at large, they are not, in the grand scheme of things, ultimately rather insignificant individuals, but instead are of cosmic import.

    What makes you so sure? This is a (nihilistic) religious belief you have, pure and simple.

  26. loreo says

    “Is it? I’m not so sure. For one thing, there is a huge overlap between Christianity and what I’ll call Spirituality. Many moderate and liberal Christians — and probably even a good helping of so-called conservatives and fundamentalists — incorporate various forms of supernatural ‘woo’ into their interpretation of the Divine. It doesn’t have to be strictly consistent. Remember, faith inspires rationalizations, compartmentalizations, and adaptations. The religion/spirituality boundary is fuzzy — assuming it exists at all. They don’t just pick and choose from the Bible: they pick and choose from the whole Shebang of Supernatural Crap.”

    Absolutely. I hung out at this intersection for about 5-6 years once I understood that the dogma of the RCC wasn’t literally true but still believed that it was “metaphorically true”, that all the beliefs of my family and friends must be tied to something. I read a lot of The Tao of Pooh and Alan Watts at this point and argued that religions were like martial arts styles, what matters is less the particular school and more how much work you put in. Very woo. I didn’t yet understand the beauty of a natural universe.

  27. Gregory Greenwood says

    woozy @ 20;

    The sort of “It’s impossible/therefore I can write a story where it’s true/therefore it *is* true” phenomenon is surprisingly common.

    Agreed. Many conspiracy theorists, religious fundamentalists and other stripes of reality-denier love trying to reshape the discourse in that kind of fashion.

    One of my favourite examples was when I heard someone try to use multiverse theory to argue that if there is an infinite number of universes, then the judeo-christian god must exist in one of them (because reasons), and since that god is omnipotent and omnipresent, he (because god would have to be a bloke, obviously) must also exist here. Therefore god, checkmate atheists.

    It was an awe inspiring failure to make a reasoned argument.

  28. loreo says

    “All religion uses the same “hook”? What makes you think that religion is all a top-down enterprise, where the bosses at the top pull the strings and the masses are just ignorant minions who follow along?”

    Nobody here is arguing that. We all have enough experience with religious people (and many have been religious, like myself) to know that many (most? Hard to tell) believers are genuinely self-motivated in their belief.

    When we say things like “religion uses a hook” we are speaking in terms of meme theory. A set of beliefs does not need to be guided by an intelligent leader to behave as though it has its own motivations. Look at rock n roll, for example. There was no Council of Rock which hooked dumb teenagers through intentional machinations, rock n roll just spread around the world because that beat with the snare on the 2 and 4 (boom BAP boom BAP) is so catchy. Religion spreads in a similar fashion. There’s something catchy about the idea that we are special in the universe, that our suffering is being noted and will be soothed, and that we are loved by someone no matter where we go. The idea itself is like a hook which gets caught in our need to be loved and feel significant.

  29. John A says

    There’s something catchy about the idea that we are special in the universe

    What makes you think we aren’t?

  30. woozy says

    The title is just awful. Horrible. Is it supposed to refer to “I, Claudius” or something? And what does the “origins” part even mean?

    Oh, get this!

    According to the Sundance page description, the guy isn’t a iridiologist (sp? term?) but a Ph.D student studying the evolution of the eye and… Well, all scientists do the same thing as far as movies are concerned; going through a database of human iris variation– evolution of the eye– spinning test tubes in a test tube spinner– stealing newspapers with chloroform— it’s all science and…. I’m not going to comment on the obvious evolution = atheist and the “human eye defies evolution (and means the soul more so than … say … the pancreas)” implications. I’ll just comment that all of us have some vague idea of what real scientists do that it never even occurred to us that even in this fiction that a guy studying samples of human irises and individual variation would be supposed to be studying evolution.

    It’s amusing in a way. Mostly it’s depressing and irritating and disturbing. But it’s a little amusing. In a way.

  31. Nick Gotts says

    John A.@34,

    What makes you think loreo thinks we aren’t? They may well do, but nothing they said@33 depends on any such belief. Being “catchy” and being true are orthogonal.

  32. loreo says

    What makes you think we aren’t?

    Let me define my terms. Human beings are special in the sense that we are unique: my genome will never again be produced and develop in the same environment which produced me. The odds against that are so far beyond astronomical that we can be certain no other being exactly like me will ever exist. The same is true for every other human.

    However, we are not special in the sense of being exempt from the laws of nature. That is the meaning of “special” exploited (sorta exploited – as a meme, religion is mindless) by religion. Christianity, for example, teaches that who we are as individuals exists in an immaterial eternal form invisible to science called the soul. The existence of the soul is what allows us to be watched by God, guided by God, and to survive death then receive our just reward for the morality we exhibited in our lives. We’re not just big-brained apes alive in a chaotic universe with our lives governed by chance! We’re special.

    In that sense – no, we are not special. We’re just as much an accident of history as the big rock near my front door.

  33. azhael says

    In all fairness and as muchas a i hate to do this, this woo filed piece of crap movie is an actual piece of cinematographic fiction whereas What The Bleep Do We Know pretended to be a documentary….
    Sure, this movie will act as validation for woo-adicts and other nonsense seekers, but at least it´s not pretending to be educational…

  34. loreo says

    Also – fuck this racist-ass Orientalist bullshit. “Oh, in India they’re so spiritual and wise, they know things we businesslike Westerners could never know, the truth is waiting somewhere exotic.”

  35. thomasmorris says

    The trailer is awful, but I’m actually willing to give it the benefit of the doubt for now – mainly because the writer/director & main actress were also behind one of the most intriguing movies I’ve seen in the past few years, Another Earth. (A decidedly imperfect film, but one that seemed to be made by intelligent, thoughtful people.)

    I’m hoping that this is a case of a seriously misleading trailer – Fox Searchlight purchased it after it had already been completed, so perhaps this is another case of a mainstream studio trying to make something look far more simplistic (and accessible) than it actually is.

    …Or it could well be that the final product is as awful as it looks.

  36. John A says

    In that sense – no, we are not special.

    You seem pretty sure of that. Tell me why.

  37. Gregory Greenwood says

    John A @ 28;

    This platitude is a pretty smug statement, as it presupposes that there are people who don’t “believe in proof”. Everyone believes in proof.

    And @ 30;

    All of human experience, including science, is based on belief, though not all the pejorative version of “blind faith”. There is nothing wrong it that.

    Actually scientists don’t ‘believe in proof’. The scientific method does not trade in ‘proof’, not even mathematical proof, and ‘belief’ plays still less of a role. The sicentific method follows the evidence wherever it leads, and as such all conclusions are necessarily tentative and subject to revision in the face of new evidence. The notion of eternal, absolute and unchanging ‘proof’ is inherently suspect to a scientist. A fictional work in which a character – who clearly stands in for the scientific mindset for the purposes of that work of fiction – declares that he ‘believes in proof’ betrays a total failure to understand how scientists think or how the scientific method operates on the part of the writers.

    Why does “belief” have to mean “blind faith”? And why are all cases of “blind faith” the same?

    Where beliefs are inflexible, and are held either without evidence or in defiance of opposing evidence, then how should they be described other than as blind? As for varying values of blind faith, I see little profit to be had in arguing over degrees of delusion.

    All religion uses the same “hook”? What makes you think that religion is all a top-down enterprise, where the bosses at the top pull the strings and the masses are just ignorant minions who follow along?

    As pointed out by loreo @ 33, to say religion has a ‘hook’ is a reference to meme theory. Religious beliefs systems, among various other social forms including things like the culture surrounding rock music and even (to a lesser degree) things like the abominable Twilight movies, are structured in such a way as to exploit vulnerabilities within the human brain toward confirmation bias and in particular seeking patterns to such an extent that we sometimes see them where none exist, pareidolia being a case in point.

    In pre-scientific cultures with no concept of such things as climatology or epidemiology, a failed crop or a plague was only explicable in terms of being the enacted will of an unseen agent, be it a deity, a demon, an anthropomorphised manifestation of nature, or an ancestor spirit. It didn’t take long for such beliefs to be exploited to allow some individuals to claim a pipeline to the divine, and then to peddle that into temporal power. Once the meme was established, it continued to spread and to change with the societies that adopted it. There is no need for some centralised evil conspiracy. This is a recognised sociological phenomenon.

    Oh and religion convinces the massses of what they want to believe? In that case, the branches of Hinduism “teach” the “masses” that reincarnation exists, even though it is a terrible thing that looks people into a miserable world. Actually there are many examples of religion not teaching what the “masses” what to believe. Frequently it is the opposite actually. You simply have a caricature view of religion.

    You don’t think that a belief in reincarnation taps into the widespread fear of the finality of death? Into our desire to believe that, somehow, our ‘essence’ – the fundamental core of who we are as people – will survive death? Not to mention the fact that this belief system also offers the possibility of escaping the notional cycle of death and rebirth into a ‘perfect state’ of higher being, so long as you play your cards right. Part of which involves upholding the status quo of the religious order and respecting the authority of the clergy, naturally…

    What makes you so sure? This is a (nihilistic) religious belief you have, pure and simple.

    There is nothing ‘nihilistic’ about it, nor is it in any way motivated by religious conviction. An accusation of ‘scientism’ is misplaced here.

    The universe is approximately 14 billion years old. Our planet has existed for about 4 billion, life on Earth for about 3.5 billion, and our species of modern humans for a comparatively paltry 200 thousand years. The observable universe contains hundreds of billions of galaxies, each of which contains hundeds of billions of stars. The prevalence of life out there is unknown, but even if life is very rare, with so many iterations over such vast time frames, believing that the existence of life is unique to Earth, and still more that it must be the work of some unevidenced super consciousness, is… shall we just say a little presumptuous. Some scientists even posit that there may be other monocellular life on bodies within our own solar system, afterall.

    There is no reason to suppose that there is anything fantastically, universally important about our little Blue Planet or the various species, including a certain rather pretentious species of (more or less) sapient ape, that inhabit it. There is no reason to assume, should the Earth be destroyed and humanity wiped from existence tomorrow, that the stars would all wink out, that the planets would fall from their orbits, or that the natural laws would just cease to function. The universe existed just fine for billions of years before we evolved, and if there are other sapient life forms out there, odds are that they don’t know we exist, and wouldn’t notice if we ceased to do so.

    There is no reason to cling to the idea that the universe was made by magic under the conscious guidance of a superbeing just for little old us. It is the height of hubris and flies in the face of all the evidence we have amassed, and yet it is a quirk of our psychology as a species that we like to feel important, and there is no higher measure of import than being cosmically significant; to believe that all there is ultimately revolves around you, directly or indirectly. That is the aspect of the human condition that religious memes exploit.

    It is really rather human to want it to be all about us, even when it clearly isn’t. That doesn’t make such a conclusion any less wrong, though.

  38. Alverant says

    I think a lot of Hollywood writers flunked the science courses in school. That’s why science is always made out to be the bad guy in so many movies. It seems like for every movie where scientists are the heroes (Ghostbusters) there’s a dozen out there with the “Man should not tamper in the ways of God” theme running through it (ie half the movies done in MST3K).

  39. george gonzalez says

    Mkay, let’s do the math. Let’s estimate how many uniquely identifiable iris patterns there are. Just as a generous estimate, let’s say. 100,000. That means if you set looking at irises, about every 100,000 people you’re going to find a match. On one eye. If we need a two-eye match, and you assume the irises are independent, then square that, and you’d need 10 billion people to find a match. Hmm, that’s not good either way– either too many matches, or too few. If we go down to 10,000 uniques, then again way too many matches for one eye, and still too many, 1 in 100 million for both eyes. I don’t see how the math can work, unless you assume that the number of unique iris is about the square root of 7 billion, so there’s only one match likely per world population. And still, there’s a considerable chance of zero or two matches which would not be good.

  40. Gregory Greenwood says

    As an addition to my last post, it may interest John A to know that my humanism, in part, flows from my awareness that we humans are not cosmically significant. As a human, I have experienced some measure of pain and suffering. Any number of people have it so much worse than me that I cannot even begin to imagine it, but what I can do is exercise empathy. I know that I wish to avoid pain and suffering, and I can at least try to put myself in the place of those who are mistreated by society and who don’t benefit from my unearned social privilege. Since I am able to put myself in their place to some small degree, I have some dim inkling of what they may be going through, and so I am motivated to do something about it.

    Since I am aware that there is no evidence supporting the notion that god/karma/the universe will swoop in to fix the problems in our society, I know that we are alone in this. If we want to create a better, more equitable society, then we have to do it ourselves. We cannot wait for any other agency to do it for is.

    As a species, all we truly have is one another, and so it is incumbant upon us to try to help each other to build a better future. If we wait for divine intervention, all the evidence suggests that we will wait for ever, and in the meantime the suffering of those abused and brutalised by the injustices we perpetarte against one another on a daily basis will continue unabated.

    By extension, we are also responsible to the other life on this world. We possess the boon and burden of sapience to a degree far greater than any other known species, and with that comes an unmatched power to shape our environment. As such, it falls to us to restrain ourselves from inflicting suffering on the other life on this planet.

    Thus, the very fact that I know that myself, other people, and the life on this world are not somehow inherently cosmically significant informs a great part of why they are so important to me as an individual.

    That is the underpinning of my personal sense of morality, all acheiveable with no god required.

  41. says

    To be fair, Tesla thought his favorite pigeon communicated to him through beams from her eyes. Being a scientist doesn’t insulate you from madness.

  42. Allan Frost says

    John A @42:

    You seem pretty sure of that. Tell me why.

    Take a gander at these pictures. Try to understand what you’re seeing. The universe is unimaginable huge. You are only an infinitesimal portion of it.

  43. John A says

    Actually scientists don’t ‘believe in proof’. The scientific method does not trade in ‘proof’, not even mathematical proof, and ‘belief’ plays still less of a role.

    Actually science, like all other human endeavors, does trade in both “proof” and “belief”. Your peculiar definition of the two words is not the only one.

    The sicentific method follows the evidence wherever it leads, and as such all conclusions are necessarily tentative and subject to revision in the face of new evidence.

    Everyone does this on a daily basis. And no one does this without cultural biases, assumptions, beliefs, etc. What makes science is unique is the questions it asks and the ways it tries to answer them. Its method is not unique to science.

    The notion of eternal, absolute and unchanging ‘proof’ is inherently suspect to a scientist.

    That isn’t the only definition of “proof”.

    Where beliefs are inflexible, and are held either without evidence or in defiance of opposing evidence, then how should they be described other than as blind?

    Why are beliefs inflexible? Does no one ever change their beliefs?

    And what makes you think they are not based in evidence? Sometimes they are, sometimes not. Sometimes they are inferred from evidence, sometimes from other beliefs, sometimes from axioms, sometimes from emotion or some other esoteric cause. Again, you are using a very narrow definition of “belief”.

    Religious beliefs systems, among various other social forms including things like the culture surrounding rock music and even (to a lesser degree) things like the abominable Twilight movies, are structured in such a way

    What makes you think they are “designed” by elites? This is a materialistic of religion, that it is the “opiate of the masses”. It just doesn’t work like that.

    are structured in such a way as to exploit vulnerabilities within the human brain toward confirmation bias and in particular seeking patterns

    So religious people are just too dim-witted to see this? Or they just are too foolish to understand their cognitive biases? If so, then most of the human race are idiots.

    In pre-scientific cultures with no concept of such things as climatology or epidemiology, a failed crop or a plague was only explicable in terms of being the enacted will of an unseen agent, be it a deity, a demon, an anthropomorphised manifestation of nature, or an ancestor spirit.

    In an extremely rude age (a pre-civilization society) this is possible, but speculative. In societies with even the simplest level of social organization (such as iron age Italy), this simply isn’t the case. You mistake the tendency to attribute a moral cause with the tendency to attribute a physical cause. Abraham Lincoln came to believe that the Civil War was dragging on because God was going to force it to continue until slavery ended. Yet he didn’t think that God fired the first shots, or was in any way its physical or political cause. Events can have many causes, both material and non-material, and people attribute both kinds of causes to events. One isn’t assumed to override the other.

    It didn’t take long for such beliefs to be exploited to allow some individuals to claim a pipeline to the divine, and then to peddle that into temporal power.

    This is a Marxist (ie left-Hegelian), materialistic view. The history of this viewpoint is peculiar, but it certainly doesn’t describe how things work in the real world. Your assumption is that religion only exists to accomplish certain materialistic goals on the part of elites. Underneath that assumption is that the masses are ignorant and easily fooled. That is preposterous.

    You don’t think that a belief in reincarnation taps into the widespread fear of the finality of death?

    No I don’t. There is not a “widespread fear of death”, at least not one that leads people to believe in an afterlife. Belief in an afterlife is confined to Christianity and Islam. Outside of these, it is uncommon, and even undesirable. Reincarnation is a good example, as Hindus typically think of reincarnation as a bad thing, as it locks them into a bad world. They want final death.

    Your viewpoints are so thoroughly the product of a Christian cultural worldview, even though you reject Christianity.

    The universe is approximately 14 billion years old. Our planet has existed for about 4 billion, life on Earth for about 3.5 billion, and our species of modern humans for a comparatively paltry 200 thousand years.

    According to current theory at least, which is predicated upon inference layered upon inference. Fact is something that will remain unknown on this question.

    The prevalence of life out there is unknown, but even if life is very rare, with so many iterations over such vast time frames, believing that the existence of life is unique to Earth, and still more that it must be the work of some unevidenced super consciousness, is… shall we just say a little presumptuous.

    You need to learn how to tell the difference between speculation and fact. There is, here too, the case of inference layered upon inference (that life is produced by little more than the mixture of the right ingredients, even though no one has ever been able to replicate this).

    There is no reason to suppose that there is anything fantastically, universally important about our little Blue Planet or the various species

    Of course there is. We are here.

    There is no reason to assume, should the Earth be destroyed and humanity wiped from existence tomorrow, that the stars would all wink out, that the planets would fall from their orbits, or that the natural laws would just cease to function.

    Why not?

    The universe existed just fine for billions of years before we evolved, and if there are other sapient life forms out there, odds are that they don’t know we exist, and wouldn’t notice if we ceased to do so.

    According to current theory anyway.

    There is no reason to cling to the idea that the universe was made by magic under the conscious guidance of a superbeing just for little old us.

    There is “no reason”? I think there are many reasons, some of which I would agree with, others of which I wouldn’t. That you don’t agree with any of the reasons does not mean that there is no reason. I would not say that there is no reason to agree with your positivist worldview, just that I do not agree with your reasons.

    It is really rather human to want it to be all about us, even when it clearly isn’t. That doesn’t make such a conclusion any less wrong, though.

    Your conclusion is the product of many assumptions, inferences, and moral judgement. You assume that the current theories about the age and causes of the universe, planet and life on earth are correct, and apply a particular moral theory to arrive at the conclusion that there is nothing special about us. I am not saying that your belief is invalid, just that it is yet another opinion among many.

  44. chigau (違う) says

    Belief in an afterlife is confined to Christianity and Islam. Outside of these, it is uncommon, and even undesirable. Reincarnation is a good example, as Hindus typically think of reincarnation as a bad thing, as it locks them into a bad world. They want final death.

    From where are you getting your information?
    Your priest?

  45. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Actually science, like all other human endeavors, does trade in both “proof” and “belief”. Your peculiar definition of the two words is not the only one.

    As a profession 35+ years in the field working scientist, and a 30+ year skeptic, you either provide third party evidence for your inaccurate statement, as science doesn’t do belief (which requires no evidence or tentative models), or proof (which is logical constructs), or shut the fuck up as an ignorant fuckwit.

  46. John A says

    to know that my humanism, in part, flows from my awareness that we humans are not cosmically significant.

    You seem pretty sure of this. People with other religious beliefs are often equally sure of their beliefs. Like you, they often see their beliefs as so correct as to be obvious and even self-evident.

    Since I am aware that there is no evidence supporting the notion that god/karma/the universe will swoop in to fix the problems in our society, I know that we are alone in this.

    I get that you think your beliefs to be so obvious that you are “aware” of their obvious truth, but your feeling of complete justification is yours alone. What makes you think that God hasn’t been central to fixing past problems? Certainly many (most) would say he was, and continues to be.

    If we wait for divine intervention, all the evidence suggests that we will wait for ever,

    See my last comment.

    Thus, the very fact that I know that myself, other people, and the life on this world are not somehow inherently cosmically significant informs a great part of why they are so important to me as an individual.

    You “know”? You seem pretty certain. And yet you are unable to appreciate that people who feel just as certain that we are cosmically significant as not stupid, foolish, or self-diluted.

  47. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    What makes you think that God hasn’t been central to fixing past problems?

    What imaginary and unevidenced deity? Either show some evidence, like an eternally burning bush, or shut the fuck up about imaginary things….

  48. tbtabby says

    The only way to make this movie work is if it ends with the professor in jail for stalking the little girl, and Dustin Hoffman in a cloak appears before him to show that all the “proofs” he had were coincidences with rational explanations.

  49. Holms says

    Did anyone else think that the kid at the end of the trailer totally didn’t have the same eyes as the lover? Assuming that girl is the reincarnation, the movie doesn’t even live up to its own premise!

  50. Anathema says

    @ John A, # 49:

    What makes you think they are “designed” by elites? This is a materialistic of religion, that it is the “opiate of the masses”. It just doesn’t work like that.

    Why do you keep on asserting that people here think that religion is something designed by elites? No one here has said that. All that anyone has said is that religions have certain characteristics which work to draw followers in. It’s not a matter of a conspiracy of the elite sitting down and consciously constructing a belief system with all of those features in order to fool the masses. Beliefs about the nature of the universe spring up organically. It’s just that the ones which are most likely to be passed on and eventually codified into religion tend to have certain features. They tend to exploit certain cognitive weaknesses because exploiting cognitive weaknesses is allows those beliefs to spread more easily. The fact that religions are generally structured in a way that allows religious beliefs to survive is not a sign of some elitist conspiracy.

    So religious people are just too dim-witted to see this? Or they just are too foolish to understand their cognitive biases? If so, then most of the human race are idiots.

    No. Most people do not know all that much about cognitive biases on account of the fact that most people are not psychologists. There’s a difference between not knowing very much about psychology and being dim-witted. Ignorance of a particular topic in no way proves that someone is innately unintelligent. No one can be an expert on everything.

  51. Sastra says

    John A #49 wrote:

    And no one does this without cultural biases, assumptions, beliefs, etc. What makes science is unique is the questions it asks and the ways it tries to answer them. Its method is not unique to science.

    What makes science unique is the unusually rigorous way its methods try to minimize cultural and individual biases, assumptions, and beliefs as much as possible in order to build up a provisional body of shared knowledge. In science, faith is a vice.

    In religion, it’s a virtue.

    What makes you think they are “designed” by elites? This is a materialistic of religion, that it is the “opiate of the masses”. It just doesn’t work like that.

    We’re not saying it does, so you can stop beating up the Straw Man. Although many religions view reality and knowledge as hierarchies, the most important ultimate source lies in the common human tendency to believe in the supernatural. This is a grass-roots theory of origin.

    It has nothing to do with being dim-witted. Learning to think against easy intuitions and examine alternatives is relatively recent in human history.

    You mistake the tendency to attribute a moral cause with the tendency to attribute a physical cause.

    That’s not a bad description of religion. “Science can say HOW the universe came to be but religion tells us WHY.” And thus we get a moral tale built up around ourselves, created from the fabric of reality.

    If religion doesn’t to some extent appeal to our need to feel special, then why do you accuse atheism of being “nihilistic?” The attribute of “specialness” doesn’t hang upon nothing: special in what way, and to whom?

  52. Menyambal says

    John A, you are showing poor reading comprehension, and you are constantly twisting everything others write in order for you to pose snarky questions. You are not arguing in good faith, you are trolling. You have a pseudo-intellectual attitude that doesn’t hide the fact that you don’t know your facts.

    We’ve done you. We have done your friends, and your friend’s friends, and most of your gurus. We have seen the elephant.

    Bring something new, bring something good, or go away.

  53. Rob Grigjanis says

    John A @49:

    According to current theory anyway.

    According to current theory (mine, anyway), if I look out my front window I’ll see the house across the street. Of course, it’s possible I’ll see a T. Rex lumbering through a Cretaceous swamp. Who can know?

  54. Anathema says

    No I don’t. There is not a “widespread fear of death”, at least not one that leads people to believe in an afterlife. Belief in an afterlife is confined to Christianity and Islam. Outside of these, it is uncommon, and even undesirable.

    What are you talking about?

    The Egyptians had the Fields of Aaru. The Norse had Valhalla and Fólkvangr. The Greeks had the Elysian Fields and the Isles of the Blessed. The Aztecs had Mictlán and Tlalocan Zoroastrians have paradise across the Chinvat bridge.

    I suspect that your knowledge of other belief systems is rather limited.

  55. Sastra says

    Anathema #60 wrote:

    I suspect that your knowledge of other belief systems is rather limited.

    That limitation would include the New Agey neo-pagan Spiritual belief system-with-afterlife which is apparently being promoted in the movie I Origins — the actual topic of the post.

  56. raven says

    John A.

    All religion uses the same “hook”? What makes you think that religion is all a top-down enterprise, where the bosses at the top pull the strings and the masses are just ignorant minions who follow along?

    Data, evidence, experience. You know reality.

    Most of us, including myself are ex-xians!!! We know. We’ve lived it for decades.

    It’s so obvious, you out yourself as an idiot for even pretending not to know. Children are almost always whichever religion their parents brought them up in, the highest correlation. The Pope. The Mormon Pope. Ministers, Priests. Heretic hunts, burning at the stake.

    Hitchens: Xianity lost its best defense when they lost the ability to kill people with rope, guns, or stacks of firewood. Without murder and threats of murder its all downhill for religion.

    PS John A. is likely krooscontrol, chaoticinflation etc. The same style of really dumb assertions without proof. You won’t get anything intelligent out of him.

  57. raven says

    No I don’t. There is not a “widespread fear of death”, at least not one that leads people to believe in an afterlife.

    1. Not quite right. Most people don’t want to die. We like being alive.

    2. But religion doesn’t help. Claiming that there is a heaven or reincarnation without a shred of proof doesn’t make anyone want to die sooner. AFAWK it’s just a lie.

    Proof: You don’t see xians dying sooner to meet jesus in heaven. In fact, medical professionals usually see the worst ones at hanging on after all hope is gone are…fundie xians.

    3. Xians say they believe in jesus and an afterlife in heaven. But they never are too sure, and certainly not eager to find out sooner rather than later.

    4. There are around 1 billion Nones in the world and growing rapidly as primitive superstitions fade.

    Cthulhuism is the One True Religion: We know we will die. That will be the end of us for all time. The universe won’t care one bit.

  58. raven says

    Belief in an afterlife is confined to Christianity and Islam. Outside of these, it is uncommon, and even undesirable.

    1. Not all religions believe in an afterlife.

    2. The Saduccees, the Jewish priests who controlled the second temple didn’t. You can see in the bible when the afterlife was invented. And where it came from. The bible writers got it from the Greeks and Zorastrians.

    3. Even today, there is no consensus among god’s chosen people about the afterlife. A lot of Jews say there is an afterlife but no one knows what it is so don’t worry about it. Some ultraorthodox Jews believe in reincarnation of all things.

    4. Hindus and Buddhists believe in reincarnation followed by either extinguishment or fusion with Brahma.

    What all this tells anyone is that afterlives are like religions. Made up, with no agreement, and no way to prove them.

  59. consciousness razor says

    John A, #42:

    In that sense – no, we are not special.

    You seem pretty sure of that. Tell me why.

    If our bodies interacted in any way with any kind of immaterial soul, we would’ve seen that. We haven’t. That’s why we know there is no such thing.
    #49:

    The universe is approximately 14 billion years old. Our planet has existed for about 4 billion, life on Earth for about 3.5 billion, and our species of modern humans for a comparatively paltry 200 thousand years.

    According to current theory at least, which is predicated upon inference layered upon inference. Fact is something that will remain unknown on this question.

    No, inference is how we know facts about the world. That’s exactly what’s required to have such knowledge. You seem to believe “knowledge” is something else, that those facts could be determined some other way. That doesn’t make sense. What are you trying to say?

  60. raven says

    What are you trying to say?

    That he is a banned troll, babbling away. Very similar style to KC.

    Endless assertions without proof or data.

  61. Gregory Greenwood says

    John A @ 49;

    Actually science, like all other human endeavors, does trade in both “proof” and “belief”. Your peculiar definition of the two words is not the only one.

    My ‘peculiar definition’, as you put it, is actually correct usage in this context. You don’t get to redefine the use of these terms in the context of the scientific method to service your own arguments.

    Please see Nerd of Redhead’s post @ 51 – the scientific method is a self correcting process of assessing the accuracy of hypothesese. It requires neither belief (which implies a viewpoint that can be adopted without evidence or in the face of dissenting evidence), nor proof (which, as Nerd points out, is a logical construct, and not the same thing as evidence, no matter how often the two concepts are conflated).

    Do you have evidence to the contrary? I would be interested to see it.

    Why are beliefs inflexible? Does no one ever change their beliefs?

    And what makes you think they are not based in evidence? Sometimes they are, sometimes not. Sometimes they are inferred from evidence, sometimes from other beliefs, sometimes from axioms, sometimes from emotion or some other esoteric cause. Again, you are using a very narrow definition of “belief”.

    If a belief is truly amenable to change in the face of changing evidence, then it is really a tentative conclusion, is it not? However, most beliefs – and in particular supernaturalist religious belief systems – do not appear to be quite so consistent with the evidence in my experience.

    What makes you think they are “designed” by elites? This is a materialistic of religion, that it is the “opiate of the masses”. It just doesn’t work like that.

    You still aren’t grasping meme theory. I never used the term ‘designed’. I never suggested that religions were created explicitly by elites, but rather that they emerged as a sociological phenomenon that was amenable to being used as a source of authority. That it has often been employed by clerical elites to solidify their grip on power does not change that.

    So religious people are just too dim-witted to see this? Or they just are too foolish to understand their cognitive biases? If so, then most of the human race are idiots.

    It is not a question of intellect. When a person is raised within a given belief system, when it surrounds them every day and informs, or appears to inform, the actions of every person around them; when they are told from the off that it is the only way to live an ethical life, the only measure of moral behaviour, then it is extremely difficult to break free from that conditioning. There are many people who frequent pharyngula who were formerly highly religious, and can and do attest to how slow and painful a process it was to break free from the grip of religion. It is difficult indeed to see your own biases clearly. It can also be difficule to swim against the social current. Even living in the mostly secular UK, there have been times when my atheism, skepticism and humanism have been met with mistrust and even outright hostility. It is far worse in areas like the bible belt of the US, where dissent from expected beliefs can easily result in total social ostracision, loss of employment opportunities and expulsion from one’s family. And that is without even touching on those parts of the world where failing to toe the religious line can get you killed, often by the state.

    Trying to cast my position as that of an arrogant, supercillious atheist looking down on believers is disengenuous.

    In an extremely rude age (a pre-civilization society) this is possible, but speculative. In societies with even the simplest level of social organization (such as iron age Italy), this simply isn’t the case.

    Iron Age cultures had no more understanding of disease transmission of climatology than Stone Age ones. The important distinction is between pre-scientfic and scientific cultures, since it is only the scientific method that affords us a reliable, self-correcting means of assessing how the universe actually functions.

    You mistake the tendency to attribute a moral cause with the tendency to attribute a physical cause.

    How do you explain the clergy of multiple different religious traditions claiming that tolerance for homosexuality causes hurricanes, tsunamis and earthquakes then? Many religions explictly rely on a conflation between moral and physical causes.

    Abraham Lincoln came to believe that the Civil War was dragging on because God was going to force it to continue until slavery ended. Yet he didn’t think that God fired the first shots, or was in any way its physical or political cause.

    Lincoln claimed that god was forcing the conflict to continue, thus implying that god was influencing the behaviour of the combatants to compel a continuation of the conflict. Since the evidence strongly supports the mind/brain monist contention that the mind is a product of the entirely physical biochemical processes of the brain (as supported by the way brain injuries can radically alter personality), then this statements is in fact a claim that god was the physical cause of the continuation of the conflict.

    This is a Marxist (ie left-Hegelian), materialistic view. The history of this viewpoint is peculiar, but it certainly doesn’t describe how things work in the real world. Your assumption is that religion only exists to accomplish certain materialistic goals on the part of elites. Underneath that assumption is that the masses are ignorant and easily fooled. That is preposterous.

    Again, I didn’t say that. What I actually wrote @ 43 was;

    As pointed out by loreo @ 33, to say religion has a ‘hook’ is a reference to meme theory. Religious beliefs systems, among various other social forms including things like the culture surrounding rock music and even (to a lesser degree) things like the abominable Twilight movies, are structured in such a way as to exploit vulnerabilities within the human brain toward confirmation bias and in particular seeking patterns to such an extent that we sometimes see them where none exist, pareidolia being a case in point.

    In pre-scientific cultures with no concept of such things as climatology or epidemiology, a failed crop or a plague was only explicable in terms of being the enacted will of an unseen agent, be it a deity, a demon, an anthropomorphised manifestation of nature, or an ancestor spirit. It didn’t take long for such beliefs to be exploited to allow some individuals to claim a pipeline to the divine, and then to peddle that into temporal power. Once the meme was established, it continued to spread and to change with the societies that adopted it. There is no need for some centralised evil conspiracy. This is a recognised sociological phenomenon.

    (Emphasis added)

    I never claimed that religion was designed by the elites, only that various groups have taken the opportunity to make use of it to further their power and influence. I explicitly rejected the notion of some huge and complex conspiracy, and made repeated references to meme theory and how it informs our understanding of the development and spread of religious belief systems. I also do not assume that the ‘masses’, as you insist on referring to them, are somehow automatically intellectually lacking. As I explained earlier in this post, social pressures to believe and the impact of marinating in a seemingly ubiquitous belief system throughout one’s life can cause anyone to become ensnared by religious belief systems, irrespective of personal intelligence.

    Please don’t misepresent what I write. The record is here for anyone who cares to look.

    No I don’t. There is not a “widespread fear of death”, at least not one that leads people to believe in an afterlife.

    Do you have evidence to support that rather sweeping claim? A fear of death seems rather widespread to me. If not, then why do so many people across the globe work so hard to avoid it?

    Belief in an afterlife is confined to Christianity and Islam.

    A great many religions both past and present include belief in an afterlife. Judaism has one. Ancient Egyptian, Greek, Roman and Nordic beliefs all included an afterlife. Zoroastrianism has a form of afterlife. Animist and ancestor worship traditions also incude afterlife myths. Such mythology is as widespread within religions as creation mythology.

    Outside of these, it is uncommon, and even undesirable. Reincarnation is a good example, as Hindus typically think of reincarnation as a bad thing, as it locks them into a bad world. They want final death.

    Hinduism allows for the escape from the cycle of death and rebirth by means of acheiving Moksha, often interpreted as a form of transcendental consciousness, a perfection of being akin to Nirvana in Buddhist traditions. It is certainly not a description of the biological cessation of the processes that support life and consciousness.

    Your viewpoints are so thoroughly the product of a Christian cultural worldview, even though you reject Christianity.

    And your basis for this claim would be…?

    According to current theory at least, which is predicated upon inference layered upon inference. Fact is something that will remain unknown on this question.

    The current theory is the best information we have available, based upon the evidence we have collected. The age of the universe, for instance, can be determined by means of using the universal constant of the speed of light combined with red shift measurements that lets us know how far that light has travelled, and thus how long it has been travelling for. Could all this be wrong? It is conceiveable, but you can’t just declare it to be wrong to suit your own ends. You need to bring new evidence to the table, evidence strong enough to counter all that which supports the established theory.

    Do you have such evidence?

    You need to learn how to tell the difference between speculation and fact. There is, here too, the case of inference layered upon inference (that life is produced by little more than the mixture of the right ingredients, even though no one has ever been able to replicate this).

    A speculation backed by what evidence we have is an infinitely superior explanantion to simply invoking a deity. The evidence does not support the contention that god forged life. Just because we cannot yet replicate the process in a lab does not mean that god can be imported as the automatic answer. Abiogenesis followed by evolutionary processes is a far more credible explanation that is consistent with what we currently know.

    Do you have new evidence you can use to counter this position?

    Of course there is. We are here.

    And what makes you think our existence is somehow significant on a cosmic scale? That the universe is somehow ordered around us, rather than life on this world, including our own, coming into existence as an emergeant property of reality?

    Where is your evidence?

    Why not?

    You did read the bit about the age of the universe, right? The evidence all suggests that the universe existed without us for billions of years. Why should it suddenly cease to exist if we do?

    Again, where is your evidence?

    There is “no reason”? I think there are many reasons, some of which I would agree with, others of which I wouldn’t. That you don’t agree with any of the reasons does not mean that there is no reason. I would not say that there is no reason to agree with your positivist worldview, just that I do not agree with your reasons.

    Fine then – there is no rational reason based upon the available evidence to cling to the idea that the universe was made by magic under the conscious guidance of a superbeing just for little old us. If you want to just believe it because unicorns or due to a warm fuzzy feeling it gives you, then that is your perogative, but none of it amounts to evidence.

    So, yet again I ask you – where is your evidence?

    Your conclusion is the product of many assumptions, inferences, and moral judgement. You assume that the current theories about the age and causes of the universe, planet and life on earth are correct, and apply a particular moral theory to arrive at the conclusion that there is nothing special about us. I am not saying that your belief is invalid, just that it is yet another opinion among many.

    The theories are the best information we have that is available. Claiming that humanity is ‘special’ in the fashion we are discussing is not a claim made in a socio-cultural vacuum. It implies the existence of god, and that is an unevidenced truth claim that has caused immense death and suffering throughout history and across the world. Whether or not such a being exists is no mere issue of dry academic debate or empty, circular sematics. For all too many people, it is a question of personal and bodily autonomy or enforced servitude and violation.

    For many others, it is nothing less than a question of life or death.

    Perhaps you should consider that the next time you wish to pontificate on these issues.

    @ 52;

    You seem pretty sure of this. People with other religious beliefs are often equally sure of their beliefs. Like you, they often see their beliefs as so correct as to be obvious and even self-evident.

    I have simply told you the rational basis for my humanism, and pointed you toward the evidence that underpins that position. Other people are entitled to their beliefs. I am merely demonstarting that it is possible to lead an ethical life without appeals to any deity or a belief that our species is somehow exempt from physical laws or holds some special significance in the universe.

    I get that you think your beliefs to be so obvious that you are “aware” of their obvious truth, but your feeling of complete justification is yours alone. What makes you think that God hasn’t been central to fixing past problems? Certainly many (most) would say he was, and continues to be.

    My position is based upon the best information available to us – upon the evidence. The evidence does not support the assertion that an invisible, benign being has been secretly fixing the social ills of humanity. If you wish to claim otherwise, then show me the evidence.

    You “know”? You seem pretty certain. And yet you are unable to appreciate that people who feel just as certain that we are cosmically significant as not stupid, foolish, or self-diluted.

    I know this in so far as we know anything – it is a position based upon the best evidence available. I ‘know’ it in the same way that I ‘know’ that over the next few hours the Earth will rotate on its axis until the part I am on faces toward the sun which, combined with distortion effects from the atmosphere upon its rays, will create the impression that the sun will ‘rise’ tomorrow. Now, that could all be wrong. We could all be brains floating in jars, and all our experiences could be no more than simulations, includingg all the evidence, but that descends into mere pointless sophistry. The theory fits the evidence, and I have no reason to doubt that evidence at this time.

    I never said that people who believe that our species is somehow cosmically significant are necessarily stupid, foolish or self-deluded. However, their position is not supported by the evidence, and indeed is held in defiance of mountains of evidence that have been collected that points to the contrary. They are, so far as we can see to the greatest degree of certainty of which we are capable, wrong in this regard, and often wilfully so.

    If you want to change my mind, and the minds of all those who think as I do, then only one thing can do it. Evidence.

    So far, I have seen none from you.

  62. says

    @49
    John A

    There is no reason to assume, should the Earth be destroyed and humanity wiped from existence tomorrow, that the stars would all wink out, that the planets would fall from their orbits, or that the natural laws would just cease to function.

    Why not?

    lol, the quality of john A’s thinking.

    is this thomas A? or thomas C? whatever.

    John A, if all you are here to do is say “but we can’t know anything for 100% certain!” then spare us. We know that. We care about what can reasonably be concluded. If you want to talk about the specialness of humans, you have to either present a reason to think humans are special, or present a reason to think “humans are special” (whatever that means) is the default position.

    And you had better be prepared to answer questions, not just throw questions at people.

  63. woozy says

    John A @42, @52

    You seem pretty sure of that… You seem pretty sure of this… You seem pretty certain…

    Okay, I’ll bite. What did you read about certainty last night that you are so anxious to trying to set us up to a straight line for?

    Or is this some more of that “Atheist: There are no absolutes! Christian: Absolutely?” gag?

  64. consciousness razor says

    Gregory Greenwood, #67:

    It requires neither belief (which implies a viewpoint that can be adopted without evidence or in the face of dissenting evidence), nor proof (which, as Nerd points out, is a logical construct, and not the same thing as evidence, no matter how often the two concepts are conflated).

    I don’t think it’s useful to say that “belief” means “faith” or “believing without evidence or contrary to the evidence.” The ordinary use of the term doesn’t imply that at all. You can believe all sorts of things for all sorts of reasons. It’s just another word for saying you think X or adopt the view X or assent to the truth of a proposition. I doubt you’d say “I don’t believe I wrote comment #67,” since basically no one would understand that — you do believe you wrote that comment, and you have very good reason to believe it. The vast majority of people think that’s what the word means, not that it only ever means “faith.”

    However, as far as I’m concerned, be as picky as you want to about “proof,” even if some people do casually use it as something like “anything that supports a belief.” I think that’s reasonable because you need to be able to distinguish between concepts like probabilistic claims and evidence and induction on the one hand, or logical definitions and entailment on the other. That’s technical jargon for scientists and mathematicians/logicians to sort out, unlike the case of “belief” which is just how the general public speaks about their own thoughts.

  65. gijoel says

    “What would you do if something spiritual disproved your scientific beliefs?”

    Me: What would you do if something scientific disproved your spiritual beliefs?

    “I would ignore it, and keep believing in the same crap I always have.”

  66. vaiyt says

    People with other religious beliefs are often equally sure of their beliefs. Like you, they often see their beliefs as so correct as to be obvious and even self-evident.

    The real question is: how well does your belief match with the real world? Can you use your “beliefs” to explain evidence in a consistent way, suggest new avenues of knowledge and predict the behavior of phenomena? Not all “beliefs” are equal, because reality doesn’t give a shit, and it will keep being itself no matter what we believe.

  67. woozy says

    “What would you do if something spiritual disproved your scientific beliefs?”

    I’d kind of like to know what people mean when they “spiritual” or “scientific beliefs”. There’s all sorts of psychological and behavioral things that were profound and influential that were discovered in my lifetime and which changed my way of thinking. Yet for some reason, probably because they were actually true (and therefore “scientific”), no-one ever calls them “spiritual”. It’s almost as if to be “spiritual” there’s a requirement that it *not* be true or real. And that if it is true or real and therefore “scientific” by definition it has to be “anti-spiritual”.
    So in practice it seems it be impossible for SomeThing Spiritual to disprove my scientific beliefs. Because if SomeThing did, my scientific beliefs would change to accommodate the SomeThing and the SomeThing would cease to be spiritual.

    If we ever actually found Mr. Yahweh and interviewed him in People Magazine and asked him what his favorite ball team was folks would get bored. But as Mr. Yahweh doesn’t seem to be home, his existence remains all very “spiritual”. Meanwhile we *are* discovering the very nature of consciousness and human behavior (150 years after uncovering the mysteries of human origins) and no-one’s blinking an eye because it isn’t “spiritual”.

    Well, I suppose a “message” from some Consciousness is part of the idea of spiritualism. But isn’t even that still “just a thing”. So we find Mr. Yahweh and find out he wants us to be nice to each other, pierce our noses (but never our ears), and solve the Poincare conjecture (“what? You have? Great! Your works done and you can all take it easy for the next few millennia”) and … then what? Can anything be “spiritual” if we actually *know* what it is?

    Does spiritual even mean anything?

  68. Al Dente says

    One thing that confirms my atheism is that the universe would look identical whether or not there were gods. The Earth would continue to revolve around the Sun. My lawn would continue to produce grass and dandelions in roughly equal proportions. People would be born and die. Radioactive elements would decay at the same rate. There are no natural phenomena which would be different if belief in gods would suddenly vanish overnight. This tells me that gods, if they exist, do not interact with the universe. Contrary to the belief of many ecclesiastics, the gods, supposing their existence for the sake of argument, don’t care about masturbation or what consenting adults do in bed.

  69. anteprepro says

    John A:

    What makes you think that religion is all a top-down enterprise, where the bosses at the top pull the strings and the masses are just ignorant minions who follow along?

    Because a significant portion of it is? I mean, sure, not all of it. But that’s because, once religions get big enough from bottom-up building up, they start with the top-down regulatory bullshit. Good chunks of Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism show this strain, as does the newbie Scientology.

    Oh and religion convinces the massses of what they want to believe? In that case, the branches of Hinduism “teach” the “masses” that reincarnation exists, even though it is a terrible thing that looks people into a miserable world.

    Bad example is bad. Reincarnation is not a terrible thing: It is a terrible thing if you are not good enough. Good things happen to good people, bad things happen to bad people. Reincarnation is like a lot of religious ideas in that regard: a fantastical rationale to prop up your personal Just World Bias. Not “what they want to believe” indeed.

    Everyone does this on a daily basis. And no one does this without cultural biases, assumptions, beliefs, etc. What makes science is unique is the questions it asks and the ways it tries to answer them. Its method is not unique to science.

    The scientific method is not unique to science? But the questions that science asks and the way it tries to answer them is unique to science. Ummmm….okay….

    Why are beliefs inflexible? Does no one ever change their beliefs?

    What makes you think they are “designed” by elites? This is a materialistic of religion, that it is the “opiate of the masses”. It just doesn’t work like that.

    It doesn’t work exactly like that. It works close enough to that. The evidenceless bleatings of beliebers is hardly evidence to the contrary.

    So religious people are just too dim-witted to see this? Or they just are too foolish to understand their cognitive biases? If so, then most of the human race are idiots.

    “Too foolish to understand their cognitive biases”? Do you even know what “cognitive biases” are? Yes, most humans don’t understand their cognitive biases and fall prey to them. Basic psychological information. Way to prove our point.

    This is a Marxist (ie left-Hegelian), materialistic view.

    And it is also is hardly controversial to mention that even smart people will use fallacious arguments because they find them personally and emotionally compelling. Your fallacy is the genetic fallacy.

    The history of this viewpoint is peculiar, but it certainly doesn’t describe how things work in the real world. Your assumption is that religion only exists to accomplish certain materialistic goals on the part of elites.

    Yet to be seen: evidence against this.

    Underneath that assumption is that the masses are ignorant and easily fooled. That is preposterous.

    The masses aren’t ignorant and aren’t easily fooled? How fucking naive are you? Either you are yourself incredibly ignorant or have been woefully misinformed. Amazing how common that is. But no, religious ignorance is unpossible!

    There is not a “widespread fear of death”, at least not one that leads people to believe in an afterlife.

    ….what?

    Belief in an afterlife is confined to Christianity and Islam.

    WHAT!!?

    Nirvana, Pure Land, or Naraka, Sheol,Valhalla, Yomi, Tian and Diyu, to name some of the ones that are still believed in today.
    That’s leaving aside the arbitrariness of presuming that reincarnation doesn’t count as an “afterlife”.

    Outside of these, it is uncommon, and even undesirable. Reincarnation is a good example, as Hindus typically think of reincarnation as a bad thing, as it locks them into a bad world. They want final death.

    And their craving of final death and hatred of life is distinct from your afterlife…how?
    (Hint: their word for what you label final death is “liberation”. And it requires wisdom and detachment to attain. The word “salvation” comes to mind…)

    Your viewpoints are so thoroughly the product of a Christian cultural worldview, even though you reject Christianity.

    And dollars to donuts that your morality is thoroughly secular. Go fuck yourself, you clueless git. You don’t get to lick everything in the room and then turn around for mocking us for using something because it’s “yours”..

    According to current theory at least, which is predicated upon inference layered upon inference. Fact is something that will remain unknown on this question.

    Oh wow. John A defends the idea that scientists deal in proof, but bring up the age of the universe and the planet and suddenly science is a very very tentative. Gotcha.

    You need to learn how to tell the difference between speculation and fact.

    Says the person who believes in deities.

    Of course there is. We are here.

    The Earth is universally important because “Us”. Hubris, much?

    There is “no reason”? I think there are many reasons, some of which I would agree with, others of which I wouldn’t.

    Ah, good ol’ “Oh, there’s plenty of evidence! Sure, some of it is bullshit, and even I acknowledge that! But you didn’t specify ‘good evidence’, now did ya, suckers!”

    That you don’t agree with any of the reasons does not mean that there is no reason.

    That you agree with some of the reasons does not make them good reasons either.

    Your conclusion is the product of many assumptions, inferences, and moral judgement.

    Less than yours, dude.

    I am not saying that your belief is invalid, just that it is yet another opinion among many.

    Not all opinions are created equal. As you yourself acknowledged when defending the word “belief”, in noting that some beliefs are based on evidence and others not. t.

    You seem pretty sure of this. People with other religious beliefs are often equally sure of their beliefs. Like you, they often see their beliefs as so correct as to be obvious and even self-evident.

    You seem sure.
    People who are wrong sometimes seem sure.
    Therefore, you are wrong.

    Stellar logic you got brewin’ there.

    What makes you think that God hasn’t been central to fixing past problems? Certainly many (most) would say he was, and continues to be.

    Wow, your God is absolutely terrible at fixing! I mean, even a human wizard could do fucking better! And what have been seeing is a good, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent entity’s active attempts to make the world better!? Wow. That’s pathetic.

    I mean, if you can’t acknowledge that God hasn’t been phoning it in when it comes to miracles ever since that whole “coming back from the dead” episode, then we can’t even have a discussion. Too much intellectual dishonesty.

    And yet you are unable to appreciate that people who feel just as certain that we are cosmically significant as not stupid, foolish, or self-diluted.

    Mostly because the one opinion is a conclusion based on what we know about the world, scientifically. And the other is an opinion based on other opinions based on bad arguments. This isn’t calculus. This isn’t difficult. You are trying as hard as you can to find an equivalence. It isn’t there. Religion is foolish. Get over it.

  70. fatpie42 says

    For a moment there, I was wondering how Brit Marling could have written this. Thankfully my faith in her as a writer is unshaken. She didn’t write this. Mike Cahill did.

    She wrote two very clever films recently: “The East” about a woman infiltrating an anarchist group and “Sound Of My Voice” about a couple infiltrating a cult where the leader claims to come from the future. She also co-wrote “Another Earth” with director Mike Cahill and while some of the discussions about the alternative Earth were a bit on the mushy side, there was a central storyline that was much more down-to-earth and overall I thought it was a good film.

    I’ll still be watching “I Origins” eventually because I’m generally pretty keen to see anything Brit Marling is involved in these days. She’s brilliant. But I must say, I doubt I’m going to be that keen on this film.

  71. zenlike says

    78 anteprepro

    Well just remembered who John A is. I’m suddenly doubting he will be back. Refresher course has made me realize he clusterbombs a thread with his turds and then just wanders off.

    Indeed. Presupper. WLC fanboi. Moral relativist. Apologist for the fucking inquisition. John A isn’t worth debating.

  72. Randomfactor says

    What’s up with the whole numerology thing at the beginning? All the elevens?

    Spinal Tap reference.

  73. says

    Gregory Greenwood @17:

    Even Michael Bay and his incessant explosions is better than this dreck.

    I haven’t watched the trailer for I, Origins, but I do know how bad Michael Bay movies are, so it must be truly atrocious.

  74. Gregory Greenwood says

    Tony! The Fucking Queer Shoop! @ 82;

    I haven’t watched the trailer for I, Origins, but I do know how bad Michael Bay movies are, so it must be truly atrocious.

    Only watch the trailer if you have a high tolerance for woo-fueled idiocy. If you can stomach it, it will show you a whole new world of smug, oblivious anti-intellectualism.

  75. microraptor says

    Is it just me, or did it really sound like the lead actor was reading his lines straight off a cue card while he was half asleep?

  76. carovee says

    I saw this trailer the other night and got super offended. Yet another movie that shows those uppity scientists that ‘truth’ doesn’t come in a laboratory, or something. Gawd, those movies are so annoying. Then I watched the trailer for Lucy . Holy crap what a load of, well, crap. Did you know we only use 20% of our brains capacity? And that if we could use more of our brains capacity it would change how our eyes work and also the laws of physics? The stupidity of the two trailers nearly broke my brain.

  77. Anton Mates says

    the movie is about an affectless neuroscientist who takes pictures of eyes for Science, and then because he finds someone with similar irises to his dead lover,

    …he realizes that his lover was murdered by an international organ-smuggling ring!

    …he realizes that Jeepers Creepers was nonfiction!

    …he realizes that his lover and this other person were both manufactured by the Umbrella Corporation!

    Wait, are those implausible? Must be reincarnation then.

  78. Anri says

    anteprepro @ 78:

    Well just remembered who John A is. I’m suddenly doubting he will be back. Refresher course has made me realize he clusterbombs a thread with his turds and then just wanders off.

    Yep.
    He hasn’t yet learned that there’s a difference between wanting to say something and having something to say.

    If he had something of substance to present, he’d do it. The fact that he doesn’t even try pretty much demonstrates that he somehow knows, deep down, that he’s full of crap.